Sunday, May 6, 2007

by Joan Dobbie

I learned that hell is not just in the mind
but in the body, that suffering permeates
all life on earth and time itself is thin as air
and makes no promises, while death is everywhere
and easy. I saw myself a sagging empty bag

unable to cry or write or speak, vomiting foul fluids,
pissing my pants, writhing in nausea. Nor was I
who I thought I was: mother, artist, jew, yogini. I was
none of these things, just that empty bag
of grating voices, none I recognized as mine. I felt myself

drowning in a sordid sea of demons
and understood for the first time in all my life
that there is truly evil in the world. I learned
that I could die, that it would be easy to die, that who I am
in life is held together by the will alone, and

will can weaken. I learned
that I could cause harm
without meaning harm. I learned that simple
decisions can be irreversible, that you don’t have
to use a knife to die, that death is not some distant

speck on the horizon, death is here, this moment,
in this chair, on this bed. Death is now.

I am loved! I am loved! I cried out to bolster myself. I am
learning! I cried to the demons.

LEARN MORE! shrieked
the demons and they hurt me some more. LEARN MORE!
they cackled and laughed.

I am a good person!
I said to them bravely and they laughed and laughed.

I learned
that my friends and my parents and my children
who left me, truly
are not with me. I learned that past is past. I learned
the prison of the body. I learned the prison of the mind.
I learned bad choices, hopelessness and sickness, and then

I learned my strength.

I never knew it could be
this hard, I said aloud to myself. But I am strong.

I am strong! I am strong! I repeated to the demons.
I am loved. I am strong.

LOVE!!!LOVE!!!LOVE!!! mocked the demons

and they spoke in my own voice
wanting me to do bad things, but I refused. And they
were angry. But I was strong
enough. And evening came at last, and with it
the ebbing of the tide.