I was busting to share my great idea:
I had a crush on death.
“I can hardly wait to die!”
Celia was horrified, so I explained.
I could see it all. I would die young
a hero mauled by lions and after that
I would explore the jungle of death!
It was a great idea, don’t you agree?
Meantime some actual deaths were history
but most were in detective books.
Murder was a puzzle, amusing until the day
they sat me down for a chat so weird
that the air got squashed and I had to faint or cry
but I didn’t know which so I shook
and the blood sank into my feet.
I was fourteen when I found out
that a real life murder isn’t entertaining
and it isn’t a puzzle because everyone knows
who done it
and murderers can be girls
fresh out of your own classroom
girls you tried to be nice to
but in your heart you do not like
they’re not your sort of person.
That’s when you learn that murder hurts
everyone, even the public who go feral
with theories and fear
even the murderers who had been
so vain about their work
and you learn that every teenage girl
must be prised away, sliced away
from her best friend
in case they kill their mothers too.
That’s when I learned to feel guilty
for not seeing what was under my nose
for only writing twice to Juliet in jail
guilty for not saving her, guilty for retreating
when our mothers tried to make us friends
guilty for not liking her model horses
guilty that our IQs were not a bond
guilty for not feeling as guilty as I should
because it was all my fault.
The Principal decreed that nobody
should talk about the murder.
I learned that life is not a book
and that was how I lost my crush on death.
Someone set me free from guilt at fifty:
only then was I allowed to talk and talk
and talk and talk and cry.
MP3 recording of this poem
Poem by Rachel McAlpine, CC BY 2.0, image from Christchurch Public Library.