Four days inside the psychiatric unit and four days after my suicide attempt, I was quietly let out from the shadows of the underground facility. I could see the sky. My anxiety sizzled behind my drugged eyelids. I lit up a cigarette and did my best to blow my anxiety out through my nostrils.
I watched the moon warily as it emerged from behind clouds. It seemed to creep along with me, as I strolled about. This is something I’ve done often in my life. I use the moon to tell me how I feel, as if I’m bound by its emotional capacity.
I was feeling calm, just skating along creating poetry in my head and being the invisible ghost I was so good at being. Invisibility felt right: I was unshaven. I had missing teeth, and those I had were the color you would expect from a two-pack-a-day smoker. I probably looked, shall I say it, crazy –but not that word. No, I wanted to keep that word locked up where I had just been. I felt as though I were a new baby, well, except for my hankering for nicotine and new Jordan shoes.
I went home, and it felt amazing to be there. Real furniture, actual heat, carpeting, and food that didn’t taste as though it had been frozen for years.
An agreement had been made with my brother. He would be in charge of my medication for a while. Neither I nor anyone else trusted me with my own medication so soon after leaving the hospital. It was locked up in the kitchen, and Eric had the key.
That first time I remember so clearly. He came back into the living room where we’d been watching television, laughed, smiled and said, “Medication time.”
“Yep. Medication time,” I repeated, smiling back. “I missed you, Eric.”
We hugged and I fought back tears. I wanted to tell him about the suffering inflicted upon me after my arrest and during my stay at the hospital, but there were no words. If you haven’t experienced it first-hand, you cannot know what being incarcerated, being completely under the control of people who may or may not care about you, is like.
I was so glad to be back home. My brother hugged me. The furniture hugged me. The cats smiled at me. And yet, the crazy fires still burned within me. And then the painting of Father Poe. I had hung it back up on my wall. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but there was something about it I couldn’t get my head around. I could see Poe’s lips moving briskly. What was he saying? I couldn’t read his lips. Was he trying to talk to me? If I could only decipher what he was saying I might be able to understand why I had had a mental breakdown. I was haunted by Poe, and my only defense was invisibility.
I stayed invisible and mute for days and would talk only to Eric. Over and over, I asked him what life was all about. He would not answer. All he would say was, “I’m out of answers. Ask someone else.” This hurt me in the beginning, but as it continued, I realized I had no right to burden someone else with my constant questions. It hurt, though, because I simply could not seems to stand alone emotionally.
I was so dependent upon Eric, and as the weeks went by my dependence only grew. My dependence seemed to become like twin phantoms, one sucking the hope from my weary heart and the other watching and egging me on into even more questions, more pleading, more dependence. Eric retreated into laughter, and I retreated into a dark world in which I would emotionally dissect myself for his amusement. I felt as though I were on fire, and then I felt as though my emotions had died and become a bone pile, and then back to the fire.
My hands hurt and burned as though there were thorns buried in them. This was reminiscent of the crucifixion, though I bear no resemblance to Jesus of Nazareth. My fight was one of will and acceptance, not of holy redemption.
I was well versed in pain by then; I knew how to stand up again after someone knocked me down. What I didn’t know, and soon found out, was that these thorns were of my own making. For a long period of time, I had been holding on to a past that just didn’t exist anymore, and I had thought that letting the past go, removing the thorns, would destroy me. I am a forgiving person, and yet the solemn feeling deeply ingrained in my heart bore no resemblance to the outside life I was living. I simply could not forgive myself. I felt the urge, the need, the exasperated obsession to harm myself and give up. The thorns in my hands were my martyrdom, a pseudo-spiritual flagellation I used to prevent myself from leaving my brother’s side. This prepared me for the tumultuous hell that later became my life. My anger knew no bounds, and not even Achilles’ rage could compare. Though the medication helped, I was still only partially sane, and I knew that. The medication helped, but it didn’t bring me that golden nugget known as sanity. Above all, that is what I sought.
My wounds wear crowns
sputtering with thoughts
of my home
The blood in my wounds forgets
to be a part of me, and now
I only hemorrhage flowers
They look like Narcissus
yet their scent reeks of poison
and missed opportunities
The petals fall and blend
with the colors
that make you
When the pollen of
my youth begins to fade
I no longer
know what to call you
So, I name you “clouds”
and set you free in
Hoping you will find
a piece of me
embedded in your
Hallucination #2: Lexapro
The river sighed into our pores. The spartan green surrounded us, in a sort of fashion that made evergreens seem like scented soldiers. But little did we know that the true war was yet to come.
My brother and I set our kayaks onto the Inlet of the beach, seeing the water for what it was, a charming gift from the hard earth. We became the water, and the water became us. There were seas where our blood began and the river ended. When the mountains of our ego disintegrated with the waters of our faith, we were finally able to do the one thing which had kept us bound for so long: Let go. We parted ways and began down opposite sides of the river, my brother going with the current and myself against.
Being the 29-year-old Kung-fu master who hadn’t taken a single class, I became aware of a deer sitting to the side on the bank as he kayaked through the inlet. The deer seemed to wink at him with the eye of spiritual knowing. As soon as I looked away, the deer winked and jumped off into the thickets.
I began to wonder if the deer had really been there at all, or if somehow the magic of the river had fooled him into believing in this thing that some people called God. All I knew was that deer don’t often wink, and the river itself seemed to be swallowing everything I knew right before my eyes.
Adam Levon Brown is an Award-winning poet, Mental health advocate/sufferer, and cat lover. He is the author of fifteen books of poetry. He has had his work translated in Spanish, Albanian, Arabic, and Afrikaans. He won the 2019 Blue Nib Chapbook Award and was twice shortlisted for the Erbacce Prize for Poetry. Boasting over 400 published poems, you can find his writing at such publications as Rust+Moth, Burningword Literary Journal, Epigraph, and The Good Men Project. He had the honor of judging the 2019 Into the Void Poetry Prize Contest, as well as being a reader for the 2020 Firecracker Awards. Brown is founder, owner, and editor-in-chief of Madness Muse Press, a literary publishing press dedicated to enacting social change through the power of writing. He teaches the #1 online poetry course on the learning platform Udemy.com. He is an expert ghost-writer and talented poetry editor. He also volunteers as part of the social media team for the Oregon Poetry Association.