an Arts and Humanities Studentsâ€™ Council Publication Fall 2016
art to soothe the soul
Volume 4 | Issue 1 | Fall 2016 Copyrights remain with the artists and authors. The responsibility for the content in this publication remains with the artists and authors. The content does not reflect the opinions of the Arts and Humanities Studentsâ€™ Council (AHSC) or the University Studentsâ€™ Council (USC). The AHSC and USC assume no liability for any errors, inaccuracies, or omissions contained in this publication.
Letter from the Editor Rather than have a theme this year, the Publications Team decided to showcase creative works from a variety of genres. These pieces were chosen because they were original, engaging, and relatable. The ability to express oneself clearly and cleverly is a gift, and it is one that we, on the authorsâ€™ behalf, would like to share with you.
symposium is... a collection of short stories, creative nonfiction, and poetry that are original, inventive, wellwritten, and allow for a variety of personal interpretations. Symposium accepts creative work from any Arts and Humanities undergraduate student within the University of Western Ontario. Symposium is published bi-annually by the Arts and Humanities Students’ Council of the University of Western Ontario. Semicolon is generously funded by the Arts and Humanities Student Donation Fund. The Publications Team would like to thank the Donation Fund Committee, the students who submitted their creative works, and the rest of the Publications Committee who volunteered for the creative review board. To view previous editions or for more information about Symposium, please contact the Arts and Humanities Students’ Council in Room 0N20D in the International and Graduate Affairs Building. Editor-in-Chief Academic Managing Editor Creative Managing Editor Copy Editor Layout Editor
Alero Ogbeide Lauren O’Donnell Areesa Kanji Katie Fowler Kimberlyn Hawkins
Special Thanks to the Publications Committee: Sofia Berger, Camille Inston, Alicia Johnson, Megan Levine, Simone Miklosi, Alexis Pronovost, Julia Sebastien
Summertime cools like a weak cup of Grey Damp leaves collect in the dregs of the year The cold, tallow croplands sigh in the breeze They tell of a rain that is drawing near
The weight is there like a man who, defying Earthly gravity, stands heavy upon my chest.
And up in the air the black birds wander Splitting the sky with their shrill morning news Flying on ghosts of an easterly storm Singing the ache of the autumnal blues
Shake as I may, the man there should stay; I think maybe I need him around.
Tear me apart in the vagabond winds Burn me away in the sunâ€™s cutting light Score out my lungs with the frost on the earth Kiss me asunder with sharp, stinging bites
If he should leave I would stretch out my lungs, and breathe as if Iâ€™d forgotten the feeling.
I will dissolve in the mud and the mist Like sweetness stirred in a weak cup of Grey Draw me back down from the clouds rolling west When once again comes the warm touch of May
Of him like an anvil pressing the whole day through, and I myself but a smudge on his shoe.
A Letter to Fathers, From Their Daughters
You half conceived a machine One third girl one third will one third wall. With your glances And glasses And an affinity for the smell of pages. You built her a window pane But kept it smudged and smeared with ashes she mistook for snow. Let her dry her shirt sleeve And take a breath of air That has not been tainted by yours. You half conceived an echo One third flight one third noose one third noise With your tender And temper And a hand-me-down bucket of good intention. You built her an autumn day But told her that she was just as ephemeral that growing meant fleeting. Let her watch each season without hibernation And realize the difference Between nature and nurture.
You half conceived a rebuttle One third whine one third wit one third rain. With your timing And tongue And a loaded gun with your name on the bullet. You built her babel out of shaky stone But she and God would become conversationalists regardless. Let her speak her way to the stars And look away from the remnants of smudged writing on your hand. You half conceived a scratched vinyl One third stutter one third stammer one third silence. With your vigor And vision And a half assed cross stitch sewn through chapped lips. You built her reasonable doubt In her skills as a carpenter But she will build blind Without a hard hat or a reason not to fall. Let her live in the arms of excess And walk the plank Without checking for nails.
Danielle Bryl-Dam Mouth full of caged birds Gated shut by crushing bone and thickened muscle that Pins me to my perch; He hangs me by my hair to where all can admire me His nails rake into my flesh Finding purchase between the golden bars of my ribcage. He forces his key into my lock; it doesn’t fit My gears are run out of place And tangle up within each other to escape his prying touch. “Sing for me, little bird.” His fangs glint in the dark as they sink into my neck , His claws tearing ridges into my polished exterior. “Sing.” He paws at my clasp; The sharp metallic tang slides across my breasts And soaks his leering mouth. Within me, the dove stirs; White feathers clog airways as they are shed in rustled panic Tickling and beating within mu chest. His eerie purr races across my skin As broken notes of bird song choke from between gritted teeth. White wings are broken, cast aside The dove is left but a sticky, defiled mess as the predator finishes his meal. Feathers strewn across asphalt, I stare at crumbling brick Broken notes of birdsong whispering through my teeth.
The ring on my finger feels heavier today. I twist it left, then right. With each movement, the weight shifts, but it does not go away. Frowning, I lean back onto the motel bed’s headboard, a slight creak emerging from the bed frame. Streams of moonlight filter into the room from one of the dirt-streaked windows, speckling the floral comforter with an eerie glow. A scratched wooden nightstand, bare except for a crooked reading light and a red Gideon’s Bible we had found in its top drawer, stands beside me. “What the fuck do we need a Bible for?” she had asked, slamming the drawer shut and throwing the book at me. I caught it and flipped aimlessly through its thin white pages. Genesis. Exodus. Leviticus. “Besides, who the hell is Gideon?” “I think he was a judge or something,” I had replied, sitting on the bed. It had sagged under my weight with an exaggerated sigh. “The name sounds familiar. I think I learned about him back in Sunday school.” As I slid out of my shoes and stretched my socked feet out in front of me, I placed the book on the nightstand. “Whatever,” she had huffed, opening the door leading into the adjoining bathroom, “Reading one measly book isn’t going to purge me of my sins. But a shower might.” That was twenty minutes ago. I hear the water come to a dripping stop and her shuffling feet in the other room. I adjust the ring properly back onto my finger and cover it with my other hand just as the bathroom door opens. Wearing nothing but a pink, mid-thigh length silk robe, she picks her way across the garish gold coloured carpet, barefoot. She sits on the cracked leather chair where I had thrown my blue dress shirt earlier, seductively smiling, making a show of crossing her pale legs, à la Sharon Stone. Wet black hair streams down her back like an ink-coloured waterfall as I watch her pull a cigarette out of her robe’s pocket and place it between her lips, lighting it with the lighter in her hand. “You look good,” I say, glancing at her slender body, hidden beneath the silk. It was a body I was no stranger to. “I try,” she says with a laugh. She takes a long drag of the cigarette and breathes out a stream of smoke. I wave my right hand in front of my face. “I don’t think you’re allowed to smoke in here,” I say. “The maids will smell it when they come in here to clean tomorrow morning.” “Clean!” she chortles. “God, where the hell do you think we are? A five-star hotel?” She puffs out a smoke-filled smile, this one aimed directly at me. “God, you are so adorable. No wonder she thinks you still love her.” She. The mere word reverberates throughout my entire body. The she I see every morning when I wake up and every night when I go to sleep. The she, in desperation for something more than living a banal existence day in day out, I had begun to distance myself from. The she I had told this morning, and subsequent mornings for the past few weeks, “I have a business conference. I’ll only be gone for a few days.” A single lie. A multitude of lies.
But for what?
I glance at the woman in front of me, watching her puff more smoke into the air while combing her damp, midnight coloured locks back from her porcelain face. For her. But why? She has only seen me at my worst, during a moment of confusion, like a succubus who feeds upon the misery residing in one’s soul. But who had let her in? Who had given her the key to open up my emotions? Me. I look down. I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be here in this shitty motel with this woman. I should be back at home, trying to get back the emotional satisfaction I used to have. “I don’t know,” I say to no one in particular. “Aww, come on, hon,” she says. I look up at her and notice her dark eyes staring at the ring on my hand. My left hand. “Why are you wearing that?” she asks, a frown forming upon her face. Instinctively, I look down and touch the ring. “I don’t…I mean,” I stutter, an utterly hopeless mess. Suddenly, an image from my childhood enters my brain. I’m seated in a wooden church pew, my mother and father sitting beside me. I’m trying to focus on the priest’s sermon, but my eyes keep wandering to the statue of Jesus erected behind him, its arms outstretched across the wooden cross. Its eyes watch me, the same eyes that had stared at me when I had said my wedding vows. A simple sentence echoes within my mind. Thou shall not commit adultery. I don’t realize that I’ve spoken the words aloud until she replies, a quizzical expression on her brows, “Huh? What did you say?” “Thou shall not commit adultery,” I repeat, looking into her dark eyes. She eases herself from the chair and glides towards me, grinding the cigarette butt into the nightstand. “It’s one of the Ten Commandments.” “You never told me that you were so religious,” she says. Taking the silk robe’s tightly wound belt in her hands, she begins to slowly undo it. “I’m not really. I mean, I went to Sunday school, but…” The robe falls from her shoulders and onto the floor. “Oh God…” I stutter again. She is naked, the whiteness of her body glowing in the dim moonlight. Sidling up to me, she places my fingers upon her pale breast and hers on my lips.
“Shh,” she whispers, “It isn’t adultery if we pretend you aren’t married.”
“But I…” I begin, but her stony glare silences me. She takes my hand and begins to fidget with the ring. The weight is heavier than before and I begin to fear that only repentance will remove it from the fourth finger, but she manages to do so. “There,” she says with a smile. She places it on the Bible and turning back to me, rests her head upon my chest. A smile plays on her lips. It is then that I truly notice that she has painted them. Red.
The colour of love.
The colour of passion.
The colour of the Gideon’s Bible.
Throbbing Manicure Cassie Hunter
I am bitten fingernails down to the quick sharp edges of identity, lips, tooth against hangnail loose skin; the catch of anxious breaths. The welling blood between padded thumbs, shoved into pockets, hidden in the grasp of restlessness. The aching husk of palms, claws nerves ill at ease. I am the first sign of panic.
Midnight, or, The Rise and Fall of the Postmodern Prometheus Camille Intson
I Wrote Myself to Chaos Last Night (Virgil guided the pen) — my journal perching atop the textbooks that i bought from that shop down the road — now, they’ve been highlighter bruised, slugged across the sidewalk like Christ himself. after all these words and wooden spines cursing our songs in dead languages, still, I Wrote Myself. i took a breath and it fought like a salmon against streams of concrete, past theological catacombs — libraries, scholars’ cemeteries — Past Mephistopheles, past Odysseus’s sunken ship and the tomb wherein Antigone hanged herself. “Knock knock! Oh, never at quiet. Who’s this? Faith, here’s a scholar — fresh from the purgatories of Bloody Academia! O, come in, equivocator!” yet i dare think to Myself: Night, you’re a raging fiery lunatic and i exist for your consumption. My window’s stuck it doesn’t open but if it did i imagine the streets would smell of parentheses, not genesis. musky indifference, maybe. sleep, that cunning temptress. i took a breath and forgot to cite it in MLA, i raged — if it made a difference but never uploaded that to TurnItIn. Does God, if you believe in that sort of thing, have an OWL portal? when, Sir, is my soul’s office hour? my mind, Dear Professor, is an opera without subtitles. Course Materials: Intson, Camille. Are The Walls Closing In, Or Am I? (2016. Pen And Paper) The Biosphere And Its Miseries: A Netflix Original Series (Literature Subjectively Considered At Age 19): you know icarus, in retrospect, was probably right
Empty Bedroom Emma Graham
There is a room, You can picture it. Stuffed too tight with starched cotton, Convenience store stories, bright and frantic, Washed out before they even had a chance to look promising. There are string-lights dangling Long and thin, like varicose veins, Looking down on their visitors With the ordinary misfortune Of a bird about to land on a live wire. I feel a pulsing in my throat, Thatâ€™s sticking to my insides, Blinding the edges of my vision if I move my head too quickly. I see a man at the end of the hall. He stands there all night, but Iâ€™m sure He will never take a second step closer. I know my confusion, bred euphoric and forsaken, Is not born from the heat you passed me And lit on my tongue. It is from my insides, An animal pacing, pressed to the bars Licking its jaws and pulling faces against the glass. Listen to me. I will kick you out of my bed, Off my starched cotton, passed the lights, Out to greet the shadow-man in the hall. You are not my confusion You are merely a burden And honestly, I would really like just to sleep tonight.
Make Who Over
Alexis Pronovost Not much distinguished Maggie’s room from that of other thirteen-year-old girls’. There were boy band and movie posters plastered to the walls, many of which I had in my own room. Her bed was unmade, clothes leaked from her open closet door, and an array of schoolbooks littered her desk. Sun filtered in through lilac curtains, making the room into a snow globe of light. Maggie stood by her bed, which was piled with lipsticks, eye shadows and other makeup. When she approached me sitting in her computer chair, her lips were pursed and one eyebrow was raised. Distractedly, she brushed back the baby hairs from my forehead. “You have really good skin,” she said. Before I could reply, she quickly brought her hand to my chin and moved my head to one side. “Your lips are a bit chapped though.” Sighing, she mumbled something about how hard it was going to be to apply lipstick. I pressed my lips together and frowned. “My mom always said if you frown too much you’d get wrinkles!” she chimed, gently tapping her finger between my eyebrows. Yesterday, Maggie had proposed we have a makeover day singing about how she would transform me. “You’re like my blank canvas!” She had said and I had grinned at the prospect of spending more time with her. Lately, she spent more time with the other girls in our grade; girls who preferred the mall to the outdoors. Now, as Maggie sorted through her supplies, I didn’t realize that today would be solely about making me over. I wasn’t fixing her make-up or hair. We had plans to go to the mall after because, according to Maggie, I needed new clothes: fashionable, trendy clothes much better than my “so-last-year-grade-seven-jeans”. I doubted she thought her clothes were untrendy. Looking at her now, it was hard to imagine that we’d only been friends for a year since her first day—mid-January in grade seven. We shared interests in the arts, and we sat beside each other in music, slightly dented flutes in hand. Yet, I hardly knew anything about her. Maggie’s past was clouded behind her confidence which exuded from her like an overbearing perfume. In her presence, it was hard to feel anything but confident. You could do anything with her by your side. Maggie tucked her shoulder-length brown hair behind her ears, exposing her genuine pearl earrings. “They were my mother’s,” she had whispered to me when I commented on them, like it was some kind of profound secret. Maybe it was. Maggie gave away personal information like she was doling out sweets. Sometimes, I overheard conversations between Maggie and her dad where all she wanted to talk about was her mom. He was always too tired from work, and she always became frustrated by his short, abrupt responses. The first time I came to her house I noticed the photo: a younger Maggie beside a vividly smiling woman—same hair and nose. I must’ve looked at the photo for too long because Maggie quietly said, “I was eight,” before walking hurriedly from her room. I followed her out into the hallway and knocked softly on the bathroom door. She sniffled before calling, “Just a minute!” Sadness wasn’t something Maggie let me see often. Normally, she only frowned when she had something critical to say. “Which colour?” Maggie held up two eye shadows: one a sky blue, the other a dark purple. “I like the purple—”
“The blue will absolutely make your eyes pop!” She declared, brandishing the blue container like a trophy. After a few moments of her dabbing my eyelids she asked, “Do you think Tyler likes me?” Her voice caught and she cleared her throat. Maggie obviously had one answer she wanted to hear. She liked to hear the word “yes” more often than the alternative. “He sat with us at lunch yesterday,” she continued. “Do you think that means something? I forced my eyes to stay shut a few more seconds. If Tyler didn’t like Maggie, he would be one of few guys in our class. Everyone liked her and sometimes, like now, I forgot why. Tyler had sat with us at lunch yesterday, but I told myself that was because he had a crush on me. Maggie could have anyone she wanted, so of course she picked Tyler. Opening my eyes, I was surprised to find Maggie’s burrowing into mine, suddenly harsh. It was hard to hold her gaze, so I stayed silent, cast my eyes downward and shrugged. “Boo, you’re no help, but your eyes are fabulous!” she sang. “Let’s do your hair now before going to the mall. There’s no way I’m letting you out of the house without some volume.” Erin picked up the straightener and separated a section of my hair. After a few moments of straightening, she commented, “Well, at least your hair is soft,” smiling a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. Maggie never smiled openly, but always tight-lipped with a hint of condescension, as if you had done something to insult her. I returned her smile, although mine was more forgiving, eager to see what I’d look like when she was finished. ~*~*~*~ A few weeks later during recess, Maggie pulled me away from our group of friends. I was in the middle of saying something, and found her grip on my arm a bit too tight. When we were far enough away that no one could hear us, I tried to gauge her mood. She hadn’t wanted to gossip as much as usual today and whenever I tried to catch her attention her eyes seemed far way. Maybe she was distracted because Tyler had started going out with Allison last week. “What’s up?” I looked up at her; she seemed to tower over me even though she was only a couple inches taller. Suddenly, my palms were clammy. She frowned, furrowing her brow and sighing as if she was waiting for me to speak first. I wanted to tell her that she was going to get wrinkles. “Lately I’ve been feeling like you’re not quite yourself,” she finally said. Her stare was hard like the dark eyeliner smudged beneath her lashes. I shuffled my feet and matched her frown. “I don’t understand,” I muttered, looking down at my denim skirt; it was a similar style to hers, just a shade darker—we’d bought them together. I tugged at my green Lululemon sweatshirt. When I picked it out, Maggie said it was the perfect shade to match my eyes and that it was her favourite colour. Maggie surveyed my hair, which was straight, immaculate—identical to hers. Our lip-glosses also matched. “I don’t understand,” I repeated.
“Well, I don’t know. You used to wear your hair in cute pigtails and fancy hairdos. Now it’s suddenly straight all the time.” I wanted to interject that she had suggested I straighten my hair more, but she continued like she had opened floodgates. I wondered how long she’d had these thoughts. “What happened to your funky, unique outfits? Everyone says you’re just trying to imitate me. Which is fine, of course, obviously I have good taste. I just don’t think you can pull it off, that’s all.” She uncrossed her arms and picked at the edge of her cardigan. My sweater suddenly felt too hot. I glanced over at the girls; they were looking in our direction, identical smirks plastered across their faces. Turning back to Maggie, I spluttered, “You’re the one who made me look like this! You said I look good. You said I should dress like this all the time, so I am. What about being your blank canvas?” Pausing, I narrowed my eyes. “Did Allison put you up to this?” Maggie avoided my gaze, and my question. “Like I said, I just don’t think you can really pull it off. I’m doing you a favour saving you from embarrassment.” I stood as if my shoes were glued to the ground as Maggie started to walk away. “Oh,” she turned to face me again, “and that sweater doesn’t really fit you very well. You should probably return it.” As soon as she returned to the group, all of the girls laughed. A few of them looked at me once more, still smirking, before turning their attention back to gossip and boys. There was no backwards glance from Maggie to my awkward stance or my shiny lips; she was too preoccupied with tugging down her skirt and smoothing out her hair.
We are the waves that never reach; Inching towards sand covered toes, But crashing before we touch. We panic when we get too close.
It’s like that 7th grade dance: Boys and girls stood as opponents, Eyes never glanced passed their ankles, A staring contest; we all lost. We’re always scared of taking risks Unless those risks fade into routine. We jump once the ground is raised, Steady pace -- unbent knees We panic when we get too close. Chances slip like leaves between our fingers, Moving through the wind until they’re unseen, Then dance into another’s arms: he jumps.
“Because It’s 2016”
Gabriella DeBono tangled in the Wi-Fi instead of each other.
I recognize my voice when I talk to you,
it’s the one from inside my head.
Ode to Peter Orlovsky Shakira Ougniwi
It’s hard to wake up sometimes because it’s hard to fall asleep, Yet I wake up anyway and get ready for Work, sounds strange. I say good morning to my mother who doesn’t say good morning back Because she’s praying for my soul. I look at my brother and he doesn’t look at me. I leave without breakfast. I take the first bus to campus and ignore the high school kids Even though they’re not much younger than me, Then I feel bad for doing that. The audacity. I get to the office and work for six hours straight, no lunch. Someone looks at me and says, “You look a little rough.” I decide to get a coffee and two sandwiches to make myself feel better Because for some reason, the room starts to spin. I’ve got to run to the bus stop soon after With busted Vans and the world still Spinning. On the bus, I listen to music and imagine the life of others. Call it a writing exercise but that’s a lie. I imagine one man in a suit is cheating on his wife, Or a woman who is sleeping is dreaming of what could’ve been, Then I feel bad for doing that Because I think it’d make a great story. The audacity. I get home and take a nap. Dream of a boy my age Where anytime he touches my skin, it burns And falls to the floor in chunks And I scream.
I wake up and think of it, and think of it, And the only thing I can think of is, “Damn, he was kind of cute.” Soon after, I realise the boy from the dream was The boy from English last semester, and feel bad. The audacity. Mom makes rice for dinner with stew. I tell her about the dream, and pauses to pray. I watch her in the kitchen as she cooks, and wonder how life would be If I were white. Then feel like shit. I eat in bed even though I’m not supposed to Watch a bird out the window as it flies through the air Towards a shrub, and think, “Safety.” Watch a woman carry groceries from her car As her son watches from the window And think, “Damn, I’m glad I’m not old.” Then feel like shit. At night, when all is said and done, And busses stop running and high school kids aren’t around the world is still Sleeping, I pick up a book, Read a page about Desolation, And I think of it, and think of it, And the only thing I can think of is It was just six years ago When Orlovsky died. Such a beautiful face— Where was I? And I slept.
â€œhow do you know my son?â€? Gabriella DeBono
if you were to die tomorrow and I showed up to your funeral in a dull black dress that covered my collar bones in the heels I wore when you took me home that first night would your mother feel you when she saw me?
(I don’t know how to end this) Joanna Shepherd
A Junior Chicken and a McDouble each cost $1.69 and it takes only one minute for the boy in blue to place the greasy paper packages onto the tray you order a happy meal even though I haven’t seen you smile in six weeks and when they ask if you want a girl or boy toy you say, “Do I look like a fucking pussy” so they put Optimus Prime on top of your chicken nuggets and you ask if we can fuck when we get back to your house I say no because you’re still buzzed from the last line and I think I only kiss you when you’re drunk or maybe when I’m drunk. I don’t know how these things ever start, but I’m tired and
Cover Artwork by: Gwen Hovey