This poem won First place in 2-Day Poem Contest 2020

Near rain. The man on the dike is back again
feeding pigeons full loaves of sourdough
among other scraps belonging in a compost bin.
Below him, soft plumes of the eggplant

slough slither into nightfall. Dark bellies
of clouds sail in, bootlegging the sun.
As children we played in this water, wrongly
called it the river. Tossed rocks at herons.
Cupped minnows in our hands. Our bodies
were slick with silt, patterned with innocence like a sea
turtle’s carapace. Heavy with bread, the birds
succumb to lethargy and lay
around him in peristeronic puddles, pale
as cherry blossoms. There’s no good way
to tell someone they’re killing the thing they love.
Just last week, I tore a muscle
from my favourite paperback, overwatered
my youngest aloe plant until its arms hung
in the criss-cross shrug of an octothorpe.
A friend tells me all loneliness can be cured
by an animal, but my apartment is small
and allows only pet fish. I used to love
watching them at pet stores. Separated
into backlit tanks like absent television channels
now makes me sad. Reminds me of the cracked eggshell
walls surrounding my own living room, the glass
windows leading only to air, grass
far, far below. I have realized there are so many ways
to be trapped inside your own life. The past, for me,
a delta of honey and vinegar. What does it mean
to exist is a question I keep asking
with the river water of my life.

The final lines of Halle Gulbrandsen’s poem “Backwater” hint at Kyla Jamieson’s poem “Hold Me In The Palm Of Your Mind,” which was shortlisted for Arc Poetry Magazine’s 2020 Poem of the Year Award.