Queer Wing-ed

They have human voices, but their roar is a proverb
~Henry Darger

Henry's Prayer to the Blessed Virgin

     HOLY be YOUR purity
     cloistered in YOUR physik world
     crimson madder petticoat
     sneaky sneak kitchen thief
     my coat sweeps
     where babies sleep
     humbly pray for a child of my own
     prance with GOD'S AWFUL HOOF
     plump with milk and gasoline
     an arrow a sparse bucket
     a shiny mop

     HAIL MARY full of grace
     after-nods and scab
     forgive my willful mean temper
     humbly pray for a child of my own
     I scrubbed the floor in the sleeping room
     one hundred feet on hands and knees
     no reply from YOU
     stop it now your nasty glare

     QUEEN of Heaven Rejoice!
     the grim undressing of children
     made to work themselves to death
     blessed are the meek
     the imbecile
     the feeble-minded
     the bleeding callus
     the snap pouch


Henry's Secondary Prayer to Saint Glinda the Good

     I offer this day my daily
     hole heart chicken for dinner
     and paint boxes
     maroon lake blistered pink
     to color a child's mouth
     whipped it up I did in my dement
     kissed them oh the oh
     skeleton Red Reera
     broke clean through I prayed
     sought my best reward oh the OH
     healed by almost nothing
     a tender chest the dress
     and what was what was
     OH underneath


Off the coast after dark the flame bit down with glee
—The Alexian Brothers Hospital

     Stingpin in the kitchen
     hands a dead skin spectacle
     grit-rough plunged agin and agin
     in boiled water a wrath of sick

     vegetables stacked and gleam
     healthy lamb I sang
     The Butcher song
     tail up turnaway rubber men
     come to rope you come to beat
     dukey and the kiester trunk
     scrub scrubscrub here lammy lamb
     sew up all the ba-a-bies

     salmonella in the cups
     milk fever pizzle rot
     soap and wet the livelong day
     oh for a trebuchet to shoot a fork
     through Sister Bulldog's birdy ruff
     bleat bleat I am not a sheep
     mud season in my boots
     oh a holly jolly sea cruise



     shook my insides I fell
     saw a goat and other visions
     in the Rush Chair in the swing
     I was brown my brown dangle
     in the box because I shat myself
     because I was in the box
     you have to laugh
     but I'm beautiful I saw me in the glass
     my penmanship rose like a story dragon
     in the bed with rubber sheets
     a gobbleberry picnic
     night nurses Prussian Blue
     and Red Hat
     and Red Madder
     King Henry with a mop and bucket
     didn't say a word just shhh
     sometimes he put his finger in a hole
     in my head
     it's a secret what shined for him
     were the colors
     I flew at night after bath
     around the ceiling where
     dangle balls burned



     pink girls their
     weird parts stretched
     in Utica cribs
     pried opened bowels
     I'm quiet but I've eyelids
     sewn to my palms
     kneesides and backsides
     I watch out for my sisters
     Chicago for instance
     drank wine with my father
     before he met the whore
     before my tenders grew
     rampage and melancholy
     swung my pipi that tag
     good as any boy's 
     they made me drink
     swallow's juice and blood
     from the ear of an ass
     hellebore and antimony
     cold water shot inside
     ice sickles
     I smiled for them
     but I kept my secrets
     gruel smiles
     watched every gd thing



Catherine in the Catherine in the Catherine in the packbath Henry lied on top on top spinning the little General's boot on my belly every night my scalp grew scales arm legs grew scales I was not a lizard there were rumors a tail but I chewed it off I was limber and sore Thank You Doctor Catherine Wheel pass-around-girl saluted tipjets hid spikes in my bootheels before morning bell at quarter to 5 breakfast at 6 AM followed by work period there were woods sinking calm centrifugal force machine Dinner at noon expelling steam then tea then we rode outdoors on a miniature Circular Railroad



     give me honey
     a clyster of mutton broth
     and brown sugar
     diddler of the D words

     Jenny brown-eye
     Jennie brown-eye
     I ripped my hair
     spat in the vicar's face

     grouse basted in butter
     salt and pepper
     I would git in the camisole
     for a single bite of pear
     tie my wrists 
     bolt me to the floor

     I knew dead and draft horses
     before I knew milk
     don't cry burrow on the spruce's 
     lee side make a nest
     light fires

     Henry's sewing uniforms
     I caught his scent on garments
     on hair on the blue-lipped
     exhausted girls

     I can hide for hours
     so went my sixth
     and seventh years



     I playt a Wurlitzer in church once
     now the box with holes and slats
     holds me still
     they call it a school but we arent taught
     Illinois Asylum for Feeble Minded Children
     I had a wrist cuff 2 of them
     on a chair in the bughouse
     I was 7 years old
     we worked at low tables
     we wore rubber gloves
     the spigots looked like baby elephant trunks

     I build a waxwing broke now in the middle
     I ran inside the wheel until I ran down
     crows followd me into the bath
     wore plague masks
     stuffed with honeysuckle and gauze
     I climbed a tree Castanea dentate
     the nuns said it had teeth and laught at me

     I had a difficult time without my spectacles
     a brown towel fell in the mud
     hello I said thinking it was an animal
     it didn't speak back a great beak
     opent and unfurlt from the split
     in my head where I had been beat
     my skin turnt brown brown
     water stairs and shit wot
     I trembled running with the sponge



     I had a key I screed my voice
     bit the guard's leg
     said SPANDREL and I knew
     what it was and phylactery
     he had beestings said come here girl for a taste
     midges swung round his head
     tried everything I could think of to make him
     slop his slide down the corridor
     what was his sacrifice 
     his mumble about us?

     I was a God in his closet.
     Elsie Elsie with her red hat and anklets
     took more than wings to tempt us
     to march into that battle
     had a secret sewn in my gown
     my military coat's inside pocket.
     What did he know about Family or Henry
     and the BEAST?

     Threw rocks on us he did took our clothes
     he did look—and Elsie she can't even talk
     sputtering and burping
     her tiny tumescent lump


Living the lives of little saints

     I did not like other children
     I did not like to get my hands dirty
     washed and washed and washed
     I sang a washing song I wrote myself

     Elsie pickles and sassafras
     lying in the long wet grass
     climbs a tree and skins her knee
     Elsie pickles and sassafrass

     Other children did not like me
     my dog was called Dancer
     we played Jungle on the banks of the canal
     until we met Henry then we played Army
     I had a stick-carved gun
     Henry pointed his thick finger

     Henry knew when rain
     was about to break
     Mum screamed my name at late
     carried me on his back
     like a big old turtle
     called me Annie Banannie
     was mostly quiet
     except when he laughed
     he was big as a Zoo


Steering the water with a stick

     V and V
     Violet's Voice
     inside the ecstatic wall
     Bugles then the alfalfa field afire
     Violet daren't wake the nats my hard-toed rib
     a cookie pulse come downstairs
     smelt bread and sugar Chicago
     bristled like a comical bird

     she said Henry
     do you know Antelope?
     the word curled inside ant the way she walked
     I spit on the floor that day tried my best not to slip
     into her dumbdrum as it was not yet the age
     of television we had not gone Atomic
     children stayed put in the forest
     with gold hair and animals and beads
     excommunicated from school
     looked on as crazy



     ammonia all around their lithe stains
     the corners of Hettie's mouth
     the corners of Joice's hankydab
     amused like kittens
     I were mostly invisible
     Joice counted 10
     once you're on the trolley
     you have to stay inside

     there were rumors
     nothing to report from the meadow
     Hettie & Joice rode the carousel
     hunted the flapity flap tent's billow sides
     squealed or laughed invisible
     after dark lawfull devastation I watched
     my dangle scissor eye
     my glint eye opened and closed
     a reeking genius a real zinger

     quasi una fantasia
     spindle-shanked & feathered
     pulled their curls grunted girlsoupgirlsoup
     liver dumpling girls
     round & round their transparent eyelids
     tripsy shot through with blood lines

     this morning muscle-bound in a fur hat
     bristled edges sucked out the light
     MY dream afterall MINE dressage & kewpies
     an amphitheater where 2 girls
     spun & rolled & showered me with boiled peanuts & beer
     sugar-coated dresses dull
     as a horse's blanket a brigand horse a cluttersack
     rotted between his legs I made them look
     simply to possess the underneath

     urine soaked hospital beds is all seriousness
     are you CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN?
     no sound reached the outside world
     Hettie & Joice pulled their faces to their knees
     I built a wasp nest from newspapers
     spit & hair



     a queer tornado
     rolled up the sky
     my head burped atmospheric
     Easter Sunday swung like a sore
     shoes gone
     I screamed bloody hell and was taken

     you know 
     I flange my bejesus pants off
     a gallows platform dumped
     me in icy water

     then bloodletting leeches
     or animals with a beaker
     a rubber hose a trumpet

     my shoes had once
     been leather sewn by hand
     we lived in a two story house on the end
     of an alley between Adams and Monroe

     Sweetie Pie
     Sweetie Pie
     that was his name
     Not my sister
     But the twister

     swung through
     swallowed the entire town
     everything got quiet fast
     like breakfast in bed
     when you been sick


Henry Addresses the Vivian Princesses 
in the Guise of a Dog

     drain the infected paw
     burrow into my fur
     let's Round Robin
     let's Truth or Dare
     find me a boil
     that oozes milk
     nothing less My Babies
     My Children

     saddle up now
     approach me from the left
     pet and pat and scratch
     I know what you've been up to
     smell you with my terrible nose
     telling secrets?
     none of that I'll bite your fingers
     chew your hats feathers and all
     let's ride to town for honey and licorice
     rope and matches fabric for Elsie's torn pocket

     open your blouses milk
     bottles clink on Chicago's frozen porches
     let go the cream ring the bell
     my head is a bell
     ring it ring

     prance in the dogmouth sky
     climb aboard my broad back Oh Boys and Girls
     salute the milk pail!
     milk mustache!
     milk suck!
     milk pus!
     milk bone!
     milk and cookies!

     let down your tails
     Darlings twirl my bristle coat
     feast with Saints on the banks
     of the Labrador Sea
     there is milk inside me
     and milk's slick sheet


Riding the Slough of Despond

     I knew all along there were an underwing
     angry with her tricks her fetching doodad
     wore a hunch-coat with leather trim
     rucked as butcher paper I had no perverse
     nor fun from that

     I had no
     I had none
     I had no raw nor anvil
     I had a Quest
     oh be goddamn a Secret then
     on Ferry Slip Road
     at Sunbeam Creek or Nestucca
     by the Canal

     Smelt of bleach and oilwood in church
     fluid cleaners along the trail
     a little girl for my very own
     GOD gave me great failure
     boils carbuncles warts I was not
     a monster a troll nor stupid as they wrote
     just a Secret sewn into my nightclothes
     where my hands never did not stop flapping


Rebecca Loudon lives and writes in Seattle. She is the author of Tarantella and Radish King, from Ravenna Press, and Navigate, Amelia Earhart's Letters Home and Cadaver Dogs, from No Tell Books. She is a professional musician and teaches violin to children. She maintains a blog at http://radishking.blogspot.com