Go before me


I need no photograph to remember you
as you snowshoed that night,
you in the pool of your lamp
and me stumping behind,
the cold wrapping around us tighter than the dark,
the snow falling so fast it clicked and grew
into the otherness that hung all around.

Go before me dearest, go before me, I thought,
this trail won’t last forever.
And while I can taste the evening at its end,
I can also hear the voices of our loved ones
calling us as ever they did, enigmatically, softly—
but still, calling. So yes, dearest, go before me;
I’d rather you content in the warmth and the glow
than anything else I could ever want.
Leave the cold to me, go before me.


The setting for this poem was the wonderful winterscape of Ashland, New Hampshire, where my wife, Lyn, and I took a skiing/snowshoeing vacation some years back. The incident that was the generative spark for this poem was a snowshoe trek in the late evening that quickly turned dark and snowy while we were out on the trail. I remember thinking how lucky I was. True, it was cold, late and dark, yet I was with Lyn, the love of my life, out in nature, being us, being together, being there.

Some may think the underlying message of this poem is morbid, but I do not think it is. Neither of us fears death, but I know that whoever goes first, the other will be horribly lonely and lost. If it is my preference (and it is not, but still, there you are) I would save Lyn that pain.

Thank you for reading Go before me. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken during that trip to Ashland, New Hampshire. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.


© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.


Filed under Poetry

20 responses to “Go before me

  1. Beautiful lines and ethereal setting 🙂

  2. It speaks of the beauty of love.

  3. i love snow…and sun…thanks for the reminder 🙂

    • Me too! Sun—as long as it does not burn, snow—as long as it is not so high that I cannot throw more on top. (Which has happened a few times!) 🙂

  4. Stunningly beautiful lines do credit to the photograph. Perfection.

  5. Pete Hulme

    Beautiful poem.

    • Pete, thank you very much! From visiting your site I am very aware of the sensitivity of your own writing and so am doubly appreciative of such a compliment.

      • Pete Hulme

        I think it was an accurate description rather than a compliment, but I know what you mean. My comment was so brief because I was too moved to write more at the time.

        It’s always hard to judge, when the theme of a poem is very close to your own experience as this is to mine, as a small discrepancy from your own sense of the matter can cause you to dismiss a jewel of a poem. In this case the touch of self-mockery in ‘stumped’ saved it from sentimentality, and the roots of the feeling in the concrete snow-bound reality kept the spiritual aspect well grounded. Even at a third reading I am still moved by it.

      • Pete, being of Irish descent, it is not easy to catch me off guard and with nothing to say, but your message managed to do so for quite a while. Isn’t there something in the wordpress rule book about it being not fair to make a fellow poster blush?!

        Thank you for such a kind and supportive response and thank you again for taking the time to send it. I just read Dust for winds to scatter and although I confess I do not know Machado’s work, if it can inspire such a beautiful poem as yours, this is an emission that I must fix. Such skill as this makes your words even kinder.

        Pete, thank you again for such a lovely and sweet comment. I am now going to abuse your kindness by linking you to the first poem I wrote for my dear Lyn, still one of own personal favorites and still one of the few of my own works that I can actually quote beginning to end. I hope you enjoy it as well: Closer to you now.

  6. i am very delighted with your work!! You are very good!

  7. Beautiful lines and wonderful snow.

  8. John-Man, this is living life with passion, walking the snow shoes @ night, snow coming down… great piece.

    • T, thank you! You are as supportive as ever. It’s not an easy poem to write to tell someone that you love them so much you want them to die before you. But when the love of your life is also your best friend, that’s the sort of odd place that love brings you. Death doesn’t scare me. Living does.