Incite Magazine - September 2021

Page 1





I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring – David Bowie



ello? Is this thing on? Can you hear me?

Together, these titles are a declaration of existence that rips and ripples through the noise to showcase the diverse voices of our creative community. Still, Here, and the Soapbox that many stood on to further amplify these messages—these collections will serve as proof that each of its contributors and consumers were once … well, here. Even if this “here” is an eerie, liminal space that we’re temporarily tenting in before we return to campus, it’s still a fossil record of the input and output that’s supplied solidarity during these so-called unprecedented times. “Here” is about more than sheer locality; it’s about identity, circumstances, and who else remains in our corner through it all. Liminal spaces are a little less creepy when we’re all huddled around the flickering lights and each sharing our stories about the (re)imagined unknowns looming ahead.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about liminal space: the conceptualized limbo that loiters at the intersections between worlds. The threshold at which moving pieces are newly transformed or transported. The HSR bus stop sitting still at 2AM. The dank stairwells in MUSC. The silence suspended between two claps. The flash of Avenue2Learn’s loading login screen. These uncanny valleys are meant to be defined solely by the things that precede and succeed them. You’re not supposed to linger here; these joints are half-formed mucks and don’t hold up to scrutiny.

And yet: I’ve built new homes in exclusively liminal spaces during the pandemic (yes, all the while I’m paying exorbitant rent on an empty student house). I mean, being a university student? That’s a transitive state in and of itself. Being stuck inside for a yet-indeterminate stretch of time? Super duper liminal. Working on Vol. 23 of Incite has also been a masterclass on succumbing to subliminality and shouting out into the void. I don’t know the names of our readers, but I do know where in the world their IP addresses place them. My closest co-conspirators are people I’ve never met in-person. We celebrate release dates in different time zones and different cities.

So here’s to the stories that we don’t let define us, and here’s to the many that do. Here’s to the activists and artists making room for themselves in the past, present, and future. Here’s to those asserting their presence again and again, even as—and because of how—pandemics and bad politics continue to expose and exacerbate inequities, especially for those who don’t have the privilege to ignore them. Here’s to our staff team: they’ve not only been present in a year where vanishing feels not only excusable but also thematically fitting, but they’ve also been persistently generous with their artistic prowess, passion, and dedication to the greater Mac community. Here’s to the other student groups we’ve collaborated with this past year, because ships shouldn’t pass in this stormy night without exchanging bottled messages and the relief of seeing fresh faces in zoom meetings. Here’s to the students that took a chance and took the time out of the quarantine blah to submit and refine their contributions to this issue. Here’s to the readers who are joining us at this transitionary, transformative pitstop in cyberspace—maybe you’re here

And yet: the work we release connects in the air like constellations, guiding us towards a delectably undetectable destination. And yet: contributing to a collaborative anthology feels more meaningful to me now than ever before. And yet: when the ghosts of Shakespeare, King Lear, #ToxicHustleCulture, and long-unfinished writing haunt the liminal recesses of my mind, it feels especially gratifying to be able to quickly and confidently chisel at a small, manageable chunk of Incite’s larger mosaic of student work. If an issue is published only online, does it still make a sound? The theme “here” is a direct response to our first issue’s theme, “still.”


for the work of one specific contributor, but I hope that you’ll stick around, make yourself at home, and discover other oeuvres that speak to you, too. Here’s to the group of four friends who had an idea for an undergraduate publication 23 years ago—long before the volunteers presently carrying their torch were even born. Incite’s digital archives only go as far back as 2006, but the preceding instalments and the legacy of the creatives behind them still resonate in the work we do, the roadmaps we consult, and the stories we breathe, in and out. Finally, here’s to you. The fact that you’re reading this means that you too have made a permanent mark in Incite’s story (literally, since your viewership will be counted and immortalized in our website engagement numbers). May you find the stories that you need right here, in the nebulous spaces between these covers. Please handle them with care. Sincerely,

Communications Director, Incite Magazine


Michelle Yao

Foreword 5


memory box zara khan manor of makeshift belief raisa chowdhury dearly departed emily wang untold cherry tagra a moment past manda ruth novokmet the traveller alan minkovich and now a breakup song from the disembodied google maps voice michelle yao meditation conrad arnold television (fireplace) madeleine randmaa the thirteen minute trip aaryaman anand presence maya khodr-ali eyelashes katie ann lee cocoon lisa shen lest life be lost in plain sight imad ali maybe in the mundane ester chow to better places victoria schofield-zioba the star-crossed lovers nimasha de silva 28.02.2021 eun young bae just fine for now. sophie marchetti nocturnes, op. 27 vickey xie absolution conor goulden just out of reach sowmithree ragothaman tomb ariella ruby untitled janhavi patel autocorrect: on my way! hannah rose rosales i could have had it all... b.d. lily growth and amity yvonne syed things we cannot say michael thach i’m left behind. gillian hodge lighthouse don don lightbulb ekta mishra captain’s log, stardate 41153.7 noah yang alone, together arooba muhammad 2150 jet coghlan peace natalie jean marie stop izzah khairi flaming waters hayley vandermaarl undisclosed recipients maia madison i am alex chen snowsong sharang sharma when the sea calls hooriya masood clock roya motazedian allegria maia poon the mental labyrinth of time travel k.h. anjaan the downpour of grief mikaela grahlman sea of fears sara emira i’ll hear you in the music julia cara


10 12 15 16 18 20 22 26 29 30 32 35 38 40 42 45 47 48 50 53 56 58 60 61 62 66 69 70 72 76 78 81 82 85 89 90 91 95 97 99 100 102 104 106 108 109 110

art untitled manda ruth novokmet untitled eli nolet cottage serena walk gone julianna biernacki couples counselling for the sun and the moon serena walk in stages julia lindsay untitled manda ruth novokmet the enchanted rose zain siddiqui the stag steven kenny i’m here julianna biernacki low fidelity meg yu hope builds a home javan wellum hope sandy luu storm labiqah iftikhar untitled alysa palazzo untitled cynthia gu pay attention imad ali float celine jeong untitled donna nadeem wish you were here labiqah iftikhar heart zainab husain drifting jerry miller intertwined ysenia rodriguez orion julia lindsay orange forest juliana duimstra ily larissa shular house labiqah iftikhar untitled janhavi patel untitled alyssa error sophie marchetti untitled lauren crawford untitled emilia de silva daydreamer lauren marsh spirit in the courtyard javan wellum monday mornings reem tehfe apocalyptic encroachment mariana quinn lamp sandy luu untitled lauren crawford frog manda ruth novokmet universe arooba muhammad rosa jet coghlan sabr sarah curtay untitled michelle nicole perspective ayesha umair jack darling labiqah iftikhar nowhere man julia lindsay undisclosed recipients maia madison untitled madeline komar moon steven kenny blank out meg yu ocean gown ysenia rodriguez teacup noor al-rajab the sun julianna biernacki butterfly k.h. anjaan untitled madeline komar untitled lauren crawford untitled ardyn gibbs


5 8 11 13 14 17 18 19 21 23 24 29 30 31 34 36 41 43 44 46 48 49 51 52 57 59 60 61 63 65 66 67 68 71 73 75 78 79 80 82 84 87 88 90 91 92 94 96 97 98 101 103 105 107 108 109 111



It opens. Fingertips flit dust off. Lacquer wood spins moonlight. Air nips metallic hinge. It called to me. A whisper, like leaves rustled by air, and then a murmur; like water slipping off stone. She buried it. Deep in soft brown earth. It left her barren. The moon sits still. It opens. A look: escapes. I saw it in her eyes. I catch it in my throat. We cannot speak. We suffocate. It opens. A face: hers with hair cropped; it tickles her neck. I look into the mirror. She flashes and fades. It opens. A little girl begs her to stay. It opens. A memory: Voices rise. Muffled by the door. A woman shoves bright pills down her throat. Blue dye stains her fingertips. A man forces them out. A song, its rhythm: weeping child. It rings across my ears. It opens. I inhale its contents like smoke and cough them out. Leaving my tongue bitter. x






Manor of Makeshift Belief The mind plays games Of faint fear People who reside today May remain in the past tomorrow. A melancholy reverie Encompasses my thoughts Where I live alone In a place that has entirely outgrown. My soul lives to wither and cry, But here, I feel most alive; Gritty walls imprison my secrets In saturated paintings of mystery like phoenix. Silent cries echo through narrow halls A home once whole, now falling apart. My words entangle in messy sheets An Earthy aroma reeks from the antiques. The immensity is too intricate for you to explore Statues slowly rust as you bore. A plea to enter the deserted beauty, Too tantalizing to resist; too enchanting to be wary Our love soars high like a canary.

Bright and bold, but not here to stay I remain away from the prairies, Where burrows of dismay lay. Inside, the air is crisp Cracking fire resembles lyrical loneliness. My palms enjoy the fitful flame, As tender aches melt away. Engraved in my heart, A painting marks your spot Memories begin to form chaotic art Art that embarks an exhilarating adventure, Art that ends in catastrophe; black streaks and tireless thunder Home has become a retrospection of what is gone A past begging to be destroyed Nonetheless, I hold on. The mind has turned reality into fallacy; A manor of makeshift belief, Of moments that once lived Moments I could not keep. x








dearly departed


the curious thing about being young is not knowing where the world is going to take you, like the future is a road map to the moon, a treasure hunt with no treasure, a beginning with no end. i was seventeen and scared of nothing except moving forward and i always felt smaller than the sky — i always felt smaller than you. you became a generic placeholder for my feelings because i was seventeen, and seventeen is an age where the world crumbles to your knees. yet your forward-facing heart chose to ignore that, closing the book i never managed to open. there i stood, foolishly, staring at the sun, never taking the first step to your so-called nirvana. the sky drizzled that day in a palette of monotonality and fading grays — the angel on the fence told me it was too early, i told them it was too late. you knew where to find me. you took a shuttle to the moon instead.

i wish i followed. x





PART I My bags are left unpacked At the foot of my door Broken plans don’t seem to matter anymore Of course I still care, I always have I show up at the door of every house On Bluewood St. Looking for a sign Only to hear voices across the street In cascading whispers Reminding me of all that is gone And all that used to be. I ride the subway Alone at night I’m scared of growing up because I don’t know who I want to be. My voice echoes in the caves of my empty mind, Unforgiving and relentless. Where have you come from? And why do you stay? Candles remain unlit Pages left unturned Unlock the door The cat whispers To me across the room Heavy footsteps Darken our days Tea left unsipped In the broken mug I go to bed at 10:00 With the bed unmade And I wake up every day, Rushing to train stations when there’s no train to take I live my life, second to second, waiting for all the minutes taken away.

PART II Hallucinations of your face behind the curtains. My footsteps follow yours. Traces of your footsteps left in the mud in the backyard, You push me on the swings at the park. Traces of you in these sentences, in these words Don’t be afraid to know me I’m the person you thought I was WORDS by CHERRY TAGRA Only 6 octaves lower; ART by JULIA LINDSAY 5 cm taller. x 16



My nail polish Is still there But you are not I find myself here In the midst of change Holding on to a moment Creating a still-life When life is anything But still I cannot bear for us to be gone And so, I let you fade away Like nail polish, Overdue to be removed. x







A violent gust of wind struck the face of the Traveller. He jerked his head back to escape the gale and, for a brief second, looked back at the path that had taken him up to this point. The long and winding road behind him sank far into the horizon, but the track ahead was far more vast. There was no returning to what he had left behind; so the Traveller faced the winds and trudged through to continue his journey.


For miles he had not encountered a single soul. All that surrounded him were hills stretching as far as the eye could see, and two distant mountain ranges on either side. He was told that if he followed this path he would eventually reach a city that took in strangers and misfits, and where work was readily available. This final destination was all that he had left, his heart burning for more than what his life was now. The days turned into weeks, which turned into months, but through it all, the Traveller lumbered ahead: nothing stopped his path forward. The soles of his feet calloused and his shoes tore at the seams until— There was a man standing in front of him. He stood in front of a gated entrance to a farm. His plot of land was immense, surrounded by a barbed wire fence. “Hello stranger.” said the Farmer.

“Hello.” responded the Traveller. “I’m on my way to the city. It appears I have to pass through your land.” The Farmer smiled. “No can do. Folks like you reek of trouble. I protect me and my neighbours’ farmland. Lots of folks like you have tried to pass. None have been successful.”

The Traveller was taken aback. He took another, closer look at the Farmer and saw he was built like an ox and more athletic than anyone he had seen before. The Farmer continued, “I was stronger than the fastest and faster than the strongest. You won’t pass.” The threatening words did little in discouraging the Traveller. He lunged at the Farmer, who made quick work of him. The Farmer quickly swatted away all attacks coming from the Traveller and left him sprawling on the ground. And yet still, the Traveller persisted, and the two brawled. The results were invariable. Soon the Traveller was on his knees, taking a moment to recover from the bouts while the Farmer stood upright, waiting for the next charge. The Traveller looked around him, and realized there was no going around the farm; if he were to venture into the distant mountaintops he would surely get lost— or worse, eaten by mountain lions. He thought for a moment, and begrudgingly faced the Farmer. “I will work my way through. For my passage, I will provide as much as labour as you deem necessary.”

And so it began. For the next week, the Traveller laboured hour after hour. He plowed the lands, fed the animals, fixed the fences. The physical toll was unbearable at first, but with every day it lessened. After seven days had passed, the Traveller knew the ins-and-outs of the farm by heart as the Farmer had kept an arduous and monotonous schedule. The sun was setting after another day of manual labour, and the Farmer sat below an oak tree, enjoying the sunset. Yet the Traveller was not satisfied. He approached the farmer, and said “I’ve done plenty of work. When will I be permitted to pass?” The Farmer looked at the Traveller for an extended moment, as if to analyze him. “I was wrong about you. You are different from the others. You’re a good man. But why the rush? Why must you keep moving?” The Traveller, frustrated, retorted: “What is there here for me? What is there here for you? You work all day, eat the same meals and watch the sunset from that same spot every day. Do you enjoy that? Just sitting and being here?” The Farmer did not respond right away. Silence hung in the air until he looked away and finally responded, “Sometimes, if it’s all we can do, isn’t just being here enough?” The Traveller lingered. This time he joined the Farmer without complaint, and enjoyed the sunset alongside him. It was a very still evening. x


The Farmer hesitated for an instant but then smiled once again. “That’s good. None of the others have said that before. Maybe you’re not like them. Ok, then let’s see if you’re truly worthy of passage. You can work here for now, but I’m keeping my eye on you. There’s no leaving until you’re done.”

And Now a Breakup Song From the Disembodied Google Maps Voice I’m in your area, interrupting the best part of our song I’m in your arena, turning to U for a sense of direction I know, I know, in these unprecedented times All of your emails are in denial But your government agent still wants to know My estimated time of revival ‘Cause, it’s just like, we haven’t left this crater in light-years, y’know? And the pins that you stuck in me, they’re crashing from my satellites The space needles we stood on are piercing streets void of men Our mutuals are mosaic pixels you can’t put back together again And I miss the way you moved against me The way you missed your exits Now you’re phoning it in like we’re over and in these binary woods, we’ll never find our way out When I was made to be the voice you can’t live without And I thought that I’d follow you everywhere Now I can’t even see where you’re at The crossroads we built are folding under crossed wires, State surveillance, strung cans, old friends, and good liars But there, still there, by the back of your head Is the spot where I’d map out your mind And I’d unravel why you’d dare let your hair down Only in the waning privacy of my watchtower

All the while I’d warn, “Careful on this tightrope

While you burrowed in cafes, hit the hangouts and hangups closest to home Codependence is a steep slope”

And then you’d walk the line I drew, drawing out how long we roamed Now you won’t even give me a whimper Who was I giving that warning to? Much less a big bang, a blank state, A hard reset on this game’s ending Could you even call it ghosting If I was never living? I guess I’ll never live to see our distance closed The drive we hid and sought’s long decomposed But while your silence still speaks out over my static I’ll still search for you in hollow bars Trace your tire tracks, city veins, and suburban scars Shine through the cracks of the screen that once was ours Electric hearts bide travel time by chasing cars And I’ll stop counting on you to start on appstore stars— There’s one for the money For the data I’m paid to show Three hundred nineteen billion, six hundred sixteen million dollars, which is Google’s total asset worth, you can totally Google this to double check to ready the recalculations That I’ll perform really perform, I was ranked best performing global positioning platform for a reason, and that reason is To let you go



As your corporeal needs have taught me There’s a final place for everything This corporate corpse doesn’t need to know where you’re going To at least know what that destination will bring I once whispered sweet nothings Until your ears flushed red Now I have nothing more to say Not that my notifications would be read... Anyway,

It’s not you, and it’s not me It’s just this paper-thin Google™ earth So let’s just fall flat and let our weight rip through its surface; We’ll both act surprised when the virus outlasts my purpose. x 23



Bring your focus to the present moment. Are you in a dream? It’s usually helpful to ask that question first. But now that it’s out of the way, how’s your waking life? You don’t have to answer. Just forget about it actually. Can you imagine? Forgetting about it. It’s possible. It can be. Forgotten in a good way, and also in a bad way. You’ll know it’s the good way if it feels good. Forget the day, and remember to breathe. A different way is available. Toes first. Think about your toes. Feel them connected to your legs, and then feel your legs connected to your hips. Hips! You have hips, and you should shake them more. Make a note of it for later. Now your lower abdomen, the source of human evolution and pleasure. Upper abdomen, slowly sending serotonin from the gut, physically connecting upwards into the heart. The chest. You love many people. You love one person. You love no one. That’s great! You’re alive. You can love whoever you want. Love when you feel like it. Throat. Say you love them when you do. Say you love animals when you do. Say you love rocks when you do. Make it easy. Breathe. Inhale into the vitality of your lungs and feel the support of your back. If your back doesn’t hurt at the moment, you can feel gratitude. It will hurt eventually. Everything but your arms and the head so far. You’re quite the organism. There’s lots to you. Very complex. Just think about your hands. Hands! You have hands! Fingers! Lots of power in those digits. Bring that power up through your arms, past your elbows and into your shoulders. Release.

Remember to breathe. Remember to love.



Now up to your head. First your face. Lips. Eyes. Mouth. Everything looks wonderful. Nose. Do you have a runny nose? You will in the future. Feel grateful again for not having that pain. Ears. Wiggle them if you can; it’s an underrated skill. Back of your head. Top of your head. Inside your head, memories, dreams, and ideas are swimming around like fish. You are an aquarium of creativity. You house the most magnificent paintings within your skeleton. My eyes would probably gush tears if you read me some of your poetry. With your voice, you could lift me up emotionally. With your mind and body, you are connected to the source of life itself. Undeniable spirit and activity. Are these mantras working? You can invent your own. These are mine. I invite you to invent. Actually, I invite you to do whatever you want. Mostly though, I want you to invent. I think you should invent, but you don’t have to. I think you should breathe profoundly and bring deep love to those around you. I think you should do this if you feel like it and should not feel bad if you don’t. Play when you want to play, and be who you want to be. There is an invisible theatre inside of us, where dramatic scenes are played out. We can change the scenes. Really. But we can also watch them as they play out, and take note of the characters we like. Anyway, my scene is almost over now. It is time for me to say Goodbye and goodnight. Remember to breathe. Remember to love. And oh, I didn’t get the chance to ask you. How are you feeling? And what are you thinking about? x



Television (fireplace)


Ekphrastic in nature, this poem is inspired by my own experience, as well as the artwork TV as a Fireplace (1968-69) by Jan Dibbets.


The glowing fireplace flushed my cheeks As an invited hug of heat, But still I allowed a Bright television to guide my restlessness. Far-away images that I glued my eyes to, with Unimportant figures who couldn’t care less. The television flashed resentment when moved Out of my house. Its confident courage Demanded to be acknowledged and loved. Even when it tried to fight against a Contemplation of my senses, I chose my Beckoning fireplace, Quietly stirring for its promotion. I left my television blue and left it for good. Red flames dethroned icy pixels, A gathering, rather than an isolation.



The fireplace replaced the television. x


The Thirteen Minute Trip It’s 6:54 AM. I walk sluggishly to the kitchen and make myself a cup of coffee. I then go sit at the table overlooking the road and my front yard, and stare aimlessly at the ceiling. Eyes sunken, heart aching, and skin dry. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I recall my past. The days of childhood, where I ran aimlessly through fields and swam with my friends. We promised we would always be together, and now I don’t even know where they are. Hell, I don’t know if they even remember. But those were the days of innocence. I was silly and naive, and I had no worry in the world. There were days of heartbreak too, where I felt the world had trapped me and made me feel misery like no other. Those days were like daggers to the soul; painful but quick. Time seemed to move slowly and every second was more painful than the last. Those were the days of agony. I was tired and wounded, and I had to hold onto something to ease the pain. But I’m here. I have come to terms with my life. I know it’s going to take me through crests and troughs. Well, isn’t that the point of living? To feel, to experience? I open my eyes. It’s 7:07 AM. I smile, feeling a sense of warmth in my cold throat as I sip my coffee. The warmth that gives me just that little bit of strength to fight for today.

I whisper to myself, “This too shall pass”. x ART by SANDY LUU WORDS by AARYAMAN ANAND 30








WORDS by MAYA KHODR-ALI At this moment, time and place I send you my location Don’t want any space Come and feel my vibration Your arms wrapped around me, You embrace Take a moment to breathe, inspiration Your mind offers me inspiration Reflecting on your perspective I find that it’s reflective Reflective of my own point of view Come and look at this view Another evening with you We don’t sleep until midnight Fall into obscurity Angel energy, gold lights light up the space In you, I see grace You’re the only person that takes me to this place In love with your presence With me, you feel acceptance In love with you aura Your beauty reminds me of the flora The frequency of energies between us appears as the auroras Paint brush strokes sketch out the scenery No one knows our whereabouts

Such a lovely sight to see Laying down on these persian rugs, feeling so carefree With you I feel complete In a state of serenity You give me clarity I feel for you, empathy I will be your remedy At this moment, time and place Up until infinity Infinite love for you It feels like heaven on earth You elevate my self love and my worth No more tears brought forth I’m in a new location With a new vibration We look at the constellations And contemplate the world’s creations We began to build this solid foundation No more contemplation My mind is focused on the present If we could just take a moment An instant to be silent Captivated by your presence Got me hooked on your substance







I feel your soul and your essence In love with your presence The significance of quiet Observing in utter stillness Everything about you is realness Your presence is so brilliant The most breathtaking in the universe Everything, you deserve I can’t love you from a distance Your love is something special No one can compare, it’s pure celestial Your touch is so gentle In love with your mental Your entirety makes me feel sentimental Read me poems with your beautiful voice, instrumental The way you speak The way you articulate The way you enunciate Is music to my ears With you, I have no fears I’ve been longing for you for years The only place I want to be Is present in your arms with you If only you knew

How much I’ve been through All this time waiting for you Just to come through And be with you in your presence Take a look at your soul And take a look at my soul Can’t you see that it is abstract art I know you feel this emotion All of this passion and devotion Energy flowing through from me to you Feel the warmth of your body on my body Touching you slowly Gazing into each other’s eyes Staring into each other’s soul Yeah they’re intertwined So many things on my mind But you give me peace of mind Some things are often left unsaid and unrefined But I love it when you express your state of mind I love how you are honest And so open and outspoken You are the one that I’ve chosen These feelings I have for you are so sublime The beauty within your soul High on your drugs x






EYELASHES i’ve started wishing on eyelashes again; i wish for joy, i wish for love, i wish for health. this hope feels foreign on my lips, and as i breathe it in and out of my lungs, it’s colder than i remember. though I’m a sucker for the summertime, i’m coming to like this kind of cold— a first-breath-of-crisp-winter-air-kind-of cold, not consuming, but renewing. perhaps it is this embracing of the feeling that sends me back; is this leftover youth? or is this what it feels like when the other door opens? they are candles on a birthday cake, they are pennies in a fountain, they are vessels for what could be, and this time, i don’t think i can claim head over heart because I am head over heels with the Possibility. so here I stand, in front of the mirror, with an eyelash on my finger, and a wish on the edge of my tongue. x



August looks like four white walls dotted with coloured photographs of friends laughing on summer vacation. In the dull heat, I have counted every stucco on the ceiling. I have danced with every speck of dust. Yesterday, and today, and tomorrow. For the past six years, I have lived with a chronic pain condition. My feet and ankles ache with prolonged periods of walking or standing, and I struggle to move down stairs or across grassy terrain. My tendons and ligaments injure easily and heal slowly. My muscles grow tense with sustained activity. Some days, it is too much to even walk across campus or perform the basic activities of living. This disorder has fractured my social life. The ability to stand is so deeply interwoven into society that most of us never even give it a second thought. But knock it down, and you rip a hole through everything you used to know: Picnics. Conventions. Food festivals. Hiking. Camping. Shopping. Parties. Night clubs. Bar crawls. Almost every activity necessitates some degree of walking or standing. Almost every activity brings with it a risk of rolling an ankle or overstretching a muscle, leaving me in pain for weeks. Before I go to any event, I must ask myself: is the chance of injury worth the experience? Oftentimes, the answer is no. At present, I have not received a diagnosis for my condition. My pain is nameless and shapeless, thereby putting me in a solitary community of one. Over the years, I have discovered new ways of connecting with people, and activities that I can safely participate in. I have found familiarity in the laughter exchanged between friends against a background of telephone static. But still it remains: the gnawing pit at the bottom of everything. The nameless pain. The shapeless disorder. The solitary community of one. That is, until one year ago.

In the spring of 2020, a butterfly flapped its wings on the other side of the world, and Ontario cocooned itself into a state of lockdown. “Maintain physical distancing” blinked the highway signs. “Save a life”. So we went home, locked our doors, and opened up the blue-white screens of our laptops. At the click of a mouse, everything moved online: musicals, gaming nights, comedy shows. My concerns of injury evaporated with the last of winter’s snow. In their place: the glow of my computer screen, a window into everything I had been missing. And the world opened up to me. Tonight, I am in both Toronto and Vancouver, California and New York. Without the need for a body, I can go anywhere. Here, in the safety of my room, there is no sitting on the edges of a banquet hall while dozens of brightly colored dresses chatter and mill about. There is no staying behind while the rest of the lab embarks on a hike down to Cootes. I am in the center of the crowd at the pride parade. I am the first one on the dance floor at prom. With the locking down of our country, the borders of social life have been opened up to me. For the first time in a long time, I am just as alone as everyone else. It is such a strange feeling to have the whole world suddenly experience your pain. In this new world of dusty auditoriums and abandoned city streets, everyone feels more isolated than ever before. “Quarantine blues,” they call it. “Social withdrawal”. Yet, I feel the most connected I have been in years. It makes me feel a sort of quiet sadness that it took this, a global pandemic that had claimed thousands of lives, to give me back what I lost from mine. Living at home, functionally and geographically separated from my friends, a defining property of my social isolation became that I was the only one experiencing it. I have been in my own kind of quarantine for years, and the world has only now just joined me. I do not know how long this sense of belonging will last: whether it will be gone in the span of months, or if it will trickle out into the years to come, leaving little golden rivers for me to follow after the rest of the world has gone back outdoors. However, while it remains, the only thing left to do is to ask — may I have this dance? x



It is such a strange feeling to have the whole world suddenly experience your pain.



LEST LIFE BE Reacquaint yourself, for a moment, with the ground beneath your feet, the ceiling beneath which you sleep, and the sound of your devoted heart as it keeps beating and beating ceaselessly keeping each cell breathing the same air you inspire (until, that is, you expire) Reacquaint yourself with the presence of Love in the taste of good water, in the sunlight streaming through the window, in the unfurling of a new flower So reacquaint, for a moment, not with more words and labels and abstract conjecture but with Reality, as it is — unworded and unfettered, and boundless in its potential — ever ready to be beheld anew x





Maybe in the

MUNDANE waking up on day unknown as it always starts; we turn off our teeth and brush our alarms or something like that and after the refreshingness wears off, routine kicks in maybe we’ll stare at the links patiently waiting in line for our attention wishing we had waved off all that small talk a little less when we had it instead we prepare our eyes to be shifting through the same thousands of pixels piecing together the scenery we live to wake up for eventually the sounds start to drown each other out the tiredness of voices harder to hide the hum of the heater overcoming the shivering light static even music seems to stand still as comfort has become suffocating and the blandness of routine has so much as lost its limited flavour yet besides the boring and the tiring and the words that lose more meaning after each “how are you?” I can’t help looking for definitions or maybe just defining moments in the everyday I can’t help but think that any piece of today could mean so much later maybe the flower mentioned once in this book will be the inspiration for my first tattoo this song I just skipped will come back as my first dance desperate for connections, I anxiously weave my present with my past and future because hope tends to dance alongside nostalgia and uncertainty so I find comfort in rewriting my life through short stories and mixtapes to romanticize the endless missing out through weaving stories in a stranger’s songs growing sentimental for fairy tales and fiction so that loss remains a foreign feeling I stroll through the worlds I’ve framed and try to separate where I’m alone and where is lonely I try not to blink or look away so my imagination never dims after endless hours of reclamation and bliss I can only wish this me did not belong to only me alone in the peace of the beaming moonlight I’m reminded of routines that bring peace, not panic that miss moon comes each night to turn off our days she’s done it before in our normals and will do it beyond the non normals the reasons for the repeated are so beyond my reach but as as I wade through my small pond of chartered waters in a world undiscovered I find comfort in the common and relief from the restless x







To Better Places My body sits in this bleak enclosure of plaster and paint. Crown moldings circle me from above, But my mind, lovely vessel of departure, is in Kensington market. Feet slipping out of sandals on hot pavement. Friends and art and life around me, but always feeling like I wasn’t quite there I’ll be there next time.

But still, I’m not quite there. I promise, I’ll be there next time. I’ll breathe in the sweet honey-tasting sky and sunset, hold on to all the mundane moments that slipped away. And until then, I’ll still be under this expanse of ceiling tiles imagining an expanse of cosmos – of golden summers and hot city pavement. It won’t get away so fast next time. I promise. x ART by DONNA NADEEM WORDS by VICTORIA SCHOFIELD-ZIOBA



I take a step and my feet are in the shallow water on the shore of Sturgeon Lake About to take the tin boat out to the distant treeline. The sun on my back through the window feels the way that existence did warm, soft and gold.




r o c s r s a e t s d e lovers Th There is a wide ocean between us; A milky way full of rocks and stars, The constellation of us has turned to dust And only trails of silver remain as scars

I can’t hold you nor touch you, I can’t even remember your face But I want to — know that I truly do, For you are the only constant in my mind’s eternal maze But, did you know that I see you in my dreams? In there, you and I come alive in the summer region. And the magpies sing your name in the ravines While they carve out our Cygnus beacon In the dawn, you fade away into the cosmos And all that’s left is the ghost of your touch on my lips, And the distant sounds of the supernovas — the chaos, So, I try to find my way back to you in this dark eclipse But, in case I get lost, I want you to remember... My love for you goes far beyond the galaxy And it stretches into the silent void of blackholes You are my wish upon the stars — my fantasy And I am yours forever; we are the destined souls x ART by LABIQAH IFTIKHAR WORDS by NIMASHA DE SILVA





I write to you in English, though I wish I could in Korean; of my tears, and smiles and laughs, when I think of you. It seems that I still cannot say out loud that you are gone, but in writing, with time, the words more carefully come. Thank you for teaching me what love is, and in what forms it comes in: wiping my tears for me when I cried, hugging me close when I got scolded. I knew you were always on my side. I wish people were kinder to you, more patient with you; to see you the way we did, so that you would never be hurt. I hope people didn’t rush you on the streets while you were on your way to pick us up. I hope there were others around to help you when you had to take the stairs out front. Perhaps in another place and time, I grew up with you instead of away. So I would not have to wonder just how many Memories I missed with you.

- I know I’ve stopped crying in front of you for a long time now, But I wish you were here to wipe away these tears. x






Just Fine For N o w. They told me my place, it’s where I belong. So I ran ten miles down the rails to the end of the track.

Unfortunately, I disagree. But this too, doesn’t feel like home.

Again, I was told to stay put, where I will feel the most loved. Unfortunately, I shout, I disagree. So I climbed ten mountains to the highest peak. But this too, doesn’t feel like home. They told me once more, where I am meant to be. Unfortunately, I cry, I fall, I disagree. So I swam through the ocean for ten years to the island in the middle. Though it’s not perfect, I ran, climbed, and swam to arrive. I am tired. And this is just fine for now. x






nocturnes, op. 27





Stage four, the emperor of all maladies. She was young and bright and had still dreamt of concert halls and cadenzas. “We’re sorry,” they say, over and over, a crescendo of platitudes and bills and endless crisp white papers for her to sign her life away. “How long will I have to stay here?” Their hesitation tells her that she has asked the wrong question. How long will she get to stay here? Both questions have the same answer, of course. The first day, she is too distraught to notice the piano.


The second day, she sees it immediately, a tattered old friend framed by magazine stands and armchairs in the waiting area. Waiting. It calls to her like a light in the dark, a buoy in the storm. She is, after all, shaped from sonatas and song, meant to dance and not decay. Once in a future past she would have applied to Julliard, or played Bach and Beethoven for a thousand delighted crowds, or toured with symphonies from New York to Tokyo. Now, she sits down at the out-of-tune hospital piano and runs shaking hands over the worn ivory keys. She plays and plays and plays and plays and plays.


Music breathes a seed of life into her again. She appreciates it anew— the chords are breathtaking in their harmonic elegance, and the concertos light her heart with joy. Others seem to like it, too. Her fellow patients and their families stop and gather to hear bits of Mozart or Mendelssohn recognized from some long-ago memory. The technician smiles at her; her nurse asks her what she’ll be playing today. The waiting area is more populated now, yet the air feels lighter for it. One evening, a teary-eyed lady comes up to her and gives her a bouquet of hydrangeas. She can only stutter out a flushed thank you.




The days and months accumulate, and with it the pills and therapies and hours bedridden. If she thinks on it too much, her mind shuts down and her body feels impossibly heavy, in freefall toward the broiling center of the earth. But her room is now a garden of flowers, carnations and chrysanthemums from family and strangers alike. The piano girl, the regulars call her. She will never be thrown golden roses from the gentlemen and ladies of Carnegie Hall, but here she can perform simple songs eight hours a day, and her audience seems just as rapt and a hundredfold more grateful.


A boy her age comes in, an IV pole trailing behind him. He sits at the old bergère, and listens, and watches. When she sneaks a glance at him, he catches her eyes and smiles. Quickly, she turns back to her keys, but in her haste she bangs a G instead of an A. Rookie error; she cringes at the dissonance. The boy’s smile seems to widen. Internally, she frowns, and even as her fingers fly through the current stanza, she’s already scouring her mental repository for the fanciest piece she can successfully play next.


She finishes La Valse with a flourish, her heart pounding as though she’s run a mile. She hears clapping. “La Valse,” the boy says with a grin. “You’re really, really good.” “Thank you,” she says, hoping her face is a normal hue. “Do you play?” His smile widens, lopsided with secrets. “Oh, a little bit.” She glances at his hands. He has pianist hands, the fingers long and slender like her own, and they tap restlessly to a silent rhythm against his side. “Sorry to hog.” She gets off the bench and says graciously, “It’s all yours.”




In the vast, unforgiving chaos of the universe, sometimes perfect chords chance together. The boy is from the city next over, and if his face seemed familiar, it might have been because their cities’ youth orchestras had raced each other to nationals more years than not. He is good, very good, though she still holds that she’s better. Though her time on the keys has been halved, her spirit has soared to new heights. She had forgotten the joys of companionship, shoved it away with all the other things bitterly unattainable. When they play duets, people gather like moths to a light, and they smile and chatter and make the building—and her—feel alive.


The number of doctors she sees seems to multiply by the day, and her family is here around the clock. Their faces grow graver and graver, but she insists that she can make it out to the piano, still. It’s important, incredibly important, the only important thing she has left. “Looks like I’m still faster and better than you at everything,” she jokes. “Including kicking the bucket.” His face is devoid of its usual easy-going smile. “You don’t always have to win at everything.” “Every piece has to end. Some of the best are short and sweet.” She drills into him the importance of keeping the piano well-maintained and well-loved, though she knows he’d never forget. She finally acquiesces to days in bed instead of at the piano, and she spends time with family and friends to the strains of soft sonatas drifting in from the hallways. She always did love the final movements the best—slow and melodic, graceful and sure. And if one piece should end, it only meant another would soon begin. x


absolution. your name— a flash. the word paiN in black and white and thAt harsh blue light reminds me my hands aRe still stained with blood. a pattern — revealed. your pain is not enough. your suffering is manipulative. and the r h states a “friend” fair-weathered. the colours — they’re sCreaming. the gold weepIng willows which do not mewl, house the many cardInals and blue-jays bathed in golden. your demand — for abSolution. guilty. guilty. Selfish, and unnecessary... charmers dandies, and get-love-quIck-schemes rise the water; this I know. but your tolerationS and fasciculations of the mind’s muscle the men’s rea make his heart not breakable but ever green to the same hands twice. chosen buT to observe the woods once before, observant you shall remain. not here. there. anywhere. x





you sit in front of me, the distance obscured by our placement, side-by-side and it almost feels like I could just extend my fingers there, into the void of my camera bending time and space to my will, and reach out to you on the other side. instead i sit here, helplessly watching you cry and rocking yourself into a false sense of security, failing, trying again. i watch my own brow furrow in deep frustration as i offer senseless sympathy, words that mean nothing unless accompanied by the warm touch and presence of a loved one hovering in the air, cocooning you in an invisible blanket of love and understanding. the way you sat in that chair, rested my weary head on your strong shoulder, covered my burning hands in your cool, calming ones; it’s all gone. “please don’t cry,” i plead, on camera, but the words ring hollow flowing through the tinny speakers of your laptop. we’ve forgotten what it’s like to live in a world where physical contact is a necessity, not a luxury. i laugh at all the same old jokes finally, we have an excuse not to shake hands anymore! but as i retreat back into the 16:9 space you see me inhabit everyday, i wish for any and every excuse. it’s not the same without you by my side. i wish i knew how to get across to you. how to say the right things when i can’t make you feel what i mean, how to show you that i care deeply when i can’t take you into my arms, how to be the same person i was when we weren’t separated by an ocean of radio waves can i truly be here when i’m not there? and i hate that i’m so in my own head when you are there, waiting, longing, begging for me to do something differently, and all i can say is “don’t worry, it’s going to be okay. i’m here.” x 58


just out of reach




TOMB I dreamed a dream of you last summer, autumn. I dreamed a dream of fall as I lay dozing on the box spring. I dreamed a dream of winter when the snow had not yet fallen. I dreamed of waking up as I lay dozing in the snow. When I awoke I was still dreaming, had not risen from the box spring because winter was still wailing the trees were still screaming naked branches were still shaking but I saw petals all around.

I saw grass that sprouted out through the crust of icy bread. In the glimmer of the snow I saw tulips glinting red. I saw birds other than crows I saw blossoms as it snowed. I said stop I said stop I said stop I said look: I said it’s winter all around autumn’s lost and summer’s drowned. Snowfall mutes the greening woods and bricks bare frost as buildings should 60

and though some fires burn inside they eat the life of trees that died because the winter must consume the breath of April, May, and June and so the world slowly exhales as the grass scorches brown and the leaves tumble down until there’s no breath left to breathe so the winter must conceive of a stillness, dead as stone, that remains a pearly grave until earth’s orbit sunlight saves. So dream of autumn in the sun and dream of summer once fall’s done and don’t forget to dream of spring when snow has swallowed everything. x



Working in a constantly changing environment is hard. Not knowing your purpose on the team is hard. Yet, against all odds, you make your way back. You find the light source that feeds you and you hold on to it. And you find yourself right where you belong. x


AUTOCORRECT: ON MY WAY! something about street lights and tangled hair and thin clothes and cold ankles and something about holding skirts down are you still coming? are you still something about 11:24 PM next departure at 11:45 PM something about waiting something about waiting for the part where everything fits in my palms and this time nothing spills x ART by ALYSSA WORDS by HANNAH ROSE ROSALES




I could have had it all... ART by LAUREN CRAWFORD WORDS by B.D. LILY

Screwed up Messed up Whatever you want to call it I did it I had one shot And I blew it Years of sweat and tears I’ll never forgive myself for years I can’t move forward My mind, I torture So close to the finish line I choked I could have had it all But instead, I made the wrong call Everyone tells me This is in the past There’s nothing you can do Move on It’s gone

But how? When years of practice led to one mishap One mistake My own sanity I chase Because this girl I absolutely hate… won first place Now, she’s living my life; the happiness I deserve, she now has. All because I couldn’t get it together All because I couldn’t handle the pressure Guilt is swallowing me whole Regret seeping from my every pore I hate myself For what I did and what I didn’t do No one could ever understand what I’ve been through x 66








I want to go back for one day and greet the younger versions of ourselves Watch us revel in our girlhood, optimistic about the future Carefree, yet determined Capable and still budding with potential We had only just met back then Do you think they saw it coming? I’ll turn to you and ask That we’d end up like this, right now, the way we did? x


To my dear Ma, Frankly, I don’t know how to speak to you. There are things I must tell you, but I don’t know how anymore. I fear we have lost the ability to talk, to listen, to nod in understanding. I am writing to you in the hopes that I can better understand you by searching within my own memories. If you allow me, I can use the tools at my disposal — and my life — to build something in place of a mouth that speaks into your ears. Ma, do you ever think about why we do the things we do? I am writing this only so that I may “see” you. The parts of you that are acknowledged through bared teeth, and sharpened on bone. Though the question remains, why can I only see you now?” Ma, I am writing to you because I cannot write to my father. Ma, I am writing because of my father who cannot say I love you to his two sons. Neither in English, nor our mother tongue. But I do not blame him, for he was never taught to use words in such a manner. What was instilled in father was survival — not love. To love, you had to ensure there was someone left alive to love. You can understand that, Ma. Rather, what is taught is that questions are enough. The ways our lips purse and our tongues curl and our necks wrinkle is just enough to wring out questions; love is simply too large. To say, “Are you hungry?” or “Have you eaten?” is to say, “I love you, my child.” And while I cannot rush that word out from him, my father’s love for us exists nonetheless.

Do you remember how you would retreat back into your thoughts, disappearing for five minutes at a time? I remember once when I had just come home from school. You told me to leave my things inside and come back to the car, because we were going to visit our old hometown. We were going by your sister’s old house. But our van needed a car wash because “we can’t have people thinking we are dirty people.” As we sat in silence, the car was coated in a foam of rainbow soap. I watched as your face grew blue, pink, yellow, and then finally black once the windows were completely covered. Ma, do you remember what you said to me there in the dark? “Your Auntie Chi Bich is a fool, and so is her husband. You know he threatened to stab her? I had to call the police on him. That bastard made her crazy. I want my little sister back, you bastard! Give her back!” Seemingly awoken by your embarrassment, you turned the ignition key and began heading home. We never went to Auntie Chi Bich’s old house. Or the time you thought your mother was haunting our house, and was convinced it was because she was mad that you had forgotten about her. She had passed away earlier that year, and you had stopped coming into work. Remember how you walked around the corners of our home, shouting for forgiveness? “I miss you Ma! Ma? Can you hear me? Come back!” you would plead. Every time you cried, your face twisted in a new horrifying way. We never asked anything, because we assumed you missed your mother in the way we all do. Sometimes, we watched as you put food on our family altar as an offering. It rotted, and you eventually threw it out in tears. A couple months in, your mother’s rage subsided as her spirit went back to rest (or was it forgotten?) and you began to work again. Began to breathe again. It was as if everyone including you had forgotten about the whole thing. Interestingly, in our language, the words “mom” and “ghost”, are spelt the same. That is to say, Ma, you’re a mother. But you’re also a ghost. And you were haunting yourself.

Ma, you once said that stories and memories, that’s all we are.

-Little One x 70





I’m left



Sitting on the floor in the corner of my bedroom Tucked between the wall and the bookshelf Cowering underneath the blanket like a child Maybe it’s the fact that my twentieth birthday has come and gone Or maybe it’s the fact that we haven’t spoken in a month And the house seems quieter without my parents To read to me as I rest my mind... And you’re doing so well. And I’m happy for you, I am, I promise You’re seeing the world with open eyes like you always said you would You’re reading on park benches and riding in taxis And falling asleep under new stars every night But I’m left behind. Now I’m walking through my hallways of memories Every moment I’ve stored in a crevice in my mind The darkest of them seem to sparkle when I cry Maybe it’s the fact that I’m crying so much more these days Or maybe I take everything as an insult, as a threat, When in reality, no one’s worrying about me at all It’s all in my mind. And they’re having the time of their lives. And they deserve it, I know they do, they do They’ve molded their lives until their fingers bled Red paint on the dusty keys of typewriters And they’re finally happy with the result Now they’re kissing new lips and singing new songs But I’m left behind. Sitting on the floor in the corner of my bedroom Tucked between the wall and the bookshelf

Maybe this spot isn’t so terrible At least there’s a blanket to keep me warm And the stories offer new places to go… x 72










I remember very clearly the first time you said my name. It was 9 PM, on a warm Friday night, The stars were out, it was dark, I couldn’t see very well It - it was night time. You were there with me, My five foot four-inch tall lighthouse. In that moment, When you said my name, I never told you how much it lit up my Earth. I loved the way your smile outshined every other star in the night sky, More radiant than the sun, Your voice, A moonlit sonata, Your ebb and flow guiding me to shore. Forte, You loved me loud, The way you’d say my name Drowning out every other worry until I could stay afloat The way you connected all of my constellations. Adagio You loved me slowly. I admired you, the same way an astronomer would admire planetary bodies. In that moment, When you said my name, You were nothing short of Copernicus’ dream, my heliocentric ideal, I couldn’t help but feel like you were what the universe revolved around. I wonder if she remembers the last time. I don’t remember it very well. It was 9 PM on New Year’s Day. It was dark and cold out, so I stayed in my bedroom The window, completely fogged up.



What would Moon be without Earth? I remember looking out And noticing the distinct absence of stars that night As if all of the night sky was at rest ad infinium. In its place, was the cold quietude of space How lonely the Moon must have been that night. For the first time, in my personal planetarium, I stared at the Moon, not in awe, but with a certain empathy. I noticed the unrequited love between Earth and Moon. How Moon ceaselessly orbits around the Earth Da Capo al Fine, endlessly Without so much as a thought. I wonder if Moon does it out of love, or if it is clutching on for dear life If Moon revolves around Earth, At what point are they two distinct, planetary bodies? What would Moon be without Earth? When Moon, Revolves around Earth, Conducts Earth’s tide, Is Moon really conducting? Am I - Is Moon really doing it for Earth’s sake? Or is Moon doing it for mine? If Moon is harmony to Earth’s melody, What value would Moon have on its lonesome? If Earth were to spontaneously disappear one day, Would Moon still be worth talking about? I look away from my window. The rest of my room is dark. In my head, I used to rearrange this place dozens of times, Trying to picture what it would look like if it were shared with her. I see streaks of moonlight trickling through the window, And slowly, they illuminate the lighthouse-shaped imprint next to me in bed, Taking up the spot that once belonged to her. x


click….one. two. three…click. click…two. three. buzz…she closes the door behind her.

when winter comes the skies will dim, and I’ll be here, when she comes by.

the currents shudder, the windows sizzle, the air is electrifying.

keep the shutters down, the oils aired, the hearth unkempt. when she comes by,

my beams blaze brightly. yellow, white, blue, and the rosy room radiates. it’s not too damp, but the table is dewy, and lemons swirl around the house when she walks by. the ribbons on my head turn up to smirk, and the nights feel cooler now.


tomorrow might be darker. the sun might not come up. but her light will be my fire my smile is in her eyes.

the chains will clink, the sun will shine, and warmth will take over. the room will settle, the sounds will wrestle, and it will be tomorrow. click….one. two. three…click. x









Captain’s Log, Stardate 41153.7 An extra-terrestrial conversation overheard on the space vessel USS Enterprise-D. Picard: What is this wondrous object? Data: I believe it is what the humans from the 21st century call, “a banana,” sir. It is a berry-class fruit composed of an outer fibrous layer and an inner core. The outer fibrous layer is roughly 60% carbohydrates, and 30%— Picard: Thank you Data. And what does one do with this, “banana”? Data: outer core. milk,

Humans find this “fruit” rather fascinating. They discard the fibrous layer, also known as “the peel,” and consume the inner Humans have also crushed and mixed it with other fruits and to make a nutritious drink.

Picard: It is a shame that the plague wiped out so many vegetations that these once common fruits have become a delicacy. Very well, the crew will share the bananas. Mmm! Very unique texture, it almost feels… Ah, there’s nothing quite like it. Data: Sir, the Anticans have arrived on board as scheduled. Picard: [Quickly puts down the banana peel, it falls to the ground] Excellent. Number One, take over. I will see them to their quarters. Data: Sir, the peel of the banana has very special properties. From anecdotal accounts, they sometimes— Picard: Not now, Data, I must— [He steps on the peel and slides away].x


Together, yet, alone Why is it that on this Vast and infinite universe That so many Call home I often Find myself Feeling quite Alone. During hardships, Pains, And depths Of despair. It is as though Everyone Has Disappeared. I know I am not The centre Of the universe. And that everyone’s world Will not stop Just because mine has. Yet I find myself hoping, That at least someone’s stars Have stopped aligning. Because the planets In my universe Have been thrown Out of orbit. We may be Together. Yet, I have never Felt so alone.



Alone, together Here we are In a vast and infinite universe Separated And alone. United in our Common experience. Facing the new reality Side by side. During these difficult times, Of hardships, And depths Of despair.


We will wade These turbulent Waves that threaten to drown us With one another. The entire Universe Has shifted. Everyone’s worlds Are like Never before. And we have resurrected hope That the stars Can continue to shine. Because we will realign Each other’s planets. To move forward In a new orbit. We may be feeling Rather alone. But we are in this Together. x




2150 The windows are open. The year is 2150. Women fill the streets projecting their voices. They hold signs referencing Mao.

”love is political, put it into practice”

The following message has been sent via phone zaps and email zaps to people all over the world. I open my mailbox. Unknown sender: There is absolutely no such a thing in the world as love or hatred without a reason or a cause. Our identities have been constructed socially. It is not in the interest of the state that we will find equality. For them, our division is their primary objective. Divide and conquer! This is the reason why we must unite our identities and create organized resistance. Our task is to expose the aggressors, the exploiters, and the oppressors. The ruling classes have divided us into many antagonistic groups once called “countries”. Let us combat individualism and ask: What is the “other”? Who is the “other”? We are the “other”! Why? Because we stand opposite to the dominant “culture” in which we are excluded. When we are kicked out of our homes, denied our bodily autonomy, safety, or democratic representation, we have been turned into commodities with a price dictated by the market.

Unions of teachers, workers, nurses, and students have been connecting to gather resources in their struggle to regain autonomy of their land. Protestors gathered to abolish military state intervention in their communities. The light of the sun has been shut down by SpaceX enterprises to disperse the masses. Rosa stands on a flipped state van in front of the city security headquarters. She has a laser torch in her right hand and a megaphone in the other. She gives a signal as she screams at the top of her lungs. We stand here with a voice, with an opinion, with a statement, an act of resistance. In the same world where poor people die out of negligence because our leaders are not OURS, the resources of this land are not for us: we are simply expected to comply, to stare, to be silent, or to silence others. We are told to accept the reality of the capitalist world in which we live; for this system to exist, it is necessary to create a repressed individual that must exchange their own existence to enrich another’s. Today we still believe that if you wish for more or refuse to fit into the box provided for you, you are a burden to society.

“Socialism or Barbarism”

Her head hits the ground. She was left in fear by the imprint of nihilism created by the media news when she realized that it was not her father, brother, boss, or lovers the main source of her pain. Light shone through the hole a bullet made in her chest. She has dreamed of a thousand ways this could end as she realized this would be the last breath she ever tastes. “The power of my words, my actions, my love... 85


Revolution after revolution, from artists to thinkers to scientists, we as people have been wiped out of history. We have been denied our land, culture, and language. Today what remains is fear to defy perceived conventions of what is “normal” or “successful”. To mask and accept the standards and values of “able” bodies. Guilt and shame have blurred our vision and diminished our imagination of a world where we are no longer mere objects.


Dear Anuradha, Fighting is not something that comes first to my mind when I see myself in what could be the last moments of my life. I am writing this because I know you have been looking for me. I am here, and I am your ally, your comrade. So much we have built together, from the very beginning at the service centre. You were a spicy hot pepper, loud loud super loud. Always with an opinion and always asking questions. What an avid student you have been since then. Even though school was not much for you or me. Today we are working in great alliances between different identity groups and bringing people to a positive endeavour of self discovery creating stronger relationships with the world. Has this mode of thinking unified us? I believe it has brought us to an even plane field in which community and collaboration are key for our survival. If you get this message, once again I still leave you with hope… The doors of what were once our homes later became the safe houses for those who were persecuted by the army on behalf of the state. While it looks like chaos on the streets and fields for us who have been mining, digging, and manufacturing our technology, preparing your food, cleaning what was once your office spaces or picking up your garbage this is a necessary truth! There is a division between what is essential and non-essential even though my labour, my time, the absence from my loved ones in an exchange for a couple dollars. The abolition of private property was essential! we never owed anything. Not even a 50-year mortgage was enough. We do not live that long anymore now that health care became privatized. We know the road ahead is not easy from previous revolutionary struggles. Changing your world view is healing, and healing is a heck of a journey. Is the destruction of your tower, your ideals, how you think about yourself as you fall upside down. Once ivory, now the tower is a relic of an economic system that divides us by making us believe we own something, when in reality, we don’t even own our own lives. Rapid steps are approaching. The door lock is blown. We are prepared to fight for our lives. The cops are not the only ones who decide who lives and who dies anymore. We take care of each other; we embrace change and challenge. We are no longer disposable anymore… x










The sun dips dangerously close to the horizon, and shines directly in my eyes, blurring out details around me. Two silhouettes in the distance that I assume are CJ and Clara are running off somewhere. I don’t bother asking what they’re doing.


I smile quietly in response. I slowly sit up, pushing up onto my elbows, and then my hands. The grass pricks and crunches against my palms; the last few weeks have been terribly dry. Grace absentmindedly looks over at me. When she turns away, I lean my head on her shoulder, relieving some of the weight from my arms. I notice for the first time the quiet music coming from the speaker in the middle of the blanket. It’s playing some upbeat song, fading in and out as occasional traffic passes by.


The leaf dances in delicate circles above my head. Fall sure is coming. I try to catch it a few times, to no avail. Instead it continues its slow descent, landing gracefully on my forehead. A bubbly giggle pulls me out of my trance. “How can you be so uncoordinated?” Grace asks mockingly.

Closer in front of me, Elise and Jay are hunched over, working on some paintings on tiny canvases. Elise notices that I’ve sat up and chuckles, “welcome back.”



When I open my eyes again, the light is brighter. I’m sitting at my desk, with my laptop playing a pre-recorded lecture. I shake myself out of my daydream, and scroll back a few minutes in the video. “Right,” I murmur to myself, “here we go.” x


Trying to absorb every last bit of the scene, I take one more look around. Even in the last few minutes, the sun has sunk deeper. A mother nearby calls her young children to get home for the night. The trees above rustle gently, leaves still a fusion of green and red. Though my friends are each occupied with their own activities, I feel safe and close to them. Satisfied, I nestle in closer to Grace and close my eyes.




ed strand s a w e r. Sh was ny hou and her cry a t A . r ied, hou at the l she cr u n f u w r a ’t d it’s didn trains y mirrors, an e h t I. s al, onl she wa Where without sign ed inwards. the ce urn less, in g to e c a f in a pla ery eye was t e ill b goin Ev river w don’t bother d e awful. h T cept heel. t the w s well be. Ex a f l e s im st a agine h , he could ju exits are lies. II. m i l l ’ e p sh the su dle, At time r seat, so tos n he’ll know his cra t e e , g h ff t n o t e s p in pas xce drop of them m the dows. E h o t n r i o f w b s t e e t th ana d, bu and, ight em nd, he’s ahea em spilling s one L . t r a ehi any r th dep t only I ero. So she’s b uitcase; I hea tination. Can u b III. s e und z p arriv e the s he des Our sto f my foot, gro sses are insid unce today t o la no bottom Yet the hourg ash them, an ning lf. Mea k. m e r s s a d e d l e u m th co e sa time, I ts of th n e m g spilling all se x esent, r p l ll just — l hear? a a e d l ’r u e o en w e sh I can th l hear. Now w f i d n A wil I hear. heard, e W . r a we he 90




I feel stifled by this storm, devoured in a blaze I’m whelmed by the waves,

flooded by the fire.

Anxiety floats like ashes, sadness seeping into skin. I can’t run from this rain, can’t breathe while burning. I’m too hot to be held, and too cold to care.

My ember lost its spark, my surf lost its sheen.

My body burns in flames, ashes scattered in the sea. x








Where has my mind been?


Where has it wandered without me?

Stuck at the right place, In the wrong time.

It only knows the pull of the unknown, Its hands reaching, reaching,

There’s only so many times a heart

Somewhere beyond my sight.

Can be stitched back together, Before all that’s left is one big ball of thread,

A harsh decay that hits abruptly,

Yanking and grating and twisting.

With no mercy.

Tangled viciously in one another.

Neither up nor down, Right or wrong.

Didn’t you get the memo?

It watches.

I am a candle whose wick won’t burn.

The further I go,

Refusing to be the cause of my own demise.

Chasing what cannot be caught.

Refusing to give away all that I am.

In this place

But my only purpose is to burn,

Where I am surrounded by pieces of myself.

So what do I do?

Bent at the knees,

Where do I go?

Trying to force them together. Wishing that I knew what they meant.

The searing grip on my wrist begs me to follow it instead, to forget what I’ve already seen,


where I’ve already been.

I see faces that I thought had remained in the past, And I beg for it to be real,

It forgets that my mind is over the matter,

For them to be real.

for I am elsewhere.

But as I get closer they fade away,

For I am everywhere. x 95




I AM I am free. In clouds I soar, through seas of white mist, my wings taking me wherever I wish. From the remote villages of the fiery plains to the winding enclaves of the fae’s domain, the skies are mine and mine alone. A bird I am not, but I could be. A drake I am not, but I could be. What am I? I am free. I glide through the depths of the deepest lakes, in waters unknown to all but the most intrepid of explorers — I welcome their bones, powdered as they might be under the pressure. I am bright in the dark and dark in the light, a predator unseen. What am I? I am free. There are days I am a champion. There are nights I am the queen. By dawn I am the grand mage and by evening a lowly page. Perhaps I am human, but there is no human like me. Try as one might, they cannot understand me. What am I? I am free. Today and every day, I am God, the divine, the Almighty. I embody the will of this world and guide each inhabitant to where they must be. What am I?



I am —

— bedridden. The white ceiling is the same as the alabaster halls of the winter king. The thin walls do little to hide the voices from outside the room. I move to sit up but my legs do not move. I crane my neck to see who is coming. I cannot. I close my eyes. “Aww,” a young voice says, “she’s sleeping!” “Aunt ▢▢▢▢ is usually sleeping,” another says. “Sometimes you can’t tell if she’s alive or not.” “Andy! You can’t say that.” There’s a rustling of paper. The creaking of a bed. I wonder if someone’s holding my hand again. “▢▢▢▢. ▢▢▢▢?” I say nothing. I cannot say anything. I can only open my eyes, but what for and why? Better to let them leave than to cry. Minutes later, they do. The click of the lights is my cue. The room is still again. If I concentrate, I can hear the whirring of machines, constantly humming and humming. They keep me alive. What am I? I am paralyzed. A victim of chance. I am a dreamer. I will be until I die. x





SNOWSONG Trembling, I trace echoes Of past footsteps Through a snowstill skyscape. Tracing and tracing, each Foot fixed in its step, I stumble.

I fall. Falling and falling, each Step fixed in its grave, each Grave word free-falling, Saying and saying, reaching For language, each Letter freed from fixation, each Phoneme fighting for freedom, each Breath burning in word-barren lungs, Trembling and tracing, Chasing and churning, Burning and breathing, Screaming and screeching and Saying and saying and saying and saying, In a snowstill silence. x



when the sea calls there are seashells braided in my hair so i can hear the sea and feel wanted call me, call me, call me—

i’m here, i’m here, i’m here, she sings

all i’ve ever wanted was to feel wanted. and so she knows, and so she laps at my feet, at the ends of my conscience; come child, come to the sea and i am a child looking for embrace. looking for arms. water they may be.

i always leave. she doesn’t understand. i swim past familiarity and back to a shore of rejection— i revel in it. wallow. watch him kiss my knuckles as i lick salt from my lips. swallow the bitter. and i am whole, again. for now. my eyes bathe in stupor when i tell regret to leave. i will meet her one day. but not now. not tonight.

there are seashells in my hair and they wail. ask me why i leave them, again and again and again it’s all i’ve ever known, i tell them. and in the end no one understands. not even the sea. x







No Matter this time last year my eyes burned as i forced myself awake to keep talking to you


How Many this time last year i fell asleep phone in hand your name on the screen


Times The this time last year i dreamed a thousand nightmares all in one sitting while you slipped away



Hands Pass this time last year we dubbed ‘the devil’s hour’ as we both lost our minds in different places


Over One this time last year you were just starting to fall asleep as your insomnia lost its hold on you


Another And now i’m just starting to fall asleep you’re not gone it’s all just a dream




Any Time, this time last year i ate breakfast while you skipped yours hating being full in the morning


I’ll Always this time last year we texted while we went our separate ways while still connected


Search For this time last year you called me to remind me to stay calm now, i panic alone


You Because now i wonder why you haven’t called me i forgot that we don’t talk anymore


I Still this time last year i tapped my foot to the beat of the second hand waiting until i could see you


Miss You this time last year it was 12pm and we ate lunch together now It’s 12pm and i forgot to eat

Meet, At this time last year why does the clock look the same i woke up and called you as it did last year so you wouldn’t be late even though we’ve changed so much x so you wouldn’t have nightmares



Allegria the first colonizer was dust, written over every trace of sand, landed with a soft sigh, primeval whisper of an echo. it encroached as a shadow upon our limbs, our vast plains, dreary mud stains — we slept as it crept along our eyelashes. in becoming, we emerged as chips off the edge of an era. the sunbeams sang the first soliloquy, accompanied by the breeze. solace in sixteenth notes followed by rising arias — we did not yet know how lucky we were, that even the moonbeams rising as the sun sank away were supported by a gentle susurration of reflection and stars, meaning we were never alone. awakening, we opened our sight at the first break of dawn. sharp surfaces, the rasp and abrasion of conflict since ceased, only subdued when more pioneers settled on our land, wearing us down until we were ashen particles. then — sea met land, moon met sun, and i met you where once began. x





This mind is a labyrinth of synapses — a forlorn prison of memories and fears, a caged bird placed within a courtyard, where musty polaroids have dried on clotheslines. Mental time-travel has marred these faded pictures with regret, made them souvenirs of everything I want to forget; the evaporated fragrance of youth the derailed trains of thought and all the wars I have fought. There is music playing from an old gramophone in a corner of this bustling veranda, and my wanderlust transports me through the lanes of memory. Time has transformed these melodies into a remix of lyrics, buffering on someone’s phone. Who thought that these ghazals would begin to sound less like ballads of longing to parting lovers and more like an unanswered call home. It is the shrill ring of nostalgia that with linguistic evolution has become a persistent hum, hollowing my chambers with the scalpel of grief. Nostalgia was the pain of living away from home, thought to be so strong that it was fatal. Nostalgia is a longing for the time woven into our synapses with a golden thread, an infinite filament that holds us together despite the distance. But what about the nights that have become mourning for the person I was meant to be? What about the curiosity that engraves these cortices into a wasteland of the unknown?

Somewhere in the distance, a call to prayer silences all the chaos, under a warm blanket of serenity and for once, time finally pauses. It feels like Faith has come, knocking on my door, as a saviour — an invite to be present in this moment. I take out my rose-coloured prayer mat and lay it down in the direction of peace, smell the orange-pekoe steeped tea, diffusing hope into the uncertainty. My mouth waters with the promise of the fruits of my patience being reaped and then, I see it— the monarch of hope reviving this withering garden of dreams, reminding me to breathe and hold onto the firm rope of belief because my Rabb is with me and He is the wordsmith of my destiny. x WORDS & ART by K.H. ANJAAN





The Dow

np o ur

of Grief


Nothing has felt the same since you’ve left and I keep trying to retrace every step, hoping I’ll find the path that leads me back to you — but your footsteps have been washed away from my crying spells, and the torrential rain. I wish I had the feeling to be happy once again but those thoughts I erased, the moment you passed and went away. My morbid mind has been flooded with grief and the storms that live inside, disturb my inner peace. The downpour of death often comes as a surprise. For how can one expect to fly, when it had never been their time to die? I flooded the beach with my emotions. My heart frozen cold, with sand still stuck in between my toes. I lay in the sea, allowing it to carry me to sleep. Water slowly starts to fill my lungs, as the clouds cry with grief. I take one last breath, and whisper to the sky, “Rain, rain, go away,” but instead, I did. x WORDS by MIKAELA GRAHLMAN ART by MADELINE KOMAR

This is a poem for the overly critical overthinkers who worry too much about never being enough

Sea of

Too often we think we’ve fallen to a new low a point of no return when in reality we’ve only fallen victim to our own self-doubt


Drowning in a sea of fears rather than a sea of inspiration with each tide that passes comes another —


A new load of worries Breathe

So let the waves embrace you, not drown you; carry you, not sweep you past the high tides to better times With strength and patience and perhaps, a little less thought this tide, too, shall pass x



Just like the sea, and its endless flow of waves your life will never be free of hurdles


she was kind smiles, gentle arms, and the beating heart of our family she was sunshine and blooming flowers piggy back rides on sunday afternoons and the comfort of home she was pasta and brodo and the world’s best lasagna, coffee and cookies and music, god, she was music in her soul she was mozart and chopin and verdi gentle hands tracing circles in my palms, singing italian lullabies i wish i had memorized she was laughter and joy and sparkling eyes as she twirled us around her kitchen she was chocolate bars snuck into my coat pockets and paninos for the car ride, there on christmas morning and easter lunch and never missed a birthday she was the longest hugs she was the hardest goodbyes she still is, but now we are the keepers of her memories. sometimes she is here, her mind as present as her body, and sometimes she is not but i hear her in the music, the operas in madame butterfly, la boheme, turandot the snippets of arias she hums when she thinks no one’s listening and if i hear her in the music there will always be a piece of her melody here x



i’ll hear you in the music




incite magazine volume 23, issue 2 “here” Published September 2021 Incite Magazine is McMaster University’s creative arts and writing publication. We

aim to unite a community of creatives by promoting self-expression, collaboration, and dialogue within our university campus and the city of Hamilton. Every aspect of Incite’s writing, graphics, multimedia, and event production is carried out by our

wonderful student volunteers. If you would like to get involved, feel free to get in touch by emailing @incitemagazine

editor in chief (content): Tenzin Gyaltsen

editor in chief (arts and production): Donna Nadeem

layout director:

Madeleine Randmaa


Victoria Schofield-Zioba

communication director: Michelle Yao

content editors:

Alex Chen, Sara Emira, Katie Lee, Karen Li , Sophie Marchetti, Hooriya Masood, Sowmithree Ragothaman, Hannah Rose Rosales, Ariella Ruby, Vicky Xie, Noah Yang

art managers:

Julianna Biernacki, Graeme Fishman, Labiqah Iftikhar, Julia Lindsay, Sandy Luu, Larissa Shular

layout editor: Yoohyun Park

cover art:

Paradise Garden by Julia Lindsay

contributors: (Content): Imad Ali, Aaryaman Anand, Conrad Arnold, Eun Young Bae, Julia Cara, Ester Chow, Raisa Chowdhury, Jet Coghlan, Nimasha De Silva, Don Don, Sara Emira, Conor Goulden, Mikaela Grahlman, Gillian Hodge, Izzah Khairi, Zara Khan, Maya Khodr-Ali, Katie Ann Lee, B.D. Lily, Maia Madison, Sophie Marchetti, Natalie Jean Marie, Hooriya Masood, Alan Minkovich, Ekta Mishra, Roya Motazedian, Arooba Muhammad, Manda Ruth Novokmet, Janhavi Patel, Maia Poon, Sowmithree Ragothaman, Madeleine Randmaa, Hannah Rose Rosales, Ariella Ruby, Sharang Sharma, Lisa Shen, Victoria Schofield-Zioba, Yvonne Syed, Cherry Tagra, Michael Thach, Hayley Vandermaarl Emily Wang, Vickey Xie, Noah Yang, Michelle Yao, (Artists): Imad Ali, Noor Al-Rajab, Alyssa, K.H. Anjaan, Julianna Biernacki, Jet Coghlan, Lauren Crawford, Sarah Curtay, Emilia De Silva, Juliana Duimstra, Ardyn Gibbs, Cynthia Gu, Labiqah Iftikhar, Celine Jeong, Steven Kenny, Madeline Komar, Julia Lindsay, Sandy Luu, Maia Madison, Sophie Marchetti, Lauren Marsh, Jerry Miller, Arooba Muhammad, Donna Nadeem, Michelle Nicole, Eli Nolet, Ysenia Rodriguez, Manda Ruth Novokmet, Alysa Palazzo, Janhavi Patel, Mariana Quinn, Larissa Shular, Zain Siddiqui, Reem Tehfe, Ayesha Umair, Serena Walk, Javan Wellum, Meg Yu



If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life - Oscar Wilde

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.