A Visit from the Grim Reaper (a poem)

The Grim Reaper visits me in the heat
of noontime, black cloak passing
sun’s rays into my eyes, blinds me.

I cannot see (why) the Reaper is here,
picking this time in bitter sunshine to
hoarsely whisper sweet nothings.

A bone-white face, cruel, he opens
his jagged mouth and screams, the sound
smashes windows, makes babies cry.

I cannot see (why) the Reaper is here,
gathers dead flowers by the roadside,
hands them to me with bony fingers
like a heavy-metal Valentine’s Day gift
of decay and dismay.

They say if the Reaper touches you,
you die, but it’s not true, you see;
he embraced me in a bone-white
hug, ran his fingers along my spine,
told me everything would be fine.

That my Day of Death was not yet,
so really, I cannot see (why) the Reaper
is here, taking pictures in his mind
on a humid summer day –
things don’t always go his way,
he tells me, before he steps
into the void from where he came,

leaving me sweaty, confused
not seeing (why) the sun has to
be so unmerciful today,
and not seeing (why)
my suicidal impulses always
mean the Reaper is never
far away.

(Photo by Scott Major on Unsplash)

Author’s Note: I used the Merriam-Webster “Word of the Day” for June 6, 2021, as inspiration for this poem. The word was “glean,” which means in one definition to “to gather information or material bit by bit.” I picked out words from the definition to use throughout the poem, including “reaper” and “gather.”

The poem took an unexpected turn when I was writing it and ended up with the Grim Reaper as a metaphor for the suicidal thoughts I get sometimes. During my worst depressions, I still get suicidal ideation, despite how much therapy and mental health work I’ve done over the years. However, thanks to my treatment plan, I usually know what to do with the thoughts and accept them as just thoughts passing by in my mind.

8 thoughts on “A Visit from the Grim Reaper (a poem)

    1. I agree. I think educating myself about suicidal ideation has been really helpful. From most of what I’ve read, it seems like the ideation is more common than people would think. For me, it’s been a matter of just knowing that it usually passes if I do something to accept it.

  1. he embraced me in a bone-white

    fascinating imagery, Nick.

    Also – thanks for sharing this with us. I’m sorry you have to deal with such darkness.


    1. Thanks, David! I try to be open about it in an attempt to combat mental health stigma. For many years, I hid that darkness. But I believe when it gets shared, especially through a creative pursuit, it tends to lessen.

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