Art by Lynn Schirmer ♥ Poetry by Ann Teplick
I walk through the doors of the public school, the iron-gate at Western State Hospital, the nurses’ station at Children’s hospital, the metal detectors at King Co. juvenile, the stairwell to the Hospice wing—to Purell, sign in, high-five, ask for the key to the bathroom, computer room, room to Xerox poems and more poems, collate, celebrate, whisk to our writing space—a waddle of desks, tables stapled to the floor, corduroy pillows, a bed with rails. Machines that beep, digital numbers that screech their crimson, screech their wires, IVs, whiteboard—instructions scribbled like hieroglyphics. And there you are—tubes through ports, through noses, neck brace, body brace, drowsy from medication, freckled and wide-eyed for discharge, the crash of self-harm, the cuts on your arms, like jags, like X marks the spot—here and here and here and here. Bruises that fuse the brain’s mutiny. Paint me the oxygen. Carbon dioxide. Level of energy, empathy, heat from chemotherapy, rehab, dialysis, psychosis, diseases I’ve never heard of, names with thirteen syllables that crack veneers, that seep, spill, drench the yolk of grief from chins, necks, chests, torsos scarred from lifting hearts, livers, kidneys, onto the cart for pathology. And the rabbits are ashen. But there you are—a tangle of questions, tongues that click teeth, fingernails ripped into zigzags, lop-sided grin, bald heads, cheeks that dream they are rosy. And there you are—poised to write, wrangle the simile, Double Dutch the repetition, gather the assonance, dissonance, toss them like dice—spicy—your loves, your secrets, your fears. What you’ve done to others, what they’ve done to you. The finch you will not hold, the cinnamon you’d crawl inside of, call home, bold with all that is broken. And there you are—the opal. Moldavite. Sunstone.