Slips of Yew
by Aaron Polson
I have no voice, but these words are mine.
The old ones, the fat, blubbering ones blind from too many days away from the sun, hold a different power than me. I know because they tell me, their yellow words slithering between swollen, poxy lips. They crack the darkness with cackles and jeers and tell me to go topside and drag the heath for another body, another bit of flesh for them to gobble and spit out the bones. Too many wasted men stagger the villages and highways with minds fever-lost to the old ones. Too many wives wonder at the pale limpness of their once-lovers.
I do as they ask. I hunt. I use my body to bring them fresh meat. It’s not anything they hold above me, some masterful curse that touches my brain beneath its husk. Their curse is more subtle. They found me, they say, as a child, a blubbering baby left in the deep woods like a steaming pile of animal shit. These are their words and memories. I have yet to see one of them leave the caves for the forest, but I listen. Whether lies or truth, I want their power. I want their secrets. But I have no voice to cough up their incantations. I have no words for the questions with which I’d pick their locks and would not split their skulls for a taste. I have no desire to crack the bones of my adoptive mothers, no matter how rotten their hearts.
They send me up because I’m young. Because my tits are firm and legs long, they say, and my face still smooth and eyes blue and clear and without the yellow cataracts which litter theirs. A nice piece of ass, they say, cackling. They pick and prod and push me out and I have no voice to protest. I have no heart to protest. They send me up because they know the village boys want to fuck me, take me to the haylofts and grassy clearings and grunt and sweat until they burst and roll away, heaving and panting like hounds after the hunt. They say it, and I know.
The village boys want it and their fathers, too. Many, more than want of counting, have found me on the road and met me with their slobbering lips and busy, groping hands. My skin peels away, dry and chapped and sore from use. I bleed. I hold the tears back and think of the old ones below, their fat rolling away like ripples in heavy cloth. My eyes close and head fills with their warty faces and foggy eyes. The men’s grunts blend with their laughs and before the farm boys explode I know they’ll happily go below afterward, while lost in drunken stupor, down into the stony earth where the old ones pass them from gnarled hand to gnarled hand, arthritic fingers plucking flesh and sucking them dry.
I know because this is my power, my lot. My peeling skin grows back soft and smooth, my breasts firm, and my legs long and supple.
When I dream, I see my face with their warts, their cankers and bleeding sores. I imagine my body with their powers, not my own. I wonder when enough of my skin has flaked into an ashy pile and I’ll be free of my power, my special, silent song to ruin the lives of men. I dream of these things, a hoped-for gelatinous body, thick rolls of fat, hands knotty and calloused and tipped with yellow nails…
Would my voice come if the firm tits and legs and blue eyes are gone?
I dream of these things until the old ones’ hands wake me, their rotten breath and crumbling voices in my ear saying, “’tis time, ’tis time.” They call me, and I hear brokenness in their voices. Their cave-blind eyes can no longer see the sun; they cannot taste its warmth on their skin. All they have is their potions and words, their bitter hunger. They have no light on their faces and legs. My heart aches for them, another power they can’t remember, and I rise again.
Issue #3 Contents
ART & PHOTOGRAPHY
Kirsten Imani Kasai
A Heart So Pure
Slips of Yew
The Anointed One
The Flustered Husband’s Guide to Spices
The Gallows Tree
The Gardener Estate
When You Love Someone