Going Off Meds
The first day is fine. You think, I can do
this. I’m better like this. It doesn’t matter,
because you went off for a reason.
You can’t afford the meds or—what no one
talks about—the med checks, office visits
whenever something goes wrong, because
if they answered your question on the phone,
they couldn’t charge you, though some still
do. Your stomach is tingling, that little warning
that things are about to get weird. You feel
like you need a nap, and it never goes away,
but not that first day. You hope
going off isn’t as bad as getting on was.
The sweats, the shakes, the nausea,
the falling asleep so you go to bed at 8
and then lie there all night and can’t even
form decent thoughts. The little widgies
you don’t tell anyone about. For the longest
time, you thought it was mice playing on
your bookshelves, birds fluttering away
before you can look. You’re waiting
for the molasses to reform, the swamps
of sadness to drag you down. This
is what keeps you from dying, living
with these things. But your life is not worth
the psychiatrist’s time. You fill in mood
trackers, try to keep busy, how is this
any different from any other day? Until two,
three, four days go by, and you find yourself
sitting in the same chair for four hours
and don’t know where the time went.
You can cry again. You’ve never stopped.
The First Man
The first man, falling to concrete, cap pushed back over peppered hair.
The first man, anointing the audience with his cup of bourbon and Coke.
The first man, smiling as he bullshits.
The first man, fire in the clouds.
The first man, a head shaking until sparks ignite the rice field.
The first man, shoveling ashes into the flames.
The first man, telling me he misses me.
The first man, thinking everything is forgiven.
The first man, a shit-eating grin.
The first man, tasting sweet dust.
The first man, a forest of brambles and pain I’ve been lost in since I was a boy.
The first man, someday the last.
A Prayer for Arkansas
Here is how you find the weight
of the soul: ask the highest bidder
how much the markup will be.
Check the preacher’s pockets before
he leaves the pulpit. No man sweats
like that unless he’s had a taste
of hellfire. Used car salesmen
wish they had as loyal a flock.
The man who cuts your checks has
his fingers on the scale. If you quiet
the red rage that seethes in place
of your heart, you still won’t get
Just for a Little While
These days—just for a little while, I
promise—I don’t want you to see me
as I am. Mornings, I keep a fan in front
of my face so it blows an ocean breeze
into the hallway. You say that’s too
exotic. Okay! I jump out of bed—thanks
to the cattle prod on a timer—and jazz-hands
to the bathroom, where I practice my
quiet—just kidding. It’s Cats,
of course! I know how much you love
the theater. For breakfast, the most lavish
spreads the government can buy. All
of it, to keep you smiling. I hired a man
to risk his life to bring you an exotic
orchid, and it’s totally fine that you forgot
to water it. I’ll jog to work because
of something you read on Twitter. Afternoons,
let me remind you how much there is
to love in the world. There’s me, for one.
And lots more, but also me. If that’s okay.
Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than thirty books, including the poetry collections Riceland, The Bottle Episode, and his newest, Having a Baby to Save a Marriage, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and The Saviors. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.
Image by Hu Nhu, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons