The Man in the Bowler Hat, by the Pond Out Back
Where did father put the diaper pins?
Those small, sharp bodies, curled into themselves
grasping onto the soiled cloth.
Where did mother put the egg-cups?
Father was always so good
at knocking the tip of the egg off clean,
so that none of the yoke leaked out
onto my plastic plate.
Where did sister put the yellow ribbons?
that held my black hair
like a dying woman’s hands, tight
taut, and desperate in the wind.
Where did they bury these relics of my tiny life?
In another shallow grave, closer to the pond
and the tire swing whose rope
is more fragile than I?
Or by the shed, where my bike was,
rusted spokes with playing cards stuck
yellow stuffing spilling out of the vinyl seat?
Are there diaper pins and egg cups and yellow ribbons
tangled in the roots of an old tree in the field?
Or has someone stashed them underneath the steak knives
that were granny’s
the ones with the horse bone handles
and blades with age like oil spill?
Where are they, father? Mother? Sister?
The trees have wings
and witches are gathering
around the elms.
This tree has a hole between its wings
Where cracked moths lay
dusted among its particles,
the newer branches are
lighter with the bark stretched.
This trees has catered.
to zealots, to maids,
to rabbits and corpses,
helped spiders spin silk to dusky hands,
its lichen grabbing
at masses of dead skin;
until this gathering.
The witches are mourning
For this trunk, its tumours
tremor, a century of use
the staunch, severed leaves
as black as charred meat,
The tree has a wing l
ong, split silver
bleak like raw chicken;
the beast now just a small body,
his dusty shimmer,
flimsy in a cloud or dust
or mosquito bits
into the ground?
Who put bella in the Witch elm?
Missing Persons Report
Green the sweater she wore last.
Black the colour of her just-dyed hair
sharp, the slice of the axe.
starlings, her babies in a duffel
hidden beside something wet,
maybe-bodies shoot up like sprouts
gasses, bile, the whole bit.
Nails orange-red like popsicles
or fake blood on a stump.
don’t try, the note on the stove said
stare if you will her screaming child
plunges into her chest
the other serene as a virgin cake.
fingerprints on the coke machine
and a nose ring tugged out.
last she swam in the pond, or
the high school swimming pool;
either way she bled in both, at some
point and now she is disappeared
Erin Emily Ann Vance’s work has appeared in cV2 and filling station and 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.