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the things we saw outside

the things we saw outside - Wilder State Hospital*
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there were days when it seemed so pleasant outside.
grass green, trees flowering, twittering birds; all in unison,
like a siren song, or the glowing lantern masking the
toothy maw of the angler fish.
life wasn't always easy in here. tempers flared,
staff grew more confident daily of their superiority, their ever-correctness.
the other patients were wearisome, their tics and delusions aggravating
when stretched out over weeks and months,
slowly wearing nerves away like sandpaper rubbed on one's skin.
the wards were claustrophobic, the sky a distant memory, and
the pervasive locks and doors and rules and papers
regimented both the good and the bad like pills.
but the things we saw outside, through the windows of
the televisions in the wards, the discarded newspapers,
the overheard conversations of nurses and attendants -

those things were frightening. those things were inexplicable.
there was a pretense, one that i had failed to grasp and
play along with. there was a general agreement
that nobody would speak of it, but i think everyone could see it.
mothers killed their children. people had sudden heart attacks and died.
houses caught fire, thieves stole and stole, carefree and happy things
turned out to be poison.
it was the worst delusion of all, and everyone shared it:
they pretended there was a reason, a cause for it all,
and there wasn't. and when people found that out,
when they broke the norms by speaking of it, they were
quarantined by society's antibodies,
and shuffled off to the wards to be sterilized.
it was a good system, really. for all the frustrations and lost freedoms,
i wouldn't have had it any other way.

Also in: Wilder State Hospital*

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