When the Arcana Isn't Enough

poetry by Amy Jarvis

When the Arcana Isn’t Enough  

As a child, I fell into the ground & 

my blood mixed with dust. Instead  

of renaming myself phoenix, I claimed the ash. A theorem 

of absolution states if I then swallowed a fever, 

now it must exorcise itself from my body. Something I call 

my own slicked earth. The kicker is, my own womb is hostile when I 

was borne from a cathedral. In other words, my mother’s DNA


painstakingly stitched within my own becomes paths I’m

predestined to follow. We both swell up & pretend to be 

unafraid in the face of danger. Then, we both watch as disease 

follows roadmaps & how it always chooses me

over her. Legend has it, I am an empty

orchestra, an internal world echoing silence. I imagine a 

posthumous excavation of my uterine tissue &


archaeologists discovering unstrung violins. There’s

no word for the fear of inheritance, but I am terrified

of how illness is generational but only 

chooses me. For example, my heart

has always smothered under the weight of truths 

I can’t tell are real. Last year I sat on the wooden floor &

traced back my genealogy to the 600s. Every single legend


ends in death. We are a history of fallen kingdoms & 

plundered lands: both intentioned to unearth fresh soil. If 

I ever plant seeds, that ground is scientifically promised to

be uncertain. My mother holds me in every hospital bed &

strokes her hands cool against my skin, while I try to remember 

why I chose earth over fire. I’ve spent my whole life

in elegiac divinity, praying on omens 


that always turn bad. Every spring, I watch my mother

blossom over into herself, her muscles lithe & sprawling. 

When I was a child, I dreamt about climbing inside 

of her chest & sharpening myself on her fortified

ribcage. Something to keep the growth in. Something

to keep the sickness out. I think of our bloodline & 

terror of the way 


my children are all a potential hypothetical. The way 

the doctors count my fallibilities on my own mottled

fingertips. The way I sat inside my mother’s lap

& learned muscle memory. The way she holds me still

like I’m nothing but holy, even as my body is apocalyptic. 

The way I cannot want for children because they’re 

statistically predispositioned to hurt like me. In every dream, I


stare at the ceiling. I astral project into a timeline

where my daughter does not inherit my sickness 

& every seed she plants flowers upwards. When the arcana isn’t enough, 

I reinvent all the stories & cartograph an alternate path 

to arcadia. Something that belongs to the potentially barren. 

A wilderness that takes the destruction & 

turns it into a rebirth. 


Amy Jarvis

Amy Jarvis majors in creative writing at Susquehanna University, and originally hails from Rhode Island. In her free time, she's either fighting back against the ways in which her body's failed her, or inventing new worlds to beat it from. She’s a poet, a lover of light, and a hopeless romantic, although not necessarily in that order.