Feeding the Serpent 

The doctor said she thought I had (insert new diagnosis here). The word slithered out of her mouth and landed on her desk. It was a long scaly kind of word. It was good at slithering in dark places. I stared into its beady eyes and nodded. I wasn’t sure if I should retreat backwards or lunge forwards. I sat there staring at the serpent. It stared back. The doctor started talking about how symptoms-correspond-to-traits-correspond-to-treatment-correspond-to-outcomes. No, that’s not quite it. How symptoms-correspond-to-classifications-correspond-to-risks-correspond-to-effectiveness. No, that’s not quite it. I scrunched up my face and tried to understand. I nodded again. The snake inched towards me with the silent skill of a suspicious reptile. I swallowed. Still frozen to the chair, I asked her what she meant. I couldn’t quite catch her explanation. We laughed. She wrote down the words on her pad and said she was going to do some research. The serpent rose towards me. I matched its height and rose too. I must have something to appease the snake. I fumbled in my pockets and came up with a dime. I kept finding them waiting for me on the ground. I opened my hand and offered the dime to the snake. The snake opened its mouth and swallowed the dime. I sat down. The snake slithered off her desk in the other direction. Now that the snake and I understood each other, I asked the doctor to continue.

no one was singing

The sound of singing the sound of singing I heard the sound of singing on the subway train I turned to look and no one was singing or were they? I leaned into the sound of singing the sound of singing it was comforting and true angels must be visiting I heard the sound of singing on the subway it sounded like angels rising from the depths the noise melded with the sound of the car into a new song and if this is what they call a hallucination, then crazy’s not so bad is it imagination or a visitation? does it matter? I heard the angels singing on the train I turned to look and no one was singing or were they?

Going Back into the Underworld

The doctor told me I could not see things clearly. Early psychosis gets in your eyes. I looked at him. He looked back. His eyes were loud and his voice distant. It’s best not to try and figure out what’s real right now, he mouthed. I’ve been seeing patients for forty years… His words moved through the room like smoke circling through hospital air. I could not catch them in my fists, but I knew what he was saying. He didn’t think I’d be able to see into the dark. His instructions emerged like directions on a map I couldn’t see. I listened to his concern echo against the walls of the room. His beard concealed half of his face. I was suspicious of his certainty. I clenched my jaw. He didn’t understand. I couldn’t meet his gaze, so I stared blankly at the floor. I retreated further into the place I knew to be true. The room slowed and curved slightly. I waited until he was finished. Then I turned back and moved deeper into the world he warned me not to enter.

Going back into the underworld feels like submerging in a cave that is gradually filling with water. I can hear water moving up against rock. The sound feels like rain dripping upwards. I wonder if the sky has collapsed. Everything is getting smaller. The earth is moving in on me. I cannot move more than a few feet. My knees start trembling. I can barely hold myself up. The ground is wet, and the water enters my boots. I try not to breathe. I clasp my hands against rock. It’s wet to the touch, and my fingers slip over the surface. I don’t believe the doctor. I must be able to see a way through. The light attached to my head is dimming, and the shadows grow darker around me. A giant spider darts in front of me. I grab it in my fist and shove it into my mouth. It goes down wiggling and spindly. The light dims, and I am caught within the darkness. I do not want to remember what it felt like to be endangered, but the memory is in my bones. The walls of the cave are tight, but I slip between a crevice and find myself in an open space of rock and dirt. The earth holds me in my terror. I call out into the darkness. No one comes. I am alone here. I do not want to go back. But there is only one way out. I slip further under the earth, open my mouth and wail. The sound echoes against rock. I can’t explain it, but for a moment, I see right into the dark. 

~ Originally appeared in CAROUSEL Magazine 43, July 2020.