The Question

no refererHe sat, motionless,
Veined alabaster marble,
Staring through a crystal ball,
Casing the scene, waiting for the
Answer, or another start.
Warm water had rinsed
Clean all childhood dreams and
Cleared his heart. His
Chest ended sighs, void of
Burdens they had shared
Days ago, as his last ploy
Pushed them apart, perhaps with
Intent to shield ignorant flesh from
Shattering fragments, atomic breath.
“I know you don’t love me” uttered
Callously, through stoic glare.

Walls had slid out of place, floors
Angled straight down icy cliffs, caving to
Nothing so palpable as stormy hell,
Nor poetic as lonely emptiness.
Everything lost its name without departure.
His Robert Rauschenberg poster,
Fragments pasted helter-skelter,
Remained, a flat reflection of
Quiet decay.

Attempting his usual joy, his

(the days of wine and chatter
swing lazily across the front porch)

World slid away, wrapped around his

(burnished light streams
through the dining room window
dappled by leaves of perfectly
pruned magnolia trees)

Ankle with a serpentine choke-hold.

(the cozy warmth of his new gas fireplace,
(where they had cuddled that night)
appropriately and exactly outdated
to suit the age of his house)


(the music of Chopin and Mozart
waits, stacked neatly on his shiny upright piano,
over practiced, under performed)

Watching his perceptions
Flow helplessly along and away and
Out, where ever anchors go in bottomless pits.

(dreams unadorned…)

Echoes of clanging steel canisters
Coded everyone’s thoughts, so
Only he could see the conspiratory, stale
Faces pretending to smile. His
Hollow cave strained with leering alibis,
Empty of furniture to rest upon.
Until now. Slumped form,
Droll doll, dry of bubbling spring, his
Question had been answered, washed
Swirling through wretched
Tubes of a shower drain. The

Pained heart beating
Before this vacant house would
Ask, echo-less, “Why?” as
Long as blood flowed
Through thin, tenuous
Skins, holding days
Trembling in place.

For B, the beating heart which will never heal, after our once happy, goofy, loving friend, M disappeared before he took the life of his body six months ago. The astonishing swiftness with which this hearty, spirited man was emptied of soul will remain an eternal unanswered question.

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13 thoughts on “The Question

  1. What a demonstration of the incomparable value of poetry. How else could you have addressed M, his life, his effect, his mental illness, his death? Thank you for sharing this.

  2. I am paralyzed.

    You convey so much in this piece of writing. The void you feel, the pain the devastation of mental illness, the unanswered questions, the love.

    Powerful piece of writing. Many of these passages will linger in my mind. Thank you for having the courage and ability to write this poem.

    Peace and love, Lori

  3. Thank you Betty and Lori. – I hadn’t really faced this inexplicable tragedy of my friend’s death until now. I hope others who are touched by such a horrible disease can be healed a little by this poem.

  4. I agree with whirling betty and fineartist about the emotional power of this piece, which is tremendously moving, but what I also enjoyed, as a writer of poems myself, is its structure, which I think really helps the effect of the whole poem. The stanzas right justified after stanza 2 not only add another voice and tonal quality, but also comment on the main narrative line. There is some excellent imagery here as well, really striking, memorable words and phrases. I especially like the way you depict collapse and disintegration in stanza 2, which reminds me of G. M. Hopkins’s late sonnets.

  5. Ken- your thoughtful and detailed comments mean a lot to me. The pleasure of sharing poetry is that the emotional and structural impact are related. Thank you for seeing both.

  6. I agree with Ken wholeheartedly, especially about the two voices, with the one separated to the right, providing the counterpoint and contrast – but more importantly, they give us the person that was, and not the one of that day. You manage this way to do what is so very difficult to do: to sum up the essence of a person, to place him both living and dead in the same place, his image, his shadows, his bright and dark.

    A striking image for me, was the sheet music and the words “over-practiced, under performed”. Those speak so much both on the tangible level of the scene and perhaps also of much more.

    I am glad you pointed me to this one Garnet. I would have got here eventually, as it is now Friday and work is done for the week. I think this is one of your very best poems, because your emotions become our emotions, your loss feels like our loss, it transcends our experience. It takes an experience and makes it ours.

  7. Wow, I just realized I missed this post. This post, to me at least, is torrid, explosive. It reads peacefully, but has a power boiling beneath, erupting with memeory . . . sadness.

  8. Ned- He was a quiet, perfectionist soul, always understating his depth. Perhpas that revealed itself through the phrase “over practice, underperformed” Thank you so much for giving time and though to this. It means much to me.

  9. HG- You nailed it. He was subdued throughout his internal agony. None of us knew the extent of his virtually invisible, torrid struggle.

  10. Garnet, this is heartwrenching, and powerful. I agree with Ken and Ned’s comments on the structure and how effectively you used it to convey two voices that emerged in one soul. I feel sad, reading this.

  11. M would be honored. Thank you for such a loving tribute, written as though you were in my brain. I shall forever keep it in my heart. You have helped me realize why he loved the Rauschenberg – another example of how everything he did contained a deeper meaning and nothing was ever an inconsequential detail. Over the past months, I have personally come to the same resolution as your writing, and am resigned to the eternal unanswered question.

  12. B- I can see you have begun the long, pale closure of a wound that never really heals. I’m sure it took some courage to read this poem. I hope it helped you a little to know your pain is acknowledged.


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