John Leonard

Lit.-Mag #36
Home & Homecoming

Was it somewhere else?


There was a brighter rectangle
In the paint next to the front door,
Where someone’s name-plate had been
Removed, and no new one put up.

And that was my home—or was it
Somewhere else, where in an attic
I found a tattered flag, transparent,
Along with the pots and bedsteads?

And that was not my home, and
Wind and rain, all the weathers, and
All the seasons with their trees,
Not my country either, or ever thought.

And from the new- to the old-lands,
Out of my country and back again,
Where I play with book-names,
Mimic a set hand, and dot my iotas.

And where, in another place, another
Generation, I am housed just as before;
Home with no ownership, another
Cautious non-residence, all together.

In time, I shall settle down perhaps,
Become amenable, discover direction,
Answer all questions unambiguously—
But my answers will be worth nothing.

And all this, too, will have been as
Nothing, unless it is remembered
That wherever I was, my language,
Was never my own, or ever claimed.


It seems that, twenty years after,
I am getting well used to the life
I led then—the once empty days
In the country that never was.

I am finding my feet, exploring,
Settling gratefully into its comforts,
Its experiences; every day I wake
Anew there, and make new discoveries.

And in this neverland, at places
That perhaps existed, but may not
Any longer, I dwell on the sights
I saw then, but with different eyes.

The certainties that sprouted there
Out of the old walls have withered,
But what I learnt remains, informs
The two onces: here and now.

Green hills of then, set to music
Later—all these improvisations—
Fill out a life, assemble themselves;
Here, and there, come into their own.

Both poems are from John Leonard’s collection
Jesus in Kashmir (2003)

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