New Published Poem, Stoplight

First of all, the poem below was recently published in the new online lit mag The Electric Rail. To read the whole issue click here.

Stoplight

I thought I’d never get to leave.
They said “in a few days.”
Then, “a few more days.”

This time it was my fault.
I had been on a yellow light.
Then I got in a fight
and I went red.

I was on the stoplight system,
used in the children’s ward
to influence kids’ behavior.

The day before, I was green.
I was going home
on the same day
as the kid I would attack.

I had told him this
a few days prior,
during a soccer game.
We kicked competitively.

I was eager to live
beyond the Valley again.
Once I exited that place,
I wouldn’t have to see him
or hear his grating voice,
speaking in high pitch tones,
mocking other patients.

He was dribbling
a deflated basketball
on the blacktop.
This, in retrospect,
does not sound like fun,
but he would not share.

Instead of turning
the other cheek, I dug
my fingernails into his.

Then the doctor told me
I could not go home.
You can’t go on red,
so I sat, unable to move.

When it was time for math,
I asked to go
to the bathroom twice.
I was told then
I was not allowed to color.
What a shame.

I stood in front of
the bathroom mirror and cried.
My fists hit the mirror
over and over again.

Later, I got a phone call
My mother sounded oddly happy.
I was ashamed of myself.

“I am sorry,” I said.
She didn’t ask.
Perhaps she didn’t know
She said “You’re coming home.”

I gave no explanation to
the kids, back at school,
who wondered where I was.

Was I suspended?
Was I thrown in jail?
Was I on vacation?

So I have learned two things.
Some hospitals use safety glass.
and sometimes we need to go
before the light turns green.

 

Okay, now you’ve read the poem. Now, I can give you some background. I haven’t mentioned it before, but I am working on a project with my dad and part of it has to do with a few stays of mine at psychiatric hospitals. The one in this particular poem takes place in the children’s ward. Compared to what I’ve had published so far, it will be a very personal collection of poems. I don’t want to reveal any more than that at this point. But I just wanted to get that out there. Please enjoy the poem and thank you.

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6 thoughts on “New Published Poem, Stoplight”

  1. Reblogged this on David J. Bauman and commented:
    Can I just tell you how proud I am of this brave young man? I’m honored that he and I are working on something together, and I can’t wait to get it out into the world. Here’s a poem by my youngest son, published today by a new lit mag up the river from me in Scranton, The Electric Rail.

  2. It’s a truly compelling thing to read .. the use of those red and green lights is terrifying poetry. here’s to you having a great life full of joy and experience among all the inevitable rough and tumble that we all go through in our own ways. that is a cracking poem.

  3. I think that in some way, every poet is seeking to make sense out of that which makes no sense – that need to ferret out the feelings, the depth of an experience through one’s memory of the experience, is key – it’s almost a curiosity that exists outside of the self (but it is actually within the greater Self) that compels the poet to elucidate the moment. You’ve done a superb job of weaving a narrative and placing details along the way that shed light upon the experience and its meaning – and part of that illumination is woven with color.

    The next element that I think works well is the ‘voice’ of the poem – and it is in that voice that irony and a sense of humor can be the conveyor of meaning. I love the line, “I was not allowed to color/What a shame” – this whole poem is a declaration that you are and will be a person who cannot help but see the various shades of meaning that color your experience. That, my friend, is the calling of a poet. Good job! I look forward to reading more.

    1. Thank you. That is a good compliment. I don’t know quite what to say. Dad and I are just trying to write some “honest” poems or at least as honest as possible. I can’t wait to share some of the other poems we’ve been working on.

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