The Line Between by Nancy Woo

“Everything is telling one big story.”

—William Stafford


In a dream, we’re at a lake,

skipping sunworn pebbles

into the afternoon. The sky

is always a hazy shade of pink.

A child and a man glide

alongside me. A ruffled white dress

trails in the shallows, and no one

is mad. A male duck flips underwater,

then returns to its mate. Did you

see that? The image wavers, static

interruption. Lifetime member

of the Frequent Criers Club,


I wake like a sponge needing

to be wrung out, seeking

a safe place to become a mountain.

In a house, where a father has lost

all sense of where a kitchen knife

belongs, a child becomes a raincloud,

hovering. Two decades later,

my lover’s drunken thunder

throws me into the current again.


I want to see the world

from a different angle so I have decided

to become a god of electricity.

A panic is nothing but a flurry

of neurons. The river

flows from the mountain.

Whatever we are, we drink from it.

At the center is always a lake. As if

I am already a mother watching

a toddler ripple into adulthood,

I wave goodbye out the window

and then suddenly I’m still, as if

alone, as if endless, as if

here for a moment, weightless.


Nancy Lynée Woo is a PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow and an MFA candidate at Antioch University. She was awarded the Professional Artist Fellowship from the Arts Council for Long Beach and an Idyllwild Writers Week Fellowship in 2019. She is the author of two chapbooks, Bearing the Juice of It All (Finishing Line Press, 2016) and Rampant (Sadie Girl Press, 2014). She teaches community poetry workshops called Surprise the Line, and hosts a reading series at the Long Beach Public Library called Off the Page: The Story Behind the Stanzas. Find her online at