Fingers fret the globe’s embossed topography,
favour the Andes, swollen outline like the Z-shape
of a heron reed-still in the backyard creek. She points,
here’s Canada, here’s home, caught in a ganglion
of lakes. Our cupped hands cradle continents in turn.
She says, Colombia is this wings-spread
luna moth. Its wings tip North and South America apart.
She follows its line north, seeks less hostile topography.
Our fingers brush the ruched pre-Cambrian shield. She turns
the globe. Once, down south, thief-fingers caught her D-shaped
golden earrings. Pulled sharply, the theft left a wet ganglion
of bloodied ear-lobe in her hair. Not in Canada; that’s the point.
She thought I’d be safe here. Then, we heard a pointed
ice chunk ring against my skull. Schoolyard rumours spread
that I told the boy no – to a “game” – the shame a clenched nerve
swelling at my nape. I watched my breath carving topographies
into the snow, each exhalation melting concave, C-shaped
divots like the ridge of Hudson’s Bay. When I return
to consciousness, I ask her for a map to read, to turn
away from other pains. Danger was a knifepoint
inside me, extruding: my childish, I-shaped
body rounding into monthly bleedings, hips spreading,
men noticing. She was only ever wounded by topography.
No injuries insidious as this foreign growth, live ganglion
warping in my womb. Hers, external marks: the ganglia
of stray nerves left untied after a blunt knife turned
her finger inside out, the scar a globe’s red-tape equator.
My marks, internal: mapped in ultrasound, and laser-pointed
in the screen’s haze. She helps to hold me down, spread-
eagled on the table. Her mouth echoes the O-shape
of my birth cry. All things considered, we’re in OK shape.
Years later, she extracts me from a throng of gangly
teens two-stepping at a school dance. Canadian boys spread
your knees after slow songs. Cheap disco lights turn
overhead as she drags me away. The compass points
of her heeled shoes etch new topographies
that spread across the hardwood. No turning back.
We are shaped so alike, linking arms: nerve and ganglion.
We point North and follow our bodies’ relief maps.
Briarpatch remains independent because of your support. Subscribe today.