Two Poems by Shira Erlichman


Ode to Lithium #147: Conversation with K.

friend I rarely see / bowl of coffee between us / daffodils shaking
out of concrete / lone / pigeon circling / our ankles / for scraps / she

told me of sleeplessness / the fucking / maxed out credit cards / entire
family at rope’s end / cheated­-on girlfriend more worried than mad

the Ecstasy / the drinking / the Ecstasy / punctuating the conversation
“But I don’t want to take medicine” / spoke of God / not wanting to

change who she was / all roads I’d sown / but stable now / for years / thriving
even / I listened / thinking I knew something / blunt / told her what I took

saw her eyes simultaneously flicker yes & distance / I outlined
her hand / titled each finger / with what might need attention / sleep / food /

tactic / I’d learned in group / & books / just months ago I’d made
the choice: down on my dose to a barely / traceable amount / felt

healthy enough to try / but was still fiercely protective / of you
defended you / listed all your gifts / secrets / knowing you’d want me to

knowing you lived / to serve / I sat tall with facts / while she closed
door after door in your face / still / I’d call her open

inside the outline / of her wide palm / we sketched options
me I guess / in the position of storyteller / sage / decade of hospital stays

doses / living-­through-­it / I thought I knew something / later her friends
thanked me / family thanked me / she’d made an appointment / was

thinking about you / (tho ultimately would opt against) / what did they know / what did
any of us / know / me especially / me / just weeks later / side of the tracks / screaming

at a freight train / in the sharpened air / mindmouth / unable to
stop weeping / inconceivable speeds / no sleep / pushed a ghost

back with my palm / told it to get the fuck / away / the train screaming
back / I should have told her / this is how it happens: how it shouldn’t



Ode to Lithium #19: Excuse

We’ve been silent for almost a week now. A hand shoots up.

Excuse me I’m mentally ill Excuse me

“How do I handle my rage in the grocery store line?” Another

Excuse me I’m mentally ill Excuse

can barely get the words out, “My daughter…drug addict…won’t let

Excuse me I’m mentally ill

me help…I can’t let go.” All hands are met. The teacher sits in a spotlight

Excuse me I’m mentally

in the darkened hall in soft robes. I don’t raise my hand, but my body

Excuse me I’m

is all hands. Every single sweating palm is layered over my mouth in a

Excuse me

tectonic smothering. I can feel my voice at the core, too hot to







hooligan3SHIRA ERLICHMAN is a writer, musician, and visual artist. A three time Pushcart Prize nominee, her work can be found in The Huffington Post, NPR, The Massachusetts Review, Prelude, Winter Tangerine Review and BUST Magazine, among others. She was awarded a residency by the Millay Colony and the James Merrill Fellowship by the Vermont Studio Center. She lives in Brooklyn with her partner and their orange cat.

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