Poetry by Thom Adams: “eternal questions for a birthday bash”

I first encountered the writer Thom Adams when I critiqued his philosophical poem “Entropy Road” for the Winning Writers newsletter in 2008. He recently shared some other poems with me, one of which moved me so much that I asked to reprint it here. (Trigger warning for suicide.) Visit Thom’s website for more verse, both serious and light, and articles on contemporary issues.

eternal questions for a birthday bash

who walked those final steps with you,
or danced your darkest hour?
who steadied you or tied your knot;
did you grimly smile, or weep
when the rope went taut?

what moment tipped the balance
of your dire choice?
yesterday, when you looked
happy as you bathed our only child,
or later when your words and eyes assured me
that you trusted… but you lied?

when did the painful reality occur
that no longer is no more and forever,
and latent regrets are not nearly enough?
wasn’t the love you felt for your suckling baby
enough testimony to us mortals
that god lives, but only for the living?

where did your magic meet its pleasant rest?
on a windy breeze that never stops,
or in a flash of light that seared memory clean,
or in a tiny box of lead?
or, does it spread and blend your lovely scent
in a contented whiff of… universal swirl?

why not just live life’s ups and ills
as if choices weren’t limited but that you
   had been cheated?
while others said their jealous prayers
with hopes of only being as lucky.
did your fearless conspirators fan their
   scary flames?
did demons laugh, or cross their fingers toward
   your twisted end?

how is it for you today… considering our son
   turns three?
but pees and wakes me in tortured sweat,
buries watered eyes and sobs till hurt subsists.
how nice to think of mama’s touch, yet feel only
   daddy’s calloused grip.
while he waits to watch the window’s evening
knowing the “what might have been” will never
   be…. for him.

MUST I ask again… or has your tidy damage also
   done you in?
is there something better nothing worse than live?
is something gained or lost again?
was it a silent whimper, or a screaming grin?
can you tell me why or what’s at stake?

… as I light three little candles on love’s birthday cake.

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