everyone remarked about it.
Simply leaning back in a chair
with his coat open,
and that devil-may-care casual air--
it made me feel a little drunk, just watching him.
He wasn't gay
as some of us assumed.
Vi said no, with a canary-cat smile
and she would know, better than us sparrows.
She told the story
how the war shattered him.
Six weeks in hospital
and the art therapy that brought him back.
Looks and talent, despite a hand tremor that lasted a year.
He was elegant.
You'd feel like the only woman in the room
just because he offered you a cigarette.
With a wave of his hand he dismissed his work as trash
and said better to be
a bricklayer or a dentist.
The thing is, he seemed to mean it
and it felt like watching him vandalize his soul.
He was loved.
One look at Vi told us that.
She said there were nights when he believed he was dying,
and went to doctors in the morning.
They told him, you're fine, really, stop worrying.
He was on the phone one evening with his sister
when Vi said his face changed.
When she asked him he said he'd mentioned his art
and the sister had laughed
saying, oh, you're still doing that.
He loved to walk
at night when the air was cold and clear.
He told Vi he was going out for a smoke--
this war veteran,
this handsome, talented, loved man--
and he did.
Then he'd stepped off a bridge into the cold water far below.
At the funeral, Vi slapped the sister, caused a scene.
He wasn't there to smile and smooth it over, for any of us, anymore.
for desperatepoets "death by broken shoe laces."
Music: Billy Joel Goodnight Saigon
I've wondered if the insanity of war is worse at home - our stateside manner of dealing with extremity by zipping the soul up into its bodybag. Calling mindfuck a broken shoelace, our remedies a useless art. ("Oh, you're still doing that" -- longtime AAs say they hear that at family reunions.) Your nameless handsome vet suggests so. We can't stand to hear what survival of our world means, it's much too perilously sane. Stellar work, friend.ReplyDelete
Thanks, B, and yes, I've heard that clueless question more than once myself, including about my poetry as if it were a hobby like collecting Hummels.Delete
Yes - Being a poet is the thing I am most wary of saying in public about myself. Even in AA.Delete
Shay, an exquisite write, deeply felt this morning. 'The war within' .. a cousin I adored put a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger one month ago. We will never know the demons he battled, the helplessness he must have felt. From Helen.ReplyDelete
I am so very sorry to hear that, Helen. Gosh. It's so devastating when a person's pain exceeds their ability to cope, and that's what suicide is. The pain has to be off the scale.Delete
war or not, family can be hell. they know the hot buttons, worn ragged as scabs from constant picking. as ever your story-telling is nonpareil, Shay ~ReplyDelete
Well said, G, and I do know that picking first hand and very well.Delete
Two heartbreaking stories - yours and Helen's. A Canadian film that deals with suicide and its impact on family, All My Puny Sorrows, is very well done, a true story based on the memoir with the same title. You are spot on - pain that exceeds the ability to cope.ReplyDelete
A finely-drawn, incisive picture of what it is to have a soul in torment, to live with it, to accept you will always live with it, even if it feels like you're dying of it, until you cn't any more. The line that really hit me hard was : "...it felt like watching him vandalize his soul..." To have learned to mock the thing that is most vital, most real about yourself as "trash' because that is how you defend it, that is the hardest burden of all, perhaps.Brilliant writing, my friend, brilliant story-telling.ReplyDelete
You drew us into the world of that nameless soul and you painted a picture of the beauty whilst leaning in to the darkness...a difficult balance played out here to perfection. I knew he wasn't returning from the walk. I knew it was just all too much for him. I could sense the drip drip drip of the coming end because you led me there. Fantastic writing.ReplyDelete
This is a great write, drawing the reader into the pain of the man and that last straw that broke him. It takes so little to devastate someone else's world. So much to unpack here.ReplyDelete