Reader Alert: The following verse is meant to be read in the spirit of play. I have tremendous respect for people who work in the psychiatric profession, and empathy for those who struggle—and thrive—with mental illness.


I’ve taken a course
to understand
why the course
of my life has not
gone hand in hand
with the orders I gave it—
or somebody did.

I can’t quite remember.

I ordered a book
that took men and women
much smarter than me
sixty-two years
to determine what’s
what in the brain
we call normal

which was something
I thought I never
could be

and now,
having read
and not understood

—I am using the book
as a stool for the foot
that I used to put into
my mouth—

I can say
with undisguised glee
there are only three things
that are wrong with me!


I have the ability to not sit still
in the presence of boredom disorder.

If you determine
I should take a pill,
I will reach for a pillow
resisting temptation
for I can delay
like nobody’s business
and save for a day
the gratification to whomp
it across your head.

And take a nap instead.


In the face of anxiety
I do not panic
though I probably should
if not panic
do something

I’m too busy
thinking of all
of my options
in times of anxiety
there are only

flight or

but when caught
in tight corners, the Fs
on my tongue get tied up
and I twist them to

and frig it!

Then do what I please.


On days like today
when I’m too sad
to play in the rain—

and reading
the forecast with
pictures of suns they
delete (oops, wrong
again!) makes me feel
even more of a drip

I go on a trip
in my mind where
there’s no border guards
and the Silk Road
is booming

and buy myself
mansions with poets
in residence

ask Paco de Lucia
to tune my guitar—
he always say yes!

And I learn to play chess.

that is all
that is all
that is wrong
with me


DSM stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It was first published in 1952 and is now in its fifth edition, known as DSM-5.

© Elaine Stirling, 2014
The painting called “Ecstasy” is by Maxfield Parrish.