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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Ode to Atypical Antipsychotics

By: Joanna Acevedo

Say you want me. Say there is a time and a place for everything. Say you need me.

Say the sun sets in the West. Say atypical antipsychotic.

Say crazy, but not crazy-crazy. Say you know what I’m talking about.

I want you on your back or on your front or on your side. I want you upside down

And laughing with your heels in the air. I want you smiling for the camera,

Driving one-handed on the bridge, smoking a Hotrod cigarette. I want you

To be crazy about me. I want you to laugh and laugh and laugh.

Now what I have the most of is silence. I can hold it in my hands

Bottle it, sell it. I take pills to keep it quiet. Say lithium. Say locked ward.

Say you won’t regret it.

I want you spread-eagled on the blacktop. I want you shouting at the top of your lungs.

I want you running so fast not even the Devil can catch you. I want you to tell me Something you’ve never told anyone else. Say secret. Say promise.

Say mood stabilizer. Say I-told-you-so.

I keep my emotions in a jar and take them out when I need to use them. I don’t know

How to be any other way. Say steel cube. Say box-cutter knife.

Say cut me a window. Say make me an opening. Say set me free.


Joanna Acevedo received her BA in Literary Studies from the New School in 2019. She currently studies Fiction at New York University, where she is working on her MFA. Her work has been seen in Track Four, Mikrokosmos, Not Very Quiet, and Rigorous Magazine, among others. She is a Hospitalfield 2020 Interdisciplinary Resident, Goldwater Fellow, Prose Editor at Inklette Magazine and teaches creative writing at NYU.

"I’m a big believer in poems as gifts, and this poem was written as a gift for my dear friend, Michael Everett. I’m also a sufferer of Bipolar Disorder, and I’ve taken both lithium and atypical antipsychotics, which have saved my life on occasion, which is where the title of the poem comes from. I was inspired both by Shira Erlichman’s book Odes to Lithium and Ocean Vuong’s poem “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” where he uses the refrain “Say surrender. Say alabaster. Switchblade.” And so on. So I had those two things knocking around in my head as I was writing.

Before writing, I had just taken an emotionally intense trip to Tampa, Florida, the COVID-19 crisis had just started, and I was getting used to being alone and in quarantine in New York City. I was thinking a lot about mental illness, and the way that love can make you feel crazy, as well as the idea that there are different types of craziness. I guess this poem is really an ode to being in love, and how that makes you feel out of your body, just like how serious mental illnesses can make you feel that way.

This poem is also part of my forthcoming collection with Black Centipede Press, entitled The Pathophysiology Of Longing, which will come out later this year."


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