Tag Archives: bipolar

Bruiser

There are up days and down days
and then there are days of up and down
where you do not know which is which.
Where both are true of you at once.

You keep those days in a sealed
and resealed box you’ve labeled
NOW AND THEN in block letters
with a black permanent marker.
It’s under the bed
where you can reach it quickly if need be
in the middle of a rocked night or
catatonic afternoon or terror morning.
You tear it open and tape it back up
after each addition and it never seemed to get
full. That was then. This is now

and you can’t even move it out
from under the bed anymore,
not because it’s heavy —

it’s not heavy,
you practically have to tie it down to keep it
from floating out into the middle of the room
during a party or while you are making love
or washing the dishes —

but because NOW AND THEN
has stopped answering to that.
It’s all grown up now, well-fed,
a bruiser in your room,

and it wants to take your name.


Episodes

1.
I came to this moment
with my head in my hands
and my hands wet from years of sobbing.

It was not a journey’s end.
It was being roused
from dumb despair to find myself

in precisely the same place
and position I’d started from,
having mistaken

long nights
of shaking and staring into darkness
for progress.  

Now I see that of course
progress is relational
and depends on how easily

people take hold 
of those around them
in the dark. With my head

in my hands and my tears
drowning me, with no one
to shake me free of it,

how could I ever
have seen
that I was not moving?

I could choose to look up
and dry my face
now that I know, of course;

I could pretend I recognize
any of these concerned faces
and reach out.

But progress is relational
and this is not progress,
I think, but a change

of set-dressing. Still
the same place, faces
changed but still

not quite visible.
Reaching out from here —
my hands so wringing wet —

who can hold onto me long enough
to help lift me? It is practically
guaranteed that I will slump again

into this. Maybe
this time I ought to agree
with the dark that I should remain

invisible to all including myself, or maybe
I should try to stand on my own, convince myself
there is a path out, a journey

that will end up somewhere else. I cannot tell.
Hope or foolhardiness
look about the same from here.

2.
I pull my head off my shoulders
and bowl it into those before me.
They fall like pins, and this time there’s no reset. 

I’m still sitting, headless
in darkness. It’s better.
The crying, at least, has stopped,

or at least is happening
somewhere
other than right here. I can’t hear it anyway,

what with my ears
on the detached head
that’s vanished into a pit

somewhere.
It will come back to me
changed. I’ll be alone

when I set it back onto
my shoulders and leave this place
for a real journey.

I won’t have to cry any more
or lose my place. I’ll be alone.
I’ll be gone. Loose headed

and so far gone, I’ll be on
a return track the whole time.
Around the world and back again.

3.
I came to this new moment
with my head back in my hands
and my hands once again wet.

But it’s different this time,
or so I tell me. This time
progress can’t be relational

because I can’t see any faces
around me when I lift my own
to look at where they were. 

I remember the sound
of them crashing away from me
so well now. It’s traveled

around the world
and back again. So loud,
as if it was still yesterday.

So loud I wish
my head had never
come back to me last time.

I bury it again
where it was,
where I tell myself it belongs.


Sitting In The Waiting Room

Overheard:

“Do you think most people
are incapable of understanding 
that sometimes, a suicide
is a final act of reconciling
the physical body with 
an interior life ended years ago?

Do you suppose that they might someday see that 
the act might be organically corrective;
that sometimes the soul passes long before 
the shell of the soul breaks 
and whatever has compelled the body to fight on
eventually surrenders?

Do you think they will ever understand us? 

And if you could know for certain
that they would understand, 
before or after the fact?
Wouldn’t that make it easier?”

I turned to see who was speaking.

Our room was so full,
it could have been everyone.


This Mood Of Mine

This mood of mine, 
serotonin desert,
endorphin drought — oh,
science be damned:
to put it plain, I’m killing me
and I don’t know why.

It’s been so long
since a manic storm
took its toll upon me
that I almost miss it.
Almost. Folks assume
those highs are a pleasure;

let me tell you: no,
no and no again. The crest
of that wave rises too high
and the adrenaline lift
only makes you too loose
to handle the damage

when you plunge
to the trough 
that waits below.
Right now, though, 
I’d welcome the ride
as a change of pace,

for mood of mine, bipolar’s
trench, shallow grave
that deepens
as I lie in it,
I swear I will fight you
as long as I can.

This too shall pass, some say.
This too shall fade away
and I will remain, 
but none who speak of this can say 
what will be left:
a man alive or a mummy,

a nest of bones weathered
to leather scraps and white junk
or a croaking mess begging
for anything wet at all
to drown in. To put it plain
I am
 killing me

and although
it might save me
to do so,
to trickle forth a little pain
for public view,
I can’t even cry.


What I Should Have Said At My Exit Interview

I should have said
“consider me”
more often.

I should have cared less
that they did not.

I should have
made them feel at least
some small pain
upon attempting
to change me.

I should have considered
myself more often, earlier,
less shamefacedly, less
amenable to their molds.

When they said, “We want you
to just be your best self,” I should have
looked around and realized
who they thought I was
or could be. I should have known
that I was too odd to be myself
for them, since when I was myself
I was too odd
and uncomfortable for me.

I should have just seen
the short care they extended,
the impatient worry, the limits of 
the grace they could afford me
as I made my way sputtering
and thrashing through.

I should have just said that — 
maybe I could have avoided
those nights alone at conventions,
in business hotel rooms
at three in the morning,
unable to sleep, air conditioning
turned up to sub-zero level,

wondering 
how the hell I would handle
five meetings tomorrow
when I couldn’t even get up
and turn the Arctic away
from my skin,

wonderding
if this is how my body would feel
next week, after I finally did it,
after I was finally dead.

They told me leaders
and managers needed to be
less moody. I should have said,

yes, I know.

I should have said
at the beginning of this
that you should not think of it
as a poem of regret,
or sour grapes;
rather, this is
published research

on exactly how a system
built for narrow health

can and did
without a malicious thought
by anyone
who fit inside 

strangle someone
broken wide open
at all seams

who still cannot fathom
a return to anything
that anyone inside
might call “normal.”


Warm Salt Water

Spent this life sipping
warm salt water
in drops, only

warm salt water
and only in drips and
drops,

yet am expected
to taste sweetness
easily and reject

the only taste 
I’ve ever known
at once, with no thought

as to how all those
dribs and drabs of salt
may have burned

my ability to taste
anything else.  You do 
not understand how

oceanic it is in here,
how such trickling
pleasantry and joy

disappear into
that sea with no 
trace; meanwhile

warm salt comes
relentlessly, in bits and
blips, filling, spilling.

Spend a life sipping
those and see
what happens when

another flavor offers itself
to your tongue. See how
it feels to understand that

what you are meant to love
cannot touch you now.
See how you cry then:

it won’t even
feel like a loss as you
sip the drops,

as you shrug off
the suggestion
that there could be 

anything else for you
but the sip and the 
slipping away.


And They Said

First
I was a moody child
and they said I’d grow out of it
Next
I was a moody teen
and they said it was normal
Then
I was a troubled young adult
and they said it might be a problem
Truth was
I felt from birth that I’d swallowed a dragon
and all they said was that I needed to buckle down
Later on
I could feel the dragon growing huge in me
and they said I needed to “man up” somehow
Of course
I began to sample all their pills to kill the dragon
and they said prescribing was an art not a science
In addition
I talked about it incessantly in offices to chase it out
and they said it was a slow process
All the time
I kept bouncing from dragon love to dragon rage within
and they said don’t worry it smooths out after you hit 40
As 40 approached
I felt the hollow of the cavern the dragon had gnawed out of me
and they said there are some cases that are just stubborn
As 40 passed 
I felt now and again pure flame spouting through my pores
and they said there’s a chance you are one of the unlucky ones
As 45 passed
I had a moment where I thought the dragon was gone
and they said you seem happy
As happy passed
I pulled and tugged on the dragon to make it go
and they said oh come on grow up this again
Now is the moment
I assume I am mostly dragon now
and they shrugged and said we’ve got nothing
and they said you’re a shell full of monster
and they said if only there were still swords and heroes
and they said are you even listening
and they said
and they said
and they said


Combatting Despair

I do not trust
what is called “joy”
longer
than a second or two
beyond its initial arrival

or the feeling called
“despair”
for any longer than that
either

preferring instead
to poke at each in turn
until they morph into something
called
“closely watched anxiety”

which lasts and is
genuine

because I call it so
and can understand it with my head

while joy and despair
(not unfamiliar to me
but never completely welcome)
being more emotions of the marrow

are too bone deep
and beyond thought
to be trusted
to endure

the joy may leak free and leave me in despair
the despair may freeze in there
and still me

thus leaving me either way
in despair
too deep to break apart

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Seeing Clearly

Sea change today,
if you can call it that
this far from the ocean.
Overcast, cooler;
all the notes struck
by recent sunshine
have turned minor.

Sunday, I heard voices inside.
They were bells tolling an ending.
Tuesday, today, I hear nothing
but the neighborhood,
quiet at last.  Everyone’s
at work or school.  I should be
working too.  I am working,
in fact, or so I say when I’m asked

because I’m glad not to be interacting
with anyone right now.  Too many
voices from outside still
the ones inside,
and I want to be able to hear.

They were silver, nugget-rough,
precious.  They cut me
when I pressed them.  They told me
what I already knew, so I trusted them
and feared them.

I don’t hear them now.
Maybe it was the sun
and warm earth, drying audibly
after days of rain,
that spoke to me
and suggested that I needed
to die.

I don’t know why light
would amplify sound,
but I do know I can taste
a terrible scent of ocean
on the wind today:
a dull flavor, lead dull,
no glint to it.

I await the return
of the sunshine
with my ears
cocked and afraid.

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A Voice At Easter

Today, early
on Easter Morning,
I reached the start
of the long awaited
final stage:

I heard a voice,
perhaps
my own voice, more
lyrical than usual,
urgently describing
over and over
an arm and a motion —
some arm holding
a long blade
slashing, its arc
aimed between
a clavicle and a throat
and the throat in danger
was my own.
This kept happening
till the day
was almost over.

I tell you,
I have expected this.

I did not know for sure
how it would be,
and while I’m not happy,
there are at least
concrete issues now
to consider and solve:

how I can be standing inside
the body with the knife
and be also the body
that the knife divides;

or how the voice can
be my own
and still foreign;

or why this all began
as I looked at the daffodils
and enjoyed the sunshine;

or why I still carved the ham at dinner
against my better judgment;

what the voice will say in the morning
or why it was quiet after I spoke back —

think, I tell myself.

Think hard, figure it out.
Think.  Don’t feel.

Whatever you do,
do not feel.

Push that stone
back over that particular door.

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