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
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
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.
“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
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
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.
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
defined from the outside
Cut-off from my experience
explained instead through a medical lens
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.
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:
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