Whenever Richard Cory lay down to sleep,
his thoughts would wander, racing fast,
to all the promises he’d yet to keep,
til calm and rest found him at last.
But when day broke every morn,
those fears rushed back at him,
grinding his mind til it was worn,
and turning his mood from light to grim.
He smiled and lied through gleaming teeth,
that all was right and going well,
so as not to betray what lurked beneath
his cool facade: a boiling Hell.
And so he carried on, each and every day,
laughing and joking and making light,
to keep the demons in his soul at bay,
until he couldn’t anymore, that summer night.
I’ll try not to provide too much by way of commentary about my own writing, since that just seems foolish. I wrote this poem several years ago in response to E.A. Robinson’s “Richard Cory,” which had been one of my favorite poems from childhood. It was so dark and sad and shocking that it helped me understand how powerful poetry could be. But as I grew older, and as my own relationship with suicide deepened through attempts by loved ones, Robinson’s poem suddenly seemed glib and theatrical. No less powerful, certainly, but perhaps diminished by its own use of suicide as a device in contrast to our own broadening understanding of mental health issues. So I set out to write “Richard Cory” from his perspective: a downward spiral of sadness and alienation that culminates in the seeming release of the sufferer. This isn’t meant to glorify or revel in suicide, but merely to permit poor Richard Cory’s own troubles to speak to a broader audience. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please speak to someone. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24 hours a day. 1-800-273-8255.