A group of kayakers appearing on the edge of English Bay suggested surreptitiously. It appeared in Richard Morel’s book of photographs of Vancouver, 2012.

she empties the jar into her hand
buries her hand into her pocket
and opens her fist

she wipes her hand by holding it
hard against the fabric
she withdraws her fingers
the Velcro hurts her wrist

once the flap is closed
she grasps the paddle with both hands
the instructor says
like this, they paddle off

despite the little rubber rings
the water runs down the shaft
before they are far enough away from shore
her fingers are cold and wet

by the time they can no longer read the signs on the beach
she’s formed a blister on one hand
and feels it scratch her cheek when
she wipes beneath her eyes

at last, they are all warm with exertion
and pause carefully
removing layers
from beneath life jackets

it is her chance
she molts her jacket
slides her arms out of the sleeves
inverts the pocket over the water

suddenly she doesn’t want to touch them
she dips her paddle in the water
and pushes herself away
the circle of ash spreading behind her