In My Words

Margaret Atwood once said – “I write prose to know what I’m thinking. And poetry to know what I’m feeling.”  For me too – poetry was the right vessel to convey the emotions that swept over me after my brother called with words I had been longing for – for four long years. Closure on a tragedy – time for healing to begin.

William Stafford must be credited too. As can often happen – it was the line “put down your pack” from his poem “How to Regain Your Soul” that lead me into this poem. Affirmation again – that one of the necessities for writing poetry, is reading poetry.


Put Down Your Pack

You can now.
It’s over.
All of it – over. Let

the straps that hung
heavy, that cut into
your shoulders

slip off, first one
then the other. Let go
the fetid memory

of what you can never
change. Put down
your pack. Leave it

on the steep trail
you were forced
to walk.

So much at stake –
if you lost your footing
the edge gave way.

Leave the stones
you carried. Leave

in the pack. Do not
use them to build
an altar. Keep

walking. See
the white butterflies
dancing flower to flower.

See the Lake glinting,
the even line of the horizon,
the terrain leveling out before you.

Be you again. You won’t know
what still could come
to meet you. Or

how you will keep going
when it does. But you will.
You know that now.

Take this.
Take only this
with you


Colette Volkema DeNooyer


– with grateful thanks to my brother Daniel whose voice I still hear, saying,
“It’s over. All of it. Over.”