They pay me to listen. They pay me
not to speak. That is the contract.
I must make notes to myself…
that is also part of the contract
but notes must be kept in dark,
double-locked spaces…in case…
in case of…
When I go home at night,
I cannot tell a lover, or even a
husband, what I know. I cannot
call a best friend or my sister
to tell her of the pain I took in
I must censor. I go to the movies,
see someone whose life I know
intimately, and all I can do is wait…
wait to see whether he nods or
smiles or somehow gives me an “o.k.”
to just say, “hello.”
Someone asks me:
“Do you know so-and-so?”
and sometimes I must lie.
To say: “Yes, but don’t ask how,”
is the same thing as telling
I begin to write and I must
censor. How do I know this thing
I want to say? I begin to tell
a casual story. I check the source.
Sometimes I feel as though
I carry an internal Rolodex.
This listening … it leads to another
full-time job. Sometimes my head
feels as though it will split in two.
Sometimes my neck gets so rigid
and my shoulders so tight, I want to
Hang myself upside down.
ML Roberts is a retired psychologist living in Milwaukee, WI. For the better part of two decades, she practiced psychotherapy in Boise, ID. Uprooting herself from both a career and a place she loved resulted in a great deal of soul searching, followed by a feeling of loss far greater than what she anticipated.
In preparation for a change in careers, Roberts studied creative writing at Boise State University and Boise’s Log Cabin Literary Center. After making the break, she moved several times and, with each move, sought out other writers through workshops and critique groups. She is currently an active member of the All Writers’ Workshop and Workplace, in Waukesha, WI.
In addition to publishing as a professional psychologist and as a communications specialist, she has placed fiction and poetry in Cabin Fever; Boise University Radio INPRINT; Boise Weekly; Standing: Poetry by Idaho Women; and two anthologies: What Mattered Once, What Matters Now (Live Poets Society, Boise, ID) and Women with Wings (Women Writing for a Change, Bloomington, IN). Roberts holds degrees from Marshall University (B.A.), Virginia Tech (M.S.), and Penn State (Ph.D.)