SEDUCTION

The day was seductive.
Maybe I felt too good.
You’re always second-guessing your mood
When you have bipolar disorder
I don’t think I’m manic
A day like today can make a guy think money doesn’t matter
That a life devoted to liberal arts is a good idea
Make you shrug off for a moment the debt you undertook
And you’re still paying on your education 27 years later,
That 17 years of your life in school, impoverished,
Did something good to your soul, and it is a good idea
To do something good to your soul
That jamming on keys with a blues guitar player all morning
And a walk in the park with a sober friend, talking
On a sunny, 75-degree day
Would make you feel so good you question whether you’re manic,
Forget that you’re years past due for a teeth cleaning
That you can’t get the root canal and a few crowns
And though your home is Canada, you used the remaining balance
On your American credit card to pay for your oil change
That just yesterday I went out for a cup of tea instead of breakfast

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

A CIRCUITOUS PATH THROUGH MADNESS

I have wandered.  Walked a circuitous path through madness
I know there is no romance in madness, no art in it
I now stand in sanity, more or less, understand where I was, then went
Stand with side effects from lingering symptoms, from the pills I need
Pills that keep me on this side of normal, with you, with where I was
Though simple effort still taxes my will, stresses my avolition
With a modicum of happiness breaking through the forest depression deep
The circuitous path I wandered out of to here, with you, with where I was
Not the manic elation I knew for a decade, nor a decayed will
When I couldn’t move, motivate myself, simple effort was enormous
Ambition used to mean what healing means to me now,
I know now why Tristan and Isolde required connubial conjunction
I know the swoon of Tristan’s potency into Isolde’s salvific potions
The solipsistic isolation Isolde solved in her era, saves me with solutions
Potions, herbals that brought back my heroic effort to get out of bed
To make another poem, words wound in sane sense not just to joust,
Vainly at windmills mindlessly spinning in vorticular winds, flailing,
Failing mind, falling into delusions, furtive stabs at shadows of reality
Breaking word sequences into nonsense and here is no art, no romance
Now in pills and many therapies, I invoke the soul of Lady Isolde’s salves
Potent restoratives who would potentially invoke my psychiatrist’s laugh
My psychiatrist, who doesn’t know, as I know, ethereal healings,
The anaesthetic pulling of my will into that simple activity, effortless,
As it used to be, an hedonia in doing, pleasure like happiness piercing
A clearing in deep forest darkness, depression’s deep gloom, like gladness
Like pleasure, like love Lady Isolde holds for prowess, like Lady Shakti’s
Chakras subsume susumma’s breath, and prana is clarity of mind, too
And spirit is psyche, ch’i, psychiatry is a chiasm of daemonic possession,
Desperation deposed—psychic chiasm, peripeteia in an ill-written script,
Light breaking forest gloom as in a clearing, a breath of fresh air
Inspiration of hope.  Stilling the spiralling like blown windmill blades
Spinning into a profound nowhere, incoherent words wheeled into order,
Wielding truth’s double-edged sword about it all, well-being, wellness
Wellsprings of hope, strength of will, wandering back, back to you,
To where I once was, departing the wilderness, wildness, the windmills’
Fiendish, whirling perseverations stilled, standing in sanity, more or less
I have wandered.  Walked a circuitous path through madness
There is no romance in madness, no.  No art in it
Not as there is art in sanity, in the sound of sense, in sound sense
In the sound of words making sense, and life as a living poem, making.
I did not choose to compose this poem, to wander that artless path

STRUGGLING AGAINST MY SWADDLING BANDS

My infant sorrow persists in these, my senior years

And I am not a fiend hid in a cloud

Though persistent, insistent, sinister powers that be

Tell me to be, that I am that fiend

And only my acceptance will disburse the cloud

But I am not helpless, naked; no longer piping loud

Though when I was, I was unable to sulk upon my mother’s breast

I didn’t know how to struggle against my swaddling bands

Nor that I had to, as I have to now, still, yet, in these my senior years

The tragedy written for me to play was not play

For me but was for the supporting cast

And their comedy found me the butt of every asinine joke

No.  Mirth was not mine, is not mine still

My bands swaddle not, did not swaddle, do but stifle, did stifle

Yet the author, the omnipotent author, with every reason to know better, composes

A hackneyed part so derivative that scholars reprise the same,

The tired character in their discipline and the same scholars now think

The schizophrenogenic mother a fiction but I rethink the same

The fictive character of that postulate, that a mother would

Manifest upon this helpless, naked infant—

This child of bipolar, or schizoaffective disorder

Writ deep in Virginia Satir’s suppressed family secret

Satiric family, satire of a family, familiar statistics

A production in a late-night rehearsal

Of a malevolent plot the leading lady’s desperate

Protagonist on strike; the stage lights dim

Darkness disburses out in the theater’s illuminated exit rows

The show is over, makeup sanitized off the face of reason

Outside, in the light of day, naked realization

Identifying a self-defining moment of truth, defying, momentous truth:

I am not that I am,

Not that I am I was made to be

That problem child I am not

I will be what I will to be

What I am, I am me

I am my identity, my me

What I am is what I am

I say loud:

I am I

I say loud:

I am me

My me

Identity

I am

I