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Grand Mal Seizure

There’s however it is you call,

& there’s whatever it is

you’re calling to.

July, I sew

my own dress

from calico & lace.

August, they take it

off me in the Colony,

trade it in

for standard-issue

Virginia cotton.

Not much room

for my body in the

heavy slip; maybe

that’s the idea.

For awhile the abandoning
was rare & then it was not
& would never be again.

Imagine you are
an animal in your
own throat.

The dormitory has a pitched

dark roof & a high porch.

We are not allowed outside.

Instead, we go to the window & make

a game of racing dogwood blossoms

knocked down by the wind.

Choose your flower as

it falls & see whose

is the first to hit the clay.

I beat the crippled girl every day

for a week. The trick is to pick

the smaller petals.

Most nights, they knot
the bed sheet in my mouth
so I will not bite my tongue.

Lay out on the pine floor:
rattle your own bones back
to the center of the world.

In the beds, the smell

of kerosene & lye.

The girls wake themselves

one after another:

spasm, whimper, whine.

Outside: cicadas.

In the distance: the bighouse lights.

Another truck comes loud up the road

bearing another girl.

There is whatever it is

you’re calling to. There is

however it is you call.

from The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and FeeblemindedFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2017
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Published in Molly McCully Brown Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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