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DOG WOMAN ❋ Melinda Freudenberger

This work comes from the collection Dog Woman, which was shortlisted for The Metatron Prize for Rising Authors.




dog-woman limps home
to her bed / news-
papers feathered like
soft pillows / her
oil lamps lit / i like
it like this she says / whimpers
at the border
of it / evening draws
a shade over us / is
the glass of water i reach
for in the dark / there
is a god who closes wombs
like drawing curtains / that kind
of power looks good when
our cunt does nothing but
bleed / curled
up at my feet you are
innocent to the thought of
a different universe / your
unhinged devotion
even me — body
isn’t yours body is
someone else’s you chew
dreamily on a bone
preoccupied with
another mouth
fixation / to find
the begging built in
is just to find
the instruction



i adopt the position and move forward : behind arched / his
drill mounted and readied / headphones-man’s baby was
born he says he’s / active in the fathering / what kind of movement
between two people creates a third one ? / try to imagine
body riper than it is try to imagine / his baby as anything / other
than feral and mounted on a tree by a big nail in the neck / if i
was made out of dust then to dust i will return or is that not
how it goes / who here is the liar ? / headphones-man mentions
a first birthday party he / cradles my face at his middle / this
time he doesn’t push as hard / something like a / caress at
the base of my neck / seems like third one makes the bruise
more gentle / if i focus hard enough i can hear / the blue bird as
the wind slams against the trees / and the sun goes up
and the sun goes down and i return to the same hole

when i first met her
she called me baby / each
syllable drawn
out in long
swords so i could
never mistake
where it came
from / knew its birth-
place as she suckled
at my breast / bayyy
beeee and emptied
me and teethed
for more / the root
word for areola
comes from one
meaning a dry
barren land / dog-
woman flattens
me into one act of violence
where i am both victim
and perpetrator / and
didn’t i know
that already ? / how
long had she been
in the room / days
melt into
one another / her
hair matted / her l
egs sticky with
old wet / what
else should i do with
chronic sickness but
bury it / make
a doctor’s appointment
my psychiatrist replies /
conjures her pad for a



doctor’s room / white and cold as the underside of the moon
— equally so : BA-BEE’s back to me / the sleeves of this shirt
barely cover shoulders where skin meets black and
blue so / noticeable and so / tender body / is an island i am
stranded on can i ask you how i was born yet / am i old
enough to finally contain it / you are in the room but not here
with me : humming underneath your breath the song we
heard now miles away notes dripped on the curb in a silver
mess / eager to leave me aren’t you / behind you a
single beam of light refracts through your cool sharp / surface
you still can’t look me in the eye if / anything i am your
historian / i am here to show you what you’ve done

one of those mornings / un-
thinking / overthinking / a
pomegranate sits on our
kitchen table soaking
in rays of light waiting
to be split / dog-woman
watches me pluck
and tweeze and scrub from
the bathroom doorway / how
long till i understand you if
ever / slow
to language you nuzzle
my calf / slower
to touch i slip
down / your cheek
in my hand my
brush gliding through
your hair snagging
on tiny islands of
dirt and rock / a flash
of yellow teeth / your
breath hot with old
meat / don’t
worry / your body
is mine for only
this second /
elsewhere light
still filters on red
fruit / the water in
the bath warmed /i
owe you



first time i met BA-BEE she kept me in her room had no idea what to do
with me / i trembled in from underneath / legs shaking aching to piss
and i looked into her / eye to eye / and she realized she was naked and she
hid / neither of us knew what form i would take but on hands and knees we
recognized each other / reluctantly she let me follow her into the kitchen
where she slipped an oily meaty disc out of some plastic wrap and called it
bologna / dangling it in front of my face / strange to discover that i had
a hole in the middle of me just for this and at the sight of my lips stretching
and teeth mushing she let go the most beautiful sound / a trill like someone
had run their fingers over strings as they passed by and i / fell in love with
that sound / i didn’t know the term ‘falling in love’ at first / BA-BEE watches
THE BACHELOR in which those who look like BA-BEE but are not BA-BEE
talk and meet mouths and hand each other flowers gripped up from the wild
earth’s clutches in order to communicate / tenderness / BA-BEE read to me
from the dictionary on good nights where she spilled the definition
of it : showing gentleness / sensitivity to pain / easy to chew / other uses : to
tenderize wherein BA-BEE grabbed her meat mallet to execute the concept on
a raw animal breast / BA-BEE was a machine / with each strike the breast was left
with spiked imprints / broken tissue / i am both the meat and the mallet and i under-
stand / but it’s too late / next she agreed to let me see the world / loading me up
into a giant mechanical mouth shutting the lid on me / the air inside of the mouth
smelled vaguely of cinnamon / and before i could ask any questions she got inside
too turned her hand till the mouth rumbled and glided us forward no legs /
movement no exhaustion / entire lives passed me by : other / houses more
woods and the long paved pathways that got us there SO MUCH information
to take in it blew the mind backwards / absence of brain-wanderings / this is a car
ride BA-BEE said / my window slid open : yes i could call it / mine / the outside
leaked in highlighting the side of her face / beaming and yes the thing called
love leapt into my chest / love which i had never tasted before

The body is an eye. The body is two holes. The body is a large, empty stomach
that BABY has learned to fill for cheap. The ritual is always the same. Each can
of sweetened, condensed milk contains an average of 650 calories. BABY puts
1,950 calories on the conveyor belt at the grocery store every three days. It costs
$3.39. If each can costs $1.13, how many cans did BA-BEE buy? Portrait of the
three now opened cans on the kitchen counter top. Portrait of glitter and fog
flipping against the razored metal edges. If we consider the house’s presence,
we must consider there is always a voyeur. The ritual is the same, and the house
keeps a catalogue of its violations. BABY dunks two fingers in each of the cans,
starting from left to right, the milk like saliva slung among the cans’ lips. She
sticks both fingers in her mouth for the first taste. With one hand gripping
the first can and her other hand holding her nose, she pours it into her mouth, milk
dripping down the sides of her face when she misses. It is not a competition. It’s
about the opulence, the disregard—the better feeling eating at the small tight
feeling to create a blackened hole of cellulitic nothingness. The body is a moat.
The body is a shield. The body is an oozing knight in armor with its sugared,
bloated aura. If we consider the house’s presence, we must then consider there
is always a witness: Dog-Woman had cast BABY one last look. The look was
illegible. It contained multitudes. BABY the executioner turned her eyes to the
ground as Dog-Woman passed through the sliding glass doors quietly.



bigger love will only come around once in a while / i stay
i groom myself for it wait at doggie door for white treat !
i only saw it once / glimmering from in between the doorjamb / i
scratched and whined and you yelled HEY SHUT UP THE
BACHELOR IS ON! and verily verily as i quieted down the light
fizzled like air leaking slowly out of a giant balloon / i watched
the light pass without coming through us / headphones-man
says that’s what makes me a good animal / the quieter
i am the easier it is : how different is BA-BEE ? hiding me away /
from where do they both come the mold so similar sometimes
i look and grit my teeth and then look again — could she
remember her eyes on me through the glass unwilling to open
the door ? she lowered herself slowly and began going down