Baudelaire’s Sister at the Betty Ford by Deirdra McAfee


            See it. I’ll force you. The baby’s head, dark and bloody, coming from a cave inside me I’ll never see. Bitter dope-smoke in ruined houses. Needles. Unlabeled bottles shared with reeking strangers I’d have run from sober. A knife cuts a long red line inside my thigh.

            Liquor vomits me. I knock back more, fucking fraternity boys so drunk they can’t come.  Lying in a midnight ditch, x-rayed in cold white stars. French-kissing my uncle. My brother. My dog. So drunk they can’t come. Filthy-minded bastards.

            Sun beats a windscoured desert at Arizona’s edge. Long-haul trucks scream night and day. Hooky and hangovers spell: no school. God spoke before the truck hit them. Stop, He said. Left home, left town, left life. A knife cuts a long red line.

            I’ll make you. Coming from a cave. Fire breaks the walls. Fucking fraternity boys. Reeking strangers I’d have run from. Ridged black nails. Sober. Bitter. Dope-smoke in ruined houses. God’s voice. I’d have to imagine. I’d have to imagine sober. Fucked up, fucking, fucked. The word means rape.

            Flesh tight and wet. Lips warm and full. The skin there is velvet. Under cold white stars. The skin there is velvet. They can’t come. A knife inside my thigh. I’ll never see. I’d have run from sober. Vomits me. God spoke. The truck hit.

            A long red line on the inside. Puking my guts. Their guts. Spilled through tight flesh.  A windscoured shack. House built on sand. Flesh tight and wet. Flesh is grass. Imagine what you can’t imagine. You children. You fools.  A cave inside me I’ll never see. Fire breaks the walls.

            Why are you reading this? I can’t imagine. Sober. All lies but the knife and the baby. All lies but the blood. You filthy-minded bastards. Do the work, fill in the story. Rich young morons, you don’t know what a story is. How it flows. Like blood. Spilled through tight.

            Your lives happened in pieces: the fights; the divorce; the TV shows; the liquor. The dope. The sex. The hopeless idle days the grownups were at work. The dark rainy days empty houses smothered you.

            Your metamorphoses advanced. Coarse hair sprouted, everything thickened and burned. Don’t expect me to help. You had money. Parents. Mine lay tangled in unwashed sheets.  A finger of desert sun fell across them. A gnomon I watched while I toked up again. Look both ways, I used to tell them. I still do. The truck took them down and drove on. Lying in a midnight ditch x-rayed in cold white.

            You and your friends, monsters and ghouls, thickening and burning. Ganged in strangeness. You peopled empty houses. Hollow laughter, stripped skinny bodies. Liquor from the wet bar drowned the rest. Helped you do what you wanted without reflection or restraint. Drowned remorse. Until you did enough new terrible things that you couldn’t regret the old things any more. They sink and darken. Smothered. A long red line inside.

            Guilt isn’t cumulative but persists.  To stop feeling bad about the bad things, try worse things, things so appalling or disgusting you can’t feel. Things way down in that dark ditch past the last ditch. Stuff up your nose, your ass, your veins. Stuff yourselves into girls like me. Why are you reading this?

            You feel better about your lives by making muck of mine. Your slides past the edge look normal, not sick like mine. Mine were death, mine were real. Your scars are scabs you scratch off. You’ll lie to your children like the pigs you are: just say no. You never said no. You hypocrites.

            A long red line inside. Puking my guts. Their guts spilled through tight flesh. A windscoured shack. House of sand. The skin there is velvet. Flesh is grass. I can’t imagine. Flesh tight and wet. A cave inside I’ll never see.  Fire breaking in a midnight ditch. X-rayed in cold white stars.

            Now here I am trying not to die. Why are you reading this? I can’t imagine sober. Flesh is grass. Fire breaking all lies but the knife and the baby. All lies but the blood. You filthy-minded bastards. Why are you reading this?



Deirdra McAfee’s fiction has appeared in The Georgia Review, Confrontation, Willow Springs, The Diagram, and others. She has an MFA from The New School.