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, 
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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