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We are painting the walls in the hallway
the color of coffee with cream.
As I came around the corner today,
I thought of my mother  
drinking coffee with a More cigarette,
a house robe and
a book.
My friend recently lost
a member of his family.
His wife’s sister killed herself
at 37.  I was 13 when my mother tried and failed.
The door slammed shut as
we left her behind, after in the psych
ward.  I saw her shuffle
down the hall away from the
locked door.
(My father knew CPR.)
Later, she stared out the car window
when I asked her why;
she couldn’t find the words, just
I don't know.  We were waiting for my brother and
father to come out of the
Men’s Warehouse with a new coat.
(There was a note, I found out later.
She didn’t want to burden him
any longer, not us.)
This just
added to my panic.
She was dazed after coming home, after
the attempt with sleeping pills, the coma and
the ECT.
He said it was just the electricity they’d fired into her brain
She was left dazed,
still wanting to be gone.  
She was, a year later, but from Cancer.
The S in suicide should be a capital.
The Depression took her away
much more than the Cancer,
(with the exhaustion from the gamma rays,
the vomiting and begging God for
death and a release)
ever did.
The Cancer actually returned her to us,
if only for six months until God
showed her mercy.
She was 50 when she died.  I was 14.
She was mostly there the
last few months.
Before that she had been
mostly gone,
hiding under the covers
when not seeing patients to help them
find reasons to live.  
(When I was 9
she missed the Grand Canyon on our
cross country trip,
saying she’d seen it before.
I looked at the ragged
ditch and worried about her
alone in the car and whether she’d
be there when we got back.)
We had no choice.  We would have
Rather been burdened, it was all we knew.
I have tasted torturous days
I thought wouldn’t end,
wanted the awareness that
the next morning would be
one without loathing.  
When in that place, we think we will know,
once in the still earth,
that the pain is gone, we think we will
have the consciousness to recognize
its absence.
There is no consciousness deep
in the coffin.  You know
It is the ones you leave that know.

Early draft - please comment

26 Jan 07

(define the words in this poem)

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This is difficult to fully critique, but especially as an early draft there are a few things I'd suggest keeping in mind:  first, keep the element of the present in the poem.  As simple as it is, the (today) "we are painting the walls in the hallway/the color of coffee with cream" is really engaging, but the poem never comes back to that, nor does "my friend" of lines 9-12.  Keep that engagment with reader going.

Second, the final section (lines 66-79) has a different tone; while it is good in and of itself, it tells what the reader should be able to experience through the recollections.  I'd rather not read this summation (and would suggest keeping it for a separate poem), instead I'd rather come back to today, and painting, and be part of that experience years after the events recalled.

Hope that helps.
 — mikkirat

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