THE MOON BIRD THINKS OF THE MOON ONLY
A young girl pushes her face at a scrap of window
watching the moon. Licks her long hair:
no one’s looking. She dreams of a strange lone bird.
Not quite sunup. A hand
holds her at the shoulder, No
breakfast, says the voice behind the hand.
A short hall, a bit in
the mouth, spatula of conducting gel, a needle.
The bird for her part squats on the gray plains
trying to understand
the pallor and the dead bowls of moon.
The mares and montes, rock,
ice of the poles burning beneath her.
There is just one
of her, two wings with which to know herself: this is difficult.
A persisting amnesia . . .
What happened one day: men in whitebleached balloon suits
rode in a box, skipped down--
moondust tracked with their broad feet’s cuneiform.
They planted a perch in the ground.
Bini in 1942 suggested the repetition of ECT many times a day for certain patients,
A number of unexplained deaths have occurred.
They pointed at the one ball blue in the far
sky the other one yellow and in flames each describing
great slow ovals overhead.
And the little scatters of lights . . .
We started by inducing two to four grand mal convulsions daily until the desired degree
of regression was reached. We considered a patient had regressed sufficiently when he wet
and soiled, or acted and talked like a child of four. . . . their minds seem like clean slates
on which we can write.
And the white shreds the blue planet seems able
to summon, to float over itself. A choice.
Of what fills the eye--
Too large for her to understand.
The reduction of intelligence is an important factor in the curative process. I say this
without cynicism. The fact is that some of the very best cures that one gets are in those
individuals whom one reduces almost to amentia (feeble-mindedness).
Like the solar draught that wings through earth’s magnetic atmosphere
drawing its electrical charge spinning onto the moon.
Like the waters we’ve mapped from here on earth,
dry and invisible on the moondust--
Sea of Tranquility, Sea of Vapor, of Crises.
Mare Cognitum: the Known Sea.
Their tides wrenched by earth’s gravity
of error. Because our science learned too late
impact and erosion can look the same.
The ions seething all around,
positive and negative, hungry, ripping the dust
Numerous punctate hemorrhages in the cerebral cortex, medulla, cerebellum and basal
ganglia. Areas of necrosis. . .  the first reported instance of hemorrhages in the
brain attributable to electrical convulsive treatment.
Nowhere to reflect, see her face.
So she tries as always to explore it a wing
sweeps against one eye and then another and sweeps again
and again. Her eyes are holes in her head
full of pictures. How many holes? Two? Three?
When she thinks move her wings mindlessly commit
the great flap flap of her thought. Touch the beak, the jellied pupil, wait.
Why when she pictures
some things, those things happen, though with most
she lives in the tedium of their refusals. The month of light
that ends. The dust that won’t stop filling her throat.
In addition to their inattention and inability to concentrate there was some difficulty in
carrying out tasks that they were well trained to do before their illness.
The sense of a soul
as a thing winged and failing.
The research thus indicated that ECT was a slower-acting lobotomy with the added
complications of shock-induced terror.
Then I decided to perform a lobotomy upon her. . . . After the dressing had been taken off,
I asked her, “How are you now? What about the Holy Ghost?” Smiling, she answered,
“Oh, the Holy Ghost; there is no Holy Ghost.”
And the men who came brought things just to leave
like lovers whose leaving
is woven into the ceremony of their arrival.
She feels in her body the premise of soaring.
Of touching down. Of seeing, from the sky,
moonscape and hollow, the dry torrential seas.
But like those who came she bounces and falls back.
As for the psychogenic theories about the action of shock treatment, the following are
1) mobilizes the self-preservation drives
So many questions: has there always been a her, are her claws
runing the dirt causing the place to appear?
2) yields the unconscious experience of dying and resurrection
Has there ever been another one
like her, white-winged, splay-footed. Or could that space
in her head that orders her body around have once existed
in another form.
3) gives rise to the identification of the physician with the mother
Has any other being ever
touched her. Fed her.
The spatulate beak she can see, blackspot, just at the tip.
4) yields fear, which in turn causes remission
Because it is an unbearable burden
that what is, comes to be only in the space of her mind.
Only seems to exist there—
The spheres’ dance, the moonquakes,
chunks of other rock spitting by through space, dust
twisting and lit like a live thing across the surface.
The way lit dust can sting—sizzlefoot, a drill of
whiteness in the brain—when she touches it.
Those strange beings lost in their second skins.
The intestinal ping of each sense happening inside her, then thought
like a wing, arranging smoothing it all out.
5) serves the purpose of atonement
For the known world to crash and rest in her head.
6) gives amnesia, which is itself healing
And every day collate, try to remember. More shreds of knowledge
may return. The bubble suits. The two globes in the sky
arcing and pretending to touch.
7) brings the personality “down to a lower level”
The girl’s fifteen.
When she rises from the darkness the nurses
remind her of her name.
Which is necessary; all she can picture
is the bird, white, flightless, isolate, body like a clenched fist
able to pull the long v’s of her soft wings across her face.
Not a dove or a swan. Maybe a pale dodo. Who could never
in a thousand lifetimes picture the girl.
She is not the bird; there are many
like her and she sees them
crowned, some as they wake up nursing at the bit.
She may have done that. She becomes someone far removed at these times,
someone whose words get extracted like teeth from her head.
July—10 people, 9 were women
August—16 people, 14 were women
September—14 people, 13 women
October—14 people, 10 women
November—11 people, 7 women
December—7 people, 5 women
She has anesthesia, not like the difficult patients.
There will be days and days and even years and years more.
She was not thinking normally. The family, however, was very pleased. For the first time
in many years, Mrs. Brown . . . was cleaning, cooking and running the home well.
She has no story and she knows this, just a hunger
for the moon again, fat and silver as the watch caught at her face
as she leaps off the world, three times a week on a white pallet.
Or the moon can come
slim and taunting as a name she cannot remember.
She’s helped back to her room. Finally
it’s dark; she puts her face to the window.
The moon gone new, which is a way of saying
-In“The Moon Bird Thinks of the Moon Only,” the italicized material is drawn from medical articles collected in Leonard Roy Frank’s The History of Shock Treatment.