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Journal, Day Four

By Richard Siken

Dr. Jones, Magical Thinking, and the Divine

I am also my mother’s son, which means I have a chemical imbalance and The Gift, which may or may not be related, and this is where it gets sticky. It doesn’t help that my parents are coy. Dad says he means no harm and Mom says she just gets a strong gut feeling sometimes. We’re a family of liars, but psychic and sadist are slanderous words and I don’t have the kind of proof that would hold up in a court of law. They’ve also asked me to not talk about them while they’re still alive, which they are. We’ve all revised our histories so many times I wonder what true things will be left to say when I’m finally allowed to say them.

I have awkward conversations with my psychopharmacologist, Dr. Jones. In the middle realms of relativism—like an eye doctor’s questions of better or worse—we can manage to understand each other somewhat. We both have difficulty stating things we believe to be true, and this fascinates me. He doesn’t really know what the pills do, or why. He says Try this combination and then three weeks later I say Better or Worse. I say I see birds and he says Hmmm and asks Do you see ghosts? and I say No, but I talk to the dead and he asks if I mean poetry and I say I’m not sure. I say Hey, I’m taking anti-psychotics, and they make me feel better. Does that mean I’m psychotic? and he says Not necessarily. He asks Do you have delusions of grandeur? and I say I used to think I was pretty great, but now I read reviews that say I’m really great and he says Hmmm and I say Hmmm and we sit there. I say There’s a noise in my head and he asks Are you hearing voices? and I say It’s more like music but I can’t say for sure and he can’t say for sure, so we sit there until it’s time for me to get up and give his secretary my $40 co-pay.

From my notebook:

Here is a brick with blood on it. (Fact)
I am speaking from my heart. (Fact)

I first met Dr. Jones after a ten day bout of not eating, not sleeping. I was doing the suicide checklist, again, with Dr. Fox (psychiatrist, fan of the “talking cure”) and he wasn’t liking my answers. I told him that God wanted me to enjoy my life—not just endure it, but be filled with gratitude and joy—and that I wasn’t feeling grateful. No, not at all. And I was trying to hide from God, and it wasn’t working. So, down the hall, Dr. Jones. He shook my hand and asked what did for a living. I said Poetry and he said Oh great, you’re going to be hard to treat. Yes, I liked him from the start. It turns out he doesn’t see me as a poet at all, he sees me as a sack of chemicals.

It turns out that I am both psychic and delusional, which is an unfortunate mix but makes for a rich inner life. In practice, this means I tell stories and sometimes they come true and sometimes they don’t. You don’t have to believe me. Even more liberating: I don’t have to believe me. I just say a buncha stuff and sometimes it sticks. Why am I a poet? It’s the only language I’m allowed. Given the long list of restrictions I’ve mentioned over the last few days, it’s a wonder I can make any noise at all. I see things that aren’t there, believe in things I can’t see, empathize with strangers with an unnatural strength, make connections between things where none exist, can’t talk about my job or my family, and dislike being bored. What would you do?

It’s hard to talk about God or Soul. The concepts seem too big for any words to hold them. And everyone wants to be right, in general always but about these things particularly. And we use these words to punish. And we use these words to control. I believe strongly, disbelieve just as strongly. I have something important to say about this, eventually. For now, I like the questions better than the answers. What if I told you a lie? What if I told you a lie that gave you not just relief but a strategy? What if I armed you with tools, gave you the heads-up on a room you’re about to enter? What if I told you about the thing that I don’t see, the thing that is necessary to make it better? Would you be angry?


Posted in Uncategorized on Thursday, May 4th, 2006 by Richard Siken.