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What if I find her? What if 

I answer to her name? Call her 

sandstone, call her holly 

bush, call her man made. I call her 


if not someone. 

Call her Brandi Bird. 

I slam my wrists against white 

walls covered with poems 

written by dead women. I am unembarrassed 

& profound in girlhood. Here in the psych ward, nurses 

only give me sticky tack & printer paper. 

Fragments. I 

can only read in fragments. I act 

crazier than I am 

because I am performing for God 

&/or the concept 

of god in my head. They are two different 

things. One is more alive 

than the other. A head of thorns, 

no eyes or maybe the holes 

are eyes. The other is water 

rushing into whatever 

container will hold it. 

Sometimes a container is a girl. 

Sometimes a girl looks out 

the corner of her eye & sees the water receding.

I act crazy.

That’s what makes me crazy. 

You don’t even need to be insane 

for them to lock you up my mother once tells me 

as we watch Girl, Interrupted on a Friday night. We eat popcorn 

by the handful. Wild like we will never eat again. All I am is extreme

attention to salt on my 


We wipe grease off on our shirts & I throw up 

in blue tupperware after bedtime. I hide 

the containers in my closet under Spice Girl sticker books 

& dirty underwear. I am careful & quiet & I wash the plastic

with soap & water. I don’t flinch 

   when my mother 

puts tomato sauce 

in them the next day. 

Everything that comes out of me is yellow. 

An overpour of bad humor. 

Drain me. 

I was jaundiced at birth. A baby encased 

in salt & amber. My mother 

cracked me open with dry hands, 

palms rough, her labour long 

& forgotten by the end of that day. 

She pulled me out & I 

was a ray of sunlight 

that burnt her eyes.

She punished me for it. Now I punish 


My mother thinks she knows me

but she doesn’t anymore. She isn’t allowed 

to visit the ward & I pace 

the halls until a nurse yells 

at me to go back to bed. 

I gain x pounds 

of refeeding edema overnight. 

It’s water, 

the doctors tell me. 

Isn’t everything that’s alive? 

I overflow

& don’t consider 

that I can take other people

with me in my wake. Awake 

after the sun sets, a sullen mood

catches the psych ward like the moon 

has kissed us all on our sweaty foreheads & walked 

away. We all fear abandonment. 

I am forced to take seroquel & I stupor. A girl asks 

me for a lesson in throwing up. I tell her 

it’s not something I would wish 

on anyone. Really I just don’t 

want competition from another white girl.

Their sadness is prettier than mine.

My cells are greedy as children. They hoard salt, they hoard 

attention, they hoard memories.

I miss the child I was but I can’t remember her face. Only a collection 

of feathers on the sidewalk, components 

of something that could take flight. I make up 

a child in my head & shake on my feet 

while Degrassi: The Next Generation plays 

in the common room. I refuse to sit down. 

I stand to watch Emma starve 

until a nurse turns off the episode. Emma is suspended 

& starves forever. No one 

finds out & she never even dies. Just exists 

with blonde hair so soft I wish I could touch. 

I want to shove my fingers down Emma’s throat.

See if she’s the real thing. I want her 

initiation, the loyalty to the 


I dye my hair black. 

I want to make 

a doll out of what falls out. Play house 

or set it on fire with Red Bird matches. When I’m an adult, 

I will cut my hair with purple safety scissors 

in a fake plastic mirror at another treatment centre. I sweep 

up the strands & dump them in the trash with tampons 

     & floss. There is no ceremony 

because I am unworthy. Instead, I pose 

for pictures on the Macbook my uncle bought 

with money he saved by stealing copper 

at night. In every photobooth picture 

I am unmoved or immoveable.

On the psych ward, I appear in chunks 

of hospital plexiglass, refracted & profane. Call me rounded 

edges. Call me rigid. I call for my mother 

in my sleep & the whole city collapses 

into hallways. The whole 

country. I am not a citizen here. I am 

not allowed to leave. The nurses 

     won’t let me forget it. 

The psychiatrist says I hold people 

emotionally hostage.

The world is my hostage 

because I have nowhere else 

to go.

I argue with the nurses about Dialectical Behavioural Therapy.

Marsha Linehan would call me willful 

or at least the nurses say so. But the world changes face 

faster than I do. No half-smile 

  on its lips. 

I split the feeling & every woman is my mother. 

Every man is just a man. I want 

to be beautiful but I do ugly things. I hide 

a salisbury steak from my meal tray. The nurses 

search garbage cans 

& my pockets. They write in my chart: a girl who shoves meat 

in her pockets is a girl 

who does not belong in poetry. 

I recognize myself in this feeling.

The surprise that I am alive, 

a breath

a stutter,

 a gasp 

so solid                             I can run my hands all over it.

I can hear its heartbeat, 

a gasp 

that is alive. It calls out 

my name in vapor & I listen. 

It’s the only thing I’ll listen to besides the chorus 

of my own fear—

a sparrow 

that rams                         the windows 

outside my bedroom


until it dies 

& no one believes me.

A bird 

that fights itself. 

I don’t think I know what’s good 

for me. I don’t think the nurses do either. 

I think do I know that girl? when I rub my sallow 

body with vanilla scented lotion. 

I change so fast, enumerating, my body 

doing what a body does 

when it survives. Do I know her? 

Call me prairie crocus. Call me bald dandelion. Call me 

       a nothing flower. I burn 

under fluorescent lights. 

I don’t know why I do this to myself. 

This being abstract & also in my body. A chain 

of action I could break at any time but 

I choose 

not to. 

Shiver of lanugo makes me its animal. Evidence 

of denial so rocky 

it erodes & collapses 

into metaphor. Ox hunger versus without 

appetite. One monstrous, one passive. 

I steal food 

from teenagers too depressed 

to get up for breakfast.

After one hour post-meal 

supervision, I still vomit into trash bags. The girls 

who aren’t forced 

to eat give me sausage 

links because I am their pet dog. 

Of course I reject dinner 

the exact same day. I perform 

anger but at three A.M. I will not stop 

myself from stealing chocolate milk 

& Biscoff from the hospital kitchenette. 

This pageantry of refusal can only last so long. 

On Wednesdays, I get weighed, back 

always turned away from the scale. I 

am a mystery. I growl & bite. I empty. Romanticize the ribs 

I can still feel. Garden my bruises, plant 

my fists into them. Nurse 

my hunger with larger, more prescient hungers. The hunger to live 

through this or maybe not. A girl 

in the ward compliments my small 

wrists. I slam them until 

they swell. My body is a means to an end 

& the end is just a light 

in someone else’s eyes. A light 

that means, I see you. 

I couldn’t find you 

                                anywhere else. 


Brandi Bird is an Indigiqueer Saulteaux, Cree and Métis writer from Treaty 1 territory. They currently live and learn on the land of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh & Musqueam peoples.
Their chapbook I Am Still Too Much was published by Rahila’s Ghost Press in Spring 2019. Their first full-length poetry collection The All + Flesh was published by House of Anansi Press in Fall 2023. Their work can also be found in Poetry is Dead, Catapult, Hazlitt, Brick Magazine and others.