Category Archives: Poetry

New Book Launch Announcement!

LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS, BOOK LAUNCH INFO: JUNE 2. ARTWALK FRIDAY evening in Brattleboro Vermont. 6-7pm at the Hooker Dunham Theatre and Gallery. Or call the gallery for a privately arranged tour. Or contact pam for further information and a tour of the gallery. Any group of disabled individuals or those who cannot make it to the gallery for the show (it is not not not “accessible”) _ i will provide a reading/ talk and books for sale to any group who can get me there  to speak to them, providing  transportation to make it possible for me to meet with them. All entirely free of charge. 

 

Rudyard Kipling’s IF (altered to remove sexist language)

IF

(altered  and a tad rewritten to eliminate sexist language)

with humble apologies to Rudyard Kipling

 

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when neighbors doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with royalty—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all can count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

Your self’s true self in honest honor’s won.

 

 

PS if you want to see the original, you can easily google the poem and find it on line.

Ice Hospital: Poem and Art

Five Watchers at the Tree of Creation
Five Watchers at the Tree of Creation

 ICE HOSPITAL

Living in a hospital is like living in an Ice Hotel

where all the appointments beneath the furs and fleece

are hard frozen to the floor

Like Ice Hotel staff, the nurses try their best

to be kind, to find compassion for those suffering

here on their sub-zero beds.

But really, they have their warm lives elsewhere.

The psychiatrist knows better. She visits briefly

once a day at the height of the sun, chewing her Vitamin D,

and encourages Hotel visitors to Happy Talk

and Life Skills. If she fails to ease their suffering

in any part, it is because she does not see it, blind

to the fact that the beds are frozen pallets that chill

to the bone. She sees only the furs and warm fleeces.

She cannot fathom why one would not rise and walk

under her cheerful ministrations after a few nights

spent on a banquette of ice. Only the aides

are savvy enough, being low-paid and long-working,

to bring in oil lanterns and hot water bottles.

The patients love them and when finally it comes time

to leave, strange how difficult it is to say good-bye

to even the hardest corner of this place.

_________________________________

luckily i no longer live in a hospital but in a little corner of paradise, in Brattleboro Vermont. And soon I will be writing you about my place. All week i had a headache, which was a beach that was decidely not Miami. But I stopped taking the Abilify on a whim, and wouldn’t you know, immediately the headache ceased. I cannot tell anyone this, because they will become up in arms at my stopping a “necessary medicatoin” but if I do not tell anyone, and things go just fine, won’t that be funny as hell? I think so. And that is precisely what happened when I stopped the Zyprexa, the last time. Everything was fine fine fine,. for six months, and never stopped being fine. I mean I did just as good off it as on it, and we never started it with any good being done, again.

 

But no negativity from me today. Instead I will leave you with the sunny face painting I did for a member of BRattleboro TIme Trade, in preparation for a papier mache sun we want to work on. Love to all of you!

Sun Face Painting By Pamela Spiro Wagner - plan for papier mache sculpture
Sun Face Painting By Pamela Spiro Wagner – plan for papier mache sculpture

NEW POEM, OR REWRITTEN POEM, ABOUT BEING MUTE

ON NOT SPEAKING

Over the seasons of my sixties

and unwillingly

suddenly silent

no wonders spark in my visual brain.

But a reason why’s no wonder.

For so many years schooled

into naming everything

words and sounds categorize the world

and wordify my senses.

Precipice, for instance,

with its sliced peaks.

And acrid’s encaustic, that bite on my tongue.

Even blench

somehow leaves me paler

and more livid than before.

But there are descents into being speechless

for reasons besides pathology.

Although these may not seem any reason

or even be

reason enough, to many,

who believe only talking out pain aloud

makes sense.

Sensible or senseless

I know when shutting up is preventive.

or at least is less insane

than trying to be heard

by those inured to hurting

or being hurtful

when they indeed would rather hurt me

than pay heed, having heard me.

But if silence as you claim

overspeaks the chattering air

why do you refuse

to hear all I cannot use

my voice to say.

PASSION AND POETRY ARE LIFE, NOT PATHOLOGY!

Tidal Wave ATC (Artist Trading Card)
Tidal Wave ATC (Artist Trading Card)

 

Lori Carlson over at her WordPress blog, one of several, AS THE FATES WOULD HAVE IT, http://asthefateswouldhaveit.wordpress.com wrote this lovely passage about why she has to write:

“I enjoy reading poetry and prose that inspires me, that wrenches at my heart, and that puts me in the grip of Knowing — that silent moment when what someone else has written rings so true with you, that you are in complete awe. That is the way I write, or at the very least, I strive to write that way. And so I have made it my life’s goal to write poetry and short fiction, to give back to others the passion that fuels my soul.”

 

My response to Lori was this: “Passion pushes life to its purest pitch. A passionate enthusiasm is not pathological, as some might have us believe when we are caught up in its grip…Never believe them. Without passion, poetry is just a dim simulacrum of itself, veiled but without mystery, deaf not just to the world but to itself as well.”

 

Best wishes, Lori, and every one of you writers out there who might have been told to “cool it” or to stop dreaming and “get real.” Best wishes for all the dreams and all the passion your life can encompass, brim over with and then more! more! YES! MORE!

Two Poems

Audobon Field Guide Barred Owl
Audubon Field Guide Barred Owl

TIME-BANK POEM

Dear R, you who have asked me,

via my Service Offer (“I write personal poems”),

to “create” you a poem, can’t know,

when my second late night email

fails to elicit a prompt response,

how my certainty of rejection hammers me

into old penances, and how I tinfoil walls

and barricades against my extruded poisons.

Then when your emails resume the next day

mentioning your little white house,

a she-owl who watches you with soulful eyes

and your growing “sense of despair”

I imagine a woman of mature years,

alone, though perhaps through choices

not always made freely. So to meet you

I navigate unfamiliar and unpaved roads

parking behind a half-built barn

and a muddy old green Subaru.

Younger than I expect, you’ve moved here

to escape precisely what we never discuss.

You reference only the need for peace of mind,

and a relief from startling triggers.

Nevertheless, I understand your need to know

that spirit-familiar, the barred she-owl, Strix varia,

roosting on a white pine bough

outside your window all winter,

less guardian than too starving to move away

or predate the small animals atop the ice layer

between her and proper voles held in safety beneath.

Only when deep-freeze breaks in early March

and a shadow swoops silently across your pane,

do you know who’s won the battle,

and cheer for a raptor’s kill that saves her life.

The world, after all, is all about killing or being eaten,

which is true even in the human world

where your neighbors stalk you with barking dogs,

and talk nights, beneath your bedroom window

of that woman next door, who is not like them,

with her window salad garden and that owl.

Fearful, blind, they believe that hoot owls

harbinger death. Instead you try to see

the way a mythical Owl might see,

through cold and black of night

for clarity, for lucency, for whatever it is

that warms the living embers

and rem-embers your mind to peace.

——————————————————

This next poem describes the present situation, which continues…with the following explanations.

In the Greek myth, Philomela is raped and has her tongue cut out by Tereus, the husband of her sister Procne. Rendered mute, Philomela weaves a tapestry detailing the crime to inform her sister, who, enraged, takes revenge on Tereus. At the end of the story, both Procne and Philomela are transformed into birds.  In some versions of this story, Philomela turns into a female nightingale, while in others she becomes a swallow. However, neither of these birds can sing.

Jerry Mahoney and Charlie McCarthy are two famous American ventriloquists’ dummies

PHILOMELA

I haven’t spoken out loud for many weeks,

bullied by “voices” to a frightened into myself silence.

Still, what does “speechless” mean

in these days of text-to-speech software,

with its choice of Vikki or Samantha or Victoria voices,

especially when I’m possessed of a blog and writing fluency

enough to speak my mind to my heart’s content?

Even so, being mute is not a manner of speaking.

Yet I tell you I can talk. Nothing physical impedes

my tongue, or locks my lips

except my brain’s hallucinated snarls,

Jerry Mahoney and Charlie McCarthy thrown

into surrounding shadows

ordering up this stoppage, blockage, blockade.

Now, like Stevens’ fire-fangled bird at the end of the mind

feathered unlucky, tarred, locked in golden cage

my voice remains only a memento

of everything

I wanted to say, but could not get out,

I couldn’t get it out, I could not get it out…

POEM THAT CAN FORGET BUT NOT FORGIVE

THE POEM THAT CAN FORGET BUT NOT FORGIVE

 

This poem is afraid

because I am afraid.

This poem is always cold,

and shivering, making my teeth clatter

like cheap tin tableware

on a bare plate.

This poem wants to die,

and be rescued too late

to regret it.

 

This poem has been all its life scared,

and still is: scared, trembling

on the brink, trembling,

knowing the truth that lies

beyond the lies

told over and over,

though it has never been taken in.

 

This poem has a voice

small, smoke-rasped, hungry,

and it has much to say

about what really happened

when no one else was there

to stand to protest.

 

This time it wants to be heard.

This poem wants to be heard!

It will spit and curse and claw

out bejesus if it has to,

this poem means to be heard!

 

This poem will tattle-tale

sit back and smile smugly.

This poem will wring satisfaction’s neck

and revenge will taste like chocolate.

This poem is sad as water, poor as sand.

This poem wants to live well,

but it doesn’t know how.

 

© Pamela Spiro Wagner, 2009 (from WE MAD CLIMB SHAKY LADDERS, CavanKerry Press, Fort Lee, NJ)

I may have posted this before but it is especially relevant at the moment because i have been mute for more than 6 weeks now and do not know why it has lasted or what to do about it…

TO MY “PROTECTOR” AT THE MENTAL HOSPITAL: NO THANKS!

 Mushroom-Head in Four-point Restraints: Cannibalism as RAPE by Michael Edward Balkunas, MD, the instigator…

Raped at New Britain General Hospital thanks to  Michael Balkunas MD's orders...
Raped at New Britain General Hospital thanks to Michael Balkunas MD’s orders…

TO MY “PROTECTORS” AT THE MENTAL HOSPITAL

You nurses who, wanting a quiet shift, shackled me into four-point restraints: you ought to have known better: violence only begets more violence…

I came to you, broken —

speaking only splinters of syllables –

“ma-ta-o-tam, ma-ta-o-tam..”

on fire to burn down

the house of my body,

for the meaning of my life

but I was not nice,

not nice, not nice, no,

I was not nice and quiet enough

for the balm of art supplies and human kindness.

Your uniforms ex-cruciated me, tying me

me naked to the four corners of a bed

so your eyes could flay me, the silent shame

gouging my brain to a darkness

years later still vacuumed blank.

Nurses, healers, thieves,

racked there, I lay helpless before you,

even as you raped what was left

of my human dignity.

So intent on getting satisfaction,

you violated my soul

with your smirks

and conspiratorial smiles.

A Poem for My Aging Mother

My poor mother is suffering from dementia at 87 and it is very sad and difficult to watch her decline. I will write more if I can at some later time about it but for now I want just to post a poem I wrote for her years ago and then rewrote completely recently.

 

Over the years we have had some troubled times. Because my father disowned me for some thirty-five years, she had to make a choice between him and me, essentially, and the one she made was obvious. I was out of the house by then and I am not sure it ever really occurred to her to make any other choice, but who knows? I do not. In any event, I bear her no bad feelings for this, I do not think. Though had I been “her son” with schizophrenia i believe the outcome and her choices might well have been very different, as they always were when it came to my brother.

 

But that is water under the bridge. The choice was made and I was sacrificed. That said, perhaps it is a good thing, I dunno. If she had given up her life for me,  I might never have developed any independence at all, or written the poems and books I have.  I might never have discovered my art abilities. Who knows? No one knows, of course, what their “alternate futures” might have  held. We can only work with what we have and the cards we are dealt. We can’t make others choose on our behalf. Much as we might wish them to.

 

I never wanted my mother to give up her life for me. I felt guilty enough, just for being the way I was. The worst thing in the world would have been for her to make any sacrifice for me at all. For anyone to have done so would have been damaging to me. So I am glad that everyone went on their way, because otherwise I would have had to kill myself in apology.

 

I could say much more but I am sleepy so without further fanfare, the poem:

 

PHONE CALL TO MY MOTHER AT SIXTY

 

I have not thought of you all day.

A March wind rattles the wires,

wishing you a belated happy birthday.

You are sixty, my grandfather ninety,

my younger sister thirty,

but if there is significance in that,

a syzygy, some conjunction in the heavens

I have yet to figure it out.

Your husband answers, my father,

aligned against me north-north,

between us implacable silence.

So we sidestep confidences,

suspecting he is listening in

until in the distance the line clicks

like a playing card in the spokes.

But even so, how carefully we speak,

expelling words of fragile allegiance

each of us pretending not to know

what the other is thinking.

 

Suddenly you confide, you feel old:

the baby is thirty, you don’t like

your new job, you miss teaching,

the exuberant children, their bright

and lazy charm. There is so much to do,

so little time. Before it is too late

 

you want to captain a boat to the Azores,

learn cabinet-making — you have the tools,

a lathe, a power saw, inherited from your deaf father

who never heard you speak

but built you a fabulous dollhouse

and taught you, at ten, to sink the eight ball.

 

Could I ever confide that I, too, feel old? At thirty-five

you had a husband, four children,

a career in the wings. Older by a decade, I rent

a single room and have no prospects

beyond the next day’s waking.

Instead I carefully quote Joseph Campbell’s

advice: follow your bliss.

And I remind you Aquarians always step

to a different drum’s thunder.

You like these clichés,

and laugh, repeating them, then you say

with a sudden spontaneous sincerity

that moves me how good it is to talk with me.

I think of all the times we have not spoken,

how at sixty it would be nice

to have a daughter to talk with

instead of friends wakened in the night,

reaching over husbands or wives,

to answer the phone, “Hello? Hello?”

their wary voices expecting

death or disaster.

 

You are tired, you say now,

you have an early appointment.

We promise each other a date for lunch.

But I will not call for a long time.

Or perhaps I will call the next day.

Before you hang up, you let slip

it’s your wedding anniversary, one

marked by some mundane substance —

stone, carbon, foil, rope.

Should I congratulate you, I wonder,

or console you? Finally, we say good-bye.

Across the wires I think I hear

your voice crack, but it could be the wind

or a bad connection.

Trauma and Its Sequelae: A Hospital Poem on Abuse by Michael Edward Balkunas MD

TRAUMA AND ITS SEQUELAE…

 

Written months after my 4-week admission to the psychiatric unit, W-1, at New Britain General Hospital/ Hospital of Central Connecticut, in 2014 where I was “treated” and abused by Dr. Michael Edward Balkunas, MD

 

Nine days after your worst hospital stay ever

you are still wearing the shades

that protect others from you

though no one else believes they are in danger

Those staff however wrote you up

as “assaultive” and dangerous to self

and others. But they didn’t mean it the way

you do now and their description of your

behavior was neither accurate nor truthful

Often they lied, as liars do,

just for the sake of convenience.

 

Now you are a week away from meeting new “cousins”

who await your vacation in northeastern Vermont,

a place magically named the Kingdom

and the recuperation your mind-body badly needs.

Still unable to let go, you perseverate over

the half-nelson grip of sadistic guards

bent on eliciting pain.

What happened to the nurses’

“healing touch,”

their concern for “the dignity, worth,

and uniqueness of every individual”,

or their “primary commitment

to the patient?”

 

When the guards forcibly stripped

then four-pointed you to an bare mattress

they were just replaying their favorite rape

yanking each limb wide

to expose, degrade, humiliate.

Never mind the nurses’ vow to protect

the vulnerable. The official hands-off policy

protected only their own asses.

 

So how do Truth and Forgiveness Programs proceed

when so many refuse to acknowledge wrong?

The hospital broke every humane rule;

they only stopped short of murder

because you submitted,

nick of time. Yet they had the last word:

stuffing your screams

when they muted the intercom

and slammed the door between you

and the mandatory one-to-one observer.

 

No one ever is there to bear witness, is there?

That point has always been the point,

from Daddy to doctors.

and all the hairdressers and nurses in between.

They’ve made a religion of secrecy

and no one wants to know

what they don’t want to know.

 

Call it “our family’s business,”

call it “a private cut and shampoo,”

or just call it, discreetly, “treatment”–

but they can always do what they want to, to you.                          .

When they break you, they declare

you’re just “one of the family,”

no different from anyone else,

now that they’ve finally fixed you for good.

Poem about Radical Forgiveness

 

Forgiveness or anger? Its your choice....
Forgiveness or anger? Its your choice….

TO FORGIVE IS…

To begin and there is so much to forgive

for one, your parents, one and two,

out of whose dim haphazard coupling

you sprang forth roaring, indignantly alive.

For this, whatever else followed,

innocent and guilty, forgive them.

If it is day, forgive the sun its white radiance

blinding the eye;

forgive also the moon for dragging the tides,

for her secrets, her half heart of darkness;

whatever the season, forgive it its various assaults

— floods, gales, storms of ice —

and forgive its changing; for its vanishing act,

stealing what you love and what you hate,

indifferent, forgive time;

and likewise forgive its fickle consort, memory

which fades the photographs of all you can’t remember;

forgive forgetting, which is chaste and kinder

than you know; forgive your age and the age you were when happiness was afire in your blood

and joy sang hymns in the trees;

forgive, too, those trees, which have died;

and forgive death for taking them, inexorable  as God; then forgive God His terrible grandeur, His unspeakable Name

forgive, too, the poor devil for a celestial falll no worse than your own.

When you have forgiven whatever is of earth, of sky, of water, whatever is named, whatever remains nameless

 

forgive, finally, your own sorry self, clothed in temporary flesh,

the breath and blood of you already dying.

Dying, forgiven, now you begin.

 

by Pamela Spiro Wagner in “We Mad Climb Shaky Ladders” (Cavakerry Press 2009) also featured in “Divided Minds: twin sisters and their Journey through  schizophrenia.”

New Poem: On Not Speaking

ON NOT SPEAKING

 

When I went temporarily mute at age sixty,

it sparked no visual wonders.

After decades schooled by dictionaries,

vocabulary categorized the world:

“precipice,” “acrid,” “blanch;”

words even defined my senses.

But one can fall into

speechlessness for reasons

beyond pathology

though these may not seem reasonable

to people who believe that only talking things out

or about them makes sense.

Speaking or not, I knew

when silence was less insane

than trying to be heard

by those who would rather hurt me

than pay attention.

But if, as they say, silence is so eloquent,

why couldn’t anyone hear

what I so desperately didn’t say?

 

 

Thoughts on DESIDERATA and More

Desiderata
Desiderata

Desiderata

© Max Ehrmann 1927 ?

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

 

 

 

“Desiderata” defined means things wanted or needed. A partial version of the poem hangs on the wall of the place where I will be staying for a while and while the piece is well-known, and indeed I have seen it before, the painted version here caught my eye and moved me. For some reason, however, I suspected that this particular version was a quotation only in part, so I looked up the entire poem. What I found struck me to tears.

 

Tears? Why?

 

Well, let me explain.

 

There are important lines that are missing in the poem on the wall here (important to me):

 

“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

 

Also this stanza is followed by the critical word, “Therefore…be at peace with God…” whereas on the wall, the “therefore” has been taken out. But what a difference it makes to keep it in.

 

The important thing to me in reading the poem in its entirety is that I do not feel I have a right to be here, do not feel I am in any sense “a child of the universe.” I feel instead that I have ruined the universe, and that if I had not been born the world would have been better off by far. That is one critical thing.

 

The other salient point the poet makes, which made me weep, was his belief, stated well before anyone thought about global warming, but presumably he would have said the same thing even so, if he truly had the courage of his convictions that “no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

 

TO the contrary, it feels to me completely tragic that the world should be ending in our geologic time, that we should be living in the end days, not something that was meant to be or unfolding as it should. ( I say “end times” without any religious intention to those words, only the sense that we have brought about the end of the living world upon ourselves by over-consumption and massively pig-headed over-population.) Of course, the “universe” is much bigger than humanity or even generally speaking the living blue planet called earth, but as a human living on it I have no other way to feel or see but from my puny human perspective. To lose Life on earth, all or most of it at any rate, to global warming feels utterly devastating. Who or what gave humans the right to destroy what might have been the tiniest fraction of a chance at existence, life itself, to throw it all away through the over-consumption of fossil fuel (in the brief span of 2 centuries) and making too many babies, and eating too many cows?

 

It sickens me that I am so much at fault, that I ought not to have existed at all, that much of this could have been avoided by my never having been born. But it also sickens me that as a species, humans have collectively, since my birth, ignored all the consequences of our “eating the earth” and now we have no earth for our children’s children to inherit…

 

Vis a vis another line in the poem, I cannot “be gentle” with myself. I do not deserve gentleness! That way disaster lies!

 

“With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.” Maybe… But the world is fast losing its beauty and sometimes i think it is only beautiful to those wealthy enough to be able to willfully blind themselves to all the ugliness and injustice around them: blinding themselves to the dying oceans and all the starving homeless people…to name just two out of many.

 

Nevertheless, the poem is still a miracle of inspiration and remains so after nearly a century. Though not really new to me, it newly struck a chord, though I am sure that  people in the know would call it an “old chestnut” of a poem, nearly hackneyed and familiar as that other O.C., “Invictus”by William Ernest Henley, though I suggest Desiderata has always been far better written than Henley’s “chest-beater” of a poem (for all that it is a favorite of many thousands..).

Hospital Of Central CT: Smearing Shit at W1: An Angry Poem but an Honest one.

HOLY SHITE AND URINE TEAM

 

Her cool wordless RN face expresses nothing

as she scoops the ice cream turd  and quickly disinfects.

But I think for her, thinking, knowing this:

“Asshole, shithead, you think

your shit don’t stink…” While I have no working sense of smell,

I know I’m an unofficial pain in the ass here

because no one can be officially PIA

on a psychiatric ward, not even I, the wild shit smearer

who knows no disgust first hand

for not smelling it.

 

What I know well and sadly is

the consequences of disgusting others,

the distancing, the shunning,

how killing the ultimate loneliness is, double-locked away

in a soundproof seclusion cell.

Shackled naked into leather 4-point restraints, I shriek my soul away,

from the bottom of my lungs for 20 minutes straight.

The illegally silenced intercom remains dumb.

Even the 1:1 monitor positioned behind the door.

peering lazily  through the judas-eye of a small plexi-port-hole,

doesn’t really pay attention. Why bother, the shit smearer

gets what she deserves.

 

Oh, I know I disgust them, what with my out of control turd throwing

and my illegible scribbling with my feces on the wall

but they refuse me so much as a marker and board,

and they won’t sit down to listen when I speak.

Mute for 16 days, I will be heard now, one way or another.

But this is no way to think, and i think without thinking, just do with do do, mindlessly, enraged by trauma.

I foul myself because no one cares,

because their disgust is threaded, even so heat-felted with hatred

they have long forgotten I’m just another patient

with problems bigger than the shit I fling.

Instead, cucumber skinned nurses sneer their disgust,

Bad dog! Bad, bad dog!

 

But I know dog is just God spelled backwards.

And God created the living world

from dust and mud and excrement.

I am no god, I am Live backwards to Evil:

I create chaos from utter chaos within.

There are always turds to form and fling.

And in the end all they can do is kill me.

Fuck me! Do me a favor you turds, kill me!

But first, you have to silence the hate on your faces,

 clean the smeared walls,

and pretend I am nothing to you.

 

When you came in to take me down,

restrain me for any excuse, even for just wanting a blanket.

you had to breath in my shit, that fear,

and knew what it could do to you.

You’d heard the stories, deadly E-coli, C diff.

Something in me might kill you,

I don’t know what scared you more, my wildyelling

or my excrement.

 

That was always the struggle. Shit stinks. I stank.

You hated me for my smell. You feared me for what I did.

I know your fear. It was: what would happen if you

lost control of yourself.

Would you, control freaks,

too  dance naked in dung?

New Poem: About Mutism

Bird in Cage - Papier mach by Pamwagg
Standish Bird in Cage – Papier mache by Pamwagg

PHILOMELA* edited after months of mutism

I haven’t spoken out loud in several weeks

bullied into a frightened by myself silence.

Though what does “speechless” mean

in these days of text-to-speech software,

with its choice of Vikki or Samantha or Victoria voices,

Or when I’m possessed of a blogging platform

and writing fluency enough to speak my mind to my heart’s content?

Still, being mute is not a manner of speaking.

i tell you I could speak, I can talk. Nothing physical impedes

my tongue, or locks my lips,

except my brain’s hallucinated snarls, like Jerry Mahoney

and Charlie McCarthy thrown into surrounding shadows

ordering up this stoppage, blockage, blockade.

Now, like that fire-fangled bird at the end of the mind

feathered unlucky, tarred, locked in golden cage

my voice remains only a memento

of everything that I wanted
to say, but couldn’t get out, I couldn’t get out, I couldn’t get it out…

*In the Greek myth, Philomela is raped and has her tongue cut out by Tereus, the husband of her sister Procne. Rendered mute, Philomela weaves a tapestry detailing the crime to inform her sister, who, enraged, takes revenge on Tereus. At the end of the story, both Procne and Philomela are transformed into birds.  Some versions have Philomela become a nightingale, the female of which does not sing. In other versions she becomes a swallow, which is a non-singing bird.

Poem of Grief: When I Lose You

WHEN I LOSE YOU

 

When I lose you,

will you remember the leaves

of my brown name?

 

Not like an oak, which clings

snow after snow

 

but like the poplar

spilling her yellow dress

to the insistent fingertips of fall

 

The mother of grief

is a kind forgetting

 

and I tell you now

that I will forget everything

I will forget even you, beloved

 

Remembering light

like a leaf stilled in limestone

 

who would have thought

we could weigh so little?

My only Sweetheart, Dead, and a Poem About Her…

 

She died soon thereafter
Eemie on top of her house,…She died soon thereaft

 

 

 

 

 

WHOM IS IT REALLY WE KILL? OF WHOM IS IT REALLY WE DREAM?

 

Is it only two years the little cat’s dead now?

She persists

not in an innocent’s dream

but at my door, so real

 

I can feel her fur in my tears.

Whoever called the injections

by which we kill our animals “sleep”

had no conscience.

 

Euphemisms hide facts

but they do not change them, for surely

if my brain believed there was good in her death,

 

Eemie would not reappear like Banquo’s ghost,

reproaching with her presence

 

telling me truths I already know:

Even cats can die of loneliness

and she had had enough of being left to fend for herself.

 

Of course, there was food and water,

but after my father’s death,

she gave up waiting for some density of me

to return, to connect.

 

Then she gave up wanting me or food.

And when her liver failed

it was too late for anyone’s love to save her.

 

But what of her last look-around at the stainless world?

How could I think it curiosity,

that sudden raised head,

 

when it was only a reflex to euthanasia?

How could I not understand such plain table truth?

I asked the vet how long it would take.

“She’s already gone,” the vet said.

First Poem in my New Book (unpublished so far)

TO THE READER

Zaftig Reader, engross in her poetry book
Zaftig Reader, engrossed in her poetry book

 

Last line inspired by Helen Vendler

 

who may be sitting as I am

in a green recliner with a cup of tea

staring out through the porch

to a darkened streetlamp outside the diner,

with a book in her lap, mine, I hope

the only one I feel I should have to mention

if I mention a book in a poem I write;

to the reader, the nitpicker, the one

who may be wondering why

on p. 47 there are two ands, one

right after another, and whose fault that is;

and to the reader, who may be tired

after a long ride home on the bus

after dark and a meal not worth mentioning

who picks up my book but finds his eyes

closing before he has opened the cover,

I say: Forgive me

I am only a writer sitting in a green recliner

with a cup of tea, I can’t explain

those two ands or the mysterious

streetlamp or warm the feet of a tired

reader in his bed. I can only put music on

and tell him stories to make movies

turn in his head, to let him wake

with the sudden understanding that poetry

may be all it takes to make a life—

well, my life at any rate, and maybe his,

and maybe the nitpicker’s and yours, too,

staring through the porch to the streetlamp

where what happens so mysteriously is poetry—

and the whole night is wrapped

in the words spoken by two strangers

meeting there, or not spoken, which is poetry too,

and all of us who listen are waiting

for the music of what is to happen.

 

A Poem to Promote Dreamrly’s Collective Dream Arts Magazine

LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS*     

 

with thanks to Susan Danberg, OD

 

 

In vision therapy, she says to think

of the eyes as if on string:

your mind must haul them together

hand over hand to see a round world.

 

Can you make red and green

become one color,

without losing fall or spring?

 

To see straight,

you must go crooked

cross your eyes a little,

 

and look into the corners of the world,

see what is hidden there:

 

sometimes a face

will float up in the emptiness.

 

Before the mind’s eyes

can see as one,

your right finger must become two

 

and move as two and feel as two

though it is still only one finger.

 

Soon you will understand

the secret: how space, embodied,

loves all that it touches.

 

Yes, a hand reaching out

is a thing of beauty, yes.

 

Have you seen the trees

for the forest, the bright ones in front

and those in the dark farther on?

 

They whisper: there is no negative space,

only a shapely void– delicate

as a squash or a pale Arctic lemming.

 

The full bowl of day spills

into evening.

 

Let your eyes fill

with all that is left behind,

adoring everything hollow.

*published in www.collectivedreamartsmag.com in slightly different form, but thank you very much Kayla Bowen!

And now I highly recommend that if you want to see the two art pieces of mine that Kayla chose, as well as another poem, go on over to the website and sign up for a digital copy of the magazine. Also because there are some other wonderful pieces of work there too. I was amazed. Some of them moved me to tears…

Hey, we all dream, don’t we? And this is really a remarkable undertaking. Beautifully done both in art and writing (and I would say that whether or not my art and poems were represented…).

 

 

About Sacrifice and a Poem : Making Things Holy

MOSAIC

 Mosaic: a word that means from the muses, from Moses and a work of art created from broken fragments of pottery, stone or glass.
 

Even the first time, surrender was not hard,

though the grownups and mothers

with their drinks and swizzle sticks

undoubtedly thought it so when you volunteered

your only present that 10th Christmas

to a younger child who wouldn’t understand

being giftless at the tail end of a line to Santa,

nor your inherent sin in being born.

Such generosity should have stayed

between your concept-of-God and you,

but grownup admiration (you could not hope

to make your act unpublic) sullied the soap

of any generosity’s power to cleanse you.

Other atonements followed, only one

almost perfect, being perfectly anonymous

spoiled by an accomplice’s later telling.

Perfection? You never made that grade,

your terrible love for God demanding all life

from your life. No one told you, “Live a lot,”

not in words that made it matter, though

they doubtless counseled, “Live a little.”

You were always in school to be perfect,

never knowing that life is a classroom

where one learns to love flaws

by throwing bad pots, to shatter

them with careful hammer,

assembling beauty from broken things.

I do not believe I posted this poem here before. I may have but I doubt it as I was going to publish it in a print journal. Instead, I never sent it out. So instead I choose to “sacrifice” it here. (meaning: If i publish it online here I cannot do so in a print journal…so this is for you, folks!)

I am going to tell you about the child I was when I was very small, as small as I can remember. The first thing I remember about myself as a self, was…well, what do I remember? This is hard. For one thing, while I am down to only 5mg of Abilify, I still take 160mg of Geodon, but more important I still take 200mg of Topamax, an anticonvulsant that has known adverse effects on memory and cognition. Whether it actually interferes with what I can recall from childhood or not, I could not say…Perhaps ECT did that, 16 plus 5 sessions of ECT could have done a number on my brain, especially as I had active neurological Lyme disease at the time. The Lyme-literate neurologist advised strongly against ECT, but the hospital psychiatrist forced me, at least through the last 8, after I refused to go back, by getting a court order and drugging me on so much Thorazine I had no will.

Ah, but “They,” the faceless They of Authority, They say that ECT affects  only short-term memory. Well, then, I guess just being 60 years old and having gone through trauma after trauma in the present decade alone surely could have wiped out memories from a half century ago and before. Whatever is the case, I must now scour my brain to recall what I thought I could recall easily.

Marjorie M, an old friend of my father’s, related a significant story recently — about me at age 6. Given our bedroom when she stayed with our family to recuperate from surgery, while my twin sister and I camped out somewhere else in the house, Marjorie was relaxing in my twin bed, alone, when she was surprised by my little face in the doorway. “Hi, Mrs M,” she tells me I said. “Why, hello, Pammy. How are you?”  I looked at her with concern. “Are you all right, Mrs M? Are you lonely? Do you need anything?” (or something to that effect..) I am astonished that even at age 6 I knew I needed to “do this,” although I think that my mother, who disliked Marjorie intensely, was probably ignoring her and I suspect knew it even then. But Marjorie says she fell in love with me at that moment. She certainly never forgot the incident. Bless her heart…

I forgot it, likely I never knew or understood its impact. Given that I was six, I had already made the decision the year before, when Martha was born and I was five years old, that since I would never have the older sister of my own dreams, I would instead have to be the older sister I dreamed about for Martha. I made myself the promise to Martha, the day she was brought home from the hospital, that I would do everything in my power to be in Martha’s older sister the OS I would have wanted.

In all our childhood photos, until the year I turned 14 and stopped permitting photos to be taken, you see two things: I am almost always featured next to Martha, with my arms around her or somehow touching her, protective of her, and my twin sister is with the dog or otherwise occupied. Always. You might not be able to tell which twin is which from our facial features, but you can tell us apart from that. One of us is with Martha, and you know I am that twin for certain.

It is the greatest loss to me, the worst thing, the — I can only say this: I am not a quitter, but I was unable to complete that most important of assignments because of what happened to me in high school, whatever you want to call it. I either became ill, or troubled or had too many problems…whatever it was, I simply could not function well enough to do all that I promised myself (and Martha) I would do for her. I could not BE the person I needed to be, the functioning adequate teenager, in a good enough way to be a good enough older sister to her.

For instance, just take the older sister/younger sister Q and A that ought to have taken place but never did after I was 14. My own menstual periods took me by brutal surprise. In addition, I never did learn “the facts of life”  (ie sex) as we called it in those days, not for real, not so I understood them, until after college. I vaguely knew the “birds and the bees” but not really, not so I understood the fundamental mechanics of sex at a time when most teens were experimenting with relationships for real. (Not me… I went to an all-girls high school and even though it was not necessarily true for the other students, for me, sex was never on my mind, I never understood the urge or the drive, not then and frankly not ever…) Given those facts, you can see that the OS/YS tête-a-têtes about sex and dating etc just were not going to happen. I didn’t know enough, one, and two, even if I had, I was unprepared to talk about anything so intimate with anyone.

As it turned out, though, Martha had plenty of friends and soon clearly found people to talk to when I could not. Thank heavens, because if the roles had been reversed, she could have taught me plenty! Only they could not be reversed, because I was the OS and she was the YS and things had to stay that way… I think to this day, though she doesn’t say it in so many words, she misses, if not resents, losing the OS, the me she once had…She misses surely the OS promise she knew I made to her from the outset.

Oh, Martha knows it wasn’t my fault. Life is life and shit happens. But she misses me, the Pam that never quite panned out because of everything that “happened” after I turned 14, 15, 16 and then it went on and on and on…She reminded me recently that even before I was taking any medication I told her that life was a minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day struggle just to survive…and I was only 24 or 26 or…This horrified her. To this day she can scarcely bare to recall my telling her.  Or of seeing me catatonic in the State Hospital. She left crying and I think could not bear to visit again for years…

We create our reality, people tell me. Our thoughts are very powerful…If so, I created from a very young age, a very harsh reality, one where in cahoots with a punitive God, I had learned over the years I had to be selfless to the point of self-obliteration, as well as nearly mute. But not so mute as to be noticeable…because if you were noticed then you were not completely self-less. (I told you it was a harsh world…) I had to speak just enough so as to NOT be noticed, but never about me or my concerns. ONLY about others…and then listen to their problems ONLY. I had to be a pair of ears pinioned to the wall. Wear drab no-color colors, unnoticeable. Fade into the woodwork, but only in a way that was unremarkable…As soon as someone noticed that I was fading, it was evil! and I had to add just enough color to fade into the crowd anonymously yet again, self-lessly.

No wonder my handwriting almost disappeared into invisibility. (I would have willed my fingerprints away if I had been able to!) Can you imagine my mortification, and the self-mortification I had to practice when bank tellers noticed the minuscularity of my signature and made me sign checks a second time? They NOTICED my attempts to disappear, and in doing so, made me appear loud and big…which was bad. So the voices took it out on me, making demands that had to be answered and hidden in turn.

Why am I writing about these things? Because despite the pain it has caused me, I still believe in self-denial. I believe in self-lessly doing things for others, and in NOT being the center of our own universes ALL the time. I think a good bit of doing for and thinking about others in THEIR universes is good for the soul, so long as they do not abuse you. And I do not believe that others need to know everything good that we do. I do not think we need to broadcast every good deed on Facebook or to our friends so they know what good people we are! So what if it remains anonymous, or between God and you? Maybe even God doesn’t need to know it if you do something for someone else…and that someone else doesn’t need to know who did it either.

Live with  the anonymity. You can do it. You can be self-less once in a while and not die. Your self is strong enough tolerate not telling the world everything you do for others…Trust me. You do not need kudos, confirmations or smiles for everything you do. You just need to know that someone else is better off because you did something or gave away something you could have used, but decided to give it to someone else instead. You sacrificed something. Not that you gave it away because you could not use it but because someone else needed it more than you did.

Try it, a little sacrificing especially in the United States is a good thing to learn. But make it real, don’t do it falsely. Giving up time or giving away something you don’t use or have any need for is no sacrifice. Sacrifice: from the Latin, sacer, “holy” plus facio, facere, “to make.” Something is only a sacrifice, something is only made holy, if it is a real loss and a real gift at the same time.