Audio: Read by the author.
That first morning, I remember
clinging to a table’s edge—
both legs jackhammering the white
linoleum floor tiles—praying for
my benzodiazepine to finally,
finally kick in. Suddenly,
the sky tore open like a sheet
of tin, & then the seizure fissured
through me. Suddenly, I was
freefalling, in the way that water
cascades down & through itself,
the way a detonated building
tumbles down & through itself.
As in a sort of lucid dream,
my mind split, & I saw my body
writhing in a pool of sweat…
Yet I was also still aware,
still keeping track of details like
the green eyes of the orderly—
who knelt beside me, scooped me up,
& carried me back to my room.
And after that, the leather straps
that held my wrists & ankles to
the bed; the bed I thrashed in all
that night; that night my heart raced in
its cage; & in between the waves
of fever & delirium,
the singing that was everything.
Michael White’s poetry collections are The Island (Copper Canyon), Palma Cathedral (Center for Literary Publishing, winner of the Colorado Prize), Re-entry (North Texas, winner of the Vassar Miller Prize), and Vermeer in Hell (Persea, winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky Editor’s Choice Award). His memoir, Travels in Vermeer (Persea), was longlisted for a National Book Award.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.