MaryAnn L. Miller


Patients in this Salpetriere taught me the continuum of disorder:
               the Catholic nun with twin tumors each a caduceus
                              twisted around the arteries in her neck;
                                              the woman in white terrycloth turban of bandages
                                                           who screamed all day,
                                                                           Will someone give Mrs. Chen an aspirin?
               the stagger-step Parkinson's man full of literature and cat stories in
                               a Yiddish accent; the schizophrenic lesbian poet who lanked into my room
                                              just before lights out looking for hurried love as she waited for a bed
                                                                           in the psych unit across the street.
               She named the tall man with directions written on his scalp The Golem.
                               He wandered the ward at night walking in and out of rooms a few steps
                                              ahead of the orderlies.
                                                                           I wedged a chair back under the doorknob to keep from reading
                                                                                          what was inscribed on his head.

Ten days to learn a new language,
the syllables of hysteria exchanged for the vocabulary of neurology.
The mother tongue still being spoken in the Freudian diaspora
a lifetime to root it out expose it
argue with it
hold myself up to reaction
find an interpreter.

* * *


When horses seize their flanks flutter
shut down to inertia.
If they are standing they may fall;
if lying won't rise in the stall.
The genetic test for a thoroughbred: fifty dollars---
hundreds for a human

Driving to the new Barnes my muscles seized
like the traffic around me on I-95 I was stuck
foot spared in motion from gas to brake
the ghost in the machine the silent center
quietly cursing.

Myotonic goats make good pets
because their fences need only six inches.
Clap your hands to surprise them
they will seize and slam the ground
in a spontaneous episode.
Tennessee has exported them lean and muscular.
Dan Rather thought them entertaining

On I-78 returning from a crisis intervention
conference with Dr. Slaby
my foot froze to the pedal,
torso slumped. Eighteen-wheeler
behind me, I lifted my right leg with both hands
braked gliding off to the exit ramp

Mr. Rather,
it isn't funny.
Rufus the Fainting Goat's
struggle for dignity struck me
like an abrasion.
These creatures have names.
Lucia Perillo says they teach us to rise.

Limping past the reflecting pool
I seek Courbet's  Woman with White Stockings, 
find her as if the collection had never left Merion.
She leans back to roll the stocking onto her right foot
her left leg already covered gartered
shod in a red slipper
graceful sole bracing the ground.
Dark dimple of a vagina
between pale fruit buttocks
hint of inside revealed.
Her eyes hold kind recognition.
She will rise,
continue dressing.


MaryAnn L. Miller's book, Locus Mentis, has been published by PS Books (2012.) She has been published in various journals in the Philadelphia area, Kaleidoscope Magazine, and the International Review of African American Art. Miller is also a visual artist specializing in screen prints and artist books. Her work is in the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She has been the Resident Book Artist for the Experimental Printmaking Institute, Lafayette College since 2001. She publishes artist's books through her Lucia Press. Miller co-ordinates the Hunterdon Art Museum Poetry Series in Clinton, NJ. She has Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis.