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    Run For Your Life, Black Hockey Jesus!
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    After Kinnell And The Things He Tells To No One

    Yesterday. when I was brushing my daughter’s long blonde hair, I thought What will you do, little girl, when they find your dead daddy hanging from the oak tree of his boyhood home? These are the kinds of things I, like Galway Kinnell, tell to no one. “Those close to me might think / I was depressed, and try to comfort me. / At such times I go off alone, in silence, as if listening for God.”

    But as you have already figured out, discerning reader, I did tell you this thing that I said I tell to no one so, of course, my integrity is called into question. How can I possibly be trusted?

    When I was in 8th grade, I was the president of my middle school’s student council. A young politician. Again, how can I be trusted? The day before election day, the candidates had to give speeches over the school’s intercom. Of all the things to remember in these otherwise mostly forgotten lives, I remember Darrell Thatcher telling the whole school: Tomorrow’s the day! Thatcher’s the way! Why do I remember that as clearly as this morning’s breakfast? I have no idea. I don’t remember my own speech or my math teacher’s name.

    I kicked Darrell Thatcher’s ass in that election, I was president, and Darrell Thatcher shot himself in the head. I’m not suggesting that the loss of the middle school presidency caused his suicide; it was two years later when we were 16. But—we can’t help but wonder—what if the student body had decided on that day that Thatcher, indeed, was the way? How would things be different? Oh, but this is a dead end, futile, whipping rocks at the wall.

    You don’t have to trust me. You shouldn’t. The story is true even if it never happened. Consider what it might mean to go alone in silence and listen for God. Go on. Now consider again.

    If I trusted myself, I’d be dead. I need to let things like What will you do, little girl, when they find your dead daddy hanging from the oak tree of his boyhood home? float through my head while examining them like a strange new species of insect discovered in the basement. Darrell Thatcher needed someone to teach him that thoughts such as these are not instructions or commands.

    I suspect that the idea of killing one’s self is a call to figuratively kill one’s current self, to change, transform, become someone else. I suspect that the idea of killing one’s self is actually the profounder fact of selflessness demanding to be realized. I suspect that the oak tree of my boyhood home has something to do with me going back to Michigan next Tuesday. I suspect that my daughter will soon not need me to brush her hair; the way she needs me is passing away.

    Question what you think. Be suspicious.

    Because I also suspect that there’s danger in allowing any of these figurative interpretations to become as literal as mistaking the desire to die as the literal desire for death. There’s no place to rest and simply trust yourself. Galway Kinnell doesn’t want people to comfort him. He wants to listen for God.

    Maybe the things we think and say aren’t about us at all. Maybe they sound off merely to hear themselves sound. Because there’s joy in being heard. Listen to those vowels dancing through that macabre question. The assonance and the alliteration in the hanging from the oak tree of his boyhood home. Maybe that’s just what it sounds like to brush a little girl’s hair, when a rat’s nest turns into long strands of shimmering gold. What if the secret of memory is that it’s made out of poetry? Tomorrow’s the day! Thatcher’s the way!

    My buddy Andy whispered “Look. They tried to cover it with his hair but, dude, you can see the hole in his head.” I imagined Darrell Thatcher putting a gun to his temple, closing his eyes, and flinching. I wondered about the things he told to no one, how loud they must have been. So loud. Can you imagine? Louder than God.

    Reader Comments (22)

    My mama told me "dont believe everything you think". Good advice that.

    June 30, 2011 at 2:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterJB

    i went to school with a guy called Darryl Thatcher. weird.

    the idea of going back to the people and places from whence one came is my current reality...and it transpires is a long hard look into a crazily distorted Hall of Mirrors...but i must turn and face myself.

    thanks for making me think. as always.

    hope your running regime is kicking some ass. :)

    June 30, 2011 at 3:20 AM | Unregistered Commentera work in progress

    Two weeks ago a man in my town took a baseball bat to his wife's head and then to hs 7 year old son's head. He killed them both. A few hours later he called the police to let them know what happened. He then went and laid on the local railroad tracks and killed himself by train.

    I have not been able to wrap my head around it. Louder than God were his thoughts.

    Thank you.

    June 30, 2011 at 5:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterWilliam

    In 15 minutes, I am bringing my kids to the birthday party of two little red haired girls, who will be celebrating 4 and 6. One recent Saturday night, their father attempted suicide, and the older little girl found him, on Father's Day morning,

    I spend a lot of days running a loop of 'I wish I was dead no I don't' but I like your little poem better. Still... never aloud...

    June 30, 2011 at 6:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterJo

    The second-to-last paragraph is pretty perfect, so I read it aloud three times.

    Also, I like JB's mama.

    June 30, 2011 at 8:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterJett


    Thoughts louder than God...

    I love the way you make me think.

    June 30, 2011 at 9:11 AM | Unregistered Commenterjill (mrschaos)

    You are a thoroughly compelling read.

    I've listened to my thoughts in a much more objective, observant way since I started blogging (a long time ago). It has made me saner. I analyse those thoughts rather than react emotionally. So I suppose I have blogging to thank for my healthier state. Weird.

    June 30, 2011 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered Commenterellie

    Random thoughts:
    -I hate you.
    -Stay away from the damned tree.
    -The 4th of July parade on Monday will mark 2 years since I saw my daughter's classmate Braxton who 6 months later hung himself in his own fucking bedroom at 12yo. TWELVE!!! But I knew. I knew. He had to make it stop. The voice. The pain. Stop.
    -Don't stop.

    June 30, 2011 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered Commentermaryshe

    I guess when someone is better than most at something, they probably know it - but just in case:

    I am blissfully free of dark thoughts, but that doesn't interfere with my experience of your writing. I'm not so ignorant to have missed the fact that I'm just another anonymous schmoe, (so, does it even count?) but for me it's jaw-droppingly good. The word evocative was created for things like this.

    Really, really good. Thanks for that.

    June 30, 2011 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterSydney

    Thank you for your words. My own writing is in limbo but let me give you, in appreciation, a link to another who goes to deep places in her writing and her art. Maybe you already know her.

    June 30, 2011 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered Commenter><

    If you go there, any and all, please send healing thoughts her way.

    June 30, 2011 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered Commenter><

    how right you are, it is so very loud.

    June 30, 2011 at 4:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterjenna

    You are right to speak those thoughts out loud and in the light of day. To spit on them and hold them up to the sun. Sometimes the dullest of stones glitter like jewels when you do that.

    Good stuff.

    June 30, 2011 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterClare

    Have you ever read "The Suicide Index?" It came to mind -- like a thread, though, through all that powerful writing --

    June 30, 2011 at 8:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

    I call those thoughts "fly-bys" not because they leave as quickly as they come but mostly because they show up like a overly curious bee buzzing about, until I or it breaks away. I think the oddest one was the bombastic one proclaiming "to go get me my hog fiddle!" I've just recently learned many months later that this supposed hog fiddle is an Appalachian docimer so I must have brought home a ghost from the mountains of my youth and he is musically inclined.

    This line-

    "Darrell Thatcher needed someone to teach him that thoughts such as these are not instructions or commands."

    is brilliant.

    June 30, 2011 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterMisYvo

    I just found your site today. Your writing is exquisite. Thank you.

    The boy who asked me to the prom when I was a junior in high school killed himself a few months later. His name was Brian. I didn't know him very well, he was a friend of a guy I worked with at Burger King, who I actually had a big crush on. He asked me out a couple times after our prom date, but I was interested in his friend. I can't even remember his last name now. I wish he was still on this planet, honestly.

    July 1, 2011 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered Commenterh2o_girl

    I find the thought; "Motherfucking oooooommmmm" flies through my head quite often. I haven't been able to figure it out.
    Thank you for this.

    July 1, 2011 at 12:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterAmelia

    I think sometimes we think those things because we all have a vein (some wide, some narrow, like marble) of self destruction in us and we tap into it and (hopefully) back out again. And sometimes, I think those thoughts are a way we play with and try on how much control we have. Maybe you don't really want to do it, but maybe you do want to know that you can.

    I think about a boy I loved who shot himself at twenty. His peers stayed alive, fell in and out of love, had babies, failed at careers, went to the corners of the earth and back, figured out the faults of their parents, bought shit they didn't need and threw it away, read the best books of their lives, are still looking for the best books, made love in all-white rooms or hope to soon. Danced with madmen. Ate meatball subs. Washed their cars.

    Look at all he missed.

    July 1, 2011 at 6:02 PM | Unregistered Commenterbarbara


    Some things. To dare to bring them into the light of day.

    Just: yes.

    July 2, 2011 at 8:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterJ

    There has been more than one post of yours of which I thought... I want this read at my funeral.

    July 5, 2011 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered Commentersteph

    i can't respond to this without falling to pieces.

    July 7, 2011 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered Commenteramy.leblanc

    This spring, I put a bumper sticker on my car that says "you don't have to believe everything you think." I don't usually like bumper stickers, but this one makes me happy.

    July 8, 2011 at 3:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterTracy (Tiny Mantras)

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