Friday, December 26, 2014

Inspirations That Transform

Starry Goddess
—Poems and Artwork by Patricia Wentzel, Sacramento


The mental health technician sits in the hallway
Outside the group room where the TV is blaring.
One person is taking up an entire couch,
Swaddled in blankets,
Only his face showing.
They won’t let him sleep in his bed during the day,
So he comes here.
Amid the noise and busyness
Of a dozen bored and crazy psych patients,
He tries to sleep.

Every few minutes the tech gets up and makes the rounds,
Checking each room for trouble.
Some patients are allowed to lie down during the day,
Some are not.
Some are allowed to stay in their rooms during the day,
Some are not.
Some are allowed to close their doors most of the way,
Some are not.
Some are allowed art supplies,
Most are not.

Today the tech is looking for one person in particular.
An Eyes On Every 5 minutes patient seems to be eluding her.
She finds the patient and calls for help.
He has stolen a plastic knife and cut himself.
Since it’s a plastic knife, and a dull one at that, the wounds are superficial.
But this means a transfer and no utensils,
Finger foods only from now on.

The phone in the hallway rings.
No one answers it.
Finally I reach out and pick up the receiver,
waiting for the click that means the call has connected.
A flood of Spanish pours forth
and I hastily ask for the name, what’s the name?
Being conscientious I call the name out loudly,
then walk down the hall halfway to call out the name again.
I finally return and tell them to call back.
I know they don’t understand but it’s the best I can do.
They’re lucky I’m well enough to answer the phone today.

I return to my room to swaddle myself in blankets
and sit on a chair in the corner,
(being one of those who’s not allowed to lie down during the day)
having spent my small supply of sanity
on a phone call for someone else.

 Florentine Miniature


I am a closeted consumer of mental health services.
What’s with the closet you say?
You may not realize it but
this world is not a safe place for us.
We get shot and tazed and beaten and robbed.
We lose our jobs, our children,
our homes and our lives
every day.
We are incarcerated and condemned
to eat bologna sandwiches for years.
If we are lucky, we are confined,
only briefly, to a psychiatric facility
in a time of crisis and
no one finds out.

For, to come out of the closet is to risk everything.
To come out of the closet is to have your whole world change.

In whispers just a little too loud,
family, friends and co-workers
now confer over your every moody moment
or sleepless night.
Sometimes you wind up bullied
by some well-meaning person
who just can’t leave you alone,
so committed are they to their
self-appointed role of rescuer.
Friends begin re-examining your history together,
looking for signs of your illness.
Some friends and family start blowing and
showing the whites of their eyes
like horses startled by a snake.
How are you supposed to cope with that?
Bosses now have an explanation for
all your little quirks and
they too begin reviewing the recent past
looking for clues, symptoms,
handwriting on the wall.
Lovers are the hardest ones to tell.
so much to lose,
rejection practically guaranteed.
So now you know why
I am a closeted consumer of mental health services.
It’s clearly the safest place to be.

Green Christmas Tree


The wolf peers out from between the sheets and the elaborate cap
pulled down over her ears.
Grandmother’s cap—puffy and soft
like a delicate pastry with fanciful lace and tiny flowers
piped in place by a master baker

Was grandmother a delicacy?
A sweet spicy cupcake topped with scented icing,
her cap a leftover liner meant to be discarded
but used once more by a wolf
for whom baking is an irrelevant art,
an absurdity in a world of fast food, no leftovers?

Curly Chai


How could I have been so stupid?
I knew better but I opened the door anyway.
Sure enough, there she was.
Teeth dripping gore,
eyes red in the firelight,
claws ready to rip and tear.
It was all over in a few moments:
The cordial greetings,
the tea poured,
cream and sugar and iced cookies eaten.
Preliminaries out of the way,
she killed me
and took my cap for her own.

 Black-and-White Star


I should pick it up, she thought,
gazing at the dark red cloak
puddled on the floor.
Granny had made it for her
and she ached with the pain of that loss.
But she couldn’t bear to touch it,
not right now.
Fury rode her, revenge obsessed her.
But the woodsman had stolen her revenge.
He had killed the wolf with one stroke,
when she hungered to strike it over and over
until the cap and gown disappeared in a pool of dark red blood. 

 Bold and Beautiful


I crooned to the pups when I found them.
I regretted killing the wolf.
It was only a wild thing doing what wild things do.
She had sealed her fate when she killed the old woman
and I could not have saved her.
Better an easy death, a single blow that cleaved her skull in two,
leaving the fanciful nightcap in two bloody halves.



I am a terrible poet.

My phrases are blunt like a leather mallet
    or the last knife in the drawer.
I use pretentious words of four syllables or more,
    words like exuvium, penultimate and interstices.
My poems lack the allusions and metaphors that catch your breath
    and fling you helter-skelter into new ways of seeing.
Instead of an enchanting path that meanders through gardens of words,
    my poetry is like an arrow-straight walkway, laid perpendicular to the street,
    surrounded by green lawns and shrubbery.

When I read my poetry to my wife she sometimes gets a slightly pained expression on her face.
    She was an English major.
At moments like that I feel mildly embarrassed.
At moments like that I find myself wishing my poetry were different.

I dream of phrases that flow more smoothly,
    cut more cleanly to the heart of the matter.
I long for the inspiration that transforms simple words
    into passages of quiet power and unexpected depth.
I crave the ability to turn metaphors to my hand,
    to use them to inspire and provoke.
I aspire to great skill with poetic forms,
    to impose my will on the landscape of my words.

But my mind doesn’t seem to work like that.

So I write poetry that doesn’t rhyme,
may require the use of a dictionary
and tends to go straight to the point.

The fact is I’m a terrible poet.
But I decided not to let that stop me.


Poet/Artist Patricia Wentzel (who is NOT a terrible poet!) is new to poetry but not to art. After many years as a visual artist, she took up poetry in October 2014 and enjoys the particular challenges of this medium. She takes great pleasure in reading for her friends at the Sacramento Poetry Center. Welcome to the Kitchen, Patricia!

And convergence Editor Cynthia Linville writes: The Winter 14 Issue of convergence is Online at January 5 the deadline for the next two issues.


Today's LittleNip:

Kwanzaa isn't a replacement for Christmas or even Hanukkah. Kwanzaa has nothing to do with religion and while some may twist it to be political, in its nature it is not. Kwanzaa is not the tool of its creator. Kwanzaa has a life of its own. Kwanzaa is about the spirit of people—all people, regardless of color or race. Kwanzaa is a holiday of the human spirit—not the divine. The two were meant to co-exist peacefully.

—Author Unknown

We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.

—Maya Angelou


—Medusa, wishing you Heri za Kwanzaa (Happy Kwanzaa). For more about Kwanzaa, see

Patricia Wentzel