Getting Over the Distance Between Us

by Jerry Martien

This piece was originally published in Home! A Bioregional Reader, edited by Van Andruss, Christopher Plant, Judith Plant, and Eleanor Wright, New Society Publishers, copyright 1990.

Sometimes I think it’s true that territory
Is only how far we’re willing to go
To get to the girl or boy next door.
Geography really all we have to talk about.
I want you the names of three rivers, I say.
She mentions softly two ranges of mountain.
Over the hugest most western rock, I complain.
She answers with ocean, tides, storms, miles of sand. 
I’m reminded of the fault between us.
Of the ups and downs of differently shifting plates.
The tendencies of continents to drift apart.
She is unmoved.
Though again and again I fold my maps, go home 
To be among familiar birds and flowers 
She knows what latitude and longitude 
I’m set on. What long-sought passage.
The trail of abandoned lives and furniture
That follows the heart of discovery.
Another life. Another country.
It always begins at the border.

Jerry Martien (b. 1939) is a poet, teacher, and carpenter based in Eureka, California. He’s published several books of poetry and on money and culture, and edited various bioregional publications. He taught Creative Writing at Humboldt State University and participated in California’s Poets-in-the-Schools program. He’s also worked to preserve and restore the coastal sand dunes near Eureka.

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