2021 Second Place

Uninvited Guest

by Caroline Bracken

Two months after your eighteenth
Psychiatry moved into our box room.
He could have arrived earlier but bided his time,
waited till he knew I would have no say so
and he was free to unleash
his inner control freak.
Reeking of bleach, he was clean at least,
well-read, fond of polysyllabic words,
convoluted sentences, footnotes.
He wrecked my head with case-studies,
stacked peer-reviewed journals Jenga-like
on the floor behind the door.
Decided he didn’t care for the view
of our back yard, bins were not his thing,
insisted on inhabiting the front bedroom – mine.
I resisted but there was no talking
to him so for peace I gave in. He invaded
the kitchen, living room, even the attic.
His DSM1 fetish was embarrassing,
I stopped inviting visitors, locked him
in the shed for a week but he climbed out
through the window, crawled into the conservatory
via the cat-flap – he got worse after that.
He dumped my muesli, burned every book
which didn’t reference him,
refused to let me leave the house.
I sent the dog to kennels,
resigned from my job, sold the car.
The only place safe from his gaze
was your room.
It must have been the sounds put him off –
not a rap fan apparently,
or maybe it was the grey ashtrays,
unchanged sheets, empty pizza boxes,
24/7 gaming, wolf howling.
Whatever it was, he never crossed your threshold.
He issued me with an ultimatum –
it was you or him. He won.
The house breathes now, I sleep easy most nights,
but sometimes I wake early,
miss your music,
hear him snoring.

1 Psychiatry never explains himself