When Gnats Come

They are the sirens when the red flags are lost underneath the dirty laundry, the dirty dishes, the stacks of papers, the paper plates because I couldn’t do dishes, the new underwear because I couldn’t do laundry, and the discarded underwear package because I can’t do laundry Gnats only live for seven days I haven’t left my apartment in two weeks My apartment when I’m depressed (again) becomes a never-ending labyrinth of missing brain

chemicals Drawers left ajar with empty bottles of meds that haven’t worked, or kind of worked, or did work but weren’t refilled in time to stay on them consistently I’ve ruined my mother’s good pans and haven’t answered any of her calls I get the energy to wash a plate and stop when I see the full sink I get the energy to call the doctor and stop when I remember the hospital bill I still haven’t paid off from the last time I felt this bad Did you know that when pupa, the larvae of gnats’ forms, it doesn’t even look like dirt? Just Prozac-white, thin goo floating on top of three-week-old water Cleanliness is closest to godliness and each misdiagnosis feels like I am sinning again Too sad to even say the word out loud The shame swallowing me like a sweater I haven’t washed in five weeks I forget I deserve to be healthy I forget what anything but this feels like The less help I allow myself to ask for, the more I wind up needing The gnats are slowly returning to my apartment and this is the sign that I need help, When I can no longer pretend I am still taking care of myself To be an abyss is to at least be something And when I am at my most nothing I spray Raid and pour bleach in the sink Disappear into the nest of blankets that is my bed Wait for the gnats to die Wait to want to be alive again.


Poet's bio: Cleo (They/Them) is a Black femme genderfluid poet and educator. They have been blessed with opportunities to perform up the East Coast, and have publications out with Kissing Dynamite, Barren Magazine, and Pocketfire. They were a member of Penn State’s 2019 1st place earning CUPSI team and a member of the 2018 2nd place earning “Ashe Not Ashy” FEMs tournament team. They have recently had a poem nominated for Best of the Net. They hope for their poems to heal, hold, and rage.

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