Asylum

Published in The Evergreen: A New Season in the North, Wordbank, UK, 2017.

This is madness alright, the biting heat and cut-glass

skies, the raucous shrieking of the lorikeets, crackling through

trees with their colours so bright it frightens

the mind.  Through all of our days

 

the boss-eyed sun blisters and pops till

you’d swear the air was breathing.  Petals of yellow

wattle and red dregs of bottle-brush gum froth

at path edges, the sun’s bloody heat scabbing round

 

your tongue. Some nights Molly can’t stand it

inside, sneaks out to sleep on the so-called lawn. I can just

see her running over burnt-brown grass, her bristling fists,

wrists tilted to the stars, mad moon slipped

 

to a Cheshire grin, map of a far life flapping

in her eyes.  They find her in the morning, nightie

claggy round her thighs, eye-hollows filled

with puddles of dew.  I’d buy her some dreams

if I could, for sure.  I’d fill those hollows with

the rolling fog of home, little dun-coloured birds

I’d place in her hands, let her feel the soft flutter

of their grey English hearts.  You and me Moll

 

I’m always saying to her, one day we’ll go

home.  She doesn’t know what I’m on about

no more, picks at the roses embroidered on her  

nightie, rolls her eyes like she’s still on the ocean

heading for some other crazy country.

adelaide-morgue-mental-illness-asylum-glenside-dea6.jpeg

Adelaide Asylum

The Adelaide Asylum was opened in 1852. In the late nineteenth century, many of the inhabitants were British immigrants who had struggled to cope with the demands of a new life in a country very different to their own. The asylum was situated near what was soon to be the East Gate of the Botanic Garden. It housed 60 patients plus staff but quickly reached capacity. Plans were made to build a new asylum, housing 200 patients, in Glenside.