This is not my typical PReads post. It’s disturbing and I edited out the most diturbing bits before posting here. I wrote this in response to a call for poems and stories about insanity for The Summer Madness competition in 2009. I won the poetry division, took the blue ribbon for insanity
1. Waking Up
You don’t go crazy;
you go to sleep.
When you open your eyes,
when you get up and dress,
the nightmare doesn’t stay under your pillow.
It gets up with you and follows you around.
So, you’re not really crazy;
You’re just stuck somewhere
between awake and asleep,
where you can’t run from the demons,
and you can’t scream them away.
The sound of a shovel scraping soil is like nails on a chalkboard. It vibrates in your teeth. That’s the sound I heard, that sound in the cellar.
My father whirled, the shovel raised, eyes fever-bright. Red clay stained his fingers, smeared his shirt. He looked away when he saw me, turned his back, scraped more dirt into the hole.
“Go upstairs.” He paused, dragging one sleeve across his forehead. “This is no place for little girls.
“What are you doing?”
He scooped more dirt. Rocks skittered on metal. “I’m just taking care of some rubbish. Go on now.”
I have a new watering can and trowel, decorated with bluebonnets. I grit my teeth, scrape soil back, making a furrow beneath the cellar window.
The muffled clink of china under suds, and mother’s voice, drift through the kitchen window.
“I sent your brother an invitation to her party. Why didn’t he come?”
My father’s newspaper rattled.
“I don’t see how he can just disappear without a word,” mother says. “They were so close.”
“Good riddance to bad rubbish,” he says. The paper snaps.
I bury pebbly seeds, pat water-darkened soil, and wait for green sprouts that won’t come.
4. Out of Mind
To me he said: “Asylum means safe place. They will help you here.”
To them he said: “My brother had a weak mind. Could be it got passed to her.”
So, they put me away,
like a puzzle they can’t finish.
Put me out of mind,
an uncomfortable subject.
Walked off in hurried steps.
I should have screamed,
“Don’t throw me out.”
But I lost my words so long ago,
dropped and buried them
in a hole that could keep secrets.
5. Asylum Blues
so blue I’m almost black.
Like a bruise.
Like an inkblot.
What do I mean?
I’m Picasso blue,
spilling blues onto canvas,
organizing them in lines and puddles,
that hold our secrets.
When will this blue well run dry?
I changed van Gogh’s sunflowers
I made Munch Scream
Words buzz in my brain like angry bees.
I tame them, rock them to sleep
in a blue harbor.
One day soon,
maybe next week,
or the year after that,
I will paint my way out
of these asylum blues
and into spring green.