Back Burner

while a severely manic
patient with psychosis
berates me for depriving
her of basic freedoms
and human liberties,
my skin itches inside
my long-sleeved shirt.
“It’s not my fault
you missed 10:45 smoke,”
I tell her calmly.
“It’s not about smokes,
man,” she replies in what
can only be described
as hippie-fashion. “It’s about…
prayer.” Oh, how quickly some
go from sane to psychotic.
I stand to retrieve a pen
from another drawer.
She starts and runs down
the hall, screaming
and singing and threatening
and swearing and laughing.
Four A.M. fits of mania
are always….fun.
All night I deal
with everyone’s mania.
Pediculosis. Enuresis.
Hunger. Thirst. Headaches.
Nightmares. Voices.
Demons. Daydreams.
They pull me aside,
whispering in my ear,
as if one of us will
break if the words
were spoken too loud.
Every weekend I deal
with their suicidal
ideations and
superficial lacerations.
And in between,
I ignore mine as best
as I’m able.

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