This was maybe yesterday or maybe last year. It was in the house
on the coast or it was in my childhood home or it was somewhere
I can’t remember now. I pick through the rubble of my brain. My
brain is an archaeological site.
—Marya Hornbacher, Madness
Three or four months may not seem like much
in the span of a lifetime, especially when viewed
at a comfortable distance, but the beds have been
stripped of their linens, the baby will never be fed;
every inch of skin is chafed, and the bones remain unset.
My mind is a catalogue now of all the different
medications, their dosages and side effects, the dates
we began or increased or began to cross-taper,
and after a while I can scarcely remember a life
before this one; what we want to reclaim has been absent
so long that it is almost impossible to remember.
At group, one of the mothers says that she has stopped
going out with friends. You can only talk about it
with other people for so long, I know. It is exhausting
but inescapable. I remember a young guard at the hospital,
once, asking me where we were headed after a visit, maybe
on our way to a movie. Was there a time, then,
when I thought of something other than the diagnosis,
or the fear that it would wind through the family like
the fine hooked tendrils of some deceptive, virulent plant?
You are an adult, a teenager, a child. The medication
has finally brought you down, and now, in the morning,
I have to lift you out of bed. This is Kafka, after
the metamorphosis, but we’re alone with the insect’s
untenanted exoskeleton, waiting. Time loops back on itself.
I prop you up on pillows, I feed you breakfast.
Months pass. Each fragment its own sunless autumn, one o’clock.
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.