“I have secrets I shall take to the grave with me. But don’t despair…once I am dead and deeply buried, you can grab a shovel and dig them up to your heart’s content. I promise, I won’t mind.”
– Dennis McHale
from “Echoes Across Time”
How temperamental is the man in me
who misses you but will not call –
because I find the thought of romance
more alluring than actual love?
I drink to burn the voices in my belly
that mock my tenuous hold on sanity.
I buy my smokes one at a time because
I have no vision of or faith in tomorrow,
and I make my living scratching
the underbelly of this wretched world.
This desolate city, crumbling beneath the
broken wings of blackbirds…it is my home.
It is where I live. It is where I shall die.
My pen scrapes past its veneer of civility shedding light upon the ugly, the lost,
the torn asunder.
I take my walks at night under clouds
all dressed in muted black.
I am callous with the hipsters and the tweakers camped by the muddy rivers;
the hookers and the pimps and the holy man and the goddamned garish fluidity of this headache world.
I live in a city of fifty thousand accumulated flesh tombs pretending about the news
and the weather, their minds drifting always back to the same goddamned thing.
How pathetic to be so far away
in space but not in time?
How desperate is the faith convinced by two arguments; both to be and not to be?
When I stumble, I lean against the wall or the lamppost, reading a page of Plath or a passage of Hemingway, and all I can think is how courageous their exits were.
I yearn for their knowledge of the final crossing. I read words, not novels, because words are better spit than woven.
I accept my fate, gazing at my expiration date
and pouring another drink as I turn off the radio and sit silently in the dark chambers of my thoughts.
I remember you,
but implore you to remember me not.
It does not speak English, Spanish, French, or Italian, or any intelligible utterance known to this world.
It is a darkness devoid of spoken words;
a tongue savagely ripped from the mouth of the village idiot.
There are no pressed pages in braille
to sensate dull fingertips, to tap out the iniquity and the pain.
No painting of fingered words in the still air whispering into deafened ears.
It is the molten ashes of Vesuvius, cascading behind clenched eyelids; a scorching of the inner self. It is the babbling madness of Babylon chanting chattering confusion.
It is the silent scream that pierces the morning sky, the shrieking wind that rips the sparrow’s wings from its tender breast.
It is the desperate gasp for air from collapsed lungs, the tortured artery that bleeds the brain.
Beneath the ocean’s swell, the riptide that pulls one asunder to the blue-black abyss, a dark star consuming itself, devouring light into the shadows of its belly.
A twisted comfort in the unfeeling, a slap in the face of the unsmiling. Distant and cold eyes – unfocused, unseeing.
A banquet of burning bone and marrow before demons dancing to noteless music.
That I could walk in peace, though past sins grieved,
Or look upon the morning sun with relative ease.
My path is writ in time sharpened stones, and
I cannot find my way back home; indeed found
Lost amidst the bitter fog of yesterday’s deeds.
I cried out loud, will forgiveness descend, or strike
Me now my bitter end, and none did hear but the
Raven’s caw; portend my shame and final fall.
Oh, that I could rewind and once again live as though
Merciful God would kindly give; but He would not,
And time is waning. My downward spiral is near complete
And draws now deep and final sleep. I shall not waken to
Tomorrow’s light, I cannot make what’s wrong now right.
And so my words, as sure they must
Eulogize me as they would the falling dust.
I am devastated about the loss of Robin Williams, as are the millions of his fans, and more so by the fact that he took his own life. Despite all of his money and all of his available resources, depression reached its bony fingers into his life and dragged him to an untimely death (as it certainly has for millions of others!) Drugs and alcohol are certainly a part of his story, but make no mistake…this is a story about the savage blow of depression. The pills and booze were only a symptom of Robin William’s sad demise. Depression was the death blow.
If you have never suffered from the savage effects of deep depression, you might find it hard to comprehend his decision to take his own life. Depressed people don’t kill themselves out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life isn’t worth living. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. Depression is an invisible agony that for many reaches a certain unendurable level where life and death are near equal terrors and death becomes a lesser terror than living.
For those who decide to take their life, they spend their final days and hours in much the same way a trapped person eventually chooses to jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. For the depressive suicidal, it’s not the desire of death, it’s the terror of living. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.
In this same way, a person who doesn’t suffer the agony of depression will never be able to understand the torments and terrors suffered by those afflicted. Never. Just as depression is an invisible agony, so, too is the understanding of true depression invisible to those who do not suffer it.
We can, and should, have a conversation about depression, but unless you’ve ever stood on a ledge with flames coming closer and closer, you will never truly understand the agonizing decision to jump.
Rest in peace, Robin Williams..Genie, you’re out!
He writes for a fallen angel
but the rhymes don’t appear,
not in words, but in stilted
verse, in outpourings of
watered down love. She spreads
her wings and hunts the night.
What the poet will not write is,
You hunger for your father’s love;
It never was, but may you find
through the spilling of my ink
Some noble affection upon
which to rest.
But I cannot touch your pain.
He drinks a toast
to the memory of her beauty.
No one wants her faded
charms this night. She stands
beneath a waning moon
with a single tear, a cigarette
from her too red un-kissed lips.
The cars no longer slow
down to guess her meaning.
She traces a vein
to where the needles brought
peace a million times.
I hear your poem, she whispers,
but I must be home to
where the razor whispers.
He pillaged the title the day I was born
and like most thieves, he took for granted that which he stole.
Being a “father” meant no more to him than taking the trash out
the only difference being, he preferred to bring the trash in.
Each night, drunk and puffed full of false bravado, he would
return home from the bar twenty minutes after closing
with some strange woman who was half his age
who still managed to look twice as old as he was.
They all smoked and smelled of cheap perfume and beer,
and as he pushed by my mother with
with a violence that seemed to rattle her bones,
he would look at me, a frightened five year old
with no understanding of what this all meant,
and flip me the finger.
Every day was “father’s day”..
his to do with as he willed.
They took their sins into
my mother’s bedroom and slammed the door behind them.
I feared my father, but hated my mother
for not taking us out of this broken house and into
the world where somewhere, someone could love us.
That’s all I wanted…love. What I got was limitless contempt
for complicating their lives.
She just sat in the living room before the television, defeated
and sipping her gin, counting the years down until she might
find the courage to cut her wrists,
leaving us to…him.
I watch in morbid fascination
the quickening pulse of the vein
on the soft underside of my forearm;
each throbbing beat a silent protest
for the living of life, the loss of love,
the failure of faith in the future.
Warm blood trickles
slowly down my naked wrist
and into my loosely cupped open palm;
rivulets of life’s sweet essence
spreading out like the night-seeking
roots of a moon-flower plant.
I am amused that the heart beats unaware
of its complicity in this life-ending act,
this betrayal of self-contempt
and abject surrender.
Blood meanders across the slightly raised
scars from last year’s failed attempt,
and in that moment, I finally realize
what my father meant about the
importance of half-measures,
of keeping commitments.
So, I cut a little deeper.