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G EI ST 77

GEIST 77

LOST IN CANADA

SUMMER

FACT & FCI TI ON

IN THIS ISSUE Alberto Manguel

Charles Bernstein at the West Edmonton Mall The Banff Protocols Pointe-aux-Trembles

Lorna Crozier

GETTING TEXTUAL

Susan Crean

3 Requirements à la James Joyce

Paul Quarrington

21 Haiku from the Sylvia Hotel

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David Collier

10 IMAX stories

Edith Iglauer

Postcard Lit

MADE I N CA N A DA

Sheri-D Wilson Stephen Henighan Anna Leventhal George Fetherling Daniel Francis Owen Toews Katie Addleman Stephen Osborne Julia Vella Nicholas Ruddock

SHARPEN MY SKATES Jeff Wall Gwendolyn MacEwen Milton Acorn George Webber Jesus Ain’t Like Me Godly Footwear Phony Wars

GEIST 77 — SUMMER 2010

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SUMMER 20 1 0 Eventually the night came to an end, as it often does for poets, be it in Mexico City or in Toronto.

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www.geist.com This one is for Casey, b. 11 April 2010 and In memory of Sherie Kaplan, 1947–2010 published by The Geist Foundation publisher Stephen Osborne senior editor Mary Schendlinger publishing assistant Michal Kozlowski associate editor C.E. Coughlan executive director Patty Osborne office manager & reader services Kristin Cheung web editor Ross Merriam editorial assistant Sarah Hillier interns Jenny Kent, Becky McEachern, Chelsea Novak, Dan Post, Kate Reid administrative assistants Coriana Constanda, Allison Friebertshauser editorial board Kevin Barefoot, Bartosz Barczak, Trevor Battye, Jill Boettger, Marisa Chandler, Todd Coyne, Brad Cran, Laurie Edwards, Melissa Edwards, Robert Everett-Green, Derek Fairbridge, Daniel Francis, Erinna Gilkison, Helen Godolphin, Leni T. Goggins, Lily Gontard, Michael Hayward, Gillian Jerome, Brian Lam, Sarah Leavitt, Sarah Maitland, Thad McIlroy, Billeh Nickerson, Eric Peterson, Leah Pires, Leah Rae, Debby Reis, Craig Riggs, Kris Rothstein, Norbert Ruebsaat, Jane Silcott, Paul Tough, Michelle van der Merwe, Carrie Villeneuve, Josh Wallaert, Kathy Vito, Kaleigh Wisman, Barbara Zatyko, Daniel Zomparelli accountant Mindy Abramowitz, cga advertising & marketing Clevers Media cover Steffen Quong web architects cascadiamedia.ca composition Vancouver Desktop distribution Magazines Canada printed in canada by Hemlock Printers first subscriber Jane Springer managing editor emeritus Barbara Zatyko Support the Geist Writers and Artists Fund: geist.com/donate

Volume 19

Number 77

Summer 2010

NOTES & DISPATCHES

Stephen Osborne 9

The Banff Protocols

David Collier 12 James Joyce’s Three Requirements Susan Crean 13 Milton and Michel Katie Addleman 15 Greyhound Adrian Chi Tenney 18 Close Generalizations Edith Iglauer 19 Red Smile Serge Bouchard 21 On Loving the Bus translated by Pablo Strauss Jill Margo 24 Getting Textual FINDINGS

Nicholas Ruddock, 27 Louise Bernice Halfe, Charles Bernstein, Mike Spry, Sheri-D Wilson, Lorna Crozier, Pamela Stewart, Gregory Betts, Susan Stenson, George Fetherling, Stuart Ross, Nadine McInnis, Daniel David Moses, Paul Quarrington, Adam Sol, Guy Maddin, Noam Gonick

Lost in Canada, A Trek, Lost in the West Edmonton Mall, Jesus Ain’t Like Me, Ma and Tight Corners: Tipsy Curvy, Delicious Dread, Godly Footwear, ReadMe Doc, Greek Urn, Twenty-One Haiku from the Sylvia Hotel Bar, The Next Bed, A Perfect and Faithful Record, Bread and Cheese Day, Cigar Box Banjo, Villanelle for Jeremiah’s Son, Winnipeg Trading Cards

POSTCARD LIT

Eric Foley 54 Common Sense About Smoking Julia Vella Peace Time Donna Kane Blue Eye COMMENT

Stephen Henighan 71 Phony War Alberto Manguel 73 Imaginary Places Daniel Francis 75 Acadia’s Quiet Revolution DEPARTMENTS

Patty Osborne

4 In Camera 6 Letters

The Usual Gang 77 Endnotes Meandricus 87 Puzzle Melissa Edwards, Jill Mandrake 88 Caught Mapping


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FEATURES

Import-Export 42 Dougieboy, said my boss, howmuchyagot? Shane Neilson I took orders from brokers, I brought in foodstuffs, I brought out foodstuffs, and if I made my quota he put a tick next to my name

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Vanishing Point 45 Photographing the edges of Alberta George Webber Images of the familiar but unknowable in the Badlands, where the photographer grew up, and beyond

IMAX Stories 57 Zoom in to Pete Rose Jr. and Darryl Owen Toews It was the psych ward, they brought three coffees and had one hour, they had to press a buzzer to get in

Sweet Affliction 63 Prognosis poor, recovery unlikely Anna Leventhal The documentary filmmaker, a jeanjacketed young woman with a silver crescent in her nose, wanted me to Share My Story

Sharpen My Skates 67 He put it in. Did he put it in? Salvatore Difalco A carcajou, a false Mountie, a colonic hydrotherapist, a big guy in a Hawaiian shirt who could bend a spoon with his mind

COVER AND PRODUCTION NOTES

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On the cover: A version of Bonnie Marin’s illustration, Salisbury Sally, from her Pin-ups of Winnipeg collection, based on well-known icons of Winnipeg. Salisbury Sally is seen here surrounded by food items that are popular at Salisbury House, the local restaurant chain that inspired her. A somewhat expanded view of Sally appears on page 56. Cover design by Steffen Quong. Geist is printed on eco-friendly papers with vegetable-based inks.

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Mimic

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n 1982 my brother Tom hung out with a group of artists who usually drank at the Lamplighter beer parlour in Gastown, the oldest part of Vancouver, but it was at a different bar, the Railway Club, that Tom’s friend Dorothy asked him if he wanted to make some money by posing for Jeff Wall, an up-and-coming local photographer who Tom had never heard of. When Jeff told Dorothy, who was also going to be in the photo, that he was looking for a “tough greasy type” to be her partner, she thought of my brother right away, even though, my brother says, he wasn’t particularly tough or greasy at the time. Jeff told my brother that he was looking for a blond man but that Tom would do, as long as he agreed not to cut or wash his hair or trim his beard before the photo shoot, which was to take place in two weeks. From then until the shoot, when Tom went to the bar, which he did often, he wore a handmade sign that said “I’m getting paid to look like this.” The first photo shoot took place in the late afternoon on a summer day, behind the Waldorf Hotel on Hastings Street, a hotel that few people could remember the name of so it was known as “that bar on Hastings with the palm trees.” In the shot, Tom and Dorothy were to hold hands and walk along the sidewalk, and as they overtook Rod, a young man of Asian descent, Tom was to make a racist gesture by pulling on the side of one of his own eyes so it would “slant.” All of this action was to take place in one still photo, thus re-creating a scene that Jeff had witnessed when he didn’t have his camera set up to record it. The actors and the photographer spent some time rehearsing the shot: first Jeff put a piece of tape on the sidewalk to indicate the place at which Tom was supposed to make the racist gesture, but it was impossible to coordinate the walk so that all three people ended up in the right place at the right time, so after

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many rehearsals, during which Tom and Rod muttered curses and racial slurs at each other to get in the mood, they settled on a starting point and then three steps and then the gesture and then the shot, and please, everyone, no more laughing. After that, Tom, Dorothy and Rod went to the hotel bar to have a drink and wait for Jeff to hurry in and urge them to get back out there because the light was just right. It took two afternoons of shooting for Jeff to get the photo he wanted, not just for timing and framing but because of intermittent clouds and rain. Tom did not have a phone, so on each scheduled day, at about 4:00 p.m., Jeff had to search him out in the Lamplighter pub to tell him whether it was a no or a go. When the shoot was over, Jeff paid my brother three hundred dollars (the actors’ union rate) and asked if he could have the denim vest that Tom had pulled out of his drawer to wear in the photo. The final print, which was given the name Mimic, is over six feet tall and has been known to startle several of Tom’s friends and relatives when they have come upon it in art galleries around the world. Tom never saw Rod again, and he lost touch with Dorothy—who, he was later surprised to find out, is the writer Dorothy Trujillo Lusk. Tom had not known her last name, because in the bars and studios around Gastown, unless you went by your last name (as did his friend Murphy), it was first names only. Dorothy remembers that Rod was an actor and model who Jeff hired through a local agency, but if she ever knew his last name she can’t remember it now. —Patty Osborne

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Patty Osborne is a regular contributor to Geist. She teaches the Art of the Short Review, a Geist workshop, and she blogs on geist.com. She lives in North Vancouver.

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GEIST

Geist is published four times a year by The Geist Foundation. Contents copyright © 2010 The Geist Foundation. All rights reserved. Subscriptions: in Canada: Individuals $24 (4 issues); Institutions $31; in the United States: $32; elsewhere: $32. Visa and MasterCard accepted. Correspondence and inquiries: subscriptions@geist.com, advertising@geist.com, letters@geist.com, editor@geist.com. Include sase with Canadian postage or irc with all submissions and queries. #200 – 341 Water Street, Vancouver, B.C. Canada v6b 1b8. 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, #200 – 341 Water Street, Vancouver, B.C. Canada v6b 1b8. Email: geist@geist.com Tel: (604) 681-9161, 1-888-geist-eh; Fax: (604) 669-8250; Web: geist.com Geist is a member of Magazines Canada and the B.C. Association of Magazine Publishers. 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 Tula Foundation, the Canada Council, the B.C. Arts Council and the B.C. Gaming Branch. We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund (cpf) for our publishing activities.

special thanks to the tula foundation

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www.geist.com

LETTERS

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Readers Write

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SERENDI PI TY commend you on your celebration of local talent in Geist 76 (“Local Lit,” winners of the Neighbourhood Writing Contest in the Downtown Eastside Writers’ Jamboree in Vancouver, November 2009). Recently I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting Antonette Rea, one of the winning writers. As if connecting with her through her poem “Free Me from Anxiety” weren’t enough to bring her to life for me, serendipity placed me on the number 4 bus sitting next to her, and I had the chance to connect with her through a brief—though powerful—exchange. I’d like to send her a message through you: Antonette, the light and hope in your eyes and your words despite all you’ve suffered gives me hope, too. You make me think that humanity may indeed evolve to a higher understanding, and that the cruelties you have suffered were a part of opening people’s eyes to difference (though I wish the pain you’ve endured could be erased). Thank you for always being yourself, for not conforming despite the force of society to bend you into something you are not. You have made it easier for our children to be comfortable with their own differences. You have shown us that real courage is being afraid of something, but doing it anyway when you know it’s the right thing to do. Your courage will serve you well as you write the next chapter in your personal evolution. I wish you peace as you discover, explore and free the new you. —Leslie Cook, Waterloo ON At geist.com: Neighbourhood Writing Contest winners.

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ENCOMI UMS bout “Kosmic Baseball” (No. 76), a memoir of the ’60s by the late Brad

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Robinson: Thanks for the last pen, Bradford. A writer to the end. —Peter Hurley, Placitas NM

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About “Sightseeing, Anyone?” (No. 76), Edith Iglauer’s account of a starcrossed sightseeing tour: Sign me up! I love Edith Iglauer! —Ted Bishop, Edmonton

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NO LAUGHI NG MATTER ust a note in praise of Daniel Francis’s insightful, well-written essay on Margaret MacMillan’s biography Stephen Leacock, in the Penguin Extraordinary Canadians series (“Canada’s Funnyman: The Flip Side,” Geist 76). Francis asks an excellent question: “Isn’t someone extraordinary if they rise above the standards of their day, if they hold opinions that are not simply conventional wisdom, if they do or think something that breaks with public opinion to espouse a more progressive point of view?” A while ago I reviewed (in Briarpatch) another book in the Extraordinary Canadians series, Adrienne Clarkson’s biography Norman Bethune, about a man who broke with conventional wisdom in his progressive quest yet in many ways remained quintessentially Canadian. My curiosity is aroused regarding the Leacock biography and I intend to borrow it from the library. —Ruth Latta, Ottawa At geist.com: “Canada’s Funnyman” and other essays by Daniel Francis.

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T E L L I N G A N D SPEL L I N G ynn Coady’s short story “The Natural Elements” (No. 76) is nicely done. But like much fiction these days it cries out for resolution. As a reader I want to hear what happens with Cal, Lana, Terry, Angie and Rain. Cal is

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such a well-meaning schlub that you can tell he’s surely going to come a cropper in the near future. He lacks assertiveness; is that common with modern men? I don’t think so, but it could be. Darn it, Coady has to turn this short into a book. —Steve Fahnestalk, Vancouver I really enjoyed “The Natural Elements.” However, American spellings in Canadian publications are one of my pet peeves. Don’t rely on those U.S. spell checkers. As far as I’m concerned, it’s “plough,” not “plow,” and as a bastion of Canadian culture, what with the Cross-Canada Phrasebook-in-Progress and all, Geist has a special responsibility in this regard. If this keeps up, before we know it, you’ll be asking for “checks” instead of “cheques” in your renewal notices! —Anne Miles, Gibsons BC The house lexicon at Geist is the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, which prefers “plow.” And for the record, we eschew spell checkers of any language. At geist.com: Lynn Coady’s story. GETTING ON n “Grey Matters” (No. 74), Mary Schendlinger’s humour and the way she blends her own experiences with the lessons given by Diana Athill in he memoir Somewhere Towards the End, as well as other articles by strong women writers who are getting older, can inspire more of us to to age with purpose and grace! —Sharon Cairney, Port Moody BC At geist.com: “Grey Matters” and other work by Mary Schendlinger.

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doesn’t explain the ironic genius of life after death.” Coincidentally, in its 2009–10 season, Vancouver Opera took this very idea and created an opera for kids called Jack Pine. It encouraged kids to see the world in both scientific and poetic ways, and it was a big hit all across British Columbia. —Christopher Libby, Vancouver At geist.com: The Jackpine Sonnet blog and selected entries to the Jackpine Sonnet Contest. CANADI AN TONGUES The Geist Cross-Canada Phrasebook-inProgress, a word-and-term hoard that explores variations in Canadian regional

Sylvie, a young friend of Geist, is seen here lowering the average age of the Geist reader.

nomenclature, made its first appearance in print in the early 1990s. We’re working on an interactive e-version now. In the meantime, send us a note telling Geist readers what people in your neck of the woods call stuff. I have one for your phrasebook. Here in the small town of Redvers, Saskatchewan, the children call the apparatus in the playground a “twirler,” but everyone I know calls it a “merry-go-round.” Has anyone else ever heard of such nonsense? —Jeffrey Greening, Redvers SK

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CONNECTI NG n Dan Post’s blog entry “Science & Poetry, Oil & Water,” he writes: “Science can tell us how the jackpine cone opens only when burned, but it

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In Alana Mairs’s blog, she reports seeing the phrase “Lunch & Supper” on a menu at the Acme Café in Vancouver. Her mom, “who grew up back east, says ‘supper’,” but Alana calls it “dinner.”

I grew up in Edmonton, where it was most definitely supper. After spending many years in Ontario and Quebec (dîner, anyone?) I began saying “dinner” at some point. I live in California now, and I only occasionally hear “supper,” probably only from people who don’t come from around here. —Robert Paege, San Leandro CA

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Peggy and I, proprietors of the Acme Café, are descendants of prairie people and we grew up in the Okanagan, where we always ate “supper.” In my house, “dinner” was what you called lunch. Only fancy folks called supper “dinner.” Now, after many years of restaurant work and life in the big city with the fancy folks, we call the evening meal “dinner” too, but we thought “supper” felt more appropriate for the café menu. After all, we’re not highfalutin around here. —Acme Alan (Hoffman), Vancouver Visit the Acme Café in downtown Vancouver or at acmecafe.ca. I say “dinner.” “Supper” feels like something an old person would say. —Mika Sissonen, Vancouver Growing up in Africa within a family of Gujrati Indians, I was told “Khavanu no time che”—basically, “It’s time to eat.” —Zameer Andani, Vancouver GOI NG BEAVERI SH On April 1, 2010, as an April Fool’s joke, Geist issued a press release announcing that we planned to change our name to The Beaver, in response to The Beaver (founded in 1920) changing its name to Canada’s History. A tiny sample of the outpouring of mail follows. Geist 76 will be the grande finale? Say it ain’t so! I have at least 7,000 postcards saved up for your postcard contests! Oh

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woe is me. Say for instance this news is an April Fool’s joke—I don’t know if I can ever trust you again. What is the saying: “Once burned, twice shy”? or “Twice burned, once shy”? I can never remember. Keep on keepin’ on. —Marion Pilger, Ardrossan AB

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Giving up the Geist? Are you importing Loof Lirpa to be your new editor, too? —Bill Kummer, Newmarket ON Please tell me this is a joke! A publicity stunt, a Geistian hoodwink . . . If you wanted a less existential, less German name for your magazine, why not The Northern Muskrat, The Wily Moose, Cari-Boo!, Deer Me, I’m Canadian, The Otter Oracle? Any number of stereotyped nationalist monikers would be better than The Beaver. You have now bought into the perpetuation of the hopeless stereotype of the Canadian as an

industrious, buck-toothed, keep-to-himself, fuzzy li’l fella that when cornered by aggressive predators will bite off his own balls as a peace offering. Then again, think of the cartoon cover possibilities—a beaver eating a big chunk of cheddar and swilling a Canadian, a beaver eating a beaver tail, Harper as a beaver—balls and all, a beaver in red serge, Margaret Atwood as a beaver—sans balls! Okay, there you have it, your first year’s worth of covers, free of charge. —B. Ver Dun, Steveston BC

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No way! Herizons is changing its name to The Beaver. We deserve it—after all, we are a women’s magazine! And Herizons is also from Winnipeg. —Penni Mitchell, Editor, Herizons, Winnipeg At geist.com: The first April Fool’s joke in our whole life. Letters continue on page 86

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The Banff Protocols

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STEPHEN OSBORNE

In Banff there is nothing to call you away from wherever you are: in Banff you are always already there

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he man driving the bus said to call him Tony, and as the bus rolled out of the airport parkade he announced that he had gone ahead and taught himself the names. His speech was textured with fat diphthongs and skinny vowels that seemed to derive at once from the Australian outback, and parts of northern Manitoba and Boston, Massachusetts. He was referring to the villages, towns, rivers, creeks, ponds, lakes, valleys, buttes, peaks and mountain ranges that lay between Calgary and the town of Banff in the Rocky Mountains, whose names he called out enthusiastically as we passed them by, in a narration that lasted two and a half hours, which is

how long it took to get to Banff from the Calgary Airport fourteen years ago. A man near the front of the bus held a video camera pointed out the window for the entire journey. Across the aisle from me, a young woman flipped impassively through a heavy stack of snapshots, lifting each one in turn and snapping it to the bottom of the stack, which was about three inches thick. Eventually she secured the stack with elastic bands and thrust it into a shoulder bag, from which she withdrew another or possibly the same stack and began the procedure again. From time to time Tony switched to naming the furry mammals that were

out there somewhere, he said, but never when we looked out the window: the coyote, the moose, the fox, the grizzly bear, the jackrabbit, the lynx, etc. His favourite place name was Kananaskis, which he repeated several times during the journey with great relish in a flourish of dialectal effects. The mountains as we passed beneath them he denoted as vast, beautiful, awesome, sublime, forbidding, terrific, quite a sight: certainly, by implication and example, always to be admired. Before leaving home I had been warned by a semiotician friend that Banff had been completely photographed out; indeed my first engagement with Banff, or “Banff,” fourteen years ago, quickly took on the aspect of a billion postcard views. Along the main street lay shopping malls hidden behind rusticated facades; the whole was set against a backdrop of rugged mountain peaks resembling nothing more than enormous photographs of themselves, with bits of cloud and sky near the top. The Banff Centre for the Arts, a construction site offering accommodation for artists, lay nestled in the scenery from which legions of squirrels had been driven by the ear-splitting squeals of trucks and bulldozers backing up eight hours a day. It was hard to concentrate on anything at the Centre for the Arts that summer, except perhaps on the scenery, an activity for which instruction came in many forms. A photographer’s guide to Banff found on the internet identified “several strategies you can use,” such as getting up early to photograph moose feeding in the marshes, and then taking the gondola up Sulphur Mountain “for

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outstanding aerial views” (but not too late in the day, “as the mountain casts a shadow on the valley and the views will have flat lighting”). Several mountains offered altitudinous photographers “excellent tripod platforms for views of the valley and townsite.” Point of view, it was clear from the outset, was of the essence at Banff, where even the mountains with their tripod platforms have a part to play in a general scheme of surveillance and replication. The streets of Banff had been named for the furry mammals that Tony had invoked on the bus: coyote, fox, marten, caribou; it was impossible to set up a mnemonics of difference, so that one was always on the verge of being lost in a tiny village. Not that it mattered: scenery viewing, the central activity assigned to visitors in Banff, is carried out anywhere and everywhere, with the opportunity or the obligation not only to view the scenery but to admire it, and of course to take its picture. Along the roads leading to the Centre for the Arts were many cleared sections offering views across the valley toward the Banff Springs Hotel, whose souvenir facade of dormers and turrets, celebrated around the world in picture postcards and photo-chinaware, has become so much a part of the universal sea of images that there is no difference between seeing it and remembering it. I had discovered that carrying a camera in Banff was a way to blend in, to become, in a manner of speaking, invisible, and I carried my camera around my neck everywhere I went. Whenever the Banff Springs Hotel came into view, as it did several times a day, I resisted its attractive power by refusing to raise my camera toward it—until one afternoon when I encountered a Japanese wedding party in formal dress arranged at the side of the road. They were equipped with cameras and tripods; in the distance lay the Banff Springs Hotel in its

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mountainous cradle, and in the foreground stood the bride in her shimmering gown. I raised my camera toward them, toward her and toward the Banff Springs Hotel. No one objected; indeed, we seemed to be co-operating in a scene within the scenery. The wedding party knew precisely what to do with scenery, and they had travelled a long way to do it. Later that day I watched a man and a woman approach from across the main street. They were holding hands and neither of them seemed to be carrying a camera. When they reached the median, the man turned his head and glanced up the street toward Mount Norquay looming in the distance; he shrugged an elbow and an enormous camera appeared in his hand; he fixed it on the mountain and snapped the shutter and then, with another shrug, the camera was gone, into the depths of his shirt. I had witnessed a spectacular example of the snapshot: the photograph taken by reflex before the subject, in this case a mountain, can escape the photographer’s attention.

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returned to Banff last February to attend a writers’ conference, and this time the bus driver was silent for the whole journey, which was half an hour shorter than it had been fourteen years ago, which led me to wonder if sections of the highway had been straightened out during my absence. Many passengers wore earphones and passed the time slouched down looking into Blackberrys, iPods and other digital devices. It was possible to imagine that they were listening to the original Tony reciting place names, or even watching the video that the man at the front of the bus had made fourteen years ago. From time to time a digital device would appear at window level above a seatback to record an image of the passing scene.

The Banff Centre had grown into a much larger construction site over the years and had dropped “for the Arts” from its name; now it was merely a Centre. Heavy machines were much in evidence and the squeal of backing-up signals still filled the air. Occasional squirrels scampered over lawns and into the underbrush, but never more than one squirrel at a time; I realized later that there may be only a single squirrel at the Banff Centre, appearing here and there again and again to represent his exiled species. The walls of the reception hall were hung with handsome black-and-white photographs of nearby mountains the originals of which were in the usual places, available for viewing and for being viewed from. The writers’ conference went on for three days of talks, from morning to night: readings, performances, presentations, plenary sessions. The schedule was not as burdensome as it might have been elsewhere, for in Banff there is nothing to call you away from wherever you are: in Banff you are always already there. In the intervals, attendees milled about amiably in the open spaces not occupied by heavy machinery, always within the purview of the mountainous tripod platforms looming over us. Name tags that we hung from our necks on cords identified us as belonging to the crowd of (for me at least) strangers from distant parts. Several of the presenters were selfdescribed avant-gardists who generated poetry and other texts by arcane procedures that included computation, cutting, pasting, counting, copying out transcripts of news reports and reading them aloud, hypertext, translation and mistranslation, textile-making, sound generation, dance and movie-making. Appropriation, constraints, rule-making strategies and rigorous techniques were much in play, along with elements of subversion, transgression, iteration and

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the pleasures of repetition. Presenters adopted a particular style when discussing matters of theory and technique: voices dropped from conversational registers into flattened monotones, the rate of delivery accelerated and the language tended to thicken under the weight of too much jargon. During one such presentation, a volunteer from the book table said to me, you know, none of us understand a thing of what these people are saying. I assured her that understanding was not required in the avant-garde. The author of Eunoia described a plan to embed or implant a poem encoded in the language of recombinant DNA into the bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans, a name that he pronounced fiercely, frequently and at daunting speed. He had taught himself genetics, he said, and later he said that he was a self-taught geneticist. The bacterium in question, which he referred to in the diminutive as radiodurans, is expected to outlast the solar system, the galaxy and whatever else there is to outlast, with the result that the poem encoded within its DNA—which, I recall him saying, would at some point during its five-billion-year duration generate a new poem, also in the language of DNA—would be the oldest poem in the universe.

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ow here was a challenge not only for the genetically minded in the avantgarde but for the theologists in the audience, the ontologists, epistemologists and any who are drawn to the problem of how what is known can be said to be known. Was it not, after all, just as likely that the DNA poem, once encoded and embedded, would already be the oldest poem in the universe, even “before” the end of all things? There was silence in the large hall, and only a few desultory questions were put by audience members, many of whom seemed like me to be dazzled or stunned by the implicit

challenge of having to grasp not only a point of view but the point of view of the point of view as well, to have to go deep, to descend far beneath the beguiling surface of things, to where, or when, after and before are equally extinct, and all is of a frightening sameness. Banff, the place, the concept, the arts haven, the collection of scenic views, all devolve from computations set into play in the nineteenth century, in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and London, England, constrained by capital, geography and the politics of Empire; its techniques and procedures extended to appropriations of prairie, river, mountains and valleys; to subversions and transgressions—of rights, possession and habitat; and to vast iterations on many scales: shovels, spikes, sticks of dynamite, rail sections, rail cars, indentured labour, personnel, etc.; and finally the ultimate iteration of the paying passenger, repeating again and again the singular journey to Banff and the courtyard of the Banff Springs Hotel, where Cornelius Van Horne, genius, prime mover, president and first passenger of the railway, is memorialized in bronze, in full life size on a pedestal from which his effigy extends an arm and a forefinger, pointing up and away, toward the tripod viewing platforms in the distance. His was the final pleasure of repetition, the repetition of dollars in his pocket, the repetition of knick-knacks in his castle: he is the poem encoded in the stones of the Rocky Mountains 125 years ago, the beginning and one of the ends of a certain history. “There is only one limit beyond which things cannot go,” wrote Walter Benjamin in 1926: “annihilation.”

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Stephen Osborne is publisher and editor-inchief of Geist. He is also the author of Ice & Fire: Dispatches from the New World and dozens of shorter works, many of which can be read at geist.com.

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S U S A N CR E A N 25

The poet and the photographer were given to grand gesture, revolution—and love

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his photograph of the poets Gwendolyn MacEwen and Milton Acorn was taken during the brief period the two were married, in 1962. The pose is stark, instant-photo-booth-like, with no background and no props save Milton’s cigar glowing in the centre of a fog of smoke. Through the blur, you can just see the blissful expression as he sucks it in, but the eye is riveted by Gwen’s elfin face, the sculpted lips and nose, the steady gaze. Pressed up against each

other, the camera in tight, they exude intimacy, and I sense a playfulness in their half-hidden exchange. I first saw the photo in the early seventies when I was shown it by Michel Lambeth, the photographer who took it. I was dumbstruck by the evidence that Milton and Gwen’s marriage was not at all the improbable union I’d taken it for. There had been lust, connection, tenderness. The Milton I knew, ten years after Gwen and the

photo, scarcely belonged in the house, never mind a marriage. He was living at the Waverley Hotel next to the Silver Dollar Tavern at College and Spadina in Toronto, and in declining health. A scraggy man with a face like a collapsed shed who wore those regulation greygreen workingman’s trousers and a decaying red-checked shirt, who shaved erratically, wheezed alarmingly and stank like a beer parlour. True, none of this registered when he got up to speak. Milton was a wordsmith of flair and stamina. A great poet, but also a great prose stylist, a sharp political analyst and a speaker of Homeric proportions. It took just one experience—of the poet reading his own work, or the revolutionary reading the riot act—to appreciate the erudition behind the argument, and the spell of the imagery. And you could not miss the conviction: “I’ve tasted my blood too much to love what I was born to.” His life was lived in the thick of politics and polemics, and it wasn’t for sissies. In one of his biweekly letters to Stephen Harper, in which he enclosed a Canadian book (see Geist 75), the novelist Yann Martel describes how he first knew Milton by reputation as the downto-earth People’s Poet, and only later discovered the poet’s “political edge.” The book he sent certainly delivers the goods on that score. The Island Means Minago, Milton’s compendium of essays and poems about his beloved Prince Edward Island, is passionate and partisan, and it’s hard to imagine Harper or anyone else reading it with any kind of equanimity. It was published in 1975 by NC Press, the publishing arm of the Canadian Liberation Movement, a far-left organization dedicated to socialism and independence in Canada, which like Milton saw Canada as a colony of U.S. imperialism. Milton was a member of the CLM, whose offices were just across the street from the

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Waverley. He worked on the movement newspaper, New Canada, went to meetings and demonstrations, did duty on committees and put the party first. Michel Lambeth was another revolutionary nationalist, and like Milton he was committed to organizing the revolution—in his case CAR/FAC, the visual artists’ union—and walking the talk. Lambeth turned down assignments from American magazines, which devastated his income, and Milton self-published his poems from I’ve Tasted My Blood when its original publisher, McGraw- Hill Ryerson, “sold out” to an American firm. This act of publishing was meant as a pre-emptive move against McGrawHill’s claim that it owned the contracts and could sell them without the author’s approval. Poems Committed is a mimeographed typescript bound with string, and an author’s note on the top page that reads in part: “Of course it’s illegal to ‘sell contracts’—including hockey contracts—still it’s done. Slavery was officially abolished some generations ago, but to avoid legal fiddle-faddle which I couldn’t afford, and especially to strike a blow at Yankee Imperialism I did with the poems what I eventually intend to do with all my poems—declare them in the Public Domain . . .” Michel was also given to grand gesture. His legendary letter to Henry Moore, written in 1973, at the time the Art Gallery of Ontario decided to build a gallery to house Moore’s work, asked him to refuse the Gallery’s offer in solidarity with Canadian artists who were never given such prominence, and had to struggle against the Gallery’s colonial-minded infatuation with American and European work. The letter went over like an evil smell, though Moore did write him back. A year earlier, Michel had been part of the public protests against the appointment of an American to the post of chief curator at the Gallery (the second to hold that position and the second non-Cana-

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dian). A march was staged on July 4, with Lambeth in the lead dressed as Uncle Sam. In the ensuing encounter, he and the poet Jim Brown managed to chain themselves to office furniture, and with several others, including Milton, staged a three-hour sit-in. The police were called and the media came, too, and for the first time the issue hit the papers. Along with the street theatre and the political organizing, there were some admittedly crazed moments. At a meeting of the Toronto local of CAR (Canadian Artists’ Representation), which Michel was chairing, he suddenly veered off the agenda into an operatic rant that went on seemingly for hours. In his royal blue Mao jacket, eyes sparking, left hand pulling at his short, black beard, Michel harangued the hell out of us until people got up and left. Michel died in despair in April 1977, and almost exactly a year later, on Easter weekend, I got a call from Milton at full throttle. He’d run into Michel in a bar in Hamilton the night before. It was Michel, he said. They’d talked; they’d argued. He was sure. Dead sure.

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hat I loved most about Milton and Michel was the combination of grit and joie de vivre. Their revolution included dancing and love poetry. And there is one poem in The Island Means Minago that brings me back every time to Michel’s photograph: When my lover looks at me she stares from a distance within herself to a distance in me. Thus all lovers should look.

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Susan Crean is a Toronto writer who scandalously also loves B.C. and lived there for ten years. Read her Geist work at geist.com.

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The driver said, “Are you fit to travel, sir?” and the crack smoker said, “Are any of us fit to travel?”

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me, okay? If you don’t, and you’re too cold or too hot, it’s your own fault.” Twenty minutes into the ride I took out my journal and wrote “FREEDOM” on a fresh page. Dare to dream! Fifteen hours to go.

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utside the Vancouver bus station at 5:00 a.m., a man with a limp approached me for money and cigarettes. I gave him a dollar and said, “See you later,” though I didn’t plan on it. Inside I counted out change for breakfast at the station café. I now had three dollars, and Calgary was fifteen hours away. I bought a bottle of water (one-fifty) and clutched my lunch bag. By 6:00 a.m., we were all shuffling onto the bus. I sat down. The seat was wrong. I didn’t like the view. I tried one on the other side of the aisle but that one was wrong too—there was a stain on the armrest, or possibly a bit of old gum. I got up and tried another. I finally came to terms with the fact that this trip was going to suck no matter where I sat. I settled in. This was to be my second-longest

Greyhound trip, my record having been attained years earlier with a twenty-sixhour journey from Montreal to Myrtle Beach, undertaken in the name of adolescent drinking. But I was younger then and sturdier of mind, and my mother had given me sleeping pills for the journey. We rolled out of the depot and into the faint light of dawn. The bus driver addressed us: “Good morning, everybody. We’re about ready to get on the road here. Hopefully everything’ll go smoothly . . . usually when I do this trip there’s an avalanche or a rockslide or something and I end up having to dig us out of the snow and whatnot. Anyway, let me know if you’re too cold or too hot so I can adjust the coach temperature. I can’t feel it, ’cause I’ve got my own controls up here. I can’t tell if it’s too hot in the coach. You’ve got to tell

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t 6:30 a.m., we pulled into our first stop. It was unexpected: the signage at the Vancouver bus depot had indicated only five or six stops along the thousand-kilometre route to Calgary. When I read the itinerary at the bus station, I had been amused by place names like Salmon Arm and Chilliwack. But we were in Coquitlam, and had barely left our starting point. What was going on? When I saw the long line of people preparing to embark, I knew that the two-seats-to-myself situation was over. What to do? What to do? Pile my luggage onto the seat next to me like the girl across the aisle? I only had one small bag! Pretend to be crazy? I cursed my cute outfit. Who’d believe I was insane in an ironed cardigan? The masses began to board. I threw myself across the empty seat and pretended to sleep. The first few people filed past, but more people kept coming. I held fast, my eyes screwed shut, my mouth hanging open. I even threw in the occasional muscle twitch. What was taking so long? I risked a peek. The queue was endless. People tramped down the aisle single file, carrying cardboard boxes and children, shopping bags dangling from their free fingers. I closed my eyes again. “Excuse me.” The inevitable call to action. I didn’t move. “Excuse me.” I maintained position. Then—the shoulder tap. It came like a thunderclap at sea. I raised myself and surrendered to an older, pissed-off looking woman. I hated this woman. I hated her with all

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my heart and soul. Because of her, I now had half a square metre to myself for fourteen and a half hours. Because of you, I hissed internally. Because of you! (I also hated the girl across the aisle, whose mountain of luggage had protected her.) I sat up and wiped the pretend-sleep from my eyes. Oh, I had been disturbed. The woman sat down beside me. “This bus is a real piece of crap,” she said. I agreed that it was. “My name’s Pam. Are you going all the way to Calgary?” I said something like “You bet your hat.” “Well, the bus usually empties out at Revelstoke. Maybe I can leave you alone again after that.” Pam understood. She was an angel. I told her that this was my first time taking this bus. “Really? Well, it gets pretty later on. But the first ten hours are a real pain in the arse.”

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watched people boarding the bus. One, a teenager, got on with a friend. He walked with a limp and wore clothes several sizes too big for his tiny body. His head was shaven bald and covered with tiny cuts. He told his friend that he was going to fall over if he didn’t sit down soon. “Whoa,” said his friend, who held his arm and steered him into the closest row. He collapsed into the seat. He was holding a cereal box. His friend, who looked spiffy in that teenaged drug dealer way (crisp hoodie, polished silver chain) gave him a supportive shoulder slap and left the bus. The small bald teen—a crack smoker, I guessed— held his cereal box in his lap and stared straight ahead of him. Wouldn’t he be more comfortable if he put his Frosted Flakes in the overhead bin? I decided not to say anything.

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More people got on. Most of them possessed a downtrodden Oliver Twist look, only less thin. A tall man with short black hair and a porous complexion, like an orange, stomped up the stairs. He was smoking a cigarette and had a canvas backpack slung over one shoulder. He continued to smoke his cigarette until he was three rows deep in the belly of the coach, at which point he turned and tossed the burning stub out the door. He took the seat behind me. I heard the cords of his bag being untied and then the unfurling of metal. Through the crack between Pam’s seat and mine, I could see him nibbling pieces of tinned salmon from the end of a fork. We prepared to depart Coquitlam. The bus driver, expertly manoeuvring his tremendous girth down the aisle, collected our tickets. He arrived at the back and stopped. “Sir?” he said. “Where are you going today? . . . Sir?” No one answered. He began to shout. “Sir? Where are you going today? Sir?” There was no reply. “Are you fit to travel, sir?” “Are any of us fit to travel?” said the crack smoker.

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THE MOU NTAINS

e stopped every three hours; we filed out of the bus to gather in clumps and smoke cigarettes. When we weren’t smoking there was a lot of talk about doing it later, like “Man, I’m gonna love that smoke.” Those who didn’t have cigarettes bargained for them, the havenots offering the haves whatever change was around. Money was never accepted, but everyone appreciated the gesture. In Golden, the man who sat behind me told me he fished. It was seasonal work, he said, so he got to move around. In the summer he fished and lived in a river. “In the shallow part, on the rocks,” he explained. “I’ve got a van.” In winter he left for the Okanagan Valley,

where he fixed logging equipment and sometimes drove a tractor. He blew the smoke from his joint out the side of his mouth so it wouldn’t get in my face. Nine hours into the ride we stopped at Revelstoke, where the bus did empty out as Pam had promised. The sun beat down on the concrete expanse by the tiny bus depot. Inside there were pamphlets about skiing, and bags of gummy candies, and a vending machine selling coffee, black or with cream. We sat on the curb in the shade, waiting for the driver to gather us up again. I traced the outline of my bare toes with a stick. The crack smoker got out his pipe and lit it. No one said anything. The migrant worker sidled up again and asked where I was coming from. He couldn’t believe he’d forgotten to ask. “Vancouver,” I told him. He asked if I lived there; I said I lived in Spain. “Spain!” he said. “For now,” I said, “but I’m from Montreal.” “Montreal!” he said. It was my first time out west, I said. “Yeah? Pretty beautiful, eh?” It was. The mountains rose behind the gas station, the McDonald’s and the boxy houses of the town; they were tremendous, they made the town look funny, like an amusing attempt at permanence. Ha ha, civilization, I thought. How ridiculous streets and buildings and people seemed against a landscape like this, that had always been here, that had nothing to do with gas prices or the calories in a Big Mac, or a kid smoking crack on the sidewalk. I spent the rest of my money on cherries from a fruit stand by the gas station. I bought ten of them, because that was what I could afford. When we got back on the bus, Pam moved across the aisle and I was finally on my own. The migrant worker offered me peanuts, which I didn’t want, and I offered him cherries, which

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he didn’t want but politely tried anyway. The little boy sitting in front of me twisted in his seat. “Where are we, Mom?” he asked repeatedly. “Mom, where are we?” “Hey kid,” said the crack smoker from a few seats up. “Be quiet.” The kid went still. “Thanks, kid.” Four hours to go. I stared out the window, the only tourist on the bus. Everyone else dozed or talked. They’d all done this a hundred times. No one listened to music, or sent texts, or took pictures. There was just quiet, and trees, and the counting down of time.

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Katie Addleman writes for the Walrus, Elle Canada and This Magazine, among others. She lives in Toronto. Read her Geist writings at geist.com.

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What a time for this to happen! One look at me and the psychiatrist would decide I was just plain nuts

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hen I was living in New York in the 1960s, almost everyone I knew was walking or running to the office of some psychiatrist. A hilarious drawing by the cartoonist Whitney Darrow, in The New Yorker, depicting two parents and their children lying side by side on an office floor in session with a psychiatrist, was said to have been drawn from his own life—or so Whitney claimed. I might have travelled the psychiatry route, which my doctor urged me to do after a painful divorce, except for a ludicrous mistake that saved me. My doctor referred me to a psychiatrist whose office was right around the corner from me, two blocks uptown and two streets across. On the morning of my appointment, I woke up early in a

nervous fit. I fiddled around, trying to decide what to wear; and then, what would I say when I got there? But time was running out, and a voice in my head said, Hey! You better hurry up, or you’ll be late. Before I could dress, I had to have a bath. I was going to a doctor, wasn’t I? For as long as I can remember, I have never gone to a doctor or dentist or therapist appointment without performing three sacred rituals: a bath, then the toilet; and finally, brushing my teeth. I rushed through my bath, put on my best suit, a red one imported from Switzerland with brass buttons and green trim, ran back into the bathroom to the toilet and then to the sink, grabbed my toothbrush and toothpaste and scrubbed

my teeth. Then I reached for the mouthwash, a small bottle of red Lavoris, opened my mouth and sprayed inside. A quick glance sideways in the mirror, a flash of red. Great heavens—my teeth were bright red! I shut my eyes and opened them again. I was not having a bad dream. My teeth actually were bright red. By mistake, I had picked up the small bottle beside the Lavoris, whose contents were also red, and sprayed my teeth with the red antiseptic Merthiolate. I looked at my watch. Right now I should be on the street, halfway to my appointment. I shakily squeezed more toothpaste on my brush and scrubbed my teeth, hard. They were still bright red. The colour was not washing away. What a time for this to happen! And with a psychiatrist, of all people. One look and he would decide I was just plain nuts. I opened my mouth and bared my teeth in front of the mirror, and tried to imagine that I was the psychiatrist seeing me, the patient, for the first time. I definitely looked crazy. I hoped that eventually the red would wear off. In the meantime, after this appointment—which it was too late to cancel—I would have to go into hiding. I ran to the elevator, which crept slowly down eight floors, fled out the front door of my building and sprinted up the street. I stopped only once, to grin at myself in the glass of a store window. I could only pray: please, Doctor, whoever you are, have a sense of humour. I arrived at the psychiatrist’s office, panting, with only one minute to spare. A small bald man in a white coat and gold-rimmed glasses opened the door. He introduced himself and led the way into his office, which was furnished with the usual desk and chair and another chair opposite, as well as a black leather couch off to one side. He sat down behind his desk and pointed to the chair

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facing him. I sank into it while he silently stared at me. I took a deep breath. Then I smiled my red smile. I thought, if he doesn’t smile back, I’m lost. “You may wonder why I have red teeth,” I began hesitantly, continuing to smile. He looked at me and waited. What could he possibly be thinking? I stumbled through an explanation of how I had prepared for my appointment with him by taking a bath, putting on my clothes and brushing my teeth, then spraying them with Merthiolate. “A mistake,” I said with a nervous laugh. “I . . . I . . . thought I was spraying my mouth with Lavoris, which I always do before I go to a doctor. You know, brush my teeth, take a bath . . . and . . . so on . . . My mother always . . .” My voice trailed off. Oh, those cold eyes! That stony face! As we used to say, not a laugh in a carload. After an awful silence, he said, “What do you do?” “I’m a writer,” I said. I brightened up. “As a matter of fact, I have a piece in The New Yorker magazine this week.” “What’s it about?” he said. I smiled again, producing another impressive view of my scarlet teeth. “Eskimo food,” I said. His eyebrows went up. Again he waited, silently. I stumbled through another explanation, this time of how I had just returned from a trip to Arctic Canada, where I had been observing attempts by Canadian government officials to introduce canned varieties of traditional Inuit foods, seal and whale meat and whale blubber, into Native communities. During weather so bad that the Inuit could not go out to hunt, or when their main food, caribou, mysteriously disappeared, they were threatened with and sometimes died from starvation. The challenge, I went on, was to

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convince the Inuit that foods they had always consumed fresh could safely be eaten from a can during periods of food scarcity. We had brought with us canned samples of whale meat, seal flippers and especially the blubber they loved to chew, for them to try. The psychiatrist was not at all interested in an experiment that I thought was fascinating. He fiddled with the pencils on his desk, made a few notes and abruptly changed the subject. He spent the rest of our allotted time in a thinly disguised attempt to find out whether I would be able to pay for future sessions. We made an appointment for the following week, and I departed. What an ordeal. The day before I was to return for a further exploration of my psyche, I called up and cancelled. There was a pause at his end of the phone. “I will of course expect you to pay for the cancelled session,” he said. “You can give the payment to me when you come again the following week.” “Oh, Doctor, I won’t be coming back,” I said. “And since I am giving you plenty of notice, I will not be paying you for the cancelled session.” It was a long time before I sought help again. Then it was with a Danish therapist who read to me from Hans Christian Andersen, and helped me plan the menu for the first dinner party I was going to give in my whole life all by myself. I was going to have a pot roast because it was so easy, and I was agonizing over whether to serve rice or potatoes with it. “Potatoes,” he said.

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Edith Iglauer is the author of five books, including Inuit Journey and The Strangers Next Door, and many articles in The New Yorker, Atlantic and other publications. Read her most recent piece in Geist, “Sightseeing, Anyone?” (No. 75), and more of her work at geist.com.

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On Loving the Bus

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SERGE BOUCHARD

I was failing math, a teacher was humiliating me, a girl was breaking my heart—no matter, I had the bus to cheer me up

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n 1952, Pointe-aux-Trembles, one of the oldest parishes in Montreal, was still a town in its own right. The famous chemin du Roy went through it from one end to the other, on its way to Montreal or to Quebec. The road stuck to the banks of the St. Lawrence River so that cars might trace the water’s path, faithful to the memory of another age, mindful of their family ties to barges and canoes.

My family lived there in 1952, at the water’s edge, on the tip of the island. It was, we knew, an unreal place that had reached the end of its natural life: a church, a convent, a college, a few businesses downtown, and handsome houses belonging to judges, doctors and notaries on large lots overlooking the St. Lawrence. Tall hundred-year-old aspen, elm and silver maples crowned

the rue Notre Dame and made it seem, at least in summer, like a never-ending boulevard, outside of time, lit and shaded like an impressionist painting. When we were little boys, my brother and I would wait outside for our father to get home from his job driving cab in town. The game was to see who would be first to spot his black car, a ’54 Dodge marked Diamond Taxi, licence #69. He worked nights and got home around eight in the morning. How many times did we take up our posts on the sidewalk of rue Notre Dame, eyes peeled, facing westward, hoping that each faraway car would be the one? That’s how I got into buses, without even noticing. During those long waits the buses passed by one after another— exactly as buses are meant to do. They were beautiful: round-backed and brown. I started to make mental notes of their numbers. The buses’ faces grew familiar to me, and the faces of the drivers, who wore grey uniforms and caps. Each bus had its own particular sound as it accelerated and decelerated, a way of moving all its own. I’m talking about the 1950s Canadian Car coaches, each with a number in the 600s, operating on the 86 Notre-Dame route. Bus by bus, a map was being drawn in my mind. When my brother and I went to high school, we took the bus from Pointeaux-Trembles, the end of the world, to CollPge Mont-Saint-Louis in town on the corner of Sanguinet and Sherbrooke. From 1959 to 1967 we undertook this protracted commute every weekday morning and evening, an hour and a half each way. We started on good old route 86, which took us out of our world, past the cement works, the chemical plant and the eight refineries of the spectacular, mysterious oilcompany lands of Montreal East. At the Georges V terminus we got off the bus. Armed with our transfers, we switched to the 185 and covered the entire

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length of East Sherbrooke Street to the Pie IX terminus, where we got on the 4 Sherbrooke-Downtown. That bus took us to Saint-Denis and—finally!—to school. Over the years this bus thing grew in importance. I didn’t tell anyone about it—neither my family nor my travelling companions—but people eventually noticed. I got to know each vehicle personally, became familiar with its beat, its comings and goings. I noticed the arrival of the brand spanking new 4600s and 4700s, as well as the gradual sidelining and eventual exclusion of the older models. It wasn’t long before I started collecting transfers, in the early ’60s. I was a teenager, stricken by a tender madness. Buses occupied as important a position in my education as Roman history or Greek grammar. I classified, retained and observed; I both fed and lubricated my mind on an improbable and impossible subject. Three hours a day to organize an entire universe in my head, a universe I could share with no one—but such happiness, such peace, such sweet consolation. The bus was my bulwark against life’s slings and arrows. I was failing math, a teacher was humiliating me, a girl was breaking my heart—no matter, I had the bus to cheer me up. Against the pall of the everyday, of routine, I became a bus—a particular one, no other: the brown and beige Canadian Car 4624. I was too young to understand what was happening at the time. All I had was a kind of instinct that pushed me along on a zen-like return trip, a celestial path of humility and wisdom—time, space, terminus—a perpetual motion between labour and rest, faithfulness and repetition, the unity of place, the infinitely variable sets and combinations of transfers. Between 1967 and 1973, I removed

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myself from the known world and went deeper into terra incognita. I had no way of knowing that once I got on the bus I would never get off—I would just change routes a few times. I went to Labrador; I went around the world. I became an ethnographer, a bit of a maniac, a little crazier and certainly more marginal. I was an Algonquin, a pine tree; I immersed myself in ethnohistory and took on more obscure subjects: comparative semantics, structuralism, taxonomies and classifications, world views, orality, paganism, the imaginary and the sacred. Because I was on the bus and I never got off, I missed out on all the shows and highlights of my generation. In May ’67 I wasn’t at Expo, and the October Crisis didn’t make the news at Lake Uinukupau, between Meshikamau and Minishtiku-nipi. Pierre Bourgault, Hubert Aquin—they weren’t even on my radar. The news, public opinion and ideas of that time escaped me. Oblivious to the intellectual trends of the quiet revolution, I wasn’t a Marxist, or a nationalist. I was nothing. Even today, when discussion turns to the ’60s, I feel like an extraterrestrial looking down from another planet, uncomprehending.

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didn’t resent the English or the priests, only Reason, the arrogance of the Logos toward our “primitive, inferior” thought. I resented the reason of the English in equal measure to that of the French, the narrow-mindedness of the clergy, the poverty of the rich. I resented the historical lies and injustices inherent in our point of view. In 1975, all alone in my studies, I became a vehicle for my PhD in anthropology. The purpose was not to get closer to the real world. I was driving ever further away, to the outskirts of my

studies on human imagination and symbolism. In my madness I was digging ever deeper. Life had become a long road, forever describing a never-ending circle. And that’s when, one pleasant evening between trips, looking through old papers in a cabinet, I came across an intriguing stash: my complete collection of bus transfers from Montreal in the early ’60s. I had put together this treasure without meaning to, in high school, travelling ceaselessly back and forth between Pointe-aux-Trembles and downtown. Now, seeing it again fifteen years later, I was deeply touched. I had found my long lost papers, I could see the route and its terminus—but I could only wonder where it had gone, this world that no longer existed. My buses were dead. They had met their end in 1967, when the City of Montreal decided to turn over a new leaf—just like that, brutally and without respect for tradition. My buses had gone from brown to a sickly technocratic blue that made me uneasy and later became the colour of Quebec’s political apparatus. To make matters worse, they had modernized the fleet. My buses were no longer round, with a face and an ass; they were squared off and soulless, like ordinary packing crates. Where once there had been well-proportioned eyes and sleek lines there was now a panoramic windshield without a hint of elegance. It looked like an aquarium. Devoid of curves, faceless—all its charms were gone. Nostalgia is a deep, profoundly human malady that takes us back to our beginnings. Every brain is a galaxy, and there are billions of galaxies, and each is shining somewhere off in outer space with its own singular history and memory, yet each obeys the same laws. The local is universal—it is precisely because

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something is local that it is universal. The regular bus has never once departed from its route, yet it has gone around the world. The secret is written in the stars; the starting point will always be the terminus. Why have I so loved the bus? Why this collection of transfers? Why does a framed photograph of two Canadian Car 600s crossing paths on rue Saint-Hubert in 1956 occupy a place of honour on my bedroom wall? It was a birthday present from my girlfriend, who went to the trouble of tracking it down at the archives of the Montreal Transit Authority. Why? I can well imagine the archivist’s face when she told him that nothing in the world would make her boyfriend happier than this, an ordinary photograph of two buses, in winter, on Saint-Hubert: the 669 and the 627 passing each other on a Wednesday afternoon. I was a kid, entranced, in love. I was in love with an elm tree, a frog, a hockey stick, a stone wall, a river, my neighbour Sylvie, my brothers, my sisters, my marbles, my grade 2 teacher Hélène, the brown bus, my bike. Vain remembrances, useless to me now: the elm has been cut down, the frog is long dead, the hockey stick broken, my bicycle disappeared into thin air; I lost the marbles in a game and I never saw Sylvie again, and my sisters and brothers have been taken from me, either by death or by life. And he never existed, that whitehaired driver in a grey twill shirt and a cap emblazoned with the transit authority logo—an arrow going through a circle— driving his bus along route 86, more handsome than any doctor, holding the steering wheel as if it were tremendously important, this driver who wore gloves just like a pilot, like a giant. New chapters open, the titles roll, doors appear and we go through them

into fields, undiscovered countries of questions that will never be answered. Through these doors we see the theory of points of origin and points of departure, an essay on perpetual motion, a reflection on one-way and return trips, the search for transfers and connections: between the belly of the whale and the mother’s stomach, between honey and civilization, the raw and the cooked, the weight of the sky in our head, the shape of the turtle, the curves of the bus; an essay on art, on style, culture and representation, the typography of bus stations, the face of a truck, the circuits connecting cells, mythologies and archetypes, the theory of doors, walls and obstacles, breakthroughs and repercussions; my bus was a salmon who was a tree who was hiding a rope to catch the moon. In July 1944, in a sidebar so small you could easily miss it, Le Devoir reported the death, in Boston, of Jack Wimsley at the age of forty-four. His was a prodigious childhood—piano virtuoso at age eight, several languages mastered at age ten and the youngestever graduate of Harvard University in nuclear physics. But at age twenty he gave it all up and spent the rest of his life in a menial job at a branch library. He left behind only one known publication, a three-hundred-page essay called “On the Importance of Collecting Bus Transfers.” Serge Bouchard is a well-known Quebec anthropologist, writer and radio host. He has written thirteen books in French, one of which, Caribou Hunter, has also been published in English (Greystone Books). A longer version of this essay appeared in French in the journal L’inconvénient.

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Pablo Strauss lives in Quebec City and misses B.C., including the red, white and blue B.C. Transit Flyer trolley buses.

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Getting Textual

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J IL L M A R GO 25

What does the Facebook message mean? Half-cut, we subject it to various decoding methodologies

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note from A. has just landed in my Facebook inbox. I’ve only met A. twice—once two weeks ago at the Waterfront Theatre, and the first time about a year ago at a Gastown pub. He’s a playwright and a theatre critic, an acquaintance of a dear friend. He’s tall and large, with lips like a pair of matching loveseats. His hair is expressive, which is to say that when he talks he puts his hands in his hair and his hair talks back. He also wears cardigans. GQ says cardigans are hot right now, but I don’t think he knows that. I only know because my cousin the metrosexual said so. A. does not look like a metrosexual; he looks like a professor in a cardigan who needs a haircut. The note gives me instant hermeneutic anxiety. That means I’m anxious

about interpreting its meaning. Hermeneutic anxiety is a new term I’ve just learned in my lit theory class. I’ve been overusing it because, as it turns out, I have hermeneutic anxiety about many things. My lit theory textbook allows me to believe this is because I have a bright and curious mind, not because I am obsessive and afraid of making mistakes. It’s better to find your ailment in The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism than in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. I take the Norton seriously because it is heady, dangerous stuff, and hefty enough to kill a man. My hermeneutic anxiety revolves around the fact that I think the note’s purpose may be to ask me on a date, but I’m not sure. I’m not all that versed in

date language. In fact, I’ve never really dated—unless you count things like a guy coming over to smoke a joint and staying for eight years. Or getting drunk and asking some guy at the bar if he’s ever seen a chubby girl strip. In other words, the notion of a date, and all its pretences, freaks me out. Plus, my heart’s been closed for renovations. It’s been a real mess in there, debris everywhere. I print out the thirty-six-word note in order to subject it to various methodologies of decoding because I have my lit theory class as an excuse. I’m interested in what kind of metamessage might be revealed, though I don’t know if this little game will reinforce or diffuse my hermeneutic anxiety. Still, it seems like a reasonable thing to do on a Thursday night while hanging out with the cat. I assign each letter of the alphabet a number (1 to 26, but they all reduce to 1 to 9), colours (prismatic) and musical notes (middle C to B), and then apply these to the text as a kind of forced synesthesia. I envy synesthetes, for whom the number 3 is the deep orange of a good egg yolk and scarlet is the clangour of a trumpet. The letters converted to numbers add up to the number 798. Simple “digit summing” reveals that the single-digit reduction of the text is the number 6 (7 + 9 + 8 = 24 and 2 + 4 = 6). The Lovers is the sixth trump card in the tarot deck and represents a temptation of the heart. This is not a metaphysical guarantee of the meaning of fate, but it is a nice sign. “Who wants a new daddy?” I ask the cat. The note has a fairly even balance of orange, green and violet. It’s got a lesser amount of indigo, and only a spot of yellow. There’s lots of red but even more blue, including two words (see and else) that contain no other colour. Blue is my least favourite colour and that

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photo: TEXTING AT BOLD CITY by charles w. coates

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bums me out, but then I remember my desert island album is Joni Mitchell’s Blue and I feel better. I wonder why I wasn’t more careful with the colour palette, though. A rainbow of tasteful earth and fire tones would’ve guaranteed a pleasing interpretation—which, on second thought, would’ve been like stacking the deck. Blue, I decide, is a reality check. The song the note makes is fairly harmonious and quite sunny with very little drama. I plunk it out one note at a time on a virtual keyboard I’ve found on the internet. It’s hardly a step up from my nephew’s Fisher-Price piano, which I should’ve borrowed. After hitting repeat a few times, I can haltingly hum along. When I start adding drumbeats where the punctuation marks are, the neighbour girl turns up her Patsy Cline. She’s had “Faded Love” on repeat for hours, and I’ve been considering taking her a care package of chocolate and Kleenex. I decide I can no longer concentrate on making a song out of A.’s text when the neighbour girl’s heart is breaking. I don’t understand the language of dating, but I do understand the grammar of endings. The next night I go to my friend Megan’s thirty-sixth birthday party and talk to a redhead I’ve just met named Carmen about my studies. Carmen’s the size of a pot roast, though she’s a vegetarian and slim, so maybe I should say she’s the size of something less meaty. I could say she’s child-sized but that might diminish your idea about her brain, which sizzles smartly. When I confess to her what I’ve been doing with the note she gets excited and wants to see it. Conveniently, it’s in my backpack. Other party-goers want to know what we’re burbling about. We take the note into the kitchen and I explain. I’m loud because I’m half-cut. Brian, Megan’s boyfriend, self-describes as thinking along the borders of anarchism, Marxism

and post-structuralism. His degrees in cat years would put most people into senility. When I stand beside him with the note he says, “So, we need to perform a textual analysis.” He pushes up his sleeves like he’s going to do the dishes. This is what people with high IQs do when things get textual. “Hey Jill!” A. writes in salutation and Brian reads out. We note the casualness of “Hey” and the enthusiasm of the exclamation mark. We are usually anti-exclamation mark in a literary sense but acknowledge that it’s a gesture of tone. It’s forgivable in this context and better than an emoticon because I don’t know what most of them mean >.< . “Hope you’re doing well, enjoying Vancouver—and of course, recovered from the puppet show.” We agree that hope is an expectation that something good is due to happen, which means that it also acknowledges that things might actually, as Brian says, “totally suck.” I have a new appreciation for the word hope because of the bases it covers. I explain to Brian—and Megan and her roommate Darren, who are also listening—that I ran into A. at the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, where we’d just seen a puppet show. I’d confessed to A. that I had a mild, though not very committed, case of pupaphobia when he asked me how I liked the show. I also said that I felt like I’d watched it aboard a 747 because the legroom was so bad, which is a line that I stole from Colin Thomas, the Georgia Straight’s reviewer, who was sitting next to me. “So he’s referencing your last encounter with a sense of humour,” says Brian. “Right on,” says Darren, leaning against the counter looking cute and badass. Darren is an animal-rights activist who was just incarcerated for thirtyseven months in the U.S. for freeing

wild horses. I think he’s also sleeping with Carmen. The next line of the note is what caused my hermeneutic anxiety in the first place: “Would be great to meet up for a drink.” Carmen, when she read that line, declared, “It is a study in neutrality.” She said this as reverently as someone might say, “It is a symphony in D minor.” “Look at that stunning lack of pronouns,” I exclaim to Brian. “My god,” he says. “The line has insulated itself perfectly against rejection,” I say. “If I didn’t want to meet for this drink—if in fact it is I who the non-existent he thinks would be great to meet for a drink—in effect there is no one to even turn down!” Megan lifts her glass of red wine, leans forward on her tiptoes, and says, “Just go on the date.” It’s hard to tell if this is her pragmatic refusal to interpret the note, or if it is, in fact, her interpretation. Megan is very intelligent and has been writing about reading Saramago during the economic collapse. It’s her birthday, though, and her main job at the moment is to look pretty in her party dress. I think Megan wants me to go on the date because it’s time for me to get over my dead boyfriend. I’m all for getting over my dead boyfriend too. Hell, even my dead boyfriend probably wants me to get over him. “Beer is for buddies,” I say. “True,” says Brian. “And this is a drink.” “Classic,” says Megan. There’s a line break in A.’s note and then he writes, “My number is . . .” We all agree that providing his number is a referential act and it fits with pre-existing conventions around dating—i.e., phone number = “I want you to call me so we can go on a date.” It’s also the first

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time A. has really asserted himself in the note. He’s confident about his phone number. The last line in the body of the note says, “Did you see anything else at PuSh?” Brian notes he’s inviting conversation and even an opinion, should I wish to give it. “He also capitalized the S in PuSh, which is what PuSh does and that shows respect for the arts,” I say. “Plus, a guy who can respect unconventional capitalization probably has a pleasant sense of propriety. He’s civilized.” “Look at this,” says Brian, noticing the sign-off. “Best [line break] A.,” he reads out, and slaps the page with the back of his hand. “Best has no comma after it,” I say. “The only typo in the note.” “Or is it?” says Brian, one eyebrow going up. “Maybe he’s the best guy whose name starts with the letter A. Or maybe it stands for something else, like Action. Maybe he’s the Best Action.” This revs Darren up. He says “A” like the Fonz says “Aaay.” I’m pretty sure it’s because he’s thinking about how dating leads to getting laid. Darren seems to be very pro-getting laid, which may have something to do with the dry spell in the big house. Megan passes back through the kitchen on her way out to the porch for a cigarette. She looks really great in her party dress. She pauses just long enough to say: “She’s totally going to go on the date.”

Jill Margo has worked as editorial assistant at the Malahat Review, executive director of the Victoria School of Writing and coordinator of two reading series. Her work has been published in the Malahat Review and Monday Magazine, and she was a 2009 Western Magazine Award finalist. She now lives with “A.”—the playwright Andrew Templeton.

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LOST I N CAN ADA Nicholas Ruddock From The Parabolist. Copyright © 2010 Nicholas Ruddock. Published by Doubleday Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved. Nicholas Ruddock is a family physician who lives in Guelph, Ontario, and whose short story “How Eunice Got Her Baby” was published in the 2007 Journey Prize anthology.

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uisa Sanchez did not go to the airport with Roberto Moreno. They sat together at one of the small tables inside Café Flores. They shared a pastelito. Coffee was free after the first cup. I have my ticket, he said, the money is spent, the die is cast. Roberto, she said and she leaned forward as she did so, Roberto, you and your stupid ticket, you are making a big mistake. Poets need their own habitat to breathe. A parabolist will die outside of Mexico, and be forewarned, Roberto Moreno, that you will be dead for me the moment you leave. I don’t really care for you anyway, I never did. He thought about their lovemaking, the nights and mornings and afternoons in the bedroom she shared with her roommate. Roberto, when flight number whateverwhatever-whatever you have, Aeroméxico, raises itself off the tarmac, nothing in my life will change, but you, Roberto, you will be dead. You need chaos, gaps, holes, heat to be yourself, you

know that. Those are the last things you will find in Canada. You will be lost there, lost. It was the first time she had ever spoken to him in this way. Usually she was morose, quiet, introspective. When she finished her outburst, they sat in Café Flores for a while longer but they didn’t speak. They picked at the remnants of the small pastry. She looked out the window at the passing hustle in the street and then she left. She didn’t say another word. She just threw her purse over her shoulder and, instead of turning homeward as he hoped, for then he could have watched her from his vantage point until she disappeared and thus had her in his life for another two minutes, she turned the other way, instinctively.

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t Grad’s Restaurant, Roberto Moreno cut into his apple pie. They had bought him a piece and he ate it with gusto, as though there were nothing wrong. Hmm, he said, there are no apples like this in Mexico. I hope not, they said. Then he asked, what groups of poets are there in Canada? They had already named all the individual poets they could think of, those who wrote in English, although they qualified their response, saying they were medical students, that no doubt they were out of touch with the newest trends in poetry. Yes, perhaps you are, he said, but tell me about groups or movements, poets who share a sensibility, a direction. Well, they said, there’s the Montreal poets. They were a group. They met and discussed their work. They critiqued each other and drank

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wine to excess on rue Chestnut, rue St-Denis, rue Guy. Here in Toronto, said Valerie Anderson, as far as I know, poets are loners. He looked at her and she looked back. How strange, Valerie, said Roberto, because in Mexico City there are hundreds of poetry movements. Poets feed off each other, they achieve strength by numbers, wisdom from exposure to each other’s work. Here he began to speak less casually, as though he were assuming the role of a teacher, which in fact he was. For example, he said, sipping his coffee with a grimace, I am a parabolist and within a few blocks, within my neighbourhood in Mexico City, there are many groups, subgroups, splinter groups and coalescing groups, groups that are not exclusive. It is possible for a poet to belong to more than one as long as their aims are not antithetical. So, in Mexico City, clustered around the area of the national university, as we are here in Toronto, we have, to name a few of the more prominent movements in our poetry—and here he began to walk his thumb along his fingertips to enumerate—all the usual political groups such as the Marxists and the Maoists, but we also have those who have rejected all of that, the concretists, the fluidists, the historicists, urbanists, imagists, antilyricists, adjectivalists, imitationists, infrarealists, reversists, phenomenologists, sensualists, fabulists, grammaticists, ellipticists, caesuracists, semicolonists . . . It seemed Roberto could have gone on endlessly—his command of English was extraordinary—had the students not raised their arms and cried, almost as one, stop Professor! Well, you see what I mean, he said. Jasper Glass then said, Mr. Moreno, some of our Toronto poets get together and publish their work. The House of Anansi. Coach House Press. Oh, that’s what we do in Mexico City too. It’s important for friends to publish each other’s work. That’s how something gets to be known, before it is recognized, before it rises like cream to the top of the bottle of milk. Valerie Anderson asked Roberto Moreno if he could explain the term parabolist to them. The name he had used for himself, for his own work. Parabolist? Well, class, you are scientists, you

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all know the shape of a parabola, how it reflects input to a central core, how it concentrates energy in its solar plexus, so to speak. A poet who is a true parabolist arranges words and ideas in such a way that the energy input burns. Then it explodes in the gut and the chest, where feelings are the deepest, where you can hardly breathe. Whoa, they all thought. Roberto Moreno laughed. Do you believe that? he asked. Then they noticed that the time for their class to end had long passed, and they all had chemistry lab in the morning. Everybody trooped out except for Roberto Moreno, Valerie Anderson and Jasper Glass. They were far too excited to sleep. Let’s go for a walk, they said. So they walked all the way from College Street down Spadina to Dundas, then along Dundas to Markham Street, up Markham to College again, and by then it was nearly midnight and they had talked poetry for so long that Valerie Anderson’s head had begun to ache. I’m getting one of my migraines, she said. How do you know, Valerie? asked Roberto Moreno. I see wavy lines, a shimmer, then the headache starts. I have to go to bed. Sorry. They flagged a cab right away. Church and Isabella, please, Valerie said. She lived in a high-rise, on the third floor, a sublet. At that hour, there were lots of young girls on Isabella Street, in tight leather boots as high as their thighs. After they dropped Valerie Anderson off, Jasper Glass and Roberto Moreno closed down the night at the Silver Dollar on Spadina Avenue. They drank rye whisky in shot glasses and after that they walked a long distance in an extraordinary downpour, in a rain such as Jasper had never seen. Like Mexico has come to Canada, Roberto, he said. Eventually the night came to an end as it often does for poets, be it in Mexico City or in Toronto, in laughter, in oblivion, in the kind of delirious forgetfulness that was impossible, in retrospect, to ever forget, at least for Roberto Moreno.

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A TR E K 25

Louise Bernice Halfe

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From The Crooked Good, published by Coteau Books in 2007. Louise Bernice Halfe, whose Cree name is Sky Dancer, is the author of three books of poetry. She lives near Saskatoon.

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hrough the coat of winter, backpacks heavy, we watched the flare, our mitten thumbs clenched. I’ve sat in my grandfather’s sled going to midnight mass, in hay and layers of blanket. Stars laughed as the horses plowed, bells shattered the snow. The reserve and Alberta borders were all I knew. Wrapped in wool and down, Beloved and I were going East. In the mountains we were otters sliding on one another in the Whiterabbit River’s April thaw. His skin bone-snow. Mine mud-river. After I’d warmed from miles of exhausting cold, a night’s sleep on boughs, my Beloved wiped my frozen face, murmured soon we’d be through Toronto. I faced the traffic West, determined to return to Rib Woman. In a tarp-covered kitchen wâpistikwân explained in Cree the give-away of his youngest to this green-eyed stranger. I, his translator. 100

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I waited in a café of my Beloved’s home town. He’d be back to pick me up, he said, if all went well. I am the give-away, a daughter of the country in a mountain marriage.

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Voices wailed inside. Love no matter how deep has its penalties. A woman ran up the stairs singing muffled songs of her wayward son. The song clung to each step as if a church organ broke from strain. We loaded the stoneboat with my meager belongings. Hiked aspin’s crutches and lifted her brokenness. She saw beyond trees, over mountains. The woods witnessed this wedded walk. The table is set with finery. I’ve seen this in the rectory of nuns and priest. My Beloved’s jaw is clenched. I am the only one who sees. The man leans and asks, “What does your father do?” I watched my father White Hair’s lovely burnt muscle lift the sugar beet hoe as he laboured in the excited sun. For a penny or two he skinned, stretched beaver. Walked in thundering cold to find a ride to the sick building. I lay soaked in whooping cough. My English is not good enough. I answer, “My father is a common labourer and lives on skid row.”

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nôhkomak’s voices keep interrupting, eager to have their say. I see them, give-away brides starry-eyed as I, as they trudged behind their fur-trader husbands.

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LOST I N TH E W E ST E D MON TON MAL L

J E S U S AI N ’ T L I K E M E

Charles Bernstein

Mike Spry

“You Never Looked So Simulating,” a poem presented at the In(ter)ventions conference in Banff, February 2010, and first published in West Coast LINE. Charles Bernstein is a poet, theorist, editor and literary scholar, and he teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. His most recent collection of poetry is All the Whiskey in Heaven, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2010. Read his previous work in Geist at geist.com.

From Pistol: A Caliber Supply of Poesy, Prosaic Compositions, Deviceful Accuracies, Pictorial Arts & Contrivances published by PistolPress in 2008. Mike Spry is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in Matrix, f illing Station and This Magazine. His collection of poetry JACK (Snare Books, 2008) was shortlisted for the QWF’s A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry. He lives in Montreal and at snarebooks. wordpress.com/books/mike-spry.

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he next stop was Edmonton where I got lost in the Fantasyland Mall on the way to one of the demikeynotes at the International Association for Philosophy and Literature “Thinking Between Poetry & Philosophy” convention & so missed most of the lecture on the “The Ineluctable Split of Poetry’s Unsayable Name: Reading Derrida through Nietzsche’s Unknowable Answer to Celan’s Joyce (A Response to Benjamin).” Many of the conventioneers noted that the “Bourbon Street” food mall was a perfect example of “simulation” — a view I have trouble understanding (not unusual for me) since the patrons of the food court seem to enjoy the fact that “Bourbon Street” is ineluctably in the West Edmonton Mall & the designers of the street seemed to go out of their way to emphasize this fact, making it look like a plaster cast sketch of a picture of a New Orleans street & not like the “real thing” at all; the only ones fooled were we conventioneers having our dinner as we chatted about the breakdown of reality and simulacra (or simusoy for the lactose intolerant). & talk about authentically local as you might, the Buffalo wings on Bourbon Street in the West Edmonton Mall never tasted so real or would have. I had trout.

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o fer a while right, I’m full a questions eh. Like, what’s heaven like and where’d He go there between thirteen and thirty or whatever and what’s His Dad up to and how come we ain’t won a gold medal in hockey in fifty years and is Elvis Aaron Presley really dead, or does he live in Tweed like my buddy Dave from Killaloe tells me and how do fax machines work and you know, important stuff. An He does His best to answer me, but He’s gotta be all coy like right, cause ya can’t just give all the answers to just some fella like me up the Bay. An I ask can He see the future and whatnot, and kinda half jokingly say we should lay some bets down, like in that Back in the Future movie with the Vancouver kid who’s got the palsy. An He says He can’t see the future, that He’s just a man like me now, an I says you ain’t like me Jesus, I jerk off and cuss and shit, and I killed a guy once in Peterbora by mistake, but I don’t mention the last part cause I’m afraid of some smiting or whatever, but He says not like that, but mortal and shit. I says to Jesus eh, the Lord here man, I says to Him that’s a raw deal and He says ya the resurrection really fucked Him and He never really trusted his Dad like, cause why would you be resurrected during a Neil show at the CNE right.

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M A A N D TIGHT COR N E R S : T I P SY CU RV Y

From Autopsy of a Turvy World, published by Frontenac House in 2008. Sheri-D Wilson is a poet, performer, filmmaker, educator, producer and activist.

“It goes like stink!” — Ma, 1969

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t was a turquoise 1957 Chevy with the truck engine. And Ma would drive that old jalopy around corners, hell bent like a Formula One demon on speed, and she’d yell, Hang on! We’d be in the back seat changing from our school clothes into our brownie uniforms, and she’d take the corner with a fighting spirit, on two wheels, and we’d hang onto the seats for dear life, gripping with our fingertips till our lips turned psych ward white, and then both car doors on one side would go flying open, no holy shit handles we’d hang on to that front seat with the fake fur seat covers so we didn’t go flying out . . . Whoaoooo . . . . . . and then the corner would be over and the heavy ’57 Chevy doors would come flying shut. Bang!

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Back then, when they’d give us matches to play with and guns to shoot the bottles lined up on the fence for fun.

Bang! And we’d go back to changing our clothes and eating our Kentucky Fried Chicken right out of the barrel, like pros, finger lickin’ good, back then, before seat belts and car seats and sun block and water wings.

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Back when you could ride without a helmet, feel the wind in your hair.

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Back then. It was a turquoise 1957 Chevy with the truck engine. Because of Ma I’ve never been afraid of the dark. She taught me how to stay on my toes, dance with danger. And she’s funny. Damn, she’s funny. Always makes me laugh. Sometimes it scares me when I think I might be like her, on two wheels. Hang on!

DELICIOUS DREAD Lorna Crozier From the book Small Beneath the Sky: A Prairie Memoir © 2009 by Lorna Crozier, published by Greystone Books: an imprint of D&M Publishers Inc. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. Lorna Crozier is the author of fourteen books of poetry, a winner of the Governor General’s Award for Poetry and a teacher at the University of Victoria.

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nce winter arrived, the backyard’s tall yellow grasses my father never scythed caught

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the snow and held it. On mornings when the flakes in their falling grew as big as the paper ones we stuck to classroom windows, the neighbourhood kids tumbled from doorways. One behind the other, we tromped a circle in the snow with our boots, turning the yard into a white meadow for geese to run in, flapping their blunt wings, a fox in hot pursuit. The most important word in the game was home. Home was the centre of the circle, and when you landed there, after whipping down one of several spokes, you were safe. The fox couldn’t touch you. The problem was you were free from harm for only a moment: another goose fleeing for its life could force you out, back onto the dangerous circumference pocked with our tracks like the face of the moon. Racing through the cold, parkas undone, faces flushed, my friends and I would have thrown off our scarves by now. They’d be scattered outside the circle like the skins of long improbable snakes, yellow, blue, green, white with wide red stripes. The spots where our mouths had soaked the wool hardened into discs of ice as the sun slid lower in the sky. As we skittered and slipped and darted to the centre, we lost who we were, lost our names and the names of our mothers who had sent us out to play. We were legs and lungs and big hearts pumping. We were geese; one of us, a fox. No one in the game broke the rules. We never called “Time out!” We never stepped from the circle to catch our breath. How essential was that form we had drawn with our boots, how perfect and invariable, how charged with frenzy and delicious dread. As geese, we shrieked with panic and joy and ran and ran—for our lives, we thought. But that wasn’t it. The fox mustn’t catch you not because he’ll eat you up but because he wants to change places. He wants to touch you, to lose his fur and teeth, to grow feathers, to flee with the others, the hot musty breath of the new fox beating on the back of his neck. And suddenly—sure-footed on your paws—that is you. Cunning and radiant against the snow, you feel a different blood burning bright inside you as you leap to catch a wing.

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G O D LY FO OT W E A R Pamela Stewart

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From “Luna,” in Elysium and Other Stories, published by Anvil Press in 2008. Pamela Stewart lives in downtown Toronto.

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ver since our mother died, I stopped looking up at the sky. I stopped looking at everything really. I was eight. Jesse tells me to walk straight with my head held high, but I can’t. “God is stepping on the back of my neck with the heel of his foot. I can feel it. Trying to push me down,” I tell him. “How do you know it’s God?” “I know.” “What kind of footwear is he wearing?” my brother asks. “Is it like a Timberland kind of heavy duty rounded rubbery crunch, or more of a Manolo Blahnik kind of sharp spike heel pinch?” “More of a spike heel.” “Well, we’re getting somewhere then,” he says. “Maybe God is a woman after all. Or even better, a drag queen. Or maybe it’s the devil. I can’t see God doing it. The same God that made something as perfect as Brad Pitt couldn’t possibly have an ugly bone in his body. Or Angelina Jolie. The God that made Angelina only knows of beauty.” My brother is gay but even he is not immune to her charms. Jesse made me go to the doctor about the pain in my neck. The doctor said it is muscle tension. He said I need to relax; I’m too young to be so stressed. He tried to send me to a psychotherapist, but I told him I wasn’t crazy, even if I’m not sure. One day, feeling particularly worn down by it all, I walked into a church near our house. It’s a Catholic church and I’m wary of all that, but they have a sign at the front which changes every week and some of the messages are so strange I thought they might be directed at me. This week it said: “God is not laughing at you. He’s laughing with you.” I tiptoed in. It was a Saturday so there was no mass going on at this time. There were a few old

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women in black scattered throughout the front. I watched another one come in, make the sign of the cross, kneel on one knee then kneel at the pew. I went into a pew and sat there, but then I noticed a few people coming and going from the confessional. I knew what to do from TV and movies so I went into the box. It was like being in a little closet. My brother would appreciate the irony. I hoped I would get a kindly old priest who would say something like, “Bless you, my child, I have the ear of God and I will make sure he hears all of your problems.” I really needed that right now, but when the grate opened I could see he was kind of young, fairly attractive in a bland, asexual priestly way. He didn’t seem likely to be an abuser of little boys and that was good enough for me. “Bless me father for I have sinned. It has been sixteen years since my last confession. In fact, I have never been. I’m not even Catholic.” “That’s OK.” “I think God is laughing at me,” I said. I spent the next twenty minutes asking everything I could think of: why did God take my mother, allow the Holocaust, pain, suffering, disease, winding my way through a history of the world’s misery. I think he was getting kind of impatient, but he probably wanted to convert me and was trying to make a good impression. Then I started on my sins: Envy, swearing, more swearing, smoking, lack of faith, and a bad imagination. From there it went downhill to petty things like why did God produce such a bad product with no guarantee. Why couldn’t it be like Costco? You get a body that farts too much because you have irritable bowel and you can exchange it, no questions asked. “This kind of thing, these little embarrassments, as hard as they are at the time, happen to everyone,” he said. “It’s nature, and not a punishment from God, or a flaw. We are all human.” “Even you?” “Yes,” he said. “Why once, when I had to kiss the cardinal’s ring, I sneezed all over it. The cardinal looked down at his wet hand, dismissed me with a look, as four other priests pulled out starched white handkerchiefs in offering. The

cardinal said he had to retire to the lavatory to wash his hands before allowing anyone else to kiss his ring. That’s how the cardinal talked. Lavatory. While he was gone there was mostly silence, but I could sense a snicker in the room. The priests, being who they are, kept it in check but I knew they were all laughing at me.” “How horrible,” I said, even though I wasn’t sure what a cardinal was, but picturing a red bird-like man hovering over the black crow-like women I saw populating the church, not to mention the penguin nuns, and later found I wasn’t far off. “So you see? It’s not a punishment from God, just a part of being human.” Then I brought up the thing about the pain in the back of my neck. He said, “Except for our Lord Jesus Christ, God does not have feet, as far as we know.” “Well, maybe Jesus is doing it.” “Jesus was often in bare feet or he wore sandals.” “Like Birkenstocks?” “Maybe, but I imagine they were made from soft leather and wouldn’t cause a problem like you describe. Anyway, my God what am I saying! Of course God isn’t stepping on your neck. He doesn’t do that kind of thing.” “You might not be able to relate to this, because you’re celibate, but no one finds me attractive. My brother says I am a work of art and he says that the same God that made Pamela Anderson made me. But I know I’m not good looking. I’m destined for a life of loneliness.” “I hear it was God and man who made Pamela Anderson,” he said. “You are still growing and changing, and besides I know this is a cliché, but beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Focus on your soul. That’s what will make you happy in the long run. Even Pamela Anderson’s superficial beauty will fade in time. God may have a grander design for your life.” He told me to come by anytime I needed to talk, and that I didn’t have to go into the confessional to do it, unless I just liked the privacy. I asked him whether he should give me some penance, that’s what they do in the movies. “OK,” he said. “Say three Our Fathers and two Hail Marys.” Maybe these Catholics have something,

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because after I left the booth, and my eyes adjusted to the light, I felt all floaty and angelic. I knelt under a statue of Mary, at least I think it was her. She had a kind face that reminded me of my mental picture of my own mother. I don’t even know the Hail Mary, so I said the Our Father and made something else up. I went over to those trays of candles. You are supposed to put money in the box to light them. I didn’t have any change, but I lit two anyway. I suppose it must be some kind of theft, stealing prayer. Mea Culpa. What happened later was serendipitous, or maybe that’s the wrong word. Maybe kismet. Something metaphysical anyway, because when I got home, my brother handed me a plastic bag and he said, “I was in the dollar store today and I bought you something. It just seemed to be calling out to you.” He handed me a Blessed Virgin Mary nightlight.

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R EA DM E DO C Gregory Betts From The Others Raisd in Me, published by Pedlar Press in 2009, exactly four hundred years after the publication of Shakespeare’s sonnets. All of the 150 poems in the book were uncovered by crossing out words or letters in Sonnet 150. Gregory Betts is a poet, critic and teacher, author of If Language, among other works. He lives in St. Catharines, Ontario. Read his Geist work at geist.com.

what powre this we in my art. make me sigh swere that grace is of things. 100

in my mind— how to make and see

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GREEK URN Susan Stenson

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From My Mother Agrees with the Dead, published by Wolsak and Wynn in 2007. Susan Stenson is the author of two books of poems. Her poem “Bad Men Who Love Jesus” was first published in Geist 51.

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other put my name on the white vase that sits (has always sat) on the wooden table (that used to belong to Aunty Phil) on the landing at the top of the stairs. Putting my name on it means I get it when she dies. Put your name on it she yells from the kitchen, if you don’t hurry, someone else will. All night I cut tape into tags. Upend the junk drawer, want the plastic corn-on-the-cob forks and Jersey cow magnet. Pick the platter and a wide-mouthed jar. Mother stays awake with Crossword City, obsessed with filling in the squares. I don’t need any of this stuff, home is 3000 miles from here. What’s a five letter word for Greek urn? she yells without looking up. She uses a pen and makes a mess of things. A Greek urn? Can’t we just call the Sally Ann? For once she’s silent. I’ll have to make it up to her. What will I do with all these shoes? The bowling trophies, the children’s Bible? There are photos stuffed in Bata shoe bags under the bed. (She wants to know what else is under there.) You tell her. I can’t look.

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the others raisd in me. 25

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T W E N T Y- O N E H A I K U FROM TH E SYLV I A H OT E L BA R For Susan Michelacci 25

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George Fetherling From The Sylvia Hotel Poems, published by Quattro Books in 2010. George Fetherling is a novelist, memoirist, cultural commentator and visual artist who lives in Vancouver and Toronto.

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etting that a hunch will strike small groups of foreigners sitting round a fire

Only five percent of collections on exhibit the good stuff kept in the dungeons beneath the dance floor

Snow pack heavy in the mountains this year death lacks only an opening line time to update the résumé

Memory triggers comfort still hum the tune her phone number played police station coffee on a frosty morning

Sun goes down laser straight little hope of rescue file an incident report

This is the room all right cured within the privacy of the moment you were in fine voice that evening

Clouds crash into one another at this distance pantomime is all we get somebody stole the remote again

Up streets and alleys in between moving like participles cavity scarcity scar city

Chainsaw sounds coming from the vacuum! hotel terror! negligent grace! the luxury of distraction!

Drained of words at end of day everybody wants more sentences the unexpurgated life is not worth living

The moon was shining all over us lucky drunken daylight feasts while others fast

Yesterday’s chaos granted an extension cherry blossoms return to Nelson Street so concludes my weekly report

Champagne and Chinese food the drip becomes a spectacle helicopters nervous but not us

Alleys are valleys between streets rivers flowing backwards from the sea disappear as mountain trickles

Around obstacles where possible over them when necessary water trying its best to be quiet

Leaving me to imagine what spaces contain reveal just enough to keep yourself safe has the bamboo taught you nothing?

Now where? nowhere apocalypse on both your houses distant fairgrounds

Years of prep work for these few seconds no exceptions to universal truths failure keeps us young

Aperçus await recycling metaphor whores linger at the entrance garbage strike now five weeks long

Noon at midnight lying there in pachinko parlours harsh light makes shadows for the dead

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Change for the changeless help make the homeless homeful again swap spare motif for a little bit of process?

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T H E N EXT BE D Stuart Ross

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The next bed asks you how Joanne is, but you don’t know any Joanne.

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The next bed creaks every few minutes.

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From Dead Cars in Managua, by Stuart Ross, Copyright © 4/2008 by DC Books, used by permission of the publisher, DC Books. Stuart Ross lives in Toronto.

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he next bed is always worse.

The next bed talks too much. The next bed has been here three times this year.

The next bed used to buy penny candy from the store at the corner. The next bed once stared into the eyes of a bank robber. The next bed smells of decay.

The next bed pushes its food away.

The next bed tells a joke, but is asleep before the punch line.

The next bed has dull, sad eyes.

The next bed wheezes.

The next bed raised pigs back home, and they always make you laugh, those pigs.

The next bed once raised pigs and got used to the smell.

The next bed takes forever in the bathroom.

The next bed is reading a book by Tom Clancy—there’s a guy who knows how to tell a good story.

The next bed always has the TV on, but never watches.

The next bed clutches lottery tickets.

The next bed remembers when you just died at home with this sort of thing.

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The next bed is rolled away. To the next bed, you are the next bed.

The next bed cries in the night. The next bed has sheets with mysterious stains. The next bed used to raise pigs and devised a brilliant system for disposing of their slop. The next bed invites you to join in prayers to Christ, and when you decline, the next bed offers to say a prayer for you.

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The next bed’s son’s a cop. 25

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A PERFECT AND FAITHFUL R E COR D Nadine McInnis From Two Hemispheres, published by Brick Books in 2007. Nadine McInnis is the author of seven books, including short stories, essays and poems. She lives in Ottawa.

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en women, long dead, photographed in the Surrey County Lunatic Asylum. You could be fooled

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by their modest dress, Victorian poses, the grey sheet behind them obscuring how they arrived here.

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Their doctor crouches behind the camera hidden beneath a velvet cloak. He has placed them on chairs, smoothed their hair, asked them to hold still—a docility today attained only by pharmaceuticals. You would never know from the faded salt-on-paper portraits that this asylum was considered modern and humane: a perfect self-contained world with its own gasworks, water tower, laundry and gardens tended by patients rescued from indigence. Even knowing this, you still want to turn away and forget them, the way you focus on a red traffic light when the homeless troll for change between lanes, or cross streets, darting between cars, when twitching men lurch towards you. Let them be faint rings of disturbance trapped in glass. But for you, they become negatives, darkly transparent. Move in more closely, press your face against the museum case, and you’ll see that one is pretty, her dark hair falling into her lap like water. Another does not raise her eyes. One grips arms across her chest, defiant. Her truth cannot be held by this image; across 150 years the betrayal in her gaze burns.

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Their faces have outlasted the science of physiognomy that created them, studies in objectivity, gradations on a scale used to rank suffering: distress, sorrow, deep sorrow, grief and melancholy, anguish and despair— a perfect and faithful record.

And, you wonder, how is one sorrow deeper than another? What is melancholy if not grief? Although the old-fashioned word anguish feels right to you, timeless, lived timelessly. That’s the problem, the never-ending sense of it, just like these women who will sit forever unknown.

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BREAD AND CHEESE DAY Daniel David Moses From “A Pair of Parades,” published in the anthology Tok, book 4: Reading the City, published by Zephyr Press in 2009. Daniel David Moses is a Delaware from the Six Nations lands in southern Ontario. His most recent publications are Pursued by a Bear: Talks, Monologues and Tales and Kyotopolis (Exile Editions). He lives in Toronto.

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o on Victoria Day, known on the Six Nations Reserve as Bread and Cheese Day, my eighty-four-year-old mother is up and out of the house by eight thirty. She and the other Red Hat Ladies have to finish decorating their float by nine thirty in time for the judging. Our story is that Queen Victoria, in recognition of the Six Nations’ service and loyalty to the Crown during her reign, instituted an annual distribution of gifts. Why white bread and cheddar cheese? I’ve never heard an explanation of this detail. But the annual distribution is the centre of a secular festival. Every year, people come out or come home and gather and, following a parade through the village of Ohsweken, line up outside the Community Hall to receive fresh baked bread, sliced inches thick, and a chunk of tangy orange cheese. The Red Hat Ladies, my mother reports on her return, won first prize. “We’re not supposed to be making money. This club, it’s just for fun.” But with their float decorated with banners,

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sashes and teddy bears, and all the ladies dressed up in their best hats and overcoats—it was a chilly weekend—and with their umbrellas twirling, all that richness of scarlet, crimson and ruby, with flashes of cherry, mauve, lilac, lavender, wine and plum, the flat-bed truck must have seemed a nearly psychedelic vision of Six Nations womanhood in the rain. My mother has always favoured red but says she remembers the dress she wore in the Santa Claus Parade as blue, trimmed with white fur. But I prefer to think it was red and that Santa and his parade were the cause of her love for the colour. “You should have seen the people,” Mom says, “all the people. Riding in The Parade like that, you get to see them. All those faces, just going on forever.”

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Accretion of Rococo Metaphors Terms and phrases deployed by Steven W. Beattie in “Fuck Books,” an essay in the Spring-Summer 2009 issue of CNQ (Canadian Notes & Queries), in which Beattie criticizes the works and the influence of Anne Michaels and Michael Ondaatje.

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aggressively aphoristic surfeit of forced aphorisms self-conscious metaphors poetic wanking defiantly poetic verbiage obsessed with its own showiness strangely lifeless accretion of rococo metaphors cascading adjectival phrases recondite and ethereal abstruse and florid aesthetic disconnect hermetic artiness Canlit orthodoxy the oatmeal of world literature deliberate, ponderous prose virtually unreadable more monolithic kind of Canlit the kind that makes one want to scream, “Fuck books!”

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C I GAR BOX BAN J O Paul Quarrington

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From Cigar Box Banjo: Notes on Music and Life © 2010 by the Estate of Paul Quarrington, published by Greystone Books: an imprint of D&M Publishers Inc. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. Paul Quarrington (1953–2010) was a musician, novelist, non-fiction writer and award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker.

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don’t suppose I’d be a songwriter today if it hadn’t been for Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Their songs appeared in my life one by one—each wondrous, almost miraculous, each announcing itself boldly as a Lennon/ McCartney composition. Lennon/McCartney, as an entity, seemed to be the most creative force ever unleashed upon the face of the earth. Of course, we eventually learned that Lennon/ McCartney didn’t really exist, that it was a label of convenience. If John wrote a song, he credited it as Lennon/McCartney. Paul did likewise. I recently heard a rumour that Sir Paul is trying to change the order of the names, to alter the designation legally to McCartney/Lennon. It might seem a bit small-minded, but I say, hey, he’s the living one, he’s survived hellish marriages and kept playing music, so he should get the credit he deserves. I must admit I don’t have much to say about individual Lennon/McCartney songs. I enjoy “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” and often introduce it into impromptu singalongs, but that’s largely so that I can shout “Hey!” at (or around) the appropriate time. (I think this also reflects my attraction to the point of view adopted by Lennon in the song, the stance of surly self-centredness.) “Here, There and Everywhere” is a very beautiful song, and it has what we might call “sophisticated chord changes,” which means that as teenagers we were baffled and unable to work them out. There is, if you’ll allow me to get technical, a modulation to the bridge in that song, and at those same singalongs, you might notice that with

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the words “I want her everywhere,” the bottom usually drops out of the accompaniment bag, leaving the singers crooning eerily on their own. The assertion that pop music, rock’n’roll, is informed by a mere three chords is a myth propagated largely by non-musicians. The statement correctly points to a simplicity, an eloquence, in some of the music, but there are surprisingly few songs that the young, aspiring guitarist can actually execute with just three chords. “Summertime Blues,” that’ll work. That’s actually a song wherein knowing more than three chords might prove a detriment. And Van Morrison’s classic “Gloria” can be played with three chords, but they aren’t the usual three chords. Rock’n’roll’s three chords are the tonic, the sub-dominant, and the dominant. The sixteen-year-old Morrison was thrashing away at the tonic, the flattened seven, and the sub-dominant. “Gloria” also contains a little guitar fill that seems to follow these changes with a logic born on the fretboard. In reality, there is a fingering change that must be made. As teenagers we usually pretended that

wasn’t the case, and many of us still do, just in case you’re wondering why that instrumental part always sounds like crap when your buddy plays it. As a young lad, I spent thousands and thousands of hours trying to work out changes—to “figure out the chords”—so believe me about this threechord business. Even a seemingly simplistic ballad from the fifties—“You Send Me,” for example—has four chords. Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday” was a Gordian knot, an impenetrable puzzle. I sat in my bedroom for days on end trying to work it out, intuiting that the ability to play and sing “Yesterday” would increase my chances of getting laid. (Or getting kissed, or fondling a breast, or even remaining in reasonably close proximity to a female human being for more than a few seconds.) There are chords, as you may know, made by stopping some strings and leaving others free to vibrate. These have the pleasing name of “open chords.” Other chords—“bar chords,” we call them, although “closed chords” conveys the right impression—require that all the strings be

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dampened, usually by a flattened index finger. This is not the easiest skill to acquire, in terms of either dexterity or strength, because it’s hard to slam all six strings down with a single finger and still have them sound boldly. “A” is a great key, because most of the important chords (the fourth, the fifth, even the “Gloria” flattened seven) are open chords. It’s a great key on the guitar, that is; saxophonists don’t care for it. If the guitar player is playing in A, then a tenor saxophonist has to transpose (the instrument actually sounds a tone lower than the written note) to the key of B, which has five sharps. Five sharps represent a lot of cowflaps in the musical pasture, if you see what I mean. It is for this reason that the sax player is always the best musician in the band. But, getting back to “Yesterday.” The first chord on the recording is an F, a bar chord. Some people play F in a manner necessitating that the index finger be bent at the first joint, that the thumb wrap around and stop the low bass string. As complicated as that sounds, it’s often preferable to trying to pull off the infernally difficult F bar chord. Despite all this whining on my part, “Yesterday” is the most recorded song ever. There are something like three thousand covers. One way of explaining this is that while the song may lack “guitar logic,” it makes a lot of musical sense. Indeed, it makes so much musical sense that apparently Paul McCartney was initially unsure that he had truly composed the music. He was afraid he had inadvertently pilfered some standard.

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Computer passwords chosen by grade ten students at a high school in British Columbia and compiled by their teacher, Mary Leah de Zwart. 100

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#1 playa $skillstopaythembill$ 1killer adidas basketball26 bitchnas

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V I L L A N E L L E FOR J E R E M I A H ’ S SON Adam Sol

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From Jeremiah, Ohio, published by Anansi in 2008. Adam Sol’s most recent book of poetry is Crowds of Sound (Anansi). He lives in Sudbury.

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y only son had a scar on his cheek in the shape of a Nike swoosh. I am wretched. I will not be consoled. He earned it on his Norco mountain bike in a state which has no mountains. It was Ohio slate that marked his cheek. From the glowing porch I watched him flip over the handlebars onto his face. He was furious. He would not be consoled. His death, too, was crammed with brands. Logos on his T-shirt, hat, Camaro— peeled bottles in the trunk lying cheek to cheek. Even the hospital had its sympathetic logo that gazed warmly in the lobby’s light. I paced awry. I would not be consoled. Their words were shorthand for failure. It was the “nothing we could do.” I identified him by the scar on his cheek. I gave his eyes to Iowa, his kidney to an angry diabetic from Duluth. She didn’t want it. She would not be consoled.

Vermilion Potpot

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catgirl giggles imamazn kittens lacrosse mymommy

potpot rp4ever unforgiven vermilion

At the home, I stayed until they all were gone. The boys wore their father’s suits, and I kissed them on their oily vibrant cheeks. I have lost my olive harvest. I have lost my magic touch. My only son had a scar on his cheek. I am empty. I will not be consoled.

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FINDINGS

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W I N N I P E G TR AD I N G C A R DS 25

For collectors who want to change the world

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By Guy Maddin and Noam Gonick, design by Galen Johnson, Faron Hall illustration by Ted Barker. From Canadian Dimension, Vol. 44, No. 1, published in 2010.

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Import-Export

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Shane Neilson

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Grain prices folded, Asian Tigers yawned and I waited three hours for the phone to ring

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he import-export business: that is what I said when people asked me what I did. And I used to do it. I took orders from brokers, I specialized in Indochina, I brought in foodstuffs, I brought out foodstuffs in a great exchange. I worked in an office, one guy to one region, and the people I dealt with all wanted to get rid of their stuff tomorrow and get what they needed yesterday. Morris was my boss. Morris thought I didn’t have the fortitude for this business, even though I had been doing it for ten years and he had only been doing it for three. It’s true that I took work home with me: the quota was a killer, a thousand dollars a day, and every day you made it, a tick box went next to your name. Morris called it “inspiration.” Days were either tick or non-tick; when Teresa used to care, she’d ask what kind of day it was, and on good days I’d click my tongue. Morris made me his pet peeve. Dougie, howmuchyagot? Calling it out over the electronic hum of yesteryear’s computers, calling it out over the conversational rattle on phones. Dougie, howmuchyagot? And I would stammer and the other guys would smirk, and I would confess my pittance: two hundred dollars. Or fifty-seven. It was unfair: my bailiwick was small fry, only small bills. The other guys dealt in much larger orders, but because Morris didn’t like me he gave me the worthless ones. It had been this way for three years. When I did make a big sale, if someone important wanted a rush on something expensive, something numerous, then I would get one tick, that’s all. The excess wouldn’t carry over

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into tomorrow, and Morris’s howmuchyagot smile would be waiting for me. Most days I scraped together the thousand dollars despite the desperation of staring at the phone, obsessively checking commodity prices, knowing all about just cause and performance and Morris’s ways. He meant to break me, and it did break me. I had no control; my job was fate. When I said “import-export,” at first people thought I was with the mob. Imagine it: the mob, in Halifax. Or that I was a street soldier for a cartel. A gun-runner. But then they would step back and take my measure: defeat clung to my baseball cap, my eyes, my ratty moustache. And then they would not think of drugs or horses’ heads. Just a not-this-guy. Teresa worked at the bakery. We lived on a parcel of land that technically belonged to the bakery, but we had signed a locked lease and though the management had thought about expansion, they couldn’t force us. So there was the oppressive smell of baking bread all day: Morris at the office for daily bread, and the singed odour of Wonder bread at night. Wake up, bread; go to bed, bread. Teresa had no Morris. What she had was a union. There was a strike every five years, just like ticking a box, and when everyone had lost enough wages the company would agree to an increase and the losses were offset. A harsh word led to a grievance and Teresa had eyes of grievance, had Morris eyes, and when she came home she had epic stories of supervisor one-upmanship, of the girls in the office making the boss

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look like a fool and her central role in the public embarrassment. Teresa relished doing exactly what her contract set out for her to do, and no more. She bragged about not doing things, about refusing things, and about how she had intimidated her boss so much that they didn’t ask any more, they were afraid of her, they wouldn’t mess with her. I thought of no: of boxes that tick, of bread that always had the whiff of charnel. One day I was waiting for the phone to ring. It had to ring. A man in Myanmar wanted cereal, a thousand boxes of corn puffs. I had arranged the transportation, a thousand boxes of corn puffs, a glorious tick, and all I needed was confirmation. There was probably a thousand boxes of corn puffs sitting on a pallet or two, wrapped in a glorious red bow and waiting to be shipped. All I needed was for the man to tell me, “Yes, I really want corn puffs, lots and lots of corn puffs, send me a kingdom’s worth of corn puffs, I will grow rich reselling corn puffs.”

But the man did not call. And Morris was merciless; he waited until I had fallen into despair. He knew how to get the most value from the howmuchyagots, the best time to make me say “Nothing yet” and try to stammer out a potential sale. Hawhawhaw. Morris said: howmuchyagot. I had looked at the phone for three hours, I had watched grain prices fold and Asian Tigers yawn and yawn again, and that morning Teresa had already itemized which dishes were dirty, and how I didn’t earn enough money to leave dirty dishes around. I had carried the work home with me, the exhaustion of tick, it had been years and I was tired. I thought of our wedding day and then promptly forgot it. That was absurdity. It had been a long time. There were pictures. Morris said, for the final time, Dougieboy, howmuchyagot, and the stench of bread was on me. It is like formaldehyde, it permeates the clothes. The calendar with its names of salesmen was strewn with red. I wondered how much

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Morris had, how much Morris made in import-export. When Morris said “importexport,” he said it in a way that suggested underhanded dealings, midnights and sleazy ports. Morris had a fat wife and scurried around whenever his boss, Mr. Prawn, the owner of the company, came by. Mr. Prawn came by to scare Morris, for he was a shrewd man and understood that Morris, an enforcer of non-complacency, needed to be gulled out of complacency himself. Morris’s chief act of complacency was asking me howmuchyagot, and I wished I could take pleasure in his toadying, I wished I could enjoy it. But I humanized Morris; that was my problem. Better to be Teresa, better to instill fear in Morris, better to growl back at him, howmuchyawant, or howmuchdoes yourwifeweigh, or IseeMr.Prawn behindyou,peekaboo! I looked up at Morris and thought of screaming Bread!Bread! or Teresalovesme but then I simply walked over to the calendar and ticked all the boxes for the rest of the year. It took a few minutes, and the guys started to laugh, and it was not the laugh of the boss being embarrassed. They were laughing at me. When I was finished I walked out, and now when people ask me what I do, I simply say: “Nothing.” It’s more believable anyway.

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y daughter died. She was twenty-three, and in a car crash. She was driving and the car hit a bridge abutment. It wasn’t drugs or drink. For a few days after the tox came back clean, the coroner thought it might have been suicide; but there was no note, and she was a happy girl, she had a boyfriend, she was going to school. The cliché: there were no signs. Her sisters were devastated. In the living room there are three pictures: the oldest on the top, the youngest on the bottom, and Jeannine in the middle. I argued with Teresa about taking the picture down, it was perhaps the only thing I had fought for with her, but she needed a daily reminder and I guess we can call that grief. I never told the guys at work. I never wanted sympathy and I don’t think that this was a part of life Morris cared about or respected. Yet I kept a picture of the three girls

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on my desk, the eldest caring for the youngest as Jeannine smiled for the camera. There were things I wanted to hold or at least keep safe, and it was something to look at other than the phone. I am not a brooding man. When Teresa browbeats me for being a deadbeat, for quitting my job with no thought of the future, for being lazy, I think of that picture on my desk, the picture I forgot to take with me, the picture they probably threw out with the rest of my things. Here on the flower-print couch, which has been here since we moved into this house, I look up at the dead picture and I refuse sentiment: I am waiting. I am left with all there ever was, and the mystery of that death and the acceptance of this life. It was probably grief that led me to quit my job. Not the middle-aged, stuck-in-a-rut- midlifecrisis kind, or even the grief of losing a child. I don’t blame Teresa. I don’t even blame Morris, who had no pictures on his desk and who looked embarrassed when his wife visited him at work. I blame the accumulation: I blame myself. It was momentary, and seemed right, but I knew that any gesture was futile, that somehow I had to walk out that door, that the time had come. Teresa and I still argue about taking down that damn picture. I think of it as the removal of memory; she thinks of it as allegiance to memory, as reckoning, and she is probably right. So I have taken to removing the picture when she walks to work, and replacing it when she walks back home. It is my own little rebellion, my own tending, my own tallying of loss. And when I put the picture back up, it is my daughter again. Sometimes I have the perverse wish that I had a picture of Morris ticking the boxes for the men, that I could put up that picture as a replacement. Or a picture of Morris trying to hide his wife from his subordinates, or me walking out the door of Mr. Prawn’s office with my ball cap tight on my head.

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Shane Neilson, a writer and family physician, is the author of four books and several shorter works in print. Two new books will be published in 2010: Complete Physical, poems (Porcupine’s Quill), and Gunmetal Blue, essays (Palimpsest Press).

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Vanishing Point

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Chancellor, Alberta, 2009

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Vauxhall, Alberta, 2009

George Webber was born in the Alberta Badlands, in Drumheller, where at the age of five he began collecting dinosaur bones. He has been exploring the reaches of the Alberta prairie since 1975, when he acquired his first camera. His work has been widely published and can be found in two dozen permanent collections in Canada, Australia, France and Germany. His books include A World Within: An Intimate Portrait of the Little Bow Hutterite Colony and People of the Blood: A Decade-long Photographic Journey on a Canadian Reserve. Webber’s most recent solo exhibition was Kainai: People of the Blood, at the Whyte Museum, Banff, in February 2010. More of his work can be seen at geist.com and at georgewebber.ca.

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Postcard Lit Winners of the 6th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest

Common Sense About Smoking Eric Foley

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eddy struck a match, held the flame to the end and sucked in. Cars whizzed overhead. “The black glove,” he said, “is to prevent nic stains.” He took the cigarette from his lips and passed it, glowing, over. It smelled terrible but I could taste his mouth, the eggs he’d had for breakfast, his warm saliva on the filter. I puffed, inhaled, doubled over coughing. I’d get to school before the other boys and wait near the edge of the lot by the dead maple for his dad’s Jeep to pull in. “Don’t slam the door,” his dad would say, but Teddy would slam it anyways, hopping out, tucking his hair behind his ear and lifting his face toward me with a “What’s up?” Once the Jeep was gone we’d bolt along the path that curved through the woods and duck down beneath the bridge. Everything tasted metallic for a year or two. I stopped reading Stephen King and started reading Beckett and Joyce. My body ached for something it had never known, something I wasn’t even sure it was allowed. At the end of grade 11 a bunch of us went up to someone’s farm for the weekend. The idea was to bring a girl and see how far you could get in one of the bedrooms or out in the woods. Teddy and I didn’t know any girls. We spent the night sitting on a crooked dock by a pond talking about Robert Altman’s

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1970–75 oeuvre and the “ineluctable modality of the visible” made audible, while others rattled screaming through fields on golf carts and tried to lose or keep their virginities. Toward dawn I lit my last cigarette and offered it to Teddy. He waved it away. “I quit.” “Since when?” “Last week.” I looked down at his hand and saw that the thin black glove was gone. I slowly removed the cigarette from my mouth, holding it between my thumb and index finger, and tossed it like a dart into the pond. It fizzed as it hit, sending ripples outwards along water that reflected a light peach glow from the sky. “It won’t sink,” Teddy said, “because of the Styrofoam in the filter. And it’ll take ten thousand years to biodegrade.” Everything was still. I wanted to tell him how I’d loved everything about him every day for the past three years, how his hair curled behind his ears, how he smiled at my impression of Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, how right he was about the last chapter of Ulysses— I leaned over and kissed him on the mouth. He let it happen. I shifted weight and moved in, more insistently, closing my eyes and pushing out my

tongue. Teddy pulled back. We looked at each other. “You taste like ashes,” he said. His family moved out west that summer and we never saw each other again. Fifteen years later I’m down to half a pack a day. “Common Sense About Smoking” won first prize in the 6th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest. Eric Foley writes poetry, fiction and screenplays, and is one of the editors of Influencysalon.ca. He hasn’t had a cigarette in three years, but still falls in love. At geist.com: the longlist of finalists for the 6th Annual Postcard Contest and information on entering the 7th annual contest.


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Peace Time

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liked my new neighbour well enough. We traded niceties over the garden fence. After three months we exchanged house keys. Then she bought a dog. A terrier. It needed a firm hand. Instead she called it Philippe, fed it organic dog biscotti and had its horoscope read. Philippe did not improve the neighbourhood. He ran from yard to yard like a hirsute garden gnome gone rogue, digging holes, chasing cats and barking at potted plants. For the sake of peace I bit my lip. Philippe upped the ante and pooped on my welcome mat. I bagged the turd and gave it to her. Next morning I found my keys slipped through my mail slot. Later she set her sprinkler on high and aimed it over the fence onto my hammock. That summer

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they both ran wild. Philippe dug new and deeper holes. She cranked the volume on her radio, set it to CFOX and pushed it up against my cedar hedge. He rolled in her compost, squeezed through the hedge and raced round my house shedding noisome bits of rotting veg. She threw used tea bags onto my patio. One afternoon I peeked out and saw a moving van in front of her house. Soon I had new neighbours, a nice couple with a well-trained Lab named Bob who never barked. Two weeks passed quietly. I slouched in my hammock engulfed in ennui, eyeing Bob through a gap in the hedge. He lay stretched and still like a yellow bearskin rug. I slipped out of my hammock, edged close to the gap.

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“Miaow,” I said. “Miaow.” Bob leapt up, barking. “Peace Time” won second prize in the 6th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest. Julia Vella’s stories have appeared in Geist and several other publications. She lives in North Vancouver. To read her Geist work, go to geist.com.

Blue Eye Donna Kane

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have sent my Louie at least twenty letters since the stroke. Yesterday my mother said postage was going up and where was I sending those letters anyway, it didn’t look like I was getting any back. At eighty, my mother still has a knack for words. “Only when it’s dark can you see the stars,” she might say. “Make a bouquet from the flowers at hand.” “Suck it up, buttercup.” Okay, that last one’s mine, but it’s what she’s thinking. My left eye hasn’t closed since the stroke. I have to put drops in it. It stares like a person in shock being led through a room, gawking but not grasping a thing. I imagine carrying my eye in the crook of my arm, huge, like a football, and me saying to others, “Excuse me. Whoops. Out of our way. Sorry folks, eye coming through.” Louie

tried to make love to me after the stroke. I guess there were things we should have dealt with first. You know, I always thought Louie kept his eyes shut during sex. Maybe it was only by some blink between thrusts that his lids whipped apart. Or maybe I’d quit moving, my eye transfixed on the way gravity was making pouches of Louie’s skin, his face slack and puckered at the same time. Realizing he’d always looked like that, I’d just never seen it, made our life seem somehow a sham. When his own eyes opened and stayed that way, he must have seen something that enlightened him too. I know we let something important go by, but at the time there wasn’t words. He went soft inside me, like a balloon losing air. What

was it my mother said yesterday? “Nobody has measured what a heart can hold.” Or was it “the heart holds what nobody has measured.” Maybe it was “measured, the heart holds nobody.”

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“Blue Eye” won third prize in the 6th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest. Donna Kane writes in a recently discovered attic room in her home in Rolla, B.C. She is the author of two books of poetry.

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illustration: SALISBURY SALLY by bonnie marin

illustration: SALISBURY SALLY from the pin-ups of winnipeg collection by bonnie marin, based on

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IMAX Stories Owen Toews

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Pete Rose Jr. and Darryl inside the Big & Tall trying on clothes, sitting in lawn chairs to watch Sunday night cruisers, bartending at the Palomino Club

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ete Rose Jr.!” Darryl yelled. “Get yourself together buuuuuddy, this is the big leagues now, we gotta ’servere till this shit all/goes/away.” The two of them were inside Darryl’s basement playing records and lying around on the floor and a beanbag chair. Pete Rose Jr. arched his head to the corner side, away from Darryl. MURDER WAS THE CASE. Cut to four months earlier. Darryl and Pete Rose Jr. first meet at “the Ex”—a summer festival on the edge of town. Both men are alone (at first), enjoying caramel apples, cotton candy, sights of big families, children, the tectonic lights, etc. Both men are wary, at first, of going on the rides there. They have large bodies and have had bad experiences with rides in other places, Darryl especially, who is especially big—animalistic. The two men approach from opposite sides, so they come nearer and nearer to each other and to the “Occidental House of Tactics”—a haunted house ride. Behind Darryl the city rises in the distance, above the din of the festival. Behind Pete Rose Jr. the prairies sprawl illuminated with pink streaks in the dark sky, beyond the crashing waves of the polar bear express ride. Their eyes meet. Cut to inside the Occidental. Both men have ventured in, not meeting yet. The men creep around like silhouettes of 1920s spies. But less confident. There are parallels here to The Peanut Butter Mystery. A man with long brown hair and a moustache creeps around them—at separate times—with sneaky ease, on a mission. The music inside the ride is a mix of crashes and banging, and pop songs. We mostly hear the crashes and banging, but snippets of the pop songs are audible. “Ay bay bay”; “like a virgin”; “u and me”; “barry bonds.” In a hall of mirrors section (above the mirrors hang typical occidental things—clocks, rulers, calculators) the sneak taps Darryl and tries to sell him “pipecleaners” (crystal meth). Darryl says no. The sneak pulls a knife from his hoodie pouch. Darryl wrests the knife away and throws it on the ground, leaving and muttering. Cut to Darryl leaving the Occidental, eyebrows on the floor. He hears the sneak’s voice. He looks up. The sneak’s arm is around Pete Rose Jr., scissors in his low hand. We zoom to the scissors—shining and glittering white in the smokeblackness of the haunted house. Darryl disarms the sneak and pulls Pete Rose Jr. out of there.

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Cut to Pete Rose Jr. and Darryl in classic festival montage. (Canted angles, families stare. Big women in Walmart baseball jerseys, children with sticky cheeks, as these two large men cavort.) Cut to Pete Rose Jr. and Darryl sitting side by side on the dark vinyl of a bus charter driving back into the city from the Ex. Mothers and children slump over, sleeping in the rows. Puke acid, neon and soft. The two men are framed by the blackness of the night, postcoital aura. *cut* We see the back wheels of the bus and tilt slowly up to reveal the back of the bus, the men’s silhouettes, and then up to the city floating on the horizon.

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uick, close clips of Pete Rose Jr. and Darryl inside the Big & Tall trying on clothes. In a warehouse on Wall Street hauling packages, lumber, etc.—a guy named Manny (the boss) smiling enthusiastically and cheering them on. Playing soccer with Iraqi kids at Tec Voc (trying hard but losing). Serving McDonald’s food at a drive-through. Painting the broad side of a house. Pumping gas into cars at Petro-Can. (They’re very happy to do these things.) Shooting pool at Flea Whiskey’s pool warehouse. Piling heaps of lettuce onto burgers at the Burger Factory. Cleaning out Omand’s Creek with high rubber boots on. Sitting in lawn chairs to watch Sunday night cruisers. Looking at the cars and sharing knowing looks with blond women and old guys. Bartending at the Palomino Club. Stamping people’s new licences at the Autopac (and taking their money). At one point Darryl is played by Michael Strahan. Turning their backs on preteen shoplifters while they work the counter at Frasier’s, smiling. Selling liquor to long lines of people at the LC (Christmas theme). Go-

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ing to a girl’s house in the suburbs and meeting her nice mom and driving to a nearby Pizza Hut because they know a guy in the kitchen there, except he can’t hook them up so they return and apologize to the mom. Later they look at photographs of these things. Later they help out Joey, the man who shat in the TD Place planter on YouTube. They have drinks with him. Their haunted past is slowly revealed to us. Pete Rose Jr.’s strained/non-existent relationship with his father (not to mention his tired but resilient mother, who wants nothing to do with Pete while he is involved in baseball). Darryl’s distant, brief, glorious past, the 10,000 women he never got to know as well as he’d have liked, his dead mother, and the string of STDs he carries, immense, upon his back (some days) and like a little photo snippet in his pocket (on others).

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fter practice at the Y, Darryl went to the tobacconist at City Place. He bought two cigars. Then he went to Hy’s steak loft and bought four lobster tails to go. He got a small cup of melted garlic butter with them. (At City Place, when he first entered the lobby he noticed a Somalian kid taking a can of bear-mace out from one of the lockers. It smelled like piss in there.) Darryl met Pete Rose Jr. for an outdoor lunch at the Memorial Mall. The mall led up to the legislative buildings, a monumental City Beautiful space, grassy and dotted with statues. The two men ate at the foot of James Simpson, the discoverer of anaesthesia. * as a side note, it was a town tradition for young potheads and children from the Centennial neigh-

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bourhood to gather under the statue of James Simpson to watch the fireworks in the night sky on the anniversary of the railroad and 4/20 After the lobster they reclined and smoked. The cigars were thin in their large hands. The lobster tails had been cracked easily. Their eyes looked up at the one elevated statue at the end of the mall, and then they went home. Before they left, they spoke about first entering the city. Each man had his own entrance evening. They related it to a dream. Driving along the highway, neither man could tell when exactly he had entered the city. All of a sudden they were just there, in the midst of it. Like falling asleep.

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ete Rose Jr. and Darryl made friends with a boy in Darryl’s building. One Saturday afternoon they went out to visit the boy, to hang out. He lived just off of the Chief Peguis freeway strip, they sat by a coffee table and the room was covered in white shag carpet, the boy’s mom wasn’t there. The boy served Mike’s Hard Lemonades and they passed around a book about blimps, like the Hindenburg era up to the present. Darryl and Pete Rose Jr. both noticed a sticky note that said “U of W Counseling & Career Services 786-9231.” They stayed until it was dark. At one point they were all drinking coffee in the boy’s basement, and he had put on Clipse and Lil Wayne records. 100

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arryl was thinking about cars so the two men went out to look at them. They rode the bus straight out from Darryl’s building. They rode above the springtime roadsides to the Midway Chrysler Big Top. Pete Rose Jr. wanted to get cof-

fees before they went to look, so they stopped at the Shell across the street. Pete Rose Jr. and Darryl filled up cups with Irish Cream and paid—a Filipina girl or maybe a Chinegra. They spoke to her and she smiled and spoke about Thompson, and how much cheaper things were here than in Thompson. On the bus Darryl had told Pete Rose Jr. something about all the women he had slept with in his past. When he met each one of them, Darryl said, he would tell them that he had just been born that morning, or that afternoon. So that when he slept with each woman, he had no past, he had only lived that day up until meeting the woman, and then he would sleep with her. He said that when he woke up after, he would feel like he had just been born again, once more. He said he felt like an eight-year-old with a past of 10,000 one-day-olds. Carrying those one-day-olds in a little bag. At the Midway the two men walked through the parking lot with the coffees. Festival flags hung from wires in rows above them and messages were painted on the glass. They thought a man would come out to talk to them, but all the men stayed inside while Darryl and Pete Rose Jr. were there.

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n Wednesday Darryl had a practice at the Y and Pete Rose Jr. wanted to come—he would just use the machines or run. After, they sat in the locker area, on stools on the carpet. Around them, men a bit older than them walked and changed their clothes. Up top on the piece of metal in the lockers: cologne, watches. Darryl had brought speakers and they were listening to Lauryn Hill. One man came up to them and started talking to them about the music. Eventually he invited them to eat wings with him once they were all changed. The man drove them out

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to the old racetrack grounds where some restaurants and stores were built now—he said other friends of his would meet them. All the places around here, everything looked like the airport—the restaurant was even near the airport. It was a series of metal and thin, dark wood panelling, and leather and fabrics. Neither Darryl nor Pete Rose Jr. had ever been here, but they had been to restaurants like it. The name of the place was Joey’s. The man ordered beer and wings for them and then started talking about the basketball team and the baseball team and then about his kids. When the man’s friends came they were already talking, and they kept talking when they sat down. On the way home, on the bus, Darryl and Pete Rose Jr. felt light in the head and heavy inside. Pete Rose Jr. wished, partly, that they would have gone to the IMAX from the Y. It was a thought he had on one of the machines. He remembered that it was Fantasia right now.

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he restaurant, for a moment, had reminded Pete Rose Jr. about the other Joey, their friend. Neither of them had seen Joey since a few weeks ago when he took them to the North Star. He wondered if Joey had ever had a job or a wife. (Darryl and Pete Rose Jr. didn’t know about the video of Joey shitting in the planter on YouTube.) Pete Rose Jr. thought about the possibility of never seeing Joey again, or if Joey was dead (a half-second moving thought). Later that month they saw Joey outside Giant Tiger, standing beside Eric the Great (the famous busker). Darryl and Pete Rose Jr. and Joey—after running into each other— went to the Downtowner for drinks. Darryl bought the drinks for all three of them, it was dark in there, it felt underground, and it was

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cold where they sat, beneath the vendor window. After Pete Rose Jr. and Joey finished a game of pool, they sat back down and Joey told them where he’d been. He said a couple of nights after the North Star he’d been in the Neon Wilderness with a friend. The two of them decided there wasn’t enough money to be buying bar drinks so they got king cans and went to the Planetarium. They leaned up against the dome or on benches and Joey’s arm started to ache and then burn and then it bubbled up a bit, in the skin. They left the Planetarium and went up Main to a mission. Inside, the worker told Joey the frozen metal from the king can had conducted to the metal plate in his arm. Eventually Joey’s family found out about his medical problem so he had to visit them. Joey’s mom and aunties and cousins lived in Bloodvein First Nation, so he went up there to show them he was all right. He said he just got back last night. Pete Rose Jr. looked at Darryl and then past Joey and said “Jesus.” Pete Rose Jr. and Darryl knew the bus station well by now and they pictured Joey there. Joey left when he finished his drink. He shrugged and said he was all right now though, except for one or two things (Pete Rose Jr. and Darryl couldn’t really hear what those things were) and he had to meet his friend. It had been difficult for the men to hear each other, because of the traffic at the vendor window. The bartender there worked at both the bar and the vendor.

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he boy with the records and the coffee had gone into the hospital. It was the psych ward and Pete Rose Jr. and Darryl brought three coffees and had one hour. They had had to press a

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buzzer to get into the space and then a nurse took them to the boy’s room. Inside it was white, and bright. It was hard to tell what was making it bright. They saw the boy’s name on a whiteboard, with the other names in red marker. The boy was on his bed reading An Introduction to Canadian Politics and his head was greasy. He seemed happy to see Pete Rose Jr. and Darryl, and he swore when he said hi. The boy got out of the bed while the men stood there. They could feel now that the light was coming in through the window. On the floor there were shoes with no laces in them where there should have been laces. The three of them went to sit in an alcove. The window showed the tops of houses inside yards and farther up an empty space where the tracks were. Outside the hospital the newspaper said: “Why aren’t you at the Beach?” It was about that it was hot. Pete Rose Jr. and Darryl didn’t know where the beach was.

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arryl stretched his legs out and watched Burden of Dreams. In the jungle, a little girl was picking her fingernails with a knife. Her eyes passed the camera, they were glazed. Or distracted by something that wasn’t there. After, Darryl went down to the Mass Convenience, the black and yellow sign. He bought cigars and looked past the man. In the back he thought he saw the little girl. She was sitting on the box from a microwave. It looked like she was playing on a Game Boy but Darryl couldn’t see the ends of her arms—they were behind a wall. He saw her in profile, and her eyes were set on a place behind the wall. She had long hair like the girl in the jungle but Darryl knew they weren’t the same. Outside the streets were dusty. Beside him, he noticed a man was crawling up a

chain-link fence. He tried to think of where he would smoke the cigars.

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ete Rose Jr. thought he needed a haircut. It was afternoon and he walked through slush heading for the O Village Bridge. The sun went to his eyes and he felt a spit of warmth underneath his jacket. He saw two figures in a fighting motion or dancing, on the bridge. As he got closer he saw it was two guys fighting, they looked the same. He asked if they needed help. Both guys had been screaming. “It’s my brother!” one of them said. They were still wrestling. Cars were backed up along the bridge and people stared. The guy told Pete Rose Jr. to take that rope there and untie it and throw it off the bridge. He did. The rope felt rough in his hands, it was big—it was a noose. Later he held the legs of the brother. Bits of slush and dirt filled his hands, and then the cops came. Later, in the barbershop, on the radio, two men were talking about the scourge of car theft. He had to wait an hour and fifteen minutes for the other men. In the street afterwards, Pete Rose Jr. felt a little bit new from the haircut, and the sun was still shining. He thought for a minute about the way the rope had felt in his hands. The way the guys had spoken. On his way home, in the bus shack, a boy told him about Dubai. The boy’s eyes widened to show a meaty space, as he spoke, while Pete Rose Jr. nodded and exhaled. He thought tears of joy might come rolling down from inside the little head.

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Owen Toews is a student living in Brooklyn. He is a founding member of the Winnipeg Arcades Project, producers of a video, mmm, ahh this is turtle island, on YouTube and publishers of a booklet, Island Burden.

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mention the Opportunity For Growth

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Wicked pain, awesome agony, bootylicious suffering— I am all about moving forward into the future

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ll the nurses’ names here end in nda: Rhonda, Randa, Amanda, Linda, Little Linda, Panda. No, I made that up. No one is named Panda, though one of Rhonda’s tunics is patterned with little pajama-clad bears. Is tunic the right word? Probably not—it’s too close to panic, which is not encouraged in the ward. People do anyway, but quietly. Look, says Doc B. What I’m telling you doesn’t have to be the end of the world. You should think of it rather as an opportunity for personal growth. Well, I think, aha. Now we are getting somewhere. An Opportunity For Growth! was, funnily, also the title of the informational pamphlet that came through my mail slot just a few days after the BGD

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chemical plant opened, a few blocks down from my house. It pictured a spry fellow who was either a blob of soft-serve ice cream or a frozen waterfall, with bandy legs, white gloves and a top hat. Hi, I’m B.B. Begood, and I’m the Newest Addition to Your Neighbourhood! I am looking forward to moving into the Future with You! These words, speechbubbled, came out of his mouth. Well, I really believe in coincidences. They are the universe’s way of saying Hey sister, you’re on the right track! Keep on trucking, somebody up there likes you! And so on. So when Doc B gave me the speech about Metastasis and Prognosis Poor and Recovery Unlikely, not to mention the Opportunity For Growth, it seemed like a sign. Not like a traffic sign, not big and sharp-edged and full of neon warnings. More like a subtle gesture, a twitch in an eyelid or at the corner of your friend’s mouth when you ask her how’s she feeling, so subtle you barely notice, so subtle even she barely notices. And it means this: You have no idea, but something important is going on here and you are a small but fundamental part of it. Have faith. Hold on. Or something like that. BGDs, I learned from the pamphlet, are manufactured molecules that are used primarily in the making of industrial degreasing fluid. Helping the Wheels of Industry Turn, as the pamphlet says. Think of it: something that never existed before has been created in the interest of progress, in making things go smoothly and uninterrupted. If they made BGDs for my life, I would be the first in line.

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documentary filmmaker has been dogging me, emailing and sometimes even showing up at the ward, where Randa or Linda has to shoo her away like a stray dog. She wants to interview me for a “new project” she’s working on; something about the environment and corporate accountability, toxic groundwater, the bloom in my bloodstream—all are related. Which, you know, I wholeheartedly believe. But every time I read one of her cheerfully threatening pleas, I get a case of the squirmies. Maybe it’s her evident distaste for punctuation and capital letters: believe me this is the only way we can raise awareness of what they’re doing to people like you monsters every last

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one. But it’s more than that. How can I explain to her that the monsters are all in her head? Jeannie, the woman who shares my room here, wants me to do it. Make those bastards pay for what they did to you, she tells me. Because of her nose tube, make sounds like bake. I understand her bitterness—this isn’t a good place for young people. If only she could know for sure that she was a part of something bigger, the way I do. But she was gut-shot by a hunter who mistook her for a bear. I keep telling her that that is a much more interesting subject for a documentary, and she keeps rolling her eyes and grumbling into the latest issue of the Utne Reader. She thinks I’m a wimp, but maybe she’s really jealous of the changes I’m going through. Some people have no concept of the importance of growth. Rhonda comes in to change Jeannie’s tube. Oh dear, will I be able to play the piano when all this is over? I say. It’s this little routine we have. You gals, Rhonda smiles. She calls me pet names that sound violent but are actually full of affection: a cut-up, a caution, the living end. I think Jeannie finds our relationship alarming.

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he wooded area at the end of the street where I used to live, before I ended up here with Jeannie, was once a landfill. Landfill is a much better word than junkyard or garbage dump—it sounds so purposeful, like hair gel or cake icing. And the land being filled was the wooded area where I would walk Cocoa Beans. Once enough used diapers and Pop Top Puppies and laptop batteries and torn pantyhose had been recruited, grass was laid over the pile like thick green linoleum, and regularly spaced trees planted on top—Siberian elm, chosen for its ability to grow quickly and in poor soil. And that was my next-door neighbour, the trees that lined up like doormen, until the plant moved in. Things are always moving in and expanding, the new crowding out the old. Which is pretty much the situation in my uterus at the moment, as Doc B tells me. Well Doc, I say, I guess you know what you’re talking about, you are on the right end of the catheter, ha ha! On TV the other day there was a story about a man who had a genetic defect that was slowly turning him into a tree. We do not know exactly

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why these things occur, said the host, a comforting David Attenborough type, but we can say for certain that each incidence pushes the species toward greater understanding. Amen, I think. Incidentally. I believe that when you die, among other things, you get to see the Log Book. The Log Book keeps track of everything, absolutely everything, in the universe, with strict numerical accuracy. How much money you spent on presents for relatives who didn’t like you. The total volume, in litres, of lime rickeys you drank. How many people thought about you while they yanked off. And so on.

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he documentary filmmaker, a jean-jacketed woman with a silver crescent in her nose, shows me clips from her body of work, to try to convince me to Share My Story. A man, a union organizer for a coal mine, stares past the camera and speaks in a flat voice about The System, which is apparently very hard to beat. There are shots of a wasted moonlike landscape, a crumbling bungalow, a man lifting his shirt to show a scar from a bullet that grazed him on a picket line. At the end, a line of text appears on the screen, severe block letters in cinnabar red: CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY NOW! Isn’t it a little, you know, grim? I say. It could use a bit more pizzazz. How about, like, a dancing cartoon miner’s pick? It could be singing that song, the one that goes ya load sixteen tons, and whaddaya get . . . I sing in a gravelly voice and do jazzy hand gestures like Liza Minnelli in Cabaret. The filmmaker narrows her eyes at me like she’s checking how I will look in widescreen. Corporate accountability isn’t about pizzazz, she says. It’s about— Yeah, I know, I say. Growth. When the BGD plant first started posting its Opportunity For Growth! signs in the wooded area at the end of my street, there were all sorts of protests. Women who looked like the filmmaker except with bigger and more colourful patches on their jeans, men with beards that made them look like perverted old codgers way before their time. They held homemade signs with slogans like BEGOOD? NO GOOD! and NOT IN MY FORMER LANDFILL. One, surely a relic from causes past, read ASBESTOS? AS-

WORSTOS! I don’t know where they came from—they sure weren’t from around here. At the end of the day, a miniature school bus came and they all piled into it and drove away, leaving their picket signs and stubs of hand-rolled cigarettes scattered on the ground. Later, while I was walking Cocoa Beans around the block, I saw that someone, probably the Johansson kids, had arranged the sign sticks on the ground in such a way that they spelt out a dirty word. I bent over and moved a couple of the sticks. AUNT. Much better. That’s when I noticed another woman in the wooded area. She was muttering to herself and tossing the protestors’ cast-off recycled paper coffee cups into an orange garbage bag. She was about my age, petite, dressed in a puffy insulated coat that made her look like the Michelin Man. You don’t have to do that, I said. She looked up at me, startled. If I don’t, who will? No, I said, I meant talk to yourself like that. You could talk to me instead. And she smiled. You live around here? Yep. You? Moving in this July. Well, I said, welcome to the neighbourhood! Cocoa Beans trotted up and dropped a sandwich wrapper with the words GUTLESS WONDER printed on it in front of her. What a pain in the keister, I said. Yeah. But they’re not bad kids. They just don’t understand that there are bigger things than them. God knows I didn’t, at that age. You are so right, I said. About the bigger things, I mean. I’m glad you understand, she said. Like, all this—she gestured at the wooded area in a non-specific way—all this once would have been considered unnatural, freakish. But we adapt, we develop a new concept of normal. And we evolve, move forward. Into the future, I say. Exactly. Some of the trees were showing signs of disease—pulpy orange thatches on the bark and weird noxious bulges that made me think of acne. Look, I said to the woman, pointing. Get this tree an Oxy Pad. And she laughed like I hadn’t heard in ages, before or since. You are something else, she said. When the B.B. Begood informational

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pamphlet came a few months later, I noticed a photo in the bottom right-hand corner. Shyla Cervenka, General Manager and CEO. It was the woman from the woods. The Michelin Lady. Well, I thought, good for her.

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oday I have a meeting with Grace Showalter. Grace is a Legacy Coach. That is, she helps people figure out how to influence future generations through their stuff. Assets, investments, furniture, artwork, house. Since I have no offspring, my legacy can do all kinds of good for all kinds of people. Grace sits on the edge of my bed holding a very nice leather-bound binder. She is a pleasantly filled-out woman with what they used to call legs that go all the way up. I have a few ideas to run by you, she says. How about KancerKids? They have some really great programs, like FinalFantasy, where you get to— No, I say. No kids’ stuff. Hmm, says Grace. Well then, what do you think of Womb For More? They work with survivors of uterine, um, trauma. It might be appropriate. Why? I ask. Well, because of, you know— Gosh, I say, isn’t there something with more of a, what do I mean, positive outlook? Grace frowns at her binder. Maybe we need to move away from the not-for-profit sector. I wholeheartedly agree.

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will tell you about my other legacy, which probably no one will receive. It’s a collection of positive adjectives. Incredible, great, awesome, fantastic. Most of them come from Reader’s Digest and are all-purpose. Some are from women’s magazines, and others I picked up from music videos and the internet. Some of them I’m less sure about: wicked, sextastic, sweet, bootylicious, rad. The thing about each of these adjectives is that when applied to the noun pain they both retain their original sense and create a whole new meaning. Incredible pain. Wicked pain. Awesome agony. Bootylicious suffering. Sweet affliction. The filmmaker kneels awkwardly on the edge of my bed, balancing her video camera on one shoulder. A skinny man hovers a boom mike on a

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long pole over my head while Jeannie tries to keep out of the way of its other end, which is jabbing dangerously close to her glucose bag. How long ago did you receive the diagnosis? The filmmaker’s voice is calmly inquisitive. I breathe in. That video camera—did you know it comes from dinosaurs? Sorry? Dinosaurs. Fossil fuels come from the decayed bodies of dinosaurs, oil products are dead animals from a billion years ago. See? I point to Jeannie’s pink plastic hairbrush. Triceratops. The tubes coming out of our bodies, Jeannie’s and mine—brontosaurus. The sound guy’s vinyl pants— Lemme guess, the filmmaker says. T. Rex? Actually, he says, these are genuine leather. I take another breath. Anyway. The dinosaurs couldn’t adapt, so they died, but they’re still with us, driving our cars and making our records and whatnot. Human beings probably won’t adapt either. But—I sit up in bed and try to look prophetic. At least we can try.

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just received the paperwork for the Foundation for the Advancement of the Human Animal from Grace Showalter, who thoughtfully left it on the night table while she thought I was sleeping. In fact I was in a drug-induced stupor, but how was she to know the difference? Sometimes I’m not sure I do. It’s going to be a small foundation, funding research on environmental factors in physical evolution of the human species. Like B.B. Begood, like the tree man, like the dinosaurs, I am all about moving forward into the future. I push the paper back into its manila envelope and inhale the gluey smell of the seal. I close my eyes. It’s been a long day. Fifty-two miles of floors mopped. Two car accidents. Seventy hours watching movie stars kiss. Three thousand and seventy-seven Styrofoam cups. Three people who called me Darling. Thirteen funerals. And so on.

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Anna Leventhal’s most recent piece in Geist, “The Polar Bear at the Museum” (No. 67), was nominated for the 2008 Journey Prize. She lives in Montreal. See more of her work at geist.com.

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Sharpen My Skates Salvatore Difalco

When all else fails, give the horse some oats The Mountie at Niagara Falls

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asn’t really a Mountie I discovered one day while watching the cascades and contemplating suicide. He was an actor. Told me so himself. Obviously I never did get around to jumping in because I’m sitting here hale and hearty writing this little thing. But the false Mountie was standing there at Table Rock letting some Japanese tourists photograph him with the Falls as a backdrop. I don’t know what story he told them, probably not that he was an actor. That would have been a drag for them. No need to shatter the illusion. He had a big red face. Perhaps burned by the hot sun, though you’d think his great hat would have blocked it well enough. Lots of people come to the Falls to off themselves.

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he told me she was a colonic hydrotherapist. I had no idea what she was talking about. She was a good-looker with a fine pair of legs and nice smile. I’m not one for parties but I was glad I came to this one. Anyway, the colonic hydrotherapist seemed to dig me and didn’t object when I let my hand rest on the small of her back. We chatted for a while. The girl’s skin had a radiant glow to it. Her teeth were very white. Her breath smelled lightly of cloves. Yes, it was going well. Then I made inquiries about her line of work. She filled me in. I didn’t know how to process all that information. On the one hand, it was extremely interesting. Who could have known you carry around ten or so kilograms of rotting fecal matter in your colon? On the other hand, it was extremely distressing. Ten kilo-

grams of rotting fecal matter? What the hell. She asked me what was wrong. I told her nothing was wrong. What could be wrong? She asked me if I was interested in going to her clinic for a treatment. I wanted a few more details. She explained that more than twenty gallons of fluid would be flushed through my system. I thought about that at some length. Nice to know that there were cures for being full of shit.

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here. You’ve read the first word, now I’ll put you on a white horse and walk you around the grounds. Notice the wrought-iron gates—they were specially made to allow humans through, and perhaps small animals, but not cows. Those fucking cows were a real menace back then, the equivalent of modern terrorists. Fortunately most of those cows were eaten before they could do great harm to the community. Now what else can I say that will keep you on your white horse, or have you forgotten about it already? I know you, you’re clever. You don’t need to waste your time. So I’ll leave you with this last nugget: when all else fails, give the horse some oats.

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ocky complained of a loosened sphincter, and if that wasn’t enough to put me off, he asked if he could drink from my canteen. “I don’t think so,” I said. “Mine’s rusty,” he said. We were surrounded by water. I could hear the compact cascades rushing a few metres from our campsite. An osprey flew overhead, blocking Summer 2010 • G E IST 77 • Page 67


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out the sun with its vast wings. Something rustled in the bush. “What is it?” Rocky asked. “A bear?” But it was no bear. It was a carcajou. “What the fuck is that?” he said when I told him. “Well, carcajou comes from the Migmag word giigwaju, which means wolverine.” Rocky looked at me blankly, the nullity of the void apparent in his eyes. Some days you wonder why you bothered getting out of bed.

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e put it in. Did he put it in? “Rodney, did you put it in?” “No, Dougie did.” “Dougie wasn’t even in the picture.” “But he put it in.” He wasn’t even in the picture, that toothless bastard, and yet he put it in?

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“That’s fucked up, Rodney. You were right there. I could’ve sworn.” “Your eyes are playing tricks on you. Get some rest.” Drove out to Jason’s trailer. He was drinking beer. He gave me one. Told him the story. “Never liked Dougie,” Jason said. “He’s a stooge.” “He’s marrying my sister.” “She’s marrying a stooge.” “Did you score?” “Never got to see the guy. You mean the green, right?” “I mean the game, stupid. Did you score in the game.” “Nah.” I was more of a checker than a scorer. “No, that little prick scored the only goal. I swear he didn’t but everyone seemed to think he did.” Jason pulled out a picture album. “These are from the engagement party.” I stared at him for a sec, took a sip of my beer.

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nother time he showed me this weird guitar thing. He had a name for it—I forget. Anyway, it was this cool octagon-shaped stringed instrument that he slid this metal rod across. It made a sound like a Hawaiian guitar but tinnier. He said he bought it at a pawn shop for two grand. Seemed like a lot. “It’s antique,” he said. He did not say it’s an antique. Anyhow, he said I could stay for a while. He sat back on his sofa and lit a big reefer. He had a dog—it sat silently in the corner, this small black dog, or maybe it was a cat. I told him it was good shit. He twanged a few bars on the strange guitar. He wore no socks. But actually his feet were nice, small, clean, almost feminine. My ears burned. My mouth felt like kitty litter. Anyway, I forget the rest.

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e were kiddies then. A dog skeleton could have easily been the skeleton of a baby. We believed the older kids, rough bastards who always led us astray. We believed that Mrs. Dellapasqua, the grade 3 teacher, had green blood and thus came from Mars. Her oblong eyes and lack of ankles intensified our suspicion. We believed you could recharge a dead battery by sliding it under the furnace for a day or two. My sister achieved success one time but the battery powered her transistor radio for only a minute before it died again. We believed that those men at the Moose Lodge, near where they found the baby’s skeleton, belonged to a Satanic cult and sacrificed babies to Satan. Then later, when Mr. Sullivan, the retired stevedore, told Patty Sullivan that the skeleton was a dog, they tried to convince us that the devil worshippers at the Moose Lodge sacrificed dogs to Satan.

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’m not home. I have a toothache and a headache and my stomach is off. I look like a corpse. I’m sure my boss is thinking of canning my ass. He never knew I could be such a whiner, such a

wimp, such a wuss, as if whining about pain is a crime against humanity. But in some cultures it is, in a way. Nevertheless I cancelled my flight to Chicago, where I was scheduled to interview an important man I have never heard of, and I’m afraid I’ve made a bad name for myself. Downstairs my wife is crying because her editor rejected her latest column and her sorrow threatens to boil over into anger. I can feel it in my tooth. I don’t know about flying with a toothache. My sister once flew to Florida with one and spent a week in hiding after a Clearwater dentist botched the root canal. Root canal in Florida, root canal in Chicago, a wounded wife in Toronto. These things call for serious narcotics. No one needs to be in pain.

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idi wasn’t happy with her face. She thought she could improve it by not smiling. Nor did she smile too expressively when she did, and she had to on occasion. The world is so absurd. The other day she saw a man at a street corner pleading with a woman who could have been his wife, or more likely his girlfriend, pleading with her to forgive him for some unstated transgression. Didi walked away with a slight smile on her face, but had to wonder what the man was guilty of—maybe he had cheated on the woman. Or maybe he had been caught cheating with that woman on another woman and was apologizing about the complicated mud he had dragged everyone into. This was just like him, wasn’t it? Always biting off more than he could chew. How could she not smile just a little as she continued home, though the weeping fit later helped nothing.

The Fish

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e was a big guy, wearing a baggy Hawaiian shirt and his shaved head blazed in the yellow office light. His spectacles and his jollity put the others at ease, but behind the tinted lenses his eyes worked very hard. He said he could bend spoons and such with the power of his mind. Indeed, he bent a spoon before my very eyes

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simply by jiggling it a little and by focussing on it with an intense stare. Then he put a spoon on a desk, made a claw of his right hand and held it over the spoon until it started spinning. I studied the spinning spoon carefully but detected nothing untoward. The mentalist assured us that he possessed no supernatural abilities, that he had no contact with the dead, that he did not use black magic to achieve his ends. “You see,” he said, in his soothing, somewhat sibilant voice, “I only use the power of my mind to perform these miracles.” He held up a fork and instructed us to watch as he gently jiggled it, much as he had the spoon earlier. An amazing thing happened. Instead of bending as the spoon did, at the juncture between handle and bowl (or in this instance tines), one of the tines began to tremble and then sprang away from the other tines at a right angle. We applauded. Finally, he said he wanted to reproduce someone’s drawing without looking at it. When he asked for an artist I volunteered, even though I’m no Picasso. He handed me a black marker and a large pad of white paper. Then he removed his spectacles, pressed two

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quarters against his eyes and wrapped duct tape around his head like a bandage until he had completely sealed the coin-covered eyes. He instructed me to draw a picture, any picture, on the paper he had provided. I drew a radiating sun with a happy face, a very simple thing, really, quite childish. The mentalist then told me to tear my drawing off the pad and slide the pad to him. He asked for the marker and I fitted it into his hand. He held the marker over the pad for a moment and then drew what I thought looked like a fish. He put the marker down and removed the tape from his head and the coins from his eyes, not without obvious discomfort, and then put his glasses back on. He was sweating by now, the armpits of his Hawaiian shirt darkly soaked, his upper lip beaded. When he pointed to his drawing and declared, “You have drawn a fish!” I showed him my drawing and didn’t have to tell him that no, I had not drawn a fish.

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Salvatore Difalco lives in Toronto. A collection of his microfictions will be published by Anvil Press in autumn 2010. For more writings by Difalco, go to geist.com.

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Phony War In a Phony War you can’t voice your deepest preoccupations, because they sound like hysteria

Stephen Henighan

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n September 1, 1939, the German Army invaded Poland and the realization spread through most of the northern hemisphere that the world was once again at war. On December 10, the First Infantry Division of the Canadian Army sailed for Europe. The Canadian troops expected to enter a spreading conflict, but when they reached their bases in the United Kingdom they found that the Allied and Axis sides, armed and mobilized, were at war in word but not in deed. For months, nothing much happened. As some wag put it, having expected to confront the German Blitzkrieg, they found themselves in a Sitzkrieg. Known as the Phony War, this period of unearthly calm lasted until April 1940. The knowledge that

death and destruction were on the horizon did not prevent many people in Europe from continuing to live as they had before. My grandparents, for example, decided during this lull before the storm that they would have their fourth child. My grandfather continued to work at the clothing shop he owned in London until the day he went to work to find that German bombers had left a large hole in the ground where the shop had stood. The awareness of approaching disaster did not alter my grandparents’ behaviour. Only the next spring, when Germany invaded Norway, did the full import of their decision to enlarge their family become apparent. Today we are once again in a Phony War. This time the antagonist is the

damage we have done to our climate. Most people who are attentive to the news media are aware of the virtually irrefutable evidence that the planet is becoming warmer as a result of human activity. This conclusion may not be universally accepted in Fort McMurray, or on George Bush’s ranch, but beyond these outposts of obscurantism, the debate is over. We know that life-altering and possibly cataclysmic change is coming, and we continue to live as we have always done, burning as much fossil fuel as our incomes permit. We justify ourselves by telling friends how we recycle newspapers, use low-energy light bulbs, eschew bottled water or take cloth bags to the supermarket. My own claim to environmental virtue is that I have never owned a car; this pretension is nullified by my habit of making long trips on airplanes half a dozen times a year. Our small gestures toward environmental responsibility, which might be significant in the context of a large-scale effort to decarbonize civilization, are rendered meaningless by a society that fails to address the central issue of people in wealthy countries consuming resources at a rate that, according to persuasive prophets of doom such as James Lovelock, George Monbiot and Gwynne Dyer, guarantees that within twenty to thirty years, many parts of the world that are currently economically comfortable will face mass starvation. Once this consciousness creeps into your head, it never goes away. No act is innocent, no moment of triumph untainted by the apocalypse that lies ahead. I sit in a committee meeting and listen to a vice-president describe how the “competitiveness” of the university where I work depends on expanding internationalization. As I take notes on his plans to send ever larger numbers of students on semesters abroad in England, France, Guatemala, India, China

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and Poland, to open new semesters in Australia and Brazil, I wonder how much longer “internationalization” will be a viable strategy for any institution. I’m on this committee because I support these plans, but suddenly any scheme that involves hundreds of people a year taking long plane trips seems doomed. I hire a contractor to renovate my house, telling myself that it’s a “long-term investment”; then I wonder whether anyone will want a house in a commuterbelt town in a future when gas will cost more than champagne and Toronto, the city to which people in my town commute, will be unable to feed itself. Participating on a panel at a literary festival, I give my customary response to a question about why my short stories are set in many different countries: that my peripatetic life has made me feel a little bit at home in a lot of places and completely at home nowhere; that in order to unify my personality I must be perpetually in motion. As I utter this long-held article of personal faith, it sounds irresponsible in a way that it never has before. The next spring, as I’m lamenting the curtailing of the cross-country ski season by the premature disappearance of the snow, I read that over the March break holiday 500,000 people will pass through Pearson Airport in Toronto, and I can’t help but see the two events as connected. The false consciousness characteristic of the Phony War makes us grasp at straws. Reading Gwynne Dyer’s disturbing book Climate Wars, I found myself taking perverse solace in Dyer’s prediction that if by the year 2035, no country in the world will be exporting food, Canada, along with Russia and a few spots in Scandinavia, will be among the few that will still be food selfsufficient. I decided, conveniently, to overlook another of Dyer’s predictions: that most of the western United States

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will turn into a burning desert. It’s hard to imagine that the 100 to 150 million starving, desperate, well-armed Americans who might be expected to flee north to where the climate remains moist enough to support agriculture won’t make an impact on Canada’s food self-sufficiency. In a Phony War you can’t voice your deepest preoccupations, because they sound like hysteria. We all live with the (mostly unspoken) knowledge of the inevitability of our death as individuals. To live with the unspoken knowledge of the inevitable death of our civilization, perhaps within three decades, is far more paralyzing. Many vital activities— renovating the house, trying to write stories that will last, raising children, saving for the future, even exercising environmental responsibility—threaten to become meaningless. I’m on the alert now for signs that the Phony War may be ending and the real war beginning. Recently an acquaintance mentioned that she and her husband had bought five acres of land to retire on, more than four hours north of Toronto. I was surprised. Economically successful West Indian immigrants in their early fifties, this couple has always expressed a preference for parts of the country where the population is racially varied. So why choose deepest, whitest north-central Ontario? “My husband’s read the stuff on global warming,” my acquaintance said. “We have to get away from the population centres and up to where we’ll be able to grow our own food.” I said nothing, astonished to find someone who was acting on the evidence that surrounds us. I suspected that, like most people, I would do nothing until it was too late.

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Stephen Henighan (stephenhenighan.com) is the author of A Grave in the Air and A Report on the Afterlife of Culture. To read his Geist columns, visit geist.com.

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Imaginary Places In the 1970s and ’80s, Canada was becoming visible through its complexities, not merely through its clichés; but then it all stopped

Alberto Manguel

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hen I first arrived in Canada from Argentina in the late 1970s, to work with the editor and publisher Louise Dennys on a monstrous project that became The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (in those days before electronics I had to travel with a knee-high pile of carbon-copy typescript), I discovered that Utopia really existed. Not the slave society proposed by Saint Thomas More as ideal, but one in which the vague nineteenth-century notions of equality and freedom seemed truly to be at work. Shortly afterwards I moved to Toronto with my family, and to my great surprise, not only did Canadian citizens seem to have a voice in the affairs of state, simply by joining school boards, commissions, councils, grassroots groups and the like, but also the arts—that undervalued, underpaid, underdog sector of every society I had ever known—had, if not pride of place, at least a seat in the first rows, in the Canada of the eighties. There were grants for writers, assistance to publishers, financial support for theatre groups and

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galleries. In Buenos Aires, one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, Jorge Luis Borges, had trouble making ends meet and was rarely paid for his contributions to newspapers and magazines. In Canada, I found, a less-than-unknown would-be writer such as myself could get (and got) money, actual hard cash, from the federal and the provincial arts councils. No less astonished was Sir John Mandeville when he discovered that in Cathay, gold grows on trees. Best of all, as I soon discovered, was the encouragement Canadian writers and artists received when they travelled abroad. Canadians often found that for foreigners, Canada had no recognizable features, perhaps because of its wise efforts to keep the identity of their country open. I myself had no idea of where it was that I had decided to settle. Canada was a vast pink space in the atlas (“too much geography and too little history,” as someone once said), and there were no notable Canadians from whom I could borrow the country’s face. I had

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read Margaret Atwood and thought she was American, and Robertson Davies and Mazo de la Roche and thought they were British. I didn’t know that “on the contrary” (as Samuel Beckett said when asked if he was English), they defined something else, more generous and open. When I gave readings in Spain, in France, in Germany, in Scandinavia, representatives of the Canadian government made themselves known. The Canadian embassies invited Canadian writers to dinner and the Canadian consulates threw parties for them. No doubt the bulk of the budget allotted to

this kind of activity was devoted to businessmen and investors, but some of it was thrown in the direction of the arts. And the businessmen and investors profited. Not that every foreign bureaucrat and banker quoted back to them, admiringly, an Atwood poem or a Davies witticism. Not that when Winnipeg was mentioned, every foreign potentate beamed “Sandra Birdsell!” But slowly, to the image of the Mounties and the poster for dogsledding in Quebec, were added other, more unexpected and more profound aspects of our nation. Canada was becoming visible through its complexities, not merely through its clichés. Then it all stopped.

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eginning in the nineties, and fully in place today, all true effort to support Canadian artists and writers abroad has ceased. Translations of Canadian books, one of the most efficient ways of hearing Canadian voices around the world, are hardly ever financed. Canadian representatives no longer show their faces at Canadian readings or exhibitions. No aid is given to events that include Canadians, even when the subject of the talk or show is Canada. In this sense we have become like much of the rest of the world, where artists and writers are remembered only when the social cake requires a little decorative icing. The recent financial crisis, so useful to justify every outrageous decision taken in the name of greed, is of course blamed for this withdrawal of support. But the truth is, the blame is ours. We have allowed our public transit systems to collapse and for rail lines to be ripped out. We have allowed the health system to become so degraded that, in Alberta, for instance, we find it normal to queue for hours outside public clinics in freezing weather to see whatever doctor happens to be present. We have allowed

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arts programs to be cut from our schools, and we accept that our children will be brought up in a system that considers painting and music superfluous activities. Maybe, immersed as I was in imaginary places, I believed in a country that never quite existed, at least not beneath the surface, and that now, when the arrogant cupidity of our economic system no longer bothers to hide its methods or intentions, even that surface has been blown away and Canada appears to be neither better nor worse than most other countries. And yet, I refuse to believe that what I first saw here was merely illusory. It is the publishing companies that produce trash, the bookstore chains that sell it, the production companies that look for nothing but a quick profit, the government budgets that consider art and books a waste of good money, that have the illusory quality, perhaps because they have no true grounding, no possible future. And the quiet, slow-grown convictions of honesty and generosity that resulted in the policies I discovered when I arrived, may yet spring up again: witness the efforts of the small publishing companies, of magazines such as Geist, of the surviving independent bookstores, of countless daily individual acts of resistance. One bit of evidence emerges from having read, in my distant youth, hundreds of accounts of utopias and dystopias: we can remain a faceless, medium-range economic power, or we can invest in our imagination and trace the lineaments of our future—that is, if we mean to survive.

Alberto Manguel is the award-winning author of hundreds of works, most recently A Reader on Reading, Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey and City of Words. He lives in France. Read more of his Geist work at geist.com.


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Acadia’s Quiet Revolution Successful revolutions need transformative politicians, popular heroes and unpopular villains; and the Acadians of New Brunswick had all three

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anada experienced two “quiet revolutions” during the 1960s. Both were in French-speaking parts of the country. The more familiar of the two occurred in Quebec, where the Liberal government of Premier Jean Lesage was transforming the province with huge hydroelectric projects and secularizing social programs. Quebeckers overturned the domination of the Catholic Church and the Anglo elite to take control of their own society. Maîtres Chez Nous was this revolution’s motto, and the power dam was its symbol. At the same time, the quieter of the two revolutions was taking place in New Brunswick. It involved the emergence of the Acadian people from generations of cultural and economic inferiority. It began in 1960 with the election of another Liberal premier, Louis Robichaud. (Transformative provincial premiers seemed to be the hallmark of the decade; one also thinks of W.A.C. “Wacky” Bennett in British Columbia.) Robichaud was a thirtyfour-year-old French-speaking lawyer who surprised his own party, perhaps even himself, by winning the election. New Brunswick, where the vast majority of Acadians live, had never before chosen one to be premier. In his memoir, I’m from Bouctouche, Me (McGill-Queen’s University Press), Donald Savoie recalls that the election of a favourite son sent a radical message to Acadians: they could now have a voice in their own government. More

than that, Robichaud’s policies overthrew years of prejudice and disparity and awakened a new pride in Acadian identity. For this reason, Savoie claims that the New Brunswick “revolution,” though far less known, was much more profound than Quebec’s. Of course, revolutions, whether they are quiet or not, need more than politicians to be successful. They also need popular heroes, and unpopular villains, and the Acadians of New Brunswick had both. The hero was Yvon Durelle. On December 10, 1958, in the Montreal Forum, Durelle, a lobster fisherman from Baie-Sainte-Anne in Miramichi Bay, fought Archie Moore for the light heavyweight championship of the world. Much to everyone’s astonishment, the battling Acadian knocked the American champ down three times in the first round. It looked like Durelle was on his way to an improbable victory. But there was a controversial long count that allowed Moore to regain his feet and he went on to win by a knockout in the eleventh round. It was one of the great fights in Canadian boxing history and an Acadian was part of it. When Moore said later that he’d never been hit harder in his life, all Acadians glowed with pride. Donald Savoie was eleven years old at the time of the title fight. A year earlier he had been in the crowd in Moncton to see Durelle knock out a fighter from Ontario to win the British

Empire championship. Durelle was young Savoie’s idol. During the 1950s the boxer made a visit to Savoie’s hometown of Saint-Maurice in southeastern New Brunswick. The whole village was in a commotion. “I remember to this day Durelle driving by our home in his large black Buick,” writes Savoie. It was “as if a demigod had just landed for a brief visit.” The villain in the Acadian melodrama was Leonard Jones. He was the mayor of Moncton from 1963 to 1974 and an out-and-out bigot. During his time in office Jones carried on a steadfast campaign to deny the French language any presence in the community.

This put him squarely in opposition to Robichaud’s provincial government, which was passing legislation to make New Brunswick officially bilingual. As so often happens, it was Jones’s belligerent opposition to the Acadians that drove them to fight even harder for equal language rights. (In 1974, when Jones won the Progressive Conservative nomination to run for a seat in Parliament, party leader Bob Stanfield refused to sign his nomination papers because Jones rejected the party’s support for bilingualism. He ran as an independent and won, though he did not

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run for a second term. He later resigned from the Moncton Rotary Club in protest against the decision to allow women to join.) In his book, Savoie identifies himself as part of “the Louis Robichaud generation,” meaning the generation of Acadians who grew up in “the downtrodden days” and emerged into an era “in which we stand tall, a people with strong pride in our roots and our history.” But what is an Acadian, exactly? It used to mean a French-speaking Roman Catholic who had grown up dirt poor and undereducated on the margins of Maritime society. As Savoie says, all that has changed. What hasn’t changed is the connection to one of Canada’s most shameful historical episodes, the Deportation of

1755–63: Le Grand Dérangement, when the British evicted French-speaking settlers from their lands on the Bay of Fundy and sent them into exile. According to Savoie, “one can only claim to be an Acadian if at least one line of ancestors was present” at this seminal event. How the Deportation, and Acadian history generally, has been understood through the years is the subject of another new book, Remembering and Forgetting in Acadie, by the Montreal historian Ronald Rudin (University of Toronto Press). During 2004–2005, Rudin made a series of field trips to attend events commemorating the 400th anniversary of the founding of the original French colony in North America on an island in the Saint Croix River and the 250th anniversary of the Deportation. In his book, subtitled A Historian’s Journey Through Public Memory, he uses these commemorative events to tell a wider story about how the Acadians recovered from the disaster of their dispersal and re-emerged during the nineteenth century as a distinct community with their own founding myth, their own national holiday (August 15), their own flag and even their own national anthem. (Related, of course, are the zydeco-loving Cajuns, the branch of the Acadian family that headed south at the Deportation and evolved their own particular Frenchspeaking culture in Louisiana. But that is another story.) An important part of this re-emergence has been the Acadians’ interpretation, and reinterpretation, of their own history. It used to be, for instance, that no one paid much attention to the Île Sainte-Croix settlement. After all, it only lasted a winter before the inhabitants moved across the Bay of Fundy to Port Royal to find a more hospitable location. But more recently, the brief habitation has gained recognition for what it was, the original French colony

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in America. Does that mean that 1604 has become Year One on the Acadian calendar? Or does the Deportation remain the defining moment for Acadians? Rudin’s book raises many other nettlesome questions. What is Acadia’s

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relationship to Quebec? Where and when did French Canada originate, at Île Sainte-Croix in 1604 or Quebec City in 1608? What was the role of the First Nations? And what about the diaspora, all those people from Acadie who no longer live in New Brunswick? Do they get to call themselves Acadians? In teasing out the conflicting answers to these questions, Ronald Rudin makes Acadia a much more complicated place than the one in the simple coming-of-age story contained in Savoie’s memoir. He also reveals the complicated relationship Acadians, like all people, have with their own past.

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Daniel Francis is a writer and historian. His latest book is Seeing Reds: The Red Scare of 1918–1919, Canada’s First War on Terror, forthcoming from Arsenal Pulp Press in fall 2010. To read more of his Geist work, visit geist.com.

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BOOK OF THE YEAR

get them. Jeff Wall: The Complete Edition (Phaidon), at seventy bucks, is

Mandelbrot

the book bargain of the season. It is a

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ne way to think about the photog-

raphy of Jeff Wall as it has evolved over the decades is to see it as a dismantling of the “decisive moment” as defined by the photographer Henri CartierBresson and the photojournalists inspired by him. The heroic cult of photojournalism rests on the quest for “truth” and depends entirely on the illusion that photographs are joined to “reality,” a reality unseen until its revelation in the pages of a magazine or on a television screen. This is the photography that insists, that

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instructs, that tells us what to feel about war, famine and other catastrophes that the media requires for hourly consumption. Jeff Wall’s photography, on the other hand, insists on nothing: its concerns are limited to the expansive questions of how and why we see what we think we see, what we feel we see; in short: what we see. His is a photography of enactment, and precisely for that reason compels its audience to grasp the enactment at the same time as or even before it proposes to offer a particular subject. As such, his images of war, eviction, argument, work, poverty, etc., are composed for the closest scrutiny and the longest view, and once you have seen them you never for-

huge volume, with 184 colour images of the artist’s work and several essays refreshingly free of artspeak. Wall himself writes lucidly about photography and art; his essays and interviews are endlessly readable. When I opened the book for the first time it fell open at page 248, to a double spread of a graveyard scene: The Holocaust Memorial in the Jewish Cemetery,

TRAVELLERS’ TALES, LOCAL AND GLOBAL Michael Hayward

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n her introduction to The Ancient

Shore (University of Chicago Press), the Australian-born writer Shirley Hazzard remembers how, in the mid-1950s, when she was beginning her life as an expatriate in Italy, she’d been warned “as are all who pursue their

1987, in which people are seen looking at the Holocaust Memorial; and then you look more closely into the landscape and

dream—by those who define reality as a sequence of salutary disappointments, that ‘real-

you discover more people throughout the graveyard, inhabiting it for as long as you study the photograph. When I read the notes, I realized that this was the graveyard that I was to visit the next day, to bury a friend—whose resting place, I could now see, belonged among other things to the history of art. Wall writes: “a picture of a cemetery is a ‘perfect’ type of landscape. The inevitably approaching, yet unapproachable, phenomenon of death, the necessity of leaving behind those who have passed away, is the most striking dramatic analogue for the distant—but not too distant—viewing position identified as ‘typical’ of the landscape. We cannot get too distant from the graveyard.”

ity’ would soon set in.” As you might guess from the book’s subtitle, “Dispatches from Naples,” Hazzard chose not to listen to these naysayers; she later observes (somewhat dryly) that “the ‘reality’ prefigured to me, like a spread of wet cement, never did ‘set in.’” The Ancient Shore is a slim book containing five “dispatches” by Hazzard from her vantage point in Naples, and one long essay (first published in The New Yorker) by her husband and fellow writer Francis Steegmuller. At one point Hazzard describes her life as having been “a succession of destined accidents,” a phrase that does not give sufficient credit to her own quiet determination. Hazzard and Steegmuller seem to have lived an enviable and idyllic life in their home overlooking the bay of Naples: reading

See page 4, this issue, for a meditation on Wall’s photograph Mimic.

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temporary Neapolitans and communing with the ghosts of earlier literary visitors 25

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(Goethe and Henry James among them). Hazzard, now seventy-eight, lives mainly in New York City, but still travels regularly to Italy, a place where (she feels) life

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can be lived “more completely among the scenes and sentiments of a humanism that the New World could not provide.” If you took Hokusai’s famous series of woodblock prints of Mount Fuji, combined them with text by the Zen poet Basho, shook everything together and relocated the resulting hybrid to Marin County, California, you’d have a good approximation of Tamalpais Walking (Heyday Books). Mount Tamalpais is the highest peak in the hills just north of San Francisco, and as such plays a prominent role in the waking and dream life of those who live in the region. A resident of Marin County since the 1970s, the artist Tom Killion has made Tamalpais the subject of some amazing black-and-white and full-colour woodblock prints. Tamalpais Walking reproduces the best of this work in a nice coffee-table book, combines it with several essays (also by Killion) that examine Mount Tamalpais’s “natural, cultural, historic, and spiritual dimensions,” and splices in relevant selections from the journals and poetry of the Beat

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poet (and fellow Californian) Gary Snyder. The book ends with a brief section on “Making a Multi-Block Color Print,” which gives a good sense of the labour that goes into producing a fifteencolour print: in this case, over three hundred hours of work involving “seven blocks, several of which I sawed into pieces for separate printings, and others which I printed in a light color, then carved away to print a second time.” Amazing stuff.

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Basho: The Complete Haiku (Kodan-

and Patrick Leigh Fermor, edited by

sha) collects (apparently for the first time

Charlotte Mosley (John Murray). Fermor first met Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire

In Suicide Psalms (Anvil Press), MariLou Rowley takes a dark subject and frames it in a minimalist form, and she is

(the youngest of the six Mitford sisters) in

largely successful in this

1956 at the Devonshires’ castle in Ireland (they also have a palatial estate in England;

endeavour. The words

such is life among the British upper

a razor, and although in certain poems the blade

in one volume) all of the haiku written by 25

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Matsuo Basho, the revered Zen poet of seventeenth-century Japan. The Penguin edition of Basho’s travel sketches (The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches) has long been a favourite of mine, and this volume makes a wonderful companion piece. The translator, Jane Reichhold, makes no attempt to wrench the English version of these haiku into the North American standard 5–7–5

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mainly to biographers. But there’s enough “meat” here to make this book worthwhile to (im)patient PLF fans: in particular the lengthy account of “An Expedition to the Pindus Mountains of Northern Greece” by Fermor in 1972.

takes the genre past the prehistoric format of poems shaped as inanimate objects. This

ast summer, in the Geist office, I found copies of several poetry books

questioning the definition of poetry and art, and this book is no exception. It unsettles one as a poet, and

English-language edition of this work. All those who aspire to fame (if not fortune) through the intermittent Geist Haiku

I had been searching for. The deal we made was that I could take them home if I’d write an endnote for each and every

that’s a good thing. Yesno by Dennis Lee (Anansi) is meant to be the second part of his earlier book Un.

Night in Canada invitational could do far worse than to study this book.

one. So here goes . . . Rocksalt: An Anthology of Contem-

Unfortunately, this one reads like a random map of Lee’s mind: it begs for a large dictionary. From start to finish it is, simply put, a struggle to enter the poems. Perhaps the title is a reference to the responses of readers when buying this book. A few months after I read Lisa Robertson’s Magenta Soul Whip (Coach House), I went to a talk by Robertson. Her work is always grounded in theory and I wanted to find out more. After a few beers, Lisa’s words were flying past me. I looked over at my friend’s notes and saw drawings of a dragon and some boots, and other doodles. By the end of the night I was certain Lisa was explaining her theories for

and Between the Woods and the Water, 1986). Fermor is now ninety-four, and at last report he was hoping to master the complexities of computer software to speed up his completion of the tale (which sounds suspiciously like procrastination to me). In the meantime we must make do with In Tearing Haste: Letters Between Deborah Devonshire

L

porary B.C. Poetry, edited by Mona Fertig and Harold Rhenisch (Mother Tongue), is a literary road trip across the province, with plenty of sights to stop for. Although the anthology includes a few poems that make the book feel as long as the journey from Kamloops to Smithers— giving the reader that familiar numbness in the butt—it does highlight a lot of B.C.’s best poetry, from Rita Wong, Kate Braid, Larissa Lai, bill bissett, and another 104 poets. This number includes some of the province’s rising stars of poetry, such as Sean Horlor, whose work always presents social issues in a thicker, deeper, stickier contemplative context. If you live in B.C. and read poetry, pick up a copy.

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In Donato Mancini’s second book of concrete poems, Ethel (New Star), he

more focused than his first book. Mancini’s work always gets one

Daniel Zomparelli

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hits an emotional chord in the fewest words possible.

collection is clearer and

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comes up dull, this work

ion), and there will undoubtedly be nitpickers who debate the merits of her translation, but she spent ten years on the

There must be many readers besides me who are waiting impatiently for the third and final instalment in Patrick Leigh Fermor’s account of his walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople in 1934 (the first two volumes—highly recommended—are A Time of Gifts, 1977,

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of casual correspondence that is of interest

syllable pattern (thankfully, in my opin-

project of translating and annotating all 1,012 haiku, and Basho: The Complete Haiku must be said to be the definitive

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classes); a lifelong friendship ensued. Many of the letters are lightweight fare, the kind

and imagery can cut like

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the television series Lost. Her ideas may go

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beyond my brain functions, but her poetry is still inspiring. Between the covers of this 25

new book there is a mixture of philosophy,

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science and spirituality. The collection is exceptional in its ability to complicate

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through colliding philosophies and yet

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make the world luscious in words. Soak up the language like a sponge, because it is juicy. After reading all of these books in a short time, I had a terrible feeling of accomplishment and exhaustion. And a hope that the Geist bookshelf will soon be ready for another pillaging.

GREAT FLOOD Kris Rothstein

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n The Waterproof Bible (Random House), Andrew Kaufman creates a

series of quirky characters each in need of personal transformation. Rebecca’s strong emotions affect everyone around her so she has found a way to trap and bottle them, but she is in danger of becoming an

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automaton. Her journey is triggered by a near-miss car accident with Aberystwyth, who looks like a green person with gills. Aby has stolen a car and is making a long-distance road trip to save the soul of the mother who abandoned her. Like Kaufman’s first novel, All My Friends Are Superheroes, this book is rife with elements of the fantastical, legendary and absurd not often seen in Canadian fiction. Most entertaining is his description of the Hlidafgod, humanoids who have lived underwater for centuries, with a complex and technologically advanced civilization below the sea. The Waterproof Bible is succinct, with not a chapter or word wasted. This brevity is to

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be applauded, but most of the characters’

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stories feel clipped; they were worthy of a little more time and attention. 25

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from Tomorrow, edited by Zsuzsi Gartner (Douglas & McIntyre), is a collection of new speculative short fiction from

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Canadian literary writers. The quality and originality vary wildly, which isn’t surprising with more than four hundred pages of material on offer. Many of the stories in Darwin’s Bastards try too hard to explain the different technologies or the political/environmental events that have changed the world; the best ones simply immerse the reader in a story with strange and unexpected elements. The best are “Love in the Pneumatic Tube Era” by Jessica Grant, in which the only way separated lovers can reunite is by riding cross-country under a big-rig truck; “I Found Your Vox” by Elyse Friedman, in which a man falls in love with a woman whose iPod-type device he has found; and the wonderful “Large Garbage” by Buffy Cram, in which the narrator is disillusioned with his comfortable life and drawn to the new homeless intelligentsia who hold salons in the homes of people who are out at work. There’s something for everyone, or almost everyone, in this collection.

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enry Bond, “a photographer and writer living in London” (as the whole text of the author bio tells us), proposes in Lacan at the Scene (MIT Press) that we imagine Jacques Lacan, the

From Hamilton Sketchbook #2 by David Collier, a smart, miscellaneous collection of Collier’s Hamilton-flavoured drawings, cartoons and mini-comics, some of which first appeared in H Magazine. Every page is rich with Collier’s offbeat but on-target observations about cities, people and life in general. Order from Mixed Media, 154 James St. N., Hamilton ON L8R 2K7, (905) 529-2323, for $10 including shipping. See Collier’s comic “James Joyce’s Three Requirements” on page 12 of this issue.

controversial psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who died in 1981 and whose work is still fiercely debated, to have left Paris in the early 1950s “in order to travel to England and work as a police detective.” Bond begins his investigation of the “Lacanian method” with the forensic archives of murders committed in England during that period. By re-photographing photographs of the

crime scenes, and isolating details that might not enter the official investigation, he is able to classify crime scenes as perverse, neurotic or psychotic. He ponders the image of a single highheeled shoe lying on the kitchen table, clothes carefully folded and placed on a chair, a plate of chocolate biscuits on the dinner table, the arrangement of a worker’s tools in a forest clearing, a

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wall of the train compartment. We are led to find the Other in the vacant visage 25

of the house overlooking the lawn on

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which the body lay, and we are led to grasp something of the many-layered

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POETRY IN MOTION

of practice enduring the unendurable. Frank is the hero of North of Smokey

Patty Osborne

by David Doucette (Cape Breton Uni-

newspaper headline, lewd graffiti on the

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versity Press), a big, rambling story that t’s tough being the Arm-Wrestling

begins in the darkness of poverty and a

Champion of the World, especially if you only have one arm (it gets very sore),

Cape Breton winter, travels to war-torn Europe and to the bars and boxing rings

and it’s the Depression, and you get

(made

of

taken advantage of by a fast-talking man and a fast woman. But

arm-wrestling craze) of Chicago and New York, and back to a slightly more

“clues” by a process of

Frank Curtis grew up in

prosperous post-war Cape Breton. The

re-documenting the documents is fascinat-

a remote settlement on the coast of Cape Breton

landscape is epic, the characters are flawed in interesting ways and the lan-

ing, and the opportu-

Island, where life can be

guage is terse and poetic at the same

nity to learn something of Lacanian psychol-

brutal and you can shoot yourself in the arm with

time. Ordinary people’s lives can make extraordinary reading.

ogy and analysis is not to be missed. With a minimum of jargon, and an introduction by Slavoj i ek that investigates “the

your brother’s gun (which you borrowed

(and highly ambiguous) task of the original crime-scene photographer. The scenes are gruesome, the analysis and accumulation

weird status of the camera eye” by quoting Proust at length (always a good thing).

without asking), and almost die getting home through the ice and snow, and then lie in a feverish state for days before a doctor can reach you, so he’s had plenty

over

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In the well-written and funny book The Parabolist by Nicholas Ruddock (Doubleday), a poet from Mexico takes over a poetry class for medical students in

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Toronto and precipitates a crazy string of

page. Here is number 84, chosen at ran-

the Nikolski compass is a marine instru-

events that includes a couple of murders (one of which may have been the result of

dom: “sway me to sigh / that right grace /

ment, so named because it faithfully points not-quite-north to the town of Nikolski,

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reading a poem), a rape and a suicide

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attempt. Nonetheless, this book will make you laugh—at the surprising idea that

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this deed // and kill in my mind / all that won’t shelter / my fear.” There are many wonderful surprises to be found in these meticulous “texts,” and one can only imagine the labour of picking

poetry can be the catalyst for violent and life-changing events, and at the dark humour of the medical students, who,

and plucking that went into their discovery (a project identified on the

when they’re not attending poetry class, are bending over their assigned cadavers and, week after week, cutting them up. There’s also a guy who is driven to keep updating his book on French idioms even as the publisher is producing the galleys (language changes so quickly these days), an ill-fated

cover as plunderverse). Here is number 112: “Frame my / symmetry // tiger, tiger // regulate / my shame.” The only stumbles in this consistent and rewarding work are two cautionary adverbs in the prefatory note, which

around the streets of Toronto. Ruddock is also a doctor, but don’t be put off: it just means that his descriptions of eviscerated

wrote: “the adverb is not your friend.” (For an excerpt of The Others Raisd in Me, see page 34, this issue.)

body parts are deliciously graphic. This is a great novel that just happens to be Canadian. (For an excerpt of The Para-

NORTH OF CANADIAN

bolist, see page 27, this issue.)

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Becky McEachern

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he 2010 winner of Canada Reads, the annual CBC competition to name one

Stephen Osborne

Canadian book that they figure every Canadian should read, was Nikolski, by Nicolas Dickner (Vintage). It is an engag-

mall books have a charm of their own, and when they’re well designed and printed, you want to own a copy just for the pleasure of holding it in your hand. Such are the attributes of Gregory Betts’s latest small book, The Others Raisd in Me: 150 Readings of Sonnet 150 (Pedlar Press), with the added benefit that one keeps opening it up to read more of what’s inside. What’s inside is a series of poems created by “crossing out words or letters in William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 150” and arranging what remains on a

ing, complex story of three young Canadians: a mysteriously nameless used-book salesman; Noah, a nomadic archaeology student who grew up moving towns every two weeks; and Joyce, a restless descendant of seafaring pirates. Their paths keep almost but not quite intersecting as they go about their daily adventuring in Montreal. But everything is connected: more fish references than you can imagine, from the fish-patterned tablecloth to insects flying around a light at night described as “a cloud of phosphorescent plankton.” Even

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and an indeterminate number of dogs.” The book includes a fair amount of

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made-in-Canada name-dropping. After

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reading about the CBC news (twice), the RCMP entering a fish store and the names and postal codes of ten gazillion small Canadian towns, I started checking the Canadian-ness of everything I came across. The smell coming from the janitor’s apartment in Joyce’s building, for instance, was of Kraft Dinner, so I did some googling. It turns out that although Kraft is an American company, the founder, James Kraft, was born near Stevenson, Ontario, and lived there until he was twenty-nine.

hundred years after the original sonnets, creatively misreads its subject text: these are protests too much. As Stephen King, having repented his own adverbial sins, once

MISREADING SHAKESPEARE

Alaska, “home to 36 people, 5,000 sheep

claims that the book, appearing exactly four

midnight canoe ride (complete with a loon sighting) in which a young man encounters the wrong woman, and a lot of running

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Three other facts about Kraft Dinner: (a) we’ve kept the original name (the Americans call it “Kraft Macaroni and Cheese,” the English “Cheesey Pasta”); (b) Canada has the highest per-capita consumption of it; and (c) we’re the only ones who call it “KD.” In a novel that has been translated into five languages and published in seven countries, we can only love Dickner’s little shout-out to us loyal followers of the noodles in the blue box.

TENSIONS OF THE WHOLE MAN Crispin Elsted

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mong the poems I fell in love with in The New American Poetry 1945–1960, edited by Donald Allen (UC Press), were Jack Spicer’s “Imaginary Elegies” i–iv. Later I heard Spicer read “Language” and was left with that anarchic sense of poetry carved from happenstance, important chiefly because it was noticed by a poet, which is so prevalent and important

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a part of a young (male?) poet’s psyche. “Imaginary Elegies” and “Language” seemed then, and still seem, worlds

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apart—the first crafted and musical, the second passionate and recklessly pointed. And they are broadly dissimilar from many of the other poems in my vocabulary did this to me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer, edited by Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian

oppresses its citizens, and about an

thoughts. In it, James Mann briefly explores why and how the United States

international community that responds with barely a murmur of disapproval.

economic involvement with the Chinese government. (He distinguishes

Perhaps the IOC should’ve watched the

brilliant and mediocre, articulate and ram-

Beijing bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times and as a columnist writing about

include women’s ski jumping in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The film is

icy on China, uses the knowledge he accumulated

to

write

this

others, but this does give the reader the opportunity to see the tensions of the whole man encumber-

zinger of a little red book. For anyone who does not comprehend

ing the poet. Spicer’s fears and desolation are countered by exal-

why democratic governments and good corporate citizens would continue to deal with the oppressive Chinese

tation and discovery, and by love; his poems to friends, like

regime, Mann has the explanation: it has to do with—surprise!—money. (Hail to Google for finally taking a

O’Hara’s, are celebrations of an intimacy that poetry was sick for by the 1950s. His poems avoid the

stand in January 2010!) During the Cold War (remember the Red Menace?), the U.S. needed an ally against the Soviet Union. Then there was a

self-absorption in their processes that infects so much late modernist poetry, and accept themselves in a way Spicer could never accept himself: “Oh, my heart would sooner die / Than leave its slack-jawed music.” His work commends our own uncertainties, while intimately revealing his dismay at foolishness and cruelty, and his cantankerous delight in the complexity with which we invest and know them. my vocabulary did this to me is a beautiful and human book by a man we would wish to have befriended.

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TWO FANTASIES

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Lily Gontard

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t just over 140 pages, The China Fantasy: Why Capitalism Will Not

period, all too brief, when both Carter and Clinton tried to tie human rights to trade. But it gave way to the Soothing Scenario: that the more the Chinese people consume, the more democratic the country will become. That’s my paraphrase, but the scenario allows governments to sell everything they can to the Chinese and not feel conflicted about it. There is a more believable scenario, however: that China will continue to grow as an economic and military power, oppressing its people all the while. Nothing in China will change, while the rest of the world accepts that what happens in China, stays in China. It’s easy enough to forget history, but The China Fantasy reminds us why we should be uneasy

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Norwegian film O’Horten (Sony Pictures Classics) before deciding not to

American foreign pol-

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explains and excuses its political and

the government.) Mann, who worked as

complete works revealed without having the chance to renounce some and privilege

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under your door or between your

between China, the Chinese people and

Frank O’Hara the misfortune of having his

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about our government’s ever-friendlier relations with a country that flagrantly

(Wesleyan), an astonishing book, where bling, sensitive and dull-headed push about like a crowd at a gate. Spicer shares with

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Bring Democracy to China (Penguin) could easily slip through your mail slot,

dedicated to the mother of director/ writer Bent Hamer and all other female ski jumpers, and in Norway there might be a lot of them. The protagonist of this gentle comedy is Odd Horten (Bård Owe), who is about to retire from his forty-year career as a train engineer. Odd’s life seems to be confined to the few hundred square feet of his apartment, the route he walks to and from the train depot and the train he drives. His adventures begin almost as soon as he lets someone else carry the silver train award he received for his long service with Norwegian Rail. Odd is a listener, not a talker, and he stumbles from one encounter to the next over a couple of wintry Norwegian days. His pensive and respectful nature is reflected in Hamer’s script as the film takes its time in showing the world unfolding around Odd. At one point he clings to a lamppost at night and watches as a person riding a scooter slides sideways down a steep, icy street, followed by a businessman sitting upright, legs outstretched in front of him, a briefcase clutched to his chest. More than anything, O’Horten explores the nature of responsibility, goodness and trust through the almost-naïve character of Odd, a grown man, and his equally mute mother, who spends her days smiling at the world outside the window of her nursing home.

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British Columbia. Not all of Banyard’s

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SEX, ANGST AND OTHER HANG-UPS

main characters are children of hippies, but

Patty Osborne

death, when they were teenagers, of their friend Kristy. Ten years later, when they

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return to Nelson for her

something else, I’d use it to describe a new series from Annick Press that presents

memorial service, they discover that everyone

two unrelated stories in

has been keeping secrets

one book: read one story, flip the book over and

about the events surrounding her death. Add

read the other story. The

to that some sexual ten-

series is called One Voice, even though there are

sion, some existential angst and an impending birth, and you’ve

two in each book, perhaps

got an interesting tale from a generation that grew up surrounded by what has but are just as hung up as their parents and

midst of confusion and chaos and has little of the distance and perspective

grandparents were.

who, to the horror of the adults around her, decides to have sex with her boyfriend; and in The Pool Was Empty by Gilles Abier, the narrator is Celia, who is charged with murder when her boyfriend falls into an empty swimming pool and dies. The stories are short, perhaps because there is no preamble: from the first paragraph we are thrust into events and emotions that are out of control, and although it takes a minute or two to figure out what’s going on, we can’t help but jump on-board for the wild ride. I’ve never read anything as fierce and compelling as these stories—they remind me how great it is not to be a teenager any more. 100

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Never Going Back by Antonia Banyard (Thistledown), suggests that baby boomers who went “back to the land,” smoked pot and eschewed conventionality didn’t do their kids any favours, except maybe to give them an appreciation of the spectacular natural beauty of the area around Nelson,

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become known as an “alternative lifestyle,”

teenager who is in the

of a third-person narrator. In Nothing But Your Skin by Cathy Ytak, the narrator is Louella, a mentally challenged girl

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they’ve all been deeply affected by the

f the word flipbook didn’t already mean

because each story is told in the first person by a

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Teen angst reaches a whole new level in Joey Comeau’s new book, One Bloody Thing After Another (ECW Press): wisecracking Jackie, who has a bad temper, a wicked sense of humour, the ability to make herself invisible and a dead mother who shows up at odd times to say “I didn’t mean to wake you, baby,” has a crush on her best friend, Ann. But Ann doesn’t respond, because she’s preoccupied with thoughts of her own mother, who is chained up in the basement where she screams and moans and demands to eat meat (preferably while it’s still alive). Add to this a sweet old blind dog named Mitchie, who keeps getting caught in corners, and his owner, Charlie, who regularly encounters the ghost of a headless woman in the corridor of the old folks’ home, a litter of new kittens, a roller-coaster ride and several bloody things, and you’ve got a fast-paced, wacky story that you can’t believe you’re still reading, even as you are. Solitary diners take note: this isn’t the book to prop open while you chow down on a nice juicy steak.

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LETTERS

Artists in this Issue David Campion and his wife, Sandra Shields, are photographer-writer partners who have collaborated on many projects integrating images and text, including two books: Where Fire Speaks and The Company of Others. They live in Deroche, B.C., and at fieldnotes.ca. See more of their Geist work at geist.com. Charles W. Coates is a printmaker who lives and works in Tucson, Arizona. See more of his art at workingpa.squarespace.com. David Collier is a comics artist, author of Just the Facts, The Frank Ritza Papers and many other works. Visit him at drawnandquarterly.ca and at geist.com.

Mandelbrot is Stephen Osborne, publisher of Geist and author of Ice & Fire: Dispatches from the New World. Visit him at phototaxis.ca, and see more of his Geist work at geist.com. Bonnie Marin is a Winnipeg artist who works in a variety of media including painting, sculpture, collage and book art. Her work is influenced by both pop and surreal art. Julie Morstad is an illustrator, a mother and an accomplished soup maker. She also animated a music video with her brother. She lives in Vancouver and at juliemorstad.com.

Rebecca Dolen is a writer, illustrator and co-owner of the Regional Assembly of Text, a handicraft store full of alphabet-inspired gifts and stationery. She lives in Vancouver and at assemblyoftext.com. See more of her work at geist.com.

Adrian Chi Tenney is a comics artist and musician who lives in Los Angeles.

Manfred Hartmann is a German photographer specializing in HDR photography. See more of his work at hartmann-fotos.de.

Joyce Wieland (1930–1998) was a visual artist who worked in many media: drawing, painting, collage, film, fabric and cartoons. She was also a writer and a cultural activist.

Michel Lambeth (1923–1977) was a filmmaker, writer and photojournalist. He lived in Toronto.

Dave Walker is a freelance cartoonist in Essex, U.K. He draws for the Church Times and edits websites. Visit him at cartoonchurch.com.

GEIST CAN BE YOURS! Subscribe today and get 4 free issues Go to www.geist.com/subscribe (or call toll free 1-888-434-7834)

Letters, continued from page 8

CARTOMANI A n receiving Geist 76, I was excited to find a new look. More pages, rich, matte-finish paper, perfect binding, interesting and wide-ranging content, excellent and appropriate typography—a visual and literary treat. On page 88, though, I found the “Canadian Map of Lofty Principles,” by Melissa Edwards, highlighting suitably named sites across our country. My first thought was, What a wonderful way to cap off this great edition. My second was, Surely she missed some good ones. I soon determined that my suspicion was justified. One can shrug off the omissions of Acme, Dauntless, Economy Creek and Fair Creek, Alberta; or the absence of Bountiful, British Columbia, for each is slightly tainted and may not have been deemed lofty or principled enough to make the cut. There is, however, one B.C. centre whose residents could argue that they have been cruelly snubbed. Their town’s name is a perfect fit and eminently familiar to boot, springing from each of us eternally: HOPE, for goodness sake—that lovely little edge-of-the- Lower-Mainland community. How lofty and principled can a place name get? —Terry Clements, Vernon BC

O

SEND YOUR LETTER TO:

The Editor, Geist letters@geist.com, Fax 604-669-8250, #200 – 341 Water Street Vancouver BC, v6b 1b8 Letters to Geist may be edited for clarity, brevity and decorum. Authors of published letters will receive a Geist Map, suitable for framing.

Page 86 • G E IST 77 • Summer 2010

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CROSSWORD

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Prepared by Meandricus

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Send copy of completed puzzle with name and address to: Puzzle #77 GEIST 341 Water Street, #200 Vancouver, B.C. v6b 1b8

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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 magnet. Good luck!

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DOWN 1 Yikes, those were the dragon’s pastries! 2 Not a shortcut that affects me the wrong way, but I’ll manage somehow (2)

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32 ACROSS 1 She uttered an inner plea that the plant would stay open for a few more seasons 5 Aren’t Rita’s boys from down there? 10 One of those things really bugged Butch so much he called Ron a drip 11 Sounds like those South Americans have been there, done that, and taken a photo of a sea cub 13 Island sounds perfect for ceremonial march 14 There are 416 or 905 good people in town who raise pigs (abbrev) 16 Alex was saved every half-hour 17 Unfortunately, on the fifth he evacuated, not into the lady’s good books (abbrev) 19 Bend over to tie your shoes 21 In Toronto, one of them forgot the stockings and didn’t bring any instruments either 23 Did Julia poison the sweater chain near Toronto? 24 It’s purest if sent down the line 26 Production of the mighty Milt has interesting structure but no arc 28 Don’t tug ma, the range will go off the scale 30 Say goodbye to Burkina Faso 32 In Albania, a lek will buy a lot of curls but leave you greenish 33 When he came out of his shell he was impatient with the noise on the rocks 35 Look for TB with that fork over there 36 Why were those prisoners picking that caulking? 38 She got greedy while mending 39 At the start, short corns can really liven things up 41 Craig couldn’t choose between A and B so he got tipsy 44 Don’t be an idiot, just bring some juice and we’ll play blackjack under that tree 46 How’s our rocky relationship with the spud lovers below? 48 That hip Adonis and his pals can be real snakes 49 Sounds like death came as no surprise on the Nazi edge 50 Mill town is one of our many blissful places 51 Mrs. Egoist should avoid all fungi if she and her mates don’t want to be toxic

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3 Green yuppies favour peppery rocket 4 Finally, he finished the shoe repair so he can continue to endure over time without a word, for a minute or for a nickel, for days at the resort, so they say 5 The sign on the transmission line says “Do Not Attack” (abbrev) 6 The tendency to lend bees is not a good indicator that they’re fit or that they have consumption 7 Have a whiskey and then talk to me about the time I saw that CGA lie 8 If you ask me, you can count on that parrot not being horny any more 9 Sounds like she chooses the right letters even as those hollow punks leer at her 12 She appears to have lost her Chiclets when she first started in the garden 15 In this Dominion, an Indian moon signifies ringleader’s birthday (2) 18 Did Alec start out wearing a sash at the fight up there in the Orient? 20 One of Winnipeg’s punkish folks who hate Newark is not as strong as you’d think 22 Does a kiwi and a yam have edible roots? 24 Sometimes a smelly process but it can provide zit relief while increasing production 25 Some people think Matt, George, Jude or Johnny are the hottest guys who aren’t yet dead (abbrev) 27 Less of this supply will give way, but not out (abbrev) 29 Mary Jane went green and got high at the party

31 They’re pretty idealistic when they’re up in oats on the sun patio 34 Backwards or forwards, she’ll get the wool pulled over her eyes 37 Both a smoker and a sleeper? Sounds fishy 40 She called in the SWAT team when they annoyed her in the Hungarian countryside 42 Who made up this crazy puzzle anyway? (2) 43 Is it wise for all ages to leave for the season? 45 First, the single letter, then, and only then, choose the appropriate individual (2) 47 Dexter’s discernments were never wrong (abbrev) The winners for puzzle #76 are Jim Low and Brian Goth of Elizaville, New York. Congratulations! C H E E Z I E S R E C O U P

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

N M C O O T A N E S M T U S M R P E R N A I C O A I N G U B U T

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

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G EI ST 77

GEIST 77

LOST IN CANADA

SUMMER

FACT & FCI TI ON

IN THIS ISSUE Alberto Manguel

Charles Bernstein at the West Edmonton Mall The Banff Protocols Pointe-aux-Trembles

Lorna Crozier

GETTING TEXTUAL

Susan Crean

3 Requirements à la James Joyce

Paul Quarrington

21 Haiku from the Sylvia Hotel

u

David Collier

10 IMAX stories

Edith Iglauer

Postcard Lit

MADE I N CA N A DA

Sheri-D Wilson Stephen Henighan Anna Leventhal George Fetherling Daniel Francis Owen Toews Katie Addleman Stephen Osborne Julia Vella Nicholas Ruddock

SHARPEN MY SKATES Jeff Wall Gwendolyn MacEwen Milton Acorn George Webber Jesus Ain’t Like Me Godly Footwear Phony Wars

GEIST 77 — SUMMER 2010

$6.95

SUMMER 20 1 0 Eventually the night came to an end, as it often does for poets, be it in Mexico City or in Toronto.

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6/25/10 9:38:07 AM

Profile for Geist Magazine

Geist 77  

Whimsical, provocative, funny, eclectic, genially perverse, Geist may be just about the most Canadian magazine around. —James Adams, The G...

Geist 77  

Whimsical, provocative, funny, eclectic, genially perverse, Geist may be just about the most Canadian magazine around. —James Adams, The G...

Profile for geist