"Willowbrook"

Written By

Jessica Goody

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.