J’arrive òu je suis étranger.
—Boris Vian

Mental illness
is a country I left a long time ago.
I miss the mountain views and small grazing animals.
Sometimes I go up to the attic, open the trunk,
take out the national costume I once wore,
and try it on to see if it still fits.

Postcards come
when I least expect it—they say only
Wish you were here,
with no signature and no return address.
The picture on the other side is always
an unretouched black-and-white photo
of a beaver dam,
or a pile of corpses heaped for burning;
I have never been able to decide which.

I send in
the annual application for reinstated citizenship
and receive by return mail a temporary visa,
stamped Invalid Until Further Notice,
and a request for financial disclosure.

When I hear
the national anthem I take off my hat,
place my hand over my heart,
and clouds cover the face of the sun.

©2001 F.J. Bergmann

"Homesickness" appeared in the Southern Poetry Review 42:2 Fall/Winter 2003

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