Mandate Good. Short. Writing. The Anti-Languorous Project is an online open-access creative writing hub that publishes antilang., a magazine of literary brevity, the On Editing blog series, and Good Short Reviews. Show, don’t tell; imply and implicate. Antithesize languorous language. antilang., no. 10 Emergence Published by The Anti-Languorous Project on the Unceded Territory of the Lekwungen People in Victoria, BC, Summer 2021 Edited by Allie McFarland & Jordan Bolay with Special Issue Guest Editor Tea Gerbeza Layout & Design by Jordan Bolay & Lissa McFarland Cover by Luca Jesse Apel Logos & Art Direction by Lissa McFarland ISSN 2561-5610, key title: antilang. (online) All rights revert to the original artists upon publication. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced without permission from the artists. The ALP is a non-profit organisation. We invite you to support us on Patreon, Issuu, or by donation.
@antilangmag / antilang.ca
antilang. no. 10
Grace Kwan 1 the celestial equator... 3 Collection Day Calum Robertson 5 ten pin bowling Kelsey Collins 7 Except Me Maya Linsley 12 14 15 16
pulling the shoots tether - i tether - ii tether - iii
Matthew Lovegood 17 angles of attachment 18 strengths of our materials Lisa Olsen 19 Meghna 20 Somnia 21 Things I learned... Sierra Riley 22 Emerging Summer 2021
Yusef Bushara 24 Dancing Feet Michael Russell 26 // hold // 27 💜💜💜 28 him Cat Abenstein 29 H2oh Elena Bentley 30 crook & flail 32 escitalopram Delane Just 33 Closer to the Moon 34 Julianna with two “n”s Lia Barsotti Hiltz 35 The Engineeress Shannon McLaughlin 40 Lineage 41 Milk River Time Anna Pazakova 42 Matriarchs Christine Pennylegion 44 WEANING 45 THE SLEEPER Katharina Davoudian 46 Atlas Kevin Stebner 48 Pyre 1 Katherine DeCoste 50 Prometheus befriends his vultures
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Dani Carter 52 mirabilis 53 local honey Sarah Foley 54 Uncontrolled railway crossing
Carla Harris 56 territory 57 packs of composure 58 I don’t write poems Nikolai Afonin 59 The Chasm Carlee Bouillon 63 FIRST IT IS BROWN... 64 GRIZZLY BEARS... Ren Pike 65 Suborbital 66 New patio furniture Erica Dionora 67 Corporate Beatitudes 69 My Body Is a Museum of Contributors 71
the celestial equator, the imaginary line that divides the northern and southern halves of the sky A poet wrapped a grey bunny in plastic and chucked it across the continent into my hands From the eastern coast, Orion drew his bow taut and pointed a razor star at us Sirius bounded across the night, searing fire in his wake On the other side of the planet on the other side of me I was once taught to tell the real stars apart from the fakes — satellites Because the real ones blink, aren’t steady in their light, because they’re so far away, and their light takes so long to get here, it becomes weak, and the
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atmosphere scatters it, because what we see is the puzzle-piece memories of stars, kind of like ghosts, like they aren’t really here And the deceivers, they hover less than a thousand kilometers above, and they move, because they orbit us while we orbit a star, so even though they shine steadily, they shoot across the entire sky within twenty minutes, like a target shifting across a screen, like a rabbit sailing across a turtle’s back, like a poem shuttled across the national border.
the celestial equator...
Collection Day Girls’ trash cans glitter like stardust: holographic plastic that once encased makeup brushes, gold-embossed bottles, sparkling silver chocolate wrappers. Mine is filled with blood, hair and mucus, and flakes of skin. My garbage does not gleam but it alights in the dark when syrupy Coke and fragrant rum coats it, penetrates it, bloats it. My garbage trembles with rage when touched, fingered, sifted through. These things were cute before you upended a dirty ashtray over my windowsill and blew ten bulls breathing fire into my eyes. He coughed in the bathroom and turned on the tap and the water sizzled as it hit the sunburn in the middle of my forehead and the wound bubbled and spat until only bone remained. I wonder what it was like for you to meet me when I was afraid of lighters but friends with the monsters snuffling and slobbering under my bed. I wondered why you licked up the curls of dead skin from my floorboards until I saw how your hips grew wider until they could hold both me and you in their cradle. Every day, a step-ball-change swinging me to the fridge for a swig from the bottle of Coke (he took the rum with him). Large bottle, as thick as my thigh, no matter how many days went by, it never ran out. After a few months, the sugar curdled; the Grace Kwan
fritz of bubbles that made it so whimsical to drink died. I poured rotten sugar over my head and lapped it from the floor. I shook the bottle to bring back the bubbles. When I peered into the dark liquid and saw the shiny globules I mistook them for his eyes. I tied up the garbage bag full of cigarette smoke, bunny-ear method, and left it at the curb. A tiny bull staggered out and died on the sidewalk.
ten pin bowling with the heads of dead men cast in every role playing all the parts for bowlers (brave warriors bold - bowl) and alley (a south-eastern irish glade - a peaceful name for a recently violent violated place) are the leaves red by autumn’s fall or the blood-streaked paths of gutterballs? secondhand histories, thrifted texts woodcut collections fill a childhood afternoon and populate my backyard imaginings in the illustration the chieftain looks gloatingly poised for a strike thick black ink staunch trunks of gory forests his welsh archers ready to give one hell of a friendly fight my child-eyes then did not envision a night made of day by arrows in flight or even - really - of stabbing swords spilt guts and spurged entrails steaming
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in chilled morning air to me the heads were struck and bowled both - a conclusion as ridiculous and as gory as the truth of battle could ever be
ten pin bowling
Except Me The air was wrapped in its early-morning robe. Fibers of sweet stillness mixed with thin strands of porous light, dusting the streets with powdery movement. Crackles of life began to form. The hissing flaps of small wings could be heard when passing under calm trees. The rhythmic clap of crisp, direct steps against unshakable concrete. The stammering putters of a grumbling car, too old to make the journey but too proud not to. The sweltering heat of mid-day had not quite set in and the world was not yet a blurred, sweaty mess. It was late June in the city and everything was alive. Except me. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I realized, it had slowly crept up on me. A delayed understanding rather than an instant dawning.
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Maybe it was the buses never slowing down, no matter how fast I ran. The cabs always driving past, no matter how wildly I hailed. Maybe it was that nobody ever looked at me, no matter how loudly I screamed. Or that my voice never got raw when I did. Perhaps it was when food stopped tasting good, stopped tasting like anything at all. Or when I noticed I no longer dreamed. No longer slept. Maybe it was some of these things. Maybe it was none. Most likely, it was all of them combined. I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t really have to. It didn’t take long to forget what it was like. It was easy to sink into a sleeping dance of robotic cessation. Moving without purpose, without reason. Acclimation was unnecessary, I could progress, undeterred, without ever needing to adapt. But I mimicked them anyway. I would jab my hands into my pockets when I walked, though my pants ceased to have holes. I would bunch my shoulders up to my ears and tuck my chin down against the heavy wind, though I ceased to feel its whipping caress. I would wait for cars to pass before crossing the street and I moved out of the way when people passed me on the sidewalk. I said excuse me when I accidentally nudged someone on the subway, even though I knew they neither heard nor felt me. Overall, I had adjusted well to afterlife—I hadn’t 8|
enjoyed my beforelife so my standards were rather low and easy to surpass. I walked among the people day after day, knowing I was not one of them. They didn’t bother me and I didn’t bother them. This natural fact didn’t bother me at all, I was already well acquainted with loneliness. In truth, nothing bothered me. I didn’t jump out of my skin when a vicious horn honked or a belligerent motorcycle bellowed by. Sunsets no longer made me cry and it didn’t irk me when people tripped and spilled their coffee on my shirt. It never left a stain. Taste, touch, smell, sight, they were all unaffected. Nonexistent. I didn’t sense them and they didn’t sense me. That meant that I could stare as long, and as hard, as I wanted to. I could eavesdrop on any conversation and I could investigate any location without interruption. I could speak my mind without contestation. Overall, death was lovely. Until it wasn’t. Again, it was not something I realized right away. Change is inevitable, but it’s usually a slow business. Gradual. Rarely does it occur all at once. It didn’t suddenly strike me like lightning and it didn’t explode inside me like a bomb. It simply melted like a glacier. Shifting at a crawling pace, imperceptibly dripping away, until one day I looked down and realized I was standing in a puddle of unhappiness and my feet were wet. Though I couldn’t feel that they were. I no longer had senses, but moods I did, and they were capricious. Sometimes they would shoot through me Except Me
like a bullet. In and out. A clean puncture. Sometimes they would settle in like a fever. An infection. Sometimes they mutated and morphed into a cancer. A mood can kill you if you let it, I thought. Good thing I was already dead. Trudging down the alley I knew that today was a bad day. I still had them, and they happened more and more. I listened to the gurgling chorus of squished gravel, knowing it was not my feet making the sound. Someone was walking behind me, shoes puncturing the ground, taking every step for granted. They didn’t notice their contribution; they were unaware of what they were putting out into the universe, ignorant to the ripples they were making. I no longer made ripples. And that, I had come to realize, did bother me. I had explored every nook and cranny of this sandstone city. I knew all the corners of its heart and every facet of its soul. But I made no impression. I played no part in it, not really. I wasn’t a part of anything, I was just there. That was why I stayed, why I never left this place. I could no longer bear the feeling of new discovery without, in turn, being discovered. To explore a new place without mutual inspection, to embark on a new adventure and share it with no one. I was surrounded by millions of people, billions of 10 |
things, and yet I was alone. I didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. This time though, there was no end. How do you end something that doesn’t exist? It was this thought, and the incessant scrunching of pebbles behind me, that drove me over the edge. I stopped dead in my tracks, turned and shouted at the solemn presence behind me. Two crystalline eyes looked up—looked right at me— and grew wide with surprise. In the waking hours of the morning, I inhaled sharply and felt something akin to a beat inside my chest.
pulling the shoots I fall in love with her while my fingers are over hers, two pointer-thumb duets pinching a little wavy ridge across the top of a dumpling. 恭喜發財 is what the words look like. She says them wrong. (I already fell in love with her once, but it’s this: the reverence in her hands, her genuine curiosity, the way I feel—for once—as though I’m authorized to speak on behalf of myself. Authorized by a white woman? I won’t think too hard about that one, not now or probably ever). After five hours of this I’m too exhausted to get drunk or even to fuck, but on a regular night I would’ve spent ten minutes on the ropes alone, just making sure she’s not lying to me when she says it doesn’t hurt. Even with permission, I’m afraid. I’m going to hell and when I get there I’ll think about how she felt. Fantasizing. Quoting a childhood book of old Chinese sayings to myself
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when I sleep, fluent in dreams even though I haven’t spoken Cantonese properly since I was in diapers. She’s 揠苗助长. (I don’t usually forget that one). I burned the inside of my forearm a few times while I was frying dumplings for her on New Year’s, watching her sidelong, her fingers plunging across the ridge. Later she takes my chopsticks and puts dumplings in my mouth, the way I want to put my own fingers in my mouth after I’ve touched her. She is divine, goddess of the moon, inhaling my skin like a ridge of twice-formed dumpling frills, pulling me home in a cloud of cheap oil-grease-smoke as though it’s the easiest thing she’s ever done.
pulling the shoots
tether - i She walks a very fine line between afternoon sunlight and golden dusk. In between them she shines. The light on her hair turns my stomach with something like anxiety and I squint and burn, feeling the whole world shift boulders beneath my feet until I am spiralling past stars that look like her eyelashes and the fidgety tips of her fingers. Drugs creep like snails through my system. I run from every feeling she hurls my way but it’s all accidental, a ripple of breath under the surge of a tidal wave on the shores of Lake Ontario, where there are never any tidal waves. So every time I see the light on her hair I shiver to the marrow of my bones, minnows in my blood, and they wriggle like captive sea urchins under the assault of intertidal detritus. I could fly fifteen hundred times through this sky and never find shapes in the clouds. No man on the moon. No faces in my room. I shudder and shudder until the whole earth is shrugged off my shoulders and every star collides and she becomes the sky, where I fly, fifteen hundred times through it, even though there are never any shapes.
tether - ii I shiver until it all connects. The weight of her hands, the snap of her eyes, the drift of her mind. All of it comes together like leaves twirling through an ashgrey dusk in the basin of a deep forest, converging to one mutual point in time as though the winds had planned it all. Summer gives way to fall. The longer I watch her the more tired I get. The more fluttery. The more unsaveable. I drift and shudder and when the tide comes in, she puts her toes on the waterline and I feel the entirety of the Pacific ocean flip my stomach over, like I'm nothing but a string of kelp. Like I'm a buoy out past the harbour, too close to sleep and too far to help.
tether - iii Every night feels exactly the same but in between breaths there are shifts, pulls of universe fabric where little stitches and embroidered flowers come loose and fray. Within these I toss and turn. At night when time expands and contracts like a lung the hours run past me too quickly or too slowly, depending on the milliseconds and how they sort themselves. Sometimes the moon is too bright through my window. (I'm never going to put up curtains.) I twist like a sardine in a net, floundering after something unreachable, can’t stop thinking about her fingers down my spine and inner thighs, flurried and breathless. Over mountains and prairies she calls to me, in a voice like a gunshot. I let the moon burn holes through my eyeballs and around five o’clock in the morning my entire body gets up and leaves through the window.
angles of attachment see things // say their names and into sight // a voice speaks believe you // I believe lifetimes // you’ve seen buildings // hold memories ………….. // in place the way // my body fails its own // basic geometry I am tied // to your illness at angles // of attachment I never thought possible
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strength of our materials weighted under // blackout concussion rides // our bodies a mirage // that pain makes of remembering // …….. ……….. // your voice speaks a name // illness knows how shattered // with it we’ve become // bent unrecognizable // testing the strain for what breaks underneath
Meghna Early morning, Orlando, a family sitting in the space between hotel rooms, a lazy breakfast. All of us together, watching our screens alone, when I am fed the news I see her profile flooded with eulogies. “I worked with this girl,” I say, “She died in a car crash last night.” “That’s too bad,” my sister replies, barely looking up. “She was only 25,” I reply to no one. Back home, a mother will post a letter to her daughter every day but eventually the grief is too much to witness. In Orlando, my mother starts to choke. I watch my father drift across the room.
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Somnia if i lie here long enough maybe i'll dissolve froth and lather but i hear foam has memory too maybe i'll sink in salt-sweat saturated sheets a softer sort of drowning maybe i'll stop waking bone-weary from dreams i'm not afraid of into days I am afraid if i lie here long enough maybe i'll want to get back up
Things I learned from our kitchen table with enough time the iron in blood will oxidize into rust-brown, like a coffee stain sometimes i forget it isn’t i don’t drink coffee but i see the spatter and can’t help but think they’re the rings of mugs held in place so long that more dripped out of them than was ever swallowed because two people were too busy devouring each other to realize what they had in their cups
Emerging While weeding materials from the library I worked at, I sought out images of emergence for this issue.
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Dancing Feet We stole away from the rest of the group on our bikes in search of privacy. 60, 70, 80 meters ahead, however far away our legs could carry us before the group would catch us up. Our adventure was drawing its curtains, and I wanted nothing more than for my feet to be still. We veered toward a fence on her whim because she loved an adventure at my expense. I never minded, though. While I was in tow, our bikes stood watch, and dusk allured her to centerfield. She wafted ecstasy; she told me it was sweat. I told her that she was love— and we walked with my legs to the Douglas Fir ahead. She suspended them piggy-back-style and managed to kick in stride. My eyes were forward, but I felt our smiles sync momentarily before marching unified into laughter. My better senses buckled our rhythm, and soon my legs, when a gang of sheep challenged us to dance. My two left feet stuttered their way into motion, avoiding the tops of her toes with a surgeon’s precision. We two-stepped as a four but let our shadows partake
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in their own romance. The herd didn’t take heed of the signs, still imposing with their questionable dance moves. My eyes couldn’t keep the sheep at bay, so they retreated from their wander into hers. Dreamy, North Atlantic Blue, with Saturn’s rings around her pupils— where I recognized myself disbelieving that any of this could be real. We were happily outnumbered because we found the sheep a spectacle, thinking that they thought of our moment the same. The leader boasted his black wool as he led the charge. Two-step. Twostep. Two-step. The dancing sheep weren’t dancing. They charged at us! It was our turn to dance again and we mimicked the sheep: Two-step. Two-step. Two-step, and sprinted back to the bikes. Mid-way, we paused. Are you insane! I don’t know if sheep maul, but, Lord, I ain’t gonna find out! She loosened me up like a thief. Stole my rhythm and a kiss!
// hold // home / as duelist kingdom / where yu-gi-oh cards revive / a zombie dragon / with red eyes / it doesn’t matter / the hurdles / when atlanteans & amazons roam / the field / attack / defend / their tribes / or how machine / angels coexist / the ancient gears click / a chaos giant / shimmering / beneath the off-white animal / of lunalight / whenever i draw a harpie queen / i send her to the grave / paint the landscape / into hunting ground / i promise / i’ll rip the throat / off anything / that tries to take this away / from us /
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💜💜💜 before you explored the oceanography of loyalty then rose above it, gull with fish in beak— i spammed you with purple heart emojis you say you still trust we can stitch this wound, clean the plum-red waters of infidelity i want to salvage the braised muscle of a purple heart purple / pulse of the inflamed / purple stanza / break / of blood vessels / pool / the body jumps / full / of memory / the skin / smacked lavender / violet & concrete / violent purple / staged as sunset / pedestal / for war / cry / i remember i believe in your better nature i’m here
him do not speak of (all the ways / i etched the same river / into my skin / split canyon / my forearm with razors / like splitting / the red sea / you know / he’d f*** me up / if i called myself moses / called myself manic / with god / shoot / after he left me / the seventh time / my ears filled like speakers / & adele kept singing / go on & take it all / until frazey ford shuffled in / i was taking every hit / from him / drive by shooting / son of a bitch / i’m done / woah / i’m done / with everything / he is everything i am / everything he said i am / i must be oh gosh / we don’t toss language on that / when we listened / to ariana grande’s dangerous woman / he blasted the volume / blasted his foot / on the gas / my highway rocket / man & shook / his palm against my thigh / squeezed or tried / to porcupine a fist / no / we don’t toss language on him / no / not him / not) him *The first set of italics is lifted from the song “Take it All” by Adele while the second set is lifted from the song “Done” by Frazey Ford
H2oh the first panic attack she witnesses in our tiny bachelor pad comes on before we could talk about strategy i struggle to tell her while hyper venti lat ing to grab a can of spark ling wa ter from the fridge place the shock of cold on my ba re ba ck frigid metal will shrink my overwhelm help me focus instead the cracked release of carbonation guides a cool stream do wn my spine spills around my knees on the floor
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crook & flail when The Bangles sang walk like an Egyptian did they mean like you, King Tut, twisted dancing over the desert, half-moon prints in the sand, calloused heels, curled toes clubbed foot grinding the floor thump thump thump laid to rest inside a flawless sarcophagus de/formed beneath three massive masks toes pointed straight, your body re/shaped an im/perfect likeness cast in gold hundreds of staves & sceptres at your side, you held a copper-painted walking stick to protect your rule & your gait a shepherd, a god amongst people a product of dynasties, you are memorialized in quartzite steles / /
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i was nine months roughly carved in flesh scratched into my mother’s womb, destined to drag clubbed feet down gravel roads, along linoleum kitchen floors, not royal corridors thump thump thump young pharaoh— two millennia separates us, yet we both entered this world the same: from misshapen uterine walls predetermined by our gods crooked & flailing
crook & flail
escitalopram a winter hive silent of my subjects i can’t write open wounds sink my pen into galls swollen like an oak i am infected a paper nest fragile my body persists inside trembles full of venom distends my belly five milligram pills a swarm of wasps one by one i swallow
Closer to the Moon The first time I see the stars, I’m four, knees hooked on my grandpa’s shoulders. He holds my ankles tight as if I’d kite away in prairie winds. Regina feels larger than Toronto because it's new and I take up such little space with earthworm fingers stretched to sky, saying, “Grandpa, Look! We moved closer to the moon.”
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Julianna with two “n”s your aura is yellow she said, one curve of hair limp between her eyes I see it like a rim around your hair we were in her car, beat up navy Jetta, our Apollo our Saturn V imagine bodily northern lights I squint to see it on her too, I think, halos; I think, luminescence like auras floating, outlines the car’s headlights hit the parking lot snow reflects back to us, powder of shredded diamonds she says, galaxies in a crowd
Lia Barsotti Hiltz
The Engineeress This is an excerpt from my graphic novel-in-progress, The Engineeress. The book is in a square format, and has been modified to suit the publication. This work was recently awarded a grant by the Canada Council to the Arts under their New/Emerging Artists Program.
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Lineage I took a drink of water while I waited. The seam at the bottom of the glass like a fossil, marine exoskeleton of shelled invertebrate, bristles threading out like ribs and the curve of a fin. How little we need to feel kinship. Familiar traces give voice to the earliest creatures, saying, “You are meant to be here. I began it.”
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Milk River Time A woman sits as the sky turns over on itself. Here the air so thick with birdsong it ripples life, spins syrup. The red powder cliffs calve off until the swollen river can't move. She waits for an answer to her wound, she waits for the weather. For ten long years nothing happens, only the grasshoppers get louder. And in the morning God stirs on the south horizon.
Matriarchs I’m small and unnoticed standing in the hallway poking around the corner watching women carved from mountains argue over potatoes clipped tones of a mother tongue I don’t know the disagreement blooms over sounds of utensils crashing in the sink every clang echoes in my chest as heat fills the kitchen spills into the hallway
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each woman hardened against the other convinced if she keeps shouting she won’t hear her heart breaking I whisper from the hallway you’re scaring me you both stand a mound of potato peels between you with shoulders still heavy from what your sharp-toothed mother got from her sharp-toothed mother and will give to me they keep yelling and skinning potatoes these women stretch back in time and live in the marrow of my bones
WEANING Soft flesh metamorphosizes into hot volcanic rock, heavy and foreign, laden with unwanted milk I cannot stop producing.
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THE SLEEPER A tranquil child, breathing out and breathing in, becomes the still centre of all things. The rhythm of her belly’s fall and rise: a steady current coaxing me toward peace. My hand counts each moment. Fifty breaths, a lifetime. A hundred more, eternity.
Atlas To save the house, we must change the Law. But the Law grips its fingers around our home, knuckles white, squeezing the walls until they crack. Up on the roof lives Atlas, holding up Father’s lien, his sweat dripping from the ceiling. We are desperate to set him free, to let him eat, to give him sleep. But we watch his bones break, his spine split, and his hands inflame with arthritis. The lien licks its lips as it fattens and fattens with interest, a ticking bomb that will one day slip from Atlas’s fingers. “Father, can you please try to get rid of the lien?” “I won’t do anything until your Mother and I settle.” “Father says he’ll put your name on the house, Mother, then the Law can’t take it away if something happens to him.” “But how can he give me half of nothing? The house is the lien now.”
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I watch Mother and Father dance like electrons: their positions misplaced, but their velocity certain. They move at such speeds that the air grows hot and thick until we can’t breathe. We don’t know where they’re going. The Law does not know or care about Mother and us. The Law only knows Father. The Law is old and frail, the past living in the crow’s feet by its eyes. The Law only has eyes for married couples. Without marriage, the house is only Father’s. Without marriage, the Law makes us guests in our own home. Without marriage, our home is here as long as Father lives. There’s no way to get to the roof without a ladder, no secret door through the ceiling in the attic. We keep Atlas company from afar, bid him good morning and goodnight under the roof or outside by the walls. I hear him moan and shudder. I hear him curse. I hear him dream about standing tall with his shoulders back. I hear him talking to the birds.
Pyre 1 This piece "Pyre" was created entirely using the underline key on a Remington Typewriter. Normally, the carriage of most typewriters only allows for the size of a standard sheet of paper, with a few inches of wiggle room. But the machine I am using has an oversized carriage that was used for book-keeping back in the day, so this size allowed me to shift the paper in all directions, flipping it upside down and every which way. Exploration of paper shift. Only a few lines piled on each other, build a monument tall, blossoming and spilling over. Is a pyre cause for sorrow, or is a tower for celebration?
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Prometheus befriends his vultures but not before he’s strewn across unshaking stone, among cigarette butts and littered kelp washed ashore at high tide. He could joke with these scavengers, if they’d stop pecking for a moment. For now, as the sun goes down, he watches them take off towards the sun, low in the sky that beckons them. He’d wave if only he could. Smiles at his own entrails, wishes he could taste them. Tomorrow they’ll return, antagonists of myth, to shred his skin, still raw and new and shining. The things we can regrow. The things we can’t. He’d summon back that emptiness again, gaping where his gut is torn and wasted, then laugh, thinking of every fire he has set.
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Vascules It is Lent and the ashes have long scattered, winded, from our respective foreheads. In the late afternoon on a clear warm day in mid-March the mainland mountains hard against the sky across Cadboro Bay. A broken pair of glasses, sightless, warped by tides red all washed-out of plastic frames, sink into sand that’s mostly water. No sign of shatter in glass or bone. We have slaughtered our imagined lambs, gathered as brothers at this stone and sea-shaped altar, fatted and afraid. A child in a grey coat hates the sand, kicks it at a cormorant he chases till it surrenders and takes flight. Casts no shadow over the water. I know I will not get older. I’ll stay and moss some stone until that boy’s clumsy foot rips me and all my rhizoids from the ground. I’m shocked to see holly fruits in spring. We’ll fist into wet soil, dig up all first-ready beings.
mirabilis i didn’t get fat because i was pyrrhic: bone, not adrenaline, no marzipan and lacquer work. one line of bad code and i have never been hungry.
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local honey anyway, most women are shoe shoppers filled with tasty-looking cream and fun to watch without sound. even girls like me degauss their nose hair. yes, i go shopping and shrink and wear surgical-grade lace holding a hello kitty sippy cup. throwing up i am beautiful, eggless. sometimes i think of my previous haircut and still want.
Uncontrolled railway crossing Brakeson gravel road. The passenger window unrolled holds the dog’s soft bone jaw. Her brown eyes follow the dark lines down. Down to fragrant brush and poplar in the heat near noon of late mourning: lemon rind, oregano, black tea, skin of a crab apple, dust, water, salt, rose. ________________________________ ________________________________
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Heave over steel, wood, and time, fastened with cut spikes, dog spikes, Macbeth spikes, spikes like the needle tipped with bruise-blue ink pressed into her partner’s hip. Tattooed ones unsummed, side by side, to become more than two. Consecrated a hard overture, like the royal-shouldered blackbird cries victory. Victory, but the coward-headed blackbird cries deceit, and we descend alone along the broken yellow line, and the beginning of the long dash will indicate exactly o’clock, Central Standard Time. __ __ __ __ . . .
Uncontrolledd railway crossing
territory knowing where my teeth belonged I grew picket fence smiles, whitewashed as safe guards blanched out my borders to disguise the foam and blood inside a silence I wonder if a neighbour’d notice if they knew, my blank eyes dead as pearls
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packs of composure pharmacies offer to catalog your need dispense your doses in blister packs to reduce the risk of accidental over dosing, for a fee of course. I gather the bag of boxes and bottles and walk home to do this myself, to pop each seal the day my meds arrive, arrange my owing by AM & PM for twenty eight doses and stare at the pile of empty cartridges that dropped to the floor as marked for tracing as a bullet’s casting
I don’t write poems I heal them, weep them through veins drain them out my pores mix them to harden in the reaction of a curing I carry pain poems sustained inside my childless belly carry them to term
The Chasm We walked down the central street of the small town. Two sisters, the older holding the hand of the younger. The town, like all others before it, was deserted. Abandoned single storey houses, sporadically placed on the flat expanse. Black soot around broken windows from the long vanished flames. Bullet holes in their walls. Casings under our feet. Silence. The kind of silence that comes long after the explosions and gunshots have faded. After the killers have left and the dead have been buried. After the survivors who could leave were gone. After those who couldn’t leave were also gone. “What is there to hold on to?” my little sister was mumbling, a thousand yard stare in the dust. “Where is the scaffolding? Where is the scaffolding? Where are the doors? How do we lock the doors without handles, without frames? How can we keep ourselves safe when the houses are open? Where are the windows? How do antilang. no. 10
I make decisions? Where do I go? Knowing there is no free will. No agency. No self. Nothing. Just emptiness. Emptiness that consumes everything. Everything is empty now. Everything is gone. Where do I go? What do I hold on to? There is nothing here. What do I hold on to? What do I do? What do I do?” On and on she mumbled like this. Vacant stare, stumbling over the casings. Shuffling next to me wherever I took her. For now, I was all that she could hold on to. She’s been like this for a long time. The war has taken its toll. I had to act strong, keep my head up high for her, look above the rubble and point out shapes in the clouds. That I could do anything other than mumble at the dust, it’s because I need to save her. I have to get us to the chasm. If we were to survive, we had to make it to the chasm. Before I too descended into catatonic despair. The sun was setting over our ruined world. We were its last human eyes as it’s orange fire shifted red and cast shadows over our path. But we didn’t have to die with it. Not yet. If only we could reach the chasm, we had a chance. Maybe. Or so I wanted to believe. Not for myself, but for my little sister. She was born during the war, and I didn’t want her to die knowing nothing but the war. I wanted her to know that another way is possible. I wanted her to know that another world is possible.
Out in the distance, beyond the overgrown fields of what used to be farmland, I could see the forest. I could see the trees. Still and graceful, they were everything we humans were not. A part of me was happy for them. Happy knowing they will soon take over the land we humans once occupied. If our lives and suffering were for nothing, then at least our bodies and everything we left behind might become their food and home. But the chasm really was near. Like a sinkhole that didn’t belong in these flatlands, it appeared as a thin line of darkness ahead of us. Past the ruins, past the abandoned farm fields, it was there. I clutched my sister’s hand harder and walked faster. “We’re almost there.” I said. “Hang on just a little longer. We’re almost there.” She didn’t seem to hear me. Staring at the ground as before, she kept on mumbling. “Where is the scaffold? Where is the scaffold? Where is it? There is nothing to hold on to. I am falling. I am falling into the emptiness. I can’t hold on. I am falling.” When we reached the edge of the chasm, the sun was already half way behind the horizon. Looking into the chasm through my exhaustion, I felt a faint hope. It was a vertical drop into nothingness. Absolute darkness. Bottomless infinity. I could see the chasm’s opposite edge on the distant horizon that swallowed the sun. A vast river of nothingness that separated the two shores. A crack that divided the earth.
I walked up to the very edge of the chasm and embraced my sister. Looking in the direction from where we came, I saw the last rays of sunlight fall onto the world I knew. Pale crimson light illuminated the ruins, the abandoned fields, the forest. It lit the cracked roads on which we travelled. For the last time, it lit the crumbling cities where we scavenged and survived. I pressed my sister tight against my chest and jumped.
FIRST IT IS BROWN, WET, A BUD. A COCOON DROPPED
into a wet balloon, fastened there. Then it blooms into fingers and legs. Toes, arms, a name. A sensation. Some would say a miracle. I will know it is there. I am afraid I will not know it is there. In the moment of my life when hallucinogens transcended my body into pure aesthetic witness, I sat warming by a bonfire and watched orange flames turn purple. The sky had so many extra stars. I could decipher each blue star that had landed on the moon since they started falling six thousand years ago. I counted them all night, my back laid flat over the world’s only logging road made entirely of broken tile mosaic. Somehow it seemed the moon never ran out of craters. Perhaps each of them mattered.
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GRIZZLY BEARS IN NORTHERN CANADA EAT TEN
thousand army cutworm moths per day in the spring. With large and hairy paws they turn over stones and scrape metamorphals from trees. Fill their bellies with a pile of tissue paper bugs. When I was a kid I ate a worm because I looked up to my brother. We turned over stones to find ladybugs, angered bees’ nests in trees. Made bows from brittle branches. Pushed sap warts until they popped in our faces. Did everything wrong. We never planned to have forever together. But when he became the aurora so much sooner than he was supposed to, I looked for him in grizzlies. On the northern Canadian coast, grizzlies are a dozen dimes. How happy my brother would be to scratch his back on a tree bursting with sap warts, belly full of bugs. I imagine him grinning at me with a mouth full of moths; big deliberate chews with wings stuck to his lips.
Suborbital a reflection on the dogged assertions of Twitter’s @spacetravelbot I've been drifting. For a while now. Ever since my thrusters stalled. Ever since I found breadcrumbing, spacebot truths I must have lost. Sometimes it says: I listen. Sometimes it says: I am shot down. Sometimes it says: I test the surface. Sometimes it says: poisoned. Whoa. Houston, do we have a problem? Is there something on your mind? Houston, go and get your brother. Hurry now, it’s suppertime. I sleep fitful. Practice floating. Read the looks. Mark the skies. I am ready. I am receiving. I am rarely on my side. FO-cus, I say in robot chitters, recall the seats, belts and dials. Space ship drift. Massive orbit. Warp drive weft. Engine whine. I am not forgetting lightly. My love sleeps, raucous supine while I browse meteor field photos. Rover knows the moon’s dark tide. I chart a course pressed into vinyl. Arm extended. Needle in. Playback tells me what I'm missing: static, static, halting shushhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
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New patio furniture climate change is dangerous to say 'round here if you're bad mouthing oil, you're looking to be shushed and by shushed I mean… better to put your head in the sands, get fracked every Friday night find a mammoth fifth wheel, tow it behind your F350, through coal-powered haze put an ATV on a rack in the back, shoot shit you don't intend to eat, on land you've forgotten you don't own, laugh hard, live large, buy stuff who doesn’t love new patio furniture?
Corporate Beatitudes blessed are the poor/ for theirs is the streets/ to take with all its scraps, cat-sized rats/ and bubblegum-spit embroidered sidewalks/ so long as they keep away from the eyes/ and ears of the city folk blessed are those who mourn/ the sights and sounds of their home/ in this land of commodification and cultural genocide/ identity is a potluck of bitter-sweet rations blessed are the meek for they will inherit/ all that is left/ of the earth/ its pilfered lands and oceans/ just look at the desecrated boneyards of their homelands/ the anemic bodies of acreage that once nurtured its kind blessed are those who hunger and thirst/ when the (self)righteous have had more/ than their fill/ may the hungry become modestly inspired/ strong-willed, driven mad with miserly ambition/ and one day— someday—find/ a seat at our table
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blessed are the pure/ the soft, the tender/ the shellless crab of a heart/ for they will see god/ sooner rather than later blessed are the pacifiers/ the sons of founding fathers/ the beasts of patriarchs that claim direct lineage to divinity/ round and round the world goes/ practicing, permanentizing/ the calculated errors that brought us here/ on account of such charitable services/ yes, bless them indeed blessed are the merciful/ who may never be shown mercy/ here is your moment of silence/ blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness/ for their names will be honoured/ immortalized as campaigns/ that market products/ deliver the goods/ knock upon the people’s doors/ how could they possibly turn away children/ and migrant labour exploitation/ in the name of somebody who died for justice/ happy asian/ black/ indigenous/ women’s/ pride month/ we stand in solidarity/ while supplies last
My Body Is a Museum of Memories (After the Balangiga massacre) On my face are points to various villages of my people located by early cartographers When I open my mouth recordings of chants and stories told by elders and children play in discordance with the cacophany of burning huts guns in open fire wailing babies fading heartbeats and the fracturing of forest grounds I still keep the collection of burried bullets tucked beneath muscles and sinews where you might find bits and pieces of unfinished skeletons that once belonged to a healer a farmer a weaver a witch a rebel a leader laid to rest Samar is still an open wound in the cavity of my stomach a howling wilderness starved turned rabid with a rage that goes on unpardoned So I am sent here instead
Again and again I inherit the eyes the hands the teeth of my predecessors past the brown shell of a skin blankets like a scab until the justice the healing the work is all done.
My Body Is a Museum of Memories
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Cat Abenstein (she/her) is a bisexual, neurodivergent, white settler from oskana kâ-asastêki (Regina, SK). She’s a spoken word artist and arts administrator whose work explores addiction, mental health, and family. Nikolai Afonin. Luca Jesse Apel is a self-taught artist and recent UVic graduate who focuses on realism and painting beyond the canvas. His work showcases nature and the tiny creatures our hectic lives often overlook. Elena Bentley is a disabled, Métis and mixed ancestry, poet, writer, and editor living in Saskatchewan. She holds an MA in English from the University of Toronto. Her poetry has been published in various magazines and journals. Carlee Bouillon is grateful to work, write, think, and pet dogs on the unceded Coast Salish Territory of
the Lekwungen and WSÁNEĆ nations. She feels her best self in trees, caves, small planes, libraries and bookstores. Yusef Bushara is currently enrolled in the SciencesPoHong Kong University dual degree program. At university, he enjoys writing for the campus magazine, Le Zadig, but spends most of his time penning in his journal or playing a sport. Dani Carter is a Black, queer, non-binary person based in Tio’tia:ke. They have a complicated relationship with the colour pink. Kelsey Collins lives in Calgary, AB where she has been thinking thoughts, feeling feelings, and imagining images since entering existence. Now she is writing them down and turning them into stories. Katharina Davoudian is a Canadian artist and writer based in Toronto. Her writing has been published in several print and digital publications, including Acta Victoriana and The Soap Box. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the digital magazine, Vinci (vincimag.com). Katherine DeCoste is a queer, white settler living on the unceded territory of the Songhees, Lekwungen, and Esquimalt peoples, where they are pursuing their MA in English. Their work has appearing in print and online in The Antigonish Review, Glass Buffalo, Grain Magazine, and elsewhere. Erica Dionora is a writer and illustrator born in Saipan and currently based in Tkaronto. She is in the process 72 |
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of completing her MA in Creative and Critical Writing and is also working on her first collection of poetry. Sarah Foley holds a BA in Political Studies and a BSc in Environmental Biology from the University of Saskatchewan. This is her first published work. Carla Harris is a disabled queer writer, performer and interdisciplinary artist from Treaty 4 territory, living in Regina Saskatchewan. She is currently working on her first creative non fiction poetry collection. Lia Barsotti Hiltz is an emerging comics artist (M.A. in English Lit and Creative Writing University of Windsor) living in Berlin, Germany. She makes the online comic Berlin Tiergarten-Süd: A comics discovery. Delane Just (she/her) lives in Saskatoon and is a current graduate student in the MFA in Writing program at the University of Saskatchewan. She has had work appear in apart: a year of pandemic poetry and prose. Grace Kwan is a queer Chinese-Malaysian Canadian author and MA candidate with a debut collection of creative nonfiction stories, Prelude: & Other Stories. Their nonfiction, short fiction, and poetry have appeared in multiple anthologies and magazines, including Plenitude Magazine and Necessary Fiction. Maya Linsley is an undergrad at the University of Victoria. She is passionate about stories and people, and her writing seeks to provoke, reshape, reclaim, and reimagine.
Matthew Lovegrove (he/him) is a settler in the traditional, unceded territory of the Skwxwú7mesh Nation, works as a Curator in a small-town museum, and spends a lot of time in the Coast Mountains. Shannon McLaughlin is a writer from Calgary, Alberta. Her work has recently appeared in Prairie Fire and Contemporary Verse 2 and was shortlisted for Room Magazine’s Short Forms contest. Lisa Olsen lives in Ottawa, Ontario, with her partner and altogether too many cats. Her work has appeared in antilang., Not Very Quiet, Into the Void, iōLit, and The Night Heron Barks. Anna Pazakova was born and raised in Edmonton, AB, with her ancestors hailing from the rugged mountains of Slovakia. She is a University of Alberta graduate and a Department of Drama alumna. She is co-editor for Lida Magazine and her current works can be found on Instagram: @annapazakova. Christine Pennylegion has lived in and around Toronto, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Windsor. She holds a BA(Hons) in English from the University of Toronto, and an MAR from Trinity School for Ministry. Read more at christinepennylegion.com. Ren Pike grew up in Newfoundland. Through sheer luck, she was born into a family who understood the exceptional value of a library card. When she is not writing, she wrangles data for non-profit organizations in Calgary, Canada. http://rpike.mm.st/
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Sierra Riley (she/her) is a creator based in Vancouver, with work published digitally and in print. Calum Robertson is a tea-drinking riverbank wanderer from Calgary, Canada. Their work has appeared in Bourgeon Online Magazine, deathcap (by Coven Editions), and Tofu Ink Arts Press, with work forthcoming in nōd magazine. They hope to be reincarnated as a peacock, next time around. Michael Russell (he/they) is a queer, disabled poet from Toronto. His first chapbook, Grindr Opera, is available at Frog Hollow Press (Dis/Ability series #15). He thinks you’re fantabulous. Instagram: @michael. russell.poet Kevin Stebner is an artist, poet and musician from Calgary, Alberta. He produces visual art using old videogame gear, and produces music with his chiptune project GreyScreen, post-hardcore in his band Fulfilment, as well as alt-country in the band Cold Water.
Editorial Jordan Bolay holds a PhD from the University of Calgary’s English Department on Treaty 7 territory. He is the author of two chapbooks, poems f(or/ro)m my father | poème a/à mon père (Loft on EIGHTH) and how to make an English exam interesting (The Blasted Tree). He writes, edits, and teaches literature on the unceded Summer 2021
territories of the Sc'ianew Beecher Bay First Nation on Vancouver Island. Tea Gerbeza (she/her) is a disabled poet and digital and paper quilling artist based in Treaty 6 territory (Saskatoon, SK). She holds an MFA in Writing from the University of Saskatchewan and an MA in English & Creative Writing from the University of Regina. Tea’s poetry has most recently appeared in Spring, antilang., and We Are One: Poems From the Pandemic. Her poems have won an Honourable Mention in the 2019 Short Grain Contest. Allie McFarland holds an MFA in Writing from the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of English. Her debut novel(la), Disappearing in Reverse, was published fall 2020 by the University of Calgary Press as part of their Brave & Brilliant series. She is bi, drinks martinis dry, and currently runs a not-for-profit used bookstore on the unceded territories of the Lekwungen peoples of Vancouver Island. Lissa McFarland is a (mostly) visual artist from Calgary on Treaty 7 territory. Her work has appeared in NōD, Hooligan Mag, and antilang. She has designed and illustrated the cover art for each of antilang.’s print anthologies as well as The ALP’s logos. She's a lesbian, intersectional feminist, sandwich connoisseur, and Naruto enthusiast. You can check out her artwork on Instagram (@lil.trshlrd) and contact her for commissions and custom designs at lissamcfarland.com.
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Contribute to antilang.
What we’re looking for: Good. Short. Writing. Previously-unpublished work by Canadians (broadly defined) in any form or genre, as long as it is brief and of exceptional quality. Poetry, short/flash fiction, creative essays, fictocriticism, flash memoir, photo essays, comics, postcard fiction, and collaborations across media. We support diversity in both the form and content of writing, and we prioritise voices that have been systemically silenced or have otherwise gone unheard. We welcome and encourage simultaneous submissions (because you should have the opportunity to submit your work widely). 12-point Times New Roman, one inch margins, maximum SIX (6) pages, regardless of form, genre, or number of pieces. ONE (1) piece per page, regardless of its length. Provide your entire submission in ONE (1) document and please only submit once per reading period (short stories and poems can be submitted together). Please double-space all prose. MS Word files (.doc or .docx) for textual pieces PDFs or image files for visual/hybrid work. Please send all submissions via Submittable and include a 30 word bio (we are all about concision, after all). @antilangmag / antilang.ca