Thursday, October 10, 2019

No Hemlock Rock

When people kill themselves, they think they’re ending the pain, but all they’re doing is passing it on to those they leave behind.
—Jeannette Walls

photo by Ruth Hartnup

Jennifer Michael Hecht is the author of Stay: A History of Suicide and the Arguments Against It. Thank you, Jennifer, for giving me permission to share "No Hemlock Rock"!

No Hemlock Rock (don't kill yourself)
by Jennifer Michael Hecht

Don't kill yourself. Don't kill yourself.
Don't. Eat a donut, be a blown nut.
That is, if you're going to kill yourself,
stand on a street corner rhyming
seizure with Indonesia, and wreck it with
racket. Allow medical terms.
Rave and fail. Be an absurd living ghost,
if necessary, but don't kill yourself.

Let your friends know that something has
passed, or be glad they've guessed.
But don't kill yourself. If you stay, but are
bat crazy you will batter their hearts
in blooming scores of anguish; but kill
yourself, and hundreds of other people die.

Poison yourself, it poisons the well;
shoot yourself, it cracks the bio-dome.
I will give badges to everyone who's figured
this out about suicide, and hence
refused it. I am grateful. Stay. Thank
you for staying. Please stay. You
are my hero for staying. I know
about it, and am grateful you stay.

Eat a donut. Rhyme opus with lotus.
Rope is bogus, psychosis. Stay.
Hocus Pocus. Hocus Pocus.
Dare not to kill yourself. I won't either.

"No Hemlock Rock (don't kill yourself)" by Jennifer Michael Hecht from Who Said. © Copper Canyon Press.


Reading to the Core has the Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks, Catherine!


Robyn Hood Black said...

Bold poem about such a hard, hard subject - thanks to Jennifer Michael Hecht for writing and to you for sharing, Tabatha! Prayers for those who drift beyond the reach of other voices.

author amok said...

If you stay, but are
bat crazy you will batter their hearts
in blooming scores of anguish; but kill
yourself, and hundreds of other people die.

This poem's wordplay somehow balances out the dark subject matter. Thank you for sharing it -- I'm reading on World Mental Health Day.

Catherine Flynn said...

Thank you for sharing this powerful poem, Tabatha. It's heartbreaking to imagine the despair someone must feel to contemplate suicide. I love that this poem acknowledges that pain and offers this support: "you/are my hero for staying."

Linda B said...

How can we get this message out for everyone to read? I want to shout it out loud, have had more than one close friend lose a family member recently, and two in my extended family. The sadness that is felt must simply be overwhelming, and those left never stop being sad. The poem shows so much emotion in a way that tries to get through the wall. Thanks for sharing, Tabatha.

Kimberly Hutmacher said...

So poignant, Tabatha. An old friend recently lost her son to suicide. Alas, she and her husband and their daughter and all of his close friends and family, lost part of themselves, too. Thank you for sharing this.

Irene Latham said...

I've had conversations with my kids about what to say to friends/loved ones who confess suicidal thoughts... I will share with them this poem. Also, Jennifer's poem "September" is one of my all-time faves. xo

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

A powerful quote and poem today, Tabatha. Thank you for sharing them.

jama said...

Wow -- this one caught me off guard. Such a difficult subject to write about. The wordplay provides an energy that prevents the poem from being to heavy, maudlin. Great opening quote, too!

Michelle Kogan said...

Yes to all the comments above–such a strong and powerful voice with some humor snuck in and it glides off the page, thanks Tabatha!

Linda Mitchell said...

Wow. What a poem. Thank you seems such a small response....but it is my first one. I love how there's silliness mixed with the plea. It's like that in real life. Once, I was driving someone who was deeply suicidal to the hospital and almost got hit by another passenger said, "that would have been ironic." And, we both cracked up laughing with pent up nerves for me...I don't know what for them. This poem brought that moment So, thank you.

Kay said...

Thank you for sharing this powerful poem. Suicide is such a difficult subject and unbearable hard to bear for those left behind. This poem offers much hope.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Oof. The STAY sign. Rhyming as antidote. The blooming scores of anguish, donuts. Dare not to.

Karen Edmisten said...

As others have said, what a great pairing of that quote with this poem, Tabatha. Agree with the others, too, that the heartbreaking subject matter is somehow so aptly paired with the wordplay, so that darkness doesn't swallow us, or the poet ... almost as if the poet is saying, "Stay here in the light with us, stay where it's light, where we can be light together...."