WINNER: “We still can have board meetings” by Eryn Sheehan, Burlington
I want the parts of me
To convene over tea.
The way when I was little,
I would invite beings I
Looked up to to sit with me and
Talk over snacks and
The very real pot of tea
That would brew.
A place setting for Buddha, Bast,
Jesus and Kali, Ganesha, Quan Yin,
My ancestors were the regulars
At every meeting, others
Would drop in periodically.
This is one way to make space
In my life for advice and
I am ready to bring this
Practice of mine to the forefront again.
I want to know that just because
One diagnosis exists, it is not
Mutually exclusive of others. I
Have a scroll of diagnoses and
I have multiple personalities I am
Finally owning up to even though
I always knew, I did not
But I’m learning that is probably
Tied to the situation and I
Hear voices others don’t.
I see the chaos, horror and beauty
of my own mythology
Played out before me for all to see,
But all they see is me.
I may be sitting quietly, so quiet and
Still to protect my own serenity
In the eye of the hurricane around
Me playing out scenes so horrible
And detailed, riddled with consequences
I will not repeat here. Interspersed
With the heart-wrenching beauty
Of being human. Just enough to keep me
From closing down completely to the
Visions and voices who know me in
All my wholeness that I struggle
To connect to.
I don’t think my other personalities
Have schizophrenic catatonia, but they
Are not the body’s first personality,
The one born with the body.
They did not ask for what I
Asked the universe for as individuals.
That was before the split.
When I asked for assistance, I
Heard voices guiding me.
I could only hear them when I
Listened and they often gave
Very good advice or else a statement
Posed that seemed to ask me
To take my own stance based on
I tried to not let anyone know
about the voices because I did
Not want a label stuck to me
Where everything I did afterward
Would be deemed the product of
Some illness. I feared losing
Ownership of my own experience.
Which led me to become more
Paranoid than I wanted to be.
I don’t need a diagnosis
Of multiple personalities.
We can still have board meetings,
My mindspace has always been
My most powerful asset and
Fearing other humans attempting
To silence it or take that away
From me distanced us to the
Point I have a very hard time
Claiming to be human. I’m not
Sure what being Human would
Feel like unless this is it.
What I am fairly certain of, is
How much I want to have
Conversations with my personalities
Amongst ourselves. I want this
To be what I need and can
Receive or make happen.
My dysphoria isn’t going to
Be explained away, but sees
A tangential wisp of something
That might make sense.
I had it before the split and
Now not all of us are the
Same gender, but I believe
Our main personality is both genders
And beyond gender at the same time.
Because of this I chose not to change
My body to reflect how I felt.
I am glad because what I have
I find beautiful, even when the
Body feels borrowed and not reflecting
Who I am on the inside.
Part of me is this…
Part of me is that…
And this is how it is now.
Some of me has memories I
Can access and some of me someday
May show me a glimpse into
Our own lives lived separate.
Till then I will continue living our
Whole life, talking more and more till
The parts that do not know each other
Can say hello and sit with one another.
Reveling in the still-brightness
of our own dreams.
“Yellow School Bus” by Olivia Parent, Middlebury
The first time I thought about death,
I was riding the bright yellow school bus.
It was like any other day in sixth grade.
I looked out the window,
and thought about the pumpkin muffin
that was sitting in my lunch box.
How could I make my father happy?
I was not planning on eating my pumpkin muffin.
It must’ve been there for the whole week.
Going uneaten each day.
from what it sustained.
I wanted him to be happy.
I wondered why he hated me.
I forgot to do my math homework.
I make my family so sad.
They’d be happier if I was gone.
I just want them to be happy.
We passed a bridge.
I imagined what it would be like to jump.
What I didn’t know was
the darkness in me was the same one in him.
There was a reason for his actions.
And no, there’s no excuse.
But it gave me closure.
He hated me because he hated himself.
He did what he did to
fill that gaping hole inside of him.
“December Rains Wash the Snow Away” by Randall Eliot Ingalls, Johnson
The rains in December
wash the snow away.
Tears from my mother
run down her cheeks
while words roll off
my father’s tongue.
He has found
another woman again.
This woman spoils him
and makes him happy.
He doesn’t have to yell
to penetrate Mother’s
She is a tree
in his vocal storm.
His words are
water and wind.
His verbs and adjectives
of this new woman
into our world,
though only the adults
will come early
“Electroshock, Sovereignty.” by Scott Norman Rosenthal, Irasburg
Refuse of stars,
hemmed by laboratories.
Reaching for skies,
Darkness of mind.
Your pedestals stifle.
Stay on them,
we have our own.
We are more than the sum of our naming.
Louder, as the sum of our living.
WINNER: “Mount Misery” by Martha Roberts
He had walked down the main road from town that November afternoon, looking for a place he had heard about some time back. As he came to where the main road intersected with Old County Road, he looked ahead off into the overgrowth, searching for a track that would take him into the woods that he could see in the distance. Not seeing anything, he headed off the road into the brush, hoping to find his way as he went.
He felt the branches of scrub and sapling brush his shoulders and catch his feet as he walked, slowly and carefully, not wanting to lose his way. He felt the town where he had lived for more than 40 years slide away behind him as he moved forward. He was headed east toward a place he had never seen, a place where he could maybe feel at home.
The woods grew denser, with larger trees, yellow birches, hemlocks, beeches, as he moved forward, without a path, but believing that before too long, his destination would be in sight.
He had heard tales of Mount Misery, guardian of some unlucky farmer’s attempt to make a holding on a New Hampshire hillside. He thought that he might find peace there in a long-abandoned wood yard with a longer-abandoned farmstead. Mount Misery’s historical reputation as a haven for bootleggers and horse thieves made it seem even more like a place of refuge.
Ahead of him, the thicker birch and hemlock woods were beginning to thin out. Ferns and woodland grasses sprang up as he moved toward the lighter sky.
He heard the song of a red winged blackbird, sweet and tuneful. The bird sat on a low limb of a yellow birch tree and seemed to invite him closer. As he walked past the tree, the bird stopped its singing as if wary of the stranger, paused and then sang on.
The ground became hillier, and the trees grew smaller and further apart. It was rocky underfoot, and he moved more carefully to keep from stumbling. The forest ferns brushed his knees.
He came into a large open space, which had been mostly clear-cut, with log ends and scrap wood scattered around. Off to the side, due east from where he stood, the ground rose into a small mound, covered with short, spiky grass and small chunks of granite and limestone.
He felt his chest tighten, as he breathed faster with anticipation. In a small cedar tree just north of the clearing, the blackbird sang, inviting him on. He walked toward the far edge of the clearing where the mound appeared.
He thought that this might be the Mount Misery that he was seeking, the place of his longing. He walked slowly around it, trying to take in what he had imagined for so long. As he walked around the side and looked at the eastern face of the mound, he saw, to his surprise, a small cave, halfway up the slope, partially filled with jumbled rocks. He climbed up the side of the mound, slipping a little on the damp grass and gravel. The cave was probably fifty feet off the ground, deep enough so that a person, a bear or a family of foxes could be comfortable there.
He thought that bootleggers could easily have hidden stores of whiskey in the cave and left them there for collection by traders on their way to New York State. The cave had rocks and stumps scattered on its floor, but he thought that with a little work it could still be a hideout or a place for some lost person to hole up comfortably.
He sat on the ground and leaned against the grassy slope of the mountain. The sun shone thinly on that November day. The blackbird sang, intermittently. He was weary. His shoulders sagged, his breath was slow, his chest felt heavy. His feet were tired, his eyes strained. He had left behind the people who had no time for him, a life that demanded too much, the indifferent town.
He sank back on the grass. A person could live here, he thought. A person could live in this cave, look out every morning at the sunrise, breathe easily, grow a little corn, and be free of whatever was keeping him from comfort.
The blackbird trilled again at the edge of the clearing, singing his sweet song that promised welcome and home.