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Pilgrim State’s
“foetid halls”

once they were filled with buzzing lobotomies, drooling wheelchair patients
they were filled with straight jackets and tunnels and misbehavior water-boarding and wards and mystical wires and ringing phones and nurses
they were filled with hypodermic needles full of forceful and temporary sleep, rooms full of hydrotherapy tubs
and iron-grilled windows with numbers, not people, staring out of them through the bars that contained their fate like the jars and vials that contained their sanity

Naomi Ginsberg, Allen’s own mother, a victim to mental illness and debilitation,
filled with delusions of government mind control that may never have been delusions
and Communist meetings and talk and red scare chatter that McCarthy would have dropped dead in the name of victory against the Russians in a drunken witch hunt hepatitis haze.

Naomi who died in one of these halls in these rooms at this hospital after her son her last hope her little pet her bus ride accompaniment to secret sacred American Red Army meetings and therapy surrendered her to lobotomy and never forgave himself for it,
and thus wrote naked poems about his Mother Catatonia

Beulah Jones, writing letters to the President in hallucinating reality,
six months becoming twenty-five years in the institution, and a prefrontal lobe icepick scrambled mind
who all the while begged for her freedom from experimentation and injustice,
from Chlorpromazine anti-psychotics and surgeries and the government
from paranoid schizophrenia and MK Ultra and four white walls.

Halls and rooms filled with Fourth of July fireworks and belted chairs and tables
Hallelujah screaming mercy calling all the Saints of psychosis!
Help me, help me, God almighty! I can’t take another day in Old Sparky
This is torture “Give me liberty or give me death!” said grandma Beulah, or was it really Harriet Tubman?
Death is liberation when you’re in the middle of a breakdown.

Today, these halls are filled with bright red carcinogenic chrysotile asbestos screams and stale air and crumbling walls that once housed the minds hearts and spirits of those locked away and lost
in the underworld of Long Island, a place I call home.

They are filled with graffiti and chipping paint and vandalism and beer cans and piss smells and a new kind of corruption and insanity that has nothing to do with the government. Or, are they?
They are filled with toxic fumes that make it hard to breathe without passing out
and filled with the echoes of Naomi and Beulah and Voltaire poems on the wall of the morgue that justify bureaucratically-induced death sentences.

I have seen these halls myself and felt the touch of angels and Saints and ghosts of times past over my shoulder
and stepped through elevator shafts into overwhelming cafeterias that could have killed me quickly just from shock and
seen the cubbies filled with nothing that still had the names of poor, volatile souls written on them in vain
and day rooms full of doors and solariums full of doors and windows full of doors to another world
and medical records and chairs hopelessly flung into the wall and rain on the floor and cages for people who were otherwise once considered animals for their behavior.

These halls are full of broken windows and skulls smashed against the wall, and phones that were slammed too hard and shattered into a million little pieces
they are filled with dust and history and pitch black darkness.

These halls are full of you and me and insanity and confessions, written in spray paint
and destruction of property and birds that come and go and flap their wings and scare the bejesus out of first time trespassers like I once was.

These halls are full of violent dreams and waking nightmares, anxiety and vacancy and void emotions.

You feel all the horrible beauty in it
the minute you walk in the door.

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