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Fruitcakes: The New Strange Fruit

by Shareen K. Murayama

A nut can be seen as either a seed or a fruit.


While the idiom was first coined in 1821, shortly afterwards nutty as a fruitcake expanded as a pejorative to refer to gay men.  A cake with nuts and fruits. Insane? No more than fruit machines. Fruit packers. Fruit loops. But the strange fruit, the fruit of the gibbet is horrific, historical lunacy. 


To be hung on public display, to deter others. 

A hanging body holding the power to instill fear in the standing.

An example.


My sister has recently self-identified as a fruitcake, meaning she voluntarily checked herself into a mental health facility.


To brush against people on this side of the glass and whisper, wonder. 

Fingers pointing out. Fear of your errancy swallowed in. 

How would you describe your relationship with the recently institutionalized? As slip knotted or trussed to a T? 


My sister laughed over the phone and said, There are crazy people here

Her roommate claimed she was Satan, then gave her a copy of the New Testament. 

She said it was really strict: visiting hours, bottled drinks, short telephone cords. 

Is it like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Girl, Interrupted? I asked.

She hadn’t seen any of those movies. 


But I am nothing but proud of her and full of love. On the one-year anniversary of famous chef celeb Anthony Bourdain’s death, my sister chose not to. My sister chose to remain safe. More eyes watching me, checking on me, she said. I wished I had more eyes for her. 


There is a receding stigma for those battling depression. But for those who physically surrender, acknowledging they need help and agree to a voluntary hold? This we should also talk about because this time she survived. This time we celebrate. 

About the Author

Shareen K. Murayama is a poet and recent graduate of Oregon State University's Creative Writing MFA Program. She promotes the power of students' voice through a poetry club called the Po' Heads. Her art has been published in Inter|rupture, Toe Good, Phoebe, The Gambler, and Bamboo Ridge Press. You can find her @ambusypoeming.

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