third grade

once i was a girl in muddy socks
reading about maidens in dire distress
making miniature hats out of box tops
and bottle caps and wondering
if mama really saw wickhams ghost
in the corner candy store
where my pennies piled up
between licorice and lollipops
as i searched the dark corners
scanned the dusty shelves.

the neighborhood children
thought i was happy but happy children
lived in orphanages and watched
circulating circuses
while cabbages from kind ladies
rotted on the sidewalk.

the neighborhood children
sucked sugar through little black sacks
and envied me my bag of purple grapes,
the cakes my mother baked.
i turned from their round brown eyes.
they did not know two men would come
and take her to the madhouse
before the cakes were finished baking.

copyright2001 Irene Drennan
Irene Drennan
IRENE DRENNAN, a transplanted 1950s Greenwich Village artist/poet, moved to Washington state in 1969.  Her writing has appeared in Duckabush Journal, Film Writers West, Gray Panthers, N.O.W., Raven Chronicles and other literary magazines.  She read with the Seattle Five Plus One poetry workshop for eight years. The poems of this popular group were anthologized into a book by the same name -- The Seattle Five Plus One (Pig Iron Press, 1995).

In the 1940s, when Irene finished high school, she could not decide if she should study psychology or art.  She took a job as an attendant in a mental hospital. "I wanted to be sure I was taking the right path. Also, I read a very old book titled Lunatix. I was fascinated. I had to go see for myself.  I tried, through writing, to understand what the patients were feeling. But after two years at Buffalo State Hospital, I chose art."

read Irene's poems
childhood delirium