FOUR: Drowners / by Lauren Artiles




in a dirty lake downtown

they’re holding auditions for the 

best dead girl of the century

and I am the forty first one in line,

not wearing the right blue dress,

my hair is working itself up into intestinal knots

when it should be trailing behind me 

like airplane banners at the beach


I am concerned about parts of me

floating incorrectly when tested against

the milky water


is the thing with witches that they float,

or what?

what I lack in precision of recall

I make up for in my love

of other specificities—

undoing certain knots,

wetting thread with my tongue,

pressing hot keys into one eye,

then the other


this places me high in the ‘aspirations’ round

but the questions start getting more difficult

and some bodies around me are 

casting hazy white light as the dark comes up,

which mine will not do

no matter how hard I hit

in any different spot

to find the switch that turns me on




what do you know

about female violence

when it goes from the inside out

and not the other way around?


--a glove made of teeth will cut any hand to fit.




the line between clean and dirty

looks a lot like the shore of a lake in

the northwestern pines,

and me riding it, 

some cool blue body you think you recognize

from a portrait in my parent’s living room


the line between dead and alive is not a line at all;

it is a series of holes, concentric circles,

a motel shower drain at the edge of the universe

that my light is slipping through like syrup


the line between you and me is 

the thin skin of my still open eye

and my drain hole pupil

on my side I am looking back





at the dead girl contest the judges ask,

how much can you hold in your breath

how serene can your face go without any muscles

and could flower petals adhere to your skin

without glue, a lot of them,

a whole wreath really


some girls are being rolled in skeins of plastic and

others are being dropped from medium heights

to see how they drape when they land


some are good, bonelessly elegant

some bend at furious angles and those 

get only a handshake and a clean sheet

to cover themselves in


I am being pushed closer to the edge of the lake

really it’s just a big pond and

there are chip bags stuck in the grate of the fountain 

I am thirty eighth in line,

hoping to win the gift certificate at least

it doesn’t matter where it’s for




what do you know about the dead girl’s agency?


--Lord, we know what we are,

but know not what 

we may be.




the moss at the lake bottom is so soft

like deer or boys must feel in human hands


I watch them from behind the knots of trees;

they drink and dip their feet in by the bank,

the sharp dark hooves and the dirty toenails,

the pink tongues darting in and out of mouths

which make sounds that are lush and harsh and warm


the flowers in my hair are barely flowers;

just filaments of something that was flesh

my eyes work so much better underwater

to have seen what I have seen, see what I see


I pull up curds of wet earth and I dream

of riding all the deer into the woods,

of twisting all the boys’ hair into antlers,

which parts of each would be the best to eat