in my dreams you're alive and you're crying

Michael Bryce

all that you left: a fifth of vodka, a bottle of pills, items abandoned,

police cars, a hospital visit, two weeks of inpatient, and glazed-over eyes, 

while your whole family yearns for you to simply get better. 

you can feel a thousand suffering lives ingrained on every surface of every room

in the ward. there's a doctor who never looks at you, his head always pointed sharply down.

he’s always scribbling things on his clipboard. you just feel that everything’s gone

 

to shit, you say, and he documents. even when you're not talking to him. it’s 

half past seven, smoke break time. you don't smoke, but you don’t want to be abandoned,

so you still go out for smoke breaks because there's nothing else to do but feel down,

stare at walls, and wait for group sessions to start. there's a man there with eyes 

like rough cut pine and sunsets. he’s ten years older than you and never leaves his room. 

he tells you “it's okay bud, we'll get through this and when we leave this place, we’ll be better 

 

than we was when we got here.” he's telling you the truth, and you believe him, you will get better. 

one day the doctor who won’t look at you comes to your room and tells you the money’s gone,

your insurance isn't paying for any more days, so you're healed now, and you leave your sad room.

as you’re escorted out, you try to believe that the healthcare system hasn’t completely abandoned

you. your mom picks you up in the lobby. her eyes —god, her eyes — are the most worried kindness 

you've ever seen. and you go home and try not to plunge down 

 

like you did, which is easier now than it was before, because now you still do get down, 

but you have a new set of tools, or so you like to think, and your life goes on, seemingly better,

like it was meant to. you stop writing poems about shit you can’t control, you keep your eyes

dry. you don’t think about your loneliness, about how those memories will never be gone

from your head, because now you write poems about how to stay alive. abandoned, 

you leave those other thoughts behind and write poems about the places where you feel at home, leaving enough 

 

room for reality, rather than about the places where you wish you could be. one day in your room,

you catch a glimpse of someone in the mirror, someone summoned from somewhere down

deep inside the wells of your very being, someone who you must have left abandoned

in your youth. someone with a will like a building that refuses to fall, someone better

than you once were. you look at the history etched into your arms, now healed and gone,

like a forgotten road map to a location lost in darkness. you look into entrancing eyes

 

borne of stubbornness and struggle, eyes that have not cried in a decade, eyes

now focused on the endless possibilities of who you can be and where you can go. there is no more room

for the smoke tendrils, once midnight black and swirling above your head. they’re gone, 

broken away, leaving nothing in your view except the sky to look up to, instead of down

at your feet. and it is so perfect, and so clear, and so vivid, so much better

than you imagined. the suicide manual you got in a language you can’t understand is left abandoned

 

on the shelf. because you remember the look in your grandmother’s eyes, you don’t want to go down

that same path. you won’t commit suicide like her in that tight hospital room, you’ll get better.

once she was gone, you found it is not self-harm, but world-harm, from a place so hopelessly, utterly, abandoned.

(this sestina is dedicated to the memory of Helen Bryce and the person I used to be)