In the Quiver of Its Wings

by Kerry Byrne

Twins. Of sorts. Swelling her breast. Her belly.

You’re young, the oncologist says, circling the lump with black pen.

The midwife says, You’re geriatric, handing over a pack of Pampers.

Her mother cries and starts to knit.

Skin slicked, click-click-click of the mouse, calculating size on the screen. First one. Then the other.

Want to see? the sonographers echo.


Yes, they say, craning necks, holding hands, transfixed by the tiny persistent flicker.

Pay a tenner for a picture, drive home, hide hope in a box under the stairs.

Make-tea-wash-hair-read-words-on-pages, play normal ‘til the kids go to bed.

Face-to-face in the dark, she mouths fears to closed lids, nausea rising.


Breast Care Service
Appointment Date: 22/04/19
Time: 10.40am

Eyes-widening, word-measuring, hand-shaking: the oncologist will remember her name, not just her breast. She is transformed. Beyond his experience. First on Friday’s agenda.

Face-to face in the dark, he kisses salty lips, she pukes into a glass.

Friday 26/04/19
Oncology Department
Meeting Room 5

nurses                                                        anaesthetists


dissect data; balance risk; assess the viability of a case study;


assign a temporary code to her file.

radiographers                                                       midwives

I’m making you something, her mother says. Wooden hearts for buttons.

Waspy, she devours a chicken, sleeps all day.

Breast Care Service
Appointment Date: 01/05/19
Time: 11.45am

Grow both, the oncologist says. It’s slow, give your hummingbird a chance. 

They dare each other. Cross off the days.

Buttonholes stretch, straps dig, areolae darken.

Screw tempting fate, she downloads the app. Smaller by a fifth, but growing fast; bump for a head; bulge for a heart; cells multiplying: it’s the size of a pomegranate seed.

First, she rolls the fruit, shaking the seeds loose. Next, she tears its flesh-red skin and squeezes, her hands gory with guts. She only needs one, balances creation between finger and thumb.

It’s a boy, she whispers into the dark.

How do you know?

Just do. Milo, Max, Moses. You choose. 

He scribbles girls’ names on the back of a receipt, folds it into his wallet before filling the tank and paying.

Think it’s grown? she asks, pictures it spreading, spiking lymph nodes, cartwheeling through her blood. He fingers the soapy sibling, traces its edges in scented suds.

Ultrasound Department, Maternity Outpatients
Appointment Date: 13/06/19
Time: 10.15am   

Skin slicked, craning necks, holding hands, transfixed by still monochrome gyres.

The oncologist dreams he is drowning

in black amniotic waters. Misshapen breasts,

their nipples inverted crusty, bob in the liquid silence, the

hum of beating wings rippling the inky surface above.

With a backdrop of sky-filled waters and endless horizons, Kerry lives and writes in the Cambridgeshire fens, UK. Her writing has been published by streetcake magazine, Selcouth Station and Bandit Fiction. She is currently studying for a Creative Writing MLitt at the University of Glasgow. Twitter: @kerry__byrne


Photography by: Norbert Hentges