Cathexis Northwest Press

© 2018 

Among the Paradoxes
00:00 / 03:28

Among the paradoxes

of modern society:

a woman in San Francisco

spies an image of Christ

in a potato chip, and eBay

makes her a millionaire.

A twenty year old in Boston

refuses his antipsychotics,

which diminishes the voices

he hears, and is promptly

detained. How do we know

he is not The Messiah?

He has a point.

 

To be sure, St Paul’s mood

ranged from ecstatic

to tears of sorrow.

We'd call them

marked mood swings

in some circles,

accompanied as they were by

sublime auditory and visual perceptions,

grandiose hallucinations,

delusional thought content.

The man was informed

by a talking donkey

for Christ’s sake.

He wrote 70 thousand word

letters regularly on papyrus

no one could afford. Still,

his fears of evil spirits!

They rivaled our Uncle John's paranoia.

 

 

Under the protection of bankruptcy

Uncle John became a drunk and threw

the Easter ham into Aunt Mabel's

blue-heavy hydrangea bushes.

Drunk, Uncle John stole his

neighbor's lawn mower

and sold it to a stranger

and one moon void night

filled his wife’s gas tank

with sugar.

 

Really no one's uncle,

and Mabel no one's aunt,

but it was she whom 

the whole church adored

because but for the grace of God,

went we. And her eyes,

behind her legendary specs,

constantly considering

the lilies of the field,

made Christ's cup of passion

look like a piece of cake.

 

 

Aunt Mabel worked

in the canning center, slinging

slabs of beef “like a man.”

At church, her lenses

resembled cut glass crystal

designed by the globules

of fat slung all week, 

which, if left unsmeared

by the teasing boy, 

did not entirely obscure her view

of the stained-glass Jesus's

tap dancing on water, the vestibule

cloyed with flowers from someone's

bright garden, the front pew of children,

like bobbing daisies, 

none hers. She was our heroine,

a martyr more real than those

in our Catholic cousins’

Lives of Martyrs.

Now? Codependent.

 

Back then we had the slackers,

the bullies, the shy, 

the dreamers, the cut ups, 

but if you called their number today:

motivationally disordered,

oppositionally defiant,

panic syndromed, attention deficited,

and all poised to gulp the promises

of a drug-based paradigm of care

fueling the present plague.

 

In literature class we read

Melville's old parable

about Bartleby the scrivener. 

By the end of the semester

he comes on more Ahab

than Ahab. I beg,

would not one of you,

have given Bartleby 

a space in your office

just to be crazy and safe?

They move uneasily or stare,

confused, or maybe they

are just bored, and my ego talks.

But most of them, like the skin-flint lawyer,

want the Bartlebys tucked away,

restrained by pharmacy,

so they in their snug retreats

can tote up their college credits. 

 

So, no one beds down in Bartleby's Tombs

without confronting the blankness

of the walls. In the movie he died

with his eyes open. It is not so bad

the lawyer said, here is the sky

and here is the earth, not knowing

he too was a walking requiem,

and to which Bartleby replied,

I know where I am.

 

Seems as though after decades

of cutting-edge pharmacology

we are getting nowhere, 

spending more on drugs than

Cameroon's gross domestic product,

yet walk on we must among

the broken glass of theory.

 

To be crazy in a safe place

is no longer an option. Like

that pale wight, we are doomed

to progress—

we are deranged

by progress--

while in India folks grow out

of schizophrenia, and in Nigeria

bipolar is a language,

soon forgot. How?

Chanting? Mantras? 

sacred snake-dances?

cumin stained thumbs?

Mongolian camel underwear?

Or just space, 

and the absence 

of medical breakthroughs...

 

Gone are the days we pulled

our cures from fiction

and philosophy and art.

Poor Tolstoy if he'd been born

in the 20th century. Poor Socrates.

Poor Picasso. Poor poor Heidegger.

Now the DSMV puts us in categories,

creates our parameters of normal.

 

After all, everyone knows

Jesus was suicidal

with every chance possible to escape.

I often consider the men who

created him. Full of high rhetoric,

crafting their astral projection,

they lit a dark corner of the world,

little knowing his hubris was this:

Suicide by proxy. 

Ecce homo, they said, said they,

which translate thus:

Now look at him. Just look at him.

Dorie LaRue is the author of a novel, Resurrecting Virgil, by Backwaters Imprint of the University of Nebraska Press; and forthcoming novel, The Trouble With Student Affairs from Artemis Press; two collections of poetry, Mad Rains by Kelsay Press, and Seeking the Monsters by New Spirit Press, and is at work on a collection of short stories. Her fiction and poetry and book reviews have appeared in a variety of journals including, The Southern Review, The Maryland Poetry Review, and The American Poetry Review. She lives in Shreveport, Louisiana, and teaches writing and literature at LSUS.