M. Jennifer Markus – When I was in my forties

A prayer for guidance

who made the stars in the heavens
who guides them on their path at night
help me to find the star within
to see the guiding forces in my life
and to follow

Infinite Creator,
who is the source of all blessings
who bestows gifts and surprises
help me to accept your manifold miracles
to unwrap my own guarded secrets
and to share them

Eternal Trickster
who fills my life with turns and twists
who baits me and switches
help me to learn the lessons in my foibles
to glimpse the higher purpose of my troubles
and to rejoice

Unfathomable Teacher
who gives answers without questions
who reads the patterns of my soul
help me to embrance the novelty of sunrise
to expand into the sunset
and to revel

My Untiring Playmate
who sparks the child within me
who lays down the rules for play
help me to gather kindred hearts
to join me in the dance
and to celebrate.


The Poet’s Thoughts: I summited Mt. Rainier in 2002. When I came back down, I didn’t feel 100%, but that made a certain amount of sense. Unfortunately, I haven’t felt 100% since then. I have felt that something has been missing since then and I have been trying to identify it and get it back ever since.


I dream of a quiet
painless death
extinguishing me
like a candle flame
soft and quick
and in a blink
I am gone
to join the cosmos
I dream this end
as another
It is not sad
to leave
to want to leave
the cold
and brittle me
I have become
Had I known sooner
what was to be
I would have
entertained these
ending thoughts
long long ago


The Poet’s Thoughts: I have been in a lot of pain since Mt. Rainier. One night I was in bed in that half-sleep state when I was partly dreaming and partly conscious. I dreamt I was in a car, speeding along and I crashed into a truck that was stopped dead. In that instant, I knew what peace was. I tried to stay in that place, and I did for a while, but thoughts intruded and I became conscious. It was around this time that I started making plans for suicide.


something crying out
calls, warns, screams
it pants of certain death
of pain, of loss and tears
where there is sudden life
it croons
in the dark and the mist
there is balance
and the dead lie sleeping

i touch the cold of the world
caressing corpses
i converse easily
with the living dead
i rake my fingernails
down the back
of a demon softly stealing
thought and breath and sighs
i imagined his eyes
how they’d blankly stare
how his heart was frozen
and he wouldn’t care
how many times this heart was broken
how many pieces were crushed on the floor
how quietly the lies were spoken
how the years pass and quickly end

this dusty Santa Claus
sadly keeps his list
of every one who passed too soon
and those who stay on to grieve
i follow the paper trail
and shed my tears
on the names who’ve gone before me

you are a race of mourners
he whispered
in my ear one midnight hour
this is your lot
and there is nothing more
there is always ending
there is always good-bye
i know i said
but i want to know why

you think there are opposites
you hope to balance sorrow and joy
you want to hold both
and find some truth
you hope to grasp
you hope to give
he paused
he smiled
he said to me
if all there is
is death
you have no choice
but to live


The Poet’s Thoughts: This was in the low moments before I started serious therapy. There is always a bit of hope in me, or I’d be dead already.


When I say I Love You

Our love is an ocean
and I stand on the shore
Standing back from the edge
Afraid to be pulled too far in
all at once
You are calling to me
out on the waves
You sink to the bottom
And float back again
with no fear in the vastness of us

Still I collect shells and play in the sand
knocking down castles
wrestling dragons
Slowly breaking free
to be with you

I Love You is a drop in that ocean
one grain of sand
It is only the beginning
the first step down a very long road
to a place I’ve never been


The Poet’s Thoughts: This is to my husband and we are still slowly exploring the shore.


Winter Solstice

World in the dark
Casting no shadows
The sun retreats
Our problems
Our worries
Our mistakes
Our hopes
Swirl in the black of dark winter
Pulled under the black of dark water
And for that one moment
All is lost
Nature frees herself to devour
Fierce she takes the light
From us
She takes us from each other
And all that there is
Is far away

It is one moment
It is bereft, it is hopeless
It is the ultimate yearning
It is the deep emptiness
That cannot be filled
One moment
One eternal moment caught
One forever moment catching us
Holding, hollowing, preparing

And then to be filled
And then to dance in the light
And then to welcome and invite
Hope, balance, fulfillment
Room inside to share
Room enough to bare
The outer limits of what we might become

For Doug 2006

The Poet’s Thoughts: For my pagan husband.


Toilet Suicide

Last night
My commode
Made its final flush

After so long suffering
It gave in
It took a handful of pills
Swallowed them down
Rushed them away
And through the sewer system

Now the thoughts
And pain
And uncontrolled emotions
Are being distilled
Into the city water supply
And seeping into the earth

Water is the great solvent
It worms its way through
Its polar bonds
like sculpting wedges
Carve grand canyons
And breakdown complexity
To simple

The actual amount
of medication
It took
to do the job
and without repercussions
was barely larger than
what might be produced
after a protein snack
it sank slowly
to the bottom of the bowl
And began to dissolve

I held in my hands
The total sum of death
And yet as well
A key to another world
An escape from this one
A portal to another time
Perhaps another place
And I am reminded
that once
The entire universe
was this small size
and hot
and brilliant
and unimaginable
And never will be again


The Poet’s Thoughts: I took a step at the request of all my doctors and got rid of my stockpile of pills. It was scary, but it was the right thing to do. I only regret it in really bad moments.


How do I hate me? Let me count the ways.
I hate me to the depth my soul is lingering in
The quagmire it is set to rotting within
I wish for the end of being and a moment of grace
I hate myself to a level I have never known before
It is most quiet seething in the darkness
I hate freely and it pours out my veins
I hate purely and everyday there is more
I hate with a passion that once I used
To live with laughter and with joy
My old griefs and childhood pains return tenfold
I hate every day and never seem to lose a drop of it
and now with God’s forgetful nature and my drowning soul
I shall but hate until death


The Poet’s Thoughts: For comparison I give you–

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

–Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I was feeling fairly perverse and very very low. I include this poem because it is a very deep reflection of how I was feeling about myself. Perhaps that might help someone. What I hope will help most is that I don’t feel that way anymore. I hung on and I made it through. I feel better about myself and about my life.


Courting Death

I’ve been courting death

inviting him in for tea

and last breath biscuits
I pour a cup

for each of us

and propose the final deal

He will not take the

lifeblood from my veins

He stays my hand

and lays his hand

on my frantic fevered head
He melts into my pores

and fills me

I feel him
Moving inside me

flowing through me

Blocking paths of recognition

until everything is strange

foreign and unknown

I begin to see

through his eyes

to recognize the temporary

as the tiny bits of sand

it is

running through my fingers

and brushed off my hands

to understand that permanence

is only cycles of the soul

He settles in my bones

and moves me

puppet like

through rituals and daily bread alike

He stays with me

until the lesson’s learned

until I earn the trust

of him who’ll one day take me

until I know


The Poet’s Thoughts: It took a while to get from Toilet Suicide to Courting Death. I got rid of the physical ability to off myself, but not the urge. The constant urge faded gradually with therapy and this poem is the result of that.

This collection was put together and originally posted in 2008. As we all know, nine years is a long time and a lot happens in it. The poet is working on bringing the collection up to date, and her additions and notes will be added as her time permits. To receive notification about these updates, please click the link at the top of the page to sign up for our mailing list.

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