Thirty-two “B”

Old age realizes the dreams of youth: look at Dean Swift; in his youth he built an asylum for the insane, in his old age he was himself an inmate.  ~Soren Kierkegaard

A Visit To The Asylum

Once from a big, big building,
When I was small, small,
The queer folk in the windows
Would smile at me and call.

And in the hard wee gardens
Such pleasant men would hoe:
“Sir, may we touch the little girl’s hair!”—
It was so red, you know.

They cut me coloured asters
With shears so sharp and neat,
They brought me grapes and plums and pears
And pretty cakes to eat.

And out of all the windows,
No matter where we went,
The merriest eyes would follow me
And make me compliment.

There were a thousand windows,
All latticed up and down.
And up to all the windows,
When we went back to town,

The queer folk put their faces,
As gentle as could be;
“Come again, little girl!” they called, and I
Called back, “You come see me!”

–Edna St. Vincent Millay

Someone asked me a few days ago, before a friend shared this lovely poem with me, why I gave the blog its title. It’s a good question with a hard answer. Truth is, I’ve had a perverse sort of obsession with asylums for as long as I can remember and it’s only a matter of time before one of my novels takes place in one. preferably an old, dilapidated, haunted one. If I had to guess why, I’d probably say that it has something to do with my fears of old age. I don’t fear it for the usual reasons people fear aging. I fear it because once I lose my faculties or worse, develop Alzheimer’s disease, I won’t be reliving just my past, but that of countless characters. In other words, I really will be the crazy lady in 32B.

Patient exhibits consistent fears of imaginary creatures she calls ‘Moriors’ and ‘Ordakai’ despite hours of intense therapy and medication. Furthermore, she suffers from paranoid delusions that a race of people are trying to steal her soul and that certain male staff members, at some point after birth, had their ‘wings’ removed.  

   

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5 responses

  1. I ordered a t-shirt (yay!) and strangely enough, without any reference to what you mentioned, the house number of my main character in Fervor happens to be 32. Of course – when you think about it, 32 B could also be someone’s bra size ( not mine, not unless you sewed two of them together, maybe.) I’m rambling now… Fervor has driven me over the edge. Next thing you know I’ll be measuring the leg length of dead llamas. You got room for me in that there asylum…?

  2. As a child, I had dreams I was born in an asylum to a mad woman who was spurned by society, and I was taken away and given to another woman who was completely insane as well–but who was socially acceptable because she was from a rich family.

  3. So true! I’m right there with you. I watched my grandmother sink into dementia/memory loss/ Alzheimer’s and it was probably the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen (besides her dying from cancer; that was second I think though to her calling my mother “Sebby”, the dog’s name).

    I found this Senility Prayer in a doctor’s office when I was in school–and I wrote it down! I don’t know who it was by. Enjoy!

    “God, grant me the senility to forget the people I’ve never liked anyway; the good fortune to run into the ones I do; and the eyesight to tell the difference.”

    True, no?

    Great poem!

  4. Love the poem… you kinda creeped me out there. I once had a dream where I was forever locked in my body~but my mind would jump from mine to a bunch of my characters. My husband found me to be a threat (after I became one of my villians and started threatening and attacking him and others) and brought me to an assylum… I was always someone else and never again myself. But from there the dream got interesting and has kinda developed into a creepy novel in progress.

  5. Love the post! Have you ever watched the episode of Buffy from the asylum? That is one of my favorite ones and reminds me of this piece. My father succumbed to dementia/Alzheimer’s disease–it is a pretty good thing to be afraid of..my mother died when I was just out of high school due to a rapid form of cancer. Sometimes, I can’t even speak it out loud as if it were the word and not the disease that killed her.
    But, you’ve turned your asylum into a positive thing, here, which is a good way to deal with fears. As for me, I have devil-fears, which I’ve tried to turn into good by writing about them in my blog.

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