Demiurge, Demimonde, Demitasse
When women first appeared
in the world, they were declared
self-created and thus “of suspect virtue.”
Yet still they came
as they were, every night gathering
on the terrace to drink small white
cups of strong black coffee which some say
was what enabled them to fly.
Where they flew was anybody’s guess.
People prognosticated. Hell
was the most common prediction; eldritch
forests a close second, women being known
for their love of all things tree.
We might’ve speculated
until the sun went out, but then one
broke ranks, talked to the press,
gave a two-hour exclusive—
What you’ve gleaned from the medieval
woodcuts is entirely true, she said; we flew to the bald, flat top
of a mountain untouched by any hand, even God’s. Yes
there was naked dancing, the desecration of sacred objects,
lesbian inseminations, recreational abortions. Many of us wore men’s
clothes; some cut their hair short and flexed their thick arms. When the devil came
we lined up to kiss his furry rump, an act which briefly granted us
powers beyond those we already enjoyed; the gift of perfect
sight, for example. We looked back over history, to prehistory,
as easily as one might look over a landscape.
We saw it was not God who created the world, but the devil,
whose original job was that of demiurge. Once you know
where you come from, nothing’s really the same. But still we returned
the next day to husbands, wives, and children. We took up
our forklifts and diaper bags as if we were
beasts who had been given a now-expired reprieve from commerce
and its burdens. To this day, we do not forget that we’re two parts
infernal, one part divine, she finished
and sat back, fingering a string of smooth, waxy pearls.
“Bloody Mary” wasn’t a game kids played
in those years of Nintendo and after-school
sports. I learned it from a book, the trick that’s old
as prophecy: light a candle, chant
at the mirror, and you’ll see
her in you: the old murderess,
the wicked witch, the bloodthirsty abortionist.
Wondering what it would be like
to inhabit a body that was part me,
part crone, I tried calling Bloody Mary up
one boring and lonely Saturday.
After the twentieth incantation she started to…cohere? It began
at my chin and spread
across mouth, jaw, and cheeks,
until my lower face was hers.
At 11 years old I already knew
the joys of being home alone; of leaving
my bedroom door open as I pushed my pubescent cock
and balls up inside, imagining myself
not as a girl, but something else.
When I touched the thin, hard lips that had replaced
my own, I thought about my mother,
whose disapproval was stronger than any witchcraft.
When I turned on the light there was nothing
but my own unsettled face.
This is what the body needs—to not be
It takes some patience and I can’t always do it,
but give me an hour in front of the mirror
and my chin will start to look androgynous.
Recurring nightmare where I cut myself
and nothing comes out.
In all my childhood photos
I have my hands folded behind my back.
Or I’m kneeling.
My limbs are necessary until the elbow.
Sometimes, 0 just makes the most sense.
When we met I dubbed you my demon lover, which was a mistake
because I had no basis for it other than your leather
jacket and the persistent smell of struck matches. Still I convinced
myself that some night you’d tear
your human face like wrapping paper
and show me and our friends just how sexy
you were with horns and a tail, and though that
never happened, there was the night you took me to bed
and showed me the things that rippled just beneath your shoulder
blades like trapped birds beating a cloth-draped
cage and when I said they looked like the twitching
stems of wings, you said you’d been born with a genetic
defect which had given you malformed appendages
resembling blighted angel wings which took
many surgeries to remove. I asked you how large
the wings had been and you said Large enough
to be noticeable beneath my shirt but not
what you’d call “Marquez-sized” and when I said
That’s hot you told me to fuck off.
But ten minutes later we were naked
on the bed and, though your body didn’t feel
any different than it had before, knowing I was being fucked
by someone who was part-guy, part-angel
made all the difference in the world.
Self-Portrait as Baba Yaga
Sundays I go down to the Hungarian
deli on the Lower East Side where
I can get away with eating children
if I’m sly about it, slipping them
into the goulash when no one’s looking.
Later I cruise Coney Island
in my mortar and pestle, but
only the elderly Soviet emigres
and granny fetishists pay attention.
These days I cast queer spells and
burn myself at the stake for the crowds,
offering nickel love
potions to the lovelorn at 33rd and 7th.
I have a tortoiseshell cat who catches mice and speaks
Polish, and a tortoiseshell comb that turns
into a city when it’s thrown on the ground.
When out-of-town children
ask my gender, I tell them
I’m a witch.