HE A DLIG HT
Bailey Seybolt, Nick Tan, Geneviève Robichaud and Graeme Desrosiers
Bailey Seybolt, Graeme Desrosiers, Trevor Barton and Isabelle Johnston
Nick Tan, Nicholas Papaxanthos, and Sarah Burgoyne
creative non-fiction and mixed media editors Geneviève Robichaud, Shannon Tien and Jordan Crosthwaite
“République Acadienne — EJ CARE RIGHT FUCKING PAS” by David Arseneau
design and typesetting Tyler Morency
Headlight Anthology does not retain publication rights. We revert them, with gratitude, to the authors. Headlight gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the following: Student Association of Graduates in English The Department of English Graduate Student Association Concordia Council on Student Life Concordia University Alumni Association Concordia University Small Grants Program Office of the Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies Office of the Dean, Research and Graduate Studies Special thanks to Jill Didur, Chair of the Department of English, for her aid and support. ISBN 978-0-9809328-4-3 Printed and bound in Quebec by Marquis in March of 2013. Headlight Anthology is an annual graduate student-run anthology that is open to submissions each fall. Please contact headlightanthology@gmail. com for more information.
HE A DLIG HT
Ali Pinkey Minstrel, Maid 8 Oil Grotto 10 Slippery 11 Daniel Minsky
The Perimeter 12
Domenica Martinello Doe 21 Silverball Mania! 22 Kelsey Lothian
Utopia #1: We Will Wake by Water 24
Jamie Lee Kirtz
There was a Storm (Ucluelet, BC) 30
Kelly Drukker Return, Inis Mór 36 Centre: Eochaill 37 aJbishop Ayda was not her name
The Smiling Prisoner 39
providence of taiwan 42
Year-Long P(r)o(bl)em[anifest_o#2]/..atic 44
Demeurer Chez Soi 47
what tony does (or what I hear at least)
Sheila Ki Jawani 54
No Horizon 62
Moon Rover 71
Max Karpinski Demain Berlin 72 Selections from Oh? 78 Jordan Crosthwaite Collapse 74 contributors
Foreword It is my pleasure to introduce to you the writers and writing of Headlight 16. As I sat down to write this introduction, I counted the years since I graduated from the MA program in English Literature and Creative Writing, and was shocked by how many fingers I raised. It has been seven years since I stood outside LB510 as my thesis committee decided whether to pass my thesis and award me my degree. (They did.) Eight years since I dragged my tender Vancouverite body through my first Canadian winter, warmed by my first real parka and gallons of coffee from Java U, muttering lines for dreary poems about dead trees and old snow. Dead trees, old snow, but most importantly, the writing: I came into that first Montreal winter feeling like a student, and left after my second spring, feeling like a writer. It was more than the workshops and the writing of my thesis that contributed to this awakening. It was trooping off to Mckibbin’s or Copa with my cohort. It was sewing chapbooks and push-pinning posters for readings and my first reading ever. It was chocolate croissants with Stephanie and Guinness with Dave. It was hanging out in Jon’s office reading Matrix submissions and singing along with Morrissey. It was trading books and talking about them, building friendships through writing and reading and stapling, building the writing life that became my life. It is this enthusiasm for words and their workings, the immersion in the reading and writing life, that I see in Headlight 16. Here we have poems that flex their formal muscles next to tender and haunting lyrics. Poems with hip, clear sonics, spit clean through Oulipo. The stories are varied and form a welltextured landscape: a Northern disappearance; a wordless road trip; a grandfather’s small life; a polyamorous relationship. The pull of the honeybee to the flower. A traveller’s tryst in India. The absence of the heart in the empty art gallery. Here there is prose that feels the lyric pull, that spreads its fingers into life’s sticky
stuff: love, death, art, hypothetical quiche. In Headlight, at Concordia, I see writing that reveals reading, that revels in it. Most clearly, I see readers transforming themselves into the writers they are meant to become. And so I welcome the writers of Headlight to the writing life, and you, dear reader, to their words. Sachiko Murakami January 2013 Toronto, ON Sachiko Murakami graduated from the Concordia MA program in English Literature and Creative Writing in 2006. She is the author of two poetry collections: The Invisibility Exhibit (Talonbooks 2008), and Rebuild (Talonbooks 2011). She has been a literary worker for various presses, journals, and organizations in Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto, where she now lives and serves as Poetry Editor for Insomniac Press.
Ali Pinkey Minstrel, Maid There is a glob of phlegm at the back of my throat, soil crammed, that has tried, and still tries, to make like mud, to run, slide, it wants that same, o, the inert carp get, the carp that slip off the darkened river bank to run with the persuasive current, the carp that get, o, when they hit the water and the water makes them swim still, the o, that o to slide, the o, to want, the o, the glob, the carp, the current, that something, o, that o the current pulls from the crawfish, o, that cling to the slim reeds and the billybobs, o, that o, that makes the crawfish loosen o, their, their grip, o, loose grip, or, o, be torn, to go, with the current, free from the billybobs and the slim reeds, there are foggy weeds, o, I’m sure, that grow underneath the surface of the sometimes-still pond, where the o waits, the pond, the pond near the Chinese-style gazebo, maroon and off-white: perfect for the wedding photos we took, David and I, at the edge of the pond, at the edge of the woods, but o, here and now, at our home, there is scum in the space between the porcelain and the tile that needs to be scrubbed, I use my bare hands, a yellow-bellied sponge, there is Clorex in the divots between the inches of tile, my fingernails, like the glob in my throat, I let it stay, o, I’ve stayed, while David has taken the kids to count the poison dart frogs behind the glass at the zoo, I’ve stayed, o, I’ve counted them before, it was the same as reading Where’s Wally on my father’s lap, on his green vinyl chair at the old apartment, o, maybe it’s still at the old apartment, that chair, our, o, old apartment across from the park, and, o, I know across from the glass, the kids will watch the frogs in sight multiply, like o, like pock marks, black heads, o, or scabies tracks, yes, each spot alive, at the zoo, the frogs in sight will multiply, o, the kids will like that, o, but I already know how I like that, so I’ve stayed home alone, with Song our Dalmatian, and I hear him sing at the back door, I, o, am out of paper towels, so I walk him, o, by the old apartment, dad’s old chair, old apartment, o, at Benmor
Towers, dad’s recent death still hangs, Song’s loose black mouth, warm mouth, o, at the gates of the lobby to Benmor Towers, o, across from the park, o, yes, his death was hard on the kids, but the kids didn’t know it was hard on me, I’ve kept that, o, keeping, every, o, thing I’ve ever kept, o, or wanted to keep, o, Song and I, o, enter the park, o, we enter the park, we, o, pass the diseased oak, pinned with the rusty nail, o, we are on the path, the path near the meadow, o, we see a turtle overturned, o, I do nothing, o, some bikers whiz by, they send dust up my nostrils, o, the bikers do not notice, o, I do nothing, o, the o, the pond, the o, I watch Song sniff the turtle, his body is taut and handsome, his moist tongue unravels from his strong jaws … it’s too light out.
Oil Grotto the oil grotto, left where the apple pelvis hips chewed out shot your boyish streamers: shimmery tinsel lassos strewn over my glossed bones adorned now with bangles up a skinny Indian arm, chattering against eachother like a set of wind-up teeth mouthing: â€œ-----â€?
Slippery in polo park after we shared beef teriyaki extra beef we talked about adaptations to the slippery weenie toy over the past 20 years/two decades you’re hung over i fell off your body off the bed in the morning and you proclaimed yourself “slippery as an eel!” we went to the movies at night and couldn’t heckle because you’d silenced the people beside us so we faced the wall to take our swigs of bad red wine, and into my ear you periodically whispered: “where is guy pearce?”
The Perimeter Daniel Minsky I was walking home from the store when a snowmobile pulled up alongside me. It was Simon, looking at me through the hole in his hood. His cousin was on the back; her arms were around his waist and her face was buried into his parka. She was one of the younger generation, still shy with me and other outsiders. Over the growl of the engine, Simon asked in his accented English, “You see Jassie?” “Not today. Why?” Simon looked past me, through a narrow opening between raised bungalows set on stilts above the snow. There was a courtyard where a half-dozen Inuit children played; they wobbled, bundled, in and out of the pale light of a streetlamp. Simon looked back at me. He blinked through a white cloud of exhaust and said, “Missing.” “What do you mean missing?” “Missing, since yesterday.” He revved the engine, drove his thumb into the throttle and was off — suddenly — already down the street. His snowmobile became a single red light trailing off through town. I watched the house-fronts, lit by his headlamp, as they appeared out of the dark. The zip of his engine echoed off all the buildings; it sped down to the seashore, then hurtled over the stone breakwater and out, across the dark frozen ocean — direction of Greenland. It is dark throughout the length of the arctic winter. Only the passing white light of a snowmobile, or the weak tease of dawn at noon, or the sparse streetlamps in the village give glimpses of life within. *** A trio of children in cone-shaped hoods tumble from the home in front of me. They dash across the snowy street and are lost, once more, in the shadows. ***
Outside and in between these moments of light, a frozen territory of mountains and islands extends. Under its guise of calm indifference, it is as hostile a place as we have ever known, a true wasteland at the tip of the planet, dragging through the cold black of outer space. Dark like that can be dizzying. In it, there are many ways to become lost. I know countless stories. Even in the old days, before the snowmobiles and the streetlights and the Khaloona came ... someone’s thoughts could wander too far, they could stray for a moment and become too cold, or afraid, or lonely, then panic, and suddenly know only night, until the end. No roads left our town. No trees grew for a thousand miles. The darkness alone claimed our perimeter, and in exchange for its usual, peaceful demeanour, we gave it our constant consideration. *** I arrived home and passed into the dim light of the kitchen. The darkness pressed against the house siding. Wind was coming off the ice and shaking the walls and windows. The ringing of a telephone. I padded across the cold floor. Over cracked wires came a voice. Steve was a good friend, a southerner, like myself. A Khaloona. “You hear about Jassie?” he asked. “I hear he’s missing.” “Yah — snowmobile’s still in front of his house, though.” “Maybe he took someone else’s?” “Maybe.” “Nobody knows anything?” “Apparently not —” “His wife?” “You know —” “He wouldn’t go out without telling someone —” “Not overnight,” Steve said, “but it doesn’t look like he’s in town either.” “They’ve checked everywhere?” “I don’t know — you know — probably not. Marta made an announcement on the radio. Did you hear it?”
“I was at the store. Isn’t there anyone up at the hunt camp right now?” “Silasi and Loasi have been there since before the snowstorm.” “And Jassie’s not with them?” “Someone raised them on the radio today and asked - ” A pause as the phone transmission fizzled in the wind. “He wasn’t there?” “No.” Another pause. The sound of a cigarette being lit. “Said they were catching lotsa caribou though.” “Oh yah?” “Mmmhm.” “Maybe we should head up there in the next couple of days.” “I was thinking that, yah. Shoot some caribou.” “Yes.” “As long as our machines are running.” “It’s still not -” “No, that’s what I’m still doing at the shop. Why I’m not out with everyone. You coming by?” *** The door of the wildlife office was unlocked. Steve was in the shop, smoking a cigarette and staring at the mess of parts that had once been his snowmobile. My own snowmobile, waiting two weeks for a new chain case, sat in the corner. I looked over the mess. “What’s going on with all this?” “It’s being a little bitch is what’s going on.” Steve and I had both become proficient in travelling the land. We were the only white residents anyone could remember who so regularly did so. We had learned from the town’s most respected hunters. We ate what they ate, and hunted as they did. Back in town itself, we spent time with their families. I learned some of their language. Steve had been instrumental in a great number of their hunts and rescues. He was a good wildlife officer. I ran the local airline. Under the halogen lights of his shop, Steve and I quietly worked the parts of his snowmobile together. We had grown ac-
customed to silence. It was a decidedly un-southern habit of ours, picked up from living long in the north. There, nothing moved too fast, and words too came slowly. As we worked that night, however, we talked freely — like we were back home. It was apparent we were bothered by the Jassie situation. Although pushing sixty, Jassie was the best hunter in the community. He’d been raised in the wild, in the days before village life, and had a good story about the first time he laid eyes on a white man. Jassie spent his entire life on the same trails, travelling the same sea ice and navigating safely the same recurring dark. He always made it home. “It’s not like him,” I said. Steve let a socket wrench clang to the floor. “Was he drinking?” I asked. “He doesn’t drink much.” “But he drinks.” “Everyone drinks.” “That new teacher doesn’t drink -” “Fuck. Still, a guy just doesn’t disappear up here — shitfaced or not.” “Maybe he went through the ice,” I said. We looked at each other. I knew that Steve, like me, was playing out that fate in powerful, imaginative detail, putting himself in the victim’s role. We’d both been in situations that demanded consequence based thinking. Falling through the ice, for instance — the sudden realization, the sharp cold, the closing over of your senses, that meaningless last-minute struggle. If Jassie were lost, it could have been any of us. “Not Jassie, man,” said Steve, shaking his head. We lit two more cigarettes and got back to work. Soon, we heard the sound of a snowmobile. It roared up to the shop doors and shut down outside, backfiring. We heard sniffling, then boot steps in the snow. In walked Crazy Johnny, Jay’s brother, cousin to Simon, and nephew to Jassie. His long, black Fu Manchu hung stiff, frozen with a blend of hard yellow snot and thick white frost. He lifted a pair of goggles from his face and blinked.
“Khaloona!” he cried. “Hey, Johnny.” “Just come off the ice?” I asked. Johnny raised his eyebrows once, sharply. “How is it out there?” “No good for you, Khaloona!” he said, flashing his frozen maw my way. “No good for me?” Steve chuckled. “No good for you. Dark. You no see. You know. Go swimming. Get lost.” Steve laughed harder, which then caused Johnny to turn his moustache toward him. “You no laugh, Steven. He see no good. I tell him, eat fish eye, raw, like Inuk. He no listen. No like.” “I know, I know, you keep telling him, Johnny.” Johnny walked over to the dissected snow machine, looked down, shook his head. “Big mess. Why you do it this way, Khaloona?” Steve rolled his eyes. “You no do Inuit way? I fix. We know.” “Khaloona way,” said Steve, gesturing down. A long moment passed as we looked over the parts and tools on the shop floor. “You have big light?” Johnny asked, scanning the shop’s steel shelves. “My spotter lamp?” asked Steve. Johnny snapped his eyebrows up. “It’s at my house. Why?” “I talk to Peter. He last one that see Jassie — last night.” “Where?” “They have drink at Peter’s house.” Steve and I exchanged a look. “How drunk they get?” Johnny shrugged. “ Drink make people ‘tuki-khungi’ — crazy. No good. No good.” “Johnny, you drink all the fucking time.”
“Yes, Khaloona, I drink! Yes!” Then, “You, uh, have some?” “Dry,” said Steve. I nodded. Johnny looked suspicious. “I go search town,” he said, fidgeting with his goggles and turning toward the door. “Lots of snow today. I go look again. You give me spotlight, Steven?” “Yeah, Johnny. I should come with you,” said Steve. “You come with me on sikitoo – I take you now.” Steve checked the time. It was a little past eleven at night. He got his parka. “I’m going to walk over to Jay’s,” I said, “see what he’s up to. Maybe he’ll want to join you guys — or lend me his machine.” “You go see my brother?” asked Johnny. “He idiot. Have no gas.” Steve locked up. The two of them disappeared on Johnny’s snowmobile. I tightened my hood and started out, once more, through the streets. I arrived at Jay’s home by the shoreline. His snowmobile was parked crookedly next to the front steps with a collection of empty jerrycans scattered around. I climbed the steps to the front door, knocked once, went inside. Jay’s round wife and her two little boys slept on a mattress on the floor. At their feet, a television set, low to the ground, flickered blue light on the walls. From the kitchen, Jay motioned me in. I worked with him at the town airport. We had become uncharacteristically close for two men from backgrounds so different. Unlike his brother, he had a keen grasp of the English language. He’d been to the south for some sort of college, at some point. “Hungry?” “No thanks.” “Hear about Jassie?” “Yah — you were just out?” He raised his eyebrows. “Guess nobody’s found anything.” Jay crinkled his nose. “I was heading to the back porch for some shots,” he said. “I just saw Johnny and Steve. They’re out looking through town again.”
“That’s good,” said Jay. “Lots of snow out there. Dark tonight, too.” “Maybe we could —” “I’m not going back out,” he said. “It’s too late.” “What do you mean, too late?” “No more gas,” he said, looking down. “You wanna smoke or what?” he asked. We left the back of the kitchen and walked through a long hallway to the storage room. Against the wall: seal skins, rifles, caribou bones. Under a bare bulb, we sat on milk crates on either side of a plastic picnic cooler with the wind ripping at the walls. On the cooler was a Coleman camping stove, an ashtray, a cribbage board, and a dinner plate containing about two grams of dusty dried-out pot. Jay lit the stove, then produced a pair of blacktipped butter knives and hooked their blades under the element. Their handles bobbed in the air as Jay squeezed the thin green dust into tight little balls — shots, as he called them. He grabbed the knives, clicked some sparks off the tips, then picked up the biggest shot on the plate and inhaled expertly. I took one of the smaller shots for myself. He stared angrily as I let a last, twisting puff escape my mouth. We watched it curl up toward the ceiling, wasted. We continued like that, taking turns in silence, for a while. Soon, Jay brought out a deck of cards and shuffled them noisily. The small room was packed with smoke. The wind against the thin walls. “Remember coming home on the boat that time?” “Yes,” I said. Far out on the Davis Straight one night, we were caught in a bad blizzard. You couldn’t see two feet of the boat before you. We fought invisible, twenty-foot swells of icy water with no idea which way they were coming. At one point, the boat got thrown back onto its stern and stood bobbing, straight in the air, twisting slowly. With the black water heaving around us (I remember seeing a few stars through the breaking clouds), it was uncertain which way we would fall. The boat teetered as we gaped out into
the black and hung on. It seemed a thing in every way indifferent that we fell forward, the boat slamming down, right-side up, before getting lifted once more. It was the only moment where I really thought we weren’t going to make it back – looking down into the Arctic ocean, anticipating its touch, the rapid shut-down of my body which would follow, the panic. “Holy shit, man!” spat Jay, his eyes wide and wild, his stoned face bursting into loud, snorting laughter. “That was fucking close, man! Eh!? Remember? Remember that? Holy shit, man.” “Holy shit is right,” I said, grinning back, staring at a piece of Jay’s spittle, which had landed on my fingernail. “That was close.” The wind whipped at the house once more as Jay and I looked at one another, red-eyed and nodding. Feeling tough. Grinning uncontrollably, he reset the cribbage board and dealt the cards. “Have another shot,” he said. I did. We played eight games, Eskimo rules, splitting victories. At one point, Steve walked in, still in his boots and parka. Ice covered his eyelashes. “Hey, man. Wanna shot?” asked Jay, gesturing to the couple that remained. “Thanks,” said Steve. He unzipped his parka, took off his hat, his gloves, flipped over his own milk crate, and sat down with us – reached for the knives. As he exhaled his shot, he said, “We found Jassie.” “What?” “I did. Johnny and I did. He’s dead.” In the small room, no one spoke. “Jassie’s dead,” repeated Steve, staring into the stove. “Yup – I found him.” Then, once more, only the wind. “Where?” asked Jay. “Where?” responded Steve, through his teeth. “Yes, fucking where?” “The side of his house. Ten feet from the front door. Buried in
the fucking snow. That’s where. Right there in the drift.” “Wait, what?” I was indignant. “He must have fallen coming home from Peter’s or something,” Steve explained. “I don’t know. I decided to check the big snow banks around his house. Don’t know why. Dug into the first one and hit something. He was hard as a rock.” “But — just lying there?” I asked. “He had been trying to take off his parka — he was frozen like that, with his coat around his arms. Smiling.” Steve removed one of his sweaters. Jay began to cry. He let his arms hang down to his sides. “Just outside his front door?” I whispered. “Right around the corner from the steps. Yah. I dug him out myself — sent Johnny to go wake up the nurse.” Steve helped himself to the last shot. Jay had started speaking words in his own language, cursing, growling them out between deep sobs. We heard the phone ring in the other room. A moment later, Jay’s wife screamed his name. He stood up and went to her. We could hear her screaming through the walls. *** Steve and I left. We walked back to his house. “You alright?” “Yes,” he said. “You wanna have a drink?” “Gonna get some sleep. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I walked home quickly through the dark town, shuddering with the intense cold, avoiding all the streetlamps, snowmobile lights, and lit windows along the way. Just disappeared. It would be weeks until the sun came back.
Domenica Martinello Doe I’m staring, unabashed, at the wideness of your jaws; my eyes widen at the thought of my limp body spilling out from each corner of your mouth. Your Adam’s apple bobs wetly. My eyes ripple through the coarse darkness of hair that peppers face and throat and continues downwards past your buttons unbuttoned, patches of hasty brushstrokes. Maybe it’s the red pall of the heat lamp or the pints of beer, fizzy, loosening, but your eyes look black and easily spooked; I try not to make too sudden a move unsure now if this is some sort of trap and if so, whose?
Domenica Martinello Silverball Mania! All the stolen magazines, all the linens locked in overnight clumps of moist dough, all the sockless bottomless bare mattress nights, all the eaten quarters, all the Bounce and Ruffles, all the times Iâ€™ve wanted to steal the clock off the cement wall, the Gazettes, the borrowed New Yorkers, the left behind boxer briefs, all the times I wanted to cut my hands on the spinning blades of the overhead fans, all the vaporous air, the sweaty taste, all the weird headspaces and crawlspaces and free pinball games, all the times I unplugged the machines unable to take the bleating and blipping and beeping and ringing and dinging and whisking and gurgling and zinging and whipping and the honking the honking the honking the honking.
Kelsey Lothian Curfew You must have walked on by. Draggin the stars on your heartstrings They’re digging in their heels Howling to the moon Whiskery beer-breath moon Brushing my buttermouth with dirty fingertips. I think when they say she’s got a butterface They mean I am cute. Like a melty cherub. That I am wholesome. Winsome as breakfast on a Sunday morning Cleansing you of Saturday night’s sins.
Utopia #1: We Will Wake by Water Sylvain Verstricht I open the car door and get in. He doesn’t even look at me, just keeps staring ahead, waiting for the light to change. We’ve been waiting our whole lives for the light to change. His hand is resting on the speed stick. I put mine over his. Still he doesn’t look at me, but he doesn’t pull his hand out from under mine. He doesn’t need to look at me; he knows I’m there. At last, the light turns green. He presses down on the gas pedal. We’re finally going somewhere. Up to that point, he’d only been driving around in circles: home to work, work to home, repeat. Without talking, we decide to go in a straight line to make sure that we never end up where we’ve already been. We’ll only stop when we reach water, when we can look in one direction and not see land. That’s the unspoken rule we’ve both agreed upon before we ever met. It’s why he’s okay with me being here. We’ll stop at gas stations, not because the car needs gas, but for the ritual. We’ll still pretend we’re pumping gas, but really we’ll just be checking out the locals, looking through the magazines at the station, and buying things that only qualify as food on a road trip. He gently takes his hand out from under mine to turn on the radio. They’re having a Carole King marathon. He puts his hand over mine. We’ve yet to say a single word to each other. Maybe we never will. *** He’s pretending to fill the car with gas. I’m inside, flipping through a magazine full of bodies with no heads, but I’m really looking at him through the window. He’s never more beautiful than when he doesn’t know he’s being looked at. I put the magazine back on the shelf and move to what truly matters: the candy rack. I take one of everything, just to make sure I don’t have any regrets later. They don’t have a bag big enough to hold all this candy, but that’s okay because they all have moustaches. They
even help me carry the bags back to the car. He smiles at me even though he can barely see me through the sunlight. He stops pretending to fill the car with gas. He opens the back doors and we drop the bags in. The moustache men wave at us as we leave. *** The motel is a motel. The ice machine is something else. We stock up. This you can’t get at home. He’s lying on the bed, the cover of which is covered in prints of cheap flowers. Somewhere, a grandmother chose this because she knows. He’s watching television: an old movie with new ideas, an old movie with black and white images but colourful dialogue, a movie where cigarettes still taste good. He waves me over with his hand: come here. My feet find comfort in the carpet on my way to him. I lie down next to him, my body against his, my neck in the cradle of his arm. On the screen, old movie stars say things only old movie stars say. *** When I wake up, I hear the shower running. I wish I could see him, but for that I would have to not be there. So I just listen to the sound of the water falling against his body, falling against the bathtub, falling against the sides of everything. When he comes out of the bathroom, I close my eyes so I can keep seeing him. *** The diner serves nothing but pie and coffee. We each order a slice of the breakfast pie, a mixture of eggs and bacon and cheese that would be called a quiche if quiches weren’t assholes. The coffee is the best either of us has ever had and is handed out by the bitchiest moms in town. They still call us “sweethearts” because they like us. What can I do for you, sweetheart? What will it be for you, sweetheart? Will that be all, sweetheart? Winks might be involved. We smile at them because we want to and we can’t help it anyway. Before leaving, we pay the bill for the young man sitting by himself at the counter and the old couple sitting together in the corner booth.
*** Us driving west looks like a movie of us driving west, the images unfurling before our eyes to the sound of our favourite quiet post-rock band. It’s all nature and none of that other stuff. I swear I even saw two turtles resting on a huge tree branch in the lake. *** The only thing that makes the local bar more than a wood shack is the neon sign up front: ‘LAST CALL’. Everyone in town is here because they’d rather drink than watch kiddie porn. There are the bikers, the jocks, their moms, the metalheads, the old folks who might not be here next week, and the kids who became legal yesterday. Luckily for us, we happened to pass through town on country karaoke night. Nobody’s good, but everybody’s great. We perform “Jackson” and, for a second, if you closed your eyes and were drunk enough, you could have sworn Johnny Cash and June Carter were there. *** We won’t talk. We want to make sure we’re listening. I turn the TV on: talk shows where real people have fake problems and fake people have real problems. I lie down on the monochromatic but comfortable bed and he slides in the place next to me. We pretend we’re laughing at the real/fake people on TV, but we’re really laughing at the sounds of the couple having sex next door. *** We must be getting close. There’s a shack by the side of the road with picnic tables up front. We pull over. Everything they serve comes from the sea or has been deep-fried. Two lobster rolls and side orders of fried clams and calamari later, we get back on the road. *** It is no longer green. On each side of us, things have turned to sand, which even spills onto the road at times. The houses are becoming smaller and smaller. These people have sacrificed size for place. Soon, the road is not even on land anymore. It goes into the water, with no safeguards on either side. If he drives a bit too
much to either side, we’ll fall in the water. It’s scary, but being so close to the water, so close to the edge, it’s also so beautiful that I don’t want us to stop. The water sometimes brushes the top of the road from side to side and, for a second, it feels like it’s lifting the car up and we might get carried away into the water made black by night. *** We’re here, at the point where there is not even a road anymore, but our feet are on the ground. We’ve taken off our shoes to make sure. We’re looking out at the ocean. This is why we’ve come here. By my side, I can sense that he’s taking his clothes off. My first reaction is to think that I can’t do it. It only takes a second more to realize that, if I don’t, I’ll regret it. So I start to take my clothes off too, not looking at him so I don’t get self-conscious. Once I’m done though, there’s no way around it. He’s motionless. We look at each other. We can’t help but smile. It’s not because we’re naked. It’s because we know what we’re about to do is inevitable. We run, because you can’t walk at a moment like this, and we don’t stop until we’re completely under water. *** Only our heads are peeking out of the water, and we look at that point at which there is nothing to look at. *** When we finally come out of the water, we only put our underwear and our shorts back on. We carry the rest of our clothes in our hands. We walk to the house on the beach. The door is open. It’s empty. It’s been waiting for us. *** There are three bookstores in town. We have our priorities straight. My favourite is one that stands at the end of a long alley surrounded by grass and trees, past a grey picket fence. It’s a home, except that the ground floor is filled with books. The owner lives on the second floor. We buy our favourite authors, books we’ve always wanted to read, books we’ve already read. They can serve as furniture and decoration. We only stop when the car is full.
*** Before heading back home, we stop at a pub for po’ boys and beer. They have a jukebox that can play any song ever recorded. We get a little carried away. Customers and bartenders sing along when it’s a track they like. Sometimes, they even get up to bust a few moves. *** No one was ever born in this town. Everyone who is here chose to come here. *** It’s only when we get back home that we realize that you can’t sleep on books. The sun is already setting over the ocean. A woman is dancing on the beach, calmly, methodically, with purpose. She’s our neighbour. To get here, she had to take three boats. We look through every closet in the house and luckily find one filled with linens. It’s the only thing that was left behind. We take a few thick but soft blankets and a couple of pillows, and walk towards the beach. We lay them down on the sand and mould them into a nest.
Meredith Darling Psych Ward The girl with the white teeth walks the ward with a big smile on. Braced with love by Mommy and Daddy, I cannot read my own handwriting. I am only made white by comparison with the other prisoners: I don’t drink cola; am a half-assed smoker. If they call for me, it’s, Who is she? Oh, the one with the white teeth. I cannot help feeling advantaged— if the dentures fit wear them— but they never do, do they? Who am I— this happy girl, that slapstick smile, braced with love and peaceful like I swallowed a dove.
Jamie Lee Kirtz There was a Storm (Ucluelet, BC) In the bay muskrats pick at crabs and oysters, digging through inky shells made of hardened proteins, letters identifying which asparagine connects to which glycine. While they break and gnaw rain dissolves into foam, looping around rocks and descriptions, pulling tiny organisms barely breathing back to swells building sentences on weathered backs of stone. How to find symbols to create tidal pools, how to feed from endlessly referent spray. I am inscribing my objectivity in the form of sea kelp, leaving names at the feet of the storm.
Sandy’s Gallery Atli Bollason My grandfather told me that you should never feel your heart beat. A good heart should beat in silence, politely knock on the bars of its cage. Because once you feel your heart thumping, something is about to go wrong. I can still smell his breath and his cologne, feel the buttons of his shirt between my fingers, my ear on his chest, hear the slow, repetitive rumblings of his large body in time with the stream of conversing voices and jazz from the kitchen radio. He was an old man and a doctor in possession of a fairly large library, so I guess he was right. *** I had had a few glasses of wine; my friend Sandy had just opened a gallery in a hip neighbourhood and the premiere vernissage was going well, he thought. It’s not about conceptual art anymore, he said, I’m sick of that stuff. Who isn’t? There was a time, you know, when artists were actually artful: when ideas didn’t equal artifacts, when brushes and strokes and colour and texture and aesthetics had meaning, when artists and intellectuals were of two different classes, when language couldn’t encapsulate art, not like now, when words have all but eclipsed the image. He was getting drunk, his eyes were swimming, but I agreed. It was refreshing to see pictures hung on a wall. Still, as I listened to his ramble, I couldn’t help but think about the vast geometric landscapes between the frames, the halogen lights reflecting off the pearly white walls and illuminating the polished parquet floors. I told him that the tall, wide, monotone rectangle, sectioned off by splashes of colour in sharp-cornered cages seemed to me to be the true piece of art on display. He said, this line of thought doesn’t interest me anymore. I used to imagine that the people in attendance were the true artifacts. That their trek from home to the gallery, their attire, the makeup on their faces, their carefully chosen words, their
perfectly timed bursts of laughter, their remarks, both the earnest comments and the ironic commentary, the patterns created once they scattered around the room, the almost geological drift of characters within the space, the music created from layers of chatter in different pitches and rhythms, the slowly dissipating pile of wine, the gathering butts of cigarettes on the pavement, the gusts of wind punctuating the function of the thermostat and our own temperament, the stream of blood in our veins, the electricity discharged between neurons; I used to believe that this was the true piece of art and it was the artist’s responsibility to create conducive conditions for such a symphony to be performed. But I don’t feel this way anymore. It’s interesting, but it’s pointless. It degrades art, brings it closer to nature, too close, dangerously close, within critical proximity. Moreover, it deadens your heart. It cloaks the heart in a thick fog. I didn’t tell Sandy about my grandfather. He had made a good point or at least put it well, I never really knew the difference. We were having fun. *** The following morning I woke up next to a girl who had stayed until the very end of the vernissage. A glass or two had broken, shallow pools of white wine had dampened the hardwood and filled the air in Sandy’s gallery with a sour smell. She had offered to help wipe up the wine; she was crouching, holding a moist napkin halfway between her legs and the floor when our eyes met. She was a freelance journalist or a student, or part of an artist co-op around there, an intern perhaps. I forget. But she was petite and delicate and helpful and her smile seemed like she needed me so I obliged. As we lay there I thought about whether sex would qualify as art, and if not, how it could, and if I were an artist. I thought about my grandfather and whether feeling your heart race noisily after an orgasm was dangerous. I thought about fucking on a treadmill. She was asleep, her breath was unpleasant. I took a deep breath and put my hand under her left breast, listening closely with my palm. Nothing. I moved my hand around, I edged my way like an earthworm towards the middle of her chest, right between her breasts. They looked nice 32
when she lay flat on her back. Her right was slightly larger. Nothing. I exhaled. She was adjusting her black leather skirt when I woke up again. Her tights were turquoise, her face was pretty. I had dreamt that I swam through a sea full of tiny little seahorses like a swarm of flies, pulsating and changing shape like a single organism against the deepest of blues and greens. In this light, she seemed somewhat seahorse-like. I’ll leave you my number, she said and looked at me; did her tights match her eyes? I looked out the window. The sun was up. My room was going to be very hot very soon. I wanted to leave this city forever. — Did you feel your heart? — What? — When you came? Did you feel your own heartbeat? She looked away and smiled and I instantly figured that I should probably stay another while. Look after the queen of seahorses. Or the princess. — I don’t think I came. But I had a great time. She leaned in to kiss me on the mouth. I hadn’t brushed my teeth so I held my breath. This was a nice girl. This was a pleasant thing. I heard the downstairs doors close and decided to return to the sea. *** The gallery looked different in daylight. It seemed vacant, deserted even, but then I heard some rustle in the back. Sandy was out, he had a meeting, an undernourished intern in his early twenties told me. I nodded and paced around the gallery, thinking about last night, collecting my thoughts. The walls were now like a frozen ocean on which the pictures floated, prams full of colorful garbage. A glimpse of Friedrich’s Sea of Ice flashed behind my eyes, those enormous plateaus piling up and pointing towards the sky, a glacial lake captured on expired film at dawn. I had a hard time focusing on the pictures in front of me and imagined that there were other paintings hidden behind them, like the images strobing in my brain. This was interesting: An invisible exhibition, art in disguise. A collection of paintings that have been
painted over, the actual piece of art obscured by a second piece masquerading as the real work on display. Of course this existed in all those exercises and first sketches hidden underneath the layers of masterpieces. The ugly faces time had turned its back on, the horrible underside of history, the ever-present ghost in everything. I walked to the front window, over hardwood floors that glistened in the stark sunlight. A bearded man in neon attire emptied a plastic container full of cups and bottles and nasty smelling napkins into the back of a noisy truck as it slowly passed the gallery. He seemed content as he stopped for a second to light a fresh cigarette. In the afternoon, I tracked Sandy down at a dark-wooded downtown café with horrendous African statues and carvings crowding the space. He didn’t think much of my musings on phantom art; this, too, was interesting but it was only commentary, he said, without any real content. Time unfolds singularly, no matter what quantum physics say, or philosophers obsessed with what lies outside of or above or beneath existence, we sense only one trajectory, the ghost may exist but he is only imagined, and imagination is only ever half of any art, this is the difference between children and artists. Give the artist some kerosene and put him to work, art is about exposure not concealment, about ripping your heart out and documenting its slow death in your hands. He took a bite of his sandwich and wiped his mouth with a cheap serviette in a sickly brown shade. I pretended to take a sip from the empty coffee cup in front of me. He didn’t notice. Maybe he didn’t care. My grandfather had this theory, I replied, that one should never be aware of one’s own heart. It should act silently and unconsciously pump blood to our toes and to our brains, leaving only the slippery trail we call the everyday. It’s when you feel your own heart beat, when you know, for sure, with sensual certainty, that it’s there, that you know something is about to go awry. Your body is a ghost but your mind is constantly present. Raw feeling is interesting, but you can’t escape thought. We shouldn’t feel our hearts, they’re too soft and disgustingly warm, like a rotten plum in a sunny kitchen, the fruit flies driving you crazy.
Silence. A hint of world music, the buzz of an insect. I looked up. Sandy was gone. They were closing the restaurant in a minute, they said. I paid for my coffee and went outside. *** The sun was coming down when I strolled back home, lending the third and fourth stories of houses a golden shade of wonderful melancholy. I thought about taking a picture, a nice photo that I could process before I went to sleep, something I could give a vintage feel, as if it were a slightly faded slide projected onto a sheet hung on my grandfatherâ€™s living room wall. I remembered how the image disappeared once I stood in the light, how I suddenly held my motherâ€™s infant head in the palm of my hand. And the smell of lamb roast, rosemary and jazz. I thought of that post-it on my desk, its obnoxious yellow forming an exaggerated contrast with the promise contained within the ten numbers scribbled on it, a code waiting to be unlocked; the imperfection of her handwriting in cheap blue ballpoint, the stain that remained once she lifted her left pinky which had kept the paper in place while she scratched the surface, did irreparable damage, scarred the tissue with her right. This was a nice girl. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I thought of all the invisible particles that constituted the world, like a cloud of tiny little seahorses. The face of a princess embedded in the fading rays of the sun. I listened for my heartbeat. Closely. Nothing. Everything was fine.
Kelly Drukker Return, Inis Mór I have wound down a shrinking path that shrugs off to the right, toward a dry gully of marram grass and sand. In this pit, old shirts and bottle caps, cans of beer, nights thrown into summer’s fire. Past this pit, the earth caves open—water heaves the sand away, carving passageways through land. Here the ocean bleeds into a wind-bleached sky: bruised clouds float across currents of mist, as if a fist has punched through ice, cold water seeping in. This year, the island turns its face away. Ash-dark sand whirls back into the surf; bladder-wrack and dillisk lie strewn across the beach, weeds I learned to name.
Kelly Drukker Centre: Eochaill Inis Mór, County Galway, Ireland Rise with the centre of the island, its thorny-backed middle. Climb, upwards from the main road, follow the steep incline of a goat path. Here, the land pillaged and pocked by hoofprints, shudder and thunder of goat heels driven to ground. Follow the sound through the drone and wheel of crickets: summer is gone, far gone. On every side a stone wall, briars that burrow the flesh. Walk where there is no map — for grykes that open in limestone, for blackthorn, moss-rot, rain pools, birds that wing off. For here is the centre: briars that blossom with fruit and die, the scat of the herd, the sting of the flesh, the wind that hurries its salt-trail out to the cliffs, to sun’s burn and rise.
aJbishop Ayda was not her name Ayda was not her name, but she took it after a tarot reading in a cafe of yellow tables. Lavender the colour of the scarf worn on the head of the Tarot reader. Fresh squeezed orange juice in their glasses. Ayda was not her name, but when her toes bruised the sand, and water rose into toe cups after she backed away, she took it. She took it when it rose in her mind like water rises in sand on a beach. Ayda was not her name, but when her children called from distant cities, sunflowers leaned down to her and kissed the beets. Kale curled around the sun as she lay with the phone, so she took it. Ayda was not her name, but it became her in flour dust when visiting children ate her cookies, banged on her drums and played with her feathers and asked â€œAyda, why?â€? Ayda was not her name, but in the last days when she was chewing her gums and remembering her childhood, she wished she had told her daughter Jill and her son Paul that she had once, and again, many times, taken it.
The Smiling Prisoner Joe Bongiorno Two syllables, no surname. Nonno. No response. Nothing but the sounds of invisible worms wriggling in fertilized earth. Waited, watched, before his whistle echoed through backyard foliage. “We’re going to the beach,” I said, looking up and brushing away the leaves of string bean vines so I could see him. Behind chicken wire and torn nylons holding greens in place, he was all sound. “Are you coming?” I repeated twice, three times. Earwax coarse and thick. The bushy plants shook as he made his way toward me. His face peered out from between the hockey-stick bars that he’d “borrowed” from my uncle to hold up the tomatoes. Staring up into his nose hairs, I tried to make out his face, thinking his wrinkled skin looked rough like bark. “Where you go?” He asked, picking something from behind the shadow of the leaves. I smelled his smell: cologne of garlic and Aqua Velva. “The beach,” I said. “What I do at beach?” He said beach like bitch, like something foreign, something stuck between his teeth, smirking through his wrinkles the way he always did when I was sent to find him. I knew his answers to my questions and his questions to my answers, every word its own statement. Busy. He had Nonno duties to attend to. He seemed to be the master of every trade, always mending, building, or taking something apart for future anticipated use. The garage had become a tomb of nails, planks, bricks, and ancient receipts. Makeshift rusty screwdrivers wrapped in grocery flyer leaflets, side-by-side heaps of dead batteries he refused to throw away. Thought I’d struck gold once, after discovering a treasure chest of Canadian Tire money.
Proud old man traditions. He was always dressed for the part with hair slick back and wearing his bargain widower’s uniform. Two-for-one black button down shirt vaguely covering wild body hair, black discount slacks held up by a leather belt and a homemade buckle, completed by knee length black socks and rubber rain boots that would survive roaches in the event of a nuclear fallout; they would survive it all. Outfit aside, he looked just like Al Pacino in black and white photographs. Needless to say, he didn’t go swimming. Traveling to get wet was a waste of time if you had a bathtub. At least, that’s what I think he wanted to say. We exchanged wet, sticky kisses. One on each cheek. Then he escorted me down the yard with hands behind his back, checking up on the marriage of zucchini plants, calling me over to see. I pretended to really see. I didn’t “get” zucchini. This one, ‘eeze sick. Need water or die,” he said confidently. Proud diagnosis and prescription. “Come,” he said, waving me over. We had to retrieve the water hose and I followed from behind as he started to whistle. Ma said he picked up whistling when Nonna died. There was no longer anyone to argue with, no one to nag at him to shave and change that overused and obsolete razorblade. He used to leave all the TVs on for the company of voices and watch the shows she loved, the ones he used to despise. Voices bouncing off butt-dulling cushions of old world couches covered in plastic. Soap operas like Esmeralda, dubbed over in Italian to lagging Mexican lips. He didn’t really listen to the words, just the sound. Meanwhile Pa sat in the car with the motor on, reading a tenyear-old copy of La Presse he’d found in a pile in Nonno’s garage. He knew the cause was hopeless, but Ma insisted. She said Nonno spent the summer trapped behind walls of chicory. He needed freedom, she said. He needed air, she said. He needed something or someone that wasn’t there, not in the backyard, maybe some place they’d never mentioned, or some person I’d never known. Backyard prison. Nonno sat on a plastic lawn chair, drinking homemade kerosene-ish wine, immersed in sound. By the hose and soil and tomatoes. Hissing, slurping, jingling. Silences broken. 40
If I asked him to join us at the beach, he would say he had one in the backyard. If I asked him to join us at the park, he would say he had one in the backyard. I’d ask, he’d decline. Never did ask Ma, but I wondered — why free a smiling prisoner? For Giuseppe Gagliano 1924–2011
Jacqueline Hanna providence of taiwan how grandma stopped eating and spit out her mush, how the rice fields were burning, how you stayed in your room — from “Milk,” Shirley Kaufman Another slipped disc of sun stoops, aching, to scorch the doubled, invertebrate day. I am seven and running to harbour to see the tall junks: their flanks, the ocean’s beating of salt from stern to prow. A regurgitation of spindly crab creeping on the decks, retreating, how grandma stopped eating Or mom at the gambling house jaw fat with rancid tobacco, cards flushed as a fan in her hand, embarrassed. Peeping through a crack in the door I see men circle a hot table in the folding crush, shouting, viciously drunk. She cackles again, her mouth a sore of neglected cancers and thrush, and spits out her mush So I am tilling the fields, Papa, as the ships glide into home. My scythe slice-cuts each stalk the height of the rest, once, then
two blows. Our lean oxen yoked, Papa, plodding the paddy, turning each row over in a dream, the plough a blanket draping their backs. The hard ground cracking and churning: how the rice fields were burning What truths about this world are not already living like hermits in the shell of my chest? I have seen the slow roasting of us, and I am remembering, Papa, how you tugged me from the womb into this blind realm of luck for my die to be thrown to the winds. Thus I forgive, Papa, running on fumes how you stayed in your room.
Shirley Kaufman, excerpt from “Milk” from Roots in the Air: New & Selected Poems. Copyright © 1996 by Shirley Kaufman. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Copper Canyon Press, www. coppercanyonpress.org.
Kevin Kvas Year-Long P(r)o(bl)em[anifest_o#2]/..atic “Art is not long enough even in the shortest of lives.” — Oulipo
You probably don’t have time to spare to solve some complex metaphor no more than you do to solve The Times or its puzzles, you probably don’t.
Some complex metaphor whose pay-off is as dubious, risk-high, no thanks as much to the many bankrupt creators of such things as to the producers
M of TV and Zoloft. No, you probably don’t have time to spare to solve some complex metaphor, to read repetitions, to balance and connect all DOTS
on the balance sheet. And surely it must be comforting to know, that everything is relative anyhow, and whatever you see must be right, that meaninglessness
is meaning enough. The last thing you need at the end of your never-ending day is another infection telling you what to do. In fact, this is very true, you’re right.
In fact, if you’ve been “exposed” to enough complex metaphors, then regardless how efforts rewarded you for solving them (chances of which for the best ones
are lower anyhow if, unlike most of the people feeling this, poetry is not in some way your “path”), then you should have realized by now that it’s easy,
very, to make one, a classic; easy to make scribbles that won’t connect, or that will connect with desire to connect them how one wants, confuse convolution
or infinity with complexity; almost as easy as producing a semblance of form where there is or should or might as well be none— not to say complexity’s much better,
and it’s so hard to find anyway, lost in the sea of media-devaluing media, it’s not worth it if or when you do; and again you end up with the same problem:
you probably don’t have n time to spare, you probably shouldn’t take the risk. Hence the real question should be THIS: How does it do it? How does it youse
your time? How does it make you st(r)ay? I’ve touched upon one way. There are more. Don’t ask what’s there deep or good. Ask how it’s tripped you in. With its deepness? Look again.
Demeurer Chez Soi Anna Maszewska “So, Anna, tell me what made you apply for this job.” “I like to be with people. I like to be useful and to know that I can do something for others.” “Good. As you know we want you to take care of Monsieur Hudry. He is an elderly man. He hardly ever leaves his bed. He does not speak much either. A nurse comes to his apartment every day and the family members come to visit every two weeks. Monsieur Hudry likes everything to be in its right place. Now, how do you imagine your job? What do you think your duties would be, were you accepted, of course?” “I believe, Madam, my duty would be to make sure everything in Monsieur Hudry’s apartment is in the right place. I would clean the apartment, do the shopping. I might read to Monsieur Hudry and talk with him, if he feels like it.” “He does not talk much, as I told you. So, let us imagine you come to the apartment, say hallo to Monsieur Hudry, then you go to the kitchen and see there is a big mess in the kitchen. Where do you start?” “I check if there are any dirty dishes in the sink. If there are, I start by washing the dishes.” “Using hot or cold water?” “Hot water, Madam.” “In what order?” “Starting with the least greasy to the greasiest.” “And then. Once you have finished washing the dishes?” “I would then wash the sink, the kitchen boards, the table. I would clean the floors as the last thing.” “The floors, remember, you would always wash the floors with l’eau de javel. Will you be using cold or hot water?” “Hot water.” “No, Anna, you use l’eau de javel with cold water only.” “I will remember, Madam.”
“Now, you open the refrigerator, what is it that you must always check?” “The dates. I check if the dates on the products have not expired.” “And, when Monsieur Hudry asks you to do some shopping in the grocery store, what is it that you must never forget to bring from the grocery store?” “I beg your pardon, Madam?” “What must you bring from the store when you go shopping there, Anna?” “The receipt?” “Exactement. Do you know how to cook?” “Yes, I do, Madam.” “What could you cook for Monsieur Hudry?” “A soup, perhaps?” “What kind of soup?” “A vegetable soup, perhaps?” “How would you go about preparing your soup?” “I would wash the vegetables in the sink, peel and chop them, put them in a pan together with bouillon and then mix everything with a blender. I would cook it for about 40 minutes.” “And if Monsieur Hudry could not eat fats?” “I would use water instead of bouillon.” “Do you know how to prepare a quiche?” “I’m afraid I don’t, Madam.” “You mean you do not know how to prepare a quiche?” “I’m afraid not.” “I thought you said you knew how to cook, Anna.” “I think I can learn...” “Of course, you cannot ask Monsieur how to prepare the quiche.” “Of course, I will not, Madam.” “And you realize Monsieur’s kitchen is not a place to experiment with meals like quiche. I hope this is quite clear.” “It is, Madam.” “For anyone who wants to work for Monsieur Hudry it is absolutely necessary to know how to prepare a quiche. He likes quiche a lot. Monsieur Hudry, il est un peu agressif, mais il mange bien.”
(Un)heard Rudrapriya Rathore My fish died sometime in the night. By the time I went to feed her in the morning she had gone from orange to blotchy white. I sprinkled the flakes in there anyway and left the house not knowing what to do. At a table shoved between the washroom and the garbage can, I sit and count the rings. Wait for her to pick up. Or anyone. Seven. Eight. Nine. The café is warm and people are everywhere. They bump my chair walking to and from the washroom. They talk loudly, about the weather and the weekend. Thirteen. Fourteen. I wait for her voice. Dark out. On the other side of the window some boys stand and smoke. Lips emit wisps. The cigarettes burn quickly in the cold and die under sneakers. A streetlamp chokes and coughs. Nineteen. Twenty. Twenty one. I hang up. *** A girl stands near me waiting for the washroom. She’s on the phone. She says: yeah the problem with her is that she doesn’t understand that I don’t care like I have reasons to be bitchy you know how am I expected to live with someone like that anyway where are you right now. My head is heavy. Knuckles chapped. Feet burn. The day has knotted my eyes and ears. *** On the bus this morning I saw a woman in an ugly coat. She had a nice face, a French face. As we stood packed together and sweating I watched her recognize someone. Her crow’s feet crinkled and her crooked teeth showed themselves. She gestured to squeeze past me. The man she recognized also had a French face. Their hands talked. Light hit us as we climbed the hill. People listened, people read. People pushed past me. Down the hill and she was laugh-
ing. He was old, the man, his hair was old and fine. He was kind, she knew. She laughed in French. Others had headaches but they had smiles. *** In between classes the hallway streamed with people. Like mice they crawled over and around each other, whiskers quivering, gathering data. On the escalator a woman stood on the wrong side and was nudged and jostled. She didn’t move. Near the bottom her foot caught and she stumbled, fell onto her hands and knees. I flinched but didn’t move. Nobody helped her. My face grew hot. She got up slowly. Checked her palms, rubbed them on her jeans. Turned to look at all of us descending towards her before walking away. *** On the street a man asked me for change. I need a quarter, he said. Just a quarter. I walked and shook my head. Just a quarter! He kept up for a few seconds. I shook my head. Consolations and excuses unoffered. Bitch, he muttered under his breath. So softly it might have been the wind. Mia was waiting for me in the café. Despite my reluctance she insisted I see her. Her face was strange when I found her at the table between the washroom and the garbage can. Distracted. Her eyes didn’t rest on anything long enough to see it. She talked and I listened. I love that sweater – you look like you’re doing well, are you doing well? – at least you don’t have roommates — wish she’d buy the good detergent — feel like I always smell like dirty laundry. My nods satisfied her. After a while I gestured towards my books. Oh, I know, she said. I have to study too. I actually um. Had some news to tell you. She doesn’t make eye contact. You know Tereza? Before I can process the name, she says, I recently heard from her old roommate and…apparently she passed away. I stared at the table. Mia’s voice bounced around in my head. I’m sorry to tell you like this. It’s so strange. Nobody really heard from her after she moved home. *** Tereza carrying around her Buddhist philosophy readings.
Tereza buying coffee after coffee with me. Tereza at the Salvation Army. Tereza in funny shoes. Tereza saying take care. I know it’s ... I thought I should tell you. Should I go? I nodded after a long minute. She squeezed my shoulder and left. The woman behind the counter is looking at me pointedly. The sun was still up when she cleared my cold coffee away. The café music has been persistently repeating in sets of six and eight songs. I pick at the skin on my knuckles. Eyes dry. Tereza messaged me months ago saying only, I loved the Kundera novel you lent me. I don’t remember replying. I stand up and go home. Get in and look at my fish. Go to the kitchen and get a dishtowel and drape it over the tank. Then I sit on my bed and pick up my phone. Find her again. Hit call. One. Two.
Katie Sehl what tony does (or what I hear at least) i. the men gather they sit on their sofas around the coffee table tony nods he plays a film he holds up a photo sosa turns off the film he refers to his guard tony shakes his head ii. many shakes his head elvira sniffs tonyâ€™s cigar smoke drifts into her face tony watches with disappointment as elvira sniffs and wipes her nose tony glares at his wife she throws her drink into his face he lunges at her but many restrains him her face contorts with anguish as many seats tony she shrugs many off slumped in his chair tony fiddles with his teacup elvira stares at him with determination iii. they watch the car disappear out of sight then turn around and pull up beside the doorman a woman emerges with two toddlers he watches the doorman open the door for the woman
he says forget it in Spanish we kill this guy alone no wife no kids tony pulls out after the man and his family the children play patty-cake in the back of the citroen tony shoots alberto in the head iv. later tony’s in his mother’s living room ignoring his mother tony strides to his waiting car tony snorts cocaine from a small container as they drive off holding her head in her hands his porch
mother weeps on the front
v. rubbing his face tony stares blankly at the huge pile of cocaine on his desk outside his towering white villa the pool ripples gently in the calm evening
Note: “what tony does” is loosely based and edited from what I heard while listening to an AMI-narrated broadcast of Scarface. It is likely inaccurate.
Sheila Ki Jawani Kristina Mahler After dinner, Leah sat on the roof of the volunteer house. The others sat in the rec room and played board games, or wrote in their journals, or watched Bollywood movies on their laptops. But she needed the silence of the roof. There, she read trashy paperbacks left behind by other travelers. She could smoke undisturbed. The charity was run by a young married couple who fussed over the volunteers like children, and Leah felt like she was at summer camp, or in rehab. She heard someone climbing the ladder and hid her cigarette behind her back. Daniel’s head appeared at the edge of the roof. He grinned when he saw her. “I’ve busted you smoking, I’m telling Amita,” he teased in his Aussie drawl. “Bullshit. I bet you came up here to bum one off me.” “No need, I bought some beedies.” His gold watch caught the pink light of sunset as he pulled one out of his shirt pocket. “I think I’m going to head to Udaipur soon and make my way south from there, through Ahmadabad, Bombay, eventually end up in Goa in a few weeks.” “Goa,” Leah murmured, “I’ve heard people get trapped there for years.” “Oh yeah, real sketchy, Goa. Tons of Russians and drugs and ex-cons living in huts on the beach,” Daniel said. She smiled. She remembered these traveller myths, how they were true once. He continued, “I’ve heard you can get anything you want here in the pharmacies. Valium, Ativan, Adderall, Oxycontin, Morphine, even Nitrous Oxide.” “Yeah, I went to one when I first arrived, when I lost my box of malaria tablets. It was just a room full of dusty boxes on shelves, and I told the guy at the counter what I needed and he just laid out all this medication in front of me. It was wild.”
“How much longer are you going to be here for?” he asked. She thought about it. “At least another month or two. I want to be here for Holi and I want to see them break ground on the new school.” Daniel nodded, “Have you seen Hawa Mahal yet?” “Yeah, I went the first week I got here. It’s beautiful; you have to see it while you’re around.” “Well you should come with me to see it tomorrow, after teaching.” “Sure.” She held up the cover of her book for him to see. “I need to buy some new books in town anyway. ‘Gentle Rogue’ isn’t doing it for me anymore.” *** The following afternoon, they took an autorickshaw into the city. Even though you could fall out the side of one at any moment, and their horns blared like donkeys, Leah loved the small vehicles, part golf cart, part motorcycle, the strange hybridity of them. Each autorickshaw was decorated differently, with colourful clashing vinyl patterned seats, intricately shaped mirrors and stickers of deities plastered to the dashboard. This one was particularly small; Leah’s right leg was raised and pressed on top of Daniel’s. Occasionally, the driver looked at them in his rearview mirror and wiggled his eyebrows playfully. She realized she had never been this close to Daniel before. “I love the way the autorickshaws look, they’re so cool,” she shouted over the noise of the road. “Really? They’re so tacky and uncomfortable,” he said and looked away. When they arrived, Daniel paid the driver. From the road, they stared at Hawa Mahal, its crown-like shape. The pink sandstone façade looked fuchsia in the glare of the sun. The palace was marked with thousands of small windows and openings, like a honeycomb. Every window was designed to look out, never in. They climbed up the narrow, winding staircases towards the front of the palace. Daniel had to duck down each time they passed through an archway. Inside, Leah peered through the tiny lace-like holes in the stone to the street below. They had been
worn smooth by wind and were almost soft against her hands. She turned to Daniel. “I know it’s a part of the culture and all, but the concept of Purdah seems so fucked up to me. Can you imagine being part of the king’s harem and only being able to see the outside world through these walls?” “Yeah well, I wouldn’t want a bunch of jerk-offs staring at my wives either,” Daniel said. Leah couldn’t tell if he was joking until his lips parted into a grin. “I don’t know why I go anywhere with you. You’re a knob,” she said as she descended the staircase, smiling. *** Near dinnertime, Daniel and Leah made their way back to the volunteer house. They shared a cigarette as they walked from the autorickshaw. She let Daniel smoke most of it. People stared more when she smoked. As they waited to cross the road they were engulfed by what looked like a small parade, enclosed by men carrying chandeliers. Bringing up the rear was a Day-Glo elephant, adorned with neon purple, yellow and pink paint. Her eyelashes gently batted away swarming flies. To their right was a marching band in turquoise suits with gold trim, their brass instruments glowed, their grey mustaches twisted into points. Two boys let off fireworks that screamed into the sky, announcing the bride and groom. Women in glittering saris gathered around them. Everyone wanted to shake the couple’s hands. Leah stood next to the bride who was wearing a crimson sari with gold beadwork that spilled down her sides. An elaborate gold nose ring made the skin of her nose sag slightly. When Leah held her hands and looked into her eyes she saw how young she was. “Beautiful — um, you are sundar,” Leah said to her, struggling to find the word. The father of the bride insisted that Daniel and Leah be photographed with the married couple. And their siblings. And then one photo with the children. And so on until Leah’s face hurt from smiling. They danced with what seemed like every member of the family. Leah was dizzy from being twirled by uncles and cousins. She caught Daniel’s eye. He winked at her as he swayed back and forth with the bride.
“Please, please you must join us at the temple,” they insisted. But Leah felt they had already intruded enough. After another round of handshakes and pats on the back they were released back into the street. “I’ve never seen people so happy about a wedding in my whole life,” Leah said, her voice slightly shrill. Daniel pulled her towards him and held her in place. They looked at each other for a few seconds before he stooped down and kissed her. The force of it made her stagger backwards. Dust from the road rose around them as they stood together. Leah forgot exactly where she was until an autorickshaw honked at them, breaking them apart. “I read about this thing on the internet. It’s a kind of Hindu exorcism temple, called Mehandipur Balaji. Do you want to come check it out with me this weekend?” Daniel asked. “Yes, I do.” Leah said. Leah’s face felt like it was on fire as they walked back to the volunteer house. *** On Saturday afternoon Daniel and Leah made their way onto the Jaipur-Agra train, which made a stop in Dausa, where the temple was. They found their seats in Sleeper Class, facing each other on the two uppermost bunks next to the doorway where some shepherds sat together. Leah tried to read but felt their eyes on her. Everyone always stared. Even though she had read something about it when she researched her trip, she never thought it would be so exhausting. After a few weeks, the stares wore her confidence down. It was like the sandstone at the palace, she thought, the way the winds smoothed away the roughness of the stones, turning them into something else over time. Leah pulled her scarf over her head, to shield herself from the buzzing of the overhead lights, the mosquitoes, the shepherds. She briefly fell asleep to the rocking of the chain-suspended bunk and the rhythm of the train hurtling across the countryside. When she woke, the train had come to a stop. Daniel helped her down from the bunk and they fought their way out.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that. I’m pretty sure some guy just grabbed my butt,” Leah joked. “Smart man,” Daniel mumbled. As they walked along the platform he turned to her and said, “I really like traveling with you, you know. It would be really fun if you came South with me.” Leah was flattered. “That would be cool. I want to extend my visa. Maybe I can meet up with you after I’m finished at the school. I can’t leave yet.” “Yeah but, whatever, fuck that.” Leah laughed. “That was my whole reason for coming here. I can’t just leave those kids; we’re in the middle of a lesson plan.” “I didn’t mean it like that, but you know...” They walked along the road to the temple, stopping often to look at stalls selling floral garlands and sweets for offerings. Some children were playing cricket in a dirt yard off the road and after much cajoling, convinced Daniel to play with them. A row of little girls sat on a low stone wall watching. They looked up at Leah, their heads tilted to the side as they smiled slyly. Two of the smaller girls climbed into her lap and began to play with her hair. They reminded her of the girls she taught at the school in Jaipur. Whenever Daniel played cricket with the boys at the schoolhouse Leah saw every movement in magnified detail: the sweat beads at his hairline, the crispness of his rolled-up shirt sleeves, the muscles of his forearms that flexed under deeply tanned skin. One of the boys palmed the ball at the other end of the pitch. As Daniel swung the bat, the boys watched in anticipation. All of the children cheered when Daniel hit the ball over the farthest wall. He turned to look at Leah, as if wanting to see her reaction immediately. She couldn’t suppress her grin. *** The late afternoon Rajasthan sun made the temple glow like the embers of a fire. The entrance to the temple was a crush of people. Daniel pulled Leah farther and farther into the crowd until she felt as though she’d been swallowed alive. The power lines drooped between buildings, heavy with the weight of monkeys leaping from one line to the next, above the heads of the worshippers. Daniel looked so different from everyone around
them, standing almost a head taller than most of the men. His chestnut hair was slicked back with sweat. By the time they reached the entrance the temple was full so they watched via television screens, which showed the people inside, chained to the walls. Some hung limply and others writhed and shrieked. The video feed switched back and forth between these people and footage of offerings: huge plates of sweets, rows of incense and candles, and overripe fruit piled high on platters. Leah looked at the faces around her; most people had their eyes closed. She wondered what had brought them here. What evil they hoped to be cleansed of. Next to them a woman dropped to her knees and threw herself backwards, writhing on the dirt road. Leah felt her long, greasy hair thrash against her legs. The woman’s eyes rolled back in her head. No one in the crowd made any move to help her; she seemed to teeter on the threshold of pain or pleasure, or that place where they meet. Leah let herself be swayed by the wave of people and the sound of the chants until she, too, felt like she was in a trance. People flowed out from the temple doors and Leah was caught off balance. She was being swept away by the crowd until Daniel’s palm encircled the base of her neck and pulled her body flush against his. He didn’t acknowledge the movement. His eyes were fixed on the screens. After the crowd had quieted he kept his hand on her neck. The heat from his palm spread along Leah’s skin and made her head feel heavy. Daniel did not loosen his grip until she stepped away from him and released herself. *** It was dark when they walked back towards the train station. The wood-perfumed smell of beedie smoke and temple incense clouded the air. Daniel stopped walking. “Shit, now that I think about it, I’m not sure if there’s even a train that goes back to Jaipur tonight,” he muttered. “I thought you said you checked.” “Yeah, I was actually checking the schedule for trains to Udaipur I think … ” he shrugged. Leah felt enormously stupid that she had not checked herself. “I’ll make sure you get on the first train back to Jaipur tomor-
row,” Daniel said as he put his hands on her shoulders to reassure her. “Are you crazy? Amita will kill us if we don’t come home tonight. She might even throw us out of the program. She is the link between our embassies and us. If we disappear or get lost, it’s on her,” Leah said as she stepped away from him. Daniel looked around. “OK, relax. We’ll find a bus or something.” “We’ll find a bus? Where the fuck will we find a bus? Everything is closed. What are we going to do, stand by the side of the road and hitchhike?” She walked towards the road as quickly as she could. She didn’t care if Daniel was behind her or not. They waited by the road for hours, trying to flag down vehicles that passed by. No one wanted to pick up a couple of tourists, it seemed. Leah didn’t blame them. Finally a grey, battered bus stopped in front of them and opened its doors. Leah got on to speak to the driver who was, to her surprise, a woman. Peering through the curtain to where the seats were, Leah saw the bus was full of elderly nuns. “Jaipur?” She asked the driver, not knowing what to expect. The driver got up and opened the curtain. She spoke to a very old woman sitting at the front. She stared at Leah from behind her thick, yellowing glasses. The old woman asked a question out loud and some of the nuns nodded. The driver pointed to an empty seat on the left side of the bus. Leah called down to Daniel in the road, but he didn’t meet her gaze. When he boarded the bus the driver shook her head. The nuns did the same. Daniel looked at them, and then at Leah and walked down the stairs. She didn’t know if he expected her to follow. She made her way to the seat which they had cleared for her. Leah looked out the window. The motion of the bus was like a gentle washing machine lulling the women back and forth. The nuns began to sing a hymn but the strange inflections in their voices made it hard to tell if it was in Hindi or English. The woman seated next to her took Leah’s hands and held them as she sang, her voice was high and clear. She implored Leah to join in with her wide eyes. Leah hummed along even though she did
not know the words. She felt stupid at first, but after a while their voices blended together above the roar of the bus as it sped along the road back to Jaipur.
Jesse Anger No Horizon From the high backdune all I could see was a bluish field scored by a lone tanker, faring cloud-swell — the horizon snuffed by moods of slate and heron — wave and wake and stratus ambled, eliding in the break. You were scanning the shallows that gathered in rock shoals, hunting for fossils. When I asked if you could tell the sky from the water, you narrowed your eye, bowed over your reflection. I turned where beginning to ends and skipped a stone from cloud to cloud —.
Hannah Rahimi Fragments when all night long it pulls them down Coming home from putting out a fire, how can they be expected to kiss the cheeks of their sleeping children and take out the leaking garbage and shuffle through the bills lying on the table and not drink the whiskey under the sink and spoon their wives while listening to their stories as well as their complaints and ask them questions and care about their answers and answer their questions and then sleep peacefully beside them without letting go when all night long it pulls them down, this threat and thrill of flame?
like the hyacinth in the mountains that shepherd men with their feet trample down and on the ground the purple flower They don’t warn you about the dangers of oblivion. They should tell you, Stay away from the men who don’t really see you or else you will end up like the hyacinth in the mountains that shepherd men with their feet trample down, and on the ground the purple flower is a smudge like a larger version of the mosquito on the window that the just-bitten boy with the palm of his hand has crushed, and on the glass the mosquito is a smear, in places dark with mangled limbs, in places bright with blood that isn’t even its own.
Note: the italicized fragments are from If Not, Winter, Anne Carson’s translation of Sappho’s poetry.
L_O_V_E Ashley Woodward When he was gone she could feel the humming between her thighs. How loud that shadowy place where all the world must come from. Restless, she turned, surveyed the ceiling. The white paint was uneven in the spot just above her head where the previous tenant had stuck a word onto the gyp-rock. Small disks, maybe reinforcements a student might use to hold together pages in a binder, misplaced here to spell the word l-o-v-e. She hit the control-save on this one, on Richard. Before he left, that was. She wanted him gone, she wanted him to stay. “I’m sick of your ambivalence,” he said as he shrugged into his t-shirt ten minutes earlier. He pulled his jeans up roughly, winced when the zipper bit him. “Alrighty.” A neutral tone, but he heard snark. “You bitch, Leanne.” “I actually think you’re being a bitch.” She looked up at the reinforcement letters while she said it, the final word snapping in her mouth, heavy and crisp, a twig between her teeth. “Fuck you.” But he stayed in the doorway to her bedroom, hands braced on the frame, muscles clenched. His tendons stood out in his neck and she blinked to see better through her dry contact lenses. That, she told herself, was part of what she liked about Richard. That tension. “Godspeed, Dick.” She lifted a hand and swivelled it on her wrist, winking a newly moistened eye. He stepped over the threshold, just the one foot. He’d only half-pulled his sock on, he’d been so eager to leave, but now the sock slipped to his toes. “I should —” “By all means.” The sheets were cheap satin, the kind that caught on the skin covering her hardened heels. The top sheet covered her to the waist; she sat up, resting her back against
the rough wooden head-board. She spread her legs, opening her knees, so that a miniature tent jumped into existence on the bed. “Bite me, Lee.” And he bit his own lip. “By all means,” she said again, and the tent collapsed as her thighs hit the bottom sheet. He scratched his head, bent down to pull up his sock. A moment later he was gone, slamming the door, and eliciting a loud “Hey!” from her roommate, Joe. *** “What do you do?” They’d started to ask that question at parties, almost invariably prefaced by the ice-breaking “so.” They weren’t really parties anymore, anyway. “Get-togethers.” “Potlucks.” And other compound words replaced the parties. Leanne didn’t miss them, but she bit her tongue when she found herself asking her new acquaintance what it was he did (so). “I’m still hitting the books.” “Not too hard, I hope.” She flashed her teeth, wondering if the smile wrinkled the corners of her eyes the way she knew it did the boundaries of her lips. “Nah, it’s a piece of cake. What do you do, Leanne?” “I read a lot.” “I mean for work.” His eyes certainly crinkled when he smiled around his nice, square teeth. Leanne shrugged, sipped her drink, and found that she’d taken the last of it after meeting a cold-eyed elementary school teacher five minutes before. Richard (yes, that was his name) stepped forward, abruptly, it seemed to Leanne, who shifted her weight in automatic response. She grinned at him. “Are you trying to dance with me, Richard?” He frowned briefly and grasped the stem of the glass she still held absently. “Thought I’d freshen your drink,” he said, and glanced down at his feet. He blushed, and Leanne felt herself stepping forward to get a closer look at that pomegranate undertone rising in his cheeks. Only someone so fair-haired, she thought, would have skin to stain so easy. “Thoughtful of you.”
*** She and Joe slept together when neither of them had success at the meat-market. Joe brought home slick, dark-haired men, and the occasional long-haired lady. Leanne was his fallback gal, but sex was less important than the moments afterwards. Joe usually kicked his conquests out of bed so that he could enjoy post-coital bliss and emptiness on his own. Leanne was allowed to stay, and they curled around each other, sometimes for fifteen minutes, sometimes until the sun lit up the room enough to reveal themselves to each other. Then they turned over and began the day separately. Lingering during the hours of darkness did not count, and they both silently acknowledged this. Daytime, however, was for showering the night away, leaving the apartment, leaving each other. Joe was a blossoming marketing exec with a puzzling B.A. in History and French, neither of which he used during the long, tense hours that filled his days. He’d met Leanne at work, when she was still the department’s administrative assistant. Or “our bitch,” as Joe had affectionately dubbed her. She had been good at the work, and sometimes she took satisfaction from it: sorting, mailing, emailing, paying, receiving, and always silencing that ringing phone. They moved in together after Leanne quit the job to go back to school to finish that useless B.A. in English. She’d been over to the apartment several times at that point, and she and Joe had agreed that he was too gay and she was too – what? They never found a name for it – for them to be in a proper relationship with anyone else. So they moved in together, with Joe making space and Leanne taking it, with Joe making money and Leanne spending it. They surpassed the one-year mark, filled out paperwork, and became common-law partners. Joe went to work, Leanne to school, and they both came home, often with new, temporary partners to add and then subtract. “I love you, Joe,” Leanne told him, nearly every day. “Yes, you do,” he always answered, with a shrug. ***
Richard was problematic. He came home with her that night after the get-together had broken up. He was drunk, she was painfully sober, and they concluded the evening with Richard passed out in Leanne’s bed, and Leanne curled up in Joe’s bed. “Why did you bring him home?” “Don’t say it that way.” “What way?” “With contempt. I wanted to bring him with me. You’ll see when he gets up. There’s something about his skin, his mouth –” “I get it, you had a hankering. But he was drunker than a skunk, my dear and I know you. No skunks in your bunk.” “You make me sound like an absolutist. A rhyming absolutist.” “I’m not making you anything. Why’d you bring him home to your bed, Lee? You knew he was too drunk to be useful. And none of that skin and lips crap, please.” Leanne got up, shrugging Joe’s arm off with a hiss. He snorted, rolled over, seemed to go back to sleep. It was still dark out, and Leanne walked steadily through the shadowy apartment to her room. Richard lay spread out, a creamy starfish. She giggled, he stirred and shifted, covering his nakedness. A smell of stale beer being exhaled slowly, being slept away, ripened the air in her room. His chest rose and he coughed loudly. “Are you ok?” Her voice was louder than she’d intended. He stirred again, turning over so that he was splayed once more, exposed. His chest, heaving a moment earlier, resumed the steady intakes and expulsions of the slowly putrefying air. Leanne cracked the window open before she installed herself on her bed. He took up most of it, and she folded herself along the outline of his right side, not quite touching him with her back and legs. She was rigid for a long time, until Richard slipped an arm around her waist, then she slept. *** The two men didn’t meet for some weeks, though Leanne saw them both nearly every day. She told Joe that she had dismissed Richard the morning after the drunk skunk incident, and she had. The morning after that found her slipping on the surface of her cheap sheets, and picturing the creamy, splayed Rich-
ard, and how he might have looked in the sunlight parting her curtains. She called him, his voice was apologetic at first, then pleased. “Come over, please,” she said. “I’ve got a lot of reading to do.” “So do I. We’ll read together.” They read in bed, rewarding each ingested page with a kiss, until the books landed facedown on the floor, next to that cheap top-sheet. Richard’s soft, pink feet dug temporary grooves into Leanne’s bed, gaining purchase on the slithery satin. He was earnest in his movements, and in his insistence that she look him in the eyes when she came. He granted her the same glimpse, and she stared into him as he contracted inside her. She told him to leave at 4:00, giving the apartment two hours of emptiness before Joe got home. She aired her room, which before smelled of books and skin and which now held the pure scent of laundered linens. Joe arrived, tired and satisfied, and they ate together and shared his bed. Richard read with Leanne the next day, and every day after that, always leaving before the sun went down, until one day he refused. “You have to go,” she whispered. Both of their heads were under a pillow, and she saw a flash of Richard’s teeth when he smiled. “Nope,” he said, “I want to stay with you tonight.” “No, Richard. You’re leaving. Now, please.” She sat up so that the pillow rolled over. Her hair had turned into a nest she would have to untangle before Joe came home. Richard grabbed the big knot in one hand and tugged gently. “No, Lee.” He guided her head back down to the bed, but she wouldn’t turn towards him. She stared upwards instead, at that word springing out of the white ceiling. “He’ll be home soon? Is that why you want me gone? Shift change?” She tried to explain, not for the first time. Their voices rose and fell. Richard got up off the bed and into his underwear, gaining higher ground. From his vantage point he said he loved her.
She looked at him, dismayed to find that the word had descended, had landed in his mouth. Again and again he spat it at her. The front door opened, closed, and Joe was home. Leanne closed her lips. Richard glanced at the closed door of her bedroom. “I’m going to go talk to him. I want him to know about me. You owe him that, Leanne. You owe me that.” “Owe you? Have I opened some kind of tab? How ever will I pay off all of these debts?” “You don’t give a fuck about either of us.” “Quite the contrary. I give you both a lot of fucks.” He stood, square and powerful, close to the door, staring at her in a shocked way she both enjoyed and dreaded. “I’m sick of your ambivalence,” he said.
Mark Lavorato Moon Rover All smiles in archival clips velvet contrast, colours thin Medal-winning men as boys at play in tinfoil reveries Spinning Gilletes in zero G cocky quickdraw cowboys hurl hammers for science sake and wallop golf balls for miles Houston has them cleaving stones kicking rocks down crater slopes and clocking their fumbling sprints over shadowed dimples in dust Start-stopping lunar buggies tires spiralling dirt galaxies the fluid lurching over dunes through a desert of cartoon dreams Sundial boulders pendulum shade in a windless red-flagged quiet The sky impossibly black their time obsessively counted Through a point of view mirror-domed at times theyâ€™re shaken inward wheeling over ghost horizons to the rise of our distant globe
Max Karpinski Demain Berlin i. Berlin gleams like knife. We list on edge always, drink nighttime daily. Dark steels us. Neon strikes, seeks us out, a slick slice, a thin nick across eyeslits. We watch the city converge, dinning towers sounding the sincere asphalt of dullness. ii. Malka meets us at Hauptbahnhof. Fresh off the 9:15 from Poznań her hair greasy and smells like cabbage — the stara baba beside her the whole way, knitting, toothless. “Nächste Station Kottbusser tor” — the bus shakes and streaks, tracks noise across districts, exhaust ashen and thriving on our tongues. We whirl between rain and puddles, the light giving way to giggles and dusk. Bodies mingle and refract, float separate into the evening. iii. If the city is bliss then we are thicknesses. We will lock hands, furtive in the glistening. We will watch the city splinter. Even streetlights whisper their assent. The night closes on us like time and Malka smells like herself again and lovely. And we are together, on the blacktop among bodies swelling, between steel and glass.
Max Karpinski Selections from Oh?
Let us now trace the fidelity of ink. Phyllis, our bodies flicker, precisely hinged. We offer entrance, a way to begin.
Phyllis. Fill us. Phyllis befell us. Phyllis baffle us. I biff the spelling of Phyllis. Phlylis. Flies cease buzz watch Phyllis. Phyllis and her lover falling on the floor. Phyllis over table gripping pencil spilling fable printing mental tableaux filling paper. Phyllis Phyllis. Pea Aitch Why Elle Elle I Ess. Phyllis I miss clean page I mess your page I underline insert smudge trace answer call think hope pray. Phyllis, I want to become a speck on the tip of my pencil, I want to trace over your words and get lost in the graze, I want to reach through your ink and play with your hair. Phyllis I want to play with your hair while you read me some poems. No more bruising. Don’t mind me, I only want to play with your hair. Phyllis it seemed you welcomed me in. Filling rooms with supple forms, supplementing empty spacing. Supple movements, Phyllis and her lover, the page poised flip and fall. Phyllis you are a blue movie, why won’t you let us see it all? Phyllis, I want to love you with the lights on, I don’t care about the blemishes. A disastrous blemish, a scab picked repicked spreading oozing pus and plasma. Phyllis I want to lose myself in the great white blank, lose myself in the coiled spare black, lose myself in the greys. Phyllis, I almost called you Edith a poem ago. Phyllis I want to stick to your paper like a shadow, joined together at the flatness, the pulp. I want to stick to your paper like your words. I want to believe that you want me to. Phyllis is it hard to write books? Do letters feel? Does an L ever get itchy? Does each letter wriggle on the page when we’re not looking? Let’s open a book and live in the mess. Space for everyone, come dance. Come wiggle. Come shake. Come. Crawl. Let me watch, that’s all I ask. Phyllis I take the hand of the “P” in your name and lead it to the ballroom floor and it doesn’t matter if your floors are linoleum or wood because either way we’ll slip a little. Just a giggle, I’m begging. To turn the starfish into the world. To play, to burn it all, to burn the dried starfish brittle arms and legs and watch it flicker watch the dust and ash flutter watch it cover pages. To print a book with starfish ink. To touch a page and feel the starfish, see the starfish in every wiggle and dance, in every “I” and “O” and “Y” and “U” and “P” and “H” and “W” and “C” and “L” and “M” and Oh? and Why? and Oh?
We map the cityâ€™s conclusions. The line yokes us together. The shellâ€™s whiteness contains us. Emptiness demarcates limits or infinite vastness, the texture of this white noise described in fricatives and gutturals. Phyllis your voice crackles like fireplace static. A ring like emergency broadcast frequency. A presence like the radio. The street dissolves into prairie. Cobblestone breccias translating green and yellow and softness and brown and buzz of electric towers and wires. Pages emptied and beckoning, trim like wet cement and null. Spine-hugging, the body finally collapsed and sited. Phyllis, we are the opening and nothing is beginning. We are the dead and we are breathing. We are breathing in your rooms, we are breathing in your poems, we are breathing with you all. Pages stretched thin as bedsheets, write bodies in ink, between blots and scribbles we are breathing with you all. Stitched together and holy, skin caved in or carved, body pockmarked. Fingerholds in rock face but surely a surface beckoning depth, an edifice housing scatters and slight aural shifts. And so much depends on anywhere evenings. And as for we who love to be astonished, we will seek and hold the slender line. We will stick and trail, the words disperse, strew threads, strands of pulp. A book knotted, Mobius pages, these shimmering spluttering letters still desiring other grammars. We traverse ink and pulp like covert strollers. Finding alleyways, thoroughfares, we stoop in the porticos of poems about Phyllis. We linger under awnings, smudge fingers over bodies, we wish only to flatten and extend, we are breathing with you all. Bodies unfolding topographies, unfolding like the breath drawn or language. Phyllis, it always begins with a hand. The poem and you need each other. Lines draw taut and coil, unchain in the emptiness of the great white blank. Phyllis, we refract with each pen fall, kaleidoscope unity. We gasp and dissolve. We seek the unmooring of starting out. It is containment we spurn. Stuff and cram and revise us. And if we ever finish, these are only our beginnings.
Collapse Jordan Crosthwaite I stood at the window, looking at the daytime city sky, watching traffic. Potted flowers grew on the sill, slightly limp and untended. A bumblebee bounced off the window, trying to get in but unable to enter. I wondered if he was a lonely bee. I felt anxiety for the future because this bee reminded me of what is temporary and fragile. Bees vanished. Thousands of bumblebees, honeybees, high-flying bees and stinging bees, whole hives disappeared randomly and rapidly. Colony collapse disorder. CCD. Presumed dead, departed bees leave behind hives that turn papery and grey. I imagined bright yellow fields of unpollinated flowers, stamen and pistil shivering within wilting petals. The deep-focus and bright world of flowering blossoms fading into a sepia, monotone dustbowl. Beekeepers in white suits standing beside empty hives, arms limp by their sides and masks removed, lonely and exposed, fearing that bees and blossoms have disappeared and taken something important with them. Maybe planting more flowers could bring the bees home, so I dutifully planted a little package of Manitoba wildflower seeds in pots on the windowsill of my apartment. Though the exhaust fumes from passing city busses prevented my opening the windows. The flowers grew in my bright and messy den, my study, the home for my books and a place to attract a human pollination. Any flora in a young bachelorâ€™s apartment is a sign of sensitivity, which I hoped a visiting girl would find attractive. I imagined this girl would lean on the windowsill, her face beside a flower, both enjoying the sun, tracing imperceptible heliotropic arcs. Iâ€™m a true believer in monogamy. Iâ€™ve always wanted to love just one woman for as long as I live. I read once that bees have very acute memories, that they will remember the most fecund flowers by their bright colour, faithfully returning again and
again to collect more nectar and more pollen. The problem is that when a new flower grows, he will be distracted and add this new flower to his journey, forgetting to tend his old favourite. *** Coincidentally, I fell in love with a girl who mostly dressed herself in floral patterns. She wore green blouses with little white flowers, summer dresses with soft pink large-petaled prints, plimsole sneakers in a delicate floral motif. One dress was black, printed with little red apples; a fruit-dress to compliment the dominant theme. One to wear on occasions. She had soft freckles on her face. When our relationship got serious my mother made us an intricate quilt of little flower fabrics, and we put it on our bed. She commandeered the watering of my wildflowers and I was able to relax my garden tending. She knew the names of a couple of the flowers, and we learned more. She would remember them and remind me when I forgot. Crocus. Aster. Goldenrod. Indian Hemp. We drove to a valley in central Saskatchewan where there was a family cottage and some lakes and lots of ripe Saskatoon berries and I could learn fishing. Here she knew the names of more flowers. It was a long drive to get there, but worth it. It was a small cabin filled with old, expensive books from a now-dead uncle, a lawyer. Some novels, poetry, and clothbound reference books. The beds were piled high with coarse wool blankets because it cooled down at night, being so close to the lake. The railroad tracks ran between the cabin and the lake. Three times a day a train rumbled by at top speed, it blew its whistle and we stood holding hands, tense and watching, but mostly feeling the ground shaking and the air blowing on our faces and the highpitched steel-on-steel sound of train wheels on train tracks. We would step out onto the tracks as soon as it passed to hear the immediate silent whoosh of it sucking the valley air behind it. During the days we spent there, I would ask her questions about herself. How do you like your coffee? Have you read Robert Musil? Do you like touch here? Do you like the warm sun on your skin?
So she drank tea and wasn’t much of a reader. She took photographs and let me put my hand on her back and I would try to stop myself from kissing her in the morning. She watched me in a way that didn’t make me self-conscious but made her seem mysterious. When we went on the lake in the rowboat, she watched me and the valley while I read. Noticing small details was her specialty: like the shape of leaves on a Saskatoon bush, or the repeated pattern of plaid on my shirt, or how sometimes it took me a long time to turn the page because I was holding myself back from tears looking at the sun on her skin. She let me read aloud from Paradise Lost. I told her about how Satan sat on top of the mountain and looked out over Eden and saw Adam and Eve and their work all laid out like a map, and how even Satan cried because it was so beautiful. We talked about the border between the natural world and the heavenly world, which one we were in and which we were meant to be in. The Qu’appelle Valley is green and verdant because a chain of lakes runs through from East to West. The lakes divide the valley into a northern and a southern hill, and it’s truly lush only on the north, the only green part of Saskatchewan. It is rich with trees and plants and flowers because, at such high latitude, the sun shines from the south and promotes asymmetrical plant life in that half of the valley. If you were to stand in the east you would see a world divided, low and yellow to your left, green and fertile to the right. The cabin was on the northern side of the valley, so when we walked along the railroad tracks we found lots of berries to eat and wildflowers to pick. These flowers looked a lot like my Manitoban wildflowers but had different names. She told me the provincial flower of Saskatchewan is the Western Red Lily. Its bright flower grows on a long stem, its color orange and red and usually only has one blossom. An endangered species. We found one in the afternoon along the tracks. I thought it had very pronounced stamen and anther, and I’m sure that when bees find one they remember where it is. I took this all to be a very good sign. I picked it.
*** We kept the flowers we picked on the picnic table outside. Through the day some would blow away or wilt. Wildflowers didn’t last long after being cut from their stems. We tried pressing some in the old books from the cabin. The largest book on the shelf was On Partnership, an old gilded and clothbound book detailing the procedures and governance of alliance between lawyers. We filled the book with pressed flowers, arranging them by chapter: wild roses on “The Limited Partner”, crocuses between “Partnership Constituted” and “The Rights of Partners Involved”, skeletonweed before “Liability of Each” and after “The Duty of Loyalty”, yellow primrose at “The Authority of Partners”, lavender in the appendix, “Of Altering and Dissolving Partnerships.” Honeybees pollinate flowers by inadvertently transporting pollen from one flower to another. Pollination is secondary for bees, who are interested in collecting nectar and pollen to feed colonies. The bee travels from flower to flower, apple blossom and berry blossom, depositing a little pollen on the pistil of another flower. He travels a long radius from his home colony, and the fruits of this labour are real fruits. An accidental interlocutor of copulation. I guess that she opened herself to my reading poetry to her because it was my job. The effect of reading in the company of one who felt an aversion to books charged the space between us. She listened and didn’t judge and had more patience than I did for the stuff. Enjambments melted away, cadence became my voice, images perceptible in the scenery around us. Holding a cigarette between her two middle fingers she listened when the archangel came down from the treetops and shared a meal with Adam. She listened to all the warnings he gave about the dangers of Paradise and its fruits. She listened when I read of how, together in Paradise, Adam and Eve looked up and beheld sky, air, earth, heaven, and the moon’s resplendent globe, and how they knew God made it, ordained their bliss and all the abundance and how they spoke unanimous pure adoration. This poem was our window into the world of things of the
earth and the air. The window looked out into the world behind what we could see, behind creatures crawling, flying, and buzzing, and right into their homes and their hives, right into the sweet honey that we could taste in the pages. Maybe because she didnâ€™t read much, she spoke with a directness and infrequency that made her language true and of the totality of things. There was often silence between us, sometimes charged with affection and sometimes with distance. One evening beside the tracks, I told her a secret: how sometimes I took pages from library books. The silence before her response filled me with attention and fright. And when she spoke, it was as if she knew all of my transgressions and forgave them all in a quiet and soft word. As we talked, the words came a few at a time, growing to the germination of an idea. Then a pause, and we breathed in the darkness of the end of day. She felt the grass in her fingers and pressed into the soft ground with her hand. In the longest of the pauses, we had our vigil of silence looking down the glinting railroad tracks and up at the first stars and at the future of our silence. Even if the whole thing felt more than it was, the twilight melded with our selves until we were singular with the firmament and the night.
Contributors Jesse Anger is a folk musician and audio-engineer. He juggles fatherhood, university classes and pins. His poems have appeared recently at venues like: Buoy, Kin, The Raintown Review, Measure, Angle, The Fib Review and The Hyper-Texts. You can find photos and more of his poetry at his blog A Loom In The Dark. David Arseneau is a Montreal based artist who holds a BFA from Concordia University. His practice includes painting, video and installation. aJbishop recently completed a MA at Concordia University. She has previously published in Headlight and recently published in Cordite Review in Australia, and FreeFall. Watch for her upcoming release of a suite of poems with Leaf Press’ leaflet series and check out her new blog at allisonjb.wordpress.com. Atli Bollason was born in Reykjavík, Iceland. He holds an MA in English Literature from Concordia University. Atli is obsessed with the passage of time and the gradual disintegration of the world. Joe Bongiorno is a student of Concordia’s Teaching English as a Second Language program. While he tends toward prose fiction, he also enjoys exploring other genres, and has recently published a poem in Writings. Joe’s creative work often examines questions of individuality and morality, but he describes “The Smiling Prisoner” as a “much more personal” piece. Jordan Crosthwaite is a undecorated writer living in Montreal. He is currently completing a Master’s Degree in English Literature at Concordia University. Kelly Norah Drukker was born in Montreal and grew up in the Laurentian region of Quebec. Her work has appeared in Head-
light Anthology, Room Magazine, Poetry New Zealand, enRoute Magazine, carte blanche, The Malahat Review, the Literary Review of Canada, The Montreal Prize Longlist Anthology, and most recently, Contemporary Verse 2. In 2006, her set of long poems “Still Lives” won second prize in the CBC Literary Awards. She is currently enrolled in the Masters program in English and Creative Writing at Concordia University, and is at work on her first collection of poems. Jacqueline Hanna is a native of Montreal currently attending Concordia University and pursuing a degree in English and Creative Writing. Her interests include ornithology, etymology, soup, and sandwiches. She has been published in Soliloquies and has work forthcoming in Yiara Magazine. Max Karpinski is finishing his M.A. at McGill University. He is currently Poetry Editor for Scrivener Creative Review. Jaime Lee Kirtz is a poet from Vancouver, who is currently attending at Concordia University for her Master’s of English Literature and Creative Writing. She obtained Bachelors degrees in Physics and English Literature from the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto. She is interested in intersections between conceptual space and digitization of the historical archive as well as emerging poetic forms and genres. She has been published by sources such as Geist, the Poetry Institute of Canada and Creekstone Press. Kevin Kvas is a graduate student at Concordia University in Montreal. His work has appeared in The Puritan, WTF?!, Leading Edge, Tesseracts, and the Ottawa Arts Review, of which he is a former editor. Mark Lavorato is the author of three novels, Veracity (Rain Publishing, 2007), and Believing Cedric (Brindle & Glass, 2011); his third is forthcoming with House of Anansi Press in spring 2014. His debut collection of poetry, Wayworn Wooden Floors,
was published by the Porcupine’s Quill in 2012. Kelsey Lothian recently drifted to Montreal on some aromatic prevailing westerlies from St. John’s, drawn by self-aggrandized rumours of underground feminisms cats and queer poutineinduced raves. The poetry began with messages on the walls of bathroom stalls and moved to the poetry-bombing of wider spaces with less captive audiences. Sometimes it’s good to be in a book where the readers want and expect you, but that’s a rare treat. Kelsey is a compulsive autotonsorialist and volunteer. Kelsey hopes you will all be nice to the people who serve you coffee, especially if their name tag says Kelsey. Kristina Mahler is in her second year of Creative Writing at Concordia. Her work has been published on websites such as vice.com, xojane.com and Shabby Dollhouse. You can follow her on twitter @kaemahler where she expresses all of her sexual encounters in agonizing detail/ how hungover she is/how much she loves her dog. Domenica Martinello is completing her BA in Literature and Creative Writing at Concordia University and is a poetry editor for Soliloquies Anthology. In 2012 she was a finalist for the 2012 Irving Layton Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in The Void and Headlight Anthology, among other places. She lives in Montreal. Anna Maszewska is a second year PhD candidate at the University of Montreal. Her research project focuses on Mexican American borderlands. “Demeurer chez Soi” is part of the “Toulouse or Not to Lose” portfolio submitted for Gail Scott’s creative writing workshop at UdeM last May. Daniel Minsky is a freelance television and short fiction writer living in Montreal. His latest credits include two episodes of Crime Stories: Season 9 for the Discovery Channel (2012), and a
pair of episodes for Discovery-Military’s new show, First Battles (2012). His on-going work, resume and other things can be seen at www.danielminsky.com. Ali Pinkney is a writer and performer who currently studies creative writing at Concordia University in Montreal. Born in Northern Ontario, and raised in Southern Ontario, both of the Ontarian towns Ali lived in were popular test market zones. Hannah Rahimi grew up in Toronto and has lived in Montreal since 2008. Rudrapriya Rathore lives in Montreal and studies English and Creative Writing at Concordia. She divides her time between writing fiction and reading fiction. Short stories are her preferred genre, though she also writes poems. Her prized possessions include a dog named Pookie. Katherine Sehl currently lives and loves in Montreal but dreams in other places. Sylvain Verstricht has a master’s degree in film studies from Concordia University, though he has mostly been writing dance criticism for the past six years. He lives in Montreal. Ashley Woodward has previously published poetry in the Headlight Anthology, and was contributing editor to The Someday Funnies, released in 2011. She is currently working on a novel she began during her travels in Sweden, while simultaneously completing a Master’s in English Literature at Concordia University.