Friday, January 13, 2006

Guidebook for the interior

Take
what you have of your wits
with you;
you'll need them.
Beware of the
west wind;
its breath blows
from the land
of the dead.
Put
absolutely nothing
in writing;
you cannot
be connected to
visible evidence.
Self incrimination
is the greatest
of all possible evils.
Be alert;
you may glean
useful information
in there,
but must
discriminate
because much of it
is unreliable.
There are no
guidelines
for this.
Remember
that when you
return
others
will look at you
strangely
or not at all
until you prove
beyond a shadow
of a doubt
that you are
once again
one of them.
Whatever they say
they fear spys
in their midst.
It can be done
with time and patience
but one slip
into half forgotten habits
after you make it out
and they'll send you
back in;
those whose business
it is to seek
shadows
can always find them.
Best not
to dwell
on this,
because
there's nothing
you can do
about it
anyway.
Think warmly;
trees gleam
with crystal leaves
in perpetual winter
there.
Above all
eat nothing there
and bring only your
self
back
for you will
upon breaking any
of these
admittedly
contradictory
rules
condemn your
self
and all you touch
to the agony of
imagined whispers
tearing at your mind.

6 comments:

Fingers said...

I like thin poems. There is a certain way each poem looks, you know, by the negative space it creates (only in terms of physical space). This one looks good.


...those whose business
it is to seek
shadows
can always find them.

Why do these people seek shadows...

coyote said...

I wrote this for someone I knew, who was sporadically mentally ill -- I thought of it as going underground. The labelling that came with the severe spells, once there, became hard to shake even in relatively normal periods. People seemed to watch and perhaps fear, always looking for lapses.

C said...

How wonderful for you to give it voice - makes it all the more touching. Having some...well, alot...of family history to that effect, I really "get" this piece.

coyote said...

Good that you get it, Christa. In some cultures, a long time ago, what we call mental illness was considered to be a state of grace. Having seen it close up, I think it can be a terribly costly state to the one so graced. But I have also seen that it can seem to match with Joseph Campbell's descriptions of some types of mythological heroic journeys...

C said...

In my family - my mother's side...on her mother's side...and then on up - unfortunately we are all "touched" by this grace to some degree. Some more than others, but it has touched us all. And unfortunately, it has been an extremely destructive presence - again, to some more than others. Some of us "Get It" and some of us don't.

You can't change what God gives you to work with, but you can throw chemicals at it and do great things...:)

coyote said...

Just so... and the chemicals are getting better, and understanding more complete, and other treatments less barbaric. I imagine your mother's journey was magnitudes less difficult than your grandmother's, and so on down.

I think the person for whom I wrote this may have had a far easier life than she did, if she'd been born a few years later. Even against the odds, she accomplished some quite amazing things when she wasn't travelling underground... Who knows what her life would've been like, with better meds?