Leaving the Islands

 
I want to slice thin layers of skin
and leave them here on Galiano, drying
on rocks in Montague Harbour.

I want to take the peeled bark
from an Arbutus on Thetis Island,
weave it between my fingers, make

sea stars. I want to drink salt water,
turn my hair into a new species
of kelp. I want to float between

trees over the forest floor, smelling
cedar cedar cedar, listening to woodpeckers,
gray jays, one owl swimming in air.

I want never to move out of my body.

 

 

 

Liveaboard

 
Sleeping
on a sailboat is like living
in a womb—
all motion
and muffled sounds.
It’s a skin
of separation from the cold
waters of the world.
Inside
it’s gold light,
muted,
and a pot of stew, curling
steam above the stove.

And yet
it’s also like sleeping
in the belly
of a water bird, a swan,
that eats
tall grasses
and lives such a short time
on the river,
that will fly as soon
as the ice comes,
that doesn’t always move
from the sharp curve
of a careless boat.

 

 

Names

Violet-crowned
             Berylline,
Broad-tailed
             Cinnamon,

                          Calliope.
 

Hummingbird names
unfurl on the tongue
             like a curl of butter,
melting into the body’s
memory of hunger
and flight and the name
we carried like feathers
before we arrived
in this world—

and weighted ourselves
with solid bones
classified as
           
accountant,
homeowner, parent
minivan soccer practice
diabetes, overweight
suburbia.
 

                          Remember being Ruby-throated?
                          I almost do.

 

 

 

Emily Wall is an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Alaska Southeast. She has been published in a variety of literary journals in the U.S. and Canada. Her first book, Freshly Rooted, was published in 2007 by the Irish press Salmon Poetry. She lives in Douglas, Alaska.

Header photo of harbor in Alaska by lifeisgood, courtesy Pixabay.

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