EIGHTH FLOOR

They don’t teach basket weaving anymore.
Now they have you make beaded necklaces 
on strands of thin black rope that end up 
being too small to fit over your head.
If you throw a cup of coffee across the room
just to see what will happen to you,
just to see the expressions on your companions’ faces
change from drug-induced lethargy to B-movie horror,
they’ll put you in the quiet room with an invisible dunce cap,
make you face the corner and think long and hard 
about what you’ve done, all the while being monitored 
through a thick plexiglass window 
like a caged animal on display.

They serve cornbread with jalapeños for Cinco de Mayo 
in the dining area with a piano 
that you can’t play while people are eating, 
even though you’ve been playing for eight years
and nothing goes better with food than music.
Your room has a stifling view of the lake
and only tiny screen squares
to let the beautiful weather slip through.
Your bed has the Craftmatic adjustable 
foot and head and back tilts.
Of course they don’t work, 
although the sides still go up
and the wheels still roll
and the crank turns but goes nowhere.

You tell me you’ll be able to get out by next week because
“they” say you’re “competent” and “sane enough”
and I wish I could believe you,
but the Zoloft-Stelazine-clonazepam cocktails and the
toy cellular phone conversations and the
pantomime violence insomniac shows somehow 
detract from the intensity and warmth in your touch,
distance me from the kindness and sincerity in your voice,
push me from the chicken Marsala and ice cream cake
made by rough nail-bitten hardworking artist hands.
You’re trying to tell me you’re all right and
I’m trying to trust all those promises of stability,
but I’ll always want to rescue you from the quiet room
and I’ll never wish you were normal.


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