I gangled all gawk and yaws, flesh blooming
into the ill-fitted vestment of birth. You
looked beyond the frill and lace ironed
mirror flat against itself and, living
the miracle, made me see its ineffable wonder so
that I could believe there was a romance to the
living, magic borne on the legends you enkindled.
One hapless moon you reached for and beyond,
pulsing briefly with fulgurous life. You
pulled the trigger rending your life and
offering it to Sucellos, sealed my penitence,
bequeathing it to me that I wear it in my silent
rage, a livid disguise.
The fire ate your flesh, singed your heart, and
I, pulling the mantel inside me lest I too burn
without grace, watched the flames lick dry my fortitude.
Fire-softened bones lay so still in their iron-clad
chamber, water worn nautilus and conch, safe from
care torn tears worn with fatal desperation.
I stood on the wave torn ramparts while the wind
flogged what was left of me. The piper’s mournful
cry ripping from me day’s promise, ripping from me
night’s slumber and, in the gathering storm thick
with its own doom, a single wave in its deadly thirst
snatched clean your bones, and without thought or desire,
tore you from me, leaving only glimmers of sand-washed foam.
And to the remains, peering from the hollows of its
battlement–a pea on a mattress, a robin in a cloak–
wills the night in its velvet deep, a billowy yashmak,
to reveal the mysteries of its substance-less who
whisper urgently from the corners, they whisper to me,
It is enough.
When I was 22, one of the most important people in my life put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
Jokingly, half-heartedly, not seriously, he had warned us. We heard but we did not comprehend. If any of us did, we did not believe it. Not really. And I should’ve known. At the age of 15, a good friend of mine had hung himself from his family’s banister with his Dad’s tie. The symbolism of it was like an exclamation point. I could not imagine how his Dad felt when he found him swinging over the staircase. Of course, his warnings had been different, but I hadn’t believed them then, either.
On the morning of my 22nd birthday, we received the call. After the fact. Fifteen hours after the fact.
I did not cry. In fact, I had no emotions. I thought if this is what it is to lose someone so important, then death and loss is not that big a deal. I was a seasoned pro. Grown-up even. For someone born with a serious case of sensitivity, I found my reaction remarkable. I would be fine in the world. I was so over my sensitivity issues. They did not always serve me well anyway.
Three days later, we had an oceanside funeral. His ashes were like sand and shells. At the end, a giant wave crashed and snatched his ashes. It was poignant and still I felt little. In fact, I viewed the whole thing quite objectively as if it was a pebble being thrown into the sea and I could watch the ripples fan out like it was some phenomenon of the universe.
During his memorial afterwards, I recounted my tales of the things I loved about him. I laughed. I joked. I made merry. My best friend consoled me and still I felt nothing.
One week later, I returned to college.
There, alone, I crashed.
I hit bottom like a piece of fine china.
I saw him everywhere I went. I woke at night and his face was in the window of my second floor apartment. His eyes pleaded. His eyes were full of such sadness that they bled sorrow into the night. I saw him in class. He followed me into the grocery store. He moved with me casting his shadow along my path. And then…
The thing about suicide is those who survive must question everything. EVERYTHING. It is more than grief. Grief is the easy part if there is such a thing. No. It is the belief in and trust in that person, even your belief in life, the trust in every meaningful relationship, the faith even in your ability to love and perceive it back, that must be reckoned with. At 22, I was not prepared.
And when all of that is turned over and mulled over and scrutinized like a huge infected wound that will not heal, you must then confront the sense of self-blame. The GARGANTUAN GUILT. What did I do wrong? Wasn’t I good enough to stay for? Weren’t we all who adored him and loved him well? How did I not see it? Am I that clueless? If only…
It is a long road and, sometimes, a terrifying road. That semester my GPA plummeted. The permanent FOREVER reminder that I barely survived the event. How do you explain that to professors or recruiters? Worse, I struggled to find reasons to stay alive. To save me, my roommate dragged me into the college counseling office.
When someone takes their life, they take more than that with them.
Years later, the wound is healed but the scar is always there. Sometimes, it even pulses like a nerve that has been damaged.
I wrote this poem at the end stage of grief.
If there is such a thing.
gangle: v. contrived word, fusion of gang (young social group) and awkward, tall, ungraceful
gawk: n. an awkward person
yaws: pl. n. a tropical skin disease–not literally, a metaphor for the vulnerability of youth
vestment: n. a garment usually worn for an office or special occasion
hapless: adj. luckless, unfortunate
fulgurous: adj. appearing or acting like lightning
Sucellos: n. Celtic deity of agriculture, protection, and provision
yashmak: n. a veil worn by Muslim women in public but this reference is to the cloak of night