Erin Slaughter


No one talks about February’s cruelty, 
                   a month of rotting figs 
that will not acknowledge its flies. 

The point of all this living: to preserve 
the heart’s gentleness, rather than contribute
                   to its hardening. So I help you fill 

your apartment with green things, but 
we darkly know, browsing aisles of fern 
                   and aloe, we are choosing 
what to kill—what eventually wilts

in the stream of days swarming
the sink-bottom. That naming 
                   a silent thing does not save it, only 
twists failure into funeral. 

Unbearable, all that is given 
                   to us. We wished for trumpets 
and received skeletons of brass.

When your spine flees the freckled harbor 
                   of your back, it will sound like wind 
licking open a screen door 
at the bottom of a well.

I tell you my theory on vulnerability, 
                   how it’s a history of foliage 
shadowing the window above each body 
that has passed through mine.

You say it’s more the sinkholes 
pocketing these craggy rivers, then describe 
every round object in the room except the chrome
                   terrarium of our breath.

In this dowager night, we take flashlights 
                   to the abdomen’s damp holler.
In mine you find a raccoon with teeth 

and one without, each leering at the other 
                   to make the first move. Meanwhile, a pair 
of hungry lanterns fix their sight, 

a splinter on the horizon line.
                   How I wade through the sawgrass of you, 

learning to love equally the coyote 
                   and what it doesn’t yet know
was built to bleed beneath it.

Erin Slaughter is editor and co-founder of The Hunger, and the author of I Will Tell This Story to the Sun Until You Remember That You Are the Sun (New Rivers Press, 2019). Her writing has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Cincinnati Review, The Rumpus, Prairie Schooner, Split Lip Magazine, and elsewhere. Originally from north Texas, she is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at Florida State University. You can find her online at