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In a Psychiatric Ward

by Powis 

Posted: 02 February 2004
Word Count: 144
Summary: I wrote this after a brief stay in the psychiatric ward of the Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead. The 'cure' in my case was seeing others in a far worse state than I. The cure, in fact, was compassion, towards myself and my fellow sufferers.

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All have their dream of healing.
Waking to birdsong, leaf-light, dawn
bursting like a sack of wheat; or

gently buoyed in perfumed water,
to emerge, towelled and smiling,
helpless beneath anointing hands.

Not this corridor of polished ice,
lit by a striplightís epileptic
shudder, a gleaming dance floor

where you are your only partner,
your only dance, a thorazine shuffle.
Here you pace out what little space

your mind allows. Elsewhere, others
escape into pain, precise, negotiable:
carcinoma, malign perhaps, but

a language we can still pronounce.
Words cannot survive here,
not at this depth,

they curl at the edges,
snap, become their origins,
a cry, the scream you were born with.

In this fraternity of strangers,
love is masked in a simple truth
and schooled in the torturerís art Ė

you part the flesh to find the bone.

Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead 1986

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Comments by other Members

Bobo at 17:27 on 02 February 2004  Report this post
David - what a powerfully haunting piece. Having frequented these places as a troubled adolescent, I relate to the clinical atmosphere you've created so effectively, and the intensity of being truly alone. The format is interesting - it took me aback initially, but then I liked the way it broke-up the rhythm - much like the broken consciousness of a drugged-up state.

'Thorazine shuffle' as one's only dance particularly captured me, delivering as it did such a strong mental image.

BoBo x

Ellenna at 18:42 on 02 February 2004  Report this post
"lit by a striplightís epileptic
shudder,"..just one of the phrases that

I know the hospital from the outside and now I feel that I have experienced the emotions of being within.. a moving and powerful poem..


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