Erin Vance, Slaughtering Time

Premonition, 1943

After Remedios Varo

I am moon-mad,
a weaver of chalk dust.
My cloak is made of stolen milk,
powdered. My dress is red clay.
Tomorrow I will wander picking spruce tips
for tea and calendula buds for salves.

I am a moon-mad weaver in a plagiarized cloak
Tonight, I step into the smoke
tomorrow, I will bloat in the creek
like a poisoned crow.

Wild Cat as Pallbearer

They said whoever died in the forest would go straight to heaven
skip purgatory, the awkward ice-breakers,
the get-to-know-you questionnaire—
confession and last rites.

So, I lay down on a bed of moss
and waited for death.
Spiders crawled all over me
and all around me
the cats purred, their voices dusty leaves
on the ground.

They said whoever died in the forest would go straight to heaven
skip the autopsy,
the bowl-cut scalp and the indignity of my brain in the hand
of a sneering man in a lab coat
lauding my last days.

I made a hammock out of leaves
and tried to sleep. I welcomed death
in my Ophelian dress and when it did not come
I wept and pet the wild cats
rough like a child, hoping to be scratched
that the scratch would infect
and that this
would be my cause of death.

Rheumatic Pain II, 1948

After Remedios Varo

That she lived
with a thousand hot needles
in her skin
is now the reason for her canonization.

That she wept
at the foot of the castle ruins
and offered herself to the storm
bandaged with a poultice of nettle and bittersweet
is now the reason
for her mourning.

Slaughtering Time

Remember me like brittle nails breaking on the notch at the top of your spine. Remember me like blackheads, like digging blackheads out with a needle. Remember me like crushing blackheads between your teeth. Remember me like jalapenos in sugar-free applesauce, like hard-boiled egg whites with salsa and three packets of Splenda. Remember me like sucked-on bouillon cubes and sidewalk chalk. Remember me like a package arriving soaked with urine on your doorstep. Remember your affinity for anything pickled, anything with hot sauce. Remember celery dipped in yellow mustard. Remember wetting washcloths with the leftover water from oatmeal and sucking on them. Remember your mother, crying in the bathroom at the restaurant. Remember me like those fishnet tights and the exacto knives. Remember me like plain cottage cheese with relish wrapped in iceberg lettuce. Remember your seventeenth year, turning orange from so many carrots. Remember me like peanut butter mixed with canned tuna and mint sauce on soda crackers. Remember me like a purple flower on the sidewalk; you have to eat it or it eats you for days. Remember me like scraps of paper like dead leaves like asking the pharmacist for a more powerful laxative. Remember asking your mother, ‘What is the calorie count of Irish Spring soap?’

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. She will complete her MA in Creative Writing in 2018 and begin an MA in Irish Folklore and Ethnology at UCD in 2019.

Erin’s debut novel, Advice for Taxidermists and Amateur Beekeepers, will be published by Stonehouse Publishing this year. Her second chapbook, The Sorceress Who Left Too Soon, will be released by Coven Editions this year, too.

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