By THOMAS G.M. SHARPE
They come in when the lights go on
At night, we like to light candles
We watch them, large in their muted beige finery,
Punctuated with black orbs, like eyes,
As they flutter around the flame,
And we wonder what will happen first:
Will their flapping extinguish the light,
Or will they finally burn to death?
Stolid, barely a nod on the sidewalk
When you saw him at lunch
As we passed in the Plaza or by the Bean
Wondering if he did not recognize you
But you knew he did.
He was separating
One life from the other.
A brilliant mathematical mind
Who couldn’t handle it.
Shooting pool all night
In a bar in Union Station
With his tie around his head
Doing perfect, lyrical bird calls
To get the keep, Roben’s, attention
Asking for yet another Corona
And yet another shot.
After much cajoling from us he bought a house
That he loved very much
He started going home at five o’clock to sand floors
We were happy for him
We worried less.
He didn’t listen to his preacher father’s words though
Not more than a month later
He coked out dead,
In front of his sister,
On a scratched up felt table
In rural Wisconsin,
Leaving nothing behind but memories.
Dylan Thomas is steeped with irony
He said, “Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Then at his pinnacle he took too many drinks
At the White Horse Tavern,
New York City
They found him dead at 39
Face down in the Chelsea Hotel
There is the moth and there is the flame.
Killing yourself doesn’t have to happen
In an instant
With a single decision
Sometimes it takes time
There is after all
More than one way to skin a cat.
A skinned cat is still
A dead cat.
Thomas G.M. Sharpe is an author, artist, teacher, and an advocate on behalf of many causes but especially the Parkinson’s Disease community, of which he is a member. He was raised in Chicago, but currently resides in Iowa. His work has appeared in Chicago Poets, Chicken Soup for the Soul and other publications. Check out his other work here.