Five poems ~ poetry by Tina Parker

Patient #2649: Arrival

God save me. God could not. Safe here away from him, or nearer. A door. Another
(door after door) and I open. I open my bags. They’ve emptied (me). They’ve taken
her. God (be with me) let me keep the baby. I’ve not had time to finish her blanket.
The final door. Open(s).


What I Became

Mossy treasure
Parsley bed
Love seat
Cock trap
Front parlour
That thing
Snapped shut


What I Left Behind

1 scrubbing brush
1 kettle
3 dishcloths
1 bar carbolic soap
1 enamel bowl
2 packets ammonia
1 broom
1 husband
3 sons
1 daughter


There is Room

They examined it 27 Feb
said it was full                                     things in there I cannot
the first a ring
the second an apron

the first was an apron
and undershirts
gowns slippers
dresses a trunk
I’d never worn
the apron they’d not believe
if I told them
they checked                                       the box
                 next to quiet
they named
my womb


Bath Rules

1)      Under
         no circumstances
         is a Patient to be bathed
unless                 two Attendants are

2)      In preparing a Bath the cold water is to be turned on

3)      Not more than one
         Patient is to be bathed in the same

4)      No                   brush of any kind
         should be employed
         in bathing a

5)      Under              no pretext
       is the Patient’s head
       to be put under

Author’s statement about the poems: Not that long ago in our history, women were labeled as “other” and committed to asylums to cure them of perceived difference. These poems spring from historical research into the 1887-1948 patient records of Southwestern State Hospital in Marion, VA. The hospital, which opened as an asylum in the 1800s, is one of few in the country still open today. I grew up in a neighboring small town, and it was common for adults to summon up the asylum as a way to keep us children in line.

Tina Parker is the author of the poetry collections Mother May I and Another Offering. To learn more about her work, visit

Show Tina some love via PayPal at christinapar(at)gmail(dot)com.