shadows of trees,
crests of waves,
not a fragmented whole
but the parts itself.
i must go down to the ocean and
watch the waves,
a performance of space.
let water fill--
i mean, i guess, i tried,
maybe in some ways,
to find a space within a space.
as if it could cleanse
all that is broken.
drown oneself in a fixed place.
i will never--
i can’t seem to control,
the waves do not,
even this poem is--
(Wendy Garnier is a psychologist, poet, and performer based in the seaside town of Aarhus, Denmark. Her work is published in Expanded Field Journal, Defenestration Magazine, and the anthology At the River’s Mouth, among others. Please visit her website at www.wendygarnier.com.)
The Perfectionism Police
Perfectionist. Obsessive. Nit-picking. Workaholic. Scared of failure.
These traits make me feel sick.
They remind me of bingeing: bingeing on life.
Wanting to get everything done, in a very sick sort of way.
In an: “I’m-out-of-control-need-to-keep-going-can’t-take-a-break-I-deserve-to-suffer-sort of way.”
Perfectionism is so elusive.
People think it’s good – but they don’t understand how perverted it is.
It is a desire for power that strips you of all power.
It is a dream – but it’s actually a nightmare,
Because you don’t get to wake up before you fall.
Perfectionism is so dysfunctional.
You think you are getting stronger – but you are actually losing strength.
You have an assignment to finish.
But you don’t get to choose your pace.
The Perfectionism Police choose it for you.
These minions in your head.
They call the shots.
You are forced to stay up all night.
They make you finish this assignment at knifepoint.
No breaks. No food. Not even water!
You are SO thirsty – absolutely parched.
You are completely empty. Hollow.
There is NOTHING left to lose.
You sneak some water from the tap in the bathroom.
But then they catch you!
They turn the lights on.
“What are you doing,” they ask.
“I’m so sorry, I just had to,” you respond.
The sobs are rising in your throat.
You know you are in big trouble.
Now you are drowning.
They make you drink until you are completely distended.
The pain is insurmountable.
Then you rupture.
They are your demise: The Perfectionism Police.
(Athena Milios is a Greek-Canadian psychiatric researcher and writer based in Nova Scotia, Canada. She holds an undergraduate Degree in Medical Science and a Master’s in Psychiatry Research, both from Dalhousie University. Athena has been living with mental illness since the age of fifteen. She strongly advocates for mental health in her community. She is the author of several psychiatric publications as well as some creative writing pieces, including poetry and short stories.)
Broken but easily fixed
Again, you have broken and I watch
you pale with pain
as nurses in comic-book scrubs press forward
with cannulas and soothing words to bind you whole
At seven, there was no slow smiling morphine
to ease injury into unforgetting, just bright white
cries rending silent air, playground birds startled
as you were scooped from the earth.
Now, the grainy film shows a violent shift a
rupture of the natural order an
earthquake of bone that
swells your wrist
your long toes touch the bed’s end and
your voice dives deep as you tell the story and
the nurses, not much older, roll their eyes
and shake their chuckling heads
They check your name and again
and five times more; each time you thank them
smiling blearily through night’s quiet.
I think of the wounds yet to scar your body and
heart and sit, at ease, knowing that this
simple brokenness can be easily fixed.
(Clare Roche is a Sydney based writer. Her poetry can be found in Dwell Time (UK), Leopardskins and Lime (Berlin), Uppagus (US), and HOOT (US, forthcoming). Her creative non-fiction was shortlisted for the national Nillumbik Prize for Contemporary Writing (2020).)
The Beautiful Space-