Sometimes I wonder if having one would help,
like a car of my own, or a new iPhone—more
storage space for all the pain I already know,
and the need to be updated every other month.
As if I can squash my depression flat into a book
with its wings oozing beneath it, and put a name
to it, as if this will keep it from flapping within me.
As if by naming a disease, you can kill it.
As if this blank blackcan be shackled into symbols,
contained by the graphemic bars of letters. As if that
would set me free. A word is just a box
for us to hide the unsayable in, disguise it so that
I no longer just act depressed sometimes, I have depression,
adjective becoming noun. I no longer hoard, I am a hoarder,
verb becoming noun, label, sentence. I sentence myself into
sentences, acting, as I always have done, as if words will save me.
I think about my Grandad, how they didn’t have words
for his crumbling when he crumbled into a hospital,
leaving my dad, as a kid, unable to name this sudden
absence. How calling it depression, forty years later,
doesn’t help, when he’s yelling at his father in the front
of the car, or cradling him as he weeps in the back room
of our house. I think about Nana, how if she’d lived
in a different time, she would’ve been marked bipolar,
but back when my mother and her siblings were growing up,
all they could call it was a bad day. Mom’s having a bad
day, they would whisper, and they are still haunted by it,
by what has left them tongueless, the trauma of it.
At least I’ve never thrown a knife at you, Mom tells me,
and I know she sees her mom in me, sees her sister. I know
this is my inheritance, this aching chasm of wordlessness,
this fucked-up history of mental illness in my family.
So I resist. I diagnose myself poet, diagnose myself noun,
noun myself into a diagnosis, diagnose myself word.
I diagnose myself mirror, diagnose myself metaphor,
because what is a metaphor if not a kinder kind
of diagnosis, and always just as insufficient,
presenting symptoms as if they explain the
sickness, when the truth is no matter how hard I try
I will never be able to write out the disease of me.
ABOUT owen elphick
Owen Elphick is a writer and performer from Storrs, Connecticut, and a current undergraduate student at Emerson College. His work has been published in The Hartford Courant, Gauge, Concrete, Stork, THREAD, The Black Swan, and the chapbook Fresh Voices 23, by Antrim House Press; and presented at the O’Neill Center’s National Theater Institute, Emerson Stage’s NewFest New Works Festival, and the Connecticut Drama Association Festival. He is also the Assistant Fiction Editor for the Emerson Review, a Copyeditor for Stork and Gauge, and a Living Arts Correspondent for The Berkeley Beacon. Twitter: @OwenElphick