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To D, Dead by Her Own Hand

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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: The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (The University of Chicago Press, 1977)

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

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To D, Dead by Her Own Hand

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