Alan Catlin has recently published three books of poetry, Asylum Garden after Van Gogh from Dos Madres, Shadows of Darkness with Luchador Press and The Idea of North with Cyberwit
The Silence of the Movies: A Visiting Day on the Psychiatric Ward Poem
All movies are silent ones in
the room with no windows,
folding chairs in uneven rows
scraping on the tiled floors as
the watchers rock in place,
swaying from side to side,
some emitting a low, feral moan
becoming a growl in the intermittent,
artificial night projected on white
pull up screen, the history of man
seen as contained by a cartoon
feature, something like Fantasia
but not exactly the same, something
in black and white in color with
a manic rite of Spring the astonished,
captive audience sees as portraits of
the present age misconstrued as comic
figures undertaking impossible tasks,
while the handler’s are recording,
detailing the lives of those held against
their will, assigning jobs only a sorceress’s
apprentice could complete; complete
the program or drown, swim now only
to sink later, nothing that is attempted
seems to end but to divide and multiply.
At movie’s end the watchers are paralyzed
for Francesca Woodman
The images of herself she cherished
most were the ones of her passing
through walls, through glass, etherous as
as smoke; a smudge of light with skin.
She was always naked then, available
as a flame without a wick.
Images suggested, a time, she might not
have been human, was other-worldly, lost
between time zones trying to discover
which dimension she belonged in.
Other times, she dangled, in doorways,
balanced on nothing, held aloft by fingertips
gripping doorsills or from ceilings like
fixtures in search of electrical charge,
of sockets to plug into. Other times,
she blended into tenement walls, adapting
patches of water-stained, floral print paper,
as a disguise hoping the humps on her chest
would not reveal her presence.
Outside, on beaches, she was just another
lump in the sand, a face with closed eyes,
like a conch you could put to your ear and
hear the ocean.
All her life was a negative developing,
under-exposed to minimize the risk of being seen.
Loving her like waking from a dream to discover
you were still asleep; a full frontal assault on
When she finally leaves, all that remains
is a vapor trail, soft evidence, like the slime
snails leave as they make their way
through oceans of broken glass.