Friday, May 9, 2014

Walking the Fine Line

the art of Seraphine de Senlis

Up the gray stairs, 
chipped and drab, 
I smell the smell of Institution.
At the nurses' station, 
they size me up and find me lacking:
a mother whose son has fallen apart-
(what has she done
to fail him?)

Down the hall to his bare, gray room......
His head emerges from the bedclothes.
We hug. He is trembling.
He smiles at me:
his same big smile, 
he looks at me,
his same blue eyes.

I am relieved.
This is still my son.
I will tether him to earth
with all of my mother's love.
I will never let go.

He has walked the fine line
between daybreak and hell-fire,
and has fallen.
Where will his beauty find a place to land
in halls so bleak and bare?
How will his life go on,
his hours measured out in hospital trays 
and paper pill cups?

We talk.
"I want them to make it stop:
this bad trip that never ends."
I tell him I am proud of him
for going for help.

I look at the faces, the eyes, of the other people
in these rooms, these hallways,
whose common denominator
is pain.
One of them chases the doctor - coat-tails flying - 
down the hallway, entreating
"Please, Doctor, Please!" 
to his retreating, harried back.

Looking out at the gray rain 
trickling down the speckled windows,
I recognize what a fine, thin line exists
between coping
and suffering that is too great 
for the mind to endure,
how, at any moment, 
under enough pain and provocation, 
any one of us 
might find ourselves here,
in this place of desolation, pain 
and no more hope.

He goes back to bed.
Living is too tiring right now.
On his bedside table, I see a little note
he has written in his spikey script:
"I am Cloud. 
Someone blow me away."

My heart stops, then begins again.
I go back along the gray corridor 
full of shuffling, suffering souls,
down the drab, chipped stairs,
out the heavy doors into the light of what is
- for others - an ordinary day.

Behind me, up two flights,
my son is sleeping.
Beside him sits a little
note to the world
he finds so painful.
I think upon those words,
with all of a mother's love, and pain, and fear:

"I am Cloud.
Someone blow me away."

For Shay's prompt at Real Toads: write about the "fine line" (as described at Real Toads), a topic with which I have had some experience.


  1. Oh, Sherry, this could only be written from hard experience. If he is a cloud, you must certainly be his sky, a safe place to exist in, when there is no other. Thanks for writing this for us--I know it could not have been easy.

  2. Your words speak for all of the mothers who have seen sons and daughters through the horrors of mental illness, tragedies ... there for them no matter.

  3. i am totally awestruck at the power with which you
    describe the experiences ringing agony, despair
    and grit....

  4. I think you have made a very important must know what one can endure. Overload the system and it will
    blow up in our faces. All that talk about stretching yourself and what doesn't kill you will make you stronger most likely will kill you Everyone needs to know their breaking point and their limitations in spite of pop pyschology
    urging us to keep pushing the boundaries.

    Your poem was heartbreaking. People will judge you...but their judgements are of no value. It is your own personal judgement of yourself which counts. One can only do ones best under given circumstances . That is all. This must be a painful time for you and I know a number of poets will feel for you and no doubt the religious one will offer prayers to alleviate the suffering of your son and yourself. I hope things will get better for you soon.

    1. I should explain that this happened twenty years ago when my son was seventeen. He suffered greatly but we walked through it together, and he is better able to endure now, though he does have his harder moments. Basically, he is a sunny, hilarious, caring and brilliant man, who composes classical music and writes Shakespearean sonnets. The most brilliant among us are more sensitive to the world's harshness - but they bring so many gifts. Thank you so much for your comment.

  5. I recognize what a fine, thin line exists
    between coping
    and suffering that is too great
    for the mind to endure...

    This is so powerful, Sherry, all the more so because it comes from the heart of a mother who has been there, but the story speaks of so many who suffer in this way, and of the family that loves them.

  6. This so very much tugs at my heart-strings! Oh, my God!!! The pain! The understanding of what it's like when the world is too painful... That note! All of it! I really feel like I want to give you a hug after reading this! Wonderful!

  7. "This is still my son.
    I will tether him to earth
    with all of my mother's love.
    I will never let go."
    Yes, yes! What strength and love! Who cares about being "found wanting"--you are grounded in what you know. We need that cloud to stay in our skies, or love is worth very little. You amaze me, Sherry, holding yourself together--finding the help you need in nature and friends to stay strong amid the too much. I hold you in the Light. I hope this poem is able to travel far and enter the lives of all of us.

  8. A very powerful poem, Sherry, ringing with love and authenticity. K.

  9. I feel the tears that punctuate this, the pain. I know well that walk along the hallway. This piece is the raw honesty of a mother's heart mourning and trying to pull hope from the gray around her.

  10. What a powerful poem, Sherry. A mother's love knows no lines really. There is always love. I think in some ways we all walk a fine line. Juggling. Deciding. Trying. Life is often a fine line..and sometimes a struggle to maintain. Happy Mother's Day, Sherry.

  11. Very touching & moving write Sherry ~ Despite our children failings, they are still our children and we must help them every step of the way ~ There is a thin line indeed between coping & suffering ~


  12. What gut-wrenching sadness you portray in this. Beautifully done.

  13. Your poem is brilliant, authentic and from the heart. I love this:

    "I am relieved.
    This is still my son.
    I will tether him to earth
    with all of my mother's love.
    I will never let go."

    and his note is definitely heart-stopping...I agree with what Fireblossom said about you being his sky and I'm so glad to read your note in the comments here about his wellness now...

    A beautiful piece, Sherry. Thank you. ♥

  14. Sherry, I am speechless. What you went through as a mother in those moments I can only imagine. This really moved me to tears.

  15. My heart just went out to you, his words caught me off guard and I worried this was "current". I'm glad this happened a long time ago … I have yet to read all of the Willard Hall Asylum poems - but this prompt really ties into that one for me - moves me so much.

  16. This a very strong and moving poem, Sherry. One of my favorite of yours. I am sure being a mother is not easy, ever. Whatever the age of your children, they are still children in your eyes. Happy Mother's Day!

  17. Sherry, this is heartbreaking and beautiful. It thoroughly depicts the pain and love a mother endures. I hope your son feels better soon, and you too get some relief.

  18. Sherry, this is so powerfully sad ~

  19. this is heart wrenching, Sherry! i have close family members going through something similar right now. unfortunately, seeking help doesn't always work well. it's more luck than science to find the right therapist, the right medications, the path to wellness.


I so appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.
Thank you so much. I will be over to see you soon!