Furnace of July

“It was harder to drown at sunrise than in darkness.”
— Edith Wharton

It was harder to cut parallel to the vein
than I’d expected. Instead, I scratched out
shallow, perpendicular cuts I knew
were ineffective. It was harder than I thought

to take enough pills, or the right kind,
calibrated excess, though my brother had managed to,
dying off-stage like that, while I was safe at school.
In the furnace of that first July weekend,

our mother refused to let anyone else attend
the funeral and the gravediggers refused
to lower him into the ground until
the fireworks were over.

Harder to die even when I wanted to, harder
than being the one awake at sunrise. The razor, the pills,
the wishing I could change places – none of it worked.
How had the others managed it? The ones who

taped up the kitchen windows and wouldn’t budge
even when the delivery boy rang the doorbell.
Or kept the car locked as it filled with fog
and the radio played Mood Indigo. For them,

was it harder to turn back from the bridge railing
or to jump into darkness? I just kept on inhaling,
exhaling, could only hold my breath so long
until I gave in to the habit all over again.