Caretaker

Photo by Alessandro Sacchi on Unsplash

“At length I wandered towards these mountains, and have ranged through their immense recesses, consumed by a burning passion which you alone can gratify.”

Mary Shelley, The Modern Prometheus

I’ve been haunting locations fraught

with evasive Frankenstein stares

I’ve been hunting down my maker

to whom I am a corpse,

roaming through burnt-out

birches, aching amidst teeth

chattering in the dead

of summer. Where can I find you?

In clouds milk-white with moonshine

In waves that surge like sleep

breaths of winded mammals

Among catatonic cat skeletons where you raise and frighten

other cadavers — where?

You cannot you evade it for long:

Eyes flit and grow erratic

Throats hoarsen and heads go heavy

(You fight a losing battle.)

Fingers fumble and flutter

and settle on flesh wounds

(I know how limbs heal.)

Soon the blood will soak through

your skin and your ears will ring

(You waste away when you wander from me.)

— Close your eyes for a moment

and listen,

listen,

listen: Your conscience speaks.

You spurn slumber

but I know how limbs heal, so

sleep in stages, sleep sublime

Breathe the mountains and mulch and whatever more

that stand, hold your hands close

to your chest; close your eyes for a moment

and listen to your heart pounding

as it tries to keep up with you

trying to outrun your body.

Now take it back —

your touch,

the warmth in your cheeks;

how it feels to exist.

The voice in your head is clearer

now, the clouds will fade as I fight

through your floaters and flashes

Breathe. You’ve been found.

July is BIPOC Mental Health Month and was also Mad Pride Month. “Caretaker” was my letter-to-self when I was sick and knew I wasn’t giving myself time or space to convalesce amidst a demanding period of work.

I hope that the distress of living in lockdown has at least allowed people to reexamine their mental health needs, the importance of a support system, and the steps they take to take care of themselves. For people of color especially, the taboo quality of mental health discussions has inhibited many of us from being honest with ourselves and our community about our own wellbeing. At some point, though, I came to realize that ignoring my mental and emotional struggles was a severe injustice to myself. It also impacted the family member, friend, and student I was: no one wins when you put yourself last.

It can be scary to look in the mirror and hunt for the things that you are not handling well. This confrontation, though, is crucial to unlearning some of the harmful practices we engage in that curb our chances of self-development and fulfillment.

Here are tools and resources from the CDC. Please seek help when you need it. We fight together.

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