Calling Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic by Carlie Hoffman


February, worst month, blooms a flu beneath
your skull. You lie still on the mattress
and count your breath. Rain. Your body a wound

stuffed with sound. The person you love
has left: what you know of their voice:
a shock collar. As a child, zipped in a bright

yellow coat like a jessamine,
for stretches of winter, you lay still like this
on a bench at recess, the airwaves swelling

in your lungs, terrified
to be approached by the other children,
a rubber ball, or rope, ashamed you couldn’t rise

until the whistle. You hear
the rain, bare, an abbreviation,
each drop on the roof like a tooth

capped with blood. On the line a voice
is a field of jessamine, even when
all February hours are taken, you believe

it is a field of jessamine
for no other reason
but your life.


Carlie Hoffman is the recipient of a 92Y/Discovery Poetry Prize, an Amy Award from Poets & Writers and was listed as one of Narrative Magazine‘s 30 below 30 poets. She was awarded second place for poetry for the Writer’s Digest Annual competition. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in New England Review, North American Review, TriQuarterly, Bennington Review, Boston Review, Ninth Letter, WomenArts Quarterly Journal and elsewhere.