Jylian Gustlin

                                        Jylian Gustlin

danielle pafunda

Shhhhhhhhh, shhhhhhhh


In one version of that year everyone was brittle

worried about relevance and critical /

intervention. And in the other version flies died


in the bathtub tho it was winter / the bathtub

pinkish with iron and loose with wings or

a plague of rocks came out of /


It was twenty below. I probably agreed to be /

Nadja / my liver swelled with love, but there wasn't


for either of us / the floor was sticky.


The floor, flies, past times sticky floors,

sticky and sticking the glue babies one makes

by rubbing her hands briskly and brisker


they whisper, white as dry white skin on the sheets

bleached daily / taking pains / to bleeeee


Following a hospital! leg wound my head opened,

through the fat layer, my bone, my sleeper cell went off,

a young girl with a new cavity fevered on a gurney /


I saw her /


What was different?


I could identify the relevant vectors.

We don't / love each other / my wire mother, screw aunties,

wire veins, the wire that runs from tear duct to ear.


A vibration to keep me fluid until. I don't know

/ when. The year begins / to count again. I'm not dying


very quickly / the earth burns my tongue. I pry it apart again.

Maybe I did die. From this wound. A wire bandage


mother goes around calling my name / frostwhite

like it's hers in her mouth. I probably won't / see you again.


It is easy to be nice to someone who isn't me,

anyone / who isn't me. Possum-tooth moon

cutting in line to heap syrups into that

pure white cask / bored red spout.


It is easy to be nice to an empty cross

crossroads all four of its devils out




in which it is easy to mistake blood for affection

plenty fleshy skirts and manes. taken furry. This isn't /

for a very long time unless an accident befell me



Impatient to be ratified a skin crawls across your rims, a wound closes


Another patient whose thigh measures

the same length as mine whose hips fit discreetly

in the cradle of mine whose shoulders form the cape of mine

whose mine is depth of mine exact  / and whose tomb

is locked and sealed and lost. Whose blood flows backward


whose head falls off as he rides, whose intentions release

the centaur beneath him while his hand steadies the bow.

Whose bow is my mouth neatly knit


who never saw my bow untied or my youth / my youths

centaurs passing beneath me, so often bucked did I care?


Irrelevant. Everything I shove behind the shelf

including another patient whose hand I had to look from

it bloomed in mine rare pungent fibers / bloom once,

what do I care. Bloom once and behead.


Did I think I would brave behold it? I'm vain, not foolish.


I'm dickless, I'm pond scum unreflected. What becomes

of me but an echo of you? If I were snatched

from the sky, it’s more than was writ for me. All justice

is lost in the small chasm between knowing and doing.

Regret is for men. For hospital, for temperatures


for the day in your diary always marked with

its frayed wet red ribbon / as tho marking might undo.

You never gave me a thing, so why give me that?


What if instead like Christo we built an actual tin can line?

What if like a silk sheet my voice were always brushing the line,

dingier and more ragged with passage. Dingier unspun

back to the threads, back to the cocoon, until opened

the worm backed out with her brow knit and her whiteness

a scar on the mulberry. What if I were a scar in your tree


and also the only leaf you could eat? That’s not much

to ask / now is it / the moonrise or the sunrise or something

balefully diurnal else that wigs you back into normalcy?

Like an impoverished prophet who limped for real and so

made of the limp an extravagant gesture:


            O fuck you rose on

            my horizon brighter than

            the previous fuck


When I became alive again I couldn’t help who woke / she wasn’t

strong or likeable. She wasn’t in a cast nor sawed

free from her cast. The cast has value and its innards no mouth

so anyone who speaks from the ruin becomes a bird

who has no tongue / she substitutes a worm for her tongue.



Danielle Pafunda’s eight books include The Dead Girls Speak in Unison (Bloof Books), Natural History Rape Museum (Bloof Books), and the forthcoming Beshrew (Dusie Press) and The Book of Scab (Ricochet Editions). She sits on the Board of Directors of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and lives and teaches in the Mojave.