By: Laura Matwichuk
Composite: Out of Orbit
I’m kung fu. Algae.
A canoe filled
with rain. Storm clouds,
route and runaway lane.
Ivied Ferris wheel
in Pripyat. Enrichment
course in the Rocky
copier, scotch tape
dispenser. I’m White
Out. A woven lawn
action. Out of
Disinherited. A dress
rehearsal, a first
soluble. Gloomy. In-
sufferable. I quiver
like Jell-O, drain like
a kiddie pool. I’m
a dying star.
A smile from the past can be terrifying.
Inherited genetic characteristics say Boo!,
then grab your ankles. In the photograph from ‘68,
my teenage mother stands with her sisters
at the edge of Lake Louise,
hotel looming like bad weather above
their windswept hair. Who can say
if they were miserable too? Summer
demotes the glacier to pure liquid
in an endless repetition. A woman who is not
my mother bends over wiry stems of pink
and orange poppies. Teenagers in shirtsleeves
play a game on the lawn, in view
of their doting moms. For a few days
after I gave birth to my son,
and only then, I felt tenderness
for all mothers. We are all
connected because we were all born,
I kept telling the friends who
dropped off dinner, eyes shining
with hormonal tears. If there’s
a trace of my mother buried
in the Shoreline Trail gravel—
her latent shoeprint, a corner of her heel—
it’s long expired, as impossible to lift
from the water’s margin as from our
last phone conversation. By now,
I should know better, keep expectations
low. Like the proverbial hook
dropping into the ice fishing hole,
the temperature will plummet soon.
Victoria Glacier will creak and shine.
The chateau, once enormous,
will shrink into darkness,
even as its mass endures. Life isn’t
like that – from what I’ve seen,
it can’t withstand even the slightest
pressure. Mom tried to make up for it,
though, in her way. Once, in the ‘80s,
she filled an inflatable pool
with a garden hose,
convinced me it was a lake.
I was inside the volcano.
I was standing at the edge.
I was standing back from the edge, zooming in with my phone.
I was asking strangers to take my camera closer than I was willing to go.
I was watching the eruption on the six o’clock news.
I was re-watching the eruption on YouTube, from different angles.
I was watching shaky, hand-held videos of the eruption.
I was watching videos shot from the window of a helicopter.
I was watching lava devour moss, rock, kite strings.
I saw the interstate become lava.
I saw supervisors and analysts standing up and pointing.
I knew what a volcano calls itself in private.
I knew how to make a volcano disappear.
My heart was a darkened cinema in which the aisles are rivers of lava.
I had a low-grade fever.
I had stopped dreaming.
I had lost the ability to blend in.
I inhabited twin atmospheres.
I inhabited geological time.
I patterned new systems.
I demonstrated evacuation procedures.
I knew where all the dead ends were.
I was waiting for the eruption to begin again.
I was waiting for lava to turn from liquid red to solid black.
I was waiting for the formation of block lava.
I was waiting for pahoehoe.
I was waiting for valleys and mountains and domes.
I was waiting for tubes, lakes and fountains.
Laura Matwichuk’s poems have appeared in literary journals across Canada and The Best Canadian Poetry in English. She was a finalist for the 2013 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers. She lives in Vancouver.