Progress

By Sarah Louise Henry

Photo by Sera Cocora from Pexels
I started to drink Lite beer
and smoke low tar cigarettes
in bed each night.
A sorry coleus grew
in a chicory coffee can
on the windowsill.
You can only get chicory
coffee in the South.
Then came the long
slide through the slums
of the North. I smoked
plenty, sitting on a blue,
quilted couch where
a man propositioned me
unsuccessfully and then
ran off to a party
by himself.
It would have been
a doomed and tragic affair.
The nervous breakdown
lasted far too long.
Lithium sure kills
a hollow leg.
The German Jewish Freudian
off the boat christened
my good intentions by
leaning prop against prop,
bestowing crutches of mercy.
“ Ach! Vat eeze this?
Don’t smoke in my office!
You will never smoke again!”
Manic depressives have
certifiably different brain
waves than normal people.
His office was a padded
cell of work,
his daily grind.
The Oriental rug was beautiful
beyond belief.
“You are putting on weight.
Since you quit smoking,
you have gone on
a sit-down strike.”
There is solace in the curry
at an Indian buffet.
Comfort comes in ordinary
places, like the club
where I lift weights
and pedal a bike.
There is redemption
for an iron woman
who crosses the training
room floor. My clothes
are threadbare, but
you should see my
expensive Under Armour
gym bag bulging
in the locker room,
where the showers run
so warm and addictive.

Sarah Henry studied with two former U. S. poet laureates at the University
of Virginia. Today she lives near Pittsburgh, where her poems have appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Poetry Review.
Farther afield she has published in many journals, including Soundings East, The Hollins Critic and Good Works Review. She is retired from a newspaper.