Marthe Reed to Danielle Pafunda
Your Man Hater floors and unsettles me, its furious ur-mother, monstrous “mommy” – a vagina dentata raging at her “hotties” and “sperm donor” – channeling a visceral retort to the mad-dog religio-political fever/fervor to re-colonize the (aberrant) female body. This book shatters the backward-graspers: this Man Hater is a hard shot to the diaphragm, a fierce woman who won’t “be good,” though she’ll happily eat her adversaries alive. She’s terrifying – and I like her!
Thrusting back at the cultic, patriarchal wish to contain woman’s desire, keep her silent and in her place (aren’t these the same thing?), your Man Hater is any body “he” might desire, “eight, eighteen, crone.” Or so she seems. Inside that come hither, that smile, you’ve constructed a voracious predator, ready with her “long-handled spoon / [to] dig a meal’s worth out of this barren fuckscape.” Pregnant, a churning fecundity, her “pelvic floor…roaring again,” she’s as liable to devour those babes as to birth them. Birth-life-death, “[opening] just wide enough / to start the black wings rattling,” she’s precisely the terror woman-haters fear. Your/their “monster” rises out of nightmares, Man Hater standing toe-to-toe – hip-to-hip – with Todd Akin and his abortion-denying, legitimate-rapist kin, delivering “a sure thing. / …her favorite disease. / And death.” A swift fist in the teeth, or spines in the throat:
A new treasure brews in her gutter.
Roiling, unaware of her snip, far, far away
through several thick inches of music and mucous.
Mommy notes the number of plush haters
gathered in the quad. They’re nothing fancy,
special, nothing. But they may have to do.
And out of her pocket come straws and spines.
She takes a meal where she finds it. When you turn, in section two, to the commodified female body, your descriptions smack hard: a palm to his face or her tongue to her lips. Man Hater now a suit of meat, contracting, wrapping, splitting open upon itself: “a traumadome / and a mummy cage” – a disease-ridden nightmare “wheeled into the sick-meat tube,” “a bag of hammers,” and “a vice of knives.” A body that refuses to obey/comply/conform, eating itself out of its own collapse. Each poem, a “plate” of invective resisting the culturally-construed body, beautiful beautiful beautiful, scouring the emotional and physical chaos of its dis-ease. Attacking the idealized body, your ur-woman destabilizes beauty’s illusion. A bitch on a fraying leash, when she’s “solved” by the veterinarian – hooked up to electrodes, her “disease” re-writ as beauty – her colonized body refuses to marshal its borders. Something’s cooking inside, though it’s not pretty.
These frothed and burned me
and I became beautiful
But far too soon thereafter
Far with suet, my seams split.
Out seep all the jolly worms
I’d been hoarding.
Adapting the culturally imperative of consumption, “Mommy must eat” after all, she fills her “plate,” “following your economic recession”:
Here is my hundred dollars.
Here is my fisty-looking competition.
I want to purchase your kittens.
I want to purchase your smallest
Softest urchin. Including its salt.
A “Full Grown Cutter”, she slices beauty open, “a box, a block, a can of worms”: “The reflex keeps me coughing.” Such beauty is a suicide, “too ugly to die on [her] own, waiting for “[her] pillowcase full of rocks” to drown her, this “beautiful” “woman” already dead, already resurrected in her own split skin. Too slippery to pin down to any easy trope, your Man Hater is a marvel, a wonder, and we’re lucky to have her.
When Man Hater’s final section takes up the lover, the possessive gaze/grip, you plant me face-to-face with horror, your Man Hater become the vector of the lover’s disease, the ex-lover’s mark,“a worm-filled ulcer.” As the remembered violence of the lover turns upon her, his “gorilla cage” now her “hand-built closet” where the intersection of memory and subjectivity collide, she eviscerates the ulcered trace:
I stuff a ball in my mouth.
I tape open my eyelids.
The bulb snaps out
with a spark that cuts clean
across the glass.
So what do you suppose I have there in the dark?
By the tail—
Oh, Danielle, what does she have in her mouth, in the dark, trapped in her maw? “Ex-lovers, a box / of pretty impairments for you to choose.” She touts her pretties, taunts them, “Invisible impairments,” wearing their “romantic quality!” Was she complicit, or was she playing with her prey? Claiming “a chronic memory,” she says she “dressed like a hare. My dress / like an animal in the road // whipping between my legs. // I stayed up all night in your locker, / spreading.” But did she? Wasn’t she always the one who decides? “Ex-lovers, each of your hateling pearls / once hatched in my palm.” Whichever, now she’s got a “new sex,” “This tube dress made of real tube? / Pink tissue, glossy from touch.” Just hiding its teeth. Shedding her “shock collar”, no longer a “pet,” she’s “a greater part pathogen/…./ Such an itch, such a ten-foot pole.” All those “bearded ex-lovers / with their mmm$$$$ / around their ankles” already adrift, she’s got her own agenda and she won’t jump back in where they “[suffocate] in the rotten down / of that well-worn rose sack.” Oh, she’s got teeth, all right, and knows how to use them.
Your images rattle and shake the bars of language, the fierce voice of these poems function-shifting nouns into verbs, all the better to eat you, my dear. Rejecting the ‘hallowed virtues’ of femininity (beauty, discretion, compliance), you’ve woven a dread rhetoric, a relentless, pointed violence, a battering ram at the barricades: “my face pigs and expels symmetry,” “I stand and glisten” — “it will dumb you.” Danielle Pafunda, Man Hater doesn’t just take names, it kicks down and eats everything in its path. Oh, there are more than a few I’d like to introduce her to.
Within reach of the Gulf, at the edge of the Atchafalaya, under the rain-struck sky, Marthe Reed writes, tends garden, reads, and in her free time directs the Creative Writing Program at UL Lafayette. Though she cannot vouch for the order of operations indicated by this list. She’s also the author of two books, Gaze (Black Radish Books) and tender box, a wunderkammmer (Lavender Ink). A third book is forthcoming from Moira Books.