An Appreciation of Madness

— Mary Lou Taylor

Oxen Hill, Maryland, left me depressed.

We moved into an upstairs one-bedroom apartment,
unfurnished, when Jack reported for duty
at Andrews Air Force Base.  Lucky us, they all said.

A bed and a card table with four chairs I’d redeemed
with green stamps.  Along with a recliner, all
the furniture we owned.

From the building next door a shaft of light
through the window kept me awake, dust motes
dancing,  I counted them like sheep.

A glass of water would help.  I walked into the kitchen,
turned on the light, and a legion of cockroaches
scattered across the linoleum floor, tan backs

disappearing into cracks and crannies.  It took me
a day to find their real home, the step-on canister
in the corner holding trash.  I scrubbed for hours.

Downstairs our landlord had a cerebral palsied child.

The girl would sit in her chair on the porch for the day.
I seldom heard her complain, but I heard her father often,
scolding her, berating her.  Once he twisted her arm.

I never saw the mother talk to her daughter.
I may have been the only one
who ever smiled at that crippled child.

St. Elizabeths Hospital for the Insane.

Across our back fence its red brick tower.
The hospital covered a huge area, even had
a cemetery.   Famous for its skill at lobotomies,

the campus collected brains, preserved them in formaldehyde.
And Ezra Pound was a patient.  He left with his brain
intact, though some doubted that was so.

How I loved “The River-Merchant’s Wife.”  If a madman
composed this poem, I longed to emulate him.  I so admired
the hurt of paired butterflies, her dust mingled with his,

the monkeys’ sorrowful noises.  Sometimes I heard cries
coming from the lighted buildings.  Sometimes I imagined
Pound at a writing desk and fancied I would be the one

“to come out to meet you” as far as Cho-fu-Sa.

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