By Linda McCullough Moore
Not everybody gets to where they’re going
in an ambulance. I walked to this asylum.
Strolled. Ambled. Carrying a book of figures,
numbers to subtract and add or icons, metaphors,
—take that how you will—a sandwich, no worse
for the wear (lettuce more forgiving than we credit).
I had come to stroll the grounds, elude the dogs,
not stay in any year-long way. Not be committed,
as they say in the prisoner-taking business.
I had come to look around, not scratch some new
Tozer’s ear. Tozer: the shiver dog I put
in the refrigerator when he was two and I was four
and we were hardly friends at all, or certainly
not after his refrigeration.
That’s how it goes. There is one little falling out, some
miniature misunderstanding; a gunshot wound,
and no one’s interested in your side of the story.
So. I had come to pat the heads of animals with
shorter memories, longer tails, owners on leashes with
a button you can push to draw them closer to the dog.
I had not come to the asylum for asylum.
There are drugs for that with side effects
to change not just your mind but your religion.
If I had thought to go somewhere with any fixed
intention, well, I would have traveled in a time
machine to southern France in 1640, to a nunnery
with sixteen-inch stone walls and nuns made out
of harder stuff than that, and had them put me
in a room, spare, clean beyond all reason, a cross
above the bed with starched white sheets
and lavender and lavender, and had them tuck me in
and bring me cups of things that taste like broth
but really are the juice of psychotropic boysenberries
strained in midnight kitchens where the nuns there prayed.
Don’t look at me like that. You dream
of loony bins like me. You call them schools
named after women who did never marry.
You call them retirement villages. No matter.
The boilerplate in the brochure is in identical
Lilliputian font. The images stock photographs.
I had not come to stay. Let’s not pretend that’s
something novel. Did you intend to be here now?
I pulled on the back door idly, as I pull on metal-plated
oak doors of stately churches in big cities in
bad neighborhoods, never thinking they might open,
offer me salvation or a place to shake the rain and worry
from my hair, get my thoughts together in one place.
I pulled on the door of the old asylum, now deserted,
left to rot, abandoned as I thought,
when legislatures bused the former inmates
down to Main Street, where they would find
no place to dry themselves on rainy days
(see: church, above) and sunny days would be
devoid of even that emotional employment.
It was on a weekday morning, in the summer
as I recall.
I pulled on the door.
It opened to me.
Linda McCullough Moore is the author of two story collections, a novel, an essay collection and more than 350 shorter published works. She is the winner of the Pushcart Prize, as well as winner and finalist for numerous national awards. Her first story collection was endorsed by Alice Munro, and equally as joyous, she frequently hears from readers who write to say her work makes a difference in their lives. For many years, she has mentored award-winning writers of fiction, poetry and memoir. She is currently completing a novel, Time Out of Mind, and a collection of her poetry. www.lindamcculloughmoore.com
Listen to Linda reading and explaining 'Asylum' here.
Linda's other work on Foreshadow:
The Counting (Poetry, February 2023)
Untitled (Poetry, October 2022)
A Little Thing I Wrote (Poetry, October 2022)
Wait It Out (Poetry, October 2022)
On the Nature of Forgiveness (Poetry, May 2023)
Engaging the Heart: Linda McCullough Moore and Pilgrimage (Interview, May 2023)