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Five Poems From A Wellness Check

Bri Gonzalez

Writer’s Note: My collection-in-progress, currently titled A Wellness Check, inspects how pop culture, like DC’s Batman, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and horror movies from the 50s to present day, exploit mental illness as shock value. It’s a call-out – the poems critique media for profiting off of perpetuated stigmas. My collection-in-progress is also an exploration of my own struggle with bipolar II disorder in both its effects and its reception.

When crafting these poems, I thought about how I would fit into these worlds. How would I be viewed? Or treated? I focused on building tension by forming syntactically overloaded lines, and then layering potent, absurd narrative images over that. My goal was to mimic the frustration and pain of seeing mental illness twisted into entertainment value. In the case of my erasure poem, I simplified a published article, staggering lines to represent feelings of hollowness born from the article’s message. I want to showcase how portrayals of diagnoses erase the person behind it, as well as the complexity of the illness itself, by blending reality with fantasy.


Midsommar (2019)

We’ve ruined this dance before:

the orange pillars, the teeth 
rimmed teeth, me in a duct tape 
tux, you and Dani dropmouthed, 
watching my  feet grip the carpet 
like needles in a pin cushion. 

As the music discords, we snap

our phones in half. You intervene 
to steal my skin, ask if I could
mercy-kill my lithium. There’s
a locked door somewhere with
our initials embroidered in the base.

When I sing, carbon monoxide 
wafts out, which, according to
Dr. Ari Aster, makes sense.

On Arkham Asylum’s Screening Process

[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: YOU’RE IN A LOBBY CHAIR NEXT TO A MINI-ZEN 
GARDEN. THERE ARE APPROXIMATELY TWENTY PAMPHLETS SHOOTING 
SYMPATHY FROM ACROSS THE ROOM. THREE RATS WORK THE FRONT 
DESK, NIBBLING ON THE MOUSE CORDS. SOMEONE SAYS THE BRAIN 
IS LIKE BAMBOOZLED JELLYBEANS AND YOUR ARMS ARE RAGGED WITH 
MAPS. EACH MINUTE IS ACCOMPANIED BY VOMIT – CAFFIENE FLECKED 
WITH APRICOT JAM. A DOCTOR HANDS YOU A FORM THAT SAYS HEY 
CAN YOU QUANTIFY HOW INTENSELY YOU FEEL YOUR TEETH WIGGLING 
OUT OF THEIR SOCKETS AND YOU SAY NO BUT IT ASKS AGAIN ANYWAYS. 
THE DOCTOR IS BATMAN, BROODING. AS YOU ANSWER THE FORM’S 
DEMANDS, YOUR FINGERS HARDEN INTO STICKS OF REDBLUEYELLOW 
DULLED CHALK THAT RASP FINE DUST, SKETCHING HOUSES ON DR. 
BATMAN’S CHEST. YOU WONDER HOW MUCH MORE OF THIS YOU CAN 
SWALLOW. THE FORM ADMITS HEY SORRY I NEED YOU TO ALSO RATE 
HOW OFTEN YOU CURL AROUND THE COFFEE TABLE MOTIONLESS UNTIL 
YOU BECOME A GHOST YOUR FUTURE SELF CAN WALK THROUGH. AT 
YOUR LOCAL CVS, A RECEIPT BEGINS TO DO THE WORM.]

Dual-Form Insanity (AKA I Was Always Going to be This)

once upon a time there was a once upon a time once upon a once time there was 
upon a brain decided to be full of maggots once maggots decided to be a colony 
of hands upon sulci gyri upon PlayDough reorganized synapse time once a brain 
mold of neon jello once upon a smattering of acid once a child sleep declined 
cried a time ocean once child refused fluid again and once highway timed adult-
child upon moving navigated tissue burns bodies are in the nature of sabotage 
in time none of this matters once none of this matters once upon a time there was 
Batman who cuffed my wrists to steal them so many times i am a danger to myself

Steven Grant and I Commiserate Over Our Respective Brain Functions

A man eats the moon, charts the city crater by crater.
He throated me whole out of fear I might turn new. 
The same man solves twenty Rubik’s cubes, reminds 
me the importance of hugging statues, and we nestle
wrinkled gold after pilling my bones into salt. He 
directs me: never say goodbye to an alligator without 
rolling up your sleeves first. Forget forgetting and forge 
on. Somewhere inside us begs for memory and we can’t. 
There’s a torn brochure with snapshots of cradled faces 
and we might be in it. 
You must alarm yourself before swallowing.


Bri Gonzalez is a Chicana/e poet with bipolar II disorder and an MFA Candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder. Their work is published or forthcoming in Not Deer Magazine, Green Ink Review, Crow & Cross Keys, and more. She enjoys playing D&D and spending time with her void cat, Dahlia. Check Bri out at bgwriting.org or @bg_writing on Twitter.