The Haunted Girl

Lisa M. Bradley has thus far lived half her life in South Texas and half in Iowa, sequentially not concurrently (alas). Her poetry ranges from haiku to epic and has appeared in numerous venues, among them, Stone Telling, Mothering, Fantastique Unfettered, and Strange Horizons. Her work has been nominated for the Dwarf Stars award, the Rhysling, and a Pushcart, and honorably mentioned in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. She also writes fiction of all lengths, with credits in trapeze, Cicada, and the forthcoming Fungi anthology. She even writes the occasional article. She loves horror (though it seldom loves her) and calacas, classic cars, gothic country, art in unexpected places, taboos, and tofu, as you can see at cafenowhere.livejournal.com. We’re delighted to reprint the following poem, “The Haunted Girl,” recently collected in the Aqueduct Press poetry anthology The Moment of Change, edited by Rose Lemberg, and originally published in Goblin Fruit.

***

I.

The haunted girl wears white
sometimes gray

if it’s been a long time
if the rats have been gnawing the hem
eating the lace

sometimes her dress looks blue

by moonlight
tv light

sometimes it flashes silver

another warning in the night
reflecting your headlights.

 

II.

The haunted girl wears a dress
sometimes a taffeta straitjacket

choking her from throat to calf

sometimes starched calico

cuffs tight, waistline sharp
like concertina wire

sometimes her dress is loose and flowing

the cotton nearly transparent
the weave wavering before your will
filmy as the breath flowing from your lips

but not hers.

 

III.

The haunted girl has no feet.

Men don’t look that far down.

 

IV.

The haunted girl is only sometimes a girl
sometimes she’s a young woman
sometimes she’s a mother

although a murdering one.

But the haunted girl is never old.

Then she would be the crone.

 

V.

The haunted girl has mirror eyes
sometimes opalescent

if you fear forgetting, being forgotten
like barren eggshells
empty seashells
flashlights in the fog.

Sometimes they’re black gloss

if you fear futility
absolute as a mine shaft
blank as a brick wall.

Sometimes they’re simply scarlet.

Because you know you have it coming.

 

VI.

The haunted girl is dirty
The haunted girl is clean
The haunted girl is clean

until she is dirty
until you realize
you’re embracing a corpse.

 

VII.

The haunted girl has no belly

only a cave beneath her ribs

The haunted girl has a bikini belly

carved with muscle useless
but for pin-up poses and celluloid dreams

The haunted girl has a gently swelling belly

soft and welcoming
ready to absorb you
ready to birth
an array of monsters.

 

VIII.

The haunted girl has a cunt
a multiplicity of cunts
too many to describe.

 

IX.

The haunted girl chokes out her truth
The haunted girl tells lies
The haunted girl singsongs or grunts
Just depends on how she died

did they cut out her tongue?
did they crush her vocal cords?
did they slit her throat?
did they stab her lungs?

Does she have a secret to tell?

would you even listen?

 

X.

The haunted girl is always cold
sometimes she grips you

icy fingers on your sweaty skin

sometimes she slides against you

a porcelain princess
caressed but never cherished

sometimes she is a breath of midnight

the mausoleum whisper kissing your neck.

 

XI.

The haunted girl is always cold
I know — I have tried to warm her
I’ve wrapped my coat around her shoulders
I’ve tied a scarf beneath her chin
I’ve seated her beside the skittish fire

given her hot mugs she cannot hold

I’ve tried to run a warm bath
I’ve tried to change her clothes
I’ve torn the white gray blue dirty clean clutching clinging unraveling dress from her body
I’ve seen her bruised shoulders

her hollowed throat
her sunken chest
her breasts — silhouettes of meaning she didn’t create

flat and vulnerable
high and healthy
large and soft

silhouettes much-revised

bitten cut sliced punched injected gouged burned —

I’ve seen, at her center,

beneath the ravaged breasts
above that hydra cunt and ambivalent belly

…Nothing.

 

XII.

unabridged emptiness
a galaxy deserted by stars

This is the haunted girl.

 

XIII.

That is why she’s cold

She is the bloodless chalice

That is why she’s haunted

She is the obsolete signifier

That is why she haunts and hates you

She is the negation of so many illusions
she echoes

That is why she’s everywhere.

 

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