heart and mind
always at odds –
sleet on a campfire

puzzle face

Tanka from the Psych Ward



the out-of-place cart-wheel
throwing its echo
against empty walls
green as my gown




tagged with a barcode
snug on my wrist 
all vitals revealed
except the state of my heart




bright little footprints
from wrist to crook –
reds greet the pinks greet the whites
on the old IV highway




mother clings to daughter
my greatest cowardice
for courage




“occupational therapy”
so many eyes
in this coloring book
[blot them out]
i am ashamed



shuffling, shuffling
down the green hallway
with no sense of time –
not one clock here –
we might swallow the batteries



i scatter thumbtacks
in the psychiatrist’s ear –
by the fifth telling
they feel slightly duller



mid-afternoon –
the slowest patient
earns a round of applause –
“we’ve watched law & order
too much, i think”



with a wail
the girl with black hair
finally cracks
[fuck this place! goddammit!]
she swears she’s dying



forget red –
if hell has a color
it’s hospital green



mass exodus:
the dining room vomits us
into the hallway –
must be six o’clock
[i should brush my hair]



borne on pink trays –
shampoo! toothpaste! soap!
pajamas from home!
[hot damn!]
feeling human again



green and yellow
orange and purple
a garden of bruises
blossoms on my arms



cold rain
strips the last leaf
from the lone maple



the nurses are buzzing –
a double rainbow
seen during lunch!
they say it’s lucky –
too bad i missed it



so bored
my brain’s turning purple –
i lean on the sill
and watch the elevators
in the next wing



lending an ear
to a homesick romanian –
his eyes become bright
when i give him some paper
[he draws orange mandalas]



through the barred window –
is it rain or snow
that evaporates
over the chimneys?



i’m reaching –
nobody’s here –
i need to write
[but what]



my yellow wristband
[fall risk]
if they only knew …



in the hallway
without shadows
i called you –
the voice i’ve clung to
left me in eggshells



i have become
putty –
stretched to its limit –
absorbing the text
of too many hurts



the night was wide open –
i finally see
even stars have their cages



who is this woman
with the sunken eyes?
the real me
lies under the hemlocks
on summer evenings



deep in my pocket:
one ink pen –
i smile inwardly
because it is contraband



from the fourth floor
the evening sky
is a royal blue gown
of seamless satin
that i never wore



the new guy
snaps his cards
punctuating every move
he wishes he’d made



today’s towels
smell like a boutique
at ocean city –
the dark-eyed clerk
made me blush with his smile



saturday night
a helicopter
breaks the night in two pieces –
dark and darker –
[i fear you’ve moved on]



for days
i’ve dreamed of my home –
now the front door
has vicious teeth
and the windows are growling



29 thoughts on “heart and mind

  1. This is brilliant writing, Jen. It comes at a high price, I know. I have battled depression my entire life, and have nearly witnessed my ending several times. Stay calm, tell yourself how worthwhile you are, and take it very slowly. Be whole.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Revisiting this. Tanka from the Psych Ward is/are stunning, Jen. Poetry as symbol. For those who have spent time or worked on a psych unit it stirs a rush of energy, a pop-up book of memory, emotion, humor, sensation, fear, pain,…

    the new guy
    snaps his cards
    punctuating every move
    he wishes he’d made

    the nurses are buzzing –
    a double rainbow
    seen during lunch!
    they say it’s lucky –
    too bad i missed it

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My sweet Jen, this is so moving to a person such as I who has fought depression. You hit every note. The haiku is splendid. Sending good thoughts your way from Texas!


  4. May I say that this is possibly one of the most brilliant poems I have ever read. I will need to go away and read it a few more times to digest it. It is good to have you back with us again. As we say down under ” you’re a bloody little trooper mate !” Hang in there kiddo !


  5. Pingback: Morning Haiku and Waka – A Phoenix Arises – March 4, 2016 | Bastet and Sekhmet's Library

  6. Hello dear heart. To like these verses is of course ridiculous … but I want to commend you on publishing your inner voyage with us. Walking in the shadow of darkness is sometimes part of walking through life, we’d like to just look at the pretty flowers ignoring the fear and the hurt, the monsters and the loneliness, pretending that none of it exists – each verse here is an important piece of life. Welcome back my friend:

    those vicious teeth
    hidden behind happy smiles
    and open doors
    shuddering in armour
    tend your bow for battle

    and friends
    walking in other valleys
    remember you
    how the days passed in silence
    awaiting the dove’s coo

    after the storm
    even the clouds are silver
    denying damage
    what are a few fallen trees
    what are crumbled houses

    from the ashes
    again the phoenix rises
    in a pocket
    ink flows from a stolen pen
    upon hidden bits of paper

    walk tall
    no need for shame
    life takes its toll

    © G.s.k. ‘16


    • Thank you so much, Georgia — the shame and the loneliness have been intense, and some things appear to be irreparably broken, as I wonder “what now”?

      I treasure your waka here 🙂


      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry I’m late replying … understandable my dear, but this too shall pass and you’d be surprised at how often the irreparable is reparable in the end. Hugs.


  7. What a wonderful post Paloma, but those tanka … awesome how you have caught your feelings from the psych ward in beautiful poems. Chapeau! Really I am proud to see how you have used your experience in the psych ward to create beauties.


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