By Erin Vance
You will sit amongst the wild,
Sleeping next to you, a doe,
a blistered doe,
a young, blackened doe--
Whimpering, illuminated by the streetlights—a dream,
And a lake like a slice of fat,
white in the dark under the lights.
Here you are a bruised pear.
and I thought I loved you, your thick fingers
the wet forest of it all.
You slip in
and I find I am a cavern, you the velvet worm.
it is sad for me
to be explored, to sleep with a fetid pear in my mouth--
to feel the mush of your damaged bits against my lips
in the alley,
the damp mushrooms
the frantic mice, the yellow mold.
Our reckless flesh
draped over concrete--
a broken man and his doe
drained of blood, white
like a mannequin
or a Christmas decoration.
By Erin Vance
The white worm burrowed in the salt; a shivering invasion. It claimed the child for its own while the mother’s belly was still round and quiet. The father bound two branches into a wreath, and placed it on his wife’s naked stomach. Early in the pregnancy, they flew across the ocean and in the Parisian hospitals priests blessed mixtures of water and sugar which she drank like a hummingbird. The father infused cow’s milk with rosemary
for the baby but
now everything is glass and he is weeping
for his wife.
“Do not force her appetite,” the doctor advised him, as they huddled outside the door of the room that housed her sickbed. She slept like an ant farm.
Everything rotted away.
Even the strip of whalebone lodged in her ankle.
The doctor simply frowned and said, “A pregnant woman should always bathe in the ocean." The husband carried his weak wife to the edge of the sea. He cupped foam in his hands and brought it to the baby, humming from its fleshy cage. Their words grew scarce in the surf. Scarcer, even, than their sighs and silences since the arrival of the Clump.
When they returned, the mother—the wife—found butterflies and her dead mother’s molar underneath her pillow. The week after there were two identical scarlet fish in the kitchen sink when her husband went to rinse the fresh basil for her tea.
The mother placed her wings gingerly on her round belly, thinking that nightingales are most difficult to please and the bed is too narrow, anyway for her wings and her husband’s limbs and the baby’s talons seeking out her breasts like tulip bulbs.
With her beacon hidden behind her navel
her husband developed a habit of sharpening knives
of keeping his eyes open at night
glued to the belly.
Her stomach like a bleached jawbone protruded and a slow, grey sludge ran down his cheek. All the leaves were off the trees and garter snakes swarmed under the porch light.
The baby came like a vendor of smoke the size and weight of a hen’s egg.
Like a tent the mother had an open slit. The husband placed a lamp inside her
where no one could see the smoke
where the flame could guide the others out
By Erin Vance
tell me i can bear it
plant barley in my eardrums
and feel it
what it’s like to crush a child
in your sleep;
recover the butterfly noose, a
and dead sparrow;
The drag of the key in the lock
By Erin Vance
Some nights she chokes on rosemary sprigs in her bed. Others she is smothered by her silk sheets. As a babe the scraping began, her soft fingernails licking shallow graves in her own skin. Each fortnight her mother prepares a tincture, white and thick like curdled milk the powder from a stolen skull sinks into her stomach.
Now she feeds the scraping, holding hawthorn to her breasts, slipping foxglove under her sharpened nails. The poison leaks envious onto the tongue, she walks along the highway to the village with dried bay leaves in her brassiere.
The greenhouse is a haven of thorns and dust in the winter, but she sleeps in the sharps and the dried flowers.
And the children chase each other with the sharp metal rods
And she trips over her skirts six times a day
And her ankles are coated in creamy silt
As a woman, the scraping never ends. She cannot cry. She coaxes a raven to her window, each day plucking a slick black feather. This is a new sharpness, the end-chiseled rachis stroking her stomach.
Her collection of sharps grows and she sits on her nest in the greenhouse, watching.
Watching the children chase one another.
Their pointed teeth glinting in the sun.
Their bony fingers jutting towards one another.
is an instrument of scraping.
Erin Emily Ann Vance’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including Contemporary Verse 2 and filling station. Erin was a 2017 recipient of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Young Artist Prize and a 2018 Finalist for the Alberta Magazine Awards in Fiction.