By Carol Hamilton
“That’s why I’d never go back — because I can‘t bear to think
of the way it is now.”
Ruination! That is why Captain Cook
was appalled on his return — saw how
his touch was like that of King Midas.
The Greenlanders carried home cases
of beer with every kroner once Denmark
ruled. St. Andrews, so cold, so gray,
so poor when we looked out the windows
of our third floor flat, when we shivered
as North Sea air slipped around the polythene
we had taped over the windows to
keep it out. Prosperity ruined
my return there, with hotels lining
the beach, jagged monoliths cursing
the coast near the Royal and Ancient.
I did return to Bolivia, returned
nine months later. That is safe.
And Italy, Spain. They bear their
confidence like tall and straight
native women, water pots balanced
on their heads. I once thought
Thomas Wolfe wrong when I fell again
into the beloved life of our tiny
Appalachian college town. But I was
still too young then. Now my friends’
old faces shock at first, after all these years.
If you wait, Elizabeth, you get used
to it. But you are probably right.
Find a new place, a new face to love.
We must manage our pasts
with the fine gloves of a curator
drawn over our fingers before we dare
touch such relics.
Carol Hamilton has recent publications in South Carolina Review, Poet Lore, Tulane Review, Slipstream, River Oak Review, Tar River Review, San Pedro River Review, Willow Review, White Wall Review, Bryant Literary Review, Tulane Review, U.S. Newsletter, Poetrybay, Ellipsis, and others. She has been nominated five times for a Pushcart prize. She has published 15 books of children’s novels, legends and poetry, most recently, Master of Theater: Peter the Great and Lexicography. She is a former poet laureate of Oklahoma.