My life has been touched by mental illness many times. My wife has bipolar. I have siblings who struggle with depression and psychosis and bipolar (undiagnosed). Sometimes, I think that I'm making up for having a relatively quiet childhood. I was blessed with parents who have a stable marriage. Five sisters and three brothers who, for the most part, got along.
Mental illness does not discriminate. I myself have had bouts of depression. I think it goes with the territory when it comes to being a poet. Look at Emily Dickinson. Darkness and death and mental illness.
So here's one for all the "normal" people out there.
Saint Marty has no idea who you are.
Reading Dickinson / Summer '68
by: Peter Balakian
In the hermetic almost dark
under the fluorescent dizz
I found her broken nerves,
smoke coming off the dashes,
the caps like jolts to the neck,
the pried-open spaces between vowels
where the teeth bit off twine
and the tongue was raw then cool with ice.
The air of the stockroom after lunch
was the marbleized silence of the
small blank pages she stitched into privacy.
Air of paper and faint glue
bond, carbon, graph, yellow pads,
in the stockroom I could read alone—
the confetti of money dissolved on the blank wall.
After work, I slid the numbered poems
on blue mimeo into my playbook,
and felt the open field
the zig-zagging past cornerbacks,
the white lines skewed to heaven.
Excuse my mood—unbridled, chemical,
her scrawled messages smooth to the mind,
excuse my absence, again and yes, then, too—
the cold stone of the Palisades was there
after we split—
alone naked in the Hudson,
the water greasing me in the tepid, chemical mix,
before I returned
to the cement of 9W in my father’s Skylark
the night black and soundless within.