Toxicology Report

shower drops rain

*Trigger Warning: #suicide #sister #addiction


The toxicology report one gets from the County Medical Examiner

after your sister has hanged herself can be a little confusing;

it uses scientific terms to describe the position of her arms,

her head, her knees upon which she knelt

(for the closet rod was only two or three inches higher than my head

and she was two or three inches taller than me),

and the condition of her body and organs at the moment of death

—pieces you once hugged or hit in sibling rivalry but never thought would ever reach

a point where they could not hug or hit back.


It indicates the presence of some medicines, mostly antidepressants, but

no traces of street drugs; and ethanol is there, too, which

I think is alcohol but I don’t know what kind it is.

It cannot indicate her presence of mind,

though I suppose it may seem there is little doubt,

but I think I know—I can see it in her closed eyes while she was hanging there

because I know how she thought, how she felt, how she hurt

while she was hanging there.


I emailed the County Medical Examiner and asked what it all meant—

the strange scientific terms, the splintered shards of meanings in words

I thought I would know but will never know as she knew them—

but he never replied.


It’s alright because now, five years later, I think I know.

She had tried to become sober, to give it up;

she had managed to stay clean for about six weeks.

Now I know it wasn’t the alcohol that killed my little sister,

but her weakness, the fact that she gave in.

She died brokenhearted,

not only from all of her suffering and losses,

but because she was disappointed in herself.


For eight years I loved and tried to help my friend, the heroin-addicted prostitute,

largely because she has always reminded me of my little sister.

They have (had) such similar intellect, resilience, and a wicked sense of humor.

Her words last week batter me this morning;

she had spat, “Hanging yourself is stupid!”


For the first time her bitter tongue hurt me.

We had been talking about how Lynn had hanged herself after decades of a tortured life.

Looking at her skeletal form beside me in the car, I said,

“We all kill ourselves in our own way.”


The words, the images, stab me in the shower again,

as memories like drops trickle from hanging limbs

and I turn, returning to my poison,

inhaling thoughts of you. 

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