The shirt he left when he left

This is a found poem from Hanne Steen’s interviews and Carla Richmond’s photos of 20 women who kept an ex-lover’s shirt. The words in the poem are all taken verbatim from the interviews.


At first it was a trophy, a souvenir.
I should probably throw it away.

It’s just a shirt. Part of me
wants to rip it off,
but it’s here for me
when people aren’t,
makes me look stronger
than I am. Just a rag

I turned into a promise
that he’d never leave.
So many what ifs and could have beens
and should have beens and never were.
It’s proof that we did it,
that we went through it,
comforts me between the spaces.

Maybe, for someone,
I won’t be so easily shed.

This poem is in answer to the “Something to save your life” poem prompt from dVerse.  Come join the fun!


50 thoughts on “The shirt he left when he left

  1. Wow, Sarah, what a great place to find a poem! I don’t think I ever kept a shirt or even a t-shirt. This is fascinating. I love the phrase: ‘Just a rag / I turned into a promise / that he’d never leave’ and the final lines:
    ‘Maybe, for someone,
    I won’t be so easily shed’.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Found poetry is way cool. It seems easier than it turns out to be; just this word pile arranged by someone else’s muse–and it’s up to you to fuse your take on it, creating your own line breaks, message, & impact; nice job.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. At some point in our lives, we save a keepsake of a once upon a time. There’s nothing wrong with it and it doesn’t make one weaker as well. Great write!


    1. You’re right, Maria. In my day it was letters, which you have to admit are more romantic than texts and tweets, but there really should be some talisman to show that a relationship existed and that people cared for each other. I love your phrase “a keepsake of a once upon a time.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aww.. I’m happy to say that I have lived those love letter days, too. I still have them at home. Yes, the are far more romantic (and sincere). 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Almost all of the photos showed the women hugging the shirt around themselves too. Very poignant. And yes, isn’t it interesting that someone had the idea to collect these stories of these shirts that mean so much.


  5. Good stuff! I can see it as a comfort blanket, too, at least for a while anyway. I think after a while, it just becomes clutter and should be disposed of properly. Maybe it depends on the relationship, too. I think Bjorn mentioned widows. For sure, I can see holding onto things then. Indefinitely.

    My best friend told me that she once dated a guy who actually told her that he always left a t-shirt behind as a souvenir. I always thought that was a little odd, and even odder that he’d tell her he did that with every girl he’d been with.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Right?! I thought he either thinks way too highly of himself or he’s that insecure he has to leave something behind to feel he’s remembered.
        No problem. I always enjoy your writing.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh the wonder of a found poem! I love the variety of perspectives, like pieces of broken hearts. I especially like this part…
    “It’s proof that we did it,
    that we went through it,
    comforts me between the spaces.”


  7. i love this, sarah. i’ve been there. it is like waking up from a dream and then you find an artifact and realizing it was real and not a dream, at least for a time, after all. wonderful found poetry.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks, Beth. I think this is universal. So many people have identified with this poem. I don’t know if a talisman like this is good or bad to keep. I suppose it depends on the circumstances.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s