Ritual: For Letting Go of a Lover Whom You are Leaving

You will need a hot-air balloon,

a river, a friend, mementos,

a note, your memories, and your pain.

Carrying all of the lighter things

meet your friend at the river with the balloon

when the night has forgotten the previous day.

Shake her hand and say, “I am leaving her.”


You must leave the ground at two a.m.

for this is the time of possibility

and as the new hour begins

so begins your life without her

temporarily in the air


While the balloon rises, look into the river

and consider the flow of time around you

then lift your eyes to the sky,

say her name, and focus on the first star you see.


Your friend waves farewell from the riverbank

until she can no longer see your face.

She may resemble your old love

in appearance or temperament

but she must not be the one

for whom you are leaving her

or the force pulling you back to earth will be too great.

Your friendship will merely be a tether

and who else would watch you take off in a balloon

in the middle of the night, for this?


As you ascend, watch the horizon

or the place in the darkness where it should be.

Contemplate the division between earth and sky.

In your mind, divide the basket into four parts with an X.

Unfold the note, something she wrote with feeling

handwritten and signed

and take it with bare fingers to the pilot light

as it burns, hold it over the side of the basket

and let the ashes drift away.

Release it at the last instant you can bear.


Three mementos, wrapped in a plain cloth

without strong associations of its own:

What have you brought?

A sweater?

An empty wine bottle?

A harmonica?

Perhaps something you find too valuable

to throw from a balloon?


The newest item, the one you last received,

will be the first that you let go.

Take it to one point in the basket

hold it in both hands above the ground

remember what it meant to you

feel its presence in your hands

then drop it.

As it falls, imagine a silver ribbon unrolling:

concentrate on the time between this moment

and the one when it entered your life.


A bit farther on, do the same thing

with your second keepsake

from the opposite side.

As it falls, cast your mind back again

to the first time you saw it.

With the momentum of your first recollection

this remembrance will be stronger.


When you drop the oldest token (a little farther yet)

standing at a third point

pushing backwards, feeling how long ago it was

your remembrance will shake the basket

like a hearty gust of wind

and your separation will be complete.

The fourth point is for you – stand there now.

It will carry you to the end of your journey

and release you to the ground.


When you land, you should be too far away

to see the place where you left.

Return to your friend, wherever she is

touch her hand and say, “I have left her.”

Spend the rest of the night alone.

Drink some hot tea and fall asleep.

When you awaken, your heart will be untroubled.

The End

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