Ward Stories
(Column: Ward Stories)
Cindy Sostchen, Poetry Editor
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Cindy Sostchen is now New York City Voices' Poetry Editor and she edits "Ward Stories," a regular feature in our journal, which she originated. We reprint Cindy Sostchen's original poem, Ward Stories in this issue, for our readers to get an idea of the type of material Cindy will be reviewing for publication. We've also included another new poem titled "The Mirror" by Darlene D. Knowings, which, we believe, is in the spirit of Cindy Sostchen's message to us all.
I wasn't brought in kicking and screaming, nor strapped to a gurney or shackled to a cop

there was nothing illegal stashed in any orifice when some cold hands frisked me at the barbed wire gate

I defied the laws of triage -- no drugs were found in my urine or my veins

I didn't jesus-ramble or tell them I was Napoleon or Courtney Love

In the first hour I was checked for life-threatening illness or communicable diseases, undressed, weighted, probed and fed, assigned a number

The doctors gave me mortar and pestel pills and held their collective breaths

were they waiting for me to twitch, blow a fuse, wail at the window, or dance a hora for them?

A hallucination would have been applauded

but I remained colorless and dormant as a doormat

They recorded all my sighs and every sneeze was sacred

when they learned I was a poet they insisted I write like a latter-day Sexton, then stole my poems and combed them for freudian slips, for some manic message in morse code

(defiant and clever I wrote well-balanced poems for their consumption and autographed them with an inverted smile)

I ate just enough to avoid an IV and too little to be listed compulsive

I was too healthy for the Quiet Room and too sick for the sidewalk

(the closet was the perfect venue, I curled up against a broomstick like a cat who is going to die)

The young boys liked me because I was blond and blase

I was a ragdoll in their arms

to myself I was amorphous, to them I had the shape of a siren,

they tried to mount me in the dayroom,

so I joined their schizophrenic orgy, and they chanted at my feet

At night I made a shield with the sheets, bunched up in a blanket

large men, strong as coffee, shined a flashlight in my face by the hour

they didn't care if I wet the bed, picked at my scabs, bloodied my lips or made love to myself

only that I was still there, breathing, not plotting my escape

I never saw any angels at midnight

I slept for months like a groundhog without a shadow

preferring the ridiculous grey of institution walls to the ominous eyes of daylight

A season tossed and turned while they waited for me to crash through the prism, to grow weak from the silence

...............and that's what I did..................

I tell this story to document the holy war I waged

I confess to anyone who will listen

but, especially, for those who recognize my face in their mirror

for them I tell my ward stories



The Mirror

By Darlene D. Knowings


She was the best friend I ever had,
becasue she didn't leave when things were bad.

Thoughout my life, she'd periodically appear
Whenever I was afraid, she took away the fear.

Together we laughed, told jokes, and even occasionally cried,
Whenever I went on an emotional rollercoaster, she too took the ride.

Sometimes I couldn't believe in her, when life's ways began to get rough.
But she'd always say together we'll stand, together we are still tough enough.

I owe her my life becasue without her I wouldn't be
She is the reflection in the mirror, THE REFLECTION IS ME...
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