Mandate Good. Short. Writing. The Anti-Languorous Project is an online open-access creative writing hub that publishes antilang., a magazine of literary brevity, and soundbite, an audio collection of byte-sized readings. Show, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t tell; imply and implicate. Antithesize languorous language. antilang., no. 3 Published by The Anti-Languorous Project Saskatoon, SK, Treaty 6 Territory, Winter 2019 Edited by Allie McFarland & Jordan Bolay Layout & Design by Jordan Bolay Cover by Heather Myers Logos & Art Direction by Lissa McFarland ISSN 2561-5610, key title: antilang. (online) All rights revert to the authors and artists upon publication. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced without permission from the artists. The ALP is a federally registered non-profit organisation. We acknowledge the support of the Government of Canada.
@antilangmag / antilang.ca
antilang. no. 3
Contents Dominik Parisien 1 To write you en franรงais 2 What You Learn, Drowning ryan fitzpatrick 3 A Less Original Life 4 Assembly, For What It's Worth Linda McMullen 5 Lauren and the Robin Christopher Brown 10 Tinder Darling Miles Mattix 12 Daily Update 13 March Meaghan Hackinen 14 El Cien Frances Boyle 16 Beam 18 Choler 19 Unrehearsed Adrienne Adams 20 Origins Cameron G. Muir 21 Inertia Kilmeny MacMichael 23 Love in a Time of Locusts
Emily Campbell 28 â&#x20AC;&#x153;Minor Scratches on Interiorâ&#x20AC;? 29 early bloomer 30 premature Sarah Varnam 31 Flesh Fashions 32 Sanity Carol Krause 33 their hands were full of love 34 passing through Jessica Anne Robinson 35 like mother Rachel Kearney 36 Mother's Pearls Won't Get You out of This One Megan Misztal 38 Salt Lisa Baird 39 When I think of him now 40 Windbreak 41 To the Anti-Abortion Organization That Raised $91,000 to Build an Abortion-and-Miscarriage Grieving Garden Complete with a Statue of Jesus Holding a Dead Baby Redacted 42 Redacted Emma Tilley 45 The Cysterhood 48 Forecast Kate Boychuk 49 Miniature Suns Kitty Hardy 55 Elope Tasnuva Hayden 59 Low Tide Owen Schalk 62 Cried for Night Roger Moore 66 M.T. Head
antilang. no. 3
Rosalind Goldsmith 69 The One Aboutâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; Trevor Moran 73 The Boy Who Brought the Rain Marija Lukic 81 My Roommate, the Vampire
To write you en franรงais Is to remember
I am learning to forget the days I dreamt in a different tongue. I know now words can change across great distances as we can and have so I resist writing you en franรงais for fear the tu of tu me manques might not mean you but only the words themselves. And, yet, French still haunts une ligne ou deux like the half-glimpsed ghosts of our yesterdays. antilang. no. 3
What You Learn, Drowning Lungs full of river his lips breathed into me new life.
A Less Original Life O Jughead, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m tired. I lock my verbs to spin in place. What taste is there in questioning this form? I hate it. Punch the constant clock behind my eyes. Make sense. State sentence. Dense syntax. Tense stack. Slack off. Fuck. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s all too abstract then, this poem an array of debts. A tongue side quench set to mere elocution. Stamped exceptional. Slide knife into collapsed set. Slide outline into category. These sticky thefts.
antilang. no. 3
Assembly, For What It’s Worth Oh, you just put things together is what I heard. I only spent 40 years on it, but somehow connected all the dots. It’s everyone else’s fault. That’s a structural assessment, not an ironic rejoinder or a knee-jerk reaction. It’s tough, the viscosity of space. The relations that put everyone in place. The complexity of it is overwhelming. So, I don’t get reducing an affect to “lol so random,” you know? I try not to miss the non-sequitur for the trees.
Lauren and the Robin A failing November sun transfigures the window into a mirror, and shows a fat robin his doppelganger. His wings startle the glass for the fifteenth time. I had waved him off, sort of, after his fourth or fifth attempt—but he, like Elizabeth Warren, persisted. I put the finishing touches on my review of Monopoly for Millennials for my “occasional” column at the Midwest Falls Mail (“Skip the game and save your money for avocado toast.”). Mom calls, from downstairs, “Lauren, I thought I’d run to Kohl’s, do you want a ride?” Mom is navigating this boomerang generation thing as well as anyone—often by inventing trips to department stores when there’s a 40% chance of snow and my shift starts in an hour. Has anybody in the Twitterverse created a portmanteau for endearing and enervating yet? (#endearivating) “Thanks, Mom, but I’m biking!” antilang. no. 3
“OK,” she calls. When I come downstairs, she says her 30% off coupon expired and maybe she’ll go later. Presumably, whenever I’m working next. “Mom, did you want me to pick up a box of truffles for tomorrow?” The Turners are coming over for dinner, and to regale us with Ryan’s Budding-Genius-In-Residency tales, and to watch the Packers on Thursday Night Football. I guess I forgot to tell Barnes & Noble I needed the night off. But Mom did offer me a ride, so the least I can do is use my employee discount to obtain slightly stale Godiva chocolates. “Yes, thanks, hon.” She’ll reimburse me on the pretext that it’s her friends coming over and I wasn’t even there to enjoy (“enjoy”) it. Maybe I’d be less of an ingrate if I were paying my own rent. The first downy flakes tickle my nose, and my bike whines about its rheumatism. I’m not worried, this snow won’t stick, but passing cars announce doubts about my choice of transport. It doesn’t matter. I coast down East Avenue past Aster, Bellflower, and Camellia (fanciful city planners, obv.) and make a slight detour down Daffodil. I check my watch. I’ve got five minutes, tops. It’s 2:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. Matt’s not home, of course; according to Facebook he got a real job at Alpha Chemical right out of undergrad. But a Prius sits in the driveway— It’s Hadley’s, you idiot. 6|
Amalgamating data from Facebook, Instagram, et al.—the inductive augury/divination method of our day—Hadley is a vegan barre instructor at a boutique studio near the Salem Heights (the only Salem neighborhood meriting a definite article). Because of course she is. All those clichés about how junior-year study abroad can change your life are true. It doubled my college debt; it prevented me from holding my dying grandmother’s hand; and it cost me the only guy with whom I’d ever camped, slept, or exchanged I love yous. The snowfall has gone from snow-globe décor to nuisance. It’s hard to see, but possibly a blonde head is pulling back the curtain… …Heigh-ho, off to work I go. That mindfulness podcast insisted that you should take a moment to appreciate little things. So when I arrive at work, I don’t think about the runny-nosed pre-kindergarteners wiping surreptitious snot bubbles under the train table. I instead inhale the intoxicating aroma of wood pulp, fresh ink, and industrial glue, with notes of bitter coffee and wet parka. Ahhhhhhhhhhh. A line spirals toward the in-house Starbucks; Barbara, the manager, offers her best side-eye emoji impression as I hop onto the register. Dad’s voice in my head says: “How is that English major working out for you, Lauren?” (In real life Mom hissed, “Arthur, really,” and cut me an extra-large brownie.) Lauren and the Robin
“Hey!” exclaims Danielle, when the line ebbs. She forgot to take out her nose ring. She’s the only person from work I actually text. “I’ve got news!” “You won your dispute with Venmo?” She offers bedazzled-Disney-princess-eyes. “What?—no. But I just heard I’m off the waitlist and I’M STARTING MY MFA IN JAN-U-A-RY!” Something lurches between my throat and my diaphragm, though I can probably rule out seasickness inside a Barnes & Noble. “Congratulations!” I squeak. Then, in a humansounding voice, “They liked your work?” “Yes!” she squeals, too ecstatic to note any questionable phrasing. She writes YA drivel—this isn’t a slam on young adult literature, The Hunger Games and The Outsiders occupy prime real estate on my shelf—but, objectively, her writing is missing something. Punctuation, consistent verb tenses, plots not freely adapted from Mean Girls. “I’m moving between Christmas and New Year’s,” she grins. “Chicago, baby!” Not too happy to be generous, she adds, “You should apply too! You’d totally get in.” She smirks. “If they like that sarcastic stuff.” “And give up all this?” I ask, gesturing grandly, as a nearsighted mother drags a crumb-coated toddler by the child-backpack-cum-leash toward us. “I can help you here, ma’am.” Later, Barbara gives me a break from the register, asks if 8|
she can see me in the back room. “Lauren, I wanted to let you know, before—” Here it comes. “I’m going with Sam for the assistant manager job. I’d welcome your trying again. In a year or two. With a little more…” Entire worlds evolve, expand, and explode in that sigh. “I get it,” I say. Matt’s lights are on when I bike home. He’s probably cuddling Hadley on the sofa; I can see the tops of their heads leaning against each other. I’d supplant her without a thought. Who says millennials killed romance? On Thursday morning, Mom asks if I could please vacuum, and I follow the familiar grooves in the carpet. The robin is preening on the porch railing, staring down his rival, who is doing likewise. He launches himself at the hated apparition, with savage slashes of beak and wing; the window rattles and the robin bounces off, bewildered. Then he springs back into action. Again. And again. I throw open the window, and shout, “It’s November, dumbass! Aren’t you supposed to migrate?” Laura and the Robin
Tinder Darling We went to the zoo and watched the bears. It was your idea—animals were something we had in common. Baking, local sports, road tripping, ale. We kept the careful space of strangers who might, in a crowd, accidently collide. I spilled myself how I always do, a watershed too eager to prove its depth. And you responded with that quiet I’d grown familiar with from all my flops before you. I would have fled except for the sudden, gentle weight on my shoulder, your hand like a wish granted. You steered me toward something in the pen beside us, a blackish heap just out of view. Bear in the shade. —Is it sleeping? —No, it’s hiding. From us. Later, when you ended things, I social-sinned and called you. Startled us both. But I thought we had something. The mercy in your touch. I knew I could be disorderly— know. If that was off-putting, I could chill. Would chill. 10 |
antilang. no. 3
I told you this and picked at a zit on my neck til it bled. The bear never moved while we stood there. People passed, the sun crept over, and the bear never moved. If you watched close enough, though, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d see the reluctant rise and fall of its belly: nature, the traitor that it ever was.
Daily Update Sunlight bounds in after all. A scattered flower, a fuzzy speaker, clean the beater with the birds flying out, the children claustrophobic. Your euthanizers trail confetti across the plains.
antilang. no. 3
March First, a fossil, a helmet you liked to hum, a long grass rustle out into the sea, a gust of molars from a muttering grave.
El Cien Cardon cactuses spike from grit, mountains bluing into the distance. You and I cycling this heat-weary highway for weeks, each day a repetition of the last. When we break for water I swear I hear the asphalt crackle under sun. You lost supper last night on gravel behind a taco stand, some small town miles from anywhere. You crunched back to the tent, asked what we were doing here. It’s been so long since we left. I quit my job for this, you said. Today, I point to a prickly pear cactus bent into a gingerbread man, a turkey vulture’s wing-fingered shadow—as if these small spectacles will persuade you. A switch-backed slope before the highway arcs into a bowl where things become greener—from some concealed seam in the landscape butterflies pour in. And the fluttering parade, postage-sized specks, jolts my memory so I recall 14 |
antilang. no. 3
El Cienâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;one hundredâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the name of the Baja town where we slept last night. And now butterflies beat by the thousands, sky a chartreuse cloud, thrum of wings and I no longer need to explain.
Beam —cuts through murk, sifts sediment through fingers suspends it in the sparkle-tour sabre that pierces in moments of splash— tossing water drops so light-tips shine. —reaches for waterstriders’s skate over surface, undercuts frog croak, cicada zing (so few her friends so short her stay) angles at dawn and twilight, turns water into trifle— thick layers that filter one into another.
antilang. no. 3
Beam dapples through tree branches, caresses ripples, plunges for depths challenging the shallows, the pebble rush. â&#x20AC;&#x201D;sings choruses of warm, hums her way through daylight, invisible until she strokes through water, greens it new.
Choler Skyscape of shaking fists, credulous timpani-clatters. I quake with the others, feel our terra firma buckle beneath, the anger a simmer, a settling fire. Why is the earth angry at heaven? The stars shed tears, the sun sweats with the effort of making dirt breathe, respiration a release into warmth. Earth, a sulky teen, wants to make it on her own, absent the overseeing single eye by day, the winking spies by night. Earth resents the expectation of gratitude that shines down with the light, pours down liquid with rain, taps a morse code reminder with hail or snow. The earth is angry, grumbling, afraid the many faces of heaven will turn away, leave her as a cold blue stone. Note: The italicized phrase is from Louise Glück’s “Copper Beech” in The Seven Ages
Unrehearsed A day of vast clouds and sunshine built upon ghosts. Bird calls are sirens, allarums. Half-empty courtyards where echoes wind and welcome you. Black silhouettes on fence-tops see-saw through summer slush. We enter rapid stage left, astrut, practice our pacings, our automaton grimaces.
Origins My mother picks alfalfa off the road. Tastes, asphalt with her nose, picks the sun clean. Sky dreams as farmed woods fold history within their bellies. Baba, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve become a black sheep. You taught knitting needles to dance once, I remember how bitter peas polkaled up your lawn, ringed â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;round your garden, and horse-radish tears spit wooden spoons. Grain threshers chased children through fields. Rocky Mountains birth your memory, smells like alfalfa to me.
antilang. no. 3
Cameron G. Muir
Inertia When I was fourteen, I sat in the very back of our familyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Dodge Sportsman van as it ran out of gas somewhere along Highway 39 between Weyburn and Yellow Grass. I seemed to be the only one to notice the sputter, the engine dying then catching again, the slight changes in momentum. Framed in a window beside me, the late summer swaths of grain streamed past in orderly lines. If I stared, keeping my head still, the swaths moved not at all but merely wavered as we passed occasional hills or sloughs. The engineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sound finally gave way to the radialsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; soft flapping on the pavement, but Dad continued to steer, and Mom continued to look down and count stitches as if nothing could dare happen until she knitted to the end of her row. My little brother kept his head low, inches from his Archie comic, as if in prayer. Dad leaned toward the front dash, letting three and a half tons of metal and people and baggage roll on, aided by the prevailing wind, until he finally guided it to the shoulder. We stopped just antilang. no. 3
short of a roadside picnic area that beckoned with a sign, “Don’t be a Litterbug!” Still, my parents sat in their captain’s chairs, separated by the bulge of a 360 cubic-inch V-8, a massive engine that Dodge engineers couldn’t quite fit under the hood. My little brother looked up from his comic book. Mom lowered her knitting. Dad swivelled in his chair and said, “That’s it, I guess.” I should have offered to walk with him to the next farm, but I was lazy, I was pissed off, and I didn’t. Two years later, my parents divorced without any shouting. When Dad left with two suitcases, he lingered at the front door and patted his pockets. I could hear Mom and the vacuum downstairs—for it was a Saturday—and my brother pounding out Chopsticks on the piano. Dad patted his pockets one more time and fished out his keys, held them in his palm as if there were some answers there, maybe even some questions. I opened the door for him, held up one of his bags and said, “That’s it, I guess.”
Love in a Time of Locusts At ten years old, the future scientist pushed the lawn mower quick as her might allowed across the browning lawn in front of her family’s home. As soon as the chore was complete, she could return to reading the mystery she had checked out from the library the day before. A mangled grasshopper corpse was flung up by the mower’s spinning blades. It hit her in the face. She wiped her cheek and was careful to watch for more… After the lawn was cut, she stretched out on the grass. She captured a live grasshopper in her hands to study. Later she determined it was likely Melanoplus bivittatus, the two-striped grasshopper of the prairies. She discovered compound eyes and upside down knees. She fell in love. The future scientist learned of locusts: when weather conditions create overcrowded and hungry grasshopper populations, some grasshopper species change into locust; they look and act differently than solitary grasshoppers; antilang. no. 3
they swarm, first on land as marching nymphs, and then in the air, travelling long distances and eating all vegetation in their path. If she could, she would visit Nebraska in June of 1875, to see “Albert’s Swarm.“ This was an infestation of an estimated 3.5 trillion individual Rocky Mountain locusts covering over 450 square miles. Thirty years later, the last of the Rocky Mountain locust species was recorded. Any “locust swarms” reported since then in the USA or Canada were only a lot of grasshoppers, not true locusts. They still did damage, but they were nothing like the real thing. When she learned of the demise of the Rocky Mountain locust, the now-teenaged future scientist felt guilty on behalf of her ancestors. They had ploughed, flooded and flailed a magnificently prolific species off the face of the planet. She felt cheated, angry. Her ancestors had destroyed yet another wonder of the world before she even existed. She learned that locusts still flew in other parts of the world. Other people dreamed of travelling the world to see rare flowers bloom or to see the sun eclipsed. She daydreamed of travelling for locust swarms while enduring long lectures at university. The scientist's first swarm was in northern Kenya. In flight the swarm sounded like dry leaves blowing along a road, or water falling down a gravel creek bed. As the people around despaired, she was overcome with awe in the face of this eerie life force. She fell in love again. She met her future husband. 24 |
“There are too many people,” she complained to him. “We can’t even stop slaughtering elephants. What chance do locusts have?” “Fine,” he said, “Which person will you tell, ‘Sorry, you are one of the one too many? You are diminishing my enjoyment of an animal that you view as your enemy. The pioneer farmers of America destroyed their locusts and established a life of luxury for their descendants. But you can’t do that. If you do, you will ruin my vacation plans.’ How wickedly elitist can you be?” When the scientist didn’t respond, he continued, “Our first duty, as humans, is to other humans. If you want, advocate for fewer children in the future. Fewer people should mean more room for other species. But you don’t get to decide which people—right now—have a greater right to a good life than others. Unless you think people are unworthy of life. Do you? Do you believe that?” The scientist was ashamed. She took up the fight against the locust. Of course people had to come first. If there were going to be more and more people on the earth, then there had to be fewer locusts. It was sad but true. Decades later, she was still fighting the locust. She worked for the UN. She oversaw the spread of targeted parasites and rained pesticides down on emergent locust swarms. She tried to save the crops of all the world’s people. She was still married, but she no longer lived with her husband.
Love in a Time of Locusts
She was tired at the end of a long day of conferences in Mexico. A young entomologist invited her out for an evening drive. In the car, the scientist babbled. “Sometimes I wonder if we are the true locusts. More and more of us, and no more space. We, only moderately destructive on an individual scale, morphing into our locust forms. Devouring everything we can, including each other, in a desperate bid for survival.” The young entomologist didn’t say anything. She continued, “I also have this fear, or perhaps it is a nightmarish hope. If humankind pushes too hard against nature, it will strike back, fierce and merciless. Locusts are manifestations of desperation, they are born of impending starvation. If we keep pushing nature …well, sometimes late at night, I imagine the tiny clicking jaws of unstoppable locust armies.” She smiled, embarrassed, and quieted. Driving out of the city into the foothills, they turned off the highway onto a gravel road leading past small fields. The moon rose. They parked the car and got out. People were gathered in a cornfield at the side of the road. These people were trapping grasshoppers. “People and grasshoppers have been here, right here, for thousands of years,” the young entomologist said. 26 |
“Together. Sometimes the people lose their crops. And they are hungry. But the people go on. And sometimes, the people eat the grasshoppers. But the grasshoppers go on. You see, it doesn’t have to be one or the other.” They ate roasted grasshopper, grasshopper dry, with garlic, drenched in salsa, and wrapped in warm tortilla. The scientist smiled in a field in the middle of Mexico. Sphenarium purpurascens, she thought, and the scientist fell in love.
Love in a Time of Locusts
“Minor Scratches on Interior” Kijiji ad reads: “Looking to sell barely used casket. Underground only two years— we decided to go a different route. Two hundred dollars OBO”
antilang. no. 3
early bloomer bathroomâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; first-blood fears not yet in double digits is this womanhood?
premature i want to love this body before i leave it should pay my respects for the seven months mother spent building me
Flesh Fashions She sews her skins tight as cocoons, knowing the absence of butterflies, the presence of powdered lies. Her own chrysalis is red, made from remnant cloth, patches shed by the dead, caterpillar queens too vain to clothe underfed bones.
antilang. no. 3
Sanity is a tidy girl, dainty as her name. She wears white, the colour of a methodical, medically sanctioned progression through mortality, a procession of shushed thoughts following to her wake. She has an orderly’s mind, aspirations to perfect mental sanitation keeping her spine stick straight. She skims scary whims, whispering you’re imaginary to scitterers and wrist-slitters. She says this was just a slip, a trip in the line; I’ll be fine (I find her a little smug). She lugs a suitcase full of sweet placebos, slim capsules of Tomorrow’s Another DayTM, 10% real vegetables. Her words are tied tourniquet-tight. Her smile bites back worries. She never hurries, but every second’s spent trying not to look over her shoulder. Fear smolders in her gut, but she drinks 8 glasses of water.
their hands were full of love three woman came it was night and i was tired three woman came glowing light and comfort hands they surrounded me in love and i don't know if and how and why they only visited for six minutes and i wish i could tell you more but these things are ephemeral and yes one of them was young and one was old and one was dying and the dying one was all peace so were the others their hands were full of love and i recognized their faces as my own i answered in tears i couldn't tell you much more except i lay on my floor that night and could feel them still their hands were full of love and i answered in tears and i couldn't tell you much more except when they came i was happy.
antilang. no. 3
passing through they passed through one by one i couldn't catch them they moved through slippery and ephemeral they came in pictures that burned i saw the past so that it was present and then it passed i asked them to stay but they said i must be going on and the moments i remembered were moments of love and the love was so strong my body shook in the light i asked them to stay but they said i must be going on and i wanted something to hold me up i was sinking and she came vision of love and light and joy can be cruel when it feels so big and bright is the darkest thing of all.
Jessica Anne Robinson
like mother I’ve been trying to write my mother’s body my whole life. we swap dreams like spit while we sleep. I was born grey and can’t remember, have spent this decade trying. I study her face-map, draw her lines onto mine with pencil, then scrub my face pink raw again. she is the bronze cast that bore me: our knees buckle without warning. we squint smile the same eye, I can’t quite capture it without a camera. j’essaie de tordre ma langue comme elle voudrait. sometimes the French turns in on itself, cripples my mouth, holds it there. she says she loves me for trying. I love her sludge blood, hold it close inside me, consider it fondly when our bruised skin offers it up to me. I’ve been trying to write my mother’s body our whole lives. I stole her freckles slowly through the umbilical cord. I tell her all the time that the only book I write will be about her; and the better it is, the less I will want her to read it. I picked up where her Spanish affair left off, but in Paris, or on the ocean nearby. I’m writing her body with mine. antilang. no. 3
Mother’s Pearls Won’t Get You out of This One Across the wing span of my creased palm, I see my life long affair: a set of vows to the coast. No warning of love—a pressed flower in a past diary. A charm bracelet fell through couch cushions: a memorial among pennies, under my two (too) thick thighs. The family unit: a gallery for the vintage 2000’s.
antilang. no. 3
A feature film in which we fight for freedom, treated like a fine fur. The American election—Toronto 2017. In a basement apartment, squat between a naked mattress and January-cold drywall. The reporter speaks a language we won’t learn. Mother’s milk was found on the electoral candidate’s tongue.
Salt Tidal waves of your persuasion beat against my barricade. Salty brine came to cover us both and as I laid beside you, sleeping, I wondered if you could hear â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;noâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; over the roar of the sea in your ears.
antilang. no. 3
When I think of him now I think instep, ankles, knee joints. I think groin and solar plexus. Windpipe. Eyes.
antilang. no. 3
Windbreak all words transcribed from the Hawthorn Farms seed catalogue When deadheaded stars fall from a plastic sky & the heart is a pinched moth too slow to travel with wild deer, the naked wound is a bridge. Is a raw gift to the weather. Once joy was evergreen. An electric egg. A golden holy flock. & love, that bright-tongued workhorse: magic, multibranching. Disappointed earthwalker, here is a windbreak. Here a licorice light still hangs warm in the belly & somewhere the long throat of time keeps summer enough for you.
To the Anti-Abortion Organization That Raised $91,000 to Build an Abortion-and-Miscarriage Grieving Garden Complete with a Statue of Jesus Holding a Dead Baby Do you really think no one has noticed you conjuring guilt & calling it grief?
antilang. no. 3
The Cysterhood Dear Cysters, I am sorry that it had to come to this. That our divorce was through scalpels and disinfectant rather than a simple text message. I think that would have been much more comfortable for all of those involved. I remember the day we first became acquainted. Three days before my nineteenth birthday. I was rubbing away the stress of the day and we crossed paths. You were seated in my left breast, 10 oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;clock. You were the sand dune in a flat desert. I panicked. Parched for answers, sinking deeper into a pit of worry. We went to many doctorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s visits together. Air-conditioned hallways, ultrasounds, blue goo on skin, bonding with fellow patients over penny loafers. I stared at the ship mobile hanging above my head, wondering if this is what it felt like to be a baby. Thought that the first time I would go there was because I was pregnant. Mom came with antilang. no. 3
me every time. Ran to fill up the parking meter, protected the shopping basket carrying my clothes, listened to my ramblings when I wanted to replace the quiet. Somehow, we lived together. Longer than some friendships, some boy band fantasies. The left for five years, the right for three. I adapted my sleep to fit you, snaked my arm like a river in-between left breast and right. I tolerated you more than my sister leaving her clothes in the bathroom. I forgot about you enough times that now I remember you more clearly. Occasionally, you would remind me of your presence. A sharp pain in the night like a knock on the skin, overhearing one side of a telephone conversation. Hello? Hi, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s me again. Just wanted to see if you were still there. Yep. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s it. I thought you would get the memo and move out on your own. Pack up your mass and hibernate until I never say so. But apparently, there were only three ways for us to part: 1) Menopause. 2) Pregnancy. 3) Scalpel. The doctor told me that anything bigger than five centimetres was enough to take you out. I suppose, unlike many other millennials, tiny house living was just not for you. She told me that getting rid of you would also mark a permanent end to bikini season. Not that it ever really had a chance to start anyways. 46 |
So, there I was. A hospital room first-timer in two gowns (enveloping from the front and the back like a group hug) and warmed up socks. Waiting. Lying in the bed with the sheets pulled up to cover my prickly legs. My parents making jokes because there was no TV besides other patients and their families. Glimpses of other lives through the slits of curtains. Please don’t hate me for the queen wave I did when they wheeled me into the operating room. I was trying to be funny. Trying to forget that while I was asleep, my body would change in ways I had no control over. Your baby cyster is still alive and breathing below my left nipple. After you left, I forgot that others could take your place. That I could house more than I had seats at the table. Now, I spend every day prepping myself for the next goodbye. Whenever that is. Hope it’s cozy where you are. That you don’t wake up in a cold sweat because you keep dreaming about knives. Love, your sister.
Forecast She mistook the documentary on blizzards to be the weekly weather forecast. She began preparing herself for the biting cold, the imminent fear that nipped at her ankles, while wearing shorts and a tank top. We peeked out the window and saw different places.
Miniature Suns The sun beat down on her face, her back, her shoulders. Freckles already dotted her skin so much that they were less like constellations and more like galaxies. The skin of her arms often turned red during the summer heat, despite the application of sunscreen. The poetry of a Sunday afternoon was written by “people like her” who had used up all their energy during the week and now could only find space by creating it. She needed that gap, that brief burst of beautiful aloneness. There was no fire left to boil the water in the kettle. There was no water left safe enough to drink. There was no air left to allow herself outside. There was no earth left that wasn’t littered with trash. As the sun continued to beat and her hunger continued to grow, she sighed. As her heart continued to beat and her loneliness continued to grow, she sighed. All her responsibility weighed on her suddenly. Body went limp with exhaustion. Her mind went blank with confusion. antilang. no. 3
Everyone kept telling her not to worry, but she worried endlessly. She gave up counting her worries before she gave up counting the stars. It was daylight now and only one star counted. She wasn’t a diamond; created under extreme pressure and therefore extremely strong. She was an opalite; created by spinning confusion and fire. She could split apart easily, like the shell of sunflower seeds, with a cracking sound. Rejected. Besides, her bones ached. The soundtrack to her last summer as a child was dogs barking and the sound a pop can makes when it’s opened. The feeling was that of peeling an orange with her hands when her fingers cut into the flesh and juice stings the papercut she almost forgot she had. She was watching a helium balloon shrink in the heat. It made her wonder; would she lose her value and shrink beneath the sun? And who would mourn for her if she did? Peaches were soft but bruised easily. A picnic for one. A hornet landed on the tip of her thumb and juice dripped down onto her white dress. The colour was everything that she wanted to be. Alive, and craved for, and seen as beautiful. So many of her peers wanted to be the hornet but she wanted to be the peach. She just didn’t want to bruise like a peach. Someday, she would hear a song on the radio and remember her first kiss. Someday, someone would ask if she remembered a song and she would remember her first 50 |
heartbreak. She wonders what kind of alcohol she’ll prefer when she’s older. She doesn’t trust her tastes right now. That night, her skin red and her hair weighed down by sweat and traces of dry grass, she arrives at the party. It is her friend’s sweet sixteen. Later, her friend will thank her for holding her hair while she puked. Right now, she is too busy making sure everything is perfect. There are more helium balloons. There are endless people that she doesn’t talk to. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Growing up wasn’t supposed to bring tears to her eyes. When the music she likes is playing, the dance floor is empty. When people are dancing, she doesn’t like the song. She wants fresh air, but she wants to pretend she knows how to play this scene. She wants to show them all that she can remember the cues. She makes eye contact with a stranger and they begin to not be strangers anymore. Suddenly, like a bandit in the night, she creeps through the open window of another’s life. She drinks beer from a magenta-coloured cup. Her new friend smokes cigarettes outside, and even when the smoke drifts into her face, the air feels clearer than in the house. Eventually the sun sets, and she forgets what her hair looks like and what everyone else’s hair looks like. With the freedom to breathe, her lungs open and she exhales fire that spirals through the air. When she looks in the reflection of a car window, the fire is only words. Vodka and the comfort of darkness give way to dancing and daring to laugh without fear. She loves her friend. Three girls, for they are still just girls, spinning and Miniature Suns
swaying. Everything comes easy now. The cry of seagulls in the distance is drowned out by the scraping of a skateboard on the concrete. When her newly sixteen-year-old friend goes upstairs with her boyfriend, she gulps down the last of her drink and heads back outside. She finds the girl she met, and they saunter off. They look like children and they smell like smoke and beer and sweat. They open themselves up and share in voices not as quiet as they think. The new friend trips and scrapes her hands. It feels like watching a supernova up close. They see the stars scattered across the sky. It feels like discovering a new galaxy. Rich in neon and exuding obstinate confidence. Stumbling over cracks in the road, they eventually wind up at the same park she had been at earlier. Her new friend rolls down the hill, laughing and hollering. She runs down to join her and collapses nearby. Their heads spin; the earth spins, though much more slowly. She sees dandelions bursting from the ground like fireworks. She thinks they look like thousands of miniature suns. One by one she begins to devour them. They taste like light. They burn her throat. Her friend joins in the feast as they crawl together across the sprawling green and yellow landscape. In the morning, she wakes to the vibrations of a jogger jogging by. She is behind green shrubbery, unseen by the careful eye of the paranoid mother. There is no sign of her friend.
She looks again at her hand. It is bright yellow in colour, seeming to be stained from the dandelions. Only, as she continues to look, her entire arm is bright yellow as well. Every visible inch of her skin is the same. Her hair is now green. She walks to the waterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s edge. The geese startle and swim out from the stony shore into the deep, dark waters. She looks down at her reflection and sees herself repeated over and over in the ripples of water. She experiences the sudden urge to become the ocean. She wonders if anyone still owns a water bed or if she could sleep comfortably on the waves of the sea. The water is green and feels like ice despite the hot noonday sun scorching the shallow rock pools. Within these pools are tiny purple fish that swim to and fro, looking for an escape. She wants to help them, but they are too slippery and too fast. Floating freely on a wave, she heads for the horizon. The bright yellow does not wash off her skin. Seaweed tangles around her ankles. She feels alive as she kicks herself free from the treacherous plant. Within her, a fire is burning, a literal fire that propels her toward the edge of everything she thought she knew. She has the power of countless miniature suns. Nothing could hold her back. She walks a dry path in the middle of the water. She has with her a light more brilliant than that of any earthly source. It radiates heat and lights up the darkest shadowy places of her soul.
At the edge of her world sits a child four years old. Her hair is such a mess that birds nest in it. At her feet sits a wolf with emerald eyes. Wait, are those her eyes? She reaches for them, certain that the wolf had somehow stolen her eyes. She tears them from the wolf and puts them back in their place on her own face. The child looks down at the blind wolf. They both rise and without a word dive into the abyss. She watches as they disappear. The sun has grown cold in her absence, so she wanders back to the park. Her friend is there now and is equally bright yellow and grassy green. They embrace, and the earth shakes. The power of thousands of miniature suns blossoms forth from their bodies.
Elope One night alone, in the woods, and then my love will join me. He’ll come around the bend in the abandoned logging road, veer off to zig zag up the goat path. He’ll crest the ridge and emerge, resplendent, from the tree line. I’ll be bathed in sunlight, wearing my sage-green dress, the one he likes, then, when he finally sees me. He’ll come to me and sweep loneliness from my shoulders where it’s draped like a cloak, drop it to the rocks beneath our feet and add to it frothy layers of linen and silk, lace and bombazine, peeled from my skin. He’ll lay down his jacket and take me right there in the bowl of the cirque, and it won’t matter one bit because the next day we’ll ride across the border to become man and wife. —— antilang. no. 3
For hours I’d climbed the overgrown mountain road. I rounded a bend and in front of me, just as she had said there’d be, a goat trail criss-crosses up to the bowl dug into the mountainside where a glacier had sat enthroned in some forgotten time. I catch my breath at the trail head, but only for a moment. With death at my heels and a storm rising behind me, I climb faster and crest the last hill. There she sits, a blue figure, cold and alone. Overwhelmed, I rush to her. The wind whips across my cheeks the second I step from the shelter of the tree line, spitting pebbles and hard rain into my eyes. I blink, wanting only to keep sight of her, but the scene blurs, like a memory recalled from a distance. She is still, petrified wood. The howling wind drowns my bootfalls as I approach, but a murmuring rises above both, her voice intoning: One night alone in the woods and then my love will join me... Only one night...only one. We’ll be married and then what will my daddy do, send the sheriff after us? We’ll be untouchable. Only one night, alone. I watch my hand as though it has become detached from my wrist. It moves slowly, in freeze frames, falls heavily on her shoulder. Her flesh lurches beneath my touch. 56 |
“I knew you’d come.” And she turns her face to me, her emaciated face, rivers worn deep in her cheeks from endless tracks of tears. Her eyes, sunken so deep I can’t see the end of them except for a glint in the back of the caves, search my eyes. Her lips part, cracked and ridged, the mouth of a volcano. It speaks: “My love? You’ve aged so.” —— Doctors have told me it’s dangerous to wake a sleeper, and I fear to snap her from her reverie. But I have to get her down the mountain before this storm blows in, or we’re both done for. Already the rain turns to ice, slick on the rocks. “Forgive me.” I grab her around the waist and throw her over my shoulder. She bends like a sapling, her bones hollow. Her ribs quiver, pliant beneath my fingertips. During the descent she asks only one thing of me: “Did you bring your horse?” Her voice far away, in some distant past. “Nobody has horses any more, ma’am.” —— She sips apple juice, propped upright in a crisp hospital bed. The shroud of the past is still weaving its webs of rosy pink gauze around her starved mind. Elope
My supervisor appears beside me. The crimson of his Search and Rescue badge the only colour that doesn’t wither under the acrid fluorescent light. “The old lady’s daughter is on her way to relieve you of your vigil.” My laugh, stretched tight as the sheets around her splayed legs. “Lucky thing you got her off the mountain before the storm. It’s a white-out. No power across the whole county. Boss was ready to call off the search after two weeks of no-one seeing hide nor hair of her. Lucky thing you found her at all. Old biddy disappears without a trace around here it usually means she was swallowed by the mountain. How’d you know where to look?” I peel back her fingers, extract my hand from her grasp. “The daughter told me. Described the place perfectly from the memory of some bedtime story her mom used to tell her. Something about running away from home to marry her true love.” “Romantic.” “Yea, but he never showed.” “Never showed?” “Never showed.”
Low Tide Everything that should have tasted sweet tasted rusty, or maybe everything that should have tasted rusty tasted bitter, or even, thinking back, a little salty. On the morning they found the stranger, wrapped in kelp and seaweed, I’d caught a cold. Three weeks later you said, “nice to meet you” and topped it up with a whip-cream smile. You have what my aunt calls calculating eyes. Could you tell that I went a little weak? Pretending that you came here for me. That you keep coming back for me. That you’re not here to measure the vanishing ice. That the Sami and their dying languages are not enough to keep you occupied. You tell me “it begins when it begins”. Convinced that the vetehinen aren’t real. But then, men with wings have existed since prehistory. White-blue hermit crabs still fell on the water that day. The doctor kneeled next to the stranger’s body, checking antilang. no. 3
for a pulse through latex. Barnacles grew on his jaw line and in a half-crescent along his sternum. Between the slivers of shoulders, my eyes darted back and forth. His gray skin flaking like fish scales in the sea-salted mist. Cheekbones serrated. One eye bruised shut. Feathers billowed up into the sky. Pinpoint a location and an epoch in time. Between 70°01’10’’N and 23°32’09’’E. At the young and unripe age of sixteen. It makes you laugh, makes you choke on your coffee. Mapping the beginning of a story is hard enough. Is it when you begin to think it? When you, the scholar of love, walked into it? Maybe, it began three weeks ago, or maybe it began today. It will come to a point, you assured me, that words will become meaningless unless written in blood. Every winter, a black sky tinted with aurora and punctured with starlight, filters intoxicated dreams through to the Arctic—a north wind, a white bear, and a merman. Polaris, she barely moves. Yes, we had that discussion too. That your heart is a space heater, and if it hadn't been for you, would I ever have kissed with a smoky mouth? Clinging to paper and ink. Maybe that’s what it means to be a virgin after all. End of winter marked by bloated skin. Anywhere that is conducive to a mirage, anywhere at all. The shallow tide that also drags with it forests of giant 60 |
kelp, dead seal cubs with missing eyeballs, and starfish with fat and tangled arms, but it is all the same when you finally get to say hello, whether on a spine or on the subzero Borealis.
Cried for Night He lacked even the most tenuous understanding of the complexities of human vision, and he didn’t want to learn. He believed the reason he could see anything at all was that every visible thing, in the moment of being seen, was literally in contact with his eyes, literally touching them. He continued to believe this even after it was demonstrated for him that other objects could be passed between the vacant space of sight without severing any physical connection. He refuted any and all evidence with the claim that these new objects were simply displacing the initial one on the surface of his eyeballs, like a water strider sliding beneath a lily pad and upsetting the perfection of its contact with the pond’s surface. ‘Are you so vain,’ someone asked him once, ‘that you think the whole of the sky comes down when you step outside just so it can touch you?’ ‘No,’ he replied, and explained in lesser terms his hypothesis, or more accurately his firm conviction, that the 62 |
antilang. no. 3
entirety of the universe consisted of a tangible collection of objects, their number literally uncountable, all stacked atop each other on the gelatinous bedrock of his eyeballs, strata of varying size and shape and color that were in a constant process of realignment in order to produce in his brain the illusion of a moving world outside of himself. ‘So are you here right now?’ someone else asked. He said he could be nowhere other than the base of the stack. ‘So then, what are we?’ asked someone else. ‘Just the floaters on the surface of your eye?’ He was quiet a moment, then answered. ‘It’d be hard to float when you have the weight of the entire universe on your back.’ This belief, that the totality of perception was made up of a mountain of shifting plates whose movements were so swift and seamless that they produced in an otherwise inert mind the mirage of a life being lived, was so unusual that none of the psychiatrists we sent him to were aware of a single case study in the past. Nonetheless, they achieved a modicum of success in confronting the source of his delusion, which one of the doctors claimed had its origins in a traumatic childhood incident wherein a group of friends jokingly nudged a Scottish burial cairn and it collapsed on top of him. Another believed his condition’s cause was embedded somewhere in his ideas about art, and they provided the following quote from him as evidence: ‘When you find yourself really feeling a painting or a book, it’s impossible to think there isn’t something physical connecting it to you. There has to be Cried for Night
a tangible contact happening there, otherwise how is it touching you so strongly? With air?’ These diagnoses, while both tentative and conflicting, were effective for a brief time in assuaging his allconsuming need to discuss his fictional reality at all times, with anybody who would listen. I recall during this period having a number of entirely ordinary conversations with him, ranging from the topic of food to nature to romance. We even slept together again, and while we were lying beside each other in the calm darkness of the bedroom, I ventured to ask: ‘Now how could we have done that if I’m just a panel on the surface of your eye?’ He didn’t say anything, just stared at the shadow of the curtain where it undulated liquidly on the ceiling. Outside, the crickets crackled. ‘And if you still think you’re right,’ I went on, ‘then how do you explain sound?’ He was quiet for a long time, and then he was asleep. I now regret returning to the topic that had been his unwavering obsession for so many years. I’m not so naïve to imagine he’d completely forgotten it, but part of me wonders: if I hadn’t chosen that moment to broach such a sensitive subject, would his subsequent descent into the extremes of vision have been so rapid, and so selfdestructive? After our night together I didn’t see or hear from him for almost a month, and when I did he’d already undergone the procedure, and there was no reversing it. The blinding, that is. It would be simple, surgically speaking, to remove the five-foot plastic rods he’d installed through his deadened pupils and drilled into the bone of the sockets so 64 |
if they snagged on anything they wouldn’t tear the eyeball out with them, but he is adamant that they must remain, and soon be extended, and ultimately upgraded to the point where they become remotely telescopic, lengthening on their own to any distance imaginable in order to physically touch the nearest perceptible object, be it a coffee mug or the clouds, so that, in his words, ‘I can finally feel the weight bearing down on me, instead of just knowing it’s there.’
Cried for Night
M.T. Head I sat in class, head in hands, avoiding eye contact. I hoped the priest wouldn’t point me out, call on me, nominate me with a finger, but to no avail. He called my name. “You have sixty seconds to speak about,” he paused, then produced the rabbit from the hat. “Matches. Come along, stand up, sixty seconds, starting,” he watched the second hand go round on the classroom clock, then counted down, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1…” waved his hand, and shouted: “Start now!” Images flashed through my head: matches: cricket matches, boxing matches, rugby matches, soccer matches, chess matches, matches to light the burners on the gas stove, the oven, to light the fire in the fireplace…matches, matchsticks, Match Box toys, Dinky toys, toys for little boys, toys for big boys… “Fifteen seconds have gone...you have forty-five remaining.” 66 |
antilang. no. 3
“When I think about matches, I think about…” …the first spring day in the bungalow, our summer home. The rooms are cold and damp after the winter and nobody has been here since last year. We lay a fire in the grate, but the wood is damp, as is the old newspaper we gather from our last visit. We search for sugar to aid the blaze that we hope to start, but the sugar bowl is empty. We go to the stove. Cold, winter ashes crowd the fire bowl. We scrape them together in a desperate search for charcoal remains… but we find nothing. We move to the oil-fired lamps and oil stoves. Matches dragged across soggy sandpaper fail to spark… “Come along, boy. We haven’t got all day. You’ve got thirty seconds left.” Silence fills the room. It is broken by the childhood sniggers and chuckles of long-forgotten classmates who never became friends My cheeks grow red. I start, stammer, and stop. …we leave the bungalow. Go next door to where our neighbours winter over. We knock on the door. “Can you lend us a match?” we ask, holding out our hands. Mrs. Williams beams at us. “A match,” she says. “First time in after the winter?” We nod. “I thought so. Saw you arriving. Wondered why you hadn’t come earlier. The weather’s been nice. Here: I can do much better than a match.” She moves over to the fireplace, picks up the little coal shovel, scoops up a generous portion of her fire, heaps on another lump, then two, of fresh coal, and “Here you are,” she says. “Just put it in the fireplace and add some wood and coal. This can be your first fire. Here, you’d better have some matches too.” “Thank you, Mrs. Williams,” we say. “No M.T. Head
problem,” she replies. “It’s good to see you back. It’s been lonely here this winter without you.” “Time’s up,” the priest says. “That’s sixty seconds of silence and you can hardly find a word to say on a simple subject. Are you stupid or what? My face turns red and I suffer the hot, burning cheeks of childhood shame.
The One Aboutâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; The rain fell heavy and he never stopped walking. Drenched, his clothes stuck to him, clammy and cold in the wet, but he never stopped walking. He walked faster and faster, his shoes buckets of water, walking walking in buckets of water and the rain fell heavier and heavier until it hurt his head and soaked into his skin and into his sneaking bones, pounding down now, driving down torrents on him, now windswept and drilling sideways into his head, the sky black, but he would not stop nor would he take shelter. He took pleasure in this decision to walk because he had not one dog-mauled scrap of an idea what else he could do. And the rain might help. The rain might force desperation, force him to take action, or make a plan, or get a job, or think of: No, better call a friend or read a book. Go home, and watch a video: Sia, Adele, Rihanna, Amy. Steal a car and drive to Detroit. Why Detroit? Could be Chicago. Climb antilang. no. 3
up the stairs of an eighty-storey condo, up up to the roof. Howl at the black moon and wait for the echo to howl back, rage out blind in the dull dementing night. Then think of: No. Rob a bank and buy a condo. Memorize words—any words all beginning with f. Start with: Future. Futile. Fantastical fury fentanyl fluorescent fabricate funicular. Fool. Tell a joke—the one about—Take a walk down a neuronal pathway, dissolve in the rain. Eat an ice cream cone, curse God—what God—curse Nietzsche. Invent a god, any god. Fake it through just fake. It. Through. Be fly. Think of a small startup business, a money-making enterprise, yes, that’s it. A YouTube channel. Call it Whizzshit and play videos of how-to lectures framed in toilet bowls. A million hits, yes, or a tattoo place, a million holes. Call a friend? Go to the gym. Work out the body ‘til the high-flying mind peaks and with a parabolic glide, folds up, stops. Think of— No. Sing Broadway tunes to the davening scholars of Talmudic law, crown the faithful with the stolen halos of angels, bless them in anger, sing Hallelujah and capsize the crib-bound baby Jesus. Tap dance on the heads of martyrs. Plead the fifth and go down singing. Get a tattoo. Needling pain punctuating each minute so it feels alive. Feels. Think of— No. Run to the end of the city of the damned just keep going in the rain. Learn a new language learn eight. Italian, French, Farsi, Pashtu. Send a text. To the ex? Hi, 70 |
so great not to hear from you in so long and then string of: grinning emoji cats yellow faces teared up with joy hahaha. Delete delete. Delete Snapchat. That is a must do. Buy a wing suit and skydive off the edge of the earth. Call a friend. Hope to, hope not to—think of: No. Tell a joke—the one about—call a crisis line and scream flaming white murder at them, cannibalize their sympathy, mock their warm forgiving hearts—the ground zeros of hypocrisy—until they hang up. Cut off an ear and send it to the ex. With a note that says: I am listening. Then go to Emergency. Think of: No. Tell a joke to the triage nurse, the one about—sit there, bleed, life chuckling and frothing out of the sliced skin, easy as that. Then think of: No. Take a peek ‘round the curtain. Watch people in their last moments. Count the snake-rattling breaths—there are videos of that. Watch the seep of blood the spill of life all the pain of losing and the loss of love. Arms reaching out for other arms and the tears flowing freely and the wailing of grief. Feel. That. Feel. Think of: No. Puke in the sink the yellow bile. Drop acid, drop— there are videos of that too. Hallucinate the end. Envision the life hereafter. See the spirit drift up from the body. Wild luminous colours, the soul coughing itself out into white rainbows and the beauty of the last firing swansinging neurons. Ultimate consciousness. Paradise then. No. Such. Luck. Cut it. Think of: No. Call a friend. Invent God. Go to a party. Text. Check. The One About—
Facebook. Check. Reddit. Check. Drink Tequila, tell a joke, listen to a joke, think of: No. Tell another joke, the one about—think of: No. Run. Run in the rain and keep going just keep going til lungs burn from the shear and suck of air. Run and let the rain torrent down all over, all over and in and in and brain deep, just keep on running and think of: No. Remember—what—what? Think of: No. Not that.
The Boy Who Brought the Rain Depending on who you asked, little Danny Dresden was either born a miracle or delivered as a scornful scourge to the village of Humblegoose: POP 110—a thereabouts figure dictated more accurately by how cold the previous winter had been in correlation with those passed the age of physical usefulness. It was a village manned and maintained mainly by farmers who depended on the lush green grass growing in great grazeable garnishings for their cattle who nourished themselves along bountiful fields of various crops. Seldom would a land of such generous abundance be discovered twice in a single lifetime, and all who lived there felt blessed for having found it just the once. Eight years prior to the circumstances of the current day, little Danny Dresden was born on the kitchen floor from between the legs of his very own mother—as luck would have it—although unfortunately evaded by legitimacy due to one scandalous drunken evening and an everabsent co-creator. But the months preceding that event antilang. no. 3
even still would prove to play an imperative role in the boy’s life due to conditions outside of his control. The land had been dying of drought. For almost a full year before the birth of little Danny Dresden, not a drop of rain had touched the hills of Humblegoose. The grass withered, the crops perished, the cattle starved, and the farmers were found walking on air with far more frequency than usually expected from their tenuous occupation. It wasn’t until the wailing cries from a pair of brand new lungs signaled the heavens from a pool of placenta on a linoleum floor that the clouds returned, finally, with dark imposing shade and claps of thunder, followed by great stuttering streams of rain, soaking the scorched earth and barren lands, missing not an inch of Humblegoose, leading the residents out into the lanes and streets, encouraging elation and untethered joy to be sung from their weary hearts. It was immediately established by the midwife, now cradling little Danny Dresden in her arms as he hollered and screamed, that it was no mere coincidence such a miraculous occurrence would befall their desperate village the very same moment this brand new being introduced himself to the world in a pouring of tears. “Heavens above,” exclaimed the midwife. “A Gift!” Danny Dresden’s mother agreed, although entirely unaware of the superstitious nature from which the 74 |
midwife was basing this claim. And she would never find out, nor see the world again from anywhere but the flat of her back on that linoleum floor as her pulse gently faded to nothing, with her freshly-birthed bundle now placed into her arms to hear the final futile beatings of her heart against her chest: buh-bump, buh-bump, buh-bump... —— Little Danny Dresden was raised from that very moment by the village of Humblegoose. And no more grateful a village could be for his presence. After all, he was the boy that cried and brought the rain! He was the boy that fed the lands and filled the wells! He was the Gift! The Gift! The Gift! But of course, a single gift to be shared among an entire village such as Humblegoose POP 110—a thereabouts figure dictated more accurately by the desire of the naturally compromised to ignore hints of an overstayed welcome—needs to establish some rules to encourage fairness, such is the nature of democracy. And so, in the name of all that is just, the residents of Humblegoose organised a weekly meeting in the local church where they would each voice their opinions on who needed rain and who desired sunshine, and then they would vote on the weather for the coming days, depending on what benefited the majority. It was a solid plan, and everyone was always respectful and civil throughout the proceedings, and the only component ever failing to cooperate wholeheartedly with The Boy Who Brought the Rain
the fairness of this system was little Danny Dresden, who took years and years of conditioning to remain numb until necessary. Fortunately, sedatives were found to work wonders after the initial three years of chaotic and unpredictable weather brought on by temper tantrums and the like, and the methods of making the boy cry when needed were eventually fine-tuned from the crude days of pinching his underarms to now merely leaving him in a dark room until the natural fears of a child produced the desired outcome. And of course, when the clouds needed parting, and the lands starved for a golden glow, there were no shortage of sweets and hugs and tickles for little Danny Dresden, who, although wildly confused by the bipolar actions of his guardians, always looked forward to these days the most. By now, little Danny Dresden was deemed old enough to attend the weekly meetings, and so he would sit quietly up on the altar as the priest moderated the discussion from the pulpit, granting an equal allotted time per speaker. “Alrighty then, folks,” began the priest, “let’s kick off with a quick show of hands for a full week of sunshine first and see if we can fly through this one, shall we?” The pews were split half and half with varying waves of extended and folded arms. “It looks like the farmers are needing a bit of rain,” said the priest after a quick glance. “So, I’ll ask you, gentlemen, will you be needing a whole week of it?” Little Danny Dresden remained wide-eyed and shut76 |
mouthed while the farmers of Humblegoose murmured and mumbled between themselves before one stood and spoke on behalf of the rest. “No, not the whole week. Two days on, one day off, and then two more after that would be ideal for most of us, we reckon.” “Any days in particular?” asked the priest. “Just as long as it’s in that order I think we’ll be quite happy.” It was, as always, a very pleasant exchange between a village of considerate residents, ever welcoming of reasonable compromise. “Well then”, continued the priest, “any days in particular that the fishermen would appreciate kinder waters?” Little Danny Dresden, still wide-eyed and shut-mouthed, let out a feint yawn without making much of an effort to cover it with his hand, and the fishermen of Humblegoose chittered and chattered amongst themselves before one stood and spoke on behalf of the rest. “The rain isn’t ideal, but it’s manageable. As long as he’s not throwing a strop the winds will be calm, so let’s leave it up to the village.” “Very well,” said the priest. But before the priest could even pose the question, an arm shot up from the back of the crowd. The Boy Who Brought the Rain
“Mrs. Lovett?” said the priest. “Is that yourself?” “T’is, Father.” “Go ahead, you have the floor.” Mrs. Lovett stood and the congregation turned heads to see her, all except little Danny Dresden, who remained wide-eyed and shut-mouthed on his lonesome on the altar. “I just wanted to remind everyone that myself and a few of the ladies from the knitting club are planning a bake sale on Saturday afternoon. We’re trying to raise money to mend the roof of the community hall. It’s very difficult to use the needles in the damp, you see. So, perhaps we could have some sunshine on Saturday? After all, there’s nothing wrong with a moist sponge, but no one wants a soggy teacake!” A delightful little chuckle was shared around the congregation before the priest agreed this was a fine idea if it suited the farmers and fishermen alike. “Alrighty then, folks,” continued the priest. “Why don’t we go for a drop of rain on Thursday and Friday, a break for the buns on Saturday, and another belt of it on Sunday and Monday, sound good?” But as everything was being seemingly agreed upon in unanimous fashion, a rather gruff and rumbling objection was barked from the entrance of the church. “It can’t rain on Sunday.” 78 |
This particular bellow possessed with immediacy the attentions of everyone in the echoing chambers of the church, including little Danny Dresden who for the first time since finding his seat on the altar decided to moisten his eyeballs with a solitary blink. The man at the entrance was a mess, with a belly full of rum, and fire on his breath. He was recognised by all, but acknowledged by few, which is why he would remain quietly skulking in the doorway most every week throughout the democratic proceedings, as nothing more than a silent witness. But not today. “You wish to have the floor, sir?” asked the priest, albeit with a less-than-enthusiastic tone. “It can’t rain on Sunday,” replied the man. “And why not?” “It’s the boy’s birthday.” One by one, the eager heads of the congregation fell slowly to a bow, and solemnity took hostage the atmosphere of what was to that point an otherwise jovial room. All but for little Danny Dresden, who held his stare upon the messy old man who had rum in his belly and fire on his breath, and as a subtle crease of a smile began to form across the face of little Danny Dresden, the sunlight began to beam with delicacy through the magnificent stained glass depiction of Christ on his throne, coating the timid heads of the citizens of Humblegoose, and casting a perfect purple glow on the messy old man who no longer looked all that messy at all. The Boy Who Brought the Rain
“Of course,” continued the priest. “Thank you for that reminder, sir. Quite correct. Quite correct, indeed.” The old man receded from the purple glow of the stained glass, and ushered himself back out of the church, but the light remained, along with the pleasant expression on the face of little Danny Dresden. The plans were altered immediately without the slightest notion of objection from the now equable crowd to accommodate the celebration of little Danny Dresden’s birth: the boy who cried and brought the rain. The boy who fed the lands and filled the wells. After all, he was the Gift, and it was his birthday, and the ever-considerate democracy of Humblegoose would never dream of being so cruel.
My Roommate, the Vampire I think my roommateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a vampire. A socially-anxious, blood-sucking, animal cracker-eating vampire. Last night this rustling sound coming from the kitchen woke me up. It must have been 4 am and she was rummaging around. I heard crackling that sounded like it came from her hidden box of animal crackers. I tried to roll over and go back to sleep but then she started crunching, and crunching. It just went on and on. I was like, okay, go to bed already, some of us have a midterm tomorrow. She continued viciously chomping into those animal crackers. I could just picture her fangs tearing through soft doughy elephants, lions, and bunnies, her face furrowed into a snarl, hanks of blonde hair hanging in her face. Surely that would be the end of it, she would stuff that demolished bag of cookies back into the cupboard and go to bed. antilang. no. 3
Then I heard footsteps and my door creaked open a sliver. She was here to eat me next. Stupid Kijiji. Why did I have to get a roommate? Living with a stranger was dangerous. She could be a drug addict, or a serial killer, or just a bloody vampire! I had told my mom as much but she thought I was overreacting, and we could use the money, but she’d change her mind about that if she knew I was about to get eaten. I missed my mom. It would be so sad if we never went to Starbucks again or bitched about guys or tried stuff on at Guess or went for long walks and had deep conversations about life. I yanked myself up, my back slamming against the headboard. My fingers fished under the pillow and closed around the pointy part of my hoop earrings. She hovered in the doorway, her fangs dusted with animal cracker crumbs. We stared at each other for a long time, me doing my best Buffy impression with my earring stake. After a last longing look at my neck, she shuffled away. The night crawled by. My eyes hurt but I opened and squeezed them shut to stay awake. Somewhere around 6 a.m. I marshaled myself and slowly swung my legs over the bed. Holding my keys so they didn’t clang, I eased out the door and then ran. On the drive to school, the sky lightens. I must have imagined it, I convince myself. Between last-minute studying, I get pizza with friends and don’t talk about vampire roommates. They talk about 82 |
some guy and I stare at the oozing pizza sauce. I stop at Metro for groceries on the way home. Turning over a bag of chocolate chip muffins, I pause. Containers of veggies and health food take up her side of the fridge but, other than last night’s secretive animal cracker crunching, I have never seen her eat. Hyperventilating under the fluorescent lights, I say aloud, “Enough already.” Then I call my mom to tell her that in the latest sucky installment of my life, I am now living with someone who actually wants to suck my blood. “You think Nikki is…a vampire?” When she puts it like that—“Yes!” “You watch too much TV. How did your midterm go?” “Fine. I just don’t want to go home because I’m afraid she’ll eat me.” “And why, exactly, do you think she’s a vampire?” “She sleeps all day and rummages at night. She’s just so mysterious in general. She pretty much doesn’t leave her room when I’m home. Like, did I do something to offend her? She never talks on the phone, never has people over, and never tells me anything about her life. I ran into her last week by the car and she was so…twitchy. I asked what she was up to and she goes like, ‘nothing much.’ Which is fine but that’s always her answer! Nobody does nothing much that much. It’s weird.” My Roommate, the Vampire
“She’s probably just shy,” says my mom. “You should try to be her friend.” Lucky me, I got the shy vampire. Whatever stops her from eating me, right? “Do you want to go back on Kijiji? We could probably still get that lady, the nurse—“ “The one that says she goes to bed at 9?” I set down my muffins, shove them away with my pinky, and pout. “Fine, I’ll talk to Her Vampiness. If you don’t hear from me in an hour, I’m probably a bloodless corpse.” “Charming. You are always so dramatic.” On the way to the apartment, I rehearse. So, Nikki…are you a vampire? Too direct. Please don’t eat me? Pathetic. Show of strength. Be like Buffy. I’m going to slay you with my earring…This is going nowhere. I suck in a breath and barge in. Her door is still closed and her shoes are still there. Brown suede clogs, lined up in the same spot by the kitchen counter as this morning. Does she not go to school anymore? I creep towards her door and lie in wait, weak little human me up against a vampiric introvert. The door blows open and she stands framed in the doorway, a hulking girl in cow onesie pajamas, blinking and rubbing her eyes. “Hey,” she says. “Hi,” I say. “Listen. I wanted to talk to you.” 84 |
She twists her hands and looks at her feet. “Okay.” “Are you finding the place okay? Like, do you need anything?” Like blood. Or human victims. “’M’okay.” She smiles closed-mouthed. “That’s good.” I glance out the window for inspiration and notice the sun streaking and dancing patterns across the beige carpet. It stops right before where she stands, in the shade. Our eyes meet, and I deliberately take a single step back. Her shoulders slump and her blue eyes shimmer. Is she trying to glamour me? A single tear falls. She sniffles, maintains eye contact, and nods the tiniest bit. “I’ll go,” she whispers, but the sun stands between us. I cross my arms over my chest, look pointedly out into the light, and shrug. “About last night,” she says. “I just wanted to talk to you. I don’t know anyone here yet.” Something strange twists in my stomach as she stands alone and hunched over. I mean, I have secrets too. “You don’t have to go,” I say, and close the blinds. We look at each other in the dark. She doesn’t lunge for my throat. “Maybe we can go for coffee or something.” “Yeah?” she says. I see a flash of fang in her hopeful smile. My Roommate, the Vampire
“Sure. Why not? We are roommates, so we should get to know each other.” I hook my arm around hers, and drag her towards the door. “Getting to know each other? That sounds like fun. Maybe we could go a little bit later in the day though…or not,” she says, and snatches a hat and sunglasses on our way out. “I think we’re going to get along great!” I say, as I walk out into the beautiful day with my roommate, the vampire.
antilang. no. 3
Contributors Adrienne Adams is a poet, artist and curator dedicated to intersectional space. She curates Woolfâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Voices (aka Virginia); joking it's an excuse to howl in public. Published in FreeFall, Wax and forthcoming anthologies. @adamsel.adams Lisa Baird is a poet & a queer white settler living on Attawandaron/Mississaugas of the New Credit territory (Guelph, ON). Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d rather write poems than bios. www.lisabaird.ca. is a Canadian writer. She enjoys writing haiku inspired by day-to-day observations, lyrics inspired by vague concepts, and short stories inspired by belief in something greater than humanity. Follow her on Instagram @dangerouswriter.
Boyle's books are Light-carved Passages (poetry) and Tower (a novella). Her poems and short stories have appeared in literary magazines ranging from long-established to brand new projects. Visit www.francesboyle.com.
is pursuing his PhD a city of magpies. In 2018, he was selected for the RBC Taylor Prize's inaugural Emerging Writers program in non-fiction. His most recent work can be found in The Feathertale Review and The Lamp.
Emily Campbell lives on Treaty Six territory. She runs a biweekly writing group and her work has appeared in two anthologies, Let’s Fly Away and The Bolo Tie Collective Vol. 3. lives and writes in Toronto. He is the author of two books of poetry: Fortified Castles (Talonbooks, 2014) and Fake Math (Snare, 2007).
lives in Toronto and began writing short fiction several years ago. She has written radio plays for CBC and a play for the Blyth Theatre Festival. Her stories have appeared in the Quilliad, the Danforth Review, Flash Fiction, Thrice Fiction, Pop Shot UK, Litro UK, and filling Station.
is a writer, cyclist, and retired roller girl originally from the West Coast in BC. Her prose explores relationships, experiences on the road, and encounters with wild places.
writes from the solitude of Alberta’s boreal forest. Her poetry has appeared in NōD Magazine and From the Other Side.
is an emerging Canadian writer of Bengali descent, residing in Calgary, Alberta. She studied creative writing, linguistics, and engineering at the University of Calgary. Her creative writing has appeared in NōD Magazine, J’aipur Journal, chapbooks, and anthologies. She is also the Fiction Editor at filling Station—Canada’s experimental literary magazine.
is a young emerging Canadian writer, currently studying creative writing at York University in Toronto.
A Toronto-based poet and lover of caves, Carol Krause’s writing explores the gift and wound in mental disruption. Carol supports youth to make meaning of their experiences through discussion and art.
Marija Lukic is an emerging writer living in Oakville, Ontario. Her first short story “Gray Jello” has recently appeared in Montreal Writes and she is currently working on her first novel. When not writing, she enjoys acting and studying psychology. 88 |
antilang. no. 3
lives in western Canada's Okanagan Valley, where she writes flash and short fiction. She has been published online with The Ilanot Review, Watershed Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, and other publications.
poetry has been published in Badlands Literary Review and will appear in the winter 2019 issue of Raw Art Review. A dual citizen of Canada and the USA, Miles lives with his family in Bellingham, Washington, where he works the graveyard shift at a nonprofit housing facility.
is a wife, mother, diplomat, and homesick Wisconsinite. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Chaleur, Burningword, Typishly, Panoply, Open: Journal of Arts and Letters, Allegory, and many others.
Megan Misztal is a writer with an MA degree in English Literature. She was awarded the George Johnston Poetry Prize in 2015 and has previously been published in Bywords magazine. is a member of the WFNB (Writersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Federation of New Brunswick). He lives in Island View, New Brunswick, with his cat, Princess Squiffy, but he lives on the far side of the hill from the St. John River, with the result that there is not an island in view from his windows in Island View.
is a thirty-year-old writer from Cork, who writes wide-reaching articles about mental health and depression. This is his first publication of original fiction.
Cameron G. Muir is a retired lawyer, now returned to Saskatoon as a student in the MFA in Writing program at the University of Saskatchewan. Cameron writes contemporary and historical fiction. Dominik Parisien is a writer, poet, and editor. His chapbook We Old Young Ones is forthcoming from Frog Hollow Press. Dominik is a disabled, bisexual, French Canadian.
Jessica Anne Robinson is finally a Toronto writer, who has had poetry published with Room Magazine and Hart House Review, among others. You can find her on Twitter @hey_jeska. Owen Schalk attends the University of Manitoba, where he is enrolled in the English Honours program. One of his stories has been included in the Faculty of Arts’ magazine, The Arts Tribune, and another has been published by the Paragon Press’s literary journal The Nabu Review. Almost all of his free time is spent reading and writing. Emma Tilley has a BA in Creative Writing from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, B.C. Her debut chapbook will be published by Rahila’s Ghost Press in 2019. Sarah Varnam is a queer, disabled, and neurodivergent Torontobased writer, artist, and editor, as well as the founder of The Quilliad Press. They have two parrots and worry too much.
antilang. no. 3
Contribute to The ALP
What weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re looking for: Good. Short. Writing. Any form, any genre, as long as it is brief and of exceptional quality. Poetry, short/flash fiction, creative essays, ficto-criticism, flash memoir, photo essays, comics, postcard fiction, and collaborations across media. If you have a piece of creative work that benefits from an audio component, then send it to us, either as an audio clip or text (if you send us text, then we will consider your work for both antilang. and soundbite). 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. Please double-space all prose. MS Word files (.doc or .docx) only for textual pieces, please. Please send all submissions via Submittable and include a 30 word bio (we are all about concision, after all).
@antilangmag / antilang.ca