Danielle Roberts: A favorite poem

Depression, Too, Is a Kind of Fire
by Taylor Mali

Taylor Mali’s poem “Depression, Too, Is a Kind of Fire,” has captivated me from the moment I first heard it.  I don’t normally like refrain poems, but the repeating self-chastising phrase, “because I’m an idiot,” really sticks with me. Perhaps it was because it was spoken by the poet himself; perhaps it is because I relate to the events of the piece.  Regardless, I whisper it to my boyfriend as if it was a love poem and he recites it back.

Danielle Roberts
San Jose

Depression, Too, Is a Kind of Fire

I’m an idiot because once
before we were married she asked me whether I knew
that we would not be having children
if we did get married, and I said yes.

And because she knew I was lying,
she asked if I was really okay with that.
And because I’m an idiot I said yes again.

And once during a fight, not married
more than two years, she said she felt like my first wife,
and I, like an idiot, assured her that she was.

She worked out at the gym five times a week
and smoked as many packs of ultra lights,
and I’m an idiot because when I asked her why,
She said, Because I hate myself and I want to die.
And I laughed and said something I don’t recall,
something completely and utterly insufficient.

From the roof of our apartment,
I saw 40 or 50 people jump from the towers
on a Tuesday morning—we used to be able to see them to the south,
just as, to the north, we can still see
(and by “we” I guess I mean now just me)
the Empire State Building,
which still steeps me in gratitude
because I’m an idiot—
out of the smoke with arms flailing.
And I swear I saw a perfect swan.

And I was going to write a poem
about how fire is the only thing
that can make a person jump out a window.

And maybe I’m an idiot for thinking I could have saved her—
call me her knight in shattered armor—
could have loved her more,
or told her the truth about children.

But depression, too, is a kind of fire.
And I know nothing of either.

Taylor Mali


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