"Mary Enters the Clinic" - Emily Katherine

"Mary Enters the Clinic" - Emily Katherine 

Mary enters the clinic like it’s a cathedral and she is has been away from god for too long
she has the slow repentant walk and the surrendered gaze of the returning sinner
praying that salvation is still being offered
she has no face
just wild hair, just dark eye liner, just scars covering faintly bruised arms and knees covered in dirt
her confession is to the front desk clerk
“I think it’s time I came back
I’ve been a needle looking for a haystack to lose myself in,
well I’m gone now.”
She gets a packet of paperwork to fill out – intake forms – financial application –
proof of insurance
When the clerk asks for proof of identity, she hands her a faded polaroid of a girl smiling, squinting into the sun
says “I used to be her.”
The clerk asks for a drivers license
says ma’am, we don’t process dreams here, just the data
Mary sighs
says I haven’t slept in four days and that’s a fact
I stay up each night trying to track down a map that will take me back to a time before the trauma existed, back when I still believed in the resistance
I take my mothers Xanax from her medicine cabinet because I want to forget
when it rains the voices get louder and I cut because I never learned how to ignore an itch
I can’t feel my face anymore, I can’t force my lips to curve in the direction of a smile,
I can’t decipher my affliction but I know I haven’t been here in a while”
The clerk schedules her with a counselor,
advises her to take a seat and wait.

it’s not the best way to process a person who walks in crying crisis in a common language
but it’s the only way we know how to help
Name, age, social security card.
If you have insurance you will have a copay
If you have a god, now will be the time to pray
if you have a loved one, ask them to hold on and stay

In the counselor’s office, she asks for holy water to drink
when asked if she is taking anything she says yes, I take anything
but nothing seems to quench this angry burn around my heart, I am on fire from the inside, hell is behind gate of my ribs and I’ve been trying to crack each one to get out.
The counselor continues with questions
Do you drink?
Do you feel depressed or blue more days than not?
Do you ever feel like you would be better off dead?
She says only on the days I can’t get out of bed
Do you have a plan for killing yourself?
she says does living count

She waits for the police escort to the hospital like they are the sons of god
they seem just as rational and twice as kind
Days have gone by that god has been the only man that will answer her
he has thrown shadows against her bedroom wall and had her guess which ones were indications of her impending doom and which ones were just reflections of the trees outside
she has found signs in her cereal – measured her life by the number of cheerios she poured
she knows the news anchor on the tv is talking to her
she knows she shouldn’t have stopped taking her medicine again
– but there was a blank spot between her eyes where her wit used to live
her hands refused to fly, became fallen birds in her lap
her eyes were vaguely smiling, her heart was kind of trying
she thought she could handle it this time

The police say shackles are not a reflection of their regard for her but a matter of policy
she accepts them willingly
they wonder why she is smiling
she wonders why they are not acknowledging Jesus, since he is standing so close behind them
beckoning her with one hand
she goes willingly

When the clinic doors close behind her, the sanitized hum resumes in the waiting room
the tv is set to Andy Griffith reruns,
the clerk files paperwork grown large with numbers – 1013, 911
295.90 schizophrenia with at least two of the following – delusions, hallucinations, grossly disorganized speech, an inability to interact with daily life without being wounded by the incongruent affect and behavior of so-called normal people
the counselor finds the razor blades in the back pack she left behind
the manager stores them in the safe beneath her desk
The clerk looks up as the next client approaches the front desk

Emily Katherine's website is Gut Punch Poetry. (photo by Michelle Castleberry)

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