It took me years and years to get my brain around the suicide of a dear friend from my childhood, and many stammering starts and surrenders of stories and poems. I think a poem is the best way to convey this, however, so I tried that medium again yesterday and this is what was produced. I know that writing a poem about a friend’s suicide is really overdone, but I’m not writing it for anything but getting it out of my system, and I’m sharing it because I need other people to see it. Take that as you will. I’m not a bloody poet, either, so I’m sure I’m breaking all sorts of elementary best practices. Oh well.
If It Was On Purpose I Forgive You
I’m in a car heading towards Pittsburgh and
the driver says your name. Your full name aloud
without preparing me for it first. We
were listening to Game of Thrones so maybe
that’s what made him say it. Your name
His sister is asleep in the back seat and I expect
her to wake up when the entirety of the car’s pressure
changes. But she doesn’t. She stays asleep I
wonder if you thought she’d turn out as beautiful as
she did—because she did.
He said your name and the pressure changes so
we talked about how hard it was to find out. How
we knew, deep somewhere behind our childhood
that you had this in you.
And if it was on purpose I forgive you but Tim for
God’s sake you were so huge in my young life we
watched porn and made weapons and came up with
games that did more to expand my creativity
than any writing class afterwards. So he says
your name I say it back slowly it flows
out of my lungs like a ghost through a
The driver lets my voice hang
before telling me what he knows.
The driver says you were in trouble
and I believe him and see you
slim and muscular waiting in a car for
He says you were feeling stuck, the driver
says as we
pass by a rest stop, you
felt the rope tightening and we both
know you didn’t do so well
backed into corners.
I see you taking a long drag and saying
it’s been too long. I like that your hair
grew back out. Your eyes are dark but you
look how I’d expect. The stuff in your body
not yet making you gaunt.
The driver says he thinks about your mom a lot, and for a moment
I see her in the kitchen of your house paying bills. Her hands thin and nervous.
He says he visited her after. He says she didn’t let him inside
and spoke to him sitting on the porch steps. He wonders if your mother
became something different after it happened. He talks about sending her
flowers. He talks about making sure she knows we still think about you.
And if it was on purpose I forgive you. If it was
an accident somehow that’s worse. When a younger
brother found you I wonder if he thought the same
thing I did after hearing about it.
A time in summer when we imagined what we’d
be as adults. Your mouth enormous with smile my
eyes tired and filled with
joy at our possibility.
Did he think of that or something else that saying
aloud would shatter?