Writing Round the Vertigo


At the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month, I posted a piece called “Leaving the Seclusion Room  (some not-so-crazy notes on recoverying from mental illness)” about my stay at an Oklahoma psychiatric facility.  In that post I wrote about the voices I heard—an echo of children’s chatter—a description that prompted a question from my friend Sarah, who asked if I had ever explored those voices poetically—exploited their poetic potential, so to speak.

It turns out, I had.

Sort of.

The poem I’ll share below is written in several voices that interrupt one another—echoing—overlapping—dizzying.  Though there’s only one child’s voice in the mix of layered sing-song, this poem reminds me of the voices I still sometimes hear during times of vertigo-inducing stress–a surreal “reality” that looks a bit like this:

(photo by John Drysdale, " High Living Crocodile," 1976)

So–I hope you’ll wind these stairs with me–

And take a listen—

 

Vertigo

 

My head is killing

     me and he is talking

     about the etiquette

          of date rape

 

     cassette in the player

     cassette in the player

 

          indigo

          girls

          indigo

 

Where have you been?

 

The staircase is winding

     off the edges of the lawn

     and I am here

                                  lavender

 

     lilies of the valley

     lilies

               of

                     the

                             valley

 

I’ve told you not to

     go there

 

     you

     you

 

There you

                     daughter in the photograph

                     age three in front

                     of an antique typewriter

Kathy--already a writer--age 3

Why can’t you be more like . . .

 

    lilies of the valley

     lilies

              of

                    the

                            valley

 

The world according to cats

     is not a crazy sphere

     of influence

                                 spinning

                                 spinning

 

          in my

 

     cassette in the player

     cassette in the player

 

          head

 

30 thoughts on “Writing Round the Vertigo

    • I don’t recall the specifics of writing this one–but, yes, free association must have been a part of the process. Though psychosis can have a big impact on how the loosening of associations.

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  1. Wow. Just wow. Incredible what you do with words.

    I found myself winding around with you since the words have meaning for me as well. The Indigo Girls are a favorite, I had an antique typewriter just like that (during some troubling times in my teen life), and oh, I love lilies of the valley.

    I’m convinced the world according to cats is crazy, if my cats are anything to judge by. But I rather like their form of crazy.

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  2. As always powerful stuff Kathy. Cassette tapes running in the mind and indigo, lavender- the darkest shades before black? I can feel you feeling here a sense of falling or tipping into something darker maybe? Of course it could just be me feeling that but anyhow your words always move me one way or another. Oh sorry that’s Blondie…!
    I will read this again – in fact I find I keep coming back to reread your writing as I like it to sit with me a bit. 🙂

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  3. You certainly take us on a trip with you in that poem. Even the visual lines of the poem are always sliding somewhere, landing briefly, then darting away again. Your words evoke in me a fear of staying with one thought, one feeling too long. You start with the idea of date rape, then memories of childhood (love the photo of you in front of the typewriter!). Songs and floral scents for me can evoke memories more than almost anything else. For me the scent of lilies of the valley would be bittersweet, because of all the childhood memories that have been lost or tainted in retrospect. Why aren’t I still innocent like that? The Indigo Girls would be adult memories of choices I made, perhaps bringing up images of lovers or friends. Cats, crazy cats. I love cats! The music ends, the cassette spins and spins; these thoughts and memories swirl endlessly in my head with no answers.

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    • Wow–thank for this great comment! You are the first person to have noticed what the poem does in visual terms! Horray! I had hoped someone might see that! You have made my day, my friend–made my damn day! This reading rocks–it’s sooooo right on!

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  4. I’m glad I “got it”. I could have written more but didn’t want to hijack your post. 🙂 This poem really spoke to me. You get right to the heart of things.

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