Three Poems // Erin Vance

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?

 

***

 

Flickers

 

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 now

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

crumbling

into the ground?

Who put bella in the Witch elm?

We did.

 

***

 

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

not has

or was

but is

 

disappeared

 

is gone

 

is missing

 

***

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.

 

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