Lisa Richter: "After the Argument"

In separate rooms of the Vancouver Art Gallery
we examine viscera in oil, acrylic, 
wax, and stone Renaissance reverence, or modern
disarray—a litter of organs, 

a bloodbath, a shit show. Pop art
intestines pop out of a canvas, 
near a column of vertebrae
in bright red yarn and violet 

felt, as my own spine feels
feels today, no sturdier than
a textile installation, threads unravelling. 
From across the room, I watch 

your back leaning over a glass display
where traces of bodily fluids
from a real autopsy splatter. I look, but cannot
touch. We meet again like careful delegates

upstairs, beneath the skeleton
of a whale sculpted of white plastic
lawn chairs, letting us pass
from innards to inlets—Galliano, 

Tsawwassen, Uclulet, Lasquet—salted
music of our new common
geography. Marble softens into moss,
pine needle-crunch underfoot. 

Tides ebb, reveal starfish sleeping
amid smoked glass and seaweed. 
Let’s move on, you whisper, and we do,
though moments pass before I realize 

                that you meant in the gallery.



Lisa Richter's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Malahat Review, The Puritan, (parenthetical), and The Literary Review of Canada, among others, and was longlisted for the 2015 CBC Poetry Prize. Her first full-length collection, Closer to Where We Began, is now available from Tightrope Books. She lives, writes, and teaches English in Toronto. She found be found online at