Curated by Canadian writer, editor and publisher rob mclennan, the “spotlight” series appears the first Monday of every month.
These poems are from a manuscript-in-progress called Feeding Lessons. The manuscript examines grief and anxiety, playing with fairy tales and folklore relating to plants and animals. In ‘Monkshood Tea,” a young woman mourns the death of a mother-figure, alone in the woods until she is ‘rescued’ by a man and taken to the city, where she discovers that she must painfully alter her appearance to be accepted. The ‘Monkshood’ in the title is a reference to both the death of the mother figure and the werewolf imagery in the poem. “Searchlight” was originally written n response to the 2019 Alberta election, with the title ‘Do We Say Nothing?’ It relies on unanswered questions as a means of processing anxiety and despair.
I sat by her deathbed for days and watched her flesh stretch
hard over her bones, like stretching the skin of a popped balloon
over cutlery. Spiny iterations of age grew on her toes
I felt them jut from her heel and her elbows. I kissed
the soft fur on the tops of her feet. They fit in the palms
of my hands, cold and grey. I watched her body bloat. I grew
dizzy with decay in my lungs, heavy and rancid like
old milk and dead rats trapped in walls. The fur
on her face was matted with the blood she coughed up
that last night.
I wept over the rot until a lonely hunter stumbled
into our den. He told me I could be his companion
and I was happy, at first, until his sons laughed and pointed and
his wife sent me to a white room where they poured hot wax
all over my body and I couldn’t breathe for the strawberry-
scented pain of it but at least now I am a real girl.
What is the sound of a kidnapping in the dark? And
what is the sound of a keening light?
The last gasp, the coffin bell; the dead
tread on and are they silent? Are
they screaming without sound, are we lonely and bored
and blindfolded? Is our home inside with the children,
or is it trapped out in the cold?
What does it take to be whole?
What are we mourning? Was there a warning yell
that we didn’t hear? A PSA that aired after our cable
was shut off? What are we mourning
if the funeral is our own?
Do we say nothing and carry on
as if we are still breathing slow?
Erin Emily Ann Vance is the author of Advice for Taxidermists and Amateur Beekeepers (Stonehouse, 2019) and five chapbooks of poetry, including The Sorceress Who Left too Soon (Coven Editions, 2019) and Unsuitable (APEP Publications, 2019). She holds a Masters Degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Calgary and is pursuing a Masters Degree in Irish Folklore and Ethnology at University College Dublin. Vance attended the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry summer course at Queen’s University Belfast in July 2018, and was a fellow of Summer Literary Seminars in Nairobi in December 2018. She attended the Writers Guild of Alberta Banff Centre Residency in February 2019 and worked with author Kimmy Beach as part of the 2019 WGA Mentorship Program. Vance was a recipient of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Young Artist Prize in 2017 (nominated by Aritha van Herk) and a finalist for the 2018 Alberta Magazine Awards for her short story “All the Pretty Bones.” Vance is the co-host of the podcast Femmes Macabres.
Find out more at www.erinvance.ca