King of the Mad

By Tohm Bakelas


sifting through madness

one thread at a time

I work with patients,

the maddest of the mad,

hospitalized since 1968 to now—

every year in between

and every year after—

these lifers

these chronics

they remained hospitalized

through deinstitutionalization

and watched as others

were released

these patients are the reason

this hospital exists

and as I walk amongst them

I feel safe here

I am King of the Mad

these patients don’t understand

credit cards

cell phones

or computers

they don’t know about

brita filters or self-check out

and I fight

every day

to keep them inside

this is their home

this is all they know



Tohm Bakelas is a social worker in a psychiatric hospital. He was born in New Jersey, resides there, and will die there. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, zines, and online publications. 

Facebook: @Tohm Black

Instagram: @flexyourhead


Poem brought to you by cephalopress @cephalopress.

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