Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #14
Four Months and Counting by Maryann Lawrence
It is a hot June night—2.a.m.—and I am sitting up in bed. All is dark except the sliver of light around the window where outside the streetlights shine for no one at all. Our son lies at my breast, sucking it vigorously. I am naked, and my hair hangs limp over my eyes and shoulders. I touch my stomach. It is dark, soft and loose-fleshed, and rolls in much the same way as my infant son’s. As he suckles harder and harder, I put my hand on my belly to ease the pinching. He continues to suck, making slurping noises and stopping for air once in a while, sometimes choking, pulling his head of thick black hair away from me and letting the milk drip from his pale pink lips. All of the house is quiet except for the sound he makes as he gums the fleshy areola—a slopping sound like an old man eating a banana. His heavily salivated tongue cups my breast, pulls down, swal-
lows, suckles again, sometimes with such fervour as to leave him breathless. I sit there in a heap, my eyes heavy with sleep and half closed as this child once again pulls at my nipple, grunting and thrashing his head. I allow him to continue until he yanks the nipple from his mouth abruptly. With quick reflex, I cup my hand over my breast, pressing on it as if protecting it from this eager innocence of infancy, which confuses hunger for starvation. Milk glistens around his mouth. His thick cheeks are full and he is satisfied, laying his head into the crook of my elbow, sleeping peacefully, his mouth still in motion. Beside me, my husband is deep in slumber. His face is soft and relaxed. I look into his contented face and think, I hate him.
Swallow the Rot by Emilie Peck
To all things, the end must come. Once full of mischief, proud Pan breathed his last in the forest of his birth. Only the trees and their animal residents witnessed magic’s final demise. Coyotes, crows and flies all paid their respects with bowed heads and hungry mouths. Bellies full, they moved on; the uneaten left to rot. Sickly sweet, stench passed with the flesh. The tree, bumpy of skin and luscious of leaf, stood silent as it drank the wild god’s final essence with every drop of rain. It cradled the bones long after they grew brittle and white.