After Wallace Stevens’ “Le Monocle de Mon Oncle”
‘Father of mine, sower of bifurcation,
O loins of disjoint, crown of schism,
There is not nothing, no, no, never nothing,
Like the tongued edge of two mouths seeking death.
And so I pleaded with him in lowly gestures.
Or was it that I pleaded with myself alone?
I wish that my mind was as singular as a stone.
The maw of mumbling thought speaks again
The words he granted in youth. And then
A deep snarl from some chasm deep
Within me, growls its toothy demand.
A white gown flies across the languid linoleum.
It is a white gown that seeks out his kind
Among the many minds of shard and cries and fracture.
An outburst will spring from him when he finds.
Shall I unscramble this much-scrambled thing?
I am a man of schism greeting heirs;
For it has come that I thus greet the doctor.
My kind welcome me with minds of abandon.
No doctor can follow past the eye.
Yet they persist with phenomenological bliss
To make believe a construct of charted self.
Is it for nothing, then, that old psychiatrist
Sat meditating by their torrid notes
Or in the wards studied out their patients?
I shall not play the part of a skeleton.
You know Bleuler’s diagnoses damned
The locus of self to be one of many.
You know the scales of Carystus,
Alas! Have all the pharmacologists lived in vain
That so many schizos remain insane?
Why, without pity on these doctors of soul,
Do you come dripping from your still parched lips?
The normal and whole souls of man
Fall, it appears, of their own accord into bodies.
When you were God, their lives were mundane,
Unreflective, in the unremarkable, sanguine air.
A schizo serves as well as any skull
To be the self in which to waltz around,
And is as excellent, in that it is composed
Of what, like skulls, shatters on the ground.
But it excels in this, that as the soul
Of schism, it is a self too mad to be
Before one is merely to pass the time.
In the high mind there burns a faceless face.
It is for lumbering feet that face was set
And for the newly-diagnosed close to them.
The measure of intensity of psychosis
Is measure, also, of the horrors of sound.
For me, the bears quick, unbridled pace
Renders tedious the time of one more day.
And you? Remember how the spiders came
Out of chilled grate, like little sins,
In the electric nights, when your first imagery
Found inklings of your bond to all those critters.
If men at two weeks will be painting rocks
The shifting crags must merge for them as one,
The basic state, the universal frag.
There is no substance in us that prevails.
But in our therapist’s thoughts discern
Such undulations that their scrawling
Is aimless and captures caricatures of madness.
When therapists grow tired, then thought shrinks
Into the scope and criteria
Of intersubjective exile, diagnosing,
It is a theme for the DSM alone.
The wasps that hallucinations ride come slowly down
The cluttered passes, from beyond our ails.
Descensions of their pricking stingers arrive.
These buzzers are heavy in their ways.
Meantime, the attendants laugh and beat
Their crepuscular mitts on the filling desks.
This parable, in sense, amounts to this:
The nectar of solace may or may not come,
But that the pills both act and fail at once.
Suppose these messengers brought amid their wings
A cure harbored by medicinal bloom.
Like a dull instrument, I behold, in illness,
An ancient aspect touching splintered mind.
It comes, it blooms, it wreaks its havoc and fries.
This trivial trope reveals a way of truth.
My bloom is here. I am the havoc thereof.
Two shocking electrodes cemented to the mind,
I lay like bloated fish, shivering and prone,
Into the wintered weather, flayed with release,
Distorted by misfiring neurons, turned inside out.
The laughing doc will see the two of me
Burned into rinds by electric numbing pains.
In verses wild with thrashing, full of noise,
Loudened by cries, by flashes, quick, and sure
As the deadly thought of men accompanying
Their curious fates in the halls, come, celebrate
The faith of the schizo, warden of the ward.
Most venerable brain, the craziest conceit
Is not too crazy for your graying matter.
I quiz all sounds, all thoughts, all everything
For the voices and manner of their manifestation
To make my offerings fit. Where shall I find
Competence adequate to this haunted hymn?
The mops of the unbathed in their poems leave
Memorabilia of the mystic founts,
Spontaneously watering their untilled land.
I am unwell, as such fellows are.
I know magic trees, honeyed rain,
Silver sap, gold-vermillion migrants.
But after all, I know no trees that bear
A semblance to the thing I have in mind.
They wither in silence, with certain limbs
To which all demons come sometime in their time.
But when they go the limbs still wither in silence.
If well were all, then every trembling hand
Could not make a peep, like shells, the wished-for cures.
But note the unconscionable treachery of fate,
That makes us weep, teeter, falter, and gag, and shout
Meaningless nothings, pinching gestures forth
From madness or boredom, without regard
To that first, foremost command. Witching hour!
Last night, we sat beside a table of treasures,
Littered with crayons carving empty papers,
Keen to the point of lamplight, while a fog
Rose from his unchecked mind confusing chords.
A blue set of scrubs it is, that circles the ward,
On sideways walls, around and round and round.
A pink set of scrubs it is, that sinks in the chair,
Grown tired of requests. Like a dark doctor, I
Prophesied, when young, the nature of mind,
In fevered study. Every day, I found
Mind proved a problem in my shattered world.
Like a divergent doctor, later, I pursued,
And still pursue, the origin and course
Of illness, but until now I never knew
That broken things have so distinct a shade.
Jake Bailey is a schizotypal confessionalist in Antioch University Los Angeles’ MFA program and an associate editor of Lunch Ticket. He has forthcoming work in Door is a Jar, Mohave He[art] Review, The Hellebore, Rhythm of the Bones: Dark Marrow, Neon Mariposa Magazine, and FlyPaper Magazine and has been published in catheXis Northwest Press, The Esthetic Apostle, The Laurel Review, and Prairie Light Review. Jake lives in Chicago with his girlfriend and three dogs.