Exile    poems by Matthew Freeman February 2021

Stepping Out

You could always write another poem
about your sister putting up ancient pictures
of people you loved
when they were still happy.

I was blessed in the old house,
I could always smell Lysol
as we listened to the Guiding Light
and my mom murmured she wished she were God
and I was preternaturally sick again
full of meds and marks on my body
reading about aliens and the Bermuda Triangle,
a little precocious,
wetting the bed awake.

Later I was lying on the couch
like a little baby
with the landline to my ear
as my case manager
was whispering sweet nothings
when my dad suddenly appeared
hovering over me angrily
and I shouted “No dad no” and then my
case manager said He’s never seen you like this
and I said Oh
he’s seen me like this before, all right.

Was I ever here in Carbondale with my sister,
was I ever awake,
did I ever have control
over the stuff that came out of my mouth,
did I ever really leave,
did I ever forget,
could I tell when something was a dream,
could I protect
what we once were, and what
no one could ever take from us?

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