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Julie-ann Rowell: a poem


When we are admitted we hand in all our meds

and they are stored by the staff in a locked room.

On arrival, they asked me, "Are you suicidal?"

A trolley appears at regular intervals

with a list of prescriptions to be ticked off. A nurse

brings me a tiny paper cup with my tablets in,

and a plastic beaker of water. She watches me

take my allocation: Baclofen, Clomipramine, Omeprazole,

Citalopram. I can request Naproxen and Diazepam.

I'm reminded of Nurse Ratched,

her raptor eye, the obedient queue,

except we're not mentally ill, they've made that plain.

The HRT patches, well, the nurse applied

the first one for me and it fell off within the hour.

I insisted in future I'd stick them on myself.

But mainly I am a child again, swallowing tablets

under supervision, watched like a family pet to ensure

the little miracle capsules have gone down,

as if any of us would resist – there's little

else to hang on to. We could easily

have hidden a few on admission if we'd cared to,

no one checks your suitcase. I could have made

a stash in my room, but I was up for their game –

I wanted to succeed, though not sure

whom I was hoping to please. When they

hand out our tablets they announce

the brands of each medication to the whole room.

Drugs for NEAD and migraines, FND tremors, anxiety,

depression, chronic pain, spasms and strains – no hiding

the experimental mixture we've become.

NEAD – Non Epileptic Attack Disorder FND – Functional Neurological Disorder

Julie-ann Rowell’s fourth poetry collection, Exposure, was published in 2019 by Turas Press, Dublin. Her first pamphlet Convergence (Brodie Press) won a Poetry Book Society Award. Her collection Letters North was nominated for the Michael Murphy Poetry Prize for Best First Collection in Britain and Ireland in 2011.

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