Cheap Carnival (a poem)

in psych wards, they take your belt, shoelaces

anything you could use to hurt yourself

when I’m there, I fear the world will kill me

so, I give them my belt, tell ’em to take good care of it

& I talk to others there

& I feel damaged & I identify with compatriots –

ancient, white-haired women who look like washerwomen of Celtic myth, who start fights & cackle & perhaps know they’ll never leave –

heavy-set bald men who bemoan the fact we can put people on the moon but can’t cure mental illness –

muscular young men with anger in their eyes, who quickly develop psych ward romances & take every chance to show they hate the world for what it’s done to them –

they follow me when I leave,

& I collect my belt, step into bright worlds &

pretend I wasn’t here

a secret I keep to myself

that perhaps the wiring in my brain is faulty

producing highs & lows like a wooden rollercoaster

in a cheap carnival

& I take my meds, monitor symptoms

know after years of this routine that

stability is the goal I strive for

not happiness or dogmatic bullshit about enlightenment

that morally purist & overcaffeinated 12-stepping zealots

pontificate about in moldy church basements

somewhere between heaven and hell

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