Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dark Sonnets Revised I - XIII

My mood is rising, largely due, I think, to a change in medication last Wednesday, but I don't want to stake too huge a claim on wellness until my feet are sure beneath me.  One huge part of my uplift was an inspiring talk I had with a friend, who also invited me to a weekly spiritual gathering that I enjoyed and intend to continue to intend. 

When I went through the two-year depression here on this blog, one thing my psychiatrist did in all that time was to hold hope for me when I couldn't hope for myself.  Hope is an underrated virtue, and the depressive may be so sick he feels he has none to cling to, but if others insist he may grab a taste of it himself, and a taste can turn into a meal if the chemicals follow suit.

Now without further ado, Thirteen Dark Sonnets in the order penned:


Once more this fell infection of the mind
Galls itself, one wound wears down another,
The crust of failing surfaces will find
More cells to infiltrate, more smooth to smother.
I put a stethoscope upon my head
To eavesdrop on the stuttering machine,
Hear nothing but the clawing of the dead
Matched to a jukebox skipping in routine.
I thought of pills and blades and guns and cars,
The sordid images of methods used.
They haven’t answered “Is there life on Mars?”
As yet. From judgment shouldn’t I be recused
Until they do? I will endure this state
Patiently, though it kills me to wait.


I’m swallowed by the groaning of the reef
At one more wave’s untiring onslaught.
I listen to the outboard for relief,
A brighter racket than my pounding thought.
You there—do you think in straight lines?
Do thoughts follow each other, hand-to-hand?
Or is it that your insight’s without spines
Like a sea urchin’s skeleton on sand?
Vanilla life, vanilla in your veins,
Uncomplicated, unexamined days--
If only I could tender you the reins
To my life, would I sail through the quays
Sipping a gin fizz, waving to the shore?
I’d give my soul for your white bread rapport.


Passenger, conductor, does it matter?
Who can tell in such a blasted mood
Only broken by the wheels’ clatter,
Spelling out in Morse the end of good?
To stand upon the platform with a noose
Is all I ask of life or hope of death.
The world’s wheels moved—I’m the caboose
Left on the track far from the engine’s breath.
Gather the spikes you used to lay the rails,
Gather the beams, the workmen, engineers,
Tell them that in all of life’s travails
A man is just the sum of his worst fears.
It suits me to be left behind, to rust
Else junk me outright. There’s no train I trust.


Here is my soul inside a water drop.
Place it on a slide, adjust the scope.
Look at all the creatures in that slop!
Diversity proliferates in hope.
Which corresponds to me? Bacterium,
amoeba, something with a cell wall?
Or is the dynoflagellate delirium
Of tendrils better fit for the appalled?
Job wished he’d been aborted, I understand.
There should be limits to what a man can suffer.
Alas we have no manual at hand
To say, “He’s had enough, don’t make it tougher.”
Fate sends its spider line to knot the heart
And jerks until even strong men fall apart.


Put down the knife, Lady, the candle’s done.
Out, out, out... Where is the blood?
You waved a blade but violence was outgunned
By guilt’s black bile pooling where you stood.
Dame Melancholy, with your crude stone blade,
Whom did you try to murder but my self?
My little self. I’ll not be unmade
To add another trophy to your shelf.

“Depression” now sounds like a common cold
With remedies as legion as the dirt.
My little self’s been badgered and cajoled
Until each onion skin was bathed in hurt.
I swallow medications in the hope
I won’t exchange a necktie for a rope.


Hopkins wrote, “No worst there is none.”
But isn’t it hubristic to declare
That you have reached the limit of despair
As in a total eclipse of the sun?
In that event a wild corona glows
Around the edges of the blackened moon,
A fiery nimbus that as yet allows
More than pure darkness in the afternoon.
What if there is a worst? How will you cope
If what despair you’ve reached was amateur,
Nothing Promethean, minor in scope,
A taste, a touch—your hope was premature!
It’s perilous to label something “worst”
Unless the Lord himself pronounce you cursed.


Even though cloistered by a bloody veil,
Dame Suicide, it’s not polite to boast
That you like making humans into toast
Or something else equally dry and pale.
Your hands, so fine, as if made for the harp
Cannot be clasped without making an end.
You strum a dirge irreverently sharp
Designed to cut deeper than we can mend.
Sharp as addiction or the death of love,
Hard as affliction, colder than hate’s hold,
The sickest kneel to you as if to move
Your soul to pity, dying as they grow bold.
I hold back; beauty is as beauty does.
Why not give in? Because, because, because.


You want to die more than you want to live
And smile tightly, try not to let on.
With luck you’ll pass for you, careful to give
Distinct impressions than you’ve not withdrawn
Entirely. Get up, get dressed and shave
And go to work to earn your daily bread.
Each day is one day closer to the grave
But on you clomp as if your shoes were lead.
You’re only doing what you have to do
To engineer some cheer, to fool your friends
Into thinking you’re no more than blue
Or else distracted by important ends.
This dedicated sham can last for years.
Don’t ruin it with your reptilian tears.


Since experts have agreed imperiously
That of all life’s sadnesses, nothing’s worse;
I’m forced to take this illness seriously:
Manic-depression, my genetic curse.
Imagine that—I’m finally best at something!
And not at poetry—so much is clear.
I’m best at diving, falling, crashing, tumbling
Into a state Audie Murphy would fear.
To have no personality, to have no god,
No sense of human fullness in the chest,
Only a sheet of paper-thin façade
Too easily torn and crumpled in a fist
Is indescribable. I’ve made my bed
Inside the liquid demons of my head.


Who cares for me, how would I even know?
My beloved holds me with her eyes
And mine begin to tear. I would not show
The depths of my disease to one I prize
Above all others. Without her love, what then?
Deeper inside the spiral of my pain?
Scratching wretched hope out with my pen?
Institutionalized with the insane?
She is a luxury I don’t deserve.
How can she recall what I once was?
Somehow in her mind she must preserve
The outline of a man without these flaws
Of character or chemistry, you choose;
I’m too exhausted to explain my views.


It’s not for flaw of character I weep
But for a flaw of chemistry, my dear.
Inside the gyri of my brain it creeps
Infecting all connections, engineer
Of all the darkest petals of the mind
Blighted and browned, hideous to behold,
A monster to myself, a worthless rind
Upon a garbage heap, deformed by mold.
The green fuzz on the peel is the thing,
But fungus is the province of the dead.
I feel its hyphae in my reasoning;
Can’t someone suck this poison from my head?
If brain were foot I’d apply fungal cream;
Perhaps I should begin with trephining.


Whenever my mind is not occupied
By something else, I think of suicide
And castigate myself for it; I ride
A pale horse, the monkey is my guide.
The monkey steers the horse, chattering loud.
The horse proceeds in circles round and round.
I gather up my breath, a broken cloud.
(The audience makes that sucking-in-breath sound.)
“Cheer”--a lovely word! An anodyne
For the meconium that clogs my mind
And spirit in malevolent design
Of petty feedback loops, pause and rewind.
Where did the cheer go? Am I insane?
Shut the monkey up! The horse is lame.


And why should I wake up, and what for?
My nightmares are more pleasant than my days.
Darkness eats my days, though I abhor
The process, I am helpless to erase
The code that casts my future in a bag
Meant, perhaps, to drown some hapless cat.
My life’s such an excruciating drag
All my expression lines have fallen flat.
It’s worse than Botox to be squeezed like this,
To have your personality becalmed.
If there’s a devil, did his Judas kiss
Pickle my ego until it was embalmed?
The dead are walking; I am of the dead
Although this whole scenario’s in my head.

At 2 Kilorats,


1 comment:

  1. Though war is no more
    and is now long forgotten
    with a pathological degree
    of preparedness we prepare
    for the next one and thus
    we remember the members
    of the Schweinfurt Raid
    who plummeted to their deaths.
    Was there never a man
    who plummets?
    I am a man
    who plummets.
    I am a man
    who to his death
    prepares to plummet.
    The people on that plane
    who plummeted to their deaths
    said together Lord,
    we are the men who plummet.


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