Alexander Long

Still Life with Suicide

Maybe it's worth it: no one dies
More alone, more slowly than the suicide.

They have become their desire, their own admirers, they are no longer
Clichés of our own grief and narcissism.

But why does this poem feel otherwise, why have I placed my friend B.
Inside a still life, the moment before

He looks up at St. Joseph's statue, spits, and kisses

The pistol? No desire, maybe, though this moment has snow
Falling, enough to create a quiet so large that even madness

Seems to descend like a gift, or a song. I don't know
Much about madness, but B. must have practiced it daily

The way a singer will leap through scales backstage
Or in the green room holding a cup of tea.

If B.'s performance was final, his image is not.
That's why I'm here, still.

                                            &  &  &

How selfish the living can be:


At dinner after the funeral, I broke three fingers
Breaking someone's jaw who claimed

That B. was a pussy. How blinding

Grief can be, how selfish and necessary
To blurt it out between shots of Bushmill's and plates of roasted pork.

B. and all the suicides don't have to deal with us anymore; how
Careless of me to lump them all

Together. Dante knew better, but
Still got it wrong. What dreams may come

For them are not suffused with rings of fire,
But are fleshed out in sleep, gauzy canvases of us grieving,

Then forgetting them.

Wind blows through the high windows of the mansion they stay in.

The white curtains sway like wet swans or the mane of a palomino.

B. leans back, curls into himself, and sips some warm milk.

He pulls the white blanket up.

"Still Life with Suicide" first appeared in Zone 3, 22.1, 2007.