Not So Long Ago, Girls Like Me Were Given Lobotomies
by Maya Owen
I need not choose a playlist tonight:
as one song is borne away with the traffic, another’s
dispensed from a neighbour’s cracked window. And I’m grateful
for things like that, the great invisible
baroque work of kinship everywhere.
It helps it’s a good song—reminds me that I, too,
am touchable. (And aren’t there those who are so tender
with me?) Even dark comes on gently
this time of year, when the summer air is a palimpsest
of such competing musics, wingspans, garden parties.
Often I’m stunned to find it’s dropped
like a portcullis, enclosing me.
Speaking of enclosures, the psych ward,
if nothing else, is an education.
Observe, here: the thinning of membranes,
meanings, a family’s patience.
I tell my hands piano, pianissimo
when night hardens into something I can use.
Really I want no mouldable piece of it, want night
to soften, never to wield it again,
and I want my life, I do,
though there’s nothing I haven’t angled
against the body, and though my mind is torn
and burned, and though it’s true
that I swell and diminish, and God, might as well be
battened to moonlight—I swear
there are rooms in me pure-filled with music.
There are gentler darknesses.
Some days it’s as if I’d never been broken,
muzzled, left in the rain. A woman
on the ward with me has beckoned me into her room
(which is not allowed, but what do we
madwomen care for permission?)
to show me the tree that she insists has sprung up
overnight, by her own magic—crooked thing,
and I don’t dispute it. How could I
debase her now, deny that she is powerful,
consolable? In this, of all places.
Besides, what have I made of my portion of night, or my
arboreal tangle of thoughts? Nothing
as grand as a life. But I do, on occasion,
look up from the poem; laugh
to be startled by dusk again: in which leaf-shadows
mingle with tossed blossom beneath,
and above, birds serrate
the pink edge of the sky, and think,
now, which is the part of the heart
that contracts around beauty?
Yes, I can admit the world is beautiful,
even if it’s difficult to live, like slicing your thumb
on a toothed jewel. Hell,
I’ll notice even now
a yellow field, concealing
crickets and their brittle canticles
as the coin of the sun
slots into earth
and I mean it, I’d give anything to stay.
Just for that—and sudden trees
and common music and the dark and gentle
fact of being touchable. Because
the world is beautiful, and contains
the people I love, and who
would be tenderer with them?
Maya Owen feels things in public. Her work has been featured in publications including The Adroit Journal, DIALOGIST, DRUNK IN A MIDNIGHT CHOIR, Cleaver Magazine, Nat. Brut, Glass Poetry, and DMQ Review, and been nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart awards. She is currently writing, singing, and studying at Goldsmiths, University of London.