Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sine Wave Depression Poem #19


I can be sane if you subtract
my father’s cruelty
and my mother’s worry.

Each was a carnival mirror
that elongated
or compacted me.

I was stretched like taffy
or pounded into a cube
depending on where I stood.

When I left home
they hid in my head—
This happens to everyone.

It took years for me to see
that they were bent
and I was fine.

Now I wonder
what my daughters
see in me.

(published in Disclosures)


In my experience most people don't really begin to see their parents as they are, or as they were in childhood, until about age thirty. That's when the shit hits the fan and we begin to see how they, wittingly or unwittingly, may have damaged our development.

And then, if we have kids, we rightly fear how we may be harming their growth in ways we can't fathom.

As my mother often said, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

As far as the cycle of depression goes, today's poem shows growth away from the generalities of "Entropy" and "Science," coming closer to involvement with real people. The speaker strikes me as more honest than bitter, and that's good. His reference to his daughters also shows a healthy humility with regard to his own inevitable missteps as a parent.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Sine Wave Poem #18

Advantages of Science

Is science all that distinguishes us
from earlier generations?
We still worship the rich and envy them,
pity the poor and despise them,
fear death and ignore it.
What did you expect?

Sometimes science gives us a chance
to do good, as when millions died
from famine in the Sudan.
This only got our attention
because science gave us television
to watch human scarecrows pull
their loose-skinned, accordion-ribbed cows
across the expanding Sahara,
children trailing behind like coat hangers.

By then the best we could do
was extend the misery of the living
by delivering enough food
to afflict parents with hope
while their children died.

Who could have dreamed
this infinitely little too much?

(Published in Disclosures)


First, poetry aficionados may notice that the last two lines were lifted from Robinsion Jeffers' "Science."

Here the speaker, looking around at the world, still suffers from the zero-sum game of depression--how grand attempts that fuel hope only serve to increase suffering--and what is worse than watching your children die? Too little, too late.

Still the speaker exhibits a growing courage to face the world, however pointless it appears, while his misanthropy persists. His disgust is no longer just with himself, but with the whole damn world.

A loss of faith in science is familiar to any who recall Hiroshima. The late 19th century was much more sanguine about science. At the end of the 20th century, however, despite unprecedented material advances, western man had little to have faith in--a great loss also alluded to in "Colors."

Thanks for reading,


Monday, May 29, 2006

Sine Wave #17


Aphids savage the rosebush.
A marigold sickens and browns.
Milk sours in the refrigerator.
Roaches pick at particles of cheese.
I am told when there’s nothing to eat
they devour each other.

Ashtrays fill as if by magic,
the trash barrel is always full.
Lifting it, the garbage man buckles
as his spine twists like a snake.
He drives to the only hospital
that won’t take his insurance,
with its sawdust floors, straw beds
and spaghetti-stained nurses.

The near-sighted doctor can’t read
the overexposed X-ray
though the tech swears
it showed a death’s head smiling.
God bless chaos.


This is one of the oldest poems in the collection, written some 25 years ago. I hope it doesn't show. Its inclusion illustrates how I went through my archives to pick those poems I thought would forward the theme, instead of just those poems I thought my best. My best are, incidentally, contained in another unpublished ms.,For the Record, and were selected by Kathleen.

She recently sat down with me and decided on a division of labor. She will strive to find markets for my book-length works of prose, of which I have seven, while I will pursue a larger market for my poetry. The Net has made me lazy as I can avoid licking stamps and walking to the mail box. But the Net does not bring the recognition of print, even the best e-zines that pay. And I think I long ago cracked just about all the e-zines of reputation, though many have arisen since. It's impossible to keep up with them all.

Today's poem is perhaps the first in the series that contains a dark chuckle or two, especialy the non-authorized hospital. And the Greek angle is obvious: the world began in chaos, just as it does in the Bible. The second law of thermodynamics consistently strives to return us to that state, while life, and its high-energy requirements for order and complexity, fights against that degeneration.

I may have chosen the garbage man because I have chronic back problems which limited my ability to continue as a physician years ago. The pain is only a minor satellite in my conscious existence unless I have to do something like bend over or drive a fair distance. The only medication that allowed me to work in such pain, unfortunately, also precipitated hypomania--why I went on disability a decade ago.

The poem is really self-explanatory. I'm just speaking around it. But the surfacing of humor is a good sign and confirms we have but ten more poems to go in the depressive section before the speaker's mood can be considered normal. I'm sure you're all looking forward to that!


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Sine Wave Depression Poem #16

Fairy Tale

Rejection seems as alien to you
as your face reflected in aquarium glass,
fish passing through your ears

Yet familiar as your mother’s sour breath
as she snored insensibly beside
a littoral of beer cans.

Each day brings floods, fires, crashes--
terror to those who never suspected
nature and neighbors as enemies.

If tragedy is interruption of the usual pain
by something greater, yours is
that nothing can make another love you.


In today's poem the speaker turns from memories to an actual person, addressing someone near though blind in his view.

After the soul-killing experience of depression the speaker has difficulty imagining what it must be like for the other person. How could she not suspect that anything, anytime, could turn on her? Worse, how can one's chief motive for living be to avoid rejection when rejection is inevitable? To live for the approval of others is to not have a life.

Rejection begins when we are thrust out of the womb and continues as we are weaned, expected to communicate through language, abandoned to our own locomotion, and later to our own lives. Independence requires an increasing loss of dependence; this is healthy and normal, but the pain of that loss cannot be helped.

To live for the approval of others means a stunted, infantile development. After surviving depression, the speaker finds this attitude beyond belief. Then perhaps he is being too hard on others?


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Sine Wave Poem #15


The glass eyes of Chartres shine blue
with the order of ancient faith.
Now the blue light of television
flickers from apartment windows
as gun barrels ransom the news.

Even innocents kill
because a demon lover
is better than none at all,
to wear incendiary colors
better than invisible.

Late at night my veins run with words.
I think of their clotted freeways
and the interchanges of arteries.
It is hard to believe
there is blood in the heart
and not much else.


There are 27 poems in the first section of Sine Wave, so we have passed the mid point of the depressive section, and now depression turns outward to focus on the world. Still the diseased mind makes a selection error in focusing on the dark side, as in the gangs alluded to above. There is also a mourning for a nobler past, for a medieval world view, for anything that holds together, unlike the modern fractionalization into the whining fractals of special interests.

This is certainly not the best poem in the collection, but I'm proud of the last stanza as a raw expression of pessismism.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Depression Poem #14; Readers' Comments

On the Left Brain

Sometimes I think my left hemisphere
swollen like some great infected testicle,
necrotic, convoluted and gray.
Its vein walls are thinner than the membranes
lizards use to shield their eyes
and inside blood flows so slowly
I consider it a miracle
that a single rational thought escapes.

The great vein of Galen sits
at the bottom of both hemispheres
like a distensible sewer line
that eventually empties
through the superior vena cava
into the heart’s right chamber
where its effluent mixes with blood
from the bowels and extremities,
pools in the lungs, and, re-oxygenated,
races from the left ventricle
back to everywhere else.

I tell you this because
the dream engine that pulls the body
has no conception of itself,
and though dependent on blood
is blind as an infected testicle,
as my metaphors bear witness
and your brain understands.


A friend of mine (N. Ball) has told me that when medicine enters my poetry it has a chilling effect. Very well, I do get a little clinical above.

For those unfamiliar with Robert Sperry's work on the bicameral brain, you should know that humans really have two brains: one for detail and order and verbal definitions, the left, and one for holistic appreciation of space and shapes and associative commonalities of vision and sound, the right.

PET scans have shown that chemical depression tends to lodge in the left hemisphere, in the parietal area and the parahippocampal gyrus. But when depression generalizes it begins to involve everything, from the brainstem's startle reaction to the pineal gland's diurnal programming of melatonin.

I call the portion of the brain paralyzed by depression "the lizard brain," to emphasize its biological primitivism.

I know when chemically depressed that my lizard brain wants to take over. Because I'm human I try to put words to the feelings it communicates. Here's what the lizard brain sounds like:

"You're worthless. You've never done anything with your life. You're lazy. No one gives a shit about you. What's the point? Have another drink, that's right, you weakling. Can't face the music, pussy, can you? Why not just pack it in? What difference does it make anyway? You disgust me."

I know these negative comments are "verbal seizures" by a part of my brain that's diseased and should not be given any credence. Since the words echo how I'm "feeling," it nevertheless takes significant discipline to ignore the dark, repetitive narrative of the lizard brain.

In the poem above I try to de-mythologize the power of the left brain, comparing it to another diseased organ more easiy understood (women may substitute their ovaries for the same effect). I know it's not pleasant poetry, may indeed be "too graphic," even "gross;" but compared to the hell of depression the metaphor is only a weak reminder of the truth.

That would be all for today except that I'd like to post some of the comments I've received on this cycle of poems below:

The whole issue of depression is not new to me, as I mentioned my father's. I have also suffered many suicidal depressions over the years. But until this morning I have never been aware of anything as hideous as a 'psychotic depression with all the energy of mania'. I'm stunned. Often I've made the comment that there is no other hell than the hell-states right here on earth. I can't even imagine this, to be frank. I appreciate more than you know, your attempts to document these occurences. Your poetry is excellent, by the way, and I say that as a former lit major. You will always be in my prayers.


I missed yesterday's email but this poem moved me deeply.

Thank you, L

These poems are cut-confessional, powerful. Thanks for sharing them. I haven't got to the whole manuscript, but reading 'CO' and 'Paternal', and now 'Keep The Faith' . I am quite blown away. I love the 'Holstein sky', I'm dying to cut out the 'but it's a nice day'... I sure hope you are sending these pieces out, everywhere, for publication.

All best, take care


You know, after reading your site for the last month or so I've decided this is the best way to read poetry if one wants to understand what the poet wanted to say. I've been really enjoying these, and hope that they are doing what they should to help usher you through each phase of life/depression. It's been some time since I wanted to read poetry, but yours is so beautifully personal and occasionally raw that I'm really attracted to it. Keep going, ok?


I am very encouraged that poets and non-poets alike have said some nice things about these postings, so I'll persist until the end of the manuscript, which should occur sometime in mid-July.

Grateful to be heard,


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Depression Poem #13: "Keep the Faith"

Keep the Faith

You say two friends were murdered
but it's a nice day
and there must be some middle ground
between the abandoned mineshaft
and the Holstein sky.

Ants kill ants as easily as popping sodas.
Some father fish swallow their fry,
others rock them gently inside their jaws.
Sometimes an ox is gored
by another ox and dies.

Sometimes a country sends its young
to float like dynamited carp
in distant rice paddies.
If mercy were based on evidence
I'd shoot you.

(published in Gravity)


Again, today's poem features that cynical anger that presages a recovery from depression, an anger still generalized but likely to soon fix on actual people and situations or a more distant re-examination of the self.

The only difficulty some may have with this poem is the use of "Holstein" as an adjective, which refers to the patchy design on the hide of that breed of cow, turning the sky into a sort of black-and-white montage.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Sine Wave #12: Prognosis for depression improves

First, thanks to all who have been taking this journey with me, friends too numerous to mention--and family, of course. All the great e-mails I've received are not shown as comments here at the blog, regrettably. Know that if you do post here, the comment is automatcally forwarded to me by e-mail. By posting her others can enjoy your remarks as well. Now for today's poem:


Like a stiff current applied to the solar plexus
life fucks with us.

If you do not read psychology as a horoscope
of self-congratulation, you are ill.

Ask your pastor: "Suffering builds character;"
or your therapist: "Let's work through this."

Psychology encourages confessions
but prescribes defenses.

Better protect yourself.


Today the speaker achieves anger, an important prognostic sign in coming out of a depression. It's better to be angry than sad, because anger energizes and sadness paralyzes. Besides, anger feels better. Here the speaker draws a necessary boundary for self preservation, with a dose of cynicism towards easy explanations and cures those unfamiliar with mood disorders often blithely advise. In other words, screw Dr. Phil!


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sine Wave: Poem 11; Dad's suicide, again...


Dad owned an Eskimo mask
carved of brown whale balleen porous as lava
whose Mongol lips curved in a knowing smile
above the fireplace-- immune, I thought,
to the Russian novel we lived.
Icon or eyesore, it marked his territory.

After redecoration its pitted face was hidden
between prints of red-hued harlequins
meant to marry the lemony walls
of the newly cheerful family room
to the crimson shag below. The living room,
with its wall-length mirrors of smoked glass
marbled with gold, crushed velvet sofa
and uncomfortably small floral chairs,
was only good for cocktails.

In their last home the mask was mounted
under Plexiglas next to the wet bar
facing Mom's candle snuffer collection.
We didn't know Dad was running out of territory
until the whiskey quit working
and he sealed himself in his car
and I got to compare fixed smiles.

(published in The Miserere Review)


This is the third of poems about my dad, which are grouped together in the depression section of Sine Wave. The careful reader may have noticed that the speaker has now risen from the complete self-involvement of severe depression and is able to think about the misery of others, objectifying his concerns.

This poem is based on a central metaphor. Early in his career my father worked for Shell Oil and made frequent trips to Alaska to negotiate oil leases. He brought various mementos back form his trips; one of our favorites was a worm made of fur that when stroked would crawl up an arm. The Eskimo mask survived decorators and all the changes mother wrought as we rose socially to better houses and neighborhoods. It speaks for itself, as a manic-depressive's defenses are very porous, though also stubborn. Its final resting place, caged in Plexiglass across from my mother's collection of candlesnuffers, symbolized to me his ultimate defeat by domestication, thus women. He was a misogynist among other things, but the cause of this defect was three enormous older sisters who bossed him around when he was the baby of the family. His distant father was over fifty when he was born, his only brother thirteen years older and unavailable to save him from the female domination of his formative experience. I don't excuse his misogyny for these reasons, I only seek to understand it.

Dad purchased other art for the walls, most of it bad except for those prints in which he was guided by my older brother. Nevertheless the mask held a power for us all, I think, as a symbol of continuity and my dad's refusal to give in entirely to my mom's re-decorating schemes, as a male totem.

'CO' in the previous poem of course stands both for carbon monoxide, the method of his death, and "commanding officer."

This is the last poem about my father in the book.

BTW, I want to thank everyone who writes me by e-mail with their comments (and compliments!) on the poems. Because they comment directly by e-mail you won't read their posts here.

My father wasn't a bad man. He, like most of us, was just sadly deficient in self-knowledge. Had he know himself better he would have been better.



Monday, May 22, 2006

Sine Wave #10: CO


At five o'clock you'd douse the rocks
with Scoresby in a tumbler,
maybe a little water for respectability
and position yourself
in the ugly brown chair
for the numbing effect.

Night was a disappointment
because it was only a continuation
of unemployment. Still
you obeyed the clock,
whose pointed hands attacked
the limits of its circumference,
by never drinking before five,
a rhythm as predictable
as the pulse between your fingers
that signaled for another Winston
to crush between your knuckles
so that the butts stood up
at right angles in the ashtray.

Dad, I wish for you to note
the plaintive flute of meadowlarks at dusk,
to taste the first pear of summer,
to lie naked on your front lawn
clutching roses, waving at cars.

Slumped behind the wheel of your Lincoln
like an officer asleep at the bar,
the roses in your cheeks
were not the kind florists carry.
Lucky you brought your own.


This poem is obviously about my father's suicide at age on November 23, 1987, at age 62. Although I did not discover him (my younger brother did), the day is indelibly etched in my mind.

One thing that made it particularly hard, and I'm sure for my dad as well, is that I was just released from prison in late September 1987 for a manic episode (about which the retiring Connecticut judge decided to punish me for his political ambitions, or so I was told). So I was coming out of a mania while my Dad was stuck in depression, not that he could talk about it.

I'm sure it wasn't easy for him to see his illness in me at that time. It was mania that caused his discharge from the Air Force after he failed his pilot's exam, and mania in part responsible for some bad investments he'd made late in his life.

"Every sick family is sick in its own peculiar way." --Tolstoy

BTW, as an NBA fan I read Mark Cuban's blog today, and I must say, mine is much better, at least for literate people. ;-)


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Poem #9: "Paternal"


My dad turned to me at times,
eyes hooded in drink,
to say, "I love you, Son."
The words were eerie and eviscerate,
mechanical nightingales of rickety song.
A cigar store Indian
could have spoken them better.
My heart burned anyway.

Late at night, curled on the rug
in a fetal position before the television,
his nostrils trumpeted snores
deep enough to rattle
the fragile beanstalk of my spine.
I could never wake him

Especially in the mornings
I felt my bird-like spirit
unwelcome in his lap.
I might have been smothered
by the sports section
or crushed like a cigarette.


This has to be the oldest poem in the collection. I'm sure I wrote it before I was twenty. My dad, also manic-depressive, succumbed the the disease at age 62.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Depression Poem #8

Company of Crows

The crows cawed with relief
when Vincent blew his guts out in the wheat,
though his mind first burst against
the black-and-white angularity of sanity.

When a man sees heaven
like the Apostle Paul,
he becomes speechless,
a prisoner of an involuntary silence
almost as terrible as his exile to earth.
If he tries to put it on canvas
only those who have already seen
will understand, and they are few.

A man gets lonely
under such circumstances,
when the thing closest to his heart
can't be spoken, only pawed at with paint.
A man gets so lonely he may seek
the company of crows.

(published in Poetry Magazine, the online mag--not Poetry)


I remember writing this poem in January of 1996 during my last admission for depression. My manic vision had collapsed and I was left with such psychic emptiness I had no sense of a valid self; at best I felt like a mechanism, like a machine that had lost its ghost. In that miserable quasi-psychotic miasma I scribbled most of this poem.

Since I quit practicing medicine I have not been hospitalized again.


Friday, May 19, 2006

Therapy without Medication Pointless in Bipolars (Sine Wave Depression Poem #7)

Glass Giraffe

When my soul was sanded so raw
the capillaries couldn't even seep,
I questioned the value of pain.

"You must experience your feelings of abandonment
until you are comfortable with them," you said.

When my suicidal doppelganger
turned me inside out, pulling my anus
through my mouth, you said,

"Now that you are stripped of defenses
you have a better chance of changing them."

When I called you up one weekend
to say I was terrified of inanimate objects
like doorknobs and tea kettles, you said,

"Stay with it. Globalized fear indicates
a necessary therapeutic regression."

Finally the antidepressants kicked in
and I felt like myself.
When I left you gave me another card
since therapy was “unfinished”
and I might be back on your couch or another’s.

I gazed at your office figurines,
crystal leopards and pewter trolls,
porcelain ballerinas and kachina dolls,
and imagined the souls of your patients
trapped inside them-- those, like me,
who sought relief through words
when only medicines would do.

I could have been the glass giraffe.

(published in Slumgullion, an e-zine now defunct, I believe)


Prior to the advent of modern pharmacotherapy, manic-depressives were often seen by analysts. In reports of up to seven years of therapy, no improvement was noted.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Happy Birthday, Darllng! (and Depression Poem #6)

Before I get to today's post, I want to wish my beloved wife and editor, Kathleen McGovern Chaffin, a joyous birthday, and I pray the gift I ordered arrives today! I have added a link to her poems below (left hand margin) from a recent feature in Mindfire (ed. Gary Blankenship), which I encourage you to read, not because it's her birthday but because she is an outstanding poet who, unfortunately, writes only rarely. She is one of the most lyrical poets I know, as her deafness affords her one outlet for her love of music: language. I would also be remiss if I did not mention that her beloved service dog, Kenyon, turned 11 on May 15.

Here's one of the many love poems I've written for Kathleen:

To Kathleen, after Neruda

As the salmon seeks its mother gravel
through the lying ions of the sea, I seek you.

Without your body my blankets are cold,
the ground hard, my joints uneasy.

Apart, I am a mold for your bronze--
halved, discarded. Do you know this hollow?

There is no shame in love. Daily
I embarrass myself, collar strangers,

weary my children. I am the ancient mariner
condemned to speak of you wherever I go.

Have you suffered this? Who am I to compare us?
You are smooth as agate, I am ripsawn wood.

My heart seeks you like a cyclone.
I would swallow your farmhouse whole.

Without you I am a one-handed magician
cheating at solitaire, hoarding coppers.


When will you come to me? It is already late
and my father has closed the drapes.

I listen for your stride; I could never
confuse it with another.

Your back is strong as a barge,
your legs were sculpted in Greece,

your hips formed in India,
your face sought by Raphael.

Your eyes threaten green lightning
from the Atlantic. You could crush me

with a word, like a mussel at low tide.
Why do I trust you so utterly?


Now back to the anxiety of depression:


I feel its cold shadow on my neck.
When I turn it’s gone. It keeps track of this.
It keeps track of everything
in a black binder with angstrom-thin sheets.

Did Mom create it by incessant hovering?
Did Dad by his necessary domination?
Did school create it by forcing comparisons,
or did I, by imagining I was important?

It feels like a huge bear behind me,
more impatient than malevolent,
sniffing the wind for the first hint of failure.
I try not to disappoint.


One of the most crippling aspects of typical clinical depression, or melancholia, as opposed to the lethargy of atypical depression, is an overwhelming sense of anxiety. It's as if every tiny decision is one terrible, fatal, final exam. Emptying a dishwasher can be a horror. Making a sandwich is like walking a tightwire without a net. Your hand shakes with the pressure of putting sugar in your coffee. You get the picture. Today's poem emphasizes that aspect of clinical depression.

I have found in treating patients that often a depression cannot be reversed unless the anxiety is first controlled, especially since early reactions to antidepressants can lead to an increase in anxiety (particularly Wellbutrin and Effexor in my experience).

This early effect of antidepressants is also the reason for a window of increased suicide; the driving energy of the antidepressant, while the mood is still black, can lead to rash actions. The physical stimulation of an antidepressant usually manifests before the patient experiences an improvement in mood, why it's very important to talk a patient through this transition.

Often a benzodiazapine, such as clonazepam, is beneficial in this transition phase to control anxiety. Antipsychotics may be needed, but remember: they can cause akisthesia, a feeling of "ants in one's pants," which can make the transition even harder. Lithium is a good adjunct in bipolars, less effective in unipolars, in acute depression, and there are many other adjunctive options, including thyroid supplementation, but to list them would be beyond the scope of this blog.

All for today,

Dr. Chaffin

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sine Wave Poem #5; depression lessens somewhat...

Leaf Sermon

I have been spiritually poisoned
by the unclean, in ignorance
blessed their springs.
In consequence I withered
and drifted down
from green crown to brown humus,
thinned to a fishbone pattern
of cellulose threads.

I washed into a stream
past stones squirming
with black question marks
of dragonfly larvae,
slid through reeds
into eddying pools
where I stalled until the rains
delivered me to the sea.
My last proteins fed the plankton
the humpback swallowed,
whose song woke me,
the ghost of a ghost of a leaf,
to the shocking green astral body
from which I speak:

You who seek
thrill without sustenance,
love without burden,
light without heat--
hollow, hollow men,
Tom ‘O Bedlam slim:
Your greatest feat
each work day morning
is to pull the sheet
from your own faces
to avoid being wheeled,
elbows locked,
to the refrigerated cases.


As the reader can see, the depression in this poem is lightening somewhat, though the speaker is by no means euthymic.

By the end of this series you will see poems that babble manically. So hang in there.

Happy not to be depressed, I drank and ate too much last night. It did, if nothing else, help slow me down this morning.

Again, if anyone wants a ms. copy of Sine Wave, e-mail me and I'll send it for free.

And any who want a copy of the Eliot essay for the offered prize, please e-mail me as well, as the published version is not the current one.

Thanks, Rea, for publishing my letter at Dear Tobacco

And I wish you all a frabjous day!


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mood Improved; Wife Don't Like It

It was today I realized I had crossed the bar (thought not with Tennyson).

No, I had entered a mixed state and was rising to euthymia when a guy cussed at me in a parking lot in Fort Bragg while I was safely weaving my way around him. His window was cracked and so was mine, so passing him closely on my left I heard his epithets: "Fuck you! You're gonna fuck my car! You're gonna damage it! What the fuck do you thing you're doing?"

From my point of view, and I think my wife will testify on my behalf, I was doing a safe thing to get around this silver, long bed Toyota with fiberglass shell.

Trouble was, my window was cracked and I heard every word. I sprang out of my van like a bad watch and grabbed his door handle. Locked. Through his cracked window I yelled that I'd kick his ass "from here to Antarctica" if he didn't apologize to my wife for cussing and furthermore put my elbow through his windhield for starters. Chastised, he apologized to Kathleen (who never heard his epithets, of course, being deaf) and thus saved his window.

I hope talk of a madman gets around. I'm mad enought to defend myself against rude little truck-worshipping scrawny red-headed men with watery blue eyes who don't know what being a neighbor means. No racism intended.

Small town: I may remember him, but he will always remember me.

Now Kathleen fears I'm hypomanic, like I don't deserve a break! I tell her this incident was normal for me. I didn't go nuts. The asshole apologized to her, I was satisfied.

It's true, I never told him she didn't hear it because that would have cost him his window. But if his door had been unlocked in the first place he would have been thrown into the planters. See how kind I am? See my restraint?

Kathleen doubts my report and has gone upstairs now, pointedly avoiding me, telling me how I need to slow down and how she's not nagging me.


Just because I had this sea change doesn't mean the order of my poems will be accelerated; but if anyone would prefer a few hypomanic or manic poems for relief, please post and I will try to accomodate you from the second half of my manuscript, Sine Wave. And just because I had a good day does not mean I'm stable; it will take at least two weeks to prove that. Stick with me.

Thine in renewed euthymia (though Kathleen suspects hypmania),

C. E. Chaffin

Depression Poem Day 4


It’s 4:30 AM, pitch-black and cold.
I spoon against your body
wishing there were no cotton
to separate us, not even skin.
I want to crawl up your tunnel
and hide deep in your belly
before the sun exposes me.

Let me re-gestate, please.
Maybe this time it will be better,
maybe this time I won’t end up
clinging to you like an ice floe
in the middle of the night,
forty and terrified.

If you should wake and want to make love,
I warn you I may stay inside forever.

(published in Crescent Moon Journal; won first prize in a contest sponsored by Desert Moon Review, Jim Corner and Christopher T. George, editors)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Depression Poem #3


Again we meet, Medusa
and stones cannot cry.
Yes, I remember that face—
the unshaven pastures of my cheeks
bloated by hangover,
my eyes purple wells—
so I drink too much.
Wouldn't you?

Awkward giraffe,
I lack speech to say
"These leaves have lost their taste."
Music affects only irritation,
touch frightens and food sickens.
My psychiatrist says,
"You suffer from anhedonia."

Looking down a well
water and darkness do not soothe.
It's hard to explain
because the gray muzzle in me
moans for lack of howling
at the sickly moon beneath the smog line.
How dead that moon appears--
like my own pock marks in a mirror.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Depression Poem #2; Religious Psychosis in Bipolars

Today's poem:

For the Record

I am myself, even in the dark
without mirrors or clues.
I may be as inconsequential
as the point of a fading penlight
but I am not this feeling
of being buried alive.
If I fall through the ice
I am not my hypothermia.
I am not my heart's vacuum's
cruel absence of presence.

There are times this distinction
seems specious, as if I were a Jesuit
preaching in a sewer
hoping echoes could convince me--
but all I have is this distinction.
I hold it in a cup like Christ's blood
as I fall through infinite separations.
I am still here.
I write this for the record.


Late last night I began to feel a little better; I began to talk with Kathleen a bit, was able to listen to music and read. This is normal with clinical depression. Just as patients with infections often have fevers only at night, likewise those mired in clinical depression often only feel better at night, the later the better (which makes me wonder whether the legend of vampires, like the term, "lunatics," was partly based on bipolar disease).

Nevertheless I woke up this morning nervous. Despite this or because of it I told Kathleen I'd drive to town to get the Sunday paper. I turned on the radio, thinking I had punched a public station but instead found a fundamentalist church service. The congregation was singing, "Slow me down, Lord," which is exactly what lithium and other anti-manic medications do. You can't make this stuff up! Meanwhile, my internal motor was sputtering and going into overdrive. Let me explain this.

A "mixed state" occurs when a bipolar is unstable and can go from manic symptoms to depressive symptoms rapidly. A patient can start out weeping, for instance, become anxious and possibly paranoid, change to hysterical laughter and hilarity, and all the while feel propelled forward by an energy that is ego-dystonic--a fancy psychiatric term for "unpleasant," though unpleasant doesn't cover it. Often when a bipolar is about to flip back into normal mood he experiences these hints and guesses--brief periods of feeling normal mixed with anxiety, sadness, and an internal energy that seems to be pushing him, of being driven. In its worst form, as described by Kay Jamison in her book, An Unquiet Mind, it can turn into a "black mania"--a psychotic depression with all the energy of mania, a horror that is nearly indescribable to the average person. It is hell. I have not experienced an extended black mania, thank God, but I have come close to it, briefly, in mixed states. Back to my story.

On the way back from town I put on a music station but was tempted to go back to the religious station, where the minister was preaching from the Gospel of John about the extended metaphor where Christ is the vine and we are the branches. In exposition of the term "abide," used eight times in the passage, the preacher explained that the sense was "to conform or comply"--which turned the passage into evidence to me of damnation, i.e., I cannot conform or comply with Christ's teachings, much less abide in him, with any confidence, especially when depressed, where all turns against me. I should know better than to have listened; religion is risky at best to the symptomatic bipolar. Thus the sermon had the opposite effect than intended, just as when depressed I always leave church feeling more guilty than I came in, paradoxically damned by my shortcomings rather than lifted by God's love.

It is well known that bipolars and schizophrenics often have severe religious delusions. (There is a book called The Three Christs of Ipsilanti where a psychiatrist actually had three patients in group therapy who all thought they were Christ). Religion can be extremely toxic to the bipolar, and it certainly is for me, because after I heard this portion of the sermon I broke out in tears, praying or crying out loud, "I can't conform to you, Lord, I can't comply with you, can't you abide with me? Please abide with me Lord, Oh please."

The redeeming aspect of this, thought the experience was painful, is that I did turn the tables on my self-condemnation; I was able to add a Lutheran flavor of grace to my mental suffering, that I was a helpless sinner dependent on grace, therefore by faith God should abide with me--not that I believed it with any conviction, but I did feel a little better afterwards. At least I stopped crying by the time I got home.

When I was younger, and before I was diagnosed, I was hyper-religious, mistaking my bipolar symptoms for nearness or distance from God, fasting and praying when depressed (fasting was not hard since I lost my appetite) and rejoicing and sharing my faith when manic. After electroconvulsive therapy at age 30 I didn't darken a church for nearly a decade, wanted nothing to do with any inner conception of religion, fearful that it would worsen my disease. My attitude was, "if God is interested, let him come to me." In Mexico over the last three years I have been able to attend church but only because it was Episcopal, where the form of worship took from me the personal burden of connecting with God. The symbol of the Eucharist became my main affirmation of faith and singing bass in the choir was my contribution. And luckily, during my time in Mexico, I had no extended depressions, only brief ones, just as I had brief manias, the main reason being that I knew from experience how to medicate myself quickly in order to prevent the extremes of cycling.

If I were in my right mind, I think I would tell religious bipolars that God grants us a special dispensation to avoid any intense involvement with religion. We're much better off doing good deeds and loving our neighbor than daring the insanity any form of Pentecostalism or mysticism may bring on. God loves us no less for our illness, it is only our self-hatred, chemically based, that makes us sometimes feel abandoned by God, just as the inappropriate inflation of self-love may convince us we are God incarnate. I've been through both.

I wish this disease on no one. Untreated it has over a 30% mortality rate lifetime. That's a bad number, not to mention lifetimes of relative disability because of it, like that poor composer, Schumann.

I'll conclude today's epistle with poem dealing with my past religious psychoses:

An Ex-Pentecostal Examines His Psychosis

God was a pet who lived in my head
and told me what to do
just before I thought of it,
as if the idea were His.
I heard: Go to the store, not,
I think I’ll go to the store.

Has God ever told you
to order a hamburger?
My God did– with pickles and lettuce.
(He knows if a sparrow falls
so a hamburger’s no big deal.)

More than a sparrow fell
when I dropped from that nest,
that mares-eat-oats-and-does-eat-oats
sick haven and all the rest.

I want no personal God;
I might mistake him for me.
If there’s a God, and he’s listening,
I pray he ignores this poem.

Thine in Bipolar Depression,


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Depression, Cont'd.

Having been through the manic-depressive cycle any number of times, I have an unpublished ms. that seeks to duplicate the experience, called Sine Wave (which I would be happy to e-mail to anyone interested). The book begins in depression and by degrees rises to manic psychosis. (Yes, Virginia, I've experienced both. When manic I usually end up in handcuffs; when depressed curled up in a fetal position in admitting.)

This disease has done more to form my life than any other factor; it contributed to my early hyper-religiosity, my choice of career, even my first marriage. I was not capable of making major decisions back then; I had to get a sign, a voice, some special message from God in order to make one. It wasn't until after my first course of electroconvulsive therapy at age 30 that I completely abandoned my underlying psychosis for reason in my own life. (I had been able to apply reason to work and other tasks.)

It was in my early 40s when I finally faced the truth, that the major decisions of my life, marriage and career, were based on psychotic direction, and here I was, a divorced doctor with three children. That's a hard nut to swallow without entirely devaluing one's life.

As I type this I am becoming tearful, as it is 3:15 PM. I don't think crying does much good so I will try to resist. It may have a short-term calming effect but it ultimately makes me more tired. In manic-depression, I experience crying jags as seizures of toxic melancholy. I don't cry about anything, it feels more like a reflex, like vomiting. Tears of grief are different, only available to me when my mood is normal or "euthymic." When I'm sick, weeping only seems to deepen the darkness. Now for today's poem:

Demon Melancholy

His cold breath steams up my neck
like dry ice. I never see him approach.

He comes from darkness
where eyes forget they are eyes,

where speech has no conclusion
and touch is without resistance,

where music becomes noise
and selves are emptied

of history like milk bottles
below the ninth circle of hell.

I hear his wild dogs carol
in the burning church of my mind.

Pass the offering plate--
Is that a medicine vial, a gun?

Jimmy crack corn and I don't care,
the light has gone away.

("Demon Melancholy" first appeared in Ygdrasil.)



Friday, May 12, 2006

Back to Depression, Sorry..

I've sunk back into depression, unfortunately, though it was slightly predictable. My pain management doctor had given me narcotics for control, but she's in San Diego, so naturally I ran out. And I didn't plan my withdrawal properly like I did last time, so I sank immediately into depression. Today is a little better. I made a list of goals for the day. And I'm writing, which is also a good sign. If I keep this palaver up I may convince myself that I'm coming out of it.

What I really hate about depression is how I can be on the beautiful Mendocino coast where the pines parade down to the sea and take no pleasure in it. This is called "anhedonia." Then there is the incapacity to feel love towards anyone or anything; there is simply a blank wall, Sylvia Plath's "bell jar." I am convinced in my bones that my life amounts to nothing and that all would be better off without me. When I asked myself where I might be happy, I could only think of a hole in the earth. My crying jags also arrive on time; right now they are scheduled for about 3 PM. This always happens in my depressions, a clockwork biology where I can predict when I will weep like a mock turtle on a schedule about the waste I call my life. No list of accomplishments can dissuade me from the opinion that I have done nothing. The future is unimaginable; the past is an incontrovertible witness in favor of the prosecution against me.

My "life script," also, a Transactional Analysis term, feeds into this. When I did my fourth step in AA, I reduced my life and the message I received in childhood to this: "If you're not perfect, you're worthless; if you're not the best, you're nothing." I'm sure my parents did not intend me to be branded by these double-binds, but they meshed nicely with my manic-depressive disease. My new psychiatrist pointed out this psychological misperception to me in our first session, and that upset me. But he had me.

Which raises the question, "What good is self-knowledge?" If I know how I'm fucked up, can write about it, talk about it, why can't I change it? It may be too deeply embedded to dislodge. My philosophy is to accept it and try to be aware of it, as it is too late to escape the programming. If you knew the details of my earlier life, you would know how many awards I won, how my GPA at UCLA was 4.0 while married and working three jobs, and how none of my procession of awards and accomplishments were really planned; I was simply driven. And how hollow such accomplishments seemed to me afterwards! As Groucho said, "I don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member." I feel the same way; I refuse to accept any recognition or award because in honoring me the prize is automatically devalued. A lose-lose philosophy.

If nothing I do can proves I'm not worthless, why do I keep trying? When not depressed I think my goals might be worthy in themselves, and my worth is not entirely dependent on them, rather I have some intrinsic worth granted by the Almighty and my loved ones. Nevertheless at the core of my being, like the rubber strands wound around the mystic center of a golf ball, the mantra persists.

In Mexico I counseled an elderly lady with severe myesthenia gravis who was virtually paralyzed, had to have her diapers changed, for instance. She could still talk. How she maintained fortitude and avoided depression under such conditions amazed me. If I became totally dependent upon others, there would be nothing to prove my worth. That scares me. And life is just that thin; "car crash tomorrow." "All flesh is like grass." Everything you trust in today could be ripped away tomorrow. Think of the Christmas tsunami and Katrina.

We can't let the vulnerability of our immediate lives into the forefront of our minds too much or it will undermine our confidence in the things we actually do and strive for, letting the air out of the balloon we have constructed in an unfounded faith in the continuity of our existence and expectations.

I recently read Jack London's Sea Wolf for the first time, where the captain, a thoroughgoing amoral atheist, preaches the gospel of survival, of bigger fish eating littler fish, where whoever gets to indulge in the most "piggishness" was the ostensible winner. The protagonist, Humphrey Van Weyden, tries to counter these arguments with his philosophy of the sacredness of life and altruism, but discovers that his reasoning is not nearly so water tight as the captain's, especially in view of the brutal conditions on the sealing ship where he is forced to work, along with the evil character of most of the hands.

So what remedy remains me? My best philosophy is acceptance. If I accept these features in my flawed self they will not exercise the unconscious power over me that they otherwise possess. In my best moments I will be able to actually laugh at myself and the programs I swallowed whole as a small child. Alas, today is not one of those days, because the biological aspect of my depression does not yet allow me such wisdom.

This too will pass, and I will embrace this ephemeral world as substantial again. But one thing depression teaches you is how thin the spider's thread from which we hang truly is.

Thine in Depression (again),


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Everyone's an Illegal Alien to Me: Stay Out of My Head!

Before I am distracted and derailed by the present, I had some major themes to develop. First there’s my opinion on this whole immigration debate.

First, I don’t know if we can protect our borders even with the proper technology, though a wall would certainly decrease the success rate of those desperate to come north.

Second, we don’t have the means to deport all the people we ought to if we were going to enforce our laws.

The only rational solution is to let the people here stay and build the wall to keep new ones out. Anything less is ineffective. The alternative is the status quo, where we get a million new bodies each year from the south who become eligible for social services but, in their underground economy, often don’t pay taxes for those services. It’s a burden we can bear, but for me 300 million Americans is enough. Without the influx of immigrants in California, for instance, our birth rate would be zero.

All the half measures our politicians will employ to make it seem like something is being done will, of course, result in nothing but it will be very expensive and confusing and require thousands of new bureaucrats trained in discouraging forms, though bilingual, of course. In fact it would help if these new federal employees themselves crossed the border illegally to be employed by the federal government to deal with other illegals. I like the symmetry of that. And in doing so they’ll be doing “jobs Americans don’t want to do.” I hate that phrase, by the way. What are “jobs Americans don’t want to do?” I see citizens working at McDonald’s and Wal-Mart. I see them on road crews picking up trash and doing janitorial work. As for migrant agricultural workers, that’s a whole different ball of wax. Mexicans have nimble fingers and sturdy backs, and I would hate to see our fruit crushed by Iowa linebackers.

Still illegal immigration doesn’t concern me nearly as much as the illegal aliens who want to cross the border of my mind.

You know the type. You’re sitting at a bar, trying to watch a basketball game, and the guy next to you wants to talk about UFOs. You have a good seat, you don’t want to give it up, but neither do you want to let this crazed alien past the border of your brain, and here lies the danger. Don’t let them cross.

There are machine gun turrets and booby traps all along my brain’s border. The guy with the UFO obsession is not going to enter, period. He is fended off by ignoring him, which behaviorists call “extinguishing.” Else I become so vocal about the game he can’t talk. Else I spill a beer on him accidentally and he’s preoccupied with that. But he’s not going to get across the border.

Actually you’re all illegal aliens to me, all of you! I don’t want you in my brain!

Our neighbor, “I’m Not Creepy,” has tried to get into my brain but has no chance. Here are some of his recent antics.

I was gardening, which I can only do in little portions because of my back. I like to garden in quiet. Instead INC stood on his deck, drinking wine, literally screaming his philosophy of humanity at me. He would also say things like, “You’re a doctor and we ought to be in awe of doctors, but you’re a West Coast doctor and not ruined by third party payments like the doctors back east.” Once I told him that he could lower his volume; he did for one sentence and went back to the top of his lungs style. Later he knocked at my door with a sinister looking gray metal box. “I want to show you my collection,” he said. I feared it might be filled with human knuckle bones, and told him I didn’t feel like talking right then. He seemed perturbed by this, since in his world I only exist for him, as he has one of those minds that constantly seeks to cross the borders of other minds, because he has no borders and everything leaks in and out in his psychotic sieve.

Later that night he knocked urgently on our door and I let him in, whereupon he kneeled by Kathleen’s chair and went on a discourse about erysipelas, a disease with which I’m familiar, but his was a special case where the fever of erysipelas may have cured a lymphoma. He acted as if he were continuing a conversation from earlier but I couldn’t recall it and neither could Kathleen. He used our washer in our absence by creeping into the garage and left it with standing water, which he told me about. He won’t use it anymore, he said. Nor will he use the common recycling bin for his recyclables; he has to drive them into town himself. He’s probably afraid we’ll go through them. Now he may use the washer, but it is not cricket to go into someone else’s abode and fool around when they’re not there without permission. Last night he was yelling to me at my second story bathroom window about some conspiracy of the phone company. You get the picture; likely another manic-depressive narcissist.

We attract the mental, you know, it’s part of our magnetism. I think of my other gifts and why I have not taken commercial advantage of them, but the powers that be keep dumping mental patients in my lap, so perhaps this is my true destiny. But I won’t let them in my head. And for you, dear reader, to try to get into my head, fuhgedaboutit. If you’ve let me into your head, well don’t feel bad. I’m a good influence there and can help defend your borders.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Compost Pile of Celebrity; New Prize Offered for Not Reading Me!

"Your blog really and truly sucks."

--from Zachary Bush. I don't know who he is but I thought a good way to clean out my address files was to just smack people on my mailing list and see what happened.

Anybody doesn't want my spam, I say, "Get a spam filter, don't get personal!"

Now this fellow did everything right on being removed from my mailing list except one: he didn't put the slogan in the subject line. Here's my notice:

Note: I added a number of people to this mailing list today, many of whom probably submitted to the Melic Review, some after the magazine had closed. Forgive me, I was just trying to make sense of my address list. If you don't want to be on this mailing list, just hit 'reply' and insert the subject header, "Your blog really and truly sucks." Omission of either adverb will not constitute a release from continuing spam. If you get duplicate mailings, please write me.

I say he didn't strictly comply with my demand. His "Your blog really and truly sucks" was not in the subject line but in the text of a reply!

What law protects one from spam anyway? I try not to write people who don't want my notice, but it happens. Face it, my blog updates are as much spam as Viagra ads, it's only a difference in degree, not kind. No one asked me to start a blog nor has anyone written to say, "Oh, please, Dr. Chaffin, afflict us with a mailing about your blog!"

I want to submit this question to my esteemed sister, Esq., even though my blog peeved her as well, or better, caused her to call me peevish:

"You often comment that your family doesn't read your work, and I find this peevish because 1) I do, and 2) none of us really reads each other's briefs or ads so I'm not sure why this bears mentioning."

I corrected this oversight by altering my last entry, sorry Sis. I would also point out that ads and briefs are not generally considered entertainment for the reading public, so the categories are not comparable. Also, look at the extremes of blogging I must go to just to have such works offered for my perusal, which I would be more than happy to assay in order to defuse any nascent sibling rivalry.

My brothers don't read my blog anyway. Brother Dobey, in fact, told me: "I'm a writer. I don't read anything but myself." Gotta love that honesty, even if his writing, to my knowledge, only applies to copywriting. His company's biggest client is Yahoo, and he doesn't like that work. I don't like Yahoo either; they're at least as predatory as Microsoft--download one thing and you can't escape all the other things that pile into your hard drive like pixilated roaches, and the software you want, amazingly, won't run without all the other things.

So I irritated a stranger and a a loved one. Better, I irritated an editor, F.S., who asked me to remove my link to her magazine in my blog. I said I would if they restored my poem about Jimi Hendrix to their archives, from where it has mysteriously vanished, but they're not able to do that right now. There's no quid pro quo here; why should I comply? Because I was an editor for many years, I suppose, and understand.

I would not accuse them of actually despising my work, but now, I suspect, by causing them trouble I will have zero chance of them considering my new submission. That's fine as long as they fix the archive. Eventually. I'm tired of being de-published. Hell, half of my published work on the net has disappeared because nobody bothered do keep archives after their magazines folded. Understand-- some of these were good magazines at the time.

Since my last blog irritated some people, though no one has finished my essay yet, I'm offering a new prize: If you are on my mailing list and resist reading my blog, although you do read its announcement and excerpts for thirty days or more, I'll give you a $30 gift certificate to In case of a tie there will be a quiz to determine who did or did not read what and for how long they managed to resist my siren song of bloviation.

Notice how my blog is becoming about my blog. This is how celebrities are born!

It's like a compost pile. You add layers to get a critical mass; soon the worms show up! One day you receive three letters from different people, and instead of writing what you planned you end up writing about reactions to your blog. Soon, if I reach a critical mass of self-reference, I shall finally become a celebrity, my ultimate goal and the only goal worth having anymore.

I celebrate myself! (Walt Whitman)

Oh, and to remind myself: What I really wanted to write about was 1) How none of us can get "the whole thing;" and 2) How all people are illegal aliens to me, and I won't let them sneak across the border of my mind. This must wait for another day.

I also meant to thank my cousin Doris for sending me the names of two new subscribers to my mailings. Thanks, Doris, and greetings to all the Erickson Clan up in Moorhead, MN.

--CE Chaffin

I Have to Pay People to Read Me

I woke this morning feeling as if elves had beaten my body with tiny ball peen hammers all night; I attribute this to lying on my stomach to sample my new internet connection with a short phone cord, a dastardly position for all my busted disks. On the bright side I had a good movement this morning!

Meanwhile I’ve submitted “The Deprivathon” to eight editors whose magazines have published me before, full well knowing, due to its length, that the chances of publication are slim.

Here’s a plug for some of the magazines I sent it to, with links to my poems in all except small spiral notebook, which published my poem "Odd Dream" in March of 2002 but let the page disappear from the archives--this happens all the time, how you can get "de-published" on the net:

Rose and Thorn
Plum Ruby Review
The Pedestal Magazine
Agnieska’s Dowry

Also, I couldn’t resist a magazine new to me because of its title: Monkey Bicycle

I have been peeing from our deck onto the ceramic gnome I purchased, who stands with a mushroom cup above his head on a redwood stump below. Kathleen yesterday mistakenly thought it had rained for that reason. It’s a good ten feet down and out, by the way, so for a 51-year-old man I haven’t lost my fire hose just yet, though prostatic hypertrophy is inevitable for any man who has the audacity to pee for longer than his God-appointed days.

Kathleen claims the salamander she found was more spotted like a leopard, but I claim poetic license. It did look as if its spots had been dripped on its sides, not any kind of symmetric adornment, nevertheless in a general way they qualified as stripes.

Kathleen was late to read my blog yesterday so I’m punishing her by revealing the origin of her back problems: wild sex with her husband. There, I’ve said it. The pop we heard in Mexico two years ago when that first disk went was so impressive we had coitus interruptus from diskus explosis.

I can always delete this if it gets me in trouble.

Kathleen asked me yesterday if there were anything I wouldn’t do for attention. I couldn’t think of anything.

I need to acknowledge some folks who’ve been writing me and deserve praise for that reason, one of whom actually responded to my plea for new e-mail addresses for my mailing list, Jake, who led me to Miriam, who said she was happy to be added.

A Ms. Rea was quite complimentary about “The Deprivathon,” and asked me to contribute a letter to her site addressing tobacco. Many have praised the “Tobaccohontas” section of my poem (no doubt because it’s sexy and sexy poetry is hard to write).

Christopher T. George, Norman Ball, Vicki Broach, Sharon Kourous and Kathleen Burke, possibly David Ayers, have all promised to read my essay on Four Quartets. (For any interested, there is now a revised copy I’d rather you printed out, so please e-mail me for the new version before assaying the essay--love that ass-saying word, veritably oracular, even orificial.)

There will be a PRIZE, a gift certificate of $25 for, to the first reader who actually completes the essay. This prize will be known as the “The Chaffin Has to Pay People to Read Him Prize.” It will be awarded on the honor system. (Any skimming of the essay does not qualify; you must read it entire at least once, and that with a copy of Four Quartets in your hand for when I delve into the poems in detail.)

I know it’s not easy fare, though I strove to make it so. 33,000 words of criticism is asking a lot, even of your friends. My sister has read quite a bit of it, but family members don't qualify for the prize. Naturally, my wife and editor, Kathleen, was forced to read it by her job description. Although she hates my writing she enjoys criticizing it.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Guest Comment by James Carroll; Wife Tests His Bitch-O-Meter

As wherelsewhere reported, snarveling protechs were fined to attend nearly every public causemaker, and the senior twankis lacks a strategy to forfend their rabbity inoculations. When asked by the mikeymouth how to respondblabber to this, Strendiman Buber said, “That’s how we like it—to snork the advantage over the drasticons and render their stewbase insoluble.”

Mayor Dipthong had nothing drastier to foretell on the subbie but his cess prickretary was furred to say, “A golfbag’s as good as a gun in a waitress pinch,” snoozing jabberly. The quotabots smiled, dahmerly excusing hizzoner’s smokesperson's tense of rumor.

On other frontages, a senior drizzle of the United Pessimists forked dark futures in an attempted derailment of overhappyizing members convinced that re-sizing may trend the weightylipoids negatively. Next to that waddle, is was lardish to preloon so vast an underbody with nary a soolick to pasture. In attrition many of of the bonetypes were snallagagging about how this coven of cows could druzzle the cupboard before even the mice could downchow.

--James Carroll

Thanks, James. Wocky your jabber had no claws. I hates wabbits!

That interlude surprised me.

I've been revising my essay on Four Quartets the past week and have managed to clip nearly 3,000 words from it, mainly by deleting anything having to do with me and not the work at hand, those little birdwalks into Craigland long after Elvis has left the building.

Kathleen discovered a massive salamander while gardening two days ago, a green thing with brown stripes limned in yellow, perhaps the endangered tiger salamander for all I know.

He made for some excellent sushi. Afterwards we cleaned our teeth with spotted brown owl quills.

Strange how frog and salamander both have that "Is it fish or chicken?" thing going, though I think Sally was just a wee bit fishier than Froggy.

My wife made an epic of shopping today.

This is how she tests me to see if I'm really out of a depression; she becomes a bitch to see if I can take it. If that feels safe she'll usually go into a depression of her own, the only luxury she prizes above a bath.

Then maybe I'm worth it.

I'll let you know. Everyone said mad poets would never last. And here we are near 7 years together.

BTW, it's Kathleen's birthday May 18.

Here's her e-mail address:

Our home address is now 41001 Comptche Ukiah Road, Mendocino, CA, 95460. Telephone: 707 937-9985

My neck hurts more than my back right now. Gotta stop.



Unexpected Light

Unexpected Light
Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008 ON SALE NOW!