Roaches by Kristin Ryan

Its clawed hands scrape along the inside of my skull until all I can hear is jagged humming. It doesn’t matter that I have a book coming out, a husband who loves me, or that I haven’t purged in eight years. When the humming becomes unbearable, I calmly tell my husband I want to die over breakfast. 

  ***

I watch from the ceiling. Two lovers sobbing, one restraining the other on the floor. Dirty, dirty, I’m dirty, the woman howls as she tries to claw at her arms, tries to lunge toward the bathroom to rid herself of what she cannot name. 

  ***

In the backyard, he pressed my five-year-old spine up against the fence. I felt cool air for the first time. Dead grass clung to my dress. Wasps hummed in my ears. My bare feet burned when I ran from the house, the lie propelling me forward.

  ***

Children often mistake hands for roaches and other bugs when recalling memories, Bree gently tells me in her office. 

  ***

I wanted to pretend it / was a dream, but / every morning I choke / on weeds. // Choke on sunlight / and fences, the / hum of wasps / splinters in my back. // The bathroom, / where the nightlight flickered. / The tub full of soap scum and dirt. // A shadow, more cool air, / roach in my underwear. / I start peeing behind bookshelves, / avoid bathrooms, / take short showers. // For a decade, I purge behind dumpsters, / in cars, and fields / until there’s blood, until there’s bone.

  ***

 Think of it more as resting. You’re sick, and you need to rest a while, the psychiatrist says.

The nurse passes out used crayons, explains how coloring is a coping skill we can use once we’re released instead of killing ourselves. 

  ***

In the den, I change clothes behind the couch, hurry up, hurry up nightgown over leggings; he can’t see me the sound of cartoons crashing in the background. 

While I was crying in her office, Bree said: most predators have cartoons on to distract children. Most likely he was trying to groom you. 

No, no. I should have been smarter. I should have known. 

You were a child. It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t. 

***

I’m given Risperdal, the kind that melts slowly under the tongue. I wrap myself in a thin, white blanket. I stare at my reflection in the glass, fighting sleep. Later, the nurse finds me covered in sweat, thrashing as she stands over my bed. You kept shouting stop. 

By morning, I sit on my bed and weep, too afraid to move. My parents come to visit. They don’t know why I’m crying, or why I’m here. My husband comes to visit. I tell him the thoughts and memories keep getting worse, and I don’t know what to do. He takes my hand and cries.

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Kristin Ryan is a poet working towards healing, and full sleeves of tattoos. She is a recipient of the Nancy D. Hargrove Editor’s Prize in Poetry, and her work has been nominated for Best New Poets and Best of the Net. Her poems have been featured in Glass, Jabberwock Review, Milk and Beans, and SWWIM Everyday among others. She holds an MFA from Ashland University and works in the mental health field. Her full length poetry collection, MORNING, WITH BANDAGES is forthcoming from Bone & Ink Press.

Published by Serotonin

Keep pushing that boulder up the mountain.