Page 28 - WTP Vol. VII #1
P. 28

Cortney Davis
Psychiatric Rotation 1972
The snow that December fell in drifts
white as our support hose and clinic shoes
as we slipped our way into the building’s steamy rush. Faces slapped by heat, we climbed to the men’s ward and lined up like children
while nurses in jeans and t-shirts, their keys
a silver jingle, bent over meds or forms, ignoring us.
Sweat damp, stale air only half drawn in,
muscles locked, don’t flinch, don’t scream.
In time, I checked my watch, and lied,
Oh look, all the student nurses have to leave
and I’ll be left behind, smiled the words at him,
and he rose, slung down his guitar, unlocked the door.
Finally a man in a white lab coat
led us around the ward reciting names and diagnoses, what meds worked or didn’t, who were the biters, kickers, screamers, until the charge nurse said Welcome to the loony bin―that guy is a patient.
The next week he was gone, my grade an “F,”
my report blank, only the terror of the silent page.
A nurse with black hair, blue eyes, told me
my boy’d been agitated all afternoon, that night
threw an orderly down the laundry chute, killing him. Shit happens here, she said, and gave me an easy one, an old man I danced with that Friday afternoon―
social hour, us student nurses
waltzing with any man not too drugged to move,
old tinny phonograph,
all of us shuffling around the floor to the music’s whine.
Our instructor shared the joke,
passed out our assignments: men with whom we’d bond, spin words into a “process report” recording our every question and their response as we tried out the magic we’d only read about, dry pages we’d later set to flames.
My guy was young, scary tall, blond forelock, carried his guitar, nodded at my name, motioned me into a side room where he played his songs, wouldn’t talk, and I sat, legs crossed, hands in lap, starched cap, blue uniform stiff
as my cheeks, my heart poom pooming when he stood and locked the door.
The ward outside was blurred by the trick of glass, a smear of patients, pacing, the faint chink of keys, and me without one, no escape, a bird trapped
in the eaves, a dog chained.
I sat, didn’t breathe, didn’t flail my wings or howl for help, didn’t move, Play one more.
Play your song again for me.

   26   27   28   29   30