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Mental illness was a headache,
a car accident,
a missing mother,
a weird flutter of the eye,
before he got swept to the edge
before he got flung headlong
into the jagged bubbles,
blood-streaked spray of an emergency
from which you pretend to drag him,
chained, wild, freaking, by now
buddy-buddy with the rocks
and the frozen dead.
You could have given him
a home, at first bewildered along
the easy river, could have modeled
courage, swam with him to the bank,
but you couldn’t decide: expense, risk,
scrap? You chose to have him go on
over and now they’ve got him,
the currents and stones,
and they’ve got you, too.
your proud degree, your red-painted skiff,
your little lines, your shell of kindling,
your department watching with looks
of horror and twenty-thousand
exclusive peer-reviewed books
on the safety of the cliffs.