No matter what life you lead
the virgin is a lovely number:
cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper,
arms and legs made of Limoges,
lips like Vin Du Rhône,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes
open and shut.
Open to say,
Good Day Mama,
and shut for the thrust
of the unicorn.
She is unsoiled.
She is as white as a bonefish.

Once there was a lovely virgin
called Snow White.
Say she was thirteen.
Her stepmother,
a beauty in her own right,
though eaten, of course, by age,
would hear of no beauty surpassing her own.
Beauty is a simple passion,
but, oh my friends, in the end
you will dance the fire dance in iron shoes.
The stepmother had a mirror to which she referred–
something like the weather forecast–
a mirror that proclaimed
the one beauty of the land.
She would ask,
Looking glass upon the wall,
who is fairest of us all?
And the mirror would reply,
You are the fairest of us all.
Pride pumped in her like poison.

Suddenly one day the mirror replied,
Queen, you are full fair, ‘tis true,
but Snow White is fairer than you.
Until that moment Snow White
had been no more important
than a dust mouse under the bed.
But now the queen saw brown spots on her hand
and four whiskers over her lip
so she condemned Snow White
to be hacked to death.
Bring me her heart, she said to the hunter,
and I will salt it and eat it.
The hunter, however, let his prisoner go
and brought a boar’s heart back to the castle.
The queen chewed it up like a cube steak.
Now I am fairest, she said,
lapping her slim white fingers.

Snow White walked in the wildwood
for weeks and weeks.
At each turn there were twenty doorways
and at each stood a hungry wolf,
his tongue lolling out like a worm.
The birds called out lewdly,
talking like pink parrots,
and the snakes hung down in loops,
each a noose for her sweet white neck.
On the seventh week
she came to the seventh mountain
and there she found the dwarf house.
It was as droll as a honeymoon cottage
and completely equipped with
seven beds, seven chairs, seven forks
and seven chamber pots.
Snow White ate seven chicken livers
and lay down, at last, to sleep.

The dwarfs, those little hot dogs,
walked three times around Snow White,
the sleeping virgin. They were wise
and wattled like small czars.
Yes. It’s a good omen,
they said, and will bring us luck.
They stood on tiptoes to watch
Snow White wake up. She told them
about the mirror and the killer-queen
and they asked her to stay and keep house.
Beware of your stepmother,
they said.
Soon she will know you are here.
While we are away in the mines
during the day, you must not
open the door.

Looking glass upon the wall…
The mirror told
and so the queen dressed herself in rags
and went out like a peddler to trap Snow White.
She went across seven mountains.
She came to the dwarf house
and Snow White opened the door
and bought a bit of lacing.
The queen fastened it tightly
around her bodice,
as tight as an Ace bandage,
so tight that Snow White swooned.
She lay on the floor, a plucked daisy.
When the dwarfs came home they undid the lace
and she revived miraculously.
She was as full of life as soda pop.
Beware of your stepmother,
they said.
She will try once more.

Looking glass upon the wall…
Once more the mirror told
and once more the queen dressed in rags
and once more Snow White opened the door.
This time she bought a poison comb,
a curved eight-inch scorpion,
and put it in her hair and swooned again.
The dwarfs returned and took out the comb
and she revived miraculously.
She opened her eyes as wide as Orphan Annie.
Beware, beware, they said,
but the mirror told,
the queen came,
Snow White, the dumb bunny,
opened the door
and she bit into a poison apple
and fell down for the final time.
When the dwarfs returned
they undid her bodice,
they looked for a comb,
but it did no good.
Though they washed her with wine
and rubbed her with butter
it was to no avail.
She lay as still as a gold piece.

The seven dwarfs could not bring themselves
to bury her in the black ground
so they made a glass coffin
and set it upon the seventh mountain
so that all who passed by
could peek in upon her beauty.
A prince came one June day
and would not budge.
He stayed so long his hair turned green
and still he would not leave.
The dwarfs took pity upon him
and gave him the glass Snow White –
its doll’s eyes shut forever –
to keep in his far-off castle.
As the prince’s men carried the coffin
they stumbled and dropped it
and the chunk of apple flew out
of her throat and she woke up miraculously.

And thus Snow White became the prince’s bride.
The wicked queen was invited to the wedding feast
and when she arrived there were
red-hot iron shoes,
in the manner of red-hot roller skates,
clamped upon her feet.
First your toes will smoke
and then your heels will turn black
and you will fry upward like a frog,
she was told.
And so she danced until she was dead,
a subterranean figure,
her tongue flicking in and out
like a gas jet.
Meanwhile Snow White held court,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes open and shut
and sometimes referring to her mirror
as women do.

Anne Sexton

I am under her, welted, burning stripes from her belt, being ground painfully into the mattress as she drives into me, my cheek against her shoulder, mewling quiet, desperate sounds of please and yes and more against her neck as she is burying herself between my legs.

My wrists are wrapped tightly in her belt, put that way as I knelt in front of her as she gently stroked my hair after she laid bruises into my bottom with it that will last the better part of the weeks that will stretch so long until I can be on my knees at her feet again.

The roughgentle leather of her belt is firm against my wrists, but not to keep me from struggling. The roughgentle leather is to remind me that I don’t have to fight not to struggle. I don’t have to make myself small. The space beneath her is big enough for everything I have and am and want.

Her skin is warm against mine, her hips wedged between my thighs holding me open and open and open.

My fingers are curled around the roughgentle leather that made the welts as she pounds me roughly enough that the embroidery on the bedspread makes fine abrasions that spiderweb across my burning welts, and the way she throbs inside me as she watches the tears spill down my cheeks and catches my almost successful attempt to choke down a sharp sob with her mouth reminds me that with her, I don’t have to pretend that it isn’t too much so she won’t stop.

I am open and open and open and sobbing and sobbing and sobbing and I can’t and I can’t and I can’t and she understands perfectly, and looks down at me as her open palm connects with my cheek and there is a bright explosion behind my eyes and a bright, bitter taste in my mouth.

Her fingers are gentle against my cheek as she traces the shape of her finger-shaped bruises with her fingertips, and she pushes deeper up inside me. She is opening me more and more and more and my body is coming apart beneath her, but her weight is enough to keep all the pieces from floating away as she scatters them with a thrust so hard I feel it in my lungs as the sound rips from me.

Her fingers are in my hair, and she is slow in me, her fingers around my throat, her voice focused and tender.

“You need to hurt for me, kitten?”

I am nodding, eyes bright on hers.

“You need to be scared, sweetheart?”

I am lowering my eyes, hot embarrassment at the truth of the yes spreading across my chest, nodding softly.

“You need me to take away everything but you being mine, girl?”

My eyes are stinging, my chest tight at how she maps the realest, rawest places, and I am so still and so small beneath her and he understands perfectly and slides one strong hand between my fingers for me to hold and the other over my mouth and nose as she moves inside me again.

I cannot breathe and I cannot breathe and I am open and open and open and she is in me and in me and in me and it is getting dark and warm and slow inside me, and she is murmuring against my ear, “My beautiful little whore doesn’t even need air, just big plastic cock,” and my body is thrashing in panic beneath hers, and she is growling, “Give me what’s mine now, girl” and I am coming and coming and coming.

My chest is making a sharp, hoarse rasping noise, which is how I know she has pulled her hand away because I cannot see again yet. It is so warm and so dark and my lungs are so full of air and my belly is so full of her and I am in that place where absolutely everything and nothing hurts and always never will — that place she makes for me beneath her when she pins me and makes me open and open and open and full and full and full and takes away everything but being hers.

Dark Pretty Things

My voice. What I’ve been getting as voice for a few years is more like voices. I am so empty from all the things I’ve been through in my life, and from living in a foreign culture that remains forever foreign, that I am bombarded constantly by other voices when I sit down to write. I kind of don’t have a self now, it’s a rote thing, but I seem to hear what everyone else is saying, particularly the dead. This is quite interesting. The dead have to translate themselves, or be translated by me or into me when they speak, so they are somewhat flat musically. I hear their voices in the front of my head and then somehow translate that into poetry. I’m never sure whether I’m really hearing other voices or am inhabiting my imagination. Sometimes I know for sure a dead person is talking to me, but not always. I am obviously walking some line between charlatanism and authenticity that is scary and satisfying….

I sometimes think that good poets open themselves to all the voices in the air, and they are there, of the live and dead, of animal and plant and inert matter, of whatever inhabits the rest of the universe. And to a vast unconscious or sleeping assemblage of souls. My job has become to interpret the nature of the cosmos as it is presented to me by these voices, but I suspect that “the dead” speak through the voices of any poets that are open to them, the way you can open up when you write a poem and tap words from just anywhere.

But I began writing as a young woman whose voice, or kind of voice, had never before appeared in poems. I invented a voice for myself when there had scarcely been any female poets, and then a voice for myself as a young mother. I allowed my children’s voices in, and then the voices of all my friends, the people on the street, anyone, really, who hadn’t been in the poem before was welcome, to the extent I could hear them. I knew I couldn’t hear everyone, but I tried. By the time I wrote The Descent of Alette I was creating voices for the homeless and oppressed as I encountered them, for my dead brother who had suffered from PTSD, for anyone I felt needed representation in poetry. I feel that poetry is, and is for, everyone. But we are poetry, we are somewhat measurable vibrant bundles of “wave lengths,” moving and perceptually collaged selves perceived as wholes. Anyone is the universe.

Alice Notley
Talk to the dead
Interview with Adam Plunkett

We live in uncertain times. We have always lived in uncertain times. I think what makes the weird inherently attractive is that it speaks to a part of us that knows, consciously or not, that the rules we play by, the realities we choose to agree to and normalize, have cracks in them. Increasingly, I think that putting realist modes and non‐realistic modes at opposite ends of the spectrum does a disservice to both. Realism is conservative in that it tells us what we believe is real is in fact real. But it isn’t. It’s also consensual, questionable, open to interpretation, and often ignorant of other, competing narratives. We are in a moment when the consensus is beginning to shift. Non‐realist modes seem to help us get a handle on this faster because they teach us the consensus was never absolute to begin with. People were excluded, people dissented. This breakdown is enjoyable at some level even as it’s also frightening. It means elements of our lives which we lacked the ability or will to question suddenly seem disputable, something we can fight back against. Breakdown gives us an opportunity to see what lies beneath, for better or worse. Increasingly what strikes me as strange about Lovecraft’s fiction is the sense that once the monstrous is encountered, the only options are madness, forgetting or death. And that in its own way is a conservative way of thinking: there are many more options. Resistance, recuperation, remembering, rebirth. This is the energy that comes from the collapse of the consensus — the possibility of change.

Helen Marshall
Interview with David Davis,
Weird Review 15th November 2017

silence and wounds

December 22, 2018

The essence of all poetry is silence and wounds.

[From someone who knows]

Better not cry…

December 22, 2018

…better watch out…
I’m tellin’ you why…
Santa Claws is comin’ to town –


(Well, he’s almost HERE boys and girls!) 

whole language of writing

December 22, 2018

When you’re writing, you’re trying to find out something which you don’t know. The whole language of writing for me is finding out what you don’t want to know, what you don’t want to find out. But something forces you to anyway.

James Baldwin
The Art of Writing
The Paris Review Spring 1984