- Driving Home from the Psychiatric Hospital
There was nothing left to imagine.My questions had all been answered.
No reason to pull over and watchbirds drift into the pulpwood forests,
except for the order of their branches,except each mile was a gulf between us,
a call unanswered, a letter refused,a year gone without a word
and then another. In silence,I sketch endless diagrams of the past.
Outlines in the sky fragment and shatter. Clouds blend, suffocate.
You lie with your back to the one patchof sunlight that found its way into the room
you share with two others. They mumble all night,you tell me, in their sleep, under their breath. [End Page 58]
Your Seroquel eyes sparkle, but your mindpaces white corridors, sometimes rememberinghow much has passed you motionless, including me,
driving back to the beach where we spent young summers catchingghost crabs along the mile walk to the inlet,
and scattered handfuls of sand into the waves to watch algae flash soft green lights.The kind of miracle small enough to believe in.
Out above us,wind moves through the pines and speaksin a language we cannot understand.
Turning down the beach road our grandfathercut with a machete in '46, after he woke up
in Leavenworth with an Air Force dischargeand the title to a coastal property in Florida,
I cannot help but wonder, who was that manwho made the first incisions into this wilderness?
Where did he pause for water along this roadside,checking his coordinates, counting steps
from the benchmark, scrub brush fallingat his feet like a dissipating fog? Did he think
of his flight to Cuba where, some claim, hebrought the isotopes for Fat Man? [End Page 59]
Down there, his unit drew strawsfor the lot. His friend Joe came up short,
traded the property for a washing machine. Then camewaves of catatonia and a mission
he would never fly. What is this inheritance ifnot the endless iniquity of the past?
The rain falls in great sheets that won't abide— that gray, decided calm ofpointless memory, the feeling of having been
so foolish in our youth. The useless haste, the wasted timelike blank pages of water worrying the skinned hedge, mold blooming on the window,paint chipping on a picket fence.
A rain that reminds you of so many afternoons before.Then, the lush and the quiet that follows
casts its stillness over the street, and everything hushes and holds steady, revealing nothing,swaddling us, making us comfortable while memory
reaches for our throats, pins us to the maudlin elsewhere,until a blue jay's shrill intrusion calls the world back to order.
On the phone, you sound like the echoof rocks thrown into a ruined well. Your voice
knocks against where moss holds mortarand stone by the lips, as if to keep their silence. [End Page 60]
You become the Eratosthenes of central Florida,measuring my shadow with words winnowing
underground, moving from that singular darknesstoward some distant circle of light.
In prison, without a sentence, no dateto hold between your teeth, you become
a photograph, one September afternoonturned until the image smears and the past
is all you are. Your trees cannotshed their leaves, the cars all parked
in their smooth driveways. The same songkeeps playing. You listen to the crackle
as it wears down the needle of your heart.
Back when you were first hospitalized,I found an ancient Bible in your bedroom,
with yellow-paged apocrypha we never read inSunday school, felt the burden of its weight
as I turned to a page you marked, a passage ofEcclesiasticus, better indeed
to die childless than to have godless children. Iknew that you had marked it for me
who could not forgive that god whoshaped your mania in his own image. [End Page 61]
From this distance, you are the rim of fire cradling my sunset valley going home,
the time of year when trees collapsefrom the heat like exhausted...