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To those piggies of an alternate plane whom I greet on the first morning of my ascension and every morning thereafter, such as there are still mornings after the earth, its sun, and all familiar rotations have ended

Hello, piggies, who snore, root, farrow
and brave. Welcome piggies, though, more
accurately: welcome to me. I welcome
myself into your midst. I’ve arrived here
after a long journey from that plane only
marginally lower than this one, but 
from which it’s nearly impossible to ascend.

Piggies, as recently as two clicks ago, you would’ve 
found me down there, pouring molten gold into small 
mammalian skulls tidily excavated from owl pellets 
and spring floods. Mole, vole, shrew, more. Cauldron, 
ladle, funnel, fill. Cool. The cracks and hollows, sockets 
and circuits, now gaping, now all silent gold.

You would also have found me picturing knives.
I’d walk and think, and the image of knives, skewers, 
really, and very shiny, as swords for show. First fluttering 
in and out of the overlay, fissure-sure announcements. One 
might walk past forsythia and daffodil, but then come 
the warm knives, piercing in unlikely formations.

Those painted boards, piggies, against which knife-throwers 
command assistants brace in the rose’s concentric bloom. 
But, no. A three-dimensional target is what we need 
to pin this thought. An apple that goes all the way round. 
A skewer at the belt and one at the neck, halve the figure 
and halt the throat. A skewer through the very globe of it. 


Well, piggies, let me clarify. Down there, one must 
pass through the eye of a needle just to get from one day 
to the next. One must cultivate a shadow that takes 
the shape of their devotion. Shatavari root, salt, cotton 
mouth, cornflower. While entering one’s passcode,
while touching low-weight papers. Adjusting the

indignity of one’s garments, often prescribed, damp,
riding up. Don’t put your foot through a rotted board,
down there. Left alone with rope-burned palms 
and saltwater gauntlets. Moss hissing, where are you 
now, piggies? A well? Is it wet or dry? You tumble down
a cat’s cradle, collide with the pail, the riddled stone.

Slick, snake the rope around your arm, once, twice, lift. 
A knot becomes a stone upon which you place your foot,
a step, stand still for a moment, blade-shaped shaft of light 
cuts—no, gold, softer—scrapes your face, don’t worry, princess
Spit in each of your palms and shake hands with yourself, 
you’re climbing back up.
Make of your body a bear’s fist to get to the surface, but 
also make of your body a sliver, particle, mote in the sunlight 
that filters roundabout up through the gap in the well-top’s boards. 
Something no one will mind it slipping through because it isn’t. 
Then put back together from everything you’ve lost what they’re
expecting, marshal it back through high grasses, fix supper.

Am I making myself understood, piggies? You spend 
six hours calculating, six hours dangling, six hours eradicating, 
and six hours back in the bed of your incomplete charges. 
Do you sleep, 
                        imagine a heaven, 
                                                       do you shove yourself forth?


Piggies, I tell you, though we were near the end
we weren’t always hopeless. I wasn’t hopeless. 
When a jar needed souring, there I was with rusty 
nails, bitter herbs, to urinate, spitting a gritty wash of 
diatomaceous earth and bile. Sealed it up on the sill 
and waited as it turned turmeric, mud, old black plasm.
Do you understand? Turned to something older than 
any of the material in the sour jar could’ve originally been. 
Even in the case of creosote, included for a hex that runs
both forward and back along two-headed time. Do this and when
someone clears their throat, neatens their cuffs, looks left 
then right to tell you a lie about yourself, you’ll finally find it

impossible to—


impossible to—

                                 —include in your inner monologue

impossible to—

                                —perceive as either fact or fiction, further north or farther up.


Crucial to my survival and immediate to my collapse, 
like many a peckish luckdowner, down there, was over-
staying my welcome. On some occasions I stayed because 
I was scrappy, and others because I was sad. Singalong, 
spring piggies, mostly it just made me mad. Late to the party, 
but last for lights out, I learned to linger. Which gets you
lying, lying down and standing up in equal measure. It gets you
a life completely. That is, when newcomers presented themselves 
in one’s life, one had to have asked what next. One had 
better not have considered the sunk cost, but stuffed it 
in a cup. Addressed not the red flag, but the wide wool cowl, 
the bamboo cigarette rolled lavender, spearmint, damiana.

Regarded not the jagged edge where a hem of light shaked out
with morning’s haptic genius should’ve lied double-stitched 
and flat along this new friend’s profile. Her nose cutting a line
that could only be breath on glass, her chin telling you which direction 
the wind would blow—don’t worry, we’re getting to the meat!
That is, if you stay long enough, you’ll see the third show.

You’ll witness the side ring—the dirt, the air, the rain, the sea,
the rivers, the hedge, the insects, the arctics, branches and bogs,
hooves on the hillside, everything that was accoutrement to body
and bed sliding into the center ring and your own seat forward. 
The water, the winds, the viscosity of brine, a hostile ocean in 
a larger ocean’s core. Puncture the balanced thing and into it

insert a dozen imbalanced trojans. Mix numbers with letters,
add oil. Add winter. Add mycotoxin and subtract its foil. Peel 
back the labels, the seals. Open the doors and beyond the doors 
there we were, lingering and there, too, was the end. It nested
in the eaves and skulked in the coral. It put up on the branch
of a yew that came down in a storm, its roots tore up the graves. 


Lissen, piggies. Down there, I too was subject
to the cult of improvements. One must get
better to get higher and get higher to get
, we said. It came in different flavors. 
Chakra banking, fatherhood, hairshirt 
teams, psychedelic river bed crouching

disciplined waste reduction, dumpster-diving 
recommodification, beginning conversations 
with one’s passion, crossfit, solitary leisureless 
damp naked pursuit of one’s own character 
while shoving one’s own body ahead, as though
if you beat its brow innovatively enough

the cracked screen of the mobile device would
release with a bleating, popping, piston sound
your avatar perfected and that contoured bobo 
nonetheless enlightened would relieve you 
of your service. Just as you, piggies, approach
a truffle, root and ingest, so we tried to advance

until we might envelop those selves we knew 
hovering just beyond the extreme of perception, 
their exuberant scent pulsing, repulsing, a mock sword 
for training, straight, wooden, but appearing to curve
as does the road into the scrim backdrop of far 
that might itself be a road, and then what of its players?

Of course, your character was already there, stitched 
neatly into you, as were all the battles of all the tribes 
fluttering in and out of stronghold, exerting and getting
over-exerted. An emperor sleeps in a fine bed 
in a fine tent in a wood. Sound familiar? Well, piggies,
the thread with which canvas was cinched was spun

from the detritus, and the spider who spun it liked
a good joke. A rumor of death, a passing rider, a woman 
whose family is cruel, a child without a drop of ink. 
Could you see it scalded on an infant’s brow?
Below, things forge inside, rust, and crumble there, too. 
If spring comes, don’t lift the blankets. The dust blows.

It sticks 
to mud.
The mud 
is quick, 
and quicker 
than the quickening
that precedes 
the heartbeat
of a new spool.


Here, trav the meadow grasses, base of your massive
oak, sniff the fruiting bodies and, piggies,
dial down into the fungal latticework through which
your oak communicates its sugar to the sisters
at the far side of this open field. Weeping sisters
sweeping, branching. Bracing, grafting, twisting

sisters, and in return—I’m using the terminology 
from below—the sisters tell us what’s coming down 
the forest line. Line down. Lie down. Down there 
we lay down tracks, laws, a number of times our 
own sad sacks we lay down the sword and shield 
down by a riverside; it’s hard

to lay down something you hold not in the hand
but in the bush. Let’s face it, piggies, you don’t
need a shepherd and I no flock, but we’re made
for each other. You’re made of something I’m 
just beginning to recognize. Down there, I was
never nourished, but I grew plump and blossomed

into middle age all the same. Then things happened
and here I arrived. That’s the short version, but when
did I ever cut it short? You know the one about the mice? 
Why butcher their tales when you could have their hides. 
Those minor seasons, unhemmed days 
where snow and ants crossed paths. The scent 

of such a thing, faded, wet, icing over, a camphor
frost, a bleachy moonstone. Far from creosote, 
but a little antiseptic and prehistoric all the same.
Anthill, eyeball, frantic pie hole. Anthill, roll call, 
panic, off glow. What took place at that scale 
was more than most of us could bear. 

We disrupted the skein, compounded the earth, 
we stamped down hard and then harder still,
we filched the innards of the rubber tree. We sifted
through soil hungry only for the sharp and bright
leavings. We piled it all on a conveyer belt and ran
it through the factory where out the other side it came

a machine for further filching. 
     Down there, of course
when crushing things,
     they’d clap, 
     you’re crushing it


What was real, then, piggies? One might’ve owned 
a boar-bristle brush, and which was more real, 
the beard of the boar from which each hair was plucked 
or the beard being brushed by the former boar’s bristle? 
When you looked into a bog, down there, it was into an eye 
from the past you could touch, even the actual hand,

a finger, nail ragged, of someone who danced in braided sun-skirt
some two-thousand years earlier. It happened. So who was I, 
piggies, to question the architecture of another creature’s mind? 
Who was I to question the ballad about the harp made
of the breastbone of the youngest sister drowned in bonnie brume?
I was not one. In a dream one had to blink to maintain the facade

of wakeful normalcy, but often we forgot. To blink, to breathe, to eat, 
to swallow, they said, piggies, that most of us also forgot to read 
or speak, but I did not. Nights, I carried my undelivered speech so far 
that it might’ve traveled here on a silver wire. To you. Or whomever. 
Well, piggies, what did I say, then? Things said in dreams. A palace. 
A forest. The door’s locked. Did you find it? My speech? Toward

the end, when most was dreams and little waking, I spoke more
not less, and more urgently. A forest, a tree startles, hurricane or
hubris. That sort of thing. The scans had showed the brain 
eighty-six percent dream. Ten-percent conscious doing. Some instinct.
Piggies, who lied in that bed first at twenty, then thirty, then forty? 
You’d think all that time rolling over the mattress, someone

would’ve found time. To take out the garbage. Let out the waists, 
catch up to the oracle mommies and beg them to stay. They did not
beg us to stay. They didn’t ask us to go, either. We were hard
to pay attention to. Could you tell, down there, an oracle mommy 
from the regular sort? You could if you held your palm over her 
flame without flinching. You could if you tried.


Those last years, piggies, we often talked about healing 
as though it were a level of maturity to which one could ascend, 
or a primordial state to which one could return. It was
neither. It was a process which should never have become 
vestigial. A mythology. In the wellness markets, one could buy  

healing frequencies. Let me explain, machines that emitted a range 
of healing frequencies depending on the molecular requirements 
of the host and its guests. I must remind you, guests were not often 
welcome, nor invited, though sometimes there were guests 
for whose company one longed, despite never yet having

made their acquaintance, and you begged, piggies, you begged 
for these visitors until they either arrived or you found yourself at the edge 
of a meadow beyond which no visitors are ever allowed. But I digress, 
I was telling you about the machines, no more foolish than any other 
with which science had not yet caught up, the gramophone, or
those early boxes whose effects were to relax muscles and improve 

morale. Well, you could get killed in the market for trying to procure 
such a thing, acquiring it for the sad simple fact: you had those ailments 
that doctors treated only if you had signed a binding contract with the state 
before said ailments were acquired, they called it a science. A data science 
named cost benefit. This may sound familiar, piggies. 
It also oversaw the production of meat. Of edible meat, forgive me.

Sometimes someone in your inner circle would say, you need therapy.
Not because they cared for you or wished for you a gentle moment 
in which another human would be on your side. No. Because 
they hoped you would be scolded for having failed to put them
in the center of your equation. You understand? I was born in the time
when women were not yet key figures in their own lives, and though 

we got to the very absolute end of time, women never in fact achieved 
this central role in their own lives. At least, that was not the common
understanding. Do you hear me using that word a lot? To understand. 
To get beneath a thing and know its base. To get beneath a heavy 
globe and hold it aloft not with might, but reason, intuition, 
tenacity and what? Luck? To understand. A current and a currency. 


Those minor seasons, snow and ants, piggies,
down there you would be washing your hands 
with the government lavender and something sharp 
would get you. Would turn out the lights. They said 
we didn’t remember pain, the pain remembered 
us, pinned our faces to the board, got to us

through its own memories of time spent
deep in our bodies. One had to stay quiet, take care
of the spikes, arrange for the silence, one had to
legally purchase each of the medicine’s chemical
components and illegally assemble it at home. That medicine 
had been a whole plant, so one actually reassembled it.

Can you imagine, piggies, this tree, parsed into root and seed,
bark and flesh, sap and sinew. Further. Into copper and salt,
into carbon and nitrogen. Picture things spun in a centrifuge.
You know? A room into which the subject was placed, 
then spun until it became its component objects. Easier
to understand a fiber at a time, flung out over the rail.

Her heart splayed and flattened to the padded wall. 
I’m confusing it with a carnival ride called Alien Invasion.
Anyhow, piggies, imagine a plant so medicinal it became illegal
and could only be grown in the body. They’d poison you
before they’d let you dream. Great purple trumpets
full of mercury, every dawn, swimming in glassy seeds,

washing down your throat a cool, dry river. But later,
erupting into febrile slurry, lowdown, sacking you
around the knees. Often, down there, the threat of pain
obstructed the view, but sometimes it was the overture
to spreading arms wide. Brothers did. Sisters and sweethearts.
Piggies, I wish I could say I’d been as bold, calm, steady, and lucid

then as I am now with you, but I cannot. One couldn’t be. Not even
one who’d eventually join you under this oak, in this meadow,
no further need for mown paths, at the edge of this forest. Beyond
the suggestion of a shelter. Is there or isn’t there a painless afterlife? 
Is that what you imagine I’m wondering? Slow down, piggies, 
I’m not nearly there, yet. 

Danielle Pafunda is author of nine books, including Spite (The Operating System), The Book of Scab (Ricochet Editions), Beshrew (Dusie Press), and The Dead Girls Speak in Unison (Bloof Books). She teaches at Rochester Institute of Technology.