Poem – “Alaska”



Alaska // by Jennifer Patino


I won’t claim you or call you by name.

You were my last frontier, that’s for sure.

You were the one that didn’t even

have a chance to get away–


before going away

we made so many plans

I waited up for you, did you know that?


–You crossed a frozen pond and showed no fear.

You skated in espadrilles across sand at the run down beach.

You said it was beautiful once. I asked if you’d miss

Florida sunsets. I asked if you’d miss light. You said

you would be more sad about the return of the Sun.

I said I was a night person. You said you knew.


From the bar to that

one girl’s basement, to the top

of the lookout pier


I wrote poems for you after you told me you

couldn’t say goodbye because then you would

have never left. We talked about boyfriends.

So many boyfriends. You too? You asked if you

could put them up on your wall. (The poems

I mean.) I felt like an old fashioned idiot when

I realized they were a digital wall for all to see

and not printed and pinned above your bed

or better yet, copied and written down on stationary

in your loopy script. I only know your handwriting

because you signed my yearbook. I wish

I had a letter from you. I hear you say

I miss you” in that whispery way you said

you have soft lips” after the photo shoot.

Of course I can’t hear you. We have yet

to exchange new numbers. (We never will.)

I just have a gift for hearing texts as if they

are characters of my favorite book in my head.


Magenta type comic sans,

too bright, and this is the pre-emoji

era so I was in less than three with you but you never knew


You started modeling. Pin up poses. Pixie princess.

Peasant skirts. Exposed tan belly. I pictured you

in a frozen castle faraway and there you were

in the sunshine again. In the forest again.

In a dark bar again, hiding from the crowd

in the corner, but this time you’re with someone else.

I told no one I missed you. I forgot about the poems.

The most beautiful things anyone has ever

written for me.” You said. We didn’t talk much

after that. It’s your fault. You displayed us. You

exposed us. You made them look at those

photos a little more closely every time they came up.

You made me re-think Truth or Dare. You disappeared.


Do you ever think about

Aurora Borealis and how

her aura looked just like them?



#OctPoWriMo – Day 7 – “Unsolicited”



Unsolicited // by Jennifer Patino

You can’t get down
about everything that’s happening
all at once and all the time

I can and I do. I become acquainted with pillows. I’m labeled lazy. A friend of mine says laziness is fear. I say she’s right. I say I can’t help that I’m terrified. I can’t turn my wide eye toward
anything other than the tragedy. I feel helpless searching for a remedy. My shoulders ache. It means there will be an earthquake.

You can’t let yourself
become wrapped up in all of that
It’s no good for you

I make laundry lists of what’s good. What I love. A friend of mine encourages this practice and I say she’s right. Gratitude gets me through the day. Darkness gets me through the night. The storm has knocked out all the light. I find a mystical way. There is a beyond I live daily to get to. I can glimpse it
if I really try hard to.

You should try,
you should try,
you should try

I am given new lists of suggestions. It’s a transition season so my chest is full of congestion. The city doesn’t help. It’s too big, and too crowded. Behind blackout curtains I choose to be entombed. I am enshrouded. I cough and apologize. You say it’s okay and I roll my eyes. I love you. Please know this. I can’t more clearly explain this.

I’m going to let you go,
okay, you get your rest
Take it easy

Yes. Yes. What you say is best.
What you say sounds so easy.
My arms are heavy so I fall
asleep with the device version of you
like a block of ice on my chest.



#OctPoWriMo – Day 6 – “51 50”


51 50 // by Jennifer Patino

Day 1:

There are four strangers in my living room. Their clothing is dark but they look like angels. I call one of them by their first and last name. They strap me to a carriage and I am floating. I can’t count the overhead lights because it’s off rhythm with the Kesha song in my head. I suddenly fear bombs. I suddenly feel this whole thing is wrong. I open my eyes later and see a smiling lawyer on a billboard. I know now I’m not at home anymore. I’m sure I’ve died.

These sirens for me
I’ve been lured somehow, floating
Confusing ocean

Day 2:

I’m pacing. Around the white room. Away from the white coats. I pace around a table. I sit at a table. I pace again. There are white papers on the table and I’m terrified to sign them. I black out and the room is full of water. It is empty except for a frazzled doctor, out of breath, wide eyed, staring at me. I don’t recognize myself in the mirrors lining the left wall. I knew before I fell asleep there were others here. I don’t know what’s real or what’s not

Too many doorways
They say all are closed to me
But I defy them

Day 3:

I don’t remember visitors. I’m supposed to remember them. I don’t remember what day it is. I wring my hands and they’re scaly. My dead self is flaking off. I am raw. I am given industrial strength soap that tears more of me off. They say I took off. They ask me strange questions. I think I’m there for something else.

“I think you’re possessed”
Staff members are scaring me
I will not trust them

Day 4:

The sun is too bright. I pace around the garden wrapped in a blanket. I go in when it is too hot, pace around the rec room, and go back out when the AC makes it freezing. Alarms go off because someone tries to escape. I think it is Sunday. Football on the tube tells me it’s true. I see my shining star that night. I pace after hours when he’s out of sight and there’s an Elton John concert on the TV that me and another insomniac are given special permission to watch. We sing quietly. We hold hands. We are sent to bed.

I’m crying for home
“So goodbye yellow brick road”
Can I go back soon?

Day 5:

The judges are the jury. They say I can’t leave early. They don’t know what’s wrong with me. I start inventing things wrong with me based on prescription drug commercials that trigger us all on the TV. I can’t feel my face from whatever they have me on. Another patient slaps me after coming in for a hug. It is a surprise attack. She’s been here one day less than me and she’s learned nothing. I haven’t spake unless spoken to in three days.

I read “Ariel”
I wonder if it’s cliché
or just worrying

Day 6:

I recognize my visitor. I’ve been waiting all day. I feign smiles through arts and crafts. I write a letter home lying about how this experience has made me feel so much better. I think this is what they want. I know they’re watching us. What I really want to write is: “There is so much that needs to be done with how mental health is handled here in America and I’m too afraid to speak up. I will be silent about this because they’ve already put so many stigmas on me that I’m buried in them. I will forever be afraid of this happening again until the day that I die and it will change me.”

Every single day
“Just be yourself” they tell me
Then I’m locked away

Day 7:

They tell me I’m going home and I’m happy. I’m nervous about screwing it up though. I’m exceptionally good. I chat with nurses like a “normal person” while silently cursing them through my teeth. I still don’t sleep fitfully. I read my notebook for the week. They gave me a soft sponge wrapped around a piece of lead to write with to keep me calm. I’m shocked. Someone wrote in my book but I won’t recognize myself in those words until later. And even then whoever I was is now long gone.

Making it alive
The goal once I realized
I had nowhere to hide

Day 8:

I finally step into the sunshine with my head down. I continue this practice for all of my days.

It’s just
this way