Psych Ward

Psych Ward Final

Alone in the common room,
numb, exhausted,
chemically lobotomized,
I watch them shuffle across the gleaming tile
to the interview room
where they bare their souls.

I see pain, fear, anguish
and I wonder…
Can anyone love these broken souls,
bent by the darkness
that weighs so heavily upon them?
Does anyone still cry for them?

Some surrender easily,
going quietly with the demons
that clutch and pull at them,
dragging them down into a place
where the light no longer penetrates the shadows,
and everything they see is a mirage
drawing them further into the barrens of the mind.

The tough ones resist the descent,
clawing, crying, cursing,
fighting against the black walls
that close in around them
until they have fallen so far
their voices are no longer heard.

I wonder, does anyone still cry for me?
Or have the tears of those I’ve loved
long since dried up?

My turn comes,
my name is called,
and I shuffle across the gleaming tile
and wonder what my eyes tell.

– Peter von Stackelberg


This digital narrative is also posted on Cowbird.

Creative Approach

Psych Ward was inspired in part by Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem Prisoners (text here).

This work was written during September and October, 2003. The first version was completed Oct. 16, 2003 and presented to a poetry seminar class that week. A revision was completed on Nov. 5, 2003. It was published without the image in Bayousphere 2005, a literary arts magazine published by the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

The image was created in February and March, 2004 using a composite of six different digital photographs. After the colors of the individual elements were adjusted to ensure they matched, the cut images were stitched together in Photoshop. The resulting composite was used as a template for the creation of the final image. That final image was created using Photoshop’s smudge tool to smear the colors and create the strokes visible in the image. The technique of using Photoshop’s smudge tool might be considered the digital equivalent of using a smudge stick with oil pastels on paper.