On the eve of your departure



Artist: Marilyn Ackerman


Last week I shared the poem I wrote in response to Marilyn Ackerman’s inspiration piece (as part of our participation in Spark!). As her inspiration piece, I sent Marilyn the poem below, which I wrote at the end of the summer, as our middle child headed off to college.


On the eve of your departure

You leave your socks around the house
like snake skins, abandoned
under the table, by the couch, wherever
you happened to be when you kicked
them off. I was never able to break you
of the habit, no matter how many times
I asked. You’re leaving. I’m sitting
with my sadness, trying not to fold it up
and stuff it in a drawer. I wonder
who will go with me to the Lord and Taylor
to make fun of the clothes? Who
will go with me when I get my hair cut? Who
will go with me to the movies no one else
wants to see? It’s days before the answer
comes to me. These moments will curl
into memories, scattered around the house
like socks.

© Elizabeth Steinglass 2019


Marilyn’s response is posted above. I love the tone of the collage, the colors, texture, and movement. It feels somber, hopeful, and complicated to me. It feels a little like a room opening up, and there seems to be a cube leaving the wall. Is that a heart to the left? There’s both stillness and action. I find it fascinating that Marilyn included the bit of music at the bottom because our second child often used to sing and play music, and the house is missing that now.


I am sure I will do Spark again. I hope some of you will join me.

Happy Poetry Friday!


20 replies
  1. Irene Latham
    Irene Latham says:

    So beautiful, Liz! Reminds of when my kids were wee, and we would visit my grandparents’ home… of course the kids were destructive, knocking books from shelves, leaving messes… once after a visit my grandmother called me and said she hadn’t wanted to clean the little handprints from the oven window because they reminded her of her sweet great-grands… so chaotic while they were in the house, but then, when they were gone, she missed them and liked remembering… xo

  2. lsteinglass
    lsteinglass says:

    Little handprints on the oven window–such a beautiful image. I am glad that about a year ago I realized I’d miss those dirty socks. : )

  3. Michelle Kogan
    Michelle Kogan says:

    Rich poem Liz, I like all the imagery woven into it– “snake skins, abandoned,” and how you bring us back to the beginning at the closing. And, this line evokes so much,” trying not to fold it up and stuff it in a drawer.” Thanks!

  4. Linda Baie
    Linda Baie says:

    It is a poignant reminder of those goodbyes parents must say more than once in a life. I too love that “trying not to fold it up and stuff it in a drawer.” which shows that we try, but don’t succeed very often, if at all. The painting, too, shows mixed feelings, a cloud of tears? Beautiful post, Liz. My oldest grandchild went off to college this year, a big change for his parents.

  5. Linda Mitchell
    Linda Mitchell says:

    Oh, those snake skins…I know, Liz. I know. It’s so bitter-sweet. But, the sweet is only the hit you get after swallowing that bite of bitter. I’m in it right now. Your poem hits hard in the heart. Just like it should.

  6. Linda Trout
    Linda Trout says:

    My sons have lived on their own for a long time now, but I still miss so much about the days when they lived at home. Your poem is a lovely reminder of just how difficult it is to let go. Hugs!

  7. cheriee weichel
    cheriee weichel says:

    I remember the first time one of my son’s left home. I had no idea it would be so challenging, but wept buckets as he set off travelling around South America. Then when my other son headed off to China all by himself, it was the same trauma all over again. I wish it got easier, but it felt like my heart was being ripped out every time they returned and left. On a positive note, these days I share a house with one of my boys and his family and the other one lives 10 blocks away.


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