Thursday, April 12, 2012


She dreams a little, and she feels the dark

Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.

The pungent oranges and bright, green wings

Seem things in some procession of the dead,

Winding across wide water, without sound.

The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet…

From Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens

Outside my window Portland is blooming noisily – scattered rain, creaking bicycles, adults conversing, children playing ­– all in the warm wind that hisses over the city, tossing blizzards of apple and cherry blossoms over the streets – so many petals you could make a snowman of them.

On the screen in front of me is a scene from Off Label – a scene with Mary Weiss talking about the death of her son.  I will never forget having the headphones on, the microphone delivering each word, each breath between as she told us of her son’s delusions of satanic cults and demons after him; of how he was coerced by his doctors into a drug marketing study; and the grisly details of his final moments. She sat across the table but her anger, her horror, and her terrible sadness might as well have been whispered into my ear. I can’t say that I’ve ever had a more intimate experience with a human voice. And I can’t imagine Mike ever had a more intimate experience of a human face through a lens.  The last sounds on that audio clip are long, shaky sighs from her, from me, from Mike, as the story finished. Not a word, only breath.  It’s fitting that this scene begins and end with the wind – a thick sound that brings us to her, hides beneath her story, and then takes us away of over the water. 

Mary was gracious enough to give us those details of her son’s death that she had never allowed to be made public. And she was gracious enough to allow them into the film. Needless to say, we are grateful and proud to present her story.  There’s a terrible irony then in the fact that  several severe strokes have crippled her speech functions.  Even as her story goes public again, this time with her own voice speaking it, she is struggling to regain her own ability to speak.   Mary is also a woman of faith. She believes her son’s spirit has found peace. She has a complex belief in angels.  When I hear the wind during her scene or now, rushing with blossoms and raindrops by my window, I hope it is caused by the wings of her angels, delivering her voice back to her.

 For the film trailer : OFF LABEL 

 Please read Carl Elliott's article on Mary Weiss and Dan Markingson for Mother Jones magazine: the deadly corruption of clinical trials