More Archaeology

Daughter in an Institution

Hundreds of miles away this daughter is still trouble
Hundreds of miles apart we psychically connect
Hundreds of miles away you had me committed
Hundreds of miles apart, Mother, I should be with you

Last term I danced through days
In manic whirls and psychotic twirls
I was happy then. Walking up the hill
From the college to the church
Became a sublime experience.

But the thought of returning to you, Mother
Paralysed my psyche and a certain deadness
Crept into my bones and I got the sleep
I’d missed for so long. I ran from myself
And spent dilapidated days decomposing poems
And swallowing razor blades, bemoaning
The deviousness of the world. You only intervened,
Mother, as I silently, slowly started to strangle myself.

So you sent the doctors in – those unreal death squads
Who shoot me half dead with tranquillizing darts
As I show them my upturned arms, maps of criss-cross scars
Staring, with eyes like street lamps, illuminating my face
Hold me so I can no longer feel the hot throb of the wounds
On my wrists but instead I am cloaked in cold competence
The danger of death is held at bay by this hospital ward-
One gloomily dark, the other gleaming and white.

You visited me, Mother, in this sanitized place
You were outwardly sympathetic, inwardly disdainful
The Queen of Cheerfulness, then your mask cracked and melted
As I assumed the arms crossed, shoulders hunched aspect
Of the mental patient. You departed, taking with you
A photograph of me to stick pins in. Leaving me with roses,
Red roses, dead roses, once beautiful. Now wilting
Corpses in a vase. Symbols of a dilapidated life.

You left me wondering what the doctors would do
If I said that I was determined to kill you
I tell them I’ve rehearsed your death in my mind-
A thousand times. They decide to sweep my hearth clean
Of the delusions that engulf me. These injections are insults
Trying to kill the illusions that my macabre imagination conjures up
Devastated by catatonia, I scream through these nightmare days
How do I scream without making a sound?

I defy the sedative with dreams of concentration camps
Stark against the night. Watchtowers with machine guns
Emanate from me amidst my howls. I watch the doctors approach
Detached and supercilious. They think they know so much
White-coats, duped by psychotics in striped pyjamas
I run hearing them, close behind as they pursue me
Through the undergrowth of my psychosis. They capture me
Like battle-field generals they order psychological execution.

I am forced to my knees to say my prayers to the Doctor
‘To you he is God,’ the nurses say. No one sees me as a martyr
Lying pale and statuesque on my bed, feeling as though
I am being erased. My mind vacated. The sedatives have done their work
I am now as peaceful as a grazing cow, head filled with popular songs
Psychologically naked as a latter-day Lady Godiva
I have crossed to the other side- to the non-psychotics
My life is a wasteland filled with other people’s debris.

I am ready to be returned to you, Mother
My admission is unremembered. I only know
That three months later I am emerging
Having whispered through without an impact,
Unrecognised as a servant of an unexpressed revolution

At home with you, Mother. I lie prostrate
In my bed of death and hell
Dead or alive
We are enervated by sadness
You in me, me in hell.

Siamese Mother and Daughter

‘Girl, go get your head read,’
My mother cries
Ripping the redness
From my eyes
Scouring the deadness
From my face
For they were imposed on me
By that place.

My mother searches throughout the night
For an antidote
To the tranquillisers
They gave me there
There is nothing to do
But sleep in her presence
Her hand rests on my cheek
While I doze.

‘I want you back the way you were,’
I hear her scream
As I dream
In my wakefulness
‘You should be pleased,’
I reply silently
‘For I am yours now
As much as I was in the womb.’

I am wrapped in her,
Trapped in her
Weakened by her whims
‘Is this not what you wanted
A daughter in disguise
A daughter who’s you
With only a few
Needs of her own?’

‘No, no,’ she replies,
‘A twin’s what I wanted
A bin full of my sighs
An echo of me
With pupils like sultanas
And limbs of pastry
Something I could eat
But not keep inside’ .

‘Something I could reject
At any time.
Now here you are
Hanging on
Heavy as a scone
Or maybe a fruitcake
I need you like me
Yet forceful and free’.

Beneath her I collapse,
Like a deflating soufflé
She turns to an authority,
Turns to the doctors she says
Have abandoned me
Fury illuminates her eyes
‘My daughter died
Because of you,’ she cries.


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