A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Each day’s a train bound for Calgary, St. Paul, Santa Fe,
its flickering windows a foreign film.
The doors will never open. But the tracks will beckon.
You’ll lay your body across them, feeling for the hum,
the electric indelible, that connects all beings,
you’ve heard. No train will come, so you’ll let it go.
You’ll get chilly, get up, drive home and call a friend.
She’ll take you to the hospital. In you’ll go
through doors that lock audibly at your back.
They’ll want your sharps (nail file, shoelaces.) You’ll let them go.
They’ll give you a diagnosis. Another. Another.
They’ll prescribe Prozac, which will work, then stop.
You’ll go through four more medications to find a transitory peace.
Another patient, your confidant, will turn quiet.
You’ll find her hanging from the shower bar. You’ll watch her go
out on a gurney, the same way she arrived, in a bag this time.
You’ll get with the program: music therapy, art therapy, family therapy.
You’ll gain weight, insight. You’ll get a discharge date
then begin to wonder what you’ve missed—the new television season,
elections, fall fashions, the body count. They’ve let you go
from your job. They’ve filled your spot in the choir.
Most of your friends, too, will be gone
but this will be done in a way you discover incrementally
through a series of unmet glances,
unreturned calls and other small dishonors.
Your husband will remove his ring. I didn’t sign up for this.
You’ll hire an attorney. He’ll hire an attorney.
You’ll lose custody of your children
and God help you, you’ll let them go
to the fitter parent, the more competent one,
the parent who did not go through this.
You’ll make a fresh start, buy a house
in another town and you’ll drink your evening wine
but you’ll let that lonely pleasure go too far.
This too, you will let go.
You’ll find a lover. He’ll bring his hammer and his temper.
After you argue he’ll make a bonfire of your furniture.
Standing barefoot at your own door
you’ll watch it all go–spark to ash.
You’ll go back to bed for a day, a week
then a cold season of days will flicker past the panes,
past you, alone on that familiar platform
now overgrown with vines. You will take hold
of one and pull it up. You’ll pull another, another.
Soon you’ll stand between the mass of weeds
and a cleared place. This is where you’ll plant
mint and nasturtium and watch them grow
thickly fragrant over the borders. You’ll make
a friend, paint your bedroom, go to church,
late one afternoon on the porch
you’ll feel an easing of resentments
toward those who have not suffered,
toward those to whom suffering is invisible
as you let go and let go and let go.
Copyright 2017 Leslie McGrath. First published in Salamander. Republished by permission of the author.