Photography © Jennifer Matthews


At the Mental Hospital

Lumbering, gray old holdout refusing to fall,
psychiatric structure shunning my charms and jangles,
sucks air as I try to breathe, smothers hellos and
camaraderie—poor thing, still hasn’t learned,
but I witch my magic despite, grin at the man
who laid motionless on the floor—gone baby, so far gone
but then cracked a smile as my friend and I rocked out
to Jim Morrison, Break on through, break on through—
baby there’s a wild world out there behind the locked gate,
and I see the shimmer in your eyes as you rub your stomach
and look back on life, like you’re tossing it around in your mind.
If you wanted to, I might see you through, best to bring any
preserve you possibly have though there’ve been days I was
heavy as a stone going down and no clown or pretty man
could convince me of this life. But I write, and my friend
I visit does too—poems, hymns because the poor
hospital has got it wrong, takes more than what is meant,
leaves even those who talk too much wordless,
looking too far into themselves. So what if I smile
at the woman who attacks? The nurse on duty says,
Girl, you best get back. But you know all that wild woman
does is look at me, and damned if she doesn’t smile back.


Coleen T. Houlihan is a graduate of Wellesley College. She has published poetry in Main Street Rag, Poesy, Bellowing Ark, The Alewife, The Wilderness House Literary Review, Ibbetson Street Press, Spoonful: A Gathering of Stone Soup Poets, MoJo! The Maps One Journal, Spare Change and others.

Poet/Photographer Jennifer Matthews’ poetry has been published in Nepal by Pen Himalaya and locally by the Wilderness Retreat Writers Organization, Midway Journal, The Somerville Times, Ibbetson Street Press and Boston Girl Guide. Jennifer was nominated for a poetry award by the Cambridge Arts Council for her book of Poetry Fairy Tales and Misdemeanors. Her songs have been released nationally and internationally and her photography has been used as covers for a number of Ibbetson Street Press poetry books and has been exhibited at The Middle East Restaurant, 1369 Coffeehouses, Sound Bites Restaurant in Somerville and McLean Hospital.