blocked hands

When I look at you I see this fear
In your eyes, and that shouldn’t be there
Are you afraid that I’m going to think badly of you?”
A fist of things to say in my throat, clenching.
I said nothing, and it was the only time you’d ever ask.

We sat across from my brother and he slouched the whole time,
paler than usual.
This was how I found out what a spinal tap was.
I could be the one in the white rooms,
but there’d be no cute stories like my friends
asking what kind of flowers boys like.

I remember court-ordered therapy.
Well, I remember wanting to see the guy’s golden retriever,
and he said I could after we talked.
Another therapist, another session
where my father said I loved all sorts of animals,
and I thought, “It doesn’t do any good. They all die anyway.” The dark hallway of my mother’s apartment, watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the live-action movie) on a
fold-out couch.
And a fire escape, a snarling black panther poster on the ceiling
and the smell of cigarettes and perfume,
that pulls her out of the abyss I store her in.

A poem from Make the Best of Your Teen Years by Joseph G. Langen

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I am a retired psychologist now writing freelance . I have published Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life, Young Man of the Cloth, The Pastor's Inferno, Navigating Life: Commonsense Reflections for the Voyage, Release Your Stress and Reclaim Your Life, and Make the Best of Your Teen Years. I wrote a newspaper column in Batavia, NY for fourteen years. My articles are now available in my free newsletter, Sliding Otter News. Subscribe free at

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