I wrote this post a long time ago, but never had the courage to publish it. Today it seems appropriate.
How to Burn Down Love
carve with your fingernail into the table,
at the end say, So what?
with brute, bitter sadness,
no trace of a wing
of an easy, tender, downpouring lie.
And it’ll burn
and smoke and go completely black.
Every morning before I start writing, or even journaling, I read one poem out of a bilingual anthology of Czech poetry in the hopes that some of that difficult language will seep into my databanks. I tried the listening-to-tapes method, but that’s too damn hard. I write down the fun words, words like dream (vysri), poisonous (jedovatou), are you awake? (Jste vzhuru?). If I ever get back to the Czech Republic I’ll be able to describe the moonlight on the Vtlava, but ordering a cup of coffee or finding the train station remains beyond my grasp.
In a similarly oblique fashion, I am trying to let poetry (other people’s) do the heavy lifting when it comes to writing about my partner’s suicide.
From a writer’s perspective, it has been an interesting journey to see my brain twist and turn, all to avoid the topic. Just writing that phrase, ‘my partner’s suicide’, makes my muse leap up, pack her bags, and hop a plane to Prague. My writing becomes stilted, strident, stoic. Honesty is as hard to come by as ice in hell. Humor? Forget it. Some other, some uninvited bureaucrat steps into my empty, echoing cranium and starts dictating about anger. Murder. The death of memory and the loss of life. It’s as if we two people never existed. Never laughed. Never loved. We were burnt to ashes when Michael pulled the trigger. Bang and 22 years fall into an irredeemable pit. I stare into the abyss. The ultimate writers’ block. I search for poetry. Today I found it. The beginning. Admitting I am powerless over this anger. I take courage in knowing there is at least one dead Czech who gets me.
Tomorrow is Michael’s birthday and once again I must apologize to him for not being able to summon up a gentle word. That’s what suicide does, mainly. Throws acid on the memories. It is brutal, and it is bitter. So I use other people’s poetry as a gateway to the subconscious, a sort of sideways dabbling in the ashes. There is an obsidian shard coursing through my veins, waiting to pierce my heart and either kill me or release the toxins trapped inside, so it is no wonder the cold dictator will not step aside and let the words out. What terrible words they might be.
I never wanted to, but I am learning the language of suicide.
*from Up the Devil’s Back, a Bilingual Anthology of 20th Century Czech Poetry, translated and Edited by Bronislava Volkova and Clarice Cloutier