Jeremy Deal, “Adolescent Psych: A Public Education”

Jeremy Deal

Marbled clouds crust over the last of the autumn sun.
I huddle in my hoodie
and watch the ward loom in the windshield.
At first, it’s small, and separates
the shadows of me and Mom in the glass.
Once we pull into the lot,
it consumes us both.

Mom’s car spits me out
before the beast
set to swallow me for 5-12 days.
I count: 3 stories high, 30 windows across –
but I can’t quantify my nausea,
can’t cage my trembling
via transitive property.
I am property of the state, temporarily.
But schizophrenia is the schism
between space and time – right, doc?
So what could ‘temporary’ mean to schizos?

Or dogs.
“Poor Sandy,” I say, “He’ll be all alone.”

“He’ll be fine,” Mom says.

“He’s just a puppy, he won’t understand.”

“He won’t be alone,” she says, “He’ll have his family.”

Then she rolls up her window,
the ghost of me rising up between us in the glass,
and she grips the wheel and faces forward.

I face forward too, toward my new home,
my ward, my kennel – whatever they call it.
That towering monstrous mirror
rises with all its glittering eyes
like some Hindu horror-god –
but behind the reflected trees
shedding swirls and swoops of color,
I imagine the tenants,
the thousand disordered faces,
ingeniously misshapen –
those subhuman superimpositions
that taint our reflection.

And as I watch, the mirror reveals
a towering monstrous me,
a thousand-faced Krishna,
fists jammed into its unwashed hoodie,
hydra-heads rising up, terrible.
Caught in one set of jaws: a dove;
an angel squirms in another;
a star-spangled tatter;
a dollar bill lanced on a tooth;
Christ nailed fast to four fangs –
I am the god that eats Gods.

This is what my family must see
when they beg the doctors,
“slay this beast with thine tablets,
thine conjurers’ tongues,
and thou shalt have a bounty of gold
and the love of a kingdom!”
This is what they need –
a monster – a force of furious nature
to conquer – a mirror in which
to see themselves as heroes.

Like Perseus, they hold a shiny shield
to my face and bid me to look,
but the shield is warped
and a monster looks back,
so I shield my face with my hands,
feeling the shape of it –
human enough –
and I try to tell them,
“You’re wrong!
Just put down that shield
and look at me.
See me.”
But Perseus’ courage has limits.

Jilted, I feel myself turning to stone.
My eyelids harden like shields.
I raise my hood against the cold.

An orderly opens the doors and waves me in,
and when Mom finds the courage
to roll down her window and wish me luck,
all that remains of the sun is stone.

Bio: Jeremy Deal is a previous contributor to Wild Goose Poetry Review. Sometimes from Hickory, NC, he is currently a student at UNC Wilmington.

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