I think I’m seeing white birds

white birds scattering away

from my window, out there

in the cold January, their wings

sound, from here, like sheets–

my grandmother’s white sheets–

on the line in June.

The light coming in is white.

Color?  Or space?

Like the space we can never fill.

Like the start of a narrative.

Like the blank walls,

these hospital rooms cemented

in their smoggy halo.

I’m crouched over a puce tray,

surrounded by the others in halogens, others

that have found strange caverns to fill in

strange tongues native to disorder, asking me

if I have a home, if I want my ice cream,

if I cut myself

as they rock in their seats

or lay on the couch or pace

the room, watching.  We’re always


I’m back in room East-Building #125

looking in a safety mirror

at my eyes, those black spheres

that tell me nothing

as to how to find them,

and my face is swollen,

green in the light.

Afternoons leave me trailing halls

away and around the others, busy

ants that lost their tribes, seeking

something, something close to that morning

light, before you’re awake.

I follow the ones that never cry,

asking what they’re on.

I stop at the Christmas tree

with it’s paper ornaments.

Something deeper hurts.

The homeless Dave from Duluth

whispers to me from behind the tree

“are you getting out of here?”  and I’m suddenly

hitting a bottom

because there are no lights

on this tree,

just the glint in his chimney eyes.

I bolt for my room as I unravel, knowing

at the same time that I belong

as my thoughts spin and my body

invades my privacy, it’s going to turn too

and choke me out of reason.

I dissociate, panic,

get psychotic, crash

and wake up later beneath

a doctor’s light, my body

on a cool table

and I think I’m seeing white birds

white birds scattering away

from my window, out there

in the cold January.

They’re not doves–

more like the ghosts of crows

or a sheet of paper

that I once

had a narrative on.


*Images by Laura Ruth (dreamyphotos @ Etsy)

21 thoughts on “EB-125

  1. your poetry is always so personal and raw that i feel like an intruder into your private sphere….and you’re doing an awesome job, capturing the emotions and feelings that i think are familiar to many of us..just in a different intensity


  2. I hate Christmas. I love this, despite the fact it filled my eyes with tears and my mind with a panic–that urge to just run, to unravel–how hard it is to button the buttons on it when your hands shake and the light is too white. Fine writing Amy–and all my best hugs to you for being brave enough to do it.


  3. dang this is fierce…and i love that…in the opening. attributing it to the sounds of gramm’s sheets…great start…the sudden stop to find your slef back in the asylum as well and the feeling that erupt out of it…all too real…love it…


  4. oh wow, this is so intense, so filled with heartbreaking images, i love the white birds, be they sheets or doves or crows… fluttering through this again and again.
    those closing lines… wow.


  5. In the Arthurian tales of questing grails (that overflowing cup of wholeness), the only sure direction was to enter the forest exactly where it was thickest, for what is most difficult and dreaded also contains the cup with the water we need most. The whiteness of sheets on a childhood clothesline become a thicket in their ghostly resonance in EB-125 (a cold, perfectly clinical title), the balm in the bane, so to speak. Another poet has a blog titled “In Search of White Space” (linked on my home page), and the quest I think is very similar to Difficult Degrees: Sanity, peace of mind, peace with the world, sure ground to stand on, a way to begin at last, to make an enduring song at least, is the quest for that “womb in the tomb,” an articulation sure enough compress for an ever-bleeding wound, a sip of that fabled water in the room one found entering where the forest is thickest. The narrative here despairs of those white sheets — the speaker isin media res, still in the thick of things — yet has the presence and prescience of mind to know where she is even as white wings tear at the mind. There’s white in the pages this is written down on, a degree of salvation I think. Keep the faith. As Roethke wrote from his own ward, “A lively understandable spirit / Once entertained you. It will come again / Be still. / Wait.” – Cheers, Brendan


  6. This is a harrowing nightmare, caught so faithfully in all of its terror. The ending is extremely effective, as it brings home how close to language and words so much of our reality is. I think these dreams that bring us such terror open up parts of our selves that can become so powerful in our waking life.


  7. Amy, I do admire your ability to get this all down so clearly and make readers feel what you’ve felt unmistakably. It’s all so vivid and beautifully written. I love the loop here beginning with the birds and coming back around to finish there, and the way you end on the uncertain…so true to life.


  8. Another vivid and intense write from you…you carry us right in to the core of how it feels and I always end up wanting to hug you..I can’t but I’ll send you virtual hugs…and agree with the othes that you’re doing a great job…sensitive , painful and beautiful ..


  9. This broke my heart a little. Isn’t it amazing how good poetry can do that?

    Dave from Duluth, I liked that.

    Grandmother’s sheets and ghosts of crows, amazing stuff.

    You are SO talented, awesome to meet you.


  10. Holy cow, this is such fantastic writing Amy. I find myself relating to so much of what you write. Top class poetry here. Best of all, it’s your weapon against the mind.



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