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.
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.
Violet-crowned Berylline, Broad-tailed Cinnamon,
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.