These three poems by Alyssandra Tobin delve into her experience with severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and explore the wonder and pain that accompany treatment…
by: Alyssandra Tobin
Ode to Exposure Response Prevention Therapy, or: I watch a slideshow of dead animals to make me into a better person The slideshow is of roads in Montana. The slideshow features dead and bloodied deer, foxes, and squirrels. The slideshow makes me sit at my desk and pretend it’s a car. The slideshow brings me to gravelly tears. The slideshow asks where am I ever even going. It shows me I'm so little. The slideshow wills the blood to stay inside all my burdened loves. The slideshow tattoos my chest: filigree stippled onto my sternum, the sides of my breasts. The slideshow steps on my toes. It tells me beer will depress me, and buys me a gose anyway. The slideshow gives a man a gift that’s really more like a token. The slideshow closes one eye, then the other. The slideshow wills the blood to never leave my mom, my dad. Wears purple lace pasties. It knows how to pole dance. It got top surgery and now its chest is flat and good. The slideshow skips the conference, cries at home instead. The slideshow wills the blood to never leave my body. The slideshow brings me inside an owl’s eye, dark & mossy & brimming with mist. The slideshow yearns and mopes. It counts digital coins. Gets scammed by someone in Kansas, loses all its slideshow money. The slideshow asks: and what of it. The slideshow answers: I still have this whimsy, this looming death. It counts its uncomfortable fingers as currency. The slideshow beckons. Don’t tell me I don’t know suffering. The slideshow says: The bugs are in my brain. I see them, naturally.
Ode to Exposure Therapy, or, I watch A Clockwork Orange to make me into a better person I take Alex’s hand and I twist the fingers back. Have you ever had a mental illness, the doctor asks us. No sir, we say. We are the hogs of the road. The scrim of the colossal. The tuned-down guitar. The wandering sheep. Alex putting visions before me – You fear that slick blade, he says. Come here and lick. Ultraviolence. My body tensed day in, day out. Violence leads to violence like obsession leads to compulsion. Oh, skin like nylons, ripping and holey. Oh, men who know where I live, who want to return to my bed no matter what I say. Alex texts me raw and strange. Alyssandra, he says I read all about the scourging. I could take part in the nailing, in each heavy blow to the hand. The wrist, I say. It was the wrist , after all. When they take Alex’s eyes I pocket them. Tiny jello moons. Maker of my nightblades. Doombringer at my door. His head strapped down, his body wrapped in cloth like a fidgeting corpse. When they take his eyes, they dribble him with artificial tears. The salt burns his cheeks like cold flames. Hey, he says if I’m ever gonna be free I must put up with much. By the time Alex gets sick, I’m getting sicker. The video plays and the blood hits the screen, red and shameful. The doctor says. Trust the treatment. When we’re healthy we respond to the presence of the horrible with fear and nausea. We can go somewhere else. No screens, no tears, no blood, no eyes, no sick on the floor, no voice of god booming, no rapid genuflection, no flushed horror, no need to fix what’s never been broken, We can go somewhere else.
Alyssandra Tobin (she/they) is the author of Put Eyes on Me Not Like a Curse, published by Quarterly West in 2022. Her writing appears in Poetry Northwest, Puerto del Sol, Gigantic Sequins, Grist, The Pinch, and elsewhere. She is a PhD student in English at Oklahoma State University.
Header art by SE Tonx.