Today I’ll take the story of my 1990 admission to Parkside Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma, one step further, passing along a poem I wrote as a patient there.
One of the things I find most striking in the poem below is evidence that my associations had loosened–a common symptom of psychosis. Here, in fact, they’ve loosened to the point that the poem, I think, lacks cohesion in literary terms. However, I believe the piece provides some clues about the way my mind processed information at that time and how my sense of reality was largely based on loose leaps in logic.
mental illnessthe edge of this is not like other edges. I approach it from the angle we associate with bent sticks stripped of bark and the inner coating which comes off in layers against the flat edge of fingernail pressing: paint peeling orange peeling skin peeling after sunburn and all of this only to reveal error and a false start. so stripped i enter naked into the oblivion and am washed ashore along with tomb stones on which we read about the deaths of certain navigators. sailors are a special breed of the explorer— straining toward the edge of anything—crazy to believe in spheres they say—all is as it appears to be—flat as slate and born of one dimension—folded not pleated—pleats are said to complicate the matter.
Notice that an image I now call the “event horizon” has crept into my description of mental illness–“the edge of this/is not like other/edges.” I seem to believe I’m approaching a kind of emotional frontier, not knowing what’s next, what’s beyond, comparing my experience of “crazy” to that of the early explorers fighting the misperception that the world was flat.
I wish I were able to recall more clearly and concretely what I was thinking during these weeks in the hospital. However, most of what I wrote was like this poem, a web of loosely linked images, a gauze in the guise of information, more evocative than overt.
Does anything about this poem seem important to you?