Through ribs and things
a boy, with stains of juice ringing his mouth
turned and asked his mother,
—How long do I have stay here?
          —On earth

the three of us were gathered
around a glass case
holding the fossil remains of a whale
empty eye sockets
I watched the mothers face
as she gave me a half smile,
an apology, I think

—I said, how long?

the question
flowed through the bones
drifted up vertebrae
licked its way along the form of played out life

—I can’t wait to go home, this place is dying

there was pain in his voice
as he tried to understand the brown remains under bright lights
he pressed his face against his mirror image
his mother grabbed his arm and pulled him away
my own hand found its way to the glass, pressed against the question

my voice whispered inside the empty voids
where flesh and life used to cling

—How long till any of us make it home?

Build up
when i took apart the showerhead
i found the body of a beetle
its small legs were stuck in the gaps of the mesh
the body slick, covered in brown slime

i thought of the shower i had taken that morning
the feel of the water as it lapped at my toes
as the drain, clogged with hair, let the water fill

i thought of the sigh of pleasure i let out
as the heat let me forget, for a moment
the rusty brown dirt
the box that held you
the darkness of that hole

i pried the body out with a pair of tweezers
hovered over the toilet bowl
but felt sad
—no, not sad
i felt your grief

lying on the linoleum
amongst the cobwebs of stray hair and dust
the disappearing body of the beetle
beside me
i thought of you again
without the heat of the shower
without the urge to forget
i thought of you and your grief
your disappearing body

cracking egg shells
fertilizer for sunflowers
a simple act that undoes me
leaves me fractured on the kitchen floor

when we packed up your things,
invaded your closet—
those secret places you kept for yourself
we found bags, multiplied
filled with white and brown speckled shells
each fractured and fragmented,
for use in the spring

your garden,
it bloomed this summer
with no help from your shells
kept over winter in the back of my closet

Francine Cunningham is an Indigenous writer, artist and educator. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in The Puritan, Echolocation Magazine, Hamilton Arts and Letters, The Maynard and The Active Fiction Project. She is a graduate of the UBC Creative Writing MFA program.

:: more from this issue ::

Three Poems

Francine Cunningham

Three Poems

Mahan Ellison

Bones and playing pretend

Amogha Sridhar

City Folk

Nonnie Augustine

Four Poems

Fisayo Adeyeye

Two Poems

Sunayana Bhargava

Desk Job

Makai Andrews

Two Poems

Wilderness Sarchild