Madwoman in the Basement (Poem)

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith and her maidservant (via)
Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith and her maidservant (via)

Madwoman in the Basement

In uneasy dreams, as if from a great distance,
I hear her howls.

Fat, queer, hairy, howling—
I am rage not eaten—silence vomited back.
I am the bloated corpse of a child
I was intended to become. I am sorrow.
I suck the slime off chicken bones from carcasses
tossed down stairs to me in my darkness.
My foul breath hisses past chipped teeth
and the burnt-out embers of my once-eyes feel hot in my skull.

 Beneath the placid seeming-adulation of my measured days,
deep within my silent throat, vocal chords severed
(by whose hand? by whose distrust?)
flap in impotence like the damaged wings of a grounded bat.
Not even shrieking tempests whistle through this muteness.
Yet I too in the not-quite-dark of my pink bedroom
know the taste of raw meat consumed
with clawed fingers and hungry teeth.

I am grown too fat in this flea-ridden cage
I split open the metaphor you sent to contain me.
I am coming—virginwhore—slouching and misshapen
roaring from the pit—I am coming to claim
my separate self, my other Me.

 Beware beware, clutched in my hand a rusty padlock key.
If I release the hoary titted beast dungeoned beneath us,
rutting for decades in foetid darkness and moldy straw,
she comes up roaring
to rip apart your tissued principles
and will, with tender violence, bed your queen.

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