Changing in Place

[This year is the 20th anniversary of Cape Cod Light by Michael Hattersley. The other parts of this series are here.]

Michael took a few years off of graduate school at Yale to get out of his bubble. After serving two years as an orderly and counselor at a psychiatric institute working with heroine addicts, he decided to see the world. So he booked a flight to Hawaii, then to Tahiti, then to New Zealand, and then he backpacked his way westward at his own pace, spending weeks or months at a time in Bali, Java, Singapore, Nepal, India, Iran, and many points in between.

Michael on his trip around the world, presumably somewhere between India and Greece based on the locations depicted in other photos in this part of his photo album. Perhaps someone can identify the language of the graffiti on that wall?

Eventually his sister Vanessa joined him in Turkey, and my mother joined them in Greece. Michael became very ill from his journeys and flew home. But my mother stayed on and worked their way to France with Vanessa, before returning home to New Haven (my aunt Vanessa fell in love in and with France and wold not move back stateside for many years).

So much of Michael’s worldview is literal, coming from his well-earned views of much of the world.

The fourteenth poem in Cape Cod Light is Changing in Place. Its five aphorisms provide a nice summary of Michael’s perspective on life and relationships, which has a sort of “Eastern”, dissociative quality to them. They are good words to live by.


Changing in Place

If it lives on the edge let it fall.
Even a piece of yourself
Can crash to the pavement without permanent loss.

If it seeks the depths, let it sink.
Even an old conviction
Can be cut off your neck like an albatross.

If it dies to be with you let it die.
You didn’t pledge
To play your part in someone else’s scheme.

If you cease to believe let it go.
You didn’t lie
To preserve the pretender who conceived the dream.

If you love, let it be.
Let it destroy what you were:
Productive, lonely, warped, false, free.


The next poem is here.

2 thoughts on “Changing in Place

  1. SpacemanSteve

    Thanks for mentioning “Socrates and Jesus”, I’ll learn a lot from it.

    And nice talk at the CfA!

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