To the Teenagers in My Writing Circle, Psychiatric Ward

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.
something opened
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.

Anticipate by Anya Holloway

Anticipate by Anya Holloway

About Carole Glasser Langille

Carole Glasser Langille is the author of four books of poems, two collections of short stories and two children's books. Her last book of poetry, Church of the Exquisite Panic: The Ophelia Poems was nominated for the Atlantic Poetry Prize and her last book of short stories I Am What I Am Because You Are What You Are was nominated for the Alistair MacLeod Award for Short Fiction.

About Anya Holloway

Anya Holloway lived in Ontario before moving to the Maritimes to paint. She has been involved in art for most of her life, studying art and architecture throughout her high school years and earning a degree in Graphic Arts. In 2008, she opened the doors to her gallery in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. Having a strong belief in the art education of our youth, she teaches painting and art history to children ages 9-17. Her work is held in private collections throughout the globe, including Canada, USA, Japan, China, Europe, Australia and the UK. Please see more of Anya’s work on her gallery site, blog, and on Facebook.

3 thoughts on “To the Teenagers in My Writing Circle, Psychiatric Ward

  1. Janet Barkhouse

    Carole, your poem is a wonderful one, though so very sad. Hearing of the six skeletons of babies in a locker in Calgary today, I couldn’t help but think how hard it is to be fully human. How can we harm the innocent and helpless so cruelly? I couldn’t read the locker story–I can’t change it, and it will haunt me whether I know the details or not, but I feel a bit of a coward–Margaret Atwood has a line in a poem about torture along the lines of, “bear witness is what we can do,” and this poem somehow bears witness and gives hope, too. It’s beautiful.

  2. Lorraine

    Carole , your poem to me is gently written .


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