by Minadora Macheret
For K whose memory is forever and always a blessing
It’s 6AM, again. The light filters across the clouds, a starburst of reds, pinks, and oranges press into the darkness, brightening it as a gentle warmth pressed against the cheek by the palm of the hand. Instead of sleeping, for the second week and for way too many nights in a row, I sit on the couch, watching each hour pass through my window, the dog sleeping and snoring against my left side. The leaves and tree limbs rain patterned shadows across my wooden floor. Like a body of a fish on land the images jerk as they mimic the wind tousled trees. I wonder how a body jerks, knows the impact that’s coming, and braces itself for death. I once watched and wondered at a departing soul, wondered if it was gentle with itself as it fled.
In Judaism, dying by suicide is only wrong because it is harm against the self. Jewish law dictates that we cannot harm others, but especially not ourselves. What does a rabbi do when a person does? How does empathy enter the conversation? Rabbis struggle with this, where does humanity begin, and Jewish law take a backseat? If a person creates a knife or a weapon and does no harm, then the object is strictly ornamental, it will exist in the home until the next family member decides what to do with it. But what does the Torah say about the temptation of harm? How does God enter those spaces? Religion tries to accommodate death but leaves out modernity and its explosion of human experiences and maladies. The most religion can do is line the front gates of a cemetery with those who were found guilty of suicide. Or if they are lucky, offer them their own sequestered plot.
The trauma-filled body remembers every jagged embrace, every harsh spoken word, every wrongdoing committed against others and itself. The trauma-filled body is already an urn looking for a way out. The trauma-filled body sits vigilant, every cell on high-alert, waiting for the next catastrophe. The trauma-filled body rarely sleeps. The trauma-filled body holds vigil, shoe-less, feet rooted to the ground, waiting to become a mourning body.
The Shulhan Arukh, the Code of Jewish Laws, writes of suicide: “We do not mourn him, or eulogize him, or tear our clothing for him, or remove shoes for him. We only stand for him in a line and say the blessing of mourners and any other thing that is respectful for the living.” But how do we respect the dead as if they’re living? We are taught when we save a person, we save the entire world. This, too, is a fallacy. And yet, we fall for it, every time.
Minadora Macheret is a Ph.D. student in Poetry and Teaching Fellow at the University of North Texas. She received the James Merrill Poetry Fellowship from Vermont Studio Center. Her work has appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Rogue Agent, Connotation Press, and elsewhere. She is the author of the chapbook, Love Me, Anyway, (Porkbelly Press, 2018). She likes to travel across the country with her beagle, Aki.