Read These and Suicide’s Note: An Annual

by Mary Karr

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Read These

The King saith, and his arm swept the landscape’s foliage into bloom
where he hath inscribed the secret mysteries of his love
before at last taking himself away. His head away. His
recording hand. So his worshipful subjects must imagine
themselves in his loving fulfillment, who were no more
than instruments of his creation. Pawns.
Apparati. Away, he took himself and left us
studying the smudged sky. Soft pencil lead.

Once he was not a king, only a pale boy staring down
from the high dive. The contest was seriousness
he decided, who shaped himself for genus genius
and nothing less. Among genii, whoever dies first wins.
Or so he thought. He wanted the web browsers to ping
his name in literary mention everywhere on the world wide web.

He wanted relief from his head, which acted as spider
and inner web weaver. The boy was a live thing tumbled in its thread
and tapped and fed off, siphoned from. His head kecked back
and howling from inside the bone castle from whence he came
to hate the court he held.

He was crowned with loneliness
and suffered for friendship, for fealty
of the noblest sort. The invisible crown
rounded his temples tighter than any turban,
more binding than a wedding band,
and he sat in his round tower
on the rounding earth.
Read these,
saith the King, and put down his pen, hearing
himself inwardly holding forth on the dullest
aspects of the human heart
with the sharpest possible wit. Unreadable
as Pound on usury or Aquinas on sex.

I know the noose made an oval portrait frame for his face.
And duct tape around the base of the Ziploc
bag was an air-tight chamber
for the regal head — most serious relic,
breathlessly lecturing in the hall of silence.

Suicide’s Note: An Annual

I hope you’ve been taken up by Jesus
though so many decades have passed, so far apart we’d grown
between love transmogrifying into hate and those sad letters
and phone calls and your face vanishing into a noose that
I couldn’t
today name the gods
you at the end worshipped, if any, praise being
impossible for the devoutly miserable. And screw my church who’d
roast in Hell poor suffering
bastards like you, unable to bear the masks
of their own faces. With words you sought to shape
a world alternate to the one that dared
inscribe itself so ruthlessly across your eyes, for you
could not, could never
fully refute the actual or justify the sad heft of your body, earn
your rightful space or pay for the parcels of oxygen you
inherited. More than once you asked
that I breathe into your lungs like the soprano in the opera
I loved so my ghost might inhabit you and you ingest my belief
in your otherwise-only-probable soul. I wonder does your
death feel like failure to everybody who ever
loved you as if our collective cpr stopped
too soon, the defib paddles lost charge, the corpse
punished us by never sitting up. And forgive my conviction
that every suicide’s an asshole. There is a good reason I am not
God, for I would cruelly smite the self-smitten.
I just wanted to say ha-ha, despite
your best efforts you are every second
alive in a hard-gnawing way for all who breathed you deeply in,
each set of lungs, those rosy implanted wings, pink balloons.
We sigh you out into air and watch you rise like rain.

— Poetry, September 2012

Poet and memoirist Mary Karr was born in 1955 and raised in Texas. The author of several critically acclaimed books of poetry, including Abacus (1987; reprinted 2007), The Devil’s Tour (1993), Viper Rum (2001), and Sinners Welcome (2006) she is also the author of a trilogy of memoirs: The Liar’s Club (1995), Cherry (2001), and Lit (2009).