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Reverence

Today’s prompt reads:

Write a poem based on a non-Greco-Roman myth.

Upon my research of Norse mythology, I found out suicide was more valued than natural death.

The Goths and the Celts believed that to die naturally was shameful. Vikings unlucky enough not to die in battle fell on their own swords or jumped off cliffs in order to be able to enter Valhalla (the great hall of Odin for slain heroes in Norse mythology).

Team Lauren buttons

“Reverence”

When you first died,
we questioned how someone so brave
could leave the rest of us feeling so weak.

We did what we had to do to get by–
I took care of others,
others took care of placing blame.

Later, as reality sunk in,
it was realized that placing blame
had no way of bringing you back.

Your words, spoken a year earlier,
stung harder and sharper
than a swarm of 1,000 wasps.

“We always question the people who look more upset
and depressed than usual, and never think to worry
about the people who don’t seem capable
of expressing any sort of negative emotion at all.”

Was the nonchalance and warrior position
one more step
towards entering the great hall of Odin?

Was the act so many people whispered
“weak” and “cowardly”
actually a Viking battle cry, typical of your demeanor?

There’s a certain reverence that goes unspoken
about the courage of the loss of a life
taken by one’s choice.

By no means should this have been your only choice,
but it was the choice you made
to be a Viking warrior.

Note: If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, or if you are struggling with the loss of someone to suicide, please reach out to The Trevor Project, IMalive, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Your life matters. You’re worth the fight. Please, reach out and take that brave step.

Darkness

Today I had the privilege of being part of a writing workshop led by James Lecesne, co-founder of The Trevor Project. The workshop was about writing to our younger selves, something that was beautiful, poignant, and tear-inducing. It really left me reflecting on my own life, my voice, and how far I’ve come in the past 6 or 7 years.

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James Lecesne signed my copy of The Letter Q, the book he edited in which the workshop was based.

During the writing portion of the workshop, we wrote letters to our younger selves. At one point, I found myself writing about my Grandpa (Buster)’s death, and the impact it had on how I’ve responded to deaths in my life since.

I also started thinking about Lauren, my friend who took her own life two years ago.

Perhaps this is cheating a bit, but for today’s writing prompt I was asked to write about a social issue, touching upon “light” and “dark” stuff. The poem I wrote the weekend after Lauren’s death came to mind… so here it is.

“La Mort de la Lumière”
KB (copyright 2011)

At night I feel the warmth of your fire in my fingers;
the light flickers as golden embers slowly fall.
To my heart I hold you close–
an evanescent moment of serenity–
as the cold, bitter wind blows fiercely
and threatens to make you disappear.

I realize your time is fleeting, and your glow will disappear,
yet I expect you to stay ‘til the last of the wax drips onto my fingers.
When you first came to be, you were held fiercely–
protection for a single flame destined to fall.
Until then, I embrace your serenity
and let your beauty stay close.

I wrap my hands around you, holding you close,
not knowing that you are fighting to disappear,
not knowing that you have a plan to find serenity,
and simply uninformed that you are slipping out of my fingers.
I continue to hold you, trying to protect you from the fall
as you continue to fight time fiercely.

Your flames begin to burn me fiercely–
a sign that the end is close–
but I do not know you are about to fall.
I do not know your light will disappear,
and I do not know you are escaping my fingers.
In this moment, I find only your warmth and serenity.

I sit in the shadows, your glow creating my serenity
as the night winds begin to hit me fiercely
and I start to feel tremors in my fingers
as I fight to hold your warmth close.
You fight back, wanting to disappear
and already beginning to fall.

I wail as I realize you have started to fall,
and an eerie brightness confirms your serenity
as you lose the last of your oxygen and disappear.
I bawl and weep, sobbing fiercely
as the existence of your light comes to a close
and I learn I will never again feel your flames in my fingers.

Once you disappear, I slowly begin to fall.
My fingers search for a sign of serenity,
but with the loss of your light, I fiercely cry. Your time has come to a close.

Join Team Lauren

Team Lauren buttons

On this date two years ago, my friend Lauren killed herself. She was a confident young woman who acted as a role model for many. For me in particular, while we weren’t particularly close until the last weeks of her life, we were growing closer as she acted as my un-official mentor in my grad school program. She was– and is– one of the reasons I always strive to be a role model for my students, regardless if I’m out at school or not. Lauren taught me a lot about having the confidence to be yourself no matter what the circumstances, and it was incredibly shocking when she took her life, as she always seemed to be the person people would go to when they were in need of guidance. I thought about Lauren a lot last week, as it was National Suicide Prevention Week and the school I work at had an announcement every day about signs of suicide and how to help those in need.

The thing is, sometimes, despite knowing how much help someone may need, or not knowing how much help someone may need, in the blink of the eye they can be gone, leaving you with a myriad of questions and very few, if any, answers.

So, join me and the rest of Team Lauren on Sunday September 29th at Buccleuch Park in New Brunswick, New Jersey for the Central New Jersey American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Walk, or make a contribution to Team Lauren to show your support. I’ll be there honoring Lauren’s memory, as well as thinking of all those who have left this world too soon because they felt they didn’t have any other choice.