After her eyes were eaten out of their sockets and the old women sewed them shut with silver thread, they kept blinking. Not opening, just twitching up and down. Nobody could tell why. Whether it was just a reflex or—some suspected—a rebellion, an active motion to insist unlike the others she would not forget what she had seen. Her father said it made him feel nauseous, like reading a letter with the ink slightly blurred. And so he would not have her in the dining room. Her mother brought her dessert to the barn, peaches boiled in milk. She ate it with her fingers, thinking the colors hard. So she would not forget. Her mother begged her to stop the blinking. No man desires what cannot be stopped. And brought warm compresses drenched in lilac tea to calm them still. One night, as her stitches began to itch, she scratched. Gently at first. Then harder, long rough strokes. Until they came undone, raw and leaking. She felt her way down to the garden, leaving a sticky trail along the wall. She felt around for her father’s longest knife. She had not touched it before, but knew the splintering hardness of its wood handle. She wanted to be hard. Her feet found the old snake hole where she had been told never to play. She held her breath for silence till she heard its slink, then slammed the knife down, splitting it clean in half. She felt the diamond head, pulled out the eyes. So round and moist. She would have them. She placed them in her empty swollen sockets and they grew. Expanded into the hollow. Perfect fit. Tomorrow they’d see her and clutch their crosses. But they will never know what I see now.
Emily Banks lives in Atlanta, where she is a PhD student at Emory University. A Brooklyn native, she holds an MFA from the University of Maryland and a BA from UNC-Chapel Hill. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Cimarron Review, Yemassee, Pembroke Magazine, and Devilfish Review.5