Category Archives: Poetry

Power is

Power is: Knowing that
when you’re having
“one of those days”—
(of staccato incoherence coming out of your mouth when you speak—your head a sizzling egg in a frying pan—your thoughts, man, they’re straight-up pinballs in a machine)—
it’s because you’re alive, my friend.
*Not*
because there’s anything wrong with you.

It’s because you’re breathing
all that you are into the world,
your fingertips on fire like you never
knew possible before.

Now, what this means, is this:
when you’re lit up and so full of heartbeat,
there may be times when you forget to breathe.
When you forget
to get out for fresh air,
or eat lunch, for suddenly night’s fallen
on shoulders that are locked to your earlobes.
Hell, you may sometimes forget for hours at a stretch
that you’re human.
Because all of this ignition,
it still feels so fuckin’ new.

I’m watching these sensitive strands of energy
billow out like golden hairs from you,
out into every nook and cranny
of the world. So sensitive they are,
you are,
sensitive enough that it means
you’ll get a little frayed sometimes.
But you’re alive.
You’re fuckin’ alive and awake and tuned in
to this channel called Life
that may sometimes feel wholly dark
and foreboding…
but that you’ve now learned,
too,
is full of color.
And possibility.
And beating hearts,
your own included.

remembering what it means to be human

under the tyrannous spell of the Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex,
we’ve forgotten what it means to be human,
daily swallowing
a false ideology
in the morning
and at bedtime
with a glass of water
on a full stomach,
terrified of the visage in the mirror.

I ache as I reflect on the many ways we’ve forgotten ourselves,
forgotten that to be in this world
is to feel pain, to yearn, to hide, to ruminate, to struggle.
to cry and scream and curl up and freeze for hours,
days,
years, if left unexplored.

to be human is to fall in love with life and ponder death,
to burst forth like a flaming star
and fizzle into the darkness of despair.
to resist and defy and say no and fight back
and name “normal” the slave driver of the human spirit that it is.

to the Institution of Psychiatry, I have this to say:
you call us crazy for challenging
the false claim you’ve staked on what it means to be human,
and I’ll concede your stragey has worked quite well:
today a society cowers at your feet,
desperately waiting to be taught how to smile.

today the media, government, police, schools, and
average person on the street corner are
trapped unawares by your trickery,
believing that those of us who
call you into question are
in denial of the gravity of emotional pain.
dangerous.
menaces to society.
deadly.

the irony.

I challenge you, Psychiatry, to give us all you’ve got:
dismiss us, laugh at us, call us insulting names out of
your fifth edition of fraud.
lock our bodies up in prisons called “hospitals” and “group homes”,
our minds in prisons called “medication”,
our selfhoods in prisons called “mental illness.”

Do everything you can to try to silence us
because you can’t
and you won’t
and you know this
and it terrifies you.

you know that you’re entire existence is built on
fear-based fantasy and myth,
and that the human spirit will prevail
for it’s the one thing you can’t enslave.

kept up by this at night (I wonder, do you take Ambien?), each morning
you hide your insecurity behind
a white coat, puffed up chest,
and prescription pad.
you’re so good at performing that sometimes even you forget
that it’s just
one
big
elaborate
production
on a set of smoke and mirrors.

we all know that one day
you’ll be buried in the darkest annals of human history,
alongside other dehumanizing institutions of social control and annhilation
that came before you.
And already we feel the stirrings of a world
beginning to awaken from your decimating spell,
and remember once again
what it means
to be human.

It’s happening, Psychiatry,
and it’s for your own good.

Mulberry Tree, by Vincent van Gogh

Mulberry Tree, by Vincent van Gogh

 

Cobblestones

These cobblestones once carried meIMG_20150401_181309
lost and terrified
to meet
the 73 to Belmont and
the Hospital on the Hill.

They once carried me
drunk or high or medicated,
“manic” or “depressed”,
or all of it at once.
At dusk and 2AM
and sunrise after sleepless nights,
when I’d sit with
runaways in the pit
and chain smoke butts,
wondering when
I’d finally die.

These cobblestones now carry me
whole and alive and human,
like I always was
but simply couldn’t see,
with that lens of
Psychiatry once
smothering my eyes,
my spirit.

It’s good to be back here
on these cobblestones,
on this soon-to-be-spring night.

To Sylvia

i last read you
long ago, when
i was lost.

then, you spoke to me through pain,
yours and mine in excruciating symbiosis,
and i felt known
for the first time.

i remember all those late nights in harvard square:
cigarettes, coffee cups, black fountain pens and
your poetry—fueled by you, i used my
suffering as cement and
words as bricks to
build my darkness out on paper;
those attempts at construction
offered fruitful if fleeting respites
from my then-reality, and
for this, i thank you.

today, i met
you in eternal rest; you were
surrounded by stone and grass and
the flowers of a thousand strangers
who feel they know you through your words.
pens sprouted from your grave,
grateful sacrifices of those who’ve
loved you in a way, perhaps, you
never could yourself.

i am told that behind this graveyard and
across the sweeping field of green beyond
sits the house in which you honeymooned.
i picture you young, in love and in pain,
fingers softly tracing blades of tall grass as
you walk and think and the war in you rages on,
the sun and the weight of the world
on your shoulders.

i am different now from those harvard square nights,
your early end no longer what i seek.
if only you could’ve known
you weren’t broken,
as i’ve been lucky enough to discover.

if only you could’ve seen through
the stories those doctors fed us as they turned
our bodies into psychoactive wastelands
plastered to plastic mattresses,
sucked dry of spirit,
psychiatrized.

both of us paced the locked wards
of the hallowed Hospital on the Hill,
our incarcerated madness separated only by time,
our wearied souls patient prisoners
on those same sterile halls of
broken brains and forgotten dreams.

you died at thirty-one, my age now.

i’m found today, have found myself,
though not a ‘self’ distinct or definable.
perhaps a better way to put it is that
i’ve melted into the world.

death no longer beckons me
with its promise of forever sleep,
and not because i’m free from
suffering or struggle— (this is far from true)—but because
i’ve remembered
i am human.

i can’t pretend to know you,
nor would i be so presumptuous
as Psychiatry was with us; thus, i can only wonder
what part those white-coated strangers
played in calling forth
your death with their
electroshock
and
insulin-shock
and
pill bottles
and
life-long sentence of subhuman.
with all of this, their so-called “care”, done to you.

i can only wonder
what part those white-coated strangers
played in calling forth
your death
because they introduced me to
a life not worth living,
one with death as the only logical solution.
whether by serendipity or something else,
i made it back to the world alive, and
here i am in hebden bridge
on the twenty-ninth of june
in the thirty-first year of my life.
here I am before your grave,
the sun on my shoulders.

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