- Archives, Poetry, Reading, Writing

From the Archives: Three Poems, by Danielle Pafunda


Happy birthday, Danielle Pafunda! Celebrate by reading this suite of poems we published May 22, 2019!


Everyone tells me there’s no work on this road, I make bad choices okay fine but I swing from a godswell and take a punch like a philomel

no more that I shame / for my failures as beads I read them off full of grace I jerk them off the fine jet string that strung from cleft to / trouble / trouble me I’ve been down in the sand with the women with sticks / they can draw their say-waves and silence / write the names / of roadside fleabag attackers they’re all so boring lazing there waiting for a power surge waiting until a light goes on above the tits below the eyes in the stupid grottoes / men keep piling up against the gutter does the sea have a gutter you want to know / yes / guttering against your thigh same as it does continent same as it does the future pearl of this second a glass shattering against the deck its shards a bridal spray of white / cutting ships / men palaces bars funeral tops literature bottoms everything seems / unattainable today but the voice on the line bull-faced voice that broke out of husbandry


use salt to conduct your voice through copper wire it turns the wire gold the gold dust woman collects fibers from your voice repurposes it for sonic paintings loud thrashes of paint roil and smell like verbena and bonebrute / men do it too / and those beyond the binary exchange of grosgrain for fuckface it’s so boring we’re laughing again / hard / and mercy feelings come up on me I have so many friends I never write songs about it’s okay to remember you love some it’s okay to go soft places in you’re hard / who’s that /on the road now a philomel comes typing up a storm she’s made of talking made of this dishonest belief every day / might divest / pain / she has six braids in her fist she cut them from beasts of the field and soldiers and sad moms I point her out to my daughter / each of us is / one / I point to her lit-afire sandals and the weeping sash she tows / it’s okay to be in love I tell my daughter it’s okay it doesn’t have to last long


I’m so sorry I’m not singing your name screaming singeing freaking out your name on a rooftop clifftop overlooking the deadeye of new moon sea / what / it’s full moon courting jupiter now the failed sun won’t go back home to father won’t hide his face looks side-eye sweet enough at my hide asks every question real slow like we’re not going anywhere / that’s not a fast road / he says: what’d you do with your bull-faced tender friend where’d you send your / centaurs and stags leap over the hedge of a rich man’s house I can see it from the tidal pool or when I’m orbit-slung in my bed in the desert / I try to fix up all this garbage / I’m not the first poet to try but maybe I’m the first one to say: every day pain fluxes a material through the morning sky and stalls by evening / stall with me awhile / I’m your bed-down I’m your hay and brushes I’m a minor classical figure and also a / major force shifts the atmosphere visible as an h-bomb visible as a reflection / that is there is evidence the reflection traverses the room / maybe I’m so lovely today the reflection swamps you on its course / we’re a new thing / they’ll give us a bull’s name they’ll / call me derivative maybe / I’m so lovely I can’t get caught by glass tubes or bad hands / I fill twenty-four vials in my own hand I fill / with you your hand your hard / stretch of luck that runs the salt road everyone must travel / doesn’t get you off / or on the ferry / or on the ship / or on the island / the rocks


I fell short of land this day and struck your name in water what / was more the water takes gold flume of pleasure says don’t cry trash you’re home girl


I turned thirty in wartime I turned forty in wartime stay you irritate my heart with distance until it comes a sheet of pearls and moor’s breath in a dry clime I bedeck you

trade my centaur in the garden for minotaur on the cliffs and my mirrors for shards kicking sunlight up from rocks below mixed rust media and things we chucked there dead to us from their final starpit expiration / merciless between my ribs golden barb enters me / enters / the room through me how’d we / get inside I don’t know if it’ll pierce you too thick hide fur muscle bound like a book of the dead / smells lush and smart in the bombed-out desert library but look there the center of the lyric reflects your horns carved calcium-ridged rings smoke-blackened your dusking horns I don’t know if they’ll / pierce me I’m done being whole


reflected pupils askew harmony leaking a wetter lilt my lips gone mytho-red as kill beach promises byronic and vampy era up in here my face a lyric ode to gutter chance / my / bull-faced tender friend knows my bones my flesh weeps over them a processional / today we round up the years to forty / forty million rocks now hard things once were disparate movements electric horizon cunning / cunningly thread an old name into autocorrect teach your phone to bone a god and wait here for his reply his god-hung bull-faced legacy cruises the knowing wet field you start your ode dear brother dear boy when you /start your ode what up you start to say I just can’t get enough so push it / into me / the wave


this astralwoven spike juts out my ribcage but it isn’t bloody it isn’t / glowing fingered organ of ever-more-outer space / receiver of exile sorrow a refugee homing device / devise I’m not your home I’m trying / to get better at things I list the shell reports / for my sons and daughters I got you / into this you’ve bombed them I lift / the hide on the day and usher everyone under huddle here in anthroanimalia in body warmth or in the furnace from warm body to cool put a vata in charge and you’ll get what you pay for a hot / pulse across mountain’s white fever pulse descend cliffs visible alteration heat and pressure washing scree in the horned god’s eyes heal him / with salt it stings like new again sting your shaft stung open mine or stung mineral deposits until lit they light your bull’s face / I don’t have any incense I didn’t put that guy’s number in my phone who am I to press a moth’s wing to dust and lace my lips and part my lips as I have / always done this / not a girl nor daughter / not a pain goes by / on the road the reluctant persistent road to the sea or to the hospital that everyone even the ferrymen gone travel


I won’t tell you which mirror is yours between brides’ thighs a pagan search-and-rescue check / your torn-to-ribbon-bleeding pockets give me all your money and the dash in your car says midnight the road carries foot traffic beasts and speed how fast sea to cliff to moor to me a nursery rhyme warning warming wartime tattle coming fast and / you won’t feel shame / the ring through your wet snout hooked to my clit and spite was split from me


Hold my wrist hold my ankle hold my tongue hold my mouth in your mouth and tell me things singular and wind-crossed tell me murder and tell me future are spelled the same

the things I touched turned less to gold more flush my underworld stain coaxed less to life more to hasten death but bright they felt my touch a wave of starry yes / I was standing by the side of the road that runs from desert to sea a pair of iguanas pink my ankles a desert bee a white-lined sphinx moth in my hair as history in my hair a songbird the cats had stunned a catalpa blossom a breeze from the hottest most eastern body / in the desert sky I saw carved the summer warning and carved the risk of another year unfolding unfamiliar / hands palms up offering some invisible boneshare I had long been drinking from strangers’ palms I wasn’t afraid of what they carried but
how they would leave / me / my arm about my young friend’s shoulder happy young friend her love all in view and my tender friends you know what it’s like when your love’s all in view


bring me some diana whose selenite glow isn’t the violent seascape of illness and absence she goes / red at the edges gold at the center silver inside she has blue veins and green her salt eyes speak a language her stone lip gray unyielding hums she calls the travelers’ numbers names their musk notes in notebooks torn from their hands and tossed caszh back at their feet / everyone must travel this road but not everyone will stop over and bide with me / overbide / read me the note the moon called out from you read me what you wrote before you got here and later after you left send me hot word until I also know the spell for coming and going / home beckoning my tender friends who lived somewhere deep and damp and cloud I checked my phone they lit we’re lit af they say: it’s possible af I felt almost a part of the chorus


meet me after and after I say siltsex things in orion’s dark ear and / after the worst of my faults have sent up their charge the ground shifts and the sand settles no flower here minds that creosote giving ancient face sings take your baby by the wrist and in her mouth an amethyst / memory crux I call / I go down / on the horned-god an elbow in his ribs my hair tangled his calcium hide / out pour white-lined sphinx moths signing away my underworld name frozen moths holding repose a replica of my wonderface I spoke the horned-god’s favorite spell I said O and left my breath in my throat caught / catch / the rope flung over the raw edge of the gate the grave the hem raveling / thrown over orion’s steadily receding shoulder my wrist through its eye say: the rope has no master say: no one owns whoever tied to this rope no one owns me so no one pays for me and my rent / garments / food I eat topside hungry


each crucial hour gets spent in shaded time weeps slowly and then evaporates I don’t love life I say my tender bull-faced friend says: bury life says: here is the stone and the crossed wires my wrist until electric it’s ready to admit the belief that every day must contain pain and nunh / stop / I say the spell for still and stop they no longer so still me / be my stone and cross me deep and put me back in the ground hold me maybe just there while fear lights me epic and fear draws my bath and I fearbate my heart / feels its undying / I’m hesitant to read and worse to shush I’m talking a wall around my bed tonight I neither walk the road nor answer the phone instead I give you the sign that says not a minute ends not a moment spent here will ever you leave or empty drink a bright holy wine and sleep until you know yourself a good friend / I’ll meet you there if maybe I can / though I’ll not be allowed to surface all the time I ever touched will


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Danielle Pafunda is author of, most recently, Beshrew, The Book of Scab, The Dead Girls Speak in Unison, and Spite. She teaches at Rochester Institute of Technology.

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