One of my favorite minds is James Hillman’s, perhaps because he shares and illuminates several interests of mine–psychology and psychotherapy, mythology and art, the normality of pathology and the sickness of much that is normal, the value of talk as well as of listening. With impeccable logic he argues for the divinity of our human infirmities, for if we are created in the “images of the Gods,”…”Original Sin is accounted for by the sin in the Originals.” And as in the beginning was the Word, we psychotherapists can use words to alter reality. Thus my poetry becomes my own, in Freud’s early description of psychoanalysis, a “talking cure.”
A peregrine, sacred to Apollo,
archer god of plague and healing,
perches in my backyard on a branch
cold stripped bare of autumn flames,
unclasps his talons and, with a king’s ease,
lifts to the sky leaving me, cripple man, below,
rapt and tethered to my chair by spastic limbs
that flail on winter’s white skin surely as sly black ice
tricks and trips the feet of you quick walking folk.
As time wastes me and disease sapped powers slip away,
I fear the falcon’s swift stoop.
With wary eye and crystal tears,
I wheel up the snow packed ramp to my eyrie
and make spells to keep hooded sadness and savage symptoms at bay
from thirty years of weakness, aches, fevers, fatigue, pain,
missed connections between muscle and nerve.
I craft this poem as antidote to the hard nouns of science
and count on one thousand and one tales of transformation
to shield and sustain me as myelin shreds and black holes tatter my brain.
I use myth and metaphor for medicine,
swallow fact and fiction, placebos and pills.
I am Hephaestus, twist footed gimp god,
as infant hurled into the sea by mother,
shame ravaged Hera. On bone thin legs
I limp from fire to forge to link fine nets of shimmering gold.
With smithy brawn I hammer swift Achilles’ bronze shield
exquisitely thin layered to snap heroes’ spears.
I emboss great cups for Zeus’ own lips
to touch and drink and shape jeweled canes
to strut my crooked self. In gleaming metal mirrors
my hobbled beauty glows.
In the moment of telling you of the metamorphosis of Actaeon,
faultlessly astonished at Artemis’ virgin body
untouched by age or illness, wracked by her into quarry
savaged by his own hounds, I am he,
kin to monsters and shape shifters,
dreaming in passing of minotaurs and ghosts,
utterly changed, possessed by imagination.
Body and mind a labyrinth, being ill,
exhaling words, weaving phrases, poetry my daily bread
and blood to fight necessity.