Saturday, May 22, 2010

More Dark Sonnets

I hesitate to say it, but my dark sonnets may have taken a turn for the better; here are two more that hold more hope than many:

XXII Victory

I am returning to the human race.
I’ve rolled my bedroll up. I’ve raised my head,
No longer lying immobile on my face
To peer at bugs beneath the surface dread.
There’s not much I can tell you to explain
Depths of disintegration that I know--
The way dirt swirls in a drop of rain
How cobwebs mask the spider’s ordered row.
Chaos is always there and always was.
That I became it isn’t all my fault.
Many have succumbed to no because--
Because there was no victory to exalt.
The victory is this: to live in spite
Of all the reasons laving us n night.

XXIII Doppelganger

I would kill you if I had the chance,
Bipolar brother, my accursed golem.
You are a black spider in my pants,
Your belly poisonous, fine-haired and swollen.
Your bite is easily fatal; many have died
Believing your sick gospel in their death.
In telling them the truth you only lied
About the cyclic nature of our breath.
Genetic, so they say, internal fate--
Van Gogh, Hart Crane and Plath, so many others.
But you won’t find my head upon your plate
Because I know the truth. To all my brothers
I caution patience. If we can outlast
The darkness, light will come, the die’s not cast.

4 Kilorats,

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pressing the Re-Set Button

I am a born-again psychiatric virgin now.  My shrink and I agreed to a washout period of all psychiatric medications since none were working.  When he saw me today unmedicated, he was delighted I wasn't any worse.  But it doesn't get much worse than waking up in the morning tearful and terrified, wondering how to work a toothbrush.

Although not a strict tabula rasa, I feel that in my condition I must try to reconstruct myself, having "to construct something to hope upon" (Eliot).  I plan to make a "Mother of All Lists" with projects to keep me occupied for the foreseeable future.  Among other things:

1) I plan to re-write my book on T. S. Eliot's major poems and seek to have it published.

2) I mean to pay for studio time and record a new album and do it right.

3) I shall take up free diving on the the Mendocino Coast.

4)  An essay on the similarities and differences between Rilke's "Duino Elegies" and Eliot's "Four Quartets."

5)  Protein shake diet for quick weight loss.  Must get off this inflated dime somehow.

6)  Resurrect Melic, my former literary magazine.  I simply do not find a journal online or in print that reflects what I consider the best principles in poetry: Meaning, Economy, Lyricism, Innovation and Clarity.  What passes for innovation nowadays is mainly masturbation for the overeducated, poets reading poets who say "Wow!  How did she do that?"  (Notice what is not said: "Wow, I am moved."  Or, "What a terrific insight!"  Or, "What gorgeoius lyricism!")

7)  I'd love to be in a working band again.  If not, I ought to perform solo more often.

8)  Visit every church in my locale and see if there isn't one I can tolerate.  With luck it should be the same one that tolerates me.

9)  Study the Bible for mind-strengthening techniques.  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

10)  Continue volunteering as a Botanical Gardens docent and hospice worker.

That's a beginning, at least.  But I need a list of much smaller things, too, things that can be achieved with just a little work, like cleaning out my desk.  If I can truly commit myself to action, my mood may improve as a result (or not).  But anything that takes me out of myself, whether surviving diving or wrestling with Rilke, is a definite improvement over the toxicity of digesting my self over and over.  With each serving there's less of me to consume.  I'm down to nearly nothing.


I'm presently at my middle daughter's for two nights as part of my monthly visit to my grandson, Jacob.  Tomorrow we plan to take him to the beach.  He's a redhead so it will be a sunblock-slathering day, chasing him down with a tube and a hat.

It's not true that Jesus is jealous of dogs because he wanted to be man's best friend.  Just another canine rumor.  But you gotta love the story from the Bay Area, where a man and his girlfriend sprang their beloved pit bull from the pound before he could be euthanized for biting two people.  Now the man's  in jail and his girlfriend is on the loose with the dog, "a sweet dog who is so very protective"--so very protective that he bit the veterinary tech who was checking his teeth.

Other tidbits: The eco-warriors are perched on the Gulf Coast to save oil-damaged animals, except as yet only seven have showed up.  What if they gave a spill and the animals avoided it?  The Exxon spill, smaller in volume, killed 3000 otters among much other carnage.  I only mention otters because they're so damned cute.  So far this is a disaster still waiting to happen when it hits land.  And that could be anywhere from Florida to Mexico.

Anything else?  Notice none of my ambitions for action have anything to do with writing poetry; I'm tapped, my muse is in a coma, my interest in the art at ebb tide.  I read so much crap.  Because I think it's crap I feel like a dinosaur even though I subscribe to the "best" journals.

I haven't been submitting and I haven't been writing.  Poetry seems like such a small thing to me now.  I'm not saying I've forsasken it, or that it is without value, only that I must re-define my relationship with it.  Who wants to read John Ashbery's convivial drivel or Jorie Grahams elliptical escapades?  But good poetry still occurs.  Witness "Blackwater Woods" by Mary Oliver.

Now wasn't that a great poem?  I was turned onto it by a hospice worker, Redwing.  God bless her.

Oh, and my one hospice client is a delight.  She worked with Gloria Steinem on Ms. Magazine.  She's sharp and funny and so very, very tired...

And to all a good night.

5 Kilorats and unmedicated,


Friday, May 07, 2010

Following the Light

It's been over two weeks since I checked in.  I have, unfortunately, been underwater in the icy caves of depression.  Depression is cold; waves of emotion are eventually wrung out into catatonic numbness, congealing into ice.  The bell jar.  Trying to touch the world through asbestos gloves.

It's an old groove, this soul-killing suspension of belief.  Most of us have endured a time of extreme negative emotion, it is appointed to the race.  But think of the worst you've ever felt, then extend it for two years.  Constantly, or nearly so.   This drove me to unsuccessful ECT in 2008. 

In clinical depression the feedback loop of extreme negative feeling goes on automatic, a skipping record.  The question of counteracting this is how to interrupt the repetition, how to reconnect the needle to the groove of life ongoing with interest attached.

I am undergoing a washout.  I am going off my psychiatric medications under supervision in the hope that either my brain will right itself or, by having a respite, recalibrate itself and become responsive to medications that formerly worked.  The body always has the capacity to develop tolerance to medications.  This is not confined to narcotics or sedatives, you can see it with blood pressure medications, too.  And of all organs, which is most adaptive?  The answer is obvious, why psychopharmacology remains a primitive art.

I'd like to re-post the one sonnet in my "Dark Sonnets" series that has an element of hope in it:


My mind is dark. The darkness will not cease,
As if an endless night ate every sun.
The echoes in my skull form a reprise
Of guilt and shame for everything I’ve done
Or left undone, that catechism phrase.
There is no publicist prepared to spin
Kinder assessments of benighted days.
Sin means falling short and I am sin.
Yet somewhere in the vacuum of my thought
I sense some inextinguishable light
So very small and certain, like a dot
That moves around and can’t be fixed outright.
I like to think this angel is my being
And not the Sturm und Drang that you are seeing.

In reviewing my previous recovery from this condition (recorded on these pages in April and May of 2008), I noticed one behavioral advantage that obtained: pretending to be Craig.  I deem this important.  Not just passing for me but pretending to be me.  Act like yourself and you may become yourself, as in the fable of the toy soldier who became human by wishing.   

I want to follow the light.  I believe in the goodness of God expressed through man.  Many have communicated their love and concern to me, and I am thankful for all I can receive, even if receiving is presently difficult. 

I believe there is a light so great that the shadow of our suffering cannot ultimately stand.

5 Kilorats,
Craig Erick

Unexpected Light

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