Today there has been so much talk of things exploding
into other things, so much that we all become curious, that we
all run outside into the hot streets
and hug. Romance is a grotto of eager stones
anticipating light, or a girl whose teeth
you can always see. With more sparkle and pop
is the only way to live. Your confetti tongue explodes
into acid jazz. Small typewriters
that other people keep in their eyes
click away at all our farewell parties. It is hard
to pack for the rest of your life. Someone is always
eating cold cucumber noodles. Someone will drop by later
to help dismantle some furniture. A lot can go wrong
if you sleep or think, but the trees go on waving
their broken little hands.
is a great magician
“the cage” he screams
and the cage of birds vanishes
he picks up a glass of champagne
spits out another frog
I am proud of him
he is getting much better
light pours from his eyes
“do not be afraid” he says
he pulls a writhing snake
out of his mouth
I throw up a little
into the trash bin
next to his desk
I am a sensitive young man
on the verge of becoming
an even more sensitive adult
my therapist knows this
he stands dramatically
in the center of the room
a second therapist
steps into view
she has been hiding
behind the velvet curtain
her lips are painted red
she pulls a knife
out of her tuxedo
“no no no” my therapist says
for a moment time is frozen
then she jams the knife
into my therapist’s chest
his body thumps to the ground
a blood stain forms slowly
someone shuts off the lights
I am speechless
I can hear a bird cry outside
my hands begin to clap
and then it dawns on me
I have never loved anyone
the hard season
split you through.
do not worry.
you will bleed water.
do not worry.
this is grief.
your face will fall out and down your skin
there will be scorching.
keep speaking the years from their hiding places.
keep coughing up smoke from all the deaths you
keep the rage tender.
because the soft season will come.
it will come.
both hands in your chest.
up all night.
up all of the nights.
to drink all damage into love.
I was relief, once, for a doctor on vacation
and got a call from a man on a window sill.
This was New York, a dozen stories up.
He was going to kill himself, he said.
I said everything I could think of.
And when nothing worked, when the guy
was still determined to slide out that window
and smash his delicate skull
on the indifferent sidewalk, “Do you think,”
I asked, “you could just postpone it
until Monday, when Dr. Lewis gets back?”
The cord that connected us—strung
under the dirty streets, the pizza parlors, taxis,
women in sneakers carrying their high heels,
drunks lying in piss—that thick coiled wire
waited for the waves of sound.
In the silence I could feel the air slip
in and out of his lungs and the moment
when the motion reversed, like a goldfish
making the turn at the glass end of its tank.
I matched my breath to his, slid
into the water and swam with him.
“Okay,” he agreed.
We had been married for six or seven years
when my wife, standing in the kitchen one afternoon, told me
that she screams underwater when she swims—
that, in fact, she has been screaming for years
into the blue chlorinated water of the community pool
where she does laps every other day.
Buttering her toast, not as if she had been
not as if I should consider myself
personally the cause of her screaming,
nor as if we should perform an act of therapy
right that minute on the kitchen table,
—casually, she told me,
and I could see her turn her square face up
to take a gulp of oxygen,
then down again into the cold wet mask of the unconscious.
For all I know, maybe everyone is screaming
as they go through life, silently,
politely keeping the big secret
that it is not all fun
to be ripped by the crooked beak
of something called psychology,
to be dipped down
again and again into time;
that the truest, most intimate
pleasure you can sometimes find
is the wet kiss
of your own pain.
There goes Kath, at one pm, to swim her twenty-two laps
back and forth in the community pool;
—what discipline she has!
Twenty-two laps like twenty-two pages,
that will never be read by anyone.
These are really hard times, and it's important to seek help when we need it. In India, there is still a lot of mental stigma around mental health and therapy. It's also difficult to access affordable mental health care. Your Safe Hour is trying to bridge this gap and make therapy accessible to all. Follow their page and know more about this amazing effort by a team of young, dedicated individuals.
Artwork by Maanvi Kapur.