I cannot conjure up the name McMurphy, only the lyrics to Ke$ha’s Timber, only Erlkönig which I recite with vigor to the patients on the ward as they strain against its nonsense. How they let me tell them after, verse by verse, what is happening in English.
You’re real smart, says the wild-eyed alcoholic who punched her father in the face who does not know where her children are who later tries to read a book by Dean Koontz instead of watching the therapeutic movie with the therapeutic popcorn. The nurse asks her Have you ever read a whole book before?
The alcoholic does not notice. I hold my tongue. Want to say you condescending cunt. I count the ways in which I am condescending.
The pock-marked anorexic who tells me she did not poison her daughter did not break her daughter’s arm says she will always remember how I got everybody extra cigarettes. What I will remember is the tall nurse who bruised my wrist, how I was reminded of the way One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest ends, the shame of ceasing to try.
They are sending the German Baptist and the fat redhead in the wheelchair who scratches and scratches at her skin with fingernails that should be filed down but aren’t off to a hospital somewhere in Illinois I have never heard of to get electroconvulsive therapy which the German Baptist wants but the redhead doesn’t but doesn’t seem to have a choice in the matter I wonder what choice I have I wonder what’s in the medication they are giving me which is making me break into rashes which is making my skin blister which is making my voice flat flat like anything stepped on or steamrolled like Indiana.
I am only smart enough to itch in secret.
Audrey Gradzewicz was born in Buffalo, New York. Her poems have been published by, or are forthcoming from, Southern Indiana Review, Thank You for Swallowing, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Poets.org, Mid-American Review, Ninth Letter, The Puritan, Passages North, and Smartish Pace.