Katie Hogan is a twenty year old emerging poet from Richmond, Virginia, writing and living in Denver, Colorado. Her work is forthcoming in The Chiron Review and Ember Chasm Review, and she is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in creative writing from the University of Denver.
Madison Zehmer is a poet and wannabe historian from North Carolina. She has published and forthcoming work in the Santa Ana River Review, Isacoustic, Gone Lawn, LandLocked, and more. She is the editor in chief of Mineral Lit Mag, and her chapbook will be released by Kelsay Books in 2021.
DeJarnette Sanitarium, March 2017
When we trudge from green hatchback, it is down a grassy hill, speakless, no beat but the wind to bring us to our knees beneath brick. We don’t know why we are here. All of Shenandoah recedes from sanitarium, ivy overgrown, something unearthable in the fieldlands. Ghosts standing in the shade of microgreens wave us over.
We are praying or pleading or something and silent, hushed unsure, staircases snaking up to Staunton’s most boarded-in, Anasazi of their own, looking for a crack to pry, a cry in the glass to creep through. To come to.
A window delivers us to a tiled floor— so many envelopes, so many letters— the only place the light enters. Our thirsting lungs call out for greenhouse air; unsure if we haunt or host. We feel our way through basement bathroom. Decomposition gases flood the panes; I stop past the shower. Try to picture the steam. I do not know whether the water will hold back the angels or the dead.
I can only picture the nakedness. Something wrong. Something crawls from the corner of a mirror— dusk, dust. Something like oracle or occult—holy and raw at once. A door left ajar lets us through.
Anasazi means ancient outsiders. They lived in Colorado before I moved from Virginia but remain recorded in glyphs, cliff-side, like the ones DeJarnette patients jumped from. These, the hands that painted, abandoned open pages, left their souls in the grass here, psychorealized, that sat in the front yard once watched long enough to be allowed outside for lunch— fistful to mouthful, they watch the Blue Ridge bend and remain, a different kind of prehistoric. Nobody kept records on eugenics, so we are forced to anthropologize, make our way through the dim.
What a privilege to shuffle along marble, to clumsy up staircases, snake toward stars, to wander in the dark. In woodchipped walls, heartbeats echo as sirens. If born forty years before I was, I might’ve been one among many, sterilized, forced to find ways to survive the light. Things they don’t teach. I press an arched window, think of the eyes that must’ve stared through— Staunton’s most boarded in, shapes of opal, shades of pool, mud. I smell latex and bleach, heavy on gritted palms.
The weed pulp outside smells of ghost breath. The floor, of shadow, the bathroom, of irony unsent. Letters opened but never delivered. There were children here, their bodies are outside, along the back fence. Like subterranean succulents, treated with chlorine. Hands corroded tender. I wonder what happened. Ferns holding tiny craters in their bellies baptize away the rot. My trespassed transgression now nothing like what they did.
Out front, grass flattens under where ambulances once treaded, still fertile from spit and mouth foam of pre-patient mourn, rabid irises leaking down and down and down. The stairs work both ways. Flytrap: I can hear them scream. Nerves are synthesized here in handfuls of shrub and oak. Humid clings mist-like to moss out front. They can no longer see it: the portico a duct, nozzeling off-dreams and wrong bodies through. The Anasazi were surrealists, too— watch what they drew from ash.
Watch the Pueblo dunes. Watch the sun rise and pink up the clouds. Predictions come from people asylumed under mortar, mansioned farmhouse kept close in to nowhere, porthole for sanitation— lobotomy, scrubbrush.
Ivy dwindles as fragmented memory. We snake up the front stair, unscrew doorknob like we would loosen a bulb. Every light is already out. Only a few of the entryways open. DeJarnette remains for us anthropologists, haunt or host, hushed— its doors and windows clasp and come undone again, come apart and lock again. Dimmed footprints reactive as carbon whistle under rubber soles. We come to.
previously published in Certain Circuits, and forthcoming in Dreich Magazine