Hiraeth In the turpentine afternoon I wanted to beat my wings— hollow so hollow. And in the rectal evening I wanted to be a hummingbird. A hum m ing bird. In the frost-swept night I wished you a Lamb. Soft like cotton balls and languid with musk. Turn me into a violent fresco, Lamb, and touch me like hot bricks in the wet dawn. I wanted to be a leaf lodged in amber. — — An insulin needle. And at the musk-soaked August’s end I wanted to be hollow t r a n s l u c e n t a hum mingbird with — — insulin — — needle— — legs lodged in amber. My hollow wings snap ping In your lamb’s mouth, turn me into a violet fresco, Lamb, touch me like hot bricks.
After Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, photographers of The Cottingley Fairies
When Frances followed the little thing
into the shallow beck
I stayed back, watching her stockings
sag in the water, flapping at her ankles
like bloated second skins.
Frances batted her eyelashes
and the imp trusted her.
Confession: I wished to catch it
and place it in a box
like a little pet in a spider-silk dress,
pull it out at parties to flutter and tease
When Frances giggled as its wings
tickled her rosebud cheek—
I confess; I wanted to hold
its gossamer body in my palm,
knowing that I could practically crush it
with my breath.
The waters of the beck leaked into my shoe
the cold water like tiny, elfin teeth
biting my toes. A gasp and— oh!
the thing is dead.
caught under Frances’ fat palm;
she slipped on a patch of moss like an oil slick.
The photos may be fake, but the fairies—
They were real.
Weren’t they, Frances?
I wonder where you are
where our home is
now that the skeletons of our earliness
belong to the birds
I wonder if the ground where we placed you
is infected with your dreaming
I sit in your closet
empty now, but the ghosts of your
dresses hang around me
like rainbows dripping lifeless from the gallows
I used to lay in your bed
wanted to feel everything you’d touched
for our skin cells to feed the same microorganisms
I’d lay in the dirt and imagine I was you
but when ants started up my neck I couldn’t help
but twitch awake and run back inside
Mother, can I have the velvet box of milk teeth
that you keep in your nightstand?
Every night I dream my teeth are falling out.
I think they miss me.
Mother, what is the combination to my middle school locker?
I rescued a bird fourteen years ago
and hid it with my gym clothes
I think it’s getting hungry.
Mother, can you braid my hair one last time before I cut it off?
Will you keep a lock of it for a day
when I am not picking up my phone
and you have bad news?
Mother, will you help me down?
This tree is much taller than I expected and this branch
is much thinner and I am much older
than I’d planned.
Mother, will you remind me
to wash between my toes and to take my glasses off
before I fall asleep
even when you don’t remember
who I am?
When we were young,
Still slippery and mosslike,
Our father embroidered sparrows
Onto the backs of our necks
He held the whiskey bottle in his free hand
And like a mean waterfall the
Blue threads cut through our skin.
For our tenth birthday
Our father bought us stallions,
And after an afternoon of riding,
He added to the hieroglyphs on our necks;
Pomegranates that made our throats
Look like bloody gaps with yellow teeth.
We were fourteen when we stopped dreaming
One morning we woke up together
Our minds empty, our hands steady,
And we clutched the bone-handles of our
Hairbrushes, counting to one hundred
In each others’ hair
Careful not to pull a single stitch.
We worked like machinery and every five years
Father took the needle and we took turns sitting
At the oak table while he stitched
His memories into our skins.
For Stacey Walyuchow
When I was six years old,
I played Odette in a Kindergarten production
of swan lake.
My movements were decidedly more
like that of a magpie
and my understudy was called in
after I broke my ankle tripping
over a gold watch.
I cried and watched the birds outside my room.
They played and threw acorns
danced and drew shapes in the dirt
I opened the window and called to them
in my best outside voice.
One by one they jumped onto the sill
and teetered on the threshold
of my world and theirs, their heads
cocked their eyes shifting their feet
twitching until they jumped hopped skipped
into my bed.
Needlepoint and other poems © Erin Vance
Erin Emily Ann Vance holds an MA in English and Creative Writing from the University of Calgary and studies Irish Folklore and Ethnology at University College Dublin. She is the author of five poetry chapbooks, including The Sorceress Who Left too Soon: Poems After Remedios Varo (Coven Editions) and Unsuitable (APEP Publications). Her writing has appeared in Contemporary Verse 2, EVENT Magazine, Augur Magazine, Arc Poetry Magazine, Canthius, and more. Her first novel, Advice for Taxidermists and Amateur Beekeepers will be published in Fall 2019 by Stonehouse Gothic.
Learn more at erinvance.ca.
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