Exposure Therapy

By: Ellen Henning

Seated in a blue sloped school chair,
metal legs and three slits in the back,
cloudy-eyed demons demand my
participation in a series of tests.

Smells strongly spur emotion so they
start with green apple Dawn dish soap
under well water. Cigarettes.
Axe Body Spray. Sweat.

I clearly hear an old lover’s deep voice read
“Fern Hill” by Dylan Thomas, laced in smoke.
The room shifts fast. I am home. My son
morphs back to a baby. He cries all night.

Only soft baked blueberry Belvita bars in
yellow wrappers line the cupboards. The
fridge and drawers. Lukewarm, red
jungle juice sputters from the sink.

Immediately after the old suck of my
once-retired Spectra breast pump (high
speed, 22 minutes, 12 ounces of milk),
I skewer raw meat for shish kabobs.

I walk Oxford, Ohio’s uptown at night.
I enter the building I thought was a bar
but is the hospital room where I gave birth.
The window frames a country house.

It was where my father lived.
I know he will never come home.


Ellen Henning has a B.A. in Communication Sciences and Disorders (Augustana, 2010) and an M.A. in Speech Pathology (Miami University, 2012). Ellen currently co-owns Marigold Pediatric Therapies (est. 2019).

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