Fortunately, not everyone has to experience the daily life of madness and insanity of a spouse with a severe mental illness. It’s akin to watching a portrait you adore manifest into something you no longer know or even recognize. It was 1989, Lou Reed had just released ‘New York’ to critical acclaim, and I’d just taken a job as security guard during the graveyard shift. It was yet another one of those inane jobs that allowed me hours of free, uninterrupted time to compose the poems that were constantly streaming through my head. It was also the only job my then wife hadn’t gotten me fired from with her incessant, nearly hourly, calls that the voices in her head were growing louder, telling her to do things, terrible things. I don’t think I held down a job longer than three weeks that year. On one of the nights when she didn’t call, when her voices were held at bay, this was one poem I scribbled down between dusk and dawn…
Meaning of the Dance
like a wound
in my flesh.
I will find no deliverance
in the palms of men,
hands too soiled with silver,
their paper dynasties no not include me,
do not see the dead eyes of the poor,
the empty frame walls make of a single room.
They do not understand
the meaning of the dance,
this human virus whining through streets
after all the merchants close shop
and bankers have gone home.
It sullies the faith,
learns the curve of the bloated belly
is bloated by a hunger handouts don’t satisfy.
Even my beating pulse betrays
the missing limb which cannot grasp
the coin eclipsing the sun.
I have this memory in my head
but I can’t remember.
I’ve seen Christ’s crucifix sold
a thousand times today
but is it salvation between
the grains of wood?
Spite erupts like thorns
from my forehead. I’m learning
a compassion which kills. An anger
to soothe my brother’s agony.
All the lines on his face
leading me back
It wasn’t soon after writing that poem, though, that the other security guards got together and rearranged my hours, giving me days instead of the graveyard shifts. I complained. Yet, of course, what was done was done. Majority rules. Knowing my then spouse as I did, I quit then and there. My rules. My dance. I didn’t work a “normal job” for another year.