Jan Haag teaches journalism and creative writing at Sacramento City College where she is the chair of the journalism department and advises student publications. She is the author of Companion Spirit, a collection of poems about her husband’s death at the age of 48, published by Amherst Writers & Artists Press. She leads writing groups in Sacramento where the topic of grief and loss often arises. Read more of her beautiful writing here.

From our place
in the middle of the river
of grief, the rickety raft
begins to disintegrate.

Trees obscure
the safety of shoreline,
boulders the size of hippos
sleep around us;
there could be rough
water ahead.

We realize all at once:
There is nothing to hold on to.
We are frightened.

Flashes of drowning,
crashing into granite,
any manner of calamity
runs behind our eyes
like a flickering filmstrip
before a small shift
in perspective floats by,
a reminder of faith
in the unknown:

Nothing to hold on to
is liberating.

Holding on to nothing means
we can relax in the fluidity
of this ever-moving stream.
The water, it turns out, is warm,
and we are buoyed by it.

So, without even trying,
for a moment our hands
unfold, release what they’ve
clenched all these days.
We breathe, we float,
turn our faces to the sky –
inhale, exhale,
inhale, exhale –
admire the trees,
brush by the boulders.

Inhale –
feel the peace of place
as we experience it now,
allow the water to carry away
the what-ifs, the whys, the hows.

Exhale –
relief, gratitude
with a few drops
of joy.

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