Meg Wade on Jim Harrison and Recognizing Displacement

“All of my life I’ve held myself
/ at an undisclosed location.”

The opening lines from Jim Harrison’s, “L’envoi” nestle themselves inside me. They burrow up from the ground, a distant bellow from a person I long forgot I was. I am at home but I cannot tell you where—

To explain the country to the city means to crow of blown-down barns, black earth back roads, to wave a fanfare for the closely foreign. There is a difficulty of asking an audience to care whose dog is sick or whose mare birthed her first foal. It’s a rapid to cross. However much I understood (and loved) the specialness of the rural, I still chose to leave it as soon as I graduated high school.

To bring the rural to the city means you can show the place on a map, but there’s no damp smell of the hayfield after rain.

It’s an incredibly special and terrible thing, to carry this displacement. Too city for the country & too country for the city—but Harrison’s poem carries it well. And more than carry, he hoists it. High above his head. Higher and higher,

“At a brief still point on the whirling earth / we saw both the stars and the ground we walked / upon, struggling to recognize each other at noon”

In a life where agreement is sometimes brief, if possible at all, this poem recognizes the difficult contract between city & country. The dissonant orchestra that piles between seat & stage. Everything bathed in the light & still hard.

Is there ever relief? Absolutely. City & country may be different, but they are not impossible. It’s a marriage of necessary work. Of ease which comes from leaning into the uncomfortable. In the end, Harrison calls to the reader, wants to let them know there is a place where he (and you) can settle,

“downstream I’m singing a water song / not struggling against the ungentle current.”



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