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The Central Virginia Training Center (formerly The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded)

Whatever it is—

home or hospital,

graveyard or asylum,

government facility or great

tract of land slowly ceding

itself back to dust—

its church is a low-slung brick box

with a single window,

a white piece of plywood

labeled chapel, and a locked door.

Whatever it is,

my mother and I ride along

its red roads in February

with the windows down:

this place looks lived in,

that one has stiff, gray curtains

in the window, a roof caving in.

We see a small group moving

in the channel between one building

and the next, bowing in an absent wind.

He is in a wheelchair, she is stumbling,

pushing a pram from decades ago,

coal black and wrong. There is no way

it holds a baby. Behind them,

a few more shuffling bodies in coats.

I am my own kind of damaged there,

looking out the right-hand window.

Spastic, palsied and off-balance,

I’m taking crooked notes about this place.

It is the land where he is buried, the place

she spent her whole life, the room

where they made it impossible

for her to have children.

It is the colony where he did not learn to read,

but did paint every single slat of fence

you see that shade of yellow.

The place she didn’t want to leave

when she finally could,

because she’d lived there fifty years,

and couldn’t drive a car, or remember

the outside, or trust anyone

to touch her gently.

And, by some accident of luck or grace,

some window less than half a century wide,

it is my backyard but not what happened

to my body—

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.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.