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Summer Solstice on the 3rd floor of Illinois Masonic Hospital - Emma Younger

Under hospital lights that flicker a morse “SOS,” I drop my hummingbird feather ring, still beating, into a plastic bag labeled PSYC.

I remove my fog smock, the belt of fading campfire embers unfurls on pasty linoleum floor. A sunshine locket, its golden chain

tangling as I drop it tenderly. My earrings of pristinely pressed dandelion seed, I hold in my palm before dropping besides the ring, the locket.

A piece of smooth sea glass I slip from my parched mouth, to be stuffed unceremoniously into a locker. All this an exchange for a cotton blend green gown, not unlike muddy rainwater.

My fragile poppy flower shoes, now bruised, tucked between forgotten, fading petals. One last glance at my conch shell telephone, I scribble down numbers

on a decomposing willow leaf. A final piece of the greenery I can carry with me. A nurse steadies me,

my still beating heart stripped of organics, and I am pumped full of something slippery, languid,

slowing. I blink. Heavy eyes. My back is bare.

My arm is bruised. Shuffle to the room with the bulbous television. Wait in line behind Suzanne who needs to call her mom, Air stiff.

Wait for Eloy who’s already being berated by his grandma, Sucking in shallow breaths of A/C. I sit in the plastic chair, drag a foot along the tiles.

The crumpled willow leaf looks translucent around the edges. I wait. I let the nurse with the close cropped hair type the long distance extension.

Consult the willow leaf. I start before my family can. I am just stressed. I am just stressed from school.

I am just exhausted and stressed from school. (and hearing things) I am just exhausted and stressed from school and a little sad about the weather. (and hearing things and seeing things)

I am just exhausted and stressed from school and a little sad about the weather and I miss you guys. (and hearing things and seeing things and almost jumped in front of a train) There’s a faint buzzing,

a woosh not unlike a clogged river unfolding. We hang up. A styrofoam cup of decaf coffee, cold, untouched from breakfast,

film growing on its surface. I crumble the willow leaf and let it disperse in the mug.


Emma Younger is a poet and artist from Portland, OR, currently living in Chicago, IL. She is interested in highlighting the universal through the individual, and her experience as a queer woman living with mental illness.


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