September 15, 2017

Martin Vest

THE DAY I TRIED TO COMMIT SEPPUKU OR, HOW I LEARNED I AM NOT A SAMURAI

Anticipating my next move,
I sold my guns.
I knew I’d eventually try pills
so I swallowed them all in advance.
In the car there were too many potentials—
the burned-out shell on a lonely hill,
hose in a tailpipe, cliff—
so I sent it away with my marriage—
that dented plate
whose blunt surface
had dimmed my head.

I wore out streets, welcomes,
made beds of gardens and police cars.
Nearly outwitting myself once,
I slept too close to the river—
jumped in with the bread sacks
and grocery carts,
and floated dumbly
in the shallow stink.
Eventually I climbed out,
legs numb as cardboard,
my pockets filled with the sludge
of missing pets.
In dreams I hanged
myself from the sky
until my belt snapped
and I awakened,
alive with a bump
on the head.

Then, while staggering
along a road one day,
I found an old steak
knife in the gutter.
Unable to reach myself in time,
I drove the dirty blade
into my stomach,
counting the pop of layers—
the steel tip just kissing
the wet nose
of some friendly organ.

In the hospital they x-rayed,
pictured, committed me
to the fifth floor where lunatics
played Yahtzee and smelled
like couch cushions.
I had no horse.
No monstrous armor.
Not a penny.
I remembered that the sword
is the Samurai’s soul
and thought again
of my little bent knife
and how I’d lost it
not so long ago
in a fierce battle
with some woeful demon
whose name
escaped me,
high on a mountain of gods.

from Rattle #56, Summer 2017
Tribute to Poets with Mental Illness

[download audio]

__________

Martin Vest: “What an impossible bio to write. How has mental illness affected my poetry? The easier question for me to answer is, ‘How has poetry affected my mental illness?’ I’m still here.”

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