Brenda Mann Hammack
Little Grace with Killer Doll
after the painting by Mia Mäkilä
"Crying makes you ugly," the babysitter said, to which Grace blubbered.
Eyes: dissected mollusks; raw pustules in her head. Pupils: blue
as pearl, intent. Conjunctiva: red as "Now-
"Skin you alive," the playground bully said, to which Grace whimpered.
Flesh: bubbled tarmac; frijoles negros. Dread whenever recess
comes. She'd hunker at her desk if teacher would allow
'stead of "just don't know
what's good, you." Dollfriend knows what's the use.
Even roses hurt you. So sticks and stones are useful.
Teeth: not if you are peaceful. No, monsters are
not evil as what tells
not to cry. Else: "I'll spank you till you know hurt."
Dollfriend does not smirk words. Pentacles
pock among poseys. Dollfriend promises
ashes. "All fall down."
Former Dial Painter Testifies Before Illinois Industrial Commission, 1938
"Superintendent said radium would rose-tint
Why, they'd encourage us to paint
rings on fingers, to re-shine
Jewel box in hand, Catherine removes
two chunks of used-to-be
She does not finger Christ pendant.
Catherine frets that she, a devout
Catholic, can no longer kneel
Even now: her body all halo,
surrounded by dark.
Case of the Exquisite Corpse
after the funeral she lighter now
than shadow considers the distance
between molecules between earth-
like those four and twenty blackbirds
baked she lies beneath crust fingers soft
as pitless plums when her cells took
atom-fine she shimmered bedside
madame curie's radium tremored
dentureless in cup what happened
she wonders phengodid beetles
what happened to miracle to touch-
able color my darling my radium
In Which the Love Lunatic Sits on the Edge
of My Bed and Weeps
"I'll never understand what he sees in moving
pictures. So much reefer madness sex! Those
girls are much too fast. Their color? Muted ash."
Her skin's gone yellower now she tells me of the past.
"You know he used to see a strip girl. Lulu? Or
was it Lotta? Some Kit Kat jammied tramp."
When he entered my Adventures, I knew I had
my chance to agonize for fashion: the fur jacket
droop, the skinny red dress. No use, now, to get
out of bed." I say she's a star on the web. Classic
Bad Girl of Comic Romance. Even better than Hoot-
enanny Nurse, Hard Boiled Virgin, Love Gypsy Pam.
And one day, he'll see past Claudette, Doris, Rita, even
Annette, past unsteady complexion to a true heart's glam.
Jennet Device, Age 9, Afflickted by Wrothful Familiars after Giving Evidence
in the Trialls of Her Mother, Her Brother, and Her Sister
Forrest of Pendle, Countie of Lancashire, 1612
Fancie says, my Tongue's all fulle of Needles in Want of Spitting. But he's a Dogge
that was a Daemon. I cry too much, he says, to merit Spirites. So even if my Heade's
Roote-Wad, Hag-Thorne, I won't be guilty-founde for telling Charmes to sentence Mam,
who said I Meant more Harme than Any Witches.
For all their Pater-Nosters spit to christen Cats and Hares and even Spotted-Bitches,
my Familie never Conjured men to do their Bidding. Until I Testified. But not before,
all Mad-Eyed, Mam were Hauled away, a sack-bounde Kitten. She hissed them Easte-
to-Weste for trusting Innocence of Spite-fulle Children.
And, now, I listen hard to Tail-Swish, Naile-Scrabble outside of Doore to Kitchen
where Dandy bides in Companie of Tibbs and Ball. They Howle and Barke derision
while Fancie growles all hackle-raised. Then, whimpers: letmeintoplaye. Allnight,
he means me here to Laye, Necke stiffe enough for Twisting.
In Which the Cunning-Woman Says a Charme against Morning
Olde Chattox to Demdike, awake in Lancaster gaol, 1612
If I could send a Hare to Warm thy Breaste, I wouldst not.
Oh my Enemie, my Hearte-Sprig. Even Tibbs willst not keep thy steadless Bed
but creeps Corner-wise as if Vervain has damped his Eyes that once were Candled
like to Starshine.
Were he but crysome Childe, I could abide. But Treacherie brings no Surprize
when circumstanced in one so Pyed. Tibbs were not meant to Stay
Faste as Woad, that riche-man's Dye.
For Daemon were Tameless, like all his Kinde were Undergrowth-Besot.
And thou, gone Sightless, cannot follow the Flickering of Leaf-Meal
Coat cross Barrow, Field, and Hollow.
In Truth, we wert Close, like to Bean-Pods, once before thy Ill-Tonguéd
Meanfullness brought Discorde. Or so I'd thought, Unknowing how Spirites,
Fickle-Winded, wrought Art
of Teazing till Sleepe offtook itself to Beddes less rocked by Clambering,
by Sudden Pounce-and-Pinches. Now Tibbs has scarpered. On Strawless
Cot, methinks thy Gasps more Breathfull,
that Rattle Snoresome. How should I warm thee for Necke-Corde. Morn's
Embrace. For All thy Plaints of Milk-Spoile, I care not. My Mouth, though
Spitless-Rough as Tibbs', canst, yet, Holde a Tune.
And, so, I Hum this Charme to Stave off Morning. To Never Wake, I bid thee,
Go Beyond this Swarming span of Dayes. I wouldst that Darkness seize
what Glimmered yet in Cauled-Blue Eye. Let Haze
bedull thy Brightness-Paine. Dear Demdike. Dearest Lizzie. What Divinest
thee as Passing lulls thee into Mist, less Thicke than Breath made Visible
in Fireless Colde of Dawning?
What clatters at the Bars? Is it Fancie come to Pace, Gnawless, at Heels
of Guards as if to snap Shadows away to Lawless Underground?
Or Tibbs, bestirred too Late.
Love, let him Prowle. We'll leave him to his Bean-Sídhe Howle