Tag Archives: depression

Found poetry: Sherlock in Love

sherlock-in-love-coverWell, the summer got away from me for a while, but I’ve caught up enough to be able to show my face again. I didn’t lose too much ground with reading, but the writing declined in quality as well and quantity. (I’m sure the two are related.)

During a brief overnight retreat last weekend, I read Sena Jeter Naslund’s Sherlock in Love. Some lines from the afterword (pp. 222-3) kept trying to shape themselves into a poem, so I played around with them a little. The description of depression struck me as particularly accurate.

Light of a day

This morning when I woke up alone
in my cell, sunshine was in my eyes. I sat up
in bed and looked at the great beauty
filling the room. This is what it is
to love, I thought. Someplace the sunlight
falls on your face.

Sometimes imagination fails me: the world
is no longer continuous. A great black cap of depression
sits first on my forehead, then covers
my face, my body. As the years wear on I know
I may live in perpetual darkness. The morning sun
may lose its power.

 

Love light

This morning when I woke up alone
in my cell, sunshine was in my eyes. I sat up
in bed and looked at the great beauty
filling the room. This is what it is
to love, I thought. Someplace the sunlight
falls on your face.

 

Haberdashery

Sometimes imagination fails me: the world
is no longer continuous, and we are not
connected. A great black cap of depression sits
first on my forehead, then covers
my face, my body.

As the years wear on I know
I may live in perpetual darkness. The morning sun
may lose its power. The black cap always
waits: “Deny yourself and enter into darkness”
reads the banner twisted in its folds.

 

Here, now

Sometimes I think of the forbidden and my body
thinks the impossible. What my eye falls on, I love
to see. What the ear hears is thick
with joy. I live in this moment
as I did not before: loving
the texture of the carpet, the glowing
globe of the lamp and its light
falling on my moving hand.

Let your life surprise you!

To jump-start my writing again, I decided to use an exercise I recall from Barbara DeMarco-Barrett’s wonderful writing book, Pen on Fire. I got the book a few years ago to help me develop a habit of writing, and it went fabulously until I hit a major depressive episode and my life went off the rails. But that’s another story.

The exercise is to use a picture postcard as writing prompt/inspiration. (I’d cite chapter and verse, but I can’t lay my hands on the book at the moment.) Not having a stack of picture postcards handy, I decided my collection of tarot card decks might work just as well.

The last few days I’ve been using the Kitty Kahane tarot, a cartoonish sort of deck with a simple but unusual color scheme. Today I turned up the Wheel of Fortune card, and writing about it led me to some interesting insights.

The Wheel of Fortune card bears certain resemblances to the The World card. Both belong to the Major Arcana, a series of 22 cards that stand for major forces that act in our lives.  The Wheel of Fortune is the eleventh card in this series, and The World is the twenty-second, so it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine they might be related.

From the Kitty Kahane Tarot

In the corners of the card stand the four symbols of the evangelists. The eight spokes of the wheel might be seen to correspond to the four quarters and four cross-quarters of the year. The hand on the right side of the wheel could be either stopping the movement of the wheel or preparing to spin it. The sphinx on top of the wheel represents wisdom; the sword she holds represents choice and decision. The snake can be a symbol of temptation, though it is also a symbol of renewal and healing. (It almost seems to be tickling the demon’s rear end with its tongue, which makes me laugh.) In bearing the wheel, the demon at the bottom might be serving out some kind of punishment.

The visual movement in the image is from the right, through the hand up to the top of the wheel, where wisdom presides, slithering down the left side with the serpent, to the belaboring demon below. The bad news, no doubt, is that this is the normal progression of things: we start out knowing what we’re about, but succumb to temptation and soon find ourselves toiling beneath the weight of our choices and their consequences. The good news is that the wheel keeps turning. Whether the hand on the wheel is our own or that of the Divine, the wheel has the potential to bring us up again to the top, hopefully the wiser for our experience at the bottom.

The booklet that accompanies the deck has this to say about the card: Much that happens to you is beyond your control. Let your life surprise you!

I rather like thinking about it that way.

(Kitty Kahane Tarot by Kitty Kahane, text by Lilo Schwarz, translated by Charles Warcup, AGMueller Urania, 2006.)

The crab (a poem of questionable merit)

I’ve molted again
split open and squeezed out
from a life too small
the new carapace hardens
thicker and tougher than before
claws larger, grip stronger
more of a mouthful, not such easy prey
maybe I’ll be bolder
just hope I’ll be lucky enough to live
to molt another day

Silence and comfort

I’ve not been writing much of late; I’ve been too lost in a life turned suddenly labyrinthine and well-nigh impenetrable. A couple poems have wrenched their way out, but with such great effort that the results seem pale and feeble. So I have sat in wordless darkness, waiting.

When you are still enough, silence becomes palpable. It becomes something you can feel, a physical pressure against the skin. Stranger yet, you can actually even hear it. I have finally been still enough for long enough to begin feeling and listening my way out of the labyrinth. And now the words are coming back, but in unexpected ways.

I’ve begun writing again, in halting bursts, in a black-and-white school composition notebook, in pen. I suppose it’s the writing equivalent of comfort food, harkening back to earlier times and simpler pleasures. Not all such memories are happy, but that doesn’t appear to matter. It seems there are some things I cannot say through a keyboard and the crisp legibility of Times Roman.

The contagion of composition

What is it that causes a person to write, to want to write, even to need to write? Lots of people never have the desire to write, indeed could pass their entire lives quite happily without ever having learned to write–yet others seem unable to prevent themselves from writing. (Although the number of compulsive writers seems quite the larger to me, I doubt my circle of acquaintances constitutes a statistically valid sampling of the population.)

The same questions have haunted neurologist Alice Flaherty, so she did something about it: she wrote a book, The Midnight Disease. (It seems she is in some part the subject of her own research.) I haven’t read the book yet because I just purchased it, but it’s on the top of my reading pile, which I’m sure has caused a great deal of grumbling among the other books whose patient queue has been jumped.

Maybe I’ll feed my own disease and write a review of the book when I finish it.