Hey baby, there’s somethin’ in your eyes
Tryin’ to say to me
That I’m gonna be alright if I believe in you
It’s all I want to do
-Tom Petty, “Crawling Back to You” from Wildflowers, 1994
Last night, I was at a reading at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center listening to Molly Brodak read from a forthcoming book, and she said, “Everywhere is a graveyard.”
She was just translating the words of a gatekeeper, not a poet.
The phone rings.
“Hey.” she said.
“Yeah” I said.
“What!?” I said.
“Your momma, she—“
“Did she really?” I said.
“Yeah, Daniel, she did.”
The bacon started burning.
My pulse raced to a dangerous pace.
I don’t remember hanging up the phone.
My insides started caving in.
Twelve days before, my mother lost her partner to diabetes and heart disease — a debilitating, bitter march to the end of the line.
The minute a fire goes out, there are consequences. The light is extinguished, and for a moment— darkness, smoke.
Even though August 5, 2017 is a long way behind me, I can still feel the heat of her embers burning—a love that burned too hot, burning out everything that held her together for as long as she was here.
The ground on her partner’s grave was still soft. Not a single blade of grass had begun to grow.
And now she is dust — her husk released from the GBI crime lab, cremated and filed away.
Now, she wants to be with the sea.
In darkness and in light; at sunrise and during the cold, miserable winter rain; yesterday and today;
Statisticians are measuring everything.
Each year in America, a group of people the size of Decatur dies by suicide.
Each year in America, a group of people the size of Kennesaw dies by suicide.
Each year in America, a group of people more than twice the size of Perry dies by suicide.
And for every one of these 36,000 people who are lost, an atom bomb goes on in the life of at least 6 people — their inner circle.
Last night, I was driving some writers across town. I didn’t know who was in my car really, but I trusted the universe and assumed everything was okay. One of my passengers was Carmen Maria Machado.
At the reading, I saw Carmen Maria Machado wearing an enamel pin that bore the engraving of “The Fool,” card zero in the Major Arcana.
My eyes focused in on the mountains in the foreground — the changes yet to come.
In 2007, Brad Delp, the singer of the band Boston died by suicide — he claimed himself to be a “lonely soul.”
In 1994, Mom drove with the windows down and the radio turned up. First it was Elton John. Then, Boston.
Brad Delp’s voice rose singing,
Don’t look back
A new day is breakin’
It’s been too long since I felt this way
I don’t mind where I get taken
The road is callin’
Today is the day
I wonder how much Brad thought about the coming night.
I wonder how much my mother thought about it. I wonder if she felt like Oscar Wilde—
“Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace.“
-from The Canterville Ghost
Everywhere is a graveyard.
originally published: November 8, 2018- The Five Hundred