cleaning up a suicide

***warning–do not read this if you are (a) having a wonderful day, (b) squeamish at all, or (c) the person who knows I did this for you two years ago this month.

wrists take too long
to bleed out
he said to me once
& guns, forget them
one misfire
& you live forever
diapered and drooling
minus the will to swallow
your own spit

we all laughed
at such dark humor,
not knowing
he researched
& calculated odds
before he opened
his carotid
in a bathtub

because he was
he only filled the tub
with hot water
so blood
would not overflow
to stain the grout
of the white tile floor

when there is so much of it
hemoglobin stinks
like rusted iron

I know
because I scrubbed
what was left
after they took his body
& I did not want his lover,
my friend
to see the room
the way they left it

I never thought about
whose job it is
to wash away blood
after evidence is collected
and the body leaves
in a neat plastic bag

if I wasn’t there
it would have been hers

About Susan L Daniels

I am a firm believer that politics are personal, that faith is expressed through action, and that life is something that must be loved and lived authentically--or why bother with any of it?
This entry was posted in New Free Verse and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to cleaning up a suicide

  1. davidtrudel says:

    Some poems aren’t about beauty
    Some poems don’t ascend into the light
    Some poems aren’t about stained glass
    Or uplifting
    They are about the stains
    The detritus
    Of a life
    Desperation takes a lot of forms
    But at the end
    The end
    Somebody has to deal with it
    Not vicariously
    In reality. up close and personal
    Or the absence of it

  2. Powerful yet thought-provoking, I especially like thr rhythm and tone you’ve employed.

  3. unfetteredbs says:


  4. Like you say, it’s the practical, almost domestic side of things that we don’t always consider. Provoking.

  5. Green Speck says:

    The words leave me speechless …. chilling and haunting !!!

  6. Kira says:

    Chilling… Because this is reality.

  7. doncarroll says:

    this piece conveys here to me. i don’t think i could ever get that close to one leaving like that and then having to clean it. even though this piece is conveyed in this exact reality, one can look at it metaphorically.

    • Oh, Don–I wish I could look at it only metaphorically–even then it is disturbing.

      • doncarroll says:

        i hear ya susan. i lost two cousins to this when they were young. a very unfortunate thing, but i understood their pain based on all the stuff i went through.

        • Ouch–understood. I am sorry for your loss, and the pain you all went through.

          • doncarroll says:

            thanx….i’m not sure if i clarified my part well enough. it’s more like what i went through in regards to relationships and how i felt through that as one cousin left life because his wife had filed for divorce. it broke his heart. i identify with that. it may not be the right solution, but i understand it.

            • I can understand how pain can make you feel there is no point living. However, I have always found something to keep me going–call it faith, love for my family, whatever it is–it keeps me going.

  8. Ian Moone says:

    dark and chilling indeed, interesting but uncomfortable – good write though

  9. boomiebol says:


  10. Truth. I love how you wrote it. I am sorry that you had that experience.

  11. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

    I don’t have words for this, Susan. All I can say is that this is one of your very best.

  12. sad, intensely sad but wonderful poetry! How a poem this sad be so so good?
    I always wonder – do suicides ever regret their acts – I mean in those last moments between life and fade away? If they did, and recognising that they had now reached the irreversible point, perhaps their last thoughts could be on who would “clean up the mess”.

    • Wow, Noel–not sure. I know this man, Jim, chose a method there could be no turning back from. In those last few seconds of his life, was there regret at that choice?

      I would hope their thoughts would be elsewhere–perhaps sorrow at leaving loved ones (even if by choice), or maybe even joy at shucking the mortality that oppressed their spirit so that they felt they had no choice but to leave this life to free themselves, finally, of it.

      One of my demonstrations of mourning, oddly, always involves a “cleaning up,” either going through belongings, or in this case scrubbing a bathroom. This is practical action is saying goodbye in a tangible fashion, if that makes any sense.

  13. Sombre and powerful, very vivdly described giving way to much reflection and questions. Why? Your poor friend

  14. nelle says:

    I’m not quite sure what to say, so we’ll leave it there. 😦

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