Three Fragments

libido spectandi

the convulsionaries of saint medard appear before him, their bodies covered in wounds. their deacon dead. the men drag the body behind them on a funeral bier. the women gather at the grave site, clumps of hair clotted in their hands—patches torn out with the scalp attached. their cheeks riven with scratches, their breasts bruised. the women fling themselves to the ground, bodies prostrate before the grave, limbs flailing into seizure. as the men drag the deacon nearer, their heels hit the ground hard. the rhythm, a dirge driven into the dirt. the women succumb to ecstasies, eating the earth around the tomb, calling out for cures. they bark and mew, leap in the air, strike themselves with axes, spades, hammers, swords. showing one another how they do not bleed. the women twist their nipples with pliers, stick their breasts with pins, until they look like barbed and armored beasts. waiting for the men to trample them into earth.

femina, fex Sathanae, rosa fetens

in the laboratory lie women, moist and humid, vulvas weeping.

machines collect the secretions—scraping and exsiccating uterine walls, extracting fluid from sexes dank as caves. basins fill to the brim with the brackish runoff. tears and urine. milky flowings. bloody sweats. sexes blooming like a field of fetid roses. plucked. les fleurs du mal, les flueurs blanches. the laboratory is lined with steel receptacles. tubs in which women have soaked for months, bodies softening until the membranous parts, like parchment, have dissolved, detached—exiting the body through the bladder, excreted through the pores of the flesh. the women’s bodies exuding, effluvial. like sirens submerged. each tub an ocean. each body aquatic. at night, the scientists use a system of weights and pulleys to winch each woman out of the water. dredging the defluent bodies from their immersions, exhuming them for brief inspections. the scientists test the suppleness of the women’s skin, prying back the peeling layers. their hands part the women’s thighs. searching for something solid, some internal substance that will not deliquesce. the women suspended above the water, ponderous and dripping. sirens surfacing to air. the scientists, like sailors, nestled between their knees—bowed before, amidst, below that wet shrine.

dulce venenum, excès vénériens

romulus and remus erect statues of their mother, creating a sculpture garden filled with plaster castings of her body. rhea sylvia as vestal virgin. rhea sylvia raped by mars. rhea sylvia birthing the future of rome—twin boys, twin brothers molding their mother’s body out of marble, travertine, mortar. a body they’ve never known. their mother entombed alive after giving birth, her remains shifting under dirt and the dust of buried relics. in their sculptures, she is always nude, and the boys trail their hands over unfamiliar curves, over breasts never suckled, a womb once occupied, now forgotten. their mother still a girl in their minds. in their monuments. the twins spend hours amongst the sculptures, severing and rejoining limbs, posing her in every permutation. the horned-rhea, the child-rhea, the saint. rhea the erotic—plaster hand between her legs, plaster head flung back. placed in positions she could not possibly maintain. head bent between her legs, breasts covering her belly, suckling herself—both she-wolf and foundling. they enter her as if she is a virgin. breaching her hips in an inversion of birth—the two boys together, their sexes identical. tongues pressed to the nipples, searching for milk. the boys finger the wet contours of her sex—so smooth before the plaster dries—her nipples still pliable, her body damp and lithe. but the statues always stiffen and sear, leaving the boys thirsting. their throats dry, their bodies parched for liquid. the brothers moisten the materials. they manipulate the molds and recast the plaster. replicating their mother’s form until they have created a legion of rheas—a rome populated by her alone. the boys grow old in their mother’s company, spending days sitting before her, their heads resting on her knees. at night, the boys dream of their mother, and in their dreams, she is dreaming of them. her muscles flexing under her skin. each movement decadent. as she prowls the garden. her sculptures spread across acres. thousands of rheas recumbent. amassed like an army at the city gates.