The Mother of My Children
Predicts Her Own Suicide
There’s a veil covering this dusk.
A warm blue night.
Let’s call it June, 2001.
Baby in a stroller on a sidewalk
near a “sub pub” in this Midwestern nowhere.
If I’d’ve listened closer I’d’ve remembered
it was in her all along.
Not a threat or a promise,
not an apology. An ice cube
on the teeth, an earnest desire
for death. You’ll be fine,
she said. Your family
will help you. She was
as good at changing the subject
as I was at putting it out
of mind, believing
it hadn’t been discussed.
All my life people have told me
things I haven’t listened to.
When the clusterfuck comes
I tell and re-tell myself again
and again it’s not my fault.
There was a lotta Jesus stuff at the funeral
that’s what they do at Methodist funerals
lots of Jesus stuff ‘free’ Methodist why free?
Are there Methodists in chains?
Are there Methodist supremacists?
There’s a young black man here
and a black older woman and a dark Asian
Indian woman bobbing like buoys
In this lily-white sea of grief
my best friend would say “It’s a funeral don’t
make it about race” as if I’m Arlo Guthrie
cracking jokes about father-rapers at a women’s shelter
in some places punchlines don’t fly, they sink
dark bowling balls in unsilly unsalty seas
this preacher doesn’t know the woman he is eulogizing
well and that makes the day harder for my friend, her daughter
is anything in this brief vale not ridiculous?
When somebody dies can we maybe
put someone up to speak about her who
knows the names of her children?
Steve Henn is the author of Indiana Noble Sad Man of the Year from Wolfson Press (2017). NYQ Books published two previous collections. He writes and teaches in Indiana. More at therealstevehenn.com.