Poetry: Questions by Amanda Bales
Bales packages her frank questioning here with untamed energy and honesty. “Questions” crafts a strange comfort in the face of death—precisely—as its title suggests—because the poem does not gesture at hollow answers, but wrestles with humor and charm the incredible absence left behind.
A friend took his own life last month—wait, did I say friend?
I hate saying friend when I mean acquaintance or colleague
or man I once fucked but have not seen since I left that town.
It’s especially gross to do this after a person has died, an attempt
to gain unearned sympathy, the grief—wait, did I say took his own life?
I hate the phrase, as if he dropped life off at the dry cleaners, will get it back
in a week. To where? I want to ask, To where did he take his own life? But I know
this question is not the question to ask, the question is how could he? By which
people mean why, which comforts because each answer spins a perpetual response—
Christ, did I say perpetual? I hate the word, yet another example of misused
scientific terms—symbiosis, theory, depression—it’s quite a list, I could keep going,
which is what I would ask—Why not keep going? I don’t need why, most days it seems
impossible all of us do not, and I don’t need how, the love of others has never been enough,
to where is a punchline not worth our time, but why not keep going? It was you
who said to inspire is to breathe a truth into another, and to be inspired is to accept
that truth, so how could you leave us in this perpetual depression? It was your theory
of symbiosis, friend, so tell me—we are gasping—to where did you take your own life?
Amanda Bales hails from Oklahoma and completed her B.A. in English and Theater at Oklahoma State University. Since then she has lived in various places, including a dry cabin in Fairbanks, Alaska, where she completed her M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Her work has appeared in The Nashville Review, Raleigh Review, Southern Humanities Review, and elsewhere. She is currently a Lecturer in English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. @amanda_bales amandabales.wordpress.com