"What's madness but nobility at odds with circumstances?" T. Roethke
It was during the roaring 20's when a virginal
rosy-cheeked senior at the Sacred Heart Academy
lost her way, longing to be free like her idol,
Zelda Fitzgerald. She danced in her room,
to Benny Carter and the Chocolate Dandies'
rendition of the Bugle Call Rag, Fats Waller's
"Sheik of Araby" and Ted Lewis' "Hold That Tiger."
Sneaking away from home Sunday afternoons
she lied about her age at the Roseland Ballroom,
strapping down her pert, pear shaped bosoms to
dance as a flapper in the Charleston competitions.
She longed to enter marathon dance contests
but couldn't stay out all night, so resigned herself
to partnering with any lonely tumescent lug who
could come up with ten cents a dance.
When her parents found out about her dancing
they called her a whore.
When she was young her mother would pin her pajama
sleeves over the blanket to prevent her from touching herself.
Father, also profoundly religious, a Knight of Malta, was a
banker who couldn't endure the day without getting
sloshed at his favorite speakeasy.
He was determined to get her into Holy Cross,
but she was failing math because she couldn't tell a
parallelogram from an isosceles triangle.
So he locked in her room and night after night
tried to pound math concepts into her head to no avail.
When father was incarcerated for his role in the
Tea Pot Dome Scandal, she began to get cryptic
radio messages through her teeth threatening
that she would be stalked by a malevolent man
if she ever left the house again.
Doctors agreed this was a case of dementia praecox.
The treatment of choice was insulin-shock therapy
to restore her sanity by bringing her to the brink of death.
The beauty who once thrilled her parents in her
winning step-dancing days would never be free again,
locked away and forgotten in the back ward of
Creedmore State hospital, land of the living dead.
Milton P. Ehrlich