Story by Mat Costanzo, Artwork ‘Mr. Garbanzo’s Release’ by Dan Anthon
The tale of a man and the mind in his head, how he got lost and then found again.
Mr Garbanzo, a hip guy,
sometimes sure, his head’s way up in the sky,
and now and again, there are clouds just behind his eyes,
but as a general rule he keeps himself cool
and manages to manage things with a little bit of style.
Mr Garbanzo always had the beets,
they were red and tasty treats, a bit like meat,
though he liked them more for he forbore
to eat things that once made innocent moo’s and bleat’s.
Life was nice and he enjoyed the days,
though even more so he liked
the silver light of a starry night.
And there was a thing in his mind he held to quite tight
as he admired the stars and their hushed white light.
You see inside he believed and he might have been right,
that the light that hid behind his eyes
could burn brighter and mightier than those in the sky
if he reigned in his mind and he used it right.
So he passed his time inside the light,
inside his brain, inside the confusion,
chaotic hot fusion of wonders, illusions and insights he liked.
And if his designs were a bit grandiose
or hard to define,
Well, he rarely looked so close
and he mostly didn’t mind.
He was busy you see,
much more so than you,
much more so than me,
for even while sitting at home with a book,
before the tv or some yummy treat,
out on the stoop or under a tree,
even if he was in company,
inside his head thoughts raced and fled,
burning trails leaving embers though he could never remember
just what those thoughts had said.
Though if he couldn’t recall
all the ins and the outs
of the thoughts he found falling up and then down,
he loved the feeling of flying he felt
and he never forgot the tone of the notes
in the music he wrote
and more so he loved the meaning they spoke.
So the years went by
and he wrote and he wrote
and he thought of
what fine thoughts he saw float
over pages and pages
that grew out of his notes.
“One day I’ll show my ideas to the world
and won’t they be surprised
at how much they will learn from these ups and these downs
and the ideas that I found
hidden behind all of those smiles and frowns.”
He spoke to himself as the words came out
and grew into the beautiful visions
of how people could be if they’d finally see
the very same things he’d always believed….
what could that be,
ask you may,
and wait and you’ll see
is what I would say…
Let his friends wonder,
cause they heard no thunder,
no, they saw no light,
they did what was normal,
what others said was right.
Following paths set down by parents and schools
they were ever together in the pursuit of pleasure,
and to them Mr. Garbanzo seemed quite odd,
with his interest in the ‘why’ and the ‘how’,
and his unusual way of thinking out loud.
I heard the school counselor had her concerns
that he might be even a bit disturbed.
Well our Mr. Garbanzo,
I do believe,
could use some time,
I’m sure you’ll agree.
So I propose that we repose
and let him grow in peace.
For he thought big thoughts
and big thoughts ought
to fly awhile about a mind
before they’re caught and brought into the light
and seen by you and I.
[INTERMISSION: TALK AMONGST YOURSELVES… dum dee dee dum dooo dee da dee ba ba ba ba dum da da ta da da blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah]
And on a day like any day,
Mr. Garbanzo emerged to urge his fellows to convert,
to see clearly not merely another cause,
because it mattered dearly he knew,
what we agreed to call true.
He sold no religion, no creed,
not the kindness of giving nor the smoking of weed,
he had instead a vision he’d seen since the beginning
and at last could contrast
with how things were generally conceived.
He went to the square in the center of the city
and raised his voice to be heard over cellphones and car horns,
the subway beneath,
the speaking of those he needed to reach.
“Friends and brethren and those I don’t know,
those who’d hear what I’d endeavor to share,
and those of you too,
who’d ask me for quiet though you know I’d refuse.
I’ve learned the truth under all of our lives,
and why we all struggle to gain, to find,
the missing piece beneath the need inside.”
“You see we learned to believe we were special,
essential, deserving attention
and that there was some wisdom in being selective,
choosing in whom we would invest
among those few we chose to respect.
So as we were shown we withhold connection,
causing the resentment,
all the confusion at the profusion
of life’s little tricks and contradictions.
Alone we hold this cold to our souls
and desperately seek the relief
which we see on the tv,
where people easily come across
the perfect addition, the ideal companion,
the soul mate, the loved one,
the partner we were promised
would be there waiting for us.”
“We were fed lies from the beginning,
when we were told to not hold our comforters and bears,
to not cry even when we were scared,
to be proud women and men not needing anything,
strong in the face of the cold we’d create
through these lessons they gave in misguided concern
for the futures they were to help us create”.
“But what sad recompense,
this ego we defend, this dubious gem,
this separateness we treasure in the face of lost pleasures
we mourn for the sake of uniqueness-that pest
that’s responsible for the theft of something far better,
and set in its place this “I” that I’d prefer to deny
but can’t seem to cease to protect.”
“What would it be to love openly,
dispense with social identities,
these egos we prize and work hard to refine
for the pleasure of praise we occasionally create
in others who see us just to perceive
those things they’re proud of themselves for being.”
“I propose authenticity, humility, connection,
a spectrum of positivity granted freely
to each and every person we meet.
No you won’t be special, but you will be filled,
and when the need to be more than others recedes,
then the peace you’ll feel in its place
will prove itself to you instantly.”
He spoke this message, constant-repetitive,
he would shout through speakers, out loud or writ down,
however he could he would put his idea into the head
of each person he felt was misled.
Seasons passed and leaves ceded their green
and fell to the ground to be piled in piles
and sprung on by tweens.
And cold winds brought snow and those children went home
to change outa’ their clothes before returning to pile in piles
snow to throw and make ephemeral images in.
But what comes next?
Guess you may,
though I expect you don’t yet get
what this tale means to say…
[INTERMISSION… LISTEN TO NICE MUSAK… dooo do do dooo do do, wooo wa we wo oh…]
He spoke til his throat could hardly make a croak,
wrote down his passions, composed his notes,
he loved the people
and felt it was his purpose to urge this.
That once they’d felt themselves let go, forgive,
see shame as the bond by which they’d long been beholden,
freedom would be a new feeling
they’d revel in experiencing
and change would swell and perhaps all things would be well.
But car horns kept honking and talking was the thing,
just how he recalled it had always been.
Not a soul sought his reasoning or to understand
what it was they couldn’t see,
how to follow this path,
this route to truths that Mr. Garbanzo knew
were the crux to this incomprehensible reality,
those contentious dualities,
the endless worthless hyperbole
held to by you and by me
like a map we’d drawn of the house we’d been born in
to help us steer clear of all the open safe spaces
and ensure that we never stray too far
from the dark we’d been familiar with
ever since the start.
Some time went by,
a year passed, then twice, thrice,
and our friend he tired,
sitting for longer stretches upon his old stoop
or cooped in his mind,
the same old thoughts whirring side to side,
becoming sadistically tormenting.
So he went to the well,
he went to the corner,
he repented and prayed to our porcelain lord,
Our God Of Remorse.
He offered humble devotions
to his redemptive potions,
but his prayers were interrupted,
odd nods mid-remonstrance,
he awoke with thanks to another porcelain bowl
and wondered just where it was that he’d begun
praying for release in the hours before.
By year four he no longer cared
about the why and the where,
he simply stared at how he fared,
bemused by the pain he was able to bear.
The external context in which it took place
might be as grand as you please,
for the isolation was complete, absolute,
and circumstance, obsolete.
In the deepest hours of his darkest nights,
he recalled the love he’d allowed to beguile.
Whose smile he’d found
so easy to follow down this dark road,
but the love he’d known never came alone.
Behind or beside, or together at one time
it was ever joined by his own chagrin
at what he’d allowed it to make out of him,
the suffering he underwent that, in the end,
wasn’t even his,
but rather taken upon his shoulders for those whom he loved
and for whom he would have suffered happily
had they but seen the poison they breathed
and the lies they believed.
That beautiful potential
behind them that Plato had whispered of to them in the cave
and that Jesus and others had failed to explain.
He sat alone,
a drink beside
his cornucopia of means
by which to hide;
ways which led out of his head,
and wondered if death shouldn’t pay this debt,
was the called for conclusion,
or simply the shutting of the door
to the suffering he lived in,
ceding his role and his charge and his breath,
and easing into an overdue rest.
And like this he stayed
for more days and nights than I care to say,
trapped between hope and nothing,
wondering, weighing, alone, growing slowly gray,
both outside and in,
and we now leave him once again,
as Mr. Garbanzo sits with what he’s made of his…
[INTERMISSION, GET SOME MORE POPCORN… ba ba dapba da pa dapada]
She wandered the street,
her daughter in mind,
her husband somewhere trailing behind,
son with him, surely fine,
her job a bother but never a stress,
as she permitted no mess,
her bills, chores, hobbies,
even the state of her mind,
all more or less in line.
Her brother lived in these parts round-a-bout,
somewhere around here he’d set himself out.
To her a chaotic and pressured locale,
millions of strangers bent on themselves.
She couldn’t relate to the way this place chased
in crowds amid clutter, the lights and loud nights,
they chased after their hungers,
just like her brother.
Some came for money, some came for fame,
others for the freedom of access to anything,
still more were here merely to be
around the others who, all like each other,
came seeking a place to be different together.
And then there were those who
just like her brother
needed the freedom only anonymity could bequeath.
Loss of context amidst the human press-
too copious, lush, lousy with aspirant would-be genius.
A site where authenticity could proliferate freely
and the authentic could congregate to create.
Her brother was one such,
he’d come to disguise
the difference made obvious
when he was unable to hide.
Communities where how he was
was a source of discourse,
concern, attention and then in the end,
For them it was all meant
to help him fit in,
though he’d told her he felt quite differently
when enjoined to change his very identity.
He was told his uniqueness was only an illness
and given 3… 4… 5 kinds of medications,
treatments and therapies all done under coercion
all so that he could be just a bit more like them.
With a litany of great names left in his wake,
he’d fled in a haze of the august and ‘insane’.
“Micheolangelo, Poe, Goethe, Van Gogh,
Da Vinci, Jesus, Lorenzo di Medici,
Joan of Arc, Neitzsche, Blake and Machiavelli!”
When the haze dispersed Garbanzo’d made his break.
Up to the universe of the urban rat race,
the everything where everyone could freely participate.
How he’d fared, she hadn’t heard,
years had passed since they’d last shared a word.
The idea occurred to her,
if he was so near it’d be wrong to steer clear.
She resolved to look into where he might be,
to see how her brother had fared in the city.
[INTERMISSION: HOW WILL IT END? FEEL FREE TO SPECULATE… ba ba pa baba doa]
She tapped on the door, nervous, concerned,
all of her calls had gone ignored.
Faintly she heard a moaning within
and pulled the door open to find him toking.
Disheveled, unkempt, surrounded by clutter
sat her despondent younger brother.
She resolved then and there
she would stay and take care
of our Mr. Garbanzo who she loved and knew
as a quality guy who she couldn’t allow
to lay where he lie.
Days passed and then weeks,
she played nurse-maid as he lay, indifferent in defeat.
She cleaned up his place,
she enjoined him gently to shower and shave,
he moved like a child, slowly and silent,
obediently accepting each instruction she gave.
And inside of our friend a thing began to change.
While on the outside he mumbled, stumbled,
did as he was told,
beneath in his soul he felt something make sense,
though he couldn’t see whence it’d come,
nor what it meant,
a chaotic hot boiling that lived in his blood
had calmed and gone still and in its place
a new feeling came,
appealingly clean it felt like… space.
Space to breathe, space to stand,
space to rest something he never before had.
The churning obsession with making connection
had fled before his sister’s attention.
He stayed on the inside for quite some time,
quiet and docile he rested his mind.
To his surprise, though he didn’t know why,
there was no rush to come up with theories or plans,
he merely stayed to experience the new feeling he had.
Something was right,
the impulse by which he’d been driven to fight
was sated and quiet,
like on those hard to recall long-ago starry nights.
“This must be what I’ve been trying to find,
what is it about how she’s so caring and kind
that eases the need to change people’s minds?
My mandate to create change in other people’s lives
must arise from this mysterious need
which she seems to satisfy.
What did I hope would happen
if I’d successfully done what I’d aspired to do?
I implored others to treat one another with love,
thinking they must’ve been suffering just the way I was.
Not everyone had this churning inside,
I suppose I assumed we were all alike,
yet this belief of mine had
all this time been enclosed here on
the inside of my mind.”
He knew his message was wise and well-meant
That there was truth in those things that he’d said
But his purpose had been other than
He’d believed it to be,
No matter how useful it might’ve seemed
To see so deep or be impassioned to teach,
It could never relieve his neediest need.
And it came to him at once
that what he’d craved had been love,
this feeling of being needed,
joined to others with purpose and loyalty.
And that it only took the attention
of one single person
to alleviate the tension
taught him this lesson:
“I can create this space
by giving it to another,
I’ll always have love
if I give love to others.”
Author Mat Costanzo, New York, NY
Mat Costanzo is in recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD and ADHD. Using the lessons gained from his experiences, he has presented on the Recovery Model, Peers in Clinical Settings and Treating Towards Recovery. After graduating from the Howie T. Harp Training and Advocacy Center in 2010 he’s been an educator at Howie T. Harp and until recently, a Peer Counselor and Advocate at Kings County Hospital Center in New York City. He is now in Long Island at Pilgrim Psychiatric Center where he is the Coordinator of Recovery Services, a position he helped to design with Pilgrim leadership to aid PPC in adapting to the changing landscape of behavioral health services and to supervise the development of their growing Peer Program. He is on track to complete his MS in Psychiatric Rehabilitation from Rutgers University (formerly the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey) in the summer of 2014.
Artist Dan Anthon, Sarasota, FL
I respond to the world around me through my art. “Mr. Garbanzo’s Release” is one such response. As a painter I love challenging myself and those who view my work. Landscape and elements of landscape are my passion. But I also love to create abstractions that may be hard to decipher at first glance. You may find aspects of nature or the human form in these abstractions but hopefully they encourage the viewer to respond to my images in a guttural way. The power of the spontaneous image speaks, without the complexity of words, on multiple levels all at the same time.