A Story for June: ‘Homecoming’

June 2023

An early summer treat.

Alexander says of this poem, ‘Every journey must end, and that may be at home – the most glorious ending of all.’


If there is one story that we, in our need for narrative,
Persistently ask for, it is a tale of homecoming;
The journey of a classical hero coming back from a war
To the uncertain reception of an importuned wife
Is one to which we have been listening
For an awfully long time; though we may know how it ends,
The beginning is still capable of fascinating
Even the most restless audience – difficulties
May abound, it seems, on even the most innocent
Journey back from the office; those who set off
On a route they have used time and time again
May still be surprised by the dangers that beset
The quotidian traveller; reaching home, it seems,
Is not always a forgone conclusion.

So we are always relieved when the haven we reach
Is revealed to be the right one, and waiting friends
Receive us with all the enthusiasm of those
Who have hoped for something that has now happened;
We may be accustomed to thinking of ourselves
As self-determining creatures, whose fate
Is firmly in hands we recognise as our own,
But the reality may be somewhat different:
If, when constructing an intricate machine,
The part we pick up clicks into place without argument,
If input and output match with a satisfying equivalence,
Then that may have nothing to with any design
We have elaborated ourselves; the cadence
That resolves a piece of music was probably there
Before Bach committed it to his populous staves;

But that need not worry us too much; what matters
Is that we finally reach our destination, the chapter
We’re reading is ended, the book put away
And the light turned off; reaching home, we discover,
Is a process, long in the making, but not one
That those coming home ever mistake
For anything else; bands and ticker-tape
May be absent from the occasion of our return,
But we may be forgiven for imagining them,
And believing, even falsely, they are no less than our due:
Even the least of us, after all, may deserve to come home.