Symposium Fall 2021

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SYMPOSIUM AN Arts and Humanities Students’ Council Publication Volume volume 9 Issue issue 1 Fall fall 2021

Arts and Humanities Students’ Council Publication


Volume 9 Issue 1 Fall 2021 Copyrights remain with the artists and authors. The responsibility for the content in this publication remains with the artist and authors. The content does not reflect the opinions of the Art and Humanities Students’ Council (AHSC) or the University Students’ Council (USC). The AHSC and USC assume no liability for any errors, inaccuracies, or omissions contained in this publication.

letter from the editor To our valued readers and contributors, I want to take the time to thank you for supporting our publication. Whether it be by reposting a social media post, reading this publication, or sending your amazing submissions to our talented editing team—we would not be here without you. For our fall publications, I have chosen the theme Evolve. This year has been one of immense growth for the students, faculty, and community members of Western University, and I wanted to reflect that in the undergraduate works we showcase this term. Evolve proves that we can be our best today, but always work to be better. Evolve shows us the many ways that we can reach higher, dream bigger, and live each day knowing we have tried our absolute best. Evolve is a representation of the Arts and Humanities Faculty: it is a place to come as we are, and thrive the way we choose. Evolve validates us and proves our resilience. And even when we think we can handle no more… We Evolve. Erin Paschos Editor-in-Chief

what we’re about Published by the Arts and Humanities Students’ Council, Symposium is a bi-annual creative arts journal composed of short stories, creative non-fiction, poetry, and visual art. We accept submissions from any undergraduate student currently enrolled in at least 0.5 courses in the Arts and Humanities faculty. We are proud to offer a platform to share the hard work of our university’s undergraduate creative writers, poets, photographers, artists, and more. We believe that great works of creativity have the power to reach inside a person, leaving them with something new to think about and feel. Whether it’s an old assignment collecting dust or something special you’ve been tinkering with, we want to read your work and help get it out into the world for others to appreciate. To enjoy previous years’ virtual editions of Symposium (and its sibling journal, Semicolon), visit If you have any questions about our publications, please email ahscpubs@ or drop by the AHSC council office in the University College building, Room 2135. Thank you to our tireless Publications Team, dedicated Publications Committee, talented authors and artists, and of course, our lovely readers. We hope you enjoy!

VP Communications: Bridget Koza Editor-in-Chief: Erin Paschos Copy Editor: Sydney Force Copy Editor: Demitra Marsillo Layout Designer: Stephanie Fattori Creative Managing Editor: Kaitlyn Lonnee Academic Managing Editor: Samar El Masri Cover Photo by Stephanie Fattori

Table of contents 1 The Man Who Built a House that Could Fly By Michael Schmidt

21 Amateur Hour at the Pottery Studio By Abigail Scott

5 Conversations with Your Phone By Kseniya Dybatch

23 Identity By Gray Brogden

6 Looking at His Face By Margaret Huntley

24 Origin Story By F.M.C.

10 A Greeting By Michael Schmidt

26 Thoughts That Hurt By Alyssa Thulmann

11 In Which I Bury Myself Alive By Izzy Siebert

28 If I could tell my past self— By Hollie Scott

13 The one where Alice went looking for madness By Gray Brogden

28 Foggy Memories By Chloe Baird T

13 The Second Movement By Liam Waterman 14 You forgot about me By Helena Nikitopoulos 16 Scourge By Allison Brealey 18 the trillium asked me By: Jack Bradley

29 To Micheal, S. By Liam Waterman 30 A Day’s Reflection (A Reverse Poem) By Sydney Force 31 Things I’ll Never Say By Sofia Spagnuolo

The Man Who Built a House that Could Fly By Michael Schmidt I know a story that I doubt you’ve heard before. It takes place in a town called Glittenrock, which exists on the edge of map and memory. Glittenrock was a quiet, peaceful place, and its townsfolk spent their days fishing, as leisurely a livelihood as ever there can be. But not everyone who lived there was happy. At the edge of the village lived a peculiar man in a cedarwood shack. His name was Ewar. What was so peculiar about him, you may ask? Nothing we might consider overly odd; he was perhaps a little asocial and disliked the water, but whatever his differences were, he was marked as “unpopular” in the minds of the others. He didn’t want anything to do with fishing and rarely left his house except to gather materials or watch the stars at night. Perhaps that’s why they considered him strange, but I suspect it had more to do with his hobby. You see, Ewar liked to build things—all manner of things—from whatever materials he could find in the wilderness. The objects he created had no apparent purpose, and there were a lot of them. He liked to call them inventions. Some of these inventions were large and some were small, while others had wheels or little attachments like limbs. Although he had exceptional skill for creating things, none of his neighbours recognized his talent, and this may have contributed to their contempt of him. It was the children of Glittenrock who took an active interest in the lonely craftsman. Every now and then, a crowd of them would gather at the gated fence outside Ewar’s shack and yell for him to come out. I imagine they wanted to understand the nature of his hobby, but they also liked to ridicule him out of disdain for someone who was different. If Ewar didn’t answer their calls, which he never did, they threw sticks and glops of mud at his window until he ran outside and chased them away. This routine went on for months, the form of projectile changing with the season. Eventually, the children started to spread rumours about the craftsman and what he might be doing locked away in his house. “I heard it’s a human made of wood,” one of the older boys said, “and when it’s finished, he’ll set it loose to murder us all!” “I think he’s making a little friend,” said a younger girl. “Like an artificial puppy to play with.” “Why would he do that? A toy pet? Absurd idea!” And so it went on—the children continued to spread rumours and harass the man in the cedarwood shack. Soon enough, the adults got in on the rumours as well, making up a few cruel ones of their own. One spring morning, the routine changed. The children gathered outside the shack as usual and called for Ewar to come out. For whatever reason, one of the older kids decided to pick up a stone, and he threw it at the front door. It landed with a satisfying thud. That opened the floodgates. Soon, all of them were pelting the house with a barrage of stones and pebbles, and the increased severity of the assault drove Ewar to send out one of his bizarre inventions to scare them off. The object he sent out wasn’t too alarming—it looked like a watering can with two wings pulled by strings—but nevertheless, it succeeded in scaring them away.


“They are getting worse,” Ewar said as he walked out to retrieve the watering can. “Something must be done.” He knew the children of Glittenrock would be back the next day with renewed interest after seeing one of his inventions in the light of day, so he sat for a long time and contemplated what to do. There was one idea he could pursue, an idea he’d had in mind ever since he’d built his shack next to the lake fifteen years ago, but it would be a formidable undertaking. “Ah, why not,” he thought. “Might as well do it.” All through the night and over the next three days, the sound of banging and hammering filled the town. The noise disrupted the village and scared away the fish. In response to the disturbance, a group of bold adults went up to the shack to tell the craftsman to quiet down. Ewar received them at the door and pleasantly said, “Do not fret, I am nearly finished,” and this helped to quell their ire. From that hour forth, no sound came from the hut. The next morning, some of the early risers in town noticed that the trees behind the inventor’s house were swaying like grass in the wind. They weren’t brave enough to investigate, however, and chose to put it out of their thoughts. It wasn’t until a week later that something truly remarkable happened. It was a gloomy day, overcast and chilly, and everyone was going about their usual business. Then, out of the blue, they saw something huge rising up from the dense woodland behind the cedarwood shack and stopped what they were doing to look. It was a house painted a bright shade of blue, complete with four walls and a roof, and it was flying. It floated steadily upward, climbing higher like a hot-air balloon—except there was no balloon attached. And so Ewar’s greatest invention was clear to behold: he’d built himself a floating house that would allow him to live among the clouds. “You’ve seen the last of me!” he shouted from an open window. “You will insult me no more! Goodbye forever!” The villagers’ forms quickly disappeared, and the strong winds carried him far away over the forest. Ewar felt freer and happier than he’d ever been. There was nobody to disturb him, and he could spend the long hours in peace and quiet. The stars winked at him as he passed, and the sun felt warmer and kinder from this height. The birds he encountered squawked in puzzlement at this strange intruder in their world, but they soon discovered the house was harmless and began to perch in colonies on the roof. Ewar didn’t mind them; he’d always been fond of birds. But his bliss didn’t last forever. In fact, it was relatively short-lived. He woke up one morning to a beautiful sunrise and immediately knew something was off. The feeling persisted as the day went on, and by nightfall he realized what it was—he was lonely. He missed human interaction, even though the people of Glittenrock had been nothing but terrible to him and didn’t deserve to see his magnificent inventions. He struggled with the idea of going back all night and barely got any sleep. Even before his eyes opened to another magnificent sunrise the next day, his mind was made up. After breakfast, he veered his floating abode back the way he’d come, intending to con-


tinue on a straight course for Glittenrock without delay. He did not belong in this world among the migrating birds, glittering stars, and puffy clouds—it was time to go back. “After all, terrible company is better than no company at all,” he said to himself. The return trip seemed to take less time than leaving. The lakeside town was bathed in fog when he returned, and at first, it seemed abandoned. But then the cries of many voices below alerted him that the townsfolk had noticed the flying house. After landing gently, he went out the front door and was met by a crowd of children intermingled with adults. He expected a volley of insults or scathing words, but none came. “Look at his wondrous invention!” a middle-aged woman exclaimed. “What he’s been doing all this time isn’t evil,” added a brawny man. “It’s genius!” Ewar was welcomed as one of their own—an official member of the community. The worse he’d been expecting was not true: they didn’t despise him or think him odd anymore. In order to start off on the right foot, he led the crowd to his cedarwood shack to show them the rest of his inventions. Although it took some convincing that a few of the scarier-looking ones were safe, they learned to appreciate his skills. The children never bothered him again; they regarded him as someone who was different from them in a good way and learned to admire his hobby. It helped that many of his inventions could be used as toys, too. As for the flying house, Ewar used it whenever he wanted to escape the ground and spend some time with the birds. Sometimes, he would take the townsfolk along for rides, and they were always thrilled at the incredible feeling of being in the sky. Life went on peacefully for the village of Glittenrock after that, and Ewar continued to build interesting things for the rest of his days.


Withered Wires By Chloe Serenko


Conversations with Your Phone By Kseniya Dybatch i look at you, and you at me. one with kinder eyes from the future, the other lonely and immortalized among pixels behind a screen. it always comes to an end: the makeup, the uncomfortable jeans. despite the incessant knocking, you still have not been home for years. will you listen to me? will you hold me? will you keep me safe? can you put in more effort to make up for the compassion i lack for myself? how many stretches of silence, feelings of shame, guilt, and reluctance, them not showing up for you when you need it most, will it take to realize that this is not who you want to be or what you deserve?


Looking at His Face By Margaret Huntley *CW: Sexual Assault* My heart is pounding fast in my chest. I am dreaming about him again. I don’t want to dream about him. I never want to, but I do. It’s awful seeing his face. But I see it everywhere, and I don’t know how much longer I can bear it. I awake drenched in sweat. I will make sure I don’t see him today, I tell myself. One day is all it takes to push him out of my mind for good—to never have to see his face again. That day could be today. No, that day will be today. And with that objective, I turn off my alarm and get out of bed. There are four pairs of pants, thirteen socks, and nine shirts on my floor that I tiptoe over to get to the bathroom. Once I’ve brushed my teeth, I hop in the shower. I watch the scalding water turn my skin bright red. While washing my hair, I stick twenty-one strands to the wall. I count everything nowadays. Anything to keep my mind active. After showering, a quick glance at the time tells me that if I want to make it to class, I’ll have to skip breakfast. I hastily pull on jeans and a sweatshirt from my floor, grab my backpack, and head for the door. Walking through the living room wakes up Kelsi on the couch, still in last night’s miniskirt. Unable to drag her drunken self to her own bed, she must have passed out here. I don’t understand her desire to constantly binge drink. I can’t fathom enjoying being in such an uncontrolled state. I could never do it, let alone do it as often as her. “What are you wearing?” she asks me. “Clothes,” I answer passively while searching through the mass of women’s shoes on the ground for my own. “I mean why are you dressed for winter when it’s so hot out?” Finding and putting on my shoes, I respond, “Why are you hungover on a Wednesday?” “Touché.” She pulls a pillow over her head and goes back to sleep. I doubt I’ll see her on campus today. I catch the bus without needing to run. As always, it’s packed with students, leaving nowhere for me to sit. I have to grab a pole and hang on for dear life. With each stop, the bus becomes increasingly crowded and I become increasingly nervous. This never gets easier. Judging by the size of the bus and the density of people crammed in, I estimate there’s almost a hundred people on board. Too many. So many different faces around. One of them could be his. You’re okay, Audrey, you’re okay, I whisper to myself. Slow, calculated breaths are the only way to keep myself grounded. I can’t think about him. But I also can’t think about all the people on this damn bus. People are too close to me. People are breathing on me. People are touching me. I know they don’t mean to, but it nauseates me all the same. It’s all I can do to make it to campus without bursting into tears. My calculus class is only a short walk from where the bus stops. This is the more enjoyable


part of my commute since there is enough space to move freely. I count each of my steps along the way. Arriving at step five hundred and thirteen, I take a seat in the back row. I have perfect timing; the moment the professor starts speaking, I am able to get out my notebook and start writing right away. After an hour, he breaks for his routine coffee. Breaks are my least favourite part of any class. While scrolling through social media for a distraction, I can’t help overhearing the girls in front of me. “So I’m thinking of wearing that black lace bodysuit tonight when I go over. Cause it’s like sexy but also tasteful, you know?” “Sexy? Yes, but in no way tasteful. You wear that and you’re totally going to smash.” “First of all, never say smash again. Second of all, yeah, that’s kind of the point.” “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t say. But yeah! Go get some! Do it for me because I’m in such a dry spell lately, it’s not even funny.” “I’m sure there’s someone in here that you could get some from…” The two of them start surveying the lecture hall for prospects. Their eyes land on me, staring at them. I look away as fast as possible hoping they didn’t notice. I’m sure that they noticed. How could they not? And they’re probably wondering what my problem is. Why I care so much about their conversations. Why I care so much about their sex lives. You’re okay, Audrey, you’re okay. Deep breaths. In and out. Over and over until the professor finally returns. The rest of the lecture goes relatively fine, but I decide I need to leave early so I don’t risk having to walk close to those girls. With an hour to spare before my next lecture, I grab a bite to eat at the Tim Horton’s in the science building. I find an isolated table in the back corner of the cafeteria, sit down, and utilize the time productively. I pay my credit card bill and answer my emails. Unable to bring myself to begin my lab report, I close my laptop and take in my surroundings. For the first time in a long time, I feel safe. Each table is probably around two hundred and twenty-five square inches and pale beige in colour with mysterious stains. Three other students are sitting at their own tables. Fourteen tables have groups of two or more people at them. They are far enough away that I don’t risk hearing their conversations. A big lecture must have just let out because a crowd of people now walk down the hall adjacent to the Tim Horton’s. Then, out of nowhere, I see his face. He’s right in the crowd, and he’s walking toward me. Immediately stricken with terror, I look away. No. I promised myself. I can’t see him today. But I just did. He popped up out of nowhere, as soon as I let my guard down. Shaking in fear, I bring myself to look up again, but he’s gone, lost in the sea of students. I saw him. I know I did. Shaky breath in. Shaky breath out. I’ve failed again. I feel too sick to finish my bagel, so I head to class early, hoping that the walk calms me down. It takes six hundred and eighty-two steps to get there. I sit in the back of the empty lecture hall. It’s not like me to arrive before Ria; she’s always way too early. But it’s okay. I distract my mind by trying to estimate the number of chairs in the room. It’s an intriguing challenge


given that angled stairs between the seats make the rows uneven. Just as I’m about to decide on a number somewhere close to four hundred, Ria sits next to me. She immediately launches into a story about her lab partner’s incompetence. I’m eternally grateful for the new distraction. One of my favourite parts about Ria is her innate selfishness; while it’s not typically the most desirable attribute in friends, Ria’s self-rooted conversations divert my attention away from picturing his face. About half an hour into the lecture, my attention span wanes, and I take to doodling on my note page. Incoherent scribbles merge together to form various shapes across my paper until I see him again. This time on my page, formed by the pen in my very hands. Terrified of my own creation, I desperately scratch out his face, crumple up the page, throw it on the ground, and kick it under my seat. “I didn’t think it looked that bad. He was actually kind of cute,” Ria whispers with a little laugh. I force my own playful smile and try to refocus on the lecture. But it’s a lost cause. I’ve opened up the floodgates. Now all I can see is his face. I close my eyes and I see him. I open them and I see him. He’s everywhere. He’s sitting in each of these four hundred seats, turning around to look at me. You’re okay, Audrey. You’re okay. But it’s no use. The panic I had been suppressing all day has clawed its way to the surface. I can no longer breathe properly. My chest aches as my heart lurches violently within it. Unable to calm down, I get up and leave without an explanation to Ria. Not wanting to wait for a crowded bus that I know will only make things worse, I speedwalk home, blinking back tears the whole way. You’re okay, Audrey, you’re okay. But I know I’m lying to myself. I’ll never be okay, not until I can stop seeing him. All the way home, the weight of shame sits heavy on my shoulders. I can’t even go one day without picturing his face. It’s like I want to see it. By the time I reach my house, I’m lightheaded and my fingers are tingling. I burst through the door and practically sprint into my room. I don’t even look to see if Kelsi is still on the couch. I swallow four Gravol without water effortlessly and lie down on my bed. I don’t bother to take off my jeans. I close my eyes, waiting to be knocked out. Sleep is my last hope to escape. I lay sweating and shaking for what feels like years until the drug finally takes over and I drift off. But even in my dreams, he’s there. In my nightmares, he finds me. And over and over the memory repeats. He pushes me on the bed, while I stay silent. He climbs on top of me, while I remain perfectly still. He undresses me, while I lie there with my eyes wide open. Looking at his face.


Houseplant #2 By Stephanie Fattori


A Greeting By Michael Schmidt A happy clattering greets an open door; Hurried, pattering nails click on the linoleum floor. Around the corner emerges a hurtling missile, A familiar fur coat, instantly visible. Pink tongue like a ribbon, offering wet kisses Upon outstretched palms, gentle as whispers. Quick, panting breaths and a wagging tail Expresses a love that never grows stale. Excited, this bundle of joy dashes off in a blur Of velvety, fuzzy, white-ticked fur To return scampering like a spring fawn, Gripping a stuffed duck in slobbery jaws. High, cartoonish squeaking echoes in the hall As the fluffy toy duck is playfully mauled. Then spinning furrily, a four-legged pirouette, Marking the zenith of a friends’ reunion, happily met. What a simple joy it is to hear These clattering nails on the linoleum floor And the hurried, happy pattering That greets an open door.


In Which I Bury Myself Alive By Izzy Siebert I have this heaviness, and sometimes it feels like home— like long ago, like my chest as a child buried in beach sand, when I couldn’t breathe until something cracked. Do you remember who we used to be? We once dug shallow graves for our summer selves and let the earth press laughter from our lungs. We buried ourselves alive, but we called it fun as we clawed up from the ground, shaking weight off our limbs like dust. Back then, we didn’t bury our heads in the sand; we buried our bodies because we thought they were most vulnerable. We were familiar with the wounds they collected: the skinned knees, scratched elbows, bee stings, and rainbow bruises. We could point to them and say, “This is where it hurts.” Now there’s dirt in my hair and grit between my teeth, and I think I’ve had my head in the sand for a long time, wishing myself back to when I knew where it hurt, when I understood why I struggled for air because my hands were the ones who pulled the earth on top of me. Sometimes, I try to teach myself to breathe again. I trace gills between my ribs with ballpoint pens, like I can write the working of my lungs back into muscle memory, like I can use my sentences as shovels and someday pull myself out of the ground the way I once did: rising to gasp in sunlight, brushing away the heaviness from my chest like sand, and letting lakewater wash me new.


Brooklyn’s Bouquet By Jack Bradley


The one where Alice went looking for madness By Gray Brogden She didn’t stumble, tumble, fall blindly down that rabbit hole— She leapt with two eyes open And found herself in the world where she had belonged All along. The Cheshire Cat taught her to smile, the Dodo taught her to win; At the tea party, she found her real friends, And at every trial, she took the stand and taught the world how to paint White roses red.

The Second Movement By Liam Waterman Sometimes I dream of things I’ve never known. I watch the people walking next to me And try to train my steps to follow time. I look: they walk with confidence, alike The form of man, of person unafraid. I know that I could never be like that, Except in imitation of their pace, And anyone with some poetic sense Would hate me for the way I look and sound. Sometimes I dream. Okay. I have to find A way to be on my own in the world— To turn my leap of life into a walk, Become a dancer in the older sense, And keep a life of grace and love, unmoved.


You forgot about me By Helena Nikitopoulos Like the ongoing sound of rain against your window while you’re asleep, Like the unknown location of a stone when it sinks down into the water, Like the rainbow we see once but then fail to look at again, Like the shooting star we witness but then forget about as its light fades to darkness, You forgot about me. But you forgot that There will be another rainstorm, There will be another stone, There will be another rainbow, There will be another shooting star. And when you hear that rainstorm, When you throw that stone, When you see that rainbow, And when you witness that shooting star, You will remember me.


Untitled By Bridget Koza 15

Scourge By Allison Brealey It had been seven nights of chasing the moon moth. An enchanting specimen, the moth’s fuzzy white body was held afloat by wings of vivid green. It fluttered as if in a trance—as if enchanted by the moon itself—through the dying sizzle of the humid August night. With her hands clasped neatly in her lap, the girl with the mousy hair observed its languid movements. This creature, she mused, is so painfully, blissfully unaware. It lacks fear; it is nothing but pure. It knows not of its own beauty. I wish I could be so ignorant. As if composing a waltz, the girl’s fingers began to twitch in time with the flitting of the moth’s wings. Seven days prior, the moth had made its first appearance, hovering in the twilight glow above the cracked dirt of the secluded rose garden. She, the mousy-haired girl, with her gardening gloves on and a handful of limp roses in her grip, succumbed to the first tendrils of dangerous obsession. Something as beautiful as that, she thought, must find a place on my wall. There, I can immortalize its beauty. There, it will never leave. In a state of transfixion, she watched the moth draw lazy circles in the air. She picked up the butterfly net, and thus began the hunt. The moth was elusive yet ever-present, and for seven days, the girl pursued it tirelessly. Determination (or perhaps a deep hunger) had lit an unyielding fire within her, a fire that could not be smoked out even when the net bit down on nothing but dirt and petals. The moth seemed to taunt her with every gentle beat of its fragile wings. It was always just out of reach. Beauty or beast? The girl’s thoughts hissed and seethed. This creature is precious; this creature’s a scourge. Now, in the quiet embrace of the seventh night, the girl’s twitching fingers ceased to move, for the moth had landed on a single buttercup. In a matter of seconds, the net came down with a gentle whoosh, and the girl gazed in delight as the moth spasmed against the clotting mesh. With pale fingers pinching the opening shut, she waltzed, shoulders back, through the door of her tiny cottage. Hunched by the kitchen counter, she eyed the bottle of insecticide. A gentle pop signified the removal of the cap. Hisssssssssssss went the spray nozzle.


The moth laid flat and still. With deft hands, the girl squeezed the thorax until the green wings separated. She worked a pin through the body with nimble fingers, humming to herself, and mounted the specimen against the felt of an ornate display case. The case was brought to her bedroom and subsequently nailed to the wall. Every day, I will wake up to the sight of you. Time froze the moth in eternal flight. That night, the girl lit a candle and celebrated her conquest with a cup of rose petal tea, fresh from the garden. Seated at her vanity, she gazed at the display case through the mirror’s reflection. The wings of the moth shimmered, almost seeming to undulate in the glow of the wavering candlelight. The girl smiled and got into bed. Goodnight, my prize, she whispered softly and blew out the candle.

It was on the news the next day. A lone hiker had stumbled upon a quaint little cottage after having trekked through the surrounding wilderness for multiple days. He had stopped to smell the lavender that grew in neat little bunches and, in desperate need of food and water, had knocked upon the cottage door to see if its occupant would be generous. Nobody answered, but the poor man was starving, and the door was unlocked. It was what the man saw once he stepped inside that had him running as fast as he could away from that place, screams ripping his vocal cords apart. There upon the wall, a mousy-haired girl was pinned up by the arms. There were blades through her hands and blades through her feet. Her bloodless face was contorted in an expression of fear so haunting that the poor hiker would see it in his mind’s eye for weeks. It was the thing in her mouth that no one had answers for. Not the hiker, nor the news reporters, nor the mortician himself could provide a reasonable explanation. Amidst all of the blood and death and mess, a delightful specimen had been pinned by the thorax to the lifeless girl’s tongue. Its shimmering green wings seemed to undulate in the light. Something beautiful had at last found a place on the wall.


the trillium asked me By Jack Bradley the trillium asks me how i know and i know from what i wasn’t taught am who i was told i wasn’t and love who i was shown i couldn’t as the influences in my life showed me gaps and cracks and blurs in the representation of people who learn and look and love like me check the box that best describes you: ☐indigenous, bracket, status, bracket ☑indigenous, bracket, self-identified, bracket ☑caucasian? ☑other ☐prefer not to say ☑i prefer not to say ☑don’t know how to say ☐how do i say: oh, canada, our home on Native land i’ve emptied and spent my time desperately scouring for glimpses of my own face, own eyes, own skin, my cheekbones in the blank faces of the whiteness that enveloped and moulded my upbringing i listened to dan and mary lou smoke’s radio show Smoke Signals they reign in worlds together, encouraging and fostering the harmony of cultures and treating one another with care i’ve always been between worlds there’s this hope that we, the young people, could pass on the teachings of the Ojibway, the teachings of the Seneca who taught me? mary lou has cheekbones like me, skin like me, her mouth curves slightly down like mine though she’s authentically indigenous, not like me and my mixed bag she can name her tribe


the words of her culture roll off her tongue and her languages switch as i twitch and wonder am i allowed to be jealous of her? when she speaks of Turtle Island, it’s not so performative but how dare i try and imitate her, imposter as i am they call that a syndrome someone didn’t water the culture that was rightfully mine, and so it wilted with shrivelled roots my roommate’s plants always struggle to grow in the cold, and so i hate november but i will set those shrivelled roots on fire and use them as mulch now i am a different kind of Smoke Signal i was taught what not to be, but in response, i unearth my queerness and Indigeneity and from the ashes i bloom in defiance.


Waiting on You By Jack Bradley


Amateur Hour at the Pottery Studio By Abigail Scott It’s funny— Just for a moment, I’m too much of a movie star to feel the cold When I pop the collar on my not-enough jacket. Old Hollywood charm, bedroom eyes and sharp cheekbones— But those bruise-coloured bags aren’t Hermès, honey, and The fact that you can see the hollows of my cheeks Isn’t attractive. Funny, how close my kind of starvation is to theirs: We’re all rabid attention-seekers, looking for love In all the wrong places and trying to fill up The holes in our young years. Trying to keep the hope from trickling out And leaking away down the Storm drain. Funny. But not. “I’m in the process of reinventing myself,” I say conversationally, like it’s something You’d mention over Sunday-morning lattes. It’s not. It’s slow, messy-going so far, But it’s impolite to complain, So I’ll just accept the encouraging smile You give me in response and bite back The ugly truths. Because it’s impossible not to get Dirty, standing here at the potter’s wheel, But I’ve left my clay-spattered T-shirt and ratty jeans At home today, so I won’t mention it. See, I think part of the problem is that I’m not quite sure What I’m making myself into. I spat into the dirt and mixed up the mud, But other people barged their way in and got involved, Tossed rocks into the mixture and Thinned it out with crocodile tears. There’s some blood in there too at this point, But I don’t know if it’s mine or someone else’s.


At this point, I’m not sure I care. And yet I’m still standing here, Staring down at my as-yet unformed lump of clay and Wondering how the Big Guy does it. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong— Maybe if I just smear my concoction All over my eyes, in my ears, on my lips, I’ll find myself miraculously sharp-eared, hawk-eyed, Silver-tongued. Maybe the transformation will be that quick, That painless, That simple. Ha. I’m no saviour, no miracle-worker, And I’m no Prometheus either; There’s nothing special about these hands of mine. So I doubt it. Ashes to ashes, Dust to dust— Maybe that’s it. Maybe you have to die In all the ways that matter Before you can be someone new. Shrivel up and crumble away and return to the earth, And then out of the rubble of yourself You can finally start again. I think I’m already halfway there. I think I’ll have blown away to nothing Before the month is out. Life, death, rebirth: I wonder who I’ll be the next time around. Hopefully someone with a little more spine, A little more iron, And a few fewer cracks running through them. Hopefully I won’t break in the kiln And have to be tossed back into the scrap pile. Maybe it’s sad that survival is the best I’m hoping for. I’m sure you’d be horrified if I said any of this to your face, but


I don’t see it like that; It’s just pragmatism. And hey, Low bars are easy to clear— I’ll take happiness where I can get it. It’s too slippery to hold onto for long. Remaking yourself is hard. If I expect it to kill me… Let me rephrase that. I expect it to kill me. But— Foolishly, maybe— I don’t want it to.

Identity By Gray Brogden I am a flower pot full of new butterflies I eat mac and cheese for breakfast At night, my favourite pastime is to see how many stars spell out my name Some nights they all do Some nights there are none I will blast country music out of every stereo I come across And I do not apologize for what I believe in Or for how much I love my best friends I am a cornucopia of emotions constantly contradicting each other Any questions?


Origin Story By F.M.C. *CW: Sexual Assault* 1934. Years before the war, Born to a family who’d lived there before. Canada. Land of the happy and free, The land that told women what they could be. Fast-forward sixteen, in the post-war world. Fast-forward to the date with the boy Who invaded her body like the Trojans took Troy. This boy couldn’t feel, only inflict, Only cause pain and not let her heal. Only sixteen, carrying Life. Life that was hers, Light that was hers till the boy stamped it out. A light growing brighter day by day, Her parents hid her away. “Keep this a secret, don’t ever tell,” Her shame went as deep as a wishing well, Wishing for a body that wasn’t hers. Next generation, girl of sixteen, Never got her dream of Prom Queen. Pregnant and married in April, Abortion was never an option, She couldn’t sign up for adoption. She thought she’d been cautious, but now she’s nauseous, The only certificate she got those years Was the birth of her daughter, The birth of her girl and the death of her girlhood. Her and her husband, kids raising kids, How did her life become what it is? Ashamed of her stomach, Afraid of the public, Skin held together by a safety pin, Since coming apart is the world’s greatest sin. A child, a mother, the line isn’t clear, Erupting a war between pride and fear.


Her daughter sixteen, Held down by strings, Since Loved and Being Wanted are two different things. You’re ugly, stupid, fat, Words like poison, Eyes and cheeks moisten. Body cut down like a weed, Body flew away in the smoke-filled breeze. She was pinned to the floor like a fly on display, “It’s your fault,” they said, “that you couldn’t break away.” Men have needs, And he’s saying please, But he vandalized her. And she’s still scared, She’s still scarred from the break and entry. And it’s hard to heal, When r*pe is blamed on sex appeal. A teenage object in the skin, But behind the skin, she’s bruised within. A dry blue pill does not suggest That “no” means “yes.” These women are my origins, We came from the same porcelain, Cracking and breaking from generations of violence, Forced into wearing the chains of silence, Silence and shame have created this pain That I feel for my people. These women were shaken and shattered, So at sixteen I could break the pattern. The cycle of violence that exists in this system, I just need society to listen, Stop making excuses, saying “boys will be boys,” Because what it implies is girls are just toys, And I’m tired of hearing of r*pe, I’m tired of the men who won’t let her escape. A woman, inhuman— That’s the message you preach. Silence. Isn’t. A. Figure. Of. Speech. It isn’t consent, and she owes you nothing, Just because you date her, doesn’t earn you “favour.” Her body is hers, not a party for guests, She’s worth so much more than the size of her breasts.


Her heart, her soul, should teach you more, Then wondering why she takes birth control. Give women the choice of creation, Control over their bodies’ narration. I don’t want my daughter to live in a world Where she’s not safe just because she’s a girl. It’s easy to hide and only feel shame, to feel like a pawn in Society’s game, But a better future is a guarantee, A future of resistance that begins with me.

Thoughts That Hurt By Alyssa Thulmann She’s fun, isn’t she? The girl with the long fluffy hair and big eyes. She bounces when she speaks to you, and the words tumble out of her mouth in never-ending bursts because she’s nervous. She lies on your couch until 2 a.m. with her head brushing against your shoulder. Her hand rests next to yours, and both of you are so focused on the feeling of the other’s warm skin against your own, the way it makes your stomach fill with fizzing electricity, that the hours tick by without you realizing you’re tired. She’s happy and filled with bright, shining light and energy.

That girl is real, but she is fleeting—she cannot last.

The fluffy hair will turn dull when she stops eating enough. Those big eyes will burn and bleed and leak salty discharge. Those witty replies and winded explanations about all the things she loves will turn into a shrug or a slowly typed “fair enough.” The fun excursions will become exhausting for her.

She’s been through this before. She knows you won’t like her when you find out how sad she is.

When brushing her teeth every night becomes too much. When she needs to shower sitting down. When her eyes are puffy because she hasn’t stopped crying in three days. When her head rests against your shoulder it won’t be because she’s enjoying the movie; she’s staring at the blank wall above the screen. It’ll become tiring. It’ll wear you down until you don’t just stop liking her, you start hating her. At least, that’s how it will seem. That fun girl will come back, though. She is real skin and bone and serotonin. But you won’t stay long enough to see her again. Although the sorrow may be new to you, she’s known the sad one would return. She’s always been just around the corner, peeking her head in and whispering “soon.”

Soon you’ll realize how sad I am, and then you won’t want me anymore.


Invasion By Zaynab Almayahi


If I could tell my past self — By Hollie Scott I would say The mercilessness of life is not softened by Acceptance But by the tireless struggle of Rejection. You will bruise your knees, Your tears will surely unwaveringly fall, But the metallic taste on your tongue Is a reminder of resistance And a pained victory against passivity.

Foggy Memories By Chloe Baird Thick fog wraps around my ankles like bindings as I walk down the forever-narrowing hallway. My breath puffs out in wisps, circling around my head, leaving the smell of fresh mint burning my nose. Despite the lack of feeling in my body, I trudge over to the warmness of cherry wood and pristine ivory. I fit comfortably into the seat and gently rest my icy fingers on the piano keys, already feeling the lethargy ebb away. In a steady crescendo, my fingers dance along to a rhythm I haven’t heard in years, sending shocks of electricity through my body, forcing the fog to release its grasp. An overpowering flowery aroma fills the room as the memory of my sister standing over my shoulder comes into view; she’s the one who taught me this song. The perfume burns the back of my throat, sending vanilla flowers tickling up to my tongue to burn my taste buds like acid. Salty water flows from my eyes and drips between my lips, soothing my tongue like a sea crashing down on a desert. The fog, completely free from my ankles, climbs its way up and settles along the piano keys, making my fingers heavy and cold. Frustrated, I plant my hands at my side, but I can still hear the sweet melody clear as day with my sister humming along. It all becomes too much; I clamp my hands down on the now freezing bench and scream. The ear-piercing sound breaks through all the memories like a clean swipe with a sword, leaving my ears ringing with nothing but a high-pitched squeal. I stare once more at the instrument in front of me; cherry wood and ivory that once seemed inviting now leave a dull ache in my chest where my heart is supposed to be. I get up, unbalanced, and bow to the piano covered in fog, then I turn promptly and walk down the forever-narrowing hall once again with the memories of what was.


To Micheal, S. By Liam Waterman I’ll always turn around to you When you are small and broken-down. For therein was your courage—you Were thin, and old, and slant upon The stool, looking at the sad And crying faces of a crowd, Recalling what they had forgot Into your veins and to the heart Of tender feelings not yet felt. The momentary beauty lost To those who did not care to see And everyone who’d soon forget About your life and love. But if you sing, I’ll keep you there And build you palaces in air. There’s nothing sad about your eyes, Where glitter shines about the seams; I love you, make your painting lines Of age, forget, not wan with dreams.


A Day’s Reflection (A Reverse Poem) By Sydney Force Today is just another shitty day. I reflect on my life and can’t possibly see how With the faces that surround me Happiness can thrive in my spirit I know what to expect And let a fake smile grow on my face. No more will I wake up Jumping out of bed With a spring in my step But the sun waves at me So I gravitate to pull at my curtains The darkness engulfs the space This is what I deserve. I am certain that There is no purpose for me here And I refuse to believe That beauty exists within me. When I look in the mirror, I see My degrading body, which strives for strength, An urgency to hug To keep my head high above my chest Allowing my breaths to come strong and steady My heart beats, Pounding against my porcelain skin: I know I am not the only one who feels My stomach clenching into a ball But I’m stuck in a lonely pit with millions A deep, endless suffering There is no happiness in my future And I can’t be convinced I deserve better than this How could anybody deserve to feel this way? Melancholia has no mercy. I understand it well And I have befriended the feeling, That loneliness is a part of me; I know I must accept My depression will control me And I will never say that I deserve more. Now read from the bottom up.


Things I’ll Never Say By Sofia Spagnuolo I just wanted you to know that saying no to you was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I hope you know my friends hear about you all the time. I hope you know I tried, but my chest could only take the beatings for so long. I hope you heard the ache in my voice when I called and the tremble in my upper lip as I spoke. I hope you didn’t mean what you said when you called me heartless and unforgiving. I hope you know how ruined my body was when you left. I hope you know I powdered my face to cover the wet streak that rolled down my cheek. I hope you know I had to tell myself that tough people don’t cry. I hope you know that after we hung up my tears splattered into the ground so brutally that it collapsed. I hope you know it wasn’t easy. I hope you know I’m sorry. I just wanted you to know that.