spring 2022 no. 11
trans form ation
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. 11 transformation Published by The Anti-Languorous Project on the Unceded Territory of the Lekwungen People in Victoria, BC, Spring 2022 Edited by Allie McFarland & Jordan Bolay Layout & Design by Jordan Bolay & Lissa McFarland Cover illustrations by Zoe Yaarah Logos 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 has operated as a non-profit organisation since its inception while maintaining that authors and editors should be paid for their work. We encourage readers to support their local artists, litmags, and bookstores. @antilangmag / antilang.ca
antilang. no. 11 transformation
Contents A Note from the Editors vi
William Wither 1 A Good Place to Rest Your Egg
Amanda Merrit 4 The Farmer's Almanac 5 Nephology Simon Brown 6 and i cried the juice of every fruit
Dawn Macdonald 8 Complete Guide to Home Preserving
9 Telescope Jessica Lee McMillan 10 The Pink Cloud of Sobriety
11 digit spaces 12 Lunar Debutante
Miranda Kanter 13 I told them all about you Frank Klassen 18 Lazarus 19 No easy words Owen Schalk 20 Freighthoppers Adrienne King 24 divisible by 4 26 the parable of the mustard seed
Ewan McPhee 28 An Impasse Sabrina Vellani 31 eternal 32 canadian winter Alison Gadsby 33 all that i had 35 Twirling Shannon Lise 37 Eventual Calm 38 The Age of Rain Victoria Windrem 39 Bookmarks Reba Kingston 45 Salt as Place Nicole Robitaille 47 Mimosa Pudica (Shameplant)
Bailey Schaan 50 Grow With Me Calum Robertson 53 Foxy Girls (& Cockerspaniel Boys)
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Zoe Yaarah 57 Stretch Marks Kitty Hardy 58 The Absence of Animus Cathie Borrie 69 sing the long journey 70 betrothed to Time Contributors 71 Editorial 75
A note from the editors: It's with a heavy heart we share that this themed issue of antilang. will be our last. At least for a while, in this format. We haven't been as active on social media, with On Editing posts and news updates, or just generally engaging with the writing community as much as we'd like. Some of this is due to the whole covid thing, and some of it has a positive twist—we've been busy with exciting new jobs and other personal opportunities. So, we decided it's time for a break. Time to reassess and, when we're ready for it, take a plunge into reimagining our platform and the way we connect people with Good. Short. Writing. Still, rather than mourn this phase, we wanted to celebrate the awesome potential that rest and meta-morphosis can have. We put together this last themed issue, editors' choice style, on the topic of Transformation. We thank you for joining us on this journey over 4 years and 11 issues, and we look forward to what embers the future holds.
A Good Place to Rest Your Egg Bugle boy played his nose ’til dawn. The mourning cry of a summer gone. Leaf kid rose with a stem in their cap. Outside, the cold air flecked the grass and snaked through the cracks in Leaf’s kitchen window. “That’ll cause another tornado,” they thought to themselves, and grabbed their hurricane broom to sweep the excess out of their house. Once the job was done, Leaf kid carefully picked up their collection of egg timers and placed them back on the shelves. They wound them each for a minute, and heard them hum ‘thank-you, thank-you’ in A minor. However, one would not tick, no matter how much Leaf wound it. “Wound is a wound,” they said, turning the timer over and finding a crack in its base. They shed a single tear antilang. no. 11
which sunk into the earthen floor and sprouted a pea shoot, curly like a Q. They dug a hole in the ground and whispered a message into it, then covered it with leaves. At home, Rickard stood over the sink with a tooth that was loose, wrapped in gauze with a nylon noose. The tooth pleaded for remorse, but Rickard leaned her head back and popped the incisor from its gum as the floor bubbled up below her. “Oh, a message.” She blubbered as her gums folded back over each other to form a new root. Rickard leaned low to the ground, popping the bubble with a pin, and heard Leaf kid’s message wheeze through the hole. “My egg timer has gone. Meet me at the mountain.” Milk Mountain was always winter, covered in excess powdered milk that no one knew what to do with until Vesper made the suggestion. Now its north side was an all-season ski resort while the south was left as a scrap junket, the mountain itself made from trash. “Help me find a good resting place,” said Leaf kid. And both they and Rickard plodded up the mountain in their padded styrofoam boots. The boots went ‘crunch’ when the powdered milk would not, and so the sound of snow filled the air as they climbed. “I pulled another tooth this morning,” said Rickard, searching under a stale mattress. “Congratulations,” replied Leaf kid. “How many more until you have enough for a kid?” “Only two,” Rickard smiled. 2|
Leaf kid looked below the old seats of a ferris wheel, then at an off-kilter shelf. They carefully placed the broken egg timer in different places, then leaned their ear close to hear if the timer hummed. “Nothing yet,” said Leaf kid. “We’ll find something,” Rickard assured them. Sometimes the shouts of excitement from the mountain’s north side made their way around the peak and turned into butterflies that landed on the wreckage. “Oh Leaf, I think I found it,” cried Rickard. Leaf kid solemnly walked over, the egg timer cupped in their hands, and looked as Rickard peeled back a cloth. “It’s perfect.”
A Good Place to Rest Your Egg
The Farmer's Almanac Washed up again on the prairies I smoke the short sunlit hours while crows peck felled corn in frozen tracks. History, laid waste for miles, is mute as the frosted air. I have no treasure map, or Midas maze, no legacy that song and silence can now name. That love could save. Beneath the tires of two-ton combines turned soil calls back the dead. Why do worms and beetles leave our bones for last? In spring the flatlands stink with possibility. We wait the long winter to see what rises.
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Nephology Whatever i am of an ‘I’ is standing still, but feels like vertigo, like stumbling inside wave-particles of light as they fold over the hard edges of belief, softening corners of i-things and you-things. i’d like to think i’ve given up my claim to knowing; yet here I stand on wet pavement beneath a barnacled sky. My feet hold ground, which is something. Though not the something i want. i’d rather all my agitated particles were passing through everything else agitated and spinning on the spot, especially you. i want to be a conditional state only, to escape the intransitive, taken up by every thing or anyone comprising a network of thingness, myself being no thing, having no self by which a ‘my’ makes sense. No longer would i mistake you for a my, or an our, no longer mistake you&i for an anything; so finally we bear no special relation other than a courteous swapping of electrons when a you-thing passes a me-thing, which dissolves the illusion of boundary and makes our separation a joint project. Like clouds, bowling past on different belts of atmosphere, unconcerned with what they designate.
and i cried the juice of every fruit and it was nighttime nose, and it was moss, and it was sand, and it was green sand, and i didn’t understand it, and i didn’t pretend to, and i laid me down like a utensil and it was thunder, and it was trembling, and it was sneezing, and it was heaven wide open, and it was a dove descending, and it was low, and it was damp, and it was descending damp, and it was spring, and it was fall, and it was juice all over the floor and it hurt the ears, and i had ears, and i was dead, and i was born, and i was shrivelled raisin, and i was all raisin, and i was cipher, and i was swarm, and i was lipstick ears, and i was all ears, and i was lumpy, and i was smooth, and i was no ears at all
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and i was a spoon, and i was a fork, and i tried kindness, and i cried juice, and i cried clouds, and roots grew, and toes talked, and trees fell, and blankets fell, and blankets burned, and faces burned, and faces became new faces, and i cried the juice of every fruit
and i cried...
Complete Guide to Home Preserving Inside me was a jar containing one pickle. I smashed the jar. Ate the pickle. Grew another jar. This jar contained brine. I opened the jar. Drank the brine. Put the jar back. This time it stayed pristine.
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Telescope every James Webb telescope incinerates an antheap in an edgecity backyard where the little boys are already officers and gunmen the nation flutters towards the stars every nation is a folded-over piece of paper each star sucks down its own light
Jessica Lee McMillan
The Pink Cloud of Sobriety bypassing slosh line up for the wine I feel like a rain fizz lagoon hands untangled in heavy legs on the glass I’m blush in sunset swimming I smell clear morning when I see double fisting my smug pink brain cells drink the spring medicine
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digit spaces take up residence in lustre glitch of text, the corrupted disk called poetry: agile expressions of letters occupying
shimmer a lake of fonts. in the operation of reading, we words cut from the page into the mind leaving ghost stencils. we are the scry reading digital spaces for signs in the palatial.
Jessica Lee McMillan
Lunar Debutante Hot incandescents dress skin cold cream wicks circular tub mortician’s paint or carnal backstage slightly rancid foundation with perfume edge chemically laced in cosmetic counter parade of spirit gum bottle of viscous sea poised for bubble gum prosthetics half-moon eyes of astronomical shade and adrift clippings for beard to weave enhancements and subtractions in push ups and chest binders fishnet webs cording flesh for ritual of costuming or preparing the dead
Jessica Lee McMillan
I told them all about you Cars shriek in rush hour gridlock, air slicked gasoline. I chip my teeth on concrete, unable to swallow and bend to suburbs. Trees, too, refuse—extend branches North against winds caught in locks of my hair. Miriam, I think I hear the leaves whisper— Miriam. Rain from earlier that day rinsed away heavy heat that battered us for weeks. Specks of ember flicker against partially burned wood— I can hear the logs hiss as
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it finds every layer that’s still damp. I breathe in the cooled air until my lungs can hold no more, flames leap from the wood where I blow. Smoke seeps into my hair and clothes and I know it’ll stay with me for days. Underneath the smoke, wet moss and dirt tickle my nose. I lie on my back and melt to the ground— and for a moment I escape my body, or become more rooted in my body than ever before. Freckles turn to moss. Hair sprouts blades of grass from the ground, I smell bark scaling my cheeks. My fingertips can hear the soil talk to me, surrounding trees. With ease I swallow each drop of rain that falls my way— Miriam. We flip our canoe and swim to the air pocket that forms underneath, lips tints of blue from the lake only thawed by the surface. I jolt and squeal when something tickles my waist. His laughter echoes along the walls of the canoe, splintering off into the water bit by bit. There’s a kind of hunger I smell on his skin when he looks at me now: heaps of sweet sugarcane to conceal something rotten underneath. My stomach sours from that hint of rot. He touches my waist again and laughs when I jerk away—I wish we could go back to being twelve when he didn’t look at me this way. I 14 |
take a deep breath and submerge, expelling my lungs to sink further, and further— where skipped stones wedge into my throat. I try to heave and cough them out, though I’ve already spent my air. Stones bloat inside my stomach, pebbles in rows along my veins. I see the sky in ripples as I line the bottom of the lake. Streaks of pink and orange track where sun fades West, indigo pinches off daytime shades. I watch the sky shift until my eyes fill with sand— Miriam. A sliver of sky stares back at me from where I lie on the ground. Stars hide behind treetops, peering down through the branches with disgust. I wish I could apologize to them for what they were made to witness. My hands fumble for the waistband, nearly too weak to pull my pants past the knees. I wait until his footsteps fade before getting to my feet. Keeping my body together and upright takes more effort than I’m used to—it seems that my bones are elastic. The path is heavily armed by forestry on either side. I turn on my headlamp, the flashlight on my phone, and midnight swallows them whole. The tips of my shoes I told them all about you
inch over the gravel and stick—my legs seem to have no memory of ever walking here. I step onto the path without knowing where it might lead, and midnight swallows me whole— pooling in my mouth, a sourness where alkaline belongs, I bite my tongue. Sky seeps through pores, no longer see myself when I look down. Wind tugs my waist— each step forward loops back to that spot in the forest. Roots wrap my legs, anchor and pull six feet. Soil fills my chest, last breath passes without notice. Trees can sense their newest arrival finally settle. By now, someone who looks like me stirs in my bed. They check the time with eyes identical to mine, tells my story exactly how I would. They still find the odd leaf in their hair, presses it to their palms. They run a hand across their chest, fingers ache over pieces sensed missing or misplaced. 16 |
I pass messages along the roots— a name that lets you know, I’m right where you left me. Our name— or a version of it, that calls you back home. םָיְרִמ I whisper from the leaves— Miriam.
I told them all about you
Lazarus It’s as much what you do not say or do, the silence between words, shapes, sounds that makes the art the art that wove wolves into a dog that curls around her in her sleep, keeps vigil on the silent spaces of the night, the ancient conversation that also made an ape into a woman who held his giant paw and dreams of running with him years after he’s gone.
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No easy words I’m sure they couldn’t have anticipated antiquities would be picked from the ruins, statues of the virgin now made beautiful in brokenness, sold all around that wall nor could the firing squad conceive of us, two generations on, and how we reached out, put our fingers in the holes that bullets made and probed the ragged, chest-high hollows. I never thought I’d have no easy words in the face of ugliness like this: just how much force it took to chip the unresponsive stone, the effort to distil the powder of a hanged man’s hand for steepled bullets, and to fashion shells of brass, when all the bodies were so soft.
Freighthoppers A nickel a day was all Davis needed. Enough to buy a carton of eggs. While waiting between stations each night, he stoked a fire and dug the cast-iron pan out of his backpack and scrambled six eggs. He ate them with a wooden spoon he kept in his sock. Then he hopped a freight train and rode it to the end of the track. He cooked the rest of the eggs for breakfast and began his hunt for work. Saint John to Vancouver: that was his route. He didn’t know the way, but as long as he was moving west he wasn’t worried. He worked whatever store or construction site or drought-starved farmstead was within an hour’s walk of the station and ducked out before dark, never again to lay his eyes on the floors he polished or the rooves he shingled or the heaps of dead grasshoppers he picked out of kitchen cupboards. All he asked was enough to buy a carton of eggs, and sometimes a pack of cigarettes. Water was a tertiary concern. If he needed, he could suck a stone. 20 |
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The Prairies were a bust. There was little work for a farmhand besides sweeping up dust and insect husks, and nothing for a man like himself who hoped to start a farm of his own. It was all dirt and droughts and grasshoppers that sizzled like soda around your ankles. “Dirty Thirties” didn’t begin to cover it. There wasn’t a single thing that shined. The dust got in your pores until you were even sweating dryness. There was no stable employment out there for a man of the land. Maybe, he figured, things were different in BC. He got off the train at Humboldt, Saskatchewan and asked the station manager if anything there still grew. He said no, but told Davis that the mayor of Plunkett was building a hospital and might need an extra hand. So Davis hitched a ride to Plunkett. The town was a sad cluster of houses and rusty combines a few kilometres to the south. The mayor gave him a nickel to paint the hospice. While he worked, he chatted with a guy from Manitoba named Jed Crutch. He was balding, round-faced, smiley-eyed. He used to own a wheat farm outside Selkirk until the drought turned his crops to sand. The way he described it sounded almost biblical: tsunamis of dust that levelled houses, tornados of grasshoppers that turned fields to stems in a heartbeat, and seas of leafless trees that looked like bone. There was no future out there, he said. The future was out west. At the end of the day, Davis went to the Plunkett general store and bought a carton of eggs. Out back he saw Jed eating a loaf of bread. Davis started a fire and cracked all twelve eggs into the pan. Jed ate half, Freighthoppers
and Davis ate half of Jed’s bread. They hopped a train before sunset. There was no door in the railcar so the wind poured in, carrying gales of dust and shrivelled flecks of wheat and springy pests they smacked with their shoes. There were three other freighthoppers in the car. Two were sullen, beige men who covered their heads with blankets and quickly fell asleep. The third was a tall, menacing man who cracked his knuckles when he walked. He strode to the corner where Jed and Davis sat and mumbled, “Fare’s two dollars.” Jed and Davis looked at each other. They stood up. When the man threw a punch they dove forward and grabbed him under his arms. With a heave, they threw him into the howling whirl. In the morning they were in Lloydminster, Alberta. Jed and Davis jumped out and asked around for work. They came back empty-handed. As they waited outside the station, stomachs grumbling, they noticed a man walk by carrying a slab of frozen meat. Shortly after came another. They investigated. A few blocks away they found a building with freezers for rent. Everyone who paid a monthly fee was given a key to one unit. They talked to a man on his way inside. He had three keys: one was for his freezer, another for his mother’s, and the third was for his best friend’s. He was there to fetch their meat too. He went in, got what he needed, and on his way out Jed quietly slipped two of the keys from his pocket. The first freezer was empty. The second one held two steaks. 22 |
That evening they cooked the steaks behind a rundown gas station and waited for the train to Edmonton. They jogged alongside it until they found a car with a cracked door. Jed leapt in first and held out his hand. Davis grabbed it and lifted a foot onto the edge, but it slipped and he rolled under the train and the hot, squealing wheels crushed his skull. His body disappeared behind the railcar. Jed gazed out at the sunset for a long time. Then he shuffled to the corner and sat down. A tall, menacing man came up to him. It was the same one they’d tossed out the night before. His face was bruised and his wrist was bent like it was broken. He held out his good hand and mumbled, “Fare’s four dollars.” Jed looked at him. He sighed, rose, and rolled off the moving train into a barren wasteland where wheat once grew. He rose, groaning, and poked his shoulder to make sure it wasn’t shattered. He thought about going back to bury Davis, but he was too tired. Then he remembered the pan and made his way to the corpse. He took his dead friend’s backpack, slipped the spoon out of his sock, and slept that night on a mattress of dust and dead grasshoppers.
divisible by 4 after several days cocooned with you in East Van watching mama raccoons in the yard at night our own bloody cycles synced, I am alone on Main Street still flinching at the sight of men with big dark beards, and tattoos. when I left him, hoarding, bearded, angry, I started numbering the letters in my sentences, my fingers flitting, keeping the count: I require the letters in my phrases to be divisible by four. sometimes I change the tense, sometimes contracting, sometimes turning
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numbers to letters, letters to numbers, or in extreme cases, I count the letters out four times 17 34 51 68 13 26 39 52 21 42 63 84 four is a perfect number: the four corners, the four gospels, a homonym for death in China, Korea, Vietnam, Japan. four is order, the opposite of a second-hand globe hidden in the trunk of his car. of all the promises I couldn’t keep, these two: I can stop whenever, I can leave anytime. so I make three more or, rather, four: to stop buying thrift store shoes too small; to stop smashing things to escape; to stop dividing by four. to stop dividing everything by four.
divisible by 4
the parable of the mustard seed the dog-walkers, palm on palm, unsteady, hold tight to each other down the steep banks to the restive river the heat of early spring thaw wrests the river from ice, the cliffs above sheer: the difference between the body of water and the banks that make it a body whizzed they’ll say later— he just whizzed right past us as some stranger who a moment earlier had been walking with hands in dirty jean pockets, listening to a podcast about parables, pondering the mustard seed, plunges into the open water trying to save their little dog. the stranger’s head, the skin that makes him a body rears up once or twice and then disappears downriver where the ice is still unbroken.
days later they sit huddled in their living room, palm fronds arching towards bright spring sun, thinking perhaps he drifted into safety, perhaps some cavity cradles him above the water’s freezing churn. they try to ward off such thoughts but slip: He is not dead, He is risen. little slips of immanence
the parable of the mustard seed
An Impasse I sat upon the bench with the old drunk and watched the two ospreys out above the cresting white caps, flying parallel to one another and then taking turns flying at an angle to scare off the other, as if one were following the other, but both assumed they were leading and thus found it strange that their follower should come so close to maiming them out above the sea, where each knew that maiming meant certain death, but they weren’t really flying at all, they were hovering, staying in the same spot, flapping wings and clearly exerting themselves but staying counter to the wind, and sometimes one would turn its head as if to say Look what we’ve gotten ourselves into, and the other would shrug as if to say Maybe we should just go home and make a sandwich since we probably have some ham and cheddar in the fridge, but they never did turn around, at least as far as the drunk and I were concerned they never turned around, and he bummed a smoke from me
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and we sat and watched them until the cigarettes were butts and then we smoked two more and it was getting dark and it was hard to see the ospreys anymore and they hadn’t made any progress but they certainly hadn’t given up, and so the drunk said Let’s get drunk and I said Sure thing and we walked back into town along the road past the shipyard and talked about Melville who he hadn’t read but talked about as if he had, as if he had known him like a drinking buddy, like he had been good enough pals with him to pay unsolicited house calls, especially in the author’s later years, when he was holed up in a small room in New York and whiling away forgotten by the world, and then the drunk and I sat down at a long table and got drunk with total strangers, and eventually this drinking devolved into fist fights, and there we were, back to back, fending off the hordes of other drunks (the drunks who had not known Melville personally), and there was blood and glass everywhere but that did not make a difference, we stood our ground and they stood theirs, and we were at what you could call an impasse, I guess, and then the proprietor shut the lights off and everyone laughed and walked out, at which point the drunk said Come on, I’ll give you a drive home, and we got in his car and drove to a house that was not my house, was not even close to my house, but the light was on and there was a white fridge in the kitchen, which always means cold beer, but a figure stepped in front of the window, watching us, outlined by the electric light behind her, and the drunk did not seem very drunk anymore, and he turned and asked me what I thought the worth of suffering was and I An Impasse
said There is a great vanity in suffering and in silence, and he didn’t say anything but his mouth was hanging open in an odd way, like he was mouthing something silently, and all the while I was thinking about how pretentious I was, how pretentious I am, and we sat there wondering whether we should go in, the drunk sometimes placing his fingers over the keys resting in the ignition as if he were about to pull out of the driveway and drive us back into the night but we opened our doors and laughed and walked towards the porch.
eternal if i will dye into space so that lemon juice stains my eyes to be a pigmented star so fiery that no one on earth will design do i matter if i cannot tattoo if i pattern past my own skin what in my mehndi travels time to a mandala the galaxy pastes past my own bridal cones what asteroid nestles burgundy that lawsonia inermis may name and know when henna leaves
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canadian winter her house is built of brown dandiya sticks snow upon the roof white as a tub of yogurt soil underneath in a frostbitten biryani blankets on her couch as thin as her mother’s dupattas television bass vibrates in the beads of ice upon her back she dances in circles in her living room without a smile in the colder nights she drinks a rose or mango sharbat her wrists freeze over and she turns a lime green in her darkest moments she swaddles herself in a red lehenga and like a lost golden bangle from surrey she lies on her floor she is the prayer two hands cupped together in question why does the arctic come when she worships the indian sun
all that i had We sat under a pussy willow tree with the big box of chocolate chip cookies between us, the ones with the cross in the middle. Jesus cookies. They must have been God’s cookies, otherwise daddy wouldn't let us buy them. You stuck your hand in and grabbed some for me and for you. I watched you put whole cookies into your mouth, even though I was scared someone might be looking for them. You were all that I had, so I took them and shoved them up my shorts. You swallowed them one after the other without any milk or anything. After a while, after I saw that you wouldn’t stop until they were gone, I was mad. Mad because mummy bought us new bathing suits and you wouldn't go swimming with me. Mad because she used her own pay check to buy them so she didn't have to beg daddy for money, and because daddy was sure going to be mad as hell when this box of cookies was empty and you weren't going to get blamed for it, because he would yell at mummy, his stinky Pabst
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blue ribbon breath in her face, and she'd be blamed for your gluttony and greed and she'd be embarrassed because, if he bought the Jesus cookies for the church potluck, we'd have empty hands and open mouths as usual, and when she spat back, if you didn't drink your pay check, we could have cheesecake or a tuna casserole, he'd smack her on the mouth. Because you ate all the cookies. I asked you to stop but you didn’t. You said if we don't eat them someone else will and I kicked your blue canvas shoe so hard my toe hurt and I wanted to run away, but you were all that I had so I stayed and you watched me as I slowly ate all the Jesus cookies from my underwear. You laughed. I loved you. I miss those days. They are long gone. You were all that I had and I was all that you had and we lied to everyone but we never lied to each other. When you told me you loved me I believed you.
all that i had
Twirling Jonesy saw the first row of shiny silver leotards behind the float with the old people tap dancing. While most kids were excited for the mayor in his long white car and his bag of candy, Jonesy wanted to see the twirling girls from the Garden City Cheer club. She could do fourteen somersaults in a row and a one-handed cartwheel and the splits all three ways and one day she was going to wear a shiny leotard and flippadeedoodaday all the way down Main Street. She clapped her cold hands when she saw the float with the giant wine bottle because that was the one her mother rode on when she was Miss Grape & Wine Festival in high school. Jonesy turned around, but she couldn't see her mother's red coat. She was there a few minutes ago when the girl from grade six walked by singing the sun will come out tomorrow because Jonesy heard her mother say, "Will it? Will the fucking sun come out tomorrow?" She knew her mother would leave one day because she told Jonesy if she didn't shut up about the cheerleading, she was going to knock on the doors of St. Alfred's and see if the sisters would pay six hundred dollars for Jonesy to do somersaults at the YMCA. The cooler bag with juice boxes and pepperoni sticks was still behind her on the kerb. It was expensive and they didn’t have enough money to pay the goddamned rent never mind fucking cartwheel classes. Her mother wouldn’t leave the cooler behind. Alison Gadsby
One girl flew into the air, but Jonesy couldn't see her through the tears. They felt hot on her cheeks, but when they reached her mouth, they were cold. She should have worn her gloves, but her mother wouldn't cut the string. Only kindergarten kids have their gloves tied together. Jonesy begged her mother because nobody in grade one still had the dummy string. Jonesy rocked back and forth and slipped her hands inside her boots. She didn't watch the girls twirl past her. She plugged her ears so she didn't hear the big girl shout one two three before the smallest girl reached for the sky. When the mayor threw out the lollipops, she didn't take one of them. Jonesy lifted the bag and crossed the street in front of all the clowns with the dogs from the humane society. She went all the way to St. Alfred's. Six blocks and up a big hill, and she didn't stop once. After Sister Louise made her finish every last sip of cuppasoup, the police came into the rectory with her mother. She was screaming and crying and swearing all at once and when the police officer told her to calm down she said don't fucking tell me to calm down. When her mother pressed her mouth against hers, Jonesy tasted her salty tears and it made her cry more. She promised she was never going to twirl or cartwheel again, not once, not ever.
Eventual Calm Let us keep to each other, even as we lose the war on winter, even with the burglars at the gate. Let us bid our house goodbye, clamber out the back window and see how far we can get without being in a hurry, as that is something else we can no longer afford. Let us count all the windows we have looked through together and hold them like berries making juice in the mouth, even after they they have broken. Let us fall together through the long drainpipe of the day, let us land in a heap of dead leaves having lost everything and say to each other how lovely you are still.
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The Age of Rain I have watched the dawn-skinned planet of your body strained to beauty, to a scattering of colossal smiles – the seafume freshness of your flower bright in bloomfall, your piece of being folded in transparent depths of sky as every rage of blossom made me less afraid to die. But there you go with your wading light through falls and falls of rain – now every morning is the same but all the rain is older.
Bookmarks You could always see the rain coming before it actually hit. Sometimes we’d just get the blanket laid out and the sunshade set up when Jo would point out over the mountains on the other side of the lake. It was like someone had turned on a tap beyond the clouds. The sunlit hills turned brooding with patches of darkness. Usually, if there was no thunder and lightning, we’d stay anyway. It generally meant we got the beach to ourselves and Jo and I didn’t mind swimming in the rain. There was something fun about being just as wet outside the water as in it. Mom never went in farther than her knees and even then it was mostly just to call us in for sandwiches or when it was time to go back. She preferred to stay on the sand with a book or just watching us play. Able to relax for just a little while. When the rain or the cold lake water or both finally drove us in, we’d huddle in beside her under the big umbrella, wrapped in our antilang. no. 11
towels, and she’d read to us from one of her secret stash of library books. He didn’t agree with novels, especially when it came to me being the boy. I was supposed to read about the real things that real men had done; math, science, history. I didn’t mind the history so much but the other stuff made my eyes droop. I could get away with reading the paper sometimes but usually, he’d gotten to it first and determined it to be inappropriate for my eyes. “Full of queers and hippies,” he said. But Mom knew how much the stories meant to me, and Jo too later on. In those days you didn’t get a receipt from the library or I’m sure he would have inspected it after she went. As it was, she had a rough job keeping it from him. He had a habit of ripping through our things if he thought we were getting too comfortable. She only ever got two or three at a time depending on how big they were. Usually one for herself and one to read to us. The time between each stolen chapter was sometimes terribly long. She almost always had to renew the books several times. As much as Jo and I ached to know what the characters were up to, we also knew not to ask. In years since I’ve spoken to other children of angry parents and find we usually have much in common. For one thing, we all learn early when to keep our mouths shut. Jo and I barely spoke around him anyway but pecking at Mom for one more chapter would have been un40 |
thinkable too. Neither of us wanted to see that pained look she got sometimes when she felt there was something we ought to have but that she couldn’t give. Summer was always easier. He hated the beach so she contrived to take us as often as she could manage. Sometimes two or three times a week when we weren’t in school. It was only a twenty-minute drive out of town and she kept the blanket and umbrella in her car at all times for quick getaways. I never understood why he let us go there so often while holding so many other things in our lives under his thumb. Maybe he needed a break from us too. I started noticing the bookmarks in early spring when I was twelve and Jo would turn seven. At first, she didn’t let me see, tucking them away in her bag as soon as she opened the book for our precious reading time. But eventually, she stopped being so careful. I think she wanted me to know something was coming, perhaps to ask my permission in a way. In the beginning, they were just scattered words on torn strips of paper. Barely any meaning. Eventually, they became longer conversations scribbled hastily in two hands. I recognized my mother’s tidy letters but the other was an unknown. I liked the way they made their y’s and g’s and j’s into large swoops which underlined the word. The stranger asked about the bruises and cuts. About the sometimes limp. About the way she flinched at loud noises.
At first, her replies were the same clipped things she gave out to everyone else. “I fell,” she said. “Such a clutz,” she said. “Breaking in new heels,” she said. As the months wore on though, she started offering up more and more truths. The day after he hacked up her long, blond hair with the kitchen scissors, she came home from the library with two sheets of paper and a prettily touched up bob. That summer began a cleaning frenzy like we’d never experienced before. She scoured each room with a finetooth comb, packing up boxes and boxes of things for Goodwill. He approved of it heartily because anything that he didn’t personally use regularly was always, automatically ‘junk’. Jo cried when her favourite dolls found their way into a box and got a bad wallop for it. “You have to grow up sometime, little lady,” he said. Afterwards, Mom hugged her and gave her back one of the dolls. “Go put it in your beach bag,” she said. She left stacks of boxes at the door for him to take to the centre when he was going out. “The ones I can’t carry,” she said. We still went to the beach every week and she’d fill up her car with a load of boxes too but we never took them to Goodwill.
The same as always, she’d set up the blanket and umbrella and send us out to play. A couple times I thought to look back to shore and she was still up at the car but not on her own. Another woman, a stranger, was helping her load the boxes into a blue station wagon. Jo didn’t notice and I didn’t ask where the boxes went. August was dying when she finally made her way to the attic. She pulled down suitcases and albums and bags of our old baby clothes. “Let’s do luggage this Christmas for the whole family,” she said. “Those old cases are looking terrible.” He grumbled about wasting money but didn’t argue for once. Many more things went in boxes at the door. The suitcases went into my room. “To keep them out of the way for now,” she said. It was a week before school started. He gave her money to buy us some new shoes and clothes and then left for work. “We’re going to the beach,” she said. Then she filled the suitcases. In went as many clothes as we could fit. In went the last of our favourite toys. In went her secret stash of library books and other books which I hadn’t seen before. The sky was already overcast when we got there Bookmarks
with the car full of stuff. She set up the blanket and umbrella. The blue station wagon was already there waiting with a bookmark tucked under the windshield wiper. “good luck,” it said and there was an address too. I recognized a swooping g in the note. “Go play,” she said. We splashed in the water for an hour or so and I felt like this might be our last beach trip for a while. When Jo spotted rain over the mountain, Mom called us in but we didn’t huddle under the umbrella this time, trying to eke out every inch of freedom we could grasp. Instead, we loaded up the umbrella and the blanket and our suitcases into the blue station wagon. She let me sit in the front for the first time. From that vantage point I watched her look down at the keys to the old beige Chev he let her drive, then march back down across the sand. She waded into the water further than I’d ever seen her go. Her white dress billowed out around her like foam. I counted out ten deep breaths while she just stood there, swaying in the waves, rain making its way ever closer from the mountains. Then she leaned back and hurled the keys as far across the lake as she could. I didn’t even see the spot where they dropped, inevitably sinking to the very bottom. She came back to the car, wringing out her dress along the way, and slipped into the driver's seat. Our latest novel was resting on the dash and she passed it to me after starting the engine. “Read it out loud for us,” she said, smiling. 44 |
Salt as Place Salt is what remains, coated on my lips after hours of surfing. Sea spray and sunshine blinding me on the trudge to deeper water. Paddle, tuck, jump, turn, weightless for a few glorious seconds, and then the slip back into the sea—salt water rushing through my sinuses as I fall backwards. A free nasal rinse, brought to you by pounding Tofino surf. I stay until my skin is puffy and waterlogged, my eyes stinging, my arms heavy. Bliss. Salt and sun also blinded me when we rode the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. The world’s largest salt flat: white stretched out to infinity. There’s a tradition among cyclists that when bikepacking across the salt flats you do it naked. We happily peeled off our crusty clothes and pedalled with the sweet wind hitting everything. Salt slush sprayed up behind my rear tire and stung my back where it hit. It felt like we were riding on some far-off star—everything white and glowing, the horizon just a trembling blur of heat waves, my reflection antilang. no. 11
mirrored underneath me. When I was young, we lived on the prairies. We would feed the calves, letting them suck on our fingers until the entirety of our hands disappeared down their little throats. We gathered round the blue salt lick in the corner and took turns solemnly trying: sticking out our tongues for a taste. My last first kiss tasted of salt. We were naked, appropriately so, sitting at Wreck Beach below UBC. Our hair was wet and tangled from the Pacific, and this girl kissed me. I looked around for any of my profs— we were clear—and then I kissed her back.
Mimosa Pudica (Shameplant) If my mother is a garden, then I mispronounce the names of all the plants that share my carbon base—from the Lil Lie Lilies, to the Christ-in-mom Chrysanthemums— misunderstand the Punnett square as a puzzle, trying to match each piece of my body into each relative that came before it. I misuse the water meant for thirstier plants who are left to drink the runoff from rain, growing slowly under each drop of dissolved phosphorus. I sip from the hose, as others die, antilang. no. 11
filling myself with fluoride. (But I've been as dry as the first day I was sprouted grown short and sore from stretching my roots to a breaking point. All I learned from need was to take when there wasn't enough) I ask the mare-golds what it's like to be flowers in my language of weeds. They know a few words, a petal is a petal in both our worlds but I mishear them speaking among themselves of their lives lived joyously (or) joylessly under the full heat of the sun, misinterpret their stems for danger, collapsing into myself as each bends closer. When I am half grown, crawling roots out of soil to sow new seedling feet to spread myself wide enough to leave and return, I visit the garden, not to fertilize the flowers resting under shadows growing dull in the dark of the gnarled trees branching out like twisted proteins 48 |
tangling around themselves, but to bury myself back into the soil to coil my roots around each dying plant, hoping there is enough fertilizer left to help me fully grow.
Mimosa Pudica (Shameplant)
Grow With Me The scar on my kneecap looks like a wriggly pink worm, squirming under the skin. On the first day of first grade I tripped on a pebble and took a tumble onto the gritty playground asphalt. Today, that little worm remains. I imagine that it could never have been this big on the soft, supple skin of my five-year-old knee. It must have grown with me.
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I remember every detail from that sun-stained autumn day. How the gym teacher in the pylon orange vest slung me over his shoulder and carted me into the school. How the fluorescent lights singed my eyes. And how my tears became small rivers to extinguish the hot pain. I remember how my mom scooped me up from the babysitter’s green couch, which smelled like cooked onions. She took me to the emergency room, where everything felt like shrink wrap. Mom picked my best friend up on the way. That evening we were supposed to be playing with plastic pink ponies. Instead, we leafed through shiny doctor’s office magazines. That day was a metamorphosis. A transformation from innocent laughs to sterile waiting rooms and stitches. I would be there when she tumbled off the trampoline in sixth grade, her collarbone snapping like a dry twig. And she would come see me when my jaw was forcibly cracked like a splinter to mend some birth defect, when we were both sixteen.
Grow With Me
We now compare these scattered scars. Landmarks on the maps of our bodies, pointing to the most broken and bruised and frustratingly fragile parts of ourselves. These swapped stories etched into our very flesh, Each tiny blind worm burrowed into the skin, squirming away from the light of day but towards the deep soil of her.
Foxy Girls (& Cockerspaniel Boys) In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. ~Genesis 1:27, New Living Translation I’m walking downtown, under a bridge, and there’s grass wriggling out from cracks in the concrete. There’s no sun here, except what’s leaking down through the iron gridded rail bridge overhead. Pigeon shit shines more bright than sunbeams diluted by city vibes. I hum to myself, clacking of trains above setting the tempo. My sneakers slap pavement to the same beat. Cars whizz past, a couple feet below me. I’m in a world of my own, bringing my own cosmos with me in this brief venture underground. My skirt billows out. I like to wrap the ends around my wrists, wings that flounce and float with my arms as I skip alongside the sunken highway, under the gritgreen rust bridge. There’s a dead magpie next to a antilang. no. 11
styrofoam cup full of something orange and chunky. I step over it, the path too narrow to avoid the citysick. I’m careful to lift the hem of my skirt just so, high enough to avoid the speckled mess. There’s an upward curve now, sidewalk slouching up, out from under the bridge, out from shadow to pristinely cool November sun. It’s late afternoon; I won’t be home until the sun starts to shuffle off a night-cloak and grab at a day-suit to wear again. I blink in the crisp brightness, downtown, out from under the bridge. I spin, watching my skirt ruffles catch air and twirl. It’s delightful. I catch sight of another magpie, scruffy and hungry looking, flutter down to his dead brother’s side. He nibbles with tender affection at the head. Then, plunging, his beak tears away a strip of breast meat. Shredded feathers cling to the vomit in the discarded cup. The magpie goes in for a second helping, but I’m already twirling again, facing away from the bridge. Surfacing in downtown, city centre, there’s a dozen or so tall buildings winking down at me. Glass sides shimmer in the white light. A thousand drab grey suits, and I’m in six shades of tan, brown, desert sands and mahogany tables and coffee grounds and tea with just a dash of milk stirred in. Corduroy jacket, brown loose shirt, and my skirt. Zebra print Converse. Add a bit of vogue to the outfit. Let eyes dance when they look at me. Dude! Yo, Dude! The capitalized Dude hits me, pulls me from my skip-skipping revery. Someone I don’t know, in a large bulky hoodie, work boots clacking on the pavement, orange hardhat bobbing on his backpack, rushes over to me. They cross a street, the scant few cars 54 |
slowing. He breathes heavy. Out of reflex, I grab for the carton of cigarettes in my jacket pocket with one hand. The other hides in my purse, feeling cold metal against warm fabric. I started carrying a knife with me last year, when Iz didn’t come home, when I had to visit her in the hospital, when they said they couldn’t remember what the guys looked like, only the harshness in their voices when they spat out faggot faggot faggot. Dude! This man seems happy, already laughing at a joke I haven’t told yet. What’s up, Dude? Maybe I do know him. Maybe in an earlier iteration of my life he knew me. Dude, did you lose a bet? Or maybe not. I smile, muster all my Oscar Wilde glib into two letters: No. I walk on. The man stops his laughing. I can taste his confusion. Good. I love leaving them speechless. I’m meeting Molly a few blocks from here. Nearer the river. With a cigarette between my lips, my purse rustles, the hand choosing metal lighter over metal knife. I relax. For a moment. A magpie races past me, colliding with the road. A car skids to a stop, but not soon enough. I look away, trying not to hear the soft huff as a bird dies, bone crunches, flesh squishes and a soul slips off to somewhere else. Still, someone will eat well tonight. Probably another magpie. Carnivorous Cain. Beware of hungry brothers when you die. Crossing the road takes on strange contexts when my skirts swirl behind me. I skip between cracks, tracing the fragile spider-web lines like laugh lines on my granny’s face. No cars. Pockets of stillness motoring along the same roads that, just up ahead, are clogged Foxy Girls (& Cockerspaniel Boys)
and congested, thick with commuter snot. Somewhere behind the glass and steel, a train rumbles by. The sound is warm, earthy, a bass line reverberating through the Citysong. Things seem calm. Tranquil. Car horns, sudden skids of tires stubbing on unseen curbs. What’s hidden emerges. I’m too tense. I always feel like I should be on guard. I think there’s a magpie looking at me, carrion eyes twisting, spirals concentric centering on me. But really, it’s just another winter dusk. Some birds find food, some don’t. It unfolds. And billows. In turn. Folds of my skirt. And I billow. I see Molly on the corner. Smoke halos her hand, cigarette held, spectre angle. Above, a pride flag ripples in a gust, sent by car wheels rushing or a train trundling. A magpie sits atop the pole, chortling. It sounds happy. I relax. I feel muscles unravel, knots fall. I am elastic, I am fluid, I am dancing in my city-movements. Molly raises a hand in greeting. I smile, feel the weight of identity shuffle off. It’s so easy to be caught in history’s undertow. No textbook will really convey the small-scale immensity of this moment. How simple nights out course with the force of time’s ongoing stream. Tracks click by, birdwings flutter, wheels spin, slush spurts up the gutter. Cigarette ash falls, blends into the snow. It’s good here. Under the flag. I am calmer, now. There’s a frozen beauty when day puts on their skirts, paints their nails, lines their eyes with black rippling smoke and goes out dancing as fully night as they were ever fully day. The magpie winks at me. 56 |
Stretch Marks naturally occurring tattoos; permanent cirrus clouds; curves; cutaneous scribbles; streaks; stains; discolourations; parallels; patterns; wearable art; aposematic stripes; camouflage; shreds of ecdysis; chrysalis; cocoon; scraps of silk; brocade; frays; rivulets; rills; rapids; ripples; remnants of tectonic shift; mended land; border lines; little bridges; trails; traces; tissue paper; streamers; sunbeams; meteor shower; long exposures; light leaks; stellar streams; honey; trickles of sap; nectar guides; venation; ivy; branches; growth rings; rhytidome; cicatrices; squiggly scars; imperfections; indications of newly inhabited space.
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The Absence of Animus She watches the horizon yield, its treeline bending under the mass of the setting sun. The last rays lick the bellies of clouds, tickling them pink. She snaps her feet together to stand at attention, just like her father taught her. She salutes the sun. That done, she swivels east to watch the moon rise. Her father taught her to salute the moon too, but it's never felt right. She waves instead, gently undulating her fingers. In response, the swollen moon climbs the sky, bulging to ten times its normal size. A shadow falls across her face, red as spilled wine. She turns, rigid. Her mother's hand dangles toward her like a rope. She lets herself be pulled, casts one final glance over her shoulder at the blotted moon. Clouds obscure her next thought, what she really wanted to say.
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“The moon is full again, mama.” “Yes,” her mother's voice edges on exhaustion. She's tired of this vigil. “It happens every month, love.” Why does the word love sound so melancholy in her mother's mouth? —— The day she found out her father died dawned no different than any other day. She woke to the same bugles that woke her father in his barracks. He had bought her the clock for her third birthday, saying it connected them the way looking at the same sun and the moon connected people who lived far apart. She didn't have the heart to tell him she found the sound annoying. She pictured him rising from his narrow cot and tucking his sheets and blanket tight around it. She followed the same motions with her plush comforter and ruffled sheets. Snapping up her blinds and waving at the sun, she pictured her father's face reflected in its light, complete with whiskers that had crept onto his cheeks overnight. She washed her face, brushed her teeth and went downstairs for breakfast: oatmeal with cream and brown sugar. She smelled its sweetness already. Her mouth watered, as it did every morning as she descended the stairs. She found her mom in her usual chair, drinking coffee, The Absence of Animus
opening the mail. Her mom smiled as Sue dropped into her seat, then resumed reading letters, twiddling a pencil over a half-filled crossword puzzle. The comics sat folded beside her bowl. Sue spooned oatmeal into her mouth, read the comics. The same old characters, up to the same old tricks. —— Her mom stopped moving. A noteworthy occurrence, because of its rarity. She'd always fancied her mother's hands to be barn swallows held captive at the end of her long arms, such a fluttering array of movement they expressed. Dawn to dusk, they'd fuss, with book pages, buttons, envelopes, dishes, hairstyles, bedclothes, laundry, purse zippers, lists and pens. Yet, in this entombed moment, the swallows fell, stone dead, out of the sky. The girl stopped eating, she looked up from her oatmeal as the pink drained from her mother's cheeks, the same way it drains from the clouds as the sun sets. The pink pooled at the base of her throat. One hand resurrected to clamp down around it, to keep it from draining away completely. The other hand held a letter. It fluttered like a moth against a lighted window. In her mind, the girl switched off the light, setting the moth free. The letter fell to the table. “We regret to inform you...” “Mommy, what's wrong?” Something felt very wrong. Every inch of her skin prickled, as though brushed by wind. 60 |
The hands stopped trembling, dropped to fold the letter in thirds and slam it closed. “Nothing honey, just a letter from your father.” —— She kept a picture of him in her locker at school, the corner wedged into the metal fold inside the door. He looked crisp and intelligent in his uniform, even through the soiled creases and fingerprints. She held the photo up and kissed it at the end of every school day. She told him about her grades and classes as though he had asked: How was school today, Suzy? She searched his eyes for any advice he might have left behind for her. Was it hidden in the slope of his forehead? Or clenched in the curved angle of his jaw? Was it clasped in the crinkles beside his eyes? Nothing there. He left her nothing. His eyes wouldn't meet hers, always staring over her left shoulder, at a figure who wasn't there, or who was simply gone by the time she turned around. The end of that school year, she took the picture down from her locker and pressed it between the pages of her anatomy textbook. That way, he'd have to stare at the musculature of a human thigh for all of eternity, and he'd leave her alone. By now, her memory of him had faded. She forgot his face in the sun. She couldn't recall his voice as he told her to track the moon's phases, to understand the The Absence of Animus
passing of time. She no longer woke to the sound of a trumpet. Instead, she heard a buzzing trill from her cell phone. She took the alarm clock down to the box in the basement, with his uniform folded inside, a bottle of his cologne: nearly gone, and the letters. At sixteen, she convinced herself that her mother fabricated those letters, to protect her from the truth: that she was a bastard, a fatherless child. The picture was fake, and the uniform, a Salvation Army special. She saw them there all the time, belonging to someone's grandpa who'd died, or got carted off to a home, and his family had deposited all his junk at a thrift store. The cologne made her wonder. Made her doubt her story. A memory of being tossed up into the bright sun, and caught in bracing hands, laughter, wafted when she inhaled from the bottle. She didn't believe it. She must have made it up. She no longer saluted the sun, or waved to the moon. —— The man said he liked her art, invited her back to his studio with some other artists, for wine and conversation. “I'm not old enough to drink wine.” “Nonsense.” He replied. “And besides, no one will tell your daddy on you.” Her heart fluttered at the mention of her daddy. But 62 |
how could this man know that no one could tell her daddy anything, because she didn't have one. “Come on, Suzy Q.” “My name is Sue.” She shrugged the man's eyes off of her skin. They were too blue. They gave her the creeps. But when she looked at him sidelong, she noticed they focused not on her, but on her painting. “That's good,” he told her. “Very good.” She tossed him a smile and stepped away from the wall. She told herself: his eyes aren't really that blue. “Will you tell me what it means, over drinks?” He winked and offered his arm, curved like a noose, for her to slip her hand through. She let herself be pulled, casting one final glance over her shoulder at the blotted moon. She's not sure why, but whenever she tries to paint a new subject – a face or a chair or a bowl of fruit – it always turns into the moon. The moon with the red stain, an image etched into the back of her eyes, that she must stare at for all eternity. —— Over the wooden door, under a harsh bulb, hangs a sign. It reads Imaginarium. The room is octagonal, a round window in each wall, placed to drink in the light at every angle. The man The Absence of Animus
must be a renowned artist, to afford all this. Does he rent or own? What does he paint? She sees no evidence of works in progress. A huge easel reclines in the middle of the room, a blank canvas leans against it. In this light, it reminds her of a praying mantis. Eight people: one silver-haired woman, and seven men, stand around sipping wine. They laugh in unison. Though they speak in English, their conversation murmurs wordless and alien. There's nothing she can grasp on to. She clutches her wine glass tight against her chest and leans on the ladder, the only solid point in the too-round room. She feels wooden, jerking and awkward like a marionette. Blames it on the wine. “Are you having fun?” He materializes from the shadows behind the slanted ladder. She smiles. “Come on. I want to show you something.” He climbs the ladder, slips through the hole in the floor, dangles his arm down like a rope. She grabs his wrist, he clamps his hand around hers, drags her up. She is limp and pliable. Up here, there are no windows. He flicks a light switch. Thousands of foil stars flicker silver light in shards. It's dark above, so she can't see how they have been suspended from the ceiling with fishing line. The illusion is that they float, shining like cat eyes in moonlight. He stares at her profile, tracing the angles. 64 |
She can feel his eyes; they really aren't so blue. —— The sun leaves the sight line of the last window, elongating the shadows of the assembled crowd. Their glassy eyes reflect the dying light. The praying mantis climbs the wall, its legs reaching for the rungs of the ladder. She pulls her legs up, tucks them underneath her body. “I'd like to draw you.” She shakes her head, knowing with most men, that means, “naked.” He's her daddy's age, the age he would have been. “I thought you didn't have a daddy.” She pulls her sketchbook from her purse and scratches at the paper with a dull pencil. With the eraser long since chewed off, she needs to be precise. Every time she glances through her curtain of hair at him, he makes a face. He makes her blush. A giggle escapes, which she quickly nips back down and bends to her work. Her mom said never to giggle in front of a man, that it makes them think you're ditzy, weak-minded. He burps and slurps funny guttural sounds into the darkening attic. Hides his eyes behind broad hands, peers through spread fingers, then snaps them closed like eyelids. He makes lewd gestures when she turns away, hides his hands when she resumes her study of his face. “Stop it.” She says. “Or you'll turn out all blurry.” The Absence of Animus
“Oh no, we wouldn't want that.” He says, with mock seriousness. She ignores him, finishes shading. The image of his face now held behind her eyelids, he is no longer needed. He doesn't like being ignored. She darkens the pupils of his eyes, dilated in the low light. Captures the playful glimmer with a circle of pure white. When she meets his eyes again in real life, they're not playful anymore. What colour would capture that glow? Burnt orange, edged in blue, like a gas lamp on low? She bends to erase his eyes, to change them. To make it right. She didn't look deep enough. She made a mistake and missed his true nature. But it's too late. The missing eraser scratches his eyes out. He reaches for her as she flips the sketchbook over and holds it up to his face. He can't meet his own eyes. If he could, he'd see what he's become. She watches his face through the holes, where his eyes used to be. It's no use. He wrenches the book from her hands and flings it to the room below. The pages flutter like doves habitually returning to a ruined dovecote, even though it no longer shelters them when the sky opens up. He grabs for her thighs, hooks his fingers beneath the flesh, tugs at it to take some for his own. There isn't enough, she's so very small.
He's unsatisfied. He grabs at the ribbon that wraps her dress around her body. She comes undone, unravelling. A cloud unveiling the moon. As she plummets toward the horizon, he lunges for her so that when she falls against the earth, he falls on top of her. A sickening crunch. A spray of blood paints the canvas perched on the easel. The crowd howls a chorus of hyena laughter that echoes in the rafters. How could they laugh at a time like this? She turns to look at them, finds she cannot. There's so much blood. It slips beneath her, clotting her movements, thickening and slipping as she tries to rise to her elbows. The easel, no longer a praying mantis, has become her father. “Come on, Suzy Q,” He smiles down at her. “I've missed you.” “I don't believe in you.” “Well, here I am. In the flesh.” He pats his chest. The gold buttons glimmer. His uniform is crisp as the day he had his picture taken. The day he completed his training. His face in the sun, frozen in time. “Do you believe in me now?”
The Absence of Animus
She doesn't know. “Let's go.” Her father's hand dangles toward her like a rope. She climbs. Up and away from this quickly forgotten place. “I didn't mean to.” The man says. “I-I'm sorry. I just got carried away. Can you blame me?” But she isn't there to hear his apology. “She made me do it. She enticed me, then ignored me. You saw it?” He turns to the jury, wine glasses, empty and lined up on the sill. The watching eyes had only been windows. The praying mantis, the girl's father, after all, only an easel holding a canvas. And the girl? Red paint speckles every surface of the room. It soaks into the wood grain. He crumples then, into a ball. A white hot point of light sets him aflame, burning him up until only ash remains.
sing the long journey three daughters kiss three times three brothers so ferociously that trees tremble, birds scat, twelve dogs drool, and Sadness is overcome by Joy. but there’s a price to pay, Consequence to wake up beside, tomorrows to protect, and invitations to regret. every seven years one wedding split and cracked. transformed, the wives flew about the world and never looked forward or back. at night, when their need is greatest they ask East Wind to find them eleven princes strong enough to carry on for eleven nights without asking for a nice wedding or money or sleep. the Bride of Golden Ploys kisses three wings so softly that little birds coo and murmur, Nights tell secrets in bed, and God plays Just In Time in middle C.
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betrothed to Time a departure of hearts gave seven brides the bedroom of sad farewells. three of them, thirsty for forgotten words, lay down next to God and wept. downstream, a delight of princes, dressed in shabby chic, would kill to be brides. to keep busy they chant: dear husband, a thousand times every morning, promise their hearts in silence, and whisper: dear prince, once a year at midnight. in the morning, the mother of unnoticed hearts gave all their sorrowing away.
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Contributors Cathie Borrie has a Certificate in Creative Writing from SFU and her memoir, "the long hello~ memory, my mother, and me" is published by Simon & Schuster (Canada). Simon Brown (he/they) is a self-taught poet and translator from Peskotomuhkati lands, in southwestern New Brunswick. Simon’s latest chapbook, oh the iffy night, was published by above/ground press in fall 2021. simonbrown.ca Alison Gadsby (she/her) is always writing. She has an MFA and her fiction appears in some literary journals. She is a first generation Canadian, living in Tkaronto, where she hosts the literary series, Junction Reads. Between her poetry, prose and creative non-fiction, Kitty Hardy hopes to draw lines between the wild and the domestic. Spending most of her days hunting mushrooms in the forest, she still finds time to send Spring 2022
writing into the world as bytes and has been published in NoD, From the Other Side, filling Station and antilang. Miranda Kanter is a Canadian writer studying at OCAD University. They use blended forms of poetry and creative non-fiction to explore memory; how it carries, interacts, and complicates from day-to-day. Adrienne King is a settler and a writer in Treaty 6 territory in Edmonton, Alberta. She spends long winters plotting her garden and short summers failing to realize her plots. Reba Kingston is a writer and wildland firefighter. She is currently writing from unceded Sinixt, Ktunaxa, Secwepemc, and Syilx territories in Revelstoke, BC. Frank Klaassen's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals including Stand, Oxford Poetry, The Malahat Review, Columba, The Dalhousie Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Canadian Literature, and Five Points. His other publications include The Transformations of Magic and Making Magic in Elizabethan England (Penn State). Originally from Texas, Shannon Lise spent twelve years in Turkey and is currently located in Québec City. Her debut poetry collection, Such Excess of Light, was recently released with Kelsay Books. Dawn Macdonald lives in Whitehorse, Yukon, where she was raised off the grid. Her poetry has recently appeared in FOLIO, Full Bleed, Grain, Riddle Fence, and Understorey. 72 |
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Jessica Lee McMillan likes crooked, shiny things. Words in Blank Spaces, Pocket Lint, Goat's Milk Magazine, Rat's Ass Review, Tiny Spoon, The South Shore Review & Dream Pop Journal, etc. Ewan McPhee is a writer from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Amanda Merritt was born on the unceded Coast Salish Territory of the Lekwungen and WSÁNEĆ nations. Her debut collection The Divining Pool was shortlisted for the 2018 Gerald Lampert Memorial award. Recently Amanda was nominated for the 2020 CBC poetry prize, and the 2020 Pacific Spirit Poetry Prize. Her poetry can be found in Grain, Prairie Fire, Stand, and Hart House Review. Calum Robertson is a full-time tea-drinker, part-time daydreamer studying Communications and History in Calgary, on Treaty 7 territory. They have written nonfiction for the Gauntlet, Christian Courier and filling Station. Their prose and poetry has appeared previously in antilang, as well as nod, deathcap, HASH Journal, LIDA, Bourgeon Online Magazine and In Parentheses. Nicole Robitaille is an emerging writer from North Bay, Ontario. Her poetry has been published in Room Magazine and The Brooklyn Review. Bailey Schaan is an emerging writer who is currently in the second year of her B.A. (Honours) in English Literature at the University of Saskatchewan. She is a citizen of the nation called Canada, who is located on Treaty 6 territory, the homeland of the Nêhiyawak, Nahkawe, Dakota, Lakota, Dene and Metis peoples. Spring 2022
Owen Schalk is a writer from Winnipeg whose short stories have been distributed by a variety of print and online publishers, including Fairlight Books, Sobotka Literary Magazine, and antilang. Non-fiction writings have been published by Canadian Dimension, People’s Voice, Protean Magazine, and others. Sabrina Vellani is an Indo-Canadian writer. Her latest work can be found in Open Minds Quarterly, filling Station, antilang., and The Malahat Review under her pen name, Rozina Jessa. Victoria Windrem is based in Ottawa, Ontario and the primary focus of her recent work has been short fiction. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from Trent University. William John Wither is a writer and designer living in Montreal, Canada. They are the lead designer of IMPACT: A Foresight Game, and have been published in The Puritan, Exile Quarterly, and Tales to Terrify, among others. Zoe Yaarah is an emerging poet and illustrator. She has had work published in Toronto’s Youth Action Network Magazine. She recently received her BFA from OCAD University.
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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 territories of the Sc'ianew Beecher Bay First Nation on Vancouver Island. Allie McFarland holds an MFA in Writing from the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of English. She is the author of Disappearing in Reverse (UCalgary Press, 2020). Her second book, Pretty Delicate, is forthcoming with AoS Publishing (February 2023). 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.
@antilangmag / antilang.ca