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Weekly Prompt: Portrait of a Return

2010 December 17

Fixings for hot pot: a family holiday tradition that characterized my last return to New Jersey.

The approach of the holiday season always makes my thoughts turn towards home—regardless of whether or not (and where) I’ll be traveling—and makes me revisit my relationship to the process of returning to its streets and idiosyncratic landmarks.  The buses and shuttles and planes and cars I’d take to get there.  The things I’d see and do when I did. Home is, to some degree, Philadelphia, where Mayor Nutter’s face greets me as I descend the airport escalator, and where I can lope off to Chinatown for the world’s best bao (K.C.’s) or a steaming bowl of broth swimming with fishballs and silky ho fun (Ting Wong).  But it is, more quintessentially, my parents’ quiet hometown in New Jersey, where suburbia swells out over the fences, becoming more pale and alien each time I blink, but where, in my family’s house, there’s always a kitchen light on and a steaming hot bowl of fresh chicken soup waiting for me whenever I return, suitcase in hand.

Today’s prompt is based on an exercise that Bruce Snider, one of my undergraduate mentors, used to use in his workshop classes.

Prompt: Think of a city, town, or other geographical location that you know intimately, and write its portrait, in the form of a poem that details a specific return to that place.

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