Issuu on Google+

GEIST 91 FACT + FICTION u NORTH OF AMERICA WINTER 2013 GEIST.COM

GEIST WINTER 2013 $6.95

GEIST

The National Map of Maladies

Erasure Contest Winners

OBITUARY MAN  LOVE MONSTER URBAN SECRETS LIVES ON FILM SWITCHEROO PHOTOGRAPHY ILL-ADVISED STATUS UPDATES

FACT + FICTION  NORTH OF AMERICA

NUMBER 91 WINTER 2013 $6.95

W H A T T O T H I N K A B O U T I N S PA C E

DEEP WITHIN THE CITY Anakana Schofield  Joe Fiorito  Renée Sarojini Saklikar  Alberto Manguel  Karen Connelly  Brad Cran Math for Canadians  Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso  Why I Mastered Ukulele 

In Review: Karl Ove Knausgård  Working with Wool  Kate Braid  Science Fiction  Helen Humphreys A New Dante Translation  Secret Parts of Fortune  Swinging a Hammer in a Man’s World  Out Stealing Horses


GEIST

Volume 25 

· Number 91  · Winter 2013

features Walking Pictures Foncie Pulis, Brian Howell, Michał Kozłowski 34

Bosun Chair Jennifer Delisle 38

How It Began Evelyn Lau 44

Street photography and the art of capturing the unseen moment

Jean Chaulk: servant, mother, grandmother, shipwreck saviour

You wanted someone to ride with you on the midnight subway

Lemke Overboard Russell F. Hirsch 47

Lemke bangs his head on the deck, then down he goes and over the side

War in Full Bloom 52

Winners of the Third Annual Erasure Poetry Contest: Trouble comes, naked and tough as grief. It takes most everything

published by The Geist Foundation. publisher : Stephen Osborne. senior editor : Mary Schendlinger. editorial group : Michał Kozłowski, assistant publisher; AnnMarie MacKinnon, operations manager. circulation manager : Nicholas Beckett. reader services : Jocelyn Kuang. proofreader : Helen Godolphin. fact checker : Sarah Hillier. designer : Eric Uhlich. associate editor : C.E. Coughlan. interns : Jesmine Cham, Leslie Chu, Dylan Gyles, Jennesia Pedri, Roni Simunovic, Andrew Vaughan, Sarah Wong. accountant : Mindy Abramowitz cga. advertising & marketing : Clevers Media. web architects : Metro ­Publisher. distribution : Magazines Canada.

printed in canada by Transcontinental.  managing editor emeritus : Barbara Zatyko. first subscriber : Jane Springer. contributing editors : Jordan Abel, Bartosz Barczak, Kevin Barefoot, Trevor Battye, andrea bennett, Jill Boettger, Brad Cran, Melissa Edwards, Robert Everett-Green, Daniel Francis, Lily Gontard, Michael Hayward, Gillian Jerome, Brian Lam, Jill Mandrake, Becky McEachern, Thad McIlroy, Ross Merriam, Billeh Nickerson, Lauren Ogston, Patty Osborne, Eric Peterson, Dan Post, Leah Rae, Debby Reis, Kris Rothstein, Norbert Ruebsaat, Jane Silcott, Paul Tough, Michelle van der Merwe, Carrie Villeneuve, Kathy Vito. support the geist writers and artists fund: geist.com/wafund

hawthorn photo: va state parks staff


GEIST

fact + fiction since 1990 “From the dark recesses”

notes & dispatches

Stephen Osborne 8 Secrets of the City David Collier 12 Imjin Gardens Umar Saeed 14 Arguments John Wall Barger 15 Why I Mastered Ukulele Connie Kuhns 18 Signs of Life Brad Cran 19 Science Fiction

findings 25 Do The Math, Eh? Switcheroo Positivity Astronaut Thoughts CanLit’s Latest Hero: Toronto Children of Air India Lives On Film Home for Good Ill-Advised Status Updates and more

columns

Stephen Henighan Daniel Francis Alberto Manguel

23 54 56

Afterlife of Culture National Dreams City of Words

departments AnnMarie MacKinnon 4 In Camera Letters 5 Geist staff & correspondents 58 Endnotes The Wall 62 Off the Shelf, Noted Elsewhere Meandricus 63 Puzzle Melissa Edwards 64 Caught Mapping

cover design: Eric Uhlich Geist is printed on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The inks are vegetable-based.

cover image: 7th Floor Window, from Fractal Cities, an ongoing series of composite images by Mandelbrot, created with a hand-held digital camera and a slightly tortured algorithm intended for assembling panoramic views. Mandelbrot’s work has been appearing in Geist since 1990.


i n

c a m e r a

The Secret Life of Vivian Maier

Young Woman in Car, undated, by Vivian Maier

V

ivian Maier was a nanny by trade and a photographer by vocation. Beginning in the 1950s, when she moved to Chicago from Europe, she took the various children in her charge on what she called “adventures” through the city streets, taking candid photos of children, the elderly, the homeless, people living in poverty, work scenes and self-portraits with the Rolliflex camera she almost always wore around her neck. When she had time off, she made solo trips around the world, photographing everyday life in Canada, Egypt, India, France, Yemen and other countries. 4 Geist 91 Winter 2013

In her self-portraits she is frequently dressed in a floppy hat and an oversized coat. She is known to have told people she was “kind of a spy,” often used pseudonyms and kept her living quarters under lock and key. She is not known to have had many friends. Yet she was friendly and outgoing; she made audio recordings in which she interviewed random people on the street, and she took more than 150,000 photos, often at close range to her subjects. Maier never showed anyone the work she produced during her life but kept everything, and each time she moved, she

carried along boxes filled with tapes, ticket stubs, postcards, newspaper clippings and thousands of rolls of undeveloped film. Her work, discovered posthumously in a storage locker, is now being exhibited internationally, eliciting comparisons to Weegee, Diane Arbus, Helen Leavitt, Henri CartierBresson and others. Maier is also the subject of the feature film Finding Vivian Maier, which screened at the Toronto and Vancouver international film festivals. —AnnMarie MacKinnon

photograph: © vivian maier/maloof collection


r e a d e r s

GEIST

w r i t e

LETTERS S

town and gone

ome forty years ago, when I lived on Manitoulin Island, we often tried to devise a method of tying some big tugboats to it and spiritin’ it away to some more balmy climes. I haven’t been back in a while and have lost contact with all those old Backto-the-Earthers but tell me, did they succeed at last, or did it just get invisible (another idea we worked on), ’cos it don’t ever appear on yer maps from academe (“The National Map of Academe,” Geist 90)—wherever that is. —Rodney Frost, Orillia ON See the Academe and other goofy Geist maps at geist.com

I

down the rabbit hole

’m not sure I can agree with some of the points Stephen Henighan made about print and screen reading in “Not Reading” (No. 89). Although Marshall McLuhan’s “medium is the message” concept is clearly at play here, and definitely applies at some

Geist is published four times a year by The Geist Foundation. Contents copyright © 2013 The Geist Foundation. All rights reserved.

level to the age of cellphones, I would say that there are now two distinct modes of information absorption, rather than one having replaced the other. That we now have near-instantaneous access from our pocket to most of the world’s information has certainly changed the way we seek information, but reading itself still has the exact same effect on the brain, and we still can be thorough to the point of obsession, just without the trip to the library. Who hasn’t spent hours on Wikipedia by accident, just learning “stuff”? I can be completely engrossed in a book on my ereader exactly the way I would with paper. It can even simulate the turning of pages when I swipe my finger over the screen. What you see on a university town bus today is exactly the same as it has always been, only now the people who would otherwise have been twiddling their thumbs or distracting themselves with a cheap dime novel are doing so with a cellphone. There are still plenty of students poring over textbooks, and there always will be. I think it is fair to say, however, that the constant and growing barrage of sensory input from the web has definitely affected our ability to concentrate. In that, Henighan and I may have a point of agreement. —Cam Stow, Halifax Take a look at “Not Reading,” and other foods for thought by Stephen Henighan, at geist.com.

Subscriptions: in Canada: $21 (1 year); in the United States and elsewhere: $27. Visa and MasterCard accepted. Correspondence and inquiries: subs@geist.com, advertising@geist.com, letters@geist.com, editor@geist.com. Include sase with Canadian postage or irc with all submissions and queries. #210 – 111 West Hastings Street Vancouver BC Canada v6b 1h4 Submission guidelines are available at geist.com. issn 1181-6554. Geist swaps its subscriber list with other cultural magazines for one-time mailings. Please contact us if you prefer not to receive these mailings. Publications Mail Agreement 40069678 Registration No. 07582 Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Circulation Department, #210 – 111 West Hastings Street Vancouver BC Canada v6b 1h4 Email: geist@geist.com Tel: (604) 681-9161, 1-888-geist-eh; Fax: (604) 677-6319; Web: geist.com Geist is a member of Magazines Canada and the Magazines Association of BC. Indexed in the Canadian Literary Periodicals Index and available on microfilm from University ­Microfilms Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. The Geist Foundation receives assistance from private donors, the Canada Council, the BC Arts Council and the Cultural Human Resources Council. We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund (CPF) of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

manifest coincidence

Bookseller Mehmet Güngör (left) holds a copy of Geist 89, with contributing editor Michael Hayward, outside Güngör’s bookshop in the Sahaflar Çarşısı (the Old Book Bazaar) in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Jean Karlinski.

T

he Coincidence Problem by Stephen Osborne (No. 47) reminds me of another phenomenon that works parallel to or in conjunction with coincidence: manifesting memories into reality. I was searching for Namma Lodge, a large wooden abode built Letters 5

www.geist.com


by my grandfather on Balsam Lake in Ontario. Knowing I was very close, I pulled over in my car and asked a man about twenty years of age, who was walking his dog, if he knew where Namma Lodge was. He asked why, and when I told him my grandfather had built it but I had never seen it, he told me he was currently working there for the summer. His dog, who had wandered off a little, was named Kelsey, which was the maiden name of my grandmother (the builder’s wife), and I am still in touch with a couple of members of the Kelsey family. —Roger Howie, Vancouver Read “The Coincidence Problem” and other writings by Stephen Osborne at geist.com.

T

geist by hoverbike

hank you for offering a 9-year subscription for $90. I had to take you up on it! No renewal notices ’til 2023—that was, frankly, awesome. And that bit about the $857,291 fee

6 Geist 91 Winter 2013

for interplanetary delivery. I’d already subscribed at that point, but I work for engineers, and with engineering students (they are great, btw), and I thought, Hot damn, if anybody gets to go to Mars, it’ll be them. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that engineers will always need somebody with a BA in English and an MA in literary studies to do their paperwork and order up supplies. So I’ll totally be going. And I’ll get my Geist delivered to my modular Mars habitat pod (by hoverbike, I bet!) and leave it on the communal lunch table, because they leaf through these artsy literary magazines while they wait for their coffee to brew and try to figure them out, and then they close them in disgust and bafflement and look for the name on the address label: Heather Clitheroe, Mars H-Pod 42B, Sub-Basement 4, it’ll say. And then I will just seem all the more mysterious to them! —Heather Clitheroe, Cyberspace, but only until real space becomes a reality

business reply

—Anonymous, snailmail

write to geist Thoughts, opinions, comments and queries are welcome and encouraged, and should be sent to: G

The Editor, Geist letters@geist.com Snailmail: #210 – 111 West Hastings St. Vancouver BC v6b 1h4 Letters may be edited for clarity, brevity and decorum. Authors of published letters will receive a Geist map suitable for framing.


7


NOTES & DISPATCHES f r o m

t h e

n e w

w o r l d

Secrets of the City stephen osborne

Some of the most startling papers in the city archives are the letters and diaries of the first archivist himself

L

ast year in the Vancouver City Archives I came across a disturbing series of letters written in 1918 by Maud Matthews, the first wife of the first archivist, a man whose compulsion to collect and preserve ranged from historical documents, interviews, photographs and maps to family papers and physical specimens such as the “ten-penny nail removed from the wall of 1114 Davie Street, by pulling it with one’s fingers, about three inches long, of the old square oblong head, a type found in early buildings, badly rusted but quite strong after

8 Geist 91 Winter 2013

years of exposure to the weather, now resting in the City Archives.” The letters from Maud, written to her sons after she left the archivist and their marriage of twenty years, are part of the repository that forms the core of the city archive, which is to say the “official” memory of the city. She and the archivist had been living since 1911 in the house they built on Maple Street, in a neighbourhood known today as Kits Point, only a short distance from where the city archives, housed for a time during the tenure of the first archivist (some sixty years)

in a room known as the Desolate Chamber, now reside in a bunker-like building sunk into a hillside overlooking False Creek. In October 2013 I decided to return to the archives to look for more letters from Maud, and to visit the house on Maple Street, which I had found on Google Street View, and where, as I understood from my brief reading so far, Maud had been held against her will after the archivist, with the help of a policeman and their seventeen-year-old son Hugh, apprehended her in Ladner, a fishing village south of the city, and forced her photographs: mandelbrot


to return home; she remained there, or, according to a note in the archivist’s hand, she “stayed” there, for four days and refused to eat, save for “a slice of toast and a great many cups of tea and four strawberries.” Two days later he wrote to Maud asking that she keep the “sordid events of Ladner” secret, and to put her “trust in Him to whom you must someday account.”

I set out for Kits Point on a clear day in the middle of the week with my camera and notebook, and caught the No. 20 bus at Victoria Diversion and then the SkyTrain to Burrard Station, and from there the up-escalator—against a terrific wind blasting down the escalator shaft to the underground tunnels—to the street; after a brief wait beside a man singing fiercely into his cellphone in a language I had never heard before, I boarded the No. 44 bus and found a seat near the front. The bus rolled through downtown and onto Burrard Bridge, and had

passed the rise in the middle of the bridge when I looked up and glimpsed in the distance the monument to the Northwest Passage that looms over the shoreline at Kits Point, and as it vanished from view I thought I might include that too in my itinerary. Once across the bridge, the No. 44 turned left instead of continuing along to Maple Street, and when I realized what had happened and pulled the cord, we were well up Burrard Street going the wrong way. I got off and walked back past the storefronts along Burrard toward Kits Point, and crossed over First Avenue to a field of open ground that had always seemed whenever I had noticed it over the years to have been forgotten or left fallow by the unseen agents of vacant city land; it had been lightly disguised by a miscellaneous planting of trees here and there and a wide expanse of tough green grass that seemed to offer a kind of jousting yard for the Seaforth Armoury, which lay across the street like an emanation of King Arthur’s court with its circular towers and conical roofs, parapetted gables and dormers, crenellations and massive stepped buttresses; next to the Armoury the enormous fermentation silos belonging to Molson’s Brewery stood in ponderous rows along the sidewalk and down the alley. As the stream of heavy traffic halted for construction, I had a clear view of the imposing and incongruous facades of these two institutions, which I had never seen laid out so clearly before; one of them was the source of the beer that my friends and I had considered to be drinkable only when no other beers were available, and the other, I had heard, was said to be inhabited by the ghost of a “piper without his pipes,” whose footsteps are heard at night on the parade square, and a “coughing

woman,” who can be heard “clearing her throat” in the evening beneath the cross of St. Andrew near the grand troop door. The first military action of the Seaforth Highlanders had been to put down the miners’ strike in Ladysmith, on Vancouver Island, in 1913; the second was the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. A notice on the internet stating that the Armoury was “built on an old First Nations reserve” manages to elide the mysterious, possibly occult process of land transfer that moved so much Native land in this part of the world into non-Native hands. I turned around to take my bearings and noticed in a shady grove at the near end of the field a scattering of benches on which people were sitting and talking to each other and contemplating their mobiles. Off to the side was a monument of some kind, a human figure rising from a pedestal of stone but looking the other way; I went round and saw that it was a likeness of a woman cast in bronze gazing out over a tiny plaza. The name on the plaque was Kinuko Laskey, who on August 6, 1945, when she was sixteen years old and a nurse in training at a hospital in Hiroshima 1.4 kilometres from the hypocentre, had survived the atomic bomb explosion that wiped out 160,000 people. For the first year of her recovery, her mother had kept mirrors and other reflective surfaces away from her, to protect her from the sight of her disfigurement. She was stigmatized after the disaster as “hibakusha,” one of the atomic people, and after several failed suicide attempts, she met the Canadian serviceman whom she eventually married and with whom she moved to Canada, where she became prominent in the anti-war movement. This encounter with her memorial on what I had presumed was a vacant lot was my first knowledge of Kinuko Laskey, who founded the Canadian Society of Atomic Bomb Survivors, and whose marriage lasted fifty-three years until her death in 2004. I stepped away from the shade of Notes & Dispatches 9


surrounding katsura trees, the leaves of which had turned golden, and onto a pathway that led me to an enormous granite boulder more than six feet high sunk into a concrete slab on steel rods; carved in its surface was the image of a corn stalk accompanied by a list of Spanish terms that I soon made out to be a recipe for South Soup (Sopa Sur) para seis porciones: 1 ounce olive oil, 10 cups water, 1 cup coconut milk, tomato, jalapeno chile, bay leaves, garlic, pepper, onions, spinach, achiote and cilantro to taste, 2 squash, 2 zucchinis, 1 potato, 4 beaten eggs, 18 shrimp, 3 crabs, 1 kg grouper fish, 1 kg tuna, 6 squids, 12 clams. On the other side of the boulder, also engraved into the rock, was a long list of artists, creators and organizers, but no mention that I could make out of an organization or political body eager to commemorate itself or South Soup in such grand fashion. Only after admiring this handsome artifact close up did I notice, low down on one side, a brass protrusion bearing an inscription

that identified it as a “Time Capsule, Deposited year 2012, Legado Ancestral, to open year 2063.” What the time capsule contained, and why this granite boulder was set up here to contain it, were questions that one might ask of any ancient stone or artifact; but in this case all is to be made clear or not clear forty-nine years from now. I approached the north end of the field beneath oak trees whose leaves were turning and beginning to fall; the air was clear and cold in the shade. I came to a low, dome-shaped structure that appeared to be a fountain that had run out of water; at its apex the ghost of a white flame wavered almost invisibly in the bright sunlight. 10 Geist 91 Winter 2013

A plaque, somewhat mouldy and not easy to find, identified it as the Flame of Peace. I learned later on the internet that indeed it is a fountain, in the form of a “water-filled bronze cauldron” designed to commemorate the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. I had come to the end of the piece of open ground, which I could see now had been transformed without my knowledge into a memorial park; a low wooden sign nearby proclaimed it to be Seaforth Peace Park, a name that clearly represents a compromise among committees that name parks and public spaces, for surely if this ground had a “real” name, it would be Hiroshima Peace Park. (Later on the internet I read that the land had originally been part of the “Kitsilano Indian Reserve,” and had been “eyed as parkland since 1924,” with no further explanation of its provenance.) I stepped into a street blocked by heavy machines and construction workers watched over by a grim-faced flag person, and walked another block to Maple Street. Within minutes I had come to the house that the archivist and his first wife moved into in 1911: a shady bungalow in good repair, in a street lined with shady bungalows, with a verandah and a dormer with its own balcony, well preserved and no doubt worth more than two million dollars in the present market. I peered in from the sidewalk through an archway formed by a laurel hedge, into a lush front garden filled with shrubbery and garden gnomes and a profusion of hibernating plant life and fallen leaves, to a staircase leading up to the shady verandah and the front door to this peaceful, silent house of sadness, as I thought of it, to which, as Maud wrote to her son Hugh in 1918, “I could not return to be a prisoner. All I could think of was the horror of being locked up. You would think I was a jailbird or a murderer at large. I hope you are having a nice time and I hope you will continue to do so, I shall never get over my own son come after me with a

policeman and helped his father in it, and the men in that barn tried to help me out. I am through now and will get a position in a strange town.” Three years later, in 1921, the archivist remarried and moved his new wife Emily into the house on Maple Street, where apparently the

reign of sadness continued, for within a year Emily too had moved out and filed for legal separation; the archivist’s frenzied pleas for her return were recorded in his diary, which can be found in the city archives along with the letters from Maud, and which is largely an account of Emily’s offences and includes several lists, such as: “things that Emily has broken” (vase, plates, window, pipe, letters, photos), “bruises she has inflicted” (kicked shins, scratched face, hit me on back of head with poker), “things Emily has thrown at me” (varnish tin, silver flower vase, ink pots, bellows, package visiting cards) and “names she has called me” (liar, hypocrite, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, brute, beast). I presumed that Maud never returned to the house on Maple Street, but there were more letters and perhaps more diaries in the archive that I had yet to see. I continued north along Maple Street toward the park at Kits Point, and the Maritime Museum, the unlikely looking A-frame structure built to contain the St. Roch, the RCMP schooner named for the electoral riding of a Minister of Justice, and which had traversed the Northwest Passage in both directions during World War II. I circled the A-frame and had


glimpsed the St. Roch through its big windows to look for the Ben Franklin, the underwater vessel that made the longest research dive in history while drifting deep in the Gulf Stream, and which I remembered photographing shortly after it was put on display on a patch of lawn in 2003; now it was

encased by a grille of steel burglar bars that greatly diminished its likeness to a wingless seabird of vast proportion, which was how it struck me when I stumbled upon it for the first time. Now beyond another expanse of rolling lawn I could see on my

right a corner of the archives building retreating into its hillside, and on my left the monument to the Northwest Passage that I had spotted from the No. 44 bus. The breeze was lifting and kite fliers were at work on a rising hillside; there were no seagulls to be seen or heard, a lack that seemed like an error of arrangement, but crows were flying overhead in great numbers and the sound of the sea could heard in the waves lapping against the shore. I approached the monument and stood before it, a gigantic figure of steel and rust indicating a kind of notation, perhaps musical in origin, and at the same time a viewfinder indicating a way to the top of the world by a route long hidden to all but the makers of imaginary maps. In 1942, when the St. Roch was resting in the ice near Somerset Island, the captain and a small crew set out by dogsled across the dark and apparently empty field of ice; hours passed and they saw

a glow in the distance; soon they could hear accordion music and many voices raised in song, emanating from what proved to be a huge snow house, the largest that the captain had ever seen; he and his men crawled in through the entryway and came into a terrific celebration illuminated by kerosene lamps: families dancing and singing and a man in the centre playing an accordion, which he continued playing as long as there were dancers dancing; as the temperature rose, many began removing their garments; eventually the snow roof caved in and the dancing and the music came to a slow, ragged and hilarious end.  Stephen Osborne is publisher and editorin-chief of Geist. He is also the awardwinning writer of Ice & Fire: Dispatches from the New World and dozens of shorter works—most recently “Scandal Season” (Geist 90)—many of which can be read at geist.com.

Notes & Dispatches 11


m i l i t a r y

h o c k e y

david collier

12 Geist 91 Winter 2013


Notes & Dispatches 13


r e l a t i v i t y

Arguments umar saeed “Why won’t you speak to my father?” I asked my grandfather, in Urdu. “What is so unforgivable?”

M

y father has always thought that he would one day return to Pakistan with foreign coin in his pocket to live like a king.

A

hundred feet short of the Pakistani border, my Indian rickshaw driver said, “You walk now.” He unloaded my luggage, all the while keeping an eye on the three Pakistani porters in the distance who wore bellhop vests and MC Hammer pants that flapped furiously in the wind. I offered my driver another 100 rupees to drop me at the passport office door, but he refused. I had lost the wheels on my suitcase somewhere in Mumbai, and the grind of my luggage along the desolate dirt road alerted the porters to my presence. A tubby Pakistani man emerged from the group of three. He jogged toward me with a half-hearted hustle. “No money,” I told him. “I’m starving, sir. Please, let me carry your bags,” he said, struggling to keep up with me. I remained focussed on the passport office ahead. The porter was relentless. When I finally made it to the station doors, he peeled back, and his demeanour changed from desperate to smug. He mumbled in Punjabi to the other porters that he would catch me on the way out. The passport office had the smell of a musty, unused cottage. A highly decorated officer took me to a private room for inspection. I walked through a makeshift metal detector made entirely out of wood. It didn’t 14 Geist 91 Winter 2013

beep. The officer proceeded to scatter my personal effects on the counter. His head and hands were buried deeply into my belongings, but his eyes shifted often, sizing me up. “Where are you from, sir?” he said. “Canada.” “Oh…Canada,” he said, wobbling his head in agreement. “My parents are Pakistani. From Lahore—Faisalabad. A little village near Faisalabad.” “Sir, do you know Eid is coming?” “You’re ruining my stuff, you know that?” I replied. He was unravelling my travel pillow, digging into the spaceage foam, spilling tiny little white beads of comfort all over my clothes. “Sir. Eid is coming. Eid,” he repeated. Eid is the Islamic Christmas, except children get money instead of toys. Hesitantly I offered him a crisp 1,000-rupee note. He stared at the bill in my trembling hand and looked around before slipping it into his pocket. That concluded the security inspection and he helped me repack my things. We spent some time together wiping my clothes, trying to get the tiny bits of foam off. He escorted me to the cashier’s desk to have my travel documents inspected and whispered something to the officer behind the glass, who looked at me with concern. The cashier leaned back in his chair and read through my passport like a book, pulling at his hearty moustache with his fingers. He finally stamped my passport and held it out to me, but when I tried to take it, he wouldn’t let go.

“It’s Eid, sir,” he said. I was eager to leave but I could see the tubby porter waiting for me, squinting at me through the window. I sat beside the only other tourists in the office, an elderly British couple. They took interest in my quest, a two-month journey through Asia that would conclude with a stretch in Pakistan and a visit to the tiny village where my parents were raised. The couple were kind enough to offer me a ride to Lahore, as it was on their way and they had hired a driver to come get them. “It’s good that you have a driver,” I said, glancing at the porter outside. “Well,” said the lady in a low voice, leaning close, “you have to be extra careful to arrange things in advance. People like to take advantage here.” As the driver began to load my bags, the Pakistani porter swore at me in Punjabi, and his friends attempted to contain their laughter. In India, porters, rickshaw drivers and random villagers had refused my handouts, not as a humble gesture but with the genuine belief that they did not deserve anything beyond the agreed-upon price. They believed in a karmic balance: by having pretty hearts they would ultimately be rewarded in a much more profound way than some extra cash. But as soon as I had crossed that border, people felt entitled to my money.

M

y grandmother, Nani, has lived alone for many years, since the passing of her husband. Despite her shrivelled skin, shrinking body and orange, sundyed hair, she has an inner strength that commands respect in her village. The plan was to rendezvous with my mother at Nani’s house, but no rickshaw was willing to drive that far into the countryside. I took a public bus that partitioned men from women, something I discovered only after trying to board at the front, where I was met by the high-pitched laughter of young girls.


The sun was setting, and my fellow passengers were tired from the day’s work. There is something beautiful about a grown man sitting in a friend’s lap because he is too tired to stand and keep his balance. A young man roughly my age offered me his seat. I placed my hand on his shoulder, gently sitting him back down. He stared at my T-shirt, which was printed with the faces of several celebrities. It occurred to me that this shirt pinned me as a pure Westerner. Islamic tradition abhors visual icons, images or idols of any kind. The bus emptied gradually as we continued deeper into the countryside. An old man with a sharp white beard grabbed my arm and sat me down beside him. I wondered if we were related. I told him I didn’t know where to get off the bus. He placed his hand on my arm and said he knew where my Nani’s village was. We got off the bus together and he instructed a horse carriage to take me the rest of the way, saying that it should not cost more than 10 rupees. I held on tightly, passing fields of corn, sugar cane and barley, and then arrived at the house named after my dead grandfather, where my mother and Nani were waiting for me with open arms.

I

n the village I was king. People carried creased photographs of me as a child that I had never seen before. Akbar, a lanky eleven-year-old with a peach-fuzz moustache and a continuously cracking voice, took particular interest in me. Every morning he knocked on my Nani’s door to see if I could play. We flew his white kite on the brick rooftops. Once it was high enough in the sky, he would let me control the lone cloud while he tossed pebbles into the lining of the open sewers along the village roads. When it was his turn, I looked around at the pastures for miles in every direction. Once, I spotted a lady looking at us from the road below. When I shaded

m u s i c

l e s s o n s

Why I Mastered Ukulele john wall barger How women can fake flamenco after one lesson. How they stand, one foot pointed, improbably, backwards. In purple cravats, unthinkable hats. Underwear with words! Sheer difference. Hungry for them, I ate. Grew skinny with eating. Attending their replies. Waiting, I am shrewd. Sinewy. Brash. I master ukulele. Every woman is lady now but mother. I tip my torn hat, hold open doors with muddy shoes. Fibrous, inedible, I flirt, orangeeared, falling dead atop them like a tree. Holding hands, on long walks, with caprice. Under smutty girders of the bridge at basin edge I inhale rich sewage. Stars sing like rats on the cheese wheel of sky & my nose & my toes are numb. A girl named Chloë nibbles the tips of my fingers, wipes my blood from her mouth with a fuchsia feather boa, scampers off among the rocks. John Wall Barger is the author of Pain-proof Men and Hummingbird, and poems published in literary journals and anthologies. He was born in New York City, grew up in Canada, and lives and teaches in Hong Kong.

my eyes with my hand, she scurried inside her house. I wondered if she was related to me. The village operated via an intricate word-of-mouth network. One morning I asked my mother if it was possible to check email, and that afternoon Akbar took me to his house and sat me in front of his computer. He had gone to town and purchased a calling card, and now he dialled the number using the dusty machine. We smiled and wobbled our heads at each other, awaiting the connection. He took control of the mouse and immediately began to show me pictures of beautiful American celebrities. “I am thinking I will want Jessica Alba,” he said. According to Maxim, Alba was the fifth hottest girl in the world that year. “She’s nice,” I said.

“But Eva Longoria is the number one! That’s okay. My brother can have her,” he said. Akbar had a big heart. In Islam, seventy-two virgins are promised to each man who makes it to heaven. Akbar was allocating girls in advance. He was willing to give his brother the topranked Eva Longoria, while he settled for Jessica Alba. There is no better trick to suppress the sexual desires of young blood in this life than promising an afterlife that offers more than you can handle. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that they weren’t virgins.

I

n Lahore, my cousin Zubair took me through the sweat, the dirt, the scorching sun that cooked our black hair, the motorbikes that we had to dodge, the buses that never stopped honking, the Notes & Dispatches 15


donkey carriages, the screaming fabric merchants, the veiled ladies smelling like Chanel No 5, the sewage system, the succulent street-flamed kebabs, the freshly squeezed juice of every kind, the hibachi-roasted nuts, the clusters of beautiful young women ignoring the men who gazed at them, the barefoot beggars standing on hot gravel, the workers soldering without visors, the ocean of bazaars. And the relentless eyes: gaping, squinting, penetrating, shying away, looking you up and down, staring through the back of your head. When we stopped and pulled into an alley, away from the crowd, we saw a military supply truck unloading tents, sheets and blankets through the back of a store. A few weeks earlier, a powerful earthquake had devastated the northern part of Pakistan, and these supplies didn’t belong in that store. When the men in uniform began to point at us, Zubair put his arm around me and we walked away. “Listen,” he said in Urdu, “don’t go back to Canada and tell everyone what you saw, otherwise they’ll stop helping us altogether.” The people of Pakistan are resigned to their leaders. A democratic election had been held that year, and my Nani recalls it quite vividly. When she went to cast her ballot, a military officer sent her home, saying that she had, in fact, already voted.

I

t was Eid when I returned to the village. My Nani had many visitors and my mother and I ended up sharing a bed. The crickets were lulling me to sleep as my mother stirred me with a trivial question about my trip to Lahore. I opened my eyes. She was staring at the ceiling with her hands folded on her stomach. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Nothing,” she said. “Just tell me.” “It’s so stupid,” she said in Urdu. “Your aunt has put a curse on us. Knives are going to fall out of the sky.” Then 16 Geist 91 Winter 2013

she giggled, but only because I did. My father’s side of the family despises him. After a lifetime of arguments about selfishness and entitlement, there isn’t an ounce of trust remaining. Apparently my aunt was threatened by my presence and had naturally assumed that I had been sent back by my father to reclaim farmland from her, land that traditionally belonged to the eldest son. I kissed my mother on the forehead and told her I would go visit my father’s old man the next day. “Don’t go over there and start a fight,” she said. “Mom.” “You should go. He has nothing against you,” she said. “Make sure you clip your nails first.” The woman that I had seen from the rooftops, my aunt, greeted me at the gate. She covered her head with a blue scarf and embraced me with just one arm. She walked me around the flat concrete home, pointing at rooms from a distance. Finally, she took me to my grandfather, who was sitting outside. She lurked in the kitchen, a few steps away, stacking dishes. The old man sat on a flat wicker bed smoking a hookah. His skin had been beaten by the sun for nearly a century, and I felt heat emanating from his dark, bony body. He squinted at me in my shadow as I loomed over him. He asked me to identify myself, and I realized that he was nearly blind. I said my name and he repeated it to himself, as if I had just told the funniest joke. “Have you finished your studies?” he asked in a low voice. “Yes. I’m a professional now,” I said. “Hmm?” “I’m finished my studies,” I said, much louder. The racket in the kitchen stopped. “Good. When are you getting married?” “I don’t know.” “Hmm?” “The Taj Mahal is breathtaking,” I said.

“Yes. Every man should see the world. The Muslims built the Taj, my son. What did you think of Hindustan?” “They aren’t as greedy over there.” “India? India is a filthy country,” he said in Urdu. “They let dogs and cows roam free. It’s disgusting.” I rubbed my sweaty palms on my jeans. “Why won’t you speak with my father?” I asked in Urdu. “You wouldn’t understand, my son,” he said, shaking his head. “Tell me. What is so unforgivable? What did he do? ” I struggled to pronounce the words. “It’s not that easy to understand.” “He’s an honest man,” I said. “He would never take anything from you. He’s still your son, isn’t he? Don’t you want to talk to your son? Life is short.” My grandfather lifted the lid of the hookah and pushed the orange coals around. He looked up at me but kept his eyes closed. His stubbornness had passed the point of no return, and all he could do was be thankful for my shadow. I walked away. It was the last time I saw my grandfather.

E

very weekend, I visit my parents in the suburbs. My father and I spend most of that time arguing. My mother says this is in our blood. When things get hot we let silence wash over us like a clean rain. Sometimes I tell my father that I’m glad we stayed in Canada. When I say this his eyes glisten, and the roots of our arguments evaporate in the sun, on a flat wicker bed, smoking a pipe, alone. 

Umar Saeed is a finance and accounting professional who works in Toronto. His articles on financial topics have been published in CA Magazine, Seeking Alpha, The Little Red Umbrella and other print and online publications. His work-in-progress is a book explaining the global financial system to students and non-specialists.


Notes & Dispatches 17


d n a

o f

a

h o m e

Signs of Life connie kuhns

Does a house that has been home to four generations of one family still hold their electricity?

M

y house came down the other day. A neighbour emailed me about the great big jaws that bit into my roof. But I already knew—my friend Susan had sent me a text, and my son had called me in a panic, Mom our house is gone. One afternoon a few days earlier, when I was back in town, I had looked down the street toward the house and glimpsed the orange fences they use to protect city trees. I knew its time was short. I wanted to go back and dig up the rose bushes I had left behind, cut down some lavender, uproot the rosemary I had planted outside the basement window to make my son’s bedroom smell nice. There were bodies in that garden, too: our cats Panna and Vienna and Coco and Rosie, and four gerbils, and my daughter’s first goldfish, Bert and Ernie. My mother-in-law had dusted the ground around the plum tree with her husband’s ashes (all of them) when she returned from England as a widow with a very young son. A bit of her was out there, too, somewhere—I think 18 Geist 91 Winter 2013

near the holly bush, now completely plowed under without a prayer. I have stood close by as people died and felt their energy, their essence floating in the room, hovering, until the charge that was once their soul evaporated into space. Does a house that has been home to four generations of one family still hold their electricity, even when all that is left is dusty marks on old carpet and dirty shadows where the pictures once hung? Is their DNA in the smudges left by their hands on the pink wallpaper when they tore down the staircase late for school or work, or toddled down for breakfast? Our daughter was conceived on the floor of the living room under the Christmas tree, Harlequin romancestyle. I know. But it happened. Perhaps that kind of love erases the other sounds, of parents yelling or the cries and screams of angry teenaged hearts. Families are so many things. Do years of little-kid birthday parties around the same dining room table cushion the sound of a grown-up child, crouched on the front steps late at

night in the snow, crying too hard to come inside, abandoned by love? I hope so. A hundred years ago, a boy was abandoned by his mother to an orphanage. When he became a man he brought his wife and four children into this home. He painted landscapes in the basement and planted roses in the garden. He brought ghosts. Some family members think he had affairs on the road. The truth will never be known. He ruled his family with the confidence and force of those times. His oldest daughter, one day to become my mother-in-law, ran away to be an actress. She returned as that widow who had no choice but to move home and care for her father. At his insistence, she sent her young son away. When he was a teenager, my husband tried to come home, but his hair was too long and his music too loud. Is there a place in the crawl space just for hurt? I suspect that as an adult my husband continued to hear his grandfather’s voice late at night, when the TV was turned off, coming from inside the walls. In time, my husband’s mother carried out the bodies of her mother and her father and her sister and her great friend Sam. I was with her the day the paramedics tried to get her up the front stairs into the house on a stretcher, to be cared for at home in her last days. We joked about how unusual it was for a body to be carried into the house instead of out. Up these same stairs had come babies and boyfriends and girlfriends and trick-or-treaters and dinner guests and kids selling cookies and chocolate bars. And many Jehovah’s Witnesses. This was the only address Santa knew. When it was her turn to leave, I walked around the block while her body was taken away. It was dark and cold the night I decided to climb behind the blue construction fence and stand on the empty ground. I couldn’t find where the front stairs had been or the back door or even the plum tree. I sobbed loudly photograph: brian howell


and tried to take pictures. I found a broken tree stump, not even sawed off properly. What tree was this that I had come across? I didn’t know. The ground was uneven and full of flecks that looked like bits of cloth. Had I left behind a tea towel? And where was the basement, the rooms that kept evolving as children grew and furniture was moved around? One day just a few years ago, I came home to find all of the doors and windows open and the place smelling of paint, as my son had invited a graffiti artist to come over and create a major mural on a basement wall. Where was it? Broken and shredded under the frozen earth? This was dirt not worthy of resting on a grave. I was married back here, in some shadowy space that I could not recognize. As I stumbled around that night I thought of the mantelpieces that framed the stone fireplaces and the rounded corners of the ceilings, the built-in bookcases and small closets decorated with Thomas the Tank Engine. Suddenly they took on human characteristics. Did the wood and plaster and lath call out for me? Good god. Sadness can take you places. On our last day in the house we walked around together as a family. I photographed the kitchen wall covered with lines and dates that proved my children had grown up there. It was just so empty. We thought of Grandma. On the basement floor I found a few pieces of Lego that had been under a shelf, and a tiny old plastic cowboy horse. I put them in my pocket. These were the last things to leave before everything was smashed to smithereens.  Connie Kuhns is a writer and photographer who lives in the Gulf Islands of BC. She has also worked as a music journalist. She hosted Rubymusic, a CFRO radio show on music by women, for fifteen years. True Nature’s Child, an exhibition of her photographs, was shown at Chernoff Fine Art in spring 2013. Read more of her work at geist.com.

l i v e s

o n

p a p e r

Science Fiction brad cran In writing school we were all so in love with ourselves that we wanted to be someone else, someone good enough to reflect our egos back to us in pleasing ways. We had a Gwendolyn MacEwen type, who had windswept eyes and a penchant for rowboats that she would fill with candles and use to sail out of the classroom and down the street in a funeral procession led by her own mother’s hate. We had a Paul Theroux who would never shut up. I suppose at the time I wanted to be Raymond Carver. But of all my classmates the person I remember clearest was the one everyone respected the least: the small awkward student who wrote science fiction. He was perhaps the most passionate person in the class but his passion for science fiction made him even more absurd to a group of young people already dreaming about the composition of their literary obituaries. To introduce a story he said: What you need to know is that there are three moons that revolve around the planet of Andor. Then he was gone into the science of his plot: the effect of the gravitational pull on character development, the available ballistics, how they’d have guns but preferred to fight with sabres and his hero who shall, by the end of his story, slaughter the orc-like villains and send them back to a life buried in clay. His work was widely dismissed. He was given suggested readings: serious books by serious authors. He came back to the next class with a poem he had written about karate.

Notes & Dispatches 19


He stood up, took off his coat and from his bag he unfolded, and then put on, a white karate jacket, which in all honesty made him look even smaller. He squared his feet back, braced his body in battle position and shouted his poem while punching the air. He may even have had good style but the sight of this tiny science fiction writer, dressed for karate and punching his poem into being, was too much for our group to handle. When those who were trying to hold back their laughter simply could not anymore it blew out of our chests uncontrollably until everyone was openly laughing.

On April 17, 2007, at approximately 5:14 pm in front of my house my daughter, age five, waved at a friend from the sidewalk. When she stepped off the curb and ran to go see him, a speeding SUV struck her and knocked her down the street. I saw the impact from our living room window. I may have flown off the front of my steps. I may have teleported to her. I can’t be sure how I got there, but when I picked her up blood trickled out of her mouth and I went into shock.

He simply stopped, picked up his jacket, walked out of the room and never came back. Officially we were told that he had dropped the course to find something that was “a better fit.” Unofficially we talked about “the moons of Andor,” his karate position and whether or not he was the kind of person who would come to our class and shoot everyone. At that time, in our early twenties, we just couldn’t see past our own self-delusion, but in thinking about him now, I understand he was just a young man who desperately wanted to make himself stronger. We were all so wrong about science fiction. Three times in my life, in very real ways, I have felt the knowledge that I have super powers. You see, one day I became a super villain and had the power to shoot beams of energy from my chest. I have also glimpsed portals and occasionally I can see through them. Lastly, when certain elements line up with my body, I gain the perception of perpetual speed and I do indeed become the Flash, the fastest man in the world.

20 Geist 91 Winter 2013

As it turned out, the blood from her mouth was not internal bleeding but ran from a deep cut where she bit through her tongue. Three ambulances and two fire trucks came. She had muscle pain and road rash up one side of her body but otherwise was fine. Gillian held her and I went outside where the driver of the SUV was in our front yard with her camera. She was taking pictures of the street and her vehicle. She kept repeating to my neighbour that she wasn’t going to have to pay. This is when I became the super villain. As clearly as I have the power to walk, I could feel the hate in my chest coagulating into a ball of energy that I was sure I could shoot from my chest to vaporize her. I could feel the power to kill her through the strength of my hate. I charged at her and my neighbour intervened.


I thought about releasing a beam of hate and vaporizing them both but instead I told her to leave my neighbourhood or I would kill her with my bare hands. My neighbour insisted that she stay until the police arrived and I went back inside to get Gillian because I was certain Gillian would want me to kill her—but instead she told me to calm down. I couldn’t understand her. A police officer came in to check on Rory and question us. Gillian started by apologizing for me and telling the officer I was just upset. She told him about the woman taking pictures. The police officer said he would have been equally angry but we should keep in mind “the driver of the vehicle was in shock.” I said, yes I was sorry, that I got caught in the heat of the moment, that I was just worried about my daughter. But really I was lying to them and I wanted them to believe me so I could leave and follow the woman home, because even then I still wanted to kill her. Gillian began to cook. I usually do the cooking in the house but in this moment she began to cook and cook and cook. She could not stop cooking. Her mood was jovial which frustrated me because I wanted to convince her that we should burn the world. She invited the police to stay. She would make pineapple and red pepper shish kebabs, with a teriyaki glaze. Garlic mashed potatoes and all of Rory’s favourite food. There would be enough for the ambulance drivers and all the neighbours. Really they should all stay. It was as if the accident had cheered her up. It wasn’t until three months later that her hair began to fall out. At first we noticed just a little, but then it became clear that her beautiful hair was falling out in large clumps.

That fall Gillian and I finished collecting oral histories for a book called Hope in Shadows. We would take turns going to the Downtown Eastside to interview disadvantaged people about their lives. We alternated so neither would have to take the full emotional burden of hearing stories of abuse that are so common in an impoverished neighbourhood. Sometimes the stories would inspire us, but often they would open us up to a narrative we weren’t prepared to hear. One day I listened to the story of a woman I assumed was about forty years old. She had started working as a prostitute at the age of thirteen. She was in a wheelchair because someone had thrown her down the escalator at the Granville SkyTrain and one of the striped metal steps crushed her vertebrae. Recently she had been panhandling outside the Roxy nightclub and some men came out of the bar and threw her out of her wheelchair. I asked her age and found out she was actually twenty-four years old. When I got home I had two goals: to keep calm in front of my kids and drink as much wine as possible. I must have poured half a bottle into my first glass. I prepared myself to put up with my kids’ misbehaviour; I would do everything I could to hold it together, but Rory could tell something was wrong. She hugged my legs and said, Daddy, you’re the best daddy in the world. And that is what set me off, bawling like a child in front of my own children. Sometime that fall, my friend Ian introduced us to the music of Jonathan Richman. I wasn’t familiar with Richman’s music but Ian had tickets to see him and he assured us we’d love his show. So we went.

We took her to the walk-in clinic and the doctor asked her if she had suffered a trauma within the past few months and she told him, Three months ago, if only for a moment, we thought we were going to lose our daughter.

Notes & Dispatches 21


I now own many of his albums but it is Richman’s Rockin’ and Romance that became an important part of our lives. This album is a sonata to happiness. It is sunshine and beach sand. It is the human condition told through the quest for a new pair of jeans. On days we had hard interviews it was our cure, our cleanser: to go for a run and listen to Rockin’ and Romance. Three years later the book was going into a second printing and I was at my publisher’s. He said he had forgotten to tell me but we had received a letter. It was a letter from Jonathan Richman. He wanted us to know that he had been in town performing and a homeless person had sold him a copy of Hope in Shadows. He was writing to say how much he enjoyed it. This was more important than just receiving a note from someone we admired. It was a convergence. I couldn’t have been on my bicycle fast enough. I was pedalling as quickly as I could.

This is how it happens. A mother’s life changes forever one afternoon. Where could that mother place herself after such a horrible loss. Sometimes all we have is fantasy. Sometimes we need science fiction. Throughout the city you can see memorials built for people who have been killed by motorists. Each memorial has its own distinct energy. The memorials with the strongest pull are the two I have seen in the city that were erected for children. One is framed around a teddy bear tied to a pole with purple ribbon. The other is a perpetually refreshed stack of flowers above a large Tonka truck.

I had to get home to show Gillian this letter from Jonathan Richman.

I haven’t yet figured the science out, how exactly they work but I believe they are portholes to a second chance, an alternate universe or a world with different gravity.

I was biking down Abbott toward BC Place and the road was blocked. People were standing around.

What you need to know is that there are three moons that revolve around the planet of Andor.

There was a baby stroller in the street under a yellow tarp.

From a hundred yards back of a roadside shrine, I can spot the flicker of another world, the glimmer of something as easy as a second chance. As I get closer the portal fully opens; a child is again standing by the road, everything depends on this. I am the Flash. My thoughts are lightning, my heart beats by its thunder. The child fidgets and I am running.

I asked someone what had happened and was told a mother was waiting at the light to cross the street, and when she stepped off the curb a tow truck hit and killed her baby. Panic set in. Again I couldn’t get home fast enough. I needed to get home as quick as possible. Every molecule of my body was water. It was as if I could slip into the ocean.

22 Geist 91 Winter 2013

Brad Cran is a writer and social entrepreneur who served as Poet Laureate for the City of Vancouver from 2009 to 2011. “Science Fiction” is excerpted from his poetry collection Ink on Paper (Nightwood, 2013). He is also the author of The Good Life and, with Gillian Jerome, Hope in Shadows: Stories and Photographs of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Read more of his Geist work at geist.com.


a f t e r l i f e

o f

c u l t u r e

Homage to Nicaragua stephen henighan

Just as Hemingway and Orwell were changed by their commitment to Republican Spain, so Nicaraguan solidarity work altered the lives of Stephen Henighan and his contemporaries

I

n 1992, when I was a thirtyish writer promoting my first short story collection, I was interviewed on a Montreal radio station. Observing that three of the stories took place in Sandinista Nicaragua, the interviewer suggested a parallel between my generation’s solidarity with the Nicaraguan Revolution of 1979−1990, and Ernest Hemingway’s commitment to Republican Spain. Strangely, this idea had never occurred to me before. photograph: stephen henighan

The Nicaraguan Revolution ended the savage dictatorship of the Somoza family (1934−1979), which was an extension of the occupation of Nicaragua by the US Marines (1927−1933). The revolution resisted Cold War polarization. The government was young and flexible, led by an alliance of radicalized priests, open-minded businessmen and their guerrilla sons, peasant leaders, students and writers. The Sandinistas implemented land

reform and the most successful literacy campaign in history, eliminated polio, revived moribund handicraft traditions and an intriguing literary culture and introduced a mixed-market economy. The Sandinista leadership, with its varying ideological textures of reforming Catholic Conservatives, radicalized Liberals and Marxist guerrillas, avoided becoming enshrined in a single strongman, as had happened in Fidel Castro’s Afterlife of Culture 23


Cuba. In contrast to Cuba, Sandinista Nicaragua never tried to control movement in and out of the country: anyone who wanted to leave was free to go. In 1984 the Sandinistas held elections that were, as The Economist reported at the time, a little less open than those in democratic Costa Rica but as good as elections in Westernallied Mexico. (The West’s closest ally in Latin America at this time was Chile, a military dictatorship that did not hold elections.) Even some of the revolution’s failures turned into successes. Unlike most earlier Nicaraguan governments, the Sandinistas tried to integrate the country’s remote, largely Afro-Caribbean and English-speaking Atlantic Coast into the national fabric. Both the literacy campaign (initially offered only in Spanish) and the arrival of the army led to confrontations, particularly with the Miskito Indians. In 1982, about 100 people died in conflict between the Sandinistas and the Miskitos, and thousands fled or were removed from their homes. Yet by 1985, Nicaragua had negotiated an aboriginal autonomy agreement that has become a model in the Western hemisphere, and from which twentyfirst century Canada could learn valuable lessons. The literacy campaign was expanded to the English, Miskito, Sumo and Rama languages; the Miskitos came home, kept their guns and defended their territory themselves. In 1985, Newsweek, habitually skeptical about the Sandinistas, published an article that applauded the region’s transformation. The Sandinistas were undermined by blinkered old men. US President Ronald Reagan claimed the Sandinistas were Soviet agents; the Soviet leadership, decreeing that the Sandinistas were not socialists, kept its distance. By the mid-1980s, most of Nicaragua’s aid came from sympathetic, oil-rich countries such as Iran and advanced economies such as Sweden or Canada, where Prime 24 Geist 91 Winter 2013

Minister Brian Mulroney, in spite of his personal friendship with the Reagans, made Sandinista Nicaragua the largest Central American recipient of Canadian foreign aid. Reagan, by contrast, pooled hundreds of millions of dollars that came from direct, indirect and sometimes—as the 1986 Iran-Contra scandal would reveal— illegal sources to inflict high-technology warfare on an impoverished rural nation of fewer than four million people. Reagan’s war killed at least 50,000 Nicaraguans, yet, in spite of their superior technology, his Contras never captured and held a single Nicaraguan village. The US propaganda war was even more damaging, smearing the Sandinistas’ record, and leaving enduring misconceptions about the nature of their government. In 1990 the Sandinistas became the only revolution in history to leave office by way of the ballot box, brought down by the unpopular military draft they had implemented to fight the Contras, by the cooperativization of agriculture, which alienated peasant supporters, and by US President George H.W. Bush’s threat to Nicaraguan voters that unless the opposition won, the war would continue. Rather than institutionalizing democracy, the 1990 elections punctured Nicaraguan pride and idealism, which collapsed into a pervasive culture of corruption and exploitation. The party that rules Nicaragua today uses the Sandinista name but, with the exception of President Daniel Ortega, includes no significant leader from the 1980s and inspires none of the hope of reform of that era. Most of the leaders from the Sandinista years have been outspoken critics of Nicaragua’s post-1990 governments. As we mark the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Nicaraguan Revolution in 2014, I’m convinced that the radio interviewer was right. Just as Hemingway, George Orwell and André Malraux were changed by their commitment to Republican Spain, so

Nicaraguan solidarity work altered the course of lives in my generation. Prior to my arrival in Nicaragua, I had studied in Bogotá, Colombia, and travelled in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. Military roadblocks abounded in those countries; it was common to be hauled out of a bus in the middle of the night and spread-eagled and searched at the side of the road. Poor people were meek and submissive; social mores were repressive. In Nicaragua, by contrast, young people from poor families were full of bravado and eager to increase their capacitación, or skills, there were no roadblocks, civilians mingled with those in uniform and young couples necked on street corners. I found austerity and hardship and areas where hopes had been disappointed, yet also an ebullience at the realization that change was possible. At night the streets of the Barrio Martha Quezada in Managua, just back from the shore of Lake Managua, were full of roaming gringo solidarity workers, refugees from El Salvador selling hot pupusas, and young Nicaraguans both uniformed and in civilian dress. One night I walked to a poetry reading in a group that included a well-known Sandinista comandante on the fringes of the governing circle; he wore combat fatigues and a holster but had no bodyguard. Today the Barrio Martha Quezada is an eerie slum that is dangerous even in daylight, and the only Managua locales that feel safe at night are the capital’s three major shopping malls, where there are armed guards at the doors to keep out the poor. In this way, Nicaragua has become like many other countries. This is the most important reason to remember that once, for a few short years, it was different. Stephen Henighan’s most recent book is Sandino’s Nation: Ernesto Cardenal and Sergio Ramírez Writing Nicaragua, 1940−2012 (McGill-Queen’s, 2014). Read more of his work at geist.com and stephenhenighan.com, and follow him on Twitter @StephenHenighan.


FINDINGS

From Switcheroo, a dual-portrait photographic series and book of the same title, featuring photographs taken in San Francsico, Paris, Tokyo and many other cities all over the world. Hana Pesut lives in Vancouver and at sincerelyhana.com.

The Status We Imagine anakana schofield From “Publicising a Novel—the Problems” by Anakana Schofield, published in the Guardian, July 25, 2013. Anakana Schofield is the author of short fiction and nonfiction published in the Globe and Mail, Geist, London Review of Books blog, Boulderpavement and other periodicals and anthologies. Visit her at anakanaschofield.com.

I

n 2012 my first novel Malarky was published in Canada. I received a $1,000 advance from my Canadian publisher and a megawatty—by my impoverished standards—£6,500 advance from OneWorld in the UK. That might sound a lot, but Malarky took me a dozen years to write. Those were a dozen years of dire poverty. “You’re lucky to be published at all” is the default response—and they’re right, I am. (I am lucky that

independent publishers took a bet on me.) I realise readers of this article will think I’m wrong to complain about my lot, but it’s not really my lot that I’m concerned with here: it’s the business of publicising a novel, and of what it is to be a writer these days. I might be considered lucky (though I’ve worked for it), but we don’t tell train drivers that they’re lucky there are trains. Nor do we ask train drivers to drive trains up

and down to Scotland unpaid, for the glory of saying to the public: look, here is a train, consider getting on it someday! So I have three grumbles, or rather I want to raise three tricky questions. First: why do the media care so much about the novelist—what pen she uses, what time she gets up in the morning—when they should be concentrating on the novel? A debut author’s publicist tells her, as every honest publicist should, the bald truth: that newspapers like personal stories. Ideally, confessional stories. Best of all: confessional stories that relate to the fiction she spent years making up. So she spends years using her imagination only to discover that she must dig about in her Findings 25


canlit’s latest hero: toronto From a press release announcing The Stories That Are Great Within Us from Exile Editions. their stories, their visions, their place ublishers once frowned… Now of pride; each work is infused with they’re fine with [Toronto] in the the mythologies, histories and perplot” was the Globe and Mail headline sonalities that showcase Toronto as in 2005. Today, consider that Toronto an epicentre of culture, intrigue, and is the fourth largest city in North enriching experiences. Northrop Frye America. Over the last 60 years it has once said “Where is here?” …Well, been turned upside down and inside the writers and artists in [The Stories out, while its writers and artists have That Are Great Within Us] have shown given vibrant voice to the city’s unique that Toronto is the here.  character. Toronto is the centre of

P

GEIST ALERT Google Alert results for “ Geist.”

26 Geist 91 Winter 2013

psychoanalytic compost heap, and retrieve something that reveals that, in fact, she has not made it up at all. As Malarky is an exploration of grief and sexuality, such a confessional would require, say, the insertion of an anecdote about how I liked to spy on men having sex in bathhouses. This would tidily explain how (or why) I created a novel in which, among a myriad other things, an Irish mother re-enacts her gay son’s love acts. The truth is otherwise: sadly, no splashy bathhouse peeping. Instead, I sat in a library surrounded by medical students and made it up. If you want the specifics: it was a banal cubicle at the back of the third floor of the Vancouver General Hospital Diamond building. I did, however, read an excellent book on Syrian underwear and ogled Comin’ at Ya!: The Homoerotic 3D Photographs of Denny Denfield. The rest of my life was an anxious combination of a chronic lack of cash, obsessing about the weather, and my 13-year-old wishing for a mother who could cook stew. Not very glamorous, yet here come the questions: do you write with your knickers up or down? Your heating switched on or off? Do you find the similes come smoother when you haven’t brushed your teeth? I actually spend much of my time writing gambling news. You don’t care? Why should you? It’s more relevant to find out about the person who drives the 42 bus, or nurses your granny. Second: why can’t I get paid for many of the articles I write? These days, an author, especially an unknown author, must—in order to entice any readers to her work who aren’t blood relatives—write endless unpaid blogs, articles and responses for newspapers and magazines and random people creating things in basements. What results

willie geist: regrets his sixth grade style; discussed being a Hulkamaniac; visited LA’s annual Grilled Cheese Invitational—the self-proclaimed “American Idol of grilled cheese”; gets his guests to bust out the language


Children of Air India renée sarojini saklikar From Children of Air India by Renée Sarojini Saklikar, published by Nightwood Editions in 2013. Her work has appeared in the Georgia Straight, Vancouver Review, SubTerrain and other periodicals, and in several anthologies. She lives in Vancouver. For more on Saklikar and her work, visit thecanadaproject.wordpress.com. E L E G Y F O R C O U RT R O O M 2 0 , VA N C O U V E R L AW C O U RT S

Search gate outside the courtroom. Citizens security-screened. Lexan glass to separate the body of the court— public gallery 149 seats and video monitors three locations, allowing for unobstructed views. Everyone watches the proceedings. A judges’ bench accommodates hearings. 23 seats for prosecution and defence counsel, in the body of the court. Space for 15 lawyers if required. A witness box, a jury box, both wheelchair accessible. State-of-the-art technology for use by all courtroom participants. 28 microphones for all participants: lawyers, judges, witnesses, translators. 384 service outlets—voice, data, audio, video. 3 forty-inch Plasma Display Monitors. 2 thirty-six-inch TV monitors. 4 voice-activated video cameras transmit proceedings: viewing locations outside the courtroom. — Government of British Columbia, Court Services, 2003 The room underground: wood panel, red carpet, benches and glass. The judge a pinprick head, far away, behind layers of Lexan resinous thermoplastic right-angled to the players in the main action—

is the subsidising of publishers by outsourcing the marketing of the book to the writer, and now and again the subsidising of often giant media corporations, who in times gone by would have had to pay her. There is a general decline in the value placed on labour. The situation is comparable to other areas of

a drama that was about [redacted] and not about [redacted], family reflected, refracted, our airplane saga. —N, eyewitness account, March 16, 2005 E X H I B I T: AG E U N K N OW N .

How he paws at her and she’s tiring of him, wants to scold, teeth glinting behind a full upper lip, stop, stop: he’s on the verge of crying—howling— she looks into her child’s eyes, and sees past image to another (the man with whom she made this crying-thing, don’t cry, don’t), she sees deeper into the night this child conceived a slow seed’s insistence— how can she be so sure. She is. Mother, her child, whimpering now under her stare, cornflower blue saree gathering his body— and over it, a beige sweater, arms around— overalls by OshKosh. These details, this morning, decided. Status: Mother’s body found. Child missing.

the workforce, where several jobs are collapsed to one and the pay slashed. The reporter who must now shoot, edit video, audio-record and type all stories while tweeting. The security guard who is not allowed to tweet, but must also do the cleaning. Or the hospital cleaner who is forced to reapply for his own job but on lower

pay, because it’s been outsourced to an American multinational. Third: why is there so much fuss in the media about how to write a novel—“everyone can become an author”—when the more important thing is how to read one? A hearty number of writers, as a result of the unpaid author scenario,

of love; advises dads to get ready for the naked parade; strolls through a home’s many assets; shows off his new NFL-themed stiletto wine bottle holster; shows off the beginnings of [his] commitment to “No Shave November”; tries to teach Natalie Morales the art of driving a stick-shift; connects with a childhood friend; was about to

Findings 27


end up providing blogs, lists and endless tips on “how to write”. How to write fiction. Tips on getting started. Tips on writing a book in a month, tips on writing a book on your fingernail, tips on how to get laid and write a book on the back of the person in bed beside you. Or how, if you’re quick enough, you can write one on the bottom of the foot of that person opposite texting furiously on the train. You can write your way out of any situation. You can write your way out of the Conservative party and up the arse

of a goat. You can write away austerity. You can write with austerity. You might save Canadian healthcare if you only finish your novel-in-progress, especially if you sign up for this writing course—see the advert over there on the right-hand-side. There are no adverts that instruct you to sit down, have a cup of tea and read. This, I suspect, is because there’s no economic advertorial kickback from those acts. A potential writer shouldn’t start with “writing tips”. These tips don’t

Jump Elsewhere Now joe fiorito From The Stories That Are Great Within Us, edited by Barry Callaghan. Joe Fiorito writes for the Toronto Star. He is also the author of five books, most recently Union Station: Love, Madness, Sex and Survival on the Streets of New Toronto. Read more of his work at geist.com.

T

he Bloor Street Viaduct crosses the Don Valley. There are sidewalks across the bridge. There were some four hundred jumpers since it was built in 1919, or roughly one every three weeks; that’s fewer than the Golden Gate Bridge, but more than the Jacques Cartier, if you’re keeping ghoulish score. An Armenian teenager jumped; afterward, someone spray-painted his name and his dates on the footings down below, in that lovely cursive Armenian script which seems perfect for recording sadness. The bridge was a magnet. It attracted, and it repelled. A rumour: kids in a nearby school used to peer out the windows at the comings, in the hopes of seeing the goings. A rumour: someone hailed a cab, stopped in the middle of the bridge,

paid the driver, got out of the cab and jumped. We put up a barrier to stop the jumpers. The barrier is made of metal rods which, seen from a distance, look not unlike the guts of a piano. We call it the Luminous Veil. Said the wag, I’d rather have voluminous ale than a luminous veil. We jump elsewhere now. The rods—there are some nine thousand of them—whisper in the high winds like an Aeolian harp. They were made, not across the bay in the steel mills of Hamilton, but around the world in Mumbai. Signs at each end of the bridge advertise the telephone number of the suicide helpline. They take our calls in India when we need help with our computers, our printers, our electronic devices. Perhaps they ought to answer our suicide-prevention lines as well. 

provide the answers to the questions that matter. (For me, the questions that matter most at the moment are: how do I fix my vacuum cleaner? How do I replace the windscreen wipers on a 1995 Ford Contour? Why won’t my fennel grow in a bucket? Why have I got acne at 42?) The author engaged in a bookshop reading event (usually unpaid) has been known to become a vessel through which other authorial fantasies can flow or ferment. Unless the moderator steers it otherwise, a Q&A can turn into a session on how that ubiquitous determined man at the back can be published. He has an email from an agent from years ago… I sympathise, but I also want to ask him: whom do you imagine will buy and read your work if you do not buy and read books? There seems to have been a shift from a reading culture to a writing culture, a diminishment of critical space for the contemplation of literature. Writing needs to be discussed and interrogated through reading. If you wish to write well, you need to read well, or at least widely. You certainly need to contemplate reading a book in translation, unlikely to be widely reviewed in newspapers, many of which are too busy wasting space on “how to write” tips and asking about an author’s personal fripperies. It’s a great deal more fulfilling to read and think about a fine book than to attempt to write one. There is something wrong with how much of the media approaches authors and books. They seem to believe we no longer appear to value the labour that it takes to read. That we value most of all the status we imagine will come from publishing a book. Are they right? The only really useful status comes from reading and thinking. 

interview Todd about the important happenings of the day; and says “J Ass” instead of “Jackass.” snakes slither in and out of noxen: Volunteer Steve Geist carefully holds up a timber rattler during the annual Rattlesnake Roundup on Sunday in Noxen Township. cedar falls police blotter: Kevin Francis Geist, 31, male,

28 Geist 91 Winter 2013


Home for Good karen connelly From Come Cold River by Karen Connelly, published by Quattro Books in 2013. Karen Connelly is the author of ten books of awardwinning poetry, fiction and non-fiction. She lives in Toronto and at karenconnelly.ca. Read more of her Geist work at geist.com. On maps of the territories that would eventually become Canada, Spanish explorers sometimes wrote Acá Nada, or, ‘There, nothing.’ This is a possible origin for the country’s name. Kanata is also a word in St. Lawrence Iroquoian. Meaning village or settlement, it is the most commonly cited etymological origin for our country’s name. With burning hearts we see the rise in the price of the old neighbourhood by the river where my mom played as a kid, grew up, married the wrong man, a crook, then to increase her mistake exponentially and complicate my family tree, left him and married his brother. Daddy, Daddy! He was more hardworking than the other but equally ruinous. It’s too damn bad she didn’t keep the house. It would be worth half a million now. True north, strong, no longer free for the taking. No wonder we have to stand on guard in this town. Where there’s money there’s a lack of it, and thieves. Who believes that Divino’s Bar once was a little place, bohemian yet elegant. Today it’s buffed new and polished blunt. The light fixture cost fifty thou and the wine list starts off —don’t ask me how— at three hundred a bottle.

But I used to nurse a teabag there for hours, without shame across from a red-haired Englishman who taught me how to touch the flame that burns sapphire-blue above Sambuca. Ah. The first time, my very first to see a floating coffee bean and quench my thirst with fire. Alcohol, at last. Now I can’t afford to be nostalgic by the glass. Perhaps (the ghost of my uncle quips) I should take out a quick loan and rip off a liquor store on my own or play the VLT’s (that’s for Video Lottery Terminals) until the cows come home Just take a chance! Like my dad who gave my inheritance toonie by toonie to the AGLC (that’s for Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission). No complaints from me though I wish on my mother’s grave that some of my father’s cash could splash down helter-skelter into a food bank stash or a women’s shelter. Both proclaim their desperate need despite tons of oil and cattle feed.

From far and wide, oh Canada and Calgary too, I have loved you desperately and departed. I can’t remember —can you remember?— how this song started.

And how does it end? Am I home for good or for bad? Home to stay and bury the hatchet or dig it up and throw it? Here, catch it in your scarred hands catch it in that rotting treasure your tarred and feathered oil sands catch it nimbly between your teeth. It’s that trick with an axe that you taught me. Acá nada. Kanata. Oh Canada, what do you really mean? How can I sing you without lying?

of Waterloo, was arrested at 2:35 a.m. at the 400 block of Main Street, charged with second-degree operating while intoxicated and possession of marijuana. charges dropped in medical marijuana case: Ravalli County Deputy Attorney Thorin Geist said Tuesday those charges were dropped at the prosecution’s request.

Findings 29


Status Update

Lives on Film

kate baggott

jeff wall

From Friend. Follow. Text. Edited by Shawn Syms. Published by Enfield & Wizenty in 2013. Kate Baggott is the author of Love from Planet Wine Cooler, a collection of short stories. She lives in St. Catharines ON. • Dora Foster is no longer in a relationship. • Dora Foster figures if promises of more oral sex can’t save a relationship, the break should be as swift as it is inevitable. • Annie Levinski hears Thailand is a great place to default on student loans. They never find anyone in Bangkok. • Dora Foster wishes you good luck on the pregnancy plans, but remembers when her ex-boyfriend used to sleep with your husband. • Thomas DunLeary won’t be putting a ring on anyone’s finger this Christmas. • Dora Foster is giving Thomas DunLeary the finger. • Moira Cohen-Emilion tries to fit in by shopping at Giant Tiger, but can’t figure out the difference between “the good” jogging pants and the regular kind. • Annie Levinski dreams of defaulting in Thailand, has the budget to get to Niagara Falls. Is the casino a decent place to hide? • Jennifer Allen-Foster was up with the baby six times last night. Very tired. • Dora Foster is relieved to see everyone she went to high school with can obviously afford to Super Size it. • Annie Levinski likes the Group of Seven, Recovering Graduate Students Anonymous and Unconventional Sex in Classical Arts: the film.

oncie took three photos of a man named Osvaldo during the 1950s. Osvaldo submitted the photos to the website. Two of them were taken on the same spot, on Granville Street, just south of Robson, one at night, one during the day. The third is taken nearby, maybe outside the Hudson’s Bay Company building on Georgia Street. In all three, Osvaldo is unaware of the photographer and appears lost in his own thoughts. He wrote the following brief descriptions accompanying each of his submissions: 1. “Here I was wearing a light-beige blazer and red and black striped shirt. I looked sad and unemployed and on my way to the movies—sometimes three a day.”

2. “Night prowling on Granville Street. Always alone. The suit was a woollen striped maroon blazer and black slacks. Girls of the day had not noticed this handsome Italian yet, until I met Jacqueline.” 3. “Always well dressed, I am wearing a light-grey silk suit I still keep in my wardrobe.” Walker Evans once said, “there’s no novel what’s not a book of photographs.” Osvaldo has written a story, the familiar, inexhaustible story of a lonely man struggling to find a place in the world and to find recognition and love, a hard-boiled, taciturn story set on the streets and in the cafeterias, dance halls and rooming houses of the time. The hero is often a sharp dresser, painfully aware of his own appearance, absorbed in his own thoughts and grand plans, set apart from others, struggling with failure and insecurity. In the first or second chapter, he meets a woman. 

• Miranda DunLeary might have one cuckoo in the family tree, but that’s below average in this town. • Steve Foster can’t figure out why people think new parents are sleepdeprived. Our baby doesn’t wake up at all. • Jennifer Allen-Foster posted on Steve Foster’s wall. “Have you been

paying attention to anything? You better give your sister a call.” • Annie Levinski earned her PhD in Art History and discovered she’s really only interested in making money. • Herbert Emilion thinks Annie Levinski should call him. • Moira Cohen-Emilion wonders

The essay “Lonely Man” by Jeff Wall appeared on “Foncie’s Corner” on knowledge.ca. Jeff Wall is a Canadian artist and has been a key figure in Vancouver’s art scene since the early 1970s.

F

power outage doesn’t stop the rock at toyota pavilion: Mr. Springer covered his face with a bandana, while Ms. Geist wore a Hannibal Lecter-esque muzzle. rachel geist (rredeno2) on pinterest: Rachel Geist is using Pinterest, an online pinboard to collect and share what inspires you. healthy 100-year-old runs

30 Geist 91 Winter 2013


From  Obituary Man  by Philippe Girard, published by Conundrum Press in 2013. Philippe Girard is the author of a dozen books in French for which he has won a Bédélys Prize and the Joe Shuster Award.

if anyone can recommend a good divorce lawyer. • Jennifer Allen-Foster posted on Moira Cohen-Emilion’s wall. “I emailed you a list of lawyers who specialize in family law and have good reputations. I spent nap time doing the research for myself.”

• Herbert Emilion was talking about business, like always. • Moira Cohen-Emilion wonders if the red plaid lumberjack pyjamas at Old Navy are authentic. • Moira Cohen-Emilion joined the group Unconventional Sex in Classical Arts: the film. • Herbert Emilion left the group

Unconventional Sex in Classical Arts: the film. • Craig Foster warns Dora Foster and Steve Foster to block Greg Foster and Thea Santinakis-Foster before they figure out how to work the Facebook app on their new iPhones. They’ve given themselves early Christmas presents. • Thomas DunLeary is not taking over the family business. Organs just aren’t that interesting. • Dora Foster knows exactly which organs Thomas DunLeary is interested in and thinks he should just come “out” with it. • Annie Levinski is pretty sure at least three of the AGO’s most popular paintings are fakes. • Hugh DunLeary is taking over the family business and reminds his brother that there’s no reason for him to live by the rule “life’s a bitch and then you marry one.” • Dora Foster would like to thank the boys from school for ignoring her when they were young and cute because living with you old and bald now would be awful. • Miranda DunLeary tagged Tho­ mas DunLeary in a wall post: “Tom? Did something happen between you and Dora? Her status updates have been kind of hostile today.” • Greg Foster is now on Facebook. Suggest friends for Greg. • Greg Foster and Thea SantinakisFoster are now married. • Greg Foster just sent friend requests to three out of four children and is waiting to hear back from them. Can’t wait to keep up with their daily lives. • Thomas DunLeary is now friends with Thea Santinakis-Foster and Greg Foster. • Kate Baggott cannot believe the nastiness on her newsfeed today. 

on coffee: “We’re an odd couple,” Ms. Leisey said of herself and Ms. Geist with an infectious laugh that filled the room. meanwhile at the geist reservoir: Algae is a growing problem and could put a damper on enjoying the water this summer; lightning is believed to be the cause of a housefire; conservation officers will

Findings 31


Positivity! From The Love Monster by Missy Marston, published by Esplanade Books in 2012. Missy Marston’s work has appeared in Grain and Arc Poetry Magazine. She lives in Ottawa.

M

argaret will not leave the ladies’ room until she is certain that the break is over. She carefully peels the tissue off her thumb and surveys the damage. Her hands are covered with bright red sticky blood. The gelatinous beginning of a scab is forming at the base of her thumbnail. Gingerly, she washes and dabs at the wound with a paper towel. She tears off a narrow strip of paper, folds it and wraps it tightly around her thumb. If only she were the sensible kind of lady that carries Band-Aids in her purse. Margaret stares at her face in the mirror. She is not that kind of lady at all. She is killing time. She does not wish to get involved in any breaktime corridor chit-chat. As an extra precaution, she digs her earphones out of her purse, inserts them and turns the volume up loud for her short walk from the bathroom to the boardroom. The music creates a tinny

halo of noise around her head, a force field against any unwanted advances. Sex Pistols, “Anarchy in the UK.” There could be no other choice. Nothing else is ugly enough. Rrrrrrrrright! Back in the boardroom, the men are relaxed, laughing. Apparently, they are resigned to their fate and have decided they might as well enjoy themselves. Margaret takes her prickly place among them, a human cactus. Tammy strides back into the room, ready to deliver the gospel of positivity. She claps her hands, stands up straight and tall and lays it on, thick and sugary as frosting on a grocery store birthday cake. “Alrighty then! Now that we’ve all given some thought to some of our own wonderful qualities, let’s see if we can find out what we like about each other!” Margaret rolls her eyes. She will

probably get a cramp from rolling her eyes, from so much sneering. Is that possible? Once again, she wonders what would happen if she left, just cut her losses and headed for the door. Tammy would certainly take note and report back to Lenny or some drone in the human resources department. Would she get fired? Probably not. Would she get any credit for attending part of the workshop? Would they send her, oh my God, to another one to make up for it? “For the next exercise, I have divided you into pairs. Rod, because we have an uneven number, you can be my partner for this one. The rest of you will find a little yellow sticky note in front of you marked with a letter. Please find the person who has the same letter, introduce yourselves and we’ll get to work!” Margaret’s sticky note says D. It feels like her grade—just barely passing. She looks around the room to see Grandpa Jim smiling and heading toward her with a D stuck to his raised index finger. Perfect. They are bound to connect. Around the room,

Spacing Out Entries from the index of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield, published by Random House Canada in 2013. Chris Hadfield served as Commander of the International Space Station and performed David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” while in space. all-astronaut band; attitude (distance from Earth); attitude (thinking/feeling); Barenaked Ladies; bones; bubble wrap races; Calgary Stampede; Canadian identity; capability, pushing boundaries of; Cast Away (film); circadian rhythms; consciousness, losing; control, sense of; decompression sickness. See bends, the; Depeche Mode; difficult people; expertise,

degrees of; exploratory surgery; failure, confronting; failures, summary of; false alarms vs. actual failures; fear (See also negative thinking, power of); garbage; hair cutting; Hanks, Tom; “lessons learned” (See also mistakes, teachable moments); long underwear; Lord of the Rings (film); Moose Jaw (SK); nails, clipping in space; overeagerness; personality conflicts (See

also difficult people); planets; playacting; pleasures, appreciating small; pretense, culture of; public opinion, space travel; “Rocket Man” (song); Rogers, Stan; Sharpies; shashlik (Russian barbeque); smugness; snake incident; spine; toothbrushing; Toronto Maple Leafs; visors, wiping interior of; whining; wonder, sense of (See also Earth, view from space). 

focus on drunken boaters as part of a national campaign; Cocktail Cove is showing its tamer side; it’s hot property. real-life superheroes fight injustice with flair: Geist patrols the streets looking for ways to help… Geist is part of a community of flamboyant do-gooders who call themselves real life superheroes (RLSH).

32 Geist 91 Winter 2013


people are standing in awkward pairs, awaiting instruction. They learn that they will be sharing their workplace metaphors with each other. Sandwich time at long last. As Jim and Margaret head for a corner of the room to settle in for a painfully forced conversation about the symbolic roles they play in their respective workplaces, as expressed through painfully forced metaphors, she looks over her shoulder to see who is paired with Amos. He is across the room, laughing like a hyena with the enormous Jeff. They are slapping each other’s shoulders and doubling over. How can it be so easy for some people? How do they shake off the embarrassment of being themselves, ignore the distastefulness of all that is human and just get along? There is nothing in Margaret that is able to go with the flow. She is all opposition. One hundred percent resistance. 

Doin’ the Math, Eh? sara cassidy These cold, calculating word problems, selected by Sara Cassidy, originally appeared in Mathematics for Canadians 8 by D.S. Mewhort, B.A., B.Paed.; and R.S. Godbold, B.A., B.Paed, first published by J.M. Dent and Sons Ltd. and the Macmillan Company of Canada Ltd. in 1952. Visit Sara Cassidy at saracassidywriter.com. • The radiator in the Grey’s car has a capacity of 14 quarts. In filling it with anti-freeze for the winter, Mr. Grey uses half alcohol and half water. Find the cost of the antifreeze used if one gallon of alcohol costs $3.60. • To make 10 gallons of maple syrup, 400 gallons of sap were required. What fraction of the maple sap became syrup? • The ice in the Community Rink at Oakway is ½ inch thick. How many cubic feet of ice are on the rink if the length is 160 feet and the width 60 feet?

• A three-inch strip of asbestos material is to be placed around the inside of an opening through which a stovepipe is to pass. Neglecting the width of the material, how long must the strip be, if the pipe has a 7-inch diameter? • Using a power saw, Mr. Frost can cut 4-1/3 cords of firewood per day. At this rate, how long will it take him to cut 65 cords? • A mixture of gunpowder consisted of .1 saltpetre, .15 sulphur, and .75 charcoal. How many pounds of each would be required to make 5 cwt. of gunpowder? 

GIVE the GIFT of GEIST to the Characters in Your Life

Geist makes the perfect gift for your offbeat friends and family: for your poet sister, and your cartographer grandpa, your best friend who loves Moncton, and your boyfriend who hates Winnipeg, your mom who can’t get enough crosswords in her life, and your grandma who loves great stories. This winter give the gift of Geist to the interesting people in your life.

Order your gift subscription at geist.com/gift or call 1-888-434-7834.

GEIST Fa c t + Fi c t i o n • N o r t h o f A m e r i c a

Findings 33


s i d e w a l k

p h o t o g r a p h y

Walking Pictures Brian Howell revisits the sidewalk photograph of the nineteen fifties, sixties and seventies

34 Geist 91 Winter 2013


S

idewalk photography became popular during the Great Depression, when

few people could afford to have their portraits taken in the studio. Professional photographers took their cameras out into the streets to snap “walking pictures” of people around town, who could then order prints for a small fee. Foncie Pulis, proprietor of Foncie’s Fotos in Vancouver, was the most successful sidewalk photographer in Canada. He began work as a street photographer in 1935 in order to “meet girls,” as he later put it, and continued for forty-four years until he retired in 1979. Foncie would set up his camera on a busy stretch of sidewalk or under the marquee lights of a theatre, and photograph people out on the town. Some subjects, perhaps on a date or another special occasion, would go out of their way to walk by Foncie and have their photo taken as a souvenir of the evening. Many of them returned again and again; prints could be purchased from Foncie’s downtown shop, whose walls and windows were covered with hundreds of walking pictures. Foncie Pulis took some fifteen million photographs during his career. Sidewalk Photography 35


In summer 2013, the photographer Brian Howell undertook a project simulating the work of Foncie Pulis. Howell spent five afternoons photographing pedestrians: he set up his tripod and a camera almost as large as Foncie’s on a strip of sidewalk in downtown Vancouver where Foncie had worked. There he waited for pedestrians to reach a particular spot that would give him the proper side angle, and then he snapped the photograph, catching his subjects in mid-stride—in a position of disequilibrium that is part of walking but that looks unnatural in the isolated moment: arms flung this way and that, torso falling forward, hips askew, entire body weight balanced on a bit of a foot at the end of an awkwardly bent, outstretched leg. These images of mid-stride alert us to Walter Benjamin’s notion of the optical unconscious by revealing an image that we never perceive until it is presented on film, an image of an instant extracted from the activity of walking: a fluid process of continually losing and regaining one’s balance. A striking difference between the photographs taken fifty years ago and those taken now is the focus of the subjects’ attention. Foncie’s subjects look right into his lens, and Howell’s subjects—all carrying their own photographic devices—never look at the camera. They appear to ignore the camera the way actors on movie sets do. Or perhaps they are unaware of the camera’s presence altogether, smartphone held in right hand just above waist, headphones in, talking, listening, looking straight ahead. Brian Howell’s simulations of the walking pictures of Foncie Pulis were exhibited at the Vancouver Street Photography exhibit, part of the Capture Photography Festival, where Foncie’s photographs were also shown, in 2013, the year  selfie  was named Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries. —Michał Kozłowski 36 Geist 91 Winter 2013


Sidewalk Photography 37


s t o r m s

a t

s e a

Bosun Chair ­j ennifer delisle Did a sixteen-year-old housemaid steer the broken ship to safety? There are stories here with no tellers

M

y copy of the poem “The Loss of the Duchess of Fife” is typewritten on plain legal paper, photocopied many times and curling at the edges. The original is lost. Its 15 stanzas were written by a sixteen-year-old girl about her experience on a shipwreck off the coast of Newfoundland in 1907. We left St. John’s on Monday morn, Our spirits were light and gay. We were bound home to Brookland, In Bonavista Bay.

She was my great-grandmother. She would become Mrs. Noseworthy to her acquaintances, Mom to three, Nanny to my mother and her other grandchildren. But then, her name was Jean Chaulk. At nine she leaves her home in the little outport of Brooklyn in the skirts of Bonavista Bay to become a servant in St. John’s. There is one year left in the century. The mouth of St. John’s harbour is flanked by towering cliffs. Sealing ships dock just inside the Narrows, carrying carcasses bound for the seal oil refineries. Schooners cluster in farther, foresting the harbour with their masts. Scaffolds for drying cod arch across the streets. Around the north side of the harbour the old city tumbles up the hills, a huddle of narrow dirt streets, wooden tenements and gothic churches. The air is thick with smoke and the dank smell of animals and humans and water. It is a city of about thirty thousand people, a metropolis. Jean is sent to work for an old judge in one of the colonial mansions on Rennie’s Mill or Waterford Bridge Road. He lives alone; is known to be a mean, severe man. Later there

38 Geist 91 Winter 2013

will be hints of abuse, that her years in this house are the seeds of what will become a lifelong bitterness. She works sixteen-hour days for room and board and a few dollars to send back home. She is days away from home, and lucky for it. Lucky to be in St. John’s and not Boston or Manhattan, where she would be closer to Brooklyn, New York, than Brooklyn, Newfoundland. Monday: Washing. She begins the day by boiling the whites with lye. She scrubs stains on a washboard, cranks the clothes through a ringer, and hangs them to dry until Tuesday. Tuesday: Ironing. She heats the heavy sad irons on the stove, cycling through them as they cool, with breaks to stoke the fire. Sweat trickles down her back, and the heat chokes her with her own yellowed collar. Wednesday: Baking. Years of bread, cakes and scones (a secret taste of batter when her thumb pokes down into the bowl). Thursday: Cleaning upstairs, where the summer sun spotlights the dust. Friday: Cleaning downstairs, where the winter snow puddles on the floor. Saturday: More baking, between the dishwashing and cooking, scrubbing the teastained cups with baking soda. She retreats at midnight to a drafty attic bunk, a hook for her apron behind the door. Where she will start to bleed, far away from her mother. Sunday: A half-day rest—a book in the kitchen with her feet under the stove. Rereading a love letter before returning it to its hiding place in the hollow iron bedpost under the loose brass knob. Monday: Washing. She begins the day.


O

n September 16, 1907, Jean Chaulk boarded the cargo schooner The Duchess of Fife, bound for Bonavista. Outport girls often worked in the city through the winter and came home for the summer when the fishing season began, to help make the fish. But no one knows why Jean was returning home at this time of year. She was not returning home for good. While Carbonear we reached that night, And early left next morn, To run for Catalina, As our captain feared the storm. As the day went on, the gale grew. Ten miles off Catalina the Duchess lost her main boom, leaving her to drift through the night in the building storm. The Duchess drifted to the Funks, the island and its bunkers named for the foul odour of guano left by the millions of birds that nest there, where sunkers skulk beneath the water in wait for ships’ hulls. In this place the Duchess began to leak with the strain of the wind and swarming waves. The sea washed down our cabin, From the berth unto the floor, It threw me with a terrible force, I thought that all was o’er. Jean crawled on deck to see the destruction. The captain’s leg was broken, as anything loose on deck became a projectile. She saw the first mate lying on the house, also with a broken leg. The wounded men were got below, And those that did not fall, Resolved to do the best they could, To save the lives of all. The mate, despite his fractured leg, spent all night at the pumps. The captain was crippled

in a cabin half full of water. No one was left to take control. Jean, sixteen but strong, used to seeing what needed to be done, took the wheel and steered the ship across Trinity Bay through the storm, saving all souls on board.

T

om Noseworthy is a mason, stacking stones until whole buildings take shape beneath his hands. Perhaps she falls in love with him for this; while she spends the hours scrubbing collars that will be re-soiled with sweat and baking bread that will be gobbled with one cup of tea, what he makes can withstand even the worst of Atlantic gales. Perhaps she simply sees in him a way to leave the big dark houses of Rennie’s Mill Road. After they are married, Tom gives up masonry, goes to work at the Harvey and Brehm margarine factory and buys a farm for his growing family on Portugal Cove Road. Many of their neighbours have done this: the men work in the city during the day, do the heavy farm labour at night, and leave the dayto-day running of the farms to their wives. Part of outport life is subsistence farming, spreading rotting capelin on the soil for fertilizer and growing vegetables to complement the fish on your plate. Little girls weed alongside their mothers, making chains with the piss-a-beds. This farming in St. John’s takes a new kind of hopefulness. The land is lean, muscular. Yet they can grow things here, even on this land long ago stripped of trees and blown raw. Dairy cows, hay for the dairy cows and the horses. In spring she picks the rocks from the soil, brought up to the surface by the winter cycle of freeze and thaw. They say that the soil in Newfoundland grows rocks better than vegetables. She raises three children but her body has borne five. Ralph is just six months old when he dies of measles. Leroy is stillborn. The winters are lean. The price of fish and vegetables is low, but they have milk and

Storms at Sea 39


butter, eggs. Barrels in the cellar stocked with potatoes and cabbages. Tuesday: Ironing. Sometimes there is a knock on the door, a lean, wasting body begging for leftover vegetables, or a bit of milk. There is a picture of Jean and Tom on the farm. It reminds me of Grant Wood’s American Gothic, with their stern expressions and rigid pose––all it needs is a pitchfork. Her face glowers like a rough wind is blowing in her eyes. The face of a hard woman, or hardened. She washes the milk bottles, washes the milk bucket. She puts away tiny sweaters, booties, diapers—all the clothes but the ones that will be buried. They keep her grief warm. From The Daily News, St. John’s, September 21, 1907: WORK OF STORM Latest News. Several messages giving further losses as a result of the storm Wednesday and Thursday, were received in town yesterday, and it is feared the end is not yet. The telegraph lines north of King’s Cove are, we understand, still down, so that no reports from that part of the Island have yet been received.

T

hough she went by Jean, her siblings Tryphie and Pearce had always called her Jane. It was Pearce who told my grandfather about the shipwreck. Jean refused to talk about it. Like the rest of her childhood, she kept it locked away in her mind. I don’t know when she wrote the poem, or what she did with it when she finished it. It was discovered after she died, in the strongbox with her birth certificate and other papers. My copy is signed “Miss Jean Chaulk, Sept. 7th, 1907,” but this is the mistaken addition of whoever typed it out, for she couldn’t have written it ten days before the storm. In 1940, Leslie, Jean’s eldest son, enlists in the British Royal Navy. He is killed just three months after he leaves home. When the letter comes it is addressed to her alone, not to her and her husband, as though the death of a son in war were a particularly female burden. Dear Madam, It is with very deep regret that I learn of the sad death of your son Warwick Leslie Noseworthy, Ordinary Seaman R.N. Patrol Service (H.O.), Official Number, LT/ JX.208914, who is reported to have lost his life in London Docks as a result of enemy air action on 7th September, 1940.

Shr. Duchess of Fife The following message was received by the Marine and Fisheries Department yesterday afternoon, from E. Button, New Melbourne: “Schooner Duchess of Fife went ashore, yesterday, at Lance Cove; total wreck; loaded with provisions for P. Templeman, Bonavista; goods practically intact. Const. Dwyer watching wreck; Captain and two of crew with legs broken; in a very precarious condition. Drs Macdonald and Pickard will do all possible for them…” Late last night, Messrs Baine Johnstone & Co. received the following message from Mr. Barrett, of Old Perlican, “Unknown schooner lost here, points to the Effie of Trinity. Nothing human to be seen.”

40 Geist 91 Winter 2013

When my grandfather goes to enlist a few months later, he is told, “One in the family is enough.” Though he will never be able to prove it, he will always believe that his mother was behind his rejection, that she begged or bullied the Service Board not to take him. This was her version of tenderness. Instead he learns Morse code and she loses him anyway, to remote weather stations in Labrador. Her only daughter marries a Canadian soldier, and at the end of the war will follow her new husband back to Calgary. Jean and Tom sell the farm for a house on Cavell Avenue in St. John’s. She immerses herself in church projects and the Women’s Association, assembling care packages for soldiers, making Red Cross bandages for other


mothers’ sons. One Christmas, Tom catches a flu that will not go away. When Jean finds her husband lying on the bathroom floor she manages to heave him up into her arms and put him back in bed until the ambulance arrives. He is only fifty-nine when he dies of peritonitis. If Jean wrote him odes or elegies they no longer exist. From the N.C. Crewe File, Provincial Archives of Newfoundland:

isn’t moving anywhere, and will not change her mind. The family has put all of their savings into the down payment and can’t afford to buy new furniture. They move into their new house with their own beds and leave Jean and everything else behind.

Henry George Chaulk’s daughter (Tryphena, now a widow somewhere) when returning from Labrador in a schooner, when the skipper and mate become disabled by the seas and the third man frightened, she took the wheel at Cabot Island and steered her until she ran aground in Chance Cove, Trinity Bay.

At about two in the afternoon, the Duchess sighted land. The schooner was steered aground with the hope that rescue would come from the shore. Someone made this decision—to rip the ship further apart on faith that someone would be able to help. There must have been a violent jolt as the rocks tore into the bow of the ship.

Through the years the story has become knotted as it has passed through the hands of people on that shore. What landed in the archive is a tangle of truth and fiction. The daughter, of course, was Jean Chaulk; Tryphena was Jean’s sister. The ship was leaving St. John’s, not Labrador. And it ran aground at Lance Cove, not Chance Cove. The poem suggests that the swing of the boom that broke the captain’s leg also destroyed the wheel—that the only way the ship could be steered was with a rope tied to the rudder. That she couldn’t have taken the wheel and steered the ship to safety. There are stories here without tellers.

I

n the 1950s, when my mother and her two older brothers are small, her family lives in their grandmother’s house on Cavell Avenue. Nanny is a stern and frightening woman, whose room is dark and forbidden. She nags and criticizes, picking on her daughter-in-law, complaining to her son. When the family has grown to seven, my grandfather buys a bigger house, with plans to build a suite for his mother in the basement. His mother goes along with the plan, but the night before moving day Jean announces she

We drifted fast to Brownsdale, Uncertain of our fate, The rudder fastened with a rope, To make her go in straight.

The Duchess struck the reef three times, She then lay hard and fast Her bottom grinding on the reef, While seas went on her mast. It seems that day I’ll never forget, Until my dying days. The screaming of the women, Amidst the winding sprays. Perhaps she does forget. As she forgets the names of people she knew, as she forgets to turn off the stove, as she forgets the year. Jean lives for a year by herself in the house on Cavell Avenue. She is befriended by a woman who lives across the street, who starts coming over every day. The neighbour tells Jean she is living on a dead man’s pension, that Leslie went overseas to get away from her. Dear Madam, It is with very deep regret that I learn of the sad death of your son. Jean does not miss the armchair from the farmhouse, or the tea service she got for her wedding. Within a year the woman has stolen almost everything Jean owns. Perhaps she does forget that day of the wreck. Or perhaps she remembers it more clearly, the bare floorboards tilting beneath

Storms at Sea 41


her, that grinding sound of the ship on the reef. From The Daily News, October 2, 1907:

dies in Hoyle’s Home in 1975, at the age of eighty-five.

Editor Daily News: Dear Sir, — Two of the crew of the ill fated Duchess of Fife, and a passenger, a young girl of 15 or 16, arrived here yesterday, and from them we gather a sad recital of the hardships which they endured while battling for their lives… The young lady passenger proved herself a heroine, for after the crew got broken up, she would get on deck and do all in her power for the men who were injured. Unfortunately she could not do much, as everything was soaked with water. The name of this plucky young lady is Fanny Chalk, and she should rank amongst the Florence Nightingales of the world… Thanking you for space, Mr. Editor. Yours truly, X.Y.Z. Brooklyn, Sept. 25th, 1907.

The boats were hauled both back and forth, Till all was safe on shore. The wounded men with fortitude, Their suffering increased more.

One day as Jean puts out the garbage, the wind takes the storm door and her with it. She falls into the street and breaks her arm. The wind has been waiting all these years to break her bones. Unable to take care of herself, Jean has no choice but to move into my grandfather’s house. And once her arm is healed she stays. She accuses one of my mother’s boyfriends of taking ten dollars out of her purse, another of stealing her red shoes. Then, in the small hours of a summer night, Jean leaves the house in her nightgown and starts walking down the hill. A passing stranger stops his car and asks where she is going. I’m going home. Where do you live? Cavell Avenue. The man drives her to Cavell Avenue, and as he pulls up to the old house he looks at her. You’re not Fraser Noseworthy’s mother, are you? he asks, naming my grandfather. St. John’s is still that small. You don’t live here anymore. My grandfather finally puts his mother in Hoyle’s Home. My mother visits her there, her stern, prim grandmother smelling like pee, with her stockings rolled down to her ankles, and stains on her clothes. The home mixes up the clothes, puts her in other women’s dresses, ill-fitting around her shrunken frame. She begins to babble. Jean Chaulk Noseworthy 42 Geist 91 Winter 2013

The people took us to their homes, And treated us most kind. To tell of half they did for us, Expressions I can’t find. Jean writes of the bravery of the crew, of the hospitality of the men and women who rescued them, but nothing of her own heroism. She probably never took the wheel. But there is another story, one my grandfather told, as he was told it by his uncle. As the captain lay unconscious, the sixteen-year-old girl made a bosun chair, to lower the crew into the lifeboats sent from shore as the Duchess sank. I can imagine her scrounging for rope and board or torn canvas, wet fingers trembling, soothing the men as they drop over the side of the deck. Bending against the ribs of her corset as the ship careens in the waves, somehow hoisting herself overboard. She is the last to leave the ship. I have nothing to prove that this is true. But of all the ways to remember her, I like this one, this story. When my grandfather was in his late seventies, he found out that his mother’s name wasn’t Jean. He met a distant cousin who had written a book about the area where his mother was born, who told him that his mother was not born Jean, not Jane—nor Tryphena, nor Fanny—but Mavis. Mavis Jane Chaulk. My grandfather had his mother’s birth certificate; it said her name was Jean. But in those days it was the parishes that kept all the records of marriages, deaths and births, and the church had burned down. When they reconstructed the records after the fire, they simply asked her what her name was. She told them: “Jean Chaulk.” And it was. Jennifer Delisle is a writer, editor and academic. Her work has been published in many literary magazines and scholarly journals, and she is a member of Room Magazine’s editorial collective. She lives in Edmonton and at jenniferdelisle.ca.


R E S O L U T I O N for another new year Learn new science words * Write a 3-Day Novel Find all the possible ways to cook Brussels sprouts Remember birthdays * Learn accordion Wear yellow, often * Read a back issue of Geist Climb a tree or two * Spend more time with the dog Rid the world of Martha Stewart products Write letters, not emails * Drink more water Give myself a subscription to Geist Visit geist.com or call 1-888-434-7834

photograph: annmarie mackinnon

send inquiries to subs@geist.com


l i f e

a n d

d e a t h

How It Began evelyn lau

G R AT I T U D E

“It’s too, too, too beautiful.” —Jun Lin’s last Facebook post, accompanying a photograph of a park, days before he was murdered, and his body dismembered, allegedly by Luka Magnotta We don’t yet know how it began. Perhaps he posted as a potential friend, invited you for Starbucks and biscotti after class, or Labatts and chicken wings on the weekend, hockey on TV. Perhaps you looked forward to the visit, bounding up the stairs bearing some small gift like a good guest, some small token to appease the gods of hospitality at the front door. That was the sort of man you were— on time every day, hoping to find in Canada not money or status, like your classmates, but love. A romantic. This painful light shines in your face in photographs, moon-bright, a little shy, eager to please. An A student, studying computers and engineering, a decade older than your classmates, old enough that in China, you wrote, they would respectfully call you “uncle”— what you wanted were peers. Friends, lovers. You were lonely, vulnerable in your loneliness. Wanted someone to ride with you on the midnight subway train in Montreal, its flickering hospital-green half-light you captured on film, deserted snowscapes you posted to friends in China— you were the only figure in all that ground.

44 Geist 91 Winter 2013

But then there was that day in the park. It was too, too, too beautiful— a park others rushed through every day, heads bowed over texts and tweets while you stood gaping in awe, in a daze of wonder, craning your neck to see the sky swimming with green, the drowsy parasols of the maples sprinkling your delighted face with sap, silent gust of wind swelling through the stately willows, the vegetable whiff of mown grass, too much, you thought, it’s too much, days before it was taken from you in a blaze of rage. Montreal, released from the frozen grip of winter, leafing out in the spring. You had worked and saved, worked and saved for years to arrive at this place.


JA N N Y

I remember my cousin Janny hunched over the kitchen sink scrubbing the household dishes at dawn that summer we visited Grandma in California. Treated like a slave in feudal China, brunt of Grandma’s wrath— piece of trash, monkey on her back, good-for-nothing bastard daughter of her own fourth child, Auntie No. 4 who had Janny out of wedlock— still a shocker for a Chinese family in the ’70s. It was rumoured my aunt never knew the father, or that he rightly washed his hands of her, this tired baggy-eyed woman who trudged home from work at the fast food restaurant, reeking of grease, ripping the brown-and-yellow paper hat off her head as she sat down to dinner in her stained uniform. Auntie No. 4, who decades later would die in a homeless shelter for battered women… Janny barely spoke during our visit— scrawny-shouldered, shaking with shyness, beaten down by the daily hail of Grandma’s hatred. I remember the way she flinched at loud noises or sudden movements, with a look of such tense, whimpering terror in her eyes it made you want to hit her—

yet somehow she escaped. The news of her life filtered through to me, over the years: Your cousin Janny’s going to school. Janny’s getting married, moving to Texas. Janny has children now. How? I always wondered. It was a puzzle, the laws of the universe upended, the sky swimming with fish and the sea crammed with clouds. Maybe there was an escape route, a hidden exit, a trap door I hadn’t found in all these years of wild searching. Maybe my cousin had stumbled upon it in her despair, crawled her way out into a normal life. I pictured her in some sun-soaked small town— white picket fence, toys in the yard— waving to her kids on the school bus, folding herself into the tanned arms of a man who loved her. The call came this weekend: Your cousin Janny passed away. She killed herself. Her fifteen-year-old son (a straight-A student, my aunt hastened to add) came home from class to find her overdosed on the living room sofa. I thought she had escaped her fate, and maybe there were days she thought so too, living out a normal life like someone else’s dream. Living a life like it was rightfully hers.

Life and Death 45


N OT H I N G H A P P E N E D

D E A R D O C TO R

This was the house on the corner, the one I passed to and from school each day. He would have seen me twice a day, from an upstairs window or bent over his weeds in the garden— an ugly girl, clad in scratchy plaid, moping past. One fist dug deep into my satchel, searching for day-old shortbread hidden in a greased bag. Sweaty bangs, furtive eyes behind lenses as thick as goggles— some adults said I was shy. She’s sly, my mother declared, up to no good. She won’t look me in the eye, a teacher complained, and my father whipped round in his seat at the parent-teacher conference: What’s wrong with you? What are you trying to hide?

In dreams, it takes all night to reach you— blind driving down unfamiliar roads, twisty mountain passes, suburban cul-de-sacs not on any map. Then at last,

One afternoon, the man asked me in— past the stone lions, pots of lavender, into the tiled foyer. The tiles were painted with lemons, oranges, clusters of olives. Nothing happened. Or something did— the threat of something, creeping in the air between us. It thickened my throat, stuffed my sinuses like pollen. He fetched his violin, the old man with his nut-brown bald head, played it for me like a suitor in a sunny square, slicing note after note into the air. His hand on my knee a shy spider. (Am I making this up now, digging diligently as an archaeologist, searching for where it all went wrong?)

the mirrors in the green stairwell. The mirrors so close to the entrance I could have walked straight into myself. For years this was the shape of the world. The plain room and its myriad dimensions, radiating outward like meaning from the bound lines of a poem— the meaning in the space, the breath. The silence. Clouds of curry rising from the Indian restaurant below, the shuffle of mail through your meaty hands, the worn patch on the seat of the leather armchair, duct-taped together. Last night I dreamt I rode a boat through choppy water to see you. You lived on a high cliff above wintry seas. It was a paradise of pastoral beauty, drenched in the syrupy light of summer. Cottages with paned windows, gardens overgrown with roses, wildflowers. Bees bumbling through brambles, furry as tiny bears, freighted with honey. Butterflies like lofted petals tearing through the sappy air. How I longed to live there too! Only the ocean lay between us.

But nothing happened. Dust in the corners, a brass umbrella stand, the bulky Nikes belonging to his teenage grandsons. The bow sawing the violin, horsehair fraying. The air so thick it seemed fibrous, knotting around me like a mesh net, like pantyhose yanked over the face. His dark thoughts pouring into me like motor oil. Maybe I wanted something to happen, anything at all— a way out, even this way. But then he opened the front door.

46 Geist 91 Winter 2013

Evelyn Lau is the 2011−2014 Vancouver Poet Laureate. She has published works of fiction and non-fiction, and six volumes of poetry. Her most recent collection, A Grain of Rice (Oolichan, 2012), was shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Award and the Pat Lowther Award.


s h o r t

s t o r y

Lemke Overboard russell f. hirsch Decks get slippery, and Lemke’s boots are as old as he is, and a wave jolts us a little and down goes Lemke and over the side, right into the sea

S

o now Lemke’s asleep, or maybe in some kind of coma—I don’t know, we’re waiting

for Doc Mitchell to come up and figure it out, but he’s helping deliver the baby of a Mrs. Kisnetsky a few towns down the coast. For now though, I got Lemke all stretched out on a little cot in my living room. I unclip all the buckles on that purple life preserver of his, take it off and put it by the door. Stu’s here and so is my sister Mandie, who’s married to Stu, and I’m telling her what happened while she gets old Lemke out of his wet clothes and into some dry ones of mine. Stu’s nodding along to what I say because he was there on the boat with me. photograph: overflow, michael levin

Short Story 47


It was all pretty straightforward, see, Stu and I had just finished hauling in a catch when Stu kind of paused and looked at Lemke, who was up against the rail smiling to himself the way he does sometimes. “What’cha thinking, Lemke?” I said. Well, I don’t know what he was thinking, but I do know decks get slippery and Lemke’s boots are as old as he is, so a wave jolts us a little and then the laws of gravity kick in and down goes Lemke. He bangs his head good and hard on the deck, then over the side he goes, right into the sea. We were real worried for sure, but he had his purple life preserver and he was on a line, so we were able to pull him back on board. Then Stu gave Lemke some CPR. He looked awkward about it later, when we were telling Mandie, and I wondered what she thought about her husband putting his mouth on that old mouth of Lemke’s. Lemke didn’t have many teeth left to be stained by all those cigarettes he smoked, so instead the grey beard around his lips was turning an ugly sort of yellow-brown. Anyway, given the circumstances, I didn’t tease Stu about it, but he wouldn’t have minded too much because we’ve been good friends for twenty years since we played Little League baseball together and he’s married to Mandie and all. It was a good thing he did the CPR too, because Lemke had some water in the lungs, and he coughed it out but he didn’t really gain consciousness—he just coughed out the water automatically and then he went asleep again on the deck. Or into a coma. We’re waiting for Doc Mitchell to get here and tell us. Well, news gets around about Lemke and a few people stop by my place to see him: the Hendersons, the Amlinsons and then Francis Peters, who’s as old as Lemke and who lives in the upstairs of the house I’m in, on the road near the harbour. Francis comes in without knocking, looks at Lemke and crosses himself three times before he leaves. Last to visit is Gerrold Hughes, who’s always looking for things to write for the Bulletin because he wants to go off to college somewhere and be a journalist. He’s going to do an article about Lemke and promises it’ll be in the paper tomorrow morning. “But the paper doesn’t come out ’til Friday,” Stu says. “No no no!” Gerrold says. He’s an excitable kid. “This is special edition stuff! Oh yeah! Oh yeah!” Then Doc Mitchell calls, and Mandie picks up and answers the questions he asks about Lemke, but I guess Doc can’t make it tonight. “He says it’s this Mrs. Kisnetsky,” Mandie tells us. “She’s still in labour, poor lady.” I say I’ll watch Lemke for the night, and Stu figures we should do it in shifts and that he’ll come over later so I can get some sleep. But until then, it’s just me and Lemke. He’d been on the boats a long time, since he came over from

48 Geist 91 Winter 2013

Germany, or Kazakhstan or Madagascar, or wherever it was, nobody was really too sure. He never talked much, except with Francis Peters, and then it was mainly just Frank talking to Lemke and Lemke smoking. They’d shared a boat ’til Frank retired a few months ago and that’s when Lemke came on with Stu and me. Back when I was a kid, he’d come watch our little league games and sit with most of the rest of the town in the bleachers. “Saa-wing! Saa-wing battabattabatta!” he would cackle to himself, and that was about all the English we ever got out of him. I guess I doze off a bit because next thing I know, it’s real dark in the living room and old Lemke is sitting up in bed, his eyes open. “Oh good, you’re up. You gave us quite a… Lemke? Oh, hell!” That’s when I realize Lemke is actually still asleep. Sure, he’s sitting up and his eyes are open, but the man is in some totally other plane of reality. It’s like talking to an alien. It’s like talking to the dead. The strangest part is that even though he doesn’t belong in the world of awake people, Lemke knows where everything is. So sure enough, he looks right at me, sleeping with his eyes open, then stands up and lumbers a few steps, pulling the bed sheet along behind him in a clenched fist. When he gets beside the front door, he drops the sheet and picks up the purple life preserver he was in earlier. He holds it in his hands and looks at the door handle. “Uh, what’cha thinking, Lemke?” Apparently, what he’s thinking is he’s going to wear that life preserver because on it goes, buckles and snaps and everything. He puts a white hand on the door handle and gives it a good twist. Well, the door’s locked and just hiccups against the frame when he pulls. The hand withdraws. Now I get up. “Okay, Lemke, that’s enough!” But Lemke’s not deterred. He reaches out his hand and, without even looking for it, pulls the key off the table next to the door, unlocks it and walks outside in that purple life preserver. I stumble out after him. He goes all the way down to the beach beside the dock and wades into the surf. He turns around and faces me, not ten feet away, spreads his arms wide and splats right into the water on his back, floating there in his life preserver, going out a bit with a wave, then coming back in. Well, what can I do but take off my shoes, wade in and drag him out feet first back onto the beach. “Now stay, would ya.” By the time I run to wake Stu and Mandie, he’s back to floating on top of the water, looking up at whatever. We drag him out again and pull him all the way to the house, but let me tell you, he doesn’t come easy. Mandie takes charge of towelling him off and changing him into dry clothes again.


We tuck the bed sheet under the mattress this time so it’s real tight. Stu stays up with me and we have a drink and watch Lemke, who’s nice and stationary now, his eyes closed and everything.

T

he next day, Gerrold comes around early to deliver papers and sure enough, there’s an article about Lemke front and centre. I stick it on the fridge. There’s no word about the night excursion, but when I tell Gerrold about it, he thinks about trying to do an afternoon edition. “Oh yeah!” he says. “Oh yeah! This is getting big!” Over the course of the day, people start coming by the house again. Stu and Mandie, of course. Mandie makes these homemade candles to sell in the grocer’s and sets out a few, so there’s this glow all around Lemke. I don’t know what it is about candles, but it makes people talk quieter. So they all come and sit by Lemke (who’s out like a lead brick now), and they just stay with him a while and whisper a few things. That’s what the Hendersons do. And the MacAuleys and Jeremy and Alison French and Pastor Bill. Jake Schmidt comes and Tara and Suzanne and my folks stop in and Stu’s mum and more or less the rest of the town. Well, it’s a full house, so I make some veggie trays and cut up some cheese and get out the Triscuits and the next thing I know, Mr. Amlinson comes in with a casserole and then Mandie goes home and comes back an hour later with two plates of sugar cookies. We’re all sitting around enjoying the potluck and watching Lemke sleep when old Francis Peters comes down from upstairs. He takes a look at Lemke, then turns around and leaves right away. When he comes back later, he’s got a bunch more candles and a barbecue lighter. He lights the candles and puts them next to Lemke. Then he takes a couple of Mandie’s cookies, puts them in a napkin and goes back upstairs. Doc Mitchell calls again that night: “We finally got the little Kisnetsky out, but he’s not doing well at all. I’ve got to stay overnight. I tried calling the EMS helicopter for you, but the damn thing’s in maintenance. And this little guy will get priority as soon as it’s available. What’s Mr. Lemke’s pulse?” I give him the pulse and tell him about the sleepwalking. Doc’s not too sure what to make of that even though I explain it as best as I can. Try to make him eat something if it happens again, he says. Thanks to Gerrold’s afternoon edition of the Bulletin, everybody in town has heard about Lemke’s night excursion, and it’s getting pretty late now and people aren’t leaving, so I figure it’s because they’re wondering if he’ll start sleepwalking again. Gerrold showed up an hour ago and

has had half a dozen cups of coffee and is just sitting, staring at the old man with his notepad in one hand and a pen in the other. “Can you please brew some more coffee? Please? Please?” “You really want more?” “Oh yeah! Oh yeah! But first can I ask you something, for the paper?” “Yeah, okay.” “What does it mean to you, having Lemke here, in your very own house?” “Well, Francis Peters actually owns the place. I just rent the main floor from him ’cause he likes it upstairs and doesn’t need the space.” “But what’s it mean to you?” “I dunno, Gerrold, I guess he hit his head pretty bad, so I’m sorry for him but glad to help out a little having him here and all.” “How did you feel when you realized he was sleepwalking last night?” “I was sort of weirded out, you know, because it was like it was Lemke, but maybe it wasn’t really him because he was kind of operating all unconsciously, I guess.” The interview makes me really self-conscious because everybody there is listening. “I’ll go make you more coffee.” While I’m in the kitchen I start washing a few dishes. Mandie comes in and starts to dry. From the window I can see a few people hanging out on the street that leads down to the dock. “What are they all doin’ there, Mandie?” “I think they’re waiting.” “For Lemke?” “Yeah.” “Christ.”

I

t’s getting near midnight. “Can we blow out the candles?” I ask. “If he starts dragging that bed sheet around again, it’ll catch and the whole place will go up in flames.” Stu blows out the candles and flicks on the lamp, and the whole room fills with vanilla-scented smoke. Lemke sits up. Everyone murmurs. “Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Mr. Lemke, can I ask you a question—” Gerrold and everybody else shut up instantly. “You see!” I say. “It’s bloody unnerving. It’s right bloody unnerving!” Lemke stands up and sleepwalks forward. Everybody parts for him to pass. He drags the bed sheet. Mandie gives it a tug and it falls from his hand. He stares over at her. He

Short Story 49


never blinks when he’s doing this sleepwalking thing. She holds a cookie out for him, apologetically, murmuring what Doc said about making him eat. Lemke’s finger brushes her hand when he takes the cookie, and she shivers. He plops the whole thing in his mouth and munches away as he puts on that purple life preserver again. He opens the door and we follow him out and down we go, down to the beach by the dock. As we pass the people who’ve been waiting outside, they all stand up like they’re doing the wave, and a big whisper swells all around: Lemke! Lemke! Lemke! Down into the surf Lemke wades. He turns around, spreads his arms, then he’s floating on his back again. “Just like last night,” Stu says. “That’s what he was doing last night.” “It is,” I say. “That’s what he did.” We all stare at him a few seconds. He goes out a bit. He comes back in. He bobs down. He rises back up. “Say…” Mandie says in this slow, pensive way she uses when she wants something but isn’t sure what everyone else will think. Stu glances at her. “What’s up, dear?” “Well, he looks so peaceful.” “He does look peaceful,” pitches in Mr. Amlinson. “Very peaceful,” says Pastor Bill. “He does, doesn’t he?” says Alison French. “Oh yeah!” says Gerrold. “Oh yeah!” “He looks like a corpse,” says Stu, then he whispers: “Sorry.” “I think he’s onto something.” Mandie puts her hands on her hips and walks to the boathouse over by the dock. She jiggles the handle the way you have to with that door and comes back all bundled up in a purple life preserver. She walks to the beach, takes off her shoes and socks and faces us all. She smiles at Stu and she smiles at me, and with a long sigh, she splashes right back and floats next to Lemke. Gerrold starts scribbling like a madman. And then Stu gives me this little grin like the one he gave me back when he first fessed up to liking Mandie and pretty soon he’s floating there too in his own life preserver, and so are Mr. Amlinson and Pastor Bill and Alison and Jeremy French; and so are the Hendersons and the MacAuleys and Jake Schmidt and Tara and Suzanne and my folks and Stu’s mum and Gerrold, and one by one, wouldn’t you know it, the whole town is out there floating beside the dock. A hand grasps my shoulder. I turn around and there’s Francis Peters. He holds out an old life preserver that matches the one he’s wearing and nods. “Okay, Frank. Thanks.” We wade through a couple rows of the whole town floating there and lie down between Mandie and Lemke. 50 Geist 91 Winter 2013

We kind of bob a bit. Mandie looks over at me. “Don’t you feel relaxed?” “I don’t feel much of anything, it’s so cold in here.” “Look at all those stars. They’re so peaceful. It gets you thinking, doesn’t it?” “About what?” “All this with Lemke. I just feel so sure he’s telling us something, you know?” “Well, he hasn’t said anything since he banged his head. And he never really talks anyway.” “Maybe he doesn’t have to. Maybe we just have to trust, you know? Just trust.” Stu reaches out and takes Mandie’s hand on the surface of the water. We all bob up and down for a while. People murmur little things to each other that blend in with the sound of the waves. Lemke sits up all at once and starts wading his way around all the floating people up the beach and back toward the house. People stir as he passes them. “Is he awake?” Gerrold asks. Francis Peters shakes his head. “Oi! Lemke! You awake?” Stu yells. “Guess not.” Lemke keeps walking back, totally oblivious. “Well, come on then,” Mandie says, “let’s go,” and one by one everybody gets out of the sea and follows Lemke back up the beach.

T

he next day, Lemke snores real loud; he fills up the whole living room with those snores. A few people come by, but not as many as before. Gerrold drops in briefly but he figures the story’s peaked. Doc Mitchell phones to say the Kisnetsky baby’s doing much better—a real miraculous recovery. Stu and Mandie stop in for a bit and Francis Peters comes down around noon. He sits himself on the edge of Lemke’s cot with a little cordless radio to listen to baseball. “It’s game three,” he assures me. It’s up, up, up and outta here! says the radio announcer. The window is propped open and the breeze stirs a few of the bed sheets real gently so it’s a bit like Lemke’s floating in the waves again. “What’cha figure he’s thinking, Frank?” Francis Peters shakes his head. “God only knows, lad. God only knows,” and that’s about the time that Lemke stops snoring. 

Russell F. Hirsch is a Vancouver writer originally from Edmonton. He writes fiction and screenplays and is currently working on co-producing his feature film script Resonance. Visit him at russellfhirsch.com.


War in Full Bloom Winners of the Third Annual Erasure Poetry Contest Erasure poetry works with an existing text from which letters and words are erased in such a way that the words left in place take on new forms and meanings. For the 3rd Annual Erasure Poetry Contest, the original text was taken from Cottonopolis by Rachel Lebowitz. The overarching theme of most of the poems involved war and a hawthorn branch in bloom.

FIRST PRIZE

Do You Recognize Me Without My Tomahawk? Karen Kachra War’s a cut up killing for to break us a time to line up quiet people are just quiet get your soup, Indian, and— go mad. Some see me. Some do. Blankets and boxes and bags of bitter money sending us to slavery on streets across the City. And the family

on the ground wind cold, sun shining,

a man’s daughter

singing her thin goodbye;

maybe her son he gone too a branch in bloom— torn.

Karen Kachra is a philosopher, freelance copywriter and part-time teacher of literature. She lives in Campbellville, Ontario.

52 Geist 91 Winter 2013


SECOND PRIZE

SECOND PRIZE

Your Indian Blanket

Now There’s War

Gail Perry

Jenni B. Baker

Get your Indian blanket from the shop ’round the corner.

Cut-up limbs come home from dust. Half-hims roam beds not sleeping, tire, quiet and go home. It’s America: not everyone’s together.

They sent us thousands. Grey on one side, the other different, woven from ground psalms and iniquity,

Jenni B. Baker’s poetry has been published in many literary journals. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Found Poetry Review. She lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

still warm.

Kind of thin, but pretty.

Gail Perry reviews books for the Winnipeg Free Press and writes a community column for her local newspaper. She lives in Winnipeg.

THIRD PRIZE

Rise Up for Me Against the Evildoers Kim Suttel Trouble comes, naked and tough as grief. It takes most everything:

at all very different. A drear argument to sort out.

our books, bones, bags of used batteries.

I want it to end. Sun, rain, clouds and then sun again.

People are just tired and quiet and trouble gets what it sees,

Pennywhistle concerns. Who will stand up for me against

penny by penny. Help hobbles in, brutish, sad,

the still wind, the cold sun, the not one or the other?

nothing holy about it, toothy, money-avid. Not

Trouble is a white blossom delicate as a tar flow.

Kim Suttell lives in New York City. Read more of her work at page48.weebly.com.

Erasure Poetry 53


n a t i o n a l

d r e a m s

Magical Thinking daniel francis For Canadians, the canoe is a container for our deepest dreams and anxieties, the magical vessel in which we are transformed from newcomers into natives

D

uring the 1950s and 1960s, the political commentator Blair Fraser was probably the most influential journalist in Canada. Writing from Ottawa for Maclean’s magazine, Fraser had a pipeline to every important politician and power broker in the capital. His column Blair Fraser Reports was a must-read for anyone wanting to know what was going on in the back rooms. But when he wanted time off from the world of politics, Fraser liked nothing better than to go wilderness canoeing. He belonged to a group of senior civil servants and diplomats, calling themselves The Voyageurs, who every summer followed one of the old canoe routes through the north country, re-enacting the adventures of the early fur traders. It was during one of these excursions on the Petawawa River in northeastern Ontario in 1968 that Fraser drowned when his canoe flipped over in a set of rapids. He was fifty-nine years old. Modern-day voyageurs such as Blair Fraser and the other Ottawa mandarins who were on the trips with him—including, most famously, Pierre Trudeau—believed that their canoeing adventures immersed them in the essence of Canada. The trips, wrote Fraser, “gave us all a new awareness of Canada by bringing us into a kind of personal contact with

54 Geist 91 Winter 2013

its past.” In his only book, The Search for Identity, a history of the post-war period, Fraser located the country’s uniqueness in its northern landscape. Trudeau agreed. “I know a man whose school could never teach him patriotism,” he once wrote, “but who acquired that virtue when he felt in his bones the vastness of his land, and the greatness of those who founded it.” And the best way to experience the land was in a canoe. As Misao Dean makes clear in her new book, Inheriting a Canoe Paddle: The Canoe in Discourses of EnglishCanadian Nationalism (University of Toronto Press), canoes have long embodied a set of virtues that are considered central to the Canadian identity. They are, after all, ubiquitous in our history and folklore. Fur traders and missionaries used them to navigate the northern waterways. Explorers used them to map the continent. Middle-class urbanites still use

them to escape into the rusticity of cottage country. Generations of children used them to learn to be Aboriginal at summer camp. And before all that, the Aboriginals themselves used them, in the words of Samuel de Champlain, “to go without restraint, and quickly, everywhere…” As a result, the canoe has become a potent symbol of Canada. Why else would the federal government choose to install Bill Reid’s huge bronze canoe sculpture, Spirit of Haida Gwaii, in front of our embassy in Washington, DC? The canoe is supposed to symbolize our link to the landscape, to the first inhabitants, to our own history. But as Misao Dean, who is a literature professor at the University of Victoria, points out, symbols obscure as much as they reveal. If the canoe is a fundamental icon of our nationality, it is also (among other things) a fetish object, a misreading of Canadian history and a symbol of colonial oppression. Fetish objects are revered for their special power. We usually associate them with religious ceremony or the magical thinking of pre-industrial cultures. In Dean’s view, however, Canadians have always revered the canoe for its power to transform us into indigenous North Americans. Canoeing, she writes, “is a strategy of appropriation whereby non-indigenous photograph: j. c. osborne


Canadians hope to indigenize themselves…” The canoe is a vessel in which non-Aboriginals can “go native,” imagining themselves at one with the land and its original inhabitants, erasing the distinction between Native and newcomer and claiming a right to ownership. “Canoeists,” Dean writes, “by virtue of their canoeing, are not European anymore, but something new, Canadian.” This, at any rate, is the myth. The fetishization of the canoe is based on a reading of history that is summed up in the phrase attributed to the historian A.R.M. Lower, “Canada is a canoe route.” Or in the filmmaker Bill Mason’s “statement of canoe faith”: “It is as if God made the canoe, and then set about making a country in which it could flourish. That country was Canada.” Mason was a particularly important purveyor of recreational nationalism. Once called “Canada’s guru of canoeing,” he made several films for the National Film Board about canoeing and conservation. For him, canoeing was a means of recovering a relationship with nature that non-Aboriginal Canadians had lost, or never had. But, Dean argues, the fur trade did not create Canada, nor did the pioneer canoe routes determine our borders. And how can a recreational activity engaged in by only a small minority of the population be said to define our nationality? The canoeing version of our history is not an objective account of the past but rather an argument for a particular version of events, whose purpose is to rationalize the European occupation of the land and assert a wildercentric view of the Canadian identity. A similar point is made in another new book, Canoe Nation: Nature, Race, and the Making of a Canadian Icon (UBC Press) by Bruce Erickson, a geographer at York University. Like Dean, Erickson believes that the canoe has become “a national fetish” that is “valued for its service to

particular national myths.” He writes about what he calls “the anxious relationship” between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians and argues that in the national imagination the canoe is a vehicle for resolving this anxiety. As he puts it, canoeing is “the national equivalent of saying, ‘I’m not racist; look, I have Native friends.’ ” Stated in shorthand, these claims might seem glib. Like Freud’s infamous cigar, isn’t a canoe sometimes just a canoe? But both Erickson and Dean make a convincing case that recreational canoeing is an example of a phenomenon known as “Indian masquerade.” At its most obvious, Indian masquerade involves dressing up in Aboriginal garb—usually including a feathered headdress— or even, in the case of Grey Owl, for example, taking on a permanent pseudo-Aboriginal identity. But the masquerade might also involve more subtle, even subconscious forms of

appropriation, such as canoeing. The canoe trip remains a common way for Canadians to go native, to masquerade as Indians and to assert our connectedness to the environment. “The canoe transports not just people and goods,” writes Bruce Erickson, “but also ideas and ideologies.” These ideas are most often unacknowledged. The virtue of these two new books is that they contradict the claims of “canoe nationalism” (the term is Dean’s) and reveal the ideology that lies behind the use of the canoe as an all-purpose symbol for Canada. 

Daniel Francis is a writer and historian who lives in North Vancouver. He is the author of two dozen books, among them The Imaginary Indian: The Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture (Arsenal Pulp Press), a second edition of which was published in 2011. Read more of his work at geist.com and danielfrancis.ca.

National Dreams 55


c i t y

o f

w o r d s

Reading the Commedia alberto manguel Every book opened, every page turned, renews the hope of understanding the book a little more than on the previous reading

D

ante wrote his great poem in three parts (Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso) during the early part of the fourteenth century. Since the sixteenth century it has been known as the Divine Comedy, a work of enormous power reborn with each generation of writers, readers and translators. One of the common experiences in most reading lives is the discovery, sooner or later, of one book that like no other allows for an exploration, of oneself and of the world, that appears inexhaustible and that, at the same time, concentrates the mind on the tiniest particulars in an intimate and singular way. For certain readers, that book is an acknowledged classic, a volume of Shakespeare or Proust, for example; for others it is a lesser-known or lesser agreed-upon work that deeply echoes in the mind for inexplicable or secret reasons. In my case, throughout my life, that unique book has changed: for many years it was Alice in Wonderland, Ficciones, Don Quixote, The Magic Mountain. Now, not far from the prescribed three score and ten, the book that is to me all-encompassing is Dante’s Commedia. I came to the Commedia late, just before turning sixty, and from the very first reading, the Commedia became for me that utterly personal and yet horizonless book. To

56 Geist 91 Winter 2013

describe the Commedia as horizonless may be simply a way of declaring a kind of superstitious awe of the work itself: of its depth, breadth, intricacy and flawless construction. Even these words fall short of my renewed experience of reading the text. “Construc-

tion” implies an artificial mechanism, a function dependent on pulleys and cogs, which, even when evident (as in Dante’s invention of the terza rima, for instance, and accordingly his use of the number 3 throughout the Commedia), merely points to a detail of the complexity but hardly illuminates its apparent perfection. In a parody of twentieth-century artistic currents, from the nouveau roman to conceptual art, Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares imagined a form of criticism that, surrendering to the impossibility of analyzing a work of art in all its greatness, merely reproduced the work in its entirety; so that in order to explain the Commedia, the critic ended up by quoting the entire Commedia. Perhaps that is the

only way. It is true that, when coming across an astonishingly beautiful passage or an intricate poetic argument that had not struck us as forcibly in a previous reading, our impulse is not to comment on it as much as to read it out loud to a friend, in order to share entirely the original experience. There is an essential problem with which every writer (and every reader) is faced when engaging with a text. We know that to read is to affirm our belief in language and its vaunted ability to communicate. Every time we open a book, we trust, in spite of all our previous experience, that this time the essence of the text will be conveyed to us. And every time we reach the last page, in spite of such brave hopes, we are once again disappointed. Especially when we read what we agree to call “great literature,” our ability to grasp the text in all its multi-layered complexity falls short of our expectations, and we are compelled to return to the text once again, in the hope that this time we will achieve our purpose. Fortunately for literature, fortunately for us, we never do. Generations of readers cannot exhaust these books, and the very failure of language to communicate fully lends them a seemingly limitless richness that each of us fathoms but only to the extent of our capacities.

image: chart of hell by sandro botticelli (c.1485–c.1500), taken from a youtube video posted by jeroen van dillen, a dutch egyptologist


No reader has ever reached the depths of the Mahabharata or King Lear. The realization that a task is impossible does not prevent us from attempting it, and every book opened, every page turned, renews the hope of understanding a book, if not in its entirety, at least a little more than on the previous reading. That is how, throughout the ages, we create a palimpsest of readings that continuously re-establishes the book’s authority, and always under a different guise. The Iliad of Homer’s contemporaries is not our Iliad, but it includes it, as our Iliad includes all Iliads to come. In this sense, the Hasidic assertion that the Talmud has no first page because every reader has already begun reading it before starting at the first words, is true of every great book. The term lectura dantis was created to define what has become a specific

genre: the reading of the Commedia. Perhaps, after generations and generations of commentaries (beginning with those of Dante’s own son, Piero, shortly after his father’s death), it is impossible to be comprehensively critical or even original in what one has to say about the poem. And yet, I might be able to justify such an exercise by suggesting that every reading is, in the end, less a reflection or translation of the original text, than a portrait of the reader, a confession, an act of self-revelation and self-discovery. If this is true, then the Commedia has become over the past few years the unavoidable and secret autobiography of this reader. I’ve read the Commedia in a number of translations: I began with Dorothy L. Sayers’s somewhat arch but moving version; now I always carry with me the Reverend Philip

H. Wicksteed’s literal version, facing the Italian original, in the beautifully printed Dent edition of 1899. I like Robin Kirkpatrick’s version; I’m less keen on J.G. Nichols’s and Allen Mandelbaum’s. There are excellent translations of the two first sections: Ciaran Carson’s Inferno and W.S. Merwin’s Purgatorio. I don’t know any first-rate English version of Paradiso. Now, after several years’ practice, I can read the Commedia in the original, helping myself along with a shelfful of commentaries. 

Alberto Manguel is the award-winning author of hundreds of works, including The Traveler, The Tower and The Worm: The Reader as Metaphor, A History of Reading and All Men Are Liars. He lives in France. Read more of his Geist work at geist.com.

City of Words 57


ENDNOTES

cool yule The Vancouver Rainbow Concert Band, the first and only LGBTQ band in Canada, presented its winter holiday show in an East Vancouver community college auditorium in late November. As promised, “December Destinations: The Great Christmas Escape” musically transported the audience to many lands, from Puerto Rico to Brazil to Wales to France to Russia and points beyond. But first the emcee reported that he had become an emcee five hours earlier, and extended a warm welcome with no mention of mobile phones. Then a special appearance by Bill Monroe (a female impersonator best known for his portrayals of the Queen), who performed “If My Friends Could See Me Now” in spike heels that one does not associate with Her Maj, and who fired off a little joke—I knew a gay trombonist once, and man could he blow—complete with a classic ba-dum—ching! from the one-woman percussion section. Then the band, nineteen people dressed in black and playing with gusto: a jazzy Christmas medley, “March of the Wraggle Taggle Gypsies,” “Sleigh Ride” (with a great trombone horse whinny at the end), and more. During intermission we had snacks and drinks and pondered the silent auction items: a shampoo/cut/style, a collage entitled Holy Mother of Green Stamps, catered dinner for four at home, half an hour with a Private Santa, a thirty-minute focusing session. Then back to our seats for a rousing “That’s Life” by Bill Monroe. He announced the name 58 Geist 91 Winter 2013

of the 50-50 winner, who flew down the aisle, picked up her prize, ran onstage to fling her arms around a trumpet player and then dashed back to her seat. The band, dressed now in assorted Hawaiian shirts, played the theme from Hawaii Five-O. Halfway through it, the three clarinetists lowered their instruments and worked them as canoe paddles (applause). Near the end was a weirdly moving consonance/dissonance arrangement by Chris Johnston, Rainbow’s conductor, of “Home for the Holidays” combined with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” All this, and “Santa Baby” as an encore. What more could anyone want, in the first days of the most frantic season of the year? —Mary Schendlinger

alien abduction It’s always a delight to read graphic novels; they restore my faith in the everlasting life of the print-and-picture world. Science Fiction by Joe Ollmann (Conundrum Press) is about a high school biology teacher named Mark—a rational, well-meaning guy who suddenly has a memory of alien abduction. This repressed memory is triggered one evening when he and his long-time girlfriend, Susan, rent a science fiction film called Taken at Night. (   Just as a point of interest, that film doesn’t really exist, or if it does, it sure ran under my radar.) The rest of the story is essentially a mystery, and one that doesn’t get solved:

Did Mark really have an experience with UFOs, or is the poor guy suffering a mental breakdown? He skips going to work, spends hours on the internet looking for like-minded people, and lets his personal grooming go to the dogs. That is a mental breakdown, right? In an afterword, Ollmann makes a few comments about his book, such as, “I’m aware that it probably contains glaring errors and omissions and probably does not reflect the present state of UFObeliever protocol, so I apologize in advance.” It’s both anticlimactic, and a sad sign of the times, when authors feel they must beg the reader’s pardon in order to fend off crank responses. I noticed only one “glaring error or omission,” and it was not related to abductions per se: in the middle of the story, when Mark cannot face going back to work, there is a reference to Susan calling in sick for him. There is no previous mention of this detail, and there probably should be, as it’s a pivotal point in the rapidly moving plot. We need all the coordinates we can get, to prepare us for Mark and Susan’s harrowing journey. —Jill Mandrake

fresh hell A new translation of Dante’s Inferno by the American poet Mary Jo Bang (Graywolf Press) has been well received by most critics, and less favourably by some who are offended by references to Woody Allen, Virginia Woolf, Bob Dylan, T.S. Eliot, Jell-O, Boy Scouts, South Park, Pink Floyd, Star Trek, etc., that seem to me to be flourishes renewing one’s attention to


the sometimes recondite aspects of the Dantean view of hell. The book is well laid out and lavishly illustrated by Henrik Drescher, whose work is appropriately gritty and scratchy. The endnotes to each canto are worth a separate read. In the ninth circle, for instance, Bang points out that “commentators vary on whether the giants standing in the pit with Satan are standing on the bottom of the pit, or on the ledge surrounding it.” The only flaw in the book is the paper it’s printed on: a dense, coated sheet cold to the touch and far too heavy for 340 pages of poetry: one’s wrists complain. —Stephen Osborne

matters of life and death Oh, small book of sorrow. Nocturne: On the Life and Death of My Brother (HarperCollins) is a memoir written over two years by Helen Humphreys, in the form of a letter to her younger brother. Martin Humphreys was diagnosed with stage 4B pancreatic cancer at the age of forty-five, and died shortly thereafter, leaving his sister with a deep sense of loss and grief. Nocturne is not sentimental, but it is profoundly intimate. Humphreys writes in explicit detail of how the death affected her. The precision of her words can sometimes come across as robotic (allegro), which can distance her from the reader. But then there are flowing (adagio) sections where she isn’t shy to share with the reader how debilitating her grief can be. Revealing a weakness to a reader can cause her to either lose trust or feel empathy; I had the latter reaction. I don’t want to presume that the structure of Nocturne relies on musical terms, but the title and Martin’s profession as a composer,

piano teacher and pianist lean in that direction. This memoir is a composition of facts, episodes, thoughts and emotions. Though it relies on death and grief to propel its storytelling arc, Humphreys also shares the comfort that simple things bring: her dog, time spent at her cottage. The message could be, “Yes, I am suffering, but I can still see beauty in life.” Nocturne is a short read, but not a light one. When I had finished reading, I had a sense of wanting to comfort Helen: this too shall pass. Random book purchases can sometimes lead to surprisingly great reading pleasure. I was initially drawn to Out Stealing Horses, a novel by the Norwegian author Per Petterson, published in 2003 (Vintage), by the title and the haunting cover image of a horse standing in front of a dil­apidated cabin enshrouded by fog. Trond, the sixty-seven-year-old protagonist of Out Stealing Horses, has recently moved from Oslo to spend the remainder (how long, who knows) of his life in a cabin in a remote part of Norway. The cabin also happens to be where Trond spent his fifteenth summer with his father, chopping trees to sell downriver in Sweden. Trond begins the summer of his fifteenth year as an innocent boy with his father (his best friend) at his side. The pair chop wood, wake, sleep, carouse and pretty much spend all their time together, further strengthening the father-son bond. Yet around this seemingly idyllic scene, life is becoming unsettled. The fallout from a tragic death, and the conflict, animosity and loyalty forged during the five-year German occupation of Norway, play out among the adults. Trond is oblivious to how the intricacies of the adult world affect him. By the time he steps on the bus to return to Oslo at the end of August, his boy’s life has Endnotes 59


been dramatically altered. Out Stealing Horses deconstructs the relationship of a son and his father: son becomes man; father becomes imperfect man. The adult Trond is obsessed with detail, and the influence of his father’s ghost is evident. Despite his examination of his father’s behaviour, Trond’s life very much mirrors his father’s: the past is reflected in the present. The son suffers still as a man, no matter how noble his father’s intentions so many years before. The summer of 1948 likely traumatized Trond as much as the German occupation had traumatized his parents. Out Stealing Horses is deliciously satisfying—I read it twice just to experience the agony of the foreshadowing. —Lily Gontard

behind closed doors When I told a friend that I was reading the first in a series of six autobiographical novels written by a forty-fouryear-old Norwegian, he asked me “Why?” The simplest answer might be “curiosity”: I wanted to try and understand why Karl Ove Knausgård’s story had been such a phenomenal success in Norway (over 450,000 books from the series sold in a country with fewer than five million inhabitants); why James Wood (literary critic for the New Yorker) had described the work as “Ceaselessly compelling… Superb.” Part of the books’ appeal, I think, stems from our voyeuristic impulses, the human desire to see what is normally forbidden, the urge to know what goes on behind closed doors. But to judge from My Struggle Book 1: A Death in the Family (Vintage), there is more than mere voyeurism behind the books’ success, for the writing manages to lift daily life into the realm of literature, illustrating how the mundane and the deeply significant often exist side by side. The main focus of A Death in the 60 Geist 91 Winter 2013

Family is Knausgård’s relationship with his father, a complicated, conflicted man whom we (as with his son) never really get to know. A pivotal moment occurs midway though the book: “I was almost thirty years old when I saw a dead body for the first time. It was the summer of 1998, a July afternoon, in a chapel in Kristiansand. My father had died. He was laid out on a table in the middle of the room, the sky was overcast, the light in the room dull, outside the window a lawnmower was slowly circling round a lawn.” —Michael Hayward

working it out In the 1960s women did not imagine themselves working in sawmills, renovating houses or building schools and high rises, although we were getting an inkling that we could blaze new trails, if only we could figure out where they led. According to her memoir, Journeywoman: Swinging a Hammer in a Man’s World (Caitlin Press), Kate Braid started out by getting a BA with a Secretarial Certificate, and then went on to overcome fear, inexperience and ignorance (both hers and others’) to find out that she loves to carry heavy lumber, construct walls that are straight and true, and push around large quantities of concrete, and she did this not by summoning all her courage but by listening to a tiny voice inside of her that would tell her she could do it even as every other part of her mind and body was saying the opposite. This book is not only about learning to be a carpenter—it’s also about dancing, drinking, having sex, falling in love, and growing into a body that becomes stronger and more capable every day. For women of a certain age, Braid’s story will bring back our own struggles to find a place in a man’s world, and men of the same age

will be reminded what it was like to work in a mill or on a building site back in the day. Younger readers will come away with an understanding of how we were then, and Braid’s honest and open writing will have every reader laughing, crying, cringing and cheering right along with her. The title of the book Working with Wool, A Coast Salish Legacy and the Cowichan Sweater by Sylvia Olsen (Sono Nis) and the promotional material surrounding it, imply that this is a history of the Cowichan sweater—which it is, but the book is much more than that. The Cowichan sweater, and its predecessors, the blankets woven by Coast Salish women using a mixture of white dog hair (from a breed raised for this purpose) and mountain goat wool, were important trade items, so by telling the story of the woolworkers of Vancouver Island, Olsen illuminates the nuanced and multi-levelled relationships between indigenous islanders and their newly arrived white neighbours. With increased settlement, the mountain goat population decreased, so the Coast Salish weavers began using wool from sheep that the settlers brought in, and they soon learned to use knitting needles, spinners and carders and began knitting sweaters, to which they added their unique designs. Sweater making became a thriving home-based business that allowed the Coast Salish people to earn money and explore their individual creativity, but although the colonials supported this industry, they did whatever they could to keep it from competing with the mainstream economy. The story of the Coast Salish woolworkers is an important story of people who persevered and adapted— and worked their fingers to the bone—in order to survive in a


changing world. As Olsen states in the introduction, “until British Columbia and Canada know and understand their shared history with indigenous people, the province and the country will not fully mature.” This luscious book, stuffed with historical photographs, is an engrossing way to enhance our understanding. —Patty Osborne

private parts The author of The Secret Parts of Fortune: Three Decades of Intense Investigations and Edgy Enthusiasms (Harper Perennial), portrayed on the front cover holding a skull in his left hand, looks exactly like the actor Bruce Dern posing as an intellectual. That is what drew me to this book in a used bookstore last summer; and when it fell open to a story about phone phreaks, called “Secrets of the Little Blue Box,” which I remembered reading in Esquire in 1971 and admiring so much that I have been repeating it ever since as well as I could remember it to anyone who would listen, I understood again the transcendent mission of the used bookstore—which is to be there when you least suspect that you need it. The Secret Parts of Fortune, by Ron Rosenbaum and not Bruce Dern, is 800 pages long, too long for any book but this one, and turns out to be filled with treasures equal to the phone-phreak story, which apparently inspired the two Steves (Jobs and Wozniak) to get into hacking—and may be the Ur factor in the genesis of Geist magazine itself. Ron Rosenbaum is a well-known journalist and essayist (how have I missed him all these decades?), who has been writing from below the horizon for decades about the strange and the wonderful and the very weird. His interview with the failing movie star

Troy Donahue, who was playing the Charles Manson figure in an exploitation flick based on the Sharon Tate murders, is a masterpiece of controlled understatement, in which Troy punctuates his remarks with “Dig it, dig it, dig it,” and repeating his story—well known at the time—of being hit by lightning while stoned on LSD, an event that I heard reported on the radio and memorialized in 1969 in one of the only poems of my own that I have not destroyed (I called it “Troy Donahue Lives” and never thought of publishing it until now, so here goes: troy donahue swallowed / a capsule of lsd / and was struck by lightning the same night / “I had gone outside for a walk,” / troy donahue said later on the television / “and you know, it changed my whole life”). Rosenbaum’s title, The Secret Parts of Fortune, which appropriates a pun combining private parts with the

unseen elements of destiny, is taken from an exchange between Hamlet and his erstwhile buddies Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; included along with stories of the hidden worlds of Hitler theorists, get-rich-quicksters, conspiracy-hucksters of all kinds, is an essay praising the little-known novels of Charles Portis, who wrote True Grit, and whom Rosenbaum calls the “least known great writer alive in America,” whose novels were just about to be republished (1999) by Overlook Press. I went to the public library the next day and in an epiphanous moment found all three Overlook novels sitting on the shelf. Now I could feel everything working: magazine publishing, book publishing, bookselling, book re-selling, book reviewing, library-acquiring, public transit: and no need for the internet—this was all real life. —Mandelbrot

Endnotes 61


t h e off the shelf Frida Kahlo and Betty Goodwin get old in verse in Singed Wings by Lola Lemire Tostevin (Talonbooks); young lesbian love blooms in Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh (Arsenal Pulp Press); Chris Eaton refers to Chris Eaton in the third person in Chris Eaton, a Biography (Book Thug); Barbara Mundy tosses it all away to become a Labrador trapper in Anne Budgell’s Dear Everybody (Boulder Publications). The “I” and the “we” intersect in Ken Belford’s Internodes (Talonbooks); Pocahontas dodges the plague in Tobacco Wars by Paul Seesequasis (Quattro); in Bait by J. Kent Messum (Penguin Canada), six junkies square off against their island captors; the town of Damascus, Arkansas, teeters on the brink of nuclear destruction in Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser (Penguin). Marvin finally snips the apron strings in Marvin’s Novel by David Koulack (FriesenPress); a hermaphroditic Dane is born between the Great Wars in Vivian Hansen’s A Bitter Mood of Clouds (Frontenac House); Don Domanski assures us we are all everything in Bite Down Little Whisper (Brick Books); milkmen and blacksmiths go missing in inaction in A Good Day’s Work: In Pursuit of a Disappearing Canada by John Demont (Doubleday Canada); Michael Blouin puts muscle cars, the poet Gillian Sze, the filmmaker Bruce McDonald and instructions for Molotov cocktails into his mind and comes up with I Don’t Know How to Behave (BookThug); troutlilies, kings and queens vanish in How the gods pour tea by Lynn Davies (Icehouse); Mennonite women escape Stalin in Daughters in the City by Ruth Derksen Siemens (Fernwood Press); Michael Paryla would nearly have escaped recognition were it not for Andrew Steinmetz’s This Great Escape: The Case of Michael Paryla (Biblioasis); Franklin disposes of a dead landlord in Small Apartments by Chris Millis (Anvil); 62 Geist 91 Winter 2013

w a l l

bony-butted women get testy in Red Girl Rat Boy by Cynthia Flood (Biblioasis). Jim and Sue Waddington copycat the Group of Seven in In the Footsteps of the Group of Seven (Goose Lane); Darwin rots in the woods in Decomp by Stephen Collis and Jordan Scott (Coach House); blame an abysmal filing system for burying a mysterious ancient map in a library in Mr. Seldon’s Map of China by Timothy Brook (Anansi); Friend. Follow. Text., edited by Shawn Syms (Enfield & Wizenty), has more passive-aggressive Facebook statuses than all oversharers combined; an anaesthetist addicted to Sevoflurane ponders the works of Michael Jackson, and Vladimir Nabokov takes a writer-in-residence position at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Will by Shane Neilson (Enfield & Wizenty); S refuses to look at the face of a playing card for twenty-six years in The Playing Card by Michael Hetherington (Passfield Press); Dana Mills covers the back shift in Someone Somewhere (Gaspereau Press); The Bear by Claire Cameron (Doubleday Canada) is certainly not about Hansel and Gretel; Laurie D. Graham digs deep in the family history in Rove (Hagios); Pinocchio has some serious vices in Wood by Jennica Harper (Anvil); Dennis Cooley gets his rocks on in the stones (Turnstone); more naked men than you can shake a stick at hang around in Universal Hunks: A Pictorial History of Muscular Men around the World, 1895−1975 by David L. Chapman (Arsenal Pulp Press).

congratulations Congratulations to Lynn Coady, who won the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her short story collection Hellgoing; to Catherine Owen, Lynn Crosbie, Claudio Gaudio, Julie Wilson and Domenico Capilongo for being shortlisted for the 2013 ReLit Awards; and to Brian Lam, publisher of Arsenal Pulp Press and a director of the Geist Foundation, for winning the Community Builder Award from the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop.

noted elsewhere Times Literary Supplement says Stephen Henighan’s A Green Reef: The Impact of Climate Change (Linda Leith) contains “constant alarm at humanity’s lack of alarmism”; the Canada Research Chair in Global Human Security calls it a “reminder of everything we have to lose.” Wayde Compton writes that Children of Air India by Renée Sarojini Saklikar (Nightwood Editions) “goes beyond event and into the realm of thought”; Rachel Rose calls it “a distillation of rage, grief, compassion and incomprehension”; the Artistic Director of Indian Summer Festival calls it “part song, part family album, part legal document, part childhood attic.” Carolyn Smart says she cannot imagine “a more apt use of plunder verse” than in The Place of Scraps by Jordan Abel (Talonbooks). Ray Hsu calls the poems “an anthropology of anthropology.” A commenter on amazon.ca wrote that Savage Chickens: A Survival Kit for Life in the Coop by Doug Savage (Penguin) is “a must have for any chicken lover.” Passport Magazine says that David L. Chapman’s Universal Hunks (Arsenal Pulp Press) shows us “men with a wide range of skin tones and facial features”; Gayleague.com calls it “smart, sexy (and flex-y).” Laurie Lewis’s Love, & All That Jazz (Porcupine’s Quill) is described by Lise Goddard as “gripping, poignant, excruciatingly honest, heart-inspiring, heart-breaking, and courageous” and by Merilyn Simonds as “Good. Gutsy. Real.” Books in Canada calls Steven Heighton’s Stalin’s Carnival (Palimpsest Press) “a promising if uneven debut”; Lemonhound.com calls it a book that “stands up today as an example of a poet arriving on the scene with an amount of talent that embarrasses other practising poets.” The Montreal Gazette calls Shelagh Plunkett’s The Water Here Is Never Blue (Penguin) “a superior comingof-age memoir as well as an evocative period travelogue.” 


The GEIST Cryptic Crossword

1

2

Puzzle #91 GEIST #210-111 West Hastings St. Vancouver BC V6B 1H4 Fax: (604) 677-6319 The winner will be selected at random from correct solutions received and will be awarded a one-year subscription to Geist or—if already a subscriber—a Geist tote bag. Good luck! ACROSS 1 The room may be profitable but when Steve’s buddies got in there, some hanky panky may have occurred (2) 4 He’s acting like drinking dark beer is not smart 8 In the end the cowboy tied up that virus by tangling with it 9 We can solve the ABC problem if we just package it up so it’s not ineffectual (2) 12 That mysterious company is disseminating in a great place (abbrev) 15 Were you ever a crafty aardvark on TV? 16 It’s funny how that cheeky guy loved animal crackers (2) 19 In that same vein, she took short sustenance (abbrev) 21 Peggy always got confused when she ate unagi sushi 22 Her solicitor did her a favour by advancing 23 Sounds like his horse might have been a maiden 24 That dang debate club rented a cheap car in order to be equal to their intentions (2) 25 Does asking about their monthlies create opposition or open disquiet? (2) 31 At 26 all fifty of them got together and flew by the designated route (abbrev) 32 Please make out a cheque when you stop filming 34 Hey, Bill, will you lend it to me so I can pitch? 35 At the rear of our house a partier has a lot in common with the peanut gallery (2) 38 Jamaican style sounds like it has southern scope 40 At 15 the king just sat around with his ex 41 Foxy family liked to rock 42 The common dwellings down below could be renovated to rehouse owls, but will they pass the bill on? (2) 45 I lean toward sophistication 46 Now that they’ve moved south of the cliff, the ceiling needs to go higher 47 Has Steve started to be paid to play or is he just a scoundrel who is getting the governor to delay things?

4

5

6

19

20

7

8

Prepared by Meandricus Send copy of completed puzzle with name and address to:

3

9 12

13

10

11

14

15

16

17

21

22

18

23

24

25

26

27

28

31

32

34

35 38

42

29

43

36

39

30 33

37

40

41

44

45 46

47

Down 1 It’s common for one to forget about the rest of us 2 Those Quebecers—they think about our country even when they join together to choose a man (abbrev) 3 The road through Moncton can make you sad 4 Barb’s description got a lot shorter when she omitted parts of it (abbr) 5 You don’t have to ask or to log in if you’re taking whatever you want 6 It was a nightmare when that tree died in Holland 7 The minister’s body will have to be shuffled when the furor around Steve dies down 9 Eva stood up for the shirtless ones when Madonna played with Tony 10 While we were eating our appetizer, he came out of his shell and jumped in the water in mid clap (2) 11 Things are slipshod at the airport down there 13 That Canadian pop star sounds like he was initially from an English communications company (abbrev) 14 The price for being in existence is often the same amount as granted for a drink 17 Be patient, it looks like we’re in for one 18 That practitioner only presents the facts (abbrev) 20 In a letter, Bobby asked us to take good care of his baby goose 25 In Quebec they suppressed Dee and that girl 26 Down there they all joined the territories, eh? (abbrev)

27 The specimen was bare so she used a stick on the corn (2) 28 Once a week Rick walks and talks at the same time and gets excited 29 Phil ain’t marchin’ anymore 30 Sounds like you might have to fight to belong to both countries 33 They’re attempting to examine that irritating score 35 Last call for lawyers can put them under pressure 36 Do you think Rob is lowlier than thou? 37 I heard that before I made a mistake 39 We had great expectations for the eastern hardware 43 Hello! That single chant gets our players kicking 44 Hurrah! Check out Rose, she’s a trendy girl The winner for Puzzle 90 was Susan Geist, no relation. Congrats! B A L A L A I K A

A N D O D S T E A L L A G I D A

C A N O H O N S I R E C

J O U N F K F L U T L K E S E L I E Y F E D O L O G I O O N O G U T O R R I T I D E A P E N O R D E R

A S H A M E D T I A E O P H O N E S N A D C A L T O O N A L S A L O N R I O T C T A N D S D R U M L R O T T I E R D O O M O H A G R I A N G L E D R E E R O P E R A S

Puzzle 63


c a u g h t

m a p p i n g

Sick Day The National Map of Maladies by Melissa Edwards

Peaked Hill Hives Lake Itchen Lake

Little Rasp River Pain Killer Bay

Isolation Lake

modified Geistonic projection

Hangover Hill

Ile aux Trembles

Hackland Lake

Bug Lake

Blocked Passage

Doctor Lake

Belcher Islands

Turnabout Creek

Lac de la Décrépitude

Dizzy Creek

Lac Nasal

Tenderfoot Creek

Lac Sore Foot Twisted Pinkie Glacier

Measles Point Lac du Virus

Stayaway Creek

Lac de la Croupe

Shakes Creek

Baie à Migraine

Sweathouse Creek

Hurts Island

The Nose

Big Cold East

Shingle Spit

Lunger Marsh

Emergency Lake

Little Cold East

Relief Creek

Transmission Pond

Sneezie Lake

Shivery Point

Miserable Glacier

Leach

Health Bay

Poxy Island

Affliction Creek

Wasting Rocks

Hospital Hill

Woozy Rock

Haggard Cove

Burns Run

Parasite Creek

Shut-In Shoal

Quarantine Cove

Slobbery Meadow Broncho

Paleface Mountain Blanket Creek

Lost Tooth Island

Belly Up Canyon

Attack Lake

Yahk Fatigue Lakes Weary Creek Medicine Hat

Lac Boil

Nursey

Bunion Lake Ear Falls Bad Medicine Lake Chill Creek

Baie Carbuncle

Wart Lake

Lac Sinus Lac Tic

Hurt Rock

Lac du Reflux Drowsy Lake

Lac Puke

Tired Lake

Lovesick Rapids

Cankerville

Ague Lake Go Home Feversham

Dads Rest Island Mono

For more Geist maps and to purchase the Geist Atlas of Canada, visit geist.com.

64 Geist 91 Winter 2013


GEIST 91 FACT + FICTION u NORTH OF AMERICA WINTER 2013 GEIST.COM

GEIST WINTER 2013 $6.95

GEIST

The National Map of Maladies

Erasure Contest Winners

OBITUARY MAN  LOVE MONSTER URBAN SECRETS LIVES ON FILM SWITCHEROO PHOTOGRAPHY ILL-ADVISED STATUS UPDATES

FACT + FICTION  NORTH OF AMERICA

NUMBER 91 WINTER 2013 $6.95

W H A T T O T H I N K A B O U T I N S PA C E

DEEP WITHIN THE CITY Anakana Schofield  Joe Fiorito  Renée Sarojini Saklikar  Alberto Manguel  Karen Connelly  Brad Cran Math for Canadians  Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso  Why I Mastered Ukulele 

In Review: Karl Ove Knausgård  Working with Wool  Kate Braid  Science Fiction  Helen Humphreys A New Dante Translation  Secret Parts of Fortune  Swinging a Hammer in a Man’s World  Out Stealing Horses


Geist 91 - Winter 2013