“Ghouls,” “Horrorshow” & “Dissolution Method”
by Caroline Crew
A slow-figured thaw spends
itself for a season of skirt hitches,
of just the wind thumbing a hem.
Some shadows have surprisingly solid
erections. The ghost of shrugs past
flicker, too, in my back. I believed in them
truly, once. Ghosts—knowing the yelps
I unstrangled held the dirges of the dead,
a sweep of this winter’s long coat
too elegant to be mine own only. The march
of progress swims forward, they wink—
water that feminine force that queens us all.
If already water, what good will weeping
on your false logic of wetness do.
Beneath the current, I see those long-fingered fates
stretching upward; another touch unwanted.
Haunted by your own exceptionalism you prepare
another sacrifice to yourself—it’s not the size
of offering at stake but its scope, like how the difference
between ornamental cabbage and rent-week cabbage
is one of hot water. I, too, know how to preen
without adornment: straight gaze, chin up, tongue
the afternoon light just enough to ripple it.
It’s a matter of position, not praise. Turning back
to my own icon, I catalogue the negative space
of my imperfections on her face. Now smoother.
Now saintlier. I tried to speak, once—converge
between mirror and mistress. One, then the other.
Sentenced to endure one’s own curated self.
I was my own consequence, am jury and executioner.
I have never sleepwalked.
I have bathed in black water.
I felt a spiderousness beneath
and in each birthing silence the surface
grew wider. Outside, I’m sure, kudzu creeps,
unkempt. I have kept an appearance of swelling
only in private. What doors open in sleep,
to what further. Under the water,
a remembering. When my hand
moved inside of you
it calloused. The thing of you,
I mean—quiver turned panic
button, plastic and its unbreathing.
The door shaped you, put that gasping
in a frame. Before meat is hung for curing, first the flesh
must be boxed for months. Salt and salted. Opening
into that room, the hocks all kneed in a prayer
too late. I have bent. Being splayed
these fingers forget the trick
of picking a lock. Dark
water, devil’s work. Though
many-eyed, spiders do not sleep.
Suspension of sullen disbelief in weaving
air to arraignment. I have tempted entrapment
with my own rotting fate—the mold at the heart of a stone
fruit’s remembered scent. Arbitrary to decry warp or weft
in the face of sleep’s oblivion. I have slept in the wrong
pits: weeks later chaffed by the thread of alien
sweat in my own. In hanging,
a meat is cured. Smells
unnameable, new. You
found black mold in the doorway,
as if it had been waiting for you. Fingernails,
almond-filed, scraping the jamb in pleasured disgust.
You came inside, again. Here—steep your hands in dimming wet.
Caroline Crew is the author of the essay collection Other Girls to Burn (forthcoming, University of Georgia Press), winner of the AWP Prize for Nonfiction, as well as the poetry collection PINK MUSEUM (Big Lucks). Currently, she is pursuing a PhD at Georgia State University, after earning an MSt at the University of Oxford and an MFA at UMass-Amherst. She’s online here: caroline-crew.com.
Sarah Waddle is a Texas-born artist and actor, and is currently based in Elgin, Illinois. She recently graduated from Rockford University with a BFA in acting/directing, and spends her time painting her nightmares for your viewing pleasure. You can see her work at @sarahwaddleart on Instagram.