Mobirise Website Generator

Fall, 2007

Elizabeth Scism

For the Suicide Whose Name I Have Forgotten

"We do not know our own souls, let alone
the souls of others."
--Virginia Woolf

On Sundays you dropped a five in the collection plate
and passed it back with a smile, your large flowery hat
cocked to the side.

During “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow”
I’d travel the tributaries lining the back of your neck.
A tiny mole—an island—crested
just starboard of your zipper’s crown.

I wish I remembered something more unusual—
some clue,
some rumor or reason.

But you were like us mostly.
You sang from the same green hymnals.
Recited the same red words.
We revered your old widow soul,
your immaculate lawn.

No pill.
No gun.
Instead you drove to Jack’s Island,
stepped out of your black Edsel,
marched straight out in your polyester,
and drowned.

At ten I took swimming lessons in that same lake.
Two sisters from the Red Cross counted to three
as we squatted on the dock then dove
into the dark murk of diesel exhaust
and gurgling brown bubbles.

I hated going under,
imagining your head bobbed just beneath the surface—
a fat sinister moon
our minister failed to burn
with the rest of you.

During Reverend Hellfire’s sermon that September
I thought of you and your brown platform shoes—
those old soldiers you wore each Sabbath,
those sad veterans that sank into the mud and muck
at Jack’s.

I remembered your rivered, wrinkled neck.
The proud tilt of your hat with its blue, plastic blooms.

Did you don it cocked that Sunday night?
Did it float away—invulnerable? Intact?
Perhaps it was left at home, twirled off and tossed
on the bed you made that morning?

The details. That was the horror to me.
Not your cremated ashes.
Not Hell.

Even now, water is more real to me than fire.
It’s what the body believes in.
What wombs have faith in.

And so Mrs. Water-Widow,
Mrs. Majestic-Hat-and-Old-Soldier-Shoes—
I envision you there in that lake.

Instead of Hell, I give you gills.
If Christ was a fish, why not you?

You haunt those waters, anonymous martyr.

You roam without end—
indifferent to red words
and worms.
Indifferent to golden hooks
and hallelujahs.

Your gills still gasp and pump and pulse
in search of some un-nameable ocean.