Eliah Lüthi

Poems translated from German based on an audio-interpretation by Tanja Barbian, http://www.englisch-dolmetschen.de.

– I –

Many years ago, I told you:

I told you of wondering creatures

that wander, full of wonder

through my worlds.

Worlds, which make me wide

and draw my nights in magic lights.

They hold me tight and sometimes too

tight, for me to wonder on this world.

I told you about its teeth and horrors,

its silver rivers and hideaways.

I told you about the springs, that listen,

while they glisten through my worlds.

I told you about my joys

when they walked me to school.

I told you about my fears,

when they took me for a fool,

when they took me over.

I told you and you understood

or did you not?

You looked at me

with a smile and a nod.

And then you said: “Never tell anyone!

THIS should be a secret.

It’s not normal.

You’re the only one.”

I complied and secretly

became locked away

in this secret

alone with me.

I continued to bathe and sometimes drown in my worlds,

while building a wall around.

I continued to scream for fear, sometimes

but no longer confided in anyone.

– II –

Many and years later

with new people in new places

I tried to find words

to translate my worlds.

I searched for cracks in the stone

surrounding me

to connect with this world,

as a way to be.

Sometimes I danced between worlds

here and there.

Sometimes you bathed in my rivers

as a way to share.

Did you hear it?

Did you feel its wondrous width?

Is this the reason, why you never

touched my worlds again?

You turned away.

Was it incomprehension?

Was it apprehension

of the touch of my worlds?

You looked away from me

and never looked back,

when your eyes asked:

“Are they Mad?”

I said: “No!

Mad is not what I AM

But your questions and looks

they drive me Mad,

they drive me away

from you.

And to stay with you

they drive me away from me.”

But you did not hear me anymore,

neither my words

nor my worlds.

Your questions were no longer

directed at me

but about me.

I – driven besides myself

gave myself a sideway glance

and never looked back aswell.

This is how, over time

the worlds inside of me dried up

and the voices, of the others

taking me apart, became a part

and stayed for good.

– III –

A few years ago, the voices turned me

into a cocophony a multitude within

and my everyday multifarious life

turned slightly chaotic.

A situation somehow new to me

but in other ways not so differently

than my years working in bars, smiling

at dirty comments and sticky hands

which no smile could brush away.

Or the ensuing years afterwards

with transphobic comments and circumstances.

And all along those sideway glances,

labelling my behaviour different and Mad.

Anyways, back to the cocophony:

Amidst this jumble it spoke to me

a voice from the past to the present

entering deep into my presence:

“Never tell anyone!

This should be a secret, is not normal you’re the only one.”

But I brushed it away, decided otherwise

and invited the world to enter my life.

I thought:

“Everything is going to be different now,

I’m no longer just anywhere, anyhow.

Now I am in Berlin and here

everybody is so leftie and queer

They throw ‘crazy’ in every sentences mix

and even music is called ‘mad’ or ‘sick’.

In all this talk of ‘mad’, ‘sick’ and ‘crazy’,

could there be a place for me, maybe?”

In groups it’s difficult sometimes:

Voices, sounds here and there

words and questions from everywhere

and then: my answer…

A silence that breaks the rhythm

‘cause I heard this question differently.

My answer floats in the room

for everyone to stare at and see:

It trembles and fidgets and falls

building back up my walls.

With your looks and whispers behind my back,

I feel myself slowly driven Mad,

driven slightly away from you

and in order to stay with you

driven a little further away from me.

– IV –

I no longer know where I am

somewhere else, besides, or in the wind?

I look at myself and see:

I am driven away from me,

by all of you a little bite

and a little bit by them.

And a bit and a bite by my myself.

And, I know! Exactly –

this I learned – in such a case

This is p…shhh-aye! k… oh logical!

In such a case, this is the only place.

Oh logical. P… shh! Psy.

I go there and it seems quite nice,

they ask me what to drink I’d like

I can tell and someone listens

without mockery and secret whispers.

Activ, with praise and resource oriented

but meanwhile there’s something, I haven’t intended:

I am being observed, studied and labelled

defined in numbers and put in tables.

And in the end they drive me

– p… shh! oh locally –

into a diagnosis

or two or three.

Wrapped up in numbers and letters

thrown in othered space:

far away from them

far away from here

far away from me

loony binned.

A bed is ordered

I’m ‘put to rest’.

Great and now?

The voices are here

and so am I

but not with me

‘cause I am gone

driven mad

driven away

to othered space.

I am looking there, looking at me

and think something is not right with this

And yet somehow, it is, it is,

I think to myself and see:

My bin says X2120F4

Who ever does this and that, this bin is for

It’s written down

it is recorded

and thus must fit somehow.

That is you now!

er… I mean: me.

Or not?

After months I got out of there

got a diagnosis for every resistance

unlearned my language and existence

Instead I learned to analyse and label

to put myself in numbers and tables

The creatures and wonders and rivers are gone

instead in my satchel I carry:

A knowledge about me

oh-logically sorted

defined from the outside

and assorted

Cut-off from my experience

explained instead through a medical lens

Self-transformation

in the purpose of integration.

Getting a case worker and living alone

to bring the control into my home

To fit in and hide the rest

‘unburden’ my friends

only show them my best.

–V–

And a few weeks ago there it was again

the voices grew louder into many

despite satchel and bin I was not prepared

misjudged the games they were playin’.

The walls are closing in on me

The bridges are breaking down.

They come for me, no matter what,

filling my inner halls.

I know I cannot fight it alone

They are here to destroy.

But if I tell you, I ask myself:

Will you hear me now?

Can I tell you, with your questions?
Can I word it in this tongue?

No better not! Remember:

“thissouldbeasecretisnotnormalyou’rethe onlyone.”

It’s better I stay alone

and hide inside my home.

Now it’s me, who drives myself in othered spaces

and for that, oh logically, I get a lot of praises.

The looks are now part of me

and sometimes I see them in you

and no longer know: is it my projection?

Maybe just my fears’ own reflection?

Or have you too begun

to drive me Mad?

to drive me away?

to othered space?

I distrust you and all of your places

This language full of othering phrases

I’d rather hide behind my walls

for fear of P… shh! and it’s calls.

I no longer know where to go

‘cause what drove me here are the things I know

It’s clear, I cannot go back

but alternatives are what I lack.

What I am afraid of, that is me

‘cause I have long been my own court and p… shh!…ychiatry

I drive myself away from me

and lock myself up

every time I observe, label and hide

all the things I’ve got.

But this means on the other side,

to find new ways

and stop to hide

I can start with what I’ve got

here, now and me is the lot.

I wish, I could un_drive myself

out of P…shh! oh-logical shelves

bite by bite in what I do

how I see myself and relate to you

I’m trying to find my worlds again

connect them with now and not with then.

I’m searching for words which help me wander

on this world here full of wonder.

I begin to connect with all of you

who wander in many worlds too.

And share with you today and here

the beings and worlds and voices I hear.

I share them with you who might recognize

some of your worlds between my lines

And I share them with you, who might not have it

but challenge this world in your own habit.

And while I connect like this with you

and me, I realize that what I do

is slowly overcoming the walls inside

through sharing some of the things I hide.

And with what I finish here today

is, that I trust in this other way

on which I rather wander together

– with you and me – than alone.

This piece was written to try to find my own words to share the way I move through many worlds – through words, which are not defined by psychiatry and the dichotomy of mental health and sickness, words, which try to grasp the poetry within my dance, the poetry of sharing, the poetry of community. It is, as well, an effort to grasp the violence in psychiatric institutions, in everyday language, in glances that show how we are rendered *Other and Less. It is an effort to free myself from these looks and perspectives, and to become whole again.

I love to bring some Madness into my own and other wor(l)ds and perspectives, doing so through conversations, everyday life, performances, writing, teaching, short movies, and research. In my work, I explore the connection of saneism and trans*discrimination, and reflect how my experiences, inside and outside of psychiatric systems, have been influenced by me being Mad and agender, just as much as by my whiteness and class-privileges. Since 2019, I have been doing this under the name Akademie der Unvernunft (Academia of Unreason) — a Mad empowerment project based in Austria, which moves between activism, academia, and arts.

I edited the anthology BeHindert & VerRückt Worte_Gebärden_Bilder finden (Disabled & Mad: Finding our own Words_Signs_Images) which was published in the summer of 2020. Currently I am finishing my thesis at the University of Innsbruck, with a focus on Mad Studies.
My Project: akademie-der-unvernunft.org
My Book: edition-assemblage.de/buecher/behindert-verrueckt/
My Research: www.uibk.ac.at/dk-gender/doktorandinnen/persoenliche-seite-luethi.html

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