Hurt, in Black

This is a poem about the night I painted my writing room completely black, shortly after I admitted myself and spiraled out.

I hurt myself today

to see if I still feel

I focus on the pain

the only thing’s that real


Out there, just outside of town, the frozen

snow-a crystallized ocean in the moonlight and icy stars,

their white heat, their white bodies

still against the night’s sheet of winter.

The land a bald moon out the window, the birch trees

black past the fields.

I am painting. Strokes and rendered slides of the brush,

steady, steady focus on the many canvases…

dip, skim,

into “Space Black” the gallon reads.


The old familiar sting

try to kill it all away

but I remember everything


I paint my reflection onto the white walls.

My fiance and child somewhere in the house

maybe asleep. Or not there at all.

Bald white planet out my window,

I trace my eyes and lashes in ebony lashes across

my computer desk. The

white lampshades. The

white picture frames. The

white bookshelves. The

white ceiling and trim. The

white woman in the dark. Voices come at night. I am afraid to sleep.


What have I become

my sweetest friend

everything I know goes away

in the end


My history I remember smooths past me

in a narrative I watch with each brush stroke and stride.

The story, what is this story, I do not know, but

my hands are sweating like they do

in the essays that pour out for my next class

in the morning.


I paint faster. I feed the temperature.

I cannot see me in the mirror anymore.

But I never could, I calmly mouth the words

“I never could…” up to the corner where the walls

meet the ceiling. The

white is almost gone. It must go. The lighting

is changing, hiding me, I hear the dryer’s tumbling

has stopped. But the sun it can’t come out.

I can’t.

I take sanctuary in night. I paint the girl

from my childhood who dreamt of being a singer.

I paint the young woman who stopped feeling in front

of a mirror one Sunday after church. I paint the young woman


I wear this crown of thorns

upon my liar’s chair

full of broken thoughts

I cannot repair

Beneath the stains of time

the feelings disappear

You are someone else

I am still not here


high on ecstasy on the rooftop of a building downtown

in a city I couldn’t get lost in no matter how I tried-and

how she was afraid the control she had been losing

she would lose at that very moment, above the far-away

pavement. I paint how

she never lost that part though, just all the rest.

All the empty pill and booze bottles, amphetamines and cut coke.

I paint her father’s death. I paint her mania. Her depression.

And still, I cannot frame this piece.

I can’t figure out what all this black means,

all this vacancy. I just don’t want the voices

when my eyes get heavy. More.

I just don’t want to wake up and have to take care

of what I built of my life with these numb hands,

Because I am

I am painting

it away and darkness ahead, behind, and now, it’s all I see.


You could have it all, my empire of dirt

I will let you down

I will make you Hurt.

My Yellowed Reminder, The Bell Jar

FB_IMG_1425902949292_edited“If the moon smiled, she would resemble you.
You leave the same impression
Of something beautiful, but annihilating.”

“but when I t came right down to it, the skin of my wrist looked so white and defenseless that I couldn’t do it. It was as if what I wanted to kill wasn’t in that skin or the thin blue pulse that jumped under my thumb, but somewhere else, deeper, more secret, and a whole lot harder to get.” bell jar

So I have three copies of The Bell Jar.  Well I only need two–because one of them I still can’t bring myself to look at.  But I refuse to let it go.  It means too much.  When I do look at it I feel that old familiar feeling of dread, the bad kind, the kind that is a glimpse of what you know inevitably is 1111111111112wedfcoming.  I was in high school when it became really strong.  Don’t get me wrong, I knew something was mentally off with me around sixth grade, and had cried and worried so much about it in private by then that I had become accustomed to that level of panic.

…until I got a copy of Plath’s The Bell Jar.  An old yellow one with browning pages.  The bold, curly letters in the title.  Her gnarled name–the woman who didn’t make it.  And she was me.  She was so much like me.  Or IS.  I couldn’t read as I read it in class after class.  I was nauseous but unafraid.  When you know something is going to happen to you that cannot be helped, you somehow brace yourself for more pain, and the fear becomes a numb root in your gut.  And these roots had taken their initial digs years ago, and yet I felt too mildly mad at this time of The Bell Jar reading, that I dared myself to continue and explore what felt like a schizoid terror.

I read and read and read, ill and beyond uncomfortable.  My head fell asleep like a limb, and I couldn’t shake it out.  My friends looked different, they talked different.  I was suffocating.  And I learned only later why Sylvia named it The Bell Jar.  Because that’s what I was in–and it was what I remained in for over a decade after until I broke it.  I decimated the mother fucker.  But it took years away from me…  Years away from my life.  I was dead.  I died.  And then it’s as if I had to just be let be for a few years, which came at a very high cost, but I did come back.  Well, no, you never come back.  Someone else does.  But it’s someone better.  Someone who knows that that rot is gone, it is over–I know that better than I know myself.  Okay, okay I’m sidetracking….

Toward the end of week two (back in high school now) I still hadn’t dared to explore my mind or question my “off-ness.”  I was terrified of it.  And looking back, it’s almost like I could see my future splayed out before me.  A rot.  Some of the parts in t Read More


published Summer 2016 in Open Minds Quarterly




I think I’m seeing white birds

white birds scattering away

from my window, out there

in the cold January, their wings

sound, from here, like sheets–

my grandmother’s white sheets–

on the line in June.
The light coming in is white.

Color? Or space?

Like the space we can never fill.

Like the start of a narrative.

Like the blank walls,

these hospital rooms cemented

in their smoggy halo.
I’m crouched over a puce tray,

surrounded by the others in halogens, others

that have found strange caverns to fill in

strange tongues native to disorder, asking me Read More

A Space to Fill

It’s the coldest January I’ve known
the white light coming in
through the protective glass–
white, I think, like my grandmother’s
white sheets she’d hang in June.

The white light coming in
takes me for a turn and
I think for a moment–
is it color? Or space? Like
the space we can never fill

and then I remember where I am
and why I am here.
Emptiness leaks out of me.
It’s hard when you learn
there is no God.
Now there’s the girl that weeps in my ears
but I can never find her.
At home I searched the house
for a crying child
until I realized it was in my head.

Out in the common area
I crouch over my puce tray
and take anti-psychotics,
mood stabilizers, speed,
and a mysterious one that
keeps the flashbacks mild. -er.
Patients ask me where I’m from,
do I have a home, if I want my
pudding, if I cut myself.
The drive in the old red Chevy
is a quiet one, nothing but
white headlights
through the haze of cigarette
smoke, my stepfather
watching the road and
my thigh.
We are
outside of town
where the mental ward
sits back behind the snowy pines.

The sky is the only thing I see.
The only thing I don’t
have to think of.
It’s a place I’m already
falling towards.
I stare up at the stars
where I’m beginning to
recognize myself–everything means nothing.
My Catholic grandmother, June.
Even then I knew it was okay
to be lost when you’re
how small you are, how little
your voice is.
Flashback. I nod
at Nurse Jo and she follows me
to my room. I lay on the
cot and tell her it’s coming.
She gives me a warm
blanket to squeeze and it begins.
The crying–an impression
of the child in my head.
Then I’m there–he’s
video taping me and
my step-siblings, and we
are not dressed; cajoled, his
soothing voice; encouragement.
There is water.
There is a blindfold on my
face and blood.
My mother comes outside
into the November air in a robe
and slippers, shuffling next
to my stepfather, crying.
My sisters and I keep our
distance, believing
that she wants us to.
She turns away into his shoulder
and I turned and stared
into the sky.
I thought about God,
about how the earth was really
just this round ball he had
in a box and for our nights, he
put a lid on that box and
punched holes in it for stars.
In my mind, God was a giant
old man forcing us to love
each other in a darkness
we could never fill.

Nurse Jo asks me
to tell her what happened
when I come out of it.
I tell her about it,
and that I do not remember
too much more except
for the most chilling part–their faces.
My step brother and step sister
looked like dead children,
and I imagine I did, too.


I believed
he was the only one I could ever
answer to, the only power.
This is love.
He was a giant man forcing
us to love each other in a space
I’d never get back.

A Sculpture of Me

Me and Mike on the right



My best friend and artist/sculptor Mike made this of me–a portrait of my madness.   He says it’s not

quite finished yet, a few more fixes and then firing it and glazing… He was inspired to make it after I explained to him what it was really like to be psychotic, and he made it for me.  When I saw it I cried pretty good.  No one knows me in the way that he does.  I’ve written about him before in poems and essays (check out my essay on him: Matters of Time and my poem: Mike)–the artist with severe rheumatoid arthritis (has had many major joints replaced: knees, hips, shoulders…) and he’ll be putting

up a blog soon to show his art and his struggles.  Here’s the sculpture of me!!

Amy Got Psychotic

Well hi all.  I wanted to apologize as to where the hell have I been?  I suddenly stopped writing, stopped answering and reading comments, stopped reading others’ blog posts.  Well.  I went nuts.  Yeah I had a severe psychotic episode two days ago and I am still shaking from it.  I forgot how God-awful those are.  I started when I was cleaning my daughter’s room while she was in school and I suddenly got really shaky and sick.  I laid down and it got worse, sweat drenching my clothes, squeezing the blankets to keep my hands still.  Hours went by.  Nothing changed.  Only my perception altered.  Things that I had been trying to focus on–books, my picture of a pink typewriter, the lamp, my memoir journal I had just made…all this stuff was losing their value and meaning.  They weren’t just things because suddenly there was no such thing as “things.” Nothing was real.  I tried breathing exercises to edge of the anxiety coming for an hour.  I tried saying aloud “it’s okay it’s okay i’m okay i’m okay” and another escalation and then I started praying to Jesus out loud, and that finally brought some tears, which I thought would mean relief from the anxiety.  It didn’t, I was further terrified that IT was coming.  IT being the psychotic state where I am no one and no one is real and I am in this godless hell and there’s no gravity and no one can save me and I’m going to die all alone because there is no such thing as souls and others and me.  I thought maybe if I wrote down the prayer? And this is what I scratched out:

“I talk to you

I’m sorry it’s been so long

I feel the Nothing invading

I’m shaking

and the panic creates fear that i’ll go mad again.

I said I love you.

I’ve come to you

I know you’re there

I lay here saying aloud

that I’m okay I’m okay

I squeeze the pillow

and weep to feel something

I feel sick, I can’t breathe

Get me out of my head

I am your child, I say aloud

which makes me feel whole

the exquisite comfort of ‘whole’ makes me secure for a moment

which makes me sob more because it cannot last. Help me.

Help me outa my head and into heart and body.

I have no one to talk to

I wouldn’t want anyone to see me this way, a crumb of my private hell.

I want to blame my illness on this emptiness and now these

endless tears, my scattered emotions

but I hear you assure me they’re real, that they’re mine

and they’re real.

you’ve found me, you found me

when I was truly lost that first time

I need you now

for an afternoon

I need help

because I’m sick and my heart is sick and broken

I’m writing because

I cried to you and you said writing was the answer.

I’m listening to Maya Angelou’s voice hoping to

ground myself, I can’t hear her grandmother voice

‘still…I rise…’

and I know, I know I will

I will this shaking body will

stay with me God

Stay with me.

Shortly after that my daughter came home from school, I lost all grounds, and went into full-psychosis mode.  Locked myself in the bathroom, called the doc, called my mother, my step-father, my sister.  When I talked I couldn’t recognize my voice just the gulping “I’m so scared I’m not gonna make it hurry” and they did eventually come and they knew what to do, the “protocol” for Amy’s “episodes” and the extra abilify and valium brought me down slowly.  Then, pure exhaustion and shaking and still the tears, because I’m still always so scared afterwards.  It’s like seizing to exist, only your eyes still work but your soul is gone.  I can’t explain it though I know lots of you out there get it.  I wanted to blog before it got too bad but once it escalates, well, it’s unstoppable (another scary realization).  Almost went back to the bin.  But I kept thinking “beat this, beat this, I am not my mind, I will not fear myself” and my best friend Mike (the one I’ve written about, with the arthritis and the sculpting) kept texting me (because I couldn’t call it was too scary) to fight! Fight! Fight! and I did, when I was on the reality part of the interweaving of madness and grounding.

So!  That’s where I’ve been.  A psychotic nut.  But hey I’m okay now.