(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.