Anger–dVerse MTB

Art: Clyfford Still, on Pinterest

Art: Clyfford Still, on Pinterest

Depression is Anger Turned Inside-Out
A Narrative Poem

She hadn’t touched her paints for a while. In the other room an unfinished canvas lay propped on an easel. Orange and cerulean blue paint danced in cacophonous colors and screamed at her in taunting ecstasy. One evening she’d smeared a palette knife of black paint in a thick wavy line down the middle of the canvas—the result only heightened the drama. She abandoned her work for now—she couldn’t paint and wouldn’t write—not since he told her he wouldn’t see her anymore.

Today, dVerse Poets, hosted by Frank Hubney, invites us to submit a narrative poem–as I see it, a bit of prose that is written poetically. That implies incorporating poetic elements such as metaphor and sensory details, active verbs etc. This is a tiny piece that I adapted from my novel “The Sin of His Father.”

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Maybe If–dVerse Meeting the Bar

Photo: writingforrecovery.com

Photo: writingforrecovery.com

I’d noticed
how she
pushed that piece of Kung
Pao Shrimp around
the plate and left it
balancing
precariously
on the edge.

If I’d taken time
to hear to the words,
she didn’t speak.
Or if I’d
caught the way her
eyes avoided mine,
staring at some
distant intersection
on the horizon
of her world.

If I’d paid attention
to the curtains
drawn tight against
intrusion
or if I’d wondered why
she never called
me back.

Maybe then she
would not have chosen
to die so soon.

I’m hosting Thursday over at dVerse for Meeting the Bar and asking you to consider issues that inspire you most, and to write a poem using your distinct poetic voice. I hope you will meet us there. The doors open at 3:00 PM EDT.

Death and dying are frequent themes in my writing…in case you haven’t noticed. This is based on a true story. Although I’ve worked with persons who suffer from depression much of my nursing career, I didn’t pick up on it. When you’re close to someone it’s easy to miss the obvious, I’m sorry to say.

Boxes–A Short Story for MMWP

Christian Nursing Home

My submission for MMWP is a short, short story (fiction) for a change, inspired by my former nursing career. I’ve added a little explanation at the end. The prompt for this week was Labor/Work. Hope to see you there.

BOXES

At the end of your life, what will you have to show for it?

The question hurtled across the dark room and caught a ray of light as it passed the door that someone had left ajar. Institutional light.

What’ll you make of yourself? The words howled down the corridors of a time past when she had allowed other people to define her life.

She pulled the ratty shawl she’d knitted tight about bony shoulders covered by a layer of crepe-like skin and rued the dropped stitch she hadn’t bothered to catch as it slipped yet another row towards the mustard-stained fringe.

At the end of your life, when death draws near . . .

The question bounced around in her skull like ping-pong balls in a Lucite box smeared with little kids fingerprints. It was powered by air, she recalled—a project at a science fair that demonstrated random molecular movement? Yes, that was it.

The box was broken now. Molecules split to atoms to neutrons, protons and electrons. And more recently, quarks—whatever the hell they are.

The shattered box of her beliefs, strewn about and discarded like clothes too tight and out-of-style. Like toe-crushing shoes.

She fingered the blanket, threading her fingers in and out of woven sterile cotton: institutional warmth, or lack thereof.

The conundrum chased her around the corners of decades. It unfurled and breathed heavily on the nape of her neck–raspy, persistent. Or was that her roommate once again in respiratory distress?

Her hands lay before her. They were still now—old, used hands with see-through skin. Gnarly knuckles that appeared warped and disfigured like twigs from the oak tree in her backyard. (At home, not in this place).

Hands that had touched, caressed, soothed. Healed even. And sometimes caused pain.

Her distended veins bulged: rivulets crossing the map of her life. She pushed back her skin, stopped the flow, released, and watched dark corpuscles stream back in, carrying life-giving oxygen to her cells. One more day of life—or at least a part of one.

Good-looking veins, she thought, but deceptive like her life had been. Stick a needle in that fat one and it’ll blow or roll.

That’s what fifty plus years of nursing did for her. The knowledge of veins, arteries and blood. And shit, piss and vomit. And worse—much worse. At the end of her life, what would she have to show? That she could read blood vessels?

Service can pass for love, she knew.

If she were her own patient, what would be her diagnosis of herself. Her mind clicked into scientific mode and she began to reflect.

Subjective:

There was the hard, hard heart she carried in a steel box inside her hollow, hallow chest. This woman can’t afford to feel in the face of so much loss: dead babies, dead everyone. Nope, too dangerous look at the subjective. Think it’s better to pass on that one.
A cool breeze blew in from nowhere, walked down the juts of her vertebrae and settled at the base of her spine. Fanning out, the chill expanded and squeezed about her body to embrace the emptiness.

Objective:

Well, these were the facts. Two dead husbands; one dead daughter; a son gone missing; a divorce. Six dead dogs, one cat still alive. Not much money in the bank; a vacant, paid-for house, watched over by a neighbor (along with the cat, of course). A 12’ X 7’ cubicle in a room of three old ladies, surrounded by beige curtains—a hiding place, a box. 13K plus change in credit card debt and no one to leave it to. Ha-ha. A mind that bounces from here to there, imprisoned in a withered body; layers of skin that hang like empty sacks; lost promises.

A memory tossed her into the past: the day they’d painted their house a bright yellow with white trim: the happiness of the color and the joy of standing hand-in-hand with her second husband—the one she really loved because he loved her, too.

She shooed that thought away. Can’t afford to feel, remember?

Assessment:

The box is smashed and fragments of a life that could have been poured out. The diagnosis is clear: Altered reality; meaning deprivation related to . . .” To Nothing.

She’d read an obituary that morning about a woman who had it all wrapped up and tied with a bow, it claimed. Died in profound peace, it said. This mother, wife, friend knew where she wanted to go and went there, or something to that effect. They outlined it for the obituary readers: died surrounded by loved ones who would attend the funeral in the church, it promised. Neatly placed in her box. Amen.

Plan:

That’s what she needed: the answer to the question, she decided, wasn’t in this place. She knew it wasn’t this—not a box-room filled with white sheets, white blankets and a white commode chair. Not the sickly smell of urine and dirty dentures and not a hand-knitted shawl with a dropped stitch and a mustard stain on gray yarn.

She needed a plan with color.

Dragging her legs, numb with cold, to the edge of the bed, she reached for her walker and grasped the rubber handles encrusted with grime—particles of food and feces—and hauled her ass into a standing position. She shuffled slowly into the open corridor with its fluorescent white sheen. Her droopy butt lay bare for all the world to see beneath the open back gown of flimsy gray and pink cross-hatched fabric bleached almost white.

She crept along the hall, stopping briefly at the crash cart that reminded her of OPI “Big Apple Red” nail polish. She palmed the vial of potassium chloride from the unlocked drawer of the cart, concealing it along with a 22 gauge, 1” needle and 5cc syringe. A scarf would do for a tourniquet, she figured and alcohol was academic, wasn’t it?

Approached by the evening shift nurse she requested an AMA. The LPN called the social worker but patient rights won out. As she signed the papers discharging her Against Medical Advice, the team called a taxi and the MD then helped her box her few belongings.

The plan was coming together.

At the end of your life, what will you have to show for it? The phrase rattled in her tin box heart as she slipped the key into the lock of her front door.

Musty odors of cat litter and un-lived-in, unclean linens overwhelmed her.

Purty, her cat mewled with excitement, threaded between her legs, stroking her back to life. Exhausted, she plopped into the overstuffed chair in the front room. A burst of dust enveloped her, but she was home.

She sat there till the early morning sky allowed light to slither around the edges of the curtains.

Purty curled up in her lap and purred and purred. Reaching over she pulled the blinds allowing sunlight to fill the room. Yellow sunlight bounced off yellow walls in her yellow house. It was still there, the yellow she remembered. Joy slipped in.

She thought about the drug stashed in her purse with the syringe, but let it be for the moment. Stretching out her weary limbs, she stood as Purty leaped to the floor.

I need another day she thought and decided in that moment it might be wise to reevaluate her plan. Instead, she wandered through her house in search of color and meaning. Purty, her calico cat, followed her everywhere.

At least have time to find something to show, she told herself, smiling that the last words on her chart were AMA, not RHC. Respirations Have Ceased. Smiling that she was, indeed, OOB.

No, not Out Of Bed. Out of the box.

As a nurse, I spent much of my time working with the elderly. This fictional account imagines how a retired nurse could feel about her life…if she didn’t have something to turn to–like writing! A bit of an explanation: in nursing, we applied the scientific method to patient assessment using a method called S.O.A.P–that’s what the Subjective (How are you?) Objective (What the nurse can notice) Assessment (Making a nursing diagnosis) and Plan (What to do about it) refer to. Don’t know if this is how it’s done right now…but it’s a good way to problem solve in any life situation. Try it with a problem you’re facing!

The Dark Night–Jingle’s Poetry Potluck

the dark night of the soul

Submitted to Jingle’s Poetry Potluck: http://jinglepoetry.blogspot.com/  for which the theme this week is Peace, Relaxation, Spirituality. I chose to focus on one of the more difficult aspects of the spiritual life, termed by the Spanish Carmelite mystic, St. John of the Cross, as the dark night of the soul. Though it seems counterintuitive, this phase of spirituality can bring about a deep sense of peace.

“Oh, night that guided me more surely than the light of noonday to the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me–a place where none appeared. Oh, night that guided me, oh, night more lovely than the dawn, oh, night that joined Beloved with lover, lover transformed in the Beloved!”

St. John of the CrossDark Night of the Soul

The Dark Night

When night is bathed in ebony
and even stars are wont to pierce
through veils of clouds,
you stumble forward,
grasping crumbled walls
that close you in.

Bleak thoughts now pummel you
like angry fists that rage against
injustice. You breathe oppressive air,
musty, stagnant, born of rank suspicion
that your need shall never know
relief, that hunger rests un-sated.

Today there is no morrow—
only haunting memories of days
unfolding without joy, Your faith
betrayed, you open wide your hand
and watch hope slip out between your
fingers, free of empty promises.

Tonight you stand alone,
shrouded by the chill of winter,
without clear vision. Death stretches
out his hand; you reach to take it,
but not before the nightingale sings.

One Shot Wednesday–Monotone

21/365+1 [Dirty snow]

Image by The Hamster Factor via Flickr

Submitted to One Shot Wednesday: http://oneshotpoetry.blogspot.com/

 

Monotone

Staggering through a maze of words,
The poet gropes for one to fill the emptiness.

Dark skies obscure even the shadows as
monochromatic gray scales the horizon.

Flecks of asphalt sprinkle the once-white snow
heaped in mounds on the side of the road.

Remembrance of beauty fades, evades.
November dies with its dreams of loveliness and magic.

Winter doldrums stagger through a maze of words,
extinguish artistry,
ignite loneliness.

Big Tent Poetry–My First Time!

  

October Waning

Early morning sun kisses the foothills
with hues of bronze and purple.
You descend the staircase.
I wait for your touch to heal my wounds.

As always, you gloss over my sadness,
take me in your arms as though I were a doll
abandoned by a child in a corner of the room.
Your love restores my hope for the moment.

At noon we wander in a field of pumpkin gourds.
Among a bed of drooping roses, one stands tall.
You slice its stem with your pocket knife,
inhale its fragrance then hand it to me.

When evening comes we sit together on the porch,
extract the last ray of light from day’s end.
You hook your arm in mine
and lead me gently back into the night.

Check out Big Tent Poetry: http://bigtentpoetry.org/

Wordsmith Wednesday–Word-Painting Emotions: Depression

On the Threshold of Eternity

Image via Wikipedia

As a fiction writer-nurse, I often find myself dipping into my knowledge of clinical symptoms that characterize certain emotions, moods and pathologies to help in “showing” a character’s experience. Today, I want to share with you some descriptions that might be useful to you in word-painting depression.

Realize, there are two types of depression. (I will briefly describe them here, but do not rely on my descriptions if you are seeking professional advice. I will include a link, but symptoms of depression should be referred to a health care provider.)

Reactive depression is what occurs when a person has experienced an event such as loss or death. It is normally short-term but can still be treated with anti-depressant medications given temporarily. The person with reactive depression will often get help through counseling, support groups or even from good friends. It should resolve with the passing of time.

Clinical depression is physiological, based on an imbalance of chemicals in the body. Often the person is bi-polar which means he vacillates from high-to-low. (We used to call this manic-depressive behavior) This type of depression is generally not responsive to therapy alone, but should be treated with medication to balance the chemicals in the body.

If you want to describe a character who is depressed, the symptoms are the same for both types. Here are some behaviors or physiological reactions you can use to “show” depression:

  • Your character is unable to sleep or she sleeps all the time. Waking in the early morning hours or oversleeping are commonplace.
  • She is unable to focus on day-to-day demands of life. She has a hard time complete tasks or loses concentration in the workplace.
  • He experiences feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
  • She is overwhelmed by negative thoughts such as worrying, fear, pessimism.
  • He loses his appetite or can’t stop eating.
  • He is irritable, impatient, short-tempered.
  • She feels that life has nothing to offer and may have thoughts about suicide.
  • The lose interest in work, relationships, hobbies, social activities, or sex.
  • She is unable to experience joy and pleasure.
  • They feel agitated, restless, on edge.
  • Everything and everyone gets on their nerves.
  • Their energy is low. They always feel tired and physically drained. Small tasks become exhausting.
  • They have feelings of self-hatred, worthlessness and guilt. They are critical of self and others.
  • They have problems making decisions and remembering things.
  • They experience unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.
  • Because of immobility and changes in appetite, they may have problems with normal bodily functions (this may be more than you want to “show!)
  • She may cry easily for no apparent reason.

If you are writing about a character with depression, I hope these signs will help you in your descriptions.