I still don't know how to play mancala
cw: psychiatric hospitalization
I don’t know why I brought it with me
to psych ward. rattle of recycled glass
against bamboo board reminiscent of
my thoughts the dark cardboard
box of my brain. one night in the dark
thin white sheets nurses flip to look–
for broken plastic forks, extra medication
doled out in paper mouthwash cups, maybe
the mouthwash cup has been torn into
an edge– and when I wake up, a weeping
lady in the bed next to mine. when her
family comes, she cries that she wants
to go home. at 1pm, visiting hours, I
tell that to Peter when he comes
with a clean panda shirt and panda socks.
the nurses let me walk him to the door
and I wave to him as he walks down
the hallway smelling of lysol and the
wish to follow. one doctor gives me
the last cup of orange ice cream, with
a popsicle stick spoon that reminds me
of reward days in the second grade
basketball court. another doctor
says to all his patients that they wanted
to please their parents and they couldn’t,
that’s why they were there, and it was all
their unconscious doing. yet another doctor
gives me a 200 question survey used to rule
out homosexuality in the military in the ‘70’s.
he reports later that it tells me how much of a girl
I am. this survey says you have depression, and when
I ask him to tell me what I don’t know he laughs and says
he gets a lot of people who think about jumping in the gorges
on the way to the hospital. three days after watching orb weavers
spin dusty nests in the window, the mood shifts from contemplation
to agitation. my dirty clothes are in a white and blue
plastic belongings bag. mancala rattles in the dark.
and I still don’t know how to play.
HIKARI LEILANI MIYA is an LGBTQ Japanese-Filipina American who graduated from Cornell University in 2019 with a BA in English, and from University of San Francisco with an MFA in Creative Writing. She is a scholarship-awarded student in Florida State University's PhD program in creative writing. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in dozens of in-print and online magazines across North America, including MacGuffin, Chestnut Review, Eunoia Review, Horse Egg Literary, and Brave Voices. In 2021, she was a semi-finalist for the Red Wheelbarrow poetry prize judged by Mark Doty. She currently lives in Tallahassee with her snakes and disabled cat, volunteers at the local zoo specializing in snake care, and worked recently as a private tutor and freelance writer. She earned her master's certification in herpetology from the Amphibian Foundation. She is a percussionist, pianist, and competitive card game player.