The Crisis Unit

Writing and poetry
From the 1990's

by Richard Van Ingram

I. There was that hall
Where they fed us pills
And the floor was as speckled
And cracked as disillusionment
And pale as I was. I saw all
The heavy feet tumble
In the slow-motion avalanche
Of 5:30 A.M. First,
Hissing gray anaconda
Blood pressure cuff,
Then my thick gaze
Could rest again like gas jets
In summer. I believed
I could smell hyacinth
By the nurses station
And all the girls who came in
Were refrigerated bouquets
In August.

II. She was bruised,
Arms empurpled and black,
Slashed this way and that
- stems for the dark poppies
Of her sacred garden,
That ammonia green ice gearwheel
Garden of her battered eyes.
We shuffled out at the appointed hours
And gave up incense to God
With a pack of Marlboroughs.
This and in the silences
Between pills and nausea
And hyacinth clouds
We argued out the possibility
Of Eternity and its
Inherent superiority
To either sweet ether or
Pornographic prayers
Muttered to some Dark Deity,
The one living behind the
Fence where you could still
Buy alcohol and kill
The gnawing worm
At the center of the agave.

III. My world was in a paper bag.
All of it slept there,
Crumpled, impotent,
Unwashed, undesirable
And in my dreams, I slept there, too.
My world was in the paper bag
When I was called out of the line to go,
After the vampires robbed me a final time,
After they bottled my medications
Like death-dealing bacterium,
After they kissed me full on the lips
And our tongues wrestled like
Siamese fighting fish,
After they confessed in full their love for me
And placed my hands
On their starch white uniformed breasts,
After they took me in silence
To the heavy unit door
Where I passed a cop who was unhappy
Because he could not bring
His firearm into the back.
And the door closed behind me
Like the gate of heaven
Barred against an arch-sinner.

IV. I caught a ride
And found a friend with a swimming pool
And drifted on the surface
As the dried leaves of early autumn
Rained down like dead angels
Scorched by the sun.
There was nothing in the water
That would stop the fire when October
Came and the angels would be raked
Together to burn forever
In Gehenna.
There was no baptism to heal up
That flaw there,
And the brown leaves were Legion
And the dead flowers were
Paolo and Francesca,
And I was floating silent
On the filthy water of the pool
Wondering where I would go
Before the arrival of October.


I. They recommend that I write
something of the hospital's
antiseptic odor
and of the heavy hum
that sang down my pipes
and kept me awake,
dreaming of the evenings
in the trashed living rooms
of the world, etherialized
by all the pints of scotch
my melting credit card could steal.
The hospital could not hold me.

II. I sat in the exercise yard
counting the white sea of stones
and cigarette butts,
contemplating the subpoena,
wondering whether Holy Water
would burst me into flames.
"They are dulling down the stars
with lithium and leaving me
adrift on this dull sea
of little white stones and cigarettes."

III. I tried to cry in those days,
there were no tears.
I have since tried to explain myself
with the eloquence, the depth of Hamlet
and have only croaked out years
of silence. Only one thing I've
been able to say:
The hospital and I
have made each other's acquaintance.

The Hypostasis of Vital Time

Her casual grace - unexpected benediction.

     I saw a gasmask head in winter,
     intimation of distance in presence.

Apocalypse of those perfect lips
caught in conversation around
the billiards table

     The metronome and its boots arrive.

I have no eyes for the others –
only for her lips molding each word,
bringing forth the logos,

     I saw doves skewered
     on iron fence posts
     while children rolled
     cold dice to split
     plumage for their
     war bonnets.

she, speaking, bore the bright Deity.

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