Nicholas Samaras

This Is Not Here
                         (An Apology)

Les roulottes campement de bohémiens by Vincent van Gogh

I know it’s not you.
Maybe it’s because I was taken by gypsies to England at three.

Or maybe because, when my father got me back, he carried me
from European parish to American parish, from diocese to diocese,

me clinging to the hem of his herringbone coat.
But, for as long as I can remember, there have been

horizons in my eyes, always the stretch of the road in my glance.
Even my adulthood stayed restless,

looking for the hint of danger and travel, envying
the photojournalists of magazines, imagining

cartographers, kings, and Pharaohs, wanting
the parch of the desert in my throat, the cumulous clouds

that filled my eyes. Yes, there is always departure in my voice,
a way of trailing off after sentences . . .

the way I can’t stand the noise of more than six people in a room,
the way, when I kiss you, my eyes go elsewhere,

why this place reminds me of another place far-off,
why these hills remind me so much of Chambesy or the Midlands

that I never actually live here.
I admit there are times I can’t connect.

When we go out, I want to be going.
There is always flight in my breathing. My hands hold

the shape of letting go.
I heard what you said—but what did you say?

Really, I can’t explain why I am always somewhere else,
restless, why I can’t seem to bear being here,

why I look up at you from across the rosewood table
and know you are speaking, know you are calling—

yet can only decipher you mouthing my name,
mouthing my name again.


About the writer:
Nicholas Samaras’s first book, HANDS OF THE SADDLEMAKER, won The Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. His next book, AMERICAN PSALM, WORLD PSALM, came out (2014) from Ashland Poetry Press. Individual poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The New Yorker, Poetry, New York Times.

Image: Les roulottes campement de bohémiens by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). Oil on canvas. 17.7 x 20 inches. 1888. Public domain.