Letting Go (title poem of book)

 (First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

-Emily Dickinson, “After great pain, a formal feeling comes”


Where did you go before you left?

When you couldn’t speak but made yourself say,

“I’m dying. Let me go.”

I told you to try as hard as you could

To live so that you could stay with me

When I finally told you it was o.k. to go

That I was taking you to a place where you

Would be unplugged from all the tubes

You put your hand on mine

Squeezed it as hard as you could

As if to say thank you.


How many times did you let me go?

When I was learning how to ride a bike,

First with training wheels, then with none,

You watched me teeter,

Resisted the urge to hold me up,

Like the time I was learning to swim and never did,

Clutched you on the first day of kindergarten

Afraid to let go of you.

Now I’ve let you go

Like you let me go.


When I left you for the last time,

On the airplane home,

I felt two taps on the shoulder,

Thought it was probably some obnoxious kid,

The kind who likes to kick seats.

I turned around

No one was there.

What were you trying to tell me?

My first panic attack

In the connecting airport

I was told my baggage had been sent to a city

Across the country

I thought your things would be lost to me

Never to be reclaimed.

Stood in line waiting for someone to help me

Only to be told there was nothing she could do

She saw me falling to the floor

Then took me in a wheelchair to the front of the line

I was told that it had been a mistake.


I even let a man into my body

Because I thought you had sent him to me

To fill the space that you left when you went

I made him into what I wanted him to be.

He took what he wanted, then disappeared

You always said men were only good for one thing

Was this your way of proving it to me?


You kept me tethered to the earth

Made me believe that you would never go

But the one who made me live and lived for me is gone

You gave me the gift of life

I gave you the gift of death

Now I drift unmoored, bereft

Wondering what other ways you will let me know

            that you’re not gone—yet.

4 thoughts on “Letting Go (title poem of book)

  1. Dear Holly,
    I read the above poem, so poignant. I felt what you were feeling; you expressed so well. As you heal, the pain will recede but the memories will remain, giving you comfort. That is my prayer for you.


      • Sometimes when we think people have gone, we later discover they had never left…. Perhaps a presence transformed beyond touch, sight, the things we taste, feel, love. There but not there;
        a whisper beyond a door, light touches on window pane, a creak on spare room’s floor. I saw a shadow between me and the moon; over there, here, but where. Present and never gone. If you look for butterflies, you’ll never see the Luna on this side of tired and worn.


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