by Danielle Pafunda
unbleached demeters stand in line and I'm beside a demeter loudly sobbing she says: each day this belief must contain / us / a we that's made of previously whole persons the mythology that there are previously / whole people / goldfields blazing star ghost flower by the side of the road from the desert to the sea but deep in the desert this time deep to the crux not where there's beach glass tossed on sun-wave where there's no answer and it's late and the women in line are getting scared / I'm scared / I say to the demeter
I don't say anything because I don't want the moon to overhear me break covenant didn't I promise to wear my spine a shield and my breast a breastplate didn't I take the long horns of my bull-faced tender friend in my whetstone hands and say sharpen / at night I climb the rise and lean my forehead against Orion's cool flat sword I don't / hunt I don't fish I don't host I know my birthday is somewhere around here so I don't even dare breathe tonight / I want off the road and out of the moon's light out of history's red tide breathe out
I fish around for the salt god's number and invoke him in a bath of electrolyte tears / fuck me I beg / fuck my life / take the bare spot on a bird's chest and liken it to my losses easy foretold easy in the hand so hard to slip the scalpel to / whoever was in there who left her familiar lashed to the bed wasn't me wasn't my daughter I tell my daughter don't start crying like a demeter you'll / never stop crying / don't give your number out to gods and when you go back to hades go quiet and lone / sometimes / I’m on the road deep in the desert / sunlight breaches my breastbone the only protection I took I wasn't thinking clearly when I packed my bag I packed things I didn't / need / don’t fit / in my bull-faced tender friend’s hands they don't fit / in with the salt god’s retinue of beautiful people
on the road everyone must travel the belief that every day must include pain a / gothic desert veil the antiqued eyes of chicory no matter / how old a bloom tail-fanned out across waxbacked beetle tracks I can hear a demeter singing now you came from heaven / come into me / you came / from heaven and came into me / I became a place in the desert I ran / the road to the sea and back I wasn't stopped by any wet god I wasn't startled by any star set careless on the rise a veined bloodrock burning alongside it in sympathy and I was so burning too / out over and over again /every / day must include / a we that were once presumed whole / wholeheartedly I can't sing any longer my voice caves I take a punch / a sea-cut glass of stung nectar and mayfly / I don't have fine things any longer I have fine thoughts
Danielle Pafunda is author of eight books including The Dead Girls Speak in Unison (Bloof Books), the forthcoming Beshrew (Dusie), and the forthcoming The Book of Scab (Ricochet Editions). She lives in the Mojave Desert with her children and sits on the board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts.
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