…hysteria is the nosological limbo of all unnamed female maladies. 

It were as well called mysteria for all its name teaches us of the host
of morbid states which are crowded within its hazy boundaries.

–S. Weir Mitchell, 1875

Theory is good; but it doesn’t prevent things from existing.

–Jean Martin Charcot, 1886

She does not have to go to Paris to see such women,
their wishbone spines, their joints like hinges;
she need not visit Salpêtrière, that mad museum,
to know such twinges are not meant for image.

Such grim pornography should not be caught by lens:
the stifled moan, the clenched appendages.
A photograph makes Now anachronism.
Even soul is sacrilegious.

Such monsters as Charcot imprisons
are but mere girls beset by midges,
those paramecia of spectral regions
that torment seers (Mr. Sludges,

 Katie Foxes, and other mediums,
who are receptive to the fringes
where diffraction gives dimension
to what isn’t yet).  Messages

 afflict the mind with movement;
bodies jerk with thought, phalanges
claw as if to elaborate.  Delirium
sanctifies, illumines.  Outrageous

as it seems, such attitudes passionn-
elles (mockery, threat, erotic rages)
are commonplace.  Such crucifixions
can be staged in sitting rooms.  Judges,

doctors, and other wise and condescending
men can gather there to gauge
epileptoid tendencies and other forms
of criminality.  Perhaps, these mages

with their forceful gazes can gain
some insight into transference, stages
of materialization in which emotions,
like lightning or swansdown, flung,

thrash or settle visibly around
medium and sitters as if to presage
apocalypse or rape.  Our Lady of Scorn
surveys these Ledas, these disarranged,

 but hopeful ingenues, who, half-feign,
half-suffer the pains that plague
them.  If Charcot could name
her monsters (her humors fledged),

would he dub them figments
of sexual frustration?  The hob as grudge
or bile personified? The scritch intent
as sinew, relieved of skin, viscera drug

into the open? The vesperbird, a wren
carnivorous, a viper vicarious?  If purges
cure hysterics, can trances, then,
still passion? She does not need a pilgrimage

to Paris to give her answers.  Perhaps, in-
voluntary demons, like other surges
of energy, can be harnessed, given
uses.  She imagines all the scourges

such indignities might wield upon
the genus skeptic, expert scrooges
who, invited to observe her séances,
might find themselves beset by urges

that could not be hypnotized, or crammed
in jacket, or yoke.  What violence might impinge
on arbiters of sanity and conscience
if gargoyle ghosts turned jurisprudent!

A letter from Tristram Wharle-Knapp, pertaining to the madness of one William Falla

The following letter was transcribed and submitted to us by Felix Knapp, a descendant of the author. It contains, we believe, valuable biographical information pertaining to the late Zacharia Falla’s forebears.

To,— The Rt. Hon. Ebenezer KELLOGG
At London
30 Nov. 1763

Most Esteem’d Sir,—***

Your Letter of the favor’d 13th was in this Home well receiv’d,— and the Discourse upon the Stars, Sir, too terribly Illustrat’d for mine own Sight the Nature of Heav’nly Bodies, and flighing Objeckts, so that, in a momentary mental Cholick,— which, as you, Sir, may comprehend, has occasion to Afflict my fever’d Brain, whipp’d, as is its Wont, into an anguish’d Ferment,— the Eyes in my Head soon requir’d of me their Opticks, which came to me one Day cheaply, with profoundest Gratitude to the gen’rous Soul of Mr CAVENDISH, G-d bless his Familie.

I write this Day to inform you, in the fêt’d Fervour of this anniversary Celebration, as to the Facts of my Neighbour three Houses o’er the Line, nam’d William FALLA,— a most un-assuming Chap, predispos’d, like a Childe, to Blobber-lipp’d Talk of Pea-gooses, and of Rancid and encumber’d Religion,— viz. th’ Catholick type, in all its adorn’d Popery,— (how the Poet in his Monument turns! how he Rages!),— and also, Sir, a Tipler, for whom ev’ry Evening a Bracer is thrice swallow’d. Armour, Sir, comes bottl’d for th’ Grumbletonian Clan ‘midst our fine City, embroider’d in the finest Fashion.

This is not, Sir, a Cavil deposit’d ‘pon your Door-Step,— nay, nothing of the Sort is to be found within the stately Confines of my œuvre,— my practic’d Hand, daub’d in Ink, grips the Pen with the Strength of an Iron-Monger, or   some other Occ. unsuit’d to the fantom Tribulations of Clerk-Ship, though my Mind be twice steel’d against Barbarism, and Fallacy. For it came that my Tabitha, 3. days ago this Minute, witness’d Mr FALLA, in a state of advanc’d Addle, nearly bath’d in his own Fluids, a fellow for th’ like of RABELAIS. Recall to your Mind, sir, th’ Alcofribasian Sickness, which thiev’d your Yrs. of its most Deckt-Out (in Clergy) Gentlemen. A glory’d Tribute, Sir, though no less distinguish’d thro’ the passing of Time, to the deprav’d Anglers amongst us,— and so too Mr FALLA! As I was prepar’d to elaborate, ere my anger at base Anticks was rais’d, Mr FALLA did 3. Days prior accost, by Fact of his Presence, my Wife, who later inform’d me o’er pickl’d Onions and our daily Bread, that Mr FALLA did assault her with his Odour, and at great length discours’d ‘pon the Malfwaddle, and the  Jinkstrother, and the Pollyprozzler, which came to him, said he, in the Wood o’er the Hill 12m. distant. Tabitha, whose Spirit, since th’ Assault, has crack’d and suffer’d of an In-Borne Quietus, report’d to me that Mr FALLA,— who, I state again for observ’t. Posterity, smell’d as though he had lately emerg’d from a Tub of rank Tip, or from a Manure-Heap adj. the Sows of Lord PONSONBY, did offer in his fresh-colour’d Palms, an un-disclos’d volm. of OLD NICK’s Tinckture, to be had for Rabbet-Sucker’s Prices,— ’tis too dearly Borne, Sir, a Slate or three, to Part.

Sir! cherish’d Sir! I beg of you the Security of my Familie,— my Wife, Tabitha,— or Hemera, for her Disposition is such that blackest Night will not Suffer to stand in her Foot-Prints, nor ‘twixt her out-spread Arms,— recoils at th’ first visage of Thought of Mr FALLA, who wholly lacks Shame or Decency, and who clothes himself in the odious Fabrick of the Beggar,— a Railleur Shab’d-off with the Laudanum, and Romboyl’d ‘cross the Country-Side on a cranksided Prosthesis, shouting all the while, ‘A frubbytendal! a frubbytendal! An Half-Crown to the Lot o’ ye who brings ‘ere a frubbytendal!’ ’tis not too late, Sir, to un-leash the Dogs ‘pon this frantick Supernumerarie, and to send him where he ought! Gainfully imprison’d, as the Spungers say, lest his Children grow feather’d Wings and call to the Moon as a Duck, or a Pigeon.

Give to your Familie my warmest Tidings,— spars’d Feeling, lately, under the terrors of Mr FALLA, in this the life of

e’er your Humble & obdt. Svt.,

Tristram Wharle-Knapp

An Unbearable Likeness to Madness

Madness is Plath lettering annotations into the wallpaper,
Sexton looking into her curls, brown buzzard. Madness,
a respite, and vision of tulip-shaped heads. Madness, the
corn poppy less than or equal to the polyantha rose, its
posturing as erect, sculpted into moonstone. As Rodin’s
Camille throwing off her Breton headdress as if no
faith could contain her, her dreams in disarray. Petals.
Hardwood shavings. Maelstrom. Crumbling bartizan.
Hidden lintel. Sand against skin. Industrial glass. Madness
wading through mud towards the mangrove tree, knife
wounds in its roots cleaved, open like black leaves. Within a
megalith curve, quivering promise. Another forty years.