“Letting Go” by Lyn C.A. Gardner

Letting Go
(after Philip Levine’s “Holding On”)
by Lyn C. A. Gardner

Brown toenails
grow brittle as earthclods,
broken by slim grass blades
that mock my stalks,
seared by your sun–
my crumbling. The touch
of ancient skin rubs
crisp and dry as I slough
old toes for new.
Ten days from the dead ship
my life already fades
and dies, I am rooted like
grass, a woman who sprouts and dies in

Two locals graze,
churning mouthfuls of young shoots–
grinding my crew.  I snort back their speech–unheeded. When
their nostrils or lips brush my dry,
sharp stalks they shy off, startled by pain,
their swift greedy eyes seeking
the unthinking green
that does not long for home.

I hold fast.
When I shed my last layer,
dead husks molded by living earth, I will be
a mist clinging low to
mountains of trash, or an infant
withered to age in a heartbeat, or a simple
man clinging bewildered to the steel bar
that will crush him, refusing to let go.

Lyn C. A. Gardner
has served as chair of The 2012 Rhysling Anthology, editor for The Mariners’ Museum, and catalog librarian at a public library. With her first poetry collection, Dreaming of Days in Astophel, available from Sam’s Dot Publishing, she’s had over 275 stories, poems, art and nonfiction pieces published in Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, Penumbra, The Doom of Camelot, Legends of the Pendragon, Challenging Destiny, and more.

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