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Poem: Le Petit Mort 

Le Petit Mort

RIP Jim Carroll

A small plain brown package
Of a bird flew into my windshield
On my way to work today
Committing suicide.
Who knows why he/she couldn’t
Take on living anymore.

Was it the spouse that drove this bird to its end?

I saw it flying in slow motion
Through the haze of the
Rising morning sun.

It started from the top left of the driver’s side
Arcing down in a wide curve
Until the bird hit
The top right of the passenger side
Where my daughter likes to put
Her footprints on the glass
Above the dashboard.

I was doing sixty.
I do not know how fast the bird was going.
How fast does a small brown bird fly?
It was a barely distinguishable impact.
There was a soft thud
Followed by a streak of thick brown blood
Seeping down
Then reversing
Up the windshield
As I was driving
Comprehending it all.

It was a tragic, if small, waste of life.

For some strange reason
I am reminded of all of the friends
That I’ve lost to death
In a random manner
Not unlike this.

So many of my friends have fallen
Like tiny birds
From wide open wounds in the sky.

Addiction, disease, suicide, violence, crime
And for absolutely no reason at all.
Their time was up
Like a brown bird parcel hitting
The windshield
In slow motion.

It was fast and fleeting
Events already in progress
And couldn’t be stopped.

Now, I don’t want to sound like
Jim Carroll
Who died today, ironically
On Friday, September 11th, 2009
Of a heart attack.


A grim day for the reaper
To come-a-calling
For anyone...
But even more so
For a man who’s known mostly
For his honest poetic tome
About growing up in the wreckage of
Sixties and seventies New York.

“Jim up and died, died!”

He at least lived to sixty.
Not bad for a has-been
Hustler and junkie
That cheated death before.

Jim’s delivery was laid back and nodded
With a thick New York street smart drawl.
Exposed and naked
With no apologies.
Humbled and humorous.
His laugh was peppered
With lines that were savvy and witty
And trickled of comedy
At his expense.

I always enjoyed hearing him read.

I heard about his death
On the radio
Not long after
The bird
Flew like a determined
Jet plane
Into the glass
Igniting fuel
Recklessly
Into an inferno
Hotter than Hell itself
Could produce.

I know that
No matter how hard
I could think about it
That there is no correlation
Between these deaths.
Some might see symbolism
Or a shared deeper meaning.

I don’t think about it that hard.

I drive.

I think about my dead friends
“People Who Died.”

I listen to folks that were close
Talk about Jim
On the radio
As a brown bird’s blood
Sets on my windshield.

  • Reader submitted poetry, selected by poetry editor Phillip Levine.

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