XXXVII | Some Black Flowers

I wake up

and the nurses aren’t
following me like shadows


Moonlight Sonata

through the walls.

I’m alone.
I’ll go back
to sleep.

My body moves
without my knowledge.

I’m downstairs

before I know it.

(seated in his armchair)

closes his eyes

to avoid
seeing me walk past.

Tammie smiles at me from hers,

swinging her legs.


more bruises

than before.

She’s pole dancing
all wrong

because there’s

no one to teach her.

I remember
          the reckless promise I made to Tammie.

Thanks to that slip up of reality,

Tammie now thinks

we’ll be friends even outside this asylum.

I don’t remember
what she did back then

but telling her,
‘I can’t. I want to die,’
is no good


I’m starting to think about the future.




What’s wrong with you?


Tammie’s changing
into one of the leotards

from the cupboard.

I’m looking out the window
at the patternless

blue sky.

She pulls her shorts
over it.


Are you hallucinating again?


The nurses have stopped tailing me
—a good sign that

‘I’m not.’

I try
to focus on Tammie

pole dancing.

In all the years spent in hospitals,
I’ve seen
crazy people

doing crazy things,

but this
might be the




One final stretch
and she cartwheels into the pole.

It catches her

like a lover.
She’s giggling

as she spins around

in a dizzying fit
of passion.


Don’t think of anything else, Fifi.

Just look at me.


I don’t



I want

my own reason

to live.


She whirls,
limbs contorting into positions
I don’t think are possible.

Her dance


Like having haemophobia
and being forced to watch someone


Were we really


Someone with this much life,
this much…


What is she doing here?

Is her eating disorder
          the reason she’s like this?

It doesn’t matter.
I want to die.

At the end of the day,


Tammie is

the problem.

Who I am

is the reason
I can’t

leave this place.


Who are you, then?


It’s not Tammie.
She’s breathing too hard to talk,

Veins in her arms

joints turning red.


like a twisted doll.

I pick up the dance book
she was


Why is she bringing this with her

I flip the pages
to find

the spell
that enchanted her

and gave her

a newfound reason to live
—with a dream

that’ll make sane people laugh.

After all,
here in Wonderland,
no one gets to leave.

We’re here
for the rest

of our lives.

The words


off the page—

on a window pane.

I spend
one hour re-reading the same sentence

without knowing
what it says.

Whatever it is
Tammie found,


never find it.

Maybe Tammie
is the one Krishna

was referring to

—that first day
in the greenhouse—

who’ll manage to leave the asylum.


She’s doing well.


I don’t
turn my head

towards the voice.


If I do,

I’m acknowledging the hallucination.

The same voice again:


But you’re not happy.


A person appears
beside me.

A real person.

The Indian fortuneteller
with grey streaks of hair

that I was just thinking about.

She doesn’t look me
in the eye

but slightly off

to the right.

‘If I’m happy,
‘I won’t be here.’


I’m happy,


she says,

hugging her knees,

to and fro,
to and fro.


But I’m here.


She has a spade in her hand.


You don’t need a dream
to live.

Most people don’t dream.


I decide

that maybe she’s a hallucination.

Tammie’s twisted around the pole
like a swan

skewered through the middle.

I can’t help
but look away.

(She’s waiting for me
to praise her—I can tell.)

What’s a nice way
to tell someone
they’re really ugly?


‘I’m looking for black flowers,’
Krishna says,

and I ignore her


She stands
and crouches
in front of me

so I have no choice but to meet her black deep-set eyes.

‘You won’t find it here,’
I tell her eyes.

She tilts her head,

her braid follows the movement
like a tail,

eyes twinkling

‘Can you paint some for me?’

Her breath smells
of peanut butter.


Some time passes
before I’m able to answer.





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