Friday, July 22, 2011

What Are the Most Wrist-Slittingest Lines of Verse Ever Written?

I'm sure there are many contenders.  My first runner-up is Macbeth's monologue from Act V, Scene V:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing

There could be nothing more empty and hollow than the petty pace of life that will go on and on until ** the ** last ** syllable ** of ** recorded ** time.

But the MOST wrist-slittingest, where's-the-nearest-bridge poem ever written has to be Susan Musgrave's poem "Here It Comes - Grief's Beautiful Blow-Job" (the title taken from William Matthews).  The poem begins

"Last night for the first time
you told me you loved me less"

and goes from there.  The whole poem can be found in The Embalmer's Art (Exile Editions, 1991).  I will post it upon request.

UPDATE:  In December 2012, I had a request for this poem by Susan Musgrave, here it is:

"Here It Comes - Grief's Beautiful Blow-Job" 

Last night for the first time
you told me you loved me less.
I put on a child's dress, pinned
a half-moon to my breast and walked
uptown. The streetlamps kept on
whispering of you as I waited
for one who would love me anyway.

How little it takes to mend, how little
to break. The first man who gave me a ride
had a valentine the colour of blood
under his shirt. He took me for a drive
down the wrong side of the road playing
"Here Comes the Night" so loud I didn't
even hear the real night come crashing
in on me the way it did. Dress of gauze
over my right eye, two fist-shaped moons
under my left. He left me for dead
but it didn't even hurt

not the way it hurt to be
loved less.

Motif of passion-flowers at the
HooDoo Motel, the kitchen comes
fully-quipped, the bed has Magic
Fiters. Everything but my heart comes
equipped. The philosopher in the bomber
jacket who says, "'No' means bondage, bitch,"
he's equipped. He is a realist - he had
a real whip. He gave me everything
except a rag to wipe the blood up with.

He made me strip
then took his realistic jiggler out
and told me there was no one cause
for any human act of degradation.
I'd thought no one could match
the artfulness of self-abuse until he had me
licking my own blood off two cheap passion
flowers on the white lino

but nothing could have prepared me for this,
to be loved less.

When I was a child my father butchered
my first pet - a wild rabbit I'd tamed
and fed every day until she grew big
enough herself to eat. Then he killed her
with his long hands and dressed her
and made me eat; everyday of my life
he forced me to keep eating until
there was nothing left. It was a lesson
in sufficiency, he said.

But when you told me you loved me less,
I didn't know how to cure it.
The bed became smaller than cruelty
with just enough room for the two of us
and the night came over me
like a backhand over the mouth
like my father with steakblood
in the corner of his mouth
holding up a photograph of his
shy, wild daughter.

I wanted to give reasons why I tried to love you
more each day, but it all sounded
so ordinary, like taking a piece of bread
and cutting it. Even this simple act
brings a knife into play

so the moon packs her bags and moves
away. Not me, I'm here for the duration.
Grief's never had it so good.


  1. Hi! I can't find Musgrave's poem anywhere else online, except for these 2 lines: “I’m here for the duration. / Grief’s never had it so good.” This hits me hard as well as those 2 lines you quoted. Would you mind posting the poem?

    I was actually looking into Janis Joplin again and remembered that William Matthews poem. "Here it comes, Grief’s beautiful blow job," is a particularly striking phrase for me.

  2. Hi Benny Hanna, the Janis Joplin poem is available on line if you Google "The Penalty for Bigamy is Two Wives." I'll post the Susan Musgrave poem after I get her permission or soon if I don't hear from her. Check back in January.