by Erin Emily Ann Vance
No one is Coming to Save You
It rained for five decades
and I hid in a tree house with a leaky roof
that my father built for my brother.
Outside, the youth were
a running puddle of sunless whales
where small jaws
are only built to cope
with the small bones of wild rabbits.
the tar of my spine and the newspaper ink sweating
on the wooden floor.
When I ask the stuffed rabbit on the floor,
he tells me, “young bones that have not seen surgery
and drown easily.”
Green mold leaks out of his floppy ear.
I know that he is right, and I thumb the scar on my left elbow.
Three weeks later the rain stops and I emerge,
the rabbit tucked between my breasts,
I am fifty years and three weeks older
and I am the youngest person
She perches on a stool in the kitchen.
A fat raven with legs too long and spidery
for her body.
She watches her mother ease the paper skin
off the onions, shedding the copper flakes
and the fragrant soil
onto the tile floor.
The little girl’s black boots
are knocking, knocking, knocking
on the metal-framed stool,
its scaffolding a rusty skeleton
holding her suspended in the open warmth
of the bread oven.
Her mother comes at her with a small pair of scissors
that are rusted from sitting in the sink
shrieking like a dull axe or a golden scalpel
her mother places
a sliver of bay leaf on her forehead
a butcher’s knot into her boot laces
she takes the yellowed lace table cloth out of the closet
to ready the table
for Sunday Roast.
Devilled eggs for midnight supper
When you sleep, she scoops your organs out
and places them in the blender with gold flakes
and dried rosemary
to starve the dreams of changelings.
With the precision of a homemaker at a church picnic
she whips the yolk of your being into peaks
and places sprigs of parsley on your dream-swept figure.
Upon waking with your body inside out
pluck out her right eye
and suck on the gelatinous orb
(she won’t miss it, I promise)
Realize so much temper is in the instrument
and that she has to drag what fell
to the window ledge under the waning moon.
If she does not complain,
Let the mist of your steaming organs
slink over the marble threads of her bones
Stand in the throat of your floods,
your skin is a servant,
she is the breath you choke.
Ferta, Unsettled 1959
after the Derrymaquirk Woman
In the mud, there are stories of women and foxes
and the yellow flowers that adorn their bodies.
Bring your bones to me, I say, and
with a flick of my tongue I will watch you fall
hold out your hand, I will read your fortune
with a flick of my wrist your wounds are packed with goldenrod
hold this leech to your cheek, your eyes grow wide
with a long suck I drain your abscess
In the mud, there are stories of women and foxes
and the yellow pus they drain from the bog cutters.
Languid, they heal and fell the men and the oaks
and sink back into the peat to tend to their infants.
The Skin Between Egg and Shell
Their bellies tear open like cantaloupe;
gaping splits in the cramped racket
of their breath.
Their empty bodies are broken windows
small teeth of jagged glass gnashing
at the passing crows.
The merrows are rough for their lovers,
their fingers are iron picks
that slip into the ears of unsuspecting men.
Meek-winged, they own the blood and drink
the well water, plucking a feather for each day
lost at sea.
They repel the moon like they are salt-whipped.
Below, the ground is plentiful. They find
syrup in each other like flies
and cry as if each tear had just been drawn,
a worm, ripe from the womb.
In elation, they sing with blood-filled hands
their skulls copper pots of plasma
spilling onto the flaxen dirt.
With morning come hymns to broken toes
and into the forest of the sea
with the flesh of sullen men on their lips.
“This match can be lit anywhere. Strike it on a book or the rough wood of your kitchen table. Let the glow of the flame brighten those dark London streets!”
I bought a frozen charlotte doll for my daughter, spent three days of wages on a piece of porcelain in a matchbox bed.
The little matchstick girl died in the cold without a coat
but, did she glow, like me?
My daughter kept the doll beneath her head while she slept. I looked in on her, holding a chunk of my own flesh in my hand, my jaw a rotting socket.
She slept so peacefully, but the corner of my eye
Was a yellow light
that I couldn’t quite catch.
The coroner reports from the anatomic findings and pertinent history that:
she had bad teeth
there was the smell of sex.
The police officer, brooding in the doorway:
“I must bring you an ugly piece of news”
Bees lay dead in the after birth under the white duvet
Her prolapsed uterus was delivered last through the flesh
The body is in a state of moderate decomposition.
She flushed the remnants of her womb and grabbed a bottle of apricot-scented hand sanitizer
She opened the cupboard where she stored the treats
Her fists grew bigger from bloating, the skin and hair sloughs easily with gentle pulling.
The gardener peeks through the window:
“What is that smell?”
In the pea-green kitchen her thighs swell against a sharp elbow.
Her breasts plop out of her night gown,
swollen and leaking.
Possible scars from a lightning strike, unrelated.
An egg should never be boiled but she
had a secret desire to be sacrificed
She birthed her first daughter in the basement
they got into furious fights and devoured each other, leaving only their tails
The second daughter
she ground into the dirt of the planters like eggshells
Systemic and organ review:
To quell the smell of lingering afterbirth and decomposition, the lead officer douses the body in strong coffee.
A History of Touching
They say a nun in fasting is crow-like,
mildest on her back.
Full like a gull with her chest to the sea
with salt-licked teeth,
a fasting nun is ashen, like a rocky-strewn shore
trapped long in herself like a spider,
crawling into muteness as ants do
and bloody as a beetroot
from the edge of the slow river.
The breasts of a nun in fasting
are mapped with blue veins that jut like bone matter,
shivering with hunger
Erin Emily Ann Vance’s work is forthcoming in Coffin Bell Journal, Augur, Post Ghost Press, and Bad Nudes. She is a contributing reader and writer for Awkward Mermaid Literary Magazine. A 2017 recipient of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Young Artist Prize and a 2018 Finalist for the Alberta Magazine Awards in Fiction, she will complete her MA in Creative Writing in August 2018 and an MA in Folklore in 2020. Erin’s debut novel, Advice for Amateur Beekeepers and Taxidermists will be published by Stonehouse Publishing in 2019.
@erinemilyann (twitter, instagram)