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Stephanie Heit



Strike a match, light a candle. Notice the shadows. We are at the threshold about to enter. This is an act of faith, a step into the unknown, breath practice. Thank you for being in the doorway with me, the safest and strongest part of a structure. Know you can return here if you need to. I’m inviting you into spaces that usually need special keys and diagnosis codes to access: psychiatric locked inpatient units, ECT (electroconvulsive therapy or shock) treatments, bipolar extreme mind states. You will meet my friend and nemesis, Murderer, the gutsy antics of suicidal ideation.

I want you to be safe and cared for in this text that has sharp parts and electricity and murderers. There are places I made on the page for you to rest. To enter. And exit. At will. Not a given in these spaces. Please take whatever time you need to be with these words. This book is not a 72-hour hold, the general time frame of an involuntary psych inpatient admission. This is a shadow text. Let it sing in grunts and incomplete hymns, something scalded. Something lit up and changeable. Matchbook at ready.




I spent a lot of time in bed during the period of my life covered in these

pages—too exhausted to move, racked with suicidal plans, trying to numb

pain with sleep. I had the epigraph to this book written on an index card and

taped to the wall where I could see it from my horizontal position. Those

words were like a hand reaching out to steady and accompany me through

so much unknown. I offer them as a talisman to be with you as you read this

book. In the end, it might be useful to know that I’m still here and grateful to

be alive:


                         the unlikely and the unimaginable

                                          have indeed

                                transpired quite regularly




Turtle is the depression animal. Or rather this was the animal I aligned with when I was finding my way forward or who knows in what direction, some compass dislocated from a ship long splattered in the ocean. A wreck of suicidal ideation and concrete planning I never thought I’d find my way away from alive. This is turtle. The slow movement. Middle ground. Ability to pull into a home a shell or my own skin. A limbic striated reach toward the beach that gave me shore and light. Steady. No acrobatic feats. Simply alive. Pull and extend. A bit of push, but not too much, because I’m tired.




This is my goodbye sonnet. Fourteen lines and I’m out

of here. Alive! You try and detain me. Haunt my family. Sights

on my mother. She already in hospital. You, relentless. I block your attempts

with my survivor body on firmer ground than our last standoff. Remind you,

I won. Dare you to try and take her. Remind you of my reckless hurl into

hell, our contest of wills with mine nearly lost. Remind you of a curved form,

soft. Warn you, take advantage of the woman that birthed me and raised me

and loved me through all of your antics. I’ll say it clearly:

                                                                                               I’ll kill you.

With my own hands that would be yours, Murderer.

If you want me, you had your chance. Over and over

I was fair game. Repeat offender.

Psych system ingrate. You failed. Deal with it.

                                                                                  There is nothing for you here.

-from PSYCH MURDERS (Wayne State University Press, 2022), selected by Spring 2024 Guest Editor, Sheila Black

Stephanie Heit is a queer disabled poet, dancer, teacher, and codirector of Turtle Disco, a somatic writing space on Anishinaabe land in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She is the author of PSYCH MURDERS (Wayne State University Press, 2022) and The Color She Gave Gravity (Operating System, 2017).

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