Holding On by Betsy Mars

Holding On

for Joan

What we see is a freezer
full of ice cream cups,
bed wedges, compression boots,
a woman lifting her hand to the air,
grasping for something
we can’t see
the rhythm of the oxygen machine
pushing air through the cannula,
the rasp of its breath,
the slow pulse of her neck
only visible up close. Intermittently
she wakes, dry-mouthed,
laughs at her hallucination,
weaves a living dream. She’s holding on
and I am, too, hoping we’ll both
be as strong as love, as strong
as her grip on my hand, eyes locked
on each other, on the beauty
of the other, on the cusp of the mystery,
resisting the crossing, the inevitability,
begging the great whoever
to preserve these memories
which I know will be all I hold
before very long.

by Betsy Mars

Editor’s Note: This poem’s imagery is devastating but also true—love is strong.


12 responses to “Holding On by Betsy Mars”

  1. Lucie Winborne Avatar
    Lucie Winborne

    This greatly moving poem reminded me of my mother’s last days. Hard to witness and wait for indeed, but an experience so many will face, stated simplistically but powerfully.

  2. Lucie Winborne Avatar
    Lucie Winborne

    Forgot to mention in my previous comment that my mom’s name was also spelled Joan (though pronounced Joanne)!

  3. Ralph Culver Avatar

    Fine poem.

  4. Rose Mary Boehm Avatar

    A story of love beautifully and skillfully told. LOVE it, Betsy.

  5. DWNelson Avatar

    In the end, the mystery is exciting and wonderful. It’s a good reminder!

  6. Joan Kantor Avatar

    Achingly beautiful and well-written poem.

  7. Cliff Taylor Avatar
    Cliff Taylor

    Grieving to me is a celebration of the richness life has brought. I cannot have the richness without the possibility of loss, and loss somehow helps me fully treasure the gifts I’ve received.

  8. alexisrhonefancher Avatar

    Exquisite, hard look at living and dying. Beautiful. Devastating.

  9. Andrea Walker Avatar

    “Holding On” is poignant and masterful, Betsy. We can identify with it now . . . or later.

  10. richardsund Avatar

    Heart-breaking and beautiful !

  11. Betsy Andrea Mars Avatar

    Thank you to everyone who commented, and to Christine. There is such compassion and grace here.

    1. Christine Klocek-Lim Avatar

      I’m glad you found it welcoming here.

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