Thursday, 1 May 2014

In White Coats

07:18:00 Posted by Lara Clayton , , , , , , , , 3 comments
For quite a while now I've been trying to work on a collection of poems which pick and unpick at the mental health system. Below is a fragment from said collection:


Through squares of reinforced glass
I notice her cumbersome frame, and awkward arms.
The short cut white hair and lined face
out of time with the age of her eyes.

Don't worry, a nurse tells me, That's just Lily.

Over the next few days, she takes a liking to me,
sweeping her large, heavy hand over my hair
as if I were a doll, and rearranging my bedside table
until everything is straight and facing forwards.

At night, I lie awake listening to the lullabies
she sings to herself

                                *             *             *

I remember her licking at a red lollipop
and holding hands with a nurse.

I'm going out for the day, she said.

When she returned a couple of hours later,
she was tied to a wheelchair - her eyes empty,
her mouth stuck open as a line of strawberry saliva
travelled down her chin.

That night, the words of long ago lullabies,
were never sung. 

Sometimes, when writing poetry, the difficulty isn't in finding the idea, but rather in finding the best way to represent it. The fragment of poem above needs work when it comes to the representation of the idea - it's too prosey, the tenses aren't quite right and I'm not sure about the way in which speech has been presented. But this is one of the great challenges and pleasures of poetry, the rewriting and editing, as if the idea were a muddy gemstone plucked from the ground simply waiting to be cleaned and polished by the writing process.

Thank you for reading,


Christo said...

Good Thursday morning, Lara - no, I could not sleep since 4.00 am either.
So pleased to see this examination of the complexities of finding appropriate poetic expression.
It reminds me of a friend of a friend in the early 1970s who seemed to need to spend a few days at irregular intervals in the Psychiatric Department of the nearest hospital wherever she was living at the time - three or four days in, say, Winchester, followed by 12 or 14 months of clarity and fresh purpose, and perhaps a move to elsewhere.
Then same again in the General Hospital of the new location, a pattern very worrying for friends and family.
I do wonder occasionally what has become of XXXX in the interim - different strokes for different folks, I suppose.
Keep puzzling.
So glad to be in touch with Jacob and TMS. As you say, LIT in GB is a relatively small world.

vicky ellis said...

Portrait of an unseen woman. If this is anything to go off, the collection will be fascinating. Really captivating Lara. I'll be interested to see where you take this.

Adele said...

A voice for the disenfranchised. Poetry in itself Lara.