Your dog sleeps on the back seat,
a blanket spread below his dream-twitches
like the blue night spreads across
the open road. I can’t imagine you
beside me, a passenger for once.
You are lucky you left early,
slipping out from between my arms
before morning had finished
frosting over. You always had to be the first,
always had to leave me behind. Or am I only
imagining your back more familiar
than your face. I could trace blind
the lines of your shoulder blades,
the scooped grooves that deepened
with each day, each pill. How did you manage
to lift me, hold me
up to the light, examine my skin for the cracks and fissures
that mapped your own?
Did you imagine me a glass bowl, your face
refracted by the smoothness of mine?
Now your car’s plush seat
adjusts to my contours, mirrors moved
away from my face. Water beads the glass like
the goose bumps on my arm,
and I wish I believed
you were driving with us, not just
this box of blackened bones,
but your voice, your hand on my collar,
a touch that will always haunt me. And as chilled air
from the open window fills the car, reaches
like an arm around my neck,
I almost do.
The day we drove out to French Beach
you told me you’d miss me.
We walked along the line of the water
felt sand shift beneath our feet, water spill
over our toes. You plucked smooth pebbles,
ran your thumb over marbled colours—
How long before a rock is worn
into a grain of sand? Fifty years?
One hundred? One thousand?
For you, thirty-nine.
We climbed over logs piled on the beach
like bodies in a mass grave,
past picnic tables painted in bird shit,
to a grove of twelve Douglas firs, trunks black
from the salt damp, low branches
ragged amputees. Your dog mapped scents
in the sun-starved needles. We circled trees
shaped like conjoined twins, torsos in a race
to reach the sky. Under the thickest, tallest
tree we stood, looked up through broken boughs,
saw the bleed of green high above. You grabbed
my hair, pulled back my head to kiss
the jugular ridge as if I would
splash across your feet if you didn’t
catch me in your mouth.
On the drive home, both you and your dog
were sick. His chewed-up kelp strands:
jaundiced goose necks lumped on the back seat.
The flood of fever burning your face.
When will I stop feeling angry?
You left me alone, led me too close to the cliff,
a spiny hemlock exposed, ravaged.
Below the ocean roils, anemones and kelp bulbs
crushed in its wrath.
At night in bed I angle my back
against your ghost, soak myself in dreams.
The 2nd place poetry winner of our 2005 contest, "Into Grains of Sand" by Zoya Harris of Vancouver, BC.