Listen to Syble Heffernan read “Night Terrors” and “Other Side of the Glass.”

 

Night Terrors

Ask me how I’m sleeping
I’ll need a canvas and black ink.

I’ll scrawl briars of shadow and
fists. This is what wakes me in

the night, knocking on the walls
of my skull;

entering me with no invitation;
writhing creatures

beehives for heads;
streams of nectar down their necks

deception.
Cold talons grip my still-warm body,

desperation
echoes down corridors of gray matter,

tears run out of the wrong corners of my eyes.
My heart runs even

faster.
My chest sinks into absence,

takes the rest of me with it.
Somewhere my mother is spraying her “monster spray”

I can still smell the musty lavender,
the monsters buried in the folds

of old bed linens long enough
for her to believe

they were gone.

 

Other Side of the Glass

The fine print of the Vyvanse prescription reads perilous, incapable, troubled,
troubled, troubled, basket-case, better kept
boxed in.

They warn you about the nausea and
sensory overload but
never the grief;

Never the cold-sweat of your forehead
against the window of a world
that never welcomes you in.

They call it hyperactive,
this learning to run in circles
between the walls of the stomach and skull;

tired out, still going, over-stimulated,
burnt out,
they bring you water but

never ointment for the wounds,
never enough time to heal before the flames get hungry,
for you again.

They call it obsessive interest,
this contortionist act of your tongue
twisting and tucking in the appeal of escape;

this biting down until you taste iron.
Of bars that
never bend to fit your shape.

They call it low self-esteem
this pulling out your hair,
this shame you never stand up straight,

this never having the answer for
your three proudest moments
or three most positive traits.

They call it genetic,
which explains your father’s letters
from the Boulder County Jail,

as he told you there’s no choice but to eat
what they give you, say thank you
say you’re fine.

They call it difficulty with communication,
this refusing to speak to people who look at you
as if through glass;

part their clenched jaws just enough
to offer small remarks
and then

go home to their dinner tables
call you strange or rude,
call it all “too bad”

what a shame
they say
I never would have
Thought.

 

 

Syble Heffernan is a neurodivergent poet and spoken word artist studying English and International Studies at Nebraska Wesleyan University. She is the founder of, and active participant in, the university Spoken Word Group and works with the Nebraska Writers Collective as a Slam Poetry Teaching Artist. Her written work has appeared in Masque and Spectacle, Prometheus Dreaming, and the Poems from the Lockdown Anthology, among others.