Gypsy Heart

In Poetry by Jan McMillan

Home is where the heart is, the saying goes.
I bow to my gypsy heart
And the many places I have loved.

I. Oklahoma

I was a child here,
Feeling the way only children can–
Learning what children learn–
All life around me mysterious–
In touch with my senses
Of touch, smell, taste, sound.
Pictures petrified with companion feelings
Remain.
Storms turning the mid-day skies to black
Send us running to root cellars;
Rain flooded ditches
That I love to splash in;
The smell of sweet lilac and honeysuckle,
The colors of zinnias.
A screen door slams
On a quiet summer evening.
I hear muffled grown-up voices from the other room
As I fall asleep in my bed.
The humid air,
The dark moist soil,
And at the end of the day all is well.

II. Colorado

I know her corners,
High plains,
Western slope,
Front range,
Little mountain towns,
Storms rolling down
Over the mountains
To deliver afternoon rains.
Seventy to forty degrees
In ten minutes flat.
Near sunset
The gold and orange
Of aspen in autumn
Become the afterglow
On cliffs above Ouray.
Dry forests
With kinnikinnick carpet,
Cottonwood leaves
Thick on the riverbank,
Early snow,
May snow,
Melting snow
From the ever present sun.

III. San Francisco

The preacher,
Born again,
Shouts out sin and salvation
On the corner of Mission and 24th.
Out in the Richmond,
Elderly folk walk to and from
Vegetable stands–
Russia and China
Far away but
Never too far away.
Down on Castro Street
The line begins to form
For the afternoon matinee,
And just over the hill,
Noe Valley dykes,
Proud new moms
Of babies and toddlers
Stroll down 24th
And stop for sidewalk coffee.
Out on the bay
The Sausalito ferry
Pulls into dock
At the Ferry Building
Foot of Market Street.
Elders do Tai Chi
In Plymouth Square
While a deal goes down
On Eddy Street.
At the Muni stations,
Embarcadero and Montgomery,
The N Judah–the J Church
Fill up with office workers
Heading home,
Out to the Avenues,
Down to Glen Park.
A day in the city
Of dreams and disappointments…
Adopted hometown
To the seekers and the sure,
Safe harbor to those on the rim of the world.

IV. New Mexico

It was like falling in love
Slowly
Over time.
Power and beauty,
The land contains both
In equal measure.
Pinyon pine across the endless landscape,
Steep arroyos,
The deep Rio Grand,
An ancient people,
Ancient canyons
Carved by wind and rivers.
Dusty sleepy towns
Tucked back off the highways,
Out of sight and time.
Adobe houses around
Adobe churches with
Bright white crosses
Against a blue sky.
It calls me back
Profoundly
To be
With the skies and the land
Which go on forever.

V. Buckingham, England

I loved the slow easy life of this town.
I pretended I had always lived there,
Always would.
Each day I sent my daughters
To the bakery three doors down
For fresh bread.
Saturdays I shopped
In the town square market.
We got our milk
From a horse drawn cart.
I had come
The seasons came and went.
Blooming spring of lilacs and wisteria
Gave way to beautiful summer roses.
Brilliant autumns
With ivy turning red
On the old goal in the town square.
The three hundred year old church
Up Castle Street,
And the stonewalls
Out near Stowe village
Stand steady and solid.
I sit in my kitchen
On West Street
Looking out the window
At the contented baby
Napping in her pram,
Her mum clipping roses
In the garden.

VI. Westport, Washington

This time tomorrow
I find myself saying as I pack,
Board the plane
In Ft. Meyers, Athens, London, Denver
I’ll be home,
Watching the dunes
Where gulls
Play in the wind.
Mist hangs on the hills
And slides through the Sitkas,
The hemlocks and fir.
I’m going home
To be with the warriors who watch
Over rivers, shorelines, ancient forests,
Rare birds and vanishing fishes,
That live in the
Mud flats,
Wetlands,
Ancient trees.
Hanging halfway between
Earth and heaven,
Over Boston, Chicago, Seattle,
I’m headed home.

About the Author

Jan McMillan

I began writing poetry in college in a creative writing class. After college my writing lay dormant for several years while I raised my family. It came to life again after I came out to my family and friends when I was 37. Coming out seemed to release my creative self and I became a more active writer. I’ve never been a prolific poet, nor a very disciplined one. I let the poem emerge and have always tried to let it arrive in its own time. The subjects of my poetry centers mainly around nature, human relationships and spirituality. I also write haiku in keeping with my connection to nature and Zen Buddhism.