Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note
(for Kellie Jones, born 16 May 1959)
Lately, I've become accustomed to the way
The ground opens up and envelops me
Each time I go out to walk the dog.
Or the broad edged silly music the wind
Makes when I run for a bus . . .
Things have come to that.
And now, each night I count the stars,
And each night I get the same number.
And when they will not come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave.
Nobody sings anymore.
And then last night, I tiptoed up
To my daughter's room and heard her
Talking to someone, and when I opened
The door, there was no one there . . .
Only she on her knees, peeking into
Her own clasped hands.
- Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)
For years, I've carried lines from this poem in my head: Nobody sings anymore . . . Things have come to that . . . I count the holes they leave. I love the title, how it suggests backstory to events deep and complex, and the way the poem offers everyday acts that, in their simplicity, turn reverent and illuminating.
This is the thing about poems: We can carry them in us, and draw our own (and changing) conclusions. We can pluck lines and make our own meaning.
Try this: Pick a line from this poem and use it as your own. Let it launch you into new work. Where will it take you? What words will you follow? If you like, share your fresh words here, by posting them in the comments sections below. Or, if you're feeling shy, email me --- firstname.lastname@example.org.