3.Avatar Review
     A Review of Poetry, Prose, and Art - Summer 2001

Writing Letters to Allie, in the Psych Ward

Poems by Erin Elizabeth


There is an understated quiet, with the Easter
lily, crusting against the window, brown and paper
crisp. The blinds lay bars across the undusted wood
floorboards. The fan, catching the skirt of curtain
in updraft, hums ceaselessly, jaded and distant.

This is my life now, without your cold cries
of justice, your salient evenings behind the brass
doorknobs. Without your fists on my plywood door,
pretending to have something to say.


They tell me you are doing well, that you are no longer
throwing yourself against the whitewash, threatening
distance and the scratching out of phone numbers.
That you have promised to plump your withered waist,
clamp the flaming end of your cigarette.

Mom said that you were quiet and calculated
last visit, sitting on your furrowed sheets
folding and unfolding my letter, not sure whether
to rip the envelope at the stamp or the address.


You are cheeking your pills. Wild in their wake,
selling them for hands and promise.
Mom wants to know how are they not prodding
your tongue, checking your ridge of gum?
How they have not realized that your speech
has grown allegro, your fingers flailing feverishly.

I wonder why you bother with this sharp idea
which will only end with someone's teeth
on the floor, hair in a fist.


You carved his name on your wrist,
a yellow road sign. A limb lit by lightning.
And Mom pulled you from the womb
of that building, but when you return, she will bar
your windows, crack open your door.

She is not trying to quiet your whip smart
tongue, shake silent your humming hands.
It is just that your words are all a contusion,
a blackberry of bruise breaking open
along her cheek. It is just that she is weak
from pirating your room of nail polish,
hair spray, keyboard cleaner, that she does not know
how to be warm milk and summer nightgowns,
steady fingers through hair.


Allie. Really. Should I tell you
that it will all be morning mist and breaching beauty?
That the roof will not come toppling from the thin beams?
I want to. I want to tell you it will all end soon,
that these ships will port and dock,
but return to sea, swiftly, when you have grown
steady with their appearance,
however, this is death, this shaking of spoons,
this mascara alphabet. You are too small
to outrun it. You cannot cram yourself
under the sink, with its curved pipes,
Ajax. It knows you. It is waiting there.

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