Negative Space



By Anne Elliott

The geese grate on my waking ears in the mornings, there by the lagoon every day. Black beaks poke through the mud as they are trailed by their children. The parents keep watch with a beady eye while people pass by on the trails, long black necks rearing when they get too close. I like their protectiveness. My partner calls them water rats and wants them culled to keep the grass clean. There are nights I can see him holding a gun and I taste metal, blood in my mouth, a bullet between my teeth. There are days when, listening to his parents, I can see his father leaving England without a job and $50 in his pocket, his mother’s Portuguese potato farmer family. Sometimes when his children visit, our wall photos come to life and I see how they’ve grown into who they are now, seated on our sofa drinking margaritas. Once, his eldest brought a picture from art class, black and white, a vase with two faces. What’s bare does not always lack power, she told me. On the wall I smile out from the knee of a mall Santa, from beside a friend at graduation. My mother’s passport picture stares from the corner of a frame. I can remember how her face beamed when she was able to smile. My nest was built achingly, twig by yearly twig, empty but cozy with down; there was a time when I dreamed of a different life. Some things I still hold fast in my hands: those that haven’t yet slipped from my fingers like fish, that last flash of silver a brilliance of what could have been. Hope is not a thing with feathers, but scales. I tell my partner the geese are content and belong by the lake; they deserve to be here, too. I have no stories; I now strive for meaning, not purpose. To the geese, I say that it is enough. 

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Anne Elliott (she/her) is a Canadian East Coaster of mixed Indian and Norwegian descent. She holds a BSc in environmental science and studies creative writing. She currently resides in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she is never far from the sea. Twitter: @anneswriting

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