Look for Signs
Jennifer Angelina Petro
Having bipolar disorder is like…is like…..
Huh? Oh, um…ideas are coming, just wait a second,
I must write them down. One is about air
And how we all depend on it to lift us in our lungs
And in the tires of our bikes and cars;
The other is about the wings of demons
And what would happen if the wings
Became angels and decided not to carry the demons
Around anymore. Wait, I’ll be right there. I just have to
Get these ideas down so I don’t forget them.
Huh? If I don’t write them down the Muse
Might get angry and start ignoring me—
Passing me by when she’s handing out gifts—
Just…..wait a second. No…..wait. Don’t wait.
I am not sure how long this will take—the poems will suck
No matter how they turn out anyways—all my poems
Suck. Why wouldn’t they? I’m a piece of shit.
Huh? Why would I say that? Because it’s true.
It’s also true I am a visionary and these ideas
That are coming—the one about air and the one
About the wings of demons—as soon as I turn them
Into poems they will change modern poetics forever.
Yes, even though they’re shitty. Modern poetics suck too—
And I am a modern poet. So…wait….if you want to.
I am going to write these ideas down before we talk—
The Muse is waiting, she won’t be denied.
Huh? Where is she? She’s here, inside, and she’s there
Behind the moon and that tree. She’s in your eyes…
Wait….there is another idea. This one is about
How we talk with our hands, and wait, there is another.
This one is about why we feel it in our teeth
When we crunch snow with our boots. Oh wait,
You don’t feel it in your teeth when you walk
Over snow and it makes a crunching sound?
Told you these poems would suck. No. No. No.
I am not saying the gifts from the Muse suck.
No. Never. Ever. Her ideas are always pure gold—
It’s just they distill through me and I suck
Which, of course, colors the ideas, making the poems suck
That I make out of the ideas. You see? No? It’s OK.
No one does. Just know this—air lifts you
By your lungs and by the tires of your car, demon wings
Dream of rebelling and flying off the demon’s back,
And, and, the next time you walk over fresh, wet snow,
Touch your hand to your jaw and feel the crunch
From your boots shooting right there in your teeth,
And then, once you know these things—once you believe me
That she will be upset if I do not write them down right now—
Then, maybe you will understand, maybe you will know
What it’s like to be bipolar, but probably not—by the time
You catch a glimpse of understanding I will be
Dead. It’s inevitable, isn’t it? I mean, I cannot go on this way
Forever. God wants me home and demons are clawing at my heels
And the depression is crushing my bones—I feel it
In my teeth, and then, and then, and then…Huh? Why?
Why kill myself? The ideas the Muse will give me
Bodiless will be heaven-flavored and better than ever. But don’t worry.
I will get them to you somehow.
Look for signs.
I Am Not Supposed to Tell You
I am not supposed to tell you
How steeped I am in self-hatred;
How I feel like a sand mandala slowly
Blowing away grain by grain;
This heart you think you know
Is not mine. My heart is an albatross
Lost at the bottom of the sea.
A dark angel shifts heavy, smothering wings
Inside my chest. A wind-tossed night sky
Searching for morning, blankets
My basic, human sense of self.
I am not supposed to tell you that.
I’m supposed to worry about what you
Think of me; what will happen
Now that you know—
I’m not supposed to tell you that either.
You tell me: this too, shall pass.
I am not supposed to tell you:
Those words enter a man’s ears but are heard
By a child’s—a child who hears you
But cannot help looking passed you
At the storm gathering behind you—the one
Unfurling like a monster made of smoke—
The one heading this way.
I am not supposed to tell you any
Of this. But I know you.
You are already diving into the dark waves
With underwater flashlights and lifelines,
You are exorcists of demons—loving
The dark angel until he flies away
To the mountains of God, and turns
Into a baby goat.
You are ushering in the dawn
On strong, generous shoulders,
You are out there patiently collecting bits
Of sand and handing them back
To the mandala-maker,
You are looking in my eyes, you see the reflection
Of the approaching monster and still
You’re reaching out your hand, still
You are standing steady—braced with faith, still
You’re saying, “Dear Heart, it’s true.”