“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
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 —
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.