In “‘Commit’ in Relation to Suicide on Trial,” Maya Williams, Portland’s new Poet Laureate, in a sense puts suicide on trial—not the person who might be so distressed and troubled, but the act itself or some of the thought processes involved, as if they could be tried and found guilty, responsible. It is not a big leap to go from here to imagining how our entire culture can lead to a confusion between crime and truth, harm and release, abuse and protection. This poem plays with the borrowed form of trial proceedings to make its points, and we sense here the poet’s strong support for those suffering who are struggling with such an adversary..

Betsy Sholl, Maine Arts Journal Poetry Editor

Maya Williams (ey/they/she) is a Black Mixed Race suicide survivor and poet. Ey is Portland, Maine’s seventh Poet Laureate. They have published in venues such as Homology Lit, glitterMOB, Occulum, Littoral Books, Maine Sunday Telegram, Black Table Arts, and more. You can follow their work at


“Commit” in Relation to Suicide on Trial

In Defense of “Commit” in Relation to Suicide

Exhibits A-F

It is a “commitment” to accountability.

It is a “commitment” to follow through.

It is a “condemnation” of one’s own life.

It is a “condemnation” of the burden of breath.

It is a “call” to what those left behind do not want.

It is a “call” to an action those left behind cannot stop in time.


The plaintiff doesn’t know the difference between criminalizing the act

and criminalizing the person. To hate the sin and love the sinner.

In Offense of “Commit” in Relation to Suicide

Exhibits A-H:

It compares “crime” to “truth.”

It compares “doctor” to “patient.”

It compares “seeking harm” to “seeking release.”

It compares “contact abuser” to “contact protector.”

It compares “a chance to suffocate” to “a chance to breathe.”

It compares “seeking a form of hell” to “seeking a form of heaven.”


The defendant perpetuates making an insidious comparison

between prison and mental illness.

Who judges to deliver the final etymology, the final lexicon, of the refusal to stay alive?


Image at top: Anonymous, Justice?, drawing, 9 x 12 in.