In first grade Mrs. Wilson taught us
to write our names in cursive.
We took turns going to the blackboard,
gripping the yellow chalk,
writing in large loopy letters.
Anna P. liked to write her name
in one long stream.
Rhoda wrote her name once
and sat down.
Tommy was afraid to go to the board.
He cried and picked his nose.
Ginny drew a dog after her name.
That’s my dog, she said.
What a nice dog, Mrs. Wilson said.
Did everyone see Ginny’s nice dog?
She gave Ginny a gold star.
After I wrote my name,
I drew a pig.
What’s that thing? Mrs. Wilson asked.
That’s my pig, I said.
Oh, she said.
Is he a nice pig? I asked.
In the Operating Room
The nurse stands over a girl. She places a mask over her nose and mouth, and
says breathe. The girl breathes. She breathes in and in. She inhales an
underground lake, the liquid dank and acrid. The taste of darkness fills her
mouth and lungs. She tries to stay afloat but is sucked down, the world above
her fading fast. For days, weeks, years, she is far below. Sometimes she is too
cold to move. Some days she is swimming faster and faster through your veins,
her tail flipping inside your skin. Her eyes blur with the speed. A hook tears at
the back of her throat. When she looks up, she sees a bird looking back at her.
He stands on one leg and cocks his head, first to one side, then the other. He
watches, waiting for her to surface. Breathe, the nurse says. Please breathe.
Maybe you think it’s simple. Like the difference between left and right.
Between dreams and the other life. The one you like. But yesterday I saw a car
run over a cyclist. When I looked up, the sky went black. A huge bird spread
across my sky. No one knew my name, not even me.
What do you want? God asked. Nothing, I said. But it was such a lie. I was The year I was diagnosed as a manic depressive, I was only a girl.
trying to be polite. Maybe that’s why He sent me back here to try again, here in
this gap between one life and the next, between what you said and what I
Sometimes I say we have to meet. Then we wrap around each other again and
again. It never works out. There’s always a fight. There’s this woman who
asks, Who do you think you are? There’s this man who says, You are the only
woman who exists. (Men are like that, yes?) He tells such lies.
Me? I slink away with my hands in my head. Or is it the other way? I get lost
doing the simplest tasks. Drinking tea, climbing the steps, having sex. (Am I
the only one who forgets which is which or what’s next?) I remember now.
There’s a bicycle leaning against the house. Whoever knocks, I say, Come on in.
In the Dark Room
sliding down so suddenly, I scared people,
Fuck you, I said to anyone who asked
how I was. Fuck you too.
It sounded cool.
After a while no one bothered me.
My mother said it was genetic.
Uncle Bill stepped in front of a train.
Cousin Joe got hooked on sedatives.
Grandma Grace stayed inside
with the shades drawn
until she was cured with shock treatments.
Doctors electrically deleted her memories
and dreams. She came home smiling
every time. If a therapist asked
what her problem was,
she had no clue.
The last time she went in,
she said she found God in the asylum,
but He wasn’t very nice.
What do you want? God asked. Nothing, I said. But it was such a lie. I was
The year I was diagnosed as a manic depressive,
I was only a girl.
Sometimes I think I shouldn’t think what I think.
Or dream. Like last night I saw our girl
coming out of a tub. You wrapped her
in a huge bath towel and combed her black hair back,
took her outside past the pawpaw patch
to the pond where blood suckers swim.
The two of you walked so slowly beneath the full moon.
You said you were in no mood to talk about what has passed.
There is too much catching up for any two people to do.
And besides it’s over now like old news.
I’d be sorry if I ever really knew what I knew.
Nin Andrews next book, Southern Comfort, will be published in October, 2009, by CavanKerry Press. Her new chapbook, the Accidental Seduction, will be published in a very limited edition in November, 2009 by Obscure Publications. The poems in this issue of Scapegoat are from The Accidental Seduction.