“Undiagnosed” by Eugenia Leigh

Eugenia Leigh


I’ve let a regular who tipped alright
fuck me. Standing. In someone else’s bathroom.

Macramé of silver grunions
manic on the sand.

When my father kidnapped us,
I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to be

feral. I wanted to test my luck.
Plane rides fall short of that first plane ride,

bookended by police. Men fail
to meet his standard of surprise. Three a.m. wakings

on school nights. Sometimes to whip us for imagined sins,
sometimes to dance.

I need to see the music
quaking in the furniture. Chair legs jittering, cheap wood

threatening to split.
I took my first steps outside this country with a herd

of church kids on my nineteenth birthday. I convinced them
to drive to Tijuana. That’s how I found the one

I bribed to drag the virgin out of me.
Before I tried to kill him, I saw ten nameless angels

bungling about his dorm. His roommate
(Emmanuel) was never there. Then

the torment set in. I wouldn’t leave my top bunk for weeks.
It’s possible they never loved me. They loved

what I made possible.
Low-hanging harvest moons swing

in swerving windshields. The tint of flushed
skin, biblically red.

We never saw my father sleep
when it was time to sleep. He wound around the house at night,

a broken or horrifying toy that wouldn’t shut off.
Or he slept for weeks.

I was the one who would risk
rousing him to check. Thirty years

I lived with the urge to run into traffic. And did.
Windows thrown open, floor-standing

rosewood speakers flooding our home with rock operas,
we couldn’t hear our voices.

That’s when we knew he was happy.
That’s when we knew we could breathe.

from Rattle #71, Spring 2021
Tribute to Neurodiversity


Eugenia Leigh: “I was diagnosed with complex PTSD and bipolar II disorder in my mid-thirties, a few years after my first poetry collection was published. My first book chronicles the speaker’s history of childhood abuse and its ramifications in her young adult self, but now, with the added perspectives of my recent diagnoses and with the privilege of mental health help, my newer poems reexamine and complicate that earlier narrative while asking, ‘How do we live with what we’ve had to live through?’” (web)


Eugenia Leigh was the guest on Rattlecast #91. Click here to watch …

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