Echoes of pierced hearts
Taunting evil deeds
Motherless child from a
Breathless before God
And his followers
Heat drenches a soaked soul
A sparrow breaks his wing
Black ash falls from the sky
Voodooed and seanced
A blur, a speck no one sees
If you moved from colored bruise beneath silken pour of sleeplessness
Supple backed, dewy salt, two thrust on tiptoe, catching breath
Shards blending, fizzured pulse, ever and ever, tongued capture
Flush against humid glass, hold–pressing fierce crimson, disturbing numinous hour of sewing
Children with boiled seaside sweets, deep in their catkin singing mouths, dream of a dark cast–shrouding
Yet as I quit–the hingeless drug
Your smudged anger envelops, the stray chill of my shoulder
As a bandage will hold us, burned into place.
Until moths pick their way from water-painted cocoon
Feeling their way in inked shiver, milked squid, gesturing tresses
Your long goose neck–bent to catch, last wetting of ground
For rain begins her throbbed drumming, swelling in granite intensity
Tasting cyanide and fruit
In the orange peel of day
Chasing last whisper
Of her quiet running horror.
Collaborative poem by Tre Loadholt & Candice Daquin
Inspiration: Sylvia Plath’s “Ariel” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/49001/ariel
Candice Daquin: https://thefeatheredsleepcom.wordpress.com/
Losing your mind feels like
Slipping your chaffed hands into a pair of rubber gloves
Plunging them into hot washing up water
Hearing the chink of porcelain, knocking against glass
Soon the water grows murky
You cannot see, nor reach the bottom
From the top of your head to the ache in your feet
Standing wooden, bones imploring, knitted sweater itching corner of your cheek
Passion in contrast, hot freedom, dusty legs slightly parted, cold between
An urge as you stand beside the sink
To dive in
Silent impulse on a cold day to keep your hands deep
As long as the water stays hot
That feeling when most of you is dry and clothed, but part
Is submerged in warmth, feeling like fingers working their way up
Stockings, underwear, the electric wire beneath wool
Into the mirage of your longing to let go, absolve yourself of .. it all
If you could release, lie back in kneeding waves
You might let your weary cracked elbows
Then shoulders, sopping, sink beneath
Climbing into the sink, patent shoes slipping
Brassiere faded by multiple wear, a grey strap, a bulge of apricot breast
Hair loose and dripping, reflecting against dull tin
A buttoned up woman trying to gain admittance
All thoughts stewing in your head like vegetables boiled in water lose
Their flavor …
As politely you wash and rinse, checking against light for water spots
No one shall ever know, the devouring urge beneath your coat
She died, head in the oven
fingers black with ink, tongue out
licking her last punctuation
eyes rolled back, wet marbles
seeing beyond earthly confinement.
She died, with white gloves on
pinched bones of her little wrists
dangling at emptied angles
were delicate even then
as if she were choosing
with her ending
Had you asked me
To embrace the idea of dying, before allotted time
I’d have said, no savage emotion, ever led me that far
It was as if
I skated every so often, on thin ice of sadness
Without being absorbed, to its fathomless hollow
In that singular experience, I was far luckier
Than those who see only darkness
I had claimed my own piece of light
From a family legacy hell bent on repeating, the same shrouded walk.
From the start I altered trajectory, a mix of stubbornness and fear
For some will be proud of where they came, their strong willed ancestral history
And others … wish it wasn’t so … spend their lives trying to be anything else
I tried so hard, skin chaffed from my fingers, plucking my own way.
So you can imagine the depth of grief, felt reaching that same temporal state
Of wishing to ease the stir of life, by death’s permanent wick.
Often it is not the same course
Brings you to a well travelled place
But the last thing you’d expect
A sudden illness, like a thimble that lets in needle
As sharply she infiltrates your well being
Until hollow cheeked you are wretched, begging for end
On that day it so happened
The sky was the kind of blue dreams are made of
Emptied leaves reached up to embrace the rays
Newly returned birds called full throated to the world
And sitting with a desire to die, and place pain forever gone
I felt the sun on my face, heard the russle of last year’s leaves
My fatigue whispered, do it now!
And I did not listen
Because I truly wanted
To stay sitting in the sun
Another day more
Are thought of in the feminine perjorative
Confess their camoflage
When calling their characters Hank
That’s for you … Mr blowhard Bukowski
Or Billy Childish, nuff said, I suspect
Whilst this Plath enigma, I doubt shall ever be cracked
Anymore than the grey stones weighting sweater
Sexton either, what beautiful ankles and rouged lips
Even as she slipped, beneath the veil of sanity
Like a greyhound needing to outrun, even itself
Madness grows peacock feathers for weeds
Just another error in a misguided map
Thinking women lesser, colinders of experience
If I’d been a man I’d have
Grown my hair like a mane
Been kind to my daughters
And changed the notion of authority
For my words would be exclaimed intensely feminine
A man having been
A better woman
Like Bono and his award
We give ourselves away
By the bouquet full
To women inheriting the wind?
The day I came out … all my girlfriends took one step apart
it can’t be they collectively agreed
she’s too pretty, she’s too feminine, she’s not a dyke she’s one of us
didn’t she enjoy sex with that boy in the garden? you know that party the one where
they turned the lights on and saw them straddled in tall grass?
What happened? Did you get raped? Was it because you grew up without a mom?
What happened? Did you get bewitched? Is she a sorceress? A genie? A devil?
Soon after the invites to go out on the girls-nights
the newly minted lesbian sat alone with her shadows and her eye make up
growing stale in their plastic boxes
virile boys wondered why they hadn’t kept her straight
cleavage girls wondered if she had looked at them in the shower the wrong way
why didn’t you try it on with me? her bi-curious mates inquired, offended
as if loving a girl was loving the entirety of the species and jumping
from trees on the first female she sees, du rigor
sparkly gay boys annoyed her with their primping and their bitching
clique gay girls alienated her with their cold eyes and their own brand of judgement
you can’t be one of us you’re too long-haired, too shiny, too voluminous
they played pool and ground the chalk into the cue with the ire of exclusive groups
who don’t want those ill-fitting and new
soon she began smoking things in glass tubes because
only the druggies the desperate and the dead would let
and on occasion when she was really crushed into ice and fire she’d try to cure herself
with someone unknown and faceless, grinding down with fervor and lust
neither of which she ever felt
like a poison the awakening was not Kate Chopin but
a black box with no lock and no key and still no way out
her family said … well we always knew you were obtuse
liked to stand out, be different, not fit in, it started with
left-handedness in the cot
we just hope you won’t try to give us grandchildren
think of the shame, think of their difficult lives and step away
she didn’t even have love so how was she going to fill her womb?
at a club a gay man pushed her against a greasy wall and said
there’s something molten about you girl, you’re not gay you’re a hot bitch
and his erection pressed into her dress like a knife
you’re not supposed to want me, she whispered as he pushed harder
you like boys not girls
boys will like anything given a chance, he replied, staining her with ammonia and denial
walking home one night a homeless man grabs her from the bushes
holding a blade to her neck he tries to impregnate her
careful what you wish for
as the slice of him burns her empty
the officer at the hospital while they gather the rape kit
all the swabs like brushes with unwilling paint
told her; try wearing pants not skirts
you’re too beautiful it is like a flower
the bees will come if you let them
and she wondered, how is walking down the street permission?
well it’s your life style you see, it causes problems
how would anyone choose a life style of alienation?
you’re good-looking enough to get a lawyer, he winks
before leaving her naked beneath paper gown
blood on her thighs, horror in her throat
to consider and condemn
this is the life line of a girl who wasn’t linear
or bold or normal
or able to run with the swarm
tried to set herself on fire
to become one of those paper lanterns
lifting off the water into inky night
there were no hands to press her back to earth
they had been crossed and turned away
she didn’t fit into what they expected
what they needed her to be
were it not for you
with your wings and your fearlessness
on the day you told her
it’s okay not to be a stereotype
not every heterosexual woman will treat you like
you’re going to molest her
nor every straight man try to
put his hands beneath your panties
not every gay woman will
scorn your existence and push you to the corner
nor every queer boy loathe you
for being prettier than he
there are among us you said
people without definition or binary
who exist on the periphery of distinction
let you down
she wished she could tell
the pretty girl she tried to befriend who
always treated her different because she thought
you want me don’t you? you desperate lesbian
if you think you are free of bias and you believe yourself unjudging
stop and think about what you do unconsciously
with every favor to others over me, reminding
I have less worth
that is what happens without words without governance
the mistreatment almost invisible
like a paper cut
hurting more than it should
for the side-ways slice of discrimination is
often deeply sewn
she could be
your best friend
careful how you step on this earth
without much you can
crush the fragile who only need
There is an edge
and as you turn your shoulder
thinking the sun has only burnt
the other is latticed
in marks of your exposure
as things of darkness will crawl
deep inside you like a well without end
and build with whitened fingers
their hungry descent
until you are changed
even as you taste the salt of your tears
staining your face like damage
blackening light into rotten parts
tearing your wings to pieces
it’s been so long you forgot
once you were able to climb
high into sky and feel something
unknown now like a lover
who has turned to enemy and stranger
instead without warning
the edge presents itself
in terrible hour like a sharp knife
one moment you are clinking glasses
smiling into the camera
and others remark
goodness she’s aged well
look how happy she looks
the next you are ripping the lies
from your arms, all that glitters
tearing into shreds artifice
tying together knots in hope
they can end
the sudden terror inhabiting you
always cruelest when it shows
just as you believe you might
yoking you back
get on your knees
here you are, here you are
your toes grip the edge
you see the emptiness below
much like what lies inside
for who can put a word
to terror? to hopelessness?
who can place a finger on the place
the rot set in and began
to devour the person you once were?
leaving a scarecrow
others do not see inside
the stuffing ready to ignite
they only see the perfect smile
accoutrements without truth
glittering like shards of glass
scattered in the night
What if you were?
waking up putting your feet over the side of the bed
with the harsh unrelenting knowledge before you think of anything else
I am trapped inside myself
these are my feet cankered and worn with little parchment lines drawn
for every regret I possess
I can hide all day from seeing them but come night, climbing into bed, still they will remind
you are subject to yourself
what if you are a raging inferno within smoked glass?
and everyone buys the exterior version that comes with a label?
choose your own go on, you know you want to
write it in permanent pen on the underside of my third finger
it is human bondage
as ad-verb the moustached man picks ‘mysteriously’
the Irishman says a noun; ‘predictable’
the Hipster proclaims adjective; ‘too old’
the Gen-X femme fatale scolds; ‘not enough visible scars and I hate how she can wear a skirt that tight over her scales’
and you? You don’t speak because you traded in your words for a shot and then another
drunk neat and with your elbow at perfect ninety degree angle
reflecting the awkwardness of ritual in bar window smeared with tarot gravy dust
you do not tell me
stop wearing hose in 70 degrees and if you must, choose pastel hues or flesh
flesh is the color of us all and none at all, for wolves come in multi-color and neon
you do not tell me
cut your hair though it has begun to trail across the bar like ivy once won will entomb even the redolent doll faces who obey without query their whiskered diviner
let’s see how far it goes before the world implodes, then we can sell it by the ounce for bonfires or new clothes
you do not correct
my pronouncement of life or the syllabus of strife I work against my sulfur state with enriching purpose
you could knock me off my slide so easily, bring your trained fist to my cheek, salt the wound pour a little rum and black call me a new blend of this and that
here drink it down and turn into tarmac
you could run over me, keep me flat or press your iced lips to my heat and have me beg
but it’s been a long B side and it’s time for the rain to ease, where drivers, previously intent, lessen up, watching for a break of light through cloud formation
you know why I stand here, pressing my hips against your side, empty me, chamber my void
you take me by the throat, lay me down in my own match book to sleep, watch the children dream, how deeply they ride their velvet horses
you bought me rings without names and names without ownership
I own the fierce tail of my pursuit and not much else
when we lie beneath the city listening to her caw
you are still as cold water washing over me in rinse and roar
it’s not your way to feel
you love without desire
desire without love
the rub and the rub and the rub
no fire will come
it is my conjecture this will end when the rain starts again and cars slow down even more to peer in
tin-can blurred faces seeing nudes vaulting tables and a man holding a gun
gentle as a lover without fingerprint
you place it in my mouth
the taste and smell of fire
would you have time to bruise?
The first time I was personally touched by suicide, a friend’s mom took her own life, her kids found her in the bath, I heard about it second-hand around the age of eight. I remember thinking how I would feel if I found a family member dead, and I tried to be nicer to my friend whose mom had died. I remember other kids said things about how the mom was selfish for doing it, I didn’t join in, there was even then, a part of me that didn’t see it that way.
The second time I was personally touched by suicide, my grandfather took his own life. He overdosed on Valium and was found the next morning when he hadn’t come down for breakfast. He was an artist and a long time Depressive, but despite that, everyone was shocked that a man still in his prime would consider death a better option. I remember people saying; “What a waste, he was so talented” and “How selfish, he had two children and a wife.” Although I didn’t think it at the time, I now wonder, does that mean it’s not selfish if you have no one? Is it more understandable or acceptable if you are not talented? Again, how things are phrased can stick with you.
At the time I saw my grandmother trying to come to terms with it. She ended up drinking the pain away, and developed an addiction to drinking for many years before she joined a cult and through this new-found sense of belonging quit drinking and became happy once more. Whilst we didn’t particularly like her being part of a cult we were glad for her restored peace of mind, but when I think back on it now, I also think we were relieved, we didn’t have to look in the face of grief anymore, everyone wanted to get on with things.
And that’s the hardest part of suicide, how people cope or do not cope after the fact.
Who is left behind, what fall-out carries on sometimes for generations.
One of the first questions a therapist asks is if anyone in your family has committed suicide, there is a reason for that. People whose family members commit suicide have a far higher risk of committing suicide themselves. Some have postulated whether this is ‘learned behavior’ or ‘permission granted’ or biological/in our DNA.
I can definitely see why people who have relatives who commit suicide would go one of two extremes. They are either going to be the last person to commit suicide, because they know first-hand its fall-out, or they may feel that because someone close to them did, it gives permission for them to follow suit. I can also see how some people are genetically at higher risk because something within their DNA makes it more favorable than for others. This doesn’t seem so very different from say, the God Gene.
There definitely are, as with addicts, two camps, the person who just won’t kill themselves under any circumstances and those who will. We may never quite know why, there may be many factors that go into that, but the people who are ‘at risk’ versus those who are not, are often hard to distinguish because in many ways they may both exhibit the same symptoms.
Many times I hear people say that those who commit suicide are ‘weak’ and ‘selfish.’ I have never thought they were. I see no good coming from condemning someone who was sad enough to take their own life. If we do it to discourage others, well it’s not really working, and whilst I would never advocating encouraging anyone to commit suicide or over-justifying those who do, I see no good in criticizing them after the fact. They made a decision, they chose to do it, who are we to say they are weak?
At the same time, we all hope someone will find the ‘strength’ or conviction to keep living. Nobody really approves of suicide except in extreme cases such as euthanasia for those who are suffering and in agonizing pain. Even then, in America, this is a very divided subject with those against, believing no murder is justified including the taking of ones own life, whilst others, often those who have seen it personally, can attest, some terminally ill people have the right to end their suffering.
So if we look at suicide of ‘healthy’ individuals, where do we place the depressed and the mentally ill on that scale? In some Scandinavian countries there have been people who have petitioned the Government to be euthanized based upon mental-illness. This has sparked outrage among those who believe this is tantamount to murder, and in no way qualifies as a terminal illness. Technically mental illness is rarely terminal although many ways, mental illness accompanies terminal diseases and exacerbates their symptomatology.
But even without being terminal, can mental illness ever be ‘bad’ enough to warrant or justify the taking of ones own life? And if we open that flood gate, how do we close it again?
I don’t claim to know the answer, I’m not sure anyone knows the answer yet but the side of suicide we don’t consider as often, isn’t just prevention or reason(s) behind suicide, but the aftermath.
Another friend of mine lost her mother to suicide. If I had to say, without hesitation I would say she became a more responsible, compassionate person as a result. But that doesn’t negate the extreme pain she still feels with the loss of her mom. Given a choice, every day she would wish for her mom’s return over any compassion she may have. The positives cannot outweigh the negative reality of losing someone you love.
If her mom had been deathly ill maybe she would have held a different view, I have never asked her, but either way, it is hard to imagine being ‘okay’ with someone’s suicide. That said, when Brittany Maynard committed suicide (euthanasia) in Oregon a while back I was profoundly moved by her videos and writing on the subject prior to her choice to end her life. Still very young and with a beautiful family, Brittany was terminally ill and knew in a matter of months she would be in excruciating pain and there was no cure and only awful suffering.
Many people condemned her for ‘taking the easy way out’ or ‘going against the will of God’ but I recall admiring her so much for her resolve and strength. I simply could not imagine making that choice, let alone going through with it. Her family moved to another State where Euthanasia is legal in order to be eligible and she made her plight and story public in an effort to educate people on the right to die. I believe in the right to die in part because of her efforts to show it is not the same as suicide.
With depression and other mental illnesses that are not responsive to treatment, it is not hard to imagine why people can be pushed to the brink and wish to end their lives. Should we consider euthanasia for severe cases of mental illness? Currently I don’t think we should but I recognize I may change my mind as more information becomes available. When I stop and think about living with say, Schizophrenia and other illnesses your entire life, in misery, without respite, and medications not working, I can definitely see why someone may wish to end their life. So why do I hesitate in condoning suicide or euthanasia in those cases?
Maybe because whilst we see mental illness as a disease, it’s not terminal and until something is actually ‘definitely’ going to take your life, we have this belief that there is hope, and we should not end our life based on feeling badly. Is this dismissive? I would say in some instances, yes, because there are chronic pain conditions that may include mental disease, that it could be argued, are as devastating to someone as a terminal illness. Perhaps we should give everyone the ‘right’ to choose if they live or die, and I would agree with this except for a worry that sometimes in certain mind-sets we don’t have the right objectivity to ‘choose’ without bias.
Mental illness is one of those biases. When you are mentally ill you can really see the world through a different lens. If you have not ever experienced that, believe me when I say, one day you can feel hopeful, the next it’s like the color was sucked out of the world and the pain you feel inside is unbearable and often without any cause. When that goes on for a prolonged period of time each day can be agonizing. It is definitely understandable that when people feel this way they may contemplate suicide.
The argument against this is – people typically commit suicide or attempt suicide when they are panicking or have calmly given up (the two extremes) they either panic that they will never feel differently and ‘stop the pain! stop it now! stop it any way you can!’ or they feel reconciled to their fate, they do not believe it will ever change, and so they give themselves permission to let go.
Perhaps that is why the very young and the very old are the two groups most likely to take their own lives.
As mentioned earlier, there are many who no matter how bad it got, would never commit suicide. That isn’t necessarily anything to do with personal fortitude or strength, it may be a genetic proclivity, or several factors, but they often perceive those who take their lives as inexplicable. They cannot and will not understand, and they feel understanding is condoning. I would argue, understanding is NOT condoning it’s understanding. We need more understanding.
Mental illness is not always visible, so we often do not know someone is suffering from it until it’s too late. Signs to look for include giving away what we own, a sudden sense of peace and feeling good, high anxiety and stress and the bequeathing of things previously withheld. Of course that’s not going to ensure you accurately predict whom among us is at risk, because just like in the film 13 Reasons, so many people exhibit signs and so many do not, and that’s no guarantee of anything. Additionally suicide can be a sudden choice, you literally realize in a moment and bam, it’s too late.
One population aside teenagers that I believe will increasingly be at risk for suicide is the elderly. More so because our grandparents social security and pensions were more robust than ours will be with some exceptions. It is simply more expensive to live nowadays and the money we will need to live even relatively well in old age, is often more than we can save and invest. Poverty and loneliness are two of the main reasons the elderly choose to take their lives. The third is illness. This can include mental illness. We sometimes believe the value of a person’s life diminishes with increasing age, but every life should have the same value.
The elderly have less resources than teens and in a way, less hope, because they are ageing toward death, whereas a teen has their entire life ahead of them. Sometimes hastening ones death can seem a good choice, to end suffering, loneliness, worry, financial concerns. The elderly can feel they are a burden, they can feel they are not wanted in our ever busy society that highlights youth. Additionally, are we ready as a society to take care of the many who will devleop dementia, which often carries alongside it, chronic depression? Is loading an eighty year old with heavy duty medications and antidepressants all we can to do help them?
Caregivers of the elderly will also experience mental health issues as a result of the hard work they do. Presently elderly patients are over medicated and have less resources for talk-therapy or other treatments. It is deemed simply easier to stick them on a lot of medications and hope they’ll die than treat their suffering compassionately and with an understanding their lives, however long, still hold value. Is it any wonder then that so many elderly are at risk of suicide and premature death? As long as we judge people based on their economic ‘worth’ and believe the elderly ‘had their time’ we will never improve this and rates of elder-abuse will grow.
So whilst we can do more to look out for people, we will never prevent someone from committing suicide if they are absolutely set on doing so. What we can do is save the ones who do not wish to and need a reason not to. It may seem absurd that anyone should really want to die, but there will always be people who do, they find different ways, they take risks, they drive their cars too fast, they may join a terrorist group. Often very unhappy people choose suicide by proxy, by putting themselves in danger and waiting to see if it will take them.
Suicide and mental health are always going to be interrelated and there is a lot the people around those people can do to prevent a successful suicide, but ultimately the best we can do is not judge those who die, for what possible good comes from that? Sometimes the hardest thing in the world is to try to understand why someone did what they did. Sometimes there is nothing to understand. But with understanding we can learn, whereas if we simply condemn, we learn absolutely nothing.