The Tuesday Poem: Not Saying Goodbye at Gate 21

Not Saying Goodbye at Gate 21

The final call for boarding
hand-luggage scanned,
the last, forgotten,
canned drink binned.
I watch him through the glass
walk to the door and hand
over his printed pass.

He waves, makes the clown’s face
that means ‘Cheer up, this time, I won’t
be gone for long’. He turns,
then turns back, puts his hand
on the terrorist-proof glass. I place
mine, palm to palm on the cold surface.

Abruptly, not looking back, like Orpheus
he peels off towards the waiting plane.
I watch the swerve of his head, his coat flap.
The screen says ‘Gate closed. Boarded.’
And I walk away with his absence.

I haven't completely finished this poem yet - it's still pretty raw. I'm tinkering with the line endings and not happy with some of the images. But I haven't got anything else to post for the Tuesday Poem and it does sum up my situation at the moment. I seem to have been waving Neil off all year, with no end in sight. We spend our lives in airports.

The Tuesday Poets.


  1. Oh so sad, Kathleen, and all the sadder for me having now met Neil who is so gorgeous and would be terribly hard to be without.

    Some lovely sounds in that first stanza with scanned, canned, binned, hand. I love the juxtaposition of the warmth in Neil's clown's face and the coldness of that terrorist glass. The sudden heart-chilling shift then... the flap of the coat (like a final farewell, like the flaps on the wings of the plane). Thank you for sharing a raw poem. Courageous!

    May you and Neil be back together again soon.

  2. I love the imagery.
    How sad it is to say goodbye to your love, especially so often.
    I found the line ending 'coat flap' harder than the other line endings. I wondered if a softer ending word like 'flutter' might work?
    Then again it is late and I am tired, but most of all I am no poet :-)

  3. Hi Kathleen, I love the subtlety - and truth of the not saying goodbye. We do leave with absence. It removes nothing from the sadness, yet we remain with something becuase we remain with absence ...

  4. "We spend our lives in airports" was the image I got from the poem - so when you said it later it resonated so beautifully and tragically. And what a fantastic title! Cheers for sharing this.

  5. Thanks for all your feedback. I'm glad that some of it works. you're right, Al, that there's something in the way that line ends that isn't quite right. It needs another syllable. But i do want to keep 'flap' because of the references to flight, so i might need to add that 'soft' syllable into the beginning of the next line. Getting the rhythm right in prose and poetry is so difficult!


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