A friend of mine climbed the tree in his backyard
for what he was sure was the last time.
He knew it grew high enough
having sprained an ankle falling from it as a child.
He tied and untied the knot for hours and later
in the wet dawn he returned
to the house where his father was sleeping alone.
Someone else I know opened up her wrist like a book
but then used her working hand to dial a hotline.
The third swallowed pills, but crawled instead
to the neighbor who had a car. I told her you don’t take
handfuls of Diazepam like they do in movies.
You could vomit from the shock,
or those who discover you will pump your stomach in
that parody of pity that will always affect the ones
who discover, then and from then on.
So chase one pill with whiskey, and follow with another.
Repeat until sweet the sleep. When putting the gun
to your head, place it in your mouth instead.
Aim backward and up so the shot fires through that small
tender roof you tongue while thinking, during decisions.
Those who place the shotgun under their chin,
triggering it with a toe, sometimes stay alive, their face blown off
but the brain intact, pulsing with electricity still,
a lightning storm misfiring behind the sightless eyes.
Don’t let the instrument choose for you. Is this why we stopped
congratulating the survivors? That the soul like a dog
refused to leave the writhing body? It’s not the black road
they walked that matters, but rather that they left it, pushed
their exhausted way through the bramble and high grass
toward life’s dull lowing.
Don’t you know that there was one secret
that kept them walking, why in the first place
they were going anywhere but back.