On Leaving Washington, D.C.

Alma Ortman
2 min readMay 29, 2021
Photo by Alma Ortman | National Arboretum, Washington, D.C.

Goodbye again & thank you,
city of green and marble,
tree blossoms and suits,
where buildings are low so we can
see more sky.

Where I fell often and picked up
therapy for scars;
Where I learned to hold space
in my life and power in my voice;
Where I learned to hold the earth
in my lap
and see the way ground breathes
and stop fearing insects
and dirt
and being alone.

The city where a mirror
became divine intervention;
Where I opened a room of rest
so that I could stop trying to escape

Where the memory in trees and stars and water
dissolved my fear of human beings,
the roots and dust and waves found in their eyes, too.

A city that bruised me into clarity —
Where I closed my chapter
on trying so hard and changed
the sound of my ambition
to something closer to wind;
Where I created family
across oceans


and found my ancestors

and met my best friends.

Where I sat with grief
and met with joy, both solid and
thick like honey, still (always)
a bit sticky I’ll be.

Where I rose up stronger,
kinder, after each fall
like those proud little birds I’d see
flying so high —
Does it ever break your heart alive, too —
watching the smallest of birds
in the tallest of sky?
Balcony of birdsong,
I’m grateful.

Sometimes it takes a long, long
long time
to open a sober heart again,
to open a sober book again,
to start scribbling true again.

Sometimes it takes 20 years:
You hear a voice in the morning
telling you to open a box
and find an old letter you


was written for you today.

It sits on your liver like a rose,
honest love,
quietly forgiven.

Time bends for us like that
when we flow in reverence.

And then I discover that this city
that never quite felt like home
(three times, I tried)
still brought me home
to recovery,
still helped me come home
to my name,
all that it is and isn’t,
all that it came from
and will go to,
and feel the gold
and pink and bright
and take it with me,
fire inside.


© 2021 Alma Ortman. All Rights Reserved



Alma Ortman

Mindful poet & lifelong learner. Musings on belonging, authentic connection, joy, spirit, body, nature, inner work, vulnerability, self-love, fierce compassion