— as Lavinia Dickinson and her Daisy
Hands out, she flails, blind to fall’s chloral leaves as they flurry a silver snow. My mind’s stutter a galaxy caught mid-spin and cast carelessly back. Unfaced, I am moon-black and still, pillow in hand, culpable as night’s skirt enfolds my sister’s form. I want to lay down with her, immobile, and let heaven flay me, field of loosestrife threshed to a fine flame. Sweat’s purled scent washes my brow as I throw my spirit supine through the library’s half- open door. Skull seized and portioned orange bright, I braid her fingers and mine. We leap as one, into morning’s nacred light.
— as “Dora” to Sigmund Freud
I am the good stenographer. My fingers tap out thoughts upon my thighs before they cross my lips’ lush seam. You say the first account is an unnavigable river. I say, stream choked by mass of rock. Say, do Herr K. yourself. Divided, then lost. Come beautiful as a wind-whipped and blooded white sheet. Amid shallow and bank, become overcome. Volt of hysteria jag me, zig-zagged and holy — I will not unravel: O, pinking shears. O sawtoothed one.
— as Ramon Guthrie to an Intern
I am unbinned and I am not. No? Fluency unbending, I am endless rigor of soul, a soundless zero. Slow down. I yet forget my unborn child: untitled and unselving, a cell dividing, painstaking. I confess a love of the garden slug. All, but most especially the small pink commas that curl beneath the flagstones. No, write this: it will never come to pass. My lips I pinch. Will say no more. (Comrade in gown, release your lung-ash breath. If she wakes, scrape her throat with feeding hose and scorch her papered locks of hair.) I am immune to your plague of death-in-life, your diseased and feathered angel’s wings. (Soothe her with the gentle rope, yes wind her in a long gauze mask of tape.)
— as Lou Andreas-Salomé to Sigmund Freud
It is not me but curiosity that kills in the sea’s green field: its victims like the sirens’ heap of bones, flesh still half-bound by them — the heart blood always trails up, unwinding like a long, red snake: to be a hybrid is to be a horror — rapacious, unrelenting, all tracks may lead to me but none come back out —
— as John Tyndall, on his deathbed, to his Wife
If insomnia be switch- yard, I am its ticketed passenger. Sleep, be my final ascent: let me notch you glacier- like, pickax to peak, nail-stung, silver tooth in your stilled neck, pale as a lady’s skin. This is the verge — sleep, mountain, death — dancing eardrops that chime with a lover’s every breath. Heat is a science. Is the unseen curtain drawn round the marriage bed. Let not my love be unrequited, loose not my fever into space untrammeled. Dam me. Or suffer our verdancy poured out, the sun that rises upon us all a cold, mineraled mass to be palmed in a giant’s frost-iron fist. My poor darling, you have killed your John —
— as Rainer Maria Rilke to Lou Andreas-Salomé
I cannot be what you expect of me: You named me R. — named me pure — but my hands are stained as any man’s, my most ecstatic cries, black notes scored on a stave’s white page, my every breath a storm. Starlings thunder overhead — it is a sick swarm, this voice of mine that I must lift like a pack of dirty birds to wheel amid the flint-flat sky.
— as Poet and Her Self
Feed me to myself. Pleat and riddle the channels of my mind, meal of bone and brain before me. I will be as a God, bovine-mad and felled in a wild rage. The autoclave cannot break me. I will speak in my own tongues, will survive the culling, will persist here in pieces, in patient soil and await the spade that splits the humus dark — I will rise, tasseled grain, in waves of sunlight like sunlight folded in upon itself. The soul is a sponge. It can take so much, so boiling and bright, it makes the eye ache.
Rebecca Dunham is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, The Flight Cage (Tupelo Press, 2010) and The Miniature Room (Truman State University Press, 2006). Her chapbook Fascicle is just out from dancing girl press, 2012. She received an NEA Fellowship in Poetry and her poetry has been appeared in AGNI, Prairie Schooner, FIELD, Colorado Review, and Triquarterly Online among others. She is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.