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  • My Niece Hangs Herself at 35
  • Judith Harris (bio)

My Niece Hangs Herself at 35

At that moment, at your desk with ripped out paper from spiral notebooks, blinds drawn, cell phone off, the syringe’s needle boiled clean out of habit, your haloed blonde hair and buff frame, ever the girl-next-door. From age four they had you tip-toeing backward on the balance beam, doing splits and cartwheels on the mats. You hung from ropes to twirl and swivel upside down, blue ribbons push-pinned on your paisley wallpaper, beer cans in your dorm wastebasket, boyfriends, med school, wedding dress, intern’s jacket, patient smock after two car crashes, sleeves to cover tracks, divorce, forced rehab, return to filling cups at Starbucks in brown pixie uniform, counselor for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, pharmaceutical rep (where the money was), nights on the road, static and call-ins, beers and shots in airport pubs, snorting up in toilet stalls— and then this thing you did, an act beyond category executed with a physician’s expertise, snapping your own neck with a single strap, a gymnast’s groomed talent for putting your head through red plastic loops, pulling yourself up, [End Page 78] kicking the chair from under you, stoned and shaking, turning blue then purple, then slab white, the note left on the bar   stool: I’m so sorry I was not strong enough—to fall back to earth gasping like the rest of us, your arms flying up.

Judith Harris

Judith Harris is the author of two books of poetry from lsu Press, Atonement and The Bad Secret, and a critical book on poetry and psychoanalysis from suny Press, Signifying Pain. Her recent poems have appeared in the New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate, American Life in Poetry on four occasions, Southern Review, Narrative, and Boulevard.



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