Sleep ends as quickly as dreams do.
I wake feeling as if my powers—such
as they be—have been stolen
in the night;
my feet of clay grown back, anchoring
the end of weary legs again.
Should I open my mouth,
I’ll be speaking in tongues,
wild at the grief that burns my lips.
I am mourning the beginnings
of peace through rest,
before Sol salutes the day.



She is locked in; she hates this

On the ward with the crazy people;

she really hates this.

For the whole night,

she stands at the window

stares into the black ,

wonders where she’s left it this time.

Each time she misplaces

her equilibrium, her sanity,

her carefully crafted norm,

she finds herself here,

or somewhere so alike here,

it could be mistaken for here.

She finds herself thinking,

and then chides herself

for thinking, in eccentric,

concentric circles

Knows well that this kind

of non-linear thinking

is considered unhealthy–

albeit creative and interesting,

to some, but no –

Stop it, her inner voice screams–

you keep this up girl

and you will never see your

semi-precious mind again.

This time, it will have split

for a skull more hospitable,

less alienating.

She ponders how close the words

hospitable and hospital seem,

and wonders idly if one

is derived from the other.

Then, as if with physical force,

yanks her thoughts back from there…

Tells herself to, look, look, look –

you know you always do find it

You just have to focus, walk backwards

in your head the way Big Bird

used to tell the kids,

and you’ll remember

where you last had it.

Your mind will be right where you left it;

just hope it’s not on a bus

Or in some stranger’s bed,

or like the last time,

on the ledge of a building,

Just hope that, she thought

as she watched the sun slice open the day.



It means my craziness has a label now and is confirmed; no more wondering if I am or am not, nuts.

It means for the rest of my life I will be on the insanity see-saw of mania versus depression.

It means that I need to straighten this doctor out immediately; his question to me rings with a patronizing tone that tells me he is confusing mental illness with retardation, and he should know better.

It means I will be looking for a new shrink, one not so renowned likely, but a lot less condescending, forthwith.

It means I am ripe to become a Bipolar Clinic guinea-pig for trial testing of new drugs, especially since I’ve already been on almost every antidepressant available.

It means I get to tell my children that I have a mental illness with genetic components that bears no markers. In other words, my kids will have a proclivity to develop bipolar disorder but cannot be tested to show whether there are indicators they’re going to get it, or pass it on to their children.

It means I need to choose how to live with this news that has left me feeling even more indecisive than usual, that’s what it means.


the stand

Not too long ago I wrote that Janis Ian is my muse
and to be sure, she is one of them; often
the great Leonard Cohen fits the bill as well.
But I know my ephemeral flibberty-gibbet can
just as easily be found in an accident you cannot drive by
or a stand of old growth paper-white birch trees.

I have also found her stuffed in worn-out comfortable slippers
more than once, but also in slinky red-leather stilettos
with bows tied at the ankles; she likes to dance, she does.
There have been times when I haven’t been paying
her proper attention and she sneaks away into thoughts
so hidden, I fear they will never be revealed,
or into a race-car speeding down the Autobahn.

My muse frequents weather of all extremes
and is especially fond of forked lightning
and pewter rain pouring down in sheets.
She has been found on the wing,
flying with thousands
of migrating monarch butterflies,
arch-angels, or swallows in Italy;
or curled in the tail of a cerulean dragon.
She lives with Schrodinger’s cat briefly
from time to time,(as you might well imagine,
it’s the only way that can work)…

And she often comes fresh from sparkling,
ancient stained glass windows.
My muse likes to linger near unborn children,
passionate indignation,flag-draped coffins,
enigmas and wolves–alone, and in packs.
And sometimes–more often than not–
she flits around test-tubes filled with grief;
asylums, lunatics, chains, and other sordid prompts.

My muse is reflected in most of what I write
and she returns there sometimes
to remind herself of what sparks her alive.
But not infrequently, she helps me to write
from a place of regret, or intolerance,
or rage at indifference or injustice.
She encourages me to remember,  I am writing
to try and stay sane in an insane world;
and she leads me to gentler places where
there are horses, my grandsons, sobbing cellos,
mountains,and the love of my life
who both permeates my life and frames it.

My muse can be a fierce warrior or the kindest
most sympathetic ear in my life.
I have recently learned she is a shape-shifter,
ready to become whatever it is I need;
and I am finally grasping the fact that I am better off
with her in my life than out of it.





Almost four decades ago, she brought
“Tea and Sympathy” to my apartment
And stayed long after midnight
Because we were both too tired to ride the
Milk train anymore
– I knew then that
There was another soul inhabiting
Space on the planet with whom I felt
Truly sympatico, and it would not matter
If we ever met, as long as I had her
Writing to see me through, and through

As happens with muses, mine would flit
In and out of consciousness; sometimes her
Writing often mirrored my life patterns
So closely I could not stand to listen
And would stack her vinyl out of sight

Until I could not bear its absence – then pull
Out “Stars” and “Hunger” and put them on
The turntable, letting both tears and empathy
Help my aching heart expose itself to
The light, listening again and again to
“Getting Over You” and “Jesse” and of course
Sharing “Tea and Sympathy” once again,
A song that seemed to be our anthem.

Just recently, my muse came to the town
Which I now call home and performed
In a smallish theatre with some cafe-style
Seating down near the stage – which is where
I was fortunate enough to sit.

Oh my, Janis Ian is every bit as wonderful
As I had hoped—in addition to playing
One of the meanest blues guitars you’re
Likely to hear anywhere, and I do mean
Anywhere and from anyone, including
slow-hand Clapton, Jonny Lang, Buddy Guy,
and Jeff Beck …

In person – she is as gifted a story-teller
As one could wish for; a natural raconteur,
With a self-deprecating way of recounting
Anecdotes that fill in bits of her history
That never seems rehearsed or boring …
I was entranced; and imagine, in her fifties
Her voice is clearer, more resonant, strong
And pitch-perfect than ever …

I purchased her autobiography that night
—customs wouldn’t allow her to bring her CD’s
Across the border for some reason but the
Book was already being sold here —go figure;
I began reading the book that night and could not
Put it down, “Society’s Child” is mesmerizing
And held me in its thrall completely

Now, not only is she my muse, she
Has vaulted into heroine status as well
As I join her legion of fans that work
Within her organization for freedom and
Social Justice – in fact parts of her activist life
Ring so familiar, I’m not sure she and I haven’t
Been leading somewhat parallel lives at times;
It’s almost eerie – but in a good way.

The capper to my enthusiastic and continued
Embracing of my muse as one of the best,
In all senses of the word was this – when she
Realized how disheartened we were that we’d
Be unable to buy any of her CD’s at her show,
She made this offer – if we ordered any of her
Stuff off her website, all we needed to do was
Scrawl “Canada” anywhere on the order form,
And she would see that we got a free
DVD of one of her recent performances –

Buying anything from Ian is a win-win proposition
Since a portion of every sale goes to her
Foundation, Pearl, named for her late mother
Well, I did – and she did; not only did she include
The free DVD, she also sent along two signed
Guitar picks, a nice touch, I thought – tokens
I carry everywhere – ready inspiration.

Yeah, Janis Ian is definitely my muse
More than once I’ve tried to deconstruct
One of her songs and rewrite it as a poem
And realized her true brilliance when I
Discover just how difficult that task is …
Right now the song in question is “Shadow”
For she is just someone standing closer to
The sun and I am just the shadow by her side

Yeah – I wish