Visiting Hours at the Psychiatric Hospital
The guard confiscates the small spiral-bound notebook
I bought her at the dollar store. The pink plastic cord
could be pulled from the pages and used to injure herself,
he explains—as if I should have known not to bring it.
Magazines with smiling women in swimsuits are sanctioned,
as if they will teach her how to look happy. The music
I transfer to a small silver device makes it in but does not
please her. Vacant, she gazes past me, her thick hair twisted
up in a bun. She’s more beautiful than she was at her wedding.
She begs me to get her out of the locked ward. Says she cannot
sleep one more night in this place. The doctor asks if I brought
a word search as if finding nouns in a field of scattered letters
could fix this. How can I tell her I know the corners of chaos
where her mind has lured and trapped her? How can I unpeel
myself from this vinyl loveseat and leave her with leering
nurses and patients? How can I turn around and press the buzzer
for the guard to open the door and let me walk out again
into the strange July sun?
Jennifer Franklin (AB Brown University, MFA Columbia University School of the Arts) is the author of two full-length collections, most recently No Small Gift (Four Way Books, 2018). Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Blackbird, Boston Review, New England Review, Gettysburg Review, Guernica, JAMA, Love’s Executive Order, The Nation, Paris Review, Plume, “poem-a-day” on poets.org, and Prairie Schooner. She currently teaches in the Manhattanville MFA program. For the past seven years, she has taught manuscript revision at the Hudson Valley Writers Center, where she serves as Program Director and co-edits Slapering Hol Press. She lives in New York City.