Poetry Friday: “Visitation Rights” by Jeffrey Harrison

funeral flowers by Elvert Barnes on flickr_with writing edited outI sometimes talk to friends who have died. Especially to friends who acted as spiritual guides for me during their lives here. I continue to ask their advice when I’m in distress or need guidance.  I believe there’s a very thin and permeable line between mortal life and eternal life. This is why Jeffery Harrison’s “Visitation Rights” resonates with me. The poem melds the living and the dead, past and present, in ways deeply true to psychological and spiritual reality. I also like the poem’s play with the word “visitation.” Its primary meaning here is the appearance on earth of someone who has died. But hovering within the word are always its supernatural reverberations—its meaning of an appearance to us of the divine—as well as its etymological kinship to “vision.” So it feels right that the poem closes by appealing to “visions,” expressing a desire for them that (the poem has argued) is fully justified.

—Peggy Rosenthal [Read more…]

Losing the Thread

27Guest post by Michael Leary

After someone commits suicide you begin to filter through everything you know about them in the hope of gleaning all that remains good and beautiful and true.

At first, this proves difficult: there isn’t much left but murk and silt. But you find yourself returning again and again, panning in the stream of memories because flecks of gold begin to appear and the mere weight of them feels so precious.

I became familiar with this habit of disinterment long before my brother chose suicide. I say “chose” because in David’s case it was an idea he had talked about and lived with for some time, the act becoming a final expression of personal agency in a world that had seemingly closed all of its doors on him.

And yet, despite his choice, his memory, our kinship, abides. [Read more…]

The Cave of the Heart

caveNot long ago a young man announced on a video chat site that he intended to kill himself, and that he would let people watch, if only he could have help setting up the video feed. Someone gladly complied, and so the boy positioned his camera, sat in his chair, and washed down a handful of pills with alcohol. Afterward he set a fire in the corner of his room. Then he crawled into the darkness beneath his bed and waited to die.

Hundreds watched, while others who were being excluded complained that the site’s bandwidth was inadequate. Ideas were tossed back and forth in the comments section about how to include everyone who wanted to enjoy the show. One of those who was able to watch griped about the smoke. He couldn’t see the boy dying. He logged on to watch a boy die, and the stupid smoke was getting in the way. [Read more…]

Lamenting an Imperfect Friendship

Walking on the sidewalk of Spokane, I read an email that made me stop still. I’d just left a reading of North of Hope on my first trip away from my husband and two young children, when I checked my iPhone, compulsively, as I do, having no one to debrief with in person, looking for some kind of connection through cell signals and electrons.

It was a warm spring evening, and I thought I’d find a good glass of wine along the river. I was the only one in a sweater, an old comfortable one I liked. Everywhere there were bare arms and shoulders, street musicians on sidewalks from which heat wafted like a smell, carrying the sounds of the saxophone player and three shirtless college-aged guys with beards playing ordinary objects as percussion.

It was an email with just a name in the subject line, the name of a long ago friend I’ve maintained occasional contact with. She had dinner at our home when she was at a work conference a year before, and sent a note when our second son was born a few months ago. Just a couple of weeks ago I’d had a note from her on Facebook saying she’d received her copy of North of Hope and was excited to read it. [Read more…]