the healing muse

Volume 13, 2013

The Proper Use of Spells

Luisa Villani

The terrible thing is that I understand the voices,
though, I, myself, have never had the luxury
of losing my mind. I assume losing one’s mind
is like a faith fall, a folding of the arms,
the mind folds in, and all good reason collapses
like a beach umbrella closing for the season.
I watch it go with its tattered valise trailing
the same pair of nylons for miles. My father
never doubted I would catch him, so he fell
off his meds . . . again. As his serotonin levels fell,
the danger creature in him rose
like a gas bubble from the primordial ooze,
and wore him like a skin.

This incantation I call the saint’s patience hymn
or the caring daughter ditty. It begins with the staccato knock
of knuckles on a door, very reminiscent
of a conductor’s baton.

When danger creature rises, it wants what it wants, when
it wants it, like a piece of pie at 2 am, so it knocks
on your bedroom door. It knocks and it knocks,
‘til you rise in your sweatpants, and you go
to an all-night diner, where the brown laminate table
wears a patina of tiny scratches. Everything here
is dulled, the way creature likes it,
fogged by something that can never be
wiped away. Watch the waitress’s arm.
Back and forth. That rhythm.
Begin your line.

Here comes the coffee, pie, French fries, and maybe
a bloody steak . . . but no cigarettes. The machine is out
here dad
. Keep talking. Television, or weather. The spell
of be here now. In the moment, you see
the countless random impacts
required to create the table’s film. You see
the need to change the name of the 5150
psychiatric hold to the 50/50,
because those are really the odds. You see
the need to keep creature listening—these
are lovely menus, don’t you think?
—so
you can track his movements.

You rub the talisman in your pocket—
a fragment of mirror you stole
from the hospital where you were born—
and you move to the negotiations.

Good behavior for a strawberry shake. Not crying
in public for more chocolate silk. Sugar is good.
Feed the starving brain. But, no, we can’t get cigarettes
now, all the stores are closed. Don’t argue
when he comments on the beauty school
student in the corner with her books
and mannequin head. She is black,
and the mannequin is white, and he wants
to do something about that. The spell of
you are right. You are always right.
Wouldn’t you like a witness? Use the urgency

of the helicopter’s gunmetal whir to bend him
into the car, after all, this is Los Angeles
and there is a need for spotlights and for mirrors
and for a little smoke. They have your brand
in that machine near the hospital
. It’s not
so much a herding
as it is a shepherding, as in the Lord is my,
which you secretly intone
all the way there.

Back to Volume 13, Table of Contents

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