Across the Wounded City

I.

Riding the bus,
going to the doctor.
Today, it’s the psychiatrist.
Tomorrow the therapist.
I ride in silence,
staring at my phone.

The trip is long,
as measured in poetic
meter. Too many stops
for an end-rhyme scheme.
The bus stops at the driver’s
discretion.
I have no control.
Only signs to count along
the way.

I listen to the other riders.
One kid talks Trump.
He is all:
“Fuck the immigrant!
Fuck the blacks!
Vote Longwell!
It’s the only way.”

I want to say hold up.
They have all been fucked over,
bullied and maimed,
at Selma and beyond.
The horrors at the border,
concentration camps.
America should be ashamed.

The rest of the bus is quiet.
It doesn’t matter.
Let it go.
Just let him talk.
Go to the doctor
for your meds.

I ride across the city
as if I were on safari,
hat on head and hand in mouth.
Lucky, the kid gets off
at an unexpected stop.

Back when I was a kid,
first reading Marx,
no one ever said
redistribute the wealth.
Now I see it
on my Facebook feed
seven times a day.

Is there hope for America yet?

II.

The doctor sits across
the office from me.
She prescribes
medications with
unpronounceable
alien names.
Words that
twist the tongue
into a gibberish
that is almost
Latin.

Twice daily,
at bedtime,
before you have sex,
even in the morning
when sunshine should
be enough.

I pace in the pharmacy
as they fill my Geodon.

With it, I won’t
hurt myself
anymore,
or so the doctor says.

III.

I ride home in silence.
Medication easing my mind.
With it I’m not as quick to action,
but I’m not as kind.
I am calm
as I make another trek
across the wounded city.
Another walk in the bad
neighborhoods.
Another journey home
through the fog and rain.
Another walking meditation.

The wind whips my hair
as I sit on a metal bench.

I get on the 201.
The driver smiles
as I swipe my ticket
and take a seat.

He is my ferryman
into the lands of the
Dead.

This time the bus is empty.
I sit lonely.

Once, the Mad Hatter
of Poetry told me that I’m holy.
I don’t feel holy.
My failures fill the room
as matter fills the universe.
A black hole, far heavier than our Sun,
forms in my presence,
or at least that’s how it seems.
My madness makes me dance.
All my hallucinations haunt me.
Did I really see Ganesha
in a vision or was it just my brain
a little out of tune?
Was it a jazz line
that continues into eternity?

All my mental gymnastics
transpired in a moment
of passing cars.
A million leaps of unkempt logic.
It spanned maybe two stops
and thousands of neurons,
firing blindly,
filling me with despair.
The medications do their work.

Am I Odysseus,
lost at sea for
angering the gods?

Will I ever make it home?

–Kevin R. Pennington


Poetry

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