Not Let Go

April 22, 2015

Photo courtesy David Mao

Introduction by Ted Kooser: I don’t think I’ve ever sold anything that, later, I didn’t wish I had back, and I have a list of regrets as long as my arm. So this poem by Melissa Balmain really caught my attention. Balmain lives in New York State, and her most recent book is Walking in on People, from Able Muse Press.

Love Poem

The afternoon we left our first apartment,
we scrubbed it down from ceiling to parquet.
Who knew the place could smell like lemon muffins?
It suddenly seemed nuts to move away.

The morning someone bought our station wagon,
it gleamed with wax and every piston purred.
That car looked like a centerfold in Hot Rod!
Too late, we saw that selling was absurd.

And then there was the freshly tuned piano
we passed along to neighbors with a wince.
We told ourselves we’d find one even better;
instead we’ve missed its timbre ever since.

So if, God help us, we are ever tempted
to ditch our marriage when it’s lost its glow,
let’s give the thing our finest spit and polish—
and, having learned our lesson, not let go.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2014 by Melissa Balmain, “Love Poem,” from Walking in on People, (Able Muse Press, 2014). Poem reprinted by permission of Melissa Balmain and Able Muse Press. Introduction copyright ©2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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  1. What a great poem! I am very careful about weeding books--I hate the idea of later regretting something I have sold--and then having to go out and buy a new copy! It has happened once or twice... :)

  2. Danielle--I'm careful about weeding books, too, because usually I only buy the ones I want to read but can't find anywhere to borrow, or I know I'll want to read them more than once. I never can identify with the minimalists who can get rid of all their books!

  3. I'm learning that to be human is to have regrets as well as the range of other feelings. One just can't know the outcome of all decisions all the time. I spiffied up my old house for selling and then stayed in it another 7 years & so enjoyed it. By the time I left I was ready. Decisions about relationships need careful tending and reflecting. I like the poet's analogy.

  4. Rita--That's a good point: to be human is to have regrets. It's good to remember that, and to be OK with it.

  5. Kathy- what a lovely poem. Wish everyone who is married could read it. Hope you have a super weekend. Hugs!

  6. Thanks, Debbie--glad you liked the poem.