This poem was chosen for a musical response by Featured Musician and Professional Flute Player, Michael Morton.
Abandoned: Fairfield Hills Children’s Mental Hospital
I hop the fence
pry the door ajar,
flip my phone to cast an orb
over cubbies and sign-in sheets
covered in dust.
Two hundred feet of hallway exits
under a neon sign
still grinning after forty years.
I touch door after door of children’s
bedrooms: Dorothy, Isabel, Frank.
Opening each one, I try to tease
out the headless babies, ghosts
Yearning to find a boy
in a straitjacket or a girl
harnessed to the bed frame.
I see cribs, dresses and dolls,
but no bodies
are left behind, not even an echo.
Only the teddy bears are headless.
Ensnared by the EXIT’s glare,
I creep forward, wanting a story
that is not mine to tell.
Surely all rooms are not
hollow, yet this is the case.
I find nothing to use as metaphor,
no graphic details to startle a reader.
Did the children feel the same silence?
When headlights flood the windows, I snap
my phone shut, hold
my breath in the glow and white noise
of whirring crickets.
I can leave by that exit door,
unlike the mold and silence overhead,
which were once alive.
Cole Depuy’s poetry has appeared in The Penn Review, The Coachella Review, Heartwood, pacificREVIEW and elsewhere. He is a Ph.D. student at SUNY Binghamton’s Creative Writing Program and recipient of the Provost’s Doctoral Summer Fellowship.
Statement by Featured Artist, Shelley Thomas: I see an abandoned building and tell-tales of lost children. I think of the abandoned mission of speaker to find metaphor. I imagine dark hallways, passageways that lead to other worlds. The forgotten places. I am reminded of the network of river tunnels that runs under a seaside town in Northern California and empties into the Pacific. You have to watch the rise of the tide if you dare venture inside. Walls are sprayed in graffiti—signs and signifiers—scribbled at entranceways of this lost world.
Art: “Dimension,” 2016 (Davenport, California)
Statement by Featured Musician, Michael Morton: I played thinking about what I SAW in my readings of this poem. I saw myself walking through the abandoned asylum.