Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with Secret Knock
BY EUGENIA LEIGH
My hand, soaked in blood.
My head, cracked open. I tell
the five-year-old to fetch the phone.
The two-year-old to fetch a towel.
My hand, soaked in blood,
holds the towel to my head,
cracked open. The children—
their round eyes, black planets
smacked off their orbits.
And the hostess
to whom I say, May I please
speak to Jennifer, our mother,
who has left us alone
again. And the number, a number
we practiced. For exactly this, I think,
proud. And I, the oldest,
age six, calm, calmer
than I am now, a mother
who, alone with my baby, kills
the lights, hides in the bathroom
because someone is at the door,
and we must never answer the door.
And I scream at my spouse
because why the fuck are flowers
arriving when I am home alone
because I forget who I am or how old.
And the chair we keep by the door
for climbing, for bolting
the chain. And the wait, the length
of her shift, for the secret knock,
a knock (I now know)
everyone knows. And the diagnosis:
retraumatized. And the infant,
lifted from my womb split open.
And the stitches on my gut.
And the stitches on my head.
And the blood on my hand
holding my child brain bits in.
And the blood on the pads I filch
from the hospital. And the hospital
where our mother tells the doctor
a lie to keep them
from taking us away. And the hospital
where, between contractions,
they ask whether I feel safe
at home, safe enough
to take the baby back with me.
And by instinct, I say yes,
but for a second, I am tripped again,
six again, and I am lying.
Bipolar II Disorder: First Evaluation
BY EUGENIA LEIGH
Someone in a gunmetal trench coat stares— across the street—
on Fourteenth— light flips green— he stays put—
I stalk by— nod— he nods back— I veer right, stride south— the itch
to swing around— if he’s still there, human— if not, angel—
I glance back— gone— nowhere in sight— a sighting,
I’m sure— so sure, so sure, I float home— high episodes of euphoria—
someone’s wedding lopsided on a hill— can’t keep still—
distractibility— drink till I can’t drive— then drive
to five years ago— fuck in his new bed— can’t sleep— never sleep—
decreased need for sleep— gun it at dawn— to what wrecked
five years ago— fuck this one on the floor— excessive
involvement in pleasurable activities— with high potential for painful consequences—
let’s call them painful consequences— the one who strapped me
to his motorcycle— the one who trapped me in his shower— the one
whose sister tried to die— who couldn’t unless he choked me—
who could, but on the rooftop— in the conference room—
at the bar— sexual indiscretions— or, years prior,
down twelve acetaminophens— twin dorm bed— bed,
always in bed— hopelessness— major depressive episodes— then—
mid-try— a bright pull to rise— why die when I can swim to Paris—
Manhattan— you can’t swing a dead cat without snagging a poet
in Manhattan— flight of ideas— inflated self-esteem or grandiosity—
and can’t I shut up— all caps— and turn down the music— cranked
high— blaze down Pacific Coast Highway past midnight— past midnight,
break into the Hollywood Bowl to dance— scale the stage— then
dance— decide to learn— decide to learn to dive— to silk—
to climb— a new language— I need help in seven thousand languages—
increase in goal-directed activity— and the poet in me, a sucker
for endings— seven thousand ways to end— none of them lush enough—
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with Rovelli’s Theories of Time
BY EUGENIA LEIGH
A crude green shoot
astonished to wake in a glacier,
my second attempt
sprouted out of nowhere.
I was happy then. How
did the pills find my throat?
The entire universe is like a mountain
in slow motion. My brain, snared
sometime before I could speak
and after my last benzo
endures a mode of time
truer than the ticking. The passage
from one moment of time to the next
is illusory. Was I
the woman or the child
when on the phone with my father
who phoned often to say
he planned to kill himself?
Again and again he said this
for hours as I lay in the lap
of a man who, just a boy, supplied
the joints that singed my lips.
What came first?
The calls or the pills? The Bible says
God made the sun
days after he made light,
days after he made days.
Why bother with a sun at all?
That fiction of seasons, of healing
time swears it’ll fetch
but fails to bring. My father’s fists,
that boy in the fog, those years
I, tanked out of my wits,
baited bruisers at bars
because I couldn’t take how I could
feel the blows, can feel them now,
but found no marks
on my body—a discrepancy
I needed to machete from my brain.
When I was pregnant
of giving birth to my father,
I found him in a dream,
bloodied and writhing,
bound by chains in my shower.
Yes, I found my father
bound in the one place where,
during the worst of it,
I’d bare my fears and pray.