|Table of Contents|
Of the natural openings unto the body's loathsome-
ness he does not avail himself. He prefers to enter
at the elbow's crook, between the toes, beneath the
pinky nail, under the rim of the eye, where Jose-
phine's black liner has blurred,through the left nipple
or through the shaft of the hair that sprouts by the left
nipple, the hair tightly curled by slips of the pincers.
A Hollow Tone
Josephine lifts the panel and descends the ladder. The
room she enters has space for a small man crouching.
Josephine crawls on something soft and wide-a velvet-
worked pillow or rats' nest. She tries to turn, fingers
on the wall for balance. Her skirts are twisted and she
fears they drag the soft thing with them. She hears
footfalls overhead, or knocking. Her pinky enters a
cold aperture. It is the iron drinking tube at which the
small man suckled.
Josephine fingers the rim then leans forward,
hovers with her mouth. She breathes out hard through
her nostrils and extends her tongue into the opening,
before recoiling, inhaling sharply through her mouth,
drawing the powder into her lungs, her teeth caking,
and her tongue out again, as she lets her forehead
strike the wall and wretches. She puts her finger in the
tube to stop it up. Something warm has come trickling.
Our Tragic End
Entering the gas-lit hall, Josephine sees, beyond the
spinning dancers, a man sitting in the distant window,
half hidden by a curtain. Josephine does not recognize
the man. He is wearing white silk pantaloons and tunic
and as Josephine runs towards him, he leans deeper
into the curtains. The curtains are purple velvet and
writhe with golden bees. The man disappears between
the flaps. In the roiling purple, Josephine sees only the
tips of his white taffeta slippers. She seizes a slipper
and twists. The cannetill6 cuts her palm.
Later, when she shows the palm to Dr. Augustine,
he incises the mound beneath the thuml and inserts a
hollow wire so that he might draw the settled blood.
The substage mirror reflects the assistant's candle, and
the flecked slide presents itself to the doctor's artificial
"It is not blood," pronounces Dr. Augustine. He
drops the cannetille into an india-rubber bag. Jose-
phine is trembling. She is afraid to close her hand.The
wire has slid and lies inside the purple vein that travels
through her wrist.
"Describe the man again," says Dr. Augustine. Jose-
phine discovers that her voice has dried in her throat.
"Lie back," says Dr. Augustine. He puts his lips to
the tip of the wire and takes the fluid into his mouth.
She Holds the Fragile Paper to
Josephine does not remember the rubbing, but in the
light she sees the flakes of marble on her skin. The
stone was old and blistered.
Josephine dusts her skin with a cambric handker-
chief. The light's penetration into the weakened organ-
at the exact depth, says Dr. Augustine, of the substrate
of uneven surfaces-produces, in combination with
these variously inclined planes, a summative luster,
grayish or pinkish brown, which gives Josephine her
waxy, repellant beauty.
She traces her darkening veins with the hand-
kerchief. She traces spirals and a lattice but fails to
decipher the script her good doctor has many times
For Cattle Sickness
Have they, with filth, stained the centers of the flowers?
Then cut them on the lips and throats and bellies; the
blood has gone bad.
A Defiant Raiment
Josephine visits the bedchamber too late. The poor
dear has just succumbed! The window has been
thrown open and the doctor packs his bag noisily.
Bending to kiss the brow, Josephine feels the doc-
tor's hand slide across her hip. She is wearing Shirvan
silk, a smoking jacket. She straightens, opens her silver
The doctor is close behind her. She moves her
head and his mouth fills with her black hair. He looks
beneath her earlobe, across her shoulder, to the hand
lifting a pale blue cigarette. Josephine feels him whis-
per to her nape.
"I am the self-wounding pelican," whispers the
doctor. Josephine notices the bowl of blood on the
bedside table, black pincers of varying size, the ball
of twine, and hairs on the sheets, short black hairs,
hog hairs, even on the dead girl's hands and face, she
She Admires the Jugglers in a
"Your limbs have been severed at the distal ends of the
numerous bones," explains Dr. Augustine.
"Oh yes," sighs Josephine. She wonders what hap-
pened to her mother's rings, the silver bands inlaid
with golden lions, whether or not they were sifted
from the ashes, but Dr. Augustine is holding his fine.
coffee to her lips, and she asks instead for a pastry,
crisp and buttered.
Dr. Augustine's Book of Anatomy
He opens the book and stabs with his finger: hairy,
thick-jointed, topped by a black, gleaming nail. Only
a moment before, the finger parted her teeth, hooked
the flesh of her cheek, tugging. Her mouth is flooded
with saliva, yet she feels dryness along her back mo-
lars, identifies the taste of metal-pewter, she thinks-
The Fluxus of the Humoral Body
For a broken heart, boil 15 pulped medlars, 2 white
sugar loaves, 8 drams macerated roses. If his semen is
cold as spring water, cleanse yourself with cotton rags
for this semen, left overlong on any part, will mark
the skin. Moreover, this semen will numb the flesh to
further sensation, painful or otherwise.
Wife to an Infected Man
In the mornings, she smears birdlime until the stone
is thick with lapwings. To the end his ears were whole.
She had dripped inside two fluids: milk from a woman
who nursed a male child and juice from a houseleek.
When the yellow mucus brimmed, she had softened it
with felt and dug a chamber with the handle of a salt
spoon. She has faith that the songs will reach him.
1.-, 9. AM
4", 'f. 4
She Snips Rose Hips into the Iatbox,
Josephine remembers her mother, how she sat outside
the nursery window, in the hedges. She put her hand
and her shears on the windowsill. She tried to crawl
through the window
Josephine slams the shutters, but she can still hear
her mother, tapping.
A Gate Made of Pitchforks
Josephine enters the cemetery where her mother is
buried but there are no headstones. Instead, she sees a
field of celery. For years after, everything, even boned
capon in a netting of pork fat, even lemon slices, even
almonds, tasted of celery.
When the Leaves Are Thickest With
Josephine surprises her mother in the kitchen, her
mother, barefoot, in a nightdress, her silver plaits
unpinned, hanging to her ankles.
"There is a fugue," says her mother. "But it gets
fainter as I follow."
Josephine puts her arm around her mother. Her
mother's shoulder bones are sharp. Her hair smells like
"Shhhh," says Josephine.
At Hallowtide, We Slaughter
"What do you expect?" snaps grandmother. "The
animals won't kill themselves." No, they will not! It's
no use wishing. Even our sad gander has a kind ofjoie
A woman stands rigid in a poultry yard. Something is
happening! She thinks furiously:
She woke up. She bruised herbs. She raked
pomace. She ate half a flummery. She skimmed the
Dusselgossip. Little Kaiser linked to Miss Andorra.
Poppycock. Finished flummery. Checked stillage.
Small bubbling. She cleaned the firkins. Violent odor.
She mortared almonds. Alrmond-pilferage, children,
intercepted. Children: huge spider "defenestrated"
baby kit fox. Evidence: baby kit fox in sorry state on
flagstones, viscera, so on. At issue: "defenestrate.Webs
vs. windows. The glass factor-is it definitional? Made
jot on a notepad: "ask Headmistress Howard." Put the
frangipani tartlets in the oven. Watched fiddlehead
husks come to a rolling boil. Fetched garden lime for
Outreaching hand, bent knees. Shadow moves
across the poultry yard.
"Aha!" cries the woman. "The sun!" Yes, it has
The woman feels her way to the barn. Hay. Dusty
horse tack. She kicks a quern. She takes a spoonful of
tallow from the tallow-pot. The tallow smells of thighs.
She lights the tallow and the smoke is rank and sweet.
She sees mushrooms growing in the milk pail. More
mushrooms, warm and round, grow inside her mouth.
Was it so long ago that she ate flummery? Her little
pencil has fallen through a hole in her apron. Very well.
She plucks a hair and ties it round her finger.
These Dwell in the Air Around Us
Josephine sees, silhouetted, a lady with a Kazhak hat.
Not her mother! Josephine misses her mother, even
her bad nights, the musical hallucinations.
Everything seems so dark and quiet.
To Destiny : :
Josephine is getting married, but throughout the cer-
emony she is distracted b) the sound of birds thudding
against the stained glass windows. Finally, a young girl
emerges from behind the rood screen carrying the
papal nara. She places it on Josephine's head.
Josephine finds upon exiting the church that
the women of Paris ha e set up stalls in the streets.
They are dropping birds into their large black pans.
Josephine smells them frying in their fat. Suddenly a
nearby horse breaks wind.
"I will put the horse to death," cries a dandy.
Josephine would intercede but her hands are bound
nwth crimson cords. The same cord was used to
sew her lips, and from the knotted tad a lead token
dangles. The slack lime around her legs has hardened.
Josephine sees that the %women of Paris are boiling yet
more lime in the breastplates of horses. It is sulfur
from these pots that Josephine smells, breathing hard
through her nose. A woman touches a match to the
paper mitre on Josephine's head and Josephine smells
baking bread, a sweet smell that she chd not expect of
her own flesh, burning.
While playing a game of chance, grandmother dies at
the table. Her face turns taut and bright and she leans
forward. Her face takes shape in the high dark finish
of the table. The grain of the wood goes against her
braids, so her braids are double braided, links upon
links. The knucklebones have settled in the sockets
of her eyes.
A Young Woman Wants a Lover
Scarify the gums with the tooth of a man who has died
a violent death. Rub the ash of fired henbane into the
wounds, rinsing the mouth with water gathered in the
night with the skull of a man who was once a friend
or guest. If your hair is dark, you will prefer a chaplet
of white thorn; if fair, any herb will do: tansy, yarrow,
Herb of Christopher, thistle.
Why Does the Devil Strike You in
She browns the joint before the fire. Her daughter sits
close behind her. They smell blood and bitter orange
and the joint turns in its jacket of paper. The daughter
watches the turning joint and jagged flames until her
mother lets her catch the fat on a pewter spoon. In the
firelight, the stain on the daughter's cheek might well
be a shadow.
The Green Cloak
The daughter opens her closet door. The stiffened
cloaks hang by the necks, hooked through the leather
cords. The daughter feels with her hand in the depths
of a gaping hood. She removes a fistful of flies. She
opens her fists and the flies make slow loops towards
the windows. They slide down the glass and crawl
across the black bodies on the windowledge. When she
leaves for the house of Lazarus, the daughter will hide
a fly in her left hand, releasing it into the village, while
with her right hand she rings and rings the bell.
Sensation of Ligature with Beasts
The girl is playing with her cup and ball on the edge of
the forest. Suddenly, the string snaps; the wooden ball
rolls across the roots and leaves and into the thicket
and the girl chases after, drawing her hood close about
her face. Soon she is lost. She hears a woman's voice,
singing, high and sweet, the nursery rhyme, "Horse
and hattock." The girl moves blindly through the
brambles, and the voice grows louder: "Horse and
hattock, horse and hattock, I fly like a wild straw."
The girl breaks free from the thorns and falls into the
clearing. She sees a ferret on its hind-legs balanced on
a wooden ball.
"Let me take your finger into my mouth," says the
The girl offers him the forefinger of her left hand.
She closes her eyes. She feels beneath her skirts a
whirlwind, scraping and swift between her thighs. She
shrieks. The girl has never been pricked. She has only
plaited straws flat and damp from the mangle. It is
the grandmother who splits the bright pipes with the
blade. After, in the heat of the day, the grandmother
rests on the hawthorn stump, paring her blood-caked
fingernails. The girl smells the grandmother's smell-
the smell of the hop bin and sulfur. The straws that
fly from the neck of her cloak pierce the girl's skin.
She struggles to pluck them out but they pierce her
fingertips. They slide into the flesh beneath her finger-
nails. The girl flings her arms to either side. Her palms
bristle with straw, and her lower lip, and her nostrils,
and the lower lids that curve up around the slight
bulge of her eyes. If the grandmother should chance
A High, Thin Sound
Beside the stove, a hare pie cools on the salver, lidded,
trimmed with grains of paradise. It has a golden, mel-
low color.The girls peer into the vent-hole.They see a
bit of brown fur. They cry out and cling to each other
for a deeply held breath, before probing.
Girls Frolic in the Maying
With each step, their heeled boots punch holes in the
hardpan. Above the hardpan, sludge. Below the hard-
pan, lunch. Sludge is absolutely unlike clunch-Dr.
Augustine's molecular models make this obvious-but
they do achieve a kind of parity, in unpleasanmess.
One winter, Hildegard von Bingen traveled from
Rupertsberg to Constantinople and cured many lep-
ers with broom flowers. As for the many chancres of
Ah, but now Josephine's vision grows dark. She
smells soil and kicks free of her blankets, gasping.
Poor Jack, Poor John
"Someone is coming" The girls pause in their labors
and share a fish. They hold the fish between them,
picking rapidly at the cheeks and spine. The girls are
greasy and their breath comes fast. They drop the fish
onto its bed of lettuce.
"Thank youl" say the girls. When the footsteps
fade, they pull back the bed-sheets and return to their
labors. They have finished! The figures are composed
1. Busts of wax
2. Bodies stuffed with sawdust
3.Teeth of straw
4. Eyes painted, glass, enamel
5. Hands of wood
6. Hair curled and coiffed
7. Stockings and underwear
8. Complete toilette
9. Cherry satin hats
10. High polish boots of bronze
They prop these figures with books and ink pots
at the reading desks. They slip through the window
down the trellis to the garden.They run, hatless, to-
wards anything, a bridge, a public toilet, a street light,
an iron chair.
Josephine in Finland
She watches the snow, lunching on liver custard in a
high-sided coffin topped with artificial walnuts. She
realizes that she will be a silent film star, in a strange
city of tilted towers, each with a clock face. The thin
golden arms of the cocks glitter through the fog. She
is standing on the roof of a countinghouse, holding a
man's gloved hand for balance. In every direction, the
clock arms dazzle like rays from a polygon sun.
Most likely it is another life.
"I Would Never Burn Whale Oil"
Two girls arrive at an impasse. Their eyes flash! Their
cheeks flush! They are beautiful and young, and the
whales are far away, in the sea. They fall asleep on the
loveseat, heads bowed; one girl's black hair mantles the
other girl's shoulder.
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How Awful to be an Edith
Admit it! Sometimes Josephine is a terrific snob! She
imagines Edith planting zinnias, in garden gloves. Or
no, she is in mittens, putting hot pie in the window.
She is dusting her collection of milk glass. She is
entertaining heaps of ladies. If Josephine deigned to
enter Edith's parlor, why Josephine would be so light-
heartedl She would dance; she would drink up each
drop of golden syrup; she would kick the cushions off
the loveseats. She would cajole Edith, pet her puffed
sleeves, the gauze weave and silver ribbon, pull Edith
to the floor, tickle her, tease her. She would beg her
to reveal her moles, bloodied where the hairs rooted
thickly and were scraped away with her husband's razor.
The moles are wickedly The moles are very clever! Jose-
phine would cling to Edith. She would tear at her dress
and slice her stays with the bill hook. She would crack
the stale corset and put her hand inside.
"They make the Hyades!" she'd cry, Edith's broad
back exposed, Edith bleating and twisting on the cush-
ions, as though Josephine would deign, as though Edith
might dare to dream so, as though the sky befouled
itself at nightfall.
.-A 7-WN 14
Where Did You Consummate Your Union?
The sacks smell brown and sweet, and the girls rub
their faces on the rough cloth until their lips are swol-
len. With their beating heels, they topple a wicker bas-
ket of seed. One girl seizes a fistful, forces it between
the other's lips. Why can't the girl fit the seeds inside
her? She is the size of the wicker basket, and with the
same coarse and reddish hair! The girls struggle, seeds
sticking to their cheeks and lips and tongues. The gaps
in the weatherboards let the night airs enter, and one
girl shifts, lets the other flip over. They lift their wet
faces to dry in the moaning wind.
They Have Penpals in a Far Off Country
After arguing for half the day, they pack the hard little
apples green into a padded chest. Neither has shed a
tear and the apples have been culled. No bruises
Their lips are stinging. They hurl their empty cups
and overturn the nursery table. They find, in the
maid's chamber pot, three hornets' bladders floating
in badger milk.
Let None Come Empty But Slut and
A military man takes the girls for the baker's daugh-
ters. On the love seat, he sits with the girls on either
side. He feeds them candied chestnuts. The girls are
sucking his fingertips when their father enters.
The girls fall back against the cushions, horrified,
brandy dripping down their chins.
JI.M.W 1W.N1 OWN OPM M
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Light streams through the oeil-de-boeuf, black tracery
and yellow stain. In her sleep, she has transcribed a
letter to the Duke of Mantua, concerning oysters. She
does not begrudge her hands their nightly labors. Only
her ability to see the dead disturbs her. -
The sister stands outside the open gate until the lamps
shine through the windows of the hall. Salted lamb is
being served, and cod cheeks and cured shark and had-
dock and creamed sea urchin and nut-crusted reindeer
filets with crowberry jam, and trout roe and boiled
tern eggs and moss curds and fried ptarmigan cakes
with bacon and scallion jellies, and the windows of the
great hall are clouding. Snow begins to fall between the
sister and the windows. The sister does not move. She
says, "Now I will sit at their table." She does not move.
White Poplin Gored a la Princess
The maid dreams that Josephine has come to serve her
pearls and rice in bed. Josephine is wearing a fantastic
gown, but serves the maid humbly.
The maid gags at the sour taste.
"It's the citronwood bowl," explains Josephine, but
when the maid wakes up she finds a decaying mouse
and gnawed cherry stone beneath her pillow.
He Loves Honor More
She stands naked in the snowfields, picking asters,
her body steaming like the tanneries of 19th century
Manchester. She pauses, struck.
"Is it the cold I feel?" She asks. "Or moonlight?"
Corms and Gladiolas
Huddled in the garden, white snow on the ground,
and white silk flapping in the trees, two girls twist cold
fingers through the curving handles of their porcelain
teacups. Steam rises. Candle wax flows down onto
the iron table and hardens, opaque. In the shape of the
wax, one girl sees the coast of France, the other, men's
bones and all uncleanness.
The gardener's son has nothing to do, at this hour,
in this season. He dreams that the two girls have
slipped beneath the ice on the millpond, but when
he arrives at the iron dark edge of the water, he can't
bring himself to strike the surface. He looks up at the
tossing pines, the argent moon. He remembers that
the girls were pushing a tumbril. A large dunnish col-
ored hare leapt out. He sees a tumbril leaning on the
broken fence. It is filled with straw.
She dismounts her little stallion to slake herself at the
river. A quantity of windfall fruit has rotted in the
water. She drinks and heaves, drinks and heaves, and
crawls to her little stallion. Her little stallion stands
still and lathered. She tries to grasp her little stallion
round the knees. He bares his bright teeth and bites her
neck. She gasps and vomits three plums onto the clay.
Saint Distaff's Day
He butchers everything, the livestock and the children,
except a hen, which pecked at the palms of the corpses,
and disappeared into the barn. He put corn in the
hands of the corpses and the hen returned.
We Eat No Broken Meats
The cook has hung herself from the kitchen rafter. The
men cut her down, the black-bottomed pots clang-
ing together. Josephine's father is finishing a dinner
rich with sauces. He strokes his silk bib as if it were
a beard. Yet Josephine's father has never had a beard.
His head is made of yellow wax. No pores or follices.
The nostrils are held open by copper straws.They have
greened the upper lip and gums. Josephine is at the
foot of the stairs. She hears herself screaming.
The bathroom mirror is dim as flnt. Once Josephine
appeared in the mirror, thin and pale with unraveled
hem. She supposes the dunness is a kind of'grease.
Josephine has seen such residues on her linens and
other things too long in the light. But then again, she
has scraped her nails beneath her chin and caked her
fingertips with yellow deposit. She has neier held a
candlebeneath her chin, or hand mirror, or walked
backwards up the midnight stair-the calvx of abutter-
cup perhaps, that would explain it. .
lot I W
She Could Only Manage a Muscat Pear,
Downstairs, she sees, on the flesh hook, the cook,
pierced through the chest. She pulls a red silk scarf
from the cook's chest, then another, then another. She
wakes up and remembers with relief the cook was
hanged. She rings the bell for breakfast, fingering the
red silk of her camisole. Her camisole is not fresh. Her
hair is long and uncombed, but she is not embarrassed.
JOANNA RUOCCO lives in Denver, Colorado.
She is the co-editor of Birkensnake, a journal of
experimental fiction, and is the author of The Moth-
ering Coven and Man's Companions.The chapbook
version of Compendium of Domestic Incidents is
forthcoming from Noemi Press in 2010.
THE KIDNEY PRESS is Sarah McDermott. She
made this book inTuscaloosa and Gordo, Alabama.
All paper is handmade of cotton rag and banana
stems, minus the one folio of machine-made kozo.
The typefaces are Perpetua (text), Century School-
book (titles), Bickham Script Pro and Century Gothic
(headings), printed with polymer plates on aVander-
cook press. All drawings are by the Kidney Press and
are either silkscreened or letterpress printed.
Thank you to my papermaking partner, Allison
Milham, and the many others who helped pull
sheets when I threw out my back including Emily
Tipps,Todd Norton, Ally Nevarez, and Sara Parkel;
to my obliging modelsAnastasia and Betsy; to Glenn
House and Kathy Fetters in Gordo for their generos-
ity; to my thesis committee of Steve Miller and Anna
Embree at the University of Alabama and Ana Cor-
deiro at the Center for Book Arts in NewYork City;
and finally, to Joanna for her flexibility and trust.
Spring2010.Thisis# ii # '