Lead a Normal Life
after Peter Gabriel
above the Pacific's obeisance,
green and white, frigid,
slavering over the rocks
at the tower's foot.
You can see whales from here,
says another patient.
Your mother denounces this lie.
You lie still in your cot,
bag of books and clothes untouched,
head and jaw aching
from the twenty-fourth current
to stream through your blackened brain.
Deaths and flawed resurrections
mark off the days.
Some darkness bars your way back,
blotting out the memory of the night sky
and the cold, salt-laden air.
Your soul lingers in restraints.
Trays pass; you choke over them.
You trace patterns on the yellowed wall,
cringe from the spitting scream
of your inner Stalin.
You want to lead a normal life.
People say, with a certain facile philosophy,
"Well, what is normal, really?"
Not this ache, these walls,
the ocean with its harvested whales
seen through shatterproof glass.
You want to slip between
You want to hold a knife
without longing to cut your throat;
You want hunger, desire,
to want at all.
Her mood swelters, oppresses
but does not break.
Hours ago she slung the worn bedclothes
to the floor.
His face is flushed. Sweat trickles
between his shoulder blades
gathers at the small of his back
his briefs are unpleasantly damp there.
The waistband strangles his bowels which
clench a warning.
She drifts from the bedroom
but then just crouches
by the window
not at all like a bird
like a mad naked scrawny woman
hair knotted with curses
gaze fixed on the closed blinds.
She rests her chin on her knees.
He feels her hating the blinds.
The walls themselves glow with rage
As the sun sets
he watches thin bands of light
slide across her cheek.
You forced the bud. Yellow stamen-dust
gilds your fingers. I, decked in purple
long to fall.
Your gifts and thefts alike are arbitrary.
You have gathered to yourself all that is good
fruit-heavy and sun-warm
and I -
Steal my spirit, thief. My tears are warm
on my warm cheeks as I pray to be taken
here as I lie.
Jennifer Thompson: I received my Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of California, Irvine, and am currently an assistant professor of humanities at Embry-Riddle University, where I teach creative writing, Holocaust studies, and world literature. I was diagnosed manic-depressive in 1997, and the attached poems represent some of my attempts to come to grips with the disease.
James Garry Christopher Barnes Jennifer Thompson Tom Savage Sam Vaknin Dave Ruslander S. Simpkins Maggie Zhou Maria Claudia Faverio