Somewhere Like Here but Better

There’s no light like Cape Cod light. People come from everywhere to paint by it. My mother told me this. It was 2015, and she’d just moved there, about an hour and a half from where I grew up in Blackstone. At the time, I lived in Missoula, Montana. “There’s a difference,” she said, “between people who love the ocean and people who love the mountains.” What she meant was, There is this difference between us. She’s right about that, but this isn’t how I’d describe the difference between us. I’d say there are people who stay and people who go. Or maybe: there are people attached to a place, and others in search of one. My mother is deeply attached to Massachusetts. 

That day, we stood in front of the Atlantic on Dowses Beach. Late afternoon, late December. The sun was hazed by a mantle of pearlescent cloud. The surface of the water like an actual surface, like glass, like a thing you could touch and which touching would not alter. Of course, nothing touched can remain unaltered. That’s the gist of quantum entanglement, anyway—that once two particles have interacted, they will continue to haunt one another. Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance.” I like that. 


I am haunted by unreal places. I dream of them. Or rather, I dream unreal parts of real places. Always somewhere I’ve lived and left: Providence, Rhode Island, and Toulouse, France. Sometimes Boston. Sometimes Burlington, Vermont. Sometimes the winding street where I grew up in Blackstone, the bare, looming winter trees and old farm at the top of the hill. Sometimes the muddy dirt road snaking up Putnam Hill in Chester, Vermont, where my father lives, and other times the seven hills of Cincinnati, Ohio. 

The dreams go like this: I’m somewhere I’ve lived before, and I’m searching for some hidden nook of the place. Someplace new or someplace I’d always known was there but never saw. I’ll be walking down a street at dusk, before the streetlamps brighten the shop signs, and the light from stores’ windows outshine their names. So, I could be anywhere. I’m on Church Street, in Burlington. The doors are all the same chipped sky-blue of the door to my building an ocean away on Rue Notre Dame. Around the corner, a part of Providence I never had time to visit. Up a hill, everything always up a hill, the promise of something I’ve never seen before, never done before, maybe never felt. If I round the corner of Church Street in Burlington, dressed in the pink light of Toulouse, I will be in Providence, where I will find—up a hill—the Church of the Immaculata in Mount Adams, overlooking Cincinnati. 

The other hidden nooks don’t actually exist, but I’ve seen them so many times in my sleep they’ve begun to connect to one another and overlap, mapping a new Frankencity into my subconscious that feels so real I have to remind myself it’s not. With the exception of Blackstone, I’ve never lived in any of these places for more than a few months or a few years. The dreams attempt to recover something I missed, something I didn’t know I’d lost. I wake up longing for places I’ll never be able to touch. 

These places linger in me, inhabit me. The real towns and cities go on existing, go on changing by the molecule and the minute, and so the versions I’ve known leave with me. They make me the attic where they rattle their chains. Except, now they are unchained, divorced of their original contexts and boundaries, free to mutate, to acquire new topographies and neighborhoods. And so they do. They make me larger with them, large enough to entertain, to host guests. And so I do. 

I am host and home to one guest in particular, a ghost who visits me in dreams. In each one, I am overcome by the realization that she’s there, that I’m in her place. The dwelling changes—a coworker’s kitchen, an open house with blue carpet and a piano, a friend’s apartment—but not the feeling. Several times, I’ve felt her enter my body. The knowledge and the ghost both feel like an inner swelling, a neural flooding, but the feeling of her taking possession causes more alarm. 

These dreams started in Massachusetts, a year or so before I left for Missoula. I was twenty-five and living with my mom and stepdad next to an old mill that once made steel-toed boots. In the first dream, she took the form of music: Swan Lake wafting from an otherwise empty apartment where the keys of an abandoned piano were moving, but by no earthly figure I could see. A feeling like fear bloomed in me as I faded—it was I who faded—from the scene. As the dreams persisted, we both took shape—me as a writer, the ghost as a stern-looking, turn-of-the-century spinster with a bustle, a high-necked lace button-up collar, and a graying bouffant. When I moved to Missoula, she took root, carving out a little piece of my dreaming mind to occupy. Here, instead of being a person inhabited by places, I become a place for someone to inhabit, my mind the hidden nook. 


One cold morning in the spring of 2015, my friend Jules and I drive to the Missoula County Juvenile Detention Center to write and talk about poetry with the teenagers incarcerated there. We bring Ada Limón’s poem “Someplace Like Montana,” in which the speaker looks at and longs for a place other than the one she occupies. In this imagined Montana, the speaker and a friend say they “[would] go for walks, and look at trees, / and write and look at the sky.”

The state has this effect on people. When I told New Englanders I was moving to Montana, they heard me say I was moving to MONTANA, like the word was etching itself in gold before their eyes. “Always wanted to go there,” they’d say, though half couldn’t tell you where it was, exactly. For New Englanders, the perceived nowhereness of it allowed it to be anywhere, or wherever they wanted it to be. “Kind of near Arizona, right? Between the Dakotas? Next to Wyoming?” 

Iceland has that false nowhereness for me. So does the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard. It’s not so much the cold I want, but the blankness, ice, the fjords. But, of course, these places are not blank, and longing for blankness is just a desire to occupy a space free of associations, the entirely theoretical clean slate. Even the cold, bare ice has stories.

We ask the kids what kind of place Limón’s poem imagines “Montana” to be. 

“It’s somewhere where you can do what you want because it’s so far away,” says a girl in the back. “Like an escape.” 

Another says the speaker imagines it’s a place where she can live a different kind of life—a peaceful and easy life. Jules and I talk about our own perceptions before moving to Montana, how they more or less fit the poem’s. After all, we moved here to write, go for walks, look at trees, and we regularly do those things. 

“It’s not like that for me,” says a boy from a small town an hour away. He’s an eastern transplant, like me. “People think they’re going to have so much privacy because it’s, like, small and far away or whatever. But there’s two thousand people in my town, and they all know my face. They all know what I’ve done. There’s nowhere to go.”

We sit with that for a while. Underneath the conversation about place, we are really talking about freedom and choice, which these kids are hurting for—the ability to pick a place and make it yours. Or at least to know that there’s one out there, that you could leave the place you’re in if you wanted. 

“Write about your ‘Montana,’ ” we say. “Pick a place you imagine escaping to. Call it, ‘Someplace Like _______.’ ” 

They share “Someplace Like Hawaii,” “Someplace Like Florida,” and “Someplace Like Indiana.” Then, one of the boys who almost never talks volunteers to share “Someplace Like Canada.” He has written about a place where you can walk into the woods and not see anyone for miles, a place where you can camp and fish and hunt. 

“That sounds like Montana,” Jules says. 

“Yeah,” he says. “It’s somewhere like here, but better.”

Everyone here is waiting on a court date, after which some will be sent to long-term juvenile facilities in Boulder or Miles City. Others will be sent home, but often to small communities where people will use their carceral history
to brand them as “bad kids,” defining them long before they figure out how to define themselves. They might get to go home, but they can’t go back to the version of it they knew before. 

Of course, some would long to live in a place just like the one they came from, but better. It’s like wanting to be who you are, but hotter. Who you are, but you read the Times every Sunday. Who you are, but you didn’t cheat on your ex. Or maybe it’s more like the desire to improve the one you love. I love you, but I wish you didn’t smoke. I wish you’d take a risk once in a while. Or: I love you, but I wish you hadn’t done me wrong. I love you, but I wish you loved me too. Wanting to be Somewhere Like Here but Better is wanting to love what you already love and have it love you back. A do-over. A chance. The impossible clean slate. These placeless children told me this.


Despite my icy longing, when I left Montana in the fall of 2016, I moved with my partner, Billy, to Florida. Gainesville, an hour and a half inland, surrounded by alligator-filled swamps and lakes, saw palms and slash pines, live oaks dripping Spanish moss. It was its own kind of pretty, I told myself, trying to like it. After the blunt, obvious drama of Montana’s peaks and plunges, I told myself North Central Florida would teach my eyes to look differently, to find beauty in the color gradations of a marshy prairie, that living at sea level or slowly sinking could mean something, though just what I failed to learn.

I was not at home in Gainesville, and I never felt much for the pretty that is Florida’s own. The landscape was evergreen, but the shade of rotting limes, sickly bright and browning. More than a few times, I saw people throw trash out the windows of their moving cars, and our seemingly friendly-but-eccentric neighbor who shared the bounties of his grill wound up in jail for choking his girlfriend. These things happen in many places, I told myself. But something in me was keeping track of this place’s ugliness. 

The list grew longer with every Trump sign along the rural highways, the anti-abortion billboards next to billboards for gun shows, the strip malls that dominated the town’s architecture. I wanted desperately to leave. I wanted hardwood forests and pants and water you could swim in without getting eaten by reptiles. I wanted seasons, cider donuts. 


“Cesspool of the world,” my mother said. She meant Florida. It was summer, Billy and I were about to leave Montana, and I’d just told her where we were moving. “Why would you live there?” 

I was ready for this response. “Florida Man” had become a national punchline, and I was getting a lot of amused skepticism from New Englanders and Missoula friends alike. My mother wasn’t amused, though, and I gave her the canned answer I’d been giving everyone else: Gainesville was inexpensive and warm. But really, a lot of my friends had left Montana, and my loneliness was manifesting as restlessness. The winter had been particularly long and snowy, and Billy had been dreaming of warmer climates. We’d narrowed it down to Gainesville or Tucson, neither of which I had ever visited. Billy suggested we check out Gainesville, insisting I’d love it. He knew it from playing music there during the heyday of its punk scene—in the nineties the town was home to acts like Against Me! and Less Than Jake—and like a couple in an episode of House Hunters, we wound up signing a lease after touring just three apartments. Nothing in me felt called to the place, and I don’t like to be rushed, but I hadn’t been able to commit to another idea. 

I know that my mother was disparaging Florida in this particular moment because she wanted me to live closer, but when I was growing up, she had always been vocal about her disdain for the place. Perhaps my internalization of this contempt, too, had something to do with my inability to warm up to the Sunshine State. Although excessive, my mother’s disdain didn’t come out of nowhere: like me, she lived in Florida for a year. It was her only significant departure from Massachusetts. 

She was eighteen and waiting tables at the Union House in Framingham when one of the cooks who worked winters on construction crews in Sarasota wrote his address down on a napkin and told her to come by if she was ever in town. A few weeks after he went south, my mother got sick of the December dark and bought a Greyhound Bus ticket. She took the napkin and some clothes. She didn’t call ahead. When she arrived, she showed the bus driver the napkin, and when he told her the address was two blocks away, she felt like that was fate.

She got a job at a Hallmark store. Her boss shot heroin in the back, surrounded by birthday cards. On the weekends, my mother foraged for psilocybin mushrooms and went to dive bars with her neighbor, Fox, who was married to the president of an outlaw biker gang. The only boy she dated was a man more than twice her age. No one she met was actually from Florida, and none of them stayed. Less than a year later, her sisters came to visit, and their familiar company made her so homesick she had the post office ship her clothes and took the bus back to Massachusetts, where she has remained ever since. 

The biggest factors impacting my own experience of Florida were not Florida’s fault. It was the first time I had moved somewhere without a defined purpose or plan, and the first time I moved with someone, a tagalong to a partner who had a built-in community when we arrived. I had our dog, my introversion, and a growing suspicion that Billy liked rye whiskey and cocaine more than he liked coming home early to watch old movies with me. 

I didn’t really make friends. I worked three jobs, and I was alone a lot, which was something I had once loved but felt different in that alien landscape. The dream ghost started visiting more, and I woke up often struggling to scream, the choked moans of which Billy said made me sound like a ghost. When the next October came around, I was homesick for New England, still sweating in unflattering tank tops and swatting mosquitos, newly allergic to something unidentifiable that left me unable to breathe out my left nostril for months. Wishing for fall, I went to a “pumpkin patch,” but it was just a plot of palm-shaded grass by the side of a busy road with a bunch of overpriced gourds strewn about. I was trying to force the place to be something it wasn’t, and I should have just learned how to acclimate to what it was. Instead, I picked out two pumpkins for our doorstep while snorting nasal spray and left them out until the sun baked them rotten. 

Soon, I smelled rot everywhere. Like some ancient humoral physician, I convinced myself that it was the place, that the dank phlegm and hot blood of it bred corruption. One day, about a year into our tenure and while looking for staples in a forgotten bag of U-Haul afterbirth, I found on the top shelf of Billy’s closet a blue velvet drawstring bag. I’d never seen it before. Were there staples in there? I suspected not, but something in me suspected . . . something, so I opened it. Inside was a Ziploc bag full of powder. I licked my pinky and dipped it in. It felt a little grainy to be coke, but it had to be something, maybe some new bizarro drug I’d never heard of. I rubbed it on my gums and waited. When they didn’t numb, I tried again, convinced I felt it sting a little, though that was likely just my own suspicion tingling above my teeth. Finally, I texted to ask Billy what it was. 

“The blue velvet bag?” he replied. “That’s dad.”

My heart sped up, then oozed out into my chest. I’d forgotten his mother had sent him some of his dad’s ashes when he couldn’t make the scattering. He’d been planning to take them to St. Augustine or Cedar Key. His father, landlocked since birth, had always loved the ocean. My tongue trawled some hard pebble from between my teeth—a piece of bone, maybe. Good God, I thought. If this place doesn’t eat us alive, we’ll eat each other dead. 

Billy went to rehab in Naples a month later. We moved again two months after that. 


A palm reader in Montana once told me I had “religious hands,” that if I’d been born a few centuries earlier, I’d have joined a nunnery. Another clairvoyant there told me I had been born a few centuries earlier—as an alchemist, a man deemed crazy by the townsfolk whose greatest discovery in life was that there is nothing to discover. 

“You already know this, though,” the clairvoyant said, eyes bright and locked on mine. “Your wizard is nodding—he knows you know.” Her name was Sarah, and she said my soul could time travel. How exhausting, I thought. Another dimension to search through, another way to be lost. It would be a relief if he—if I—were right, if there were nothing, nowhere to discover. Maybe we could stop searching. All of us: the wizard in me, the nun in me, the poet in me. Maybe the ghost in me. All of us roaming, whether on land, in time, or spirit, looking for gold or God or a way to stay on this earth, looking for the unreal something we really have lost. 


In August of 2017, I drove with Billy and our friend Brett two hours from Gainesville to Cassadaga, a Spiritualist camp and community formed in 1894 by George P. Colby, a New York medium who said that a freezing baptism at twelve years old had thinned the veil enough to permit him communion with spirits. The Camp’s lore has it that Colby was told in a séance that he would bring Spiritualism—practiced as its own religion mostly in the North—to the South. And so he did. He followed his spirit guide’s instructions deep into the Florida scrubland until he reached the hilly, lakeside place that his guide had telegraphed, the place that had been calling him. Or maybe he had been the one calling: calling out to the place he’d imagined, calling it forth. Calling it Cassadaga made it answer, Cassadaga.

Today, full-time residents of Cassadaga live in around fifty-five homes on fifty-seven acres of Colby’s land. Many of them are practicing mediums and healers whose services visitors can engage for a fee. Because Spiritualism is no longer a widespread belief system, and it’s unusual that the camp still exists at all, the fact that this many mediums reside in one small community has made Cassadaga yet another Floridian curio for tourists, travel guides, and news media, amplified in recent years by a surge in American appetite for the supernatural. Except, for the camp’s residents, séances, mediumship, and the spirit plane are natural, not supernatural: phenomena that express the “Infinite Intelligence” in which they believe. 

I didn’t know any of this when I visited, though. I was there for the spooky action.

Brett, a friend from Montana whom we’d lured to Gainesville by telling him it was weird, warm, and inexpensive, suggested that we go. The trip was actually his bon voyage; after just six months, he was throwing in his bar towel and moving home to Chattanooga. During his time in Gainesville, Brett and I had become completely absorbed in some occult-themed community education classes, so a trip to Cassadaga was a fitting sendoff.

Originally, I’d signed up for the classes on my own in one of my efforts to make new friends in Florida, but I didn’t. The first was called “Vampires, Werewolves, and Zombies”—it had been between that and fencing—and it was taught by a parapsychologist specializing in poltergeists. He was a walking encyclopedia of the supernatural, although he didn’t believe in all supernatural phenomena willy-nilly. He had a system. He believed in the phenomena that worked within his system and discounted that which did not. Although my notes say he told us there was a “consensual vampire cult” in Gainesville, we talked more about psychic vampirism than blood-sucking immortals. We talked about psychoplasm and auras (mine’s gold with some purple at the crown, Brett’s is green and brownish-orange), and we talked about animism and the psychology of archetype. We discussed whether the universe was the Great Thought or the Great Machine. Did I buy it? Well, I took two more classes—“Parapsychology and the Metaphysics of the Occult” and then “Paranormal Investigation.” I loved the vocabulary: thoughtforms, etheric energy, the noosphere. For a few hours each week, I felt like there was a language to translate the most unsettled parts of me, though Brett and I often had trouble accessing it again as we slipped from the classroom into the swampy dark of the community college parking lot. He’d just say, Man! with his eyebrows Jack Nicholson–high, and I’d say, Man, and we knew that we felt exactly what the other meant.

I told our teacher about my dream ghost once. He said that just because something takes place in the mind doesn’t mean it’s not real, that if the Universe sprang from a single atom, then at the deepest level, we are part of everything, and everything is part of us, ghosts and dreams included. Wherever we’ve been, we’re still there. Wherever we are, we’ll always be. “You’d be surprised,” he said, “how often the living haunt their own houses.” 

At Cassadaga’s center is the Cassadaga Hotel, built in the 1920s and furnished with antiques. The gift shop is filled with crystals and tarot decks for purchase, and readings are scheduled at the checkout counter. Upstairs, the chambers have been repurposed into psychic reading rooms. In the lobby, rotating cards introduce the day’s psychics and their specialties. I booked an appointment with a reader specializing in tarot and numerology.

The room had dark green walls and a champagne-colored velvet couch in one corner. We sat at the reader’s desk, where she took my hands and closed her eyes. 

“I keep seeing this woman—she’s very . . . I don’t know how to say it . . . buttoned up.” She mimed the act of buttoning all the way up her throat. “Stern. Older . . . older style.”

“I know who that is,” I said. She was describing the turn-of-the-century old woman who haunts my dreams. “Who is she?” I asked after explaining. 

“It’s hard to say,” said the psychic. “She appears quite protective, maybe a little judgmental. She seems very attached to you, but I don’t get the sense that she’s an ancestor. Maybe just someone you picked up along the way.”

Just someone you picked up along the way. I thought back to all the places I’d lived: Blackstone, Massachusetts; Uxbridge, Massachusetts; Holliston, Massachusetts; Chester, Vermont; Burlington, Vermont; Montpellier, France; Toulouse, France; Providence, Rhode Island; Missoula, Montana; Gainesville, Florida. The next three years would add three more states to the list. 

Just someone you picked up along the way. Well, why me? Why do you live here within me, judgey Edwardian ghost? Why would you live here? 


In Gainesville, a fellow student told our class of amateur occult scholars about a friend of hers living in Paris. The woman’s apartment was once inhabited by Camille Claudel, a nineteenth-century sculptor and the assistant, lover, and “muse” of August Rodin. A number of sculptures with his name on them are actually Claudel’s, and their affair is said to have driven her mad. She smashed her masterpieces and her brother committed her to an institution, where she spent the last thirty years of her life. 

The woman living in her apartment, who was not an artist herself, had recently taken up sculpting. “What is that?” our classmate asked. “Is she being possessed?” 

Our teacher thought for a minute.

“Well,” he said finally, “are the sculptures any good?”


Once, when I was fourteen, my mother and I went to an autumn festival in Woonsocket. I was grumpy because being there with my mother meant I couldn’t flirt with anyone, which was the point of most endeavors at that age. My mother tried to cajole me into going into a fortuneteller’s tent with her, but once a mood takes hold of me, it’s hard to shake it out, so she went in alone. I remember her, though, the fortuneteller, standing outside the tent. She was tall with long, wild curls, and she was dressed in gauzy red, twirling a red scarf by her feet. Her eyes were a very light, very eerie shade of blue. Whenever I tell the story, I feel like I made her up. 

When she returned, my mother seemed unsettled. She walked toward the parking lot without waiting for me to stand. Once in the car, she just shook her head and said she didn’t want to talk about it. It took me a week to get the story out of her. 

In the tent, the fortuneteller asked my mother to shuffle the cards and think of a question. When the woman took the deck back from her, she simply held it for a moment before returning it. “You didn’t really think of one,” she said. My mother shuffled again, and the fortuneteller began laying the cards on the table. 

“I see you’re having problems with another woman. Is her name J—?” My mother held very still. At the time, she and my stepfather were embroiled in a legal dispute with his ex-wife, who was indeed named J—. A hearing was scheduled for mid-November. “You’ll lose your court case in November,” the fortuneteller said. 

My mother’s anger over the legal dispute had been all consuming. It was affecting her life. “Try not to let this eat away at you, Judith,” the fortuneteller said. My mother hadn’t told the woman her name. 

“You should move away from all this to the ocean. You’ve lived near the woods a long time, and that was right, for a while. But the ocean is where you’ll be healed.” 

My mother grew up in another woodsy Mass town a little over twenty miles from where we lived in Blackstone, but Cape Cod has always been her favorite place in the world. My stepfather loves to tell the story of a trip they took to visit my aunt before they were married, where at a bar they were selected to play couples trivia. The host asked my mother to describe her dream honeymoon. She said Cape Cod. Everyone laughed—who dreams of honeymooning so close to home? 

My mother does. When I was young, we’d visit and stay with a family friend in Yarmouth, and she’d walk the beach picking rosehips from the scraggly bushes that grow along the dunes, barely missing the prickers as she cracked into the bright orange fruits with her teeth. The ones she didn’t eat she saved to jelly, storing the jars alongside the rum she made from scavenged beach plums and chokecherries. We also collected cloudy blue beach glass and the abandoned shells of horseshoe crabs, dug at low tide for littlenecks and quahogs, and waded into the marsh to net crabs. We drove past all the cedar shake houses on Route 6A, where she dragged me into every antique market, thrift store, and estate sale she encountered. “Yaaahhhd sale!” she’d shout in an exaggerated Boston accent. I wonder sometimes if the thing my mother loves best about the Cape is treasure hunting—all that hidden booty just waiting in the sand, the bushes, someone’s great aunt’s attic. 

The court case was officially about health insurance, but it was really about Cape Cod—winning would mean my stepfather could cover my mom instead of continuing to cover his ex-wife, and she could quit the tech industry job that she hated and begin anew in her favorite place. A few days before the hearing, the case was postponed until January. My mother announced this gleefully. I was the only one who knew that she wasn’t really happy about the postponement, but the fact that it would render the fortuneteller’s prophecy about losing in November impossible. 

In January, the case was rescheduled again for that coming November. They lost.

“I wonder if she made it happen,” my mother said.

“Like she cursed you?” I said.

“No, like saying it made it . . . real or something.”

It was a silly worry, the kind of thing you think when things go wrong. What could I have done? Still, I understand. Nothing touched remains unaltered.


In Cassadaga, I asked my psychic if I should move back to New England. She fanned the tarot cards out in front of me like a prophetic buffet and told me to pick three. She looked at them, shook her head, replaced them in the deck, and asked me to do it again. I remembered my mother’s psychic telling her she hadn’t really thought of a question and wondered if asking customers to shuffle twice was a trick of the divination trade.

She flipped over the cards and donned a sympathetic expression. 

“Home would be okay. Eventually, it would be okay. But I see a lot of sadness there, in the beginning, at least. I think there’s something you’d have to let die in order to be there. Going home—it would be the death of some kind of dream.”

That stuck with me. It scared me. I took it, most likely, too seriously. But I think it’s a death either way, staying in one place or always moving. In The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath famously describes each of her narrator’s choices in life as ripe figs on a fig tree, and the anxiety of choice as follows: 

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

My own figgy anxiety is one reason I haven’t quite put down roots. But also, in my roaming, I have always had this dream of intuitive belonging, of finding a place that will call to me, peacefully claim me—and then remake me. On the verge of every move, I indulge in a romantic fantasy of the person I’ll be in that new place—always calmer, content, curled into myself by a window, sipping tea in a big wool sweater. I don’t think about the fact that I already do those things, that I already wear big sweaters and drink tea or that my desk faces the window. Because it never feels the way I imagine it feeling. The wool is itchy, the tea always either scalding or lukewarm. Every new town holds the possibility of becoming her: who I am, but different. Someone like me, but better. 


My mom calls me from Cape Cod, where she has become the version of herself she’s always wanted to be, entirely at home in her clamming waders and her yard sales, raking up oysters and going mornings to the beach to visit her seagulls and collect litter. I pick up from wherever I am, and she asks when I’m coming home. I’d like to know that, too. I think my home will be an amalgamation of all the places I’ve let inside me, somewhere like all of them. I accept that I may never see it, or that it may not yet exist. A place need not exist to be real. I suppose I could haunt the Earth after I die, just waiting to attach myself to some accommodating someone who might carry me around sightseeing for a while, who might let me sleep inside them like a Russian nesting doll. Just someone you picked up along the way. And if that future fellow ghost bearer ever finds the place, the one I’ve so long sought, I’ll enter her full on, like a knowing. Why don’t we live here? I’ll say. Why don’t we live here? I’ll be the silence calling out from the mountain. I’ll be the singular light by the sea. The particle that touches her, alters her, the quantum bit of something that shivers off in the distance when she feels at last contained.


Caylin Capra-Thomas is the author of the poetry collection Iguana Iguana (Deep Vellum, 2022), and her poems and nonfiction have appeared in Pleiades, New England Review, 32 Poems, Mississippi Review, and others. The recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Studios of Key West, she was the 2018–2020 poet-in-residence at Idyllwild Arts Academy. She lives in Columbia, Missouri, where she is a PhD candidate in English and creative writing.