Melancholy Hyperbole

Poetry about longing.

Horse Dress, 1939

She wore the horse she’d crocheted
out of scraps of bright wool.
No pattern. Needlework
so exquisite the horse’s eyes fit
perfectly at her nipples, as if
she were looking for someone
to cup her and comfort her
during her paces around corridors,
in circles, bound by fences, walls,
lanes to stay in, tail trailing
like an extension of her coccyx.

Snout and nostrils covered her groin
craving a carrot, no, an apple, Eve’s,
that would free her, make her able to love,
be loved, to misjudge, to err,
to misspeak, to know things, to unite
opposites running naked inside her.

Nurses tried to stop her
from wearing the horse.
One of her voices said, no,
the one that had forced her
to take up the crochet hook.
 
 

Note from the poet: “This dress is at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. It was crocheted and worn by a woman who suffered from schizophrenia in the first third of the twentieth century. She was confined to the Sheppard & Enoch Pratt Hospital in Towson, MD for decades. It is an amazing piece of art. I actually found a picture of her wearing the dress in a psychiatric nursing book from 1939.”

 
 
Anne Harding WoodworthAnne Harding Woodworth gave a paper at the last Popular Culture Association conference: “Psyche’s Lines: Poetry out of the Mentally Ill.” Her fifth book, Unattached Male, was published in April; her third chapbook Herding–which is a book of cow poems–will appear later this summer.
 
 

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Categories: Mental Health, Poetry, Themed

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. This is a lovely piece. Anne’s word choices and comparisons are perfect here.

  2. Lovely poem. A well made, sensitive portrayal of this women in her dress, and the longing she must have felt. I like the needlework being in perfect alignment with the woman’s body, and the image of her being cupped and comforted about her rounds in the hospital. The suggestion that the woman portrays herself as a kind of Eve longing for freedom to make mistakes and to make love is a poignancy earned by the careful description of her situation, and carries the reader through to the end of the poem with a sense of accuracy. Well done, Anne Woodworth.

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