Today’s post is not about class. It is given over to World Suicide Prevention Day.
Three days before his GCSE exams, a boy in my sons’ school committed suicide. It was ‘out of the blue’, as was that of the well-known human rights barrister Michael Mansfield’s daughter. It is something we are all close to; one it twenty think about suicide, in the UK thirteen men a day kill themselves. WHO figures estimate that around 800,000 people commit suicide each day across the world. It is an epidemic we should not ignore.
The poet Abegail Morley has been posting poems in the run-up to the day by a number of poets, including today’s featured poet Melissa Lee-Houghton (you can read here). Melissa sent me a number of poems for Proletarian Poetry, which I was privileged to read, and will be included in her forthcoming collection. They are amazing, shocking, and moving poems. But I have to admit finding it difficult to write the feature according to the PP premise; to take the class angle I felt it took away some of the power of the poems.
As with many people, suicide has been an issue I have been touched by and written about in the past and felt important to highlight here with two of Melissa’s poems; Accident, and Hangings. After reading them, please take time to check out the WSPD site. Thank you.
Melissa Lee-Houghton is a Next Generation Poet 2014. Her second collection, ‘Beautiful Girls’ is published by Penned in the Margins and was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Her work has appeared in the Guardian Review, The Quietus, Prac Crit and many others. A third collection, ‘Sunshine’ is forthcoming in September 2016.
You wet the bed this morning and I only found out
this afternoon, picking up your pyjamas from the carpet,
smelling the chlorine caught in the fabric, held there
for me to find. To know.
When I kiss you on your hair you smell like nothing else I know.
I have never written a poem about you
because you’re innocent. And my poems aren’t innocent.
This morning when I woke
you were lying in my bed next to me—
the morning a rainbow on the ceiling;
it felt like the beginning of summer, and the air
through the window was clear as
the thoughts of someone considering suicide.
Baby if I don’t wake up
in the morning someday don’t read any of my poems.
Don’t remember that I was always tired,
would put a film on the DVD player
to keep you occupied while I slept,
waking as tired as ever and as sad as your face this morning
when you hadn’t plucked up the courage to tell me
you’d wet the bed.
The White Path is where suicides go at two in the morning with torches and string themselves up from the trees, which the council have to come and cut down, their miserable branches dripping in the rain, and walkers traumatised in the early morning, dogs sniffing around the space between limp feet and the ground. I go to sleep with my earphones in, and the music transcends the closing down of my sleeping brain, lights up the areas concerned with running away from fear and fear running away. When I was little I used to dream the Sandman would chase me through a desert, before I even knew what a desert was, and I would have to choose whether to run and run him out or give up and let him annihilate me. He would consume me on these occasions, and I would not utter so much as a single scream. Through my childhood and adolescence I had this dream and it became more sexual in content, though, at six he did things to my body that no-one could ever know. He caught me for the last time a long time ago. I walk down the White Path with my earphones in, the fields exposed in the beaming October sun. The stumps of trees felled, the way the ground remembers, the way the rain came in at a slant and shined their shoes, and washed their hands. Toward the cemetery, The White Path opens and the grave of the most beautiful girl who ever lived is tormented by the sun. Just at a certain angle the light hits the embossed photo of her, a bridesmaid at her mother’s wedding. She always said her mother looked like a mermaid with a fishtail in her wedding dress. That day was the first day she ever cut herself. Her mother’s house filling with rainwater and flooding each night while she smoked the stash all up and shut the doors to keep her from the thick, wacky smoke. My baby tried the trees, but the police intervened. I remember everything about her but the size of her hands. Her hands dripping with the golden light of pain eradicated. Of blood winding its way from wrists to pools on the carpet. The kitten mewing at the gap between her feet and the floor. I don’t think the Sandman came for her. I think she got there first. I think she could’ve kicked the shit out of him where I never could. Kneed him in the balls, scratched his eyeballs, bit his tongue. The White Path was where the suicides went and where we sat on benches to get incredibly stoned and see through the history and the fog and the debris, the death that will come for us all, in its most imaginative ways. I would rather die for her with clenched fists. I lift up my top so she can see my breasts; sometimes I feel she is watching when I undress. These days I feel sad with my clothes off; being desired is a burden and I have no faith in myself. Passing the hanging trees I crave the rain just dissolving the grease on my skin, just getting me clean. I stuff my mouth full of pills, walk out and feel the addiction rage. Rage is underrated I once said. I think about the gap between her feet and the carpet. I bleed.