Rising Writers #7 – Mari Ellis Dunning

rising writers

Willow Springs

In 1956, Patricia and Barbara Grimes disappeared from their home town following a screening of the Elvis Presley movie, Love Me Tender. Their bodies were found a month later, but the mystery of their murder remains unsolved. 

Their bodies were cast side by side,
unceremoniously tossed,
stripped bare naked as foetuses
tucked together in the frosted womb
of the roadside.

An unwelcome discovery, the ivory girls
were stumbled on by a construction worker
following the tell-tale whisper of thaw and rain;
neatly folded behind a guard rail
that did not guard.

Barbara was an embryo lying on her left side,
knees pulled up towards her chin,
Her younger sister lay sprawled on her back
bruised and bitten,
Patricia was shrunken in the folds.

How long had they lain there,
rats gnawing their toes and bare belly buttons?
Three puncture wounds pierced Barbara’s chest –
an abrasion for each week the girls
went undiscovered.

Days before, the ex-truck driver
idol of young girls
called for the sisters to come home,
but even the pleas of The King could not reach
the death-clogged ears of two
stifled and worn.

Confined to silence they lay stiff on metal slabs,
their ice blankets melted and pooled
around dead bodies, yellowing
in the stillness.

Pubescent stomachs exposed themselves to the prying
eyes of pathologists, whose steady blade
drew a map from Brighton Theatre
to Willow Springs, revealing half-spent popcorn,
hot dogs, semen.

For sisters accustomed to the soft dulcet tones
of Mississippi vocals, the quiet was endless.


Pythagoras Theorem

The brightly lit vowels of your name danced
across the room and squared with mine.

From September to July, we sat, side-by-side,
trading algebraic secrets and learning the shapes
of one another.

That year, I learned the accidental touch of fabric
under a too-small table, the hardness of plastic chairs,
the softness of your presence.

I learned the tinted embarrassment of schoolgirl
silliness, a braking voice.

I learned that you, in your wholesome teenage
solidness, were equal to the
pieces of myself.



On my left wrist, an inky black heart;
It pulses           grows to life like a swollen balloon,
and sucks death inwards
with every beat of its counterpart.

A souvenir from Spain;
It bulges          swells like an embryo embedded accidentally,
flattens like an empty belly,
a black stain on white flesh.





Between the Sheets: A Fairy Tale Collection

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