Danielle Pafunda

Danielle Pafunda’s books include Natural History Rape Museum (Bloof Books), Manhater (Dusie Press Books), Iatrogenic (Noemi Press), and My Zorba (Bloof Books). She teaches at the University of Wyoming.

from The Book of Scab


Dear Mom and Dad,

Remember when I sat in my cradle, when I was a bab, when I sucked a baba, when I was just new to this world and didn’t know the world had love in it or stars above it and didn’t know the world had a smell other than ammonia and milk powder and didn’t know there was a sidewalk you could skip down straight out of this world? Remember when I was a bab and I didn’t know any songs and no songs were sung and the whole world tilted toward dark and then back light again and no one ever mentioned it? When I sat in my cradle and counted all the letters in each of your names and added the numbers up until I came to the date of your death, but I didn’t know what that was, I just knew it sparkled, a little jeweled fig from the future?

And then Great Gramma came to my cradle and gave me a lollie and told me how one day Great Grampa got so sick of the world and all the love in it and all the spring girl scents and all the sweet tobacco farm dinners and all the nickel soda movie jives and the music with its funny horns and the funny medicines you could buy from a man in the back room and the way a needle went oily in a flame’s tongue and the way the same ray of sunshine swept in through the same rent in the curtain every morning across the same warped plank in the floor over the spot where he’d dropped his trousers but now they were hanging neat as you like ‘em on the back of a chair even while the kids bawled in the living room until they learned that bawling wouldn’t get them a sugar cube because when you’re a bad little pony you’d best go down to the river and stay there ‘til dusk, ‘til he comes home hands stained with grease and skin breaking and hardly hungry it’s another fish out of the river it’s another fish passed by a corpse downstream, no one says anything, a corpse is just the cost of dinner, and so Great Grampa went out on the tracks where he put his head down on the tracks and the train came and crushed his skull?

And then she told me about the two pert girls in the convertible who were both decapitated by the tractor-trailer as they slid red and desperate and sideways beneath, in the past even, and even though I couldn’t comprehend how red convertibles existed in the past, perhaps she meant the present, but I couldn’t comprehend how she could know anything about the present because she was so fucking old?

And then she told me all her friends were dead and gave me a vanilla wafer in a cellophane package and called me by a more Irish name she preferred to my own and told me about all the famous murderers she knew in the city and how they would rub their tommy guns up against a girl and put a run in her army grade stocking and you could cheat them at cards but if they caught you it meant a knife in your ear or a hand up your dress and though they might send you a new dress in the morning your mother would never let you back in the house and, again, her friends were dead and then showed me her pinkish scalp pulsing beneath that thin white net of “hair”? And then she was dead?

Before anyone else was born or old enough to know? When I was the only bab on the hearth. After the bells had rung, but before the ground thawed. After you started drinking, but before you stopped shattering that crystal bowl against the dining room wall, after I spilled on the carpet, but before you caught me wheezing in the crawlspace covered in fiberglass, after you paid the poison man, before you came to in the driveway with the neighbors trying not to look as they scooted off to their day jobs, or after you tipped over the kitchen table and crushed one of the kittens that was always freezing to death in our yard or before you hired the roofers next door to scrape up the kitten and just before one of you shoved me up against the newly paneled wall while the other one of you lit a match?

There was a splinter working its way to my heart, a splinter works its way still. All the friends I ever had are gone.

Your Ugly Little,
Scab

Ѡ

Dear Mom and Dad,

This isn’t really me. This is the suicide I’ve always dreamed of. This is the kill kill I get to cram in the creek’s bloody molar. This is the fuckstop this is the piece of muscle scavenged from the wreckscape. In the hand the handle sits heavy and meaningful, with the knowledge of where one rib is sewn to another, with the knowhow of an upward thrust, with the complete conviction that this gesture can end it. This is not me, but the image-tic that wakes me, the ickickickickickickit that stutters through a tightly woven fabric of protists, bacteria, potential.

In the future, when she/it/me walks along the ridge of the mountain that whores out its fossils and frowns on us grievously, she’ll never admit to having known this/it/me. In the future, even bearing my own broken fingers, even marking the earth with the same carbon burn, she will say who now?

This is ahistorical. This is perverse presentism. This is the normate fucking her way into a dilettante’s pose.

I don’t want to know to know you, no, do I?

This is the longing I had with my head gone squeamish between the speakers and a mouthful of shag rug. Where I ruined my skin with crying, this is where I ruined my skin with scalding, this is where I drank a bottle of witch hazel and promptly puked it back up. This is where I ate raw nutmeg and saw the future. In the future I was a talking wolf and I told the boys to get a head start. I ran through town, capeless, full of pearls, _____________. In the park, I climbed the gazebo and on its pitching roof I pitched.

I’m doing the best I can to be—

Your Ugly Little,
Scab

Ѡ

Dear Mom and Dad,

All these waxless wax dolls thick with winter spunk, bracing themselves, their knees in each other’s backs, against the seat backs, their earbuds jammed deep, their hoods pulled close against bangs against foreheads, those foreheads pressed to the windows perilously close to cauterized phlegm or jizz or scratched out slurs, the kings who died here before us.

I imagine the bus driver’s bald pate shining up from between my thighs, a flake of sebaceous skin drifting away on a draft. The school bus driver. His spectacles, his oily grin. I imagine him pinning my wrists and dragging my jeans down to my ankles, how cold the seat will be on the small of my back, his knees and palms getting filthy from the melted slush everyone tracks up the aisle.

In the background, the radio is top 40 self-loathing, plunging forward off each bridge, compulsive. With his tongue pointed, turgid against my thigh and then my cunt and then pausing to yell out what a rank little pup, returning to the job, my hips rolling up so that I’m visible to anyone whose glance slicks over, waiting for us to pull back on the highway, finish the job.

I dream the whole way, the dolls, their heavy brows knit, thinner than thin bodies, wicking tears.

I dream we crash the bus and live in the hollow by the park. We go into a partially excavated cave and each of us must for the good of the community get pregnant with one of the boys, or the bus driver, or all of us by the bus driver, or by one boy who wears our scarves strung together in a long leash like a prize as we lead him from bed to bed, who cries out for his mother when he’s sore and empty, and we pet him, but we’re no solace for anyone, now.

Where we eat, drink, and wash our faces in snow. Where we are beautiful with freezing cold, the blood sucked into our middles, a thick pool of it, our limbs in various shades of porcelain and ash. Where on holidays all the town’s unwanted children get dumped, in our park, with flashlights and new sneakers, and whichever ones are clever enough to find their way back to the road will be picked up on buses and returned to their parents. From the ditch, we pick favorites and cheer them on.

We build traps for the piggy ones, traps for the whiners and the ones that smell like puke. We keep those losers and let them sleep at the foot of our burrow in a pig pile until they’re old enough to drink.

In this dream, though, we never actually give birth. We stay full forever. We don’t love each other or any of the boys, and we don’t love our pets. We move smoothly without feelings from past to present, we govern by nods and tilts of the head, we sleep in a heap of velvet robes beneath a snow bank no human can dig through, we never go home again, we never use our old names, we never write back, we lie back, we lie in the snow on sunny mornings our blood bleached, our stomachs round and high, drifts themselves, ice babies rolling smoothly beneath, we don’t want anything, you can’t have us. We never actually wake up wet and screaming, starving to death, as I am sure to do in this green plastic seat, any minute now

Your Ugly Little,
Scab