Andrew Alexander Mobbs (he/him/his) is the author of the chapbook, Strangers and Pilgrims (Six Gallery Press, 2013). A Pushcart Prize nominee, he's grateful his writing has appeared in Crab Creek Review, Frontier Poetry, Arkansas Review, Ghost Ocean Magazine, New Delta Review, Southwestern American Literature, and elsewhere. He's the co-founder of Nude Bruce Review and a recent graduate of Oregon State University's MFA program.
The Weight of the Damned
After Mary Ellen Mark’s Ward 81 Exhibition from Oregon State Hospital
Inside the filing cabinets—those metal sarcophagi—
a multitude of manila folders restraining hundreds
of pounds of papers labeled with ID numbers
blurring together in irrational chains of serif
symbols shouting maladies in fading ink,
overmedicated faces compressed within
square-inch frames. The weight of the damned
is a looming thunderhead, a mass of bodies
and brains marked clinically insane and danger
to self and society even if they’re not, even if
some just don’t read or talk quite right, or talk
to themselves exasperatedly, or explore
their bodies in puritanical households, or spit
and seize in times of inconvenience, or love
differently albeit passionately. But where
are their names, stories, the smartest things
they’ve ever said and done? What of the lives
they may have saved, the hearts they broke
more brilliantly than any other human could?
What do you call the ghosts of their never-born,
the ones who ripple the stiff white sheets,
creak the iron bedsprings below the barred,
bullet-proof glass? Where else can they travel
beyond their fever dreams?
And you, smirking in the white coat and tie—
What have you written down?
What have you witnessed?