baby letâ€™s live forever RICHARD-YVES SITOSKI
The Desert FERRIS E. JONES
Leavings LYNN WHITE
Pebbles, Mountains & the Universe EUGENE CORNACCHIA
Eastward from Sunset ALLAN BRIESMASTER
Group Army Photo THOMAS M. MCDADE
yeah BRUCE KAUFFMAN
Riverbend JUSTIN PATRICK
Ceiling Art RICK BLUM
Bird Cage ALYSSA COOPER
Rebirth EDILSON A. FERREIRA
Awakened KYLE CLIMANS
those devils do not
I(am)mmortal JACQUELINE GRATTON
Forevermore GARY GLAUBER
Immortalizing Culture TARA MORTON
Front Cover BILL WOLAK
Back Cover BILL WOLAK
ADELAIDE CLARE ATTARD LINDA M. CRATE
Inside Back Cover
DUSKA DRAGOSAVAC & JACLYN ACRE
FREE LIT MAGAZINE Editor-in-Chief Ashley Newton
Literary Editor Eunice Kim
Kyle Climans, Alyssa Cooper, Adriana Green, Bruce Kauffman
Jaclyn Acre, Anonymous, Adelaide Clare Attard, Rick Blum, Allan Briesmaster, Andrew Case, Eugene Cornacchia, Linda M. Crate, Duska Dragosavac, Edilson A. Ferreira, Gary Glauber, Jacqueline Gratton, Ferris E. Jones, Thomas M. McDade, Tara Morton, Justin Patrick, Richard-Yves Sitoski, Lynn White, Bill Wolak
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.
When we think of what immortality means, I’m sure most of us imagine the idea of living forever in a physical sense. Some of us dream of what we’d do in an eternity of life, while others are comfortable with, and prefer, the innateness of death. But being immortal can extend beyond the boundaries of human physicality. It can be manifested through memories, a photo, objects and keepsakes, records of life, smells and sounds, even time. What we do in this life ultimately can–and does–last beyond our dying breaths. We do or don’t leave a legacy behind. We do or don’t exist in just one person’s memory. The very idea of our existence inevitably makes us live forever. So, the next time somebody asks you if you’d rather live forever or die at one point or another, just know you don’t have to make the decision. It’s written in your existence. We’ll all die, but we’ll also continue to live despite that fact. Ashley Newton Editor-in-Chief
The Chaos Issue September 2018 3
baby let’s live forever RICHARD-YVES SITOSKI
baby let’s live forever yeah i know prince said that’s a mighty long time but i want the permanence of christmas carols how they come around like clockwork every fall i want the permanence of migratory patterns monarch butterflies eternally on the wing so let’s live forever enduring like debt indestructible as blundstones stuck on the world like pointless tramp stamp tattoos i want to us to be around when the sun is a cinder a red-hot mess engulfing the earth let’s stub our toes on rubble from the pyramids let’s be constant as ice ages and extinction cycles ‘cause it’s you and me forever baby outlasting tim horton’s cups by the roadside plastic straws six-pack rings on the necks of turtles you and me with the half-life of uranium plutonium who-knows-whatium with DNA fixed while those around us evolve because we’re perfect baby yeah they broke the mould we’re perfect as hurricanes invited to small islands every spring perfect as religion politics and genocide for we are perfectly simple and perfect in our simplicity just like a little virus my dear yes we are perfect like a wee little virus perfect like a harmless little virus
Once it was a house, a family house, a home with living and bed rooms and painted walls, not empty of all but dry cement and dust. They’ve left now that family. Moved away to thrive or become as derelict as the house, begging for handouts in the dirty streets. No trace of them now, nothing left. Just rubble and dust, no longer a home. Then another couple moved in. They were pleased to find somewhere so dry and cosy, an inheritance of a kind. They cooed and twittered and they made their home, built a nest, raised their young. They’ve left left now that family. Flown away to thrive or become as derelict as the house, begging for handouts in the dirty streets. But they’ve left something behind, a flight feather to mark their passing leaving a trace, an inheritance for the next inhabitants to find.
Eastward from Sunset ALLAN BRIESMASTER
Again the late light fading while it glides up treetrunks onto taller branches: there brightening somehow, strangely, at that remnant height, a slow flow of dark-gold into rich orange, reddening, tenuous … It blooms, or ripens as the slenderest of final fruits of sun on earth, soon lofted at reliquary streaks in eastern sky to soar beyond thought over the greyblue wall that shows us our globe’s rising hollow shadow. Just then this calls to mind, again, the near ones, their lives completed, taken out of time, who have not altogether flown away. Lost only to our sight and sound and touch, they press back, never vanish utterly. So perhaps we, as well – sometime-recalled at such a thin disjuncture – will infiltrate, through topmost twigs along this downward plane, a texture or a tone in reach of senses that are not bound by any dying day. Anxious for answers, one could wonder, How else contact you, who stood once, close beside? Can far-envisioning, devout feat or cast of careful voice – or all – open a way? What traces waken across vacant dark?
BRUCE KAUFFMAN i’m just some old guy writing in this journal in this somewhat quiet café the few others around me here lost in their own worlds of laptops and cellphones their own pens and journals conversations between they don’t realize i have captured them in the distance a slight innocent glance as i arrived a snapshot captured of it all they did not notice as i came in and i sit here now as invisible as when i arrived i will soon put my pen away and will leave as but an unheard whisper through a then by someone else’s just opened door and tomorrow if the day and breeze bringing allow i will be here again a slightly older guy newborn as ghost then writing invisible poems with the most transparent of ink on then another imaginary page and on a table of absent time
Please, don’t call me honey or luv or sweetie RICK BLUM or darling or girl or girlie, for that matter, or beautiful or babe Languid Sunday morning lying on the queen bed, or sexy or chick or yours.onto swirling brown splotches imaginations propelled splashing pine planks and rough-sawn beams above us. Please me by myScream name lurking on the second board I point call out Munch’s or call me, at all.beam. My older daughter, who drew justdon’t beyond the third Okay, hon? vegetables wearing turtlenecks at the age of two,
saw it right away. My other daughter, eager to get in on the action, wagged her finger toward a serrated oval shape snaking down, then under, the beam directly overhead, declaring it to be a bent turtle. A bit of squinting brought her vision into focus, and we all chuckled in delight. This fantastical game in repose would continue until the most intense eye-screwing and head twisting revealed nothing else remarkable, though fresh eyes would make new discoveries in the weeks and months to come. Twenty years later, a vivid memory of the four of us in bed together – aboriginal sun pouring in the east-facing window, dog scrunched at our feet – still makes regular appearances, and most likely will do so until my eyes can perceive, mere inches above me, just a convex pine ceiling permanently imprinted with the familiar faces of two young girls alongside the woman who brought them and our fanciful, Sunday morning figments into brilliant existence.
EDILSON A. FERREIRA I sleep in a dream generated in the nightmares and eat scraps of hope, milled in the impersonal and mechanical timeâ€™s machine. Scraps that feed me to be no more than a dry tree, searching for pulling and unwinding roots that capture me on the ground. I prevailed over fate that once deceived me and now walk and will spread my life around. I wish distemper, hallucinate and extrapolate, horrifying who has enchanted and eluded me in that dark and deaf land, that was not mine. I will go, doubtlessly renewed man, in search not of a drop of water but of one rain that rains thunder and lightning, the same like the flood that has baptized our era. I will reap fruits that, blessed by my hands and hard a toil, by sure will make me more and more strong. I will make love to my wife in sheets of soft Chinese silk and we will be asleep in a bed of fragrant Lebanon woods. Not that I deserve more than Abraham, who only had a glimpse of the Promised Land, but, of this new one, God willing, I will take secure possession.
KYLE CLIMANS “Can you breathe?” She couldn’t answer the question; one could forgive her if she hadn’t even registered it. All she could feel was shock and terror. There were three bright orbs above her, so bright that she thought she must be going blind. Even when she closed her eyes again, she felt the agonizing light creep past her lids and burn her. Yet she seemed unable to even scream. “Can you breathe?” Such a question to ask. It was as though she couldn’t take in any oxygen, no matter how hard she gasped. She felt her mouth open as wide as possible, sucking in air, but it seemed unable to fill her or stem the flow of fear coursing through her blood. She heard some voices call out, and felt sharp points pushed deep into her skin, and the bursts of sudden pain granted her the ability to scream. A shriek burst from inside her, sounding so shrill and alien to her that it terrified her more than the searing lights or the pain in her body or the voices calling out to her in low, calm tones. The fact that they seemed so at ease despite her own fear made her fear so much more heightened. Finally, darkness began to cloud her vision, and the awful sound of her own voice died. And just like that, no sooner than she’d felt the darkness snatch her away, she felt herself being brought back. Once again, the three orbs of light were over her head, but they seemed less powerful this time, and even a bit blurry. “Can you breathe?” The question again. The damn question! She almost wanted to scream again, but this time in fury. In truth, she felt a bit calmer than just a moment ago. Whatever had happened seemed to have made her more sluggish and slow. “Can you breathe? Please answer the question.” Slowly, she opened her mouth, trying to form the word she hoped would make the questioner stop talking. “Yes.” There was a moment of silence before the voice spoke again, a bit more eagerly than before. “What is your name?” She paused. Her name? What indeed was her name? Did she even remember? Her mind felt so blurry that she couldn’t think beyond those lights, the voice, wondering where and when and who she was… “Christine.” The answer surprised herself most of all. She hadn’t expected it, she hadn’t even noticed her mouth and breath forming the single word – no, it wasn’t even a word, it was a name. The voice spoke again. “Do you know where you are?” “No,” she replied, and fear filled her once more. She hardly knew anything about herself, 11
let alone where she was. “Can remember something from the past?” The past? Such a vague concept. Christine suddenly wanted to scream in anger again at what was happening. Who was that voice? Why was she just meekly answering it without any thought for her well-being? What right did that voice have keeping her here? As she thought all this, she felt her vision become clearer, sharper, and the she felt some small strength inside her to reach out to the rest of her body. She clenched her hands, feeling her fingers slowly regain strength as they tingled and felt as though pincushions were moving under the skin. She slowly moved her head, grunting in surprise at how stiff she felt. “Please don’t try to move, Christine, you will need to be nourished. Your body is hungry.” With a sudden jolt of realization, Christine looked down and saw that she was naked. The voice continued to speak, even as two masked figures entered her field of vision and stabbed her with those same needles from before. Once again, Christine screamed, but she did not lose control. “Where am I?! Why am I here?!” The masked figures ignored her, but the voice responded “You chose to be here. Don’t you remember?” Christine couldn’t, but then again, she couldn’t remember much of anything. And yet, something was coming back to her; strange fragments of old thoughts and experiences were appearing and then fading out of her mind with alarming speed. The voice instructed her that she was to be left alone for now to allow her body a full recovery. The masked figures left the room, leaving the needles inside her as she felt fluids slowly entering her body. Eventually, she began to feel stronger, and she lifted her head up from where she was resting. She realized that she was resting in a strange contraption which kept her in a sitting position but leaning back as though she was in a very laid-back armchair. As she lay there, more memories slowly re-emerged, like old films that were playing inside her mind which she recognized as having seen before. She began to remember her mother, her father, her brothers, the children whom she’d played with on the street outside her house, the first time she’d told someone she loved them, and She was still restrained to the contraption, however, so she was forced to wait for someone to return and release her, if it was ever going to happen. She also began wishing for clothes to cover herself. Eventually, the masked figures did return, but they did not interact with her. They poked and prodded her body several times, made notes on strange devices that she couldn’t recognize, and refused to acknowledge her questions. Finally, Christine was approached by a friendly-looking Indian woman dressed in a white lab coat. She approached slowly, as if afraid that she would scare Christine. “Hello. My name is Dr. Amrit.” Christine looked up at Dr. Amrit with wariness. Despite her middle-aged appearance and her small smile, Christine felt scared of her. Maybe it was because she recognized Dr. Amrit as the voice which had spoken to her before. “Why am I here?” Dr. Amrit paused at Christine’s question, “You do not remember?” Christine frowned, “Should I?” “What is the last thing you remember?” Christine paused, and tried to think back to what had happened before darkness had 12
enveloped her. All she could remember was sitting in a hospital room, looking at her eldest brother, who was crying. But this memory was unsupported, unjustified, and bereft of context. She couldn’t remember why her brother had been crying, why she had not been crying, why they were in the hospital, or anything except that she’d been there. When she explained all this to Dr. Amrit, she nodded slowly, her friendliness giving way to a more grave and serious expression. Then Dr. Amrit asked for more details, more memories that she could draw up, and so Christine spoke. As she spoke with Dr. Amrit, someone came in and covered her body in a robe as she replaced the tubes connecting her with more liquid which Christine took to be more sustenance. Finally, Christine could think of nothing else to discuss, and still Dr. Amrit waited patiently for more. “What happened to me? Where am I?” Dr. Amrit paused, “I was hoping that you would remember more, Christine. The truth will be more difficult to understand.” “Just tell me!” Christine demanded, suddenly furious that she’d given so much of herself. The doctor hesitated once more, but then relented with a shaky sigh. “You volunteered for a special project, Christine. You and your family proved susceptible to increased strain of atmosphere pollution, which brought an increase in cancers amongst the human population.” Christine felt the urge to shudder, but her body did not respond to this urge. Dr. Amrit continued speaking, meanwhile. There had been several technological breakthroughs which had allowed the first truly advanced A.I. beings to be considered a real possibility. Eventually, a new study had begun wherein humans would volunteer to have their consciousness melded with a cyborg body. “You and your brothers volunteered to take part in it after you lost your parents.” Dr. Amrit explained, only to quickly add “I’m so sorry,” at the end of her statement. Christine was beyond a standard reaction. She was still grasping the concept that she had had a father and mother, only to have to mourn them as well. It seemed overwhelming to her, but her emotions felt distant, detached. “Where are my brothers?” Dr. Amrit paused, looking sad, “I’m afraid I have more bad news. The process of transferring a person’s mind and consciousness into a new cyborg body is revolutionary, and you all signed contracts which confirmed that you were aware of the risk-” Christine suddenly cut across Dr. Amrit’s long-winded explanation, “Tell me where my brothers are!” Dr. Amrit sighed, “You were the only one who survived the process.” Christine felt even more disoriented. Her brothers too? All gone? Distracted, she looked down at her body, which she could now see was different from her memories of childhood. Her limbs were slightly stiffer and shinier, and the skin was a sort of material that reminded her of plastic, and she began to realize why her senses were dulled, and it wasn’t because of any medicine that she’d taken. She looked up at Dr. Amrit, “How long did the process take?” Dr. Amrit paused, “Don’t you remember?” “I remember your voice, I remember screaming and you kept trying to speak with me… I felt darkness take me, and then I woke up again a moment later.” Dr. Amrit sighed, “A moment later? Christine, that moment was twenty years!” 13
Christine suddenly felt an emotion break through her artificial body, jolting her with shock, “Twenty years? It’s been twenty years since I have been dormant?” Dr. Amrit shook her head sadly, “No, Christine, it has been fifty. My grandfather and mother both took you and your brothers on as patients. We have been trying to make this work for half a century as technology has improved.” Christine felt emptier than before, and she was so lost in thought that she did not notice the masked figures come into the room and undo her straps. Dr. Amrit stood up, sadness slowly dissolving from her face as she held out her arms, “Would you please try and walk?” After all her resentment at being secured to a chair, Christine suddenly felt as though she never wanted to move again. What was the point? How had she and her brothers ever decided that it was worth such a ghastly risk to survive appalling conditions on Earth? And just then, a thought entered her head, but she feared to know the answer so much that the question came out in a stutter. “Am I going to die again?” Dr. Amrit shook her head, “No. Your body has been built to endure this new world, and if this transition succeeds, it will provide hope for everybody else. Including my own children.” Christine saw the regret instantly flash on the doctor’s face. She hadn’t meant to admit that, but the longing was there, undeniable and obvious. Christine wasn’t just a patient, she was a sign. A sign that people could be saved from their mortal coils at long last. Biting back her anguish and her rage, Christine began to test her limbs. She had made a terrible mistake in signing up for this crude and unnatural means of longevity, but that was on her own conscience, not this doctor whose love for her children clouded her ability to sense the abject misery of one who’d achieved immortality. Let them have a saviour, then, if it meant that they could conquer death. What else was left at that point?
JACQUELINE GRATTON Life and Death are an inevitable pairing Unavoidable when crossing the street Untouchable We embody Life through the mere movement of our fingertips to the vibrations of our laughter to our deepest, darkest secrets kept hidden in our corners But with Life, we are inevitably embraced by Death Death eavesdrops in our late-night conversations, reads over our shoulders, and follows our every footstep that we call our shadow Life, we welcome wholeheartedly While Death is forgotten by the young and feared by the few Lurking at Death’s door But before we submit to it, we first attempt to outrun it Through stories of vampires and the fountain of youth Through beliefs of reincarnation and the afterlife Through our lives that we dedicate to make a name for ourselves A name that will not expire with our bodies, but remain relevant (whispered, reverberate) throughout history I found Theodor Roosevelt in his signature left in a Guest Book preserved in a museum in Stratford I found Charlemagne as a statue on a fountain in Aachen I found Walt Disney in his parks, in his films, in his creations And above a sign that said “40% off all stuffed animals” I found myself in a Google search that linked to my Facebook profile Which will outlive me for the rest of time We have discovered our fountain of youth, our afterlife, our legacies In the Internet The Internet never sleeps, never eats, never drinks, and yet it never stops running It will outrun Death for us Long after we have surrendered and waved that white flag above our heads I am Immortal (for as long as Mother Nature’s heart beats) (if we don’t kill Her first) (because Death is contained within these brackets) (but is also contained in us)
Forevermore GARY GLAUBER
If familiarity breeds contempt, then why is this moon still so lovely, why does that old song stir so many sweet memories, why does the heart tend toward fond reminiscence? Tonight you hold me as you have a thousand times hence, and yet it seems to work its magic anew. Blood flows through this embrace, pumping and priming loveâ€™s legacy. We touch as if able to bestow infinity through assonance alone, aural assurance enhancing intimacy beyond coffee-flavored kisses and pursuits of prurient pleasure. This is the never-ending lyric, the long summer day that stretches time, the tree ablaze with heat and memory, reincarnate with lustâ€™s fresh desire. This is body bending to mindâ€™s eternal fire.
FERRIS E. JONES I have crawled to the desert Watered the sagebrush with mushrooms. Sullen in my decision - I have spoken With the four winds And received my apparition. The nameless rest on breasts of eloquent distortion And the calls for darkness never end. Trees will die from a lack of judgment. Babies will be born without sight. Remorse will not be taught in school, While the petroglyphâ€™s sit in passive despair.
Pebbles, Mountains & the Universe EUGENE CORNACCHIA
the grains of sand in the hourglass resist the gravity of time each climb upon the other higher ever higher reaching for the upper chamber of the time-piece self-same to the bottom chamber future past present the same illusion eyes closed i remember funeral flowers wilted now fresh your ashes returning to sunlight from that dark subterranean place your first last breath un-saying our goodbyes tears climbing cheek returning to eyes smiling i remember last kiss becoming many becoming first kiss i remember loving you before before we met before your birth or mine before the darkness mother smiles at the scent of pines Pops dreams of visiting the pyramids i un-dream childhoodâ€™s nightmares to believe once again as gentle summer rain ascends to clouds
salamanders return to flames toads slink back into their holes the mushrooms shyly tuck themselves back into mother earth as spiders un-weave their webs winters dream of summers dreaming of winters before this now there were other nows this fleeting flesh i call self was other flesh was dust and ash was stardust was some godâ€™s dream un-dreamed the grains of sand in the hourglass remember when grains of sand were pebbles when pebbles were mountains when mountains were other than mountains when mountains spun counter-clockwise in the ever-black of the universe i open my eyes i smile at the grand illusion of a leaf falling from a tree
Group Army Photo THOMAS M. MCDADE
I’m grateful for my father’s creased black and white Army snapshot. Three soldiers bespectacled, a white spot on a lapel of one like a carnation, another sports a ring, college grad size, four in spats and two moustaches. My dad, the only soldier in a garrison cap, Ike jacket and necktie. I try to recall stories he told me about those men. A gambler, practical joker, wild brawler or heavy drinker among them? What New England cities and towns did they hail from and which ones went to war? Do the smiling men’s orders keep them in the states or get them out on points, over forty and an ailment like my father’s deaf left ear? Did he ever try to contact them? or learned one or more died in battle? I always come up empty so I keep concentrating on uniforms: often what’s on their heads: service, Daisy Mae, fatigue or field cap and helmet liner. Headgear once sparked a memory, may have played with his liner when I was a tot. I recall him wearing khaki undershirts, the sleeveless kind but the Ike jacket is blurry. Goodwill, Salvation Army, and St. Vincent de Paul have never turned them up, an identifying stencil or sewn on label and doubtful they ever will as I wonder where my Navy white hat and neckerchief, my boot camp company photo and his five-by-seven might someday land.
JUSTIN PATRICK O riverbend, never end, Not a drop of time to spend. Over rocks and waterfalls, Bring fish to the heron’s calls. Beckon drink with frothy roar To bird, bear, and wild boar. Feel the sun and see its bright Dance and sparkle in the light Guide the salmon home to spawn Their death brings a great new dawn. Far and deep, go bless the land, Lines on God’s kind, loving hand. Sort out problems through the marsh Save us from the desert’s harsh. Wear proud burning sunset’s glow, Owl no longer fears the crow. Through the dark, its frigid stark Fireflies come make their mark But to fish, they are a wish Come from willow’s saddened swish. As night brings dawn, life goes on As you grace the nesting swan. Many hearts to which you tend O riverbend, never end.
ALYSSA COOPER My bones are a cage, iron bars, and I am reaching out between them, begging to be heard past the weight of this body, because I exist beyond the shape of this silhouette – I am worth more than my brittle flesh, I am a bird in a cage of bones, and I am real, I swear I am more than this skeleton I’ve created – I swear I am alive, even when the sky is grey and the air is thick and it would be easier to be nothing – I am alive. This is the future that I saw when I was a child, moving on without me, these are the years I swore I’d never see, the days I thought would be better off without me – this is the future. This is the future. And I am alive.
ADELAIDE CLARE ATTARD I stand in my Nanna’s kitchen. Burgundy wooden cupboards hang on the wall above our heads. Knick-knack souvenirs from all around the world occupy the kitchen’s windowsills. Open ingredients lay scattered around her kitchen; butter, flour and wax paper litter the counter. My feet nuzzle tight in a pair of Princess Cruise slippers Nannu took from last winter’s Caribbean cruise vacation. Nanna says if I don’t wear slippers while standing on cold tile, I will “catch a cold.” “You have to roll it very gently, or it will rip,” Nanna says with a Maltese accent as she looks up at me. Standing at about five feet, Nanna stares at me through dark rimmed glasses. She rolls the dough with a dented, well-loved wooden rolling pin. Today, we make pastizzi, a traditional Maltese flaky pastry with ricotta filling. Her tanned, wrinkled hands grip the handles of the rolling pin. She glides it back and forth in front of her. The gold rings wrapped around her fingers cover the handles of the rolling pin. Her simple gold wedding ring sits tight around her ring finger. I don’t think she has ever taken it off. “Nanna, can I try?” She wipes the buttery film off her hands and onto the sides of her Map of Malta apron. She slides down the gray granite counter to give me space. Nanna inspects my form. I wrap my hands around the handles and roll the dough in front of me. I look over at Nanna and catch her smiling. “Every time you step in Nanna’s kitchen, I teach you how to be a good wife.” I laugh and roll my eyes. “What about just a good cook? What if I just want to make Nanna’s pastizzis for myself?” She shakes her head. “Your husband will need food on the table. That is the way to a man’s heart. Warm, homemade food.” I smile. “Is that the way to Nannu’s heart?” “Iewa (yes), absolutely it is. It has kept him close to me for fifty years.” She laughs. Nanna rolls the dough into a fat snake and begins cutting it into chunks. “How did you and Nannu meet?” I adjust the apron Nanna let me wear with Australian Indigenous on it. My dad brought it back for her from the Australia trip he took when he was in his twenties. She shuffles over to the fridge. Her slippers drag and clack on the slick tile floor. In front of the fridge, she stands on her tiptoes to reach a metal bowl of ricotta filling on the top shelf. She waddles over back to our pastizzi station. The tin bowl sounds like a bell as she places it atop the granite. “Nannu was so handsome.” She smiles. “We were very young when we starting going out. Not like nowadays. It was in September, during the festa ta St. George (the feast of St. George). This is the feast celebration of our town’s saint. Every town or village in Malta has a different saint, but our hometown, Qormi, has St. George. St. George is a martyr and is known for slaying the dragon that demanded human sacrifices. Everything is decorated red and there are red and gold streamers and statues of St. George and the dragon everywhere.” She presses the chunks of dough into circles, flattening the dough with her left hand and right thumb. She hands me a doughy chunk to do the same. I rip the dough too thin trying to 24
match Nanna’s speed. I roll it in my palm and start over. “During the feast, the boys in the band would come up to us girls and say to us, ‘hi pupa!’ (Pupa means dolly). The boys in the band always came to flirt with us. Nannu started chasing me.” She smirks and adjusts the barrette in her hair. A few years back, her hair started falling out. Since then she sports a funky plum-brown bobbed wig. Nanna continues. “A few days later, on a Sunday morning walk, I was pushing my baby nephew François in the push chair down the streets of Qormi. I was with my friends Paulina and Polly on this walk and we bumped into your Nannu. He came from school and once he saw my father, he went running down an alley so my father did not see him. Once my father saw me, my friends and my baby nephew, he asked, ‘Was that guy talking to you guys?” She laughs. “I was so embarrassed! Could you imagine? I was freaking out! I did not know what to say! So I said, ‘Daddy, he is il kugin ta Paulina’.” This means ‘Paulina’s cousin.’ “But my dad knew I was lying.” I laugh. “Did you guys ever go on dates?” “Yes, all the time! But I always am trying to not get caught kissing in the alleys with your Nannu.” A laugh shows her aged smile. Nanna grabs a spoon and hands me one, too. She scoops a spoonful of ricotta, scraping the edge against the tin bowl. She whips a dollop of ricotta in the middle of the doughy disks. “Fold like this.” She folds the disk in half, pinches and stretches the sides, and creates long semi-circled pockets. She places them on the pan at the far end of the counter. I fill my pastizzis and fold, but they aren’t as long and perfect as Nanna’s. “What was your wedding like?” I look at her. She pauses. “Well, my older sister Jessie made my dress, my cousin ordered the candies and my mom ordered the food. It was a nice wedding. We got married in a huge hall in the capital city of Malta called Valetta. There were a lot of people there. All of your Nannu’s friends from soccer club. All of my friends. Your Nannu was so handsome and attentive to me. But it was a sad wedding.” “Why?” “Because in a week we knew we had to leave to come to Canada. Because of the amount of British people coming to Malta in the 60s, there were less and less jobs for us locals. A few of Nannu’s brothers had already left for Canada. They told us about all of the opportunity there for immigrants. We decided to leave everything for better money and a chance at a new beginning. It was hard because everyone knew we were leaving. When we arrived, I was homesick. I started to work at the Sunbeam factory in Toronto to make some money so I could go back home. I was lonely. But your Nannu took such great care of me. I had no family here, no friends. Just me and my husband.” Nanna puts her doughy disk down and covers her hand with her face. The gold chains on her wrist jangle and clang together with each sob. She wipes a tear with her forefinger and slides it across the back of her red worn shirt. “But what about dad? When did you have him?” I look at her face. Tears slide down the soft, wrinkly hills that are her cheeks. “Well, your daddy cried all the time. He was cute. He gained a lot of weight in his face and his legs really quickly. To me, he was the cutest baby ever. Nannu asked me ‘What’s wrong with the baby?’ when he sees me crying. I say, ‘Nothing is wrong with him, but he is so cute and there is nobody here to see him.” She starts to cry again. “I would come home and there was nobody to tell me how to raise him. I had no idea what to do. Twenty-four years old. So young. 25
My mother back in Malta gives the bath to the baby back home, and I am by myself. I have to give him the bath.” She takes a crumpled tissue out of her pocket and wipes her red eyes. “But your Nannu kept me safe and happy.” She smiles. “Building a life in Canada was hard and lonely, but your Nannu made sure I was always well taken care of. He was my only friend.” She finishes the last of the ricotta from the tin bowl. She waddles across the kitchen floor, holding the tray of half-perfect, half-lopsided pastizzis in both hands. She sets the oven. We both pull out the chairs from the kitchen table. She holds onto the edge of the table to help herself sit down. Nanna leaves her apron on. I leave mine on, too. “I hope I find someone who loves me the way Nannu loves you.” “Iewa, pupa, of course you will, But you have to love him too. You have to share the same dreams, and even when it gets tough, never give up on each other. He was all I had when we started a life in Canada, so I had no choice. Feed your man well, and he will never leave. The man will take care of you in different ways, but these ways are just as important.” ~~~ Nanna’s short stature bends over the front of the oven. The scent of warm, buttery dough and soft cheese fills the kitchen. She slides the old tarnished tray out and puts the golden brown oval shaped pastizzis onto the top of the stove. I rush over to the oven and look at the pile of warm Maltese delicacies. I can see which ones are mine. The imperfect, smaller versions of Nanna’s pastizzis. Nanna inspects the tray of pastizzis and smiles. “Now you know how to make them for your future husband.” The vent light shining above the pastizzis reflects off Nanna’s face. A childlike smile slowly makes its way across her face, like a little girl pressed up against a bakery window. “My pastizzis used to look short and fat like yours too when I was little.” She laughs. I stare at the tray of my grandparent’s favourite snack. I can see Nanna as a child, sitting on the limestone stairs of her house in Qormi, holding a pastizzi to her mouth. I can hear the crunch of the crispy dough and see the flakes falling like feathers onto the lap of her homemade dress. I reach for one of my lopsided creations, wince, and pull my hand away. “Pupa! It’s hot! Wait until they cool. You will burn yourself!” Nanna grabs my wrist, turns on the tap, and runs my lukewarm forefinger under cold water.
those devils do not LINDA M. CRATE
i am a flame unending ancient and immortal daughter of the sun and moon my light won’t fade no matter how many times you may rain on my parade, and i will always rise from the ashes fashioning them as a compliment song of the wind and feathers of the phoenix; i am not afraid of all the deaths i’ve been given for i have always stood again stronger and better than i was before— you will never take me from me many have tried and failed to do so for i am who i am, and i care not for the opinions of fickle men chasing one sunset to the next; i believe in me and all i hope and dream for— will burn away the nightmares trying to overtake my ship and bring it down for i have wings to fly, and those devils do not.
ANONYMOUS Fragments in daily life remind me of you Phrases leave my mouth that came from you Those memories stuck to me like honey set aflame Honey sweet like your favourite delicacies Stabbing pain like the day you were gone I can’t follow in your footsteps They’re faded But I can follow your heart Beats stronger than mine Until one day I am gone too Maybe someone else will do the same Feel those memories stuck Honey expired in summer sun Crunching colours when the fall comes Though my life won’t say much
Everyone dies But no one lived Quite like you did
And that’s okay for me To be remembered not for myself But for the person who came before me For without you, I’d have no legacy at all
Immortalizing Culture TARA MORTON
“Our meeting’s in Oshawa this time, remember? The Ukrainian Hall?” chided my friend Lamia. “Yeah yeah, kielbasa and cabbage rolls, I remember.” I reply, giddy that this will be the last union meeting before I retire. I arrived early for our meeting at L’Viv Hall. Killing time in the lobby, I came across a display cabinet in which contained several Ukrainian objects, all but one I have since forgotten. The object that took my breath away was a simple plastic doll. The doll was neither valuable nor beautiful, but my physical reaction to this doll was extraordinary, like nothing I have ever felt before. In what seemed like one second, I went from smiling ear to ear to feeling a dreadful uneasiness. In that moment, my body knew what my mind had not yet surmised, that is that my culture was in immediate danger of being lost to me forever. The doll is a girl wearing traditional Ukrainian folk costume; shiny red boots, black and red embroidered blouse, and a floral wreath with dangling red ribbons in her hair. Several of these dolls used to adorn my Grandparent’s house. For some reason the red boots evoked the most nostalgic feeling. They took me right back to my Baba’s kitchen, where Baba and my mother talk non stop over a bowl of borscht in a language I did not understand. Onions are sizzling in a pan on the stove while I wait for the perogies. If I am lucky, Baba has made the kind with the cherries inside. This pleasant flashback was my first reaction to seeing the doll. The second reaction to seeing the doll took me completely by surprise. My heart plummeted inside my chest cavity. How this doll made me long to hear the language I cannot speak and eat the food I do not cook, I simply don’t know, but in that instant, I understood the expiry date of my culture was creeping up and my desire to preserve its legacy took hold. During my teenage years I remember being slightly embarrassed by my Ukrainian ethnicity. It was not until I was much older that I understood how true the saying: “Youth is wasted on children.” (George Bernard Shaw) really is. My Baba left her entire family in the Ukraine to travel alone to Canada for a better life. She met my Gigi in Saskatchewan and eventually settled in Bloor West Village. Gigi was a behemoth of a man, standing 6 feet 6 inches. Money was tight for them and it would not have been easy for Baba to siphon away the grocery money that fed this giant. Nevertheless she squirrelled away enough money to put down payments on several properties in what is now a very trendy Toronto neighbourhood. Their sacrifice secured my mother’s financial freedom and in turn became the seed money for the next generation. I look back with great admiration at my grandparent’s courage and stalwart work ethic. I recently left the GTA and moved to Kingston Ontario. I came across an ad in The Whig promoting a Ukrainian Folk Festival: “L’Viv.” My mother was not well enough to attend it with me so I went with my son and husband. We didn’t know what to expect. From the parking lot we heard the unique ululations of the Ukrainian violin, it filled my heart. To our delight, in the auditorium, the plastic doll came to life on stage ten fold! Her male 29
counterparts leapt like acrobats, side splitting the air in their green balloon pants and long red sashes! Tears streamed down my face, another involuntary, visceral reaction. I missed my mother terribly. Enjoying all that the festival had to offer, we each said at different times: â€œGrandma would love this.â€? Every time I say goodbye to my mother and return to Kingston, I am acutely aware this could be the last time I see her. She is 86 years old. I was not expecting a chance encounter with a plastic doll to be the catalyst for my cultural awakening, but I have since come to believe we all have built in On switches waiting to be flipped, hopefully in time to preserve something of value. My young son was so inspired by the Cossack kicks and athletic displays of the male dancers that we are thinking of signing him up for dance lessons with the Kingston Ukrainian Club. I will forever regard that doll as a cultural baton passed from Baba to my mother to me to our sons allowing our heritage to survive.
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