My Mother Speaks To Me of Suicide

My mother calls me up again, to speak to me of suicide.

Another young man in the west has committed his suicide.

She tells me that I knew him in my teenage years

before I left home instead of killing myself

but I don’t remember him at all.

Every single Irish week ten of us are doing it.

In my old town and dozens similar suicide’s as regular

as weddings are. A plague, a scourge, an epidemic: I’m tired

of public platitudes like these. Not medicine nor scripture

can explain it; suicide at Irish rates is self-destruction

as mass movement, telling us the life we live,

all-of-us, here-and-now, has something

seriously wrong with it.

Here’s a cliche with some life in it –

hope is what the spirit breathes.

Without it soul is drowning, tumbling

towards that bedrock of unfeelingness

we call the final resting place because

we cannot sink beyond it. Nor can we raise ourselves

from death, though each blind atom spinning free from

our decay will blend in turn with all there is

from starlight down to sucker-fish

in matter’s everlasting carousel.

Alive and not unhappy now, and strolling through

my present neighbourhood towards Superquinn

for milk and bread, and chocolates or wine for my girlfriend,

I try to imagine my mother’s distant face

as she speaks to me of suicide.

I image her framed in a darkness

like background in Dutch Renaissance portraits,

empty, yet dense; boundless, yet claustrophobic.

I see her haloed there by grotesque animations, miniature

pop-up-and-dissolve images of young men committing

their miniature suicides:

A young man hanging himself under a fag-butt moon

in a copse of old oaks in a town-centre park.

A young man hanging himself in his children’s bedroom

so his children will find him that way

when they get home.

A young man OD-ing on his buddy’s full phial of methadone

at Christmas in his mother’s living room.

A young man double-barrelly decapitating himself

in a cow shed;

the gun-roar submerged in the chaos of cows and machines.

A young man jumping into a fast-flowing river-

dead-cold-halt after zooming through

a three-day bender.

A young man jogging a dirt track leading up to a cliff,

then lepping off.

The hissing rocks, the witless fizzing of the sea.

The on-off beam of an automated lighthouse,

on, off, on, off; on…

A young man, sloshed, sliding sideways into a choppy reservoir

(two long-moored pleasure boats creaking there) .

A young man choking himself on exhaust fumes

shortly after texting his final message

to the daughter he is not, with good reason,

allowed to go near.

A young man high-speeding his absurdly vroomed-up motorcar

into a midnight bend, staging it as an accident

so as to will the least mercy of a speakable grief

to those whom ceremony musters to attend.

From this bleak cinema inside my head, containing nothing

but herself, El Greco-style cartoons, and a landline telephone,

my mother, who has spent her whole life,

my mother, who has spent her whole eternity

surrounded, besieged by so many vainglorious, self-hating men

trying to get off the planet, calls up to speak to me of suicide,

with her Kerry accent cracking, her truth-parched accent cracking,

always verging though never quite breaking into a keen.

Yes, my mom calls me up every couple of weeks

to tell a fresh suicide I could easily be,

a fresh tomb I should statistically be buried in.

She calls and she calls and she tells and she tells,

as if she was the ledger of death self-inflicted

and I – her firstborn, the poet – a morbid accountant

who must reckon the substance, the meaning,

the worth of all this self-slaughter

but I can decipher no more

than this one thing so obvious and sure:

young men in Irish small towns and townlands,

suburbs and exurbs, flat-blocks and villages

are going to go right on killing themselves

until this life, this incredible life I adore

and which must not be wasted

be made worth living and living

and living again, for everyone.

by Dave Lordan

From Lost Tribe of the Wicklow Mountains, Salmon Poetry, 2014