Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sheila-Na-Gig online, Hayley Mitchell Haugen holds a Ph.D. in 20th Century American Literature from Ohio University and an MFA in poetry from the University of Washington. She is currently an Associate Professor of English at Ohio University Southern, where she teaches courses in composition, American literature, and creative writing. Her poetry chapbook What the Grimm Girl Looks Forward To appears from Finishing Line Press (2016), and her full-length collection Light & Shadow, Shadow & Light is from Main Street Rag Publishing Company. Her poems have appeared in Rattle, Slant, Spillway, Chiron Review, and many other journals in print and online. Her critical work appears in the anthologies The Body in Medical Culture; On the Literary Nonfiction of Nancy Mairs; Stephen King’s Contemporary Classics: Reflections on the Modern Master of Horror and The Modern Stephen King Canon: Beyond Horror.
Light & Shadow, Shadow & Light
Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2018
(From Light & Shadow, Shadow & Light)
(for Charles Kerns 8.9.1944 #931)
Hannah is a picture amongst the graves,
her long hair whipping about in a wonder
of dark curls, spring rain unpredictable as madness.
She scans the rows of headstones, searching
for her great grandfather who retains his past,
his name, among the nameless dead of the asylum.
Two-thousand dead at the Athens Asylum
for the Insane, and their numbered graves
tip and slide into corrosion, sink into the past.
19, 84, 930: few remember, or visit, or wonder –
each number a page in the landscape’s story, searching
for its reader, its interpreter of madness.
And what of madness?
Hannah seeks the secrets of the asylum:
intemperance could have set his loved ones searching
for assistance; or perhaps he was just mean and grave
or rakish, as her family has often wondered –
they were too young when he died to recall his past.
But from the dark eyes of the attic windows, the past
looms, spreading shadows that can drive one to madness.
How can she not think of him, how can she not wonder
about those days before Thorazine, the horrors of the asylum,
electric shock and lobotomies sending men to early graves
while the locals lunched on the hospital grounds, searching
for stones to skim across blue lakes. This search
for meaning haunts her family for generations past,
so they take up a collection, add his name to the grave-
but this, they know, is no cure for madness.
Does his ghost remain tethered to the asylum –
just one of many reported to roam in wonderment
at their own losses? Do they watch in silent wonder
at our modern advances? How Hannah finds herself, searching
for hereditary secrets etched in the records of the asylum:
For a glimpse of her future, she unearths her past,
whether she find, love, or pain, or madness.
So hard to stifle that chill at these graves
as she wonders if the madness will strike her.
She searches the past: is there a warning in the DNA
engraved on the tomb of her heart – or asylum?
What the Grimm Girl Looks Forward To, Finishing Line Press, 2016.
Purchase from Finishing Line Press:
(from What the Grimm Girl Looks Forward To)
In Vegas, my friends nickname
me Haywire, and take pictures
of me at that crazy slot machine
of the same name, the white flash
bouncing off so many other swirling,
noisy lights. I am winning here,
matching up fruit and brass and
dynamite on five crisscrossing
lines, so that ten, twenty, sixty
silver dollars spit jingling into
my lap, and my screen rolls off
into free unexpected spins that
earn me more and more. Like a true
gambler, I exclaim that I am reigning
queen of this machine, that I am
in complete control. Later, when
I return home, I find that my body
has turned against me; the excitement
and alcohol, the unforgiving Vegas
sun was too much. For weeks I stumble
through this house with aching joints,
a circus ringing in my ears, my periods
too frequent, marking up my calendar
like a Keno board. Everything is out
of order, haywire; I can’t make any
of the right connections. I awake
delirious with bells and cherries in
my eyes, but can’t seem to get anything
easy or free. Had I known this would
happen, I would have kept one of those
silver dollars with Aladdin’s curving
lamp embossed on the back, one that
had come spitting out, all cockeyed
and haywire. I’d rub the lamp, get back
on track, conjure up that spinning,
winning feeling of complete control.
But of course I cashed all those coins
in, traded in my charms and tokens
for the real thing, when as a true
gambler, a true patient what I need
is that reminder that there is no
control, that life is in that lamp,
so much wishful thinking.
The Ekphrastic Review, February, 2019: http://www.ekphrastic.net/the-ekphrastic-review/joseph-cornell-ekphrastic-writing-challenge-responses
The Ekphrastic Review, January 2019: http://www.ekphrastic.net/the-ekphrastic-review/wedding-by-hayley-mitchell-haugen
Every Pigeon, December 2018: http://everypigeon.com/heartbreak/
Every Pigeon, December 2018: http://everypigeon.com/understanding/
Poetry Pacific autumn issue, 2018: http://poetrypacific.blogspot.com/2018/11/4-poems-by-hayley-mitchell-haugen.html
Breath and Shadow: A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature, vol. 13, no. 3, Summer 2016: https://www.abilitymaine.org/BS2016Summer/%22This-Body%22-and-%22Inheritance%22