Daily Archives: June 13, 2009

Tending The Garden

Sunshine on
mental illness
is a good thing mostly.

But it’s just like rain.
Too much
can stimulate a train of mood

that runs off the track
and kills what’s in the way.
Too little and it withers.

How much good
is enough?  You can’t
know.  That is the problem

with being this kind of sick.
There’s no clear path from diagnosis
to cure.  It’s not like tending a garden.

No instructions for this much shade,
this much sun, this much water,
what food and how much to feed.

What triggers blight
is unpredictable except in broad terms.
Don’t push it, whatever it is,

is all you can tell yourself.  And
how far is too far?  Only way to know
is to watch for failure.  Success

isn’t measured
in bloom or fruit
but by dying in a reasonable season

for dying.
A sigh of grieved relief
is the only validation that matters

and seeing yourself mulched
when all is done is all you can hope for.
It’s enough to know you’ve not poisoned the ground.

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“He Was Such A Quiet Man…”

A giant heart, perhaps a cow’s,
soaking in brine
on the window sill.
(It’s always better not to ask.)

Immense cat
apparently sleeping on the counter
with a cutting board and cleaver
next to him.  (It probably means nothing,
but why chance it?)

His sudden move to block
access to the fridge when you ask
if there’s anything cold to drink.
(Oh, he’s just very private, or perhaps
he rarely cleans it?)

His hands twisting in his lap
the whole time you’re speaking with him,
his knee a piledriver ramming the desk.
(Not used to people staying more than a minute,
maybe?  Too self conscious about that smell?)

That smell…
(but who doesn’t have something they are
embarrassed about?)

Such a quiet man usually, nice to all,
keeps to himself.  (His voice, so eager
one moment, so guarded the next,
and always the shaking leg…)

You say goodbye — neighbor talking
to neighbor.  But you’re filing away details
you’ll never mention until
the news trucks park in front of the house.
(If they ever do…which, of course, you highly doubt
will happen. Why would it?)

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Owner’s Manual

To build a case
against insomnia
so as to enjoin it from
canceling you out
you may purchase drugs or
forget how it feels to be
awake long enough that
you trick yourself into
sleeping and thus render it
harmless.  You will have to do this
often.  Relentless and vigorous
defense is required.

To choose a tattoo
that will not be an
embarrassment shortly after
its application you may need
to look at how it feels to lack
a thing you’ve never had.  It is
often difficult to imagine
how a patch of your hide could be
improved so deftly that such a lack
could be erased.  Impulsive tattoos
may be representative of illusory
absence felt strongly but only for the time
it takes to nod your head at a stencil.
Their disappearance would reinforce
other moments of loss you’ve suffered
and it is therefore usually advisable to keep them.

To reject a parent
is to demonstrate a certain respect
for their historic presence or absence.
It is usually easier to maintain some contact
even if only on high holidays
so restraining yourself
from all touch
and declaring any bridging
of the distance between you unsafe
is a way to honor the place they have made in your
experience even when that place is a hole or a wound.

To own a life you have been given
is a rigorous responsibility
that demands a certain acceptance of folly
and exceptional flexibility in the areas
of communication and self-care.  What may seem
on the surface to be various forms of harm
may in fact be completely logical
if not always comfortable adaptations
to facts and environmental factors.
You will choose often.
You may never choose wisely or consciously

but you will choose.

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Phil Spector’s Wig

I saw it on the street tonight
glowing like a Ronette’s dress.

It smelled of gunpowder and genius,
even from a distance of some yards.

A domestic rabbit picked it up
and carried it back to its hutch

to nurse it to adulthood, mistaking it
for a baby.  When the rabbit’s back was turned

the wig rolled itself into a tube and slipped away
through the mesh, humming madly to itself.

Where’s my head,
it kept singing,

a lying tune as large as that myth from the 1960s
that everything was poised on the brink of utopia

until Sirhan and Ray and Oswald
and those guys in the Audubon Ballroom had to bring guns

into the picture.  Where’s my head, where’s my gun,
where is my warm gray cloud of sound?
Phil’s wig

packed heat undercover long before all that happened
and now we know that there was always a touch of the bad crazy

looming behind the innocent songs.  Be my baby, dammit.
Be my baby, be my baby.

I watched the wig
scuttle away.

I’m no longer some wascally wabbit,
it sang,

at last I’m the streetwalking cheetah
I always knew I could be,

and I like it.

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