remorse

Her Killers

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There is a laundry list of her murderers: The failed social/ political system that denies mentally and drug sick folk civilized long term easy access to inpatient mental care– we leave that to jails and streets in the ‘village’– where people preach but don’t care to get involved or to pay; Inherited DNA that both gives and takes away– (her family history included violence and homicide); and a violent drug- sick environment. Yet she was hard working and brilliant becoming wealthy until suffering increasingly severe psychotic episodes during the last 35 years of her life.

The list includes physicians who thoughtlessly gave her narcotics and other toxins for headaches; the famous Stanford Neurosurgeon who hacked her temporal lobe, even after all the rest of the neurologists and neurosurgeons proclaimed her deep brain cyst was benign–it would have been prudent to take serial CT scans. He neither mentioned hacking her temporal lobe, nor finished the operation, but took off for SE Asia letting an underling botch the closure that required two further repairs; and the long series of physician killers who prescribed aderal and ritalin, whose effects are almost identical to cocaine but faster and longer acting. The last killer-prescriber  declared to the court, despite pleas from her family, that she was not a danger to herself or to others– just hours before she shot herself. 

Add to her killer list the men who–while not altogether well or drug free– suckered and sucked her dry and spit her out; and in her last long sad 15 years, those men who moved on her when she was sick, alone and lonely in a little mobile home; the last was named Fenwick, a creation of her psychotic, paranoid, and drugged mind who  became real, and shot her with the gun she herself put to her head.

Her first killer, however,  was also a physician who, with some exceptions, was an absent father. It was a time when many physicians did not belong to one family, but were priest-scientists, benefactors of humanity, whose family was the world.

I was that physician, blindly devoted to my own grandness, ambitions, and responsibilities. I was ‘called’. In marriage  I ran from confrontation; when my resentful  wife squandered our money I remained silent, arrogantly self-contained. She always had full day help five days a week, while I put in 14 hour days because I hoped to continue my work with children of migrant farm workers. The ‘because’ was my contribution of course.  Always exhausted, and marinated in self importance, I tended to withdraw into myself.

A parent has no idea how parental anger may be interpreted by a child. I had been spanked as a child, but that never troubled me; though my father was an angry man, I was the benefactor of unconditional love from four grandparents with whom I spent at least several months every year. Yet I firmly believe that corporeal punishment of children is wrong; deadly wrong. It also is training in adult violence.

I very clearly recall an episode my daughter left buried in extensive in hand written autobiographical notes. I had spanked her in anger over- nothing; she told, and defended, a lie. What child wouldn’t when facing an angry father? A specific detail not recorded there is one I hate to even think about: Her bedroom was upstairs. After spanking her, I felt terrible, and apologized. But later I went up and found a mason jar with a stool in it. I can see that mason jar even now, and can only think that she was too terrorized to go down to the bathroom.

I was- and am- so shamed that I never spanked a child again. Yet I was her first killer; and there is no cure for either of us.

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In Solitary

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This solitary cell is lonely
but far from inmate strife;
in cement walled stillness
I call up a wistful memory
of a long gone former life.

It’s early morning when we wake
from dreams of a rustic cabin
at one end of an endless road.
Does anyone know how long?
Who cares? Whatever it takes!

The rising mountain fills our senses
with scent of pine, and mossy damp.
Cries of angry gravel as we pass
frighten tiny meadow flowers
corralled by wind-bent grass.

Our excited little Geo,
fretful, and fearfully aware,
creeps past feral rocks
by a swirling singing stream
where birdsong colors the air.

I imagine a woman like this river,
beautiful, strong, soft and constant.
But a steep stretch of rutted road
makes the Geo stall and stop
unable to carry its peopled load.

Cramped legs and minds unbend
To unburden the grateful car;
Whining mosquito gangs attack
like a teasing older brother;
and I fondly bite them back.

We reach that fearful place
between a clutching abyss
and leaning cruel black cliffs.
I close my eyes up tight
to keep death out of sight.

My Uncle laughs and claims
“The mountain’s coming down.”
We pass a remembered spring
that weeps and sings of rain
and snow and lightening,

Where clear stone washed water
bred in stoney darkness,
born of a granite womb
becomes the newborn river
that leads us all to the sea.

Then I see it! The green gate!
I can hardly wait to know
of grandma’s secret things;
what wonderments she’ll show
like Scrabble and music she sings.

The Geo finds a place to hide
between dark woods on either side
and spits us out upon the road
like giddy human pack mules
fretting about their load.

I stagger under the weight
but stubbornly add more,
to shorten my anxious wait
for auntie’s fresh baked pies,
campfire songs and remembered lies.

The old cabin rises to greet us
dressed in hand made shingles
my father split and nailed there
sweating beer and singing curses
at the wild mountain air.

When his bright light died
we placed his lonely ashes
there by his favorite tree,
by the tomb of my childhood
and the cradle of juvenile rage.

Through this silent six side cell
runs a road by a singing river
that leads to the soulful sea.
And I hope whatever was lost
Still lives and thrives in me.