Darrell Petska, 5/20/2019
Current Occupation: Family Guy/Writer/Traveler
Former Occupation: University communications editor
Contact Information: Darrell Petska has worked as a psychiatric technician, social worker, and communications editor for a university engineering college. His published poetry and fiction can be viewed at conservancies.wordpress.com.
In the Haze
Our hospital repurposed, its psych wards,
“patients” and “staff”—that line between us thin—long gone:
Jim K, whose inner voices nagged and quarreled,
Leo S, playing Carnegie Hall on the day room piano,
Rich H, inviting drugged stupors by screaming and fighting,
Billy J, who cut his wrists repeatedly but could not die.
Specters pacing yesterday’s hallways, falling into queue
for meds and meals, looking inward, privy to worlds of mind
and sense the mainstream shoves aside:
Jerry R, self-proclaimed monster who never hurt anyone,
Mary C, standing for hours like a mime in the square,
Carmella R, begging visits from family who didn’t want her,
Ralph K, no stranger to DTs, hallucinating snakes and bugs.
Bodies hunching on the edges of beds,
before the day room TV, in therapy with “professionals”
whose lives diverged from their charges but a little:
Pat W, avoiding her husband’s blows by working evening shift,
Bob L, who battled anxiety by smoking weed daily,
Jim B, equating his gayness with sinfulness,
Doctor Carl, addicted to the pills he prescribed,
Nurse Linda, trapped and disillusioned in the wrong profession.
Names and faces recurring like tides, asserting the right
simply to be human—belying scrawled charts,
locked doors, restraints or key rings that once defined us—
by doing one’s best to sort through life’s muddle:
that quintessential trait defining “normal”
better than heaps of sterile textbooks burdening a shelf.