If you look closely, under the heart of the rose, my scar still rises — a wrinkled mountain range skirting an indigo river. It’s a wonder that I’m not dead.
When you get a tattoo, everyone asks you what it means. When you get a tattoo to cover up your suicide attempt, you don’t always have an answer. To the close-when-convenient friends of college, I went for shock value: “tried to kill myself. Didn’t work. Got a tattoo instead.” For the intrigued adults at my graduation, I explained that the rose and feathers symbolized a phoenix: a rebirth. No one asks why I died. My own parents asked very little about meaning; when my mother glanced at the extra scars on my legs, the refuse and shrapnel of drinking too much during your attempt, she quietly asks why I’ve started all that again. Doesn’t look more closely at my arm. The tattoo is in the way, giving her a prettier object to scorn.
I did want a phoenix, originally, but my wrists were too small from months of not eating. So many people told me how beautiful I was becoming, asked for my diet plans and exercise regiments. I hadn’t looked in a mirror in weeks, only watched Kalinda Sharma on The Good Wife (I watched every single episode in two weeks) and envied a woman whose leather jackets made loneliness desirable. My loneliness was sloppy, hungry, and bloody. Thin. I told everyone that I was just trying to look hotter than my ex’s new girlfriend. I was succeeding. I was also dying.
By the time I tried to kill myself, I weighed 115 pounds. I drank wine often and watched television constantly. I hadn’t showered in a week. Sometimes friends would try to convince me to go to the dining hall, and they often accepted my excuses. As my closest circle succumbed to the pressures of their own depressions and anxieties, I gave up. Even my suicide note was a halfhearted modification of one I had written months ago. When my ex found me, they found a lipsticked wall:
“for forgetting me,”
it read, mottled pink cursive on the wall I’d never before bothered to decorate. When I cleaned it off two weeks later, the strawberry shortcake stain looked like a painting accident. I refused to clean all the blood off my laptop. It looked like rust through the silver, a natural consequence of neglect. I liked to think of all this as a natural consequence rather than an accident. A suicide is much more tragic as a consequence. An accident, the real story, is one where someone just forgets that there are other people implicated in their actions. That I could be forgotten, that — that was terrifying. I was an accident, a pit stop on a wayside path.
Before a scar is a mountain range, it is a valley. How will I know if there’s a deeper hell than the one I live in if I don’t travel to the valley?
“the phoenix must burn to emerge,” said ingrid magnussen, destructive mother, liar, storyteller, artist, nonbeliever.
Even the most toxic humans have deeply felt truths. I let my tattoo artist give me a deep red rose with smoke blue feathers rising from its heart. a perpetual burning, always near death, peppered by the ridges of my valley turned mountain. a not quite coverup.
Alive. Knowing which lovers never leave your indigo blood. Learning how to forget them.
Alive. Knowing which friends will hold your heart when it burns. Learning how to cherish them.
Alive. Painting myself permanent, flat, against a skin that rises and falls too easily. Alight.
Sasanka Jinadasa is a page poet, a justice advocate, and hard femme. She is trying to avoid talking so much about mangoes in her writing because of the way they have been oversexualized and exoticized by the West, but still consumes them at exorbitant rates. Her website is sasankajinadasa.com.
What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “a suicide note, revised”? As a nonfiction piece, “a suicide note, revised” came from a place of deep pain but also deep release. Catching yourself on the edge of that is the tricky part: as an artist, I trust my first draft a lot. I have a poetry blog called first drafts (which you can find at bisexualmisandry.tumblr.com), where I only publish my original drafts. Editing this piece was not an arduous process; I simply honed my gut feelings for the rawest effect.
What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “a suicide note, revised”?
As a nonfiction piece, “a suicide note, revised” came from a place of deep pain but also deep release. Catching yourself on the edge of that is the tricky part: as an artist, I trust my first draft a lot. I have a poetry blog called first drafts (which you can find at bisexualmisandry.tumblr.com), where I only publish my original drafts. Editing this piece was not an arduous process; I simply honed my gut feelings for the rawest effect.
Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.
Matter Press is now offering private flash fiction workshops and critiques of flash fiction collections here.
Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now CLOSED. The next reading period for standard submissions opens March 15, 2021. Topical Thursdays’ submissions are open year-round. Submit here.
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01/07 • Victoria Jean Ella
01/11 • Daniel Murphy
01/14 • Kendra Dobson
01/21 • James Harris
01/25 • Richard Kostelanetz
01/28 • Andrew Love
02/01 • Kristin Burcham