Like ferns in the desert, you said we were impossible.
I drew you a giraffe, a frond in its mouth,
taped it to the fridge, said, Use your imagination.
Around your neck hung the patron saint
you wore when you saw your mother.
In the living room, the only photo of her turned away.
Our hair long, clothes tight, lips painted:
we weren’t what people expected. When we held hands
in the streets, no one took us seriously.
The merry-go-round now rusted, the earth reaching
to swallow it whole. It creaks during winds,
swells in the summer with hands holding on.
M., I could have housed our babies
stomach full of round, fat dumplings.
The first time you were in my bedroom,
all you saw was books. Cocked your head
sideways, read them like a list.
When we drove to Peachland in your mom’s caravan,
leaned into every bend of road, you drew
trees in the fog on the window.
My childhood tree house had our names
in yellow chalk on the ceiling. I enclosed them in a heart;
you corrected me, said hearts break but circles go on forever.
So we kept spinning,
fell and scraped our knees,
picked out the gravel, climbed on top again.
M., I’ve changed the sheets, rearranged
the books, cut my hair, but I still feel
your fingertips down my spine.
I remember you in pieces
like a broken vase reassembled
with child hands.
The meadow now an onramp,
the deer a block removed. I’ve had to forage
a new spot amongst the ferns, and maple trees.
That last year, your knees scraped new,
stained the bed sheets over & over,
each print less than the last.
We sat in windows, hung over the edge
to see who could lean out the farthest,
shout our wishes out like the yard was a well.
M., when I can’t remember
your voice, I open the back door
and wait for wind.
Claire Matthews is working on her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. Her work has appeared in Joyland, Room, and pif Magazine. Her poetry was long-listed for the CBC Canada Writes Poetry 2013 Award. In her spare time, she makes soap and drinks whisky.