We measure distances in terms of feelings, memory, love, passion, and poetry.
Departures, oh, they are measured the same way, including the tears that well from the eyes of children who are growing up, who need you day-in and day-out, who crave for your voice, for that authority in that voice.
Those that you miss should include the morning sermons that reminded the children of the past, the present, and the future rolled into one as you drove them to their schools, you becoming a ritual driver because once again, once again, they missed their school bus because, once again, once again, they woke up late.
You missed these as well: the daily exercise of the vocal chord, the stretch of the veins on the neck, the warming up of the temple, and the cracking of the voice because you simply were tired practicing for the next fatherly speech the following day.
You have to include, of course, the fact that you put food on your family's table speaking to a bunch of awake and half-awake as if you knew something, and as if the students also knew that you knew something.
That was the teacher in you, explaining to your students the metaphor of a metaphor, of failure, of success, of life, of death, real and imagined, like that one when human flesh challenges metal and one student picked that metaphor up, created a poem out of that death, and then recited the verses before her classmates. She spoke of the distance between living and dying, and the departures that all ought to take to get into a life in the eternity of time.
Like memories of peoples and places that touched our lives, our hearts, our souls, keeping the memory in the mind that does not permit the corruption and vicissitudes and vagaries of time.
You remember, you will pick up the same ceremony again, the same rhythm, the same rite, the same ritual, the same access to young minds, young souls trying to break free from the shackles of the world.
Even as you try to get settled in this new land of your fortune, praying that fame, if it will come, will give you humility and simplicity and virtue and the extra time to write more and more, finish that Ilokano Quartet of novels that declaim the terror and torture of your people, you sit down and relax under the generous canopy of the summer showers filled will orange and yellow blooms, with only a handful of leaves jutting out from the cluster of petals reaching out to the sun, the wind, the rain, the hills, the newcomers like me.
You realize about distances: the distances in your poetry. You need to write some more of metaphors of migrancy the way others did to document these tragedies and joys of being exiles and migrants.
You realize about departures: the need for you to good back to your art, one life you have left behind temporarily because of other concerns, concerns that bogged you down, concerns that murdered your sensitivity, concerns that gave you courage to move on after hanging on for so long.
You pray to your God: Here I am, here I am at last.
You give thanks to your God, the God that redeemed your art so you can write once more.
You put a closure to the distances, to more departures. You remember you have arrived.
A. S. Agcaoili
July 18, completed July 23, 2006.
Written in Manoa and in Waipahu, HI.