Biography of a Bipolar
At first friends share the ecstasy that comes before the burn:
“That night he was going crazy everyone
was too drunk to care.”
But after years all learn:
“His conversation grew brilliant and alarming.
Students were frightened by his lecture on Hitler.”
“He wrote the most pitiful letter;
though I was not angry, he spoke of us fighting.”
“His religious notions, never stable, flowered
into oddity; his judgment went haywire.”
“He was barricaded in his room in his skivvies when the police came;
he was surprisingly polite.”
The poet obligingly provides snapshots from hell:
“I meditated Detachment and Urbanity but the old menacing
hilarity was growing in me.”
“What use is my sense of humor when the brain blinks
like a radio station rapidly distanced?”
“I lay there secured but for my skipping mind.”
After the delusions pass, he lacerates his soul with reason:
“Seven years ago Bloomington stood for Joyce’s hero and Indiana for
the evil, unexorcised aborigines, while I suspected myself
The Holy Ghost. The glory and banality of it are corrupting.”
The poet’s wife learns to suffer a fool who falls in love
with students, madhouse nurses,
any woman but her:
“I don’t think he realizes the damage.”
New drugs offer old hopes of Panacea:
“To think of all that suffering for lack of a little salt in the brain!”
Theories suffer the usual changes:
“Recent research shows mania’s a summertime disease,
perhaps an excess of light.”
This poem is excerpted from Mr. McClellan’s book: Reflections From Mirror City
LOWER THAN LOWELL
Biography is just a camouflage
Imagination rules under the clothes
Read what’s in the rags
Or read what’s in the blood
Whispers the magic orangery
To the travellers
Crossing rich desertic fields
Under napalm rains and torments strikes
Just peel your eyes to the bone
And obviously the silk appears
merci, monsieur, et a bientot.
Yes. scrape away the sand & voila!
To read the poem in context:
Bonnie. I offer my sincere condolences. I have a powerful recollection of reading an account that you wrote here of a car trip that you shared with Tom. I filed it in the front of my memory along with other contributions that he made, and comment exchanges on this blog, intending to learn more about and communicate with him. I am sorry that I have missed the opportunity to compare notes with him: it reinforces my view that there’s never enough time to waste worrying about how to phrase a question or put a thought to someone you respect without putting them on the spot – which might be another way of saying that I can relate to writing that doesn’t shy away from getting personal.
I will be putting an order in for Tom’s “Reflections…” before the month is out.
Dear Brad, thank you so much for your kind words. The book is hard going for a family member to read as it moves from light fiction from his days in West Texas into the core of what it is to be ‘mentally ill’ with the writer’s voice coming directly from that abyss. I know that he was interested in your work, you had in common being excellent observers of your respective surroundings and I think he would have enjoyed comparing notes.
Powerful, sensitive words. Heartfelt condolences and love xxxxx
Thanks Kate, I’ll be reposting some more of my Father’s work here over the next few weeks by way of celebrating his creativity. I know he would have be very pleased to know that you enjoyed this poem.