“The Light” by Jim Peterson

Jim Peterson


for Harriet

You have done everything
There is nothing left to do
Your wrongs are now right
Your rights are still right
You can let go now
Let go of your eyes
that have seen too much
and too little,
your hands that have played
the strings, the keys,
the skins of animals
stretched tight over the drums
Let go of the horses,
the loving of them,
the training, riding them
to victories and losses,
standing with them
in midnight pastures
full of cool breezes
Let go of your face
you pressed so often
into your own hands
Let go of your tongue,
the taste of food,
the taste of words
Let go of your voice
that rode the breath
of your songs
Let go of your knees, elbows,
shoulders, belly, genitals
Let go of your feet
No need to stand on them
or see them or touch them again
Let go of your hair, skin,
beauty, ugliness, scent
Let go of your heart
its love and its hate and its fear
Let go of your friends
and your enemies,
your mother and father,
your brothers and sisters,
the assorted smiles you gave them
Let go of your mind
its thoughts, its hopes, its dreams,
its attitudes, its knowledge,
its assumptions, its underlying
beliefs, its overbearing beliefs,
Let go of every one of them
They won’t help you now
Let go of your dog
who lies at the foot of your bed
She studies every labored breath you take
I will keep her safe
Let go of me
who sits beside you
holding your right hand
where these words
fall out of me like leaves
I want to go
through that door with you
but nothing and no one can do that
You won’t miss us anyway
when you get there
There is nothing more to do
Nothing all day and all night
Nothing under the sheets
Nothing within the mirror
Everything has been said
Except this
When you get there
do not be distracted
Go into the light
And this
Be at peace
I love you
I know you love me
You are ready for this
This is the time
Go into the light
Be at peace
You have let it all go
It cannot hold you
to this place any more

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022


Jim Peterson: “I started writing poems in high school because I couldn’t dance, sing, play an instrument, paint, or even whistle melodically, and I really wanted to be an artist of some kind. After writing for a while, I fell in love with it, though my poems were melodramatic and sentimental. Now, I’m writing poems to celebrate the life I shared with Harriet, to purge myself of my sorrow and grief over her illness and death, and to shed light on the long healing process. She still teaches me.”

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