Ward 12

Tonya Eberhard


Odd how your sister isn’t too far away,
on the third floor with her wildfire hair
pressed up against a fluffed pillow. She is
unimpressed by useless coincidences.

She’s been in a hospital gown for two days,
and goes home tomorrow with a vase of
flowers and a sutured wound. She leaves
a part of herself she never considered hers.

You are another kind of hurt. If the surgeon
placed you on the table and made an incision,
he wouldn’t know what to do with it. You
don’t even know what to do with yourself.

Say the doctors put you in a cast. There would
be no telling when you’d come out of it. The only
changes: atrophied muscle, layers of dust, dead skin,
coarse hair. But no healing. What a waste.

What would the specialists find if they looked
from the outside in with their otoscopes and
popsicle sticks that make mouths go ‘ahhhh.’
An eardrum. Tonsils. That is to say, nothing.

You were admitted—an identity crisis
with a wristband, a name in perfect
capitals. From the day you were born in a
hospital bed, no one admitted anything to you.

A week out of the womb, someone cut you
open, pulled your skin back like a curtain.
You, a shrill cry no one would comfort, an
injury never tended to. You never recovered.

They let you walk into the world,
without a word.

There is a hollow in you consistent as a
metronome, a widening gap like a yawning
chasm, an illusion that burgeoned into
a malignant tumor. Yell for a nurse.

Some stick knives into their arms and ask
the server to bring more ketchup. Some say
the trees speak in tongues. Not you.

Somehow you became a machine of calculated
destruction, a creation gone wrong. A parasite
with a hunger that cannot be staved. Did your
mother feed you anything besides oatmeal and fear?

Ask the doctors what they know, with their textbooks,
their medical jargon, their mind pills. They do not
know your plans to destroy but never kill. With your
guile, you have everyone fooled. Even yourself.

They will release you back into the world,
without a word.





Tonya Eberhard’s most recent work has appeared in Glassworks magazine, THAT Literary Review, and Thirty West Publishing House. She is a 2019 Pushcart Prize nominee.