My wife was six months pregnant
when I read the news about
Timothy Leary’s daughter’s suicide.
September – our second daughter due
right around Thanksgiving.
I was still with the insurance company,
though they’d be bankrupt in April.
Susan Martino, a few years older than me,
hanged herself with a shoestring
in her Los Angeles jail cell.
A shoestring? Really?
Arrested nearly two years earlier
for shooting her live-in boyfriend
while he slept on the couch,
she’d been ordered to stand trial,
but twice the Pasadena Superior Court
ruled her incompetent,
the last time just days before she died.
Her mental health’d been deteriorating,
the spool unraveling to a thread –
to a shoestring!
They’d moved her
from the jail dorm to solitary.
Leary’d visited Susan regularly at the jail –
he lived in Beverly Hills at the time –
had no complaints about her care
at the jail or at Patton State Hospital.
But, a second girl on the way,
I could only imagine his devastation.
Lydia McCullough’s Depression
“I’d been diagnosed with cancer.
The shrinks told me I’d developed
“end-of-life” anxiety and depression.
I felt trapped, lonely, afraid.
Food didn’t taste good;
I could never sleep long or deeply enough;
driven like leaf in a windstorm
into almost complete isolation.
Then I took psilocybin and things changed.
At firsts I felt panic.
What have I done?
But then an overwhelming tranquility
swept me up like a mother hugging her newborn.
I swear I became a new person,
reconciled to my husband and son, loving.
The whole “me” thing just dropped out,
like a stone in a canyon,
into a more timeless, formless now.
The trip kick-started
a whole new approach to life.
Now I’m – I’m present.
Don’t know how else to say it.
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Me and Sal Paradise, was published last year by FutureCycle Press. Two a full-length collection are forthcoming in 2020, Catastroika, from Apprentice House, and Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books.