The Owl, 2006

I

I was sick, and lay in bed,
and walked alone inside my head.
In the woods I found myself,
looking for someone to help.
Kicking rocks along the path,
feeling dew soaked evening grass.
The twisted trees, they breathed and
swayed,
as dead leaves in a tempest played.
The night was gray, an Autumn eve,
in Twilight, walking through the leaves,
with a coliseum of selves inside my head.

II

I tried to sit, and almost falling,
heard confused voices in me calling.
Vertigo—that spin—appeared;
life’s obscure pathway disappeared.
Schizophrenia, I said.
That’s all that it could be.
All those different voices can’t be me.

III

I’m not so sure that I recall,
whose voice it was that made me fall.
One said, “yes,” and one said, “no.”
I didn’t know which way to go.
The true path appeared, and there it lay,
and I walked the other way.

IV

Above I heard a night-owl call.
“Who,” said the owl, whose shadow falls,
on the path in front of me,
atop the twisted shapes of trees.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever known,
myself amid the jam-packed dome.”
“Who, who, who,” cried out the owl.
“Who, who, who are you?”
I thought a moment, then I said,
“Just a kid who’s sick, in bed.
What is it that makes me ‘me’?
Karma’s equations, destiny?”
Schizophrenia, I said.
That’s all that it can be;
just another fevered dream.

V

“Who?” said the owl, above my bed,
and I withdrew into my head.
To find myself, amidst those talking,
to the coliseum I went walking.
For my own self, for me to meet,
time shifted quick beneath my feet.
“Where am I?” I called aloud.
To me turned a faceless crowd.
“You are there,” a self spoke up,
and pointed to an empty cup.

VI

I crawled inside and found a child,
at a sea-shore, cold and mild;
with his back forever turned,
the noisy world behind him spurned.
“Are you me?” I had to say.
“Some mental game of chess to play?”
I tried to move, but ran in place,
never did I glimpse his face.
“Who?” the owl called again,
that endless searching to begin.

VII

The child said nothing, looked to the
stream,
a solemn song he had to sing.
He held a flower, dead and broken,
from him to me soft words were spoken.
“It’s pretty though it’s torn in half.”
He dropped the flower, and listless, laughed—
looked at it—dead— amidst the grass.
He turned to leave, then looked at me,
and didn’t make a sound.
His face was painted like a clown.

I

“That isn’t me,” I shouted back,
and looked across the sea of black.
My face had on a painted smile;
to hide the real face for a while.
“Let me out,” I said, aloud,
and found myself amid the crowd.

II

I walked into a crowd of me,
and found a man with mushroom tea.
“We’re all one,” said the old man,
extending the cup with his left hand.
“Take a sip,” he said, and smiled.
“But you might want to sit a while.”
I downed the cup, sat on the floor,
watched even more come through the
door.
Holy men, mystics, and saints,
versions of me with no complaints.
No stress, regrets, anxiety,
just quiet and tranquility.

III

I saw agnostics, atheists too,
they screamed until their face turned
blue.
I was searching through my head,
back at home, collapsed, in bed.

Schizophrenia, again,
a division of the self in men.
Divisions of the self in me,
fevered dreams, insanity.

IV

With his back turned to the room,
a child held a smiling blue balloon,
looking at a lighthouse painting,
down the hall, high on the wall.
“What are you waiting for?” I asked,
remembering that moment past.
He said, “for my father to come home.
I’ve been waiting all night long.
What do you think that I’ve done wrong?”

V

I saw his painting, then I knelt.
In it such loneliness I felt.
A painted puppy in a cage,
excited with his eyebrows raised.
Looking out, and waiting too,
’til someone to love,
from here, or above,
that empty archway to come through.

VI

The balloon popped; the young child rose.
It was dawn; the lighthouse closed.
On his way home aloud he sang,
like a prisoner with a ball and chain.
He sang, “This little light of mine,
I tried to let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
All the way home he sang, and frowned,
then disappeared into the crowd.

VII

On down the path, I heard a laugh;
snowflakes danced the air.
In the snow, a young child rolled,
smiling without a care.
On the ground, he rolled around,
making angels in the snow.
Until night came, he played and sang,
and then he had to go.

I

When the owl asked the schizoid who,
he really didn’t know.
He walked about, and had to shout,
for his real self to show.
Inside a dome, like ancient Rome,
he called out for himself.
Then to the sky, whose alibi,
from heaven never fell.

II

Then I saw another me,
just seventeen or so,
sweating in his bedroom
with a cigarette aglow.
Hovering over another page,
writing as though in a rage,
and mumbling things aloud.
Three sleeping pills, with three refills,
is enough to quiet the crowd.

III

He stubbed the cigarette, exhaled the
smoke,
lit another, and then he wrote:
What force is it, that all through night,
holds open our eyes?
Is it because we’re trying to see—
life’s mysteries try to hide?

IV

The memory fades; the owl appears,
to torture me again.
“Who?” he said, above my bed.
I turned not to reply.
Then that force, without remorse,
pulled open my eyes.
“How much do you have to know?”
The owl had never spoken so.
“Do you know enough to sleep?
Is that all you want, a bit of peace?”
V

“That’s not it at all,” I said,
hallucinating in my bed.
“Just some silence in my head.
The other voices talk all night.
About the world, what’s wrong, what’s
right.
They keep me up ’til morning light.
Now you, foul bird, you do the same.
Leave me here to scream in vain.
Take your questions from my head,
and leave me here alone in bed.”

VI

I closed my eyes, again to hide,
“Just try to get some rest,” says I.
But invisible hands, who’s benevolent
plans,
pried open my eyes.
Forcing me, to look and see,
the light that tries to hide.

VII

The same thought pattern, once again:
Who why what where how and when?
The force again, that works at night,
keeping sleepy eyelids wide.
Floods the mind, with things sublime,
memories, dreams, people, and things,
and turns real beauty into rhyme.

I

The schizophrenic talk a lot,
most often to themselves;
and this, they say, is the best way,
for the self-tortured to find help.
What about the other kind,
with writing as their anodyne,
who try to know themselves by rhyme?
They ask strange questions, answer too,
self portrait as a déjà vu.

II

These words, themselves, they only help,
when words themselves are something
else.
When there’s nothing left to know,
after the coliseum’s closed,
when there’s not a hint of light to show,
will the owl stop the questions?
No.

III

“You might miss something;
stay awake.
Breath by breath is yours to take.
No need to waste your life in bed.
That pressure in your chest, and head,
are the hands that work the etch-a- sketch.”

IV

The owl fluttered, as if to leave,
I offered, then, my last reprieve.
“Fine,” I said.
He turned his head.
“All I need is me.
Just two pills, one cigarette,
a line or two of prose to set,
and then I’m off to sleep.”
The owl said, “Repeat, repeat.

V

Just a second, take a breath,
you schizophrenic etch-a-sketch.
What is it that you would, if could,
choose for you to be?
An artist, writer, someone of worth,
a performing prodigy?
Do you live just to impress,
when, ‘that’s so clever,’ is the best,
thing they’ll ever say?
Is that what gets you through the day?”

VI

“Or would you dance just like a clown,
whose hidden frown,
a public face, worn to replace,
who you are in truth?
Or would you all throughout the day,
retreat into your past to play,
with yourself, in the back room,
dancing a phantom rigadoon?
Is that how you’ll live, and how you’ll die,
a detective whose suspect is why?”

VII

“I don’t want to change at all,” I said.
“No more longing, nothing else,
Just who I am, just me, myself.”
“What?” asked the owl, now in the air.
“I just wanted them to care,
to know I lived, to know I breathed,
to know a lowly louse has dreams.”
The owl was silent, made no sound,
then asked me what I would say now,
to those who knew, and those who cared.
“Children write it, here and there,
my final words, ‘Brandon was here.’”

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