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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.

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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.

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