A New Basement Page: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

There was once a girl
who searched her snow angels
for thumbprint-sized imperfections
little did she know
there was a name for that.
As she grew up, she would count the syllables in her words.

I do not do that.
I count stories instead.

You may not remember
but there was once a bombscare at
my junior high school
we all walked outside
and a teacher made all
600 of us play “Red Rover”
including a girl whose name
I cannot remember
we dared her to come over
she wanted to become a lawyer

She would later pull into
the parking lot of a church
on a backroad on a dark night
after we graduated, swallow
a gun and die.

when I was
a child I
thought like
a child I
spoke like
a child I
bled like
a child I
now have come
to the age of
recompense and
I have given
up those
childish ways.
I no longer fall
flat into my face
when things fall
apart

There is another girl whose name I
cannot remember who lived across
the road from my grandparents
Her arm was stiff the whole
time I knew her. She said it had been
broken at the time of her birth.
When I broke my elbow
and it wouldn’t bend all the way I
thought of her, but still could not
recall her name. Her brother
died, crushed between a tractor
and the wagon he was trying to hitch to it.
He was on a slope. Gravity killed him. One morning
before school, as she barely moved her arm, the
girl told my friends and me that she believed in the power
of dope to kill and the power of God to take away.

Now as I
have come to
the age of
regret and
ache I see
things anew
and I grasp
two trees my
arms across
a path of
dust running
parallel
to what I
call the sweet
sweet stream of
memory
I shake these
trees as if
I think I
am Samson
My bones not
moving their
bones I stand
alone in
the woods no
longer a
child but I
dare wrestle
with the earth
itself. I
do I do.

you may not know this
though I never hitched
anything on a tractor
on a slope on the farm
when I was 12
I helped my dad
with the castrating.
A soon-to be steer
kicked me in the stomach
sending me across the barn
I couldn’t breathe
when I at last could
dad asked me if I would ever write a poem about it.
I told him it was too embarrassing.
I would never write that.

you would probably never believe that these things happened.
Not just off of I-64 in a town where the area code
was once 606 and is now 859, but I tell you they did.
Sweet Jesus H. Christ, they happened.
(Not the snow angels but all the rest. and I haven’t even told you
about faith healing and madness and men who kill.)
These things happened. The blood and the birth and the broken bones and
the lack of breath. I wouldn’t lie.
(except maybe I would lie about not remembering any names)
these things happened
Not because of faith or fate, but just because they happen
There is not a name for these things. They just happen.
And that, I have learned, is all we can really say:
Sweet Jesus, all of these things really happened.

This is a new version of a poem I wrote in college. It was longer, more scatter-shot. I had read an essay about the girl who obsessively made snow angels and found it fascinating, especially because I had written about OCD for my first high school research paper. Little did I know I would marry an expert in anxiety disorders! In this edition, I tried to displace “my” narration with that of a couple of different characters, one who is a slightly sinister voice with memories not unlike mine and another which mimics OCD tendencies. Anyway, not sure how well this works, but the earlier version sure read like a 21 year old’s poem, so at least I spared you the misery of reading that.

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