BERKELEY'S NEWS • OCTOBER 02, 2022

Inland: A poem

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WIKIMEDIA | CREATIVE COMMONS

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NOVEMBER 30, 2018

Home

We do not have skyscrapers looming over us like gods to worship,
nor the persistent honk and vroom of cluttered morning traffic,
a cacophony of people in a rush to get somewhere and do something
the moment that the sun rises against their metropolis apartment windows.

We race across wide sidewalks lining houses that look the same,
and scrape our knees against trimmed grass, still wet with morning dew,
spending our mornings singing along to the bike bell chimes of paperboys
delivering our slow-going news to the age-old doormats we’ll never throw out.

We keep our windows wide open all the time, never closed to moonlight,
so that our hearts beat in time with the beating hearts of our neighbors,
keeping track of passing time with the boom boom boom of being alive
and breathing in this dry inland air at dawn and at dusk.

We want the world around us to be more beautiful than it is.
In poetry, the world is more beautiful than it is.

Abandonment

In my little city room I would not dream of keeping the windows open
because there are too many heartbeats to keep track of and remember,
too many faces and names and rushing legs moving toward something else,
never stopping to breathe in and remember what is in the now.

My mother calls me to ask if I am safe, if I have been all right lately,
and because her aching heart will worry for my aching soul,
I tell her that my little city room is doing fine by me all the time,
and I can keep up with this persistent push to progress to another place.

I spent the first 18 years of my life resenting that I had no ocean
that I could call my own when I spoke of where I lived almost my whole life,
because I was born near an ocean but was forced to leave her and then learn
what leaving means, what warrants pain, what missing is, what defines loss.

The truth is, I am a bad swimmer who can only just float and bob,
my limbs becoming weak immediately when faced with a finish line,
so I must always keep reminding myself that an ocean is what I wanted,
and is the reason I left behind infinite, rolling, wheat-colored inland fields.

Wrap me up in that innocence again.
Wrap me up in that feeling of home again.

Winds

We used to have nightmares because winds would rattle the windows
and move sharp branches against thick glass like long-nailed fingers,
the screeching coaxing itself into our young minds, invading innocence,
waking us up with a cold sweat and a fear we could not shake for days.

We listened to these nightmare winds, never-ending, a fever dream,
and yet turned to them in moments of loneliness and emptiness
because the winds dried our lips and scared us when it was dark
but were a loyal companion, always there at the edges of our heels.

We ran the mile once a week for a letter grade, panting and heaving,
wishing we could instead be lounging by an ocean not granted to us,
and when our legs got too heavy and we thought we might collapse,
the winds pushed us up, pushed us forward, pushed us to the finish line.

Tell us we can go home again someday.
Tell us the winds will push us back home someday.

Tell us there is more to life than wishing we could be somewhere else,
and that the inland fields will forgive us for wanting something else.

Tell us there is a still calm to come when we one day grow up
and realize the world was always as beautiful as it is in poetry.

Tell us we have not said goodbye to those winds forever.

Abandonment II

I am tortured by dreams and nightmares of the same place,
missing and resenting hollow hallways, wide streets, looming mountains,
the mountains that loomed over me like gods instead of skyscrapers,
the mountains that taught me to see more than a throneless empire.

Defeat feels toxic on my tongue, burning poisonous and painful,
but it is all I have to my name now that I know I miss my nightmare winds,
and the expanse of green fields that grow and yellow fields that do not grow,
the expanse of rural backstreets, the expanse of endless playgrounds.

Learning how to ride the ocean’s wave feels like losing a part of myself,
the part that said she hated oceans because she knew she could not have one,
and the part that wished so desperately for an ocean as a faraway dream
to cherish in the dead of night but never actually think of as reality.

Wrap me up in that innocence again.
Wrap me up in that feeling of home again.

Family

We grow up listening to lullabies all around us, all the time:
Our father whispering “All My Loving” when we cry past midnight,
the winds winding themselves around our ears in chaotic melody,
the neighborhood dogs taking turns brazenly barking until daybreak.

We make up games that take us to places we will never see for ourselves,
hands cradling our plastic dolls and plastic cars and plastic electronics,
chasing each other around the backyard until our eyes are wet with tears,
the tears we cannot justify except to say they prove we are alive, we are alive.

We were alive then more than ever before, nestled in our nightmare winds,
shielded from the real-world nightmares, the real-world, long-nailed fingers
and tears that anyone would say we were right to shed in the face of pain
instead of tears that came about for no other reason than living too much.

We did not listen to our mother when she warned us about pain
because we saw her tired eyes and assumed all mothers had tired eyes,
never thinking that our own eyes would turn into a mirror image of hers
as all young eyes must someday do, someday succumbing to that pain.

We took it for granted that existing was not painful.

We took it for granted that our childhood days were just a bridge,
moving us along to different days, moving us along to older days.

We took it for granted that we would leave someday.

Abandonment III

So tell me this is what it feels like to grow up and get old,
and that I spent my whole life chasing something I wanted
only to now realize I do not need it, I will never need it,
because it means I have an ocean, but I do not have a home.

Wrap me up in my father’s quiet singing again,
wrap me up in my mother’s warm words again,
wrap me up in my sister’s loud laughs again,
wrap me up in that innocence again.

Tell me I can stop chasing this dream of an ocean,
and go back to chasing life with the wind on my heels.

Wrap me up in that innocence again.
Wrap me up in that feeling of home again.

Inland

We grow up never knowing how to explain where it is we are from,
our city’s name forgotten under a heap of more relevant headlines.

We grow up learning that it matters less to have a definitive name
and more to have an appreciation for thick morning dew at dusk,
a rare permeation of moisture in an otherwise dry inland landscape,
picking wet dandelions and lacing them over our young fingers.

We grow up with the comfort of mountains to guide us if we get lost,
those old ridges with us if we just tilt our heads up toward the sky,
and we know that these houses do not always look the same
if we take the time to look closely, to get to know them well.

We pray to the nightmare winds, to the never-ending mountains,
to the green and to the yellow fields, to matted, time-worn doormats.

We do not need skyscrapers looming over us like gods to worship.

Contact Alex Jiménez at  or on Twitter

LAST UPDATED

NOVEMBER 30, 2018