so quiet on this unit
but a girl took her life here –
I think back on threefold therapy,
Making messes where there seemed none,
Little infestations crawling inside you
Like the friend that left too early –
Quit crying for him he’s gone.
And she’s gone too: incommunicado,
The one I expected to be a
Soul-journey landmark, measured and precise.
I cannot keep her
And this my fitting retribution.
Floundering through dark-tinted windows
The aches and pains of internment
And the little chip spin on the breakfast tray.
This is the time between the belt-loop fiasco
And the absurdly tiny denouement,
The one you look back at and simply smile.
Because the time measures twice-around
Little feeds of chicken-gut realization,
Undue nurse interrogations.
We can see each other’s minisculality
Fun frivolities we forget about
As we reach out locked windows.
Shoots itself back into your veins
Cheap labor extra extra
Read all about it
In this moment
Inscrutability oy veys itself
Into thinner lines than you imagine
And the wind moves where the tide goes
If you do important work
I will watch if not help
Paradigm shifts listlessly take in
Arrogant pricks with them
Who shoot up rejections faster than
The human eye computes.
But I look up to the stars and see
The trackmarked blood galaxy
On your sweater’s left arm.
Entertaining thoughts of
I fly like tri-winged eagles
To your newly furnished doorstep
And trust you’d do the same.
(The wing on top is for steering.)
Don’t be shy we’ve already met
At the place of vulnerability
Where nurse-guides and psychics
Watched our every move,
Secular penance paid
For wanting to leave this life.
Mixed into this cauldron,
You burn like my eyes at the sight of the sun.
Blatantly forgiving at other people’s expenses,
Nolan listened to my explanation that his name
Was easy to remember because of Christopher Nolan.
Burgeoning out from two lines of sight,
The guitar shimmers in your thin hands
Like an unseen fire in the hearts of the patients.
You work at metallurgy like a Norse god,
Or one of Robin Hood’s merry men –
You stole from the rich and gave to me.
Class-consciousness elides into further stupid comments
Made by me at the expense of you on my first day;
I was nervous.
Tried-and-true methods for acquainting yourself with others
Fall apart in front of your covered eyes that squint behind hair
Too bushy to hide from other patients’ haggard views.
Transferal of feelings from me to you and Ben and Laura;
First days’ jitters dissipating with every mention of music
To let the boredom free itself from the lonely hospital
You would always lie flat-backed in chairs
I don’t know if that was intentional but I noticed.
In groups you lay there checking your own pulse,
Making sure you were alive in spite of the surroundings.
Nothing interrupted your two week stay except yourself,
And I arrived at a peak time; if you can call the lowered-eyebrow
Premonitions of future attempts a peak time.
As much one as the other; come, see, came, and saw
You are too smart for this place, and the others know it
You could go to college, be a contendah, etc., says Nolan
You can be someone great like Chinese ancients
Or the modern Silicon Valley upstart dreamers
Dreaming their fills of computer chip circuitboard magma.
An avowed atheist whose dream-colors rival medieval murals,
You can respect religion until it hampers safety considerations
Or when your family has a bad experience with religion
And you grow up in the crosshairs of two nothings.
I want to slap you out of it.
Nurses want to slap you out of it.
But it’s never that simple when the dice we’ve been given say the same thing
And when we never play cards anymore.
We were the ones plucked out of the ether
We were the ones God didn’t forget
Ben, if you’re reading this let me know if you got into residential
I long for a reunion.
Blake Wallin is a senior English Literature major at Wheaton College. If you would like to chat about the experience in the poem (or anything else), he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover photo: Mary Lock (www.flickr.com/photos/goldilockphotography)