The nacre of detachment in weighing anchor

In Cape May, a rusted anchor and driftwood

I took the photo along a street in Cape May the other day. It was what sparked this poem for Mental Health Awareness Month. According to Psychology, many mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) tend to involve ruminating thoughts and this poem is for a fresh perspective on rumination and overthinking.

Is it that we consider some mental proclivities as disorders to be fixed, rather than see them as a healing process, like a fever for example; ruminating on wounds, hurts, anxieties appears to be normal, for some more than others, it can seem an endless obsession. It isn’t easy to seek to be understood in a world where time and attention are scarce, it’s also dangerous to be vulnerable where society is given to judgement and quick fixes to urge one back onto the grindstone.

Our collective lack of supportive empathy, loss of belief in self healing, a pill to fix everything and the inability to let people see their anxieties or sorrows as something to be experienced for a while and not incessantly seek escape from, is a bit sad in a way. Our interventions too sometimes seem prescriptive, so also do our cures for symptomatic relief. On this note, it might be interesting to know that ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), is still being used to treat depression and mood disorders in the US.

I didn’t wish to ramble away but thought to share John Read’s article advocating against electroshock therapy or electroconvulsive therapy, which is still a mainstay of psychiatry. I never knew until I read this essay [1] a couple of months ago and felt it merited a mention given that it is mental health awareness month. I would like to quote from it the documented experience of the Italian neurologist Ugo Cerletti, who was one of the first to use electricity to induce seizures in patients in the 1930s:

His first human subject was a 39-year-old engineer from Milan, whom the police found wandering around a Rome train station in a confused state. When the first electric shock failed to produce the desired convulsion, Cerletti and his assistant discussed whether to administer a more powerful shock. Cerletti reported: All at once, the patient, who evidently had been following our conversation, said clearly and solemnly, without his usual gibberish: ‘Not another one! It’s deadly!’ Cerletti proceeded anyway, in the first of the millions of instances that were to follow, and which continue today, of people being given this treatment despite clearly stating they don’t want it.

There is something about this that bothers me immensely and I would be concerned if it didn’t bother you dear reader. A case of confused wandering and gibberish could entail ECT in the 1930s, then we have something to think about, if in our haste to pathologise human behaviour, we have stopped to listen to what the psyche demands, in our hurry to fix it, even through such horrific interventions. It is as if we are afraid of being left alone in our thoughts, afraid of our inner voice, constantly seeking that we are, to silence it.

I am a bit of a serial ruminator and a gopher of sorts that will dig out the entire garden to find meaning in soil, ah well, compost maybe. I see ruminating as a healing process mostly, debilitating at times but similar to the formation of pearls if it transmutes into something creative. Engaging with passion (some may read this as obsession) in a creative enterprise, appears to be a defense mechanism, like layering a foreign substance in nacre to form a pearl, over a lengthy period of time. There are so many ways of mitigating pain or distress or anxieties, even an oyster has a lesson for us perhaps.

In the nausea of yesterday's regrets

that knocks the wind out of our sails and they say,


"Submit to the dhow, be resigned to the sea."

Memories are grains of sand that strode over


barnacles, oysters, as salt water baptised

rocky shores to spirit within a clam soul


the 'forever itch'. Looping recollections

of schoolyard bullies unearthing every time


the solar lantern crashed the limiting horizons

of a violated dusk, darkly helpless


to aphorisms of a fiery sun,

a compassionate moon or retreating waves.


Conchiolin layers nucleated sorrows

in luminous nacre of a lyrical


immunity, a concentric array of

soft healing words accreting around old hurt


rounding edges off aragonite bruises,

to finally spit pearls, raise anchor, set sail.

The memory of feeling nauseated on a dhow comes from Zanzibar. The waters were very choppy. The dhow keeper told me then, not to fight it. He asked me to lie down and become one with the movement, it turned out to be my lesson for ‘going with the flow’.

This is an attempt at a hendecasyllabic poem, where each metrical line consists of 11 syllables [2]

References:

[1]https://aeon.co/essays/why-is-electroshock-therapy-still-a-mainstay-of-psychiatry

[2]https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms/hendecasyllabic

Yodeling philosophy

He laughs, country songs are simply coffee 
heartbreaks, the cloying of sugar love ...

She thinks Hank Williams is the sound of
leaving Virginia, leaving Maryland, leaving
Delaware to board the Lewes Ferry

No matter how I struggle and strive
I'll never get out of this world alive

He yodels philosophy like she almost
always smiles until the poetry rolls off
her fingers and  wrinkles the sea

The water sashays under grey nimbus.
He knots time into a pretzel and smiles
at the spicy honey mustard and ketchup
she pours on a plate. He knows
she hates ketchup.She knows, he knows ...

She points to the lighthouses, so many
line the sea struck hour like beacon guides,

or sirens that save from the sea, that's simply
a viscous burial for rusted feelings,the foam of imaginings.

This boat isn't exhausted yet and she floats
to Cape May on a whimsy, a breeze.

Yodeling philosophy:

Hank Williams singing I will never get out of this world alive

It was Hank Williams and Patsy Cline  all the way to Cape May. There’s nothing like country music to still you into the moment and everything is as it seems, as it is meant to be. The foam of the sea is simply that, what the pandemic ushered in, battles with the ephemeral shadowy past. We cannot make sense of ghosts and the demoniacal of a virus, so we write stories to them, wear masks, but the sea will swallow the foam.

It was delightful this morning, we cycled through the historic district and my vintage and creaky  hotel bicycle had no handle brakes. It was the thrill of childhood once more and I almost fell off laughing at that thing yodeling like Hank Williams 🙂

The Sea Within

Introspection ~ riddled in holes
In that abysmal depth 
rests abject verse, stuttering
in profound exhaustion
of meaning. The hull
was riddled in holes
of a debilitating
introspection
and she is simply
a sunken vessel,
now, sea within a sea,
someplace the spirits
of the deep find
passageway through a once
air filled hold and
portholes of existence
lining those catacombs
of a saline poetry.

We were at the Assateague Island National Seashore last evening and it was the sound of the sea perhaps or the tiredness of an otherwise lovely day, I thought of sunken ships and also of the dead tree riddled in holes that I took a photo of, at Fort Lee Historic Park. It all came together in a poem that I wish to dedicate to mental health awareness month in the US.

Old memories good and bad are like sea creatures that move through the sunken Titanic of our minds. There is no forgiveness nor forgetting, just a momentary watery disillusionment knowing that the vessel isn’t contained, except in the arms of the sea. It is great to be a ship which sails yet be aware, that the ability to bob above consciousness is available to mere flotsam and jetsam too. Some vessels sail to fish food, others to the destruction of war or the appropriation of conquests, some are simply ambition of harnessing the naturally buoyant, some are ghost ships. There are all kinds up there and down here. Making peace with the darkness of the depths opens ones eyes to the beauty of seeing a buried universe, differently. No one but oneself in the amnion of Gaia, entombed or enwombed, a matter of perspective, I think the illusion lies in floating on murky depths. An eclipse brings about an adjustment of vision to actually see what the light blinded out for a couple of years, melding into the pandemic.

We can’t hope that this world will be anything than it actually is but we can choose to swim or float where we may and hope we never encounter often, that which may be a dangerous lesson.

Given that it is Mental Health Awareness Month in the US, I thought also to share this essay I received at Aeon today. It is about the warped self, on how social media makes us feel terrible about who we really are. It discusses aspects researched in Neuroscience and how the knowledge can be used in an empowering way.

On my playlist:

Meu amor sem Aranjuez by Dulce Pontes. The song seems written for the sea like most Portuguese fados are. Perhaps the sea exists for fados 🙂

Rocky Rose Trails

Rocky Rose is a shade of Essie nail colour. I happened to notice the name after I painted my nails and thought it could spark a poem. The walk was through the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, famous for its large variety of animals, birds as well as its ponies. The Refuge is 14,000 acres, primarily located in the Virginia half of the Assateague Island. Only about 3% is located on the Maryland side of the island.

A morning feels like walking 
no place on a wildlife loop,
marked for a mind in fetters
under a monstrous wind,
through trees having
a verdant conversation in a crowd.
The sea breeze always finds you, 
crawls under your windcheater,
in chilly clairvoyance
of a rain to come in that
copse of corpses that shed
phosphorescence in a deciduous sorrow.
She sighs a soft breeze 
through the trail.
It finds refuge over a mudflat
like a bated breath, halting for succour
in a rhinestone moon.
When the water returns, it will shimmer

of passions she painted
on her nails, a hue
of rocky rose, a shade more modest
than the ponies of Chincoteague
that gallop away on sand, hooved
in pungent ungulate hearts.

Sometimes, I am not sure if it is the world that is so lacking in love or it is the vacuum within that desires, incessantly. Our self worth is tied to our abilities, out accomplishments, our possessions, our self sacrifice, our service, our purpose, and there is never enough even for a wooded marshland, with trees and grasses constantly clambering for space and I enjoyed the tussle 🙂 My nail colour in fact, made me supremely happy 😇

Neptune’s mists

This poem was seeded a while earlier, it was the earthworms on the garden path that inspired it, having crawled out of the waterlogged grass. It had rained prior and they placed themselves in harm’s way,  a sign we would  interpret as foolish (given the worm carcasses all over) and they would consider survival, crossing those great divides between the edges of a winding path.

Seasonal exhalation of Neptune's mists / and hazy corruptions mar a loamy sequester / A twelfth house of sorrow / those sinuous burrows permeating clay thought / tortuous tunnelling  of annelid aspirations // 

Earth swallowed rain / spiriting a life vitality from the blanketing comfort of flooded blossoms / Engraved on a path by the trample of feet, massacre of an exodus / Martyrs to tyrants /  clearly, mist is love or hate or mishap //

Compassion buoys pensive thought or a floating reflection / There are puddles of clumped rain, streaks of blemished sun / Blossoms and buds / These euphemisms of Spring, but trees in a mating game / Summer will bring tender warmth to soft mud, clear dreams and sweet healing //

Cannons, cloudy canons

This recent picture was taken at the Fort Lee Historic Park in NJ, a 33-acre cliff-top park area with scenic overlooks, at what is believed to be the Barbette Battery  in a reconstructed Revolutionary War encampment. Also, partially visible, is the George Washington Bridge.

I felt inspired to write of thunderclouds, cannons,  canons and of  battles and war in general. While we are accustomed to comprehend the reality, the  inevitability of war or battle, how do we make peace with the barbarity of it all? Simply rhetorical musing.

At the Barbette Battery, Fort Lee Historic Park, NJ
Canons aim for thunder. 
What foolishness
is war.. Metal fights
cotton bolls of rain clouds,
whose tears rust cannons.

Lightening fired a bellowing
rumble of consonants,
in a lyrical indulgence,
but the clouded passions
were seeded elsewhere ...

They reluctantly spilled
into a jet stream
of soul poems, a crescendo
of storm angels, thunderheads.
Deafening! This choral

of soft Nimbus that nimbly
play with okta of sky,
painting downy sorrows
in the bleak
of a blankety dome,

pulling
the heavens together   
in desultory greys and whites.
Your canon was to split empire
but how can it split the sky?
The Barbette Battery

Notes:

Okta ~ Meteorologists measure cloud cover, or the amount of the visible sky covered by clouds, in units called oktas. An okta estimates how many eighths of the sky (octo-) is covered in clouds. A clear sky is 0 oktas, while a totally overcast or gray sky is 8 oktas ~http://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/cloud/

About Fort Lee Historic Park ~Fort Lee found its place in American history during the 1776 British campaign to control New York City and the Hudson River. In July 1776, the Americans began fortifying this site, which they first named “Fort Constitution.” (They later changed the name to “Fort Lee,” to honor General Charles Lee, whose army had achieved a major victory at Charleston, South Carolina, that summer.) ~https://www.njpalisades.org/fortlee.html