By Diana Barco (From "Going on Somewhere")

Drawing By Diana Barco (From “Going on Somewhere”)


You know, a brain is not nearly so large
as what it holds, the lodgings of joy and sorrow,
exhilaration and despair, jammed tenements, walls thin
as a hair’s breadth, everyone pounding
against the noise–

I don’t know much
about the addresses–whether ecstasy holes up at 413 South Cortex,
and grief, 414, to the front–
only that the brain passing through experience
sometimes derails, its trains of thought caught
in synaptic whiplash, its emotional impulses shorting
sparks, catapulting blow-outs and when the
tracks get swarmed, new routes
are formed, and that old byway
that climbed through spacious fields
where long-stemmed grass was starsprayed
with pale fleurettes and the deep red mouths of poppies laughed
as big as Jupiter, and the sun shone gold,
and you, as warm, held me,
our bared ribs twined
like clasped hands, swerves suddenly
into changed lands, fixes on a switchbacked
track, no going back and though we still hold on, up slides
down and gathered gold, outweighing
balances, seesaws the scale, and here cut flowers mound
to memorialize the missing, those who are no more are known never
to return, and ecstasy–
though I will have just passed through
her door—now pushes me
out her window, and despair alone extends
a sharp-spined net, offers me
a floor to sleep on, though I don’t sleep,
only wait till I can catch my breath
and the next train home.

Here’s a poem for With Real Toads, Fireblossom’s Friday, to write something about heartbreaking loss.    I am also posting it for dVerse Poets Pub open link night. 

I hesitate to post a poem of this kind for fear it will be deemed autobiographical by readers.  All I can say is that poets are poets — we write about all kinds of human experience, and poetry, by its use of distillation and metaphor, tends to make that experience seem hyper-dramatic and perhaps more personally intense than it may be.

The drawing above is by a dear friend, Diana Barco, who illustrated my book of poetry “Going on Somewhere.”  (This is a new poem, written today and not in the book, though I do urge you to check out the book! As well as my other books, Nose Dive –a humorous mystery, and 1 Mississippi, a counting book for those who like elephants.)

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37 Comments on “Brainscape”

  1. I think this is as close to brilliant as I have read in a long time. I am sitting here in awe and envy (since I can’t seem to write a worthwhile line these days) just taking in the way you wrote this poem – the personification works so well, and the ties to human experience are tight enough to make your reader sit up and take note.

    I hate to repeat what you have written but this section just took my breath away:

    and that old byway
    that climbed through spacious fields
    where long-stemmed grass was starsprayed
    with pale fleurettes and the deep red mouths of poppies laughed
    as big as Jupiter, and the sun shone gold,
    and you, as warm, held me,
    our bared ribs twined
    like clasped hands, swerves suddenly…

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      First, thanks so much, Kerry, for your kind words. Second, I am sorry that you feel frustrated with your own work, which I always find tremendously inspiring, thoughtful, beautifully wrought. I do think you do an awfully lot though! Managing the different blogs–I think it is pretty hard to do so much and not get a little run down. You are, to my mind, pretty amazing. k.

  2. LaTonya Says:

    More reason for us to read, K. The more we read, we learn poets are poets. I agree with Kerry. I have a poor memory, I’v e lost so people I love and my grandmother had alzheimer’s so the personification resonates with me. Besides, I am a reader, and I rejoice when I read a well written piece. Thank you.

  3. coalblack Says:

    First, I read this as being about Alzheimer’s. which it probably is, but then on re-reading, I read it as being about a break from reality, whether via breakdown or drug or mysticism. No matter the point of departure, it’s good stuff, and i thank you for being part of my FBF challenge!

  4. janehewey Says:

    I enjoy the places you traverse in this poem. from parts of the numbered brain areas, to fields, Jupiter, and a floor to sleep on. I get the real sense that I have traveled…. because of that, I read this as a journey of the changing brain. this could be age-induced, but could also be the sort of saturn-return it is said people in their late twenties go through. really wonderful piece, k.

  5. grapeling Says:

    I especially like the final seven lines, K. This is a tour – a tour de force – through a jumping-bean mind.

  6. brian miller Says:

    despair offers you a floor to sleep on…nice…really like how you laid the brain out as a neighborhood in this k…some interesting ponderings too…i read a book a few years ago on the pathways created in the brain…it was very dense but what i gleened of it was quite interesting….

  7. Marian Says:

    wow, love this, Karin.

  8. hedgewitch Says:

    I love that you made the brain the focus here, instead of the heart, and then go on to show so well the flux between thought and feeling that memory represents. Loss is made almost scientific, then suddenly changed to flowers and colors and the feeling is of the train derailed, dropping off the edge, of falling, knowing the landing is going to make previous pain insignificant. Fine writing, k, and I think all loss is fungible, like love; it’s the experience of losing you bring home here, regardless of an autobiographical ‘real ‘ lover being involved. There’s not a way to pick out a favorite line here for me, I’ll just say that starting with the addresses, this made my heart turn over.

  9. Jamie Dedes Says:

    Ingenious … I hate to say “brilliant.” People throw that around so much in comments that it sounds disingenuous. I love the opening with its true statement about the brain. I love the use of train as a metaphore. There are several lines that will stay with me. Very, very well done, Karin.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thank you, Janie, for your kind words. K.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Jamie – I realize I mistyped your name in my response to your kind comment! I was up at about 5 today to come down to the city and not at my best! Thanks. k.

      • Jamie Dedes Says:

        No problem! Typo’s happen. I didn’t even notice. 🙂

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        Jamie, just read your beetle poem which is beautiful, only I’ve turned quite against beetles because they have started infesting blackberry bushes! They have come from somewhere afar and are a new pest and have destroyed so many! Takes all types to make a world, I guess. But I do love blackberries. k.

      • Jamie Dedes Says:

        Me too. Maybe one day we will figure out how to feed us all. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Be well.

  10. Beautiful poem regardless whether it’s autobiographical. I am one of those readers who read literature for the pleasure of it, not to find out if the author based the piece on her/his own life. Keep up the good work! 🙂

    Greetings from London.

  11. From my 36 years as a psychiatric nurse I find this poem to be an exquisite portrayal of mental illness and all that goes wrong in the brain to bring it about. The addresses are brilliant but so is the whole thing. I re-read it many times and it brought back the enormous compassion I felt working with these folks as they struggled to manage their multiple derailments the best they could. Always made me admire their efforts. Thank you for writing and sharing this. May it bring more awareness and compassion.

  12. Mary Says:

    Can’t add anything to what has already been said. Simply brilliant.

  13. Truedessa Says:

    I like how you traveled the roads of the brain there are so many streets and avenues to explore. I often travel the brain waves myself.

  14. kaykuala Says:

    I’ve seen through the trials and the sufferings of dementia. My MIL had passed on but the effects of being transformed as seen from what she went through was scary.
    But when one is being detached from reality in real terms now is worst as one can engage with others but not counter the negative feel. Real scary,K! Thanks for sharing!


  15. Grace Says:

    Fascinating work K ~ Love where this prompt took you ~ I imagine the loss of familiarity and the going into different directions by two people, now despair overtaking everything ~

  16. claudia Says:

    that brainscape of ours has some interesting corners and departments for sure..i recently read that it holds more information than (forgot the number – it was gigantic though) of computers ever could.. and despite just information all the emotions and connections as well.. i find it fascinating.. ok…that just as a side point…really like how you use the image to make your point…tight emotions in this k.

  17. ayala Says:

    Karin, a brilliant write. I love this.

  18. tigerbrite Says:

    This is a brilliant journey of experience. The way the brain and emotions react to circumstance and overload. I found it compelling reading.

  19. Myrna Says:

    This poem is outstanding. I love your take on the brain, the train, the pain. Really, I think this poem is wonderful. I know what you mean too. Sometimes, I’m afraid what I write is taken as autobiography. It isn’t always.

  20. wow k, what a neurological trip! Colgi and Cajal would applaud too! Fabulous fabricated poetry writing !

  21. cloudfactor5 Says:

    I really enjoyed the journey through the “Brainscape” you have laid out in addresses, jammed tenements with thin walls, swarmed tracks, and really just rips right to the ending !! through cleverness of design you show us that our human experience expressed poetically, is only as far as our imagination or just as close as the next train station !!

  22. Karin, I’m in the middle of a course in neuroscience which absolutely fascinates me, so your journey was a joy to read. Very well thought-out. Wish my little brain didn’t run around in so many circles, though. And that it would retain all the wonderful things I learn each day with a bit more ease. Ah, aging!

  23. shanyns Says:

    Very well done, first stanza really was special to me! Could relate. Well done!

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