Acute Behavioral Crisis

“Who am I, do you know me,” she cries,
this day when earth has turned to rot and mud.
she can not see but for the blaze of anger,
she can not hear the softer voices calling.

She cowers and she cries, the floor is cold and hard,
she hit a nurse so hard a tooth went flying,
she scratched another, screaming for her father
who can not come to visit, he had hurt her.

What slurry of a world can take a girl
at twelve—she’s already lost to her self—
at home the plaster caked with mud, her bed is foul,
and no one comes to visit or console her.

This is the world I hide from, her world,
that spits in my face, although I try to calm her.

Call for Entries

Pulse Writing Contest

"On Being Different"

Don Brunnquell is a retired pediatric psychologist and bioethicist. “I wrote poems throughout my career in part as a means of understanding my world, my clients and myself.”

About the Poem

“This poem reflects an experience leading to secondary trauma for all of the clinicians involved. The increase in the number of behavioral patients in emergency rooms has heightened the secondary-trauma experience of many clinicians.”


6 thoughts on “Acute Behavioral Crisis”

  1. This is so moving, especially “what slurry of a world…” The ending is also gorgeous- “This is the world I hide from.” I’ll keep this poem with me as I care for the anxious, sad and traumatized teens we see in the ER. Thank you.

  2. This is so totally on-point! How do we open ourselves to desperate patients who are hurting us? Thank you for your candor!

  3. I admire your beautiful use of language. I shudder at the topic and how it describes the lives of so many children.

  4. Dr. Abbey PACHTER

    Thank-you for your years of service. It’s beyond sad that children are subjected to such cruelty. So much ‘secondary trauma’ among providers. It’s important for others to know this. Most never think, especially when in need of providers’ services, what they may have taken on only a moment before.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Poems


Popular Tags
Scroll to Top