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Breath & Shadow

Winter 2014 - Vol. 11, Issue 1

"Medicated Youth" and "Lingua Epilepticus"

written by

John Davis Jr.

"Medicated Youth"


Regular, but not normal:

Morning and night Phenobarbital

doses supplied by Pete’s Pharmacy, kept

in a half-hexagonal amber bottle, black-capped,

imprisoning thicker maroon-tinted liquid.


“Time for Mr. Pheeny,” my mother would chime,

as if personification would cure

the ugliness of it all. Then came

the incantation, chanted over loaded

stainless steel care-carried ounces –


“One spoony-spoony,

Two spoony-spoonies,

Three spoony-spoonies…”


Saccharine, smile-spoken words like that sweet air

sound before a hammer blow to a nail head.

My gullet burned bitter as rivulets

of the unkind fluid coursed downward, inward,

ensuring no seizure would pay us an unfriendly visit.


                         Everyday episodes of epileptic

                         childhood measured in


                         of neurological Castor Oil –

                         An AM/PM ritual reminder

                         that stuck in our

family’s throat.



"Lingua Epilepticus"


The tongue is a flame…no man can control.

-- James 3:6, 8(a)


Because it got in the way,

the tongue was always the worst part.


I’d gnaw it bloody raw, swollen

during those night seizures.


Tooth-sized, spit-filled wound holes

made village idiot speech:


Guttural utterance thick

with liquid breath and rattle.


Cured by time and ice,

my punctured, heart-rigid muscle,


bit and rudder healed could tell

again its clear and eloquent curses.

John Davis Jr. is a Florida poet whose work has been published internationally. His poems have recently appeared in Deep South magazine, Saw Palm, Touch: The Journal of Healing, and other fine journals. He is also completing his MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Tampa.

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