The nurse had called that morning
to talk about release, and when I arrived
that evening, you and I sailed toward each other
from opposite ends of a long hallway,
both of us buoyant. You had changed
out of the scrubs and into your clothes
we had brought from home, and you looked
like yourself again. When I pulled you close,
I remember the clean scent of your skin and hair.
The nurse unlocked a room I had never seen
before, a small windowless cube
containing only a table and two chairs.
The pale blue walls lacked even the most basic
ornamentation; unlike the other rooms,
there were no books or signs or games,
no props to hang a casual conversation on.
But you were smiling. I had brought you,
wrapped in a napkin, a sweet summer peach
that I had cut in the car before walking inside.
I put you under hypnosis, you said. Bring
another peach when you come tomorrow,
and you will be released. I was not under
hypnosis, I did not think, but the nurse
had left and closed the door behind her.
I looked for the clock, to see how long we had
until she came back, but there were no clocks
in this blue room. It doesn’t matter,
you said. There are no clocks at all in this place.
But there are, I said. I’ve seen them,
in the library and behind the nurses’ station.
Yes, you said patiently. They are there,
but they don’t work. There is no time here.
Again and again we had gone over the dates,
and the days; what had happened before
you went into the hospital, and since.
Often you compressed these events
into a single day or two, convinced that
you’d been at work earlier that morning.
Alone with you in the blue room, these distortions
of reality began to seem possible. I leaned forward,
deflated. I knew that the meeting in the morning
would be postponed, the release date
pushed forward. Tonight things will go badly,
you say. There will be a number of phone calls.
Am I still sitting there in the blue room when
the telephone rings at four o’clock in the morning
and I hear your voice, telling me that you love me?
Leah Browning is the author of three nonfiction books for teens and pre-teens and three chapbooks. This selection of poems is from her fourth chapbook, Out of Body, which is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. Browning’s poetry, fiction, essays, and articles have previously appeared in publications including Mud Season Review, Fiction Southeast, Bluestem Magazine, 300 Days of Sun, Cape Fear Review, Glassworks Magazine, Heron Tree, Corium Magazine, Dressing Room Poetry Journal, Sweet: A Literary Confection, Toad, Storyscape Journal, Halfway Down the Stairs, The Blue Hour Magazine, The Literary Bohemian, The Citron Review, and Per Contra, as well as on a broadside from Broadsided Press, on postcards and bookmarks from the program Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf, with audio and video recordings in The Poetry Storehouse, and in several anthologies. In addition to writing, Browning serves as editor of the Apple Valley Review. Her personal website is located at http://www.leahbrowning.com.