Dudley Randall Poetry Prize Winner (3rd Prize), 2022
I’ve spent my life being easily impressed.
So when I overdosed on my bedroom floor
On lamotrigine, blood and tears
I couldn’t help but admire
The way the room started to shake
Or how my frail fingers could still dial 911;
How life only exists in patterns,
O, what a wicked cycle.
I laid weary in my hospital bed
Counting the ceiling tiles one by one
Like it was some sort of game,
Some figment outside of reality
Consuming my brain like bad TV,
Teaching me how to halt time.
When I first awoke from my coma
My father had surprise on his tired face
But me, I had plans in my thumping brain
To return to the life I knew;
Because the urge to do nothing, to move on
Overpowered any desire to get better
So I told my mind, “Be quiet!”
Between the concrete hospital walls
Until the doctor deemed me
Ready to go home.
What he didn’t tell me is that
This will never go away
That I’ll wake up choking on air,
Feeling as close to death as I did
On that June afternoon
And what no one told me is how
My mother will worry until she’s sick
And then worry some more
More than she did when I was small
And the world was large
What they will never tell anybody
Is that the self-help books lied
That it probably won’t get easier
That what doesn’t kill you almost did
But through all the suffering
There will be moments of ethereality
Of stardust and beacons of sun
Laughter and magic and hope.
So I’ll run, or walk, it won’t matter;
Until there’s no blood left in the cut
Because today I saw the sun
And it was shining in celebration
About the poem:
Writing “What They Don’t Tell You About Suicide” caused me a good amount of pain and tears, which I think is actually a sign of good, impactful art. My goal in writing the poem was not just to explore my own trauma and find catharsis in doing so, but to make other people who have dealt with mental illness or suicidal ideation feel a little less alone. I sat down at my computer and typed out exactly what you read here; there was no revision, no backtracking. It all felt very natural and very necessary in terms of my mental health and my personal growth. I thank you kindly for reading my words, and I hope they can leave a positive impact on you in some way.