The State Of The Asylum
A magpie hawks his wares in the long damp yellow grass.
Look up! He struts in black and white; the sky is falling
fast. These keys feel so official I’m not sure I can trust them.
The building squats to pee under a low grey sun.
We’ve seen refugees and anorexics, paedophiles and veterans,
smuggled aid to starving bishops, absolved the dying desperate.
We’ve recycled every tear that’s stained the threadbare carpet.
Do come on in, dear – your pain is safe with us.
Hope with her hoover and undertaker eyes: Swim, people, swim!
– like the recently bereaved. We count our peanuts in a line
(licking blood from our fingers), tune the radio for news,
board up the window’s final view, sing as all the stars expire.
A quaint and charming doer-upper with original features:
an ECT suite, a padded cell – for sale to the highest bidder.
Ruth Steadman’s poetry has been published on the Royal Academy’s blog, in All that is unsaid – a pamphlet of student work available from The Poetry School, and is forthcoming in The High Window. She lives in south London, where she works as a psychotherapist in both the NHS and private practice.