Jennifer Richardson

Mental Compulsion*

Listen to Audio Version read by Jill Khoury.

As a child, I played my music for hours,
The old record player on the cherry wood stand,
The needle sticking and repeating a word
Over and over.
Now I hear phrases,
Thoughts pressing the seams of worry,
Stitches unraveling from the force,
Repeating in my mind
Over and over.
I bump the needle with a ritual
I should pray.
Ba-ruch a-ta Adonai…
Not right…repeat.
Ba-ruch a-ta Adonai…
Over and over.
I will stop, I will just stop.
But the pressure builds
Like my mother canning preserves in the kitchen,
The contents of jars sealing beneath lids
Waiting for the moment of their release.
And I count.
One, two, three, four… One, two, three, four…
And the seal is broken.
A slow hiss of air, first breath,
I gasp a moment's relief at the surface of the wave,
Over and over.


Jennifer Richardson is an Associate Professor of Arts Administration, Education, and Policy at The Ohio State University. Her research centers on an exploration of representations of disability in visual culture and particularly the cultural construction of understandings of mental health through both historical and contemporary representations. She has published book chapters, articles, poetry, and creative nonfiction in journals such as Disability Studies Quarterly, Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, Studies in Art Education, and South Loop Review.