(Polk County, Tennessee)
Always in transit we were always temporarily in exile, each new place seeming after a while and for a while our home. Because no matter how far we traveled on the edge of strangeness in a small county, the earth ran before us down red clay roads blurred with summer dust, banked with winter mud. It was the measurable, pleasurable earth that was home. Nobody who loved it could ever be really alien. Its tough clay, deep loam, hill rocks, small flowers were always the signs of a homecoming. We wound down through them to them, and the house we came to, whispering with dead hollyhocks or once in spring sill-high in daisies, was unimportant. Wherever it stood, it stood in earth, and the earth welcomed us, open, gateless, one place as another. And each place seemed after a while and for a while our home: because the county was only a mansion kind of dwelling in which there were many rooms. We only moved from one room to another, getting acquainted with the whole house. And always the earth was the new floor under us, the blue pinewoods the walls rising around us, the windows the openings in the blue trees through which we glimpsed, always farther on, sometimes beyond the river, the real wall of the mountain, in whose shadow for a little while we assumed ourselves safe, secure and comfortable as happy animals in an unvisited lair: which is why perhaps no house we ever lived in stood behind a fence, no door we ever opened had a key. It was beautiful like that. For a little while.
Reprinted with the permission of the author. All rights reserved.
Date Published: 1989-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/tenantry