‘I have ‘split mind’ again’ concerns a Taiwanese student I taught for just one lesson while supply-teaching in Bath in 2007. After the lesson, I offered to help her publish her work in English journals and we swapped e mail addresses. Little did I know that soon afterwards she was to suffer a series of schizophrenic episodes which resulted in her losing touch with reality, and travelling to London where she put herself in danger’s way before being arrested and eventually flown back to Taiwan. What shocked me when reading her e mails describing this train of events was the tension between her faltering English and the enormity of what she was describing. When I read her say she was going to the doctor to see if she had ‘ghosts’ my blood ran cold. Most of the language in the poem is taken directly from her e mails.
I have ‘split mind’ again
(for Yao Yun)
I fell into the arms of some kindly souls
outside St Barnabas, in the floats and dustbin-vans.
Heathrow was a washroom, without
passport or cards. My sister’s hands.
Tomorrow, she takes me
to the doctor to see if I have ghosts.
I manage a small class –
my children like my stories.
I sent my painting, framed,
to a well-wisher’s purse.
Pills and pills and pills.
They put a cordon around my words
scrawled on the hotel wall: Wet Paint –
I was strangely happy.
You can buy Matt’s book of poetry, ‘Boxing The Compass’ HERE