Thursday, February 14, 2008

Day 10: ECT Treatment #3: Poem from a Bus

This morning I had my third treatment, and man it was strong! I felt pretty damn fuzzy afterwards. "You had a good seizure," said the nurse.

I didn't know I was being graded. Now, as a depressive, I wonder if my seizures will ever be good enough. Don't they know how we twist such statements? I'm already blaming the patient for having inadequate seizures.

I did notice that after the last treatmen my muscles ached, especially in my abdomen. The doctors reassured me this was not from the seizure but from the muscle inhibitor, succinyl choline, which first causes muscles to contract before they relax. I expect I'll ache even more tomorrow.

One possible sign of improvement is that I wrote two poems yesterday, a love poem for Valentine's Day and the one below (I won't post the love poem until Kathleen receives it in the mail.) The poem below came after reading a good bit of Charles Simic. I wanted a regular rhythm (iambic trimeter) because I was in motion on a bus and Simic's rhythms are at best eccentric. But I love his honesty.

Lines Composed on a San Francisco Bus

Your ear buds counteract
the threat of close contact
here in the cell phone desert.
The world between your ears
that we're not privy to
expands and won't contract--
the genie fled the lamp.
Your lips are not sewn shut,
they're working very hard.
You rattle in Portuguese
about the price of beets
but cannot hear the beggar
and need not meet his eyes
nor try to avert your gaze.
Your world is tailor-made.

Charles Simic talks
to mirrors and trees and clocks
and gets away with it
like Strand shaving his beard
grown by somebody else.
But I've heard better verse
while captive on a bus.
A man was lecturing us
that America was born
with Castor and Pollux rising
which meant we'd always be
competing for attention.
(A nation of teenage clowns
in charge of nuclear silos
made perfect sense to me.)

That man got a free ride--
no justice on a bus
where public peace must trump
Puritan righteousness.
No driver wants to risk
his life and liberty
to shut a madman up--
no need to envy, either,
he paid in other ways:
no one gets a free ride.
I think we have to trust
karmic economy
or sanity's a bust.

All the years I spent
concentrating language,
were they, you think, well spent?
Most poetry is forgettable
as a four-legged dog,
Pulitzer Prize or not.
My personal albatross
is that this art should be
something that won't wash off
with salt and terrycloth
when all one really needs
for entry is a pen.
Since Gemini is rising
let P. T. Barnum sing
with Charles H. Bukowski
for literary bling.
“There is no competition?”
Not in the Yank tradition.

The only unfortunate occurrence today was that not long after I returned home from ECT, my middle daughter called, quickly became incensed and hung up on me. She likely will blame me for her behavior. Sometimes manners seem to degenerate in proportion to the degree of kinship one shares with the target.

With that Edisonian glow,



  1. "Don't they know how we twist such statements? I'm already blaming the patient for having inadequate seizures."

    And your sense of humor is blossoming forth.


  2. I will never be satisfied with an inadequate seizure again, I promise. : )

    Glad things are going well...and I hear you two are going to be an even closer neighbors!


  3. I was unaware that medically speaking there is any such thing as a good seizure.

    If I was religious, I would thank God every day that I managed through fakery and manipulation to avoid ECT during the worst of the years I spent in intractable suicidal depression and psychosis.

    If I had had ECT it would have been impossible to effect a permanent cure for bipolar using the methods that I used.

  4. By definition bipolarity is a chronic disease that can only be managed. If yours was cured, either a miracle occurred, that is, a suspension of natural law-- else you never had it in the first place. You have triumphed over something; what it was only you know, but you ought not assume that you were correctly diagnosed, since your present claims effectively disprove any such diagnosis, barring miracles. In all my years as a doctor I never saw a true miracle of healing. Not once. This is not to call your experience into question, only what labels we use to discuss it.

    Hi, Pat and Richard!

    --Uncle Fester

  5. good to see some poems coming out of it all.


  6. ah, to have a good seizure.

  7. Were they really doing lobotomies while you waited or did they call them lobectomies...often touted as removing a "discreet, unused part of the brain" that causes more trouble than its worth? Are the two the same medically? I often wonder now.

    Inquiring minds want to know...

    Glad you are doing well, writing again.



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