Journaling in the Psych Ward
Becky Nicole James
I’m writing in my journal with a blunt black crayon. The words are squat and barely legible. I’m in my room at the Cape Fear Valley Behavioral Health Unit during a pandemic. I wear the double of a Phantom of the Opera mask with a mask on it. I’m not allowed to take a pencil to my room. But during group therapy, I get to write with a pink or purple marker under supervision. Many of the people here write, often filling in word puzzles or filling out worksheets.
I write down everything I see and everything I eat. I write between naps. I write down the words scratched on the windowsill; the only ones I can are read Hell and I can’t. I write down every gulp of water I drink from my little pitcher or my cupped hands at the sink. I write what my loquacious acquaintance says about her husband and his uptight family. I write down the words on the white board and copy the strained smiley faces. Be kind to yourself, grimacing face.
I grip this broken black crayon I found in a drawer because this crayon is my only salvation. The pink bracelet on my wrist flashes in the fluorescent light as I write. I am a flight risk. My glasses fog.
We don’t touch. We pretend we didn’t almost do something horrible mere days ago. We get excited over chicken nuggets and ketchup. We go to the hand sanitizer dispenser above the trash can. We study the gouges in the wall beside the black phone. We wonder when we’re leaving and when we’re coming back.
What Wants to Come
In my sleep I see lines of characters wanting
to be words, all of us by now should be used to waiting
as for virus shots and voting,
are we absolute integers again or will
the sequence keep overwhelming us,
the initial genome had thirty thousand of them in a row.
I only want to write spring haiku
but this far north it is still winter when of course
the chemical composition of snow
has the same hydrogen and oxygen as water.
Here are more letters for you, a polymerase
chain reaction spelled as qRT-PCR said I have Covid-19, no wonder
I can’t get myself in alphabetical order.
I want a different kind of dream
where every poem wakes when I do in the morning.
Instead the pauses in the pattern
are all I have to go on.
–> Laurinda Lind
The Assault on My Imagination
“The winds violent. Trees falling in every derection, whorl winds, with gusts of
rain Hail &Thunder, this kind of weather lasted all day. Certainly one of the worst
days that ever was!” — William Clark from Fort Clatsop, Oregon, March 1806
An experienced dog owner (she’d adopted something like a dozen in her lifetime) explained to the podcast interviewer about her dog. She’d spent years training him. During the pandemic, the dog had reverted to all his old behavior. The dog is stressed. All the people in the house, all the time. All the deliveries. So much to protect. So little time to sleep.
The dog attacks an eight-year-old girl in a local park. The girl is fine, but terrified. The dog owner knows. He has to be put down.
I try to write.
The drip of the rain continues. It’s been weeks of this dark, dripping wet. There is
I can barely remember the Oregon summer, how we used to go outside on the patio to eat. How we hiked in the morning with the baby, and finally broke down and brought a nanny in for four hours a day. How I wrote one-hundred-and-forty pages in four months.
I reread them. They may not be worthy of cutting room floor mulch.
The septic system in my house died. The crew has been here for five days, digging, pumping, placing the new tank, covering it with gravel. The inspectors for the city arrive and the electrician. My dog barks at each one, and every time they pass by the windows. Not just a short alert, but “I-am- dying-here-trying-to-save-you-can’t-you-see-that-person-is-evil” barking. Dog screaming. He can’t see their faces behind their masks.
I didn’t need to be here for this repair. It was all completed outside, in the rain. All the men on the job wore rubber pants and jackets and gloves. I wonder if it’s mud or the remains of the old tank they are smearing across the deck. They are walking muddy condoms, I think.
I have nowhere to go.
I am writing, I think.
The drips go on all night. I lie in bed sure that I can hear something swishing around in the new tank. My dog is finally asleep.
I wish for gusts and whirlwinds, trees falling in every direction. I wish for some new smell, the taste of a chef’s love on my tongue. I wish to walk on streets I’ve never walked before among people who do not speak my same language. For one day.
I wish for a new color of sky.
I wish for a pomegranate soap in the shape of a fish.
S P Mount
Hello. We are here…
all who were ever brought to this inexplicable place that for some is paradise, yet others, perdition. Removed by forces the world has never understood… and I accept… may never understand… we arrived by land, sea and by air to be lost forever. But with this godsent carrier that should deliver a message on a wing and a prayer, we may yet be found.
Hello. We still exist…
thousands of us, seized by an almighty power since the dawn of civilisation; from over millennia, decades, fewer years still, and even months–such as when I myself, Robert Logan, Cessna pilot, was taken. All are here; primitive and modern man living and breathing in this peculiar, magical plane of existence where the passage of time settled on a single moment.
Hello. We need help…
to leave this place. Our vessels—rafts, canoes, fishing boats, ships of both sea and sky, of both war and pleasure–captured; crafts that now sail with only singular oar or solitary wing—all navigated here by the will of an unseen hand, cast away from the impenetrable mirage upon the horizon with no more direction than a demented wasp.
Hello. We see you…
we walk among you, through you. We reach out to touch you. We beg and we pray you might hear our voices, that our pleas echo within your ears. But you are deaf to us. You are blind to us. We are mere spectres in your living world. Ghosts to look through the warped wavicles of the undulating three-sided mirror that reflects the underhand of the universe.
Hello. We have hope…
for if not our vessels, if not countless messages in bottles, birds traverse our planes with the greatest of ease. Seabirds, corvids, sparrows… a homing pigeon… all at liberty to punch a hole in the ‘Devil’s Triangle‘, the gateway upon the horizon, imperceptible from its other side. If this winged messenger, this carrier of hope, should find its way home, then I say to the world:
Hello… we are here… we still exist… we need help… we see you… and if our existence here in this place that is both heaven and hell… this place where time stands still for eternity… is indeed not death itself… we have hope… hope that one day you will find a way to open a one-way celestial door so that we too may find our way home.
“He had a heart that could have held the entire empire of the world; and, in the end, he had to content himself with a cellar.”―
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” Amelia Earheart
How about you try something else?
- Fashion a weapon
- Scavenge for food
- Search the wreckage
- Build a shelter
- Explore the caves
- Read the waves
- Return to Meta Island
- Wait, what?
- Skip to TOC
- Read the Foreword
- Check the passenger manifest
- Read Dead-Letters from the Editor
- Exit Simulation