Christmas, 2010 / No. 25

Here, whence all have departed or will do,

here airless,1 each dead child coiled,

a white serpent, one at each little pitcher

of milk, now empty.2 Coldest of winds

have blown this hair, and mesh of seaweed

snarled these miniatures of hands;3 bones piled up

like coal, animal bones shaped like golf balls,4

how they disturb the brown silence of a field

lying ecstatic with itself.5 Frosted eyes

there were that lifted altars;6 the head,

charred, featureless—the unknown mean—

is thrust from the waters like a flame,7

like the sea in the moon’s blood ray.8

Behold what quiet settles on the world.9

  1. From Dream Song No. 19, by John Berryman. First published in 1959. Berryman committed suicide on January 7, 1972.
  2. From the poem “Edge,” by Sylvia Plath. Poem dated February 5, 1963. Plath committed suicide on February 11, 1963.
  3. From the poem “For My Daughter,” by Weldon Kees. First published in 1943. Kees committed suicide, it is generally assumed, on July 18, 1955.
  4. From the poem “Loving the Killer,” by Anne Sexton. First published in 1969. Sexton committed suicide on October 4, 1974.
  5. From the poem “The Ravens,” by Georg Trakl. First published in 1913. Trakl committed suicide on November 3, 1914.
  6. From the poem “At Melville’s Tomb,” by Hart Crane. First published in 1926. Crane committed suicide on April 27, 1932.
  7. From the poem “Burning the Letters,” by Randall Jarrell. First published in 1945. Jarrell committed suicide, it is widely suspected, on October 14, 1965.
  8. From the poem “Corona,” by Paul Celan. First published in 1952. Celan committed suicide on April 20, 1970.
  9. From the untitled poem that begins “Past one o’clock…,” by Vladimir Mayakovsky, found among his papers after his death and containing lines also paraphrased in his suicide note. Mayakovsky committed suicide on April 14, 1930.