A Letter to my 16 Year Old Self
I know mania strikes noon,
I can’t stop worrying about you.
You, stuck in a tiny hospital room,
for it does not say anything
about who you are as a--
ever since the day I met you,
you are you.
Not a stale sugar cookie disintegrating by madness.
Please, I’ll talk back to depression for you,
I truly don’t care for it, depression!
You for who you are
then you will be granted free.
Don’t you understand?
I love you,
bipolar disorder does not define you,
and I love you.
Definitions and diseases don’t please me.
I know you two lived together
for a short amount of time,
but the intensity built and built like
my ever increasing love for you.
You are you.
My Therapist Pleads Me to Imagine a Placid Lake
“Imagine a placid lake”
my therapist pleads me,
she needs me to calm down
because mania has taken
over my mind.
I just cannot
the ideology behind it
feels like its
incomprehensible as fish
Terrified I see a raging,
bursting with psychedelic colors
and radioactive waste,
killing all living organisms
in the plunge pool,
and see that the man
from the dusty street,
he continues to shout at me
“YOU ARE BIPOLAR”--
all while sitting
on her purple couch.
Hopes of Freedoming from a Psychiatric Hospital
For fourteen traumatic days
I know we’ve only lived
together for a short amount of time,
I’ve seen you in the movies
Silver Linings Playbook
bunch of Hollywood propaganda
pushing agendas to romanticize you--
not everyone gets restraining orders.
I remember the ambulance ride,
told the driver to turn up the music.
mania, you brought me
up up up
countless of medication to
try and bring me
down down down
an injection too
hopes of freedoming
and to touch the blue sky
because it felt like rainbows were
catching on fire.
(Sophia Falco is a poet who has significantly struggled with bipolar disorder. Her poems have been published in Stigma Fighters, The Mindful Word, The Esthetic Apostle, The Festival Review, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, The Poetry Matters Project, and forthcoming in The Raw Art Review. She will be a senior this upcoming academic school year at The University of California, Santa Cruz, and strongly believes that poetry is a great way to fight the stigma!)
THE ACTION HERO TAKES ON TEN
if only it were so easy
to get them to obey
when we scream at ourselves
“i will not be ashamed!
“I will not be afraid!”
“i will not be angry!”
it’s like pounding the pillow
on a restless night
“go to sleep goddamnit!”
they may run and hide for awhile
scurry into their holes like field mice
under the hawk’s growing shadow
only to gather underground
in some dark chamber
but we will yet
with this same strategy
that has failed
a thousand times
we’ll clear the room
like the action hero
taking on ten
in a barroom brawl
a whirlwind of fists
and back spin kicks
THERE IS NO NEED
gentle waves kiss the shore
where i huddled without shelter
for three or four days
as the biggest breakers
came and went
now the sand is swept clean
of tangled lines and broken shells
splinters of shipwrecks
and crucifixes tightly held
all buried deep in the blue
and as i sit here drying out
looking at the sunrise
the robin’s egg sky
i wonder what the chaos
was all about
what lesson the voice
of the storm
was screaming in my ears
but there is no answer to that
i only know that today
there are others again
they walk on my beach
and i am grateful
for their footprints
and the sandcastles they build
though their declarations of love
haloed by hearts
are inscribed below the high tide mark
i mustn’t peer toward the flatline horizon
squinting storms into existence
conjuring them with dreadful eyes
there is no need
grow thicker skin
snap out of it
and let it go
who seem to think
I'm someone else
they love him
this someone else
this potential me
created in their image
while the flesh me
fails to explain
of this pulsing
the drop of errant blood
that pollutes the rest
what it's like
treading water with
and how I tiptoe
like a cat burglar
around double helix
trying to avoid
the mischievous child
who hides in dark corners
lobbing sticks of dynamite
in my path
I explain all this
but they are not appeased
they trumpet laughter
through their scaly trunks
I turn and walk
out the door into
my daily hailstorm
(Brian Rihlmann was born in NJ, and currently lives in Reno, NV. He writes mostly semi autobiographical, confessional free verse. He has been published in Constellate Magazine, Poppy Road Review, The Rye Whiskey Review, Cajun Mutt Press, Alien Buddha and The American Journal Of Poetry.)
First Real Spring Day without You
It’s sunny but son-less, birdsong and blossoms, and I remember how
you loved the row of blooming crab-apples in front of the Cardella’s house
and the different flowers in our yard whose names you
wanted to be reminded of each year.
You loved having the side deck to sit on with your pant legs rolled up
so the sun could heal your psoriatic legs
as you watched the boisterous birds, scampering squirrels and chipmunks--
and to stand on at night to stare up at the stars, scanning for meteors.
Even in the rain you’d stand there in the dark and converse with yourself--
your racing brain a churning treasure trove of data and imagined adventures,
sleep merely an exhausted state to fall into on the couch in the middle of the night,
as if you knew how little time you had in the body that would betray you.
Lox and bagels or bacon and croissants for Saturday breakfasts,
And roller-coaster amusement parks:
I’m trying to remember the things you found to love after moving north
so I can comfort myself when I think how you never seemed as happy
after we moved from your childhood home.
You delighted in discussing different religions
and observing how they all boiled down to the same thing--
but sometimes you worried about Revelations and people who might go to hell,
because one of your strangest friends kept insisting both were real and imminent; but
your God was love, and you loved your friends, though they were few and,
The more fragile ones you always took under your big wing, my sweet child,
as the mother cardinal in the old maple does now for her babies.
Today the dog found a baby robin blown out of its nest by last night’s storm,
but you weren’t here.
Tonight a friend described a subspecies of salamander she’d seen on TV
but she couldn’t remember the name, and you weren’t here to ask.
You were an old soul
and you still are,
as I sense you come to remind me every night at bedtime.
I never had to worry about your light shining on so brightly--
only about its brevity here on earth,
where it seems so dark now, even in the spring.
(Denise Thompson-Slaughter was born in Washington, D.C. and currently lives in Western New York. She received a B.A. in English from Rutgers University and worked many years as an academic editor. Her literary publications include two books of poetry, a mystery novella, two short stories, and brief memoir pieces.)
The raccoon and I
see each other,
souls as animal
eyes do, dark
space to dark
space, in a
fur and claw,
skin and bone.
When Depression Steps Out
It feels, sometimes, like
a taboo to be happy, to
breathe in the morning,
glad to be alive, to pet
a cat’s belly and delight
in its impossible softness,
to listen to the endless
chirping of hopeful birds,
to believe that tomorrow
will come and the day
after that, to not give
up despite frantic
calls to do so,
to shower and dress
and stride through
the many doors that--
(Vivian Wagner lives in the village of New Concord, Ohio, where she's an associate professor of English at Muskingum University.)
I am not sure how I did it,
how I survived
a lucky chance
but here I am
against the wind,
the hot, hot wind
which has turned the soil
into rippling sand
the rippling sand
of the unwashed desert.
I am not sure how I did it
and I am not sure how long
I can stay here
in the rippling sand
of the unwashed desert.
(Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality and writes hoping to find an audience for her musings. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud 'War Poetry for Today' competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Apogee, Firewords, Peach Velvet, Light Journal and So It Goes.)
Fragrant and Amaranthine for Thousands of Years
One day I will come back by a red cloud and bring giant's picture scroll.
My lines of lightning songs will flutter gold greetings of prehistoric huge city.
The mountains that have been sleeping for hundreds of millions of years
will be transparent in an instant and the lights will be brilliant, like five-coloured gems;
And the songs of my soul in the skeleton will be in full bloom,
like the fairyland flowers of the Kingdom of Heaven,
that will be fragrant and amaranthine for thousands of years.
The Soul is Invisible Muse
Open the eyes of your soul you'll see countless yourself.
No time goes by,which as if the sun and the moon never set and rise.
The world is only a book of phantom and the soul is invisible Muse.
Before the words hadn't beent born yet, you have been a giant
of the the kingdom of gold, that know not what is meant by myself.
(Hongri Yuan, born in China in 1962, is a poet and philosopher interested particularly in creation. Representative works include Platinum City, The City of Gold, Golden Paradise , Gold Sun and Golden Giant. His poetry has been published in the UK, USA ,India ,New Zealand, Canada and Nigeria.)
And then there are the days I long
to open him like a host on Westworld
though I would have to grow claws
to rip his skull apart since he is no bot
but my lover and with dexterity and calm
to lift with the point of the nimblest of my talons
the pulsating taint that pulls him down
into depressions that drive me mad.
(A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his verse appears this year in Headcase: LGBTQ Writers & Artists on Mental Health and Wellness published by Oxford UP and Lovejets: queer male poets on 200 years of Walt Whitman from Squares and Rebels. His essay "It's Been a Long Time Coming" was featured in The New York Times "Modern Love" column in April 2016. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Twitter: @JamesPenha)
A Labyrinth of Strangers
They’re all familiar enough in the beginning: parents,
aunts, uncles, grandparents—relatives who’ve been
part of your short, sweet life. Yet, as you move further
back in time, names, dates and places become increasingly
obscure until, eventually, you find yourself stumbling
about in a labyrinth of strangers.
Still you keep on digging, hoping to find that one luminous
figure among your ancestors. But, take care; what you uncover
may leave you wishing you’d left well enough alone, remained
in blissful ignorance, untouched by the viper which has been
waiting all these years to sink its fangs into your heel.
For in most things there is a balance of sorts—light versus
dark, good versus evil—you get my drift. And with a linage
that, theoretically, stretches all the way back to the first fish
which made its way up out of the ocean onto dry land, you
have to expect a Snopes or two, perhaps even a Hannibal Lecter,
hiding somewhere in the foliage of your family tree!
(Howard Brown is a poet who lives in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. His poetry has appeared in The Beautiful Space (May 31, 2018), Burningword Literary Journal, Blue Collar Review, Tuck Magazine, Pure Slush, Poetry Super Highway, Old Hickory Review, Lone Stars Magazine and Devil’s Party Press (forthcoming).
at the Meissen
cup and saucer,
white like the
lace covering the
polished teak table
where fingers drum
on a yellowing
inside on pages
sepia words crumble
like dried bones,
and the eyes
that once sought
at someone’s fingers
drumming on a
yellowing book cover
that long ago
and longer ago
on the polished
exquisite Flemish lace,
like the Meissen
saucer and cup.
(Louis Kasatkin is Founder of Destiny Poets UK and Editorial Administrator at www.destinypoets.co.uk He is also a life long community and political activist, inveterate blogger and has on occasion been dubbed a general nuisance to the status quo.)
The recent case of the phantom hand,
letting go of what it cannot hold,
catching moths in a window,
pawing away grief’s tears.
A hand that carried on regardless,
its master asleep and unaware,
his signature perfected to the iota,
penmanship an unappreciated talent.
The phantom hand that signed the checks
a lack of funds reneged upon.
That signed the freeman’s death warrant
with a controlled and unremarkable flourish.
(Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician currently residing on Salt Spring Island BC, is a multiple Pushcart nominee with over 1,400 poems published internationally in magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and the North American Review. His books are ‘The So-Called Sonnets (Silenced Press); ‘An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy; (Cawing Crow Press) and ‘Like As If” (Pski’s Porch), Hearsay (The Poet’s Haven).)
The Beautiful Space-