Published on: 11/2/2011
There's a term for the ache that reminds you
that what is lost will not come back.
Nostalgia doesn't cut it; depression is too clinical.
The Portuguese call it saudade.
It's a condition that can kill if you let it.
You must keep it tucked away in the periphery of your life.
I keep my saudade in a cathedral
I've built stone by stone, year after year.
Why a cathedral?
What better place to worship, grieve, and curse.
It has lots of space and good echoes.
It has a door that locks.
In it I keep thirty-two autumns,
the taste of honey crisp apples,
my grandmother's laugh lines,
a backyard in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania,
a rusty Chevy Celebrity,
and a perfume whose brand I can't recall
and whose wearer's name I can't speak.
The past tires us out with each revisiting,
but it is a good tired, like after swimming
all day in Lake Winola when you're seventeen,
and Budweiser and your girlfriend's green bikini
constitute all that's good about being alive.
I enter the cathedral and light a candle from time to time--
It's the least I can do--and close the door behind me.