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"put a laurel wreath around my neck" by Nicholas Barnes



pills got bigger: ten to twenty milligrams. now they’re

horsesized. change in dosage prompted by a cry for help.

by a secret told to my therapist, my confidant. turned into a

posthaste, rushed, emergency type situation.

mixing dulled phantom spirits with SSRIs. was that

the cause? the reason for this joyless head? eh, i remember

rhyming emotions, of the same ilk, since middle school. but

my seven-year-long, unchecked, recently-acknowledged

[get ready for a scary word] alcoholism certainly didn’t

help to keep the black dog at bay.

so i toddler-proofed my pad. no more painkillers

under the bathroom sink, no more sharp objects lying

around, no more booze in the fridge for this flight risk. i

was the losing caballo, handicapped by ailments unseen.

magnet me was two souths, two norths. pressed up

against each other: repulsed by everything, everyone,

including myself. so i put down the bottle. things seem a

little better, brighter, yeah. not so many no-sleep nights

of intrusive thoughts and death on the brain anymore.

but just below the surface, the hot war turned cold.

never ended. that nasty demon parasite eats up my lust for

life, still. just at a slower pace now. mmm, yummy, he says,

after leaving me with an empty cupboard. rears his noggin

sometimes: when i think about him too much. when i let

my mind offleash to run free.

despite all my impulses, my feelings toward living,

the rational side of my brain wants to keep on running.

even if i have to whiteknuckle it to the finishline. all that

being said, i don’t wanna see that checkered flag until

several years from now.

don’t let me cheat or cut across the track. keep me

from sprinting to see the end. keep me slow and steady.

even with that hellhound at my feet.

don’t let me quit this race, no matter how much i

tell you i hate it. i ain’t got no cross, no crutch, to fall back

on. just my own two legs. my two depressed, anxious,

drunk, itchy-with-ideation legs. but still, i trust they’ll carry

me to greener, sober, cheerful pastures in due time.

will you be my champion jockey?




Nicholas Barnes earned a Bachelor of Arts in English at Southern Oregon University. He is currently working as an editor in Portland, and enjoys music, museums, movie theaters, and rain. His least favorite season is summer. His favorite soda is RC Cola.

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