Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

Vision for an Early Asylum

Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

Vision for an Early Asylum

Article excerpt

A place in the country where thoughts

could rattle in the tamed expanse of lawns,

peaceful as corn tassels when wind

is only play. A place where the fixed,

roving eyes of the mad would come to

seem, then be, harmless as a cat's

start and stare. (Useless to follow

either gaze. Nothing is there.) The mad

would settle as the cat to her corner,

giving up their visions and mad ways.

The root of the word is inviolable,

as though only the outside

was to be feared. Yet somehow, within

the kept lawns, the porticos and bricks,

those mad ones could no more

savor Eden than the original pair,

and though not driven out were driven

in, where they provoked chaos, a crowd

all piss and shackles, nakedness, kicks.

Sanity like a fog-bank at the far end

of a straight country road.

In old age the architects of the first asylums,

dimly knowing failure, nodded

and dreamed in sunlit parlors, seeing

the green balm of the countryside,

the healing performed by wildflowers

whose names they had never quite known.

Was it possible the insane were so different

from them, and felt only oppressed

by the open meadow and stately beeches,

poisoned by the very color of goldenrod? …

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