(Although this is actually a performance poem, it is set out as prose poetry, experimental, just like the inspiration of the piece, Allen Ginsburg’s Howl. This poem does have a bit of bad language, and has trigger warnings of talking about mental health and disability, as well as ableism.)
I saw the best minds of my generation, beaten down and abused by their own minds, they would cry and cry as they held their heads, reaching out, questioning why their own bodies could treat them in such a way that they fell into despair.
I saw them crippled, suffering by the boundaries that they were given, drowning in a sea of cider and pills, cider and pills, pills.
A rainbow of emotions would smother them, choking their passion and destroying their dreams. They wondered why they ought to get out of bed to attend a lecture, or a seminar.
They would look in the mirror and see nothing but ugly hags staring back; fat, terrifying creatures that would seek to destroy their self-esteem.
I watched helplessly as they fell, deeper and deeper into their own thoughts, thoughts of self-destruction, loathing and fear.
They were too busy falling, with me attempting to catch them, for them to notice that I too was falling, into the depths of my soul, a soul that didn’t want to be discovered, or questioned, let alone fallen into.
Sometimes I would lie in bed, my inner demons arguing in my head, battling with the thoughts of other things, getting louder and louder, shouting, screaming, never relenting, never stopping.
I walked from A to B, my mind would be running a marathon, exhausting me by the time I sat down to attempt to study.
Everything and anything would distract me, anything from the rare bit of sun coming through the clouds out of the window, or the rustling of an illicit sweet wrapper.
My mind just would dance through the lecture, picking out words and tossing them far, far away. Words stopped being words and became nasal sounds, quietly knocking at me, at the soul that didn’t want to be knocked.
I saw the best minds of my generation flail, and struggle to survive. I watched helplessly on, without realising that I was barely living.
I ended up sitting in a room, a small box office, crammed with a psychologist, asking me probing questions about whether I climbed trees when I was a child and whether my mind was dancing, which even then it was, everlasting, never relenting.
I was soon diagnosed, and put on a list for medication.
Pills, that would stop my mind from dancing, just like Marilyn Monroe.
For the meantime, I would have to carry on surviving, and attempt to pin down my mind, my soul, and stop them in their tango of self-destruction, prescribed special glasses to stop me from falling over my own feet, stop me falling into my own despair.
I would sit with the angelheaded hipsters in my seminars: feeling like I was drawn in with multi-coloured ink, with a grey heart beating, whilst they stayed black and white, wondering what it would be like to just be that guy in the corner, able to sit and read from a white piece of paper without any bother, and churn out essay after essay, pulling all-nighters at the flick of the wrist, his mind letting him have control of his own thoughts.
We passed through the university semester, just about submitting reasonably written academia, fuelled with drugs, alcohol and literature, We were a movement of minds, all dancing whilst the other minds carried on walking by, oblivious to the creation that we so longed to reveal to them, whilst they ignored us, and carried on walking.
We dreamed fire in small study bedrooms cluttered with laundry and lost ideas, as we planned our futures, our revolutionary poetry, challenging and defying the status quo, to remember that we were OK, because we were already writing.
We would cower at our desks as we fought with our passions and ideals all whilst attempting to lead deceptively ordinary lives, lives blighted by the grey in our souls, souls that didn’t want to be discovered, questioned or fallen into, but ended up accidently showing themselves in our writing, writing that we would be expected to have read out loud and criticised.
So, with a blood-curdling howl of indignation, I started rebelling, writing obscene rhymes in order to attempt to change the world, to throw a spanner in the works, demanding change, demanding that one day, we should be able to rebel in the hope of changing the view on the rainbow minds that would never stop dancing, the grey souls that didn’t want to be hurt by the souls that were always on show, a shimmering gold as the sun shining out of their hearts.
I longed, hungry and lonesome for something to inspire me, to perhaps change the colour of my soul, as I wandered aimlessly through the streets where Austen walked, as doors to writing dens closed one by one, sending me on my way, as I attempted to scribble on the back of receipts in the charity shop where, on lazy Sunday afternoons I’d sit and hope that customers would arrive, and purchase some books searching for their forever-shelf in the homes of middle class elderly women or under the beds of students, collecting dust, among the memories, too bright post-it notes and stale bottles of beer.
Yet I listened, as I was told that I wasn’t allowed to let my mind do all the dancing, that it wasn’t OK to reach out, gasping, flailing, screaming, begging for the help that I needed from those that I thought were my friends, one by one they showed their true darkness, abandoning me, gossiping about how they didn’t like the person that I had become, I’d been suddenly gripped by an illness that I was becoming, suddenly I wasn’t someone worth respecting anymore, hypocritical fly-by-night motherfuckers, who were not even worth the ink on the page, the letters in the words that I write.
As the words flow through my fingers and onto the screen, with the cursor flashing mockingly at me as I wonder whether it’s really alright to tell all those people with false sympathy to fuck right off, that it’s not cool to be one thing in front of me, and then be something else, telling me that I’m being two-faced because I have to be two different people in order for them to accept me as a human being, that is something that I have to accept, is it?
Is that something that I should endure, just like all the other bullshit that I go through, with my mind ever tapping its feet and thoughts ever screaming at me to the point where I’ve run out of energy to scream right back?
Is that really acceptable?
Is that really OK?
Guess what, it’s not, and will never be.
So as I’m reaching out to catch those minds, that are plummeting to the ground, howling at the loss of their dreams to the minds that are eating their souls alive, I stop.
Maybe I should let someone catch me, just for a change.