Natanya Ann Pulley

Excerpt from “Cellular Assaults”

In my Mother’s world we all fall from cliffs. She points to a sign by an outlook of Canyon De Chelly. It shows a young Indian woman falling from a cliff, her hand clamped to the arm of a soldier, she pulls him down with her. My mom is chatting on her cell phone to a friend about our trip, she pauses and points to the sign and side-says to me, That could have been you. Goes back to her conversation. I think of all the times falling, the ways. I think she might know. What? I ask. Staring at the girl in eternal plummet who pulls her assaulter with her, I look over the side of the cliff. My mom says the wind is strong here and that could have been me, be careful. I rather you be terrified than think, she warns, you can beat the wrath of Mother Nature.


Excerpt from “Cellular Assaults”

Well, did you… breaks a room
into parts, a diorama.
Flat, well-placed
things. Calculated spaces.
From above, just slits
of paper. I’m in a frame.
I am held still
by my own stiffness. I have
no depth. A cardboard cutout.
The box moves back
and forth from shelf to box
to display case to box
to the dump.
My cardboard self is nicked
and worn. Well, did you… ?
Someone throws trash
on the diorama. Did you

say something? Spoiled food stuffs
seep into the cardboard. Did you

do something? Grunge and wrappers.
Well, did you

suggest something? Loose bits crush
the frame, the scene, the cardboard-
thin me. It is all       called trash now.

High-Water Mark

Excerpt from “Cellular Assaults”


Under the ocean, mountain ranges. The same mutated earthen spines that line up, around us now, are there. Way under. The longest is 40,000 miles. Below, a timeless body stretches. Between ocean mountain ranges: valleys and an abyss with 90% of earth’s living organisms. Pressure in the deepest regions: 8 tons per square inch.  A massive pressure of a sunken world. The weight of it all. Pressure to pull the body inwards. All my spaces collapsing. A skin like a soggy, plastic bag.



A therapist rephrases it as your assault, and I settle back into that tough nut of my stomach. I secure the word again in me: Assault. Assault. Not rape. But edges wear. Talk, the ebb and flow, surviving, the same dark places that wake us. Lines soften. Boxes fade. Rape is violence. Is taking. Is greed. Person made meat and holes. So that assault is no longer the sibling of rape but a conjoined twin. Separate heads and separate torsos housing semi-functioning organs but always the same swollen genitals. The same kicking legs.



Cunnus and Lingua. Mouth, lips and tongue. Mouth and the breath that moves through it. Lips and the vibrations from stories, sentiments, love songs told through them. The tongue with yet another language, this one fluent—heavy or lilting, festive or sacred. Mouth, lips and tongue.  This does not include your teeth. Their lashing, their tantrum. Your lips, a monster-flesh, stretched around a black hole, demonspeak. A tongue forked, spitting, and stinging. Those rows of teeth. They sink into folds of skin. The work of sharks. The work of blades, of forks. All the things to cut for the chewing. It is called, after all, eating out.



You tell me I am overreacting. And then you turn like a halibut. A flatfish that begins life looking like most salmon.  During development, a halibut changes physically to adapt to a bottom-dwelling lifestyle. The body turns sideways and the mouth twists. One eye migrates from one side of the face to the other. You see this way. Looking above. All the time. Belly whitening—a disguise for creatures below—you look like light coming from the surface. The side of you, halibut, skims the ocean floor, sees nothing below. But always eating. A bottom feeder, evolved to be so.



To fog away, drift through a room. To smile a smile that means a smile nothing more. I am always in danger of being read: the slope of my bangs, a slight to the rest of my forehead. And the way I move my nervous hands from counter top to lap to counter top to lap before finally resting them across my chest. Locked. To some I read like a speck against the late morning’s efforts to hold back the day. Read like the tip of an iceberg to others, great blue-white chills of me under the surface of any word. And often I read like a report of myself. I learned early on to lock my eyes into a particular color a particular style of rings and spokes. When people look into my eyes and say, what happened to you was wrong I think, These are my eyes. You are just seeing my eyes.



It is only made of teeth and those teeth are only made to bite, they fit exactly into your skin. You thought your skin was solid, you thought you were solid too. But when you look closely, you see there were bite marks before the teeth came. You were made to be pierced, to bleed. Teeth are doing what teeth do. Teeth find you, it’s not a surprise, not unwarranted. You are a blueprint. And here, you thought you were the building. Tsk.



He is a solid tight thing A knot Something has pulled him taut there is no room I try to wiggle free there is no room My friend pulls my arm hard behind my back pushes my face down again I barely feel myself anymore My solid tight friend my knot he says Don’t you ever think you aren’t sexy. You’re beautiful.



What is the word. You are reminded of something awful. But it—only lightly, hits the heart and mostly tingles ears. Stretches in tidal pulls across the skin. Does not shake, crack the ribcage to release squawking birds. There is a flinch—a minnow. Escapes. Catch it? Mention it to therapists or friends or a diary? It’s not so important. You take note because that is what you do now—take notes and maybe you are only made up of notes that manage this Self. Your new function: to pour over them at 4:12 a.m. Are you now, in fact, okay?

Natanya Ann Pulley
Natanya Ann Pulley

Natanya Ann Pulley's maternal family home is near Tuba City, Az. She is half-Diné of the Kinyaa'áanii (Towering House Clan). Bicheii is Táchii'nii (Red Running Into Water Clan). Natanya is currently working on her PhD at the University of Utah in Fiction Writing. She is an editor of Quarterly West and her work can be found in: Western Humanities Review, The Florida Review, Moon Milk ReviewThe Collagist and on her site: gappsbasement.com. In addition to reading and studying experimental forms, disability and horror theory, Natanya enjoys being part of an unruly pack composed of her husband JP, their three psychic dogs, and a tank of fish.