The Patient Admits | Avery M. Guess

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Avery Moselle Guess is a recipient of 2015 NEA Fellowship for Poetry, grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and residencies from the Albee Foundation and the Ragdale Foundation. She is a PhD student in creative writing, poetry, at University of South Dakota and assistant editor for poetry at South Dakota Review. Recent and forthcoming publications include poems in Crab Orchard Review, Moon City Review, Thrush, Rogue Agent, Tinderbox, Glass, Rust + Moth, and Deaf Poets Society and creative non-fiction in Entropy and The Manifest-Station. Her first full-length collection of poetry, The Truth Is, will be published in April 2019 by Black Lawrence Press.



The Patient Admits

I could not stand waiting for my father
to come through my bedroom door,
cross over the red carpet I begged for
after the roof leaked and ruined
the repulsive yellow shag that covered
the top floor of the house, so he could
get into bed with me. How many nights
did I spend waiting? Some I fell asleep
before he stumbled into my room. Others
I clutched my Peanuts sheet as tight
as I could for protection. I counted sheep.
Counted breath. Counted the bumps
on the popcorn ceiling until he’d stagger
down the long hallway, and I’d stay as still
as possible and hope he would go straight
into his bedroom. The one next to mine.
The one furthest from mom’s. Sometimes
that worked. And sometimes it didn’t.
And the waiting. The waiting. Imagine
knowing the exact moment an accident
will kill your children or being told the day
but not the month, not the year you will die,
and you are helpless to stop it. Or avoid it.
So, one time, just once, you seek it out.
Because you can’t take the waiting anymore.
So one night, I walked across the red carpet
to stand in the open door of my father’s bedroom.
Empty. I trudged the length of the yellow shag
hallway, passed my mother’s closed bedroom door,
tiptoed down the twenty stairs to the foyer
with the ugly mustard linoleum, turned to enter
the monochrome den, saw my father asleep
and snoring on the rough commercial carpet
my mother insisted on buying even though it hurt
to sit on, the television humming snow, and (just once,
just once, I swear, just once) whispered, Dad.