Coming home to you

This is a picture of the sea during sunset. It's a picture that evokes sadness, grief and loneliness which are themes I've explored in my poem.

I remember you composing
music to the poems I wrote,
infusing them with more
emotion and turning red droplets
to crimson stains of expression,
you sat blissfully tranquil
and while you drifted with time,
your hands gracefully sliding
across the piano, each quaver,
crotchet and minim merging
with my iambs, anapaests and
trochees, I forgot to remember
the burn of the bruises and scars
our knuckles and wrists bore,
because beauty and love triumphs
and creates a twilight far superior
to the pastel skies we retreated
into when the hands of our disturbed
fathers clawed deep, stole our
hearts, and planted seeds of
abominations in the soil of our souls,
watered each day by the tears
of an unforgettable, unfathomable,
undying trauma.

And how we wait
for the ax of unadulterated affection
to slice the harrowing, horrifying
fruitless tree with stark limbs,
and thorns instead of leaves still
growing within, but
I guess even that wasn’t enough. I
watched those very hands that played
grow stiff and the face that absorbed
itself in our art grow catatonic.
I watched as you lost even the crayon
world of yesterday and only saw
terror, uttering meaningless
neologisms now and then – a
clink and a clang, and finally
watched as you they took you
to a pristine, drug den where
they false promised you’d get better,
and though I visited, playing
your music and reading new poems,
hoping innocently that you’d give
them a score, they told me
a month ago that they found you
in a way that killed off all my hope,
and I didn’t attend your funeral,
because I knew that some
other pianist was going to play
your compositions.

I heard she
gave it ‘justice’ and that your mother
hates me now, and as
I walked to the beach
this evening, I crushed all the poems
I wrote you, left them on the sand,
jumped in and let
the waves crash against me
while I screamed, trying my best
to forget to remember us, and
get a hold of a life so fundamentally
decomposed.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

All we ever had

This is an image of the woods at dawn. It captures the emotion that piece conveys which is why I chose it.

When I married you, I didn’t think of bliss, but
something steady, sure, through the ups and downs
of our time and space, the clock ticking and our
stars sparkling, giving us more than we needed,
but time surprised me with euphoria, elation
and celebration, the first few years, walks in the
park, stealing kisses in the morning, watching
the twilight slowly seep through the gentle
gap in the burgundy curtain, together, and perhaps
expecting forever cost me, because you
suddenly withdrew, spiraling and spiraling
into your atmosphere, often catatonic,
sometimes laconic, and I remember the crushing
diagnosis, soon after she was born,
the horror of waking dreams, and
voices whispered, making, urging, beckoning
you to do things unfathomable, uncanny,
ugly, and I devoted myself more to little
Emma, and watched as she grew,
often sheltering, protecting, shielding her,
the burden draining my own atmosphere,
our ecosphere now a sepia photograph
of incoherence, and sleight of hand,
a fool’s game of cards, and then when she was
twelve she sank into something similar,
or worse, and care-takers, and prescription,
didn’t help, and I stood, watching the
two women I loved winding and winding
around a gyre of gargoyles,
and I wanted, I only wanted
to bring the structure down, make them see
the light again, and fall into my arms, but I couldn’t,
and it isn’t sorrow that kills darling, it’s a stage
further, a void that makes a man take complete
charge, free-will killing off fate, without the flip
of a coin, and I was no longer allergic to what
comes after, I don’t know if the two
of you were there, as they scattered my dust and
ashes, being finally becoming one with the soil
it sprouted from, but if you were, I wish you
shed no tear or even screamed, but understood
that I loved you both but stopped loving me.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

On Bipolar Disorder, OCD and religion

I’ve tried hard reconciling religion with mental illness, but I can’t do it anymore. I’ve concluded that being too religious only adversely affects my mental health. Now, I’ve struggled with Bipolar Disorder and OCD with psychotic features for seven years and time hasn’t been kind to me. The medication I’m on has made me put on excessive weight which in turn has led to diabetes and high cholesterol levels. I can’t walk properly anymore because my back stiffens, and since I suffer from the cyclothymic variant of Bipolar Disorder, my moods swing from low to high to moderately high to euthymic to low again every day.

I’m probably dying of cancer too because of my six-year-long, twenty-five cigarettes a day chain-smoking habit. I’m jaded, but I’ve gotten so used to my monastic, partly self-ostracized existence that I can’t fathom living any other way. Religion (Calvinistic Christianity to be specific) has crippled me, and I’m shaking myself loose of doctrines like double-predestination. What I’m doing is placing myself in an iron maiden and begging for the doors to be shut so that I’m grotesquely wounded. It’s some masochistic, religious thirst that starves more that it satiates. Some need for emotional martyrdom that’s placing me in an anaconda choke, and I’ve been stupid to not resist it. Now, I don’t deny God or Christ, but I’m tired of this whole ‘Reformed business.’

I’ve attended ‘Reformed Churches,’ and the people there are cruel and self-righteous. They scream, ‘Sin!’ and deny the very existence of mental illness. Not everything is sin. There are things beyond the sufferer’s control. Now, I’ve walked on thorns and have tried to gouge my eyes out with a branch, thinking I was doing penance. I’ve seen terrifying things. I’ve screamed my lungs out in a mental hospital preaching Christ, until they sedated me. I’ve felt unfathomable fear. And religion brings this. And when I speak to Christians about this, they laugh, mock me and say that I’m dreaming or that I’m ‘demonic.’ Where’s the fellowship?

Each time I fall into a ‘religious phase,’ I do the same thing: delete my writing because it’s not ‘biblical’ and because peace coats my heart, repent, focus on Christ, read the Bible and books by Spurgeon, Sproul, and articles by Piper with intense devotion while the joy in my heart increases but my mind feels like pressure cooker about to blow, and finally implode because something supernatural or psychotic (I don’t know) happens and frantically try recovering my work once I’m better, but find just a few pieces tucked away somewhere, start a new blog and follow old followers who think I’m completely insane.

I’ve lost so many of you because I’ve sounded preachy. I apologize. It’s beyond me. They say insanity is doing the same thing on repeat expecting a different result, and by that definition, I’m the craziest man you’ll meet.

Moving on, the mental healthcare system in India is terrible. You have this authoritarian, dogmatic system in place with people still obsessed with Freud. It’s ludicrous. ‘I’m the doctor! I’m in control! Do this mother lover!’ yells the psychiatrist and the psychologist, and I’m sick of them. Luckily I have a long-term prescription for Depakote, Sertraline, Valium, and Solian and I manage. There are days when I ask myself if this is all there is to life; if surviving and living in my mind is all there is, but I hope that I’ll make it as a writer someday; perhaps get a few books published and look back and say it was worth it in the end.

The fiddler plays but we’re not dancing

This is an image of a hand peeking out from the abyss. It symbolizes the struggles that the mentally ill go through which is debilitating and excruciating.

We don’t need to talk tonight, so hush, because the demons sleep. Sure, they’ll return tomorrow while the fiddler plays his sad violin on the roof, and I’ll wonder if this is the little girl I carried, and why, oh why has fate struck her with my curse and blessing, my gift and punishment. When we wake, they’ll howl and like little insects pierce through our thick skulls and feast on the serotonin in our synapses. But they sleep now darling, they sleep. So hush, it’s best we don’t wake them up at this hour. I hold you in my hands, gently stroking your hair, while you softly snore, and I think these thoughts. If I could, I’ll wage war against them, though my grip is weak, my sword blunt, and my shield shattered like a dented car’s hood. I’ll play the arsonist and set them on fire. Or the sacrificial lamb, take them upon myself, and let them completely disorient me, thoroughly destroy me, and drown myself after so they never return and you grow up normal, healthy and strong. But they exist in a realm I cannot touch, and prayer is dead in their post-apocalyptic metaphysical realm. They shield the sovereign with a black curtain, and so, I can’t do anything but stay at your side. I often think of years from now, when I’m gone, split by these fireflies from hell forming a scythe, cutting through skull and mind, finally making me a body blue and cold. Will you find a way by then to beat the apparitions? The ghastly horrible hounds? I never did, but I hope you succeed. And what if you don’t? Who will you turn to? Your mother’s an alcoholic mess, showing up now and then and using us selfishly for money, and your older sister succumbed, hanging from the ceiling fan, and taking with her, a part of me. I wish you’d set yourself on righteous fire, killing them off once and for all. But wishes are just delusions, probably placed in our minds by the same little death-moths making us believe, so we can suffer more. Find strength in the torture, find meaning in the pain, and when you can’t handle them, find a way to rip them to shreds; tear them, torture them in an inner purgatory reserved just for them. Show them pain; grant them unendurable havoc. You’re stronger than me. Become steel, transcend, and make them afraid: Terrified of causing you despondency or paranoia. Give them neurosis and psychosis and liberate yourself. And then walk into a new age. But tonight sleep easy, they aren’t here, and I am, and even when I’m gone, let my presence remain, because I won’t rest until you’ve flayed them alive, impaled them, and thrown them in a pot of boiling water. Kill depression and psychosis by using the old brutal adage: an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Show them no mercy, but always remember that I love you. Sleep easy, my daughter, sleep.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)