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Tracing Home

If home ever had a home, it would be in the poetic distance of the past. To stare at trees and think about home. That’s the only way I know to spend my summer evenings. Thoughts that wander off and take me to places I can no more call home and those other places (you know them) I am happy never more to call home. People say that home is a fiction. They say that home is the byroad where longing meets fantasy frothing at the desiring mouth of imagination. Home, they say, has no real home. Dreams are the only places where a true home can be found. Or when ghosts of homes long dead flutter about like lips of flames and sting with the pain of loss.

Home is pain, but the sweet pain only the masochist can crave. Home is almost always a simile. You think of a place as home or like home because home can never exist in the concreteness of the real. Like most sentiments in our lives, and probably even more than most, home can only be experienced in retrospect. The homey things in our lives are more often than not momentary fulfillment of things we have dreamed of in the past.

Nevertheless…I miss all the homes I have ever known. Now that I think about it, home as desire is passion and sweetness and life.  Am I not all the homes I have ever lived? I cannot help but think of all the selves I have worn and how each home steals a piece of these selves for the next home-comer even as it leaves on my body the traces of its own self and all the other selves it has sheltered. So whether imaginary or true, homes are alive in the indelible traces of sense and nonsense it scribbles on our migrant bodies.

Image by Ash Sivils

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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