I never want to walk through the black door you’ve negotiated,
Into the place where mothers bury their sons.
–You didn’t want to, either. You deserved years
of bonding, smiling at the way things turned out well after
the hard years, the impossible maze your adolescent traipsed.
No matter the cause, it’s the backwardness of it that
Makes no sense. It’s the years that knit us to the children,
Then the final rift that drains away all hope. All reason.
If the end is drawn out, hours at the bedside,
Your child on catheters and tubes, fighting a good fight,
The end might mix relief, fatigue and endless loss,
A bitter cocktail at best.
If death is quick, unexpected, it could be worse—planes fall
Out of the sky, a user takes enough of the drug to feel
heroic, exceptional, and then takes more, falls
into the arms of Thanatos, son of Night and Darkness,
The shock, the sequel of the overdose stuns.
Or the intentional, planned and executed death–
it strips those who loved of all feeling, then guilt, anger rise up—
there’s no way to put a good face on any of this.
You never forget, a woman told me years ago,
but with time it gets softer—around the edges of memory,
you forget how sharp the loss. Our mutual friend had
ended her life, as the obit writers say these days.
Clichés, trusted rituals, maxims, prayers—is there
Anything that works, gives succor or peace, or even
Something to numb you for a while, lull you into
Thinking you can shoulder this, someday remember
The face you loved, recall without tears, without the stone
That sits in your chest where your heart used to be?
Reprinted from A New Ulster, December 2015, Issue 39