23 April 2010

April Poem A Day Challenge Day 23

Poetic Asides: For today's prompt, write an exhausted poem. The poem can be a first person account of your own exhaustion, or it can describe the exhaustion of someone (or something) else. Heck, I guess it even could be about exhaust, huh?

This was a bit of a different prompt. I ran through the ideas about physical exhaustion and didn't come up with a whole lot I wanted to work with. Mental exhaustion and the accompanying hallucinations and psychosis? Excellent! Nothing like a poem about imaginary people, freaky music and weird smells to make the Muse rub his hands with glee.

Too bad my poem didn't actually turn out like that. Well, not as much as the Muse would have liked it to. It was more about burnout and the slow, almost unnoticed descent into exhaustion that can accompany mental fatigue. You know, the sneaky, insidious doubts that force their way into your mind, eat your lunch, put their feet up on your mental coffee table, and refuse to surrender the remote.

Here are a few poems kinda sorta related to the topic. Wilfred Owen, Amy Lowell, and Anne Sexton - an odd trio for sure, but I think they would all have sat around the table with a shot and a beer and had a good discussion on exhaustion.

Mental Cases
by Wilfred Owen

Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight?
Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows,
Drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish,
Baring teeth that leer like skulls' tongues wicked?
Stroke on stroke of pain, -- but what slow panic,
Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?
Ever from their hair and through their hand palms
Misery swelters. Surely we have perished
Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?

-- These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished.
Memory fingers in their hair of murders,
Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.
Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander,
Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter.
Always they must see these things and hear them,
Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles,
Carnage incomparable and human squander
Rucked too thick for these men's extrication.

Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented
Back into their brains, because on their sense
Sunlight seems a bloodsmear; night comes blood-black;
Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh
-- Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous,
Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses.
-- Thus their hands are plucking at each other;
Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging;
Snatching after us who smote them, brother,
Pawing us who dealt them war and madness.

by Amy Lowell

Stupefy my heart to every day's monotony,
Seal up my eyes, I would not look so far,
Chasten my steps to peaceful regularity,
Bow down my head lest I behold a star.
Fill my days with work, a thousand calm necessities
Leaving no moment to consecrate to hope,
Girdle my thoughts within the dull circumferences
Of facts which form the actual in one short hour's scope.

Give me dreamless sleep, and loose night's power over me,
Shut my ears to sounds only tumultuous then,
Bid Fancy slumber, and steal away its potency,
Or Nature wakes and strives to live again.

Let each day pass, well ordered in its usefulness,
Unlit by sunshine, unscarred by storm;
Dower me with strength and curb all foolish eagerness --
The law exacts obedience. Instruct, I will conform.

The Starry Night
by Anne Sexton

That does not keep me from having a terrible need of - shall I say the word - religion. Then I go out at night to paint the stars.
- Vincent Van Gogh in a letter to his brother

The town does not exist
except where one black-haired tree slips
up like a drowned woman into the hot sky.
The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars.
Oh starry night! This is how
I want to die.

It moves. They are all alive.
Even the moon bulges in its orange irons
to push children, like a god, from its eye.
The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars.
Oh starry starry night! This is how
I want to die:

into that rushing beast of the night,
sucked up by that great dragon, to split
from my life with no flag,
no belly,
no cry.


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