Humber Literary Review: vol. 10, issue 2

Page 30

VOLUME 10 ISSUE 2 fall + winter 2022/23 $9.95
PROFESSIONAL WRITING AND COMMUNICATIONS POSTGRADUATE CERTIFICATE Featuring a third semester, industry-connected internship




LOUISE SIDLEY 11 Footsteps KATHERINE BARRETT 24 Shore JAN SIMS 43 Girl, Lost In Thought





TASLIM JAFFER 4 Survival MARYAM RAFIEE 15 Queen of the Mountains CATHERINE LEWIS 28 Liminal LUCIANA ERREGUE 38 As We Sit at the Table // COMICS SID SHARP 32

VOLUME 10 ISSUE 2 fall + winter
You Came Back to Visit and I Made a Mess of It (The One Day Only Forgotten Ghost GetTogether Event of the Century) INTERVIEWS // REVIEWS DANIEL SCOTT TYSDAL 48 [Interview]



Patrice Esson


Eufemia Fantetti

D.D. Miller


Sarah Feldbloom

Kelly Harness

Matthew Harris

Alyson Renaldo


Leanne Milech


Meaghan Strimas


Angelo Muredda


Cole Swanson


Christian Leveille


Kilby Smith-McGregor


Claire Majors


Tanya d’Anger

Andrew Drager

Alireza Jafari

Amy Ladouceur

Claire Majors

Andy Scott Suzanne Zelazo


Vera Beletzan

Senior Dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences and Innovative Learning, Humber College

Bronwyn Drainie

Former Editor-in-Chief of the Literary Review of Canada ; author

Alison Jones

Publisher, Quill & Quire

Joe Kertes

Dean Emeritus, Humber School of Creative and Performing Arts; author

Antanas Sileika

Former Director, Humber School for Writers; author

Nathan Whitlock

Program Coordinator, Creative Book Publishing Program; author

The Humber Literary Review, Volume 10 Issue 2

Copyright © December 2022 The Humber Literary Review

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The Humber Literary Review c/o The Department of English Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning 205 Humber College Blvd. Toronto, ON M9W 5L7

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The Humber Literary Review is a product of the Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning’s Department of English

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Opinions and statements in the publication attributed to named authors do not necessarily reflect the policy of the Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning or its Department of English.


AFTER LIGHT (DETAIL), 1940 × 1620 mm , ACRYLIC AND OIL ON LINEN, 2021 Image courtesy of the artist.




OF THE MOUNTAINS,” MARYAM RAFIEE WRITES ABOUT THE OBJECTS LEFT BEHIND IN HER FAMILY HOME when she came to Canada from Iran. She describes how, as it became more and more apparent that she would not be returning, her mother slowly rid her room of her belongings, eventually salvaging Maryam’s prized possession—a bike—and repurposing it as a flower stand. The bike, a rare object for a young woman to own, represents to Maryam the strong relationship she has with her father as well as her individualism and rebellious nature.

In a reflection of what the bike meant, she concludes:

I rarely get attached to things. Especially after immigrating to Canada, I’ve learned nothing is permanent. I’ve lost my beloved ones, my home, and my identity. There might not be much sense in keeping an old, worn-out bike. But that bike in the corner of my mother’s sewing room is not just a bike. It is a reminder of fighting against all odds, of never giving up.

The piece is heartbreaking while also being hopeful. It is about loss, but it’s also about what we gain when we contend with the heartbreak of loss. It’s about strength, ultimately, and the pain often involved in gaining it.

Rafiee’s piece reflects many of the themes of the writing in this issue of the Humber Literary Review, both concrete (immigration) and emotional (loss).

Taslim Jaffer’s “Survival,” the winner of the 2022 creative nonfiction contest that we co-host with the Creative Nonfiction Collective, is another piece that examines immigration, this one through generations, and also loss—the death of a mother. Louise Sidley’s “Footsteps” tells the story of the loss of a daughter through her parents’ unique way of coming to terms with it, and Luciana Erregue’s creative nonfiction piece is also about immigrating to Canada and finding hope in the integration and blending of cultures.

These themes seem to be a reflection of our time. We’ve all faced losses of some kind as we slowly try to free ourselves from the grip of a pandemic that sometimes seems to be never-ending, whether they be losses of friendships, objects, or loved ones.

As usual, beyond these larger themes, there are other subjects as well: a creative nonfiction piece about a woman discovering her sexuality and contending with her friends’ reactions; another short story explores a character’s relationship to the art that features her and the artist who made it; in an interview, poet Daniel Scott Tysdal provides insights into pro wrestling, madness, and MAD Magazine ; and a deceptively simple comic proves to be as emotionally resonant as the other pieces.

Finally, this issue features the haunting realism of painter Keita Morimoto, an artist whose cityscapes capture beauty and depth in the everyday (or night) and provide a surprising aesthetic link between Toronto and Tokyo.

Happy reading.


wishes, The HLR Collective



My mom’s illness barrelled its way from the inside out. By the time it showed up on her face and arms, her insides were already turning to stone.

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease in which the body produces too much collagen, the ingredient in moisturizer lotions that promises you the firm face of a 15-year-old girl. When your body goes into hyper-production of collagen, your tissues lose elasticity. Sometimes the disease affects only the inside of the body, hardening the organs. Sometimes the disease wreaks havoc only on the outer tissues, disfiguring features, discolouring the skin, and requiring the amputation of extremities.

I sat beside her on the couch in her living room when she first laid the word, like granite, on my lap. She dissected the Greek for me, told me she would slowly lose her ability to digest, walk, breathe. “The doctor says I have five years to live.” She handed me a tissue. Sunlight streamed in from the bay windows.

I don’t know how the weight of her news allowed me to leave her home and go back to the speech therapy clinic for my afternoon clients. But now, when I think about that moment with Mom, the heaviness is more like a warm blanket I’ve kept close; it was a moment with my mom, after all. And twelve years after her death, many others have begun to fade.

In the weeks that followed her diagnosis, Mom underwent tests to determine her baseline organ function. I held on to every shred of hope I had, willing a doctor to look at a lab result and say, “Actually, it’s not that bad. We have something that will fix it.” But just like they don’t know what causes this disease, they don’t know how to stop or reverse it.

During this period, I became pregnant with my first child, my parents’ first grandchild. Being able to tell my mom I was pregnant was a tainted joy, like a beautiful portrait smeared with grease. Cross-legged at the foot of their bed, I handed my parents a little poem, a cutesy rhyme I’d found on

the internet, and watched my mom’s face illuminate as the news sunk in.

My parents were between homes at the time, having sold the last house we—my parents, my brother, and I—lived in for a one-level rancher that would be easier for my mom to navigate. For about three months while their new home was being renovated, Mom and Dad stayed in our spare bedroom. My husband set up a TV at the foot of their bed so Mom didn’t have to go down two flights of stairs to our basement. There were many times during my first trimester that I came home from work early, fighting the nausea of all-day sickness, and lay in bed with Mom, watching daytime shows.

“Do you want to eat? What do you feel like?” Mom would ask, and I’d make a face, feel my tongue thick and heavy in my mouth, and try to decipher what my taste buds wanted and what my stomach would hold onto.

“I don’t know. It’s either dill pickle chips or kiwi. Or both.” She’d laugh at my indecisiveness and the weird combinations I’d crave. Reclining in the bed with the remote-controlled mattress we had purchased, I listened to her shuffle in the kitchen just steps away, grabbing a bowl from the cupboard and crinkling open the potato chip bag. My mom’s way of mothering had always been selfless giving, and there was no time that she gave of herself more than when we were sick. It wasn’t just the crackers and ginger ale or the Vicks VapoRub she massaged into our chests. She worried about us. I equated that worry with how a mother should love, but now, as I struggle with my own anxiety over my kid’s well-being, I wonder if I mislearned something.

When my daughter, Inaya, was born in 2007, my parents met her in the hospital. Scleroderma had tightened Mom’s smile, but she vibrated with renewed energy. In the beginning, Mom managed cradling Inaya with pillows propped under one arm. She could bend over the preemie-sized diaper, open the tabs, and gently caress them closed onto Inaya’s tiny belly. Once Inaya learned to roll, Mom became more of a “backseat


driver,” hovering close, dispensing comments and suggestions that sometimes made my eyes roll back. As my daughter grew from infant to toddler, Mom told me about the plans she had for her future school-aged grandchild. “She’ll come to my house after school for snacks. I’ll have something nice waiting for her.” At this point, her body was less functional than her doctors had predicted it would be. The five-year prognosis felt like a generous lie by the time my daughter turned one. But we never discussed that.

Maybe you know someone living with an autoimmune disease. At the time of my mom’s diagnosis, in 2006, I had heard of multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. But I didn’t understand that autoimmune means the body attacks itself. Generally, under stress, our body’s natural defence system is suppressed—which is why it’s easier to catch a cold when you have a lot on the go. But there are some types of white blood cells that are activated by stress. These are the cells that wage war against the body.

It seems counter-nature to me. How could nature program something so hateful against one’s own? Maybe I have too emotional a response to this; maybe science is science. Maybe I’m forgetting that as advanced as we are in our innovations and relationships, we are still a part of the animal kingdom, at the mercy of whatever it is that programs our cells to do what they do. Like in matriphagy, when insects—some spiders, scorpions, and nematode worms—devour their mothers. The mother crab spider will feed her offspring unfertilized eggs, but the young won’t stop there. They eat their mother over a period of several weeks. Eating their mother provides the nutrients that allows them to grow, offering them a better chance of survival.

My mom carried the mental load and did a lot of the physical work, too, of keeping the house orderly and raising my brother and me. She was built that way, to be in control, and because she married a man who was not, she could never let go of anything. My dad showed his commitment to our family by acts of service. He cooked on his days off, stopped at the store when we were out of something, drove us to school after returning from a graveyard shift, and generally did what was required to be an equal partner in raising us. But everything was coordinated by my mom. When I was younger, I thought she was a control freak, someone who had to have things done her way. Now, as an adult, I realize that she had to take charge or the wheels would stop turning. From the finances to the

child-rearing, much of the research, decision-making, and follow-through was carried out by her.

My mom was strong-willed, the backbone of our family, who moved us from Kenya to Canada and rode the rollercoaster of immigration. As a newlywed living with her mother-in-law, a new mom, and a full-time administrator at a bank in Mombasa, my mom also managed the details of our citizenship application. She had systems that worked for her, and if she left them to anyone else, she felt things would fall apart.

I have all the correspondences regarding my parents’ application to come to Canada. Each sheet of paper is protected in a plastic cover. The pages are held together by paper clips and filed in a labelled folder. When my dad brought over this treasure last year for me to have, I marvelled at the organization and the pristine condition the papers were in, considering how many moves we had made. “That’s your mom,” he said.

Both my parents shared many fond memories of

their birthplace with my brother and me while we were growing up. Living in a beautiful port town right on the Indian Ocean during a time when life was slower, when people walked places and had the time to stop in for impromptu tea, my parents were able to bank enviable memories. “Whenever we needed anything, we would just knock on someone’s door,” my mom said to me many times when describing life in Makupa Flats. Her eyes twinkled when she recalled Sundays with her family watching Bollywood films at the theatres or walking around the Lighthouse district, sampling street-side mogo chips sprinkled with cayenne pepper and lime juice. “And the madaf,” she smiled. “We would drink it straight from the coconut.”

While my mom’s doctors were trying to determine the root of her relentless cough, just prior to her diagnosis of scleroderma, we visited a friend who had recently opened a naturopathic medicine practice.

She was built that way, to be in control, and because she married a man who was not, she could never let go of anything.

Neetu met us in her third-floor office in Richmond and motioned for us to sit in the chairs across from her desk.

“Aunty, what’s going on?” Neetu asked.

“For the last few months, I have had this cough. Sometimes I cough so much I vomit. First, the doctor gave me an inhaler, but that didn’t do anything. Then, they said it could be acid reflux, but it’s still not going away.” My mom shook her head. She offered a small smile to Neetu. I wonder why she chose to smile when she was clearly frustrated. Then again, I recall her smiling, tight-lipped, through jabs about her bigger body. She also smiled, head tilted to one side, when she spoke to native English speakers. She was self-conscious about her command of English, though it was the language of instruction at her school since primary grades. She would tell me she wasn’t very good at speaking it.

“Why don’t you tell me about your childhood?” Neetu said. My mom launched into the rose-coloured past while Neetu nodded and I focused on the wood grain of her desk.

“It’s not uncommon for immigrant women to feel this kind of homesickness which is a type of grief. And grief,” Neetu touched her chest, “is held in our lungs. Sadness is stored right here.” And when, I wonder now, would my mom have had the time to process that kind of loss and come to terms with it? With no place of their own, my parents travelled between B.C. and Alberta to stay with different family members and try to start a life. It took over a decade before that happened; in that time, both their children were school-aged, and we became my mom’s focus, away from family difficulties, away from the reality they found themselves in, away from the pain of leaving what was familiar.

Parents know that although the rewards are immeasurable, they come in bursts between sleepless nights and dinnertime tantrums, and, later, teenage eye-rolls. And we must learn to be okay with delayed gratification, or it will consume us. Like the caecilians—the limbless amphibians who look like worms—who strip away at their mother’s skin, not actually killing her, but shredding just enough of her for mother and offspring to survive—motherhood will pick at bits of you, make you bleed, if you give everything you are to it.

“And then when you came to Canada?” Neetu prompted.

A pause. I looked at her. “Well, it was a hard life. Abdul and I didn’t have jobs, and we tried to work with family in business, and it didn’t work out.” Another pause. “Yeah, it was hard. I got a job folding laundry at the hospital. Abdul worked different jobs, too. But we made sure our kids got everything they needed.” A genuine smile here as she looked at me. I shifted in my seat.

“Would you say you were homesick? For Mombasa?” Neetu asked, gently.

“I have been homesick for Mombasa the whole time I have been here,” my mom responded without hesitating. She’d never told me that before. Or had she? Isn’t that what she was saying when she described feeling the wind on her face while walking along Bamburi Beach, when she talked about her neighbours and extended family being close when anyone was needed, when she reminisced about the freshness of the food, the weather?

There’s a saying in Kutchi, my native language —“Tu munji loy piythi” (you’re drinking my blood)— that a mother will say to a child who is driving her up the wall. But there’s a difference between “you’re driving me up the wall” and “you’re drinking my blood.” The latter implies that you are sucking the life out of her. These are expressions that move their way down from generation to generation. Our predecessors model for us how much of ourselves we sacrifice for our young. In Asian cultures, mothering happens as if the umbilical cord was never cut. It’s a devotion that looks like bringing snacks to the homework table, making lunch for the college student, and being physically present. It’s been described in a Stanford study comparing Asian and Western parenting styles as an “overlapping of selves.” The Asian mom doesn’t say, “Go get your homework done.” She stays close while the child does their work, ready to help or encourage as needed. I often say to my kids, “Let’s study this together. I’m right here. We got this.” The trouble is, when something happens to my children, it happens to me, too. A knee injury that prevents my son from playing soccer for a month becomes my emotional pain. A project my daughter is fretting over becomes my concern. While the study found that children of both styles of parenting see their mothers as positive forces, I wonder if anyone asked the Asian moms, “How do you feel, carrying your children on your back all day?”

… I wonder if anyone asked the Asian moms, “How do you feel, carrying your children on your back all day?”

Inaya was born five weeks early. Thirty-six hours after the shock of my water breaking, I had a tiny infant in my arms who required a nasogastric tube. After she spent five days in the Special Care Unit, once she was able to feed on her own, we got to bring Inaya home to our yellow split-level where we had painted her nursery a whispery light green.

We propped her up between two rolled-up nursing blankets in her car seat on her bedroom floor. My husband and I looked at each other. Now what? Inaya was fast asleep, looking peaceful, while my insides fluttered. That nervous feeling would compound over time with sleep deprivation, difficulties with breastfeeding, and isolation, as my husband worked over fifty hours a week. Meanwhile, my mom’s health declined.

Before Inaya turned two, on an uncharacteristically cold afternoon in March 2009, in a room filled with family, my mom took her last breaths. All day, the air had felt heavy with waiting, as though our collective prayers and sadness accumulated in each air molecule, moving in and out of our bodies. When the nurse proclaimed her “gone” after checking for her heartbeat, I was propelled into the life of a motherless mother.

Iremember being perched on the edge of her hospital bed as we waited for a spot to open in palliative care. My mom looked at me from where her head rested on the pillow. Her eyes were sunken, tired. “You are so beautiful,” I murmured. “Thank you,” she accepted. “So are you. We are the same.”

I didn’t think we were. As a mother, she had thirty years of experience. She had uprooted her life with her husband and one-year-old me, moved continents, worked in physically taxing jobs, and given her children opportunities to succeed. Our carpet always had lines from vacuuming, and she hosted countless dinners for family and friends. Until she was diagnosed with scleroderma, I was convinced she was invincible.

We buried my mother on an overcast Thursday afternoon. What I have yet to bury is her pain that I carry like a scorching stone. That pain is etched in the thick skin her body grew and in her eyes staring back at me in her last photos. It’s not present most moments now, but every so often, I feel its heat. That’s when I do something she loved—put on a Hindi film song and sing the words I know. Then I can see her in my mind’s eye, her whole face stretched out in a smile, her shoulders and hips moving to the beat.

My daughter is now fourteen. Sometimes when I look at her bent over her math homework or making a pass on the soccer pitch, I remember the scene at my mom’s hospital bed. Her exact words were, “We are the same. All three of us.” I had looked around the room then, wondering who my mom saw with us. “Inaya,” she murmured. Occasionally, when I look at Inaya, I remember that moment when my mom named her granddaughter and included her in our sameness. The three of us are determined, hard-working, and giving—admirable qualities. But there is room for evolution, to unlearn things like martyrdom, to refuse to be consumed. Insects were the first to take to the sky; over time, their short, immobile appendages, which could only be used for gliding from high places, morphed. The result was longer wings that moved by the insects’ control, allowing them to explore new territory, to reach food that was otherwise unattainable, to survive. With this new skill of flight, they lived abundant lives, and their descendants, generations later, reaped the benefits. Perhaps these appendages are like the tools I’m gaining through therapy: how to maintain my individuality in motherhood, how to identify the beliefs that stunt my growth. In time, the appendages may evolve into wings, powered by my own strength, and passed down to my daughter who, in seeing me fly, will be inspired to do the same.





Babies slept through the Bay of Pigs like babies, like dogs on a soft bed, like sisters and brothers dreaming of a man on the moon, like dreamless mothers on barbiturates. Babies were stardust; babies were fresh from the garden.

After the summer of love treaties were signed; basic and non-proliferation treaties; some were accords. Some girls were cute, some girls’ mothers bought them embarrassing clothes. Some treaties were always going to be better than others. Some girls rode their bikes all over town until everyone liked pina coladas.

The eighties had big hair and crimping irons, self-made boys and girls in punk bands, hopeless and alarming. So much panic and lust. The Cold War busted those kids smoking hash in back alleys. The Cold War had so many secrets it gave everyone an answering machine.

Glasnost was so happy, so clock-slowing, so kissy. Glasnost was a bra opened without care, a welcome tongue between the teeth, backs pressed against outside walls, fingers in pants. Glasnost was so many glasses of Egri Bikaver. Glasnost was falling bricks and new babies. Glasnost killed the fever dream, long live the fever dream—



the cat, has been dead a week now. My palms on her head, her on the padded metal table, spirit vanishing. Her body nearly slid off the table. I thought she would be stiffer—

Jupiter is in the sky tonight burning upper left of the waxing moon. I google Jupiter and learn it’s the third largest natural object in Earth’s night sky— instead, finally she was soft.

Astrologically speaking, Jupiter governs long distance, expansion, and good luck. It governs 79 known moons. Before she was lost to this world the cat escaped a pit bull in the alley, she slept under the bench in the kitchen for two days while I applied topical antibiotic cream to the portion of her flesh exposed by ripped-out fur. Who would suppose she could ever perish?

I keep believing death will be soft, unlike my father’s, or the dog’s, or now, the cat’s. It was her life I was trying to prolong though it seems I only extended her lingering. She ghosts into the room, an illusion, a trick of memory, a Jovian moonlet. I didn’t know anything about that cat, I didn’t know she’d lost her mind because she’d been pissed off her whole life. I want to tell you something. I’d like to be young and living in Berlin and playing my viola in a string quartet in a tiny kitchen still thinking everything is ahead of me, still thinking so much is yet to come.

GREENWOOD, 48’ x 60’, OIL ON LINEN, 2016 | KEITA MORIMOTO Image courtesy of the artist.



Beginning the day in hope, I follow his sure-footed steps. The trail is steep at first, and the ground’s soft loam conspires with our quiet footfalls. The only sounds are from the high volume of spring melt pouring through the chutes of the creek and from the towering beech crowns fluttering in its updraft, until the trail turns away and a persistent twittering of birds comes to the fore. Shy of the first meadow, we leave the trail behind and enter a mixed forest. Fiddleheads crown waist-high ferns, and pinches of green larch needles sprout from dark, knobby branches. The ground is littered with last year’s brittle leaves, which makes stealthiness a challenge. I walk toe to heel, but the technique is awkward, and I soon give it up. I adjust my twenty-gauge shotgun to my other shoulder and turn my concentration back to the ground in search of a sign.

For almost three years, in intervals of one, two, three months at a time, I’d set off in hope. Woke at dawn in my motel room with the expectation of finding our daughter Sara that day. Took to the streets of Victoria. Stuck hundreds of posters onto dirty windows and poles. Pushed them into reluctant hands. Spoke with whomever would speak to me. Paced the spectrum from wandering to marching. Shifted the plan from roaming to gridding and back to roaming the insipid pavement. Hyper-vigilant to see, hear, and remember signs left among the noisy masses that could help me track her down.

We proceed along the side hill until it drops onto a grassy shelf. Large rocks have been bulldozed to one side, and a crib firms up the bank. But there are no tracks left by vehicles. He says it’s a roadbed that has come and gone since the last time he was here, hunting for turkeys.

He gave up hunting when we’d lost communication with our Sara. Before that, he’d hunted for twenty years—deer, elk, geese, ducks, turkeys, and moose. It was a religion to him. He prayed for help to be successful and to not let the animal suffer. He followed the regulations to a tee. He gave thanks to the animal

for giving up its life to feed his family. When I quit my job at the dental office to look for her, all he could manage was to work his shifts at the mill to financially support the search and fall asleep in front of the television, awaiting my daily calls. Returning home between trips, I couldn’t convince him to so much as go for a walk. I took the provincial hunting course over this past winter to ready myself for the spring turkey hunt. I learned about ecology, survival, game behaviour, guns, and ammunition. It’s not something I wanted to learn. I did it for him. I saw that he was missing his hunt yet couldn’t bear returning to it. He thought he was being punished for taking so many creatures’ lives and that was why Sara had been taken from us. I am doing this to give him back the action of hope. I’m following his footsteps, but I’m not telling him I don’t want to kill. But I can’t let him down either.

I learned about ecology, survival, game behaviour, guns, and ammunition. It’s not something I wanted to learn. I did it for him.

We climb higher, following the decommissioned road until we come upon a small open field dotted with fully foliaged trees. He ducks under the wings of an Engelmann spruce. He flicks his hand for me to scoot in behind him. He points in the air and rotates his finger in a circle, telling me to turn around. He unzips the zipper in the back of my vest and wiggles out the foam pad, tosses it onto the ground next to the trunk of the spruce, and I know where I am to sit. Shotgun between my legs. He kneels down on the other side to have a panoramic view. He takes out his call, a fist-sized


contraption with an elastic and movable chalk that he rubs with resin before jerking it back and forth. It’s a hen sound. Seven or eight evenly spaced high-pitched yelps that get louder and louder. Yap yap yap yap! Yap yap yap! We wait. Our eyes scour every direction. Ears piqued for the return of a distant gobble.

All my senses hunted into dark alleys, behind dumpsters, and into the faces of the many. Too many bent over on street corners, holding signs for money, jangling jars, bowls, and tins with meagre coins, carrying all their belongings in carts and plastic bags. It was the same process, day after day. Were any of them Sara? Shown her picture, did they recognize her? Where and when had they seen her last? But the real questions stayed tamped down. Was there more that I could be doing to find her? What could I have done to stop the downward spiral? Petty arguments replayed in my head were made bigger by her absence. Good memories no longer had a purpose and were shed with every tear. I returned year after year, despite voices saying it was over.

Sara used to go out with him. She liked to be out in nature with her dad. She learned to do the calls and look for signs.

I was her mom, and I could feel that she was among the blocks and blocks of the hidden living. But no matter how much I called her name, she would not come to me. It was a silence amid the noise.

In the springtime, toms and jakes are looking for hens. When they hear the hen call, they want to find her to impregnate. If the toms are already hooked up with hens, these hens want their mate all to themselves and will attempt to call him back. If the urge to mate is too much and the hunter’s hen call sounds too tempting, the tom may ignore his harem and come running, spurs and beak poised ready for a fight in case another tom has gotten there ahead of him.

Under the spruce, we listen for a tom or a jake to answer to the call. We are waiting for what the hens may do about the perceived competition. We are met with silence. We pick up and walk to the gas line.

The gas line cuts a swath through the forest. My knees ache on the steep descents into the creek crossings and my heart labours on the climbs back out of

them. But the route is straightforward and clear of brush; animals like to use it for that reason, he tells me. It’s also the place to find signs the turkeys leave behind. Droppings—J-shaped turds that resemble cigars with white tips; dusting areas—shallow bowls of duff they bathe in; scratchings—marks left behind after clawing for insects and seeds; triangular tracks—three-toed impressions, a long middle toe indicates a passing tom; or drag marks—long, thin lines left by a tom’s trailing wings. He points out elk tracks left from walking the line, probably from the night before. We come across bear feces. He pokes at the pile with his boot to show that it had been eating grass. I like all that I am learning, and I ask about a line of tracks left near a shrinking puddle, but he can’t tell if it’s a coyote or a cat. The tracks are too old. An hour’s walk down the line, there are drag marks where a tom has been strutting.

The skid marks that blackened the pavement three kilometres away from home and where Sara’s car had flipped over the bank remained as a provocation for far too long. She could’ve died then, and we could’ve erected a cross on the side of the road. Instead, there’d be no cross in the motel room where she was found nine years later. After the accident, she endured two surgeries over twelve months and returned to her second year of college, only to drop out midway through. Modern medicine gave her back her life, and a drug addiction was collateral damage. Although we didn’t always know where she was, we maintained sporadic communication for the first nineteen months. I sent her three cellphones because she kept losing them. The last time I saw her, July 8, 2014, I sewed our home phone number into her jeans when she let me take them to a laundry mat while she cleaned up in the B & B I was staying at. It has been three years, one month, and ten days since she was discovered in a completely different city, where she’d succumbed to an overdose, 675 kilometres away from where I’d been looking. Her life has been reduced to numbers and dates in my mind, and I hate it. By any calculation, I want to think we had more years of love than years of anguish.

He signals to go into hiding at the gas line’s border to try calling again. Ticks glom onto people, and I’m well aware of them as we move into the long grass.

Sara used to go out with him. She liked to be out in nature with her dad. She learned to do the calls and look for signs. For five seasons, she carried a gun and brought home a few grouse but never a turkey. When I asked why she came home empty-handed, she said it’s hard to bring them in but even harder to make the kill. One time, she got a tick bite. I remember her strippeddown, compact body shivering in the bathroom,


screaming. A tick had burrowed into her belly, engorged with her blood. I removed it with tweezers, extracting it by its burrowed beak, put it in a jar, and took it to the medical clinic. Two weeks later, the findings came back with negative results for Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain fever, hidden diseases carried in a bite from a creature as big as an apple pip. Sara wasn’t frightened by the incident. She returned again and again to the wilderness. She wore the scar like a badge of honour. While I am grateful of the memory, new questions are brought to mind. How does such a brave soul get mixed up in a life that eventually kills her? Or is bravery a cleverly concealed flaw? Bravery begets invincibility begets destruction. My heart wants to reject what my brain believes is logical and, by attaching blame to her character, opens a path to my own survival. It’s a conflict that, however it ends, I’ve already lost.

We sit on a rock outcropping at the foot of a hemlock with the gas line still in our sight. My back is pressed against the thick trunk; the hard bark jabs my spine. Next to me, he pulls out his gobbler from his shoulder bag. It’s a long black hose whose middle is constricted like an accordion. Gubble. Gubble. Gubble. The sound is coarse and booming. It’s to make the tom think there’s a competition going on. I secure my gun on bent knees.

A fiercely loud call returns. It’s boisterous and out of place in the quiet. He shakes the gobbler again, louder and quicker. More urgent. The return call is closer and harrowing. I peek through the branches and past the brush. It’s coming. Charging, in fact, and it’s huge. Shoulder high, tail fanned, electric-red-and-blue head, long black beard wagging from its breast, snood straight out. Eyes bulging. Its iridescent, metallic body running straight at me. “Shoot,” he yells in a whisper. “Shoot!”

I remember my training, and I get a good mount. The stock locked into my shoulder. The barrel cradled in my left palm, I release the safety with my right thumb. It clicks into position. My finger finds the trigger inside the guard. I can’t think about what the gun is actually going to do. I swallow and hold my breath, but I can’t slow my heart. The tom is running full bore up the hill. I think of Sara. If he were in her sights, she’d strive to take the shot. I’m here to do what she never again can. I line up his head and outstretched knobby neck and fire. It falls in an instant.

“Good shot!” he shouts, leaping to his feet and running toward it. I wiggle out of my position. Push through branches scratching my face. The tom is down on its back but it’s writhing and its legs are spinning. Gnarled and sharp leg spurs scrape at the sky.

“Grab me a stick, a big one!”

It was a good shot. I don’t understand. He’s standing on one wing so it doesn’t flop away.

“Quick, before a jake gets here and attacks the shit out of it.”

I hand over the biggest stick I can find in the quickest time. He holds it high and comes down hard on its head. Again and again, until its body shudders one last time and is still. As he bends down to assess the wounds, I can’t get the violent image out of my head.

“Why did you say it was a good shot?”

“It was.”

“But you had to beat it with a stick.”

“It takes a while for the life to go out of it, and I don’t want it to suffer.”

“Wouldn’t shooting it again be better? More humane?”

“Then you wouldn’t spare the meat. That is why we’re here, isn’t it?”

I turn away and collapse onto a fallen log. I did this! I caused a living thing to die.

It is hard to do, but it’s harder to confront. With the nearness to death’s hand, a sorrow I’ve kept tamped to the ground surges. Images of Sara quietly going into that dreadful night when, all alone, her body induced with less than 0.02 mg of poison, forgot to breathe. My eyes rain down as silent as melting ice. It aches like a wound until her sweet voice returns. Please don’t worry, Mom. I’m going to get help this time. They were words said over the phone a few weeks before she died, and they’ve come to tell me that it was never her intention to die. We both wanted nothing more than for her to live. Even if just to spend one more day with her dad out in nature.

I wipe my face and open my eyes to him kneeling over the bird. I know he is blessing it while it’s still intact, before he field dresses it.

“You want to come over and see how it’s done?” he says. But the sun has risen above the canopy and is warming my body. He has led me here, to the stillness of nature’s grace, where but a moment’s solace can be found. My heart steadies. My arms cross my chest, and my hands are holding on. Clothed in a sweater she long ago grew out of, my arms are hers.

“I’m okay for now,” I say. Though he may not have heard me. ///

GREEN HOUR, 72’ x 96’, OIL ON LINEN, 2018 | KEITA MORIMOTO Image courtesy of the artist.


Ileft Iran in 2014 with two suitcases and a backpack brimming with clothes and books—the essentials. I left behind the rest of my belongings in my room at my parents’ home in Tehran. I assumed I would go back every year for a visit and gradually bring what I’d left to my new home.

My mother kept my room intact for a year before she realized I had no plans to come back. Then she started convincing me to give away my stuff.

She went after my clothes first. Every day she would pull out a pile from my wardrobe, take some photos, and send them to me with messages like, “This green dress is too tight for you. You remember you couldn’t move your arms?”

I had bought the dress for my cousin’s wedding. I liked everything about the dress, but it did feel tight beneath my armpits, meaning I couldn’t reach above shoulder level. Despite my mother’s warning, I wore it to the wedding, where I’d carefully move my hands when I was dancing. Everything was fine ’til the Kurdish dance began. In every Iranian wedding, the Kurdish dance is the spotlight of the ceremony. It’s the dance that everyone, from kids to seniors, can join, standing shoulder to shoulder in a circle, locking elbows and grabbing each other’s hands, then jumping and swinging hands up and down, up and down, all together.

The second I joined the circle, I remembered my dress problem, but it was too late. As soon as my hands shot above my shoulder, I heard the awful sound of fabric tearing. My aunt on the other side of the circle was moving her eyebrows up and down, pointing at my armpit. I nodded my head, meaning that I knew, but there was no way to escape.

The rest of the night I sat at my table, arms close to my body. I tried to avoid looking at my mother’s I-told-you-not-to-wear-this-dress face. She later fixed the dress. Still, I never danced in it again.


“I’m going to donate all these winter clothes. You said they are useless there.” That message came with pictures of all my colourful pullovers, jackets, and coats. I didn’t resist. She was right. The definition of winter clothes changed for me once I experienced winter in Canada. None of the clothes and boots I brought were helpful. I had to buy real winter clothes just to survive freezing. Still, each piece back home had a special memory for me. I wore those clothes at weddings, to birthday parties, on my first dates, and to graduation ceremonies. Even so, my mother was right: “What is the point to keep them when you can’t wear them?”

A year later, though, she surprised me with a patchwork coat, fashioned from my most memorable clothes. Assembling the fabrics in an artistic way, she had sewn a coat for me. A coat that carries all those memories.

After clothes, it was my books. Floor-to-ceiling  bookshelves lined one wall of my room, filled with books I had been gifted or had bought. The books were

father would enter the room to get out to the balcony. Without a word, he would place the fruits and vegetables he had just bought in the fridge. In the middle of my concentrating on a math problem, my mom would come to grab meat or vegetables from the freezer. Most of the time, she couldn’t find them, so she’d start digging around the drawers and the freezer alarm would go off until she finally closed the door. By the time she’d leave my room, I’d have lost focus on my studies. My brother had it even worse, what with my mother’s sewing machine and the ironing table in the corner of his room. For me, people would come to drop or grab things and leave. But for him, people would come and stay to finish their work. No one treated it as someone’s room or thought of privacy or thought to ask permission. No one apologized for intruding. We all accepted that we had to share our space, together.

not only a treasure of knowledge; they were attached to memories of learning, laughing, and crying as I’d read them. These memories made it doubly hard to say goodbye. My mother gave the books away to a library in a village. “Imagine how many girls could have access to what you had,” she wrote. She knew I could not say no to a women-empowering plan.

Clothes and shoes gone, bookshelves bare, childhood toys gone, too, my desk and bed were the last to go. Finally, my mother had the space she needed. She transformed my room into the sewing room she’d always wished for.

In our small apartment, no one had their own space. All the rooms were multifunctional. There was a freezer in my bedroom and an extra fridge on the balcony that protruded from my room. This arrangement meant I could never have the privacy I wanted. I would lie in my bed with a friend, our legs up against the wall as we talked about the boys we had crushes on whom we met every day on the way to school. Suddenly, my

In our living room, which functioned as a dining room and family room, my father would use the dining table as his working desk. We’d want to watch TV, but my father would be working or having a meeting. We’d want to eat, but his stuff would be all over the table. It was total chaos when we had a party. I still don’t know why my parents liked to hold such gatherings in that small apartment. Sometimes they invited fifty people, and with not enough furniture, everyone would sit on the floor. I would go around offering tea, pastries, and fruits, carefully stepping so as not to crush anyone’s hand or foot. Serving dinner was another story. My mother would put the pots on the kitchen floor, where, with the help of other guests, people would fill their plates. I would start piling more plates on the dining table, but even before we finished setting all the stuff out, most of the guests were already full. Then it was time to bring back the dirty dishes to the kitchen and stack them on the floor to wash the next morning.

When my brother left home, right away my mother transformed his room to an office for my father. “No more writings and books on the dining table,” she said. When I left, she did the same for herself. This “leteverything-go-and-make-a-fresh-start” agenda was not just for making space. It was also my mother’s response to living with our absence. Now, she looked at a sewing room and an office instead of her children’s rooms. Without our belongings, it was easier for her not to visualize memories.

Still, there is one thing in the corner of that sewing room that belongs to me. My mother never tried to get rid of it, at least not until the COVID-19 pandemic.

I had to buy real winter clothes just to survive freezing. Still, each piece back home had a special memory for me.

“I think its tire’s gonna be rotten soon,” she said cautiously. She sent this message with a photo of my bike leaning against the wall. By this time, my mother was sure I wouldn’t be back home any time soon. Maybe this was the time to talk about the last item in what had been my bedroom.

“Maman, if you just spin the wheels more often, nothing will happen to them,” I said.

You see, I can’t let this one thing go.

Growing up in Iran, I had to follow too many dos and don’ts dictated by law, religion, society, and culture. Laws written and unwritten. Especially for girls, there were more and more bans, more noes than you can imagine. One of those many taboos was riding a bike in public.

Boys and girls as kids can have bikes; it’s when girls step into adolescence that most parents stop buying them bicycles. Adolescent boys go to the streets and play with their bikes. Adolescent girls, it is thought, should stay home and watch street life through the windows. Sometimes, these girls snuck the use of their brothers’ bikes. Some of my friends did that. Still, having one of their own would be a big no.

In our family, it was vice versa. My brother was not really into cycling. It was I who loved spending time outside. I was lucky to have open-minded parents in that society. They were worried all the time, but they never did say no to me.

When I was a teenager, my summers passed by with me cycling for hours in the streets of Tehran. In loose jogging clothes and a cap, I would look like a boy, and no one would be suspicious. At the time, I went to a prestigious private high school with restrictive Islamic rules, like many schools of its kind. In addition to wearing a scarf and uniform, which is mandatory in Iran, I had to wear a black chador—a full-body-length piece of fabric. So, imagine if someone from school found out about my riding a bike like that in the street. I would have been expelled.

Still, I found so much joy and freedom in my cycling, I barely cared about what would happen to my education and future.

Iwas sixteen when my old bike broke. I tried to repair it for a week, but all attempts were unsuccessful. My father noticed my distress. “It’s time to buy a new one,” he said. I had never been in a bicycle shop before. I’d inherited my previous bike and the one before that from my cousins. It was always my brother who would get the new bike, and I would use his when he’d outgrown it. I had never had a brand-new bike, one of my

very own. I couldn’t imagine having one now.

Stepping into the fancy shop where my father took me was like being in bicycle la-la land. I walked the rows, inhaling the smell of new rubber. I looked at the bikes and their features while the owner gave his lengthy speech about different Iranian brands, promoting their qualities.

“Do you have something better? I mean, which one is your best bike?” My father interrupted the owner’s speech. The owner paused for a second, as if hesitating to say something. He looked at me, then at my father, and then he pointed to a bike hanging from the ceiling at the far end of the shop.

“It is expensive, though,” the owner cautioned. He might have thought that it was a waste of money to buy an expensive bike for a girl.

“It’s okay,” my father said. “Can you bring it down?” From his tone, I could tell he didn’t like the owner’s attitude.

The owner reluctantly retrieved the bike and handed it to my father, who passed it to me and asked, “Do you like it?”

I nodded without saying a word. I touched the body of the bike, so smooth, with no rough welding marks like my previous bikes. The silver frame, which faded into pink in some parts, was so neat and shiny. There was a place for holding a water bottle, and the bike had gears. I had never ridden a bike with gears. It was a dream bike for me, something beyond my expectations.

My father bought the French-built Peugeot bicycle. It cost him a third of his monthly salary. That surprised me. The father I knew was always going on about supporting Iranian-made products, and yet he had just bought me a foreign-brand bike. He had made an exception and gone against his beliefs because he knew that cycling was important to me. I already had so many obstacles ahead of me. Before I could pursue my dream to become a professional cyclist, he wanted to do what he could by giving me the best bike I could ever wish for.

I was lucky that way. He and I shared the same feelings about cycling. Cycling for us was more than sport or entertainment. It was a tool propelling us to freedom. The freedom that we didn’t have but that we would never, ever give up on.

My father was born and raised in a remote village. To attend school, he had to walk ten kilometres to the next village. This distance might be the reason that most of the other village kids, including his own


siblings, dropped out of school very early on. Not my father. Even as a young boy, he knew he needed to go to school to find answers for his nonstop questions.

He asked his father to buy a bike. A bike would make it easy to get to school and back. My grandfather refused. A bike was likely seen as useless and expensive for a villager. My father didn’t give up. He went on a hunger strike for days, which left my grandfather no choice but to buy a bike.

That bike took my father from his village to the best universities around the world.

Imagine how a bike can change the destiny of a child, even today.

My own dreams expanded thanks to possessing that French pinkish silver bike. I soon wanted to become a cycling champion.

I would watch the Tour de France for hours on our satellite TV and imagine myself on the road, cycling from one city to another. My favourite part was the mountain stages, where the leader gets the red polka-dot jersey and is named King of the Mountains. I would watch all the stages with envy and ask myself, “Is it possible that I could ride a bicycle professionally one day?”

The summer that I turned eighteen, I was determined to find out the answer to my question. Every day for a month, I went to the Cycling Federation and even to the National Olympic Committee to talk with authorities. As I expected, most of the time, I faced closed doors. They ignored or rejected me and even humiliated me.

“What are you doing here? This is a men’s place,” a doorman at the Cycling Federation told me the first day I showed up. I passed through the gate and got these responses:

“What? Women cycling? Impossible.”

“Are you joking? I don’t have time to listen to your nonsense.”

“Do you think here is Paris or New York?”

“You are like my daughter. The best thing for you is studying now. Don’t confuse yourself with this stuff.”

Women cycling was a taboo, and no one wanted to talk about it, let alone break it. I wrote my personal story about riding a bike in Tehran’s streets and all my attempts at creating a women’s cycling team. I sent my story to many newspapers. None of them published it. I didn’t have the power to change the system. Still, I knew, as my grandmother would say, “Begin to weave and God will give the thread.”

I got in touch with other girls and boys who also thought women should have the right to ride a bicycle. When I was nineteen, with some of these friends, we

created a team and took our first cycling trip. It was not normal—and also not legal—for a group of boys and girls to travel together, let alone go backpacking on their bikes.

On the second or third day, close to sunset, I was struggling to cycle up a hill. I stood on the pedals to take full advantage of my body weight and apply more force. With each pedal, I breathed deeply. Sweat was running down my forehead and dripping into my eyes, which burned with sunscreen. I wiped my sweat with my forearm. Raising my head to take a deep breath, I saw an absolutely brilliant orange-and-red sun go down, right behind the mountain. There, in front of me, the sun’s rays paled and slowly disappeared. “This is it,” I thought to myself. “I am Queen of the Mountains.” I felt like a champion, with no need for competition, a cheering crowd, or a polka-dot jersey.

After that, I took many road trips. Still, in Iran, still on my bike, I had my own fears, worries, and difficulties, but most of the time I would enjoy pedalling and visiting different places. People would open their houses and offer me their food and local treats. I would sleep in the schools and mosques in the villages, where I would almost always be welcomed, praised, and encouraged.

People knew what was right and wrong beyond the rules.

“Look, Maman! She is a girl,” little girls would shout, pointing at me while I passed through their cities and villages. What they were seeing was possibility—the possibility of something they’d thought was impossible. If she can do it, I can do it, too. This was why I felt like a champion on my bike.

A few weeks after my mother and I texted about my bike, she sent me a new photo of it. She’d installed baskets on the front and back. They held two pink-andred pots brimming with geraniums. “How do you like it?” her message read.

I rarely get attached to things. Especially after immigrating to Canada, I’ve learned nothing is permanent. I’ve lost my beloved ones, my home, and my identity. There might not be much sense in keeping an old, worn-out bike. But that bike in the corner of my mother’s sewing room is not just a bike. It is a reminder of fighting against all odds, of never giving up. That bike is a trophy that represents the triumph of rebellion— rebelling against unjust rules.

Now, more than ever, I cannot let that go.

LOST IN TIME, 1940 x 1620 mm , ACRYLIC AND OIL ON LINEN, 2022 | KEITA MORIMOTO Image courtesy of the artist.


friendship mistaken as a donation plate for lust and loneliness

skin that touches itself but stifles its stories longing shredded with intention rearranged juxtaposed and fixed

A metal slot says meaningless The sky says, You are worthy The pigeon is actually a seagull and says nothing, it’s just looking for food:

Bread? Attack. Dairy? Attack. Ragweed? Attack. Family? Attack. Cat? Attack. Dust? Attack.

my body becomes tender instead of finding the tenderness it longed for in the quiet

emerges the harm, the consequences of history, the physiology of home

breath shortens, feet burn, hair falls, scalp angers

thoughts treading knuckles and unguarded canal teach a body to attack itself, what to do but follow quietly, emerge



a child throwing rocks at her own heart trained by

a mother who learned from her mother

a father who tried to hold the rocks but couldn’t so he swallowed them hoping they would disappear, but they hardened the bone-mountains in his hand and sank his heart to the bottom of a well no one uses anymore, twenty feet from where his mother died, two continents from his body: migrant sorrow on stolen land

a sister who tried to throw the rocks at walls the drywall held dents and marks and holes but couldn’t keep the rocks, only

another body could do that

the smallest could hold the most rocks: carry them swallow them, smash them, hide them sometimes gift them to those who knew the generational alchemy of grief, but

the rocks are still in this body heavy and ancient asking her to stop and listen and if I don’t, they will make me tender from the inside out.




My mother says you can use things past the due date So does liquidation world Best before is different than expiry Trilliums are lilies that can live up to 25 years They grow best if you replicate their home I grew up decomposing Litter the soil with leaves that have already fallen death is moist and full of nutrients

The thing between us was already spoiled before we started f*cking


Trilliums aren’t competitive so it’s best not to plant them around aggressive species They die back in the heat of summer but if you cut them, they won’t die

You can damage their potential for renewed growth if you take the leaves Everything depends on the size of the rhizome Touch skin above soil and it hurts the horizontal roots harms my chances of reproduction dying in the second cycle III

Trilliums can live up to 25 years but that doesn’t mean they do If you browse them this year, they may not grow back next  Rhizomatous roots are slow to spread If you pick them each year, they may die after a few Repeat taking can kill, even if done for beauty even if done with what you thought was care

you were only taking but I didn’t understand IV

Toadshade leaves look like an umbrella

I couldn’t feel the rain but arrived home with blood in my boots wakerobin-pinched myself when the red breasted birds came out to sing, two seasons birthrooted, spoken about only with other women to ease the browsing, the damage, the decomposing potential for renewed growth of

the thing between us: tenderness rehearsed and performed practice for someone else’s garden.

SEARCHING FOR HOME, 1940 × 1620 mm , ACRYLIC AND OIL ON LINEN, 2021 | KEITA MORIMOTO Image courtesy of the artist.


Myra squints into a sun that’s still too hot, still too high above the trees that line her backyard. She lowers her eyes to the grass, to the shadows of those trees, still short and fat. Yes, Myra, it’s the middle of the afternoon. It’s work time, meeting time, drive-yourkid-to-sports time. And though Myra doesn’t do any of these things, she knows full well the sun won’t dip, the shadows won’t stretch across the yard to climb her kitchen door for a long while yet. Even if the sun clouded over, even if it poured rain, as it often does during spring in Nova Scotia, even then Myra would know it, she would feel it: two more hours and she’ll have kept her promise one more day.

She waves the garden hose over tiny sprouts of spinach and lettuce. Last summer, their first in the house and the first Myra ever attempted gardening, she grew enough salad to satisfy her newly teenage daughter. Myra should feel good about that, give herself a pat on the back. She thumps the hose on the grass. She wanders to the edge of the driveway and stands there, shoes soaked, phone counting down in her pocket. Irked. Her garden is barely a garden, and this is not a driveway at all. This is just a gravel strip that runs along the property line into a weedy parking area. It’s supposed to be shared, but Myra’s house doesn’t take much room. They have only one car, and she has no new friends. Her neighbour Colleen, on the other hand, accommodates a flurry of activity—cars, pickups, trucks coming and going at all times of day and night. Myra’s still not sure if she’s meant to help with mowing in summer and shovelling in winter. She thought Colleen might want to discuss this, make a plan to split the work, but before Myra even registers long grass or fresh snow, Colleen has it sorted: the cousin with a ride-on, the friend with a V-plow …

At the sound of air brakes, Myra turns to face the main road at the end of the drive. A school bus pulls to a stop and Colleen’s kids drain off, four of them, kindergarten to junior high. They look bedraggled, like

they’ve been wound up and spit out by a long day in the classroom. Myra should feel good about that, too. Not in any direct way, of course, that would be unkind, but only as validation that her decision to keep Elle home all these years was—even with recent struggles—the right one after all.

The children trudge toward home, and Myra notes that Colleen’s truck has not yet returned. There’s only one pickup in the parking space and that belongs to Colleen’s husband, Sean. And Myra knows that Sean, like her own husband, has been gone for weeks. Gone long enough for dandelions to unfold around his tires, for the trees to leaf out, for the children to grow perceptibly taller. Myra briefly wonders if Colleen’s kids will be okay on their own and then remembers: what with Colleen’s network, they’re never on their own for long, and in any case, why should Myra care? She doesn’t, especially now that it’s close to six o’clock. Close enough. Actually, nowhere near six, but it’s Friday and, for God sake, today was trying.

She heads down the driveway and through the screen door to the kitchen, where Elle has been making cupcakes. “Smells great,” Myra says, passing the warm oven. Elle is at the sink, washing the batter bowl. “Zucchini spice,” she says over her shoulder, “with cinnamon icing.”

“Sounds like a great combination. I can’t wait.”

But Myra has no idea how the zucchini and cinnamon might combine, and, right now, she cares as much about cupcakes as about Colleen’s children. Because, right now, Myra has both hands in the fridge, one on a chilled glass and the other on the spigot of boxed wine. The wine she can envision in full. She can smell it, taste it, even as it sputters into the well of her glass. She stops at what counts as a single drink, takes a quick sip, adds another splash, then swings the door closed with her hip. The whole process is smooth and familiar. Myra hasn’t moved from the fridge, and Elle hasn’t turned from the sink.


“So, it’s dinnertime already?” Elle says into the dishwater. “What should we have?”

“Not sure yet.” Myra lowers the glass to her side. “What are you in the mood for?”

“Doesn’t matter. I can make something, if you want.”

“You don’t have to, Missy.” She rarely calls her daughter “Missy” these days. Elle’s made it clear she doesn’t like it, but Myra hangs on, especially when she hopes to smooth things over.

She moves to the sink now and puts her free arm around her daughter’s shoulder, gives her a gentle squeeze. Elle has the same slight frame as Myra and— it’s hard to believe—is almost as tall. In other ways, she is like her father. Even more so than Chris, Elle has a tidiness of mind, a self-containment. She has probably already filed away this morning’s lesson—and their little dispute. Not forgotten it, of course, but labelled it and set it aside. Myra finds this enviable, if somewhat inaccessible, as her own thoughts tangle over themselves, as she holds up this morning to other mornings, other lessons, weighing them in one hand then the other. What does it mean, Elle’s curt “I’m good,” when Myra has always sat with her, always checked her math? Where did Elle pick up that phrase? And how on earth was Myra to respond if not to move closer, not to insist?

“I’ll make something nice for dinner,” Myra continues. “I just need to finish up in the garden.”

“Yeah, sure.” Elle dries her hands on her jeans. “I’ll start on the icing then.”

Outside the kitchen door, Myra stops for the first real taste of wine, a long, delicious draw. The chill descends, a warmth rises up. Her arms and legs tingle awake, finally, nine hours after Myra got out of bed. One more sip and the glass is empty, but this beautiful spring day, their whole new life here in rural Nova Scotia, brims with potential. Yes, the garden could be expanded with a trellis or two, and Elle could grow her own food. That would be perfect, wouldn’t it? More time outside, the extra independence? Myra turns toward the parking area, and a cozy bonfire springs up, a place for barbecues or lobster boils or whatever people do out here on a weekend evening. Myra could invite Colleen and her kids and all their friends and extended family. They’d pull their camp chairs close to the warmth, and, from among the chatter, Myra would wait for someone to ask what brought her to the outskirts of this small town, where she grew up and, oh, what did she study while at university?

But no doubt her new friends would survey the circle of faces and ask where her husband is tonight and

what he does for a living. Never seen him down at the wharves. Myra would feel both relief and irritation by the shift in focus, because she’d know this goes only one way. He works at sea , she’d start, not fishing but construction. And not from the town wharves but on several planes first and then out to the middle of the South Pacific. There would be a pause, until: Fascinating! But so dangerous, and he’s out longer than our fishing crews? Seven, eight weeks at a time? How the hell does he cope?

The fire fizzles and dies. The camp chairs, the barbecue, the neighbourly conversation, all of it crumbles with the fragile high of that first drink. Myra is plunked back down on the deck with the pieces of her own story bunched-up in her head. Her half-finished degree—biology, thank-you for asking. Her thirteen-year marriage—but, yes, half-time. And the full-time mothering that has overturned her life, her whole being, yet still feels half-assed. So many pieces, so many stories. But there’s only one path forward now—to the second drink—and while Myra hates herself, she must forgive herself, too.

She aims for six o’clock, as she promised, and if she sometimes makes it only to four-thirty, well, doesn’t she still deserve a pat on the back?

Because after all, look how far she’s come. Remember those days when she checked the clock mid-morning and thought: No. It’s too long. The feeding and caring and waiting and feeding and caring and waiting with no punctuation in sight, no one to ask how the hell she copes. Myra soon found a way. A comma at eleven o’clock, an exclamation point by two, ellipses into the night. The start of kindergarten promised a new start indeed, but, as the date drew close, Myra couldn’t fathom it. By then, her private schedule didn’t accommodate late afternoon pickups or early evening soccer. Homeschooling seemed much easier. Harder but easier. So, yes, Myra needs a little less in the way of punctuation these days. She aims for six o’clock, as she promised, and if she sometimes makes it only to four-thirty, well, doesn’t she still deserve a pat on the back?


She turns toward the kitchen, the fridge, and is halfway over the threshold when Colleen’s truck hurtles up the driveway into the parking space. Myra’s glad she’s not still standing up there contemplating dandelions and the time of day, but no doubt Colleen has noticed her on the deck, so Myra will stay to say hello.

“Hiya, Myra!” Colleen shouts as she pulls herself from the cab. She grabs a fistful of grocery bags and heads back down the driveway. Her scrubs are a mosaic of pink smiley faces today; her voice, sunny and strong. “I see you’re busy-busy as always, and I’m late getting home as always.”

Myra’s clearly not busy-busy, but she knows this pattern of conversation and follows Colleen’s lead. “I’m just about to get dinner started. You know how it is with meals. Never stops.”

“Tell me about it,” Colleen says, nodding at the bags in her hand. “When’s your Chris back anyway? Next week?”

“End of next week,” Myra replies. “What about Sean?”

“His boat’s back in ten,” Colleen says and she fades for a moment, her perpetual brightness redirected. Then she returns: “Yep! It’ll take him another week to remember which kid is which, never mind what grade they’re in. Best not to catch him up at all and just get on with it.”

Myra laughs at this well-worn joke, this small jab at their respective husbands. She and Colleen have been neighbours for almost a year, but this is the extent of their chit-chat, almost all they know of each other. Both husbands work at sea, so both women live the single-married life: single when their husbands are away, married again when they come home. If nothing else, Myra understands this about Colleen, and, in many ways, she’s glad they’ve never taken the conversation further. Because if they did, if they pried the lid just a wedge, they’d see everything, right down to the bottom. One extra question could do it. Did Myra imagine this arrangement when she married? Did she think it through: two months together, two months apart, what it meant for him, what it meant for her? They could go deeper, of course, down into the muck of everyday living. How often do they call each other? What do they talk about, what do they leave out? And what does she want—really want—when he finally walks through the door?

But Myra and Colleen don’t go there. They stay up here on the surface of things. Colleen would see no reason to put such questions into words, because Colleen was built for, built into, this life. Myra can’t shake

the image of a lighthouse. Colleen is, let’s say, sturdy, she tends to dress in reds and pinks, and she’s loud. You can’t ignore that voice. This likeness has amused both Myra and Elle since they arrived—but it goes beyond appearance. Myra has the feeling that Colleen’s steady gaze, passed down from her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, takes everything in, ties everything together. Colleen has likely observed other Myras passing through and deftly assessed their direction and general stability. Just as Elle and Chris have a tidiness of mind, Colleen has a tidiness of purpose. She is well and truly moored. She is integral.

“I guess we should get on with it,” Myra says. A mild panic is setting in; there’s nothing worse than a single drink. From the kitchen, just a few feet away, she hears the KitchenAid start up, Elle making icing. Myra longs to retreat through the screen door, greet the open fridge, choke down a cupcake, and stay the course of her evening.

But she can’t quite pull away, because even Myra can sense something odd about Colleen today. She’s been turned down a few hundred watts. To be fair, nursing in a small-town hospital likely takes a toll. Colleen would know the medical intimacies of every patient in every room, and they would know she knows. Myra can only imagine the awkward encounters—or maybe a shared history just cuts to the chase. Regardless, Colleen’s a bit off-kilter this afternoon.

“Tough shift?” Myra ventures.

One extra question could do it.

“Really tough,” Colleen says. It’s almost an exhale. Her shoulders sag, and she drops the grocery bags. “You know, Myra, I should tell you something. You might hear it from others, and I wouldn’t want rumours floating by.”

Myra can’t think where she’d hear anything from anyone, but sure.

“Sean’s back,” Colleen says. “What I mean is, the boat’s still out with the rest of the crew. But Sean got picked up last night. He’s in the hospital now.”

And it’s Myra’s turn to fade for a moment, because, of course, she once worried about accidents, too. She once stayed up late tracking Chris’s route through airports, between cities, out to sea and back again. She’d memorized the statistics—any job at sea is extremely dangerous—and for a time, while Elle was an infant, Myra would wind herself into a midnight frenzy. She’d search for news of airline crashes and freak storms. She’d will her husband to phone, rationalize his not phoning, almost pick up the phone herself. But Myra had never been a fretter, and she’d never been dependent on a call.


So she’d pour herself a drink—easier but harder—and the days went by. The years went by, until Myra realized she was no longer scared that Chris’s plane would fall from the sky or his ship would overturn in the ocean. She was terrified of what would happen to her—what would be left of her—if they did. Even the more likely accidents, broken bones or severed digits, even then, Myra failed to imagine the injury so much as the stories that would follow. Yarns. Good ones. Shockers rolled out at every gathering for the rest of time. Chris would be gone—off work, in the hospital, gone-gone—but Myra would be the one to slip away.

She should ask how Sean is doing. She should ask how to help. Would Colleen like her phone number? Does she need groceries? A babysitter? Come on, Myra, offer kind, not-too-prying ways to assist. But Myra says nothing. She can’t bring herself to ask about Sean, can’t bear to hear it. Besides, Colleen has a town-load of friends to help in a pinch, and moreover—let’s face it— Myra is no longer kind. Where did you go, kind Myra, giving Myra?

“Tripped,” Colleen says into the silence. “Sorry?”

“Sean tripped on a rope and fell overboard. He’s stable. He’ll be fine. It was just a little … incident.”

Colleen turns her big, round eyes on Myra, and she feels illuminated, seen. Because just a little incident is a different story altogether. Little incidents, diminutive accidents, aren’t retold over burgers and beer. Little incidents are quiet and ugly and lonely. They can happen late at night on a boat deck or the cluttered floor of a baby’s room, both passed safely a million times before. They can happen in broad daylight, too. A slight miscalculation in a box-store parking lot, for instance, right before the liquor store closes for a long weekend. Just a moment of muddled thinking: this won’t take long, it’s not too hot, the child will be fine. And she was, thank God. She is. But you can’t explain little incidents, and you can’t excuse them. You can only promise they won’t happen again. And when they do happen again, you can only make another promise, move to a new house, a new town. Start over, try once more.

Colleen has never asked Myra over for coffee, never offered to show her around town or suggested her kids might hang out with Elle. That’s okay. Myra has stopped expecting it. But this? This feels less a dutiful invitation than a plea—and Myra will take it. In fact, Myra has an urge to rip this lid right off. She is suddenly sick of the quiet.

“It was clear last night,” she says. “And calm. How can anyone just fall overboard?”

“Wasn’t the weather,” Colleen says. She breaks into a smile, almost a laugh. “We’ve been watching the ocean for decades, for centuries, but it’s never the weather, is it?”

Myra has to laugh, too, because wouldn’t it be perfect. Wouldn’t it be tragic and so very perfect if everything were explained by swells of water and gusts of air? Myra feels buoyant at the thought. But they’re heading down now, not up, and Myra digs deeper: “What happened?”

Colleen takes a breath. “Sean hurt his back hauling traps last year. They all do, sooner or later. Comp lasts a few weeks and then what? They’ve got to work, but pain goes on and on.” She pats the pockets of her hospital scrubs, the smiley faces jiggle in collusion. “So, I found a way to cope, a way to help everyone.” She’s somewhere between laughing and crying now. “I was just trying to help.”

It’s still quiet, down here in the muck of everyday living, but it’s less lonely than Myra imagined. The visitors circling through Colleen’s driveway. The fishing crews out at sea and their families on shore. Workmates, friends, relatives, neighbours … so many people, so many stories, and all of them tied, all of them linked by a drink, a pill, a role, a way of life. Each other.

Myra still doesn’t know what to say but tries the only words that feel right: “I’m here.” Because she is here. She feels the deck under her feet, the sun beginning to soften, the weight of the glass in her hand.

“I see that,” Colleen says, “I know.” She picks up her groceries. “But I really have to check on my kiddos now.”

Myra turns back to the house. In the kitchen, she finds Elle mopping icing sugar from the floor with a dish rag. White dust covers the countertop, the cabinets, everywhere. “I turned the mixer on too fast,” Elle says. “I totally messed it up.” She stops for a second and looks up to Myra, “How can I fix this?”

Myra sets her glass on the table for now. Elle bakes almost every day, always so perfectly, so neatly. But this is such a small mistake, easy to undo. Myra will pull another a cloth from the sink and kneel down on the floor. She’ll clean up the sugar, then she’ll walk to the store to buy some more. Maybe they will walk together, Myra and her daughter. All the way into town, all the way back home.



“Girls, I have something to tell you,” I say. Sipping their Sunday brunch lattes and slicing up whipped cream–topped waffles under the hipster restaurant’s pot lights, my three work friends look at me, eyes bright. My heart beats faster.

“So … I have a crush on a girl. This has never happened to me before,” I tell them.

My friends’ eyes widen. We’ve been friends for over a decade, since our single-girl days when we spent every office lunch hour discussing the guys we were seeing, before we all married our husbands, before my friends moved on to other firms.

“Oh,” one friend says, her eyes still wide. “Wow.”

“Well, yeah,” I reply.

“Wait, so what does this mean? What about your husband?” she asks. All eyes are on me. Heads are cocked.

“Oh … well, yeah. I still love my husband. I guess this means I’m bisexual?” I say as whimsically as I can. “Wow.” Everyone nods, their eyes still wide, still on me. I am a zoo animal. A forty-year-old exhibit on display. “Do you have a photo of this girl?” my friend asks, mirth in her eyes, as they all wonder who could have inspired this sudden … change. I finally breathe out. This, I can do. I take out my phone, open a social media app, and find a photo. Leather jacket. Long wavy hair with no grey just yet. Symmetrical features. Tasteful makeup. Huge, dark eyes. The photo doesn’t capture how kind and bubbly she always is.

“Well, she’s very pretty,” my friend says approvingly. Each friend peers at my phone, nodding and smiling. “Very pretty,” they all agree. At least they think I have good taste.


The best high school for me to kick off the ninth grade? An all-girls one.

“You’ll see boys at dances with the brother school,” someone says as I mope over my parents’ school selection. Not that I know how to talk to boys I see daily in Grade 8, before we’re to graduate from our Scarborough elementary school at year’s end.

I adapt. Upon starting high school, I instantly make a new best friend.

But during Grade 9, I occasionally catch myself looking at girls longer than usual. No names I remember now. Nothing more than a glance lingering for an extra split second.

Nothing I would ever consider a crush.

I can’t pretend to understand this; I still like boys. My heart thuds when I recall the sandy-haired, freakishly good-looking boy all of us girls had a crush on during Grade 8.

And so, I start reading up, discovering the Kinsey Scale, where a 6 is 100 percent homosexual, while a 0 is 100 percent heterosexual. A gradient. Curious.

Some time during Grade 9, I tell my new best friend that I might, very possibly, be a 1 on this scale, though not a full-on bisexual 2 or 3. Not that I ever glance at her that way. I just want her to know.

Her face hardens. She freezes me out that day. That week.

Our friendship recovers. Somehow, we return to normal.

But I immediately submerge this part of myself for decades to come, stuffing it away from everyone, even myself.


e should totally go,” my best friend from the gym says. Though I’ve already been to this liquidation sale, though I should be more careful with money, I need all the social contact I can get. My severance package provides cash, but not the water-cooler chit-chat I never thought I’d miss.

We rarely shop together. Girls’ Nights Out with my new gym friends consist of boozy gossip about the men in their love lives and about the women I’ve started adding into mine, with my husband’s permission and support.

At a Robson Street pop-up shop lined with a rainbow of racks, we head to the change rooms carrying overflowing baskets of designer lingerie, all 70 percent off.

Alone in my velvet-curtained change room, I try on every outfit. Few make the cut.

Before I leave the changing area, I yell out, “Hon? You in here?”

“In here,” my friend shouts, her voice muffled by a change-room curtain.

“How’s it going in there?”

“Still deciding.”

“Okay. Well, let me know how things are going.”

She opens up the curtain, her slim form wrapped in a pink-and-black strappy bikini.

“I’m getting that one, too! Looks great! You should totally get that,” I tell her.

“Thanks!” she beams.

As we line up for the cash register, she pulls a blue bra out of her basket. “I’m getting this too,” she says.

“Oh, I bet that looks great on you,” I say.

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” she says with a silly smirk before her face hardens. She turns away.

But … didn’t I pay her the same compliment in the change room just now? Am I losing my mind? I don’t even know what to make of this.

Up at the cash desk, we pay. Pretend our awkward exchange never happened.

At our gym, all of us compliment each other’s clothes and bodies all the time.

But the thing is, I’m one of the very few queer ones.

I wish I could be one of the girls again. Someone they wouldn’t recoil from.

Years later, this friend is someone I’m still close to, someone who consoles me through my queer dating dramas to this day.

I’ve never told her I was hurt by what she said that day. I know she’d apologize profusely if she knew, yet I also know she’d never be able to really, really understand.

WANDERERS, 50’ x 125’, OIL ON LINEN, 2019 | KEITA MORIMOTO Image courtesy of the artist.



I begin with hope, plant this sapling picture a tire swing on a low limb.

Picture my children and theirs, pumping with long limbs. I tire of talk that flaps from doomsday faces but tirades stick. I fasten onto gloom, my face hard from basement floods, megafires. I hang tight for hard-to-swallow forecasts, find the kids, hold them tight in bed. I check off evac-pack contents in my mind.

Out of bed, I check the pack and find contentment. Never mind that they snuck the good energy bars again. Why wait

when it feels so good to have eaten? Energized, we wait to swing out from under cover to big catastrophe and back. I swing from the underduck of big hands at my back. Back and forth, I return to hope. I tend this sapling.





The Earth is a guest house housing humans who won’t rest, grousing on about the stress, seeking mindful moments, pressing on for barefoot walking, forest bathing, yogic laughter and a new pose.

Steer your SUP off to the lake and pump it up because this human being is a mess, folks, might deflate and sink, or reemerge with no clothes. This being human is a guest house

and you lost the keys again, doggie-paddling for survival, so you’re dripping on the porch mailman sneering, neighbours tsking cause you’re naked and you’re waving for a hand. The adult children text that no they’re busy, you’re a handful so you’re locked out, cold, with no one here to help you. Even the rescue dog — clouded vision skin condition — sees you as a sloppy eyeful. And every morning a new arrival

from the Bezos store gets stacked around you on the stoop. Cardboard walls teeter tall, and you hunger for the contents, keep them sealed and stacked for warmth, and the promise of the boxes keeps you still but never settled while you wait. Bless the locksmith and his wide berth as he works away, then presses shiny keys into your palm, but what’s that feeling once inside? Less a joy, more a depression and a meanness,

when you see the things you bought are just the junk you always had, so bring the neighbours for first dibs and tell your kids you’ve got your clothes on, host a jumble sale for squirrels, scatter baubles for the crows, turn down beds for tired raccoons. Make invasive plants your chums, let in people pushing pamphlets, wanting hugs and you’ll be naked with your clothes on, talking late and breathing deep until your life becomes a living, and some brief awareness comes.




Someone is standing beside a well (that’s right, a well). Standing there, inevitably, they peer over the edge into the hole, which, being of an incomprehensible depth inspires vertigo and clutching and deep-seated horror. The stone that is lying on the ground by their feet (it is summer, or spring, or fall) is grasped in their hand and lifted. As they straighten up, the stone, let fall over the edge of the well, drops into the darkness. Everyone waits. Everyone’s thinking, how deep is it? And when that stone strikes, will it be water or will it be earth? But after some waiting there’s no sound. Turns out it’s a silent film. And actually, nobody’s watching.





I wasn’t looking I was only feeling.

I wasn’t feeling so I starting looking. I didn’t like what I saw.

I had felt that and kept on feeling but I didn’t want to feel that. That was a problem.

I couldn’t legally change it. I illegally changed it. There were obstacles and setbacks. There was crying, but I reasoned there always is. I disappeared, I reappeared here and there.

I couldn’t keep track of myself. I kept a journal, I kept a voice. People kept getting angry.

I didn’t understand why. I felt that but, it couldn’t be changed. It wasn’t my voice, it wasn’t my face. It never is. II

I gave up feeling that’s how I put it. I wasn’t feeling put it that way. I gave up feeling and kept my eyes open. I saw everything without feeling what I saw and I still didn’t like what I saw but I wasn’t against it. It was worse to feel nothing though I was feeling something but if I was asked I wouldn’t have been able to say what I felt. It was far worse to be the fence and not on either side of it.

I tried love but it didn’t work out. When I tried it again I didn’t have my heart in it.

I noticed I wasn’t looking and I wasn’t feeling. I had a voice and a face.

I had a social media account. I had a house and a car. I met people online and we had sex. I stopped keeping a journal. I took up singing in the shower and growing slower.


An ending is as difficult as a microwave is easy. It is the most made up of all the phases. I grew a tree and lost a room.

I stopped thinking there’s an answer. ///



My first memories are visual. The oval plate swings back and forth, hanging from a nail; the sisal ribbon holding the plate threatens to unravel. It feels mysterious. How does that happen? Can I slow it down? Can we do this again? The strong arm holding me wears a dark-coloured sweater with a hole in the cuff. The force that moves the plate is the hand belonging to the arm, hardened and firm. I get it now! The plate goes from left to right, although I do not know what pendular movement means yet.

I see the design on the plate: an onion, a purple vegetable, and some celery, matching the vegetables my grandmother is boiling a few metres away in the tiny kitchen where we all huddle. It must be winter; it smells of soup, but I only care about what I see. The checkered floor spins below me. I want to be twirled again and thrown up in the air, returning to those arms. Where is the swinging plate? One sense at a time. The sense of smell will wake up in full sometime later. Due to frequent ear infections, my hearing is not that great, so I return to what I see: my grandma dumping those same vegetables into the pot. Yet the design on the plate remains there, at the mercy of the hand that swings it. The plate is white and shiny but very small, sliding against its will, against the crumbling celadon wall. I run my right index finger first around the edge of the swinging plate, then onto the wall. I get frustrated when the plate slows down; I want it to keep on swinging. I look down and marvel at the fact that although the plate moves like a pendulum, the checkered tile floor remains still, like the arm of my grandfather. I move my body, indicating I want more plate-swinging action, as if my grandpa is a horse I can order around.

VIEWPOINT, 16’ x 20’, OIL ON PANEL, 2017 | KEITA MORIMOTO Image courtesy of the artist.

I do not remember myself saying anything; I do not remember my language abilities at the time. I do not know how old I was. Perhaps two. This form of hypnosis carries me through a life of back and forth between memories of my native Argentina, and the images it conjures, and my adoptive country, Canada, where I have been looking at images unravel for a living.

My favourite song for years has been “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash, a band that angrily and playfully called out the conservative government of Margaret Thatcher and that talked about immigration and calls to action in defiance of authority.

My family life growing up was characterized by a constant need to bow to authority. Argentina’s military rule lasted for eight years, during which I became a teen while witnessing how my parents constructed an authoritarian mini-kingdom in their own home. To shelter us, yes, but also to shelter themselves from the powerlessness they must have felt, especially my father.

The ways this autocratic bent manifested were anything but subtle. Case in point: one day my mom, a full-time teacher, showed my father a new dress she had gotten for Teachers’ Day. His response came swiftly: “And when will it be the day of the balls?” (Meaning testicles.) At family reunions, my mom told this anecdote over and over to great comic effect, my aunts, his sisters, ribbing her non-stop.

My dad cooked dinner every night, and with that daily practice came his power trip. Out would emerge from the oven golden roasted chickens or ribs, landing on the table set by my brothers and I at exactly 9:00 p.m. (Yes, we had late dinners.) He would carve the bird or slice the meat and hand it out like a priest ministers the Holy Host to the faithful. We would eat with the TV on; my parents still do. An unsolicited opinion that merely differed slightly with the patriarch’s worldview would be met with curt comebacks. I wish I could show and not tell, but my memory has erased the precise details of those exchanges. I know only that the worst storms occurred during Saturday lunches. I remember running to the toilet after exchanging opinions with my dad. His explosive wounded pride was quickly soothed by my mother who never, ever contradicted him. She still doesn’t.

A friend of mine has said that those who leave a country behind do it for a deeply personal reason, usually connected to family. I feel that by seemingly destroying nothing, by leaving my parents’ dynamic

intact and extricating myself from their routine, I actually destroyed the most important thing to them: their sense of power over me.

As we sit down at the long table covered by a linen tablecloth, the glasses fill with prosecco and the scent of chunks of Parmesan cheese doused in Aceto di Modena wafts from one end to the other. The hotel is closed to the public. We are about twenty people, and I do not understand most of what the Modenese relatives of my in-laws are saying.

“Non ci vedo niente.” I cannot see a thing, the nonna of the family says to me. She was a well-regarded piano instructor during the time of Mussolini, the dictator whose influence is all over the boulevards that led us to the hotel in this most socialist of cities, Modena. Nonna should not worry about her eyesight; her musical prowess remains intact. Her teeth work like a metronome when she takes bite after bite of tigelle, little scones topped with lardo, that buttery fat from Modenese pigs.

Speaking of them, giant trays of prosciutto appear out of nowhere as my in-laws and their relatives comment on the comings and goings of their respective offspring. Mine, Canadian born and English speaking, ask me to translate the dinner conversations for them. So in between bites of bread with prosciutto, ciliegia (Modenese for cherry) jam, and tigelle, off I go, attempting to understand Italian, translating into Spanish and, finally, into my heavily accented English. I cannot explain to my children my impressions of the collision of time and space, my Italian in-laws flying in from Argentina, their nostalgia and their memories of the war intact, the estrangement from far away relatives, and their sudden intimacy. I have no words in any language available to me to explain to them my own connection, my grandfather whose last name, habits, musical taste, and blue eyes were also Italian. It is easier to chew like a metronome, pretending we cannot hear anything. Who needs words anyway, when there is the language of food; I let my nose and the rhythm of my mouth be my guides.

Ihave almost always been the one cooking, but I have never gotten used to the smells that emanate from each nook and cranny of our old kitchen, the food left on the counters, the pantry, the flour becoming stale after the Christmas baking frenzy. The former owners had cats. When we moved in, the whole house reeked of urine, yet I bypassed this small detail because the kitchen had an immense picture window from where


I could see my then-young children play in our backyard. The kitchen does not smell of urine anymore. It still smells of pizza dough from one of those bread makers that made the noise of a CN locomotive. My friend Arlette, a Belgian woman who would make pain au levain from scratch and taught me how to roll puff pastry with a glass bottle, told me that yeast particles float in the air the more you make bread. This has not been the case. I no longer bake.

As time goes by, the dated European kitchen cabinets and terracotta tiles mirror my marriage, taking each other for granted like my husband and I until we blend in with the surroundings. In a desperate pandemic impulse to see each other anew, we decide to do away with the old kitchen. We are now in the middle of getting a new one. We are in the process of choosing tiles, shiny new appliances, soft flooring, works of art, and sturdy cabinets that according to the contractor “will last a good ten years or more.” We need that reassurance. Going to the different shops feels like speed dating, my husband and I in front of quartz samples for less than ten minutes, then off to the next “candidate.”

One day, we have a late breakfast on the kitchen peninsula. Like his mother, my husband lays out a large napkin in pastel shades. She would stake a similar piece of textile real estate at breakfast every morning on her kitchen table in Argentina, setting up a cup for her, one for her husband, and one for my husband. For years, I had to fend for myself. There was never a cup or even an inch of napkin for me to break the night’s fast. Here in Canada, in addition to the pastel napkin, my husband sets up two navy blue cups and saucers from the ancient IKEA set. I hear the voice of a South African female acquaintance who spent a sabbatical in the late ’90s with her physician husband here in Edmonton, purring in Meryl Streep’s accent in Out of Africa: “Ahhhh, the same cups my sister had when she was a college student.” We cling to these cups with despairing zealotry because they remind us of the “tempi dei dolci sospiri,” the time of sweet longings, as Dante would say.

ment that functions as my office, the kitchen bears far less of an emotional load than my home kitchen. It is a plain galley kitchen with the bare necessities, an ideal, no-nonsense Virgo kitchen, all function, no form. Or as Le Corbusier would say, a “machine for living,” a fitting concept for modern living coined by the Bauhaus architect in the 1930s, part of the cohort of so-called degenerate artists producing “Entartete Kunst” during Hitler’s ascent to power. I also like the idea of “machines for leaving,” and, if I may say so, sometimes the kitchens of the homes we pass through become just that.

“Atin of tuna in olive oil from Spain used to cost .40 cents, and now look at this cheap tin of national fish: $2.00!!!” Over a dinner of barbecue Argentinian steak, my grandfather would shake his head, ignoring the beef everyone and their mother would kill for. I would picture him going to Harrods in Buenos Aires, where he would source the tinned fish alongside Cross and Blackwell tea and English soaps, in a Panama hat out from under which his blue eyes peered at the wrinkles of his white linen suit. I have never had anything against Argentinian canned fish, but I imagined that Spanish tuna bathed in liquid gold as an unattainable mirage thanks to the lack of imports in my country during the ’70s.

We are always in conversation, my grandfather and I, as if death and distance are mere illusions. Our ongoing dialogue takes us from Argentina to Canada, as I peruse aisle after aisle of imported delicacies at the Italian Store or Blush Lanes. On one of these excursions, I get trapped in the net that time forgot. As I drag my fingers through the preserve aisles, my thumb trips against a green, stretchy material covering a golden oval. The label reads “Gourmet Tuna in Olive Oil, Fresh from Galicia,” the beloved colours of the Spanish flag signalling what I have found inside a Canadian grocery store: “a remote beautiful imaginary place where life approaches perfection,” our Shangri-La.


etween two waters” is a popular Spanish saying. “A dos aguas.” I could also say between two kitchens, between two lives. After a work-related Zoom-hosting session, I realize lunch is beckoning. Into the microwave goes the store-bought vegetarian lasagna tray, into my mouth the pasta bites go, half cold, half boiling. It does not matter; it is an “al desko” lunch like the ones I used to enjoy at my previous jobs, minus the company of work colleagues. At the apart-

/// STAY IN TOUCH: @Humber LitR eview Humber LiteraryR
UP LATE, 1455 x 1120 mm , ACRYLIC AND OIL ON LINEN, 2022 | KEITA MORIMOTO Image courtesy of the artist.



he’s beautiful, isn’t she?”


I want to say “yes,” but when I look at the painting, all I see are flaws. Her hair needs a trim … There’s a line of white skin left by a bathing suit strap on her shoulder …

“I’m thinking of bidding on it.”

“Really?” I suppose it’s rude to sound surprised. But judging from the casual way he’s dressed, I assume the young man standing next to me is an art student and not a serious buyer. I suddenly feel overdressed in the red wool suit that seems to come out only for funerals and retirement parties now.

I’m just here to look. The works up for auction are a bit out of reach for a retired high school English teacher on a pension.

The man takes a step forward to study the painting more closely. “‘Girl, Lost in Thought.’ I wonder what she’s thinking about?”

I know exactly what she was thinking about.

Iwas twenty years old in the summer of 1979. And there were two things I wanted in a seasonal job that year: adventure and money.

I found neither working at The Cliffs. Housekeeping was often drudgery, even if it was at the most iconic hotel in Atlantic Canada. And most of my wages went to pay for staff living expenses.

The best part of the job was spending afternoons on the beach. I was usually alone, as most of the guests preferred staying on the resort property instead of braving the wind and waves. The Atlantic Ocean was no match for a heated swimming pool.

However, by late July, I realized I hadn’t saved enough money for university back home in Ontario, and that meant finding a part-time job.

Opportunity arose from the classified ads in the local newspaper. Wanted: artist’s model. The ad

explained that the hours were flexible and it would only be for a couple of weeks.

It sounded perfect.

The friendly voice of a woman who answered the phone explained that not only was the studio a close bike ride from The Cliffs, but the painter was none other than Jack Cartwright.

Anyone in Canada who’s bought a postage stamp has seen his work.

I thought it would be helpful to discover a bit more about him, so before our first meeting, I biked to the town library and looked him up on the microfiche.

Although born and raised in Montreal, Cartwright gained fame for his images of daily life in the Maritimes. Most of what was written about him was about his work, since he rarely spoke about his personal life in interviews.

I imagined myself as the subject of a Jack Cartwright painting, sitting on a patch of grass above the ocean as the wind blew through my hair. It was all terribly romantic.

At the day and time arranged, I arrived at a cozy-looking cottage that was painted brown with white trim. It reminded me of a gingerbread house. I rang the doorbell, and it was answered by a tiny woman

Judging from the casual way he’s dressed, I assume the young man standing next to me is an art student and not a serious buyer.

in her late thirties. She had a rather fleshy face that was enlivened by a bright smile.

“You must be Alison,” she said cheerfully. “Come in, come in.” Although it looked like a gingerbread house from the outside, the interior furnishings were modern and comfortable.

“Elizabeth?” I asked, following her into the living room. The woman I’d spoken with on the phone had introduced herself as a combination of housekeeper and personal assistant.

“Yes, yes. But please call me Bog.”


She shook her head and smiled. “It takes explaining. My parents shortened ‘Elizabeth’ to ‘Betty.’ But my brothers decided to call me ‘Bog,’ because of the old stories.”

I looked confused.

“You’re not from around here,” she guessed correctly. “Betty From the Bog was a series of children’s books that were popular for a while. Betty got into all sorts of adventures, like …”

I was spared the adventures of Betty From the Bog by the arrival of Jack Cartwright.

“Bog, where are you?” he yelled.

“In here, Jack,” Bog stiffened when he strode into the living room.

On first impression, Jack Cartwright seemed positively buttoned down—more like some of the MBA students I’d dated, only older, than an artist. He was what my mother would call “dapper.” In his late forties, he had close-cropped salt-and-pepper hair, and he’d obviously kept himself in shape.

“Yes, Alice, I need to see what I’m working with,” he exhaled a puff of smoke in my face.

“It’s Alison,” I muttered waving away the smoke.

“That’s what I said. Look, this isn’t a commissioned portrait … I’m not Hans bloody Holbein.”

The thought hadn’t occurred to me that I’d be posing in the nude. Any of the Cartwright paintings I was familiar with showed things like women scaling fish or men standing beside dilapidated boats.

Of course, I knew that artist models posed in the nude. My reservations weren’t based on modesty— more like vanity. I wasn’t sure I wanted the world to see my skinny arms and flat chest.

Bog mistook my silence for shyness and tried to encourage me by saying how great an artist Jack was and explaining how much money I’d be making. That tipped the scales. I didn’t care if he was Hans “bloody” Holbein or Hans Christian Andersen. When I did the math, I realized that I’d be paid enough to cover one term’s tuition.

I took off my clothes and handed them to Bog.

Jack circled my body.

At that moment, all I could think about was how my mother chose a rump roast from the supermarket for Sunday dinner. Both she and Jack showed the same kind of critical and practiced eye.

Jack’s studio was a few steps from the house, and that was where I was to spend the bulk of my time.

Because it was summer, I wasn’t cold posing in the nude. Instead, the worst part was the boredom and the rather awkward position I had to hold.

Jack had me lying on a chaise lounge. One arm was crooked, and I twisted my head to look through my elbow. To the viewer, my face was mostly in profile, and the rest of my body was seen from behind.

At least people won’t see my flat chest.

Maybe it was because of the discomfort, or just my restless nature, but I’ll admit I squirmed a bit at first. Jack solved the problem by positioning one of his boat paintings in my line of sight and telling me to focus on that. By the end of the summer, I think I knew every barnacle-crusted inch of the Mary B.

The health-conscious appearance was contradicted somewhat when he lit a cigarette. He offered me one, but I shook my head.

“Well, let’s have a look at you.”

“I’m standing right here,” I replied rather defensively. Bog gave me an apologetic smile. “He means take off your clothes, Alison.”

Bog tried to make things easier by bringing us refreshments. It provided a welcome break because I don’t think Jack would have ever stopped to rest. I could only catch glimpses of his face behind the easel, but the intensity was palpable.

All that time posing made me get into my own head, although I often seemed to dwell on other people’s business. I wondered about Jack and Bog and their curious relationship. Clearly, she was madly in love with him, but he barely acknowledged her.

JAN SIMS // 44
My reservations weren’t based on modesty—more like vanity. I wasn’t sure I wanted the world to see my skinny arms and flat chest.

After we were done for the day, Bog would often invite me into the house for tea and sandwiches. Sometimes Jack would join us, and these conversations would be the only times I’d see him relax.

“Now, you eat a cucumber sandwich,” Bog would scold him. “You need your vegetables.”

“Yes, Nanny,” he would reply, but not unkindly.

It was during one of these chats, I learned that Jack felt he would always be a transplanted Montrealer in the eyes of the locals. Bog, however, was the real thing. Her family had been in the Maritimes for generations. Her father drowned in a fishing accident when she was a teenager, leaving Bog to help care for the younger children while her mother went off to work. She still lived with, and cared for, her mother, whom Bog described as having a “case of the nerves,” whatever that meant.

“How come you’ve never painted Bog?” I ventured one afternoon. Bog shrugged and said she wasn’t interesting or beautiful enough to be painted. Jack said nothing.

I don’t want to give the impression he was a monster—just unfathomable. Jack was, I learned, the son of a wealthy businessman and a socialite mother who both disapproved heartily of having an artist for a son. He’d married and divorced at a young age before packing himself off to the Maritimes. He told me little else.

So, what happened next took me by surprise.

I was used to Jack touching me, moving my arm or twisting my head to get the angle he wanted. But that day, it was different. I could feel his hand run down my back from my shoulders to my ribs. The smell of cigarettes and turpentine on his hand was unwelcome. His touch was not.

All I can say is that curiosity is a powerful aphrodisiac.

When we were finished, I wrapped myself in the polyester robe I’d been given. Jack went back to the canvas.

Bog walked in with a pitcher of lemonade. It was the first time I’d seen her angry.

“Why are you bringing lemonade?” Jack asked, oblivious to her scowl. “I don’t like lemonade.”

“It’s for Alison,” Bog grunted. “I’ll be back with your iced tea in a minute.”

Bog left, and I pulled the robe more tightly around me. I was aware of it bunching up between my legs and thought of her coming across it in a pile of dirty laundry.

I felt ashamed. A fling with Jack was one thing, but hurting Bog was something else.

Mercifully, the final sessions in the studio went by quickly. By unspoken and mutual agreement, Jack and I never touched again. Bog didn’t say anything about the soiled robe or what she might have seen, but it was never the same between us.

One day, Jack abruptly announced he was finished with me. There was still work to do on the painting, but he didn’t need a model anymore. That was fine by me, as I’d grown weary of posing. I asked if I could see the painting.

“No, not until it’s finished,” he said.

“Have you given it a title, at least?”

“I’m thinking of ‘Girl, Lost in Thought.’”

Since Bog no longer invited me for tea and sandwiches, I dressed and immediately went back to The Cliffs.

A week later, there was a phone message for me on the bulletin board in the staff quarters. I was being summoned to get my final pay.

On the bike ride to that funny-looking house, I thought of what to say to Jack, and mostly to Bog.

One day, Jack abruptly announced he was finished with me. There was still work to do on the painting, but he didn’t need a model anymore.

To Jack: You’re lucky you’re such a talented artist, because as a human being (and, I must admit, as a lover), you’re pretty lame.

To Bog: I’m sorry.

I didn’t get a chance to say anything to Jack. When I got to the door, Bog informed me that he was in Halifax meeting with a gallery owner.

I told Bog I would like to see the painting before I left.

The kind and sympathetic Bog I’d first met reemerged when she handed me an envelope with my final wages. “I’m sorry, Alison. He threw it out.”


“It sometimes happens. He doesn’t like a painting, so he throws it out.”

“But … but …” I stammered.

“If I find a painting in the garbage, I try to rescue it and hide it from him. But this time, I don’t know where it went.”

I was furious.

JAN SIMS // 45

“Don’t blame Jack,” Bog said, trying to explain that he was a perfectionist. “He’s a great artist … a great man.”

“He might be a great artist, but he’s hardly a great man,” I replied and jumped on my bike.

Bog gave me a sad smile and closed the door. As I was leaving, I stopped for a moment and looked in the garbage can at the side of the road for my painting. There was nothing.

Over the years, I didn’t go out of my way to tell people that I’d been the subject of a Jack Cartwright painting. It was rather embarrassing to admit to being a rejected muse.

Of course, my husband knew. He was the first to spot the article in the Saturday newspaper last month about the show and sale of Jack’s works that was coming to Toronto. There was background information on Jack as an artist, mentioning that his widow was too frail to attend the event. The article went on to say there would be both major and lesser works up for auction. Among the lesser works: “Girl, Lost in Thought.”

I was speechless.

My husband asked if I wanted him to attend the showing with me, but I said this was something I needed to do by myself.

If the painting was sold to a private collector, I might never see it again.

So here I am, looking at my twenty-year-old self. The young man who’d been beside me has moved on to another painting, and I’m alone. I study my face more closely. Instead of flaws, I now see all the hope, defiance, naivety, and beauty of the girl in the picture. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you.

Still conflicted about what happened that summer, I ultimately give a nod of acknowledgement to Jack’s immense talent.

I take one last look at the painting, before glancing down at the catalogue for the auction: “Girl, Lost in Thought”—from the collection of Mrs. Elizabeth Cartwright.

“I hope it makes you a lot of money, Bog,” I mutter and walk away.


JAN SIMS // 46
HumberLiteraryReview_FTRW2023_half_horiz.indd 3 2022-11-28 11:32 AM


there was nowhere to break away on the boat, smoke sneaking out the porthole, on the toilet rereading his juvie devotions on legal yellow

a battle of temperatures, the bow was warm in muddy Fraser, ice hold tepid with fish, lunch on red ring cloud seemed to boil opening week when we took the biggest catch, lacerated bodies splayed slick on the deck, bashed to the side over waves, in the bath, unscrubbable scales sheathed my legs in a tail of refraction mesh the same that snags gill filament to rob breath

fish oiled every inhale every paper bill overpowering perfume counters at the mall to score Doc Martens and lipstick, land sick, I threw up in the garbage

I thought of the way one salmon looked when I put her back in the current too late



this dermis is a house of armoured scales where windows stain glass roofs tile to a ridgepole dentin doubles as serrated edge calcified on permanent offensive

marrying form and function, my scales shimmer in waves to reduce drag of wind, rain, guarding soft spots a body makes plates for the right to exist

the rainbow fish gave its scales to share her beauty which is self defense for a rainbow bitch with a fixed face, scaled eyes like a snake

after all, even butterflies have scales for wings


CONTENT WARNING: discussion of suicide and mental illness




Flying Books is a lovely bookstore on College Street in Toronto’s Little Italy neighbourhood. It’s small, like a wide corridor, and has a beautifully curated selection of titles lining the walls and stacked neatly on tables in the middle. Flying Books, however, is not just a bookstore; it’s also a community. Specifically, it publishes books and runs a well-respected mentorship program with writers like Carleigh Baker, Amy Jones, and Waub Rice on its roster. This hard-to-define nature made it the perfect place to host the launch of Daniel Scott Tysdal’s latest book from icehouse poetry (a Goose Lane imprint), The End Is in the Middle: Mad Fold-In Poems

As an artist, as a person, Tysdal is impossible to pin down. Able to manoeuvre between informed discussions of regressive tropes in horror films and the intricacies of a well-planned and executed professional wrestling match, he’s also a lauded poet, short-story writer, essayist, and award-winning creator of short films. On top of that, he is a beloved teacher of creative writing at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the author of the writing textbook, The Writing Moment: A Practical Guide to Creating Poems. In a 2014 interview with Jonathan Ball, Tysdal said he believed that “a poet should be able to do everything,” a mantra that he seems to live by. When asked in 2022 whether this still holds true for him and if it was reflective of a larger philosophy around writing or the writing life, he pauses to reflect before explaining: “Poetry is who I am and what I do … what came more naturally to me.

“When I was young, movies were my obsession,” he elaborates, “and when I was a kid, I thought I was going to make zed-grade horror movies for Full Moon [Features]; that was my dream. Poetry feels like even more than an art to me … It’s just what I’ll always do. I’ll always gain from it. I obviously have to work hard at it, but it’s not the same way that I have to work at all of these other things, like with filmmaking, with writing stories. Writing essays and doing wrestling are a lot more conscious kinds of work.”

He winces when he uses the term “organic” to describe his relationship to the form but acknowledges that it’s probably the most accurate term. “Poetry is just always there for me,” he says.

This diversity of experiences and interests are evident even in the audience at the launch of The End Is in the Middle in late September 2022. Hosted by Leanne Toshiko Simpson, a writer and former student of Daniel’s, whose warm introduction brings forth the first teary moment of the evening, the event also features a reading from Nehal El-Hadi, one of Daniel’s oldest friends, dating back to growing up in Moose Jaw in

the ’90s. But there are people from other communities as well, and Tysdal himself is resplendent in a pinkish sequined jacket over a T-shirt bearing a slogan only meaningful to niche wrestling fans.

As Tysdal is more than just a poet, The End Is in the Middle: Mad Fold-In Poems is more than just a collection of poems. It is also a pop-culture artifact that plays with the art form created by cartoonist Al Jaffee and featured on the back cover of issues of MAD Magazine, a satire-based humour and comics magazine that’s been published in some form or another since 1952. The fold-in consists of a picture that when folded from corner to corner reveals a hidden image that works almost like a punchline. The fold-ins have a brief message on the bottom that also reveals a hidden message after the fold over. Tysdal takes the image out of the form and focuses exclusively on writing. The final lines of all the poems in the collection are revealed after the fold-in occurs.

“I realize I’m speaking from a certain aesthetic standpoint (about a more traditional kind of lyric poetry), but, often, at the end of a lyric poem, we want that ‘Aha!’ that lifts the reader off or punches the gut. You want that big reaction at the end of these poems,” Tysdal explains when asked about the reasoning behind borrowing the unique form. “I love the idea that it’s there all along. You’re actually reading the final line as you’re reading the poem. These different syllables and letters and words you read are going to be a part of the ending.”


For reasons of accessibility, the final lines are also included on the back pages of the poems, which Daniel likens to another object of pop-culture, the comic book, where the goal is to “guide the eye toward the bottom corner” to entice the reader to turn the page.

The first poem that was written is the final one in the collection, “A Mad Fold-In Poem.” It was written during a significant mental-health episode where the idea of the mind being on fire came to Daniel, providing the eventual inspiration for the fold-in cover of the book (a brain on fire that when folded, shows two hands cupping the flame).

You—this mucky fire slathered in my mind’s frame —are as committed to me as artists are to art.

At times, your voice is constant: “Kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself”—fists punching clay with the aim to make me nothing more than punched clay...

another serious mental health crisis, and, coming out of that, I realized I needed to write about memories and experiences I had not been able to face, that I had not been able to directly explore in my writing.”

The collection first took shape as a 2020 chapbook published by Frog Hollow Press in a limited run of one hundred copies. When asked about whether he’d always intended it to be a full collection, he says: “By the time I made my chapbook submission, I had a collection-and-a-half of poems. I dreamed of publishing a chapbook as part of the Frog Hollow Press Dis/Ability Series because Caryl [Peters] creates such beautiful books and because I deeply respect, and have learned from, the work performed by this series and by Shane [Neilson]. I really wanted to specifically share these mad poems as a mad poet, and I am grateful to have had this opportunity, this liberating and empowering experience.”

Hearing this, it’s hard not to think of Daniel’s 2019 essay in The Walrus, “How TIFF Saved My Life.” In that article, he writes openly and honestly about his mental health, including how the immersion in films offered a reprieve from the self: “I know movies are usually viewed as an escape from reality, but the opposite of this adage has always felt true to me. Movies are an immersion in existing realities and real fantasies we otherwise would never have had access to—crossing all sorts of temporal, spatial, and bodily borders. They plunge us into the lives and longings vivified on the screen and connect us to the lives and labours of their makers.”

He explains that the idea for creating a whole collection like this (and, ultimately, the second and eponymous poem to be written) came from an experience in a security line at Pearson Airport in January 2017 when he was flying to the United States. It was in the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration and security was, as he describes, “a disaster.”

“This lineup went from one end of Pearson all the way to the other end,” and, eventually, as space ran out, the line began to spiral, he remembers. “People kept coming up to the line and asking, ‘where is the end?’ and everyone would say ‘it’s in the middle,’ and I was just like, holy shit, that’s like how a MAD fold-in works! And so that’s where the second one came. And then it all just kind of kept going from there.”

This collection “started out as something very personal,” he further details by email. “I experienced

When asked now if he thinks this is true for all forms of narrative art, he first admits: “I could not have undertaken [that essay] if I had not started the MAD fold-in poem project. I started the fold-in poems in January of 2017 and started the essay a year and a half later. The process of writing the poems gave me the courage and insight I needed to undertake the essay’s explorations, and, honestly, the courage I needed to publish the essay.” He goes on to explain that he would (wisely) remove the word “narrative” from my question and would say that this connection with the creator applies to all art. “Any medium, form, or genre,” he begins, “has this potential [for immersion]— whether poetry or painting or pro wrestling, whether an experimental novel or grindhouse horror movie. This has as much to do with the work as it does with us as receivers, as interactors with art, our being open to this possibility, open to this boundary-bending and self-reshaping experience that is hard not to describe as a miracle.

“I’m not saying, of course, that this is a universal possibility, that I’m a total mark for this miracle. This

“I think there is something with that kind of pushing boundaries that draws us to art, whether as creators or as viewers.”

generative, interconnecting, and liberating experience doesn’t happen with fascistic art, which aims for the opposite. The same goes for derivative, cookie-cutter commercial art and art created through violence and injustice or the enabling of violence and injustice. We can learn from these works, sure, but as a jumping off point for resistance and change.”

Back at the launch, Daniel reads from poems that are also projected on a wall to give the full aesthetic effect of the experience (the necessity of placing the text in a way that allows for the final line to be revealed when the poem is folded means that the poems often weave and meander along the page, mimicking thought patterns). Along with the friends, family, colleagues, and former students in the room, Tysdal acknowledges a group at the back who tower over the others and who respond to him with a “Wooooo!” recognizable to even some non-fans as wrestling legend Ric Flair’s calling card. This group consists of a coach and some trainees from Toronto’s Superkick’d Wrestling promotion, where Daniel has been training and volunteering for a number of months.

This is a new(ish) obsession, born, in part, from a growing viewing interest in All Elite Wrestling that blossomed during the pandemic (and is shared with his partner, Andrea), and it has made its way into his poetry as well. So, when asked if he sees a connection between the physicality of wrestling and the lyricism of poetry, he is enthusiastic about exploring and describing these connections: “Both poetry and wrestling offer transcendence through immersion,” he says. “When a poem’s really clicking, and when [I’m] in that moment of writing it and it’s kind of working and the language is connecting [me] to the world [and when] the emotion and the experience are all sort of combining, there is that sense that I’m immersed in something and yet I’m getting outside of myself, too. That definitely happens in wrestling as well.”

He also links the act of wrestling and the act of creating and consuming art as processes for testing limitations. “I think another way of putting it is it’s sort of like pushing your boundaries and pushing your thresholds,” he says, going on to describe a recent class at Superkick’d that consisted of a lot of newer students. “We really got to get very hands-on learning new moves, and it was learning the belly-to-back suplex that really pushed my boundaries … but then it was also something pleasurable; it felt like an achievement. I think there is something with that kind of pushing boundaries that draws us to art, whether as creators or as viewers.”

One sparse poem in particular captures this immersion and sense of testing limitations:


Isled in the ring, foe tossed out, the wrestler dives through fight-framing ropes headfirst, skies this death-hailing move.

Wrestlers can’t risk necks or fight for their art; their art (is the fight/this death)

“Topé Suicida” references a specific wrestling move that certainly pushes boundaries. A topé is any headfirst diving attack, while suicida refers to a “suicide dive,” the act of diving through the ropes to the outside of the ring onto an opponent. Combined, the term refers to the act of jumping over the top of the ropes headfirst onto an opponent. It is a thrilling, dangerous move that requires a mix of athleticism, fearlessness, and coordination between the two (or more) grapplers involved.

Tysdal further likens this collaboration between wrestlers in a match to the reciprocal relationship between poet and reader; specifically, he says there is “a kind of dance quality to it: the fact that you’re interacting with someone else.” In the book, Tysdal plays with point of view, shifting between first-, second-, and third-person, which can potentially lead to differing interpretations, very much part of the “dance” he describes: “This really is one of the great joys of having the privilege to share one’s writing with readers. It’s incredible to experience and learn from these different readings and new insights. Poems are always so much more than us, but we cannot experience this ‘more’ without others.”






From his debut poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, and his autobiographical epistolary novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, to his new poetry collection, Time Is a Mother, Ocean Vuong exemplifies startling, ecstatic ways of full-bodied writing. Vuong continues to explore his interests in family, memory, war, grief, and trauma—his expressions of pain connecting him to other suffering victims in a misbegotten world. Everything he writes (haibun, cinematic montage, prose poem, dream, fantasy, anaphora, ekphrastic, fragment, etc.) comes from within, his body radiating what the mind thinks in powerful images. But his body is strongly shadowed by that of his beloved mother, Le Kim Hong (who at times goes by Rose in the text because her name means rose or pink in Vietnamese), who died of breast cancer at the age of 51 in 2019, a few months before the COVID pandemic wreaked its own massive devastation across the globe. “The most beautiful part / of your body is wherever / your mother’s shadow falls,” he writes in Night Sky, a sentiment extended in Time Is a Mother by the “dry outline” of his mother in winter when they created a snow angel together. Grievously wounded by her death, he seeks to make her absence a vital paradoxical presence through language. Like the taxidermy buck mounted over a soda machine near the restrooms at a rest stop in Virginia that shook Rose because it “embodied a death that won’t finish, a death that keeps dying as we walk past it to relieve ourselves,” her passing never brings closure in any sense to his life. Indeed, her spirit is like light keeping its own shadow “by swallowing it”—an image I have taken from “Into the Breach,” a poem from Night Sky about a totally different subject.

In Vuong’s case, the body is memory defined by language embedded within or through it. Rose was evidently illiterate, and she never read any of her son’s published writing, yet her memory is preserved

through her son’s brilliant lyricism. As Vuong tried to teach her the English alphabet, he noticed a strand of hair “lifting from her face … how it fell / onto the page—& lived / with no sound. Like a word. / I still hear it.” (“The Gift,” Night Sky). Vuong is no naïf. As Time Is a Mother shows, language cannot undo anyone’s death, no matter how well the poet rewinds time (“Kunstlerroman”) or attempts to free it from an existential cage built around the heart, as when he writes of an uncle’s suicide (“Beautiful Short Loser”). But language, especially in Vuong’s supple repertoire, can create an illusion of presence. The list poem “Amazon History of a Former Nail Salon Worker,” is a record of his mother’s purchases while battling cancer, and the poem moves with bare banal language to herald mortal doom concisely and elliptically. The summative, penultimate poem, “Dear Rose,” yearns for a new beginning for himself and his mother, after their combined years of humiliation, indignity, and suffering: “Let me begin again now / that you’re gone Ma / if you’re reading this then you survived / your life into this one … if you’re reading this then / I survived my life into yours.”

Time Is a Mother reveals Vuong’s struggles with addiction, American disorders, and the poet’s deep grief over his mother’s death. “How you say what you mean changes what you say,” he proclaims in “Not Even,” cognizant that metaphors express what we see while revealing who we are. Metaphors abound, of course, channelled through language that refuses the stanza, refuses even normal punctuation and orthodox grammar, with line breaks effecting dramatically staccato rhythms: “Wind / in the branches. He watched me with kerosene / -blue eyes … I was a boy— / which meant I was a murderer / of my childhood. & like all murderers, my god / was stillness” (“Bull”). Surprise and shock, both elements of a tense psyche, are registered and underlined by violent images—satirically, in the toxic masculinity of “Knock ’em dead, big guy. Go in there / guns blazing, buddy. You crushed / at the show. No, it was a blowout. No, / a massacre. Total overkill” (“Old Glory”) or in a highly charged revelation of


queer identity in “When the flood comes / I’ll raise my hand so they know / who to shoot. The sky flashes. The sea / yearns. I myself / am hell” (“The Last Prom Queen in Antarctica”).

But language is rhetoric, and as Vuong learned from his seven-year-old cousin Sara, what is the point of caring about it if we cannot remake ourselves, despite our vulnerabilities and anomalies? “Dear Sara” encapsulates the rhetorical question in the form of the little girl’s startling metaphor: “What’s the point of writing if you’re just gonna force a bunch of ants to cross a white desert?” The question doesn’t, can’t, get a definitive answer, but Time Is a Mother boldly and bravely surmounts history’s rubble by making a web that, when touched almost anywhere, trembles with authentically compassionate feeling. It is a haunting elegy in which poetry, as guardian both tender and tough, can help us survive our griefs and misgivings.


Carmella Gray-Cosgrove’s first collection of short stories, Nowadays and Lonelier, offers a unique window into Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a Turtle Island locale infamous for crime, drug use, and poverty. Turning away from this neighbourhood’s reputation in national media, many of Gray-Cosgrove’s narratives centre the experience of childhood and young adulthood in co-operative housing projects in V6A, microcosmic worlds of violence, racism, substance abuse, and burgeoning sexuality and identity. Primarily, they centre on integral kinship bonds beyond bloodlines, like when a friend’s mother, Barbara, takes the narrator under her wing in the story “Whippits”: “She said [things] straight to me. Didn’t pretend I was a kid, didn’t pretend I didn’t know things.” The narrator gets lost in “how good it felt to be told about things someone thought I might need to hear” (p. 164).

When you just live in a place, you follow cracks in the pavement while you begin to comprehend commerce: Barbies for sale, laid out on garbage bags or sweaters on East Hastings, blonde hairballs dotting the quilt of the sidewalk. While not enclosed in cellophane boxes within stores in the brick-and-mortar Army & Navy sense, the dolls and their tender hot-dog limbs are traded for something necessary to someone. We had some. I had thought they had come from Toys “R” Us, but maybe they had crawled their way over from those makeshift shelves.1

One of this collection’s eminent strengths is the author’s pitch-perfect tone in describing emotionally transformative events in human life in unsentimental yet deeply resonant prose. In “Today Is the Day,” the young protagonist Teeny becomes pregnant by her abusive partner. She sees a doctor who, simply, “hands her a list of support services for women in abusive relationships. It’s a handwritten list that has been photocopied so many times it’s barely legible” (p. 97).

Those whom you know point out which tarblack sedans belong to the lawyers who idle, snorting lines on their way into work in some gleaming Gastown reno, and which are undercover cop cars. “Wear an oversized coat if you can wrangle one, and keep your hands outside your pockets,” were credos we clung to.

Gray-Cosgrove’s fictive worlds are held together through affective attachments between characters. The beauty and purpose of these Bildungsroman tales necessitates such strong bonds between folks and their (often) chosen families. And yet, such relationships

1 Reading Gray-Cosgrove’s evocative stories elicited my own past(s) from the Downtown Eastside. I share them throughout this review in block italics.


54 and their narratives of survival are rendered without mawkishness or pathos. They are, simply, how people survive, the facts of the matter. People in Gray-Cosgrove’s adolescent world of Eastside co-ops hold on to each other and find beauty together—keeping watch over each other like “the searchlight from Playland that scans the city on summer nights” (p. 57).

Later, it was more about staying up until the navy turned to periwinkle to photograph the spiderweb network of power lines in the sealevel alleys off Pender that stretched to a world beyond my imaginative limits. If only I could monkey-bar along those sagging power lines and bound across the harbour … He would point the straw of his Slurpee at me so I could suck blue syrup as I aimed my lens up, the frayed edges of my fingerless gloves reeking of weed.

As someone with lived experiences in this neighbourhood, I appreciate the stripped-down, emotional clarity applied to its locales and inhabitants. As someone who just lived here, without spectacle, I self-reflexively engage with Nowadays and Lonelier as a cultural artifact from an often-unrepresented position in Turtle Island urban Anglophone literature: the unsentimental girl or young woman. Gray-Cosgrove’s work is thus indebted to a privileged few literary forebears, such as Eden Robinson, Heather O’Neill, Chelene Knight, and Lisa Moore.


Salimah Valiani’s 29 leads to love is characterized by dazzling and graceful imagery that reaches the reader on a multitude of levels, awakening our intelligences to make us see the many dimensions of the realties the poet exposes. The collection explores the concept of love in a heterogeneous, powerful, and moving

manner, calling our attention to collective well-being and the future of our planet. The exploitation of the physical world and humans by humans constitutes the principal preoccupation of the book and is presented as the impediment to an existence of maturity and realization. The collection asks us to build new social systems based on revised epistemological paradigms that will pave the way to a more realized, advanced world and personhood. As the title implies, the poems lead (guide) us to alternative ways of seeing, understanding, and doing, demanding that we extend our beingness This change, this extended beingness, is love.

To love is to strive to know more because when we know more, we do better. As Valiani explained to me in an email exchange in June of 2022, “The poems are a non-intellectual way to encourage thinking and feeling about relationality, where everyone plays a part, and being deliberate about how we enact the part.”

Respect for the “non-human other” or for one’s physical body is at the forefront of the book’s ethos and is intrinsically tied to the idea of love that runs through the collection. The physical, in its diverse manifestations (the river, the plants, the sky, the rocks, the city, the very human body) is presented as the sacred house we inhabit and a source of great knowledge, wisdom, joy, and affiliation with the “other.” It is the medium that permits us to attain spiritual enlightenment and see the connections between self and other—other human and other non-human. We learn through the body, through the senses, realizing how we are like other bodies.

To love is to “hold,” a verb used often throughout the collection, implying that one must care for an “other” who needs our attention, our help, our embrace—an “other” who is part of us. This “holding” entails touching, physicality, materiality, pointing again to the importance of the body-material throughout the collection. This body-material also entails the creation of healthy social institutions, a new politics of living that can—if built intelligently, with compassion and the well-being of the collectivity in mind—“hold (take care of) us,” rather than destroy, exploit us. We hold


one another and the world by designing thoughtful, inclusive institutions and non-predatory economic and social systems. Without the force of the us working together to remake our world, there is no healthy collectivity possible. This is love.

The final poem of the collection, “To do it differently (ii) or, On love (xxix),” picks up on these ideas about what we must do differently to regenerate our world. This poem begins with a statement from a woman of Abya Yala, a region in the Darién Gap whose name means “land in its full maturity” or “land of vital blood” in the Guna Indigenous language: “We don’t know how to die. When we learn to die, we will learn to live and our war will end.” The statement emphasizes that it is necessary to kill old ways of living and learn new ways of building a more egalitarian world. Valiani explains that in this poem she attempts to “imagine and magnify a feminist ethic of care to a world scale, going far beyond women or caregivers or those in need of care.” This is love.

To love is also to give without expecting anything in return. And pain and suffering are displayed as the road to greater love, because when our own heart is broken, there is enough of it to go around—to do good to others, that is, so that their suffering can be minimized—as the poem “On love (xi)” poignantly reminds us: how many times can your heart be broken once after that the pieces are enough to go around (p. 43)

This is love in action ( going around ). Let’s love then, in all the endless ways required of all of us, so that we can inhabit the Abya Yala—“a land in its full maturity, a land of vital blood,” the one Great Love produced out of all our love. Our beingness demands it.


Poet, performer, and activist Tawahum Bige’s debut collection of poetry, Cut to Fortress, is a fireball of a book that dazzlingly redefines culture, place, and personhood out loud. As a spoken word performer and “page poet,” Bige is adept at bringing words on the page to life. The individual poems stand on their own but are also subtly linked to one another in order to generate one of the central transformations of the book, a ball of energy instanced most vividly in the poem “Transformer”: “our jobs / generate / our demise / building // one transformer / at a time.” In this eco-poem about the effects of Site C’s hydroelectric dam, four stanzas spread out on the page examine how the promise of pipelines undermines the environment and ultimately any basis for a culture.

The loveliness of this book is in the turning of the page to the following poem where “transformer” is redefined in Indigenous terms as figures who are “world-building: / star-enchanted change,” those spirits who are responsible for transformation that are more important than water to electricity for an overall system of greed. The next poem, “How the Elders Educate,” provides the basis for knowledge and culture: “stories oral / lived / relived.” Every poem in the collection has its strengths in voice, imagery, and passion, but I love this weaving of ideas that creates these longer patterns.

The redefinition of place is centred in the poem “Storm Call,” where an oil terminal is “locked up like a castle,” a medieval comparison where the oil terminal guards view themselves as knights. Bige counters the backwardness of this worldview by calling for an “ancient new paradigm,” invoking the wisdom of the past as we imagine our way together into a better future. A list of allies is presented and suddenly the land, until now weighted down in colonialist fantasy, is reenvisioned as both a place for providing food and a sacred spot where there are “fire keepers and time travelers / here — to call / lightning / down from a / clear blue sky.” In another


poem, “Too Abstract,” a poem is criticized in a workshop for lacking concreteness, but the speaker counters with the idea of concrete itself as a material extracted from the earth. The speaker also points out that the abstract word under question, colonization, “is a two-man saw: / a signed-in-blood, written-in-English / contract atop a forest cut to stumps / called fortress.” The stronghold of a fortress is redefined by the trees it has displaced in a way that echoes the earlier examination of concrete. Absence is another element that forms and shapes much of Cut to Fortress. In “how the elders educate,” one stanza is presented as an arc where “learned martyrs in the community / set the bar sky high / on their shoulders.” The white space of the page represents those who are part of the resistance against colonial practices. Elsewhere, in the poem entitled “Cartridge Discharges,” Colten Boushie is not named, but the defence of Boushie’s killer rests like hang fire in the title. This poem ends with the line “’til its tips touch cloud and scorch,” which enacts the oral potential of the page with the spoken version of “until.” That technique is used throughout the book, as is this intense alliteration, another feature of orality that lifts the voice off the page in its remembrance of those who have been taken.

The cover of Cut to Fortress bears the name “Tawahum Bige,” but the last poem in the collection outlines the process of a person’s transformation. The work of acknowledging resemblance and the cosmic potential in everyone (“What universes do you witness/ in us? / in me?”) is contrasted with the specificity of the speaker, who writes: “This is the flip side to the / pit dug deep inside of me / It holds massive volumes / worth living for.” The poem abounds in acts of redefinition, the speaker shifting in their self-identification from “I am asteroid collision,” a nod to a video game referenced elsewhere to “I am starry skies.” The final lines rename the author of the book: “Tawahum nitisîyihkâson / sezí Tawahum súlye // My name is North Star.”

Cut to Fortress is an important book of poetry about reimagining the world with its standard and stilted definitions. It’s a beautiful book rooted in insight: “We think we need a new way / when the secrets are hidden / in the old ways.”

/// LIGHTS OUT (DETAIL), 12’ x 24’, OIL ON PANEL, 2020 |
Image courtesy of the artist.


SACHA ARCHER is a Canadian writer and concrete poet. His most recent publication is the chapbook KIM, published by knife | fork | book. Other recent publications include Mother’s Milk (Timglaset), which was included on CBC’s best poetry books of 2020 list, Hydes (nOIR:Z), Jung Origami (Enneract Editions), and Immortality (Viktlösheten) as well as a collaborative sound poetry album with nina jane drystek, Years Between Rooms. Forthcoming are his books Empty Building from Penteract Press and cellsea from Timglaset. Find him on Facebook and Instagram @sachaarcher.

KATHERINE BARRETT is a writer and editor living in rural Nova Scotia. She’s the founder and editor of Understorey Magazine and managing editor of Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture and Social Justice. Her writing has appeared in The New Quarterly, The Antigonish Review, Existere, Quiddity International Literary Journal, and other publications.

NANCY JO CULLEN’S poetry and fiction have appeared in The Puritan, Grain, filling Station, Plenitude, Prairie Fire, Arc, This Magazine, Best Canadian Poetry 2018, Room, The Journey Prize, and Best Canadian Fiction 2012. Her fourth poetry collection is Nothing Will Save Your Life, available now from Wolsak and Wynn.

PREETI KAUR DHALIWAL (she/her) is a critical race feminist, writer, former lawyer, educator and facilitator who grew up on the traditional territories of the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen, Qayqayt, Tsawwassen and Musqueam First Nations (aka Surrey and North Delta, BC). With over 20 years of facilitation and teaching experience, Preeti is committed to arts-based methodologies as a source of personal and collective empowerment, transformation and community-building. You can find her on IG @write.with.preeti/@ jadooberry, or at linkt.ree/jadooberry.

LUCIANA ERREGUE (she/her) is a writer, editor, translator, reviewer, and founder of independent publishing

house Laberinto Press (BPAA Emerging Publisher of the Year Award), which publishes hyphened Canadian writing and world literature in translation. Her work has appeared in AGNI Magazine (US), The Selkie (UK), and Polyglot Magazine (Canada), among others. Luciana is a Banff Literary Arts Centre Alumni, maintains the blog SpectatorCurator, and is an activist for diversity in publishing in Canada.

KEITH GAREBIAN has published 27 books to date, eight of which are poetry collections, such as  Frida: Paint Me as a Volcano (2004),  Blue: The Derek Jarman Poems (2008),  Children of Ararat (2010),  Poetry is Blood (2018), and Against Forgetting (2019). Several of his poems have been anthologized in Canada and the US, and one of his Jarman poems was set to music for choir and instruments by Gregory Spears, in the company of a poem each by Thomas Merton and Denise Levertov. Garebian has been shortlisted for the Grit/Lit,  Freefall magazine, and the Gwendolyn MacEwen/Exile poetry awards, and some of his poems have been translated into French, Armenian, Hebrew, Bulgarian, and Romanian.

VANGE HOLTZ-SCHRAMEK’S (she/they) writing appears or is forthcoming in Canadian Literature, The Puritan, the Humber Literary Review, Fashion Studies, the Martlet, Grain Magazine, the chapbook Poems from the Round Room, the University of Toronto Quarterly, TEMPER, and Plenitude. Originally from the unceded territories currently known as British Columbia, Vange is a PhD candidate in communication, new media, and cultural studies at McMaster University in what is currently called Hamilton, ON, the traditional territories of the Mississauga and Haudenosaunee Nations.

TASLIM JAFFER is a writer, editor, and writing instructor with a special interest in culture, identity, and home. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction and is working on her memoir-in-essays. Her bylines include Maclean’s, CBC, Huffington Post Canada, WestCoast Families, Peace Arch News, Unearth Women, and more. Taslim has taught memoir and expressive


writing classes since 2015 in community and rehabilitative settings. She is inspired by family stories and the age-old question, “Who am I?” Taslim lives in Surrey, BC, with her husband, three children, and their dog. Visit her at and on Twitter/IG @taslimjaffer.

Chinese-Canadian writer CATHERINE LEWIS is a finalist for the Bisexual Book Awards’ 2021 Bi Writer of the Year. Her debut chapbook Zipless (845 Press) is a finalist for the 2021 Bisexual Book Award for Poetry. Shortlisted for Pulp Literature’s 2022 Magpie Award for Poetry, she was a finalist in creative nonfiction contests hosted by the Humber Literary Review, The Fiddlehead, and Room Magazine. A graduate of the Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University, she lives in Vancouver on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and TsleilWaututh peoples. Catch her on Twitter or Instagram at @cat_writes_604 or at

IRENE MARQUES is a bilingual writer (writing in English and Portuguese) and lecturer at Toronto Metropolitan University in the Department of English, where she teaches literature and creative writing. She holds a PhD in comparative literature, master’s in French literature and comparative literature, and a BA (Hon.) in French language and literature from the University of Toronto, as well as a bachelor of social work from Ryerson University. Her creative writing publications include the poetry collections Wearing Glasses of Water (Mawenzi House, 2007), The Perfect Unravelling of the Spirit (Mawenzi House, 2012), and The Circular Incantation: An Exercise in Loss and Findings (Guernica Editions, 2013), and the novels My House is a Mansion (Leaping Lion Books, 2015), Uma Casa no Mundo (Imprensa Nacional, 2021), and Daria (Inanna Publications, 2021). Uma Casa no Mundo won the Imprensa Nacional/ Ferreira de Castro Prize (Portugal). Her academic publications include the manuscript Transnational Discourses on Class, Gender and Cultural Identity

(Purdue University Press, 2011) and numerous articles in international journals or scholarly collectives.

JESSICA LEE MCMILLAN (she/her) is a teacher, civil servant and student at SFU’s The Writer’s Studio. Read her in Train Poetry Journal, SORTES, Gap Riot Press, Blank Spaces Magazine, Antilang, Tiny Spoon, Pinhole Poetry and others. Jessica lives in New Westminster, BC with her little family, large dog, and shelves of books and records. Her first chapbook is coming in 2023 from Rose Garden Press.

MARYAM RAFIEE immigrated to Canada in 2014. Her first book, Dear Baba (University of New Orleans Press, 2019), tells the story of her father’s imprisonment in Iran as a political prisoner. Her stories have appeared in Room, The Puritan, The Globe and Mail, and TNQ

ANDREA SCOTT is an MFA student at the University of British Columbia. An emerging writer, she was shortlisted for the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize and longlisted for both The Malahat Review’s 2020 Far Horizons Award for Poetry and the 2020 PRISM international Pacific Spirit Poetry Prize. She is a recent recipient of the SSHRC Canadian Graduate Scholarships Master’s Award. She has work forthcoming in Ireland’s Channel Magazine

SID SHARP is an artist and illustrator from Toronto who makes drawings, paintings, and comics. They are mostly interested in folklore, horror stories, and finding good sticks for their stick collection. Sid attended OCAD University, works in a bookstore, and published The Wolf Suit, their first graphic novel for kids, with Annick Press in October 2022.

Originally from Toronto, LOUISE SIDLEY lives in Rossland, BC. She earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Her stories have found homes in Canadian print and


American online journals. She is working on a novellength manuscript set in the Kootenays.

JAN SIMS is a writer and journalist. Jan’s play Get a Life was the co-winner of Best Production at the Red Curtain Short Plays Festival in 2021. Her full-length plays Gracious Living and Weight were performed at the Arts Project in London, ON, in 2019 and 2020. Jan’s one-act plays The Lost Treasure of Jesse James and Bed & Breakfast were performed at London’s Grand Theatre through the PlayWrights Cabaret. Her play A Day at the Beach was performed at the Newmarket National 10 Minute Play Festival. Jan’s short story “Things at the Centre of Unfulfillment” was published in Fleas on the Dog online magazine. Her career in television news

includes being a reporter and anchor in cities across Ontario including CTV London, Toronto, Barrie, and Sudbury. Jan is currently a contributor to the Middlesex Banner newspaper and has had articles published in Today’s Parent Magazine. She has an MA in journalism from Western University and a BA in drama and sociology from Queen’s University.

KEVIN SPENST is the author of Ignite, Jabbering with Bing Bong, Hearts Amok: a memoir in verse (Anvil Press), and over a dozen chapbooks. He teaches creative writing at Vancouver Community College and Simon Fraser University, and lives in Vancouver on unceded Coast Salish territory. ///

Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction PRIZE MONEY $1,250 ENTRY DEADLINE May 1, 2023 ENTRY FEE $25


KEITA MORIMOTO IS BEST KNOWN FOR HIS CITYSCAPES AND PORTRAITS painted with a mastery of light that is reminiscent of Rembrandt and Edward Hopper. He brings classical techniques into the present and transforms mundane streets into extraordinary worlds. Through his practice, Morimoto questions the structural fragility and moral codes of contemporary life by focusing his attention on everyday subjects such as vending machines, fast food restaurants, and parking lots. Using the historically symbolic motif of light, he combines its natural and sacred connotations with products of consumerist and industrial culture. Anonymous figures are inserted into ordinary scenes and depicted with controlled, theatrical light. Morimoto highlights the anonymous spaces of our daily lives, and with a dramatic contrast of darkness and light, suggests a “heterotopia,” a place to temporarily escape from the real world. These reimagined places of reflection and magic seem familiar but could be anywhere.

Keita Morimoto was born in Osaka, Japan, in 1990. He moved to Canada when he was 16 and graduated from the Ontario College of Art + Design in 2012. He currently lives and works in Tokyo. He has exhibited in Canada, Japan, and the United States. His work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto Canada (MOCA), Art Gallery of Peterborough, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Powerlong Museum Shanghai, and Fort Wayne Museum of Art.


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