No one ever warned me about the potency

of grapefruit

and its reductive quality

on all the colors endlessly.


From a pack of six purchased at a local grocery store,

two are chosen

to be sliced, drained, gutted

by two under-qualified grapefruit-surgeons

that went into their line of work…

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And re Ennet House resident Kate Gompert and this depression issue: Some psychiatric patients — plus a certain percentage of people who’ve gotten so dependent on chemicals for feelings of well-being that when the chemicals have to be abandoned they undergo a loss-trauma that reaches way down deep into the soul’s core systems — these persons know firsthand that there’s more than one kind of so-called ‘depression’. One kind is low-grade and sometimes gets called anhedonia [280] or simple melancholy. It’s a kind of spiritual torpor in which one loses the ability to feel pleasure or attachment to things formerly important. The avid bowler drops out of his league and stays home at night staring dully at kick-boxing cartridges. The gourmand is off his feed. The sensualist finds his beloved Unit all of a sudden to be so much feelingless gristle, just hanging there. The devoted wife and mother finds the thought of her family about as moving, all of a sudden, as a theorem of Euclid. It’s a kind of emotional novocaine, this form of depression, and while it’s not overtly painful its deadness is disconcerting and… well, depressing. Kate Gompert’s always thought of this anhedonic state as a kind of radical abstracting of everything, a hollowing out of stuff that used to have affective content. Terms the undepressed toss around and take for granted as full and fleshy — happiness, joie de vivre, preference, love — are stripped to their skeletons and reduced to abstract ideas. They have, as it were, denotation but not connotation. The anhedonic can still speak about happiness and meaning et al., but she has become incapable of feeling anything in them, of understanding anything about them, of hoping anything about them, or believing them to exist as anything more than concepts. Everything becomes an outline of the thing. Objects become schemata. The world becomes a map of the world. An anhedonic can navigate, but has no location. I.e. the anhedonic becomes, in the lingo of Boston AA, Unable To Identify.


The American Century as Seen Through a Brick’s main and famous key-image is of a piano-string vibrating — a high D, it looks like — vibrating, and making a very sweet unadorned solo sound indeed, and then a little thumb comes into the frame, a blunt moist pale and yet dingy thumb, with disreputable stuff crusted in one of the nail-corners, small and unlined, clearly an infantile thumb, and as it touches the piano string the high sweet sound immediately dies. And the silence that follows is excruciating. Later in the film, after much mordant and didactic panoramic brick-following, we’re back at the piano-string, and the thumb is removed, and the high sweet sound recommences, extremely pure and solo, and yet now somehow, as the volume increases, now with something rotten about it underneath, there’s something sick-sweet and overripe and potentially putrid about the one clear high D as its volume increases and increases, the sound getting purer and louder and more dysphoric until after a surprisingly few seconds we find ourselves right in the middle of the pure undampered sound longing and even maybe praying for the return of the natal thumb, to shut it up.

Hal isn’t old enough yet to know that this is because numb emptiness isn’t the worst kind of depression. That dead-eyed anhedonia is but a remora on the ventral flank of the true predator, the Great White Shark of pain. Authorities term this condition clinical depression or involutional depression or unipolar dysphoria. Instead of just an incapacity for feeling, a deadening of soul, the predator-grade depression Kate Gompert always feels as she Withdraws from secret marijuana is itself a feeling. It goes by many names — anguish, despair, torment, or q.v. Burton’s melancholia or Yevtuschenko’s more authoritative psychotic depression — but Kate Gompert, down in the trenches with the thing itself, knows it simply as It.

It is a level of psychic pain wholly incompatible with human life as we know it. It is a sense of radical and thoroughgoing evil not just as a feature but as the essence of conscious existence. It is a sense of poisoning that pervades the self at the self’s most elementary levels. It is a nausea of the cells and soul. It is an unnumb intuition in which the world is fully rich and animate and un-map-like and also thoroughly painful and malignant and antagonistic to the self, which depressed self It billows on and coagulates around and wraps in Its black folds and absorbs into Itself, so that an almost mystical unity is achieved with a world every constituent of which means painful harm to the self. Its emotional character, the feeling Gompert describes It as, is probably mostly indescribable except as a sort of double blind in which any/all of the alternatives we associate with human agency — sitting or standing, doing or resting, speaking or keeping silent, living or dying — are not just unpleasant but literally horrible.

It is also lonely on a level that cannot be conveyed. There is no way Kate Gompert could ever even begin to make someone else understand what clinical depression feels like, not even another person who is herself clinically depressed, because a person in such a state is incapable of empathy with any other living thing. This anhedonic Inability To Identify is also an integral part of It. If a person in physical pain has a hard time attending to anything except that pain, [282] a clinically depressed person cannot even perceive any other person or thing as independent of the universal pain that is digesting her cell by cell. Everything is part of the problem, and there is no solution. It is a hell for one.


The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.


One fellow psychotically depressed patient Kate Gompert came to know at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton two years ago was a man in his fifties. He was a civil engineer whose hobby was model trains — like from Lionel Trains Inc., etc. — for which he erected incredibly intricate systems of switching and track that filled his basement recreation room. His wife brought photographs of the trains and networks of trellis and track into the locked ward, to help remind him. The man said he had been suffering from psychotic depression for seventeen straight years, and Kate Gompert had had no reason to disbelieve him. He was stocky and swart with thinning hair and hands that he held very still in his lap as he sat. Twenty years ago he had slipped on a patch of 3-In-1-brand oil from his model-train tracks and bonked his head on the cement floor of his basement rec room in Wellesley Hills, and when he woke up in the E.R. he was depressed beyond all human endurance, and stayed that way. He’d never once tried suicide, though he confessed that he yearned for unconsciousness without end. His wife was very devoted and loving. She went to Catholic Mass every day. She was very devout. The psychotically depressed man, too, went to daily Mass when he was not institutionalized. He prayed for relief. He still has his job and his hobby. He went to work regularly, taking medical leaves only when the invisible torment got too bad for him to trust himself, or when there was some radical new treatment the psychiatrists wanted him to try. They’d tried Tricyclics, M.A.O.I.s, insulin-comas, Selective-Serotonin-Reuptake Inhibitors, [283] the new and side-effect-laden Quadracyclics. They’d scanned his lobes and affective matrices for lesions and scars. Nothing worked. Not even high-amperage E.C.T. relieved It. This happens sometimes. Some cases of depression are beyond human aid. The man’s case gave Kate Gompert the howling fantods. The idea of this man going to work and to Mass and building miniaturized railroad networks day after day after day while feeling anything like what Kate Gompert felt in that ward was simply beyond her ability to imagine. The rationo-spiritual part of her knew this man and his wife must be possessed of a courage way off any sort of known courage-chart. But in her toxified soul Kate Gompert felt only a paralyzing horror at the idea of the squat dead-eyed man laying toy tracks slowly and carefully in the silence of his wood-panelled rec room, the silence total except for the sounds of the track being oiled and snapped together and laid into places, the man’s head full of poison and worms and every cell in his body screaming for relief from flames no one else could help with or even feel.

The permanently psychotically depressed man was finally transferred to a place on Long Island to be evaluated for a radical new type of psychosurgery where they supposedly went in and yanked out your whole limbic system, which is the part of the brain that causes all sentiment and feeling. The man’s fondest dream was anhedonia, complete psychic numbing. I.e. death in life. The prospect of radical psychosurgery was the dangled carrot that Kate guessed still gave the man’s life enough meaning for him to hang onto the windowsill by his fingernails, which were probably black and gnarled from the flames. That and his wife: he seemed genuinely to love his wife, and she him. He went to bed every night at home holding her, weeping for it to be over, while she prayed or did that devout thing with beads.

― David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (via 54973)
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From a dream.


"Did you hear that part about how youre really important to me."

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"If only God would save me,
I would know how to hurt you.
If only God would save me,
I would know who to sell my soul to.
Anything is an autobiography,
but this is a conversation—
William Burroughs insisted
literature lagged 50 years behind painting,
thinking no doubt about abstraction, collage,
fragmentation, his cut-ups.
But whatever that meant (why always 50 years?), or however
he presumed to rile other writers,
poetry probably does lag behind any credible media theory about it—
so that if I put a pine tree
into a poem,
a grove of pine trees
and beyond them the sea,
you’d think it was the same tree Wordsworth put there;
instead of two obligatory centuries of nature studies, all those
Technicolor vistas, torch songs, couples
drifting through leaves in Salem commercials.
Into one life and out another,
the way a junkie playing a writer,
a writer playing a priest,
so that when I finally blurted out,
You-betrayed-me / I-wounded-you / We’re-so-unhappy
you assumed the burden of personal urgency,
supposed it was me speaking at the limits of my self-control
and not The Damned Don’t Cry,
Temptation, and Leave Her to Heaven.
You open your mouth and a tradition dribbles out.
But that’s mimesis—
how almost impossible to avoid mimesis,
anybody’s hardest truths prompting the most fractured constructions,
the way to think about God might be
to disobey God,
if only God’s wish to remain hidden,
so that if everything is an autobiography,
this is a conversion.
As my lives flash before me,
why must the yearning for God
trump all other yearnings?
You often hear converts confess
the drinking, his pills, her sexual addiction,
concealed inside them a yearning for God—
why not the other way around?
The admission of Jesus into your life
concealing instead the wish, say, a need
To be fucked senseless drunk drugged & screaming
Oh God! Oh God! on a hotel bed …
God embraces our yearnings.
That afternoon my father heard his diagnosis of inoperable cancer,
my aunt Barbara demanded we get him to Lourdes
She demanded this with a glass of vodka in her hand—
she demanded this running her fingers up and down my leg—
she demanded this before she passed out in her car—
In the movie of my life,
my father died
after I forgave him,
& when my secret tormentor said may the ghosts of your dreams
gnaw at your belly like a wolf under your jacket,
did she really want revenge,
or was she just killing time?
For me God is a hair shirt, or he’s nothing;
for me God is a pain in the ass;
that’s mimesis, again,
this hour I tell you things in confidence,
I might not tell everybody, but I’ll tell you.
The world is a road under the wall to the church,
the world is a church, & the world is a road,
& the world is a stone wall.
Still, he wanted her the way the Cardinal wanted the Caravaggio,
& when the ill-advised possessor of the painting resisted—
one night Papal Guards searched his house.
Of course contraband came to light, some illegal rifles,
& when the ill-advised possessor of the painting went to prison—
the Cardinal got his Caravaggio.
But I wasn’t a Cardinal, nephew to the Pope,
and you—
you were not a Caravaggio.
So I asked you to be in my movie.”
Hollywood & God | Robert Polito
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My heart’s aflutter!
I am standing in the bath tub
crying. Mother, mother
who am I? If he
will just come back once
and kiss me on the face
his coarse hair brush
my temple, it’s throbbing!

then I can put on my clothes
I guess, and walk the streets.

I love you. I love you,
but I’m turning to my verses
and my heart is closing
like a fist.

Words! be
sick as I am sick, swoon,
roll back your eyes, a pool,

and I’ll stare down
at my wounded beauty
which at best is only a talent
for poetry.

Cannot please, cannot charm or win
what a poet!
and the clear water is thick

with bloody blows on its head.
I embrace a cloud,
but when I soared
it rained.

That’s funny! there’s blood on my chest
oh yes, I’ve been carrying bricks
what a funny place to rupture!
and now it is raining on the ailanthus
as I step out onto the window ledge
the tracks below me are smoky and
glistening with a passion for running
I leap into the leaves, green like the sea

Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.

― "Mayakovsky" by Frank O’Hara (via greenfinch)
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Laughing Cat, Crying Dog

There is nowhere to sleep but

my family’s house,

and even there I don’t have a bed.


It’s not just as much as everything and me

where they themselves and my parents, brother, sister

sleep and I’m awake 

in time for yesterday’s Sunday breakfast

of golden locks and 

cream-cheese-dipped fingers.


I belong to the dog that cries outside,

especially when it’s cold enough

(and it’s always enough)

to set him and me over the edge

into some insane barking fit:

a cat laughs on the outskirt of our vision,

a rubber duck sings the national anthem,

a small fish tries to dream of his

mother but can’t remember her face.


There’s not enough water,

but it doesn’t matter since our

tongues are

too numb to

lap up what’s in the sink.


Instead, the water decides to 

personify someone I 

once knew/know/still know

and insatiably long for,

taking on the shape of a 

smaller size

squeezed into the pink bathtub

of my youth.


In the sleepy water,

dreams are drenched in soapy discharge

from the day of conception

until the day of conception,

both equally dirty, filthy, rotted,

from the inside/outside

layer of the same laughing cat, skinned

in my father’s arms

onto a bed of pillows soft enough

to catch me into  adulthood

where I am no longer welcome

as a child,

and without a bed

to sleep.

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