Volume 35, Number 1


The asylum stands empty, the hulk of red brick
casting long shadows this late afternoon amid
whispers of wind and the rustle of fallen leaves.
“House of Horrors” the poster will say,
drawing hundreds to this place on All Hallows’ Eve,
igniting their fears and conjuring up myths
about people labeled “other.”

Make no mistake: the place is haunted, not with ghosts,
but stories of people abandoned here – the young mother
by her husband because she had seizures,
her three children scattered among strangers.
The boy who couldn’t talk, whose parents died young,
leaving him nowhere else to turn.
And the girl everyone thought couldn’t learn,
when all she couldn’t do was hear.

Thousands of stolen lives, some until death, buried in
numbered graves on the hillside. Others languishing until
lawsuits were filed and a judge ruled it was time to close
the place, to find new homes for the people still there.

Decades after losing her freedom, the mother
moved to an apartment and hung photos
of the grown children who finally found her.
The man, still unable to speak, found a new family
with a farm like the one he grew up on.
And the woman, with hearing aids got a job at a diner
and a house with a bedroom she didn’t have to share.

—Julie Pratt