Wednesday, 31 May 2017

That deadly piper

When I rose yesterday morning, there was a birthday reminder from one of my online calendars, and my heart lurched. It was the birthday of a recently deceased friend.

Two weeks ago, word came from a mutual friend that the poetry man had died two weeks before that. The length of time between his departure and its announcement in an email from the university department where he'd worked, the lack of an obituary, and the knowledge that the poetry man had battled depression for years all seem to indicate a suicide.

I felt punched, bruised, numbed. The only clues I had to my feelings on the matter were strange, intermittent leakages of tears as I fired off a brief and, I hope, compassionate email to his estranged wife, to let her know that I'd heard. She's someone I've known since adolescence, and it's entirely in her character to keep a discreet silence, shielding their vulnerable children.

Eventually, I moved to the bookshelves in the study, and pulled out a baggie of poems, sent to me, at my request, some time after we left for Ottawa, when I first learned that the poetry man wrote poems. I remember my relief when I first read them and realized that they were good.

The poetry man was a gracious fellow with a gentle, erudite Alabaman accent. Even before I knew he was a poet, I was always struck by his measured and lyrical way of speaking. He introduced me to the novels of William Faulkner, each one a challenge, each one not like any of the others.

While I may not have been quite as enthusiastic about Faulkner as he was, he and I did an appreciation for the Hooters. I sat up for a while, listening to a couple of my favourites, including this one, which turns out to be about suicide.

Surrender into the night,
Silently take my hand.
Nobody knows what's inside us,
Nobody understands.
They handed us down a dream,
To live in this lonely town.
But nobody hears the music,
Only the echo of a hollow sound.

Where do the children go,
Between the bright night and darkest day?
Where do the children go,
And who's that deadly piper who leads them away?

Together we make our way,
Passengers on a train.
Whisper a secret forever,
Promises in the rain. No, whoa...
We're leaving it all behind,
While castles are falling down.
We're going where no one can find us.
And if there's a heaven,
We'll find it somehow.