If only I had been there to catch you when you fell,
to hold you in my arms and lower you to the ground.
It was September, among the leaves and blossoms
of your yard that I found you—the mother I adore,
in the sleep from which you never again awakened.
I would have done anything to save you, but there
was nothing of you to save—only the body you left
behind like a sweater draped across a chair. Every
day since, I have walked the earth with grief lodged
in my throat like a bone, shouldering the burden of
your sorrows as well my own, as if they belong to me.
The son you lost became my son and my brother, our
misery merged into one. And each disappointment of
your life, every regret, turned into mine. But it is time
now, to stop picking up the pain you have discarded,
trying to heal what has already been healed. I want to
carry, instead, memories of your laughter, and the love
you gave to me—as weightless in my hands as light.
Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of six collections of poetry. Her work has appeared in “American Life in Poetry,” The Sun, The Writer’s Almanac, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verse Daily, and many others. Her awards include the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize and a Nautilus Silver Book Award.