Listen to Poems about Departures | The Sun Magazine
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Listen to Poems about Departures

By Michael Bazzett, Peter Markus & Terry Lucas • December 13, 2023

We asked the poets in this month’s special poetry section to read their poems about leaving and letting go. To listen, click the play button below each title.

 

I Will Leave
By Michael Bazzett
Photograph of 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
Photograph of 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.

 

Everything
By Terry Lucas
Photograph of 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.
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