Dorothy Lehane: House Girl




the intersection where voyeurism 

meets the sick-fugue



we must unplug ourselves

unconscious at delta


we met in a sick building

trouble all over the face


the men gathered and tweezed the blood fluke

from the house girl’s throat


the cat performed a protective function

soaked up the gamma, theta, delta


it will be years before I understand

how to redress the failures


at the bridge at Waterman’s quarter

we were warned


the war is not in the air

it is deep in our bone marrow


downstream. in the reeds

careless with our bodies


weeping & welting

it was a turning on myself


an unworlding of heartache

an ending of gestural life





a Spinozian view of being a

maternal substance



sex drive as a pathology of empty phrases

love, what foul play


so impish and unrelenting

I was your girl but only with mannerisms


what do we hold in our bodies

so many sick hearts


let noise emerge from hardship

little house-girl


collapsed on one side

you can’t get out of the disease state


unless you have lived in it

pulse therapy for the house girl


in the absence of remission

organise the body according to the pluralist culture


a pretty demon

enters the house-girl


unprepared and exhausted

with socio-spatial anxieties


with a heavy jaw, & heft word play

it isn’t a secret that I feel irrelevant





still not dead but catalogued 

as a patient



& feeling irrelevant is a way of staying healthy

forcibly hunting for what has vanished


bearing the mark of the house-girl

whose epigenetic backtalk is just a perverse tracing


hewn up from the rehearsal of being in a body

Outside there is desire & ceremony


& they must be acted upon

the house girl has done the emotional work of ceremony


so I can live life in the margins of desire

the lilies are in my mouth again & I’m ready for seduction


everyday I think about the filth of my inquiry

how to rule my body from her mouth


blood-flukes are in her throat again

& my eyes are falling out


to itemise each wallowing

or push back against the credibility of the linear model


the house girl is waking at 4am

with sad lungs and a feeling of impermanence


that is to say,

occupying the grief corner





the uneasy stasis before agency 

like territories unfolding 



it is a matter of the finer details, the Eve condition

the final line when there is no finish line


inexhaustible over action & inaction

in the hope of privileging the body’s double coding


abuses in the woman-house

the knotty apology


that has failed the female for centuries

urges her to be self-detached


unwounded, the house girl develops

& recedes. in habitus


the charm itself is less than stable

a critical factor is knowledge of the hex


couldn’t fit you in the same plot

yet my mouth is on your shirt


at dawn, I am just a sick body

tracing words to the moment I mouthed them first



serum tells us nothing except


we’ll never again wear the clothes

we wore on diagnosis day





the event inside favours the complex

joints: shoulders and knees



at night, the house-girl reads about logic

to avoid the fallacies of possession


how many mouths have mouthed change is coming

in the hope of forming a new disposition


but logic only comes to the non-afflicted

& else operates in different realms


the men gather again with their own logic

tweezers to bone. stoic with the task


the house girl is stuck down

I am not sure if she is held


or holds herself

over-coding her screams


November stretches in both directions

my health is a forgery but nobody can see it


there is hiding the clapper bell

needles into the Earth’s flesh


& needles into the body

they say: try stay safe by separation


my brothers give me a Schlag-ruthe

they already know I’m a water witch



Dorothy Lehane is the author of four poetry publications: Bettbehandlung, (Muscaliet Press, 2018), Umwelt (Leafe Press, 2016), Ephemeris (Nine Arches Press, 2014) and Places of Articulation (dancing girl press 2014). She has read her work to audiences at Université Sorbonne, Ivy Writers, Paris, the Science Museum, the Wellcome Trust, the Barbican, the Roundhouse, BBC Radio Kent, and the Union Chapel, and has contributed on improvised collaborations, notably with synthesizer, Matthew Bourne. Recent poetry and reviews appear in Westerly Magazine and Modern Philology. She is the founding editor of Litmus Publishing and teaches Creative Writing at the University of Kent.




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