Biography of a Bipolar: by Tom McClellan

Reposted from IPM 2MXI in loving memory of Tom McClellan
(23 September 1941 – 3 August 2013)

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.”

(Robert Lowell)

This poem is excerpted from Mr. McClellan’s book: Reflections From Mirror City



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