Edward Lear, "Wadi Tayibeh, Egypt," 1849
“And after we are in the new house, when memories of other places we have lived in come back to us, we travel to the land of Motionless Childhood, motionless the way all Immemorial things are.” —Gaston Bachelard, “The Poetics of Space,” pages 5-6.
I’m 14, nestled in a wingback chair, legs splayed over one arm, shoulder tucked in tight where the other arm meets the wing, and I’m reading Rexroth’s translations of Tu Fu. Or, I’m 57, sitting propped against pillows in a room full of boxes, writing this poem as the small dog makes a nest between my ankles. Or, I’m 20, laughing with a roommate in our ramshackle kitchen long past midnight, cheap wine helping us fail to solve the world’s, or anyone's, problems. Every one of these moments was in the new house, for all houses are new to me, in this American space, this second- generation immigrant space. Oh yes, the land of Motionless Childhood, so like some fairytales I’ve read—lovely, untrue. My shelters have all been temporary, the contingent spaces ones where I could fall asleep; where, dreaming, I’d sleep- walk through my memory palace, floorplans unfolding time in the land of Unfixed Childhood; always moving, like me.