A visit from The Healing Muse: 'Extreme Ways' and 'Choices for the Mother of a Son with Mental Illness'
Deirdre Neilen, PhD, shares a selection from Upstate‘s literary journal, “The Healing Muse,” every Sunday on “HealthLink on Air.” Neilen is the editor of the annual publication featuring fiction, poetry, essays and visual art focused on themes of medicine, illness, disability and healing. Read The Healing Muse Cafe Blog.
Today‘s selections are "Extreme Ways" by W.F. Lantry and "Choices for the Mother of a Son with Mental Illness" by Ann Weil. Order your copy of “The Healing Muse” today.
Deirdre Neilen, PhD: There is now awareness and emphasis on mental health. Two of our poets gave us a sense of how a child's struggles with such illness also affects the parent. First is poet W.F. Lantry, who describes what the illness does to his son in his poem "Extreme Ways."
There is an epigram to Ernest Dowson:
"-- Those scentless wisps of straw, that, miserable, line
His straight, caged universe."
He had to discard everything, his songs,
and everyone who tried to hold him close.
It's like he lived inside a Moby riff,
played endlessly, shut down within his mind,
his thought unknowable, a hieroglyph
I cannot read. Did he forget his dose,
or tell himself, again, he didn't need
what others knew? I could not intercede.
In other times, he held the chickens' wings
quite gently while I clipped one half their flights
so they'd be grounded close to earth, confined
within their fence. My reckless heart delights
in memory the images it brings:
once, walking with his mother on a strand,
I fell behind, and saw him take her hand
to help her balance on the title stones.
But where's the balance now? These double doors,
Locking behind us, buzz in turn, designed
to block out everything our sense adores,
reduce his worlds to exclusion zones,
and hold him where no conscious love belongs.
Ann Weil has stark images and searing emotions in her poem "Choices for the Mother of a Son with Mental Illness."
I could ...
Cut a slit and peel back the dewy blanket of grass.
Crawl beneath the sod, pulling its cover over my head.
Let the earth, warm with the spring sun, heal my ache.
Stand on the street corner and rage-scream at the traffic.
Fall to my knees, gutted by panic's sharp knife.
Run fast and far, a rabbit fleeing the rabid dog.
Climb to the jagged peak of understanding.
Know too little and too much.
Cover the wounds with powder and blush.
Bargain with the Devil, make a deal with God.
Open the cupboard of my chest.
Squeeze my heart, bring it back to life.
Knock gently on his door, wait for the invitation.
Ask, How are you today? Prepare his favorite foods.
Tell him he is loved. Hold him as he weeps.