Downriver by Gwen Higgins


Life is the river your father drowned in

When the tailings dike failed,

Or his friend died in the mineshaft,

Or some such thing

that your mother won’t say.

It is lunchtime in the house that smells of cigarettes and mildewed laundry and damp basement, ashes wafting from the polyolefin couch and green sculpted shag carpet.

Gott in Himmel, shouts the mother, eat over your plate!

The child watches tv on the carpet and mindlessly eats a salmon sandwich, crunching the bones and spraying crumbs.

The German shepherd next door howls mournfully for love, tied outside forever,

As its owner watches children play from his bedroom window.

He has no clothes on.

The mother is busy spraying air fresh and talking on the phone

as her child plays in the backyard,


And the child will become you,

Searching downriver for escape.

About the Author

Gwen Higgins is an accountant by day and writer by night who lives in Castlegar with her husband, two teenagers, and a dog. In her spare time, Gwen volunteers with Girl Guides. She’s currently a student in the Selkirk College Creative Writing program. Gwen loves to read and is never far from her Kindle.

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