YOUR SINGULAR, SURE VOICE

My world unravels now you are away
Your love is away; nothing embraces me
Trust fails around me and sincerity
Our love’s sanctuary is gone today

I’m a stranger lost in language games
I miss the meaning others fail to say
Who don’t remember me from yesterday
My social life comes down to merely memes

The world that is your singular, sure voice
Fractures in a plural mixed up sound
I lose my footing, stagger on shifting ground
Our duet drowned out by static noise

I learned the story of Tristan and Isolde
When all I did alone in school was read
They lived in love’s cathedral, love their creed
And so we lived so long our love will hold

My mind rehearses thoughts of you like a song
And all my memories join in harmony
Although apart, I feel you here with me
And I’ll be with you there however long

PARKING LOT

“FUCK!”  “Come over here and say that, FAGGOT!”
“Are you staring at me?”  He yelled, throwing pieces of furniture
Echoing off the cavernous dumpsters they hit, Hip-Hop music blaring
Out the apartment that let him crash there, so loud my walls vibrate
Wandering around in the parking lot and it’s three o’clock AM
He watched my every move from my car to the Condo Complex door
And I left my 14-year-old Honda Civic—too dented for insurance—
In the parking lot with him, and only two weeks ago we ran up to him
After I photographed him breaking into my friend’s Dakota pick-up truck
My 911 call brought two police cruisers to the parking lot that afternoon
I emailed the station my photographs along with my report, yet here he is
Wandering around the parking lot yelling, “FUCK!” and hollering
Hip-Hop blaring, and it’s three o’clock AM again, like two nights ago
When my 911 call brought a police cruiser to the parking lot
He was inside that night and taunted the police out his sliding glass door
On the second floor, he knew the police couldn’t gain access to him
Last night, my 911 call brought three police cruisers to the parking lot,
The smiling, indifferent condo owner, and two men in military uniform.
It’s quiet, tonight.  Peaceful.  Only the occasional cavernous clang
Of a homeless person digging in the dumpster, or a shopping cart’s rattle
Across the parking lot, as I reflect out my 3rd floor sliding glass door
I wonder about the Asian families with children who live here

TUNNEL EXIT

It’s hard to find words for joy
And who wants to read happy poems?
Poetry begins in a pang
And sings the still, sad song of humanity
But I’m done with sad
This growing blithe spirit of mine
Hail to me my blithe spirit
“O friends, no more these sad tones
“Let us instead strike up more pleasing and more joyful ones!”
But what would those joyful tones be?
I don’t know, standing here bathed in light
Just at the tunnel exit, the darkness behind me
The interminable tunnel, the darkness when you’re in it
And I’ve been in it so long, so interminably long
Don’t we coalesce in misery together like an overcast sky
This amassing thunder-cloud with its strike of God-shock
That Götterfunken Schiller revealed; Beethoven immortalized
This confrontation with misery, this visit with trauma
This release, these successive explosions of what is not
Moksha, the liberation of which the Indic speak
There is no sunshine like just after the thunder-storm
Inspiring the shepherd’s hymn of thanksgiving
I can enjoy in golden moments, enjoy playing the keys, the music
I act effortlessly at times, have drive
Not compel a soporific lethargy to get it done
The tunnel behind me reaches back in misery
Back, behind the blithe light in which I now stand
At the tunnel exit
And today I am happy, happy at this moment I want

RECOVERY FROM WHAT PEOPLE CALL MENTAL ILLNESS

I’ll always remember; I have to remember
That month behind locked psych wing doors
I also remember the grandiose ideation
When I saw my doctoral dissertation recovering
A spirituality in this dead, secular age beyond recovery
Signifiers of the bipolar diagnosis I will always have
And I am mentally ill, will be thought mentally ill
If anyone finds out, like the job application that asked what meds I’m on
Or the dentist who took a couple steps backward
And asked me when my last episode was when I disclosed bipolar meds
With sadness, I think of 27 years embracing the mental health sub-culture
Believing it was a life—king of the Drop-In Center
Devoting what drive depression and sedating meds hadn’t sapped
What intelligence still shone through medicated fog
Devoting what was left in me to behavioral health sciences;
Publishing my story in a university press; bespeaking me
At international national conferences; brought in year after year to talk
To student nurses; until one year I narrated my accomplishments, asked
“Does it make sense to call me mentally ill?” and was never asked back
Actively sought out by psychiatric treatment teams to represent us

I emerge into the ordinary world

That community which doesn’t require chronic professional helpers
Which doesn’t slouch all endeavor staring at the TV
Vacuously not really watching, when I could be practicing
Scales, arpeggios, chord voicings, playing through old standards
Like the other musicians my age who did for 27 years and they grew
While my sapped drive, called avolition in textbooks, sapped
Year after year my technique 27 years of which I envy in others
And probably will never recapture and make my own like mental illness
All manner of healing techniques and med adjustments
Release the electronic locks and I laboriously push open the doors
Into the ordinary world out of the psych wing
My will strengthens, stronger, strong as it used to be
And when you have the will, you accomplish, can accomplish anything
Not cave before thinking about rising out of bed to do
No, but to rise up from a 27-year bedridden psyche
To strive at overcoming mental lethargy, technical atrophy

Re-enter the atmosphere we call chronically normal

Like the hospital bus dropped me off on the street corner
To fend for myself when I was deemed well enough for release,
Find out what it means to be mentally ill and quarrel
Over the $50,000 bill, which I wasn’t well enough to do
With my student loan money bloating my savings account
Over indigent status and the money I owed the student loan officer
Meant I owed the hospital.  Alone on the street-corner with a $50,000

Broken mind.

It’s not as much bitterness as it is the cost of recovery
The work-out to build up a flaccid psyche, rising
Up out of sedating meds, sedated desires, to take on a world
Even Rip Van Winkle might give up trying in
And sleep another 27 years, or the rest of my life
In the Drop-In Center, where I am king
And there’s nothing you really have to do
If you don’t want