What I Left Behind

  • Posted on: 5 October 2020
  • By: Joe

    “I used to be somebody else, but I traded myself in”

            —Antonioni’s The Passenger


I left so many things behind 

I had another world to explore 

another lifetime to begin


I left a huge apartment in San Francisco's North Beach

gave away the multicolor jackets from Kathmandu 

the Tibetan dragon rug 

the painting of the cycle of existence 


I gave away the Hindu statuettes 

Shiva in a circle of fire dancing through destruction and rebirth 

Krishna the romantic playing his flute as a cowherd 

Saraswati the goddess of education and the arts 

I carry them all inside me now


I gave away a lifetime’s worth of books and records 

I had memorized all the songs 

and all the poems worth remembering


I gave away my bed my futon 

where I slept and made love 

the table where I ate the fish and rice 

I cooked in the kitchen 

the clothing that I wore through the fog in winter

everything that kept my body alive


I gave away my Thai furniture 

the case with the elephant paintings 

the letter holders and wall hangings —

I would find them again in Bangkok


I left so many people behind 

the Sufis spinning at the Mentor Garden 

the monks bowing to each other at the Zen temple 

the poets at the open mic nights 

at the Sacred Grounds Café 

and on the bookshelves in City Lights


All the old friends I would never see again 

all the ex-lovers who still hold a place in my heart 

and in my arms

I left my family 

never to see my brother or sister again 

their graying curly hair 

their shouts and their frowns of disapproval

left my orthodox religion 

the stained glass windows of

the domed temple in Brooklyn

left behind what I was taught in public school 

about patriotism and money —

And about America


I left so much of myself behind—

What parts got washed away by the Pacific Ocean?


Now I live in a tiny apartment in Bangkok 

with a beautiful woman with dark straight hair 

and dark almond eyes 

we eat fish and rice 

that we cook in our kitchen

walk through the night market 

go to glittering temples 

take off our shoes and bow


All we have now is a statue of the Buddha 

a painting of the rivers and mountains of Guilin 

a candle holder from Jerusalem 

a tapestry of Sufis turning 

a Japanese picture of Bodhidharma—

All we have now is all I need


I write poems and stories 

all around the world 

and live 



I remember thinking years ago  

that I would be ready to die at any time

if it was my time to go


now I would not want to leave this life— 

this love 


There are still more worlds to explore

More new lifetimes to begin