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Closest to the sun

Every day we crossed the causeway to our home on Best island. Every day we passed vans and cars parked beside the waters. We paid little attention to the young woman camping there until our neighbour found her in the tree one Sunday morning. It is reported that 668 New Zealanders took their own lives last year.

Closest to the sun
Was there nothing left to turn the corner of your mouth into a smile?

Were the darts of darkness so piercing that no promise could kiss life to your lips?

Did you know black, burnout rubber from the tyres of a hundred cars
would be the flowers that wept beside your lifeless body found on Sunday morning?
You came to this hanging tree
to carve your name into the strength of its trunk
beside the tide, beneath the sun.

You were looking for a stairway to heaven
to lift you beyond the clutches of bleak weather forecasts

and the darkness that would not pass.

You bathed your body in the estuary waters,
a ritual cleansing- call to those of us who passed by.
With a dog at your side and your body caressed
by the morning breeze,
you reached for something that had
always eluded your grasp on childhood.
The giant in the kids’ story
lifted the child to a sturdy branch;
plucked her from the raging winter
of her restless discontent
to the haven of a garden tree.
And there the hurricane and the whirlwind
bowed to summer on bended knee.
You believed in fairy tales
but when the hanging tree reached for you,
you raised your arms in surrender
and stood upon the roof of your car
to reach for the highest bough
closest to the sun.
Below you there were no places

of safe haven for your heart.

There was nothing beneath your feet
when you stepped into the void
and flung your arms to embrace the summer
in your own small corner of the garden.

They flayed like broken wings
clutching at the air beneath the tree,
beside the waters of the estuary
lapping at full tide on a lazy Sunday morning.

The bitter embrace of darkness
closed in on your last breath
and you were gone.
Your single coin buried in the dust,
no longer to be traded
against the days of wonder.
The chainsaw is silent now.
A sparrow lights upon the stump of the hanging tree,
the brass plaque attached there

your only return
from a bad investment
that took you for all you were worth.
Mark Raffills

Published inThursday Poems