Image by Shabu Anower

DEATH BY CRAYONS

cw: psychiatric hospitalization

At the psych ward,

Elitist nurses and staff

Forbid patients to use pencils and pens to write,

Since we could easily digress into the dirty

Crazy animals that we are

And start poking one another’s eyes out.

So, whether we want to write in our journals or write a letter,

We are forced to use blunted crayons,

Usually not bigger than two inches long,

To express ourselves.

As I try to write up a complaint

Against one of the unethical nurses,

A male staff member hands me a yellow crayon and smirks.

I grab it, furious and besmirched,

As I rip the whole form up regarding my complaint,

Knowing it won’t be legible,

The yellow whore of a crayon

Has its dirty paper wrapper almost completely ripped off,

And fingerprints of other people dug into its surface.

The male staff member lets out a cold laugh

As he watches me inspect it.

It’s a slow death as they belittle us

With the infantilizing tools we’re forced to write with

What a queer death by crayons.

For the Women Who Mothered Me

cw: psychiatric hospitalization

Women I met in passing

In the eight psych ward stints I did

During this awful, deranged summer

I think of you-

I wear your collected grief like a T-shirt

It’s woven with threads of your stories

With fabric as silken as your hearts

I may be out of that dark revolving door of madness

But I see your faces before I fall asleep

In the dark

Faces of all ages and races

Your words have held me

Your stories have enraptured me

And forever, I'll feel indebted

To help you

As I was powerless to do so this year

And although we’re apart now

Women of the psych wards of 2022

I feel you

You mothered me

While I wilted and drowned

I will never forget our collective strength

And how we found light through laughter

In the darkest of places

I know you remember me too.

I will make you proud.

Complex

cw: sexual assault, psychiatric hospitalization

Rose,

The heavy-set black girl,

Walks around the psych ward

With her fat fingers

Gripping her bible,

Shouting verses at us

Foaming at the mouth with Christ.

She interjects our conversations

With delusions of grandeur.

She’s special, she says.

She’s “highly-blessed”,

And we’re not.

This all leaves us feeling beaten down.

But when she starts recounting days of being raped as a prostitute,

She cries so hard that she falls onto the floor,

Curling up like a baby.

Us women try and comfort her

And hand her back her bible,

But she continues sobbing,

Waving it away.

It just doesn’t seem to help at times like this.

MONICA VIERA is an author from East LA. You can read more of her work on www.wordsbymonica.com and her Twitter @monicaviera92.