The Shine Journal - The Light Left Behind

Journeys Through Grief and Beyond

“A life with depression-mania comes”




Shelby Stephenson



A life with depression-mania comes with a kingdom all its own.

A god reigns supreme from a bathroom where what we were in the past never was −

but is − and waits for our bodies to come around, be counted.

January 13, 2010

You wrote this message to Dr. B:

I am itching all over. I can hardly stand the itching. I’m not red and it’s not a rash.

And my head has been itching for several months. I thought it might be dandruff, but it’s not.

I feel over-stimulated mentally. I have not had an orgasm since I’ve been on 12 mg. of the EMSAM patch.

I feel a bit ahead of myself. I think I’m doing too much, though I don’t feel scattered.

(I am taking a nap in the afternoon and I am sleeping.)

I wonder if I should take 9 mg. of EMSAM until my next appointment on February 24?

We could see if my symptoms might go away − or, at least, be reduced significantly.

If you say YES, if you agree, let me know. − And I will need an Rx for 9 mg. of EMSAM, if we take that course.

The birdsong, silenced for the depressed, the grasses rasp toward a field of mounds.

They are graves, the fog we feel intact among the stones,

inviting to no one living, only lovers in the mist, their backs up, drifting spectrally.

A weighted net covers the jumping minnows.

“That’s it, I said − talk to me!”

They are not silver flashes in the waves; yet seduction’s possible

even under the bay, decaying,

hurling down the bark of horns in the sun’s blazing lichen.

Your parents, he that fathered you and she that held you in her body,

turn you loose to do Social Work; you become part of the fragile solidity

Home and Work make, the doubts of your life

when you are down, rutting inroads into your circles −

as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, I felt like a client − uncomfortable around

anyone, unable to complete simple financial forms.

I did not know now what I was trying to do −

the hurrying up to slow down, the dream-colored clouds always tugging you up,

moving a new blood, assertions of day and night,

the definite what and when, the Wilson swish and sway: American Field Service

and Clarksburg Club fast in the rushes − if you are not going, why are you moving −

Betsy, your Volks-Wagen, the buses, trains, planes, and the dozers in the snow,

Niagara’s mist, the tourists of the Falls,

Maid of the Mist slapping the sides

where the shops host your tumbling waves to friends and strangers, too,

all one long platform of multi-lights

tinting your solitary ease.

I hold my spirit with yours.

I will mark the detail I can see, take the invisible with the visible,

the old house you decorate for our pleasure,

the absorption myself all in you,

pulling apart the pent-up ascent and rolling over and hugging sleep,

letting the great Ache gaze at the Pageant of Feeling Well,

rising and falling with the sun, becoming part of the populace − alive as they.










“I do not know what lows are for”






Shelby Stephenson




I do not know what lows are for; I do not know how far up is high.

I was “up”(hypomanic): I was happy, but I had too much energy −

surges of good feeling; I was quick, impatient, often unkind,

wanting to make plans, making bad decisions.

I could charm people with my chatter.

You speak to me when I walk in the meadow.

Come to me with your long strides, hold my hand til I warm my palm in yours.

Turn your profile to me; let me feel your hair, breasts, shoulders.

A first-rate morning frosts white on the car’s windows,

tendrils the skip-laurel outside our window.

I am walking Cricket (our small Norwich terrier, sweet, noisy to squirrels and deer,

loyal to a fault) and I see you lift the dumbbells through the glass.

You look beautiful as the east spreading crimson,

your face clear as the tin shining on our farmhouse −

coming up on two months now

without the reach-up-and-bring-down of every inch and shadow of indecision

and twirling-rigs yelling

get a hold on yourself −

“Have you taken your meds?”

Hey, Good looking, whatcha got cooking!

You are cooking now.

Your Chefmate, 1.5 quart crock’s on “Low.”

You are lonesome without me, burning, and yearning,

coming up on eight weeks of “normalcy.”

I remember when I said otherwise.

“Are you going to be silent this whole trip? It’s noticeable. Everyone feels it.”

I remember when I said, “I don’t know if I can stand this anymore.”

This − this disease that has become a plan.

You will not detach my trust:

a river, deep and dark and wide,

the stream, endless,

your sweet renewal gathering up my sweat and tears,

dry now,

slipping away the silences of the table,

my eyes on the floor,

your face feeding your plate.

I had no feelings at all − no sadness, no tears, just numb.

To have you well’s a dream.

The worst hurt’s over and gone.

The flowers shall bloom in the snow.

I think I could make a pebble grow.

Your perception recalls the bad times

you hear me deep inside the browning light,

that neon flickering low and dimming.

This hillside, Paul’s Hill, shall return in spring with dogwoods pink and white,

animals (I saw a fox-track in the snow this January 31, 2010) and birds −

a rufous-sided towhee by the big oak at the terrace − jo-reet, jo-reet −

and I said − that bird’s a flower in the snow −

the blacks strips of winter camped out

like some giant Nature does not identify.

Yesterday, your looks faraway, you said − Look at our bench − the snow’s

draped on the back like someone put a Throw there just for us −

a meadow with snags and beggar-lice

and crevices for ankles to break

and, all of a sudden, like a Charm born immediately,

It is gone.



Mr. Shelby Stephenson's Family Matters: Homage to July, the Slave Girl won the 2008 Bellday Poetry Prize, Allen Grossman, judge.

Contact Editor: Pamela Tyree Griffin

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