To D-, Dead by Her Own Hand

By Howard Nemerov 1920–1991 Howard Nemerov
My dear, I wonder if before the end
You ever thought about a children’s game—
I’m sure you must have played it too—in which   
You ran along a narrow garden wall   
Pretending it to be a mountain ledge   
So steep a snowy darkness fell away   
On either side to deeps invisible;
And when you felt your balance being lost
You jumped because you feared to fall, and thought   
For only an instant: That was when I died.

That was a life ago. And now you’ve gone,
Who would no longer play the grown-ups’ game   
Where, balanced on the ledge above the dark,   
You go on running and you don’t look down,   
Nor ever jump because you fear to fall.

Howard Nemerov, “To D—, Dead By Her Own Hand” from The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1977). Copyright © 1977 by Howard Nemerov. Reprinted with the permission of Margaret Nemerov.

Source: Poetry (July 1972).


This poem originally appeared in the July 1972 issue of Poetry magazine

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July 1972
 Howard  Nemerov


Howard Nemerov was a highly acclaimed poet often cited for the range of his capabilities and subject matter, "from the profound to the poignant to the comic," James Billington remarked in his frequently quoted announcement of Nemerov's appointment to the post of United States poet laureate. A distinguished professor at Washington University in St. Louis from 1969 to 1990, Nemerov wrote poetry and fiction that managed to engage . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Death, Youth, Living

Poetic Terms Blank Verse, Elegy, Metaphor

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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