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The Anatomy of Melancholy

 

The Good.....

 
In the middle of
The yin symbol is a small
White dot: a seedling.

In today's snowy
Mud-fest - there is the sneaking Semblance of good cheer.
Today I planted
A box hedge: enclosing the
Willow in magic.

You kindly bought me
Self-help books: including a
Magical blue one.

I have installed the
Antuivirus; all I need
Now is to re-boot.

Escape into The
Lord of the Ring
s - better
Than medication.
May it be a light
For you in dark places when
All other lights go....
Reprogramme the brain;
Upload luminous thoughts and
Precious memories.

If you have no good
Memories - then steal some
From somebody else.

The brain cannot tell
A fake smile from a real
Smile; so get smiling.
Smiling releases
Endorphins: so get smiling
You crazy fucker.

Re-boot; relearn; change;
Reprogramme; reactivate;
Rediscover; change.
Attempt to record;
Attempt to expunge; attempt
To transmogrify.

MOT the car
Pump the tyres, top-up the
Petrol: take control.
On dark afternoons
We happily played on the
Yarmouth Harbour rocks.
When you were young
We played football in the hall:
With you as goalie.

Winter on Mousehold:
Sledges bouncing down St James'
Hill; then the trek back.
On the climbing wall
There is only the now; no
Dark rumination.

Give up comfort food;
The chocolate digestives
And the jam dounuts.
Hand-hold, foot-hold; pull;
Move; reach; feel the body
Inch up the incline.

Between your teeth - place
A pencil to simulate
Smiling: worth a try.

Hope fluttered across
The autumn forest today:
Insubstantial bird.
Don't worry 'bout a
Thing, 'cause every little thing
Gonna be alright.

Planting trees all day
With a pencil between my
Teeth. Does smiling work?
Future photograph:
The four of us - arm in arm
Smiling and stronger.
Girl on a beach: hair
Waving like seaweed; laughter
Falling like the waves.

Even if you get
No enjoyment from something
Do it anyway.
Lyrica and love
And AC/DC at vol
Ten keep me alive.

Synapses are starting
To re-fire: odd facts recalled;
Odd fragments of wit.

I would like to see
Towering El Capitan
In Yosemite. 
Or the fulmars and
Gannets on the dizzying
Cliffs of St Kilda.

Yes, I have lately
Suffered a sea-change into
Something rich and strange.
Brief window in the
Brain-fog today revealed a
Sprightly red robin.
Today I heard the
Ice crack; brief respite from the
Old suicide song.
 
And all shall be well
And all manner of things shall be
Well
: Mission statement?

No rumination;
No self-criticism; no
Dark sarcasm; no..
There is no pain you
Are receding, distant ship
Smoke on the hori....
Have compassion for
Yourself; then you will have it
For all living things.

Yours is a caring
Love: a list-making, menu-
Wise, sheet-changing love.

Am I emerging
From the hardest, coldest most
Prolonged of winters?
Get the bike out of
The shed; check tyres; get on;
Follow the pedals.

In today's mud, I
Found a plastic butterfly:
Wings open in flight.
And today we have
Neuroplasticity; the
Old brain fighting back.

There is no pain in
The present: there is no pain
In the present ...there...
We're stayin' alive,
Stayin' alive...Ah, ha,
Ha, ha, stayin' a......
Even the thickest,
Most pernicious fog must lift
Eventually.

When depression strikes
Find whatever raft you can
And hold on tightly.

Step out of your head
And see the raging, ragged
Glory of the world.
Nobody taught me
How to soothe myself - so: soothe
Me baby, soothe me.


Scrooge-like conversion:
Christmas warmth and goodwill:
A new sensation.
Like Devil's Snare you
Need to relax - or it will
Certainly kill you.
 
Watch Alex Hennold
Climbing in Yosemite;
Absorb the same fear.
Re-engagement with
Normal conversation:
Humdrum and special.

Flex the brain's muscle:
Car number plates; sums or the
Alphabet backwards.
Life is a taxing
5.15 pitch with only
Pinches and slopers.

 I am retrieving
Data that was lost when my
Hard-drive was wiped clean.
The brain is just a
Clever abacus - so don't
Use it to think with.

The secret of life
Is to transmutate your base
Metal into gold.
Speak to everyone:
Listen to everyone: share
The precious moment.

Where are the songs of
Spring? Ah, where are they?
Coming
Maybe...yes....coming.
Spring sunlight warming
My old bones: glimpse of something
Starting to happen?
Today I accept
The solitary magpie
As an ill omen.
If you can accept
The unacceptable - you
Are close to the way.

Defrag memory:
Dust it, de-rust it; drive out
Fog and then reboot.
How many times must
I stare into the abyss
Before stepping back?
Spring is needed more
Than ever now to wrestle
Winter's iron grip.
Soothing in-breath and
Soothing out-breath; steady down
The raging tempest.

Reset the brain to
Factory setting: save new
Photos and contacts.
My illness is not
Me: but my illness makes it
Seem like it is me.
Depression is a
Deception - but a very
Subtle deception.
Depression takes you
Over and manipulates
Your thoughts - secretly.
It wants you to think
That what you think is real
But it's not real.
It uses all the
Bad feelings that you have stored
Up through your whole life.
It is like ivy
Growing round your dark heart and
Constricting you.
It is pernicious
And will not cease; it wants your
Corpse - nothing less.
You are not me; be
Gone. Leave my body now; I
Command you to go.
The more closely you
Identify with it - the
Tighter it grips you.

It takes you over:
You speak black words and you
Only think black thoughts.
You are a trickster:
Conning me with my own thoughts;
Misleading my eyes.

Who put the scales on
My eyes? Who put the ice in
My heart? Why, you did.
It is the hardest
Puzzle, the trickiest mind
Game. Can you beat it?
You are a vampire
You tap into my veins: you
Feast on my bad blood.
You and your old pal
Anxiety hooked into
Me three years ago.
Like the ill-fated
Odysseus - I am on
An epic journey.
Let go: surrender;
Accept; don't fight; submit: but
Don't capitulate.

Cut the ivy stem,
Unpick the bindweed; drive out
The evil black fog.
See it for what it
Is: sucker fish, leech, clingon:
Serious downer.

Separate yourself
From its sticky tendrils; learn
To name and shame it.
Jesus only spent
Forty days and forty nights
In the wilderness.

Resurrection man:
Roll away your stone: step out
Showing stigmata.
For Christians Easter;
For Pagans spring; for me hope
Of any slight change.


Don't be defined by
It: be bigger than it - this
Mother of all doom.
Relax into the
Chamomile tea: the yellow
Scented infusion.

Today I brought home
A tulip tree: to plant now
And to be here for.
I came back to life
At Woodspring Priory - where
The ravens circle.
Old friends; old humour;
Old music; old ale; old house;
Glimpse of an old me. 
Glacial - almost
Imperceptible change - but
Change nonetheless. Ha.
 
   

The Bad.....

 

 
I gather the yew
And the foxglove - ready for
A gardener's death.

The oblivion
Of sleep is followed by the
Horror of waking.

Under gravity
My star collapsed - transforming
Into a black hole.

The mind cannot work
Out the problem - because the
Mind is the problem.

Here they come again
The black thoughts - congregating
Like rooks and jackdaws.

Always happiest
Inside my head; but now locked
In with no way out.

3 am on the
Ward: torchlight through the glass to
Check I'm still alive.

Constant dizziness:
The pavement moving like a
Boat underneath me. 

What happened to my
Swift, ingenious, agile
Mind? The fog got in.

Your self esteem is
Under a rock; lift it and
Watch it slither off.

I am the undead;
Earthbound staggerer - lurching
One step at a time.

Indescribable
Hell: seconds, minutes, hours, days
Weeks and months and years.

Limber up; focus;
Concentrate; attempt now to
Tie your shoelaces.

The keyboard resists
Me - its dizzy lexicon
Bemusing the brain.

Your thoughts are not true
But they seem true: so innate
And perfectly formed.

Recrimination
And guilt grow like black flowers:
Profuse; invasive.

You are unworthy
And you deserve to suffer.
Self-evident truths?

Throughout your lifetime -
You gradually became
More and more helpless.

The fog entered the
Pores of my skin, my blood cells,
My cerebellum.

My anxiety
Is a nuclear explosion
With the sound turned down.

Indecision,
Clumsiness and weariness
Pervade every task.

Objects have become
Awkward and unwieldy - with
A mind of their own.

I lost interest
In everything: music and
Words and photographs.

My voice grew less and
Less: the strangled utterance
Of a non-person.
At home I become
A cipher: tea-boy, taxi
Driver, butt of jokes.

Not being able
To recognise progress is
Part of the illness.
Outwardly I am
Doing things; inwardly I
Am the dead man walking.

Writing was escape;
Distraction; avoidance; drug;
Denial; false dream.
My gyroscope is
Out of kilter; I snag and
Trip and bump and catch.

Each day the eagle
Rips out my liver; each day
My liver regrows.
I am Sisyphus:
Stone-roller; labourer: locked
For eternity.

Is pain a portal?
Will suffering lead to the
Unmanifested?
Or is pain just pain?
Suffering just suffering?
Life a living hell?

Accentuate the
Positive; eliminate
The negative
...er...
Get out of your mind
Quickly - or you will quickly
Go out of your mind.

All my life I have
Resisted the sea: but the
Sea always breaks through.
My illness opened
A window on a million
Hidden shortcomings.
Self-absorbed; selfish;
Anti-social; unhelpful;
But not malicious.
You were the adult -
The bill payer; I was the
Idiot savant.

I had to relearn
How to read and write - how to
Make a cup of tea.

In the whispering
Bamboo forests of Felthorpe
I sat down and wept.

Like Neo I was
Plugged into an unreal,
Simulated world.
Relaxation is
Impossible now; just the
Ever present hell.

The calendar has
No meaning now: just numbers:
Blurred; forgettable.
Endless prescriptions;
Endless tablets; endlessly
Searching for relief.

These final scratchings:
Tale told by an idiot?
Or mad masterpiece?
What legacy for
My beautiful daughters? Mad
Dad or mad dead dad?

Each day a lifetime:
The tortuous tape loop with
Its incessant voice.
Was it really just
Hearing impairment? Or did
I stop listening?

Some enlightenment
Through suffering, sure; but a
Little late for me.
Time terrifies me
Now: a driverless train:
Locked; unstoppable.

My real life was
You, Tom, the girls; instead I
Fucked around with art.
Intolerable
Anguish: intolerable choice:
Intolerable.

You were my Sad-Eyed
Lady of the Lowlands
, my
Shelter from the Storm.
My identity
Has always been pain: the Man
Of Constant Sorrow
.

Disidentify
With pain; surrender to it;
Stop hurting yourself.
The pain-body needs
Pain; it creates it; it feeds
On it; it wants it.

Pain is locked into
The tumbling double helix
Of my DNA.
Hard-wired suffering;
The need to punish myself;
But for what offence?

Could I live without
Pain? My raison d'etre - ah,
That is the question.
Was it nature or
Nurture? Destiny? Or just
Old-fashioned bad luck?

'We cannot get out....
The end comes. Drums, drums in the  Deep....they are coming.'
How long can you keep
Out the thoughts? A second? Ten
Seconds? A minute?

The remnants of a
Previous life: camera:
Shell Guide to Norfolk.
Root-ball laurel; yew;
Box; photinia: remnants
Of a present life.

Each day the battle
For sanity and balance;
Each day the defeat.
The brain is fog-bound
Now: stumbles, lumbers; cannot
Get back to the path.

Two and a half years
Into my afterlife and
I still long for death.
Mending a puncture
Is now rocket science; the
Patches perplexing.

No capacity
For making good memories
Only murky ones.
How did I get such
A very low opinion
Of myself mother?

When I was alive
I loved the unforthcoming
Landscape of Norfolk.
The impossible
Conundrum: hell for me or
For my family.

My every third thought
Shall be my grave
: indeed or,
For me, every thought.
Shed. Once a bastion
Of orderliness; now I
Can't find anything.

Each day the brain tries
To solve the problem; and each
Day it fails big time.
The compass in my
Head has broken; so I am
Mad north-by-north-west.

My old 'Spidey sense'
Has gone now - leaving a veiled,
Intermittent pulse.
New barometer
Required for small changes
In the bad weather.

Nothing feels OK
Anymore: people, places
Things: all alien.
I have of late - but
Wherefore I know not - lost all
My mirth
(No kidding).

OK to be not
OK? Or not OK to
Be not OK? Hmmm.
All my beautiful
Norfolk horizons shrunk to
A blank window box.

I blocked out life and
Death for as long as I could;
Then they both rushed in.
I sleepwalked through life
Missing all the wake-up calls
Till the nightmare came.

Once Nevis, Scafell
And Snowdon: now I stagger
To the local shop.
No one is to blame:
Just an unfortunate set
Of circumstances.

Writing used to be
My Patronus charm; keeping
Out the Dementors.
Soon the time will come
When I need to decide to
Put up or shut up.

We saw something in
Each other but what was it?
Love? Need? Tragedy?
A meticulous
Haiku chain; weighed syllables;
Long suicide note.

I trudge through the sludge
In my very own Gulag
Archipelago
.
In a parallel
Universe - there is a bright
Happy Cameron.

Calories enter
My system and the flatline
Rises up a nadge.
Home was always my
Sanctuary, my study -
But now my gaol.

Whenever I go
Out - I feel like Captain Oats:
And may be some time.
Been over it a
Million million times: and it's
Still impossible.

Still struggling to type:
Hand-eye coordination
And brain all skew-whiff.
Mum was a tightly
Wound ball of anxiety,
Anger and darkness.

Dad was a good guy -
Apart from his affair - which
Crippled him with guilt.
I am a bully
To myself: unforgiving;
Relentless; cruel.

I was a master
Of resistance - but the Borg
Were right all along.
Anhedonia
Is the life for me - the dark,
Bleak monotony.

Can I write my way
Out of this hole: or should I
Simply stop digging?
Some depressives can't
Get out of their bed; I can't
Get out of my head.

Oh, I wish I'd looked
After my brain and spotted
The dangers of drain.
Not a desire to
Die - but a desire not to
Keep living like this.

Two hundred times a
Day I think of dying; and
Two times of living.
How did he lose both
Sylvia and Assia? How?
Now I understand.

What can I say that
Isn't apology or,
At worst, a farewell?
The only way now
Is the Way of the Cross;
The suffering way.

 I always lived on
A cliff edge: narrow footholds:
A long way to fall.
I awoke in the
Deep my own Balrog: a dark
Malignant monster.

Our conversation
Is perfunctory: dogs and
Food, dogs and food, dogs...
The word 'suicide'
Leaps out from pages - even
When it isn't there.

Black thoughts are coming
Quickly now: not single spies
But in batallions
.
Ultimately, no
Words to express the hopeless,
Desperate despair.
 
Spatial distortion;
Brain-fog; memory loss; black
Thought-storm; dizziness.
No relief from the
Thought-storm: just unrelenting
Wind and hail and rain.

No capacity
For rewarding myself; no
Congratulations.
The landscape of my
Childhood was a frozen one;
With soil like iron.

For years I trawled
The I Ching and the Tarot
For reassurance.
My body has been
On terror alert for three
Years; taut; traumatised.

Andrenalin and
Cortisol flood my system:
Flight or fight or freeze.

My amygdala
Has been firing for three years:
Dark, primitive fears.

It is not your fault;
It is not my fault and it
Is not the girls' fault.
In the end, what can
I say? Maybe: So long and
Thanks for all the fish.

If this were a climb
I would name it 'Inferno'
And grade it E10.
Regrettably it
Is the truth: always winter
But never Christmas.

What can I give you?
Only my damaged presence
For another day.
I only have two
Choices: both utterly
Unacceptable.

Exit interview
Complete; do not return to
Desk; leave the building.
Pain unbearable
Now: relentless; unrelieved;
Searing. Help me God.

Tired; hopeless; dizzy;
Tormented and suffering:
Longing for peace now.
Black dog in the bones;
Black dog in the synapses;
Black dog in the soul.

Half-dead-stumbler: brain
Misfiring; senses askew;
Daily tasks harder.
If I was a dog
They would put me down - citing
Quality of life.

Forgetful; challenged;
Anhedonic; tortured: sunk;
Entering endgame.
The dreadful grinding
Slow wheel of time: tomorrow and
Tomorrow and...

I was always in
A hurry to get things done  -
Escaping the now.
I have endured this
Unimaginable hell
For three years now. And...?

Can I get out of
Here with any dignity
In tact? Uncertain.
We are rats in a
Sack: biting and clawing and
Hurting in the dark.

What previously
Sustained me has gone now: words
And occupation.
How will I get through
Another day? Suffering
And struggling is how.
Sorbus and prunus
Are in bud now; but I might
Not see the new leaves.

Leaden-limbed, brain-fogged
Lummox: moribund, morbid-
Mouthing mannikin.

My only pleasure
Is the Ambrosia Rice
Pudding sugar rush.
Black dog fits over
Your head like a caul, like a
Tight hood, like a noose.

I am made of lead
Now: lead bones, lead flesh, lead skin:
Moving is so hard.
My brain is over-
Thrown now and my poor, weary
Body shutting down.
 
The earth's gravity
Has increased - pinning me to
The floor, crushing me.

Just pain now: that old
Twisting, turning - unending
Knife-through-the-heart-pain.

 24/7
365: fucked. Suck it up
Or top yourself quick.
Learned helplessness was
Disguised as art: they fueled each Other and felled me.

Like bindweed in the
Old hedge - it curled and twisted
Round me so tightly.
Nothing (it seems) will
Bring back my balance or my
Spatial awareness.

I stopped buying clothes.
What use has a dead man with
Shirts and pants and socks?
Everything is just
Restatement now: let the words
Subside: slip away.

 

...and the Mindful

 

All day long the smoke
From the fire pit drifted up
Over the forest.

Chop vegetables;
Wash dishes; look out at the
Golden autumn leaves.
If you can't change it -
Accept it; embrace it; then
Surrender to it.

Today, satori
Seems as far off as ever:
Ungraspable ghost.
Through the nursery
Mud - the wobbly wheel of the
Sack-barrow squeaks, squeaks...

Listen, feel, touch, smell,
See the present; allow it
To be manifest.
In the bowl are the
Yellow bananas: bunched; curved
Immovably here.

Look at the bamboo
Leaf: its delicate finger
Coming to a point.
Sometimes dear appear -
Alert under the pine trees:
Watching me pot-up.

Blustery wind shakes
The bamboo stems; agitates
The pointed leaf-tips.
Cleared the snow from the
Path today revealing the
Old chequerboard tiles.

Robin singing in
The willow tree today. Can 
It sense spring coming?
December sunlight:
Planting out liquid amber
Whips in the far field.
Dogwood and dog-rose;
Blackthorn and buckthorn; hazel
And liquid amber.
 
 

 

 

 

 

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