I have seen the best kinds of madness
destroyed by my generation:
all strange chaotic magic stilled
in the great press of conformity’s
graveyard silent stare,
all tangents pruned before they fruit,
left in the harsh day’s sun to wither;
all brave ideals, like beach sand,
swept out into a sea of doubt;
all savage and bewildered strength,
enough to change a planet’s course,
seduced into self-destruction,
enslaved to spin a hamster’s wheel
or worse, to fabricate ennui.
17 MAY 2012
Who could imagine their ancestors
all stark raving mad,
or at least each generation
marking out as bad
an apple flung far from the tree,
opposed to status quo
and causing much embarrassment,
endless grief and woe?
Yet isn’t it a kind of madness
to mime, deaf and mute,
precisely as your forebears did,
and not press your own suit?
And times when the world was mad —
if your lot stayed the same,
would you not think it odd or find
some malady to blame?
To think that no one in my family
thought this world not right,
or questioned why it should be so,
gives me an awful fright.
For what is more insanity:
to flee a maddened world,
or find a place inside the whirlwind
and stay safely curled?
A paradox that troubles me
whenever I feel sane
is why I find a normalcy
amidst such strife and pain,
and why we fear insanity,
which makes us more aware
of that which keeps the world divided:
in here, and out there.
23 JAN 2005
One could argue, I suppose, that there is a hint of madness to be found in EVERY family tree. And for those that exhibit no overt sign of it, I suggest that itself is the madness.
Sanity is a funny thing.
It often seems that the more you emphasize your own sanity, rely upon it as a sure thing, compare yours to others, the more likely it is that you are in fact not sane.
On the flip side, it seems to me that questioning one’s own sanity is one of the surest signs that you are NOT insane.
It’s like the Sufi story, wherein everyone drank of the water that came from their wells. One person kept some of this water in storage. One day, the water coming from the wells changed, and everyone who drank it behaved and believed completely different from how they had before. Further, they had no memory of the water that was before, or that the water was ever different. The person who had stored up the old water, however, continued drinking from his stockpile. As a result, he saw that everyone was acting in a manner that they previously would have considered insane; and any attempt he made to convince others that they had changed was met with ridicule. He even offered them some of his stockpiled water, and they considered him mad. As you can imagine, he became very lonely — yet managed to drink only stockpiled water…until one day, he decided he would rather be insane like everyone else, rather than sane and alone. So he drank a cup of water from the wells, and promptly forgot all about his stockpile, and behaved like everyone else. Everyone else, by the way, was relieved that the poor addled and insane fool had finally come to his senses.
The play’s the only thing, upon this stage —
the one true line from which all tangents spring;
and if the actors move from joy to rage
in but a moment’s span, or seem to bring
a touch of madness to their roles, perhaps
reel in some strange delirium’s delight,
remember once the curtain’s drawn, these chaps
must face their critic’s mirror every night.
The lines that flow so freely from their lips
leave only bitter ashes on the tongue,
and in love’s arsenal, faded applause
serves as a scourge, and accolades as whips.
No wonder they seem mad and quite unstrung,
and break along their human seams and flaws.
09 DEC 2004
There is in every madman a misunderstood genius whose idea, shining in his head, frightened people, and for whom delirium was the only solution to the strangulation that life had prepared for him. — Antonin Artaud (1895-1948)
There is a touch of madness in my blood;
but not a malady of harmful need,
more like grasping out for things that last
despite all proof that just illusion stays.
My German, Swiss and Irish stock is sound –
at least, they learned self-medicating ways
to lose the swirling doubts that trap the mind
and seek to mire the soul in endless strife.
But in the French and English strains there is
no safety net to guard against the world
that grinning wildly reaches out to fool
the willing mark that wanders the arcade.
It feeds upon the silence between words,
a shadow hidden far from prying eyes;
and yet, I feel its presence in those times –
its desperate ambition to survive.
It consumes slowly, sucking at the bones
that frame both solid world and healthy dreams
leaving a fragile and de-marrowed shell
which crumbles without warning into dust.
I fight against this great insanity
that lingered in the minds of my forebears
and turned once thoughtful paragons of wit
to sad, bent husks of life welcoming death.
Perhaps the gene is watered down enough
that it may find no purchase in my fate;
or finding others in my line to chase
that prove less argumentative, elect
to spare my later years this sapping curse.
It also may be that my madness lies
on other tangents, stronger than this thing;
The Celts have demons, too, that must be fed.
27 MAY 2004
If there is method in this madness
by which I compose,
there ought to be at least one moment
when that sense is shown.
That’s not the case; when words
come out, they oft betray
no common ground with sanity,
but are a madman’s play.
Perhaps that is the goal:
to purge with flowing pen
the ink-stained fingers of the soul
so they can write again.
It seems unlikely though, I fear,
for these words rarely seem to cease;
were their intent to cleanse and clear,
at some point I’d expect decrease.
But still they come, just as they please,
in different forms and varied measures,
as hurricanes or gentle breezes,
half-cast clods of clay, or treasures.
10 APR 2004
by stanza: common measure, short measure, short hymnal measure, long measure, long hymnal measure