Poem: Back in the States

Today we have another great description of re-entry by Craig….I’d also encourage you to check out some of Craig’s other writings about reentry on his own blog.

Back in the States after being gone for a long time,
I’m standing
in the cereal aisle at Wal-Mart.
My list says “bran cereal” with no instructions
on how to pick out the right kind.
I tell the kids to quiet down
and remind them
that “everybody here knows English
so they can understand everything you say

A friend turns the corner and sees us: “Hey!
Long time no see.
Didn’t know you were back.
Look at you.
A little grey around the edges,
but not too bad.
Bet you’re glad to be

He’s describing me like you’d describe a used book:
Slight shelf wear.
Dust jacket missing.
Discoloration on edge of spine.
A few underlined passages and extensive notes in margins.
Some dogeared

We chat about
how big the kids look and about
the new high school being built,
and then he says again,
“Bet you’re glad to be home.”
This time I respond with “Well,
both places have their advantages.”
My daughter shows me a box of
off-brand Fruit Loops,
raising her eyebrows like two question marks.
I shrug my shoulders and she puts it in the

That is the way I feel,
like a used

But deep inside, I’d rather
be a manuscript.
Like one of those manuscripts
that’s been sent to
44 publishers and rejected
44 times.
Then the author’s wife sees it
in the trash folder
on the computer and sends it
in for one last try.
It’s picked up
and becomes a bestseller,
and it’s made into a movie
that wins two or
three Academy Awards.
That’s what I’d like to be, now
that I’m starting over
with this new life
in a new place that everybody says is

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Craig Thompson

Craig is a former missionary who currently resides in Joplin, Missouri, where he’s lived on and off for 20 years. That includes 10 years sandwiched in the middle when he, his wife, Karen, and five children called Taipei, Taiwan, home. The past five years back in the States have been another time of learning about the process of transition, with its many challenges and opportunities. Craig blogs at ClearingCustoms.net.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Enjoyed your poem.
    One of my big struggles being back “home” is grocery shopping…
    Grateful for those times being your neighbors on Yonghe!

    Anne Ijäs

  • Please give me some perspective on coming back to USA after 45 years serving in Africa. People do not understand me here, and how do it fit in, and deal with my African loss

    • Please give yourself the time you need. Transitioning back to the States can be a long process, especially when you’ve been away as long as you have. During those years, you’ve changed and the home you’re returning to has changed. And you’re right to acknowledge the loss involved with leaving Africa. I pray, Jennifer, that you’ll be able to grieve that in an open, honest, and healthy way.

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