“Frankly, I’m Not Doing Well” By Daniel Crocker

 

Frankly, I’m Not Doing Well

By Daniel Crocker

 

    A week ago, a little after 3am,  I stood up from my laptop, pulled off my robe, took off my shirt, grabbed the scissors that had been calling to me from my desk for weeks, and  I cut my upper left arm exactly twenty times. It was the first time I’d cut in years, and as far as self-harm goes, it wasn’t so bad. In my early twenties,  I would cut myself over 100 times—arms, legs, torso. This time I got away with twenty. Not my best work by any means. Nothing that would leave a scar. Not really.

    A week ago, cutting was an orgasm. The keen edge of a blade brought me back to the here and now. It’s private. That’s why I cut in places no one can see—until they do.

   Early in our marriage, Margaret found my stash of bloody paper towels.

   What is this? She wanted to know.  What could I say? I rolled up my sleeves and showed her. She cried, and I didn’t cut again for years.

    A week ago, I told Margaret that I thought I needed to go to the hospital. I was shaking and on the verge of tears. I’m not much of a crier. It got her attention. I was standing in my bathrobe and Pikachu hat that tends to reduce my anxiety by a minuscule amount.

    I think I need to go to the hospital, I said. Margaret stood there a moment, taking me in. Thinking.

    All they’ll do, she said, is keep you full of drugs for three days and let you out. She had a point.

    Maybe you start back on your meds and call your shrink on Monday.

    Okay, I said. Later that night, I went through rapid, severe mood swings—mania, rage, euphoria, depression and back again. That night, I cut myself twenty times on my upper left arm. Continue reading

“Betty Doesn’t Know Who She Loves More” By Daniel Crocker

 

Betty Doesn’t Know Who She Loves More

Bruce is the sensitive type
a little nervous but
It’s nice when someone
really listens

Honestly, most of the time
she probably prefers him
Hulk tries, but his thoughts get
muddled. They go from rage
to depression and back again

But Bruce can be a little boring
at times with his talk of
quantum physics, cures and
medication

Hulk has something
and it’s not just the ripped
abs and cantaloupe biceps

Hulk once
knocked a man through
a wall for her

The man died

That says something, doesn’t it
That he would end everything
a man could possibly be so easily
wipe out a billion timelines

and maybe she just couldn’t
love one without the other

Both Bruce and Hulk
know their place
Neither are very happy with it
but it is what it is

and she knows something
they don’t. She knows they are in
love with each other. She couldn’t
force them to part. No, she’ll have both.
Thanks.

.

This poem appears in Daniel Crocker’s book Gamma Rays. For more information, check out this interview between our Managing Editor Chase Dimock and Daniel Crocker about his collection of Hulk inspired poetry.

.

About the Author: Daniel Crocker’s work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Hobart, Big Muddy, New World Writing, Stirring, Juked, The Chiron Review, The Mas Tequila Review and over 100 others. His books include Like a Fish (full length) and The One Where I Ruin Your Childhood (e-chap with thousands of downloads) both from Sundress Publications. Green Bean Press published several of his books in the ’90s and early 2000s. These include People Everyday and Other Poems, Long Live the 2 of Spadesthe novel The Cornstalk Man and the short story collection Do Not Look Directly Into Me. He has also published several chapbooks through various presses. His newest full length collection of poetry, Shit House Rat, was published by Spartan Press in September of 2017. Stubborn Mule Press published Leadwood: New and Selected Poems—1998-2018 in October 2018. He was the first winner of the Gerald Locklin Prize in poetry. He is the editor of The Cape Rock (Southeast Missouri State University) and the co-editor of Trailer Park Quarterly. He’s also the host of the podcast, Sanesplaining, about poetry, mental illness and nerd stuff.

My Bipolar Ex-Love

.

My Bipolar Ex-Love

By Nathan Graziano

 

I was at work, eating my lunch alone in my classroom—I generally try to avoid the teacher’s lounge and the ubiquity of its gossip hens. With my turkey sandwich in hand, I sat in front of the computer, entering grades, when my gnat-like attention span turned to Jessica, a woman I dated in my 20s and with whom I had my most tumultuous relationship.

I have difficulty believing intimacy between two people simply vanishes, ceases to exist in our thoughts and memories once we’ve moved on, so I have a tendency to tabs on my exes, either through social media or, in some cases, correspondence. Of course, some would rather not have anything to do with me, and that is also fine. As long I know they are well.

With Jess, she disappeared entirely from my life, never showed up again. I found this somewhat unsettling so I ran an Internet search on her name.

I nearly choked on a piece of half-masticated turkey when the results popped up seconds later and knew immediately that I wouldn’t be finishing my lunch.

The first search result was a link to Jess’ obituary.

###

After finishing college, with few prospects for teaching positions on the East Coast, I moved to Las Vegas where I taught high school for a year. The experience unfolded as one might expect the experience to unfold for a 23 year-old man living in a place that celebrates its tireless debauchery. I met Jess, a transplant for California, toward the end of my stay in Sin City.

One night, after taking a tough and ill-advised hit at a blackjack table—a gambler, I am not—I retreated to a bar around the corner from my apartment in North Las Vegas to soak my wounds with my friend, Brad. While lamenting the fiscal fuck-up that would leave me eating straight grilled cheese for a week, I spotted a striking brunette sitting alone across the bar.

“Look at her,” I said to Brad. “She is stunning.”

A gay man, Brad gave her a cursory glance to appease me. “Pretty,” he said. “You should buy her a drink.”

“Why would a girl like that be interested in me?”

“Stop it, Mr. Self-Deprecating,” Brad said. “Besides, how much more can you possibly lose tonight?”

Continue reading

“Mania Makes Me A Better Poet” By Daniel Crocker

.

Mania Makes Me A Better Poet

By Daniel Crocker

 

I paced up and down the front porch on a rare, cool Missouri night.

“The government wants me to take pills,” I told my wife. She asked why, but I didn’t have an answer. Part of me knew it wasn’t true. Part of me wasn’t convinced. My thoughts shifted rapidly.

“Do you ever wonder about that guy from the Oak Ridge Boys? You know, the one with the big beard?”  I had also suddenly become obsessed by William Lee Golden. I was worried about him.

“Do you think he feels trapped? Like, he wishes he could shave off that scraggly damned beard and be free of if.”

 I wondered if he’d ever regretted growing that beard, probably sometime in his early twenties, and regretted it.

“He has to think his fans just won’t get the real Oak Ridge Boys experience without it? And what about John Berryman? Did he have the same problem? Is that why he jumped off that bridge?”

This was just a few days before I broke down, went to a clinic, and got help for bipolar 1 disorder. The symptoms had been ramping up for months—compulsive intrusive thoughts and rituals—I’m going to kill myself tomorrow was a favorite of mine, running on a loop in my mind.  I was trucking along on little to no sleep or food. My speech was pressured.  The mania had started out fun. I was creative. I felt unstoppable. I had the energy to do some work.  In the end it always gets scary. It devolves into anxiety, paranoia and the occasional mild delusion.  In the end, however, I got a hell of a poem about William Lee Golden out of it.

The truth is, mania makes me a better poet, although it’s taboo to say so. Not among other bipolar people. We’ll readily admit to each other that we love parts of our mania. We usually just don’t tell the sane people in our lives. They look at us shocked, or sad, or worse. Sometimes they look at us with anger. Our loved ones have seen the wake of destruction left behind by mania. I’ve hurt plenty of people myself while manic, including my significant other. I swear by my medications now. They keep me stable, if not fully content. Sometimes something is missing.

Unless you’ve been through it, you just can’t understand how mania feels. It’s like being on speed and booze at the same time—except better. Your mind, at least for a while, is laser-focused. You actually have the desire and energy to want to create—or do whatever it is that you do. Depression, on the other hand, is a creativity killer. It can be hard to get out of bed, much less write a poem. Mania, when it hits just right, calls for hours of steady work. Continue reading

The Incredible Bipolar Hulk: A Conversation with Poet Daniel Crocker

.

The Incredible Bipolar Hulk:

A Conversation with Poet Daniel Crocker

By Chase Dimock

.

The genius of The Incredible Hulk is that everyone can identify with him. All people have a reservoir of anger inside them, and we all know the painful discipline of managing anger, lest it erupt into senseless rage. The Hulk Smash is the fantasy of acting on our anger with a violent ferocity that mirrors the inner, emotional experience of pain.

In his latest chapbook, Gamma Rays, Daniel Crocker identifies with the Hulk as a metaphor for the experience of bipolar disorder. As It Ought To Be debuted Crocker’s Hulk poem “The Incredible Hulk Tries to Write a Poem” last January. For Crocker, the Hulk is more than just a momentary outburst; he is an enduring persona who embodies the manic energy of bipolar disorder. Crocker’s poems humanize the Hulk, and in turn, provide insight into the mind of the bipolar person as they navigate the impulses within them. I had a chance to ask Crocker about the Hulk and how he personifies the bipolar experience in his poetry.

 

Chase Dimock:  The first question on anyone’s mind when they first look at your cover is going to be “Why the Hulk?” In the past, you’ve written poems in which you take on the personas of Cookie Monster, Skeletor, and George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life among others. What is it about the Hulk that made him worthy of an entire collection of poetry? What does taking on his persona uniquely achieve among your pantheon of pop culture icons?

 

Daniel Crocker: The simple answer is, I love the Hulk. I wrote one Hulk poem, the one where he goes shopping after taking klonopin, and then I couldn’t stop for awhile. I was filtering everything through the Hulk. I originally thought I might end up with a full length, but after about 20 poems I realized I was kind of done with the story I wanted to tell. But, he’s a great metaphor. Any negative aspect of your personality, especially those that center around losing control, that’s basically the Hulk. He’s the things you bury deep. In a lot of ways this books is about coming to terms with that.

So I used it as a metaphor for my bipolar disorder because you never know when you’re going to have another episode. You just try to keep them at bay with medication. Then I started thinking about what it means to navigate love and a relationship when you have this hanging over your head–when you’re not always sure you’re going to wake up okay. Unlike Shit House Rat, however, this is more about coming to terms with it. It is, I think, a happy book with a happy ending.

 

Chase Dimock: The Hulk has been incarnated as a comic, a cartoon, a TV show, and several movies. I know the TV show version of the Hulk the best because I grew up watching reruns. In that version, he’s somewhat of a loner who tries to manage his rage alone and channel it toward productive ways to help the people he runs into. The show always ends with “The Lonely Man Theme.” It seems like your Hulk is more like the Hulk from the comics, which places him in a romantic relationship with Betty. Why was it important to focus so many of your poems on the Hulk in a relationship?

 

Daniel Crocker: In the end, it’s a book about navigating a relationship while having a mental illness. In my favorite runs of the Hulk, Bruce was always afraid of his anger coming out. He would do anything to keep the Hulk away–even though it’s a part of him. He was so obsessed with finding a cure that his relationship with Betty would be strained. When I was diagnosed with bipolar, I read up everything I could on it. So, I understand that level of obsession. I also, of course, worry that my symptoms could come back at any time—even while on medication.  So, I hope it shows the impact of bipolar disorder on one’s immediate family as well as just the person who has it. In the end, though, it’s just coming to terms with the monster inside of you–whatever that may be.

Continue reading