When I logged on this morning, the first thing I did was to go to several sites with daily prompts for NaPoWriMo. Then I thought, this is nuts. I’m burned out on prompts. Why should I continue the insanity? And there was my prompt.

Have you ever had a conversation with a person experiencing a psychotic break? Over the years, I’ve had several. One stands out. As the police juvenile officer, a couple was directed to my when they said they were concerned for the safety of their granddaughter. They had been helping out their daughter with her bills since her mental condition kept her from holding a job. On her phone bill was $1,800 worth of long-distance charges to numbers they had never seen before. They called a couple of them and found out that their daughter had been calling pet shops on the eastern seaboard and asking for Damian. To my recollection, the following is her answers to my questions—in free verse.

by Mike Patrick

Flickr image by TheBrimble

Oh, hello, Detective. May I help you?
Noise? I don’t think I was making noise.
Please, come on in and look around.
There’s no one else here
except for my Mary.
She’s only four, and she’s sleeping.
There’s no one else,
at least, not that you can see.

Oh, Detective . . . you’re so funny,
no, they’re are not invisible,
they’re in my head . . . at least,
that’s what the doctors say.

No, I don’t mind talking about it.
Pull up a chair, but if you don’t mind,
I’ll stay standing.
It helps if I move around while talking.

What’s that? Put down the knife?
What knife? Oh, I’m sorry.
No reason to get all excited.
I didn’t realize I’d picked it up.
Since my husband left I’m alone a lot.
I keep the knife handy—just in case.

Back to the voices? Sure.
They speak to me, mostly in the night.
The doctors tell me they’re not real,
but they have to be.
They know so much about me.

Oh, they say most anything.
Some are funny, like you.
Most are friendly, they keep me company.
There is one that’s kind of mean.
His name is Damian, and he talks the most.
Sometimes he scares me.

No, I’ve never know anyone else named Damian.
All I know about him is that he is half man, half dog.
He lives in pet shop somewhere.
I don’t like what he says,
but I love to hear his voice.
He has the most beautiful voice.

He keeps saying I’m going to have to hurt Mary.
I don’t want to hurt Mary,
but he is so much stronger than I am.
It scares me. It really scares me.

Oh! oh! I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
I didn’t mean to pick it up again.
Here, I’ll put it in the drawer with the other knives.
Wow. You’re a little jumpy. Sorry.

No, I’m not taking any meds now.
When I take them, they make me feel bad.

No, I don’t hear the voices when I do,
but I miss them. Especially Damian’s.
His voice is so strong and comforting,
but when he’s mad at me, he won’t talk.
I’ve tried to call him,
but I don’t know where he lives.

Okay; where did these guys come from?
Did you call them?

But I don’t want to go with them.
I would never hurt Mary.
I would never hurt anyone.
I’m not going! I’m not going!

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  1. earlybird says:

    Ow. Hard hitting, Mike. Life is tough. Good title.

  2. vivinfrance says:

    This is an exceptional way to tell the story. Even as a prose poem, the story hits home. If I ever had to be interrogated by a policeman, I hope he’d be as gentle as you.

  3. versebender says:

    Good gosh, Mike…I found this very harrowing. I went back and read your “About the poet” post and have to imagine you have seen some crazy things. This was such a compelling piece…extremely well written with clever use of the object as narrator. Vb

  4. Tilly Bud says:

    Poor woman. You tell it well.

  5. espriurenee says:

    So true. We have a young man in our neighborhood that walks all the time talking to those ‘voices’ and it gives one pause for thought. Nicely done.

  6. beespoetry says:

    Oh jeez. I can’t imagine the things you’ve seen. A bunch of my guy friends went through the police prep course program thing at the local college, and none of them have gotten a job in that field- I think they realized exactly how rough it’d be.

    Great poem! It really makes you wonder what happens in other people’s heads.

  7. honeyhaiku says:

    Your experiences have given you much insight to the human condition! Wonderful free verse.

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