My thighs ached for days after that first night –
The slope of Montreal’s long-extinct volcano
(Its cross still proclaiming colony and empire)
Imprinted on my body.
I had cut my hair, climbed down from my tower,
Come to this city where long after too-early dark
I’d cross the paths of all the saints
For that tea, that poutine,
That book about the woman mercenary
In the bookstore that played French pop music;
For the smell of sky and gasoline-gray slush.
I used to dream I was a wolf.
Beautiful with bloody jaws, a tireless graceful walk
That owned the city.
You can’t walk at night through East Montreal,
My mother said, a decade later. I laughed – remembered
Tuesdays, walking home from the Quartier Latin,
From the church where my recorder club met.
I counted the pride flags in the restaurant windows.
My lungs turned raw with winter air.
How dangerous I felt then, and how free,
How sure that I would be carried home on the back of the night sky.
Editor’s Note: This piece was the winner of the 2017 Home Voices Award in Poetry.
Author Bio: Emily Horner is the author of A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, chosen as one of 2010’s top ten books by the American Library Association’s Rainbow Book List. Her short fiction has appeared in Pea River Journal and will appear in the upcoming anthology Schoolbooks & Sorcery. She still enjoys walking home alone at night.