To the delicate girl who kept getting thinner—
thin as smoke from a cigarette,
a fault line in her green eyes.
To the young man
whose father slipped into his bed,
his fury trapped, a coiled cobra.
It was hot,
sun pounded windows that couldn’t open.
when one girl said to another.
You wrote that? Wow.
To M who said, I can write about cutting,
but I don’t want to upset
Kids with piercings, scars, tattoos,
boys with tangled curls,
shaven-headed girls—the staff unlocked the doors
and marched you through.
Though the world had twisted,
like a chicken’s neck, your anger,
I believed, uncensored,
you could begin to discover who you were.
You’re making me happy, D said.
You love poetry, don’t you?
D said one morning.
Don’t come back
was the message the red-haired nurse
left on my phone that night. She was tired.
I made more work for her. How else explain
why she was annoyed each week I showed up.
If she treats you that way,
the psychiatrist said, imagine how she treats the kids. Like wrecks that skid
when the brakes fail.
It was tough in that place
where nothing was savoured and No
was the word.
But you know that.
You whose words were rough and frail,
and so often out of favour.