I meet a dog by the neck of a river. I approach him. His ears are soft and tall and they twitch like eyes. He turns his head to me but does not meet my gaze. His silhouette is against the river, gleaming in the sun.
"What are you doing here?"
"Waiting for you."
He lifts a paw and we hold hands as the sun sets. Once the moon is out, he lifts both our hands towards the mountains.
I point to the nearest. "That one?"
His eyes pinch. "No."
"Then that one?"
I wait. The dog sighs. We press our hands into sand together. Our soft print in the fat gray dust. I think we are friends now. He says nothing and walks a few feet away. Settles like a statue in the tall grass.
"Walk into the rapids." His mouth does not move.
I think we are friends but I am not sure what he wants. I press my bare feet into the pebbles where the shallows begin. My toes curl in the cold but my lungs are fresh. The air is crisp. I don't slip.
I bow to the river and the dog and I wade in.
The water hugs my ankles first. Rushes to meet my thighs. I feel air slip from skin and something sinks.
I am awake. There is a building gale. I close my eyes. There is no difference here from thunder. A body, roaring, water or blood. I take my steps slowly. I don't know how to be swept away. I am not.
The sound eats my ears. I don't know anything else I've ever heard. I am still standing. I don't know how. I begin to feel a kind of coldness that undoes touch. Numb that tingles before my body goes completely silent. All that is rushes by.
I turn back to face the dog who is not a dog at all. My face, the only part of me left dry. His black fur, soft under the moon's wind.
He has climbed a tree. "How do you feel?"
I shake my head. My hair comes undone. I would not be surprised if my skin had left my body.
"Go now." Let go now. "Find the mountains."
But I am buried in water. I would not desire the sky even if it came to fetch me.
"Do you prefer the water?" I do not know. "There is more to see."
I know this. But I don't believe in mountains and sky anymore, or arms and legs, or dogs and people.
The dog leaps and lands gracefully. "I want you to see both."
The mountain and the river. I understand. But I do not know how to begin climbing out.
"Lift your feet and the river will carry you." He disappears and leaves his voice by my ears. "I will meet you by the mouth."
I forget to ask the dog why he would put me in a river when water leads away from mountain. When I find the time to separate bodies and find my feet, I am somewhere up. This does not make sense because water leads away from mountain.
Rivers thin on the downslope. I learn this because, up here, the water spreads wide and thickens to a snake. Peaks crowded and valleys common. Fogs under hillsides, mountains as hillsides, because now I am up.
Now I am up. I have to heave myself out of the water. It becomes more and more difficult the further I let myself float. But I find the steep shore and use wet hands to yank myself out.
Trees cling to slope. There is no transition between mountain and river here, so I find myself clinging to a tree clinging to a slope. No shore. I wonder what it takes to grow so desperately, so recklessly slanted. Sandpaper cliffs, boulders scattered like the pebbles from before. Three or four are the size of a house.
"Did I go the wrong way?" I do not know where is the mouth.
"No." Here the dog is a fox. But the ears are the same and I recognize them instantly. "You are here."
"I am." There is still much mountain left to climb. Dogfox does not wait for me. Every step morphs him further and further vulpine. I watch his tail fluff and color itself like red half-dipped in ink. The orange comes slowly. The ears never change.
He is almost disappeared. "Use the trees."
The slanted ghosts. I step from one to another. I want to use my hands. My arms grow to almost trees themselves and soften to gum. I pull myself. One to another, to another, to another. A lurching slowness, a slower spider's crawl.
"Look." I do. All horizons are gone. Sky and ground do not live separately. I cannot tell what is fog and what is cloud. I stop to taste the air. All that gets in my mouth is wind and rain.
It rains almost constantly. I continue my lurching. The baboons watch me curiously. Humans with long arms have not come here in a long time. The fox gives an infant some fruit. Even the baboons know the fox is not a fox and accept the gift.
"Look." Three crows in a tree. There is a smell like burning from my limbs. The air is thinning but the fog is not. Most everything is draped in white or green. Moss climbs the slopes with me and what is left here but bird calls. Cacophony like reverb. The echo, spilling. I wonder if this could cause landslides in a panic, a landslide if enough birds gather together to wail.
The trees thin. I have nothing to hold now. He returns. I shrink to the size of a rabbit. "I will carry you now," he says.
The nape of my neck becomes soft with flesh and her teeth are firm. We make the rest of our way easily.
Rock eats the summit. There is nothing here but sediment and I return to my body and I sit to watch below. Below is enough to build a thousand new mountains but up here there is only stone.
"Do you understand?" Why I brought you here. I look past the pocket of sky and the lurking of cloudfog. I look down to try to find the river. I cannot. Everything is too small down there. And everything is too vast up here.
"Do you understand?"
I think of the trees, the clinging and the watching baboons. The way a dog becomes a fox when it climbs a mountain. I think of climbing into a river and up a mountain. Of lifted feet and growing arms. Of all the strange things that have come in and out of my body.
I realize I have not thought of the sun since I met a dog by the neck of a river. I look up to the sky, whom I have come to visit, and there is nothing but light.
Sanna Wani is an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto. Her work has been published with The Puritan, Cosmonauts Avenue and more. She is Editor-in-Chief of Acta Victoriana. These poems are dedicated to Yvonne, for her precious and irreplaceable friendship.