More terrible for all the time between.
The cicadas were loud,

the sunlight brilliant. I can't say how brilliant.
A memory you can't stop,

sudden - you slap the wheel going to work,
yelling at the past

for what? You stop it
with a smile

checked by tension. Better than a burst
spoken out loud to no one

but yourself, words teased and stroked by regret,
pathetic speech

behind which a stare withdraws
to some god-forsaken land.

So you stop it, you stop it. But note the quick fist
you make with the smile.

The silence in the fist
isn't quite nothing. A boy pushing a mower.

I was pushing the mower. Red sinews
hung from the Dalmation's

nearly severed leg. Later I heard the story
of its limping bravely into the car

then put to sleep,
a phrase that needed explaining.

Put it to sleep? Mystery more terrible
for the time between.


Six months tied
snug, spinning like a gyroscope

in the Chair of Tranquility
for an hour   each day   between lunch and dinner

clears the brain
and effects a calming response

more lasting - and appreciated! -
than one brought on by blackjack

or other of our outdated - though handmade! -
clubs. New, metal-plated

straitjackets - worth the cost
in emergencies - may never

be needed. Here is The Bath of Surprise,
our special favorite,

surpassing the old way
of stomping on patients

to 'rid them of demons'
and knock sense into them - no,

better if they sit unknowing
on a trap door   in front of your desk.

You push this button -
they drop straight down,

utterly - and this is the key -
surprised,   into icy water, shocked

into clarity   for weeks, two months 
maybe, happy and willing to help

the institution   with such hard chores
as pulling the drags:

self-esteem and your - their! -
polished floors   go together  

we know from the literature. For the few
remaining sad cases - look here:

Seclusion Room, Restraint Cage.


The person must be dead.
When courage is demanded

I open my attache case. I pull out a doll
from my collection,

a likeness
of someone from my past, a dead one

I loved
who gives me strength

in tune
with the situation. The person must be dead

because only in death
does magic work.

I carry my dolls with conviction. 
I grip one tight and stare at the face - then

act: dot dot dot. Above me:

the hovering cloud of death.
My case is black, and I'm the agent

named Go To Hell.
I direct a secret code around myself

like a tornado. Everyone gets hurt.
I'm left - in glory - alone.

        Tim Houghton 2005