Planet of the Monster Girls—Jessie Lynn McMains

Come come, out into the streets with us. Us, monster girls. Come run through the streets of the Planet of the Monster Girls. The Planet of the Monster Girls is a planet within a planet. It’s a planet you can only find when it’s autumn on earth. It’s always autumn on the Planet of the Monster Girls. Always the season of hooded sweatshirts and Halloween costumes, hot cider and dead leaves crunching beneath monster girl feet. Always autumn and always nightfall, always the hour when the streetlights come on, when the shadows lengthen and girls lurk, monstrous in the shadows, waiting for their next victim. We monster girls know secrets. We know the secret of how all girls are victims. We know the secret of how all girls are monsters. We take turns playing monster, playing victim. One of us wears a black cape and the rest are her pale, trembling virgins. One of us menaces the night with gloved hands and a knife, the rest of us give her our most bloodcurdling shrieks. Come. Learn our secrets of menace, of night. Learn our secrets of fangs, blood, fur. Secrets of tombs, of swoon. Come howl at our five moons. The Planet of the Monster Girls has five moons: Lorre, Lugosi, Chaney, Karloff, Price. They are named for our favorite monster-men. We bathe in their cold old-film light, draw power from them. We love them so not because they are men but because they are monsters, and only they can understand how monstrous we are. When we fall asleep at dawn we dream of them. Of our Doctor Gogol and the fiendish need in his bulging eyes, we dream he loves us mad enough to kill us, dream of his hands around our throats. Of our Count Dracula and his black cloak, his leather-winged alter ego, we dream we are the ones he vants. We dream he flies into our bedrooms and mesmerizes us with his eyes until we gladly offer up our pale throats to his undead bite. We dream of our Wolfman, his taste for flesh and how his desires are so strong they transform him into pure desire, all animal, all monster. We dream of our Creature, of his hulking frame, the way he grunts instead of speaks. We dream we were made for him, his firm-boned brides, how his touch could electrify us alive, Alive! We dream of our Professor Jarrod and the silken somnolence of his voice, how we would love for him to turn us wax, keep us forever in his house of horrors. Come, b-movie lovers and midnight monsters. Come visit the Planet of the Monster Girls. See our five moons pinned against the night sky by the church spires and weathervanes that loom high above the streets we roam, the streets as wide as a studio backlot. See the stars, their celluloid flicker. See us roaming the streets, trick or treat, breathing hard beneath our rubber masks. Us: mummy, werewolf, madgirl, creature. Dance with us in the falling leaves, a red-gold-orange-brown orgy of decay. Come. It is autumn. The wind sinks its fangs into the veins on our necks. Smells of candy corn and candle wax, the rotted guts of pumpkins. We are waiting in the shadows for your arrival. Only a girl who is full of screams and casts her spells by night can find the Planet of the Monster Girls. Come, find the Planet of the Monster Girls. The wolf bane is blooming and the autumn moons are bright.

Jessie Lynn McMains (they/them or she/her) is a writer, publisher, and zine-maker. They run Bone & Ink Press and were the 2016/17 Poet Laureate of Racine, WI. Find them at recklesschants.net, or on TumblrTwitter, and Instagram @rustbeltjessie.

image compiled using photos by Johannes Plenio and Curly Girl (via unsplash), and brushes by Obsidian Dawn

On Being An Angel—Jessie Lynn McMains

content warning: suicide mention

(for Francesca Woodman)

o morbid angel your death-show opened
the year i was born
your suicide
predicted mine
who hasn’t felt the desire to die

o fascination when i was young
it was easier
to imagine dying than growing up 

o cunning ghost you’re a piano wire
snapped and curling
from the piano’s wooden warp, its corpse
hidden in the home behind the pines
o lovely dead body disappearing
into the woodwork of the house of childhood
and the camera clicks
and you’re still moving, a shocking shadow
in the periphery
in the peeling flowers
you ectoplasm
you wallpaper paste

you flour yourself whiter
rabbit-mask and clothespins
your bodies a prop a provocation
a masochism

o whenever i snap a selfie i seance you
whenever i refuse
what age would make of me
whenever i tear down
the water-stained veil and marry the portal
between the worlds

this is an anti-domestic
a reverse domestic
a house of wood rotten
and howling ghosts
go ask alice
i think she’ll know

o seductress every time i die
i resurrect you every time
i’m naked in the library
sprouting wings from my
shoulder blades
being an angel

o every time i take a knife
to the frame
lie immobile
on the floor too sad to move
and drape myself
with snakes or move too much

soft-furred legs quivering ready
to spring into flight
doe-eyed angel-winged
stained with light

what happens in a museum when
all the visitors go home what happens
to a house when
the owners leave

what happens to a body when the heart stops
it breathes its final
noxious sigh
it putrefies

what happens to the floorboards when a body
leaks what happens
to a girl when they call her
a woman

woman is domesticated
sags like floorboards under a body’s
dead weight
sags like frown lines

it’s fleshy in a way that stains
it’s empty like a museum that’s closed
for the night
it’s a decision already made

girl is naked innocence
girl is untamed
girl is in the forest pulling up her dress
girl is blur, is transient
girl is still becoming
girl could be animal or dead body or ghost
girl is a growl in the back of the throat

o i wish we could forever be unfinished could belong
to ourselves and the other feral girls this fleeting
femininity muddies my instincts my

clumsy fingers can no longer find the keys

o you left a smudge on the mirror
flowered yourself
into the wall
stepped right out of the frame into
the in-

between

photo by Olivier Guillard (via unsplash)

Rust Belt Jessie’s Taxonomy of Ghosts—Jessie Lynn McMains

Trying to classify inherently unknown entities whose very existence and nature remains unproven is a fool’s errand: How many types of ghosts are there? As many as you want there to be.

—Benjamin Bradford, The Curious Question of Ghost Taxonomy

6660 Ghosts

—6660.1 Ghosts that haunt a location
—6660.111 Those that came with the place
—6660.112 The amorphous black mist with a feeling of knives
—6660.113 The traveling salesman who hung himself when his wife left him for another man
—6660.114 The small boy pressing his face to the lighthouse window, his ghost-breath leaving no fog on the glass, always just about to fall
—6660.12 Those that are just passing through, the travelers
—6660.121 The little-girl ghosts in the kitchen that one sleepless night, chattering slumber party giggle-speak, clattering the spoons and jam jars
—6660.122 The sad ghost with no shoes who perched on the edge of your bed, told you of how he watched his little sister die
—6660.13 Those that haunt the places you pass through
—6660.131 The tipsy ghosts in bars that sleep curled up like mezcal worms in bottles of whiskey, tequila, and gin
—6660.132 The lonely ghosts in motel rooms that lurk like shadows behind the shower curtains, fall in love with every traveler who stays for a night or two
—6660.133 The ghosts in the woods and wetlands: floating bog fire, wisps of fog, flashes of shadow-black between the trees, the ones who speak as a chorus of bullfrog moan, mosquito whine, redwing blackbird chatter
—6660.134 Ghosts that live in graveyards
—6660.1342 Those that wear white and wander, moaning, between the headstones
—6660.1343 Those that burrow behind your eyeballs like tiny bees and drink from your tear ducts
—6660.135 The ghosts on the highways and byways: truck stop spirits who stand in piss-soaked bathrooms and dream of coffee, hobo ghosts who roam the railroads, the steel ley-lines stitching the stolen country together, hitchhiking ghosts who stand by the side of the road at night, their deer-eyes glowing yellow in the headlights’ high beam

—6660.2 Ghosts that haunt objects
—6660.21 Ghosts that live inside maps and atlases, who drift up from the creases and the inky blue scrawls of rivers with a rustle and a sigh
—6660.22 Ghosts that live inside the old photographs you find in antique stores: the hardtack women in long dresses and bonnets squinting, unsmiling, in the hard prairie sunshine; the dapper young man who looks so much like the grandfather who died before you were born you want to cry
—6660.222 Ghosts that haunt all the secondhand curiosities in antique stores and thrift shops: musty ghosts in the vintage dresses, moth-ghosts in the tailcoats, ghosts that haunt the cracked teacups, the worn-soled boots, the rusted skeleton keys
—6660.223 Those that live in your own old clothes, that hide in the fibers no matter how many times you’ve tried to wash them out: the ghost of a lover’s sweat, of a smoky cafe, of the stale yeast of the beer that lead singer sprayed onto the crowd, of dumpster juice
—6660.23 Ghosts that haunt the air
—6660.231 The ones that live in earl gray-scented candles, spirits made of wax and essence of bergamot, with fuchsia hair and junkie veins and typewriter teeth
—6660.232 The ones that live in a vial of Rain, specters smelling of wet cedar, wearing black hoodies, bearing gifts of mix tapes
—6660.24 Ghosts that haunt the ear
—6660.242 Those that hide inside the magnetic reels of audio cassettes, that hiss faintly behind the music, a distant spectral static
—6660.243 Those that lurk between the dusty grooves of old records, that come out with a pop and click as soon as the needle hits

—6660.3 Ghosts that haunt the head
—6660.31 The swarms of your best-beloved dead: friends, family, old flames, anyone you’ve cared for deeply
—6660.312 Those whose profiles you can still find on social media, scroll through their final selfies, read the last thing they ever said to you, digital monuments floating forever in the Cloud
—6660.313 Those whose internet presence is gone, who you no longer have any physical reminders of, so you place pictures of them in the altar you’ve carved inside your head, offer them your own tin heart, your silver lungs, your haunted bones as milagros, as though any miracle of blood and metal can bring them back from where they’ve gone
—6660.314 The ghosts of the children you couldn’t have, who on long nights when you can’t sleep cradle themselves into your arms, invisible stones smelling of sun-baked moss, warmer and heavier than anything un-alive should be
—6660.32 The ghosts of people who aren’t dead but who departed from your life just the same: old friends and ex-lovers you think about at 2 a.m. when you’re half-drunk and listening to songs that act as auditory Ouija boards, summoning the past and its cast of breath, and yes, there they all are, waltzing ghosts, slam-dancing ghosts, ghosts sulking coolly in the back of the room
—6660.322 The ghosts who come out from the walls, who crawl up in your skin if you let them
—6660.33 The ghosts you want to haunt you, who can’t be lured with old songs or drams of Irish whiskey, no matter how your throat cracks from the vanilla smoke-burn, cracks on the feeling of fifties tunes, I only have eyes for you (oooh, ooh-hoo), they will only visit you when they want to, and it’s usually only when you’re asleep
—6660.34 The ghosts you wish to banish, the ones that follow you around, stray dogs starving, snarling and snapping at your ankles, that can’t be kept away no matter how many salt circles you cast, how many electric fences you erect around your heart
—6660.35 The ghost of your younger self that you glimpse sometimes in your peripheral vision, that you see sometimes standing beside you when you stop to check your reflection in the dirt-streaked glass windows of the shut-down souvenir shop, this ghost looks different every time you see it, cycling as it does through ages, haircuts and colors, subcultural styles
—6660.36 Ghosts that can be confused with symptoms of mental illness, that flit around your skull and hover near the ceiling, shadow-bats that you’re never sure if they’re real or hallucinated; sometimes hallucinations are mistaken for real things, but sometimes real things can look like hallucinations

—6660.4 Ghost oddities, miscellaneous spirits which don’t fit into any of the other categories, or fit into more than one
—6660.42 Ghosts that hide in the wind, that blow through you like wind through the tall tick-salted grass
—6660.43 Ghosts that stand out in your yard at dusk, dark silhouettes never moving, but you can tell they’re looking back at you, and you realize that backlit as you are by the living room light from their vantage point you must also appear as only a black smudge in the vague shape of a person and you start to wonder which one of you is the ghost after all
—6660.44 Ghosts that look and smell like old leather jackets, hanging on the coat rack in the back hall
—6660.441 Ghosts you carry in your coat pockets like charms, that you take out occasionally and rub for good luck
—6660.45 Ghosts that shoot smack and ride skateboards
—6660.46 Ghosts that are small fires
—6660.47 Ghosts that hang out under railroad bridges in Richmond, Virginia, wearing magnolia blossoms in their hair
—6660.472 Ghosts that hang out at the edges of quarry lakes in Racine, Wisconsin, dipping their ghost-toes in the murky water
—6660.48 Ghosts which can be summoned with a mullein torch, the wooly grey-green leaves and five-petaled yellow flowers of Our Lady’s Flannel set burning
—6660.482 Ghosts which can be summoned with a sprig of rosemary worn in your boutonnière
—6660.483 Ghosts which can be summoned with a dish of stale candy corn
—6660.485 Ghosts that taste of salted watermelon
—6660.49 Ghosts you feel like lumps in your throat, shards of rock candy or chunks of apple blocking your windpipe, but when you try to cough them out there’s nothing there
—6660.492 The ghost of the best kiss you ever had, that brushes against your lips when you’re standing in the kitchen slicing garlic or sautéing zucchini

—6660.5 Ghosts that come to me and ask: don’t you think you write too many poems about ghosts?
—6660.51 And I tell them no, no, there’s no such thing as too many ghost-poems, all poems are about ghosts
—6660.52 Everything I write is an elegy, decaying
—6660.521 Decaying like the bodies of my dead in their graves, turning into dark earth to feed the cemetery trees, the flowering dogwood and the white pine, to feed my poems
—6660.522 And every elegy has a half-life, half its potency disintegrated yet always leaving just enough of a trace to poison the landscape
—6660.53 Okay, okay, the ghosts say, so all poems are about us. But why, they wonder, do I speak only of summoning? Why don’t I describe the ways I’ve banished them?
—6660.531 The kinds of ghosts I know can’t be banished, not really. The only form of banishment that’s ever worked for me is this:
—6660.6 Hold your ghosts so close they become part of you, flesh of your flesh, keep them so close they build their hives, their homes, down among your haunted bones

photo by Leeroy Agency (via unsplash)