A memorial project for the Massachusetts Mental Health Center



    Recalling an interview of more than a decade ago,
    An official appraisal of my sanity and status
    by several serious young physicians feigning
    maturity and insight.

    "What do you like to do?"

    Asked in clinical cadence and empathic tone
    by the eldest of the troop, smiling.
    He was, perhaps, thirty. Perhaps not.

    "I like to draw," I responded.

    "Ah, you're an artist."

    "No. I like to draw."

    "Anything else?"

    "I write."

    "You're a writer!"

    "No, I write; and I also take pictures."

    "A photographer."

    "I take pictures."

    He gave up trying to convert my verbs to nouns.
    At nineteen, I reserved the right to elude commitment,
    And so was declared an adolescent adjustment problem.
    Succeeding views have been less gentle--
    More fraught with gloom and doom.

    In attempts to attain something stable
    and beyond infantile,
    I sought and earned a title.
    Printed indelibly, encased in plastic, gathering dust,
    Commanding respect when the title,
    but nothing else is disclosed.

    A valiant attempt it was, to stop the action,
    the churning, violent, desperate action,
    And silence the unspoken and unspeakable
    With an acceptable noun,
    Which was, after all, neither sufficiently strong
    nor elastic enough to harness the frenzy of the past,
    pause to pass the present with any dignity,
    or then to persevere toward a future.

    Unmasked and uncommitted again,
    I dance the backstep now,
    Trying to learn a tune
    Different from the downbeat that's reverberated
    "Has been that never was,"
    And never respected a future tense.

    Mindy Schwartz-Brown © 2003


    Where were the colors then,
    one wonders.
    In the days when black and white hovered
    In spectral dominion?

    Where did the light dance its rainbows?

    So much lost in newsprint, dominoes, tic-tac-toe,
    inkblot effects.
    All the nuance and transcendence masked in shrouds of Death or
    in nothingness.
    In the absence of light,
    No life could thrive.
    What was festered in fungal undergrowth.

    How did I live without tints and tones and hue?
    Given what I see now, I wonder.

    Perhaps the need to draw blood
    Was a cry for color at any cost.
    The warm red that told me I was alive.
    So desperate I was,
    I wanted to paint the town with it.

    Today, I am like one who has survived a famine.
    No jumbo paint set, no VGA, no plentiful palette
    Can satisfy my appetite.
    I am a greedy child set loose in a kindergarten class,
    The world my easel, set with a pad of pulpy paper.

    Color is music for my soul.
    Color is God's morning gift.
    Color is the power I never knew.
    All that was missing then
    Now is.

    Mindy Schwartz-Brown © 2003

    (for Anna)

    How did this edifice become "home" to its inhabitants-
    the renowned multiply degreed,
    the haplessly homeless dually diagnosed,
    the walking wounded,
    the worried well,
    the happy go lucky who cleaned floors,
    cooked lunches,
    took blood pressures.

    How could it contain all of the
    the egos,
    the disintegrated, the inflated,
    occupying one space in parallel play?
    MD, SPMI
    Ph.D, BPD
    MSW, DBT
    Tell me in this soup, where does one find one's ME?

    DSM IV, Anybody going for V?
    What's the code for those who close hospitals
    then open prisons for the sick?

    We all feel so much better now,
    knowing our brains are
    faulty and we are not.
    Structural errors ,
    neurotransmittor deficits,
    viral origins,
    genomic misconfigurations.

    So now can we all be friends?
    Can we do lunch?
    Just as we would with a diabetic?

    October 3, 2003

    Mindy Schwartz-Brown © 2003

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