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Lay for the Day
15th May

St Dympna's day. The legend of Dympna is that she was the daughter of a Celtic king. Her mother died when she was a child, and when she grew up she was so like her late mother that her father desired her. She fled his advances and went into hiding with her confessor, St Gerebernus, in the town of Gheel, about 25 miles from Antwerp. The king pursued them, tracing their passage by the coins they had used, and found them in a hermitage, where his men killed the priest and he killed his daughter.
St Dympna's relics were said to have effected miraculous cures of epileptics and of lunatics, and she became the patron saint of the insane (as well as of rape victims and of fugitives). The Belgian town of Gheel, where her tomb was until the 13th century, has a long history of intelligent and compassionate treatment of the mentally ill.

The Bin

What shall be done
with them we deem insane?
Locked out
of sight of green,
they’ll rattle, like stones in a tin,
their various pain.

And in their lift,
as broad as a room,
shall be written
of course, and more
simply “Show me the way to go home”.

And music there shall be
none, nor flowers
but hours
in large supply
in which to cry

We are all on film.
All tuned to the one
none receives the same.
Some dumb. Some have, partly,
voices. Not only earthly.


John Gibbens
from Falling Down


The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar