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You don’t notice the dying leaving

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.

(after Alice Sebold)

You don’t notice the dying leaving
when they really choose to leave you.
They still look like embodied flesh,
souls intact—though they alone hold
the secret of where those souls lodge.
But, little by little, something in the dying
begins to let go—joints and sockets loosen,
bones begin to melt as rivers of memory
flow from fingers and toes and ends
of eyelashes.

Long before jaws slacken,
the dying reach a decision—
now, now it’s time—and slip away
so swiftly, between your breaths,
you may miss the flight out
until you feel a lightness steal over
thick air, sense the quality of light
shift to a color you can’t name,
landing you squarely in the “after,”
the place where you will walk heavily,
carrying this fresh grief in your arms.

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