When You Say You Wish You Were Dead
 by Emily Rosko

One modern philosopher says humans
never should have existed, the world
would be better off. Another philosopher
says the opposite: what a privilege it is to be
alive, what unfathomable luck to have been
brought out of the impossible. I walk the line
between each thought each morning. I take
myself close to the ledge and peer over
to study myself incomprehensible, awful,
ordinary, reeling at each moment
the winds envelope the skin, the perfect
awful body, to say here I am. Each morning,
I spit out the black charcoal that whitens
my teeth, healthy dirt, mouth full of abyss,
and I think of you entrenched in your own
morning’s black hole that swallows you first
thing, ions negatively charged and swarming
in your gut, your head locked in doom’s helmet
that keeps you from seeing the day as anything
but an obstacle course of hazards and traps
that snare you to bad luck and God’s refusal
to acknowledge this suffering. No matter
the morning glories’ purple triumphant
unfolding, nor the honeybees combing
the zinnias grown from seed. No matter
the girl’s face of sunshine and trust, the ripe
garden tomatoes, or the soft fur of a loyal dog.
None of it matters: you tread water
in a sea of sharks, the day is edged
with knives. You are certain
you will be hurt; you are uncertain
the days will get better. You waver
between troughs and crests. I know
you are exhausted. Can the morning
birdsong reach you? Do you see the sky
as blue as I do? I have to tell you:
it is marvelous that you are here.
What happens in the world is pure
accident, but it is better than never
knowing the space between joy
and despair. I would not
say these things if I did not mean them. 
I say such things to myself in the mirror
each morning to will the day open, to banish
and welcome all the forces that always
will try to erase us. It’s extraordinary,
and you are possible in it.
Emily Rosko’s poetry collections include: Weather Inventions and Prop Rockery, both from the University of Akron Press, and Raw Goods Inventory from the University of Iowa Press. New poems have appeared recently in The Denver Quarterly, The Mississippi Review, and The Shore. She is Associate Professor at the College of Charleston and Director of the MFA Creative Writing Program. She is the Poetry Editor of Crazyhorse.