Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Invention of Nostalgia

The Invention of Nostalgia
Lawrence Raab
Before 1688 nostalgia didn't exist
People felt sad and thought about home,
but in 1688 Johannes Hofer, a Swiss doctor,
made up the word. It wasn't what he himself
was feeling, but a malady he'd observed

in soldiers posted far from home.
Leeches and opium were the cure,
and if those failed, a return to the Alps.
Therefore: homesickness, nostalgia's symptom,
the way your stomach felt that first nitht

at summer camp, though if you cried
so hard you had to leave, later
you probably found yourself thinking,
They'd be swimming now, they'd be having lunch.
And you felt sad in a different way.

Imagine how many places you can't
go back to, how much it hurts
to want what's lost--all those days,
the ones that have left
their cloudy picture in your mind.

and the smell of certain rooms, the light
through trees at a certain hour, a time
before the first time you felt it,
like all the years before 1688
when no one had the right word to turn to.

Lawrence Raab is author, mostly recently of "Visible Signs: New and
Selected Poems"

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