Friday, April 05, 2013

Poetry Friday: Goodbyes

Usually I only post poetry on Fridays.  But it's National Poetry Month right now, so I've been posting a poem each day.  But my fingers still want to type "Poetry Friday," and on two of my posts I've had to go back and fix the title, changing "Friday" to "Month."

Here's what I've posted so far this week, in addition to daily updates on the Progressive Poem:
Monday: Jacaranda Tree, by Michelle Garrels.
Tuesday: A spine poem by my daughter.
Wednesday: Ode to the Tomato, by Pablo Neruda.
Thursday: The Flea, by John Donne.
Whew.  Eclectic enough for you?

Today it's the real poetry day.   I decided to share one of my own poems.  Last week my daughter went on a school trip to Washington, D.C.  She had a wonderful time, and I was thrilled to see her take a step toward adulthood and independence.  But I simultaneously wanted to lock her in her room when she got back and make her promise never to leave me, ever again.  While she was gone, I got a glimpse of my life a couple of years from now when she'll be in college, and I'll be happy for her, and wanting her to be herself away from me, because that's the way it works, but at the same time I'll be so very sad.  At least that's how it seems to me now.

While wallowing through these emotions, I dug out this poem I wrote last year.  It refers to my own childhood in boarding school, and I guess you can see where some of my separation anxiety comes from, and why I want, perhaps more even than most mothers, to keep my kids close.  Goodbyes are always hard.


"Goodbyes cause problems," said the Matron at boarding school.
"It's really better if you just slip away.
If you must say it, make sure it's not prolonged.
You may not drop in for a visit," she added.
"The children's routine is disturbed.
They are more homesick after you leave again."

The parents, feeling vaguely guilty for being so disruptive,
Waved cheerily and didn't fuss.
They wished for their children an orderly universe, untroubled by messy emotions.
Wouldn't it be simpler, they wondered, to avoid goodbyes entirely,
Since they made everyone so sad?

But the children grew up to favor lengthy goodbyes
Rituals of leave-taking that went on for weeks before departure.
They dreaded the end of visits before those visits even began.
They hated for anyone to leave them,
But if someone must go away, a farewell party was obligatory,
With speeches and tearful sharing of memories.

Their motto was "Make a fuss."
They sobbed and wailed,
Grieved extravagantly, soaked handkerchiefs at airports.
They mourned separation and disconnectedness,
Experienced heartbreak to its fullest extent,
Longed for Gondwanaland and Heaven.
They knew that it wasn't goodbyes that had unsettled them as children,
So much as, simply, love.

Ruth, from

Robyn Hood Black has the roundup today. And check out the latest line of the Progressive Poem here.


Janet said...

Yup. Love is very unsettling. Beautiful!

I'm sure I'll feel the same way... my daughters are a few years behind yours, but the idea of goodbyes... yikes.

I posted on goodbyes today too, of a different kind.

Liz Steinglass said...

This is lovely. There's something so intriguing about the tone. I love 'their motto was "make a fuss."'
My oldest son will leave in a few years and I'm already sometimes tearful about it. But I know I will be happy too. Just as you said.

Matt Forrest Esenwine said...

So beautiful and true. Something all parents can identify with.

Linda at teacherdance said...

Ruth, you know I've written more than one 'goodbye' poem, some saying goodbye to an 'age', like baby into toddler, but the recent one was about my son going off to college, & although it was such a long while ago, the feelings are very real. This is a beautiful sentiment/memory captured, of such mixed feelings, asking what is "underneath" those 'quickie' goodbyes. How awful to think one cannot do what seems so important. I love ' an orderly universe, untroubled by messy emotions', but it brought teary eyes. Thank you! (Happy your daughter had a good time-always a wish!)

Robyn Hood Black said...

Thanks for sharing, Ruth. My youngest heads off to college in the fall. Sigh.

Tabatha said...

Ruth, your poem is extremely timely for me, as I am up in the middle of the night worrying about my oldest, who goes to college this fall! I am not sure what bothers me the most, that I will miss her or that I will not be able to protect her as she goes out in the world. Thanks for this poem.

Mary Lee said...

I'm only sending someone else's children on to middle school from 5th grade, and yet, this rings just as true for me!

Violet N. said...

Ruth, this is so moving and takes me back to the time my daughter and then son moved out. Thanks for sharing this personal piece!

Doraine Bennett said...

This is so lovely, Ruth. My four are all grown and gone, but whenever they come and leave again, I stand in the driveway and watch the back window of the car until I can no longer see it. It's a ritual, full of love and release. Thanks for sharing.