Thomas Wolfe’s Maxim

By Carol Hamilton

That’s why I’d never go back — because I can‘t bear to think

                                                                       of the way it is now.”

Elizabeth Bishop

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.

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