the patients seemed to grow more somber
as the night loomed darker and the
nurses wandered from room to
room doling out pills and patience
and warnings and reminding everyone
that bedtime was in an hour so we
needed to start winding down whatever
we were doing which reminded all of us
of our mothers fathers grandparents
older siblings preparing our younger
selves for bedtime as we discovered
that a psychiatric hospital stay is very
much like a return to childhood where
doors can be locked and toys taken
from grasping hands and snacks available
but only if you behave yourself and
other people cook for you and you have
to make your bed before school begins
and classes are required and arts and crafts
frustrate everyone until later when they
realize it was something to do that got
their minds off ending their lives because even
boring activities can be a distraction from
the abyss and you’re glad another day’s over
and you can curl up in bed with your pillow
and blanket and hopefully sleep soundly
rather than waking up screaming like the
night before when your sleeping self had a
glimpse of reality and the abyss the void
the monster loomed once more
I thought the hallways would be cold and sterile. Unpadded tile floors. Echoing with footsteps and wheeled meal carts. Tile would make it easier to clean. Instead, the halls were warm and quiet. Dark carpet (to hide stains?) and the soft shuffle shuffle shuffle of patients doing their laps of the ward in their non-skid hospital slipper socks.
The front desk holds the list of unwelcome visitors. I find myself thankful I made my list. The person I least want to see shows up as a visitor. Why? To gloat over my breakdown? To shame me? To apologize? To make up? I’ll never know. But even just the thought of seeing them sent me into a panic attack and a need for meds.
The lunchroom is the hub of patient life. Coffee. Snacks. Puzzles. Every jigsaw puzzle is missing at least one piece. It’s almost a form of torture. Do they do it on purpose to test our ability to handle stress? My puzzle partner has OCD and the end of the puzzle sends her to her room shaking. This can’t be therapeutic. But there it is.
Occupational therapy is called arts-and-crafts or “going to camp” by the patients. We’re going to decorate light switch covers. The man next to me starts to cry quietly. “Are you okay?” I whisper. He wipes his eyes and whispers back, “I’m homeless. Where am I going to put a light switch cover?” I feel a sniffle of my own coming on and give him a quick sideways hug. The therapist says loudly, “No touching the other patients!” Oops. In trouble for being compassionate. Everyone looks at us like we’d been making out in art class.
I put together a small collection of poems and other writings that I wrote from the perspective of someone with Bipolar Disorder. I thought about putting them into a small book, but I’ve just never come to a point where I’m comfortable with that. Not sure I’m comfortable putting them here on my blog, either, so I may end up removing this if it gets too scary. Self-disclosure can be frightening.
Click below to open a pdf file containing all of the writings.
A number of years ago, I put together a book-length work of erasure poetry, BAD THINGS HAPPEN. I constructed it as a form of catharsis during a time of difficult and heart-breaking events in my personal life. But now with the world situation as it is, I suspect it might speak new and fresh words into current events. I haven’t reread the book in light of the pandemic, but I may take a few minutes later to see what new connotations emerge.
An erasure is a “found” poem in which the poet works with text from an original work to create something new. An erasure is often created in response to, or in conversation with, the original source text. Through purposeful decision-making, the erasure poet will subvert, challenge, question, or build upon the meaning and themes in the source text. Unlike a blackout poem (which presents the original redacted text with the new poem as a visual art form), an erasure constructs the new work into lines/stanzas, thus creating something separate from the original source text.
BAD THINGS HAPPEN is a book-length collection of erasure poems constructed in response to the book, Lord, Where Are You When Bad Things Happen? by Kay Arthur. Arthur’s book is a daily Bible study examining questions about the role of God in difficult life events.
While creating the works in BAD THINGS HAPPEN, the author sought to take the viewpoint of someone who doesn’t claim the infallibility of the Bible or even necessarily believe in any sort of god. The view is that the reality in life is bad things happen. Truly bad things happen. Even evil things.
The erasure poetry in BAD THINGS HAPPEN doesn’t necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of the poet, but are offered as food for thought. This work is mainly an exercise in self-expression and creative experimental writing.
imagine the thing
you love most
imagine it gone
imagine someone takes
every meaningful moment
of your life
every warm memory
every loving conversation
takes a hammer
to each delicate bit
smashes them like glass animals
shattered into slivers
that cut and bleed
you attempt to repair
you attempt again
imagine your life
as feathers tied together
with a silk cord
someone cuts the cord
the feathers float away
catching them is pointless
but you try anyway
of a broken heart
why are you still crying?
you can’t find the words
you are ragged
you are dead
you are without hope
you are alone
where do you start
how do you start
how do you find
is shattered glass
you are walking barefoot
through the shards
there is no sun
I may love your forever
you, who I will never hold
a relationship based on intimacy
of feelings, of thoughts
the desire to die
or to be fulfilled
wishing for the hunger to cease
or be satisfied
the flame to be extinguished
before it destroys
how do I live with this desire
we met at the wrong time in this life
but even so
I may love you forever
you, who I will never hold
Sometimes I play around with different ways to present the same words on the page. This is a redo just out of curiosity to see how it works in block format rather than more traditional lines. If you’re interested in seeing the original, you can find it here. I realized I haven’t really shared much here lately, but I have been working on some things, but not ready to show the newest projects yet. So I think I’ll just starting showing some of my “process” of writing the assorted things I’m messing around with these days.
neither god nor muse on a train in a nasty mood coming from the outside from the inside the source is unimportant the poet is the poet is the real thing Yeats is Spicer’s ghost father the poem drives the poet parasite dictating to us (the Martian) Yeats’ wife possessed by spooks “I’m here to give you metaphors”
neither god nor muse
on a train
in a nasty mood
coming from the outside
from the inside
the source is unimportant
the poet is the poet
is the real thing
Yeats is Spicer’s
the poem drives
to us (the Martian)
Yeats wife possessed
“I’m here to give you