On Time ALIZA EPSTEIN
Ammunition JESSIE READ
For Nettie DANIEL GENNARA
Going Back THOMAS MCDADE
The Most BeautifulWoman in theWorld BRITTANY WALLACE
Frou Thiel KENDRA GUIDOLIN
The Poet / Keepsake / You Are Gone JOAN MCNERNEY
You Were / Train / Midnight MICHAEL CHIN
Time Between BRUCE KAUFFMAN
The Moon People AIKO M.
The Tide of Time VANESSA BERNICKY
Devil in the Details ADRIANA GREEN
Timeless JIM WOLPER
From There to Here MICHELE SABAD
Phoenix / Gardens and Graves NIKKI MARRONE
Early Morning Starlight EUGENE CORNACCHIA
Unnerved LAURA MISCH
Lake Yehewin KYLE CLIMANS
My Grandparents Were ALEX DAWSON A Sunrize Buzz / I always have the right words at the wrong time / Fleeting BEKAH STEIMEL
Blind Shepherd SHAWN CHANG
Prehistoric ALYSSA COOPER
Pro-Tips For Your Health No. 1 EUNICE KIM
Time (Lack Of) KEN CHIN
Time To Time RON CHASE
Note to Self SARAH M.
Not Enough Time SAMMI COX
Vanitas DAVID BUTLER
Post-Destruction: Creation KELSEY NEWMAN-REED
Shh JOE MORGAN
The Lever SEAN HYND
Timeâ€™s Embrace LOUIE DI GIANNI
Exhale KYLEEN MCGRAGH
Stay MICHELLE HILLYARD
Remembrance LORRAINE LAU
I Am Old Enough for Things that Break MIRANDA RAMNARES
Tick Tock NICHOLAS NACS
Back Cover ALLY ZLATAR
Inside Back Cover REILLY KNOWLES
FREE LIT MAGAZINE Editor-in-Chief Ashley Newton
Literary Editor Eunice Kim
Kyle Climans, Alyssa Cooper, Adriana Green, Bruce Kauffman
David Butler, Shawn Chang, Ron Chase, Eugene Cornacchia, Sammi Cox, Ken Chin, Michael Chin, Alex Dawson, Aliza Epstein, Meg Freer, Daniel Gennara, Louie di Gianni, Kendra Guidolin, Michelle Hillyard, Sean Hynd, Lorraine Lau, Aiko M., Sarah M., Nikki Marrone,Kyleen McGragh, Thomas McDade, Joan McNerney, Laura Misch, Joe Morgan, Nicholas Nacs, Kelsey Newman-Reed, Miranda Ramnares, Jessie Read, Michele Sabad, Bekah Steimel, Brittany Wallace, 1 SIGFRIDSSON
Free Lit Magazine is a digital literary magazine committed to the accessibility of literature for readers and the enrichment of writing for writers. Its mission is to form an online creative community by encouraging writers, artists, and photographers to practice their passion in a medium that anyone can access and appreciate.
Time is something we all want more of. We also would rather that some moments in time be erased. But it isn’t until we’ve just run out of seconds that we wish we could have the imperfect ones back. There’s a reason clocks are round. It’s because with each hour that passes, we are given another chance to redeem ourselves; to use the time we have in a way that can benefit our lives. No one likes to talk about what happens when the clocks in our minds function in any place but the present. Time is precious in its endlessness, but dangerous when we find ourselves trapped by it. We think having more time is the solution, though the hour and minute hands will always hold power over us, even if we think we have it. We’re all given the same seconds, minutes, and hours of a day. Time can give and time can take. Use the time you have to prepare yourself for either outcome. You won’t get this same chance again. Ashley Newton Editor-in-Chief
Next Issue The Identity Issue May 2017
ALIZA EPSTEIN When I learned to tell time, at age five, I kept confusing seconds and minutes. I knew that both were measurements of time and one was longer than the other, but I couldn’t remember which one was which. When someone would say, “Wait a minute,” I didn’t understand this was a figure of speech; instead, I thought the person expected me to wait one literal minute. I would panic and think to myself, “Which one is that, the long one or the short one?” I would stand as still as I could, hoping I was waiting the right amount of time. I didn’t know that beyond seconds, minutes, hours, and days, time was organized into weeks, months, and years. I simply knew that some mornings I woke up and went to kindergarten, other mornings I went to synagogue, and sometimes I did neither. Too young to recognize a pattern in a series of days, each morning was a surprise. At age five, every experience felt new. The Passover seder was the first time I was allowed to stay up late. I sang the Four Questions and ate matzah. At age six, I was confused when the Passover seder happened again. This was the first time I remembered an event repeating itself, my first understanding that time is structured in a cyclical fashion with recurrent occasions instead of an endless succession of unique experiences. In first grade, we learned about months. There seemed to be a never-ending flow of months, each with different numbers of days, weather, and holidays. And then, at the beginning of second grade, September returned. I hadn’t realized there were a limited number of months; I thought that months, like numbers, were infinite. “What’s the highest number?” I would ask my parents. They would explain that there is no highest number; that numbers keep going forever. In the evenings we would go for family strolls around the neighborhood, which we nicknamed “moonwalks” because the hollowed plots of land poised for new houses in our still-developing suburban community looked like moon craters. I would run ahead of my parents and baby brother while counting out loud. “Thirty-eight, thirty-nine…” I would turn back to my parents and ask, “What comes after thirty-nine?” “Forty,” they would tell me. “Forty-one, forty-two…” After each series of nine, I would call back to my parents for help. “What comes after forty-nine?” “Fifty.” “Fifty-one, fifty-two…” I found it amusing that I was five and my dad was thirty-five. “When you’re thirty-five, I’ll be sixty-five,” he would tell me. “And when you’re a hundred five, I’ll be a hundred thirtyfive.” I liked that no matter how old we were, we would always have one of the same numbers in our age. I didn’t understand that my parents were once five. Even though I knew my grandparents were my parents’ parents, I couldn’t picture them as children. I was too young to understand that people and things change over time and that the world and everyone in it used to be different than the way I experienced them as my five-year-old self. I didn’t know yet that time would change me too. 4
Ammunition JESSIE READ
wine bottles can look a lot like unwritten apologies my father’s alcoholism is the elephant in the room my mother chops vegetables like confetti in the kitchen like confetti we’ll pretend we’re paper people my family’s eulogy is spilled out in wine glasses that could never be looked at less then half full but that’s the problem when you have everything you always want more we always wanted happy but sunshine and privilege don’t always mix dad, we talk all the time but I feel like we’re not speaking the same langue miscommunication, dripping or our ears pouring into ammunition into I love you because that’s the only thing we know how to say i hope you’re okay when I hear bottles cracking in your voice when mom is chopping away not hearing the clanking dishes in your hurt ammunition is when i’ve never felt so far away from you in the same room wearing success like tombstone like it was never ours to begin with
are you proud of money of this ammunition we share as bullets shuttering the night sky as silence because it’s the only langue we both speak i hold your silence like thunder, that I hope it will erupt when it’s easy to say good morning and I love you but neither of us say how we’re feeling ammunition i just want to know what you’re thinking that I can steal your rain clouds for a spark of sunlight why is this the american dream anyways? i just want you to be happy i ask you how you are but I know you wear good like tragedy because he wears happy like the guillotine like trauma is safe space showing emotion is taking away from this dream to begin with mom chops away at the shards of glass in his voice pretending they’ve been swept up none of us know what to say we just listen to the spark of gasoline and matches in his footstep we all pretend we’re paper people because from the outside we shine of glory we fit success in the dictionary￼ but matches ignite with paper we all burn together so easily my parents stink of gasoline and glory of the dream we all want to obtain ￼ 5
THOMAS MCDADE A drizzly walk To India Point Through soft wind Rippling dock leg Reflections The way Commerce Once did Green grass Tarred bike path Bittersweet’s gold Rush beads Dawn glories Firstborn pink Blue of old Postcard ink Bunting the ground No crutch to climb Provoking notions Of artsy kite tails And Christmas Tree garlands Sutures lace A long gash on A black Lab’s back Framed in a shaved Circle like a barbed Wire relic hanging In a gallery Titled “No Trespass”
The Most Beautiful Woman in the World BRITTANY WALLACE
From outside the mind of the Most Beautiful Woman in the World, we present the idealized vision of circus feminism brought to you by Scotty Sponge Towels.
A bell tolls and the circus crier’s voice dances above a pliable and plebeian crowd “Oyez, oyez, oyez!” People stand in the village centre, not all have come, some sit at home weaving and reading, some relieved of the toil of the day have fallen fast asleep. But many have, some to stave off boredom, the village gossips who don’t dare miss an event, the curious and the hungry. The man ascends the old, wooden stairs and perches on the ledge, perfectly centered, perfectly balanced. He clears his throat, and begins, “Hear ye! Hear ye!,” He cries, “Today, on a day never known before and never touched again, I stand, a young and hungry man. I have trodden upon the dunes of diamond time and laughed at the face of a cast iron foe, but never, not once, in all feathery time have I presented an idea, a vision, of such intense magnitude. Lambolins and Gemofiles, few dare believe in a land beyond the crystalline lakes of this earthly veil, yet here, before you, on this languid night I present something to make angels weep!” Stillness falls, and warm lights bellow out with a knowledge of their own. Laughter and life exist in the distance of their minds, almost imperceptible in the sense of calm. It is something, something, perhaps, to change things. This is the beat of their heart, the inhale and exhale of breath, something is happening, the idea quakes through their bodies. Tonight things will change. And then the woman steps onto the stage. Her mannerisms are a sharpened tool, cool and effortless. She is cloaked in a gown of star dust, woven of an ancient era. Her face radiates like the scent of lily of the valley. His voice booms over the crowd they hold their breath in singular unity. “Very likely, my gallant circisians, you will never meet one like this again, She is soft, soft like the newly re-designed Scotty Sponge Towel!” She nods imperceptibly and the crowd rustles beneath the misty air. It is electric not knowing. “She, my friends - though this hardly needs to be stated - is The Most Beautiful Woman in the World.” This is, in its own way, true. The label was cast thoughtlessly upon her at birth by a fool of a Wise Man. She is sent to the stage to lift the spirit of the downtrodden masses. To make their toil a little lighter, their hardship less keenly felt. She is the crown jewel of the bourgeois. A coddled darling who knows nothing of pain. She knows of her fortune. She, living lavishly, courted by the most delicious men and women the Frankfurt veil has to offer. They are brash and she is static, a cover photo, a magazine spread to show the world what beauty is. She is a commodity, but her pockets are never empty, her stomach only to ensure her thighs, her stomach, her arms, do not swell. And again today, she stands on this wooden stage. This is her place, and her feet cool as they stand, unhampered in the threshold of visibility. She watches the crowd closely, her fellow humans, and she watches their hair, lit, and a-flight under the lanterns. She sees herself standing there, amongst them, in a sun-lit kaftan and they are not the same. “Watch her, friendly folk, she is one of her kind. It is the highest probability that this moment will never find itself again. Feast and be filled, and find your way through these lands of grave uncertainty. Feast and be filled!” 8
So she stands on the stage and looks upon the eager, hungry crowd. Her face aglow and her mannerisms cool and sharp. She cannot make sense of it all, of her pain, of theirs. She is the idea, they are the rest and she stands and she watches and she can’t make sense of it. She is angry, she is compassionate and she stops and she lets it descend, the curse, the blessing. And so, in the fairy-cool eve, the light and must of an ancient city slowly falls into the gathering. The known time is a rewound on the neglected face of Ben. All here are ethereal. Tired life falls off, caked dirt from leather shoes. “I know, I know! Isn’t it wonderful!? It is a rare day folk when the peace of understanding permeates your deepest being. This lady here truly is a gem of the lost opioid fields of the pan-meridian. And don’t forget the generous donation of this evening’s festivities from our sponsors, Scotty Sponge Towels! Feast your hearts, one and all!” Life becomes itself and she forgets her cool feet, her cool hands, her past, future fears, she is lost to her own mysticism. And so she loses herself to the people, and she dances and sways as the days and nights and colours and senses blend into a fog of reverie. She is lost to her own mysticism. And the people join. And nothing is clear but the unbroken eve and touching humanity and the gentle breeze washing cracked hearts. They dance until the Break and slowly with the rising of the opaque light the spell fades. And suddenly everything feels the same but changed, or not. And the towns’ people, one here, another there, a cluster as well, begin to stretch and gather their belongings and chat about the weather and latest news. One child bursts into exhausted tears and her father tries to calm her. She slowly removes herself, walking silently to her caravan, tired and empty. She thinks about the lake that she once knew, the way the water felt when it slowly engulfed her, silky and soft and completely malleable, she felt weightless. She remembers how the waves lapped against her shoulders and the softness of her hair free and billowing. She will sleep now, and let the world fall away to darkness. Tomorrow will come. The crier resumes his presence on the stage, bright and open, and loud, “Well that is all for today folks, we will be here again tomorrow night and then moving on to the nearby town of Preston, feel free to send word to your loved ones. Oh and don’t forget to grab your sample of Scotty Sponge Towels on the way out! They are three times more absorbent than the next leading brand and now come in three stylish patterns to fit perfectly the décor of your home. Scotty Sponge Towels, because you never know when your next spill will be.”
The Poet / Keepsake / You Are Gone JOAN MCNERNEY The Poet It is the white hour between deep night, soft dawn. I have known no sleep but my eyes blazed back at the stars this night. Walking by the river soft murmuring while long poems intricate exquisite shaped themselves glided across my mind. Faint indistinct---like a love I have known. Quiet passion gentle smooth. Cotton clouds in a blue sky. Haze of hours half-forgotten melon moons crackerjacks. This is a kind of sleep in a way, enchanted. Half in out of this world. Another sun rises another golden flower.
Keepsake There are too many clocks and not enough time. I will take and save this minute for myself. This minute of mercury this swift night as sleepless stars glide through the sky in aerial ballet.
You Are Gone Leaving only silence. Time and memory of our time fill this room. Through dreams I search your face outlined in my mind my fingertips tracing your forehead. A voice on the telephone your deep voice. No one sounds like you.
BRUCE KAUFFMAN here in this time between i wander alone in this house of time meandering between its first two rooms one freedom the other uncertainty subtle anxiousness waits in another room in this house loneliness sits in the last room at the end of the hall both doors still closed
i softly walk the hall lock both doors here from this side then melt both keys back to ore to be sure i am then enveloped in an encompassing new softness here its crystalline haze colouring all things with a blush in shades of rose and in it all this long awaited realization coming that anyone can paint the world in any colour they choose
but i can hear them breathing still on the other side
The Tide of Time VANESSA BERNICKY
“Time and Tide waits for no man.” —St. Maher, 1225 We are celebrating the life of my father. He is an eighty year old man that is strong, opinionated and complex, with many layers; the proverbial onion. Outside, analytical, logical and up on current events. He takes you to task to see if you read the local paper, listened to the news and that you understand the magnitude of what is happening in our country. Inside, a man bent on being above the rest, always centre of attention at gatherings with his stories and the secret jigger offered on the sly, he was a mechanic, a welder, a manager and a college teacher. At the core, wanting to achieve, having an over active ambition due to his ability to overcome life’s obstacles; and emotional, when issues arise that he has no control over. He is sick, totally blindsided with the potential “C” word hanging in the midst. “I have had an awesome life.” What will be will be; que sara sara and all that. “ You girls don’t mourn me, learn from me.” He has proceeded to tell my sister and I of his journey in life. They were poor but not poor due to station, but due to family life with an alcoholic father. Giving his mother money to help sustain the family of eight (being second youngest and supporting where he could, i.e. skinning rabbits at age 6, sending home his wages from service later on). In his youth, he hung out at the airport early Saturday mornings to catch a ride because he was not able to afford flying lessons. My father had ambition but not the financial backing to achieve his dreams. He found ways: By joining the Navy and the British Army, he circled the globe by the age of 21. During his lifetime he always had two to three jobs, one to sustain the family, two to use for himself. His mantra “Work 9-5 to sustain and 5-9 to live.” My parents have vacationed on five continents. My father took my mom to every port he was stationed at, sharing experiences – they were committed to each other at the ages of 16 and 14. What an awesome life. Eventually we all have to die. What you do with your time is what makes you the individual you want to be. Having a goal and something to work toward, is one key to a fulfilled life. And if you do get sick, you too can say “I had an awesome life” with no regrets and no time wasted. God bless my father (In Italy, Pope Francis, in passing, looked him in the eye and blessed him twice during a procession from the Vatican - another story), from his daughter who will not mourn but celebrate and learn from his life’s challenges and shall attempt not to abuse the tide of time.
JIM WOLPER Sometimes, time is not there. Telling stories about Mathematics raises questions about time that other kinds of stories hide. Telling stories almost always involves chronology: “In the beginning....” “Once upon a time. . .” “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... Time is a natural part of the story, ubiquitous like gravity. There’s another kind of time that is not part of the story: reader’s time, or listener’s time, or narrator’s time. The narrator sits down and starts to tell the story; the listeners file in, one by one, and after some time the story ends. This time marches on through the story’s flashbacks and reversals. Which time is time? Mathematical stories do not have a beginning or an end or even a middle. Think about Pythagoras’s Theorem relating the lengths of the sides of a right triangle; pretend, if necessary, that you forgot. How can I tell you the story of Pythagoras’s relation? “Once upon a time there was a triangle. . .” suggest that there were no triangles before Pythagoras at the same time that it suggests that there might be a future time devoid of triangles, and I do not want to suggest such things because they are irrelevant to the story I am trying to tell you. “A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, there was a triangle,” even imposes spatial and temporal questions. Did triangles start in one place and then slowly spread across the universe? Are there triangles everywhere? Can we imagine an alien civilization without triangles? Time makes sense when I tell stories about the history of Mathematics: Pythagoras mastered distance, then Euclid codified geometry, so when Newton watched an apple fall there was a good vocabulary for its explanation. Gauss found the lost asteroid Ceres, Hilbert challenged the mathematical world to prove more, Noether proved more, but then Gödel showed that some questions are undecidable. It is satisfying to watch the advance of the calendar matching the advance of ideas, each mathematician building on the work of those who came before. Newton famously claimed that he saw further because he “stood on the shoulders of giants.” The psychology of doing Mathematics is also timeless. Students whinge, so we quote Euclid telling Ptolemy that there is no royal road to geometry. That’s a story: once upon a time there was a mathematician who chastised a king; once upon a time David defeated Goliath; a long time ago, in an ocean far, far away, Odysseus fought the Cyclops. I can tell stories about the philosophy of Mathematics. The anti-teleological assertion of Kronecker that God created the whole numbers, but the rest was the work of humanity. Kronecker’s story starts, “In the beginning. . ..” I can tell you about these stories and the structure of the telling has a natural, timely flow. The story of the infinitude of prime numbers does not. Euclid proved (past tense: human history) that there are an infinite number of prime numbers (those whole numbers that have no factors, 11 being prime while 12, which can be rewritten as 3 × 4, is not). There is an unresolved argument between those who think that mathematics is discovered and those who think mathematics is invented. Both camps have some claim on time, but neither engages the concepts. Whether “prime number” was discovered or invented, 11 was always prime, and 12 was not. Eschatologically, 11 will always be prime, even beyond the afterlife, and 12 will always not be prime. There always was and always will be an infinite number of primes, and it does not matter whether Euclid 13
discovered or invented this fact. The discovery or invention question attempts to explain how humans interact with the concept, but is not part of the concept itself. Suppose I want to tell you about a more elaborate story, like Calculus. I enjoy telling people about Calculus. Calculus textbooks are frustrating: my mother’s textbook from 1944 has the same material as those that my students purchase today. Both present, say, the Mean Value Theorem in exactly the same language with exactly the same diagrams. None call this a story. The Mean Value Theorem has hypotheses and a conclusion. Sometimes an author writes about it in the past, noting that the conclusion held in a certain situation because the hypotheses were true. Some write about it in the future, noting that the conclusion will hold when the hypotheses hold. A few write about it in the present: I have these hypotheses, so I have this conclusion. Telling you about Calculus imposes a time-line on the story, but that is reader’s time, not internal Calculus time. On the first day I will tell you about some concepts. On the second day I will tell you about others, building on the first. On the third day I will tell you about still others, still building on the first. On the fourth day I will tell you how to combine the concepts from the second and third days to get to the punchline. On another occasion I might decide to reverse the order of the telling of the second and third days’s concepts; they do not logically depend on each other (although the punchline depends on both). So I can mix them up, if nothing else to amuse myself because I have told this story many times. Think of me as Alma Mahler, reversing the order of movements in her late husband’s symphonies. The storyteller introduces reader’s time (or listener’s time) into the story: this came first, this came second, etc. But there is no intrinsic time in the story. When I tell you about one of Pythagoras’s triangles, I need to name the points at the corners. Call them A, B, and C. I told you about A first, then I told you about B, and then C. But this story, like Rashomon in reverse time, has six beginnings. I could have called the points B, A, and C, or C, B, and A, or whatever. But the story doesn’t change: they’re all the same triangle. A more common way to experience the absence of time is to look at a painting. You decide to visit Ottawa, then you decide the visit the National Gallery, then you come across Benjamin West’s The Death of General Wolfe. Or you do not, you never visit Ottawa. The painting is there in either case, although now we can agree that there was no painting until West painted it, and that West did not invent the Plains of Abraham. We are disappointed to imagine that in 2,000 or 20,000 or 200,000 years the painting will have been destroyed. But this is the history of the painting you find yourself standing in front of, reading the little label with its description (dates, media, and the like). The label is in two languages, but neither description is the painting that has been before you this whole time. Do you start in the middle with the figure of Wolfe, and then look at the figure to his left, and then the figure to his right? You impose viewer’s time on the painting. Or do you view Wolfe first, then the figure to his right, and then the figure to his left? Or do you start in the background, and consider the foreground later? The whole painting stands before you in every case, unchanged by your story about it. When I tell you about Mathematics it is like I am telling you about a painting. I choose an order, I choose a timeline, but these are inconveniences, symptoms of our limited ability to communicate without using time. We know we have altered the story from the language that we have to use. I want to tell you about a triangle, so I say “Let A, B, and C be the vertices of a triangle.” I tell you about it in the subjunctive voice. If you are naïve (and if I am telling you about Mathematics you are probably 14
the subjunctive voice). If you are naïve (and if I am telling you about Mathematics you are probably naïve) then you would be justified in thinking that perhaps the subjunctive means that what I am saying is a counterfactual. If it were only that easy. I could have begun “Once upon a time there were three little points, A, B and C,” and now I am making you imagine that one point has straw, one has wood, and one has bricks, and a Big, Bad Wolf is about to do something to the triangle. But there is no Big, Bad Wolf, no matter how negative your feelings about Mathematics be. The triangle is there, ouside of time. It was always there. It will always be there.
Phoenix / Garden Graves NIKKI MARRONE Phoenix I was told to wait, For a man to come my way. The one who would wear the crown, And ride the golden mare. Whose stare would have me enamoured for a lifetime. A man so great I would prostrate myself on an altar of â€œlove.â€? Devote myself to deities of death and destruction. Find joy in the cleansing fire of chaos and crumbling brick of derelict foundations. They never stopped to warn me of false prophets. Those who never learnt the difference between taking and giving. Who think no means convince me. Who take your reluctance for lack of conviction. They soothe salt-licked wounds at the fire inside of you. Abuse the privilege of your kindness, While you learn the mantras of their madness. Map scar to scar; Until their songs of sadness, Become the lullabies that soothe your own neurosis. You will try to tame them. Be the eye in the centre of the storm, Or the milk in their veins. But you are no antidote No cleansing liquid You are nothing but matter but what matters most is you. So do not worship at the feet of those that kick you down. Stand upon your ankles and wait for you to stand. Do not seek comfort from the hands that hurt you. That stained you black and blue. Instead rise from the ashes of your grave To be reborn, Like leaves burnt bare for the fallen. Striped back like the bones in shattered ribcages, Air torn straight from the lungs, Drowning on dry land. Because you are not weak for needing trigger warnings. Not damaged. Not broken. Not used. Not a victim. You do not stay for the ones who love you, If you no longer love yourself. 16
Gardens and Graves In the follies of our first time fumbles We dug the trenches of our young hearts to find love Believing we’d found it We began to lay the foundations of our future Planting a seed we never expected to take root But expectations are never what you expect And the word takes on new meaning When that seed begins to flower But like leaves in the autumn Seasons change And now he’s standing somewhere Between the storm of my present And the graveyard of our past Where we learnt to bury our souls And hide our truths The truth is that I once had a heartbeat, I once had two And I knew nothing of love – Until you came to grow in the garden of my womb Knew nothing of grief – Until the winter came to pass When the flowers began to wilt and the garden became a graveyard In which I lay you – Innocence in a stone forest of forgotten names Never to be forgotten within the heart of me Where our hearts once beat as one I once had two heartbeats – Now there’s only one But flowers still grow within graveyards And death gives back life in the spring This garden will someday bloom again In the summer sweet memory of you
LAURA MISCH An injury by well-intended hearts, And misguided hands. Unnerved by the distance, Between then and now, Now and when, Bound to fall apart. Enthralled with the sharp remembrance, A caustic warmth, A scornful shove, While a craned neck Gulps deeply for the past.
My Grandparents Were
The aging roots of time; cream flowered wallpapers, fading locket eyes.
A Sunrise Buzz / I always have the right words at the wrong time / Fleeting BEKAH STEIMEL A sunrise buzz because I might die by the clock but I will not live by it. I always have the right words at the wrong time which is poetry my silence is reflection, not rejection my silence is found in books I chew on emotions and swallow them poetry is simply digestion Fleeting We inhale moments and exhale memories photographs are a near miss it’s already gone as are we as is this
Time (Lack Of)
I don’t have time Undoubtedly the world’s most used excuse Also the world’s most lame ass excuse What does it actually mean When you don’t have time Only 24 hours to a day 10 to 12 of which we spend on sleeping As well as preparing for and after sleep Another 4 hours travelling to or from work And eating lunch and dinner Remainder of the time is for work or school Or something that takes up most of our time Humans are creatures of habit and routine Every minute of every day is taken up Therefore we not only do not have time We never have time... unless Unless we change our time Reshuffle our priorities Which is what we do All the time What does the response “I don’t have time” actually mean? It could mean a million things Could be not important enough to make time It could indicate noncompliance or flat refusal Or it might even be that the person is lying And not have the courtesy to give a real answer But dismisses you with the most convenient answer
Note to Self SARAH M.
This has all happened before: the powdered and pompous arbiters of humanity, the blind leading the blind in the war for your mind, shift the blame to any given ‘tyrant’ from the shoulders of the last one who didn’t change a thing, now hailed a victim of the system by virtue of crimes we’ve moved on from; they ride on, into the future, on the trajectory of progress, tongues clicking, serious eyes squinting on the exotic barbarousness of those who favor the primitive glint of an ax to the all-american bombs, who stepped right off the page of medieval things we thought we’d left behind; they turn around, dervishes in suits and ties, over the question, ‘Why?’ mics and pens in hand, cameras snapping up ‘Why?’: ‘What makes a nice western boy grow his beard and wield a black flag, a nice German woman shut her kitchen window at the smell of smoke rising from a furnace, a nice French man drag his sister by the hair to the guillotine in a reign of terror?’ ‘Why?’ like a record, round and round, up and down on the carousel of time, looking to explain away evil; the oppressed fall down and rise back up on horses locked onto a spinning plate standing poised for their chance to hold the whip, as fruit falls rotting from the tree, as every second someone falls from hunger, as plastic Dorito bags float to them from across the ocean that divides us, as the world turns, as someone looks down from the moon and says, ‘You’re wasting your time,’; 21
they shrug their shoulders and sketch out plans, doodles scribbled on a napkin, to colonize Mars, the new city on a hill? for a chance to start anew on another spinning orb until that one too flings them out from its orbit, tired of the antics of a species that prides itself on intelligence without listening to the echo from across space that rings out, â€˜And It will all happen again.â€™
MADELON DECECCO 22
DAVID BUTLER The year has skipped away like a stone across the surface of days. Now it has all but gone. At a distance, what can be seen stretching out before, stretching out behind, is a benign, unbroken stillness. But there is a sound of rushing nearby where our bodies are immersed, a sound like God’s hatred. Distant years have the appearance of marble. We think that, once we’ve carved dates into them, they stand still, take on permanence. We think to make them coincide with calendars. But instead they turn and eddy slip from the shackles of our dates and glide inexorably past us. Our projects are carried with them, shades lacking to the end in resolution. For years are too large for us. There is space in a year for all the people of the Earth, walled between desire and regret in a dimensionless present. Time is God’s breath, and it withers us. We shrink and writhe before it like sheaves left too near the furnace. But God says ‘This is love.’
JOE MORGAN The ticking, the ticking! That infernal racket! Maddening, smotheringâ€Ś Ticking as the flies buzz Their eyes compounding Slow-motion decay Awake as I lie withering Breathing in putrefying air No movement, nothing works I cannot feel my reality The decay of my mind As the seconds become the ticking The passage of the clock Ticking still even as it slows The flies still piercing Growing fat in their feast But that damn racket! Silence
DANIEL GENNARA The moment I stepped out of the arrival gate, from a direct flight from Toronto to Cusco, I saw Hailee Johnson holding a beige pea coat, with her brown hair pulled back and her face shimmering from the heat. She stood next a driver, holding out a sign with three names scribbled on. I approached them and introduced myself, extending my hand to Hailee. She was a defense lawyer from Chicago, who booked her flight in the court-house, during a recess when she knew her client would be deemed not guilty. We waited outside for our last companion and shared cigarettes, bottles of water, predicting our reactions and sharing our hopes for the upcoming ceremony. An Indian woman with long, sleek black hair, Rani Patel, arrived thirty minutes later, hauling a massive suitcase through the sliding doors. A schoolteacher from Bristol, on summer vacation, eager to be entering exile after a nasty divorce with a cheating politician. After a quick greeting, we piled into a small, windowless truck and headed up the steep, luscious Peruvian mountains. The shakiness of the ride made me queasy, but sharing stories with Hailee and Rani calmed me down. After settling in our small hotel rooms, which had no more than just a mattress on the floor, we headed to for dinner to meet with the Shaman Sandro. A tall, lanky man with a shaved head, Sandro served us steamed vegetables and rice. He was a former plumber from Vancouver who had spent seven years in Machu Picchu, practising Shamanism from what he said were the most respected Shamans in South America. After making us some chaga mushroom tea, he talked us through the ceremony, promising us we would be completely fine as long as we didnâ€™t drink any alcohol or eat any meat in the twelve four hours leading up to the ceremony. He blessed us with frankincense oil on our heads and said a hymn as we sat around the table, smoking joints for the rest of the evening. The next day, Hailee, Rani and I kept quiet, speaking very little to each other. We spent the afternoon mediating on the balcony, which looked over tall trees of ceiba and kapok, and drank many cups of green tea with clammy hands. When it got dark, we piled in the small truck and were brought deep into the Inca Jungle. The entire ride, I could feel a sharp pain in stomach, as if I had been hit with a baseball from the outfield. I couldnâ€™t keep still until the truck pulled up to a long, winding dirt trail, leading to a row of three wooden huts, all shimmering and glowing. I slowly walked toward them, holding hands with my new friends. Hailee rolled three joints and sat in the lotus position. Rani chopped chunks of ginger and lime. The myloca hut was filled with sage smoke. Three small cups with no more than a drop of ayahuasca in each, sat on the floor in front of me. My intentions folded on a piece of parchment beside the mattress. The Shaman Sandro, holding a leaf-bundle, tangoed around our heads, humming his mantra. I rose up from the thin mattress, drenched in sweat from the heat of the Inca Jungle, with what I thought was a regular heart beat and a clenched jaw, thanks to a piece of lime I got from Rani. In the middle of the circular, wooden hut sat a single lit candle, which had a flickering flame, swaying to the rattles of the leaf-bundle. I was so wet that I tried to smooth out the wrinkles forming on my shirt, even though I knew it would be a mess and covered in vomit by the end of the ceremony. 26
A light downpour hit the trees surrounding the hut and I could feel small drops splashing on my neck from the open windows. Hailee started swaying on her mattress and Rani grabbed a plastic bucket beside her. I reached over for a piece of ginger in hopes of masking the bitter aftertaste on my tongue. I sensed it was beginning when small green dots started to form on Sandro’s robes. Patterns of light, mosaics of colour and geometric shapes rapidly swirled and tunnelled, intensifying as the mattress below me vibrated and hissed. The initial come-on was familiar to the acid dropped in Jim’s cottage in Collingwood, but when Rani started heaving, Hailee burst into tears. Lying back on the mattress, I closed my eyes and the Shaman’s hymns rose in volume. I lie under a concrete bridge, snug in my teal sleeping bag, smoking a cigarette. Large Hummers and Range Rovers pass by and the smell of gasoline fills the air. I hear footsteps echoing around me, bouncing off the graffiti. A herd of teenagers walk under the bridge, cackling, smirking, and gleaming, each of them wearing white collared uniform shirts from the Catholic High School, with identical Jansport bags on their backs. When they approach, the laughter ceases. The students pick up their pace as they pass my sleeping bag, but the shortest boy trailing behind his friends looks down at me. He smirks, kicks my feet and sprints away. I sprung up and grabbed the plastic bucket beside me. My body convulsed and I projectile vomited for two minutes but felt no sense of relief. My back ached and more sweat oozed down my chin, mixing with the bile that wouldn’t seem to stop. I tried to stand but fell back on the mattress and when I started dry heaving. The Shaman came over and placed his hand on my forehead. I could feel the air from his leaf-bundle grazing my cheek. He yanked the bucket from my hands and blew marijuana smoke in my face. I stand before Nettie’s casket. Staring down at her thin, hooked nose, I kneel in front of her, cross my hands and pretend to pray. Her bloated face shines and I can’t help but think she looks better lying in this bed then she ever had, with her cheeks red and lips so purple. I get up and hear Nana sobbing. She sits in the corner of the room with a photo album in her hands. I silently sit beside her and she takes my hand and I feel her moist warmth tighten. The sun flares in the reflection of Nana’s sunglasses as I sit in the sand, filling my radiant, red pail with smooth, burning hot sand. She sits on the pink and purple quilted blanket, making salami sandwiches with fresh lettuce and asiago cheese. Nana wipes my hands with a towel and I kneel beside her, chomping my lunch as she peels a clementine for dessert. After we eat, we play in the waves, scooping the wet sand and rubbing it on our bodies, pretending to be sea monsters. I get some in my eyes and I can’t help but cry and Nana swims over to me so I float in her arms until the pain is gone. Still drenched, we arrive back home and sit on the porch, eating blue freezies and drinking orange pop. Nettie’s Volkswagen pulls into the driveway and I race into the house, past the foyer and the stairs into the washroom, locking the door. I sit in the bathtub and count the black and white tiles on the wall. As I count forty-five, I hear pounding on the door and Nettie’s swearing, calling me a little shit while Nana’s soft tone assures me we’ll go back to the beach next week. When I open up, Nettie grabs my arm and leads me outside. I plead and beg Nana to stay but after she kisses my cheek, she tells me that my mother needs me. I rolled over on the mattress and saw the Shaman sitting beside Hailee who was smoking a massive joint. She offered it to me and although I hesitated, I took several pulls and passed it to Rani. Her hands shook and when she dropped it she began barfing and shitting simultaneously. The stench hit me harder than any acid and even though I recoiled, Hailee and the Sandro ran over to her, encouraging her to let it all out, cheering her on as if she was running a marathon or singing in the school talent show. I was impressed to see how fast the mess was cleaned and 27
once the heaving was done, Rani was wrapped in a silk cloth and laid back down on a fresh mattress. When the smell was gone, I sat up and picked up the fallen joint. Taking it into my mouth, the Shaman came over with the candle, extending the flame to me. Nettie lights a cigarette as she applies foundation to her face, standing before the closet mirror. I sit in the living room with a mountain of blocks before me, creating a fortress in the shape of pentagon. The doorbell rings and Nettie lets Tommy into the apartment. He is a large man with calf muscles like tennis balls and resembles Santa Claus, except that his skin is tanned and he only wears black. Tommy criticizes Nettie’s long red dress and makes her change. When she races to her room, he sits down on the green leather couch beside me and takes a slice of pizza from the coffee table. His large black eyes gaze at my wooden blocks and he asks me what I’m building. An impenetrable castle to protect mum and me, I say. He laughs and stands up, kicking over some of the blocks. Nettie returns from her room, dressed in a tight skirt and corset. Tommy gives his approval and tells her he’ll start the car. Nettie walks over to me and hands me twenty bucks in case I get hungry again. I’ll be working late, she says as she pats my head. After reminding me to lock the door, she leaves and I retreat to the couch and lie down. Lying back on the dried, rough, scratchy grass, I look up at the clouds. Becky pops her head in my view and smiles as her pigtails dangle in front of me. She asks me what I’m doing and when I tell her I’m counting clouds, she calls me a weirdo. Becky sits down beside me anyway and pokes my shoulder. Play with me, she begs. I ask her what she wants to do so she springs up from the ground and races past the jungle gym, to the swings. I follow quickly behind her. We take our seats and pump our legs, getting higher and higher. Her pink jacket flops around, almost hitting me in the face whenever our swings pass one another. After a few more pumps, we swing in perfect unison, or double dating as we call it. Becky bets she can swing higher so she pumps harder. When she reaches the highest point the chains can bring her, she jumps off the swing and thuds in the sand. Her loud cries fill the schoolyard and I start kicking the sand in hopes of slowing down. Once on the ground, I sprint over and help her up, telling her she’s okay. She stops crying and grabs my hand, leading me under the slide. Becky asks me if she can kiss my lips. I tell her I didn’t have enough but she leans in anyway. I wipe my mouth the moment the peck is over and then reach out into my pocket and pull out two loonies. I hand them to Becky. She looks at the money and asks what it’s for. I tell her it’s for the kiss. I took another pull of the joint and turned to see Hailee sobbing on her mattress. Rani slowly stood up and walked over to her. Sitting down on the floor, she hugged her and told her she would be okay. Hailee embraced her and the two women cried together. I reached for my bucket but nothing came out. The Shaman sat in the middle of the room, cross-legged, humming a new, slow mantra. His humming travelled in waves, crashing over my head, so intense, yet calm. The humming from the dryer machine gets louder as I sit piling laundry baskets on the floor. Nana irons a pink cotton shirt, whistling Mary had a Little Lamb. I stack the largest plastic basket on to two small ones and then punch them down, pretending I’m the Hulk. The dryer rings and the humming stops. I hand Nana a basket and she piles the freshly dried clothes into it. I quickly stand from the floor and beg her for an avalanche. She giggles and raises the basket above and dumps the clothes on me. The warm cotton and silk pours on face and arms, smelling the lavender, I jump up and grab any piece of clothing I can and toss it in the air. She can’t help but laugh and then tells me it’s time for the ten-second tidy. I race around the laundry room, gathering the fallen clothes as fast I can as Nana counts down slowly from ten. I lie on the living room floor of the apartment watching cartoons. My stomach growls so 28
I race to the fridge but find only a carton of milk, two eggs and a lemon. I pour myself a glass and reach into the pantry to get a twisty straw. I blow bubbles with my milk, watching as they rise and pop, getting higher in the glass until they spill onto the counter. I quickly grab some paper towel, clean the mess and chug the rest of my milk. With small steps, I approach Nettie’s door and tap lightly on it. Mum, I’m hungry, I try not to yell. I knock on the door again but there’s no answer. My hand reaches for the doorknob and I turn the handle. The room is dark and when I turn on the light, I see Nettie in bed, sleeping with her mouth wide open, breathing softly. I call out to her but she doesn’t wake up. I jump on the bed and tap her shoulder. I call her name again but she still doesn’t budge. I jump some more and she doesn’t move. I quickly race from the room and charge the cordless phone. My fingers dial Nana’s number and when I tell her what I saw she screams at me, telling me to call 9-1-1, so I hang up the phone and do as she says. I talk to a calm woman with a soothing accent. I recount what I told Nana and she tells me to wait by the door until the paramedics arrive. After hanging up the phone, I pour myself another glass of milk and take a seat next to the apartment door. I blow more bubbles and count them. I count the passing pine trees, sitting in the back of Nettie’s Volkswagen. When we pass the beach, I look out at the children flying kites and making sand castles. We pull up at Nana’s and I race out of the car. I hug Nana who’s waiting with two freezies in her hand. Nettie walks over, carrying a large suitcase. She hands it to Nana and bends down in front of me, kisses me on the cheek and tells me to be good. I nod and watch as Nettie and Nana hug for more than two minutes. Nettie gets back in the Volkswagen and starts driving off. Nana wipes her eyes and brings me to the kitchen where shortbread cookie dough rests in a small bowl. I wash my hands and help Nana roll the dough, patting flour on my hand. I touch my face, leaving a white handprint, which makes her laugh. Nana wipes it away with a cloth and then bends down to pull out star-shaped cookie cutters. I walk into the house to find Nana at the kitchen table with my bag full of MDMA sitting before her. Without saying a word, she grabs my stash, walks over to the sink and pours water into the bag. I race to grab it but she moves away, screaming, yelling and hissing at me. I plead with her, begging her to stop, telling her how much money the Molly’s worth. She smacks me in the face and tells me to get dressed. I refuse and pull out a pack of cigarettes. I spark one and blow the smoke at her. She yanks it from my mouth and tosses it in the sink. She demands that I get dressed again, forcing me to come with her to visit Nettie. I tell her to fuck off. She kicks me out of the house. I storm out the front door, down the porch and sob. Walking up the front porch of Jim’s cottage, I feel the come-on. We are flying, yet sitting in the family room, playing crazy eights and drinking gin and tonics. The doorbell rings and Jim admits he planned a surprise. Two young girls, dressed in no more than bikinis, walk in and make themselves a drink. They move into the family room and kick the cards aside. Jim hands them a wad of bills and the girls take off their bikini tops. The shortest girl, with bright red hair and a straight line of beauty marks on her face, sits on my lap and licks my ear. Her hands move across my chest as she tells me I’m sexy. When her hands move over my crotch, I push her off. She stumbles to the floor and I quickly race outside. Standing in the rain, I peer up into the dark, grumbling clouds. Under the concrete bridge, I roll up my sleeping bag, taking deep breaths. The rain is heavy and the streetlights come on. I wander along the sidewalk, stepping in puddles and avoiding the splashes from the cars zooming past. At an intersection, I notice a Chevy Impala at the red light as I walk across. Sitting in the passenger seat is a young boy, licking an ice cream cone, vanilla with chocolate dip. The woman beside him bends her head close to him 29
and holds out the cone, she has a lick. She scoops her finger in the ice cream and puts it on the boy’s cheek. A loud honk blares and I realize the light is green but I’m still in the middle of the intersection. I race to the sidewalk and watch the Impala drive off. I grew weaker and weaker, barely able to lift my head from the mattress. A sharp pain pulsed in my head and I started to panic, hyperventilating, almost on the verge of tears. I was sobbing within a minute, begging out loud for it to stop. Hailee and Rani stepped toward me, placing their hands on my shoulder. They told me to breathe, so I did. The Shaman stood and tapped the tops of the women’s heads with the bundle of leaves, chanting another sacred hymn. The Flintstone’s theme song plays from loud speakers in the ground. Nettie holds my hand as we walk through Hannah Barbara land at Canada’s Wonderland. She buys me cotton candy and feeds me large chunks of pink and blue. We share a funnel cake and watch as the Yogi Bear mascot dances with Scooby Doo. After our snacks, we roll around in the tiny bumper cars, charging at other parents and children. I scream and holler at Nettie to drive faster. Although it isn’t a competition, Nettie assures me that we won. We walk by the wooden rollercoaster, the Ghoster Coaster, and Nettie tugs my arm, trying to lead me to the line. Standing firm, I cry out, begging not to go on. Nettie promises it will be fun and that she will make sure we’re safe. No way, I say, but she picks me up then walks into line as I kick and scream. Sitting at the very front of the train, Nettie tries to raise my hands in the air but my grasp tightens on the safety bar instead. The train starts moving and we rise up on to the chain-lift. More tears escape from the eyes and just as we are about to drop, Nettie puts her arm around me and kisses my head. Wrapped in my mother’s embrace, I roll over in my bed, getting a better look at the picture book she’s holding. Her crackling voice reads a story about a brave princess who must save the vain and annoying prince from a fire-breathing dragon. When the story was over, mommy tells me that I can never be like the prince. She pulls out my bucket of blocks and tells me to play for one more hour. Nettie leaves the room and I start building a castle to protect the princess. She comes back with a bowl of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. Mommy places some blocks on the foundation of the castle, helping me build it higher. Her bright red hair falls on my face and blow on it to push it away. I scoop some ice cream and hold out my spoon and mommy takes a bite. I opened my eyes and wiped my cheeks of tears. Hailee and Rani still sat next to me with their hands pressed on my shoulder. My heart was slowing down and the Shaman started his closing ceremony. He grabbed hold of a smudge stick and leaped around the room, making sure the smoulder of sage travelled throughout the entire hut. Rani leaned over and grabbed three chunks of ginger and handed these to me and Hailee. We chewed on the spice and my mouth burned, which made my eyes water even more. Shaman Sandy helped each of us from the mattress and lightly hit us in the stomach with the leaf-bundle. He started a new, up-tempo mantra, which sounded like he was humming a funk song and then pointed at the folded up pieces of parchment beside our mattresses. We retrieved out intentions and held them out to him. The Shaman picked up the burning candle, which had melted to the size of pickle. He held out the flame and nodded his head. Hailee opened her piece of parchment, smirked at her writing and put it the flames. Rani did the same, but when the flame stood in front of me, I didn’t unfold my words. I held the paper above the flames and waited for it to catch fire. The piece of parchment curled and hissed, and when the heat touched my fingers, I let go and watched as the orange embers floated away, into the jungle.
Timeâ€™s Embrace LOUIE DI GIANNI
Time is the duality of notion.The past and the future, and yet now can never be determined because we are always in motion. The sands of time are not easily explained. We can only grasp a handful, although the grains will always flee like thoughts undiscovered. Is the sand all the same? Do we need loam to sustain our concepts of time? How do we rediscover freedom shore from youth? We drive along the shore, time and time again, trying to decipher the ghost of the past. Night falls gently, like a soft incantation not easily unraveled. Its dark veil hides our subconscious insecurities. Without a star in the sky, we aim, with flame, to open up the heavens, and what lies beyond. The cold keeps us inside, so that we may not know of the magical beast in the dark forest. How do we yearn for the next day, when the magical, sprinkled mist has ceased from the hand? Is there a secure fire in the night? The time of night flits by like misty light from a sprite. The pulse of the night urges us, its heartbeat a forewarning of the greatness of the morning. We have the right to sleep like angels of light. *** Time presses us on like a deep massage in the morning, loosening muscle fibres, to maximize blood flow and energy. Time is elusive, for how we find meaning in light blue magical pockets that are mid-air, and the pockets sometimes have holes in them. Why do we lose time when we have so much of it? Time must be contained, like the gilded-golden frame, framing visual architectural antiquity on the wall. The visual architecture representing the bounds and beauties of time that are rediscovered. Can we take a step back from time? If we do, we can reveal how we live in our footprints on the open plain. An eye opens from each footprint staring back at us. What do these eyes tell us? The eyes transform into beams of light that shoot into a sunset, and starry blue sky. The soft wind tells us to wait patiently for the stars to fall to the earth, and then we may see the edge of the earth.
MICHELLE HILLYARD Come to me. Fade the world in your head-heavy surrender. Velvet cheek to chest, cherub lips part to silky breaths of slumber. Dream with me. Over a smile-tickled mouth curtained eyes wander. Loose-limbed twitches hint a journey in the mindscape’s wonder. Stay with me. Cease the minute hand, the incessant forward march of change. Knowledge blooms, body lengthens. Hands ungripped, curiosity grows freedom’s range When night darkens, world burdens, soul yearns for rest –still; come to me. Fade the world. Head heavy, heart to heart, cheek to chest.
I Am Old Enough For Things That Break MIRANDA RAMNARES
The house is cold now. And all my trains are blue so I keep them on a row next to my bed. Now Tyson comes in the room and he is mad because I have the paint and I am making a drawing of the ocean. All the ocean is blue in the middle and the paintbrush goes around and around and I put grey paint on the top like the sky and it looks like when we all went to the beach and there was rain and Mommy almost closed the car on my fingers. But now Tyson’s face is red and he stamps his feet and picks up my trains and I tell him no because they are glass and he makes them crash against each other and now my floor is white with blue triangles all over. And I see all of the pieces of the trains that Daddy had bought me when he went away on his trip and he gave them to me because I am old enough to have things that can break and Tyson got a bear but we both got toffee. And they broke now but it wasn’t my fault and I know that it is time to cry but I don’t because I am the quiet one but Tyson cries and I hear Mommy and Daddy downstairs and they are loud too and the whole house feels like it is bouncing up and down and my head is growing bigger and bigger because everything feels blue and cold so I put my knee on one of the triangles and press it down and now it is hot. The triangles are cold and the house is cold but my knee is hot and red comes out and falls on my painting fast and I go downstairs and show Daddy and his face is white and he picks me up and says, Oh Adeline what did you do. And I say sorry and the triangle in my hand is red now and it is supposed to be blue. * I am having the dream that I am flying but there is crashing again so I am awake and this time it is downstairs but it is night. My room is purple but now at night it looks blue like that dress Grandma showed me and bought me because she says Daddy has to sleep in the guest room and Tyson was crying but I was the good one. I go downstairs and see what the crashing is and the floor of the kitchen is red in the day but tonight it is red and white which makes pink and all the plates are in triangles are just at my feet like I am at the beach and the water is touching my toes. Daddy holds another plate and his shirt is white but now it is red and pink and there are real strawberries on it and Mommy holds the box without the strawberries. And they don’t see me here because I am quiet and I can see the door to the backyard which is all black and glass and I am pink in my nice soft pajamas and the girl in the backyard is quiet too and she looks like me but with a white moon on her head. But Mommy and Daddy are yelling again and Daddy throws the plate and Mommy crashes her hands on the counter and the whole house is beginning to grow and all the walls bend and grow and fold so I scream because they are coming to fall on me and Mommy sees me and she says you’ve gone and fucking scared her and fucking woke her up and Daddy says fuck too and puts his head down like I do when I am sad and Mommy says, come here Adeline and holds my hand and we go upstairs and she falls asleep in my bed even though she has red on her head because she says don’t worry Adeline just sleep. But I don’t sleep because I look at the girl in the window who looks like me with the moon in her hair and I am quiet but she isn’t and I feel bad. * Tonight I can’t sleep and Tyson is in what is a mood and Mommy is in the guest room 34
this time so we go and I get to sleep in the middle and Tyson is bigger than my teddy but I hold him anyway and pat his head. I can sleep here now because I am big enough to know that the shadows on the wall are not anything bad they are the branches that are outside from my favourite tree so it is not scary even though it can hit on the window. The bed in the guest room is brown with white and the sky is bright even though it is night and it is not black but blue and purple and yellow and the moon makes it white and the clouds are long and move around like the river. Mommy sleeps next to the door and she is sleeping and Tyson is sleeping too and his face is very fat and soft so I put my hands on his cheeks and it fills them and I can feel his breaths go in little puffs in and out and in. The door opens and I make my eyes close because it is Daddy and I can tell because he smells like the smoke that he says not to do. I make my eyes close because I am supposed to be sleeping and he goes next to the bed and wakes up Mommy and she sounds angry and he is crying again and I don’t like it because he is not supposed to cry because he says, Please Adeline Sorry Adeline I don’t know what I am doing when I am in a bad mood. He is saying he needs to talk to her and she is saying fuck off Serge so he pulls her and she pushes him and he pulls on her shoulder and she falls out bed and her head makes a big sound when it hits the corner and he keeps pushing. All the white sheets move and the branch that makes the shadows moves too and it looks scary but is really just a branch that taps and taps and taps and the sky keeps swimming around and making white and grey around the moon. Tyson is kicking me even though he is sleeping and I hold his hand and rub his fingers in a little circle because it makes me feel better too. Now they are yelling but not yelling because they are also quiet so I keep my eyes a little open so I can see but I can’t see everything and when I close my eyes it is like the sky is and Mommy comes back in to the bed and turns away. * I am wearing that black shirt that is my favourite because it is made of velvet and it feels nice and soft and it is the only thing I can wear right now because Mommy is packing my clothes away and she said Adeline pick one thing to wear to Grandma’s house. Everything in the house is in brown boxes that are all over the house and my uncles that are Mommy’s bigger brothers are here and they gave me money and uncle Tony gave me a lollipop and Tyson got a chocolate when Mommy wasn’t looking because sugar makes him too hyper which is because sugar is not one of the food groups and I told uncle Tony and he thinks I am being funny and he helps me make sure my dolls are put in the box right. I got to wrap all the plates in newspaper and it was fun because I could use the tape and I was a good helper today and my hands turned all black and Mommy said to wash it because it was the ink but I did not and I got finger prints on the yellow wall in the kitchen but she didn’t know. Mommy said, Adeline go get your father please, and he was in the garage holding what is a cigarette and sitting on the floor and he did not even put it away like he does when I see him. He says, Adeline please come here, and I don’t like that because his face looks like it does when he is breaking things and Mommy says he is out of his head but I do and he gives me a hug that smells like a fire and I like the smell but then he says, I have to show you something important, Adeline, and shows me a picture that has Mommy in it and a grey man and they are shaking hands and they are smiling and it is all crinkled all around and he says, Look Adeline, this is the man that ruined your life, this is the man that your mother Fucked, this is who she cheated on me with, Adeline look at me, look at his face; don’t you think I am better than him, don’t you think Daddy is a better man? Adeline, this is the 35
man your mother had Sex with and fucked everything up. And I don’t know and I want to go away but he is holding my arm very hard and my feet feel sticky on the floor so I am not moving but he is and he is shaking and shaking and he starts to cry so I tell him Mommy wants to see him and he puts the smoke back in his mouth and then blows it out and some of it goes in my eye and makes it sting but I don’t cry because I am the quiet one and he is crying so it is not my turn and I do not want to interrupt because he is making me scared now. Daddy says, I’m so sorry, Adeline, please go inside and do not tell Mommy, so I go through the back door that is the one that takes you to the laundry room where I keep my pink rain boots and I am not supposed to be in there alone because there are bottles that are dangerous and not for me but it is warm and I can’t see anything and I like that because all of the whole air looks like black and feels like my shirt that is velvet and it smells like when Mommy brings the big basket of all of my dresses that she made clean and it is nice. In the house there are so many noises and everyone is making it very loud. Mommy’s big brothers even are making it a bigger sound but I am quiet so I stay quiet even though I do not want to but I hear Tyson crying again which is because he is not the quiet one. I am the one that everyone says, look how quiet Adeline is and, she is so good, and Adeline is so strong, Adeline why don’t you smile Adeline poor Adeline it will be okay Adeline you’re bleeding Adeline you aren’t sleeping Adeline you aren’t talking we need you to express your feelings Adeline make a drawing of who you think your mother and father are Adeline how are things at home Adeline you don’t have to pick who to live with now Adeline you will still see your father sometimes Adeline your father is a monster Adeline we need to have a talk all together Adeline has a family still but it is not the same as ours Adeline your mother is a whore Adeline don’t let people tell you this is a broken family Adeline where are you? Mommy comes in and says, we were looking all over for you and shit and fuck and what happened and I ripped my shirt and my pants are wet and I don’t know what happened; I do not know what happened.
KENDRA GUIDOLIN What a Monday it has been. The small fire in the studios broke the sprinklers and flooded the floors. Who left the lights on all night long? Weâ€™ll be assessing the damage soon. Bring some layers and socks to move in. The pianists will be late but they will join us for adage. There are ducks in our coats. But they are as silent as the floating specks of walls and roofs that vacate the air around us. Our shoes are wet and squeak beneath our feet when our toes and heels peek through the holes. A piano key lies like a dead soldier under a pile of rubble. Save yourselves. Rubbing our sleeves on the barre, we take a chilly breath in and begin.
You Were / Train / Midnight MICHAEL CHIN You Were In telling it back, you said you didn’t think you had long to live. Fresh off a hip replacement, you didn’t think it mattered that there were good, freshly paved sidewalks throughout your neighborhood, or that there was a McDonald’s a quartermile away, or a church closer than that. You saw the little home as a place to keep your things. In all likelihood, a place to die. But you lived. Another twenty-four years, encompassing my life to that point. Surrounded by ceramic figurines of cats, because my sister and I had learned you liked cats and bought them for you every Christmas, every birthday. Surrounded by crudely drawn illustrations on printer paper—we fancied ourselves artists. Surrounded by stories scrawled on loose-leaf paper. We were writers. Surrounded by dreamscapes—the imagined, the impossible, the evermoving targets. We were storytellers, but adventurers, too, action heroes, magicians, Gods upon the domain of that little home. Because you let us. For you were something bigger. More powerful. Old as time itself. You were our grandmother.
Train I never asked for a trainset, so I can only imagine it was some sense of nostalgic idealism that prompted my grandmother to buy me one that Christmas. And I suppose I had a similar streak of that old-fashioned wonder for falling in line with the prospect of watching the model trains click-clack their way around the track, for hearing the hollow whistle inside blow at intervals. All of this spectacle I’d never thought to ask for, never desired. I was too young, not mechanically inclined. My father did most of the track assembly, the insertion of batteries, the initial placement of train cars, all for-nothing. 38
We never got the train to go for more than few inches, and this became my memory from that Christmas. A train that wouldn’t start. Hopes deconstructed before they truly got in motion. There’s a lesson in that, I’m sure. In the look my father stole at my grandmother for buying this foolish thing. In my grandmother looking away from us both. In seeing the afternoon not through a blur of motion on the track, but the blur of kid tears over nothing.
Midnight We celebrated New Year’s at our grandmother’s house, those years we were old enough to stay up until midnight, but young enough not to get invited to parties. Those years our parents spent the night out at the casino, we poured sodas and juices into our grandmother’s crystal punch bowl, we watched the ball drop on TV, we banged sauce pans and stock pots in a wail of metallic noise as if to scream our significance. It went on three, maybe four years. Then my sister was in high school and our New Year’s Party narrowed to two. My grandmother grew wary. I was growing too old. She wondered what fun I might have with an old woman on New Year’s? She suggested we leave the punch bowl, that was so heavy and so difficult to clean, up in storage and took two glass tumblers that she removed from the cupboards at Christmas time for the grownups to drink high balls and screwdrivers. She poured us each a shot of peach Schnapps. Appealing to my sweet tooth, broaching a new frontier. I took a sip. And though it was sweet, almost like syrup, it was not as sugary nor as light as the soda I was used to. I shook my head, tongue tingling, throat feeling wrong. I said no. My grandmother said it was a silly idea. Got ready to pour the Schnapps back in the bottle through a funnel. Then thought better of her arthritic hands and the funnel that’s narrow end was still a little wider than the bottle, and dumped what was left from our glasses down the sink. Dark, sticky, sweet droplets surrounded the drain. All that was left when the clock struck twelve.
The Moon People AIKO M.
I see her again. This girl in a white dress, her skin glimmering as the moon shines onto her, playing with the waves, enjoying the scenery as if she is the only person on Earth. Time always stands still when I see her, but I can’t help to feel that she will disappear if I dare to try to approach her or communicate with her. It’s surreal though, I tell you, but you wouldn’t believe me until you see her. I hear loud footsteps behind me, and I can tell it’s my friend, Lucio. “Max, amigo, by the gods of the Moon, what are you looking at?” exclaims Lucio. I turn to Lucio, and reply, “Can you not see her? A beautiful girl playing with the ocean.” Lucio raises an eyebrow, and shakes his head in disbelief. I turn back towards the ocean to only realize that the girl had already vanished from my sight. I turn to Lucio, cursing him in my mind for making the girl disappear without me knowing, but give a fake smile, and pretend everything is okay. Lucio looks at the ocean, then motions me to follow him. I follow Lucio, because I have known him since I was a kid, and he is always been a big brother to me. We both enter the water, and Lucio splashes me, and I stand there shocked. “What was that for? I am all drenched now, thanks to you!” I hear myself scream at him for doing such a mean prank. Lucio grins, and says, “Did you look at how serious you are being right now? I can tell you are angry with me.You got to chill; I mean I am sure you see your secret girl every night since you come here all the time. Plus didn’t you hear the folklore? Moon beach causes special occurrence to happen, the least when you expect it. This girl you are talking about, could actually be a Moon person. How many people do we know disappear in less than a second from the time you see them? No one living on this planet, unless they are not human.” I had to think backwards. Lucio is right; no living human can disappear in less than a second. Plus what are the odds of meeting a Moon person, less than 1% chance, I have to admit. There was no doubt in my mind that the girl I kept seeing at night was something only for me. All I could think of was hoping to meet her again, and try to talk to her. Lucio gently nudges me, and I wake from my stupor. We head home, and I hope that I will be able to see her again. The very next night, I return to Moon Beach, and there is as Lucio’s calls her “my secret girl.” She shimmers as she plays with the waves. She really does take my breath away, and I realize that time has stopped. She only wants me to look at her; hence the scenery around me has frozen in place to give me the glimpse, and the everlasting time to be with her for eternity. I run to her, and she turns to looks at me. She motions me to come closer towards her, and I willingly go to her until I am an inch away. I tell her how beautiful she is. She smiles, and extends her hand towards me. I take it, and I feel myself bathing in the moonlight with her. Time unfreezes, and I look around. I am no longer in my world, but at the same I am. I realize my body has become just like the beautiful girl beside me. Glittering, and shimmering away, as if nothing can touch me now, and I have never felt so much more alive than I did before. Lucio was right. Moon people exist, and now I am a Moon person, where time only stops for me, and the beautiful girl who chose me.
Devil In The Details
ADRIANA GREEN I had a date with the devil, he asked for some of my time. He said, “if you ever want something pleasurable, I’m not too hard to find.” I was told that I could use some living, it seemed like I could never break my shell. I was promised a lifetime of excitement, if I could tolerate a dismal hell. I had to settle my scores, I had to go around and make things right. Sometimes you get caught up in it all; sometimes the wrong feels right. It’s the darkness that becomes you, it’s the liquor in your throat, as you make your way out the door with blood on the back of your overcoat. No amount of water can ever wash these dirty hands. I have an answering machine back logged with appointment dates and fierce demands. I want one second just to think and lay it out on the table. No, this can’t be happening, but I guess that it is. I’m guessing there’s not a damn thing that I can do about it. I’ll think of every single image that I have ever seen, and try to make it real again. If I can just find out how to reach the past again… Maybe things will be better. Maybe things will become clearer. Until that time I guess I’ll have to be content with moving slow, I guess I’ll have to be content with everything I’ll never know. Because I’ll never ask you if you felt it and I will never ask you if you meant it. No, I’ll never ask these things for the fear of discovering that sometimes people lie when they can’t be satisfied, or when they have a space to fill, or when the pleasure isn’t tolerable. So maybe next time I confuse the lion for lamb, I’ll focus my attention to the clocks rather than his eyes. Next time I take part in an action tried and true to fuck things up and stir up guilt, I’ll focus more on those who see right past it and then try to fix it. Because sometimes people lie when they don’t have to. And I’m not gonna lie if I don’t have to.
From There To Here MICHELE SABAD
The following story is an excerpt from a memoir the author is working on, tentatively titled “Camp Follower: Stories from the Life of a Canadian Base Brat” When my Corporal husband, Don, was selected to go to RMC (Royal Military College) for his degree, it was too good an opportunity to pass up, even though it meant I would leave the University of Alberta with only three years of my four year degree completed. I’d considered staying in Edmonton by myself to finish, but in the end decided that the Recreation Degree might not have as profitable a future as originally envisioned, and so, like most university students, I changed my mind about my major. I would follow Don to Kingston and seek my new fortune there. Spoiler alert: it did work out for the best – it usually does! I’m not an “everything happens for a reason” person, but I am a “make lemonade out of lemons” one. A lesson I was learning in this story. I’m not too old yet, back then, and lucky, although I didn’t appreciate it enough then, to not really look my age. I look younger than 23, and even with three years of University behind me, and with two years before that of working full-time on and off as a swim instructor/lifeguard, and throughout the already many military moves with my high school boyfriend/husband, I’m not out of place in this college classroom. In a program called “Business Admin, Data Processing”.Years later, I would have to explain that meant “Computer Programming”, not data entry, but those future years were not imagined yet. Someone who introduced herself as Maya or Moira is sitting beside me in the two-seater desk, as intent as the rest of us thirty or so students, listening and watching a short female teacher, blazer-clad and panted - how professional she looked! – write some sort of list on the blackboard. “… and in your third year, these are the core courses ..” , scratching with the old-style white chalk on the blackboard. (It was black, how modern – they used to all be green.) “Maya (or Moira?)”, I whispered and poked to my seatmate’s obvious annoyance, “What does she mean, ‘third year’?” “What do you mean? She’s talking about the course requirements in third year!” “But I’m not supposed to be in any three year program – just the two year one!” This was Kingston, Ontario. 1981. My Corporal husband is about to start at Royal Military College – a great opportunity for him to earn his degree and become an Officer.We had just arrived from Edmonton barely a week earlier, three years of my four year Recreation Administration degree at the University of Alberta now left unfinished. Despite my excellent grade point average there, Queen’s had no comparable program, and I had figured out there wasn’t much future in that field for a military wife leaving communities every three or so years anyway. So what was a “Systems Analyst”? She’s seen them advertised in the want ads for over thirty thousand – if she could ever make 30K a year, wow, that’s the goal! So down the street to St. Lawrence College, where those excellent grades assure her a last minute registration in whatever program can lead to such a lucrative job title. So now, here I am. Maya (or Moira) answers, “There’s no two year program. It’s three years long. Unless you mean the twelve month Junior Programmer course?” No, that’s not what I mean. I’ll need to work over the summers. And this is not Alberta, with their two-year College diplomas, as I’ve now discovered. It’s Ontario, who because of the old Grade thirteen system has to run the programs for three years for the Grade twelve graduates. Great. I’ll be stuck at school for another three years before graduating with any hope for a good, 30 thousand dollar a year job. After six years of post-secondary schooling, all on my own dime, I may as well have tried to become a doctor or lawyer! This had better be worth it. I sighed. 42
Early Morning Starlight EUGENE CORNACCHIA itâ€™s three in the morning even city lights cannot dim the shining stars suspended in an obsidian sky they were there before i was born and so shall be long after i am dead still spinning in the infinity of the universe they too have lives are born, shine bright fade, wink out, die
they know not what constellation they form their light reaches my eyes after long journeys some measured in a handful of years others in millennia gazing into the vault of this nightsâ€™ sky is like gazing into a time machine there is no now there is only the past
fire incarnate in untold numbers their scale in measure immense their span in billions of years beyond my imagining or comprehension
soon morning will bring our own star forth and the now of clouds and birds of shadows cast of warmth on flesh life-giving to all life
yet this night mere specks, pin-pricks in a black silken tableau oblivious to our simian need to order and name
but at this moment this early hour while others slumber between my measured and finite heartbeats with thankfulness and silent awe i gaze into the sky that was
Lake Yehewin KYLE CLIMANS
Claude Quentin had always loved Lake Yehewin. He had been taken to the lake to learn how to swim, and he’d made love for the first time by the light of a small campfire and the sounds of insects and birds who called the lake home. But now the lake was gone. It had dried up completely in the drought which all had said would be over in five weeks. It was now fifteen months. The small town had emptied of its people over the past year. Barely a fifth of the town’s buildings were still being used. Claude had always said he would leave if things got unbearable, but somehow, he couldn’t go. His forefather had come to the lake and joined the small group of settlers who had set up a trading post with the Aboriginals who lived in these lands. Generations of the Quentin family had come and gone, but they had always maintained their foothold upon the shore of Lake Yehewin. But now, the town faced an environmental calamity which had never occurred in living memory. Claude had watched and waved as more and more of his fellow townspeople had surrendered to nature’s will and embarked on an exodus away from the desiccated lake. It only strengthened his resolve his desire to endure. One day, he heard a knock at his front door. Answering, Claude beheld a young man with a dark Mediterranean complexion. The man was husky in build, but his face was given sharpened features through some aura of intelligence and ambition. Still, Claude found him handsome in a way which defied the usual conventions. “Yes?” Claude let the word hang as a question, or maybe as a challenge. The young man offered a hand to shake, “Niccolo Cecili. I’m here to study the lake. Or at least, what’s left of it.” Claude frowned, “Study the lake? What for?” Niccolo smiled, “It’s become an archeological gold mine with this drought.” Claude heard the eagerness of an explorer or a conqueror in the young man’s voice. He felt his disposition sour as he replied, “Well then, I see the first vultures have arrived for Lake Yehewin’s carcass.” Niccolo’s eyebrows shot upwards, perhaps out of surprise. “With all due respect, sir, I am a student of history. And this lake has a lot to offer. Its secrets are laid bare. I could use a guide, though.” Claude smirked, “So that’s why you knocked on my door?” Niccolo shrugged, “You’re one of the last people still living here. But if you don’t want to be paid for rewarding curiosity, then I can find someone else.” Claude paused. Niccolo had brown eyes. They were exactly as brown as Gareth’s the last day Claude spoke with him, only Niccolo’s eyes were not filled with tears. Claude turned to look at the barren desert which had once been his beloved lake. Were Niccolo’s intuition correct? What secrets were hidden in that desert? The following day, Claude was leading the crew of young archaeologists across the hot sand, through the skeletons of dead trees and swirling dust, and down the slopes of a now-extinct lake. The group, over two dozen in number, staggered along under the weight of their gear, which was secured in bags of various sorts of size, colour, shape, and worth. Eventually, Niccolo called for a halt. His band of followers set up camp, even as the sun shone down through the shifting mist of dust and sand. Claude wrapped a scarf around his nose and mouth to protect himself from breathing the dark grains which billowed all around him. He had brought very little with him, as Niccolo had promised to 45
to lend him supplies for the journey as part of his payment. The crew divided into pairs, unearthing rocks and digging into the sand with all the vigour of human greed. Always, Niccolo would pace amongst them, awaiting the first discovery. What his expectations were seemed to be information that he was withholding for the purpose of rewarding whomever made the first encounter. Their efforts were in vain that day, as well as the next two days afterwards. On the end of the third day, Niccolo finally took the counsel of his companions and decreed that another campsite should be found. Unfortunately for the ambitious leader of this daring expedition, those under his command were unwilling to endure the agonies of Lake Yehewin. After a new campsite was found, and two days of digging provided no new results, four members of the crew fled. On the second day at the new camp, a young woman burst from the hole she’d dug and shrieked for the others’ attention. When all had gathered, they were witness to several skeletons, strewn about in the sand, staring up with empty eye sockets. That night, the scholars speculated over the fates of the dead whose rest they had disturbed. They spoke of Aboriginal tribesmen slaughtered and disposed of by greedy Europeans who grabbed any opportunity to spill the blood of those whose existence disgusted them. Others said it could be proof for the theory that the tribes had practiced blood sacrifice to their foul and violent gods. The digging was renewed to its original state of fervour. Niccolo himself was now in the very deepest part of the hole, covered in dirt and grime, but his eyes were alight with a dark and unnatural fire. Even Claude began to assist the workers, despite his limited abilities. He found himself drawn towards Lotte, the woman whose discovery had reinvigorated the team. “What do you think those skeletons mean?” Lotte asked Claude once, when they were sitting on the large pile of dirt which had been formed during the mad rush of work following the discovery. Claude sighed, “I don’t know. But I know the Cree and the settlers had many conflicts with each other.” “I know that. I’ve been to the Cree reservation nearby.” Claude privately applauded her curiosity and thirst for knowledge. He himself had never dared to see the Cree reservation. What good would it do but to remind him of his ancestors’ many cruelties? In the meantime, Niccolo and his crew dug downwards and outwards. The skeletons were photographed, noted, and placed into special containers to be taken to whatever laboratory awaited them. “Such respect for the dead,” Claude sarcastically remarked during the process. Niccolo heard him, and scathingly retorted, “No less respect than your ancestors gave them while they were alive.” Claude was so stung by the comment that he could not utter a single word of protest. As more time went on, and more digging yielded nothing after the initial cluster of bones, the whispers of dissent began anew. Food and supplies would run low soon, and the weather was growing more unbearable as the abnormally warm spring days pushed closer and closer to summer. Lotte was one of these skeptics, and she confided in Claude. “Why is he still digging? He doesn’t even tell us what he’s looking for or expects to find!” Lotte cursed. Claude shrugged unhelpfully, “I don’t know.” “What don’t you know? Whether you love me? What are you trying to tell me?!” Claude twitched, and tried to listen to what Lotte was saying. But the memory overwhelmed him. “We can leave together! The factory will be looking for lots of workers! We can work there while we study!” 46
Claude was frightened by this sort of talk from Gareth, for he was most striking when he was at the height of his passions. Claude felt his throat run dry to look on Gareth’s flushed cheeks, his untidy curls of black hair, and his hypnotic eyes. “Why can’t we study here?” Gareth threw his hands into the air, stopping just short of screaming with frustration. “This town is nothing! I might have been born here, but I refuse to die here!” “You’re ungrateful!” “Then you’re a coward!” Claude gasped, not at the words, but at the furious venom in Gareth’s voice. Gareth paused, and began to cry. “Please don’t make me have to choose between you and a life beyond this place.” Claude felt his resolve weaken at the pleading tone. He wanted to take Gareth into his arms and forget about studies, work, the past, the present, the future, the recession, the look of his mother’s coffin when he’d been the first to put soil on top of it in the cemetery. But Gareth was not to be deterred. He was suffocating in the sentimentality of small town life, even Claude could sense that. And so he pressed his arguments. “Don’t you ever think of what lies beyond this town and the lake? What is so wrong with leaving them both behind?” Claude felt himself approach a forked road. One option was very clear, and Claude could see where it led for miles. The other was shrouded in darkness, lit only by a pair of brown eyes which stared imploringly at him. He was suddenly filled with an anger of his own. Why should he be forced into this choice? “We first met at the lake shore! We played there as children! I told you I loved you after we met in the night by the water! How does that mean so little to you that you would leave it forever?” Gareth’s tears continued to flow. He had nothing more to say. Claude had made his position very clear. “Claude?” Claude felt himself pulled out of the hallucinations of his past, and looked upon Lotte’s face as though seeing it for the first time. “Niccolo can stay here if he wants, but we don’t have to stay anymore. It’s time to run away.” Run away, run away. Why did everybody encourage him to flee from all he knew and understood? Everybody except Niccolo. “I will stay here for now.” Lotte needed a moment to register Claude’s reserved sentence as a refusal. Then she left his tent without a word and did not speak to him again. She took her chances, stole one of the cases holding the human remains, and vanished. It was in this fashion that more of the group fled, until all the cases were gone. Niccolo was left with Claude, Carla, and three other loyalists. Even in the face of this utter judgment of his cause, Niccolo was confident. When Carla and the others yelled at him for losing the only items that made this trip worthwhile, he swept a hand towards the pits and stated that more would be found. The digging resumed, at a slow and almost defeated pace.While Niccolo was as vigorous as before, the others suffered. Until one day, when a cry came from the deepest part of the holes. Niccolo was first on the scene. He looked down at the scrawny, bespectacled youth scrabbling up the sides of his hole with filthy fingernails. “What is it, Silas?” Silas pointed wildly to the bottom, “Fossils!” 47
In a moment, the group was crowding around the strange rocks. On them were etched several skeletons of small creatures whose identities were impossible to determine on sight alone. Claude peered at them. Was this another great find? What did it mean? Niccolo brushed away the dirt from the fossils. His eye for detail was challenged in a way that it had not been before. “This is a new discovery,” he announced, triumphantly, “I would guess that it was a fish of some kind. They were deeper than the skeletons, so they must have died out before humans arrived here.” Silas stood off to the side and stared resentfully at Niccolo. His glory had been taken from him and gorged upon by Niccolo, but nobody would object or challenge that fact now. Claude suddenly felt sad as he looked upon the remains of these creatures. They were being plundered from their graves with impunity. Just as the very lake had been plundered by men and nature alike over the course of centuries. “I’ve never seen any record of these fossils anywhere else,” Niccolo continued, “They seem to have been an isolated species in this area.” This speculation, spoken so confidently, was taken as gospel by the four acolytes left to this mad prophet. They hurried back to the camp to pack these rare fossils. Only Claude and Niccolo were left to look over the remains. Niccolo smiled, “Strange, really. The lake isn’t cut off from other waterways. There was no reason to stay here and die. And yet that’s what they did.” Niccolo suddenly heard ragged gasps. Turning around, he started at the sight. Claude had heavily lowered himself to the ground, shamelessly weeping as he stared down at his own shoes. The young scholar said nothing; he offered no sympathy or concern. The man’s sudden emotions had left Niccolo silently impotent. The sun continued to shine down on both men; the elder, sobbing at the realization which had destroyed his spirit at last, and the younger, who bore witness to this tragedy at a time when he thought he was meant to be at the height of joy. No answer came from above, nor from around them. The lake had nothing more to say.
MEG FREER 48
Blind Shepherd SHAWN CHANG
Between horizons, skies and seas apart, Is but a postern that hath long begun To echo breaths of lungs and beats of heart Of He whose eyes do shift but take in none. A blind sole shepherd, cloak’d and hand with crook, Doth lure and lead in namely happenstance, With shadows the morose moon doth thus hook In sad serenity and tranquil trance. Imaginary immortality Of He sans whom the Sun would never climb No starlight, moonlight, nor gold sunlight be Without th’ eternal ripping tide - Him, Time. Away, do come, to hear the maiden’s sigh As moments wane and phantom dreams do die.
ALLY ZLATAR 49
ALYSSA COOPER On days when I am feeling particularly small, when I am convinced of my position as an insignificant speck in the universe, I find it helpful to remember that insects once grew to the size of eagles; dragonflies like little dragons, with iridescent wings cutting across the sky, cicadas like owls, climbing to heaven with two-foot wings draped over their backs. I remember that time made them small; that as the world grew cold, and the air grew thin, it shrunk them down, day by day, until they could fit in the palm of my hand â€“ but what was inside was still there. All the same pieces, all the same shapes â€“ just fitting inside a smaller package. I tell myself that the same is true for me, on the days when I am feeling small. I am my same mind, my same spine, my same beating heart, even when I am shrunk down; made small, by time and air. I am all the same pieces, all the same worth â€“ even when I fit in a smaller package.
Pro-Tips For Your Health No. 1 EUNICE KIM
wake up early and watch the sunrise the sky, slowly awaking, and you, remind your body that now is both forever and gone that coloured clouds sing and dance and move with or without witness that you too can move and that the light always remembers you
Time To Time
As your twilight looms in that coming time and I am but a layer of dust on your sweet memories you will caress these pages from time to time while sitting by a soft orange glow squinting to see the words your heart can recite in the dark as worn and time creased as your loving smile you will caress these pages from time to time and from behind your laugh lines and gentle crowâ€™s feet remember the swirly times and me
Not Enough Time SAMMI COX
I had been sitting here for hours. Days. Perhaps even years. Yes, that was likely. Time passed so slowly that I could hardly tell the difference between today and yesterday. Tomorrow would hold the same problem. And the day after that. And the one that followed that. On and on and on, in a relentless cycle that I couldn’t feel moving... I used to think that there wasn’t enough time. Time always felt short, and I was always in a rush. I needed more of it. More hours in the day. More days in the week. More weeks in the month. It scared me, this lack of time. The pressure of it was like a noose around my neck that I could feel tightening just that little more with each passing day. In my younger years, I would wake in the dead of night in a cold sweat, on the verge of a panic attack. A combination of exhaustion and guilt. The exhaustion was self-explanatory; I couldn’t rest, couldn’t stop, was always on the go. But the guilt? I needed sleep to still my mind, if only for a few hours, but surely when you were as pressed for time as I was, sleeping was nothing but a waste of it. Just imagine what you could accomplish if you were on the go for twenty four hours a day, instead of the usual sixteen... I knew if I ever met the Devil I would quite happily offer him my soul in exchange for more time. The only problem was, I didn’t believe in God or the Devil, or heaven and hell, so this was nothing more than wishful thinking. In those lost night-time hours, when exhaustion forced my head beneath the waves of sleep, my guilt-fuelled dreams would focus on this demonic meeting. Some of these dreams felt so real that come morning I would wake and believe, if just for a moment or two, that my wish had been granted. But of course, this was nothing more than my fanciful imagination playing tricks on me... Or so I believed for many years. It was only when I was in my seventies that I started to question it. Friends and family started to pass away. At first, it was those older than me, and of course, this was no surprise, even if it was sad. It was the natural way of things. Then it was the turn of those around my age, and I honestly believed that my time would shortly be coming to an end. But when death skipped over me, when he started to take away younger souls instead of mine, a gnawing fear began growing deep within me. I had spent a lifetime wishing for more and more time, and it seemed that I had been granted it in the only fashion I had never wanted. I didn’t want to outlive everyone I had ever known, nor their children. I didn’t want to be lonely as I watched the world and everything in it change around me; an old fossil in a newly, reforged world of which I was never destined to be a part. And yet, I still lingered on... Perhaps I had made a deal with the Devil after all. It certainly felt like it. I should have been more careful with what I wished for. I should have known there is always a catch. I used to think that there wasn’t enough time. Now I know I have too much of it. And so I wait... and wait... and wait...
Post-Destruction: Creation KELSEY NEWMAN-REED Up in flames The buildings collapse, Signaling the end Of something wonderful, Something that others told you Would not be sturdy to begin with. The ashes surround you While you crumble with them, Unaware and forgetting, That destruction only brings a rebirth, Of something new, Something with a different structure and form. You close your eyes Because the heat of the flames Hurts too much to see. And you hold your breath, Before reopening Because you donâ€™t want to breathe in more destruction. But as ash collects in your fingertips, Like snowflakes, You realize that in time You will be filled with creation And a rebuilding of something new, Of something much more sturdy.
The Lever SEAN HYND
“My time machine has been acting up.” Dr. Assan stared at Jordan hard for a moment. They’d known each other quite some time, so Dr. Assan knew that Jordan could be a bit eccentric. This, though, was a new one. “Mind rephrasing that?” Dr. Assan said, sitting down on a stool. She had a busy day ahead of her, and didn’t particularly want to play twenty questions. She could hear the clock ticking in the other room, its constant, quick beating an ever present reminder of her hectic schedule. “Well, you know, I’m having a hard time controlling my time,” Jordan said, fidgeting awkwardly and looking away. He had enormous bags under his eyes, and seemed more jittery than normal. Dr. Assan thought he looked extremely tired. “Maybe you should start from the beginning,” Dr. Assan said, giving up on getting through this quickly. “Sure,” Jordan said, sliding a bit forward onto the edge of the examination bed. “See, the way I see it, I’m a time machine that mostly goes forward.” Dr. Assan waited for a moment, wondering if Jordan was just joking around. When he didn’t keep speaking, she muttered “I admit, didn’t expect that,” then leaned away and crossed her arms. “I don’t think I’m a robot or anything. Just that I always seem to be travelling through time, and, well, normally I’m going forward,” Jordan sheepishly added. “I think that’s just called living, Jordan,” Dr. Assan responded. “Sure, but that’s not what I mean,” Jordan continued. “You know how when you are doing something new, time seems to slow down? And how when you are doing something you’ve done a thousand times, time seems to speed up?” “Well, sure, but that isn’t the same as-” “It is the same, it is exactly the same as time travel. When you concentrate, it’s like you pull a little lever back, and everything slows down. Then, you can push it forward, and speed through life.” “I’m certain that isn’t time travel,” Dr. Assan retorted. She considered fighting him on it, but decided it would take too much time out of an already packed day. “But alright, I’ll take your word for it.You said your, what was it, time machine was broken?” “No, not, not broken,” Jordan said, scratching behind his ear nervously, “just, malfunctioning? It isn’t working the way it used to.” “How so?” Dr. Assan asked, thinking they would finally be getting to the root of the problem. “So, you know how if you aren’t concentrating, if you are doing something you are used to, time goes faster? Well, there is a way to make it really fast forward, to just skip through time.” Jordan looked around, obviously uncomfortable. “Guess what it is?” Dr. Assan stared at Jordan, her annoyance growing. Still, based on how he was acting, she thought she could figure him out. “Sleep, right?” “Exactly!” Jordan shouted, clapping his hands. “When you go to sleep, everything just skips forward, time just, zaps by!” “Isn’t that a bad thing?” Dr. Assan wondered aloud. “I mean, don’t you always want more time?” “No, of course not!” Jordan exclaimed excitedly. “There are lots of times in your life that just, well, suck. So you sleep.You zip forward and escape it. If you’re travelling, and you’re uncomfortable, or unhappy, or bored, you just go, you know, go to sleep! And you skip it. If you’re sad, or you’re sick, you sleep, and it pushes you forward. People like to think that rest helps, but it doesn’t. Time helps, and by sleeping, you just sort of get through the time faster.” “So when you say your time machine is malfunctioning?” “I can’t seem to, to go forward, to get through time,” Jordan answered. 54
“So you’re suffering from insomnia,” Dr. Assan half questioned, half declared. “I mean, sure? I guess that’s what it is called,” Jordan responded, a little more quietly. “Okay, that makes sense,” Dr. Assan said, pulling out her laptop. Her mind was already going through the questions to ask, and what she expected to hear. Jordan was largely healthy, and fairly young, so she wasn’t too concerned about sleep apnea or other conditions. Anxiety was likely the cause, so she decided to skip right to questions about his mental health. For a moment she heard the clock ticking rapidly from the other room, and wondered idly if she shouldn’t get rid of it. “So, I’m going to ask a few questions, just to get a sense of what we’re dealing with, okay?” she said, giving Jordan what she hoped was a patient smile. “Oh, okay,” Jordan muttered, quite obviously less comfortable than he was a few moments ago. “Alright, here we go,” Dr. Assan said, before asking her first question. Jordan sat at his computer, staring idly at his desktop screen. It was neat and orderly, just a few icons, though the background was a chaotic mess of ever changing pictures. He wasn’t sure what the picture was right then. He was having a hard time focusing his eyes. Next to the screen rested an old analog alarm clock. He could hear it ticking, second by second. It was going slowly, Jordan thought. “Tired,” he said aloud to himself. He liked to talk to himself. It helped keep him awake. He knew he should sleep, but he couldn’t find the will. He was uncomfortable and disoriented, but still he clung to what time he had. He wasn’t ready to go forward yet. “I wonder if there is anything to read,” Jordan said, going through his bookshelf. He had a collection of favourite books that he no longer bothered with, and an ever growing horde of books he wanted to read but for one reason or another put off. He picked up his most recent acquisition, but didn’t even crack the cover before deciding he wasn’t interested. He could pull the lever back by reading the book, but he didn’t know why he should. This time wasn’t pleasurable, wasn’t instructive, wasn’t really anything. It just was. “I should sleep,” Jordan said, letting out a sigh. He tossed the book onto his bed, then flopped onto the mattress himself. “It’s a bad time,” he said, before beginning to count the little dots and imperfections in the ceiling above him. He knew the number well, but he often found himself staring up in the middle of the night. His eyelids felt heavy. He was having a harder time lifting them after every blink. “Pull the lever back,” he muttered, his voice barely audible. He concentrated on the tic-tock of his clock, listening as the beats slowed down. He had to pay attention, make sure that the beats didn’t stop, or, worse, that he didn’t go back. He hated going backwards. Unbidden memories were always painful. Going forward wasn’t much better though. Too much uncertainty. “No,” Jordan gasped out. He wasn’t worried about the uncertainty. He knew what the future held. That’s why he tried to slow down. “I should sleep,” he told himself once again. It was the right call, he knew. His body needed it, his mind needed it. He even enjoyed sleep, and loved dreaming. Sleep wasn’t the issue. Time was. The clock missed a beat. Jordan realized his eyes were closed. Opening them, he could see sunlight peeking in from below the window’s curtains. The clock read 8:01AM. He’d jumped again. “So, sleeping any better?” Dr. Assan asked, sitting down in her stool. “Well, sleep hasn’t been a problem,” Jordan said, looking away. He looked exhausted, even more than he did three months ago. “You look tired,” Dr. Assan said, gently. She didn’t have many patients that day. The office was quiet, save for the constant, slow ticking of the clock. She could afford to spend the extra time taking things slow with Jordan. “I haven’t been getting much rest,” Jordan responded, looking at his shoes. 55
“Have you been exercising more?” “A bit.” “What about the breathing techniques we went over?” “They help calm me down, but I’m not, well, I wasn’t super anxious before.” “Then why can’t you sleep?” Dr. Assan asked. “Time machine is still, um, on the fritz,” Jordan said, laughing. “You probably don’t remember, but last time-” “No, I remember.You’re a time machine that only goes forward,” Dr. Assan cut in. “Mostly goes forward,” Jordan corrected. “You go back sometimes?” Dr. Assan asked. Jordan gave a brief nod of his head. “How?” “Pardon?” Jordan asked, looking up at Dr. Assan for the first time. “I get going forward, but how do you go back?” she asked. “I’m not really, you know, going anywhere. I just, I mean... I only go forward, you’re right,” Jordan said. “No, you said you sometimes go back. What do you mean?” Jordan looked up at Dr. Assan, probing her face with his eyes. She had tried to cultivate a certain level of trust between her and her patients, but knew wasn’t sure if Jordan would be willing to open up to her. She could hear a clock ticking, it’s slow, even beat irritating her ever so slightly. “Memories, you know?” Jordan finally said. “Going back is having memories.” “That doesn’t sound too bad,” Dr. Assan responded, “unless you have a particular memory that is troubling you?” “Not one memory, just, lots of them, you know? Not anything terrible, or traumatic, just little things. Embarrassing moments, regrets, that sort of thing. It can be jarring, to suddenly be thrust into the past.” “I can imagine,” Dr. Assan said, nodding her head and taking a brief note. “But it isn’t something nobody else goes through. It’s just that I wish I could control when I jumped back, is all. Like, I want my lever to be set to neutral, but it keeps pushing forward and back.” “Neutral? So, what, a normal pace?” “Stopped. Not moving at all.” “You want to stop time?” Dr. Assan asked, and for a moment had to fight back a derisive smile. “Yeah, it’s stupid, I know,” Jordan said, looking away. Dr. Assan wondered if she hadn’t completely frozen her face. “It isn’t stupid, I just would like to know why you feel that way.” “No particular reason. I mean, I don’t even really want to stay in my time. I just don’t like going forward.” “Is that why you can’t sleep? You don’t like going forward?” Dr. Assan asked. “I can sleep, I just don’t,” Jordan responded. An uncomfortable silence descended on them, as both considered what next to say. Eventually, Dr. Assan broke the silence. “So, if we’re still talking about time machines,” she said, deciding to humour Jordan, “you can set it forward, but you would prefer it stay neutral. It isn’t that the buttons or lever, or whatever it is that controls the machine, that isn’t broken, right?” “The machine isn’t broken, no. It just, it doesn’t listen to me. I used to be able to push it forward, and be happy with that, but, nowadays, I hate it. I hate jumping forward.” Jordan looked up at Dr. Assan, a sad smile crossing his face. “It’s really too bad. I love sleep.” “Is there something in the future that is worrying you?” Dr. Assan asked. Jordan thought for a moment. His face contorted uncomfortable, before finally screwing into a slight smile. “No, nothing in particular.”
Jordan could barely see the clock. 3:29AM. It no longer made any noise, but Jordan was certain it still worked. He knew he could be wrong, his own sense of time slipping with every night, but he was confident that at least that one, particular clock was correct. He tried wiping his eyes, but he couldn’t quite get the dampness out. He had been yawning so much water was trailing from his eyes. More frequently he found his yawns accompanied by trails of wetness, but, like most things, he had gotten accustomed to it. His hand shook violently, causing him to momentarily drop his pen. He had initially tried to write out his thoughts on his computer, but decided it should be more personal, more intimate. Trying to explain time travel was a difficult enough process, he didn’t want to lose himself within his writing. Jordan looked out the window, noticing how the sky was ever so slightly brighter now than a few hours ago. “Things are always darkest before the dawn,” he said, marvelling at just how wrong the old saying was. For a time travelling, the concept of ‘before’ was meaningless; the dawn came constantly, and darkness with it. Picking up the pen, Jordan once again began to write. Time was largely irrelevant to him, he realized. He hated going backwards, and equally loathed going forward. He was terrified of whatever lay ahead of him at any given night, but the present was hardly any better. “If time travel is,” Jordan began, trying to sound out exactly what it was he meant. “If time travel is an attempt to get sometime better, then my machine is badly calibrated,” he said. He liked how it came out. Sleep was the vehicle he travelled in, propelling him forward towards the future. It even was a pleasant ride, most nights. The problem was that increasingly he didn’t see a difference between the times. Time has slowly, imperceptibly, stopped mattering. “The problem isn’t the future,” he said to himself. “The problem is that the future is the same as the present, which is connected to the past. If I could travel forward to a better time, I would, but wherever I travel it is the same. I can’t willingly go forward into what is, and I don’t want to stay still.” Writing it out made him smile. He wondered if the doctor would understand. She was a kind person, brilliant in her own way too, just not in the way he was. Shaking his head, he realized he didn’t particularly care if Dr. Assan knew what he meant. She would either understand, or not. He wanted to be able to hand her something, to show her what he wanted to say without actually having the words distorted by his own mouth. “I want to break the machine,” he wrote. His smile went wider, even as the dampness returned to his eyes. “If I can’t stay still, and the immediate future is no better, then the answer is obvious: I have to abandon time.” It was a simple solution, Jordan realized. One he had known for quite some time, if he were honest with himself. He just didn’t exactly know what it meant. Back and forward seemed to be the only options. He didn’t know how to go sideways. Time had been a lever, one he could push or pull. But as he put down the pen, and crawled into bed, Jordan realized there was another option. It was a comforting thought, even if he was not ready immediately enact it. He had time, after all. He was happy it was running out.
KYLEEN MCGRAGH Look up to the sky and espy beyond cl ouds t he f i xe d blue in o u r eye s stopped before space that goes on for as long as light can reach out for a kiss, and none resist flourish in the wake of shadow that couldn’t prevent little life that goes on for as long as light can reach and beyond these years we know, that stretch like cycling skin and bone in the soil, the same carbon reused to make new life goes on for as long as light can reach all fair,learns to exhale souls:truth like the feel of a lover’s stare planted within that short beam that would have gone on for as long as light can reach if not for our kiss, stole the whole of that reach and blessed it to live until the soul’s inhaled and the eye stops; inhaled in the soil cycle that goes on for as long as light can reach.
Remembrance LORRAINE LAU
driving past the cemetery my grandmother snaps hush drowning the car in uneasy quiet. she fears ghosts though I strain to hear their chatter. my mother prays calling on angels but I doubt if halted heartbeats elevate one to sainthood. at seventeen, how can any girl recline piously beneath blankets of earth without straining her tattooed wrists beyond the Bible tucked between them? my sister left no legacy save an image of half-moon eyes, a voice sharper than her nails. when not wryly calculating her speed of decay she might listen for rhythms in snapping pine cones earthworm trysts stop wearing my sweater she might tell me now but the memory of her restlessness is lost in a shame so dense even today the sound of her name silences rooms. I am never sure how she wants to be remembered, I only know she no longer wanted to be. the truth is the dead were never exceptional. their only difference is that they speak in silences we hope we understand
NICHOLAS NACS My life has been made up of the hands of a clock One full rotation and a lifetime is up If the hands are ticking past eleven I can’t help but reflect on our time in heaven We spent just minutes together but every second counts to a fool But it’s only a fool who counts the seconds within the minutes When our hands touched my gears clicked Oh how my time flew smooth and quick I stuck by you when you were a cuckoo clock And you stayed by me as I tick talked And talked And talked You gave me an electroshock Rebooting a slowing clock But now the day is done and gone is the light We hope we’ll tick past midnight
ALLY ZLATAR 60
OUR CONTRIBUTORS... Without the submissions from writers, artists, and photographers, Free Lit Magazine would not be possible! Please take the time to visit other websites linked to projects our contributors have been involved in, as well as the websites/social media platforms run by some of this issueâ€™s contributors: 1 SIGFRIDSSON - Website MICHAEL CHIN - Website and Twitter KYLE CLIMANS - Twitter ALYSSA COOPER - Website, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook SAMMI COX - Website and Facebook ADRIANA GREEN - Website and Instagram MICHELLE HILLYARD - Website and Facebook REILLY KNOWLES - Website and Instagram MICHELE SABAD - Website RACHEL SIMPSON - Instagram JILL SMITH - Website and Instagram BEKAH STEIMEL - Website, Instagram, and Twitter
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