from The Dead Girls Speak in Unison


The Dead Girls Speak in Unison

Woe betide us,
woe betide.

Be tied to us.
Some to the post,
some by the lasso.

Some with one wrist
bound to the other
and both to the ankle,




Which is a relief
because there are pins
in the gums,
and pins
under the nails,
and pins in the scalp
under the thick.


Though some of us
were only ever
tied to the hem.
Quaking, or notnumb.

A sort of motion sickness
as when lashed to the mast.

Everything spun about

and always our teeth ached

to sink in,
to tear out,
to clack together

with a resounding snap

the rope
the threat of the cord.



The Dead Girls Speak in Unison

We are never alone.

We were
never alone.

We couldn’t
pop a lid
without one of you
popping out,

your star-shaped noses

your wormy digits
skimming our hems,

your cars gaping, vomiting
or swallowing us whole.

We couldn’t take a breath
without your hair tonic
rushing to fill our lungs,

your scabby exhalations,
whiff of boiled egg, coffee, scab.

Wherever we went on land,
we heard the scab
of your dirt clod feet.

Your toenails hooked,
your ashen heels
scuffing the bed sheets,
tearing the bed sheets
to ribbons,

selling us the ribbons
in the afternoon
from your cart
for our very last dime,
our parents
parched and starved
and scabbed over,

while we tied ribbons,
our own blood streaked.

And from the window,
jumped or pushed,

tumbling head
over bottom.

And when
we burst
into a fountain
of coins.

Or else a lark song

Or there
a poisoned ivy

an ant hill
thick with blister

or nature’s scab itself
pissed a thin trickle.

The city came with bleach.

The children,
insisting the shadow,
your shadow dogging you,
your mother
in the ground tossing.

A pint of spittle, and still
there’s a sizeable rat in your throat.




Danielle Pafunda is author of Iatrogenic: Their Testimonies (Noemi Press 2010), My Zorba (Bloof Books), Pretty Young Thing (Soft Skull Press), and the forthcoming Manhater (Dusie Press Books). She’s an assistant professor of gender & women’s studies and English at the University of Wyoming.