To listen to the poets read their poems about leaving and letting go, click the play button below each title.
I Will Leave
By Michael Bazzett
I will leave you, and I will leave the sudden darkness of afternoon thunderstorms and I will leave the rain and its patience in shaping mountains and I will leave the sun that is beautiful and merely chemical and I will leave the dogs whose heads fit snug in my two hands and I will leave these valleys that pull me to them as steadily as water and I will leave the clouds that undress even as I watch and I will leave the boot soles worn smooth by my gait and I will leave the switchbacks I have not fully followed and I will leave the warm creak of your voice in the morning and I will leave the hundred, hundred, hundred times my smile worked those lines into the skin around your eyes—
I Did What I Could To Keep This
By Peter Markus
I am here to translate my father’s death into fruit. Something that can be held. To bring it up to your lips the way I spooned strawberry yogurt up to his and said to him the word “Eat.” There was no use, in the end. There was no hunger. When you are eighty-six and stop eating, you die. On his death certificate, under “Cause of Death,” the word malnutrition. I did what I could to keep this from my mother. When she saw it, I watched her face. What was left inside her went someplace else. I said something to her to make sure she knew it wasn’t her fault. There was nothing she could do. “It means that he stopped eating” is all I said. My mother nodded. My father, later, zipped into a bag and taken away from us forever. The man who did the zipping took me by the elbow to tell me we might not want to watch. I took my mother into the other room, then went back because I wanted to see. My mother returned to see also. They wrapped my father up in a sheet my mother had recently washed. It smelled of lavender and bleach. I had shaved him minutes after he drew his last breath. Wiped his face clean in a way that pleased my mother. It was the least I could do. Later, when I asked if she was hungry, she shook her head no. I had kept watch from the carpeted floor the night before, my father’s last. Slept in my clothes behind the couch beside his bed. If I dreamed, I don’t remember. I don’t remember more than this little bit I am trying to hold. This small fruit. A single grape pulled from the cluster in the fridge. They put my father into a van and headed south along the river. “The road to the bridge gets bumpy” was all I told them after they shut the rear doors on the narrow gurney with my father’s dead body on it. He had already started to become something else. In the darkness at the edge of that road I stood for a little while before walking down to the river, where the dark water moved as if it were following my father, going under the bridge they drove across as they took him even farther away.
By Terry Lucas
Tonight, because all matter is dissolving, you & I are being gradually undressed by the universe — silk & wool molecules mingling with cells rising from skin like souls, drifting into flames, ascending alongside the chimney’s brick & mortar atomic particles, greeting our neighbor’s barbecue dinner likewise rising toward the galaxy’s arms, with syringol from the grill it was smoked on — while my shirt & your skirt fall to the floor. Climbing the stairs to our bedroom, we take care lest the overhead light burn out, weakened by an electron choir escaping into the backyard, joining a rapture of trees also disappearing. Someday this house will be cleansed of all dust & detritus. Mantel pictures only silhouettes on Kodachrome surfaces, tombstones, damp caskets beneath, even the flora feeding in our guts while our bodies feast on each other in bed — everything yes everything now gathered to us is leaving.