Suicide and the Illusion of Choice

Suicide and the Illusion of Choice

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

A year ago yesterday (January 17, 2017), I got released from the psyche ward for the second time in two months for suicidality, a bipolar crash, and clinical depression, among other things.  That same day, a year later, a dear friend’s brother was claimed by suicide.  What is the difference between us?  Did I make a choice to live?  Did he make a choice to die?  Does someone who takes their own life have freedom of choice?  I argue no.  They don’t.

Freedom of choice involves the ability to make conscious, awake choices.  It involves clarity of mind and heart.  It involves a healthy mental, emotional, spiritual state.  People who are claimed by suicide do not have these things.  No one, in their right (meaning healthy) mind does such a tragic act willingly.  It may look like they made a choice.  They may even believe they are making a choice.  But they didn’t.

Someone high, someone drunk, someone under siege, someone under attack, someone in extreme pain of any kind cannot make conscious, clear choices.  And for some people, the depression, inner pain, outer pain, PTSD, bipolarity, and other mental illnesses are simply too strong to leave someone clear of mind and awake enough to make such a choice.  Depression is a monster that speaks lies in your head.  Well, sometimes it speaks, sometimes it whispers insidiously, sometimes it screams and drowns out all rationality.  And sometimes all it screams over and over is: “I can’t take this anymore.  I need to die.  This needs to end.”  And the disease of depression convinces that person that they are making a free choice—THAT’S part of the symptomology of depression and mental illness—it makes you think you are well.  It makes you think everyone else just doesn’t understand.  It makes you think you are in your rightful power as an individual to control your actions.  And these are all lies, these are symptoms of a disease.

I knew someone once who, when a friend was claimed by suicide, said: “That selfish sonofabitch.”  The victim had left two children.  To the outsider, this person committed a selfish act.  He was essentially an asshole.

Part of the problem with believing suicide is a choice is the definition of the word and the language surrounding it.

Suicide, as defined in most dictionaries goes something like this: the intentional and voluntarily choice to take one’s own life.

The words surrounding this definition are ones like: committed, took their own life, chose to end it all.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, “suicide claims the life of a suffering person.”  Perhaps words like the following might be more appropriate:

Tyrannicide—which may sound insulting, but a person who becomes ill enough to kill themselves is not killing THEMSELVES, they are attempting to kill the pain, the monster, the tyrant inside.  The person claimed by suicide is a victim, and in no way a willing victim. It is analogous to being possessed by a monster.  It’s the monster that pulls the trigger, it’s the monster that takes the fatal leap.  The person unwillingly and unwittingly hosting such a creature essentially—if untreated (and sometimes even if they are treated)—becomes powerless over the depression.

Some would say this analogy doesn’t work because possession implies a spiritual, demonic force.  I am not suggesting that—although, I believe that is possible (there are physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual diseases), I am more using the image to help people see that the person claimed by suicide did not make the conscious choice to end their own lives.  If the possession analogy doesn’t work for you—try thinking of the person with fatal cancer as being possessed by a monster that eats its host from the inside out.

Fideicide—the killing of faith. Someone overwhelmed by a disease can easily lose faith.  Someone claimed by suicide is trying to end their hopelessness, not themselves.  The disease has swallowed their faith.

Facticide—the killing of facts.  The monster of depression distorts the fact the ill person is worthy of living, is worthy of help, has the ability to choose otherwise.

Claim—the word “claim,” comes from the roots of words meaning, the act of shouting out, to demand, and to take sometimes by force.  This seems far more accurate than the deliberate and voluntary choice to take one’s own life.

Cancer claims lives, heart attacks claim lives, strokes claim lives, diabetes claims lives, Alzheimer’s claims lives.  Depression is every bit as much an illness as any of these.  Bipolarity is, PTSD is, and so on.  So is addiction.

Addiction and depression tell lies—it’s part of their symptomology.  So does bipolarity.  As someone who suffers from several mental illnesses, I know as soon as my head says, “You’re doing better, stop taking your meds,” that that is the disease talking.

Depression (and to be clear, I do not mean sadness, or the blues—I mean clinical depression) and addiction have the ability to smother rationality and the ability to ask for realistic help.  Just as Alzheimer’s takes away the memory piece by piece, depression takes away freedom, hope, the ability to seek help piece by piece.  Just as cancer little by little eats the body away, so does depression and other mental illnesses eat away at the ability to think clearly and rationally.

Saying someone chose to take their own lives—in addition to being inaccurate, is harmful to everyone involved.  It puts us in the power of blame, of judgment, and of the ability to slide into the need to protect ourselves from pain and the reality that depression is real, that depression stalks people, that depression is fatal.  Some people would much rather believe suicide is a choice because it separates themselves from the possibility to being devoured by a monster.  Lastly, it is crushing to the family of the victim to say they choose such a thing.  It implies deep self-centeredness, it implies they loved themselves more than their families and friends. It implies they didn’t care about others.  People who die from cancer are not abandoning their loved ones or choosing their own lives over theirs. They are not being selfish by dying.

When someone we love is claimed by suicide, the world collapses for the survivors.  It is devastating.  And people close to them often say things like: “Well, at least they are not suffering anymore,” which is exactly what one says when a loved one dies of cancer.  Inside we know suicide is a disease.  And combined with depression can be fatal.

People whose disease compels them to attempt suicide is not crying for help.  Attempting suicide is an expression of mental illness—a bursting of a cist, the manifestation of a sickness.  And, also tragic, is the fact that many people cannot afford mental healthcare before its too late.

Suicide is also not a sin just as dying of cancer is not a sin.

Compassion, understanding, and an ability to listen openly and face reality is what we must offer when someone we love dies of suicide. No blame, no judgment.

And what of someone like me who suffers from depression and suicidality and is still alive?  Before my symptoms became overwhelming, I was able to seek and accept help.  My mental cancer was advancing in strength and severity, but it hadn’t gotten to the point of no return.  I was still able to have just enough measure of mental clarity and freedom of choice, to get help.

And that is the only difference between my friend’s brother and myself.  I am not better than him, stronger, I am not less selfish, or anything of the sort.

I am lucky.  I simply don’t have as severe an illness as him.  And that is of no credit to me.  Some people survive cancer.  Many don’t.  I survived depression and suicidality.  He was taken—claimed—cut short.  He was murdered by a cruel disease.

 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-8255

Trans LifeLine: US: (877) 565-8860 CANADA: (877) 330-6366

 

 


 


All donations to this post go to suicide prevention.


A Star is Born–One Way I Know I am Transgender, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

A Star is Born
One Way I Know I am Transgender
By
Jennifer Angelina Petro

me looking up

People ask me a lot: How do you know you’re transgender? How do you know you’re a woman? Sometimes I reply: Well, how do you know your gender identity or your gender preferences? It’s like knowing the color orange is orange—you just know. Other times I wax poetic and answer: How does the bee know it’s a bee, and how does it know to do its honey-making dances? How does spring know its spring and how does it know when to wake up all the flowers and the aforementioned bees? There is, however, no real way to describe the indescribable. Something happened to me recently though that speaks volumes to my own, personal affirmation of my revelation of being a transgender woman—an affirmation that struck me with such intensity that it rocked my world with joy. It’s personal, as I said, but you might relate to some of what I am about to share. My guess is it could apply to many life circumstances, not just being transgender. On a cold winter’s night, as I walked down Chestnut Street in Center City, Philadelphia, I realized the movie had stopped.

 
Ever since I can remember I lived my life as if I were in a movie. Better put—I was the movie. It wasn’t just the sensation of being watched, although that was there, it was also a deep, penetrating awareness that everything I did was fake—fake and acted. I was an actor (I am not going to say “actress” here because growing up I did not know I was female) par excellence. Everything I did, every word I spoke was fiction. And no, I wasn’t a liar in the sense of not speaking the truth. I was being filmed in one long, rambling drama. My life was a movie about an actor—and an actor playing an actor within a movie that was really an unlived life filmed as a movie—sort of like when you hold a mirror up to a mirror and the reflection goes on forever. There was no truth to the story. Everything I did or said was pretend and all of that pretending was being watched by a part of myself that knew somewhere, somehow that what it was seeing, was acting.*

 
I do not suffer from Truman Syndrome, nor am I a victim of derealization, or any other type of schizoid disorder. I am not paranoid. Yes, I suffer from hyper vigilance and PTSD. I didn’t need to learn how to dissociate when I was being beaten or molested. It would just happen. Repeated abuse does that to a soul, to a brain. This sensing I was in a movie was altogether different, and began several years before the sexual abuse. This sensing I was in a movie happened twenty-four-seven. At school, at church, at the toy store, in my room, at dinner, and all throughout my life, from the time I was four, five maybe–I had the unmistakable recognition that I was being filmed. My life was a movie. My life was a lie.

 
Who was filming? Who was behind the camera or in the director’s chair? Everyone. Everyone and no one. And myself. Who was watching, who was the audience? Everyone, no one, and myself. This is hard to put into words, but it was like my own life watched my own life and didn’t know what to do about it or how to stop it, or why it was happening, or what the ending was going to be like, or when. I wasn’t looking for attention, nor was I narcissistic, I wasn’t even delusional. I simply lived in a movie filmed through my own eyes, my own brain, and I hadn’t a clue as to why. It wasn’t like thinking god was watching or Santa Claus. It was more like just walking, following the steps of myself, yet knowing they weren’t mine, knowing they meant nothing. I remember looking down at my feet as I walked and wondering where they were going. I remember looking down as I puffed out my chest because I was obsessed with trying to look tough and “manly.” I didn’t care if god or Santa watched me. I didn’t even care that I was a constant actor. I didn’t know anything else. All I knew was that my everyday life was a fiction, a pseudo- documentary with a subject that didn’t even exist and that no one cared about.

 
My eyes were the camera lenses; my own head both the camera and the screen. The world was the screen too and the camera. Everywhere I walked or stood or ran I was acting, pretending–even while sleeping. It’s no wonder I never had a restful night’s sleep. I was pretending to be asleep as the world snuck into my room and silently gathered around my bed to watch me dreaming of real life.

 
I laughed when I was supposed to. I cried when I was supposed to. I learned how to fish and ride a bike and get angry on cue. I moved from one scene to another never quite feeling like I was in the right one or saying the right lines, but I was there—I showed up. Yet somehow the background and the staging were all wrong; somehow the other people in the movie could never get close enough to me to wonder how I could be there, and yet not be there, all in the same scene. I was being filmed and I was also, somehow, inexplicably covered in a thin film made of dust and shadows.

 
Throughout my movie life, I did what so many other people do with a history of abuse–I turned to addictions—pornography and food mainly. Ever chasing some sort of moment or flash of reality, yet never finding it for more than a fleeting second, and those fleeting seconds were always steeped in shame, ugliness, and remorse.

 
I suppose some people who relate to this experience of sensing being filmed and watched might imagine it must automatically mean they’re transgender. That was only the case in my life. Why you might resort to unconscious hiding in your own life might happen for a myriad of reasons. The only difference perhaps is that I know now that I was hiding, and I know now that I am not.

 
While on some twisted level this survival mechanism was the work of a child-genius attempting to create a world of safety, this being filmed over decades eventually became a burden. I began to sense something wasn’t right, something was being hidden in the process of being filmed. I hadn’t a clue as to what it could be. I kept associating it with my abuse or my shame. However the truth was far more surprising than I could have ever imagined. And the strategy of stepping out of one’s own life by pretending to live it and have it filmed all at the same time eventually lost its efficacy—if there ever was any to lose.

 
And so it went on, year after year. I was filmed on my wedding day, I was filmed pushing my babies around in the stroller, I was filmed while teaching, buying used books and records, I was filmed eating, I was filmed in the bathroom and the shower, I was filmed watching other movies, I was filmed making feeble attempts at playing sports, I was filmed drawing monsters and writing poetry, I was filmed when I learned to drive and bought my first car with my own money, I was filmed as relationship after relationship ended with unexplainable trouble. The burden of being filmed however was simply a weight I had to carry. I knew it was happening but never felt safe to talk about it. To this day I have never mentioned it to any of my therapists that I’ve had over the years.

 
At one point I thought I was being filmed by aliens. Perhaps they had kidnapped me years before and implanted a camera in my eyes to study a human life. Perhaps alien superpowers would eventually show up when I needed them most. Perhaps I had died as a child by getting hit by lightning and this movie of a life was really some sort of ghostly projection I was trapped in until another incarnation came around.

 
Thing is, I got used to it. It just was that way. It never stopped. I lived my life pretending I wasn’t pretending, acting that I wasn’t acting. I was an unreality-show being made into a reality show long before those programs existed. The experience of being filmed and watched was so inwardly part and parcel of who I was, that I never tried to stop it. I figured it was like that for everyone—everyone lived a fake life, everyone was pretending. “All the world’s a stage,” after all. Or worse, we’re all acting on karmic impulses from previous lives and none of us are free. I justified my perceptions of being filmed by blaming it on religion, the government, aliens, ghosts, spirits, elemental beings, devils, angels, and sometimes on the belief that I was an addict.

 
The long and short of it was that I didn’t really exist. I was an imposter pretending to be someone else who was an imposter. And that sensation carried itself through right up to the moment I realized I was transgender, only I was so enraptured by living the truth it took me a few months to notice it was gone.

 
So one night, walking down a poorly ploughed Chestnut Street near 12th street, I suddenly stopped—more like I was halted by some angelic, winged hand trying to get me to notice the fact that I was finally free. I was no longer being filmed. I was no longer pretending. My life was real. The film had dropped like a snake skin. I wasn’t an imposter in my own story. I was real. The filming had stopped. I was walking down the street a transgender woman and I was alive, liberated, present, unafraid of breathing. I was a pure, living soul–pure in the sense of being born, pure in the sense of the dawn, pure in the sense of the moon rising over a silver pond. The movie house was gone. The camera in my head was gone. The ever-present sensation of existing in a false life vanished.

 
I see the movie clearly now—now that it’s over. I see how impossible it was for the little girl to make herself known. I see how the little boy did his best to keep her safe. I see how the rest of the world knew something about me was askew yet didn’t know what to do about it, yet let alone admit I was askew. I see how the abuse only furthered the sensation of being watched and of being unreal. I see how, despite feeling like so much time was wasted, that this was the right moment for the little girl to rise, to grow, to blossom into a woman. The work I had done untangling the abuse and the addictions created a nest of safety for her to grow her wings and eventually to fly. The darkness I had gone through and survived had bloomed entire heavens of wonder. Finally, after all those years, my life shines in truth: I am a woman, a transgender woman of magnificence and power. And I am taking the script I was cast in, and all the costumes and props, and authoring and directing an entirely new story—a true story—an adventure story, a romance of the self, woven with magical realism, a mystery where there is no crime—where the only mystery is: how far will this woman go? It is a story of inspiration and hope, perseverance and courage, and the ability to rejoice in who I am—no matter how I transition or stay the same, no matter what I do or do not do, no matter how my body looks, no matter what anyone says or does. It is an ever unfolding story—it is my story–detailing what happens when a star is born.

 

 

 

___________________________________________________________________________________________

*It behooves me to address those who have known me personally over the years: You were always real. I was the fake one. Your interactions with me mattered and were genuine. My presence however was not there. I tried, but it was like being in a coma with my eyes open. I could see you, think I was communicating, but actually nothing was coming out of my mouth. I couldn’t speak or even move. I love you all for trying to see the real me.

 

 


 

 

 





My Undoing

My Undoing
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

undoing photo

I do not want to be reborn
Or renewed, restored or reenvisioned.
I do not want re-anything. The before
Is filled with darkness and sorrow,
Learned fears and sickness.
There is no before to return to.
My birth is still happening
And for the rest of my life I will be being born.
When I reach death’s door,
I will still be being born.
Let my death, my spring, my resurrection
Be an undoing, an unfolding, an unburdening,
A blessed untangling, a sacred unveiling,
A gradual unloosening,
A gentle unhusking,
A tender unlacing,
A slow unraveling;
An unceasing, uncensored, unrestrainable joy;
Let my thoughts be unconfused and uncritical;
Let my wants be unclouded
And my needs unarguable;
Let my light be unshaded and my feet unshackled;
Let me be unharmed, untasted, unleashed, and unstoppable;
Let me be unbroken and untwisted,
My tensions uncoiled and my body uncorruptible;
Let union with the Beloved be uncoerced;
Let the unbuttoning and unbuckling of my soul—
The unclothing and unwrapping of my desires—
Let them be unconditionally accepted
And unequivocally wonderful;
Let our timelessness together be uncompetitive and real;
Let the passion be unabridged, and the shame
Unlearned, and the moments of bliss unhurried,
And the union unbreakable.
Let my soul be unchained
And my heart unlocked;
Let my spirit be unshuttered,
And the fence around my garden of words be unlatched;
Let the trap door of my compulsions be unhinged
And unnecessary;
Let the way forward be unthreatened;
Let my playfulness be unbridled,
Uncivilized, uncalibrated, unjudged;
Let my laughter be uncensored;
Let my hands be uncuffed;
Let my soul be uncrumbled;
Let the reasons for my being worthy
And beautiful be undebatable,
Undeniable, unbelievably obvious and clear to me.
Let my meditation be undisturbed;
Let my fists be unclenched and my heart
Undivided, and my thinking undistorted,
And my voice unedited;
Let my brow be unfurrowed and my stomach unknitted,
Let my wildness be undomesticated and unlabeled,
Untamed and unfeared;
Let the possibilities for usefulness and service
Be undreamed of,
Let my conversations, once and for all, be undramatic;
Let my death be an undying of everything
That died, let my soul be untethered,
Unencumbered, unfaded and unfallen.
Let there be space and time
To unfeel and unform,
To become uninhibited, unfurled, unjaded;
Let the warmth of breathing together
Be the unfreezing of years of winter;
Let being myself be unfamiliar, unfettered, unforced,
And unforgettable;
Let my sleep be uninterrupted,
And my creativity be unbound
And unlimited by what anyone says or does;
Let death be an unloosening,
A holy unmaking, a joyful unmasking;
Let my cries by unmuffled,
And my faith unmovable,
Let my rage be unmuzzeled,
And fears be unneeded;
Let my hours be unnumbered,
And my memories unrepressed and unoccupied with ghosts,
Let my dreams of success be unopposed,
And my poetry unorthodox, unprofessional, and shared;
Let my roots be unrooted,
And the Beloved’s love be unsearchable because it will be
Unavoidable, unending, and completely undressed, unserious,
And unseparated from me;
Let my purpose be unshakable and my sword unsheathed;
May my cities of wonder be unshelled and unobliterated;
May my wheels be unstuck and the road unspoiled;
Let me be unsliced, unsoiled
And the fabric of my pain unsewn
And unstitched;
Let my unspoken desires be sung and uninhibited;
Let any unsteadiness be steadied with unshakable confidence;
Let my innocence be untainted, untarnished, and unstolen;
Let my need to control be untethered and unmoored;
Let my self-hatred be unthroned,
And my soul be untrodden;
Let me finally be unwound,
Unwoven and unafraid;
A gift of an old life unlived–
Lived now and shared
In the land of unending acceptance
Of myself.
Let this be my undoing.
.

 


 

 

 

 





Living Among Roots and Shadows

Living Among Roots and Shadows
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 

roots and shadows

 

My soul is caught
Among roots and shadows, like
A piece of silk caught
In the branches of a tree
Or in a bush of thorns.
Still living
My soul,
Blown out
Of its trappings
By so much sorrow,
Remains
Tethered by a thread,
A thread of presence and of hope,
The end of which is wound
Around your outstretched hands,
It streams from the fragrance
Of your spring-blossomed words,
It is spun from the loom
Of your compassion.
And the reason I know this
Is because I stand among roots
And shadows, like
A piece of silk
Caught in the branches
Of a tree or in a bush
Of thorns, and I am still living,
And my soul, blown out
Of its trappings, remains tethered
By a thread of presence and of hope,
The end of which is wound
Around my own hands and streams
From my own spring-blossoming words,
It is spun from a loom of compassion
I built and work at by candlelight
In a moon-drenched room alone. And the reason
I know this is because I weep
Among roots and shadows,
I flail among roots and shadows,
I panic among roots and shadows,
I shake and I scream and I die
A thousand times among roots
And shadows, like a fledging bird
Caught in a storm and is still alive,
My blown out soul tossed
By winds of shame and terror, remains held
Somehow, someway beneath the wings
Of a great and terrible love
That will not let me blow away.
I know this because today I rest
Under the shadow of his wings
And among the roots of her beautiful, all-
Holding earth.

 

 


 

 

 





I’m Not Supposed to Tell You–Original Version

Note:  In the version I published yesterday I felt my usual need to be responsible and hopeful and redemptive for you.  I couldn’t bear to leave you with how I was truly feeling–and that’s not a “bad” thing–that quality I love about myself–most of the time.  Often I do not know where I leave off and you begin and I get confused about my desire to save everyone.  Anywho, the original version of this poem is the one posted today.  The second half that I added yesterday is still true and I am deeply grateful for the hope and love I receive from others.  Today, however, and when this poem was born,  I am in an inner hurricane, and no, I will not hide that today.  Joseph

Special thanks to Mindy for not being afraid.

 

I Am Not Supposed to Tell You
By
Joseph Anthony

 

I am not supposed to tell you
How steeped I am in self-hatred;
How I feel like a sand mandala slowly
Blowing away grain by grain;
This heart you think you know
Is not mine. My heart is an albatross
Lost at the bottom of the sea.
A dark angel shifts heavy, smothering wings
Inside my chest. A wind-tossed night sky
Searching for morning, blankets
My basic, human sense of self.
Breathing
Feels
Wrong.
I am not supposed to tell you that.
I’m supposed to worry about what you
Think of me; what will happen
Now that you know—
I’m not supposed to tell you that either.
You tell me: this too, shall pass.
I am not supposed to tell you:
Those words enter a man’s ears but are heard
By a child’s—a child who hears you
But cannot help looking passed you
At the storm gathering behind you—the one
Unfurling like a monster made of smoke—
The one heading this way.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 





Echo, Sadness

Echo, Sadness
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 
Echo, sadness, on the walls of my chest,
Over the skin on my shoulders,
Echo, sadness, roll down my arms
And splash from my fingers,
Echo, sadness, through the waters of my soul,
In the hollow of my hands, in the pit of my belly,
Echo, sadness, through my bones,
Through the shell of my memories,
Echo, like sonar and find the lost ships of desire.
Echo, sadness—shudder through the ghosts
Of my mind, allow them the gift
Of dissolving like mist in light—audible light—
Let them sing as they go, thinning
Into particles of mantras and prayers.
Echo, sadness, ring in the bell of my heart
And pour through the valley of my past
And the mountains of my fears.
Echo, sadness, here, in this rattled and quivering breath—
Shallow and catching—echo here and in this here–
Sound the call of healing and let this be but a beginning
Of the unleashing of the mighty dragons of joy
From the company of heaven.

 

 

 


 





No More

No More
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 
No more, he begged, crumbling to the floor, curling into a ball,
No more.

No more, he said, standing, fists clenched, shoulders straight,
No more.

No more, he whispered, gathering the frightened children in his arms,
No more.

No more, he wept, looking at himself in the mirror,
No more.

No more, he prayed, kneeling by the grave,
No more.

No more, he shouted to the sky, to the endless road,
To the silently falling snow,
No more.

No more, he cried to his nightmares, as he entered them
With handfuls of stars,
No more.

No more, he said to his tears, no more pretending
You are laughter. Fall. Fall without shame or censor.
Fall and water the roots of this moment.

No more, he said to his rage, no more thinking you have no place.
Do what you will—the world was created in fire.

No more, he said to the memories, no more hiding.
It is safe to breathe here, and to become light.

No more, he said to his heart, no more denying our brokenness—
Let us fall to pieces. There are those who will help us reassemble a way to live
And to love.

No more, he said, taking his soul by the hand,
No more going it alone.

 

 

 


 





Flood

Flood
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 

Days, weeks, months, and years
Can go by without a flood. Oh, I know
The river’s there, and the storms,
And the groundwater saturates so much
Of the foundations, but the floods
Are something else entirely.
It’s like this: I wake in the middle of the night
And without warning the water is already
Spilling over my bed, and even as I wipe my eyes
Trying to make sense of what is happening,
I go under–my chest and guts fill with bone-
Crushing pressure; the ceiling disappears and the walls
Close in and there’s nothing but dark water
And a faraway distant night sky—way up there somewhere,
And if I don’t call out for help no lifeline appears,
And the walls close in to the very edges of my bed,
And the water keeps rising and I can’t swim
And I can no longer see and some part of me dies
As the night sky fills my blank, staring eyes.
And then, I am floating, gone, part of the nothingness
That comes with deluges like this.
And little by little, over days, weeks, months, and years
The walls will slip back and the water recede through the cracks
And into the basement and through the ground–
Soaking the surrounding roots. And I will suddenly
Be able to see, and water will gush from my eyes and mouth
And I will gag and cough and grab my stomach and chest
And retch. And somehow, somehow, somehow,
I will step from my bed and it will be morning
And the sun will be shining, and I will begin moving
Through my life, water logged, heart-soddened
With terror, mind drenched with ‘why’
And I will eventually make it, things will dry
As I move in the light, and I will go around
With secret sorrow dripping from my every funny word,
Until days, weeks, months, or years later, there’s another flood
And I will wake in the middle of the night
Water spilling over my bed

 

 

 


 





12 / 13 / 14

12 / 13 / 14
by
Joseph Anthony

12 / 13 / 14

The tissue paper wing of the dead cicada,
The dry, decomposing leaf that reveals the hair-thin frame,
The tailspinning snowflake landing on my coat,
The seedling finally threading through the ruckusy goings on of the thick forest floor,
The hatchling robins shaking, blind, void of feathers, hungry,
The surface of the pond as I just lay my hand, like so, upon its face,
My hand as the cool water enfolds it with the darkness of sensation,
The small Christmas present, all crinkles and tape, loosely and lovingly wrapped by a child,
The quavering moon held in the fingertips of the winter branches,
The trembling hand adding the last, tiniest detail to the drawing,
The onion skin paper between the pages of the prayer book from the 1800’s,
This heart, this mind, this fluttering soul,
How does one allow for such vulnerable tenderness?
How does one be in the presence of such beautiful, holy fragility
Without feeling the impulse to crush?
How, dear Lord of sparrows and lilies,
Does one protect such delicate things?