Mantra by Neesa Suncheuri


At the dawn of my preschool memory,
Where all is now foggy…
I see you in the corner of my eye,
Silent and attentive,
But not in my direction.
We both listen to the same teacher,
And we both have our names
Written, and taped to our desks.
I can read yours, and you mine.
But that is all.

The classroom, a cathedral,
With a ceiling so high,
Fitted with an altar.
Our teacher’s desk,
A place for prayer and preparation.
Worship of our teacher,
And everything she represented
Was so easy.
We learned the ways of
Prayerful words,
Such as Please and Thank You,
And always remembering to

She, Teacher, watched us all.


As we grew older
I became taller than you,
But you ran faster.
Our differences never mattered,
And when I came to your house to play,
We’d run in circles,
Laughing about classroom whimsies and sins.
The sun reflected off the driveway concrete,
Like sand in a biblical desert.
Our shoes pounded loudly outside,
But when we took them off,
Leaving them by the door,
They were silent.

Your mother cooked fragrant meals,
That I’ve never found anywhere else since.
I’d smile at some dishes, frown at others…
She always knew how I felt
Because I had no care to be polite.
I never learned my prayers at school.
But light streamed into that little kitchen from so many angles…
Left to right, and from above too.
There weren’t many windows for this cross of light,
But there was a lot of God.

Upstairs in the attic,
We did our homework.
Not a single adult ever helped us,
And even though we each were aged eleven,
We put our heads together to make


We have become sick, us both.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Share your blessings with us, please.
We thank you for your
Care and attention.


You, my dear friend,
Now sick in body.
A blip in diet can hospitalize you.
You might forget who you are,
Or be rendered immobile,
Or even die.
Year by year,
More and more,
Your organs fail you,
And your vision fades.
Every struggle you face
May be your last.

And I?
Sick in mind.
A random trigger
Throws me into spinning delirium.
I stagger.
I grab at metal.
I black out.
And my mind’s voices scream
Through my own mouth
Without permission
Or control.
And inside my head?
Voices tell me that
I am
greatest axis

I am the one,
for all your bodily suffering.
And you, my dear friend.
Are my science experiment,
My personal victim,
That I revel in torturing.


Your smile is a flower of patience.
Your heart, it once started as a
Pristine seed,
A blue diamond…
Surrounded by unlucky soil,
Of another religion,
Your body grew gnarled,
With pains a baby should never know.
Yet always you had wisdom,
Knowing that life is
And that you are
Loved by
For He shines where nothing else can.

Now I see you today,
Fighting to stay alive,
Your blinded eyes shining with hope.
I am jealous.
For you see a horizon I cannot.
One that promises a
Plentiful future.
One that defies the
Negative prognoses of doctors.
One that is paradise in the afterlife.


As for me, I shall
Never know it.
My mind is evil.
It longs for prey to stalk.
It wants to destroy the peaceable lives
Of people it once knew,
Of teachers once studied,
And of female rivals prettier.
For I am Satan, I am I.

And yet I am your friend.
You are you, I am I.

And yet you forgive me for my fickleness.
You are you, I am I.

And yet you hope the best for me.
You are you, I am I.

And yet I cannot ever understand.
You are you, I am I.

And yet I will live, and live and live.
You are you, I am I.

You will shine on, yet I will burn.
You are you, I am I.

I will burn.
I am I.

I will burn forever.

For you are you,

I.  AM.  I.


Neesa Suncheuri works as a mental health peer specialist at a housing agency in Queens, New York.  She is the founder of a Facebook discussion group for peer specialists and other recovery enthusiasts, entitled “What is Wellness?  A Mental Health Discussion Group.”  Much of her creative inspiration is rooted in her now-tamed schizophrenia.  She is a singer/songwriter, and performs in various venues in the city.  She writes poetry, maintains a blog and is currently working on a memoir.  Follow her on Twitter at @aquariumspeaks.

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