Friday, June 08, 2018

Poetry Friday: Goodbye

The beginning of the summer is the season of goodbyes. I should say it is one of the seasons of goodbyes, because there are goodbyes all year round, but at this time of year multiple people leave at once. (Here's an amazing blog post explaining the constant transitions of the expat world.)

Today I'm sharing three goodbye poems I've written in the past year. The first one is about my childhood, the second about my frustration with people saying "I'll always be with you," "I'll be in your heart" and other such phrases when they are leaving, and the third about a friend in my writing group who is leaving.


When I was a child
I would always carefully fold my pyjamas
in the morning when I got dressed
and place them under my pillow.

When we stayed in a hotel
or a motel
or someone else’s home
I would do the same.

In this way I left pyjamas
in many US states
and a few countries,
under pillows far and wide.

I like to think it was because
I felt at home everywhere.
When I lay my head on a pillow
and slept and dreamed there
that place became part of my life.
Or perhaps I was storing pyjamas
in case I ever came back.

But those places weren’t part of my life,
any more than all those people
we met on our travels,
the ones who promised to write to me,
and never did.
And I almost never did come back.
At least until I had outgrown the pyjamas.

Now that I am grown
I still always put my pyjamas under my pillow
but when I am not at home,
I have learned to check there when I’m packing.

I have a better idea now of where I belong.



He told me he’d always be there.

he backed out of the driveway
he was still promising he’d never leave me. 

His face got smaller and smaller
he called from the car window,
“I’m still with you!  I’ll always be with you!”

The taillights disappeared down the street
he wasn’t with me any more.


Goodbye (after M.S. Merwin)

with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is
 M.S. Merwin, "Thanks"

I am always waving goodbye,
goodbye to the moment,
goodbye to the day,
goodbye to my family,
goodbye to many friends,
and now
goodbye to you.

There you go, walking away
to parts unknown,
Washington DC? 
and I am still here
waving goodbye

Making a speech,
I am saying goodbye.

Carrying home a bag of books
from your apartment
and some Extra Virgin Olive Oil,
I am saying goodbye.

Taking the art down from your walls
so you can pack it,
I am saying goodbye.

Writing these lines,
I am saying goodbye.

Talking and laughing,
I am saying goodbye.

Meeting you,
I was already saying goodbye.

goodbye my friend,
I call behind you,
thank you we are saying and waving,
dark though it is


Here's today's roundup.


Karen Edmisten said...

Ruth, these are all beautiful and each one is poignant in its own way.

So interesting about the ex-pat good-byes. I hadn't thought of it that way. I can commiserate on some level. We live in such a mobile world, and people come and go so regularly. In our small town, there are a few large employers that move people around, promote them, transfer them. Some of my dearest friends have moved away because of their husbands' jobs. And as the daughter of an Air Force pilot, I grew up moving, not getting permanently attached. I longed for roots when we moved into this current house, in this small town, and then I found out that so many others don't have lasting roots either. I'm sorry your friend from your writing group is leaving!

Linda B said...

I've posted more than one goodbye poem, and love the different looks you've shown us in your poems today, Ruth. That pajama ritual is one I did do as a young girl, and now you've made me remember it, though I don't anymore. Goodbye to that, too, & now I wonder if we all have said goodbye to some of those rituals we used to be so faithful to? Those who say goodbye, will keep in touch are many, & some do keep the promise. Thanks for bringing many thoughts to this sometimes poignant thing in our lives. I like all your poems, but especially the way you crafted that first one into a story.

jama said...

Thanks for sharing your poems about different goodbyes. I think my favorite is the pajama poem -- like Linda, I enjoyed the storytelling aspect of it, how you moved from a childhood ritual to adult realization.

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Thanks for the glimpse of three different goodbyes. Each one is moving in its own way. I especially enjoyed the transition in "Pyjamas" from "I like to think it was because / I felt at home everywhere" to "I have a better idea now of where I belong" and the vivid actions in "Goodbye (after M.S. Merwin)." "Carrying home a bag of books / from your apartment / and some Extra Virgin Olive Oil" made me feel as if I were right there in the middle of that move.

Whispers from the Ridge said...

I love hearing your backstory. Each of these poems really resonates with me. It's true what you say about this notion of goodbye.

Joyce Ray said...

Your Goodbye poems are wonderful, Ruth. Pyjamas is my favorite, and I did and do place folded pajamas under my pillow. Haven't lost any, though! Maybe we get used to the goodbyes at some level? I get very emotional at goodbyes I think will be forever, but I have learned that I sometimes meet up with my new friends again. So I can let go of the idea of a permanent farewell, at least sometimes. Now, saying goodbyes to an elder or someone who is very sick - different matter!

Mary Lee said...

I love all three of these (well, maybe not LOVE them, but am pained differently by each of them), but my favorite is the last one. It has a distinct flavor of Billy Collins to me.

Jane @ said...

I have had so many goodbyes recently - our city has become so unaffordable for young people that many of my friends have moved away to other cities, other countries, looking for a place to set down roots. It's strange being the one left behind! That's one of the strange things about goodbyes, how different they can feel depending on whether you're the one leaving or staying.

Michelle Kogan said...

Your pajama poem brought back memories for me– I like how nonchalantly this poem moves as your grow and shows your own inward growth with change. Your third poem hit home with me also for I too have a writing buddy that we will have to say goodbye to, you captured well this bittersweet moment, thanks Ruth!

Heidi Mordhorst said...

"Meeting you,
I was already saying goodbye."

It would indeed be heavy to live like this, to have a better understanding of where you belong and to know that goodbye is ever a part of it. Ruth, are you submitting your work for publication? It is so worthy.

Tabatha said...

The post about transitions in the expat world was very interesting. A good bit of insight. Your poems are great -- thoughtful and eloquent.

Linda Mitchell said...

I must agree with you about expat goodbyes. When I lived as an expat in a community of expats...we formed friendships as close as family. We loved living where we did but our "home team" was always part of our life. Saying goodbye was a ripping at the fabric of that group. Thank you for writing so eloquently and beautifully cannot be easily put into words....the faces getting smaller and smaller the always goodbye. Somehow, it makes the moments together sweeter. Oddly, I'm not big on the reunions. I do attend and have been a part of reunions. But, something about talking about the good ole days doesn't sit right with me. Hugs to you. You've touched my heart again.

jan godown annino said...

I appreciate learning more about your paths & about your intense connection with leavings.
I have to confess I am someone who does tell some people, during an embrace that marks parting,
the I will always be with them in spirit. I don't say that to everyone, or often but when I said my
GoodByes to our migrating Elders who keep warm in Florida in the winter &
cool in New England in the summer in their tiny longtime home,
I did say that, once again.

You work so hard there in the heat & humidity &
everything else that is your calling -
& people vamoose from it when it is their time &
schedule to do so.

A new friend at the time, a much older women,
once wrote to me "Jan, people come into your life for a season or for a reason..."
when we knew our intense paths involving each os us, helping, together,
some very needy family members was ending for good reason.
I have never said that to anyone, but I do think about it when
I meet someone new during a concentrated time of
working together
or helping together.

Good wishes to you this summer.
I'm guessing people departing
also mean there is more work to do.