No Place To Lay Head (Asylum)


Photography of Lisa Gordon

No Place To Lay Head (Asylum)  (From  A “Firm’s” Perspective)

Sometimes I did
get my danders up–
so many bristled heads
pushing me
into the bedsteads–

Not even a bit
of sacking, potato-faced,
lumped by the press
of Adam’s apple,
too soon split
at the seams–who knew
your own feathers
could poke
so sharp–
even straitened stripes
bunching punch drunk
in the clenches–

Flakes filled
my folds–
eye, sob,
paint, dinner–

Pillow, pill-ow,
I whispered
into their ears,
sure speaking down to them
could help, sure some–the poor, women–knew the language
of down.


This is very much of a draft poem, posted for Margaret Bednar’s prompt on With Real Toads, which asked us to write a prompt based upon Lisa Gordon’s moving photographs of Willard Asylum and to write in the first person from some perspective.  This is written from the perspective of a pillow.    I do not mean it to be funny at all;  I find this a terribly painful subject.
On the good side, this is the 25th day of National Poetry Month.    At this point, it gets hard to tell if anything one writes has meaning! In this regard, I had many different endings and have edited since posting, adding the last several words. Still very uncertain of ending.  
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19 Comments on “No Place To Lay Head (Asylum)”

  1. grapeling Says:

    really clever and effective conceit, K ~

    • grapeling Says:

      K, came back to read this version, and I like it. After reading comments, esp. Grandmother Mary, and her observation on ‘down’ – welllllll – isn’t a feather pillow, down? Perhaps unintended and certainly not observed until pointed out to me, the pillow speaking about up and down adds another entire potential layer to the reading. Or, it’s day 26 and I’m loopy. I get your point about reworking, and not being sure about one’s own work – but from (your) outside, I find your pens consistently refreshing and intelligent. ~

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        Ha. Speaking down was always intended to be down as in pillow talk. Other versions emphasized the language of down more, though I haven’t had time for so many versions . I feel very loopy also– I have enjoyed the exercise a lot and it has been very fun to be in company of others doing it, but I do feel a bit at wit’s end!

        I find writing about mental illness very difficult– one doesn’t want to be overly histrionic somehow– it is just too serious . Your get worked so well. K.


  2. Jinksy Says:

    I applaud you on the choice of a pillow to tell the tale – very effective.

  3. claudia Says:

    oh heck… no place to lay head and then the write from a pillows perspective… i feel the empathy in this k. – a moving write

  4. Brendan Says:

    What was the famous case by Freud, the man who thought his wife was a hat? Here the burden of mad life is a pillow, a bag stuffed with feathers that would free the insane if their would only re-wing their own minds. A talking wall. A terrific image and ode.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Hey Brendan–I think that was Oliver Sacks–or at least he wrote about the case in his book, “The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat” — a truly wonderful book about a man who lost face recognition among other things.

      Thanks well. I’ve changed the poem a little since you read. I’m having trouble making poetic decisions! But thanks for your kind comments and great poem. k.

  5. Sumana Roy Says:

    my….so cleverly done…

  6. Indeed, those women knew the language of down and you portrayed it spot on here.

  7. hedgewitch Says:

    Really a creative and appropriate point of view here, k–I am struck by how painful you made it seem to be a pillow, how difficult a job,simply to bring the usual normal everyday comfort and peace of a night’s oblivion to those whose heads where so full of spikes. The added last words really do it for me, I think a wise choice to end with them, as they sort of clarify what is going on in the heads above the pillow. You did a great job with this, and I know it was a hard subject for you–but then at day 26, what *isn’t* a hard subject??? Gah.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Yes–my discrimination is wearing down–I had lines I liked which I took out and others added–finally going for shortening–it is a subject that I found just too difficult. k.


  8. Lots to admire here, but I particularly love “the language of down”
    and “bunching punch drunk”. Your opening is just great and on such a difficult subject….

  9. Brilliant! To be a pillow in a mad house……..
    So much feeling here. Loved this!

  10. Steve King Says:

    Loopy or not, you’ve kept the good ideas coming…just the notion of an asylum pillow, where so many heads filled with mad dreams have come to rest. You’re right. This is a difficult topic, a sad topic, an impossible topic, perhaps, but you’ve really given it a life. Fine job.
    Steve K.

  11. coalblack Says:

    The double entendre at the end is masterful.

  12. janehewey Says:

    gosh, I read this as from inside the head of a person suffering from mental illness. (which would be incredibly difficult to pull off, i think) to learn it was a pillow’s perspective was almost comforting. some stellar images pulled through here with bristle heads and potato-faced, bunching punch drunk another effective sound/word choice.this would be fun to hear read aloud.

  13. What an unique perspective you brought to this prompt, Karin.

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