Tag Archives: poem

Poem for my Twin Sister, Carolyn Spiro Silvestri

This poem is in my new book, LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS. Alas this final version did not get there as i had misplaced it and did not find it till after the publication date!

Ten Minutes

(pour ma jumelle)

Sometimes when you’ve spent hours rushing somewhere

and just as many hours rushing back

you ought to make yourself stop ten minutes from home

ten minutes short of where you think

you can put your feet up

finally, and get out at the road’s edge

and ask yourself where you are

going and where have you been and why

are you hurrying just to get it over with, or is there no point

to this day but in the ending of it?

Ten minutes, this pause

wrenched out of the rush by the roadside

getting the kinks out, lets you hear the sudden quiet

of your own thoughts

as the out-of-doors pours in and gives you pause.

What have you been doing all day

racing, rushing, wasting your time all day

for what, to get what over with?

Better to have rested more along the way,

to have seen, to have been, to have watched, listened

to have paid attention

than to have beeped and swerved so much

sped and sweated in bottlenecks

and cursed the traffic for what could neither be avoided

nor its fault, being its nature.

Where had you been all day

in your hurrying to get home, but on your way

along the only way there was: yours.

Oh, but you should have known better–

how all homes are but temporary shelters:

a roadside shack or leafy park bench,

a ramshackle timber lean-to —

each a place to rest as good as any mansion

ten minutes away. Ten mere minutes from home

the roadside beckoned with saffron mustard sprigs,

brave bouncing bet. But you had no time

to pay attention, so nearly home to rest and relax.

Oh, but you should have known better—

The day scattered like dry leaves

and ended without you.

Now you pay with the rest of your life.

.

 

 

The Obituary of an Extraordinary Woman, My Mother…plus

IMG_0029SPIRO, Marian Wagner, 89, of Madison, CT and Amherst, MA died on June 18, 2017 at the Hospice of the Fisher Home after a lengthy illness. Marian was born in Fall River, MA on February 16, 1928 to Oliver and Carolyn Wagner. She was raised in Fall River during the Depression and graduated from BMC Durfee High School. She then earned a two-year degree from Vermont Junior College that enabled her to work as a lab technician. It was at a lab at Harvard Medical School that she met her husband Howard Spiro. They were married in 1951, made a home in New Haven, CT and quickly had four children: Pammy, Lynnie, Martha, and Philip. In the meantime, she returned to school, received her undergraduate degree and in 1970 began a twenty-year career as a renowned teacher of science and math at The Foote School in New Haven. She introduced computers to her students long before they ended up in their back pockets and once built a solar-heated oven to bake the Thanksgiving turkey. She helped to revive the school newspaper, which was later renamed the “SPI” in her honor. Her dogs were frequent guests in her classroom, and when she wasn’t helping to train her friends’ dogs or hosting canine pool parties in her backyard, Marian was taking her own retrievers to local hospitals or mental health facilities to hang out with patients. Throughout her life, she was known for expert woodworking skills, her intuitive ability at navigating a sailboat, her competitiveness on the tennis court or in a game of bridge or scrabble, her love of golden retrievers, her lasting friendships, and her deep devotion to her family. She never let the social conventions of her day block her dreams: she embarked on a lifetime avocation of woodworking despite being told it was not for girls, she became a teacher of science before most scientists would accept women as their peers, and she even made the phone call to Howard for a date that led to their eventual marriage. She will be sorely missed by her four children: Pamela Spiro Wagner, Carolyn Spiro Silvestri, Philip Spiro and Martha Spiro; her six grandchildren: Allison Spiro-Winn, Jeremy Spiro-Winn, Hannah Spiro, Claire Spiro, Oliver Spiro and Adriane Spiro; and her many friends and students. She follows the passing of her parents Oliver and Carolyn, her husband Howard of 61 years, her sister Barbara, and her brother Oliver. A memorial service will be scheduled at a later time. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Marian W. Spiro Fund for Science Enrichment at The Foote School in New Haven, CT or the Hospice of the Fisher Home in Amherst, MA.

______________________

The obituary above was written by my wonderful “cousin in law,” Jere Nash, who is Holly Wagner’s husband, my uncle’s daughter (who was my mother’s late brother, Oliver who died many years ago of malignant melanoma).

All that follows is my interpretation of things, as all observation is of course but in my case you have to understand that I speak largely as an outsider, not knowing very much since I was not “in” the family for so many years…

Although I lost many years with my mother as an adult, due to my father’s “exxing” me out of the family in anger and a profound lack of understanding of “mental illness” and what was going on for me at the time, I still remember her in my childhood, how when there were still trolleys in New Haven Connecticut (oh, how young I must have been then!) she would either bravely or completely nonchalantly wear jeans  to go shopping downtown at Malleys or whatever the stores were there at the time. For anyone else this would have been extremely difficult, disregarding all the social mores of the 50s dictating that women had to wear skirts and heels and make-up to go out presentably in public. I do not know how my mom felt about it, only that she did it and did not seem to care what others thought. She cared only that she was more comfortable in pants, and low- heeled  “girl scout” shoes, the same kind I wear to this day, and she saw no sense in getting all dressed up just to bring 2 very young children out to go on a stressful shopping expedition.  As for that, my mother to my knowledge never wore more make-up in her life than a dash of lipstick, though I do remember her applying that with care every morning and blotting her red lips on a fold of toilet paper, thinking both how beautiful she looked (though she never  in her life agreed with me or anyone else on this, even though when she was younger  — when we lived in England — my friends thought she looked like a “movie star”) and how I never wanted to have to put “that stuff” on my own lips.

Unlike her children, who suffered from oily skin and troublesome largely untreated acne as adolescents, my mother’s bane of existence was her dry skin  and its tendency to wrinkle  so her one vanity, if you could call it that, was moisturizers and trying to deal with skin that aged earlier than she might have wished. She was also a outdoors lover, a sailor and a tennis player in the days well before the publicized benefits of sun screen, which may or may not have played a role in this (I am not completely convinced of the safety of sunscreens with their nano chemicals nonetheless)…Whatever is the case, it seemed true that her skin did show the effects of being out in the weather early on, but this to me only gave her face character and the true beauty of an older woman…though I know that as I was growing up it may have caused her more regret than I knew.

We are all of us subject to society’s images and social pressures, and my mother was not immune to these, no matter how iconoclastic and “her own person” she may have been in so many ways. For example, as a result of having been a self-described  “chunky athletic tomboy with a tiny petite older sister” — and feeling rejected for this all her life,  she fought a poor self-image, body hatred, and deep conflict on that account, such that I have always felt that in some sense while she loved food and eating, she also never took a single bite that she did not simultaneously regret and chide herself for. This was painfully obvious to us children, I think, at least it was to me, and it continued throughout her life. Even after nearly forty years of not seeing her, I would go out to lunch with her when she was in her 80s, and hear her criticize herself  about what she was eating. How I wished she could simply enjoy food for once, without the concomitant agonies of needing to punish herself for it.

Maybe she got some peace at some point, perhaps dementia granted it to her, but at what a terrible price.

I think that for my mother, one of the sad consequences of being married to a man like my father was that she never felt that he took her intellect or her creativity seriously or even  consequentially. True, he got her to go back to college and finish a four-year degree, and take up teaching, but he never truly treated her with the same esteem he granted an equal, and we all felt it and knew it, and what is more, she did too. No doubt this was largely behind all her words of abuse and rage in later years when she could scarcely speak to him civilly even when  he had himself ceased to be abusive.  It was hard to listen to her snark and scorn him, when he was trying his best…But by then it was much to late to undo the damage his lack of care and cold abusiveness had wrought for so many years beforehand. It seemed to me that she just could not forgive him, especially not for “changing” on her so unaccountably in his latter decades…

 

This is the rather in-expert poem I wrote for my mother’s birthday in 2007 about all that she gave us growing up…

 

YOUR OWN OCCASIONAL POEM 2/16/07

 

You push the wood under the saw,

the sawdust scent is sharp and familiar.

First time in months, you’re in the woodshop;

at the end of the day, you’re sorry to stop.

 

 

It’s mid-February, the pale wintry light

has long ago left. You look up. It’s night

and you haven’t appeased yet your hands’ appetite,

their urge to create. I know as I write

 

 

that hunger of hands to handle and make,

your children all feel it, the pleasure, the ache.

You taught us love, gave us skills that you knew

copper enameling, pen and ink, too,

 

 

the weaving of baskets and papier maché

antiquing desks and working with clay,

sand casting, knitting (you couldn’t crochet).

 

 

You fired up a hunger that’s better than food

a hunger that drives us, the right attitude

to make things of beauty, for need and for use.

With paper pulp, wood, fabric, clay, we produce

 

 

unique objets d’art not entirely planned.

We make them with care and the love they demand

and when they are finished, we give them away.

(The joy’s in creating; they’re not meant to stay.).

 

 

You gave us the spirit, this need and the drive

this hunger, this feeling of being alive.

I don’t know if knowing, you planted the seed

but the plant it grew gives us all that we need.

 

 

(A mother like you is so rare you’re worth pay,

which conveniently rhymes with this:

Happy Birthday!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Mother, Marian W Spiro, Died a Week ago…

fullsizeoutput_343bMy drawing of my mother, Marian Wagner Spiro, suffering from the effects of dementia,  wearing the iPod and headphones I gave her. (from a photo taken by my sister, Martha, in the last weeks of mom’s life…)

There is so much to say, and so little that I find myself capable of saying at this time. The loss of one’s mother, no matter how fraught the relationship, is always incalculable, quite literally unable to be calculated. Because of the divorce from much of my family, included the extended network of cousins and so forth, imposed by my father for nearly forty years, I lost many years and many memories I might have made with my mother, and needless to say with the rest of my native family. However, because of this, along the way I learned the value of friendship, not just the emotional support and love from some one significant other, since I had none, but the kind of friendship about which it has been written:  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. I learned what true friends are, and that they can love a person and care about a person perhaps with deeper love and kinder regard even than one’s family of origin.

 

This is not to say that I do not love and care about my family, of course, but it is my friends to whom I dedicated my newest book of poems and art, my friends both old and new. And they know who they are, I am sure they do. Because I feel it and I know it.

 

But that much said, I loved my mother, and what is more, I know she loved me and would have wanted me to have these loving friends in my life,  especially once she understood that having a nuclear family of my own was not in the picture for me.  I do not believe that she cared about whether I ever became a doctor or even a successful poet or artist, but only that I found contentment and love in my life, somewhere, somehow, and that she would be proud of me now, not for my achievements but for all these wonderful friends whom I love and who I know love me in return ( and in return for nothing except being me).

 

I love you, Mom, and I wish you well on your journey, wherever that takes you…Be at peace and know that all is well.

_______________________________________________________________

I wrote this poem, or started it the night of my last visit to my mother, after weeks of not being able to put pen or pencil to paper. My younger sister, Martha and I had been splitting up the time and watch at the Hospice, though Martha had done the lion’s share of everything, living as it were just around the corner, while I needed a driver to get me first to Agawam and then to from Vermont to Amherst each day. In any event, just as I was finishing it, Martha called me with tears in her voice telling me that mom had passed away more suddenly than expected, no time to call me to come down to the hospice to be with her at the end.

 

HIATUS – June 18, 2017

“Just letting you know I am taking a hiatus because my mother is in the process of passing away and I need to give that my full focus.”

 

In the snapshot I take, you are almost not there,

barely stitched to your body by broken breathing,

those strands of beads upon which none of us pray

to keep you here, still here, still here…

the seeming years of days and nights

of your going having frayed the long wick of your life

till it seems impossible your heart pulses and breath

still clings to the flesh that clings to your bones.

 

 

In the stillness like stopped breath,

as the clock duties our days, from your morphine remove,

you can’t know how we mark a terrible time

while we wait for what is to come,

the inexorable exit-gong sounding: It is done.

 

 

All the same, they say life starts over, Mother,

if there is ever any life on earth without you,

as if we believed this day would come, or any other,

as if anything without you can ever be the same.

 

 

 

 

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.

A poem plus art.

Edited on July 29, 2016 and reposted.

The poem below is the introduction to my third book, and my second book of poems, this time with art, which should be published in the spring of 2017 by Sundog Poetry and Green Writers Press, both Vermont publishers.  Wowee!!! I am thrilled. Tamra Higgins of Sundog has generously said that she wants to make sure that I have an art show and reading at the time of the book launching. Moreover  I believe that Sydney Lea, Vermont’s wonderful former poet laureate, who had agreed to write the forward for it when it was still going to be published by CKP will still do so for the new publishers. I feel especially blessed!!!

I am very much a novice watercolorist and these are two beginning paintings.

imageJ

image

TO THE READER

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.

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 Art from VPCH

 

The first picture is of Danielle a staff member who was the first person to meet me when I was transferred to the state hospital from Central Vermont Medical Center. The black and white drawing is of Erin, who also spent much time with me, as I was on 1:1 and 2:1 the entire time I  was there. The last picture is of a potato beetle I found in a national geographic magazine on the unit.

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.

Praying For Foolishness: A Poem

THE OLD STORY

My father spoke of atheism as if it were a religion,

pounding the points of his argument into the dinner table,

spilling the salt with the seed of his own bad temper.

He raised me to be an atheist, too,

and I learned well the commandments of godlessness.

But at night in bed I suffered for it and was penitent

memorizing prayers buy the pages

glossing the psalms with a litany of pleas

that somehow God would find me, small as I was,

and make me a believer,

and, though a prodigal daughter, much loved, much loved.

How I longed for the sweet blow of grace

coming upon me like a hammer on a nail,

or a beggar on a penny

or raindrops on the parched red clay

turned to rust in the arid fields of my soul.

 

One night – I was under the covers saying the Lord’s Prayer

with a lengthy meditation for each line –

my father, making the rounds, heard me.

What are you doing? he asked, more awful than the God I longed for.

I told him, expecting punishment,

expecting a lecture on the purity of the godless intellect.

He stood a while in silence

while I waited for the one blow I didn’t want.

Then he said, laughing,

you’ll grow out of such foolishness, I hope.

 

I didn’t grow out of it.

Though I never found God and stopped looking for Him

I remember my father’s laughter,

the hard, cold sneer of it,

laughter at his daughter longing for God

and hoping for love

that would come like a thief in the night.

 

Now that I am older I know that belief’

doesn’t fall like a hammer

that the beggar is always penniless

and that rainfall soon evaporates returning to the cloud.

Atheism is a creed I have lived by, learned by,

and have at times been comforted by.

but if God should ever find me

I pray for foolishness.

 

1988

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…

Talk About Abilify with Pamela

ARC_Talk_About_Meds_Banner_Pamela

 

 

 

I have been asked, by The Recall Center http://www.recallcenter.com, see also http://www.recallcenter.com/xarelto/side-effects/ to “talk about my medications” so here I am, talking about my “favorite psychotropic drug, NOT..”: Abilify.

 

Why do I take Abilify?

 

I take Abilify, well, why do I take Abilify? I was prescribed Abilify because of the diagnosis of schizophrenia many years ago, and I usually take it along with another anti-psychotic drug (Geodon). But frankly the reason that I, I myself, take Abilify for now has nothing to do with psychosis or schizophrenia. I take Abilify simply and only because I have this weird feeling that it helps me write and do art. Ever since I have been taking it, or the two drugs together, I have had no trouble doing art at any time or even writing when I want to. The extra plus is that I can finish longer term projects, ones that I start on one day and have to finish over time. In the past this was a problem, but it seems to not be so difficult for me any more. I do not know for certain whether this is due to the effects of the Abilify/Geodon combination, but it feels like it, since I was never capable of finishing projects so easily and reliably before then. On the other hand, I believe that I can do these things myself now, and that once I get used to living here, in my new state of Vermont, I will choose to sloooowly go off the medications for good.

 

 

How do I remember to take my medicine?

In truth, I often forget to take my medications, but for the past thirteen years I had a Visiting Nurse come to remind me. And now that I live in another state, where this service is not available, I have a med tray that is delivered weekly. I hope that I will be able, by seeing this tray openly on display on my table, to remember to take the ones I want. At least for as long as I want to take them.

 

I have been asked about side effects of this drug, but I would say, 1) all “side effects” of drugs are the effects of the drug, and you cannot tell a person that she is only suffering “side effects” especially if they are serious enough to cause distress. 2) there are very serious and troubling effects possible with Abilify, so my experience is not necessarily typical 3) I used to feel very irritable on Abilify, but no longer 4) usually I add Geodon to help me sleep and calm the anxiety that Abilify can induce

 

Where do I go for Medical support? I just a few weeks ago moved to Vermont, so I do not yet have a Primary Care Provider, but I do have a psychiatric nurse practitioner who will see me – so far, at any rate – once a month. For medical issues, at this time, I do not know whom I will see, but in Connecticut I used to have an APRN at a doctor’s office. I also was able to get to an Urgent Care center easily, in CT. That is not possible here in rural VT. So in the event of a medical emergency, I do not know exactly what I would do, except call 911 and hope for the best!

 

Before taking Abilify, or ANY anti-psychotic drug, here are the questions that I think you should ask your doctors: You should ask, first of all, why he or she is prescribing an anti-psychotic medication for you. Does he or she believe you are psychotic? If not, why prescribe such a powerful and possibly devastating drug? And if so, why? Doctors should be willing to answer this openly and honestly and if they will not, then I do not believe that you should listen to their advice, but get a second opinion. You never know who might derive financial gains from prescribing a medication that is not available generically. Also, why is your doctor not being honest with you? I would never feel comfortable in a situation like that…

 

 

Ask your doctor what to expect after taking this drug and when to expect the effects, good or bad. What does he or she anticipate you will experience as a benefit and what he or she thinks you might experience on the down side? Ask them to be honest about this and why they feel it is worth the cost/benefit ratio to you.

 

Abilify is extremely expensive and non-generic until 2015, when a generic form is scheduled to become available. So if you can, I would ask your doctors about why they are prescribing this particular drug and not another. There may be very good reasons for it, such as a low incidence of weight gain, and little sedation, at least at doses below 15mg. Nevertheless, I would want to be certain that there were no financial inducements such as stock holdings in the pharmaceutical company involved etc.

 

 

There are ALWAYS risks involved when you take pscho-active medications, or any drug, but anti-psychotic drugs can be especially problematic for some people. Even though Abilify causes fewer problems with massive weight gain, for many people this is not always the case and weight gain as well as Type 2 diabetes, with or without weight increase has been known to occur on Abilify. Over-activation and irritability have been reported frequently, in my experience. And many people I know who have taken Abilify have told me that they have trouble sleeping if they take it at night.

 

Published research suggests that 30mg of Abilify is no more “effective” than 15mg. From my own experience, I can only say that at 15 mg Abilify is quite activating but at 20-30mg it becomes suddenly sedating and less helpful. This is why so many people refer to Abilify dosing as “Less is more.” They mean in some sense that the lower doses work better than the higher ones, unless the sole goal is sedation, in which case I would say there are better drugs for that purpose and safer ones.

 

As for drug interactions, I am not aware of any important ones.

 

Finally, the three main things I wish I knew before taking Abilify are what I wish I’d known before I took ANY anti-psychotic drug many years ago: that if I took what they gave me, and kept taking it, 1) I might be disabled for the rest of my life 2) it might induce chronic/episodic psychosis – i.e. stop the natural process of recovery in its tracks 3) NOT that my brain’s neurochemistry was already “out of balance” but that my brain and its neurochemistry would be changed and destabilized by the drug itself…

 

That is what I wish I knew before taking Abilify. Before I take any drug from now on, I will find out these things and determine for myself whether the cost/benefit ratio really makes sense.

 

 

But on the whole I would say that NO DRUG developed in the last 20 years has been adequately or honestly researched for any pharma company to make a claim about either its efficacy or its safety. NONE. So I would on that basis probably never take a new drug from now on. There is not a drug company out there that I trust to have done ANY new brain research, since it’s all based on junk and garbage theories that arose from “back researching” Thorazine, which was bogus in the first place. So why would I want to take a drug that was developed from research coming out of that cesspit?

 

I am 62 years old. I am NOT suicidal and I certainly do not want MDs with murder on their brains to euthanize me with their psycho-drugs, or to use me as some guinea pig to determine how much control they can have over people…NO MORE DRUGs, NO MORE DOCTORS, NO MORE HOSPITALS AND HOSPITAL ABUSES.

 

 

I may take a couple of drugs today in order to survive the transition from CT to VT, but you must understand that my brain was already damaged from the years of having been given them against my will. So I HAVE AN ALREADY DAMAGED BRAIN, from the medications I’ve already taken.

 

I do not advise anyone with a more or less intact brain to take an anti-psychotic drug, not ever, not if you can avoid it and certainly not for “the rest of your life.” NEVER take any drug on an ongoing, “forever” basis. ALWAYS re-evaluate your need for it.

 

And that is all I am going to say about Abilify. If you take Abilify for “depression” you have come to the wrong place. Nevertheless, I have written a blog post just for you. Do a search on “Add Abilify” and you should find it. But you won’t like it any more than this one. Sorry about that.

 

MICHAEL E. BALKUNAS, MD: LISTEN TO THIS RAP – YOU MUTHA FUCKA!

Okay so here is another rap lyric. I suggest that you try to play it on an apple or iphone/ipad device as people have said that these won’t play with Internet Explorer. Perhaps because they are created through Garage Band and with ITunes? Anyhow good luck! (This is a TRUE STORY about what happened in the New Britain General Hospital in May 2014, Hospital of Central Connecticut…NOTHING IS IMAGINED OR MADE UP IN fact things were much worse even than this song describes….) If these end up being popular enough, I will redo them with a good microphone and perhaps a video…

DR. MICHAEL E. BALKUNAS, SHRUNKEN-HEAD MUTHAFUCKA RAP

Doctor Balkunas, you think you can fuck with me?

Doctor Balkunas, you think you can punish me?

Doctor Balkunas you head shrunken mofucker

G’wan, have another headfucking think on it, mofo…
They brought me by ambulance, silent and broken

Terrified, mute, and on an “involuntary”

Not even speaking and mentally ill

I could make no choices, every word unspoken.

Do you know what it means when I say I was mute,

when I could not speak and words did not work

and the world was too loud and my head was too full

and there was no bridge and no hand to pull

me out from that in-between. Even security

wasn’t there to protect me, only nurses and from me

and even the first nurse who coldly appraised me

grabbed my one book and then took my phone and fled

as if she were plotting to fuck with my head

because she had only to ask me and take it politely,

and promise to take care of things, and do it nicely.

Such fierce flames of outrage surged in me, and anger!

So not even thinking, I went running after her

wanting just to reach her and grab my book back from her

Little did I know the reaction if I touched her.

Mike Balkunas, you thought you could fuck with me?

Mike Balkunas, you thought you could punish me?

Mike Balkunas, you thought you could shit on me?

Mikey, you mofo, have a new headshrinking think on it.

Quicker than quicker everyone was sicked on me,

from the aides to the orderlies, even the nurses.

Burly armed guards went piling up hard on me,

and the worst of the worst was patients made versus me

a 100-pound 60-year old lady of five foot three

upset that my two last possessions were snatched from me

without any reason or rhyme in the world really

by the usual criminal in the ER, the head RN

who knew I was powerless alone in that warren

of ER rooms, so she had me dragged me to seclusion.

where I had to bare-knuckle the dark in confusion

battling anguish and fear, with the voices’ profusion.

So to get someone to come in and hear my screaming

I pulled all my clothing off, for clothes had no meaning.

Mike Balkunas, you think you can fuck with me?

Mike Balkunas, you think you punish with impunity?

Mike Balkunas, you really think you can shit on me?

G’wan, Mofo, Have another headshrinking think, now, Mikey…

I screamed from the base of my lungs for an hour

but was utterly ignored by all who had power

to relent or release me. I hadn’t a notion

of what else to do, to get help or attention

or have them return to the room, but to start

hitting my head and even tearing apart

things I could throw, chair, clothes and chart.

Then came the goon squad of six beefy men

who easily brought me facedown on the floor again

I screamed and I struggled but it did me no good,

if you fight them they justify all that they would.

Much better to lie still and let them abuse you

and get discharged and hope against hope you can sue.

The ER in peril from the dangers I posed

such a monster as me, poorly muscled, unclothed,

they wanted me, mute, completely shut up.

so they rammed three injectables into my butt.

Mike Balkunas, honey, you thought you could fuck with me?

Mike Balkunas, sweetie, you believed you could punish me?

Mike Balkunas, sweetheart, you thought you could shit on me?

Aw, little boy, Balkie, do your headshrinking mofo thing with it…

Mikey? Mikey? Mofo…I’ll bet you won’t forget me for a lo-o-o-ooong time, will you?

Ha ha ha!

I wish to god I could forget you. You mofo. You mother fucker. Let this rap song be a lesson to you, not to fuck with poets and writers or you’ll get written into a history you might rather be forgotten.

Doctor Michael Balkunas, dare you fuck with me now?

Doctor Michael Balkunas, dare you punish me now?

Doctor Michael Balkunas, you head shrunken muthafucka

Mofo, Mikey go fuck another headshrinker and think on 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.”