by Rachel Jennings

Therapy was ginger snaps and lullabies,
as dreamily proper as five brands of tea
or waiting room prints by suicides
Rothko and Van Gogh. Thus, when
the old Honda broke down at last
just two hours before my time,
I could not at once process
the taxi dispatcher’s response:
“We no longer drive our passengers
to psychologist appointments.”

Awakened, I knew
myself among the damned:
street people and drunks,
day laborers and daily bus riders.
Hell, what did it matter
so long as I were not-my-sister?

She had ridden
weekly to her shrink’s
in the Health Services van
until the day she smashed
a fellow client in the face.
Only our parents then
could keep her in treatment;
that is, out of shelters
or prison. A grown daughter
home twice-yearly to visit,
I rode along. Mom and Dad
in front, I shared the backseat
with a fetid wretch
who slurred profanity.
Her mountain accent
was mine.

She talked at length
with the worker,
and the minutes dragged.
Her kin ate packed
lunches: an egg salad
sandwich cut crosswise,
a small box of raisins,
three carrot sticks,
and a pudding cup.
It might have been a picnic
but was not.

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