A Question of Belief by Rika Lesser

The first time wasn’t real, I mean
for real, a real attempt. No one
believed me when I said the medicine
was at fault, kept me from sleeping,
thinking, set my limbs tingling. Taking
those pills, staying in that house–
pigeons roosting on the roof, their
insistent coos and cries–in one of my
old bedrooms, made me an invalid.
What they believed was what I said
in scorn, in response to threats. That I’d
like to jump out of a window. All I wanted
was sleep.

And in the hospital that first time,
after the countless pills, the ipecac,
the papers signed, the break
with my first shrink, once I had slept
my fill and felt like a child in some
giant’s grip, they handed me nearly
the same damned drugs. Again I flipped,
stopped sleeping, believed they would kill me
on Walpurgis Night, not one swift scalpel,
ritual sacrifice–not just the staff,
the other patients too…

We were so frail. No one
believed what we said.
And we learned to get out
by saying: We won’t try it
again. Grateful to be alive,
we will pay our dues. Just
show us the way out of Hell,
dear Doctors, release us. Please.

From: Lesser, Rika, All We Need of Hell: Poems, 1995, University of North Texas Press: Denton, Texas, p. 5.
(https://books.google.com.au/books?id=WXNVKNssPYQC)

Date: 1995

By: Rika Lesser (1953- )

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