The girl I saw last week has disappeared.

In her place is someone I barely recognise

her bald scalp shining through

an uncombed thatch,

the thinnest of limbs

pulled into place

around an office chair,

her breath escaping in sobs.


like this

is marked in the file.


She has just woken up to the

smell of dynamics

turned sour on the

round of a weekly churn,

her persecutory familiars come to life

with the immeadiacy of a slap,

while her body is inclined into ricketts

on the hot-seat of a ward-round

that no-one really wants.


Those big square glasses are still there,

As you face the circle,

but all the rest of you has gone

down some kind of clinical drain

along with all the ethical dilemmas

and last year’s therapy.


She’s toxic for the unit,

someone offers

gesticulating with the undercurrent;

she’s eloquent with self-harm,

(louder, apparently

than words spoken with a sob)

she’s going to slash herself

in the shower –

if we don’t do something.

We need to send her home.


The nurse just

wants to be everyone’s friend,

(no containment there)

the registrar is red-faced,

shuffling papers

in embarrassment,

an inexplicable tirade

from the morning’s first

disgruntled customer

still glowing in her face.

The psychiatrist is

stony-faced and the

outreach manager

wants you out.


It’s a question of risk-management,

as your called-in boyfriend

waits in the wings

to mop up the tears

and fly you home, a taxi arranged

to get you to the airport

(in case of breakdown)

along with expedient flights

across the strait.


I am trying to understand

the decision-making behind this,

but all I see

are a whole lot of people with clip-boards

telling you to go away.


Weeks later,

I see you in the

smoker’s courtyard,

getting friendly advice

from one of the cheerleaders

wrapped in sweats.

I say hello from behind the glass, but you

don’t seem to know me.

Your world has shrunk to this

pernicious idiom

of structured meals

and psychoeducation

a long way




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