Holding on

A few years ago, I woke up,
believing that God had chosen
me as a prophet, to purge the
world of iniquity using fire and blood,
listening to the voices in my head,
a piercing crescendo, hitting a
fever pitch, I felt myself leaving
my body, I don’t remember much
after that, except walking on
potholed streets,
being chased by mongrels,
their teeth like frightening, white,
little bogeymen, froth dripping
down their jaws, I stepped on
thorns, used a branch to try to
gouge my eyes out, ended up
in a dimly lit ward, the sedatives
injected forcing their way through
the delusion like a pin
popping a bubble. I woke up sane,
but they kept me under
observation, asked me if my fears
of hell were rational,
in the periods between my father
crying and my mother not knowing
what to do, I walked the gloomy
hallways and met her, wearing
the same, tattered, blue gown,
she asked me if I smoked,
and I said, “I’m itching for a
cigarette,” she showed me a
balcony the nurses didn’t patrol
and this became our
routine every evening, dodging the
doctors and letting the ash fall on
the concrete, while we
stared in silence
at the darkening sky, the cares of
yesterday forgotten, if only for
a moment,
soon we started speaking
and she said that her brother put
her in that place with inquisitive
demons who looked for
madness in shadows and
unspoken phrases,
she said, “He didn’t want to take care
of me anymore. My father’s death
broke me.” She told me that it
was a kind of anguish that no
letters written or poems penned
could heal. You can replace love lost
or suture a severed heart,
but when love searches beyond
life, only finding bones
and grime, the heart’s wrenching cry
is so intense that it would drown
the moon, dissolve the stars
and rob atoms of their nuclei,
pivoting truth on madness.
We would spend half an hour
talking about meaning,
wondering whether fate decided
everything and if it did,
why live and choose to
act in the theatre of the absurd,
never knowing the comings and
goings of the people you love?
A black Bauta of death worn
by all the actors, further augmenting
the meaningless of it all.
I soon burned with excitement
at the thought of her,
the pointless questioning,
the aching sessions of therapy
futile, the medication making
me want to bring the structure down,
shatter the mirrors, break the walls,
her nonchalance to the facts
and illusions that govern life
ingraining in me a will to survive
more than threats
of a permanent stay
if I didn’t get better,
she taught me to play better chess,
urged me to stop using the Ruy
Lopez, and to
improve my middle game
and I spent nights, pieces of
my life waging war against
each other, the blacks and whites
fighting for that one moment,
that point in time when someone
finally got me, not merely
comprehending what I said,
but grasping it
with glowing hands
and holding my heart
in the process,
but then, one day, I strode to
the balcony, and she was gone,
I panicked, asking the nurses where
she’d gone, and they looked puzzled,
the doctors rushed, warning me
that I had hallucinated everything,
that my mind had
projected a perfect companion
into my already fissured actuality,
but I howled, screamed that
they were lying, and they
sedated me again,
my father crying, my
mother disturbed,
now I sit,
years later, so damaged and
barely functional that I say that
though I dreamt her up, gave her
a corporeal form and a euphonious,
sweet voice, at least I loved
someone, even if she
was an extension of myself,
she was there,
and real or imagined doesn’t matter
because she was real to me,
you might think I’m pathetic
but once you’ve
stood on the precipice
of sanity, the juxtaposition of
light and darkness so vivid
that you could cut it with a blade,
even what’s delusion becomes
solace, and what is love anyway
but a series of poignant images
etched on the soul’s surface,
making it grasp them
from age to age
through the wildness
of the seasons,
the rhythm of rhyme, hoping
the miracle never ceases?
So how does it matter if
she’s with me, stopping her
jingle on the piano to hold
me as I weep, or
if she’s syllables in my mind
called into existence by deific
fire, calming the storm
that leaves crushed glass
in its wake?

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