Rochelle Hope Mehr lives in New Jersey (USA). Her poetry has appeared in Perceptions, The Stone Soup Anthology, Lucidity, Offerings, The Sidewalk's End and other publications.
You ask me to read the poem aloud.
Bring it to life.
But I cannot -
I am muzzled on the page -
I bit off
A sublayer of my gut
It is a specimen
To gawk at -
Not a beast to summon
Let it lie low,
Constrained by the page.
The Uncertainty Principle
When I got sick
And had to leave school
I felt humiliated.
I had lost my mind.
I could not focus on my work.
This was a humiliation
For so much of my self-worth
Was determined by how well
I did at school.
If two and three no longer made five
How could I have a future
How could I have a life
If things no longer added up,
No longer made sense?
Still, I longed for some encouragement,
A kind word from someone that somehow
Someday I'd be myself again.
Therapists offered theories.
Therapists assigned blame.
This week to Mom.
The next, to Dad.
I "always wanted to be in control."
Then, I was "too impulsive."
Farther and farther I slid
I wondered why
This guy I had known
Was I so far from
The realm of the acceptable?
What had made me
Was I more sure of myself?
Is uncertainty so unattractive?
I keep asking myself the question
Knowing in my heart
That the closer I come
To gauging my own worth
The farther away
A poem is an elusive thing.
You grab one end
And try to pull the string
And are caught unawares
By its beetling sting.
The heart that beats
In its own lair --
Conscious by day,
At night, unaware --
Is glory a-wing...
It all started when my mother said,
"I have a wonderful surprise for you."
I waited all day until she unwrapped the present at night
And put on Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake."
So disappointed was I by the saccharin sentimentality
I never realized my true affinity with the dark Russian soul.
I really should have - my grandfather-from-Odessa drank
His tea hot from a large glass.
We had a tin saccharin container which I used to open. I'd marvel at its contents
And watch him plop saccharin pills into his tea.
He'd crack walnuts open with his bare hands.
No nutcracker for him.
I never could get over it.
He seemed so strong.
What does this have to do with Tchaikovsky
Who loved Mozart but whose music sounds nothing
With Swan Lake, which ends as
Bitterly as saccharin?
With Beauty, which starts off with such promise
And, once dissipated, rings tinny in the ear?
The beginning of wisdom may have come
When I realized
That there is nothing in this world
That can make me happy.
The end of wisdom is to prove
That happiness lies
Not in this world
But in this poem.
The Misdiagnosis-and-Mistreatment Lament
Catch it. Catch it if you can.
Catch it early.
Do not wait
Until the tentacles
Lose their grip.
Until the tensors
Forget their intensity.
Until the mind
Slackens and the tongue
Until the drool
And nobody sees you as sane.
And your mind and body
Are now mundane objects
In an assembly line
Of the latest one-size-fits-all
They'll affix one to an amenable
You'll point in all the correct directions
At all the appropriate times.
But still be quite insane.
I don't know anything about quality or worth.
About the weightiness of a stream of thought.
What is the poundage required to weigh down the trawl?
To secure certainty?
To dam infinity?
To flood the gates?
What does it take?
I threw a pebble into the stream.
The waters parted -
The piranha cut into my dream.
Whose flesh are they devouring?
Who oars this trireme?
The Awful Truth
For too long I've agonized over what other people think.
I used to think it must be part of the insecurity of having an illness no one understands.
But now I understand that it's really a very negative personality trait that I had even
before the thyroiditis.
It's this push-me-pull-me...
I have a sense of raising expectations...
No, they're just my own expectations.
What really happens when I encounter other people, the human race?
Now, or years ago?
Does it matter?
Does it matter
That I'd have staring contests with therapists because I was trying to figure them out
just as much as they were trying to decipher me?
That I'd run to bookshops trying to find books that would expatiate on the theories I
thought they were using to try to analyze me?
I never could understand what they were saying so I figured there must be a method
behind the madness and I looked for the method in psychiatric tomes (to no avail).
What does that have to do with my misgivings with ordinary mortals?
Am I afraid that they, too, are trying to read things into my demeanor or into every word
I utter in casual discourse?
Am I being oversensitive?
Maybe they just don't like me. Maybe they never really liked me.
In any case, they seem exquisitely uncomfortable in my presence.
Maybe it's not that they're acting any differently now.
It's just that they're acting the same.
The world has not changed.
Except for extraordinary circumstances (like wars and terrorist acts), people are largely
indifferent (or worse) to each other's fate.
Or maybe it's just that individuals do not count for much.
I shouldn't think I am so important.
But am I totally expendable, am I no better than a computer that is obsolete?
It's funny, when I was a child the other kids used to call me (derisively), "Computer."
I'd really like to be treated as just a human being.
Frozen in time
Unable to divine
Obsessed with the depths
Unable to confess
The Incorrigible Romantic
If I could figure out what happiness is
I'd hoard it like a miser.
I wouldn't share.
I wouldn't display it like confetti --
No one need ever know.
I'd be so quiet
With my stash in tow.
No one would see the chain.
The world might think me deaf and blind
To all I should esteem.
I'd give my life up
In a flash
To revel in a dream.