Panic Attack

Issue 2023, vol. 77

My husband leans toward me,
eyes soft as summer,
waiting for me to speak—
wanting to fix me—
as if I am an engine
or leaky faucet,
as if he can wrench the words out
rearrange my thoughts
and piece me back together.

Like someone scratching inside my skull, I cry,
a sharp wind scraping my skin,
a slow-motion funnel cloud, a lightning strike.
My hands, my mind, my stomach
singed pieces flying everywhere
in the kitchen,
the living room,
outside the picture window

wavering above the grass.

Someone tosses me away, piece by piece,
as if it’s a game, as if they’re in charge,
ordering me to sit down, be quiet.

I like to do as I’m told.
I want to pass.

But I failed grade two and liked it.
Easier the second time, with the new kids
who didn’t know about that afternoon I wet my pants
during math. The second year I knew
some answers and waved my arm.

My husband keeps looking at me, keeps probing.
I want him to stop. I don’t tell him
how I pulled over on my trip to Elora last fall,
wrote him a letter, instructions, permission
on how and when to leave me.
How I kept it three months in the glove compartment
then tore it up, buried it in gas station trash.

What I do say is all the colors turn off
and my insides jabber and tell lies
and my dark red meat twitches
like I am full of candy bars and coffee,
like I need to sprint around my old high school track
until I collapse.

Meanwhile all the pieces
fly   farther    and     farther
dispersing in the hayfield
slow  and  impossible as that puzzle
in the back of my second-grade class
my teacher wanted me to finish.

The pieces must fit together.
I gather as many as I can.
I don’t know where I begin
where I end

My husband and my teacher settle together,
again, at the big desk in the back,