Amber Edmondson

The Greatest Show on Earth as Cautionary Tale

The human cannonball, ninety pounds of nothing, fucks a man whose beard is made of bees. She’s tired of kissing, wants instead that buzz against her lips, the heat of it, his face obscured so there’s nothing to fall in love with. After, he hands her a polished wooden box the size of an orange, or a heart. In her panic, she thinks of the myth of bees, the way they cluster over the invading wasp, their soft bodies vibrating madly, wanting to scald, wanting to scorch, that delicate control, the fine line of heat.

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Backstage with Lady Leda I

The dwarf twins unlace her corset, blunt-force fingers on white leather cordage, forty eyelets up her spine. One winds the leather around his palm. The other slips the pale, satin shell from Leda’s body, curves it over one thick arm. She is naked, though despite the skin, she looks more bird than woman, older, bent, each knob on her back pressing and translucent. On stage, calcium feathers held up with limelight but here, they lie limp at her ribs. You can’t see her face. The twins speak for her, sound pushed from throats, singsong, overlapping, battling the lantern light for space inside her tent.

 

Backstage with Lady Leda II

After, she uses her nails to snip the thread sealing the slit in skin beneath her ribcage, five Xs in white, drops the lacing on the straw floor of her dressing tent. Without the twins, she does not speak at all. She holds up a finger to your lips–Wait–and reaches inside the breach in her skin. She pulls out her liver, the flabby thing dripping, holds it out to you as if to say, “Here.” And, yes, this seems right, yes, that it would be a woman punished for kindness, punished to give again and again and you think, yes, she wants you to eat it, and, Vanna help you, you almost do.

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Amber Edmondson is a poet and book artist living in Upper Michigan. Her work has appeared in publications such as Autostraddle, Freeze Ray Poetry, and Menacing Hedge, among others, and she is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Darling Girl (dancing girl press 2016) and Lost Birds of the Iron Range (Porkbelly Press 2017).