Like a lover


I just need to say, I love my students; I have the best students in the world. They come from India, the Philippines, North and South America, the Caribbean, the EU, Africa, and the Middle East. We share our worlds in writing. I read poetry and essays of longing. I tell the men if they want a woman, then they should learn to cook. I tell the women to find a man who cooks and never let him go. A little short-sighted maybe, but it makes them smile.

In my graduate classes I’ve been privileged to get to know students who have MBAs and are lawyers and are soldiers and are experts, looking for more—all of us looking for more…what? Knowledge and understanding, a grid to hang our questions on? I have learned and written about war and diplomacy, the Middle East, and my own young theory of the role of youth in International Relations—I call it the YPs’ Theory, and YPs stands for Young People; it’s pronounced, “why peace.”

But a month ago, the first day of break between terms, I found myself in my husband’s car speeding on the German autobahn at 170 kph on the same corridor of highway to Berlin that used to be patrolled by helicopters making sure no car stopped so East Germans might escape. I wasn’t behind the wheel. A student was, and another student sat beside him, and I fell asleep in the back seat, smiling to myself, on a road trip to Poland.

I wrote this the day after we arrived: Haven’t been back in Poland for 11 years. Used to make this drive four times a year to interview elderly people about their memories. Wrote three novels to get this place out of my system. We came here in the summers when the kids were small and swam in lakes and “dobbered,” floating like a cork, in a rubber boat full of children, turned it over to laughter, grilled sausages and felt like we’d gone back in time.

Sometimes the many parts of your life come together in a synergy: Poland, my love and heart and favorite family memories, my students and Finders Keepers, the novel I set aside six months ago like a lover I didn’t know how to talk to anymore. I told myself if I waited and studied and taught I might find the words again.

So I came here. And what am I doing here? Me and my two young friends are here to write, and to talk and breathe poetry. The grandfather of one of the students has this amazing, 200-year-old country home he renovated from scratch and filled with antique paintings and sculptures, like you fill you heart with kind thoughts. And now the house is like its owner, full of grace, creativity, and wisdom.

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