Gathering up sandals and poems and socks and books this morning
and in between, putting the house in some kind of order,
I found myself saying, sotto voce in my head:
When I don’t come back, they’ll see I made the bed,

with the new Swedish pillow from Ikea
on the clean white quilted spread,
notice, I hope,
on the small bedside table,
the copy of the Louisville Review
that contains my newest poem.

Then I began to realize that I do this
every time I leave on a trip—
have the half-conscious thought
that I’ll die, that I won’t be coming back—
which also prompts me to throw out the old flowers,
pick fresh ones even if they may wilt and scatter,
straighten my desk, tell the cat I love her,
more than once, and leave a note for Alan
with many x’s and o’s—
if I’m going off alone.
And I’m thinking, as I notice it, vacuuming,
they’ll say: And look—that blue post-it under the chair in her office.
What did she write on that?

Do others, packing a suitcase, leaving home,
recognize briefly their mortality?
Or perhaps, when you lose someone you love,
still live in the house where he is not,
and you happen to open a book
looking for a poem,
there is his careful, slanted scrawl,
and you realize you too
will leave artifacts
for someone
who loves you.

©Judy Bebelaar, 2014

Judy Bebelaar (BAWP 1988) taught English and creative writing in San Francisco public high schools for 37 years. Her poetry has appeared in dozens of magazines, most recently in Levure Litteraire #8, the I-70 Review #7 and Stringtown.  Her work is forthcoming in an anthology: The Widow’s Handbook, and Finishing Line Press is publishing a chapbook of her work in May: Walking Across the Pacific.

4 Responses to “Leaving by Judy Bebelaar”

  1. jane juska Says:

    beautiful, Judy, so true.

  2. Kimberley Gilles Says:

    This made me catch my breath, Judy. I had just returned from a trip, so it caught me just under the ribs. I will be traveling again soon — and I WILL leave a tidy house.
    It’s always okay to remember one’s mortality — don’t you agree?

    Thank you!

  3. Paula Gocker Says:

    And here I thought I was the only one who thought like this. A mark of a good poet–speaking to our most private selves. Thanks for this beautiful poem.

  4. Ruby Bernstein Says:

    Appreciate your poem with its touching language. Thanks, Judy.

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