about the author

A graduate of Pacific University’s MFA program, Jonathan Brechner currently lives with his cat, Oscar, in Portland, Oregon, where he writes, performs, and teaches full time at an alternative high school for students with disabilities.

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Saint John’s Hospital Psych Ward, Winter

Jonathan Brechner

It takes mercy to kill. I’ve walked each stairwell,
the numbers imprinted on a color-blind mind,
pattern recognition easy in my throat. Time moves,

a gentle texture, sweet as lemon drops.
Every shadow speaks, each one an envelope opening,
pouring its suspended message. The voices

hear me if I whisper, speak back, tell me it’s time,
tremoring like silent birds. I tuck each one
beneath my belt and into my ear. The secrets she denied

are real, each one rising, thick as pain, to lean
against these walls. Sometimes they smoke, pale wisps rising.
At 10:30 A.M. the door will open, the orange men

will surround me, take away each spiral staircase,
stick berries under my tongue, their voices drown out
the others so I can’t hear. Even though I reach back,

even though I scream.

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