Click here to hear Garrison Keillor read this poem. (Worth the click. Poem's there too.)
I wrote this poem before the second shoe dropped, before the essay, before the research, before the book idea. When Keillor featured it recently he invented the parenthetical and more easily remembered title "don't kill yourself." I like it in part because it reminds me of how a Jukebox would have some songs listed by title and also (as if behind their hands) by the line everyone knows. De facto title.
No Hemlock Rock (don't kill yourself)
Don't kill yourself. Don't kill yourself.
Don't. Eat a donut, be a blown nut.
That is, if you're going to kill yourself,
stand on a street corner rhyming
seizure with Indonesia, and wreck it with
racket. Allow medical terms.
Rave and fail. Be an absurd living ghost,
if necessary, but don't kill yourself.
Let your friends know that something has
passed, or be glad they've guessed.
But don't kill yourself. If you stay, but are
bat crazy you will batter their hearts
in blooming scores of anguish; but kill
yourself, and hundreds of other people die.
Poison yourself, it poisons the well;
shoot yourself, it cracks the bio-dome.
I will give badges to everyone who's figured
this out about suicide, and hence
refused it. I am grateful. Stay. Thank
you for staying. Please stay. You
are my hero for staying. I know
about it, and am grateful you stay.
Eat a donut. Rhyme opus with lotus.
Rope is bogus, psychosis. Stay.
Hocus Pocus. Hocus Pocus.
Dare not to kill yourself. I won't either.
"No Hemlock Rock (don't kill yourself)" by Jennifer Michael Hecht from Who Said. © Copper Canyon Press. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)