a short poem about an long ago encounter
|I’d only just arrived for my first
day of work in the psychiatric ward
when a white-haired woman ran up to me,
put her hands on my shoulders,
looked intensely into my eyes
“What are you doing here?”
The grip of her hands pinched the
metal clip of my name tag
into my skin. It hurt!
I maintained eye contact, as I was taught.
I maintained unconditional positive regard.
I held my breath and didn’t back away.
Very soon, she turned toward the door.
My name tag had come loose, so
while watching her walk away,
apparently no longer concerned,
I reattached it to my collar.
Even after all these decades,
I feel the urgency to stand still—
to maintain my balance,
to stay in place
and I have no answer to the question,
just what am I actually doing here,
filled with anxiety, holding my breath
so long after the state hospital closed?