Passing Through

Brenda Yates

After Cavafy

It’s inevitable and you’ve prepared,
constructed a self that can withstand
bewilderness. This is as it should be
for you who will leave, who discovers
grace only in geographies
of mountain, field, forest, lake,
of this ocean or that, of some desert,
in a blur of customs

you are unaccustomed to;
who finds courage in the unfamiliar
faces searched for meaning,
among glottal stops and labials unlike
any you know, among the gutturals
and songs of those whose idioms
dislodge words and estrange a language
you thought belonged to you.

Once again, it’s time. No use complaining.
And don’t whine—there’s nothing to plead for.
Above all, don’t try to fool anyone, especially
yourself. Don’t say you’ll come back
or imagine it would be the same
if you did. And don’t think that the girl
who for a year lived in the corner house
could be remembered
as anything more than passing through.
You were given this
place, though it’s different from the one
everybody else is rooted in.

So say goodbye to all you are losing—
voices in a procession of exquisite
music, landscapes that spoke to you
in wind or water that was once
yours—and, now, look, how it recedes.
Look at what only memory can possess.




Brenda Yates is from nowhere. After growing up in Tennessee, Delaware, Florida, Michigan, Massachusetts, Japan and Hawaii, she settled first in Boston and then Los Angeles. Her work has appeared and been anthologized in numerous places. A Pushcart Prize nominee and winner of the Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Poetry Contest, Brenda was also awarded the Patricia Bibby Memorial Prize and honorable mention in the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation Poetry Contest.


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