Going Home

Going Home
Beth Cato

on each birthday when I was a kid
I had cake, sure
then Mama took me to a different crossroads
around our house
where we buried a lock of my hair
in the dirt nearby
and said a few words in the old tongue
the only scraps of the language I knew
other than some choice profanity

by the time I was fourteen
I thought it was stupid
“this binds me here
but what’s the point?” I asked
“after I head off to college or wherever
what makes you think I’ll come back
to this old cow town, anyway?”

Mama stayed cool as the night sky
“no matter where you go
this will always be home
this air, this soil, these streets
made you who you are

whether you’re in the next town over
or three-thousand miles away
every junction is a choice
and you’ll always know
which way to turn to come home
and we’ll always welcome you”

let’s be honest
as family magic goes
a homing beacon is pretty lame
or so I thought then
I rolled my eyes and put up with it

now, that homeward tug
keeps me alive

this world now broken
electricity a memory
I walk, day after day
and no matter how clouds
smother the sky
or how often I veer off road
to dodge raiding parties
or to find shelter
when I stand in the next crossroads
I know the way

I feel that pull
like when I tripped as a kid
and blinded by tears and pain
I somehow fell straight
into Mama’s embrace

I know she’ll be awaiting me
there amid the crossroads
arms open
to welcome me home


Nebula-nominated Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger duology and the Blood of Earth trilogy from Harper Voyager. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cats. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.