Writes With Pencils

fiction, memoir, essays and poetry

Tag: Despair

In Remembrance of the 1,129

State Capital

Again, the artist’s graveyard fills the lawn
headstones in colors of
blood, sorrow, fear, and tears.
Eighteen more than the year before.
Eighteen more lives lost to despair.
Eighteen more than the year you died
from anxiety and shame.

Last year I walked alone among the rows
headstones in colors of
drowning, hanging, drugs, and guns.
All empty earth and unnamed,
a bouquet of words, vibrant and weeping,
I laid a poem at your grave
at the edge of a thousand more.

It seems hopeless, this mournful swelling of
headstones in colors of
husbands, wives, children, and friends.
Eighteen more than the year before.
Eighteen more lives lost to despair.
Eighteen more than the year you died
—will it ever end?


*1129 is the number of people who died by suicide in the State of Washington in 2015.  The rows of grave markers were installed on the lawn of the State Capital by Forefront to raise awareness of suicide and to advocate for suicide prevention and legislation with that aim.

1st Anniversary of a New Voice

Version 3

In response to the supportive urgings of my writing group to put my work out into the world, I created this blog one year ago today. At the time I’d first met them more than a year before, I’d been working on a novel scene by scene for a couple of years, much of which I then shared with this revolving community of fellow writers in the back room of a Belltown cafe we met in twice weekly. Hearing the diversity of their work, from poetry and memoir to sci-fi and urban fantasy, was as helpful and inspiring to me as the thoughtful, constructive feedback I received about my own work. From Smeeta I learned to dig deep and tell the truth; Mark’s action-packed narratives taught me to inject energy and movement into my own stories; and Kay recognized and encouraged the voice of a poet in my rambling prose.

Six weeks before signing onto WordPress that first time, I had sustained the most devastating trauma of my life. Five weeks after that day that shattered my universe, I discovered something that intensified and distilled the trauma. I couldn’t sleep. Anxiety and despair gripped me, caused me to scream and wail while driving, to dig my fingers into my unwashed hair in an attempt to extinguish the pain of overwhelming anguish. I tried to write about it, but alone at home the page remained blank. Finally, after four desperate days, I headed to the cafe to sit in silence among my tribe of fellow writers knowing that if nothing else, I would find acceptance and understanding there of my blocked state. Forty-five minutes of free-writing later, Found Receipt emerged in powerful verse from my pencil. It was only the fourth poem I had ever written. The first had been a child’s gift to my parents for their anniversary, the second a high school English assignment, and the third an abandoned experiment.

Completely cracked open by this unimaginable trauma, I discovered a new voice that day and have written over 100 poems since. I would never have chosen the tragic events which led to that discovery, but I am incredibly grateful for this growing voice. To honor it and commemorate its birth, I am submitting some of its verse today for publication consideration. Regardless of the outcome of that submission, I will keep writing. It has been a salve to this deep wound which still bleeds but is healing, an invitation to others to share their own grief, and a bridge of connection to people who would have otherwise remained strangers to me. It has led me to the desert of Utah and the Highlands of Scotland and back home again to my own writing desk. I will keep writing. The characters of my dormant novel have even appeared on the page again for the first time in over a year in recent weeks. I will keep writing. Thank you for reading.


Found Receipt

Found Receipt

Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
Why didn’t you pay cash?
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
You’d have gotten change back from a ten.
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
You charged it on your credit card.
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
You left it for me to pay for.
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
They were cheap and there were lots of ’em.
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
For a box of fifty.
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
Forty-nine more than you needed.
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
Because it only took one.
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
For a bullet in the brain.
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
To kill yourself.
Life is expensive, but death is cheap.

The inspiration for and the power of a new voice discovered: The Value of NO


Perspective After Suicide


I awake with relief
to a cool morning, take pleasure in
watering the garden and pulling weeds
from the rockery
before the early sun has risen
to its full strength
and feel grateful that the cat
will once again eat from my hand
after a day of worrying listlessness,
she too having found relief
in the cooler night,
recovered from unseasonable weather.

I feel the fullness of my life
and tell myself,
as if counseling another
to remember this
remember this, girl,
remember this moment the next time
you seek simple respite from the heat
only to feel like sinking into the lake
and being done with it all.

Remember this
when you can’t feel the joyous breath
of the water
from the swell of wakes
of passing boats.

Remember this
when the morning is clear
but the solidity of the mountains
offers you no comfort
as they stand watch.

Remember this
when all you want is for the pain
of your loss of him to end
as tears turn to steam in your goggles
blurring everything
in a self-contained eco system
of grief turned despair.

Remember this
when the only thing that draws you
back to the beach,
rather than below the surface
to join the milfoil and turtles,
is a sense of responsibility
to everyone but yourself
and your not wanting to cause
this singular suffering
to anyone else.

In Memory of a Friend


In my feed today
following a post professing that
Pain is part … of being alive
I learned that a friend had died.
We were not close
but we had shared my table,
we had shared wine in Spain,
and we were adjacent links
in a human chain
that had brought two beautiful people
from separate hemispheres
together, into love.
He was too young.
I was surprised.
But when I learned
that last night
he took his own life
I was not shocked.
He had a loving husband
a successful business
spoke two languages
and had flawless skin.
He was loved
and respected.

I should have been shocked.
He had everything to live for.

But in a Universe where
a fiancé can set a wedding date
and kill himself two weeks later,
nothing shocks me.

In a Universe where
a healthy woman smiles with her son
then falls from a lethal stroke that same day,
nothing shocks me.

In a Universe where
miracles bring people together
but the deepest love isn’t enough,
nothing shocks me.

I long to be shocked.
I long for that innocence.
Instead I am numb, in shock.
Not into disbelief.
I deeply believe
that anything is possible
that bad things happen to good people
that most of us are one tragedy away from
living on the streets
or losing our minds.
I believe that my heart will be broken
many more times-
I hope, by the same person
because we don’t always get it right
and we hurt
and are hurt
and keep trying.

I’m one of the lucky ones,
one of the alive ones
who gets to keep trying
to be kinder
more caring
a better partner and friend,
who gets to face my fears
and live open-heartedly,
who gets to risk loving deeply
even if I’m not ready,
who gets to be humble
and apologize to the elk
for a failed promise.

And so I
go on living and feeling and loving
through the numbness and ache
because I’m one of the lucky ones
because Pain is part … of being alive.

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