It’s checking every door in the house 33 times, turning keys and deadbolts
till my fingertips smell like old coins, unlatching all the rotted wood windows
and forcing them open on frayed ropes just to prove they were locked.
It’s standing on a chair to peek behind a bookcase at midnight, peering
into closets and sweeping aside the ghosts of empty jackets with a screech
of hangers, lifting the curtain of blankets to scan under beds for intruders.
It’s a mental tic, unwanted thoughts moving in like a colony of bats rustling
in the attic, lingering like the sickly-sweet scent of guano on a sweltering day
months after the exterminator washes down the inside of the walls.
It’s an elevator plunging through the shaft of my chest, a free fall,
calling the doctor to make sure I’m not dying, begging for reassurance
till my spouse buckles and snaps, trying everything, quitting my job,
running five miles a day, meditating, doing yoga, going to therapy for years
but still crying daily, terrified of the sound of my own voice inside my head.
It’s finally breaking down and getting the prescriptions, twisting
white lids off orange cylinders with a pop, tapping oblong yellow ovals
and petite sky-blue seeds into the cup of my hand, placing the pasty
pills on my tongue and swallowing hard with a prayer for release.
It’s a memory of my father in the car, a sudden darkness blinding him
like a sheet of rain across the pale windshield of his face, how I sensed
a terrible struggle as the station wagon crossed a bridge spanning
black waters tipped white with dread, river foaming at the mouth
with a deadly undertow, asking Daddy what’s wrong, his tight-lipped
response unintelligible, how it looked like rage but felt like panic.
Therese Gleason is author of Libation (2006), selected by Kwame Dawes as co-winner of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative Chapbook Competition. Her poetry has been published in Limestone, Plainsongs, The Worcester Review, America Magazine, and San Pedro River Review, and is forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Psaltery & Lyre and Literary Mama. She is an MFA candidate in Poetry at Pacific University, and lives in Worcester, MA with her husband and three children, where she works as a literacy teacher.
© 2020, Therese Gleason