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On Manet’s Le Suicidé

Caroline Am Bergris

did I look like that when unconscious on my bed?

the waste matter colours—

brown, slate, charcoal—matter.

but the waste doesn’t.

was he a real person,

an assistant of Manet’s, a friend?

or did Manet do a Leonardo and tourist death

For The Understanding.

when you google suicide,

this comes up, after the Samaritans’ number.

it probably does the same job.

there isn’t even a decent amount of blood to mark his passing.

and it’s a small painting.

death is just a dirge, a noun before nothingness.

the fantasy is to be Socrates, to have a noble, meaningful death!

or even better, to be Jacques-Louis David’s Socrates, immortalised on canvas!

the reality is a room, a bed, silence

and, in my case, the remains of the vomit of 400 pills

that my body kept trying to reject. i kept on reinserting. worse than suppositories.

i am sure I would have been a better

artistic model than he was, though—

my room was cream, black and purple (Art Nouveau style), my nightdress pink,

my raven hair long and curly across the bedsheets,

a radio and monster mug of tea on the cabinet,

Le Suicidé by Édouard Manet (oil on canvas, c. 1877-1881)

shelves of huge multihued necklaces, hats, hands with rings, bodies with earrings—

a more interesting composition.

had that man been happy to be dead?

he didn’t shoot himself in the head.

was this a cry for help gone wrong?

mine wasn’t. 400 pills isn’t. i was just caught. and put back in the prison of life.

did Manet try to revive him, get help, like the police who crashed in to help me, bastards?

did he see the body and think, here’s my chance to make an artistic statement.

there is a painting on the wall above the bed,

and now that man is a painting on a wall above all our beds—

if you press ‘Images’.

maybe he was born to have his name not known.


Caroline Am Bergris is half-Colombian, half-Pakistani, and physically and mentally disabled. Her poems have been published in Europe, America, Asia, Africa and Australia. She has won the Over The Edge prize in Ireland and has been shortlisted in the Creative Future Writers' Award and the Spectrum Identity Competition. She has been published in the Best New British and Irish Poets Anthology.

The featured artwork is in the public domain. Read more about the artist, Édouard Manet, here and more on the painting here.


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