EXCERPT FROM HOOKS AND SLAUGHTERHOUSE —
once upon a
hollowed out moon, my liver withers. i touch the meat and it crumbles beneath my fingertips. dust clings to my skin, black fragments chipped and falling. my finger shoves past my lips and enters my throat. bitter powder falls onto my tongue. my tonsils numb. in the dark of my mouth, shadowed by opaque saliva curtains, my finger spreads into a hand, then opens. meat covers everything. i pry the flesh fragments apart. past the meat, propped against a rancid tree foaming around the branches, is a pair of broken owl eyes. glass shards come out of the colored lenses and make a [tinkle] sound when hitting the ground. i wrap old meat around my hips until a skirt drapes across the floor. thin fat pieces, so thin that the individual fibers snap apart and form tiny hollows, resemble lace texture. i place my fingers in the lace and spread my fingers apart, opening the holes. i arrange the skirt around my knees until it is hard to walk. then i do. i walk across a leaf-strewn lawn and my toes ache as the hard ground pushes against them. my breasts burn. i place my hands over my breasts and press against the nipples. sharp pain shoots down my back and into my hips. i pause near a drying oak tree and vomit blood over the base. rancid tar fluid coats the bark and runs to the ground, wetting the dirt until mud puddles suck the roots down. [you are pregnant, the moon whispers] and reaches down to rub the sides of my face. i raise my arms and scratch the moon’s face until long blood clot threads rise to the craggy surface. [pregnant with what, i ask.] the moon opens its skeletal mouth and vomits over my head. meaty fluid drains off the moon’s tongue. i spit out the red bits that cling to my lips. the moon licks its rocky lips clean and spits the last of the fluid onto the dirt. [with this and that, the moon whispers. dead children. broken tree bits. all those things. the livers and kidneys and kumquat peels. if you breathe deeply enough, you’ll smell the pomegranate seeds.] i touch my stomach. i press against my bowels. [but i am infertile, i say.] the moon laughs. it swats several stars away from its face and smacks its teeth together. [too adorable, the moon whispers. yes, infertile. but not your skin. pores have no need for ovaries.] the moon jumps slightly and rocks away, white bulb swaying from left to right until clear. i sit on the floor, festering in the vomit and mud. i cake the mud on my thighs and stack it until it is a tiny mountain of anatomical sludge. my stomach growls. i lean forward and lick the mud off my legs. my vision turns blue, then a faint pinkish red. i curl up in the mud and sink into the earth several feet. [the bloodless girl’s burial, a dry voice whispers.] i squeeze my eyes shut. dirt rushes up my nose. i move the dirt away from my mouth and raise my head slightly. [is anyone there, i ask.] my fingers slip in the mud and i fall deeper into the hole. [go back to sleep, the voice says.] i claw the mud sides and pull myself over. i roll onto dry grass. [what did you say, i ask. what did you call me?] several metal flowers slither to my feet. they tap against my ankles until clear fluid drips out of me. the moisture fills the mud puddle hole. i lift one flower. it wilts. [who are you, i ask.] [you are the bloodless girl, a rusted tulip petal says and scrapes.]
how the bloodless
state begins::: first, i cut my wrists in half and black tar pours out. but it does not pour forever. at the end, it drips and changes to a deep yellow shade. yellow amber covers the floor. orange fumes waft away from the fluid and the fumes stink of fresh orange mixed with raw meat. [everything smells like meat, i say] but the tree limbs do not acknowledge the observation. they press against my skin. they tear my wrists into pieces. chunks drop to the floor. then the yellow is clear and the more i touch the clear fluid with my fingernails, the harder it is for me to cover my eyes. the clear fluid is like water. but it is not like water because it smells like melted candle wax. i bite my nails. i spit the enamel on the floor. i press my hands against my thighs and the fluid flows down my skin, soaking everything, until my flesh is squishy like the meat of a sea sponge. i bury myself in a rock bed. i stack chunks of granite around my body, curving the stones until they curve over my head. the clear fluid fills the space. it pushes through tiny gaps in the rocks. but the clear fluid dries. the clear fluid dribbles slowly. each droplet dehydrates until it is a tiny powder granule. the dust strikes the floor. it covers my chest. i wipe the dust away and sneeze. powder floats around my self-made cavern. it covers the walls. i breathe the dust in. i press my hands against my chest and breathe slowly, forcing the dust in and out of my lungs until my tongue numbs. a hooked finger pushes through the rock stones and strokes the sides of my feet. [you should come out, a voice says.] the finger works up the sides of my legs, then taps gently against my knees. [come out, the voice says] and the fingers dig into my flesh. the fingers tug. the fingers spread into wide hands that grasp my thighs and yank. the stones roll off the ceiling. they strike the floor and clatter away, rolling downhill while i claw at the hands. [let me go, i cry] and the hands pull my skin harder. my skin tears. i sit up and push the gray stones away from my face. a skeletal pumpkin sits in front of me. it drags its arms back. wormy fingers disappear into its gaping mouth. [hello, the pumpkin says] and leans to one side. it bites the ground with a quick snapping motion, uprooting several poisonous plants and the connecting dirt tendrils. i place my hands over my stomach and press down until my abdomen aches. [what are you, i ask.] the pumpkin rolls its eyes. it looks upward and vomits several times. a slow stream of purple vomit drips from its mouth and soaks into the ground, leaving a scalded purple stain. i place my hand against the stain and the skeletal pumpkin pushes me away. [my vomit, it says] and scoops the sullied dirt up. the dirt drops into its mouth and disappears. a faint red glow covers its pumpkin chest, then dissipates into several elaborate striations. [are you here for the bones, the skeletal pumpkin asks.] i stand up slowly. my feet sink into the ground. [what bones, i ask] yanking my feet up. the skeletal pumpkin rises onto its wooden vines. it slides through the dirt, its stem flexing with effort. [the bones up there, the skeletal pumpkin says] and points straight ahead. i squint and see the outline of a large tree in the middle of a field. [what is it, i ask.] the skeletal pumpkin sighs. [the devil tree. don’t tell on me, it says.]
the skeletal pumpkin
pulls me away from the devil tree. i reach for the trunk and the pumpkin knocks my hands away. [you can’t touch it, the skeletal pumpkin whispers. that’s the kind of tree that bites.] i lean over. a thick fog grows near the edge of the field. slowly, it drifts in our direction, coating the ground with a pale gray cloud. i push the fog away. i stare at the trunk but do not see any teeth tucked into the spaces between the bark. [i don’t see anything, i whisper.] the skeletal pumpkin sighs. it roots its body into the ground and disappears into the fog. [you aren’t supposed to see the teeth, the skeletal pumpkin whispers, its voice echoing through the field. that’s why it is a devil tree.] i reach into the fog and pat the skeletal pumpkin on the head. my hand thumps against its hard enamel and the skeletal pumpkin squeals softly. [can we be friends, it asks.] i lift the pumpkin off the ground and hold it to my chest. the pumpkin vibrates slowly, like a heartbeat, its flesh pulsating until little meat slabs drip out of its carved face. [who carved you, i ask.] [a hand. but it doesn’t come from this tree, the skeletal pumpkin whispers. we should go.] the skeletal pumpkin strains to get away from me. i pat its stumpy stem and the skeletal pumpkin sighs. i put it on the ground and the fog covers the gourd again. i turn to the devil tree. the trunk is slightly darker than most trees i have seen in my life. the bark is slightly thicker in some parts but it is not a scary tree. near the back of the tree, a branch extends over the field, the limb pulled down until parallel with the ground. i touch the tree. my hands burn. [is the wood covered with poison, i ask.] the skeletal pumpkin rushes around my feet. it nudges my ankles gently. [we should go, the skeletal pumpkin says.] i push the pumpkin away. i put my hands on the tree and reach up, finding a thick branch to seize. my fingers curl around a bough and i place a foot against the uneven tree surface. [up i go, i say] and pull. the skeletal pumpkin screams. my skin aches. my legs scrape against the tree bark as i climb. my arm entwines around the branch and i drape my chest over the limb. [i’m up, i say.] the skeletal pumpkin leaps out of the fog and moans softly. [but you’re going to die now, it says.] i look at my hands. yellowish blisters cover the palms. i tap the burn marks with my nails. the blisters erupt. dust pours out of the holes and covers my hands. [how did i lose so much blood, i ask.] the skeletal pumpkin flips onto its side and whips the fog with its tendrils. [you are dead, the skeletal pumpkin sighs. you’ve been dead for days. the drying process was the final stage.] i stare at the skeletal pumpkin. i look at my dusty hands. i press my lips together and turn to the tree trunk. my face scrapes against the trunk and i stare into the wood. the wood moves. it rolls beneath my skin. it spreads and in each space, a face stares back at me, mouth stretched until it resembles a salivating crescent moon, the eyes squinted until just tiny squiggles on the face. the faces lunge at me. they bite my lip. tiny fangs, translucent milk-teeth, dig into my lip and gnaw the flesh. i pull back. my skin rips. the faces merge into an eye. the eye blinks several times and its pupil engorges with tree pulp. [you stink of vinegar, the eye says] and pushes me.
i fall onto
the skeletal pumpkin. it pushes me away. we sit in the fog together. condensation covers our faces. [why did you go into the tree, the skeletal pumpkin asks] and burns its accordion face with a tiny match plant. i bite the skeletal pumpkin. it presses its skeletal mouth together and whimpers several times. [i am not pie, the skeletal pumpkin says. how dare you treat me like that? do you think i am sugared and baked so that you can have a culinary delight? i am not. in fact, i am full of parsley. its poison leaves grow out of my seeds. they sprout between my fake teeth. so i am an abortive thing. you cannot press your tongue against me without losing your uterus. it’s sad. but necessary. otherwise, everyone would run around trying to peel me open and eat my contents.] the skeletal pumpkin puts its fingers in its eyes. i pull its arms apart and pull the pumpkin onto my lap. [you are so angry, i say] and the skeletal pumpkin sighs. [why did you go into the tree, it asks.] we look up. the tree glows with a pale yellow-red light. the light travels from the tree’s base to its branches. the horizontal branch descends slightly, swinging towards our heads. we duck down. bark faces hiss. [how dare you touch us, the bark asks. you are pathetic. you cannot lay a finger on us without having it be bitten off. pathetic. pathetic. we don’t even let the virgins get this close.] the skeletal pumpkin whimpers. its anchovy spine tongue drops out of its mouth and stabs the fog. [i told you not to climb the tree. it’s such an angry thing. the meat will burn through its roots and bite you, the skeletal pumpkin says.] it puts its fingers in its eyes and cries softly. i pull its arms out. [would you stop, i ask. you are being overly dramatic.] the skeletal pumpkin crosses its triangle shapes. its gourd rises and falls several times. i pat the skeletal pumpkin and stand up. the devil tree hisses. it spits poison plants in my direction. [how dare you try to face us, the bark faces hiss. we never gave you permission to give us a kiss. if anything, we will tear you into pieces and rip your heart out. do not test us. we have a taste for rotten meat.] i touch the devil tree. i place my feet against the trunk and yank myself up. i smack the bark faces. they whimper. their tongues hang out of their mouths and touch the ground. [abuse, the devil tree cries. you are abusing me within an inch of my tree life.] i crawl through the tree branches. i drag my knees over the faces. i climb onto the horizontal branch and hang down, staring at the burned ash floor of the field for several minutes. [is that what you’ve been trying to protect, i ask.] the devil tree shudders. its leaves move back and forth. paper rustles against the back of my neck. [i like the meat, the devil tree says.] [then what were you trying to get out of me, i ask.] the devil tree rolls over the ground. it bulldozes the fog. the skeletal pumpkin leaps into the air and lands on my back. [you can’t eat us, the skeletal pumpkin squeals] and burrows its vines into my waist. i reach over my shoulders and smack the skeletal pumpkin. [stop, i say. you’re going to make me bleed.] [no blood, the skeletal pumpkin and tree cry.] they puncture my knees. yellow dust drifts out of my swollen caps. powder slicks over the tree, leaving amber stains. [dust skin, the skeletal pumpkin and the tree say.] i fall down.
the devil tree lifts its roots out of the ground. it sprinkles my face with dirt. i wipe the grit away. it catches between my teeth. [i think i would rather go to the cemetery, i say and the devil tree hisses.] its bark faces open wide. their cheeks blossom like flowers. [i knew a red-draped woman once, the devil tree whispers. she was kind. but she woke me many times in the middle of the night. no matter how i tossed and turned, she dug her fingers into my spine.] the devil tree’s limbs lower until they brush over the dirt, tearing the grass up. i pat the tree gently. the skeletal pumpkin climbs onto my back and plays with the vertebrae pushing out of my spine. [do you think we can have the bones hiding in your trunk, the skeletal pumpkin asks.] the devil tree stops. it turns slowly. its bark faces open and close. [what makes you think i have any bones inside my bark, the devil tree says.] the skeletal pumpkin ducks down, hiding its face behind my scapulae. i twist slightly and the skeletal pumpkin falls to the floor. [not nice, the gourd says] and struggles to pull its weight free of a mud puddle. i grab its stem and yank the skeletal pumpkin out of the mud. [why do you think i have bones, the devil tree asks.] the skeletal pumpkin hangs its spinal tongue over the ground. [i assumed, the skeletal pumpkin says.] it vomits little red clots. i cup my hands together and the clots rest on my palms. i pat the skeletal pumpkin and it forces a smile. [do you have any bones, i ask.] the devil tree shakes its limbs. purple fruits drop off its branches and smash against the dirt floor. yellow juice pours out of the fruits. it saturates the ground. orange mud forms. [they are not bones, the devil tree says. they are bone fruits. there might be bone seeds inside. but i can’t tell. it’s a problem for me. my branches don’t work like fingers.] the skeletal pumpkin shuffles forward. it grabs a bone fruit and works its fingers around the peel. it yanks the meat apart and the pith drops to the floor. i lift the pith to my mouth. my lips pucker around the bitter flavor. [it has a strange sweet sour, i say] and swallow. the skeletal pumpkin shatters the fruit. it squeezes the meat and bone seeds pour out. tiny white shapes fill the skeletal pumpkin. they drip onto the floor. i lift one seed and hold it to my eye. the seed has a vague femur shape. i turn the seed around and the moon reaches down to snatch it away. [i have been waiting for a bone seed for eternities, the moon says] and gobbles the bone seed down. the skeletal pumpkin sobs over the seeds. it lifts handfuls to its mouth and drops them onto its lap. [they are bones, the skeletal pumpkin moans. beautiful, juicy, marrow-filled bones. spinal cords and phalanges and clavicles. all in perfect shape.] the skeletal pumpkin drops onto its side and moans. the bones push through the skeletal pumpkin’s shell and stick to its tongue. the devil tree watches silently. more fruits roll off the limbs and shatter on the floor. i walk to the tree. i wrap my arms around it and stroke the tree bark until it flakes. [i will miss the bone meat, the devil tree says] and shudders. i sit on the roots. i place my head against the trunk. [the skeletal pumpkin is very happy, i say.] the devil tree nods. [i was not always bloodless, i say. i must look for a red place to become whole again.] the devil tree does not move. [do you know one, i ask.] a pomegranate rolls into my lap.
Copyright 2012. Alana I. Capria. All Rights Reserved.