“Get Well Soon” Cards in the Behavioral Detention Center

I have black and white prints from Thomas Kincaid,
to fill with sharp Crayolas. Winter fleeces of Salmon for these kids
sleighing and sleighing. I move scrawls to fill in time.
We think you might be ready to go home next Tuesday,
they say. Outside, pine trees never die,

they only look half lonely.
My aging mother sends me a floral-print card. Only love,
and we will get through this,
Mom. Check my blood, am I still living?

I am not well enough to ever tell the blue of sky from the faded blue
of the ink of the pen imbued in folded paper.

There are one-dollar bills in some,
and immediately, I send them into the 7UP machine
with only diet soda. My hoard is under my bed,
in the box, full of the empty envelopes licked by dry tongues.
The taste of ink is getting old. A folded
paper cannot hold any more love.

Cards of love, cards with my nieces’ signatures
filling one half,
cards addressed to me to tell me, once more,
I am not well. Each message is like a recorded,
missed phone call to the cold payphones
in the activity room. The ones the patients can’t dial out of.
Unbearable signatures keep coming into the hospital
like visitors who cannot leave,

the hospital lent me the cardboard box
from behind the counter to hold all the “Get Well Soon” cards as I move
hospitals. These are my friends and family.

Hidden loudspeakers cannot tell me what the card tells me.
Each “soon” is for meds, a walk around the grounds,
activity hour at an old penitentiary,
a gym to play volleyball.

You must fill Dixie cups with pills? Can you tell me

if soon is ever? If my illness will heal?

The never-present doctor, the counselor, the pharmacist
all insist on wellness, but
there will still be a side effect.

Author’s Bio

Jeff Pearson is a graduate of the University of Idaho’s MFA Program, and he’s a past resident of Idaho State Hospital South. In 2017 he won Permafrost‘s New Alchemy Prize for “User Review of Medications.” His chapbooks include: Sick Bed and Locations Services, which can be found on his website, He is the former Managing Editor for Blood Orange Review and current Poetry Editor for 5 x 5 Lit Mag. He tweets at @legoverleg.