5.09 / September 2010

Two Consecutive Pages In A Notebook

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3:00 AM.

After daylong labor.

For restoration of his powers and to process the day’s complexities.

The Sleeper elaborates.

His breath’s rhythm, the breathing of those sleeping next to him.

The memories swimming through their separate persons.

The house’s dark and temperature.

Into the stuff of dreams.


Most of the time the presiding atmosphere is realistic; our galley-kitchen looks like itself, and the cutting board too; the cleaver weighs its weight, and this level of accuracy is unnerving, not immediately so, but after, when memory of the dream insinuates the feeling for self-violence into my temper or knotted in a tangle of intense frustration, and the sense that my cowardice was always ultimately going to protect me from killing myself gets burnt up in the ill heat of the feeling that now your death is really at work and haunting me. Sometimes I notice the little rust spot at the top of the blade, and sometimes a spot of blood replaces the rusty mark even before I cut my hand off; sometimes the blow shocks me awake; in other versions, dream-logic forces me to deal with the fact of my severed hand, and I turn and put my forearm and wrist in the steel sink and scramble to find the yellow rubber-gloves. I pull one glove over my wrist; the other I tie with my teeth and good hand as a tourniquet, but before I staunch the bleeding the glove fills with blood so that it looks like my hand is in the glove—the whole time I’m telling myself don’t scream don’t scream (so I don’t wake my wife and son so they won’t know what I’ve done). When I pinch the fingers to test their substance, the dream ends. Once, after staunching the damage, I gathered up my severed hand into the ice-bucket, and like some character in an urban myth called emergency then sat on the porch waiting for the ambulance. The leader of the suicide survivor support group I go to asks us “to write down dreams which we think arise out of, or respond to the trauma of the suicide for which you are here seeking support, sympathy and solidarity.” And so not to be that asshole, I’ve written down what I understand as an anger-dream or that’s what I called it when I read the description of the dream wherein I lop off my own hand and am standing over the sink, stupid and guilty at what I’ve done, and the whole time I’m screaming, screaming so hard my jaws and teeth feel like they’re being pried open as a boot presses my mouth down on the curb, but my screaming makes no sound except in my own head which is full of a roaring fire, and I remembered none of this until I was pissing, and I realized that in that floating half-dreaming half-wakeful state I embodied that brilliant sentence by Lacan (and I am that asshole in group therapy) that nails signification to the final term in the sentence and that meaning flows backward from the anchoring point, even as it was floating throughout as the sentence was coming into being, and the roaring fire was not in head but in my mouth, my mouth’s a furnace and my jaw is straining as I’m screaming and trying to stuff the stump of my wrist into my mouth and cauterize the wound.

The Father of Suicidology

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“Even though I know that each suicidal death is a multi-faceted event—that biological, biochemical, cultural, sociological, interpersonal, intra-psychic, logical, philosophical, conscious and unconscious elements are always present—I retain the belief that, in the proper distillation of the event, its essential nature is psychological. That is each suicidal drama occurs in the mind of a unique individual.

An arboreal image may be useful: See the tree; that tree. There is the chemistry of the soil in which the tree lives. The tree exists in a socio-cultural climate. An individual’s biochemical states, for example, are its roots, figuratively speaking. An individual’s method of committing suicide, the details of the event, the contents of the suicide note, and so on, are the metaphoric branching limbs, the flawed fruit, and the camouflaging leaves. But the psychological component, the conscious choice of suicide as the seemingly best solution to a perceived problem is the main trunk.


He calls it “psychache,” the ambitious
scientist naming a final cause,
(and not a disease ­ ­) invisible,

and nowhere in the cold material
on the coroner’s slab. Thus his study
began with analysis of suicide notes,

and in the air conditioned clinic, how you—
who could be in a matter of hours or days
metamorphosed into a death-

tree—how you answered the question (with un-
equal parts speech and stupid silence,
swallowing its acidic extract) how do you hurt?

[In the dream where the telephone call]

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In the dream where the telephone call
comes again as the receiver speaks
I’m tonguing teeth
loose from their roots as I
listen and when it comes
time for me to speak to say I
understand my mouth is full of blood my other
hand the one not holding the phone is full
of my teeth like
those of a cartoon idiot-grin each tooth
the size of a piano-key colored
like candycorn except
red and white where candycorn is yellow
orange and white I mumble
I understand this is a dream
I understand

[His line cut]

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His line cut
and cauterized
and will not
through the happy
strangeness in pro-
creation, as graphs
of genealogy go
this one dwindles,
this one of solo
children and a lone
bachelor, so
cut the family-
tree after all,
god don’t expunge
these names,
don’t erase
these bodies