Michael A. Flanagan

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Locked Unit Psych Ward Cornel Medical Center New York City

David mans the bank of public phones across from the nurses station.
He answers calls and calls out patients names whose loved ones dial in.
He's friends with everyone, giving advice, shaking hands, shouting
I'm strong, see, raising arms in muscle poses. Sixty-year-old Hasidic
Jew, manic as a mission to the moon, we call him the mayor and hug
goodbye each night, virtual strangers three days ago, he's easy to like,
which is hard to be when you talk twenty hours a day nonstop.
Gerta steals empty plastic cups and food wrappers and forks,
hoards it all in her room, screams unbridled hate at the attending
doctor then seconds later thanks him profusely for answering
a question, telling him he's kind, wonderful. She waits each night
in a chair facing the east river to watch the tugboats come by
at six-fifteen, telling all who might listen it's what she's in here for.
Lena is overweight but thinks she's starving to death. Any food
brought from outside by any visitor she makes a B line for,
staring angrily, like a child, asking, Can I have some? Henry
paces circles back to front across the floors. When asked about
his family he says he was raised by animals. My sister took my
manhood, he shouts one day, then asks for some special hat
he brought in with him. Denied this privilege he returns
to walking, skinny arms swinging hatefully. Poor Robert,
still baby faced at nineteen, he has both hands bandaged
from fingertips to wrists; He climbed through a panel
in the bathroom ceiling, tried to claw his way past sheet
metal into the ducts, as if he were living some mental ward
movie, as if he might actually have been able to find his way
free. New arrival stumbles shell shocked, his pants falling
toward his ankles every few steps, no underwear he makes
an impression, raising cackles of complaint from half
the unit, until they put him in hospital gowns, one around his
front, one tied in back. He bellows when he drinks his kindergarten
sized carton of milk, hides the television remote so no one
else can use it. Twenty-nine-year-old Amanda's father
visits, giving back rubs to his near psychotic grown child,
rubbing eskimo kisses with her until word spreads he must
be molesting her. Staff here circle, three to every patient.
They make notes, take head counts, yawn and nod ambivalently
at every lunatic request. Three locked doors to the elevator.
Visiting hours eleven a.m. to seven p.m., seven days a week.
We stay for all of them, ten days straight, never after the first
hours ever finding the heart to say why our quiet kind eighteen
year old blue eyed child has ended up in such a place


When We Were Young

Kevin Gutt forgetting he had a soft heart,
trying to become a biker and failing on the
corner of 30th St. and Broadway. Cathy Lucas
and the Ruge girl, crashing bikes into the sides
of moving cars, crazy to see who could stop
themselves from falling. Little Eddie Fleet
in a pair of bell bottom jeans, with sparkleArtwork by Gene McCormick
covered platform shoes, high on acid in
Petey Boyle’s backyard. The Padowsky
brother’s grandfather spitting blood on his
stoop, drinking Schlitz beer in cans. A rope
swing under a half completed overpass,
leaping into sand and stagnant water,
bums there scavenging colored glass to
sell to mean tempered shop keepers on
Canal St. The priest who took your cousin
places like the Bronx Zoo because he
was a bad kid and his parents didn’t know
what else to do with him. Christy Carter
pregnant, outside Ted’s Deli, trying to
collect money to make it go away, turning
to wine, in fat gallon bottles, all afternoon
with Vinnie Marco, until her fourteen year
old legs could hardly walk straight, and
not a damn thing said at home to save her.

Michael A. Flanagan was born in the Bronx N.Y. Poems and stories of his have
appeared in many small press periodicals across the country. His chapbook,
A Million Years Gone, is available from Nerve Cowboys Liquid Paper Press