The suicide of Alan Krueger last week, a man I didn’t know but whose work I admire, a man clearly beloved by so many, hit me hard. It brought me back to my early twenties, when the suicide of someone I loved both ended his life and permanently altered mine. Crying comes hard to me and does not bring relief, but it came anyway this week. At one point I found myself alone, apologizing out loud for things I wish I’d done differently.
I’m haunted by the sense that the cruelty and hatred so on display these days made things worse for Alan Krueger. It makes things worse for everyone. The only thing I can do, like the poet below, is try to subvert it with kindness.
For the Sake of Strangers, by Dorianne Laux
No matter what the grief, its weight,
we are obliged to carry it.
We rise and gather momentum, the dull strength
that pushes us through crowds.
And then the young boy gives me directions
so avidly. A woman holds the glass door open,
waits patiently for my empty body to pass through.
All day it continues, each kindness
reaching toward another – a stranger
singing to no one as I pass on the path, trees
offering their blossoms, a retarded* child
who lifts his almond eyes and smiles.
Somehow they always find me, seem even
to be waiting, determined to keep me
from myself, from the thing that calls to me
as it must have once called to them –
this temptation to step off the edge
and fall weightless, away from the world.
*Note that this poem was published in 1994, when this word was in common usage.
For more information on Dorianne Laux, please check out her website.