Sorry, mate… #poetry

Warning: contains references to suicide.

As I sank into the depths of alcoholism
depression and despair 
not a soul around me seemed to care
except the man who stood next to me on the tube
whose angry eyes seemed to say ‘how dare
you stand so close to me?’
Perhaps I didn’t smell too good:

Sorry mate, did I spoil your commute?

The Councilmen evicted me
because I couldn’t pay the rent:
nothing else for it then but to be
drunk on a park bench at 8am.
A cyclist whizzed past me,
in a hurry, still
he somehow found the time to spit
in my general direction

Sorry mate, did I spoil your commute?

Traffic’s circulating on the M25 quite nicely
and it gives me a grim satisfaction 
as I climb the stairs and wait:
gotta pick my exit time just right.
I used to drive this route myself,
I had a company car like you
and like you I would get pissed off,
when some tosser would climb the bridge and throw himself off. 
So I bequeath to you my final thought: 

Sorry, mate: did I spoil your commute?

© Experimentsinfiction 2020, All Rights Reserved

About this poem

Another poem harking back to my time in London. It seemed like every other day there would be a suicide on the Tube, the rail network, or on the motorway. And what always struck me was the heartlessness of commuters who said it was ‘selfish’ to take one’s own life in this way, causing an inconvenience to others. Exactly the same thing happened when I lived in Spain, people complaining after someone had jumped from a motorway bridge causing a traffic jam.

In the U.K., men aged 45-49 are in the highest-risk group for suicide. Although I can only guess at the reasons for this, I imagined the narrator of this poem would fit into this category: someone who was formerly materially successful, but who lost everything perhaps because he had internal trauma which he never got help to deal with.

Maybe if we could be less heartless, see the people around us and try to help those who are desperate before they reach this point, we would have far less inconveniences to deal with on our journeys to and from work.

It’s a subject close to my heart because my mother committed suicide. Not in a way that would have spoiled anyone’s commute, but it is certainly devastating for those left behind. I always wish I could prevent suicides before they happen. All I can do is try to listen and help where I can.

If you’re in the U.K., help is available from the following charities:

Samaritans
CALM
Mind

I am linking up to dVerse Open Link Night, where I will be reading this poem.

66 thoughts on “Sorry, mate… #poetry

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  1. We are still terribly judgmental about suicides, calling them cowards and selfish. As if it was fun. I don’t suppose they ever cared very much where they were buried, but denying families the right to bury their loved one in consecrated ground was the final slight, and it stained the whole family. People and institutions can be so cruel.

  2. Lovely poem. I liked the advert they were showing on TV encouraging us to talk to people who looked distressed. Just say hello and ask if they’re ok, it might do more good than you could ever really comprehend…

  3. I was extremely moved to hear you read this poem out loud tonight, Ingrid. The emotions here are palpable. Thank you so much for joining us! 💝

  4. As you read this, and as I re-read this, I felt a pang of guilt as I realize that the Pandemic has forced us, the whole world, from sustaining touch, empathy, and reinforcement to those who lack the stamina to continue the struggle.

  5. I can remember exactly the same waiting for trains to/from Manchester, and near misses in my own past. You have captured it in such amazing clarity, thank you for a quite challenging read

  6. This is a very moving poem and highlighting the need for understanding of this issue, instead of being judgemental. Love how the repetition & contrast to the scenes made this visually powerful:

    Sorry mate, did I spoil your commute?

  7. Ingrid, when I heard you read this piece, it broke my heart into pieces. It’s so beautifully, honestly written about the tragedy of depression and suicide. It’s a prevalent issue that should be addressed more often. I am glad you did because this can resonate with others and it shows that one is not as alone as they think they are. I am so sorry as well about the loss of your mother. Hugs, my dear friend. <3

    I think if more people could understand what another person sees and how they feel, the world would be a better place. I do not believe suicide is selfish. I believe it is the result of pain. You state this in a way that to the most stolid person, it would make them cry. A very solemn, emotional, and heartbreaking piece.

  8. Ingrid, your poem and the topic are so important, always, but even more during the time of social distancing. One kind word can mean a world of difference to someone who is hurting. A smile is like a thousand suns of encouragement. It costs nothing and it can mean everything. My deep condolences for your mom.

  9. We do need to get outside our own concerns–try to really see and understand. I think so often what people need is an acknowledgement that they too belong in the world. Beautifully expressed. (K)

  10. People are busy with their own concerns and too preoccupied to relate to the despair of others. This is a powerful poem, Ingrid. I especially like the repeated refrain, “Sorry, mate. Did i spoil your commute?”

  11. I see what you mean — some cold dippers of drunk time here – in AA work (and works) like this is called “keeping the memory green.” There’s a strong link between alcoholism and depression which leads to suicide; there are alcoholics who quit drinking who never hit the bottle again but are so unhappy with sobriety that they kill themselves. A shrink once said mental health was a dedication to reality at all costs, and in that work most of us can’t do it alone, because once a brain is pickled there’s no going back to being a cucumber. My thoughts are railed back and down that dark tunnel. Great work Ingrid.

    1. Thanks for your honesty Brendan. Even being sober emotional sobriety can be hard to maintain and you’re right that we need the help of other to achieve it. The pickled cucumber analogy is perfect!

  12. Great work Ingrid. Shameful that our first reaction is to complain about the inconvenience of someones departure in such sad circumstances.

  13. I remember those suicides on the Tube, the rail network and the M25, and the mutterings of commuters, complaining about selfishness. In the last couple of years we have known two men who committed suicide: I never found out how the first one did it, but the second one hanged himself in woodland not far from here. I like the way you conveyed the voice of the narrator, both in the poem and in your reading of it, Ingrid. It really touched me. I’m so sorry about your mother.

  14. Oh, wow this poem. You’ve really captured both the despair of someone in distress and the selfishness of many. I’m fortunate not to have felt that despair or had loved ones who felt it, and also not to have heard commuters complain that they were inconvenienced by someone’s death. I certainly can imagine it, considering the number of people who won’t even wear a mask.

    I’m so very sorry about your mother.

  15. This was very poignant. I am grateful I was able to survive my close call. Those that have not survived did not mean they did not love, your poem really puts the right perspective on how we almost all the time will not see the suffering around us, we become numb.

  16. Such a hard hitting, impactful poem! The sentiments of the commuters expressed here is, I guess,a global phenomemon now whenever a suicide takes place and public transport is hit. In populous country like mine, where the public transport literally seems to be bursting at the seams during rush hour, you will be probably amazed at the kind of curses and expletives that are mouthed by angry, frustrated commuters. Goes to show how insensitive we human beings have become as we try to grapple with our own problems of survival.

    Very sorry to know about your mother.

    1. Thank you! I know it is a survival mechanism shutting our hearts to the problems of others, but I don’t think it works long term because there might come a time when we have problems ourselves and need someone to help us.

      1. Agree with your views 100 percent. Most often we tend to ignore the long term view and choose to remain besotted with the beauty that we see around us. We forget that it takes but a fraction of a second for the tide to turn against us. That is why probably it is said that empathy is a rare quality and not easily found.

  17. Talking about suicide is an important thing to do. This and other taboo subjects can only be dealt wiith effectively by talking about them, and especially talking with those who are troubled enough to be considering suicide as a viable option.
    I’ve been at that point, but I’m so glad I didn’t do it.

    1. Thank you Carolyn. Sorry to hear you’ve been at that point of despair, so very glad it passed for you. Indeed we need to talk about these things openly and try to understand and help people.

      1. That moment was when my first and only child was only a toddler, he is now a fine 27 year old man, living a good life. I am so glad I have been there to assist him to get to this point in his life.

  18. All of this is very effective. Reading it now, I get the same feeling as when you read it – like a feeling of “How important am I, really?” & “Maybe this is the one thing I can do to get your attention.”

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