CW: mental health/mental illness, eating disorders, asylums, forced hospitalization, psychiatric medication, women's mental health
The cups are laid out carefully
the kettle calls to come-
eggs and fruit and rashers
treacle, beans and toast.
Folding napkins, passing spoons,
you slice your pudding thinly,
you cut your eggs in fours.
Genteel, composed, and humdrum,
a template of mundane.
Across you I sit, entranced
by this quiet companionship.
The dead take their place beside me,
voices rustling in my ears.
The table candle’s flame glows
smiling, laughing, yawning a demon’s mouth,
The sugar cubes are crying, gritty bits into my cup
in this play you cannot see.
You spread the paper in your lap
splashed with milk and the day’s new murders.
Another death en masse, revealed
and you confide in me, those lunatics always lurk behind such things.
Those most American of things,
as if crazy were contained by geography.
This revelation between just you and I, shared:
spreading my bread with treacle,
I smile into a bite, hiding in plain sight.
We push our chairs back steadily,
place our forks and knives with care
and you crisply fold your paper
pushing away death for another day.
But the stain of association seeps into me, profound
as if the mad were synchronous, conjoined
like infinite sets of twins.
You draw back from malevolence, preserved
I am caught, fused in unwanted alliance.
We stand to make our goodbyes,
politely shake farewell.
And you pause, unsure of what you are seeing-
if some sort of familiar evil dwells here?
But you have never seen my mania for justice
nor my craziness for peace.
My lunacy for love escapes you,
this senility of never-ending hope, cannot be cut out of me.
So, I hide within your own blind eyes
trapped within that Manichean view
too compressed on this plane to breathe in colour,
no room at this table for shades of insanity.
K. Rose Quayle is a New Orleans native who resides in Pittsburgh, PA. Her art and writings focus on the first-hand experience of living with a mental illness in order to educate and reduce mental health stigma. You can find her online @LookLWG