One morning I woke up with bright pink bites. They stayed for what seemed like weeks without fading, in a blotchy archipelago from coccyx to hip bone. My lover took to counting them like a rosary, saying “bug, bug, bug, bug, bug”.
The bites appeared around the same time I met the pale girl.
The pale girl was also small, and I’d first found her tucked between the mattress and mattress slats of a giant bed. She had been decidedly put there, by the person whose bed it was, but neither of us knew when that had happened, or how long she’d been there. She wasn’t angry about it, and didn’t even seem to have noticed where she’d been. She spoke very quietly, like a door with a well-behaved hinge. Together we counted back to the last thing she remembered—feeding the cat two weeks ago. She’d been underneath the mattress for two whole weeks, but now seemed embarrassed to be out in the open air, taking up space. I quietly wondered how she’d managed inside: hadn’t she needed to piss? To shit, drink, eat? It seemed impolite to ask. It was as if her body had simply dropped out of itself, her functions suspended on pause.
By that point she was relieved, but a little on edge. The person whose bed it was was coming back soon. I didn’t know who they were exactly, but I knew the bed belonged to a tyrant.
If they came back and found us there, they’d put us both in the bed. Maybe for two weeks, maybe more.
I wasn’t so much scared of being put in the bed, as of becoming like Bug – taking it all so meekly.
Ah—didn’t I tell you her name? The pale girl’s name was Bug.
Speculative Nomenclature of the Female Subject
For some time, all the writing was false. Whenever I sat down to try, the syntax kinked stubbornly around the pronoun ‘she’ until the thing I was writing became a writing about her, whoever she was. A female subject.
They came in all manner of pomp and circumstance. Some injudicious divas, others gothic confidants or pseudo-Cistercian grandmothers. I never set out to write them, but they gaggled at the tip of the pen, and one of them would always manage to squeeze out. Before long, she’d have made the poem in her own likeness; we’d draft for six days, and on the seventh, publish.
I didn’t mind, really. It was kind of relieving to have the pressure taken off like that. And I liked the way they wrote poems for me—it did me a lot of favours, even though they were the ones with imagination, they liked to remind me. They had all the good ideas.
They did seem to want something from me, though. Their names got more and more presumptuous, and less and less like actual names. By the time I got to writing about the one called Silence, even I wasn’t fooled. What was the difference between Silence and silence, other than her tentative pronoun?
It was becoming risky. I didn’t know enough about speculative nomenclature to keep it up for long. For example, that morning I had written ‘despot’ instead of ‘depot’, and cracked a monstrosity into the quiet November morning.
I began to plot against Silence. The only thing I could think of was to replace her with an object, which I didn’t want to do. It’s like one of the subjects had told me: poems about objects are vulgar.
The solution came about by chance. A woman called Want had started to poke her way into my poem, and it would be hers in a matter of minutes if I didn’t do something quick. My sister was on the other side of the table, eating fun-sized marshmallows from the bag. I reached over and grabbed a pink one. Wrote W-A-N-T in spindly letters. It was difficult to do as the nib kept sinking in and snagging on the pink. Then I pulled it in two, and gave half to my sister. We gulped them down. She got W-A and I got N-T. It’s like the DNA bases, she said with her mouth full. A-T-C-G. Science taught us how to isolate.
And it did taste good, like Milk of Magnesia. We used to creep into the bathroom at night to steal sips from the bottle. And after: the soft metallic of our breath on the pillow.
My sister asked if the process was genomic. I noticed that at some point the poem had righted itself. There was a lamppost in it now, and some inclement weather. All seemed well. No, I replied. Not genomic, but psychodynamic. Ultimately, the subjects had been expressing a desire to attach or ‘dock’, and we (my sister and I) had helped them make a healthy transference to the gut, which was the nutritive seat of the soul.
She shrugged and reached for another marshmallow. It was marked—
Daisy Lafarge lives in Scotland. In 2017 she was awarded an Eric Gregory Award, and her first pamphlet ‘understudies for air’ was published by Sad Press.