The supernatural, the animal, and the deadly often find each other in Lisa M. Bradley's landscapes, tame or wild. Vampires, either restless or filled with ennui; shape-shifters and skin-walkers; demigoddesses of evil and lust; haunted girls and dying fairies—the characters in this collection inhabit worlds of danger, decay, and, sometimes, rebirth. Often rooted in issues of family, ritual, and belonging, the poems and short stories in The Haunted Girl display Bradley's loving mastery of language, which grants us myriad moments of impish wit and startling beauty.
The Haunted Girl is more a collection of poetry than short fiction, though there are several short fiction pieces, which explores identity through the use of folklore and the fantastical. – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
"There is a theme, throughout the collection, of false prisons and false escapes, reflections on who and where one is and where one's going. … at the collection's core: resistance to norms, to imposition, be they of language, sexuality, or mortality. There is a sharpness, a sting to most of these poems, of the kind that makes you hiss and then seek it out again. I loved the collection's bilingualism, both in the presence of Spanish and the musings on being between languages, on the thermodynamics of translation…
Though not a memoir, some of the science-fiction, horror and fantasy pieces in Bradley's book have an autobiographical feel, drawing on the author's youth as a Latina in South Texas. Certainly the innumerable facets of female identity glitter at the heart of these darkly beautiful treks through otherworldly landscapes of desire and pain, belonging and loneliness, creation and destruction."– Amal El-Mohtar, Nebula, Locus, Hugo, and Rhysling award winner
Standouts for me were "No Patron Saint," in which a young woman discovers she can bear the weight of her boyfriend's grief; "Red Eye," about a woman's nightly excesses; the eerie and moving title sequence; the borderline bizarro "Teratoma Lullaby," in which an absorbed twin struggles for the upper hand; "The 'Ludes," a great tale of addiction; the terrifying apocalyptic mythology of "Gehenesis"; and the novelette "Bilingual, or Mouth to Mouth," a fascinating South Texas cuento de hadas…literally.
"Bradley possesses a real gift for language and unflinching insight into the best and worst of human nature. You owe it to yourself to check out this rising star of speculative fiction and verse."– David Bowles, author of The Smoking Mirror, a Pura Belpré Honor Book, and They Call Me Güero, a Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children's Literature Honor Book, The Monitor, Dec. 5, 2014
"I fell in love with one of the poems in this collection, "The Skin-Walker's Wife," which is warm and rough and sexy—explicitly so—and mythic, and oh so beautiful. For me, it was a one-hit-and-you're-addicted sort of poem.
Her poems combine the broken bottles and cigarette stubs of life with the ache of loneliness and the heat of desire."– Francesca Forrest, author of Pen Pal and The Inconvenient God
"...being talked to: there is a person in the poem. Many of the poems are narrative, some at epic length, others at a few pages or a few lines. The cadences of the poem become the cadences of a teller's voice. Meanings do not lie far under those pages, as in "Sun's Stroke", where death is risked in the shade of a snake-man's body to get out of the sun's heat. Anyone who has spent long periods of time far from air conditioning or a cool breeze on a suffocatingly hot day will recognize the desperation, but the metaphor is plain.…"– Alex Dally MacFarlane, editor of the science fiction anthologies Aliens: Recent Encounters and The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women, Stonetelling, Nov. 2014
The Haunted Girl
The haunted girl wears white
if it's been a long time
if the rats have been gnawing the hem
eating the lace
sometimes her dress looks blue
sometimes it flashes silver
another warning in the night
reflecting your headlights.
The haunted girl wears a dress
sometimes a taffeta straitjacket
choking her from throat to calf
sometimes starched calico
cuffs tight, waistline sharp
like concertina wire
sometimes her dress is loose and flowing
the cotton nearly transparent
the weave wavering before your will
filmy as the breath flowing from your lips
but not hers.
The haunted girl has no feet.
Men don't look that far down.
The haunted girl is only sometimes a girl
sometimes she's a young woman
sometimes she's a mother
although a murdering one.
But the haunted girl is never old.
Then she would be the crone.
The haunted girl has mirror eyes
if you fear forgetting, being forgotten
like barren eggshells
flashlights in the fog.
Sometimes they're black gloss
if you fear futility
absolute as a mine shaft
blank as a brick wall.
Sometimes they're simply scarlet.
Because you know you have it coming.
The haunted girl is dirty
The haunted girl is clean
The haunted girl is clean
until she is dirty
until you realize
you're embracing a corpse.
The haunted girl has no belly
only a cave beneath her ribs
The haunted girl has a bikini belly
carved with muscle useless
but for pin-up poses and celluloid dreams
The haunted girl has a gently swelling belly
soft and welcoming
ready to absorb you
ready to birth
an array of monsters.
The haunted girl has a cunt
a multiplicity of cunts
too many to describe.
The haunted girl chokes out her truth
The haunted girl tells lies
The haunted girl singsongs or grunts
Just depends on how she died
did they cut out her tongue?
did they crush her vocal cords?
did they slit her throat?
did they stab her lungs?
Does she have a secret to tell?
would you even listen?
The haunted girl is always cold
sometimes she grips you
icy fingers on your sweaty skin
sometimes she slides against you
a porcelain princess
caressed but never cherished
sometimes she is a breath of midnight
the mausoleum whisper kissing your neck.
The haunted girl is always cold
I know?—?I have tried to warm her
I've wrapped my coat around her shoulders
I've tied a scarf beneath her chin
I've seated her beside the skittish fire
given her hot mugs she cannot hold
I've tried to run a warm bath
I've tried to change her clothes
I've torn the white gray blue dirty clean clutching clinging unraveling dress from her body
I've seen her bruised shoulders
her hollowed throat
her sunken chest
her breasts?—?silhouettes of meaning she didn't create
flat and vulnerable
high and healthy
large and soft
?bitten cut sliced punched injected gouged burned?—?
I've seen, at her center,
beneath the ravaged breasts
above that hydra cunt and ambivalent belly
a galaxy deserted by stars
This is the haunted girl.
That is why she's cold
She is the bloodless chalice
That is why she's haunted
She is the obsolete signifier
That is why she haunts and hates you
She is the negation of so many illusions
That is why she's everywhere.