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POETRY

poems of the month

orpheus in soho

a seriously sexy man

fish

measuring my face

old clothes

modern iranian poems

my hero

face at the bottom of the world

perhaps (maybe)

the diogenes sequence

where to store furs

i am and am not:
      fragments of rumi

destiny and destination

the zen of no-enlightenment

the iraqi monologues

already backwards

a light in ruins

separate amputations

the sexy jihad

awaiting the barbarians

the smell of possibilities

ultimate leaves

rejoice in the dog

post-millennium maggot

the book of nothing

dispatches from the war against the world

albanian poems

french poems in honour of jean genet

the hells going on

the joy of suicide

book disease

foreground trouble

the transcendental hotel

cinema of the blind

lament of the earth mother

uranian poems

haikai by okami

haikai on the edge

black hole of your heart

jung's motel

wine and roses

confession from belgrade

gloss on rilke's ninth duino elegy

jewels and shit: poems by rimbaud

villon's dialogue with his heart

vasko popa:
a shepherd of wolves ?

the rubáiyát of omar khayyám

genrikh sapgir:
an ironic mystic

the love of pierre de ronsard

imagepoem

 

BETWEEN POETRY AND PROSE

the maxims of michel de montaigne

400 revolutionary maxims

nice men and
  suicide of an alien

anti-fairy tales

the most terrible event in history

the rich man and the leper

disgusting

art, truth and bafflement

 

TRANSLATIONS

SHORT STORIES

godpieces

the three bears

three albanian tales

a little creation story

 

ESSAYS & MEMOIRS

one not one

an occitanian baby-hatch

ancient violence
in the amazon

home, sweet home no longer

the ivory palace

helen's tower

extortion through e-bay

schopenhauer for muthafuckas

never a pygmy

against money

'original sin' followed by
crippled consciousness

a gay man's guide to soft-willy sex

the holosensual alternative

tiger wine

the death of poetry

the absinthe drinker

with mrs dalloway in ukraine

love  and  hell

running on emptiness

a holocaust near you

a note on the cathars

happiness

londons of the mind
& dealing death to the caspian

genocide

a muezzin from the tower of darkness

kegan and kagan

being or television

satan in the groin

womb of half-fogged mirrors

tourism and terrorism

the dog from sinope

shoplifting

this sorry scheme of things

the bektashi dervishes

a holy dog and a dog-headed saint

fools for nothingness

death of a bestseller

vacuum of desire: a homo-erotic correspondence

a note on beards




NICE MEN

and

SUICIDE OF AN ALIEN

and

STORY OF MY MADNESS




1. NICE MEN

a prose-poem by

Terry Miles


There are places I have been.
Some were frightening places but most were OK.

Some were nice places full of nice people, some of the nice people were nice men, rugged and gentle and some of the nice men were nice to me and I was nice to some of the nice men and some of the nice men were not handsome. Some were more interesting than handsome, some were more interesting than nice, some of the nice men said nice things but didn't say anything interesting and some of the interesting men weren't very nice but I forgave them for not being very nice because they were interesting and they were only to be interesting for one night. Some of the interesting men were interested only in my arse and if they were interesting enough I would let them have it.

Some interesting men wanted my arse and didn't get it: I got theirs. And some interesting men telephoned me later in the week to ask if we could do something interesting and sometimes it wasn't as interesting as the first time. Times are like that, variable, like being fucked depends on how nice it is being worked up to it and not just how one's arse is being ploughed, like it's nice to turn over and change over and it's nice to kiss and hug before a parting and it's nice to want another call.

Some nice men like to be fucked, they stand in semi-private places, waiting, they wait standing semi-erect for a nice man, sometimes a nice man comes along, only he thinks the man next to him isn't very nice and walks out without a flash. Sometimes a not-so-nice man walks in and you nod and stretch a hand out to play with his cock, sometimes he has a nice, interesting cock which makes up for him being not so very nice, and sometimes he is rough and ready, and sometimes you worry and sometimes when you get back to his place he wants you to strap him and you oblige because you want to give him a nice time and afterwards, he wants you to fuck him, sometimes he wants to come over your cock and because he has a nice cock, you let him. Sometimes he smells of manhood sometimes a couple days of hard work has made his armpits interesting, sometimes it's balls, arse and toes and it's a turn-on.
And sometimes it's not and you make an excuse and leave.

Sometimes a nice man wears deodorant and the nice man underneath isn't there. Sometimes an interesting man who is also nice wants you to do things you haven't done before and sometimes you are interested and say Yes and sometimes you say It's not your thing. Sometimes a nice man is not so young. Sometimes you find out he's accident-prone and scarred and sometimes you don't have to feel sorry to give him a nice time because he turns you on, anyway, and anyway he wants it, you want it and
anyway we all (most of us) grow old.

 


detail of a self-portrait by Terry Miles

 

 

Where did you go for your holidays, Terry ?

- I went to the dentist:
A crown, a filling, a lot of money

and three more instalments.

 

 

VACUUM OF DESIRE A "GAY" CORRESPONDENCE


2. SUICIDE OF AN ALIEN

a confession by

Blaidd MacIntyre

 

Yes, I am an alien.

But not an alien to the planet.
An alien - or an elf-child: it doesn't matter.

I have no idea who my father was, and I had and have no interest in finding out. My mother was so traumatised that she could not mention, much less discuss, it. He might have been her Canadian cousin. He might have been an RAF pilot on Rest and Recreation in Belfast during World War 2.

I keep my distance from human-beings. They have a horrible tendency to get close to each other in order to suck out or oppress each other more successfully.

I do not understand the drivenness, meddlesomeness, hypocrisy, tunnel-vision, optimism, sentimentality and emotional stupidity of humans, nor their refusal to use reason except when it suits their cruelty and greed. I do not understand why they invented gods, religion, 'spirituality', 'progress', prostitution, 'normality', 'love' and so on - unless to compensate for the incomprehensible hate they have for 'nature'. And why do they sacrifice content to form ? And why is the only irrational and gratuitiously-nasty creature the one to invent Reason and altruism ?

I hate their indistinguishable groups and teams, tribes and nations; I have never joined any of these voluntarily - except Amnesty International from which I soon escaped.

Human life does nobody any good.

I never wanted to marry a human. I had myself sterilised. Sex with humans makes me feel even more remote and bereft. I understand why prostitutes have to take substances - cocaine, amphetamines, or glue - in order to perform. Everything human is horrible. It took me twenty years to understand that I was not attracted to women, then a further twenty years to realise that I was attracted to men only æsthetically, in the same way that I am attracted to most mammals, trees and smells.

Being too 'holy' for prostitution, I can't offer myself as the figurehead of a new mad American Church of the Holy Alien.

So I'm standing in the thicket-acre which I bought as a tiny place to keep free of humans who have alienated themselves from life and the planet: a sanctuary for badgers, brambles, foxes, birds - and an alien: I shall feed them all in this my burial-ground.

Here is the air-tight body-bag.

 

 

3. THE STORY OF MY MADNESS

from YOGA

by Emmanuel Carrère

I’m no stranger to depression.

But what I still didn’t know during my first psychiatric consultations is that,
in the definition of bipolar disorder,
the pole opposite the dive into depression isn’t necessarily a state of spectacular euphoria and disinhibition
that leads to social suicide and often to suicide itself,
but just as frequently what psychiatrists call hypomania,
which means in plain language that you act like a fool, but not to the same extent.



It was totally predictable, since manic excitement is invariably followed by a dive into depression: an atrocious period. In the first phase I was elated at the prospect of a new book and a new life, full of promises and conquests. I rented quite a nice apartment on the rue du Faubourg Poissonnière in Paris. I bought a Bluetooth speaker and took out a subscription to Deezer, both of which I imagined, oddly enough, as attributes of my new life. Then I end up as lonely as a rat, without a woman, or impotent when by chance I bring one home, my neck covered in dandruff, my cock blistered with herpes, unable to write, having lost all faith in a book project which a few weeks earlier seemed so right, so necessary, so doable, as all I had to do was start by describing what was happening to me. The problem is that I don’t know what’s happening to me, and I’m no longer able to tell myself or anyone else anything at all.

To live, you need a story, and I no longer have one. My life is reduced to the path between my bed, where I bathe in a terrible sweat, and the terrace of the café Le Rallye where I spend hours smoking cigarette after cigarette in a dazed stupor. Even today I can’t walk past this cafe without a shudder. For almost two months I barely washed or changed my clothes. The bathtub got clogged and I did nothing to fix it, and even when I went to bed I barely changed out of my depressed man’s garb: shapeless corduroy trousers, an old sweater full of holes, trainers whose laces I’d removed as if in anticipation of the precautions that would soon be imposed on me in psychiatric hospital. I don’t stop trembling, objects fall from my hands. If I put jars of yoghurt in the fridge, they slip and crash on to the kitchen floor. Yoghurt I can deal with, but one day I wanted to move a little statue of the Gemini twins, which I’d placed on a shelf like an altar, by a few inches, and I dropped it, too. It shattered. I stood there for at least an hour, looking at these pieces of terracotta which had been the secret symbol of my love, between my feet on the parquet floor, and I thought: there you go, you couldn’t say it more eloquently, everything was broken, nothing could be repaired, it was all over.

My internment at the Sainte-Anne psychiatric hospital in Paris lasted four months. The medical report, which I have in front of me, begins with this summary: “Characteristic depressive episode with melancholic elements and suicidal ideas in the context of a type 2 bipolar disorder.” And, a little further on, here’s how the patient is described on admission:

“Moderate psychomotor retardation with hypomimia, sad expression but emotional reactivity. Despondency, anhedonia, abulia, significant moral suffering, asthenia with a considerable psychic and physical toll incurred in carrying out daily activities. Melancholic elements with pejoration of the future and a sense of incurability. Ruminations, feelings of guilt towards loved ones, invasive suicidal ideations … ”

You don’t have to master psychiatric vocabulary to understand that I wasn’t doing well. If you want to go into the nuances, “significant moral suffering” is worrying, but less so than “intense moral suffering”, which I was soon to experience, and which is itself less worrying than “intolerable moral suffering”. I’ve experienced that too, I don’t know if there’s a fourth. In the past few days, my already not very glorious state has worsened.

From one day to the next, from one hour to the next, I had gone from agitated to catatonic, and this state so alarmed my sister Nathalie that she made an appointment for me at Sainte-Anne. That’s how we ended up on the top floor of a modern building on the edge of the hospital compound, in front of a cordial, 60-year-old man in a white coat, with bright blue eyes and the quiet authority that characterises what’s known as a bigwig – even though no one ever talks of anyone being a little wig – who, seeing me in the state described in the report, decides to admit me straight-away. I don’t go home, they put me to bed, we’ll have to wait and see for how long.

He stresses the notion of illness – very different from that of neurosis, which has dominated my adult life. The question is not to discover its origin or to understand why I’ve spent my life lugging such a big load of shit around in my head. The fact is that I’m sick, just as sick as if I’d had a stroke or peritonitis, so they’re going to lay me down and look for the right treatment, and they don’t hide the fact that they’re groping in the dark and that they might not find just the right thing for me right away. “But what we can do until we find it,” says the bigwig, “is keep you out of harm’s way. And don’t worry, we’ll get you out of here as fast as we can.” Hearing this, I heave a sigh of relief: I’m sick, I’m going to lie down, stop fighting, let things take their course, they’ll take care of me, and for starters they’ll shoot me up big time.

To return to the medical report: “Inclusion in a protocol with twice-weekly administration of ketamine. First three infusions: good tolerance, thymic improvement.” Ketamine, for those who don’t know, is a horse anaesthetic that people use to get high, and which in recent years has been found to have antidepressant properties. This is my introduction to high psychiatric chemistry. Before and after each session, the protocol includes my being given a questionnaire about my desire to live or to die, my suicidal impulses, my “deprecation of the future”, etc.

First infusion: 40 minutes, not one more or less, and when it’s over, it’s over, from one moment to the next. But during these 40 minutes it’s an XXL high. Lying in bed, I remain conscious, perfectly conscious. I can feel time passing. I can hear the doctor and the nurse talking softly. But I get the impression that they’re far, far below me, lost in the landscape above which I’m floating. Because I am floating. I’m drifting. I see everything. I’m perfectly calm, perfectly fine, I’d like it to last for ever. It’s like the descriptions of near-death experiences, and of heroin, of course. The heroin that you should never touch because it’s so good. I’m glad I’m interned at Sainte-Anne if they’re going to drug me so wonderfully. I feel good. After the first three infusions I still feel good – my tolerance to the drug is so encouraging and my thymic improvement so obvious that I’m already talking about leaving, and not just about leaving the hospital, but about leaving the country. With ketamine, work is back on the agenda.

“Fourth injection: bad tolerance with intense moral suffering and request for euthanasia.” Things take a turn for the worse, we’re into the rough.

The night before the infusion, I freak out. Although I’ve forgotten so much, I remember very well that my anxiety had its starting point in one of the most perfidious aspects of bipolar disorder. When you’re in the depressive phase, there’s no getting around the fact that you’re there: it’s horrible, it’s hell, but at least you can’t be wrong about it. What’s insidious about the manic phase is that you don’t realise it’s a manic phase. Especially when it’s only hypomanic and you’re not stripping off in the street or buying a Ferrari. You tell yourself that you’re fine, that everything’s all right. After all, that can happen: it’s normal, desirable even. You know it won’t last for ever, but when it happens you have every reason to be happy and not to tell yourself that it’s a trap. In my case, however, there’s a good chance that it is a trap, another blow that the disease has in store for me. Because it’s no longer me but the disease that wields power over me.

In the morning, all I want is the ketamine shot that will send me to heaven for at least half an hour. I want it so much that, fearing I won’t be given it if I confess to my psychological state, I say in the questionnaire that I didn’t sleep well and that I had some dark thoughts but that in fact I’m fine. The drip begins. I welcome with gratitude the blissful liquefaction, and then very quickly things take a turn for the worse. I’m heading for death. It’s clear: I’m heading for death. The doctors murmur softly to the right of my bed, I don’t understand what they’re saying but they must be reciting verses from The Tibetan Book of the Dead to accompany me to the Bardo. There’s a light above me. I have to go there. I have to go there. I mustn’t miss the exit. I mustn’t remain in this in-between state, this bad life. Everything must end and the suffering must stop, for good. Several times I go to the enormous effort – when you’re on ketamine, every word costs you dearly – of repeating “I want to die, I want to die.” Instead of two doctors there are now four or five in my room, which becomes too small, much too small, a small box that shrinks even more, and, stuck to the ceiling, I start to cry. I cry, I cry, I say that I want to die, that I know very well that it’s not their job to kill me, but I beg them to do it anyway. Finally, in response to my moans and my begging that they kill me, or failing that, that they at least turn off my mind, that’s what they do, and quickly. One shot, the fuses blow, everyone’s gone. Then begins a blank that lasts several days and would end this chapter if I didn’t have one more sentence to add. What I’m saying here is brutal, but my condition was brutal and I’d like it to be clear that the doctors I dealt with at Sainte-Anne were and are all very competent, but hey! there are jerks everywhere, and as things turned out, there was one who called Nathalie after this episode and asked: “Your brother has made a request for euthanasia, what do we do?”

The psychiatrist who treats me has seen a lot of melancholic depressives in his time. He knows how to assess the risk of suicide, which he considered to be very high in my case, and I myself realise on rereading these pages that I can find no words to adequately convey the “intolerable moral suffering” mentioned in my medical report. If I can find no words, it’s because I’m too distant and detached today to be able to remember, describe or name the horror in which I was then immersed, and above all, I think, because there are no words for it. What I’m saying here sounds horrible, but in fact it was much more horrible than that. It was an unspeakable, indescribable, unqualifiable and – the word hardly exists, but no matter – immemorable horror. When you’re no longer there, you can no longer remember that – thank goodness. Would I have made it through without Electro-convulsive Therapy? How would I have fared? I don’t know, and I’ll never know. But yes, maybe the ECT did save my life. But whatever the case, the improvement wasn’t spectacular. All during the treatment, my hospital report speaks of “non-linear development with moments of thymic improvement, without a clear recovery of vitality”, “significant thymic decline with anxiety and negative thoughts” and “increasing memory problems”.

In my experience, these memory lapses are the major – and most serious – side-effect of ECT. You’re told that they’re temporary, that your memory will come back, that at most the loss will only last as long as the treatment period, but it’s not true. I’m writing these words three years after the fact, and my memory is still a field of ruins.

It often happens to me that I talk to a friend without remembering what we said the day before, or even that we spoke the day before. I’m constantly afraid that the people I love will think I’m either neglectful or inattentive, or that I have the beginnings of Alzheimer’s – which wouldn’t be unlikely, because the risk of Alzheimer’s is much higher than average among people with bipolar disorder. There is, however, a silver lining to all this, because if memory loss is the collateral damage of electroshocks, they also had a totally unexpected collateral benefit.

One day, in the cafeteria of Sainte-Anne where he’d come to join me for a hot chocolate, I complained about these memory problems to my friend Olivier Rubinstein. He said: “You should memorise poetry, that’ll take the rust off your neurons.” And in this horribly difficult time, it made my life more bearable.

I’m discharged from Sainte-Anne at the end of April, and the report ends with this observation: “Good transient recovery but frequent relapses.” The fact is that for at least three months I’ve been doing better, much better even. The medication seems to be working.

Lithium is an alkali metal, an element in the periodic table, and, when administered as lithium salt, has proved surprisingly effective in treating mood disorders since the 1970s. I take it every day now, and when I take it I think of the melancholy reflection by the American poet Robert Lowell, who suffered from manic depressive psychosis in its most acute form until he started taking it:

“It’s terrible to think that all I’ve suffered, and all the suffering I’ve caused, might have arisen from the lack of a little salt in my brain, and that if the effects of that salt had been known earlier, if I’d been given it earlier, I might have had a happy or at least a normal life, instead of this long nightmare.”

I wouldn’t say anything so radical, because even though I sometimes think it was, my life hasn’t been one long nightmare. Still, I too belong to the group of bipolar patients who respond well to lithium. It makes my highs less high, my lows less low, and I’m so afraid to find myself once again back at the Sainte-Anne psychiatric hospital that I’m ready to take it, obediently, for the rest of my life.


This is an edited extract from Yoga by Emmanuel Carrère,
translated into English by John Lambert and published by Jonathan Cape in June 2022

 

AT LEAST HE DIDN'T BECOME A VICTIM OF OXYCONTIN!


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