W Va. Hospital for the Insane

Name:              Alona Perrine

Admitted:        6 June, 1866

 

Summer nights, Clay, the boy my husband hired, peeps through the window as I undress. One night, by the dark of the moon, in the gloom of the barn, aroused by the musky aroma of animals, I feel God-like and make a man out of Clay. His hands, raspy corn husks, shuck off my bodice, as I forage for his needle in the haystack.

My man, he never was a churchgoer, thank God. The Reverend Wilkins lays hands on me, saving me like a gold piece pilfered from the collection. In the choir loft I take up my cross, his belly, pudgy as bread dough. Oh, my Lord! he keeps repeating like grace over dinner.

One Saturday afternoon, at a private quilting bee in the store room of Maxwell’s Feed, the owner stitches me as I lay on sacks of seed, on his breath, the smell of penny licorice, his tongue, black as the snake’s. Afterwards, he beats me. Bloody, I run to the parsonage, demanding retribution or there will be hell to pay. Reverend Wilkins pleads, He’s a pillar. He has children. He tithes! When I threaten to confess before the congregation, he quotes scripture, He wounds, yet He binds. Then he washes his hands and testifies against me like a Pharisee. To prevent further “self-abuse,” he hog-ties me like a rodeo steer with leather straps from a broken mule harness. The following Sunday, a special collection raises enough to ship me off to some asylum.

 

*

 

On the women’s ward, a hen house without rooster, I undress for the doctor. To decipher my insanity, he prods my privy parts with his cock-and-bull, saying my clitoris rivals the size of a man’s penis, and how I would not leave until he was satisfied he’d done all he could to return me to normal.

donnarkevic

donnarkevic: Buckhannon, WV. MFA National University. Recent work is forthcoming in The Centifictionist, Blue Collar Review, and Ancient Paths. A Best of the Net and Pushcart nominee. Poetry Chapbooks include Laundry, published in 2005 by Main Street Rag. FutureCycle Press published, Admissions, a book of poems, in 2013. Many Sparrows, a book of poems was published in 2018 by The Poetry Box. Plays have received readings in Chicago, New York, Virginia, and West Virginia.

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