Trinity Synard Lainh Hrafn
7, 19, 26
Robert Beveridge Tono
8 9, 11
Editors-in-Chief Marco Istasy Claire Ellis The Associate Board Katrina Agbayani Janice Hu Marissa Lee Jeanne Polochansky Veronika Zabelle Nayir Design Editor Janus Kwong Cover Art Credits Adri Luna Studio Fall 2020 Acta Victoriana CXLV I Acta Victoriana 150 Charles St W, rm. 152 Toronto, Ontario M5S 1K9 Acta Victoriana, est. 1878, is the literary journal of Victoria College in the University of Toronto. It is produced and published on the traditional lands of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishnaabe and the Wendat, as well as other Nations that have been subject to historical erasure. As members of the literary community on campus, we recognize the need to be part of the collective conversation required for the ongoing process of decolonization and reconciliation.
Letters from the Editors
There is a thread of confinement in many of these pieces, but also star-
tling, great expanses. The poems are compressed into kitchens and subway cars until they burst into telescoping hallways or shooting stars. This year the art pieces, too, have a sense of grand and bitter space. Often their perspective is warped, or from great height. We understand being shut in very well; these pieces remind us to look down and far away. With compression comes pushback, and in some poems it comes by imagining sizzling summers, cool classical autumns, or fields of bloated January sunflowers. Other poems see with an atlas gaze over lakes and oceans into the past. This collection moves: it starts out loud and funny –– or desperate –– then pauses to contemplate, clutches and gnaws at language, and ends by telling us bold stories, where ageless and immortal things are crushed and passed around. Like a string of thoughts when lying still, this collection moves.
Claire Ellis and Marco Istasy
BEGINNING Trinity Synard
BEGINNING, AS IT WAS WAS COOL BECAUSE I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT BEING
I WAS A SHAPE, PULLING OUT AT ERRANT CORNERS I’D CREATED ON A FAULT LINE MY SUBLIME DIDN’T SHRIEK
WASN’T BOTTLED YET, NO WAS ALL A SUMMIT WAS ALL A PICTURE
NOT AN IMAGE OF ME BEING WHOLE I WAS BOUNDING OFF THE VALLEY WALLS AND DIDN’T SEE THE NOISE AS MY OWN
NOW BEGINNING BEING DONE BEING NO ONE AT ALL’S NOT SO FUN
HAVE I STRETCHED OUT PAST THE SUN AND MADE THE LIGHT A SHADOW, YET?
enclosure (crevices) Lainh Hrafn
I’M SORRY I ATE ALL YOUR MACADAMIA NUTS WHILE I WAS HIGH ON AMBIEN Robert Beveridge It’s like the hallway that telescopes except It’s the kitchen, and the ingredients on the table before you stretch as far as you can see. Your chef ’s knife lies in front of you, the pot on your left, just beyond elbow’s reach. What you grab first doesn’t matter: it could be a parsnip, a skate, your next door neighbor’s pet rat. All that matters is the right dimensions. Lift the board. Sweep with the back side of the knife. Pick up the next thing. Continue.
Acceptance Speech Tono
Thank you for making me The 2007 Newbridge County Casserole Queen I used edamame instead of green beans Un peu Asiatique
My family eats exclusively In a dark room, by computer screens And when my kids cough up ferrets and frogs I sweep them in with the composting
Please donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t mind the pink spots and bleeding Think of it like country club sashimi Anyway I dedicate this title to Throwing drinks at the dinner table.
Wallace Stevens T Williams
To put it bluntly, I want to let go of all knowledge and “become an ignorant man again “ (quoting Wallace Stevens), I want to be illiterate, I never want to have a cogent Idea. I pine for feudalism or worse. I yearn for modernity’s combustion. I want to spend everyday learning handicrafts. I don’t know how a loom works. I can’t make a stitch for shit. I will have a body, a body. My mind will be part of my body again. I yearn to make a tapestry just because it is what is done.
On The Other Side Tono
Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nothing nicer than the sizzle of pavement And you like it here because fashionable old cars still roll past in dashes of matte By the shady spot in the tree sanctuary, among the dusty grass.
I told him that fortune was my strength And the corruption of mortality my greatest malice Where we met by the snack shop, By the rubber-skidded curb, By the roller skate palace.
You drove into the megachurch parking lot We thought it was the mall But when did malls look like monuments? By the school garden, By the motor supply warehouse, By the palm stumps planted in a crescent.
The Evangelicals outside the general store, Theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got pamphlets, church t-shirts, and pointer fingers By the orange tree, By the scrambling feet, By the dentist yanking teeth, By the raccoons picking at overturned cheese curds.
The city was never what they intended it to be Cars pass, make shoes dirty By a woman selling candy, By her friend beside her napping, By the train, no bus, no, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a taxi, By the on-ramp, to the occident, By a field of trampled saplings.
Untitled Nuha Khan
Vacancy Adam Zivojinovic an assortment of dull-eyed strangers dot the subway train, standing in studied vacancy, while this worm of screeching metal careens through the earth. your head is spirals turning inward into smaller and smaller thoughts until every word is too big. then quiet. the scent of food in your nostrils. a man sings an ethanol hymn, distributing the last coins from his wallet, falling over himself, happy and stupid, crashing his cheer against us unfeeling mannequins, us: an amphitheatre. us: coldly appraising. i want to shake him and scream. i want us both to scream, louder than the subway, nothing. iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m sorry.
Poem for a Lake I Won’t Name T Williams
I used to think you took up the whole horizon. Sea or lake or ocean, I couldn’t tell. But I knew you went on forever, side to side. Your wide waters, at the foot of the expressway, Keele street, curling round concave Toronto. You convex, you perplex, you go on. I’ve swum in you in rain. Your cold most frigid is just waist deep. The summer takes so long to warm you. And you’re not like what they say: Poisoned, toxic, poised to sting certainly. But not to me. If I could put the fish back in you,
If I could lay wild rice like a pillow at your neck, the shore, I would, If I had more, If I and all I know did not depend On Toronto concrete, stretching end to end, And on the long arm of Ontario reaching south, fingers in London, Brockville, Guelph, wherever else, Closing round your mouth. Salmon, grain, their real names taken too by me, from you.
Affective Meghan Butcher
The fair-fingered architect with my heart stone pillars erected; itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the nicest thing to sculpt with, soft and stretchy and used to being carved out And I stood Stiff and silent and beautiful, cursing the auburn academic for tying me up
another time, I would truly have wanted to enjoy it.
In passing, I think I heard her say her name was Autumn
In Lahore, reading Anne Carson Sana Mohsin
who, in turn, reads Virginia Woolf and Ovid, Sappho and Simone Weil. During my walks, my thoughts fall silent; I watch dust rise under the beams of streetlights. I think of how she writes longingly of black ice and glaciers. Or perhaps I’m projecting; Lahore refuses to fall below 40 degrees Celsius, still in October. For a moment the faraway honking of cars and the chirping of crickets fall into harmony. At midnight I gather jasmine blossoms on my kameez, the کی ر رانی ات ا رینfalling into the shape of a ghazal.
Sifted Spite Lainh Hrafn
When People Fall From the Sky, Frances Skylar
folks gasp, watch the streak
of their meteors across the black void with dread for where and how they will strike the dead soil of this planet. Satellites twirl and blink as they trace the trajectory of those shooting stars from above â&#x20AC;&#x201D;always aboveâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; but down here the ground is as familiar as it is cold. Down here hunger and homelessness are our neighbours, or at least that house on the hill. This pandemic
is like a starshooter blasting rocks out of the sky; they say it levels the playing field, say it shows how everyone can fall, but down here we are ordinary rocks: no one tracks our descent, no one asks how to lift us back up to the sky. Our jobs aren’t a topic of national discussion, our struggles for necessities aren’t worth your tears because pandemic or no, we don’t have
Warzone Katharina Davoudian
The Palace Pier condominium is now a warzone against the virus. The
lobby is a dark and empty seabed, devoid of furniture and life. The concierge sits entombed in plastic; whose desk has become a transparent coffin. The walls are haphazardly decorated with posters, reminding you about distance and masks, explaining how to wash your hands. The Palace Pier is sterile, dead, a residence for ghosts; there’s no more idle chatter, no hellos. Everyone fears everyone.
Oma hasn’t left her condo for two months. She’s gotten slow, forgotten
much. With her walker, she paces from bedroom to kitchen for exercise, through rooms that grow smaller each minute. The air is wet and heavy; she can’t breathe; she hasn’t seen her family for two months.
Oma is a time-capsule, a remnant of Persia before 1979. Years ago, before
the war, she told me she’s a princess, who’s mother could’ve been queen. She said, with sadness in her good eye, “Now I’m nobody.”
Nobody’s locked in her tower for two months, listening to Farsi radio to
drown out the silence. Nobody calls Father five times a day, begging him for rescue. She can’t breathe, she says, she wants to leave her cell. The windows don’t open far enough. It doesn’t matter if seeing us kills her, she can’t breathe anyway. It doesn’t matter if kissing us is kissing death; locked alone is suffocating.
After her countless calls, Father finally relents. We prepare our uniforms—
masks, gloves, distance—and head to Palace Pier. At the concierge’s coffin, we sign the form: Did you travel recently? Do you have these symptoms? What is your purpose? We take the stairs, wheezing to the ninth floor after months sitting at home.
We knock on Nobody’s door, plant her groceries on the floor. A fragile
body, smaller than before, answers in English, “Who are you?”
“Your son,” Father says in Farsi.
Father and I remain in the hallway, rescuing Nobody. I point to the grocer-
ies on the floor. We refuse to come in, so Nobody throws at us chocolates, cash, and the Tim Hortons muffins my American uncle ordered for her. Now she can breathe again—I’m not sure for how long—from seeing us across a two-metre no-man’s land.
After the Apocalypse Diane Baker
The things! We used to worry about - oh! The unread mail, the undone dish the guest list that excluded the great-aunt or the lesser friend. The drip-drip from an attic roof at a summer home the disturbing dream of an old lost love who took us in his arms, and danced across a lake made iron-hard and glowing by the passing hand of a godling in a hurry.
These things now seem like treasures sought in a childhood game. Our scrabbling hands uncover this, and that hold them to the wavering sky. Oh! we cry, Oh! What beautiful things they were!
And in the fading light, to the trumpetsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; moan we sink into the future, and are gone.
your privilege. We have built
our huts out of sun-baked clay, prepared to live amidst the dust storms of this forgotten place forever. For us
the stars are only dreams: we look at them and wonder and hate and cry and sigh that we have never been valued the same.
Decay Growth Lainh Hrafn
Control Khashayar Mohammadi
teeth shatter on the wine glass razorblade night-sips night in duplicate triplicate an outline caravaggio night-light to paint a city onto and on the table a fruit bowl two oranges torn parchment motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s necklace as if dutch still-life mosquito-net canvas of the balcony shredding moonlight cold mosaic dirty foot-printed dirty toe curled under foot
waiting (light is all that is painted)
its hard to listen at night future-curds on LED screens reflection is way too risky would rather
sand down my incisor
no more bite at least not for flesh and the lake keeps crashing into itself
gets tiring after a while
waves absorbing waves
rippling across (but the experts say) only
MOSQUITO T Johnson Unchristian fantasy moves me: non-neighbourly, quiet blood-lust begets blue secrets curtain-casting, spider-ing. Then, wrenchâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d/blown out by giant lips from human-shanty-hold to sunshine newly blinding I discover I am just a fly.
Rollers Antonia Facciponte Theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re duking over what we discard. Metallic armour rips vision, gleaming under stark sunlight. One beetle, kinged atop the sticky, fuzzed brown ball, smacks his opponent to dustâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; the small, black knight wheels onto hard back. Belly burnt by fortune, segmented legs rev-up and scuttle forward: the gallant critter wrangles through antennae, brawls for the undigested bits of material to scoop up, to reshape in inky mouth.
WHEN THE CATTLE WENT AWAY Veronica Spada
Sunflowers by the cowhand’s farmhouse mourned all January long. He
never knew when to cut those giant stalks. They should have been beheaded last Labour Day weekend. Their heads are bald, their faces pregnant with dead seed. Their bodies prostrate in confession but cannot face the steeple’s iron cross and rooster. I fell in the creek for fear when I first saw those monolithic heads, and then I prayed for their communion, for mercy from the farmhand, for rogue cattle to chew apart their bloated brains.
But the cowhand died this first November snowfall, and I didn’t hear ‘til
January. He never knew when to cut those damned stalks. They should have gone sky-high last September. The city’s condemned the farmhouse, now, for mould and unlicensed marijuana in the basement. They plan to plough it down and build a mini-mall in twenty years, so the sunflower giants were finally castrated. Adolescents decorate the walls with phallic murals, now, and all-day-long I hear the buzzards asking why the cattle went away.
Weeping Willow Morgan Murray
LENINISMS Maxwell Koyama
In my youth I was a minor nobleman, grandson of a privy councillor who told me once that he remembered the shipbuilder’s hands of Peter the Great tousling his tawny hair on a bridge spanning the Neva in Petersburg. My own first foray into politics occurred when I still quite young and joined the hungry crowds around our grand apartment in decapitating my poor father, and soon I marched with the workers in their first attempt at uprising, flanking Chernov and Trotsky alongside Lenin himself at the gates of the winter palace. Years I spent penning sympathetic letters smuggled into Switzerland with subtexts homoerotic and political until the war made me apprentice to an undertaker burying imported corpses, for in those days the work was needed I had decided it was no longer fashionable to be rich. By Kerensky’s time, I was daily affecting lowlier accents and forgetting as much French as possible, so that when my old departed comrade returned without my presence at his welcome, my arrest was imminent for the crime of having pockets lined with the old imperial banknotes. Yet walking down the street one evening when the horses were being beaten, I happened to pass our leader gazing affably through the doors of a tavern glowing yellow with candlelight. I see you still wear the scholar’s cap, I observed, and he replied yes, because I am a constant student of our noble people. We embraced, all my crimes were forgiven, and I was restored to my father’s father’s post of privy
councillor among the gravediggers, troweling then with the dignity of my high title and the respectability of its accompanying poverty. Lenin was entombed in Moscow, a queer inversion of Peterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life, and soon after, I was offered my salvation from the threats of the new government in the form of foreign passport, money, and a formal letter requesting my absence from the country of which the senderâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s name and signature was by rainwater streaked indiscernible. In contemplation of my exile, I half-recalled some wealthy uncle in Chicago, but after my harrowing escape through the Baltic sea under cover of midnight I was disappointed to discover there only his daughter, a provincial heiress with a taste for Astrakhan caviar who seemed to think that compared against the company of corpses and the black dirt of the Motherland, her modest acropolis and floral personality should be pleasing to me. I disagreed, and told her I would always prefer the rigour of revolutionary politics to pallid, petty moneyed life. She would sit reading the Russian classics aloud in English, loud enough so that her voice could reach me in any room and lure me to the warm carpet on the floor of the library, and sometimes, when she reached the most beautiful scenes, I would think I had heard a homesick sigh coming from the pantry, canned and metallic as if emitted from a device the size of a sturgeonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eye. Finally, to quell my discontentment, she bought me a suit of clothes in the aristocratic style of the 18th century, which I wore always around the house until they became so filthy that they had to be replaced.
Nothing Beside Remains Diane Baker In our hubris we stand and gaze From glassine towers whose parapets hold hawks. Across the gleaming waters rolls a cloud That is not weather, but the end of days. We whirl and tell our minions, stop the clocks! Summon forth the armies, crush the crowd That sets our gleaming vehicles ablaze Destroying priceless objects with mere rocks. We who by the gods of commerce were endowed With treasure-trove that pays and pays and pays We left to Charity the grumbling flock Whose cries for blood and bread grow ever-loud. We look upon our works, and tear our hair As heavy boots are heard upon the stair. Our pedestal will fall, despite its worth As kings of kings at last come down to earth.
In the Year Before Christmas Ingrid Cui “But how do you live?” exclaimed Clarisse; “You are forever unanchored from human goodness.” “On the contrary,” said Ulrich, “virtuous is the man who embraces all possibilities, and shies not away from the grotesque, the weightless. Dare I say you are simply afraid?” Clarisse longed to counter: “But man is made of fear, and it is only natural he wishes for self-preservation,” but she knew it would be a concession of argument, and therefore impermissible. “What about love?” she finally said. “With your prideful stance, love withers, and there is merely nihilism.” Ulrich considered. “The sum of love in the human race never produced a permanence of greatness,” he said. “No, the pursuit of supra-reality is best done in other ways. Consider this: one day we decide to live through our novels, our memories, or, better yet, our imaginations. We draw the verdict that fantasy, rather than action, is enough to fill the body of our lives. I dream a lover, I have a lover; I see images of happiness, I am happy.” “But!” Clarisse interjected. “What happens when the pedestrian is struck outside your apartment, or your mother dies?” “Dear Clarisse,” Ulrich said, “the world of dreams can admit of no intrusion by reality. Simply shut your window, and the pedestrian no longer dies; do not pick up the phone, and Mother remains the same abstract concept she was yesterday.” “An attitude worthy of Epictetus,” Clarisse remarked. The corner of Ulrich’s mouth twitched. “It is not the Stoic who is unhappy but the humanist, you know. But I agree: I am searching for Napoleon.”
Devouring Trinity Synard What do Medusaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sisters do with her headless body?
-Drag it to town council, demand her killer be hanged
-Drag it back to the cavern, cry
-Send it off to sea once it starts to rot
Passing through the gorge is
a hacked throat, the dip between breasts,
one cobra shoot out like water lily
like blue extrusive vein
sisters watched it expel from the space
collapse her like
never was at all
then watch her
but never quite dissolve into the empty
she the ravine
-Hitch a ride elsewhere, make the pilgrimage back every once in awhile
Mantelpiece Venus Radmila Yarovaya Born of holy ground soaked with blood and fruitless faith she rises from the foam of fatal-day promise A child of an incongruous empire running her
tanks on cosmopolitan streets breathing in history, something that smells of belonging, catching poems on the flat veneer of her wrists each line a razor cutting down to her powder white frame where every bone carries the chronicles of millions,
fragility weighed down by custom
How could any ground younger than the universe have the audacity to touch your feet? How can you have anything left to say in a land whose history began just a few graves ago?
CIRCE, Daughter of HELIOS Mia Carnevale 39
Adam Zivo is an unconvincing facsimile of a human -- like a plastic fruit, or three kids in a trenchcoat. He writes about being a thot and having existential angst (yawn) and being disappointed and having attachment issues. Read his poetry or donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t.
Antonia Facciponte is a poet based in Toronto. She is a SSHRC-funded graduate student in the English Department at the University of Toronto. Her first poetry book, To Make a Bridge, is forthcoming in Spring 2021 with Black Moss Press
Diane Baker Mason is an award-winning novelist, poet, and playwright whose work has appeared in multiple literary and commercial publications in Canada, Australia, and the USA. She is the author of Canadian bestseller, LAST SUMMER AT BAREBONES.
Frances Koziar is primarily a fiction writer of the contemporary fiction, high fantasy, and young adult genres, though she also publishes poetry and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in 40+ literary magazines, and she is seeking an agent for a diverse NA high fantasy novel. She is a young (disabled) retiree and a social justice advocate, and she lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Website: https://franceskoziar.wixsite.com/author
Ingrid Cui is a student at the University of Toronto and an editor-in-chief for The Trinity Review. Her work has been published in Montreal Writes, Ricepaper Magazine, L’Éphémère Review, and Ghost City Review. You can find her on Instagram @ charlatan_charlemagne. Katharina Davoudian is an artist and writer, studying chemistry and English at the University of Toronto. Khashayar Mohammadi is a queer, Iranian born, Toronto-based Poet, Writer, Translator and Photographer. He is the author of poetry Chapbooks “Moe’s Skin” by ZED press 2018, “Dear Kestrel” by knife | fork | book 2019 and “Solitude is an Acrobatic Act” by above/ground press 2020. His debut poetry collection “Me, You, Then Snow” is forthcoming with Gordon Hill Press. Lainh Hrafn is a disabled non-binary multimedia artist. A life-long fascination with how cultures across time accumulate & collate information has led to them concentrating on the relationships between power structures and their influence over data-hoarding. Presently, Lainh examines how that information is redistributed into the public sphere, what happens when it is left to decay (either through neglect or by deliberate means), and the ramifications these acts have on civilizations. They reside in the Forest City with their partner/Crow And Moon Press co-creator Rin Vanderhaeghe, and feline roommates Danté & Zim. Maxwell Koyama will sit at the welcome table.
Meghan Butcher is a first year classical piano student at UofT. Though her greatest love is music, she’s had a long-standing affair with creative writing. Her work has been recognized by several literary journals and non-profits in Southern Ontario, and sometimes nationally (most recently, she appears in another Polar Expressions edition to be published in December). When she isn’t practicing or furiously pressing “delete” on her computer keyboard, Meg can be found knitting, singing to her plants, or drinking obscenely large London Fogs. Mia Carnevale is a Visual Studies Major and Art History & Italian Studies minor at UofT. She is interested in patterns from folktales, antiquity, nature and various mythologies. She strives to write, illustrate and create artwork with strong narrative and fantastical motifs. In her spare time, you can find Mia working on her graphic novel, searching through various collected ephemera for reference, or taking a walk through the woods.
Morgan Murray is a fourth year English and Cinema Studies major, and Creative Expression and Society and History minor. She always try’s capturing life through her lens, but always gravitates toward her Pentax. She is also the photo editor for The Strand. You can find more of her work on Instagram at @filmsthirteen.
Nuha Khan is a young writer and artist from Toronto, Ontario. She currently attends Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute where she’s an active member of their writer’s guild. Although she wishes to go into the medical field, she has been fond of reading and writing since she was a child and hopes to publish some of her pieces in the future. Inspired by her grandmother who’s a writer, she plans to publish her poetry compilation sometime during her undergrad. Her projects vary from poetry to satire, to short stories about anything from mental health to something inspired by her favourite BTS songs. As an artist, she enjoys sketching and painting, particularly landscapes. When not creating, she can be found with a cup of coffee and her headphones on, usually reading, taking a walk through nature or staying in and watching Star Wars. Khan can be reached at her Instagram art account @nkartarchives.
Radmila Yarovaya is a proud student of Trinity College in her third year of studying Ethics, Society, and Law, English, and Creative Expressions and Society. Still plagued by youthful maximalism and deeply interested by the intersection of art and politics, she believes that art, only art, can save us from the perils of life. When not writing poetry, Mila can be found fencing and exasperatingly writing about the state of world affairs and the dusk of democratic institutions.
Robert Beveridge (he/him) makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Blood and Thunder, Feral, and Grand Little Things, among others.
Sana Mohsin is currently in her final year at the University of Toronto, studying Economics and English. She likes nature imagery, tea, and napping during snowstorms.
Born T. Johnson, nicknamed Tig3r by himself, this mannish-boy channels blues licks from heaven in Toronto, watching the moon from the train tracks.
Tono is a writer and poet based in Toronto, Ontario. When heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not wandering Lowther Avenue, he can be found @tono.poetry on Instagram. His work is featured in the Hart House Reviewâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s forthcoming Spring Supplement.
Trinity Synard is a fourth year student at the University of Toronto. She appreciates poetry that puts the reader to work, and poetry that is especially playful with sound and shape.
T Williams is a student of English, Philosophy, and Finnish Studies in their 4th year at the University of Toronto. They write short stories, poetry, and tabletop role playing games. You can read more of their work on their blog, dreamsandfevers. blogspot.com
Veronica Spada studies English and Philosophy at the University of Toronto. Her work has previously appeared in Goose Fiction and the Hart House Review as the first-place winner of their annual prose contest.
Acta Victoriana Issue CXLV I This edition consists of 200 numbered copies printed at Coach House Press in December of 2020. It was designed by Janus Kwong and was published with funding from the Victoria University Studentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Administrative Council. Type is set in Garamond ____________ of 200