I spent a lot of time on this poem. Probably about three hours or so, but even more hours of thinking. I wanted to sort through my many memories and feelings concerning my nephew, who we just buried a week ago after he committed suicide. I'll never fathom it all, but writing the poem helped me make something positive, I think, about a very tragic experience. I tried to end it on the one postive thing we see right now, and that is that his friends have promised to stop being such idiots and stop doing drugs. I hope they hold that promise.
Here's the poem and a picture of Caleb, too. He was an amazing kid.
Not a Blemish That We Could See
--Isaiah 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith Jehovah: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Sometimes the world is so bright it blinds. Christmas.
We met on my dad’s and your great granddad’s farm
in southern Minnesota. It was bitter cold
yet the sun was intense and six inches of snow
the night before turned the plowed fields white.
The road ditches were drifted full for a fast ride.
You, 15, tore into them with your dad’s Polaris--
the engine howling like something ready to burst .
You looked like a snowboard punk, rocking
a light blue jacket and tinted yellow goggles.
You gave my wife a wild smile when our turn
came to ride, yet sweetly, you guided her,
“Just hang on tight, Irene. Wrap your arms
around Mike cause it can be real scary.”
Then you told me, “It’s so fast,” and laughed.
I thought this kid may like to fight & joke
but he has a good heart. 12 days later,
your best friends at your funeral described you
as loyal and irreplaceable. Your brother Jack,
just 11, said you were white like snow. Perfect.
I didn’t know you as well but when I heard
you’d shot yourself I punched myself so hard
on the thigh that it turned as purple as a Dakota sunset.
It’s going to be a while before I can imagine
you clowning for your friends, making your jaw
jut and walking like you had ants in your crack.
You had said you were gonna buy a Jesus-mobile
and be a warrior to keep your friends off drugs.
Five of them, awash in sorrow for you, have promised
your parents just that. Until the next life, Caleb, we’ll take it.