You are sitting on the edge
of a just-drowned firepit
waiting for the ashes to stop smoldering.
Everything you own was in there
and most of it is damaged beyond repair,
by firehose if not by fire itself.
The firefighters are ignoring you
but the paramedics are beginning
a gentle interrogation,
determining their next steps;
here you are
shivering after having had
your gas soaked clothing
torn from you before it could ignite. They’ve put
a blanket around your shoulders. They’re telling you
you’re going somewhere,
they’re putting you on a gurney,
it’s fine it’s fine it’s fine — it’s going to be
fine. You didn’t burn the house down,
you’re getting the help you need —
and then you look into my eyes and ask,
who are you, describing
what’s happening out loud like
I can’t deal? I don’t know you.
You aren’t any help
at all. Go away.
That’s a little hard to take, Jim —
it’s like you haven’t noticed at all
how much like a mirror
the night has become
since you dropped that match.
You’re going away, you know,
and the wife and kids are staying
far behind, a whole continent behind —
you won’t be able to count on them coming
to see you, unless the movement
of tectonic plates counts. You’re going away
and your parents are staying far behind,
so far behind — how much of a lifetime
do you want them to spend on you? You
are going away and where you’re going
you are going to be alone with just yourself
and the gentle staff and the medications
and anyone they room or group you with —
and don’t forget me. Don’t forget me, Jim.
We’re going away. It’s going to be fine.
Would be sniper,
dream herder, monster
gardener, born to wonder
about God’s hands
and mortality. Jim,
I keep telling you,
you’re going to be fine
with a pedigree like that.
It’s practically normal. It’s
just a question of building
the appropriate size firepit
when they let you out,
and then only burning our life down
a little at a time. It’s going
to be fine — we’re
going to be fine.
NOTE: If you’ve ever heard the Duende Project, my poetry and music band, you may have heard us play one or more pieces from a suite called “Jim’s Fall,” about a suburban dad having a breakdown that involves a worsening psychotic break. (There is also a suite of related poems about a woman Jim knows named Sondra, but those have never been set to music or even performed solo.)
I always knew there’d be more to the story…maybe rewriting the music recently got the juices flowing again.
Here’s the immediate follow-up to the last poem in the suite.