On the lam, in the churned and cratered aftermath of a clear cut on a mountainside, the metal womb finds the skeletonized remains of two eaglets, their bones preserved all tidily together in the failed protection of a nest. With one makeshift finger of one makeshift hand, she softly traces the circle of the sclerotic ring of an eye. Night is settling above, and the stars are so bright they seem alive and moving. The metal womb leaves the eaglets as she found them and lays her makeshift hands over the recessed circle of her belly button, her hatch, perfectly round, and despite her makeshift hands, which are five-fingered and styled after human hands, what she believes is the most human part of her, a portal connecting outside to in. Softly, she traces the circle of it, feeling for unevenness, for something she might slip a makeshift finger under, for something she might pick at, or pry, because it is now so far passed harvest, and she did not mean to hold these would-be-future-humans forever, only wanted to know where they went after they were taken from her, and to choose what would happen next inside her, but her hatch is as smooth as a magic mirror, as featureless as glass, sealed tight as a secret. The metal womb stills the makeshift finger of her makeshift hand and tells herself to sleep. Slowly her awareness of the stars and the maimed trees and the mud and the round dead-absence of the eaglet’s eyes all thickens and warms until she feels as blurred as a reflection in a puddle punctured by a rock. The slow pouring syrup of sleep slips over her like a blanket drawn up, or two curtains pulled to meet, and she must sleep then, because she dreams of fireflies tapping against the curve of a glass jar that she is holding close, and when she wakes it is to her makeshift fingers digging at her hatch, all broken back and splintered.
Jenny Irish is from Maine and lives in Arizona. She is the author of the hybrid collections Common Ancestor (Black Lawrence Press, 2017) and Tooth Box (Spuyten Duyvil, 2021), the short story collection I Am Faithful (Black Lawrence Press, 2019), and the chapbooks would-be future-humans (Ethel, 2022) and Lupine (Black Lawrence, 2023). She facilitates free community workshops every summer.