Frances Finds Me

Frances finds me at night.
Timid as a tornado.
Strapped in a tranquilizer
chair. Box hood locked tight.
Bowels opened. Bled through.
“Sit still.” They told her.
Terror cures madness.
Darkness induces fear.
“Sit still, till the mania disappears.”

She sings to me:
“You’re still in Virginia’s rolling hills.”
“You’ve still got Virginia’s stacks of pills.”

Frances finds me in the morning.
Straight-jacketed in a Utica crib.
After a cold bath, her skin ruby raw.
Blood slows to her brain.
The doctor complained,
“She should be kept in awe.”
I ask her where she last ate?

“Eastern State!” She cries.
“Eastern State!”
Death rate higher than discharge,
and I can relate.
The hospital is home
with the benefit of restraint.

She sings to me:
“You’re still in Virginia’s unmarked grave.”
“You’ve still got time to just behave.”

© khartless 2022, All Rights Reserved

NaPoWriMo#25: Today’s prompt is based on the aisling, a poetic form that developed in Ireland. An aisling recounts a dream or vision featuring a woman who represents the land or country on/in which the poet lives, and who speaks to the poet about it. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that recounts a dream or vision, and in which a woman appears who represents or reflects the area in which you live.

Frances is the name of one of the first female patients (of record) at Eastern State Lunatic Asylum, the first psychiatric hospital in the United States located in my hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia. There is a vast field of unmarked graves there, as well as a museum that attempts to highlight some of the inhumane treatments that took place there throughout history.

I uncovered Frances’ story doing research for my novel, Fascination. I was struck by some of the doctor’s notes, which I’ve highlighted in this poem. Voices of these untold stories haunt my dreams.

Eastern State Hospital, Williamsburg, Virginia, Late 19th Century


    • Thank you, Sunra. I feel called to tell these stories of all the people whose suitcases never leftthe hospital attics. I appreciate you reading and connecting with this one.

      Liked by 1 person

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