Visiting Day on the Lawn, Pilgrim State Mental Hospital, A BxW Still Life 1978
Standing on the Commons, between
identical brick buildings for the living
brain dead, she is the reaper of tin foil,
discarded packets, empty crushed paper
cups, collecting The Offal.
She gathers the field methodically,
storing The Refuse in a soiled black denim
sling. All morning, she gathers,
listening to tin top 40s music,
transmitted directly to the neural
receptors by plastic earpieces.
Voices whisper, in between half notes,
telling the secrets of Runing,
this Gathering will bring.
By late afternoon, she is bent low,
inspecting the lawn, inch by square inch,
inscribing circles with her feet,
defining the lost horizons of her mind,
impelled by an epic battle of the bands,
twin radios tuned to opposing stations
for the different ears of her separate brains.
By nightfall she is a stark silhouette
against sky, shrouded by a soiled, black
shawl, eyes like dying suns flashing the dark.
Visiting Day on the Psychiatric Ward
Looking for mother, long ago lost inside,
no one remembers the face that coincides with
her name registered in their daily logs or the
plastic bracelets she collects on her wrists;
each time they admit her, she gets a new one
to play with during each long night she never
sleeps, whistling transcendental etudes by
Liszt, slightly off key; we are searching
shallow worn faces cluttering violent halls,
idiot savants reciting perpetual calendars,
all the ruling names of A Holy Roman Empire,
toothless old ladies lip synch old time movies,
their hands held overhead, silently snapping
together, extra mouths imitating an untouchable
screen, in a corner they sit and pee, marking
their places with an indelible scent; years after
death no one will invade their territorial space
Revisiting Day on the Psychiatric Ward
Nursing station to nowhere,
rubble strewn, stripped-of-
asbestos pipes, dropped ceilings,
holes punched by jackhammers,
pick ax, crampons poked in
the walls of hell, peeling paint,
filmy as onion skin, patient
evaluations, ghost charts yellowed
by seepage, urine, unidentified
falling objects, clots of paper,
graphs, rolled-into-bundles sheets,
inmate blouses and pants;
on the wall beneath the front desk,
painted in blood, two words:
Pilgrim State Hospital Current Status: Abandoned
Snow dust on the broken
branches, the overgrown side
walks, on twin evergreen,
pine barren shrubs by entrance,
first floors of abandoned Medical
Arts Center set back on the wild,
white, matted lawn; the empty,
punched out windows, bent bars
silent as memory's repressed scream.
The first poem was previously published in Alan Catlin's chapbook, Black and White in Color, which won the Mississinewa Press Prize. The second poem was previously published in Alan Catlin's chapbook of the same name, Visiting Day on the Psychiatric Ward. It was published by Pudding Publications and was first runner up in the Looking Glass Chapbook Competition.
Alan Catlin has been publishing for parts of five decades. His work derives from many interests from Art, music and literature to the bars he lived and worked in. His many full length books and chapbooks include the ekphrastic collection "Effects of Sunlight on Fog" from Bright Hill Press and, more recently from Future Cycle Press, "American Odyssey" largely derived from photos by Mary Ellen Mark and photos by photographers killed in Vietnam. Forthcoming is "Wild Beauty", also largely ekphrastic, from Future Cycle Press. His chapbook, "Blue Velvet" (poems inspired by movies) won the 2017 Slipstream Chapbook Award.
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