My mother said don’t go near anyplace other children have drowned;
my father said death wasn’t the worst thing: it was waking up crippled
from falling to the rocks below, a broken back or head injury but alive,
knowing forever from your permanent bed you’d done it to yourself.

But don’t you think you have to find out on your own? Don’t you think
it’s essential to crawl down the sharp walls where one misstep hurtles you
into unthinkable pain? Don’t you think – and this isn’t a prank — that unless
you flirt with the river of sorrow happiness will never find its way?

So I wandered down through a broken, bony forest to the edge of the canyon,
and I looked straight down into the dark waters, became addicted to the view
at the edge. It would be so easy, I thought, to drift over the falls of air and through
the hidden portal to those dirty little shallows where they’d finally find my body.

I sat quietly looking into its face, the smell of damp stone rising
entwined with the soft gurgle of the winding flow and the wet transience
of impersonal traces. Yes, here is my suffering now: I could not escape
the dungeons of my self-belittlement and the same sad repetitive ends.

Until one day I slipped, came so close to the flowers of the funeral home
that my body lost all feeling in anticipation of the cut, the nothingness,
and I scrambled upward as if startled by the unseen snake on a ledge,
as if eye-level I’d barked at it, my own destruction; saw it whole and coming.

Scared me enough, I guess, to live. I stopped looking down there, letting that
slippery thing dominate. Let it slither through on its own. I’d seen it now
and jumped aside, saw how new the mountains were ahead, felt the way the sun
crosses entire valleys in a day and how any river, even sorrow, is only a part.