Made it back to the world alive

*To Sylvia*

i last read you
long ago, when
i was lost.

then, you spoke to me through pain,
yours and mine in excruciating symbiosis,
and i felt known
for the first time.

i remember all those late nights in harvard square:
cigarettes, coffee cups, black fountain pens and
your poetry—fueled by you, i used my
suffering as cement and
words as bricks to
build my darkness out on paper;
those attempts at construction
offered fruitful if fleeting respites
from my then-reality, and
for this, i thank you.

today, i met
you in eternal rest; you were
surrounded by stone and grass and
the flowers of a thousand strangers
who feel they know you through your words.
pens sprouted from your grave,
grateful sacrifices of those who’ve
loved you in a way, perhaps, you
never could yourself.

i am told that behind this graveyard and
across the sweeping field of green beyond
sits the house in which you honeymooned.
i picture you young, in love and in pain,
fingers softly tracing blades of tall grass as
you walk and think and the war in you rages on,
the sun and the weight of the world
on your shoulders.

i am different now from those harvard square nights,
your early end no longer what i seek.
if only you could’ve known
you weren’t broken,
as i’ve been lucky enough to discover.

if only you could’ve seen through
the stories those doctors fed us as they turned
our bodies into psychoactive wastelands
plastered to plastic mattresses,
sucked dry of spirit,

both of us paced the locked wards
of the hallowed Hospital on the Hill,
our incarcerated madness separated only by time,
our wearied souls patient prisoners
on those same sterile halls of
broken brains and forgotten dreams.

you died at thirty-one, my age now.

i’m found today, have found myself,
though not a ‘self’ distinct or definable.
perhaps a better way to put it is that
i’ve melted into the world.

death no longer beckons me
with its promise of forever sleep,
and not because i’m free from
suffering or struggle— (this is far from true)—but because
i’ve remembered
i am human.

i can’t pretend to know you,
nor would i be so presumptuous
as Psychiatry was with us; thus, i can only wonder
what part those white-coated strangers
played in calling forth
your death with their
pill bottles
life-long sentence of subhuman.
with all of this, their so-called “care”, done to you.

i can only wonder
what part those white-coated strangers
played in calling forth
your death
because they introduced me to
a life not worth living,
one with death as the only logical solution.
whether by serendipity or something else,
i made it back to the world alive, and
here i am in hebden bridge
on the twenty-ninth of june
in the thirty-first year of my life.
here I am before your grave,
the sun on my shoulders.

Laura Delano

Laura Delano

Laura Delano is a survivor of psychiatry and an international speaker. She serves on the boards of the International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry (ISEPP) and National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA), and is on an advisory board member of It’s All About Childhood and Family.