O Fallen Angel

Kate Zambreno

January 19, 2017 
The following is from Kate Zambreno’s novel, O Fallen Angel. Zambreno is the author of Green Girl (reissued by Harper Perennial) and Heroines (Semiotext(e)'s Active Agents). She working on a series of books about time, memory, and the persistence of art, including Book of Mutter (Semiotext(e) 2017) and Drifts (Harper Perennial 2017). She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University.


Maggie is broken. Maggie is having a breakdown. Maggie is having a psychic break and it ain’t to Bermuda.

Maggie is broken because inside she feels all of these dark messy thoughts it is Chaos and she doesn’t know how to express it!

Maggie is broken because Maggie cannot articulate why she feels sad or why she feels angry and that’s why therapy does not go too well.

her dark sticky feelings

That is why it is good for her that she only goes to a psychiatrist now, that’s the man with the pills. Tell me why you feel that way Maggie but I don’t know! I don’t know! I just feel lost yes I am a little girl with her redhood lost in the woods and then Grandma turns into a wolf and eats me. That is the nightmare I keep on having.

Maggie keeps on having a nightmare and it is called her life.

Maggie loves the wolf yes Maggie loves the wolf. The hungry boys with their wolfy eyes and wolfy teeth that leave a trail of inconvenient hickeys.

Maggie knows she really wants it. Maggie says no but her eyes say yes.


Maggie says yes but she really means no.

Maggie doesn’t say anything which the wolfboy takes as a good sign and he leaps on her and tears her to pieces.

Maggie gets smashed. She goes out and gets smashed and then she hooks up with her Prince Charming, she hooks up with her Prince Charming Enough, and he takes her to his place and fingers her while she writhes in pain pretending it’s pleasure

because Maggie doesn’t want him not to like her. His breath tastes like Old Style like the alcoholic uncle the Vietnam vet who lives on the streets they are not supposed to talk  about  him.  The bad bad wolf jumps her he jumps her bones the corpse of Maggie

and then she leaves in the morning and never sees him again and Maggie pretends she’s nonchalant and adult and doesn’t care but inside she’s hurting hurting andbetweenherlegs is throbbing throbbing that’s where Maggie keeps her  heart

Maggie fucks boys and pretends it doesn’t matter because Maggie is empowered!

and they don’t even need to walk her home or buy her breakfast.

Maggie just wants to fuck. Maggie just wants to fuck the pain away.
Maggie is a cavernous hole.
Maggie is a carnival ride.

You can go to town for hours.
Maggie likes it to hurt. Make it hurt.

Sometimes Maggie needs to put a little self-confidence up her nose. It leaves a trail like Hansel & Gretel.

Maggie is poisoned by all the fairytales. Maggie used to dream of Prince Charming, her Savior, her Messiah, and Prince Charming would come and then she would come and they would come together!

But it is not so. Prince Charming is really a wolf in disguise. And then Maggie started to crave the wolves, the hunters, the bad men in the forest.

Maggie likes the not-nice boys who are mean to her.
Maggie likes the not-nice boys who pull her pigtails on the playground.
Maggie likes the not-nice boys who pull down her skirt and push her up against a wall.
Maggie likes the not-nice boys to force her to her knees.
Maggie likes the bullies and Maggie likes the ones who torture her, who deprive her of her sanity, who leave her awake during sleepless nights wondering what went wrong? what could Maggie have done differently to make him love her?

Maggie is into Xtreme Love like Xtreme Sportz. Maggie needs to wear kneepads because of all the rugburns.

Maggie always lets them get at least to third base which is finger-fucking

usually she lets them get to home plate.

And Sleeping Beauty was slipped a mickey and raped. Or she just let him inside of her because he was pleading and insistent and she wanted him to call her again.

And Sleeping Beauty wanted to be liked and had terribly low self-esteem so when he said that she was the prettiest girl in all the land she gave him a blow job, even though her jaw locks sometimes.

And Sleeping Beauty pretended to be asleep but really she died inside and then she let Prince Charming cum between her tits and on her face and in her hair as he breathed Yeah Bitch Take It.

And Sleeping Beauty didn’t make him wear a condom and now she has pelvic inflammatory disease and crotch-itch and genital warts, but  oh, the memories.

Don’t all little girls have rape fantasies? Maggie is in a dark wood and the wolf comes up to her and he slams her face into a tree. He chops her to pieces, the bad, bad, wolf, because she is a bad, bad, girl.



The happiest time of Mommy and Daddy’s lives was when Mikey and Maggie were five and three years old.  They were such good children. Such precious babies. Such angels. Yes those were some Precious Moments they shared with the children, Mommy and Daddy like to sit and remember, Precious Moments like the cute angel statues Mommy collects in her china cabinet. Children are such angels (their children were, anyway). They had the whitest blond hair like glowing halos they were really angels but then their hair grew brown and darkened. And everything darkened in adolescence, especially Maggie. But when they were their babies, their angels, their dollies. Mommy dressed Maggie in the prettiest dresses and sometimes they would dress alike and Maggie would sit on Mommy’s lap and Mommy would comb her hair and teach her how to braid her dolly’s hair. And Daddy would play rough-and-tumble games with Mikey, and play sports, and ride bikes, and they were the bestest of friends. Because Mommy and Daddy didn’t have adult friends! Their children were their friends! That’s what one has children for, anyway, isn’t it? Mommy likes children when they’re at the age before they start disagreeing with you or knowing more than you do. She hates the idea of free will. She thinks some children can be selfish, the way they grow up and reject everything spoon-fed to them. She wishes she could freeze Mikey and Maggie when they were five and three, that’s the age she would freeze her young tots, she would keep them that age forever, dip them in that freezing vat like strawberries in chocolate fondue! Yum yum. Now Mommy’s hungry. Mommy and Daddy get sad thinking about their empty nest. There’s no sound Daddy likes more than the laughter  of children! It is music to his ears! Sometimes they sit out on their back patio and eat bowls of the Snax Mix bought in bulk at Sam’s Club (there are so many different flavors you have to try Chipotle, Bar-B-Q and Honey Mustard) and reminisce about the old days when they heard the sounds of young tots everywhere, or two young tots in particular—their little devil and their little angel, because boys are supposed to be devils and girls are supposed to be angels. Now the tables have turned. Some of the houses in their subdivision have young children and they like to listen to them and Mommy’s eyes glisten when she sees their plastic pink bikes with safety wheels (blue for boys) on the front lawn. She wishes her children never took off their safety wheels! Who knew that they would choose to fly fly away from their Mommy and Daddy? Although Mikey didn’t fly that far. He lives in a nearby subdivision in a nice house because he’s a good boy. Mikey takes care of his parents and isn’t that the natural order of things? You have children and then your children grow up and take care of you. They don’t leave and move to Chicago and live in a bad neighborhood that they know your Mommy is too frightened to visit. What was wrong with all the in-state schools Mommy would still like to know. Maggie could have settled down here and found a nice boy to marry and Mommy and Daddy would have bought her a new car and helped her with a down payment on a condo before she got married and moved into their new house with empty rooms for the nursery. What was good enough for Mommy and Daddy and Mikey should have been good enough for Maggie. But oh no. Maggie wanted to move to the big city far far away from those who love her and now Mikey is practically an only child yes practically an orphan yes it was a big scene and Daddy although Daddy is as benevolent and as kind a man as there ever was Daddy said he did not know who she expected to pay for all of this when Maggie wanted to major in psychology where are the jobs in that? And doesn’t Maggie know that Father Always Knows Best? Mommy and Daddy had never heard of such a thing, of such a bad girl obviously rejecting all things good and holy, which is science and tradition. They were always uneasy with her psychology major because psychology after all is a pseudo-science not like engineering! One actually makes things in engineering what does a psychologist do Mommy wonders? Except make trouble. Except blame everything on the Mommy, blame everything on the Mommy and Daddy, that’s what a psychologist does, and who needs a psychologist when you have Jesus? And parents who love you? God only knows what that Maggie is up to, wanting to drop out of college and wait tables. Mommy could guess but she doesn’t want to. Is her little girl on drugs? Is her little girl having promiscuous sex? Is her little girl in trouble? In the old-fashioned way? God Only Knows. Mommy’s attitude towards Maggie is like Bill Clinton’s with gays in the military—Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

* * * *

Oh Mommy is getting all a-fluster her red face is growing redder and redder she doesn’t want  to think about such things. Mommy possesses an amazing ability to drown out the unpleasant things of the world that she doesn’t want to think about, especially Maggie. It’s quite a talent. The only time she has ever seen Daddy mad is when he gets worked up over their bad girl Maggie. She’s a bad seed maybe she’s just a bad seed Mommy’s mommy says to her, but Mommy won’t think aboutthatpossibility, she worries sick over Maggie really she does. Mommy thinks of roses but she erases the thorns. Hence the talent Mommy has for pruning in her garden. How could Maggie make Mommy so upset? Doesn’t one know that One Should Respect One’s Elders? It’s in the Bible! Honor Thy Mommy and Daddy! Do Not Take the Name of the Lord in Vain! Which Maggie certainly has to Mommy and Daddy’s faces! Some very unpleasant words Mommy doesn’t like to hear! Which Mommy doesn’t care to repeat! No Mommy doesn’t care to repeat!


He spreads out his leaves on the concrete. They scatter to the wind. Did he write these frantic missives? He does not remember. Revelations on napkins. Messages from the dead. From up high. Perhaps they have been translated by God. Not touched by his hands.

a great fireball will erupt from the  sky

one cannot reason anymore with the President one life for the life of

lies lies lies
false idols

He has been sent here, he has been sent here by God for what? He is the messenger angel. He has come down to warn the people, warn them of what? He reads his missives over again. One life for the life of thousands. Who is that one life? A great fireball from the sky. Airplanes. Malachi has a vision of airplanes exploding, falling from the sky at a great height. Is this  how God will rain down his great vengeance  for wars of lies and false idols? A rain of fire. A rain of airplanes. A flash: paper airplanes.  A young boy’s hands. That’s right! Malachi remembers, suddenly, excitedly. I  have a sun! A son! That’s right! That’s right! Malachi remembers. He has a son somewhere. But where? And what does this have to do with his mission? He has a son, he named him after himself, he crafted him in his own image. Malachi #1  and Malachi #2. He writes down on the back of the classifieds, found near the dumpster (he is in his cave):

He will inherit the earth.

He must find his sun. Yes, his son. malachi.  The messenger angel.  The  prophet that will not be believed. He must venture forth in this murderous world of sharp sounds and find his descendent. He has scattered this seed. And then, another flash: they have murdered him! Yes, yes, they have murdered his son! His own flesh and blood! They have poisoned his thoughts against him! He hurries out in the street. He must go   find him! He must recover him from enemy forces! He must explain! Explain how he is not really sick! No, he has been gifted, gifted with these voices and vision! These revelations sent to him from up high! He has been instructed to give it all up and follow these messages! The sun blinds him. He shields himself from this source of life, light. He listens as the sun speaks to him. Soldier, you must retreat. Yes, retreat. It is not safe now. It is not time. You must be on your mission. You must sacrifice your son, yes sacrifice, for the Greater Good.

A flash: an army of toy soldiers. He is small, fuzzy, indistinct. A man looms over him. His father, his daddy?

Line them up
Line them up

Malachi retreats back to his cave. Some of his scraps are lost forever. Lost forever. Torn away flitting to the wind. Two messages stuck together in a small puddle sharing a home with dampened cigarette butts and the shine of a gum wrapper. A shine. A sign.

one life for the life of
a great fireball will erupt from the sky

One is part of an ad for a 1-800 number. A busty black woman looks at him. She is Large & Lovely. She wants to know if he is looking for a good time. The other is a book of matches from the gas station off the highway. A Book of Matches. He must match them together. A Book of Fire. Some sort of sign. He tucks the scraps into the pocket of his fatigues and heads off towards the gas station.




From O FALLEN ANGEL.  Used with permission of Harper Perennial. Copyright © 2017 by Kate Zambreno.

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