"The Middle Distance", "A Shipwreck", & "In My Hometown, We Had a Scene" by Sara Dobbie



The Middle Distance

Inside yesterday,

we walked

through a skeleton forest.

The sun burned the sky to

halfway between winter and spring,

and we wanted to melt

into the earth,

then bloom back to being

some months later

as crocuses or tulips.

Instead we took

several thousand steps,

until we stood on the edge

of the frozen lake.

Halfway between young and old,

we heard clear water

trickle through cracking ice,

and wondered how far

we could venture

before the sheet of glass collapsed.

Hawks and sea gulls

circled from clouds,

searching for small creatures

scurrying in the woods.

A rotting fish glistened

on the snow-covered beach,

and we winced at the harshness

of a nature so cruel,

so bent on that terrible balance,

halfway between life and death.

We stood silent,

hesitant to move

forward or back,

reluctant to become

predator or prey.

Two points on a map

halfway between misery and bliss,

we turned

and headed back

to where we came from.


A Shipwreck


We are floating in the middle

of a vast ocean,

aboard a derelict vessel

headed straight for the rocks.

We have travelled from the past

to reach the future,

or perhaps it’s the other way around.

Time is a construct,

and it’s difficult to think

in linear terms

when waves crash

incessantly against us.


The ship is obliterated

like a smashed porcelain doll,

the crew separates,

adrift and flailing.

I swim to shore,

an unlikely survivor,

and forage

for some unknown thing.

I open my mouth to call out,

but a stream of water

pours from my throat,

and a glittering orange fish

lands in the sand.

He blinks and tells me

that I swallowed him whole

while I’d been submerged,

that I drew him in

to my own body of water.


A solemn wonder

descends over the island,

and I understand we exist

on the inside of a tear.

I place the creature

in the shallow crests,

and he darts about my ankles.

Tells me of secrets

from the depths of the sea,

of wonders of the stars

overheard by his avian friends

the pelicans, herons and gulls.


Instinct impels me to eat the fish.

Or to hold him in my hands

and keep him always,

like some pirate’s favored treasure.

I settle on watching

as his bright scales race to the horizon,

slicing sunlight in his wake.


Back on the beach

I hover at the edge of a dark jungle,

precognitive warnings

of poisonous snakes

and great wild cats

ride on the wind.

My limbs solidify

and root down through the mire,

burrowing to find purchase

until I lose my breath.


In a daze I travel

from sleep to wakefulness,

or perhaps it’s the other way around.

Reality is an illusion,

and it’s impossible to think

in dimensional terms

when shifting

between myriad states

of existence.


In My Hometown, We Had a Scene

We were the musicians,

the writers,

the artists.


We smoked and drank

and talked all night

about making it big,

we stapled hand-drawn posters

to telephone poles,

and lied about our age

to play gigs in dive bars.

We attended poetry readings

in the upper rooms

of downtown thrift shops,

then loitered in alleyways

discussing summer festivals.


We ripped up our clothes

and dyed our hair

all the colours

of the rainbow,

but there wasn’t enough

room in the sky

for all us stars.


One by one

we crashed down to earth

to work in factories

and hair salons

and offices,

to get married

and to get divorced,

to lose ourselves

and each other

in our lives,


and if I could meet up

with the girl I was then,

if I could run into her

standing with her friends

at the bus stop,

guitar strapped to her back

and certainty stamped

on her painted lips,

I don’t think she’d believe

what has become of us all.