John Olivares Espinoza

Suicide (As if Napping During Twilight)

I am fourteen and I am dead.

My body lies on its side

            As if napping during twilight.


            I am fourteen and this is the year

I was most likely to have killed myself.

             Self-esteem low

                        As water running down a sidewalk.

     Ridiculed for my skinniness.

Skinny because I could not help

If a hot lunch was always a buck more

                                            Than what I could afford.


I would have probably taken a mouthful

Of sleeping pills

                        Like a bunch of shelled sunflower seeds,

Rather than using a gun, mostly it leaves a mess—

A bloody diarrhea on a bedroom wall for someone else to wipe up.

Or if I had carved my initials

                                                      Into my wrists,

The blood would have frightened me

            Into calling 9-1-1.

Even if I couldn’t use my fingers to dial,

I would have tried with

                                     My nose,

                                                    My tongue,

                                                             Or even my earlobe,

Only to reach, no doubt, a busy signal.


It would be after dinner.

After Dad came home from work,

Yelling at us like a coach

                                           For not watering the pots.

After squeezing the clusters of blemishes

Like raspberries in front of the bathroom mirror.

After asking Alisa Huerta for a date and her

                            Not even acknowledging I asked.


It would be a Thursday.

Friday would be too late to ask for a date.

And that following Friday,


                                    I would be in the Desert Sun,

Somewhere after the front page, but before Family Circus.

And I would be

                         The center of attention

                                                              In high school for once.

Before I’m forgotten over the weekend. I would be remembered

            At a half-time memorial:

Football players holding their helmets over their hearts,

Cheerleaders holding my freshman photo over theirs—

                                    Finally my face between their cleavage.


At my funeral,

My grandmother would weep.

My grandfather, stricken with Alzheimer’s,

Would believe he was dead

            And had forgotten to crawl back into the coffin.


My epitaph would read:

Here lies John Olivares Espinoza (1978-1992):

Born the same year as Superman: The Movie

Was released nationwide, also died the same year

As Superman, once being his hero.

It would say nothing else

                        Because I had done nothing else.


God should send me now, back into time,

To stop me. If I went back I’d bring along photos

To show myself and I’d say,

John, here you are in the future,

With skin as smooth as a table counter.

Here is Dad with arms wrapped around you like a scarf.

Here are the girls you will date:

Cheerleaders,   models,   prom queens…

            The ones you want now.


Then I’d show myself a picture taken with Diana,

Our temples touching together at eye level

At my brother’s 18th birthday—my brother

Who would’ve found me lying in bed, dead

When he was only eleven—

This wonderful girl, I’d tell myself,



Is worth enduring those few more heavy years.

I would show the young John a picture

Of my older brother and me, at my 21st birthday,

With his arm held around my shoulder,

As we held beer in the brotherhood of lost causes.


                        I’d tell him,

You will become a poet.

You are to be published young

In tiny, but illuminating journals.

You are, like doorknobs, to touch many lives.


After listening to myself,

Seeing the photos,

I would not believe any of it—

Because I don’t believe it now.

Instead I would sit still as if waiting

For mute clouds to speak.


But in the meantime,

I’d pour myself a cold soda

Because it is Thursday,

Dad is home from work,

Dinner is ready

And I have never been so hungry.




“Suicide (As if Napping During Twilight)” appeared at (Black Hair Upon a White Pillow) Solo: A Journal of Poetry #5, 2002, and in the anthology On a Theme by Vallejo, edited by Gary Young (Greenhouse Review Press).