Notes on Psychiatry in 1972

Fairmile stood between the A329 and the Thames

a bus ride from home

an institution and though I shunned the one at school,

it was better than babysitting: a pay slip with a uniform; this was pocket money, with psychology and cool.

They’d said I could begin the work observing a new trial, reducing nasty sedatives, which many thought unwise: instead of doping up the mad they thought they’d try and hear what might have been forbidden voice and fuelled mortal fear.

Later, darker corridors, buckets full of teeth, passed round over porridge, labelled underneath,the Newells’ frequently mis-read, poor Elsie and Elspeth doubled in confusion by silent, gummed despair.

Men in striped pyjamas, fumbling with a thread, lined up to piss on radiators, as ever careful not to move an eye, the upward flick of lid.

Excrement a curious clay in fester’s dirtied beds; furious the night-staff raged, unhinged and lashing sin; in loneliness an entrapped child hides decades deep within.

In-between, the ECT:

wrapped, strapped, wracked-bodies, strained against the surge designed to purge a suffering that led a dearly loved to bag her head, unbreath her life.

An ante-room: I had to wait and count down time, then loosen straps and make the tea when they came back, not knowing if the devoiced took one, two, three …

My pocket money took me to a liberation from the grind, of drizzled grey-bused nursing wear, to ochre, saffron-mystic-flights and life beyond the mind, and yet my bookshelves bend to volumes now also bending mine.

Institutions now become bijoux gated places, lawned to rivers’ locks, still yet house the toothless who in muted sadness, end lonely lives inside.

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