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Painted Brain | A Much Older Woman In Camp Jane M. Engleman Mental Health
We're bridging communities and changing the conversation about mental illness using arts and media.
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  • March 22, 2017

A Much Older Woman in Camp Jane M. Engleman Mental Health

I am a woman, and so my drawings

will be forgotten, brushed over in

the mirror before the rush to the train.

We came through the black forest,

the nodding pines before they were cut

for masts of navies and flags of fascists,

through the beautiful needles, crooked

lines of lily and ivy in fairytale books.

They’d long been taking children away,
providing hefty usury to scrub their little
minds for the drive to the New Plantation…

We came back down, we came back down

from photosynthesis to the brick,

the woman’s hospital with its measured steps,

its rectangular windows, its ruled basement

where they gassed us,

they gassed us, til we couldn’t talk about

Roosevelt or Eliot or Woodman or Truth

or Job or Stanton or Sanger. It’s

the Wild Wild West; no place for wimmen;

guns riddled with laws in every clause.

We’d just settle in to what that

means when, later, you’ve copied

with your own “Mind Kampf.”

Nearly half our ladies could not strain

to decide which way to go. “Don’t worry

your little head about it, baby;

we’ll do the decision making

so you can do our most important work.”

In sweet grim grasses, convection

ovens, scattered underwear and scarves,

buckles and candlesticks and scars,

mothers and sisters and old maids,

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mightier pens and faces drawn–
scaredy boys hanging on to skirts or

drooping stockings, looking up to
our furrows of uncropped eyes–

we’d exchanged our muck and moss
for blocks.

We were led to undressing rooms

where we were hung without bodies

on hooks and herded, pregnant,

into showers of elements precisely studied.

They took the world, our world,

their globe, for granted, chop-shopping

white marble monuments that broker no

silly googoos you’d only have to educate

and notice–or stand their frilly

moms or rights or rules–a city of men

and only me, no tenement

for the less than polished, no single

occupant residency, no public pavilions

for picnics or pondering aloud.

It’s a still life, sir, it’s just a sketch; it’s my

country gasping. I begin to wonder–

down to the camps with long aisles

engraved with bloody knees, dorms set

like pews at Camp Witness, clouds of stench

against clouds of rainbows–will refugee

women finally ghost out toward the trees

in heirloom veils, or will we start over

in piles of gray, or will the photographs

of paintings fray and buzz across the projectors?

This rough little squiggle shows somebody’s

chosen safety pins to mark this year’s thriftstore

throwouts; last year, somebody chose the stars.

What else will they choose? Who else will be

the chosen?


Fanbtastic poem by Jane Engleman depicting women and their journey towards mental health in society!

  • Categories:

  • Poetry

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