Three Poems by Jennifer Lagier


Circling the Drain

At emergency, the doctor says he has
never seen Dilantin levels this high
in a living person.

You complain to me about uncaring nurses,
their indifference to your pain, the way
they treat you like another sick junkie.

Today’s botched suicide is just one more attempt.
I remember last Christmas, the delusions and paranoia,
watching you convulse in another hospital bed.

I am the exhausted buffer between you
and our eighty year old mother
who wants you clear-eyed and coherent again.

While you relearn how to walk, I clean your apartment,
gather Fentanyl patches, empty vials from multiple physicians,
bag and flush your prized poisons, watch them circle the drain.

I visit you morning and night, talk to therapists
and your absent husband. You are one more
bitter pill on my overwhelming slate.

This time, you’re going to make it, you tell me.
This will be completely different from all the times before.
Your promises are white noise to my hardening heart.

Mistaken Identity

I’m not the little lady
for whom you stitched
a matching dress,
me toothless, ten years old,
tomboy thin,
with a torn knee
and butchered hair.

I’m not the pink-cheeked doll
upon whose head
you clamped
a straw Easter bonnet,
my white gloved hands
hiding blisters
and bitten nails.

I’m not your broken toy
to be sent away
for absolution, speech therapy,
emotional adjustment,
or cosmetic repair.

I’m the clumsy, sullen troll
you pass off
as a perfect daughter,
the rigged test
a charade
I consistently fail.

Questioning Authority

Why does it always begin loudly,
some rich man sounding off,
his words masquerading as patriotism,
common sense, family values, religion?

Why does it usually come in Republican,
white, upper crust privilege
rewarded with no-bid contracts, loaded court,
a commuted sentence?

Why does it always require degradation,
a bully who can only win
by abusing the disenfranchised,
women, and children?

Why is there debate about the difference between
Auschwitz and Gitmo, mercenaries dismantling
captive bodies and minds, force-feeding dead men
to prevent escape from the new inquisition?

Why do we think we are still the good guys
when our arrogance demonstrates
we are terrorists, killers of the Constitution,
compromising a nation’s soul?

We’ve been stunned into capitulation,
despite knowing better, forgetting who is in charge,
all of us politely putting up with
what should be pulled down, pulled apart.

Isn’t it time?

Jennifer Lagier