The Puzzle Factory
Rosemarie Rowley, Hot Cinquefoil Star ([Dublin]: Rowan Tree Press, 2002): 113-42.
2The nature of my soul, free with grace
3The prisoner of my conscience, to bless
4My heart and mind, mend my spirit, trace
5In my confusion a sanctity. Can you address
6This, say I'm sending for one, place
7And time to be chosen. Nurse, lest I digress
8From the disorderly matrix of my case
9With words, I now ask you to impress
10It in your diary. I am out to pace
12To me, my illness is the token of a race
13Gone to extinction, burned out without will.
14Someone will come when I have had my pill.
15The priest will come when you have had your pill:
16Please sit down or you'll disturb the sick
17Creatures in my care. You are very ill.
18This asking for a priest is just a trick
19To waste our professional time, kill
20With constant wearing down, incessant pinprick
21Our repertoire of compassionate nursing skill.
22The pill is good for you, just take a lick
23The candy coating's nice. You're very ill.
24He'll come for sure when you have had your pill.
25Your eyes are bulging. I told you you were sick.
26Come here, you wretch, stop slinking out the door.
27The priest will come. I told you so before.
28The priest will soon be here. Nurse said so before.
29I can't believe you're getting any better.
30Double dose, Nurse. And if you hear her roar
32But of course we won't use it. Give her more.
33The pills really quieten them. The letter
35Up-I think she was declared a debtor
36To the bank. A hundred in the red, a score
37Of unpaid bills. She's no go-getter-
39Her records in this file. Now we can net her
41I'm tired of helping them out of life's thrash-can.
42I'm tired of helping them out of life's thrash can,
43But a few electric shocks will sort her out.
44So trusting, a permanent also ran,
45A loser, a messer, there's no doubt
46Anxiety personified. I believe she ran
48Saw her clawing at the window. At once a ban
49Must be enforced on walking patients. Rout
50Their needless guilt and crucifying unsan-
51itary nightmares. They cause a drought
52Of human sympathy. But then I'm no fan
53Of unchecked impulses. And yet a pout
55I smile at her, to show her my protection.
56We smile at them to show them our protection.
57She's safe now, in the stupour of the drug.
58The ECT machine has passed inspection
59It's funny how it makes me feel a thug.
60Shock wave, then convulsion and projection
61Of limbs flying like a stranded bug.
62Her mouth foams. I think its found in section
63A of the manual. I don't want to be smug,
64It's really harmless. But pitiful. Introspection
65Punished here. They just need a hug.
66But who will hug the face of life's rejection
67Especially now. The heartstrings' tug
68Is dead forever in the electric shock
69She won't remember love that science can mock
70You won't remember love that science can mock.
71Well, I'm your social worker. And I see
72You're still complaining about the electric shock.
73I haven't time to discuss loss of memory
74You don't need it, really. The lock
78Oh, good. There's not a problem I can't knock
79Off in three minutes. And Science is free
80To bare our secrets, systemise for good the Rock
82There's solution in sociology. Resistance
83Is a Case Study, just needing persistence.
84I'm a case study, that just needs persistence.
85I rock myself all day. The constant flight
86From life's troubles is my whole existence-
87I am tempted to yield to my spirit's blight
88And remember little else. Your assistance
89And ECT have burned my memory bright
90With tears that can never be shed. The distance
91In my eyes shows thread of the dark night
93Of chemical pill and mystic insight cannot light
94The lamp where my reason had subsistence:
95Pills hold me in thrall to nothingness and waste
96The sweet spring of my youth now has a bitter taste.
97He knew the under-sexed and over-privileged,
98Was on to a good thing with hysteria:
99Knew these maladies could be treated, wedged
101Days when a solitude of young women pledged
102A secrecy to incestuous fathers who were weary
103Of wives' costly chilled ardours, hedged
106From the classical annals of outer Siberia
107He made a new codex and creed, alleged
108Incestual fantasy the norm. 'Twould sear ya
110Beyond his own sad childhood fantasy.
111Well beyond his own childhood fantasy
113In a mythic reconstruction of the memory,
114Where race enriches the individual, sapped
115By his failure to talk to God, to see
116Where his life takes him past the untapped
117Resources deep in his psyche. A mystery
118Of a kind to rescue him where he is trapped
119By the ordinary day's demands. A pharmacy
120Cannot store the elixir of life. Wrapped
121Within the search, a person finds the key
122Deep in his own unconscious, a mapped
123Territory to Jung. We cannot blame
124Religion or the meaning of the game.
125Religion or the meaning of the game
127People were like rats, exactly the same
128Only tiresomely mad as bats.
129Still, with a few electrodes, shame
130Could be seen as extraneous, and pats
131On the head an adverse stimulus, a tame
132Physical reaction. So congrats.
133To the nerve cells, to hurt or maim
134Is merely a blind animal impulse, that's
135All. Love is a case, he claims,
136Of stimulus and response. Pour that in your vats.
137We'll go on conditioned reflexes down to hell
140My discovery was the function of the orgasm.
141No matter what sex is, just do it well
142I sent whole populations into spasm.
143When they saw my work was going to sell
144They flung me into prison with enthusiasm.
145They were certain I should be going to hell
146For feeling was a kind of protoplasm:
147Medical pros knew I shouldn't excel
148At this peculiar brand of iconoclasm.
149The nasty and particular fate that befell
150Me has opened up in medicine a chasm-
151For the puerile info is, mind's just a body-smith-
152I'm proof of sanity, sensation's zenith.
154Some folk would rather have it that they're crazy
155My books set out madness as a myth-
157I say power is the only monolith
158The kernel of the matter. Being lazy
160Of she devils, born of a hazy
161Notion that witches were power-smith
162For man, not Satan. It was quasi-
163Religious views persecuted a fifth
164Of women at one time-I'd say none were mad,
165But the defiant, the unregenerate, and the bad.
167Were seen by me to be in a fix,
168And at bottom, it really makes me sad.
169I spend my life wondering how a person ticks
170Who can't love his family, and be glad
171To be alive and kick against the pricks
172As if he enjoyed it. Instead, we've labelled mad
173All who can't love, are hurt. The crucifix
174Holds hearts in thrall that daren't pad
176Jewel of life. It doesn't, sorry, add
177Up to much. I mustn't get prolix.
178For as you know, my name is Eric Fromm
179I'm un-ambitious, loving, and quite warm.
181I'm honest, poetic and Glaswegian;
182I tend to see the truths that others scorn
184And mostly there are reasons for mind's storm
185Like himself below, their names are legion
186But basically reflect what can transform
187Love into hate, homely life into region
188Of frosty intercourse; failure to conform
189In grisly incommunicado. A Collegian
190Scorning academic discipline, I perform
191Wonders of healing. Without religion.
192My name, I'm sure you've guessed, is R.D. Laing
193To love mankind, I'm doing all I can.
194When they visit her I stay downstairs
195Beside the office. What goes on upstairs
196I can only guess at. I saw my mother
197Here. And she looked far away. I was sure
198She couldn't possibly love me any more.
200And whispered ."tomorrow." before I nose-
201Dived away from her tears. It hurts me still
202She didn't say goodbye, but that the pill
203Made her feel that things were going down-hill.
204I thought she loved me, her one and only joy -
205It's plain to see I'm not at all a good boy.
206She doesn't care now if I'm bad or good:
207The doctors say she's doing what she should.
208The doctors say she's doing all she should
209I always thought she was a little queer;
210And I, a friend, have done all that I could.
211Why, once she even called me ."my dear."
212Another time, she told me I was ugly
214Even with her boyfriends, I was flirty
215And she grew morose. I found her dirty
216The Irish habit of never ever dusting
217Of leaving everything till tomorrow, trusting
218The dirt won't show under the bed.
219I guess the men knew they'd never wed
220A slut like her. Literary pretension
221Leaves in the married state a fierce dissension.
222Yes, in the married state there's fierce dissension
223I favoured her. Watched her declension
224From mirthful girl tittering at the boys
225To serious critic of their serious toys-
228Her aversion grew. She saw a paradigm
229Between the world's power games, and mine.
231Not in essence different from a missile.
233We can't say heart, for fear it would grow fatter-
234Her thesis was, the male impulse to kill,
235Which she's now counteracting with a pill.
236She's now counteracting with a pill
237All I've ever done to make her ill-
238My promises to love her were a pain
239Which bled afresh like wounds, again,
240Prised open with my inexact criticism
241Which so often took the form of witticism.
242I thought her aspirations smacked of vanity;
243I mimicked her, made much inanity
244Out of her wholesome hope. She cried
245So often I thought our love had died-
246But no, it had become a separation
247Which became my malevolent inspiration-
248It wouldn't have mattered save I was her spouse
249To whom she pledged and swore eternal vows.
250He to whom she pledged and swore such vows
251Was soon discarded. A regular louse
252He blackmailed her with threats of suicide
253Once he knew that love had really died.
254He didn't love her, but felt a man diminished
255When she first told him their thing was finished.
256He'd rather move her purposefully, claim
257That underneath all women were the same
258Though she was bright. But that was her misfortune,
260Be there if he raped her. That was the bitter end
261And thus a woman scorned went around the bend.
263Treatments to even up the score.
264Treatments may even up the score
265I saw her crying in the street, pour
266Her heart out to strangers. I ran inside
267To get her a glass of water. She denied
268Who she was. She said her name was Phyllis
269But long ago she was known as Amaryllis
270Then she said she was a lonely Valentine
271Who could see her undoing in red wine
272And then she said her name was Holy Mary
274But not because of cockleshells and bells
276Where phantom lusts raged in bodies pure,
277She was, she wept, a virgin and a whore.
278She was, she wept, a virgin and a whore
279I understand, but I wish I knew more-
280In general, I'd say she's very nice
281They say that every person has a price
282And she had none. She took seriously
283Every nuance and tone, even imperiously
284Withheld approval at a tincture of a lie,
285And she became worse as time went by.
286She couldn't exchange the merest pleasantry
287Without her ignoble life, her peasantry
288Snapping at her heels with bitter pride
290In work or misery, but trusting to failure
292Her song is absence, but her art is absent.
293She exists in her own bad faith, a centre
294Flying out at her own frozen pace, a dent
296Herself. She exists to prove she's hell-sent
298To the faith in herself she herself bent
299In the flying wind, a sad lamenter
300Of what is good, is gone. A secret assent
301Is wound up in the coils of her tormentor;
302Her language locking the floodgates like cement
303Now bursting in the tide of being repenter.
304Undone with nitpicker's gravity, like a crime,
305Her centre is time, time spent doing time.
306Her centre is timeless, time spent doing time
307And its slow pace towards healing. Time and again
308She pulls apart the treasury of thought, rhyme,
309Lets it fall in a cluster on good. Pain
311For a fated ego to unblock the drain
312Of warm feeling, current for the grime
313Encrusted hearts are fed. The purpose plain
314Is to loose the vestige of sentiment, climb
315Into the turret and throw away the key, main
316Chance with the stowaway scissors. Clip the sublime
317Tresses. Then throw them to the wind and rain,
318Crying ."Whatever is, let it simply be
320Remember these beauties which are not for me
321And throw away also the brazen treasure chest
322Where I had etched our memories in my blood, see
324For reference and you will find perfidy
325Where once the Queen of Ransoms was thought blessed.
326All that issued from my pearlised eyes, the key
327You warders stole when trussing up the rest
328You called a person, whom you said was free.
329Degradations begin at the breast,
331Called his mother saint, and father quest.
332Now the imp has danced the reel of wrath,
333Seeing his mother near a psychopath.
334Seeing his mother near a psychopath,
337Or how this lasting daytime's blight
338Has torn my family, who in my wrath
339See an everlasting endless night
341Scribbling in the darkness without light
342But my darkness is the troubled aftermath
343Of the pills and treatment, I am out of sight
344And in my place a wretch turns polymath
345Garbling in unknown tongues of wrong, to fight
347Suppressed, my fever is to tear the page.
348Suppressed, my fever is to tear the page,
349To make what happened disappear. In fact,
350The long slow death of prisoner in a cage
351Is paradigm to show we cannot with tact
352Alter what has passed. Put on the stage
353A show to please the mainstream. Pack
354In anguish what can understand our rage
355Directed at oneself. It cannot be the rack
356Which I am strung upon, it is the age
357Abstracted in concerts to show its general tack.
358My sickness testament to the malady of the sage
359Who exclaims, all is futility. I am proof demoniac
360Our time's neurosis hides eternal truth-
362I am the victim of my own timeless ruth
363Compassion never really knew its name till me.
365With longing for the south, and set it free
366Pushed a leaf off every insect, smooth-
367Made the way for every tiny bee,
368So all should be free to sing. In youth
369I tried a quaver or two, like he
371Yet never felt as free as his songs said we'd be-
372Besides, money was involved. And my sleuth
374I believed it, and gave away my song
375Sang everywhere I felt I didn't belong.
376I sang in places I did not belong,
377I wept in ruins younger than yesterday,
378Made every tried logic a fiddler's song,
379Made every song lament that it should pay
380Respect to what the culture said was a long
381Concept of morality, the pedant's way
382To higher densities of philosophy, a gong
383To summon spirits, dismembered and astray
384In the rank demonology of the cursed day
385God wove weft and warp, and right and wrong
387Where secrets bought and sold for centuries, bong
388Out the names of those who die for good.
389I am on-beckoned by an infinite sisterhood.
390The physical and the spiritual entrained
391Together, each got a body blow
392At the five doors of sense, were trained
393To ask ."who's there?" There was no show
394Only a dumb anguish, which fear constrained
395To mock with a meek smile. It was no-go
396Between the spirit and the body. Brained
397In the emotions, boxed in chemicals, no
398Ordinance of personhood, where once had reigned
399Sweet reason. Love was an absent foe
400Which hammered constantly to prove it gained
401Nothing by execution. It was always so.
402History was a fop, a dull conspiracy
403And truth was the mockery it could never be.
404Truth was the mockery it could never be.
405The fact was God, or godless, to be terse.
406What happened to the sacred territory
407Of ."you and me." celebrated in verse,
408Popular song, crooned on the radio, free
410Who hears it in the corridors of insanity?
411A demonstration of the knee jerk, privy purse
413Knave or fool, the hospital's daily curse
414Reduces to physical reaction, eternal verity.
415A matted mass of measly microbes pressed
417Believe in us, not in the one true God.
418Believe in us, not in the one true God,
420All who have the reckless midnight trod
421On creaking floorboards, have heard our cries.
422Once Truth and love and day are gone, a squad
423Of demons rushes in with night. And ties
424Of birth and blood friendship are odd
425Sport to our presence. Where there's fear, prize
427Is the appetiser to our full-blown sway. Spice
428At first, we eat the heart away, prod
429At the props of decency. We advise
430A cunning madness to pay virtue's toll,
431Alienation is our cherished goal.
432Alienation from God is our goal,
433And so the frantic woman in the den
434Of mad lionesses like herself, can roll
436That rides high on uncommon destiny, a role
437To astonish history: to parade in the fen
438Of amazed critics who astutely poll
439Her chances of pulling off the impossible: zen
440Hell turned to heaven, a bartered soul
442This time a woman. And did the dice roll.
443How near she came to surpassing men
444Comprehending paradigms of moral weight and swoon!
446Her gift to herstory wedged the crack of doom
447On which bad faith depended, and bad luck
448Though all the doors were opened to that room
449Of life abundant, she preferred to truck
452Of materialist philosophy to its destined tomb
455Down the fables of casual accidental muck
456That so-called scientists call the present boom
457Of wealth, indecent waste, and pass-the-buck
458Philosophy. Hers was the chilling answer-
459Merit must be found, even if it were cancer.
460Merit must be found, even if it were cancer,
461And right must be subsumed for wrong to flourish.
463Not the healing power of God and good, perish
465Thrown out the window for normalcy to cherish,
468In the extreme, snapping at the heels of a dancer
469Whose departed spirit love has failed to nourish.
472Being sorry for oneself is jumping the gun,
473Saying no to life before it has begun.
474Saying no to life before it has begun
475Refusing to take part in one's own story
476Being sorry for oneself can be such fun
477Not accepting one's part in Creation's glory
478Is just a way of saying, I'm going to shun
479This life of accident, appalling gory
482To murder, bloodshed, before our race is run!
483I will abstain from this compact of fury
484Leavened in the gloom of mind. No sun
486Mocking rebellion in the frenzied fray,
487I'll die before I live to fight a day.
488The first cut was the deepest, the jangle
489Of many keys upon a laundered breast,
490The thud of silence, after the wrangle
491That ensues between the keeper and the rest.
493Can I, with sanity and eyesight blessed
495Another bed in the upstairs ward .- Depressed .-
497With psychotic, manic. It puts to test
498Our professional forebearance and our angle
499Of objectivity. She needs to be caressed;
500But we can simulate with pills and shocks
501The nature of our nursing and our locks.
502The nature of our nursing and our locks
503Are intertwined in tight conspiring bonds:
504Our chief deterrent, a kind falsehood, rocks
505The towers of belief. The magic wands
507Of dreamless sleep keeps lies in ponds
508Where like trapped fishes, the poor soul knocks
509At the glass bowl of truth; to correspond
510With fact its punitive task. Deadlocks
511Of intuition and of sense, and diamond
512Of a dark jeweled head. A soul's rot,
513Self a forever-running vagabond.
514Lies added to lies make fiction grate,
515Upon the brain, a client of the state.
516The nerveless brain, the client of the state
518Nerveless of course it's not, it's just late
519In registering emotion .- unTeutonic.
520Or should we say, it registers a rate
521Unsuitable for programming. Quiet histrionic.
522A bandaged soul is not the proper fate
523For one dignified as man/woman. It's ironic
524To call us human when the experts prate
526Why can't we be normal, find a mate?
527Why be platonic and demonic?
528But in straps and chains the State no longer dresses
529Those whose being a bad entity possesses.
530Those whose being a bad entity possesses
532What began as admonishment regresses
533To where good is not a necessary
534Part of the fabric. Instead it dresses
535Up with lures to attack with finery
536Of thought and diction the unschooled messes
537Of adolescent putting on of agony.
538Fearful violation of self presses
540And the often sought after caresses
541Contain the essence of the germ ."to be."
542Gone putrid, dank with fright and with dismay
543A violation of all that for which we used to pray.
545Brings us to the hospital's grey door
546Our alter ego standing in the way
547Of ."I." shouts ."Rape me no more!."
549Dearly with my dream's life store
550I put off learning to be human, say
551Now I was wrong. I know your lore
552Of madness, debauched reality, lay
553At your feet my broken self. It's sore
554To have carried the load such a long way,
555So out of touch. I know the score.
556Your tranquillising chain, your strait-jacket
557Await me with instructions on the packet.
558Awaiting me like instructions on the packet
563With bloodletting, hot water, and the pew
566Tight around my neck. I'd like a whack at
567The orderly who tells me what to do
571Daily in hopes God will mend the hole.
572Daily, in hopes God will mend the hole
574I can't be said, to own, at all, my soul
575And see myself always in defeat-
576A nicety. Conjecture and the whole
578Ground out in daily routine. And the role
580Invalid, see herself as droll
581Carbon copy of a great deceit
582She has no right to herself. A pigeon hole
583Is perfect metaphor, she's obsolete
585Here she will find unremitting shelter.
586Heaven, if depending on the bell
587Could be on earth, if we could get it right-
588If we could make positive the hard sell
589To keep us doped on optimism through the night;
590How lies and fibs we'd never tell
591To ears whose eyes were allowed the sight
592Of something good. And in our cell
594We'd call love into question, sound the knell
595Forever on the famous serpent bite
596In history nothing went wrong, tell
597No story, nor children hear a fight
598Psychologists tell us another fairy tale
599It hinges on the blaming of the female.
600It hinges on the blaming of the female
602That she should live and yet could tell the tale
603And do justice to herself, right the wrong,
604But ambiguity is dressed in shyness, scale
605By which is measured, protesting, long
606Improbability. That she did not rail
608Out the names of her betrayer, gave a pale
609Image of her integrity. A fiery tongue
610And truth locked in shame, indeed to fail
611To vindicate her honour had her hung
612Not in a gossip column, a rolling crown,
613But in the mental health hospice of a town.
614In the mental health hospice of a town,
615The brain is deemed a strange and complex thing:
616No one understands, it is admitted with a frown,
617But there's no knowing what experiment can bring.
618Our cunning chemicals and knowledge bring renown
619And soul and spirit, anachronism, ring
620Of medieval superstition. We drown
621The patient in our pills, a fairy queen
622Reduced to blubber. He blubbers. Down
623The hatch. You'll get fat, probably sing
624Only one song of the hundreds that you own-
626And eyes that bulge with knowledge that has spoiled
627God's work mangled in the serpent's coils.
628God's work is mangled in the serpent's coils
630The pure subtlety of intellect, soiled
631And little left, wandering as a ghost-
632The self has been killed. Where one had toiled
633To mine the diamond heart in suffering's most
634Difficult moments, now reduced and boiled-
635A globule to replace a sacred host.
636The body's gross distortion, now foiled
637Of natural grace, on the moneyed coast
638In the profession's gutter, a slovenly gargoyle
639Shows the profitable nature of the toast
640They raise to themselves ."Control is the way
641On man-made pills we have the final say.."
642."On man-made pills we have the final say .-
643Here's to procrastination. I'll earn my pension
644Of dull days with no combat's edge to pay,
645Or decorate my feigned interest's pretension.."
646Somehow, there was hope in the urge to pray
647An end to constant friction, tension,
648To bring living peace. I shouldn't mention
649Survival of the fittest was the way
650Our natural historian's notable dissension
651To edge God out of the picture, to betray
652With nonchalant vocation a whole Being's declension,
653Reduce the power of thought, and good, to lay
654Wreaths at the feet of a secular, concerned world,
655While centuries of philosophy underneath whirled.
656Centuries of philosophy underneath whirled
657And on a raft of confused fear, I pay
658Respect to the one's jealousy which hurled
659Mistrust of the ages, am witch to say
660Whether I sink or swim. Yet I am furled
661On the flag of disrepute, dishonour, may
662Be called mad. When my hair was curled
663And my dress pressed, I was eager, nay,
665My plain, turned rival in the fray
666Like a mother wishing a daughter gnarled,
667A jealous eye undermined my day.
668I keep looking for the good friend who'll smile
670She, seeing me well and happy, won't be riled
671Nor will she freeze the summer with her frown
673References she heard only in the town
674Yet I was familiar with. Me, that clown,
675Now out of hospital, whom she's reviled
676To every acquaintance. ."She's really down
677Poor thing, she's swallowing pills, piled
679Worth nothing, like her scroll. I dialed
681Got me the doctor. A roof could be tiled
683The exact chemistry-her brain's co-relative.."
1] This poem "won the Prize in the Scottish Open International Poetry competition in 2000, though it was written in 1987 after a psychiatrist, Dr Brion Sweeney, said it might be therapeutic to write some of my feelings down about hospitals and hospital treatments. The poem came out in sonnet form, because the form carried me along." (poet's note). Back to Line
11] bad cess: an Anglo-Irish expression meaning "bad luck." Back to Line
31] fetter: see "infirmary screw" (6.vi). Back to Line
34] GP: General Practitioner, family doctor. Back to Line
38] gumption: personal "drive." Back to Line
40] ECT: electro-convulsive therapy, electric shock treatment, a routine pre-1960 way of managing mental disorders, use of which is still prevalent today. Back to Line
47] scout: orderly, watchman. Back to Line
54] dial: face (after the "face" of a clock or watch). Back to Line
75] ESB: Electricity Supply Board (Ireland power utility). Back to Line
76] hock: debt. Back to Line
77] VD: venerial disease. Back to Line
81] The hymn "Rock of Ages," by Augustus Montague Toplady, addresses Jesus as it opens, "Rock of Ages, cleft for me, / Let me hide myself in Thee!" Back to Line
92] mystics: especially St. John of the Cross (1542-91), who authored Dark Night of the Soul. Back to Line
100] mendacity: habitual lying. feria: fair. Back to Line
104] Wisteria: climbing blue-flowering shrub. Back to Line
105] aspidistra: common household pot plant. Back to Line
109] Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), Austrian psychiatrist, the founder of psychoanalysis, who coined the phrase "Oedipus complex" for what he believed to be a common but repressed human desire to commit incest. Freud's theories have now been discredited by Richard Webster in his book Why Freud was Wrong (1996; poet's note). Back to Line
112] Carl Jung (1875.-1961), Swiss founder of analytical psychology, who proposed the existence of a collective unconscious that expressed itself in myth and archetype. Back to Line
126] Skinner: B. F. Skinner (1904-90), founder of behaviorism, a form of psychology that used conditioning to produce well-adjusted individuals. His experiments were based on the behavior of rats. Back to Line
138] the bell: one of Pavlov's theories influenced Skinner's stimulus-response experiments-this recorded the flow of saliva in dog when feeding was preceded by a rung bell. It reduced everyone's behaviour to this idea. Back to Line
139] Reich: Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957), an Austrian psychologist who proposed a novel form of energy, the orgone, that contributed to health and sexual potency. He died in a US prison where he was serving a two-year sentence for selling orgone accumulators in defiance of a prohibition by the Food and Drug Administration. Back to Line
153] Szasz: Thomas Szasz (1920-), a professor emeritus of psychology at the State University of New York in Syracuse, published The Myth of Mental Illness in 1960 and has worked for decades to assert the rights of people judged mentally ill, as with schizophrenia, and consequently institutionalized, tortured with electric and insulin shock therapy, and condemned to social deaths before their bodies died. Back to Line
156] aisy: easy. Back to Line
159] kith: kin, people. Back to Line
166] Fromm: Erich Fromm (1900-80), German-American social psychologist. Back to Line
175] onyx: jewelery, a "form of chalcedony consisting of plane layers of different colours" (OED). Back to Line
180] Laing: R. D. Laing (1927-89), Scottish psychologist who argued that the so-called delusionary thoughts and ideas of the mentally ill ought to be accepted as truthful, authentic accounts of individual experience. Back to Line
183] squidgen: little bit. Back to Line
199] lift: elevator. Back to Line
213] snuggly: woven shawl (not in OED either as a noun or in that sense). Back to Line
226] snooker: a billiard game with elements of pool and pyramids. Back to Line
227] Pooka: Irish folk evil animal spirit. Back to Line
230] penile: penis-like. Back to Line
232] Phallocracy: male society. Back to Line
259] torchon: dish-cloth. Back to Line
262] "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" (Shakespeare). Back to Line
273] nursery rhyme: "Mary, Mary, quite contrary, / How does your garden grow?" Back to Line
275] seen: "seem", a misprint in the 2002 edition. Back to Line
289] bartered bride: the title of a comic opera by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana. Back to Line
291] no suture: a baby whose brain lacks sutures, which are channels of soft tissue that separate six cranial bone plates, suffers from craniosynostosis, which prevents the normal growth of the brain. Back to Line
295] counterpane: bedcover (poet's note). Back to Line
297] racket: din. cacophony: loud discordant noise. Back to Line
310] clime: atmosphere. Back to Line
319] "Here, what is beautiful is not so in the eyes of the narrator" (poet's note). An allusion to one of Grimm's fairy tales, the story of Rapunzel, a maiden imprisoned in a tower who let down her hair to enable an enchantress, and later her prince, to climb up to her. When the enchantress found out that Rapunzel was with child by the prince, she cut off the maiden's hair and cast her into the wilderness. Back to Line
323] unsalutary: unhealthy. Back to Line
330] spree: "wild splurge, i.e., shopping spree, from the Irish word for `fun'" (poet's note). Back to Line
335] To the mad person, wrong and right can be confused. Back to Line
336] Gath: ancient city in Israel, the home of Goliath. Back to Line
340] Plath: Sylvia Plath (1932-1963), an American poet, married to British poet laureate Ted Hughes, and the author of a semi-autobiographical work The Bell Jar, published the year she committed suicide. She also had undergone electric shock treatment. Rowley has written an essay on this, published in Thumbscrew (Oxford, 1995). Back to Line
346] streeling: straggling, disorganized. Back to Line
361] ruth: pity (cf. the more familiar `ruthless'). Back to Line
364] couth: known. Back to Line
370] Bob of Duluth: Bob Dylan (1941-), enormously popular and commercially successful American folk song writer. Back to Line
373] poetry is paid no fee: ."poetry has no fee." in 2002. Back to Line
386] drey: unwheeled cart. Back to Line
409] Erse: the Irish tongue. Back to Line
412] fee: pay. Back to Line
416] cod: joke. Back to Line
419] Jesus asked a demon that possessed a man in the country of the Gadarenes, "What is thy name?", and the demon replied, "My name is Legion: for we are many" (Mark 5.9). It was long thought that mental illness was because of demonic possession. Back to Line
426] A country, east of Eden, to which Cain was exiled after murdering his brother Abel (Genesis 4:16). Back to Line
435] Imagist poets such as the Americans Hilda Dolittle ("H.D.") and Ezra Pound sought to reduce poems to their essentials. Pound's "In a Station of the Metro" is typical:
The apparition of these faces in the crowd:Back to Line
Petals on a wet, black bough.
441] Dr. Faustus, the subject of plays by Christopher Marlowe and Goethe, sold his soul to the Devil for knowledge, power, and love that turned out, in the long run, to be comparatively worthless. Back to Line
445] herstory: the feminist's personal "history," a term coined by Robin Morgan in 1970. Back to Line
450] truck / With: do business with. Back to Line
451] ruck: controversy. Back to Line
453] schmuck: fool. Back to Line
454] pipped: gave birth. vroom: "The roaring noise of a motor vehicle accelerating or travelling at speed" (OED). Back to Line
462] gut-lancer: a newly coined word (a knife's drawing out of a person's guts in what used to be the most brutal form of execution, hanging, drawing, and quartering). Back to Line
464] chancer: risk-taker. Back to Line
466] necromancer: one who raises the dead by magic. Back to Line
467] currish: snarling like a bad-tempered dog. Back to Line
470] pop-eye stare: fixed gaze so intense that the eye appears to protrude or start out. Back to Line
471] demurrage: hesitating, refusing to take action. Back to Line
480] Attila the Hun (406-53), who invaded Europe from the east and was well-known for his cruelty in war. Back to Line
481] a priori: from the very start. Back to Line
485] Tory: British political conservative, traditionally representing the interests of the landed gentry, nobility, and monarch. Here, "a conservative who believes that life and its strife will never change and so will give up" (poet's note). Back to Line
492] rota: rotation of duties among a roster of employees, roster. Back to Line
494] wangle: somehow get, as by devious means. Back to Line
496] mangle: a mechanical wringer of wet clothes in a laundry. Back to Line
506] nox: night (Latin). "Some Latin writers, like Catullus, believed that death was nox perpetua, or eternal darkness" (poet's note). Back to Line
517] canonic: dialectical systematizing. Back to Line
525] catatonic: in a state of stupor. Back to Line
531] "Being immortal was considered a good, but what if one ends up with the wrong crowd? " (poet's note). Back to Line
539] ineluctable: inescapable. A favourite word of the self-exiled Irish writer, James Joyce. Back to Line
544] used to pray: "used pray" in 2002. Back to Line
548] shard: broken fragment (of pottery). Back to Line
559] "The mental hospital often enables research experiments" (poet's note). Back to Line
560] racket: a real fuss. Back to Line
561] Kew: an allusion to Richmond Royal Hospital near Kew in southwest London, which specializes in psychiatry. Back to Line
562] in a bracket: of the same sort as .Àæ Back to Line
564] placket: female underskirt. Back to Line
565] infirmary screw: collar to restrain the patient. Back to Line
568] tacket: nail. Back to Line
569] clew: guide to a maze. Back to Line
570] thole: endure. Back to Line
573] shrive: make confession. Back to Line
577] mercy-meat: gift-food, charity, good will. Back to Line
579] compleat: after the manner of books, e.g., compleat gourmet, etc. Back to Line
584] out of kelter: in no good spirits, in a bad way. Back to Line
601] mater: mother. matrix: womb. Back to Line
607] bong: sound out loudly, like a bell. Back to Line
625] Synapses: the interfaces between neurons. Back to Line
629] gibbous: hunch-backed. Back to Line
664] purled: "pleat or frill like a ruff; to frill the edge of" (OED, "purl," v. 1). Purl and plain are knitting stitches which often go together in a pattern. Back to Line
669] riled: angered. Back to Line
672] Britannica: the encyclopedia. Back to Line
678] charactery: (pharmaceutical) symbols, an echo of Keats:
When I have fears that I may cease to beBack to Line
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
` Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain;
680] Drug companies put holograms on the packaging of pills to foil counterfeiting. Back to Line
682] palliative: pain-killer, temporary reliever of symptoms. Back to Line
RPO poem Editors:
Copyright © Rosemarie Rowley 2007. Not to be republished without permission of the poet.