POETRY

Password Protected

2017

 

I keep my heart the way I keep my favorite poems in my sock drawer,

in a place I always open up but never dig to the bottom to find the thick block of folded, hidden paper.

 

I hid my heart so well that I lost it, like a forgotten combination to a safe that I found in the attic,

under a dusty box of files labeled “reasons to not open.”

 

In the bathroom there is a girl who looks like me.

She looked back at me through the mirror and I hated her.

 

When I look closely in the mirror,

I peer deeply back at her to try and find

small numbers around dials of my pupil and finally crack the codes

that keep me password protected,

try to recognize myself under a face that’s just been an acquaintance.

 

So much time has gone by.

I look in the mirror and she looks like me ten years from now,

a face painted on a body,

a face that looks like it’s never been hurt,

has never felt pain.

It doesn’t even really look like me.

 

I am the sadness-infected, pink skin around her eyes

when I watch the girl cry in the mirror.

That part is what I look like.

I watched her swelling eyes and they began to look familiar,

I know them the same way I know how the fingers

on my right hand look when I write things down,

when I crack an egg on the side of the counter,

when I pinch the key to my parent’s house and slowly unlock the door,

when I go into the attic and spin the handle on the safe where I know my old self is waiting to come out and diagnose me with sicknesses I had been ignoring for so long.

 

I pinch the handle between my thumb and the side knuckle of my finger

and twist and twist but there aren’t numbers to look for

and I don’t remember the combination

so I just keep spinning it

and spinning it

and spinning it,

an infinite circular routine of not having myself.

 

In my dreams there are sometimes open spaces of an infinite flatness:

a platter held up by the world offering places to go. But I can’t follow them.

I stand there, staring, and begin running, and running free, a ‘finally’ type of free.

But something stops me, something I hate,

and I never run far enough to find where I put my heart.

Swing Low

2018

 

My doctor tells me to see a psychiatrist.

My psychiatrist says I have depression.

Correction: She says “bipolar depression disorder.”

She prescribed fluxotine and lamotrigine.

Correction: She now prescribes lithium and more lamotrigine.

I tell her about the suicidal thoughts.

My psychiatrist tells me to not trust myself, and tells me to see a therapist.

Correction: More lithium.

Correction: More lithium.

Correction: More lithium.

My therapist tells me to write on the wall by my bed during the hard nights:

“the sun will come up in the morning.”

Instead, I carve with a knife: “I don’t want to wake up in the morning.”

My psychiatrist tells me she’s seen my condition before,

and demands lab work to see if I’m close to overdosing from

the lithium she keeps writing out for me.

 

My therapist tells me she sees my pain.

 

My pillows at night are the eyes and ears that notice my pain more earnestly than anything else in the world.

 

No one knows me better than my bedroom walls.

 

No one has the privilege or is the ultimate witness as my locked door.

 

Nothing has understood my lonesomeness better than the cold air wrapped around my legs under the sheets, or the way my warm wet cheek sticks to my pillow case, or the way mascara stains don’t come out. My teddy bear hears my prayers clearer than any god could.

 

As children, we had stuffed animals to hold and to hug. But those of us who couldn’t get rid of them don’t keep them for warmth, but for clinging on with all of our strength to the only small piece of safety we can recognize,

that we can breathe in to smell and remember a bed without tears,

without the panic of nightmares,

and without ex-lovers that broke us like the deterioration of a dead, one-eyed bear

 

that still sleeps by my beating heart.

 

My two pillow cases are pockets of an old pair of jeans I find in the back of my dresser,

and when I find them I slide my fingers in to find a familiar fist of tears I had forgotten about.

 

If I were to rip open the stitches of my favorite pillow kept under my sleeping ear,

you would find lost muttered words

and a wad of silent crying from nights I had to hold it in.

 

The glowing clock by my bed is a countdown

of unrestful hours I won’t ever get back.

I drink bottles of zquil after spending the day awake,

like how an athlete drinks water after finishing a marathon.

The empty plastic bottles multiply but all remain sitting on my nightstand,

like the empty used bottles of shampoo I still keep on the shelf in my shower,

like the trash bag stuffed tight with empty orange pill vials

I keep in a secret shelf of my closet.

I am a collector of things that can’t help me,

that can’t clean or fix me,

that can’t put my thoughts into a safe place.

I am a hoarder of empty, broken-promised remedies,

as hollow as the wine bottles on my kitchen floor,

as hollow as the imprint of my fetal position figure pressed into my mattress,

as hollow as the person that I would be if I didn’t have my sadness.

 

PAIGE HARKEY

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