Three Fragments

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.