Courtney Hartnett

At a time when everyone was concerned to give us prompt and reassuring answers, the doll was the first to make us aware of that silence larger than life which later breathed on us again and again out of space whenever we came at any point to the border of our existence.

~ from “Dolls: On the Wax Dolls of Lotte Pritzel,” Rainer Maria Rilke

Multicolored wires taped
to my forehead—my father tells me
I look like a little alien,

a creature from Star Trek, maybe. The clock ticks on.
One of the doctors gives me
a book about a Dalmatian puppy with epilepsy.

I read it over and over, drinking in
the black and white spots, clarity.
I don’t have epilepsy, they say.

One day my mother returns
from the hospital gift shop—an orange
striped cat in hand. He wears a bow tie:

pink-beige, it matches his frost-soft paws, stitched.
The name on his tag says Scratch. He has no claws.
I name him Tom.

A doctor who makes me cry later says I should call him Tom Scratch Cat,
but it was always Tom. I take him
to my first CAT scan—

The irony makes me smile, and the technician laughs,
says on the films they’ll see
my brain, and next to it

the beans in Tom’s head.
Is that all?
Polyester fur?
Plastic eyes? A bow tie?
Cotton? Unanswered questions? Beans?