I am posting this poem here, as well as on my Facebook page, as it requires a longer explanation.
“Why do you seek us?”
I can see only blood pouring from my arm
from these invisible cuts
I can feel only pain from ungiven blows
the wind from the open door is making me cold
there is grass and sunshine in the courtyard
I can hear the rattle of the streetcar
but the lady
has come from the switchboard
she closes the door
“Are you cold”?
I have brought nothing with me
I want only to be warm
and enclosed by these walls,
behind these locked doors.
I have committed myself to these long wooden corridors
lacking the sunlight,
behind these doors scrawled with crayon.
You wake me in darkness
the morning is numb behind the grille
I fall down with fear.
I thought I would sit in a square of sunlight and dream-
why, here is no protection,
here is only the long drawn-out cry from within.
Why do you not let me lie down and cover my head?
Why will you not let me cancel my existence even briefly?
You even shape the substance of my dreams.
This is the final one of my early poems. After this I write nothing for ten years. I took a complete year away from life, doing jigsaw puzzles on my bedroom floor. Then marriage, and three children.
999 Queen Street West was a euphemism in the sixties for mental illness. The old building is not there today, replaced by a modern structure, but it was the old building where I signed myself in in 1970. This was no fancy Clarke Institute of Psychiatry. The floors were wooden, with paths worn in them from pacing. Men and women were in separate wards, the toilets had no doors. Baths were given in a large room that held several huge tubs. Patients were not allowed to be on their beds during the day, so everywhere there were people asleep sitting upright, dopey with the heavy medication that was used at that time. The picture I posted on Facebook is obviously from another era, but the large rooms with many beds were still there. The activities took place on a sunporch – we were given knitting needles and balls of yarn. At the end of the session we unravelled what we had knìtted…an allegory for the state of our minds? I was here for about a week, but it seemed like forever, and I felt as if I had reached the lowest point of my life.