Lines Drawn in Water

by Alison Armstrong-Webber
The Waters
Honorable Mention, October 2016
Judged by Richard Krawiec

“I am your own way of looking at things,” she said.
— “When I Met My Muse,” William Stafford

She took me from Charlotte Street where I had been searching
for the house with the glassed-in porch under the eaves,
where we used to sit when I was twelve, crowded around the table,

bathed in the many glittering squares of the sub-divided windows.
The lot empty now, the house next to it is a women’s shelter.
Saturday afternoons, after market, we would unlatch the windows,

lean out; watch the midsummer leaves swish, the way a cat watches
birds that are well out of reach. And we’d pick from communal plates
of rainbow-coloured combinations Carl had dreamed up for us to eat.

My mother’s exotic cannabis cigarette left gauzy tendrils in the galley-
kitchen. She and Carl laughed and murmured, moved past
one another with a musical sound, washing up later. In our old house

in Manordale, no one had laughed in my memory, washing the dishes.
My father would be there, behind me, or my sister — a sudden tall
blocky chill, and would pluck a glass from the beige, wiry dishrack,

hold it up, examine it. If he had been dark that day, or had come home
from the after-work parlour, or the trunk of his car was deep
in brown bottles, you could feel the crack of his hand

before it came. The back of my head shudders a little, sometimes
waking up in the morning, back in my body, or lying down
at night, it saws away at the pillow, as if rustling a joist—

She tells me, “This is not your way
of looking. Those eyes are hollows, and we have use for them.
We will plant pond lilies. Where is your magenta, that you keep

like a solid treasure box, under your ribs? We can employ
a breath of that, a veil to brush the funnel edges,
where the hollows swirl. To close the tunnels. Like water,

they are spinning fast, counter-clockwise. Empty.
Let’s reverse that.” I see a trowel. It hovers in space. A garden fork.
Like birthday favours. An orange wave of fattening carrots,

their green feathery boa. I lift my hands—like a child, to show her,
they are clean. I have finished
washing the dishes. Now, she has put me to bed.

There isn’t a sound.
I am coming up
Sun gold.