I have an annoying habit that I’ll admit to. When I am asked, “How are you?”
Often I’ll reply, “I’m here.”
Most people just give a nervous laugh or a confused smile. Some just think, “Andrew, again.”
Why answer that way instead of the traditional, “I’m fine,” or “Doing well”? Part of me objects to the mindless “How are you” that doesn’t expect a real answer. “I’m here” is a response, but not the expected mindless reply.
Sometimes I answer, “I’m so good I don’t what to do with myself,” or occasionally, “If I was any better, they’d arrest me.” Partly I’m just a wise guy, and partly I want people to think about what they are saying.
But, I am here. Never having moved far from my birthplace, I am a creature of here. Around each corner is a memory of what used to be there, or something that happened there. In the confusion that is our memories, a single place can bring in a flood of memories from happy to traumatic.
On the corner is the Jack-in-the-Box. A simple place serving burgers, soda, and fries. It’s across the street from the little league field where adults tried in vain to teach me to play baseball. It’s was the place, where, as a 18 year-old security guard I stopped at midnight for a meal, a drink, or a few minutes of warmth between shifts. It’s at the intersection where my first car accident was.
Today it’s a signpost on the way to Starbucks – that used to be a Del Taco, and before that the Church’s chicken where the cherry orchard was before they built the new street in 1962.
Lately, I’ve been searching for a new subject for my poetry. My prostate cancer book, There was a Time, is out there, and my lectionary project on the Book of Mathew is making slow painful progress (11 out of 43 completed), but I feel the need to explore something else. Many of my recent poems seem to fall into a class of regrets and thinking what if things had been different. Emotionally charged but useless thinking.
But, I’m here, life was, and the future is that way.
Here, place, where your feet are and have been, is a powerful memory – rich with images and emotion. How often do we think of who we are and attach a place to it, “I’m an American,” or “I’m Californian,” or “I’m midwestern,” and so on.
Place can be that link between people and the bridge to shared memories.
I’ve also discovered that as a poet, I don’t often find pure inspiration to write a poem. I need the structure of a project to drive and channel my creative energy.
So, I’ve decided that my next poetry project working title will be, “I’m here – a collection of poems about growing up and living in San Jose.”
I have no idea where this will go or how long it will take, but it feels right to start it.