Poetry: Selections from Evyenia Downey

Check the oven. Check the clock. Check myself
in the mirror, rumpled silhouette, wrung
like a discarded sponge.
One. Two. Three.
One. Two. Three. Repeat the cycle until
the same bottle of soap that protects me, drowns me.
I lather my hands long enough to cleanse
myself of the sticky personality trait
I can’t Lysol into submission.
A Swiffer is just a mop until it becomes a crutch.
I can’t run free and clean the path behind me.
One. Two. Three.
One bottle, two pills, three times a day.
I felt more like a wet rag than a clean slate.
Check the windows. Check the lock.
Stay home where the only physical threat
is the one holding the spray bottle.
It’s a disorder that demands too much
order. It’s a life sentence. It’s a child
who inspects public door handles to find  
the least touched spot and still grabs it with
her sleeve. A teenager who learns to stand
in a bus or subway car without holding a rail.
I am now an adult looking for a different kind of
balance – the trust that the world won’t end if
I don’t lather at the sink seconds within walking
through the front door. That I won’t lose my footing
if my shoes take one step outside the designated
entryway. The spot where germs are
allowed. The spot I can control.
My therapist says
I need

The Night Nurse, Prelude
The night nurse stands before me,
a siren white plastic bag in one hand,
a folded set of hospital clothes in the other.
I am to discharge myself of clothes
and any identity other than mental patient.
We stand just inside a room for people like me
but not inside enough to see behind
the beige curtain spread
across ceiling tracks, a line of hooks
dragged into compliance.
I inhale the lemon scented all-purpose cleaner.
Perhaps the chemicals tickle my lungs.
Perhaps even my organs are itching to leave.
But I am not alone.
There is a ghost in the squiggles of the floor tiles.
A ghoul in the grains of the wooden closet door.
And of course, there is my abandoned escape plan
lurking in the hallway.

Evyenia Downey is a writer and poet from Toronto, Canada. She has an MFA in creative non-fiction from the University of King's College Halifax and a certificate in poetry from the University of Toronto. She write about relationships, identity, and mental illness.


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