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Don’t Let Go

John Kessel co-directs the creative writing program at North Carolina State University.  A winner of the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Award, the Locus Poll, and the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, his books include Good News from Outer Space, Corrupting Dr. Nice, and The Pure Product.  His story collection, Meeting in Infinity, was named a notable book of 1992 by the New York Times Book Review.  Kessel recently coedited two anthologies, Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, and Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology.  His poem, “Don’t Let Go,” has never before been published.  Download the PDF to print.

The doctor lifted my newborn’s hand

on the tips of his fingers,

and pointed to her pinky,

the perfect fingernail so miniscule

I wished for a magnifying glass.

He said, “See this finger?”

I worried that something was wrong.

“This is the finger she will

have you wrapped around.”

When I put my own in her hand

she gripped it hard:

as hard as we hold on to life.


“Don’t let go!” she said six years later

as I ran along holding the seat

of her bike. No training wheels now.

“Don’t let go!” with panic in her voice.

I let go. She sped off down the street,

faster than I could run if

something should go wrong.