Five Poems

Involuntary Sins


Don't talk about why you are here in the event it might offend the others
You can have things that are a little bit dangerous but not very dangerous
The pond on our grounds is for swimming, not drowning
You can take the bus somewhere else if you plan to do that
You need to sign this piece of paper saying you consent to be treated
as though you're not capable of consenting to be treated any way at all
If visitors come and bring you sweets, you should share them with your friends here
Sometimes they like it if you recite things that you've memorized
Sometimes they just rock themselves to sleep despite their advanced age
You should plan to maintain at least a minimal standard of hygiene
In fact it is required although legally I can't make you
Everyone here has survived something that's not supposed to happen to anyone
Everyone in the right circumstances could earn an unmarked grave
You will spend your afternoons filling out menus for meals you will have in future days
You should request butter if you want peanut butter
You can have your books, but only if they aren't heavy
I mean if they are paperback
The only way we can help you is if you disclose yourself to us
I know there are a lot of things that brought you here that you should let go of
That's a good girl, tears are just salt water leaving the body
It's a good idea to keep a journal in which you record your time here
but you need to return the pens to the front desk after you're done
Your family should be here sooner or later
Sometimes the others write letters but never send them
It's only the letters that help
You can also make friendship bracelets for you and your friends
We will periodically search your room for food items
If there's something you really like, you can color a picture of it
Some of the others have been saying strange things lately
It must be some kind of code
Sometimes we watch you wipe down the tables
We want to make sure you're ready for what awaits you
You will sometimes have to stand in line for your medication
You don't need anything that is hard to find
You may experience excessive sedation
and may watch others with paperclips, staples, childproof scissors, their hands
You will prize and forfeit those things in quick succession
You will pity your past self
One of the others was found with a plastic bag wrapped around his head
But when we got it off we realized he was alright
No one here chooses representation
You are past the point of symbols
You are crossing a bridge you were on the wrong side of a long time without realizing
You are blind but one day you might not be
You can hope for that, anything
You can exchange a nub of chocolate for a story about a fifty foot parachute cord
We took that away from him too
But we gave him a newfound lease on life
And that is a real gift
You can read your paperback books and move just a little
You will be willing to do anything to leave
Our aim is to get you to leave behind your troubles
But you have left without a trace
And we don't know what you have given us