by Sandy Coomer

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

You’re making friends in the psych ward. Even Bob,
who debates the therapists and uses the word technically
in most of his arguments, holds a certain charm within his damaged soul.
There’s little else to do but mingle. Otherwise, you tell me,
this party would be a bust.

Bernard’s family brings pizza on his last inpatient day.
Its perfume wanders the halls, drawing napping Ken from his room.
Amen, Ken says, over and over, and though no one appreciates his sermons,
no one tells him to stop preaching. In any public or private venue,
there is an undeniable form of etiquette.

Tyler wears girl’s white Keds sneakers with the strings removed
and drooping navy sweatpants, also with the string removed. You say
he’s a good guy, just a little lost. Eileen fidgets nonstop, sidles
up to you and asks you to pray for her, adding that no one
can imagine her pain.

I prepare for your witty comeback, something with an expletive,
but you look at her like you know her, and when she asks
if she is bothering you, you answer no.
I bite the inside of my cheek until I taste blood.
Someone sobs in the therapy room.

Bob technically doesn’t believe in therapy.
When asked how he is feeling, he says, like a banana popsicle.
Sara, a twenty year old alcoholic, sits beside you and rests her head
on your shoulder. Planning a suicide was exhausting.
She still can’t get enough sleep.

Three weeks ago, you held a knife against your veins exacting pain.
Now you hold a sort of stable calm. You tell me it’s no great feat
to be strong in this ward of mental misfits, but I see in your eyes
a sort of realization growing - where you’ve been,
where you want to go.

    Copyright 2023 by Red River Review. First Rights Reserved. All other rights revert to the authors.
    No work may be reproduced or republished without the express written consent of the author.