Nick Corvino

It’s hard for you to know
about the black nights of the Psychiatric Ward
where that woman screamed as we tried to sleep, asking “Where is my home!? Where is my home!?
What have you done to my home!?”
and of the silent nurses—like the black crow carrying hidden messages—that would check on us
every fifteen minutes as we slept
_______to ensure we did not kill ourselves.

It is hard for you to know
that we smiled in the Psychiatric Ward. Of Armando. Of Crystal.
Of Mavi—who told me she sang at a famous possum’s funeral (really)—and who would sing opera
throughout the halls (really)—and who had a most hypnotic and true voice / that Armando and I
secretly admired beyond our ears.

Of Armando—and his wicked life as a misunderstood gangbanger
whose baby mama had once tried to murder his son, Isaac, with a broken glass bottle.
________(Armando had to step in front of her and take on the brunt of the broken glass himself.
Or of Armando’s epic recollections of love—rather sex (his love comes later in the poem)
________and how when he first started doing cocaine, at age thirteen, he could have sex for three
________straight hours
________and was able to think of nothing while he did—as only a Buddha might.
And how later, when the cocaine became a black liquid that poisoned his body—and his mind—and
his dick (making him no longer able to get an erection)
________it caused him to swing a knife at his family, and girlfriend
________(like a broken glass bottle)
________and caused him to end up in the Psychiatric Ward, as my roommate.

And you will never know—you can’t—how kind and pure and misunderstood his crooked
Sunflower of a soul could be.

Of Crystal—and her large eyes that saw the world as holy and as pure and as not a place for her to
swim into and enjoy.
And of the way she spoke that made everything sound like the unanswerable question she’d always
hope to know.
And of her low hanging shoulders—
like delicate fruit.

And how I stood in front of her—brave for the only time in my life—as Jesus (yes! that was the
crazy patient’s name! [pronounced “Heeey Zeus”]) charged at her calling her a “bitch!” and with the
intention to grope and/or potentially murder her.
And how the security guards tackled him before I could ever know what I could have done.
________But I know what I would have done.
________I would have protected her—because I loved her—and I love her—
________and I only ever got to know her for one cruel day—because the world is the cruelest place
of them all.

And you will never know of the authoritarian signs plastered all over the walls.
Or of that “؟♡?” written on the chalkboard—that made me cry when I first saw it (for whatever
strange philosophical reason you might assign).
Or of that one sign that read: “Hope is an anchor”
and of how I felt anchored (grand metaphor) to this cold-blue-stone
________unable to travel the Sunflower cosmos I always wished I could
________(like Bill, from the movie It’s Such A Beautiful Day, when his head floats from that lonely
________bus station and into the stars).

It’s hard for you to know
that a large part of myself did not want to leave the Psychiatric Ward
when my name was finally called to exit.
You might know the rule—you might—
________that we could not wear shoes—and were all given grey or yellow or blue socks with sticky
________grips on the bottom.
________But you do not know how because of this we were all equal.
________And how we were all together—on the same mound of this hollow-blue-stone below the
________Sunflower and the moon and the weeping rose who only grows to weep upon the weeping
And how we did not care about who was successful and who was not—or of what we got on our
psychiatric-evaluation scores—or of what we got on our credit scores—
and how we were happy to see each other go
________to watch as we one by one returned to those moments of our story that were so graciously
________paused at the instant of our admittance
________(or so cruelly paused for those of us running from that very moment).

You will never know of the fluorescent lights—our phosphorescent sun.
____So cold, and blue
________like the slight death of Sylvia Plath’s Yew Trees.

And it is hard to know now.
Nina does not know—Hank does not know—Thomas does not know—my mother does not
know—my father does not know (but knows more than my mother)—Afon does not
know—Preston does not know—
Charlie and Leon do not know—(but they do know some [at least] from when they visited: like the
color of those eggshell walls and of Armando’s long-black hair and crooked smile).
Nouriani does not know—my brothers do not know—
________they know less than anybody/
________and that will forever—like a black scab permanently attached to the inside of my
________throat—hurt more than the Psych Ward.

and you. will never know.
But perhaps one day you might know this:
that when Nina sees me—or my father calls me—
________and my voice is hollow and hoarse like that of the sick crow on the wilted Sunflower—
________that I am not dead—I am alive!
I will live forever—
________I will float through the halls of the Psychiatric Ward.
________I will have my children—I will mark the earth that I have come, and that I have gone.
________I will find my love—be in love with that love—and have a threeway with the two.
________I will curse the wicked blue-stone I stand upon
________and find some way to journey into the cosmos (full of the Sunflowers that I always wished
____to see [and that always wished to see me!])

I am alive—I will be alive—
because laughter and pain are indiscernible forces
of the same unequivocal cruelty of being.

I am alive—I will be alive—because of Crystal—
and her large eyes that saw the world,
________and the large world that saw hers too!

I am alive—I will be alive—because of Armando—
because on our last night together, he told me that he loved me
and that he would become a better father
and would tell his girlfriend that he loved her
and would try to become like Tupac’s Rose
________from Tupac’s poem, A Rose That Grew From Concrete,
________that I had the nurses print out for him on our final day.

I talk to Armando now, and I’ve seen a photo of his son, Isaac—and he tells me he has stopped beating his girlfriend and has told her that he loves her and that it all feels amazing—
and I have found my reason to live.

And so they will never know— and so you will never know—
of my time in the Psychiatric Ward
________and of the crooked—laughing!—Sunflowers that we all are.

But I will know.
and you will know me.