Suicide is a Poem by Jay E. Valusek

Suicide is a poem,
I say, and pause.

They do not look convinced.
A tragedy, perhaps, reply their faces.
No rhyme or reason. No heroic meter.
A travesty, at that.

It’s how you read it, I suggest.

The poem’s power lies not
in the text itself, alone, nor in some obscure
intent within the author’s mind or soul.

It’s more a conversation than
the period that concludes a sentence.
Even one of death.
It’s the question mark that
precludes a glib interpretation.

You must read aloud,
and listen, first, to what it says
to you. And you, and you.

No one hears the poem alike.
It speaks a secret language to the heart
of each. Different, and unique.

No one stays the same, one reading
to the next. The ear itself has changed,
indeed, the world, too. The text,
meanwhile, remains.

Suicide is a poem,
I say again. Their faces cloud,
but I persist.

It’s different now
than when you heard it first,
if you don’t resist, you see?
It matters not so much
what the author meant to say or do,
but how it sounds to me
and what it touches
inside you.

We’re meant to read it
time and time again,
with different voices.

Until, one day, we understand
the poet’s choices—from the inside out.
Now the words belong to us, alone.
As if the fingers were our own.
And we had penned
the blessed poem.

Their faces soften. I relent.
I’m not even sure that I know
what I meant.


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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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