GATHERING UP THE PIECES, Judson Simmons

GATHERING UP THE PIECES
by Judson Simmons

A voice sings into the night –
it must be an angel.
It must be a merciful song, 
calling to calm me back
to sleep.  
                 A nurse hushes me, 
promises
it’s all just one big dream…

So the doctors
feed me more pills; fat ones;
round ones; beige and white –
chalk tasting and 

impossible to swallow.

They take blood daily:
I’m donating these vials
to sanity.
	      All the while
that angel keeps singing.

*

The man in the bed next to me
cries himself to sleep –
he tosses and turns, turns to fight
just to stay awake
so he won’t dream.

He holds conversations with himself
or someone just like him.

I hold the pillow 
over my ears just to drown 
out his whispers.

*

On and on and on the voices dance around my head like young, petite ballerinas. 

At night their tiny feet tiptoe 
through my mind – I call out
but they never answer.

I’m tired of being ignored, tired
of falling asleep
when the doctors want me to.

The nurses sit at the end of the hallway –
I know they’re talking
about me. 
	         I know
they whisper deceit and venom.

*

They sit us in the garden area
twice a day; surrounded
by walls – orange brick,
as tall as the eye can see.

I imagine the stars
are beacons
beckoning me to follow them.

Yet, it seems 
that some things 
are always more distant
than they appear…

*

I’m writing letters home
but never mailing them.

I see my parents twice a week
and my brother calls:

his voice sounds disinterested.

It seems we’re nothing more
than strangers on a bus 
sitting next to each other.

*

This is my regret.
I keep it close, guarded 
only by slipping the pills they feed me
between the mattress pads.

Outside: it’s so beautiful;
in here: our voices fall 
muted against the grayness of the walls.

There are so many things I miss
while tucked away 
in this room with no windows –
some things I would’ve never noticed:

the windshield wipers 
erasing away the morning dew
or the look of wonder 
in a child’s face
as they pull apart 
the bodies of love bugs.
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