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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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