For Gary Schwartz
You were my great-uncle, or would have been,
if such familial labels applied to one long-dead
and never met. After you were born, you were
placed in an asylum for crippled rag dolls.
In this snake-pit penal colony, the inmates lie
ignored on unwashed sheets, naked and shivering.
They line the halls, their diapers damp and sagging,
hugging their knees, staring at nothing, smudged
with their own waste What could you have become
had you been born in another generation? You could
have had a family, freedom, a life, gained knowledge,
developed your mind. Instead, you lay unused
amidst the chaos of Bedlam, carelessly tended
by overworked nurses in state institutions,
with no stimulation or thoughts of your own,
a wordless vegetable, knowing nothing but
your own name. I have walked where you walked.
It could so easily have been me: mute and drooling,
incontinent, an eternally helpless child, my body
twisted, and my mind untouched.
Jessica Goody was born and raised on Long Island. She currently lives in South Carolina, where she writes for SunSations Magazine and The Bluffton Sun. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies, including Reader’s Digest, The Seventh Wave, Event Horizon, Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Maine Review, Broad!, Spectrum, Barking Sycamores, HeART, Gravel, PrimalZine, Kaleidoscope, Open Minds Quarterly, and Wordgathering. Her poem “Stockings” was awarded second place in the 2015 Reader’s Digest Poetry Competition. She has cerebral palsy.