The first day, I wore blue pajamas
because I was sick. A woman who worked
in the psych ward softly asked me to change.
There are men here
, she said. In the courtyard,
we stretched and did yoga, until a young black man
fainted, hitting his head which dripped with blood.
I offered him my cup of water, and John, a handsome
white man in the ward for drug addiction, made sure
I didn’t take the cup back— he was afraid of AIDS. The doctors
weren’t quick to label me, they asked me about percentages
of certainty when I spoke of the coming apocalypse.
I showered with rose soap my aunt gave me,
and when I set it on the windowsill to dry,
the scent filled the room. A few of us were allowed
to go to a grocery store nearby to shop for ingredients
to bake our own lasagna. I loved creative writing hour,
when a volunteer who said she struggled with something
herself came to teach us and inspire us. I made little gifts
for my new friends before I left. For John, I wrote writing prompts
on strips of paper and placed them in a gold cardboard box.
Write from the perspective of a woman.
Sarah T. Jewell is a Jersey poet who runs a weekly writing workshop as a part of Jersey City Writers. She won The Writer’s Hotel Sara Patton Poetry Prize in June 2018, and her poetry chapbook How to Break Your Own Heart was published by dancing girl press in April 2017. Her poems have appeared in Bird’s Thumb, Halfway Down the Stairs, Barking Sycamores and other journals. Links to her work can be found at www.stjewell.com