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Understanding Madness

Understanding Madness

Carlo Levy

Memoir / Poetry

In this small but distilled memoir the poet makes his invisible headquarters the old downtown Seattle Public Library, which was torn down many years ago. He imagines the investigation of his schizophrenia will be tricky and may remain unsolved, so why not believe there is simple magic in the world? The bookstores he haunts distract him, and the Radio of Worry. What role is he performing on this obscure show? His father, a hedonistic but scholarly Marxist, who does have concern for his son, dies before being able to share the secrets of the Great Project he has been writing all his life, but now his cats in Mexico are speaking up. The poet’s opera loving mother is still teaching children how to read, and is still singing, in her last years at the retirement home, but she is forgetting more each day, as her brave soul becomes luminous, if sleepy and quiet.

He catches glimpses of strange, illustrated books in dreams, and the old woman next door, who may be a witch, is writing her own answers down in a long poem that somehow includes his own story, but she moved away long ago. He remembers fondly his old poetry teacher’s community of angels, the spirits of Blake, Roethke, and Harpo Marx, who appeared to this visionary eccentric, but he is also gone, and belonged to another world.

The poet wonders why he became so frightened years ago when telepathy appeared and demanded his heart. He can still visit his mother, and call her on the phone though, and with her, fall asleep, a book in his hands, after reminiscing about the old dogs he and his wife have lived with. How much time must he spend in the waiting room of the clinic near his mother’s old apartment house? His patient and discreet counselors try to understand his troubles, but he seems more interested in recalling walks on the old paths of the obsolete naval base down by the lake, while he becomes wound up in mystical monologues about his boyhood in Santa Monica and his mother’s old gardens.

Perhaps it is time to get to work and solve the mystery of his abandoned manuscript about his days as a homecare worker, or why he was cursed by his lover from the old days, but he needs to apologize to her, and to his readers, embarrassed about his efforts to write at all. If only the dreamers of Seattle could make a little room for him in the city, where he is no longer innocent, but where he still seeks their sympathy, hiding in the old library when he is at home in the garden with his memories, listening to that peculiar radio show, like a hummingbird tuning into a sweet song of experience.

Paperback: $10.00

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