Incite Magazine – February 2017

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Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable‌ Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. —Martin Luther King Jr.

What is something that you want More of? Intelligence, time, and love? Is it a more fauxpas wish for money, fame, or popularity? What about the big issues: do you prioritize an improved economy, environmental protection, civil rights? It often seems that that we live in a world of competing interests; but to say this alone would be to oversimplify. As Martin Luther King Jr. once expressed, life is both individual and social. When we consider this statement in terms of current political times, it seems like life has been socially polarized. There is divisiveness, and such a way of being in this world appears to gain legitimacy when those in positions of authority—though not always positive leadership—use their power to disseminate provocations of fear. But please allow me to humbly suggest, when we only look for the differences between ourselves and others, and trust only the groups of people who look, talk, and act like ourselves, we fail to recognize the humanity inherent to every person who has ever been born. We fail to see our similarities; that as humans, we do share certain goals in common: physical safety and nourishment, of course, but so much beyond that. I have yet to engage with a single human being who does not also crave love, a sense of belonging, and the yearning to be understood by others. And still the reality remains: we, as individuals, share the Earth as our home. To not work together in achieving social goals, then, would really be to not work toward progress at all. Now, I want to make this point very clear: it is not my place to tell you exactly what to believe—that would be a breach of the precious freedom of mind, and very 1984-scary-like. But I do think there is worth in the exchange of differing ideas. And I do truly hope that you choose to stand with values that bring More goodness, trust, and human flourishing to our world. That’s the kind of world I want for my family, friends, someday children, and quite honestly, for you and every human being. When you read through this issue of Incite, you will find honesty and rawness in the writing and artwork from our community contributors. There is also a sense of solidarity, that as a creative family, we are here to support and validate each other’s experiences. To our staff team, writers, artists, and readers, we hope that you always remember that to be creative is to be courageous. After all, creativity is the act of dissenting from the social norm. But we also believe that with the ability to express ourselves and have a platform on which to share those ideas, we have a responsibility. Words and art are some of the most emotionally evocative, and thus, powerful mediums by which we can share our thoughts. To be responsible in our work is about the direction in which we steer our creativity. Previously, today, and as we move forward, Incite is a community of collaboration, acceptance, and connection. With each step of the creative process, together let us encourage more peace, growth, and genuine understanding in our local and global communities. x Sincerely,

Sunny Yun Editor-in-Chief 2016–17


CONTENTS 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 25 26 28 30 32 33 36 38 40 42 46 49 50 51 52 54 56 58 60 62 64 66 68 70 72 74 76

Editor Stories An Open Letter to 2017 / Abeer Ahmad Ana and Ed / Emma Hudson When the Canon Ends / Sam Jackson The Pressure to Do Everything / Aamna Abdullah Inside the Garden of Evil / Osmond Jian God, the Glutton / Coby Zucker Lovation / Tumi Adegoroye Superheroes Aren’t Made Overnight / Patricia Lora Body Count / Valerie Luetke A List / Zoe Handa Linear Berserk / Sonia Leung A Home Full of It / Michael Swanson For More Love / Tashyana Davidson Soon / Angela Ma Nebulae / Catherine Hu Ice After Fire / Afreen Ahmad Malik Unconditional Love for Humanity / Sunny Yun A Trumping Presidency / Takhliq Amir Fleck / Manveer Kalirai Metal on Metal / Rachel Tran Kites / Gagandeep Saini Empty Spaces / Michele Zaman & / Muskaan Sachdeva More Goods ≠More Good / Angela Dong Talk Less, Learn More / Aminata Mageraga Keepsake / Oprah Hamilton Less / Annie Yu Points of Entry / Dina Hamed A Life Unlived / Srikripa Krishna Prasad Stark / Isabella Fan Lessons in Less / Elina Filice The Pursuit of Everything / Josh Ravenhill New Year, New Stressors / Sherri Murray Midnight Blend / Nicholas Schmid Those Who Wander / Alexandra Marcaccio More Words, More Choices / J.A.F.P.



“What is one thing you can’t get enough of ?”




here is definitely some part of me that disagrees, but, judging from recent life choices, it seems I can’t get enough of school. Despite my ample excitement at a reminder about convocation in my inbox today, despite my skepticism of our academic institutions—I am not yet ready to leave these places of higher education. Even after I do finally graduate, I don’t expect that I’ll ever be done with learning. That mindset is probably what is driving me toward more school for the near future, and I can’t wait to continue learning (forever and ever). x


t first glance, there are a lot of things I can’t get enough of. Coffee. Friends. Summers. Time. Youth. But the more I considered each one, the more vividly I could imagine the theoretical breaking point. What good is youth when the ones you love keep getting old? What good is more love than you’re able to return? Too much chocolate cake would be disastrous. The beauty of the things that I love is strongest at its upper boundary. There is always such a thing as enough. x


can’t get enough attention. Despite being overtly introverted (I’m also covertly introverted, but also overtly), I still enjoy having the attention when people read my written pieces. No, really. I mean it. I will collect attention just for the sake of having attention. I am deliberately still writing this editor’s blurb, despite the fact that I’m not really saying anything, so that whoever is reading this will continue to read it. That’s right, I’m still not done. I’m just going to continue to write until I get bored or can’t think of anything else. You may as well stop reading now. Actually, I think that’s all. x




can’t get enough of mystery novels, whether it be a police procedural mystery or a good old-fashioned detective novel. I’m especially fond of Agatha Christie, and I devoured about twenty of her Poirot books over the summer. There is a deftness and complexity to her work and it doesn’t seem to matter how many of her books I read, I never get any better at guessing whodunnit, which makes the ride thrilling every single time. She would have been a master criminal in real life. x




s Hamlet so aptly put it, “To be or not to be?” It is an overused line, perhaps, and arguably oversimplified, but it does accurately communicate my meaning. I am amazed by the myriad of options life gives us. From the small things like deciding where to eat to the largest possibilities like planning a vacation or deciding your next career move, there really is no limit to what this world has to offer. We really can pick our destination, and life helps us onward by supporting our journey through more paved roads, some rocky patches, and even a few hidden trails. I can’t get enough of the opportunity to explore these paths and perhaps create a few of my own along the way. x



esire. It is a word so general but very true. We all want something in our lives whether it is beauty, money, happiness, or love. It can be a desire for power or knowledge, or simply a desire for something or someone. And through time, we as human beings yearn even when we’ve obtained what we’ve once wanted. It is desire that moves us and give our life direction. It is what can lead us towards the better or for worse for as long as we live. And someday, if we could ever master the way we control our desires that we might at least be able to find some measure of peace. x




can’t get enough of learning about historical events because it makes me feel more connected to people. They remind me quite starkly about how fragile my existence is: one moment here, the next, gone and only a tombstone or name written on a page to remember me by. It’s both frightening and humbling, but it doesn’t make me afraid to move forward. On the contrary, it makes me excited to learn how people from the past saw the world, how they’ve affected the world, and how we can learn from that. Walking through the streets of Ottawa I thought, “imagine all the people that have walked these same steps.” x

can’t get enough of confidence. I’m not talking about the cocky kind, but rather the self-assurance that comes with self-awareness. I find that too often I base my value on ephemeral and fluctuating aspects of my life like praise, career, relationships, appearance, to name a few. I allow my self-esteem to ride the rollercoaster that comes with letting factors that are beyond my control, dictate my self-perceived worth. To know yourself well enough to identify and celebrate the qualities that remain unchanged no matter what life throws at you is to have mastered confidence. Now, that kind of confidence—confidence in its purest form—is what I can’t get enough of. x




his grungy, eclectic, and progressive city we call Hamilton. Since coming to McMaster, I have made it my personal mission to explore as much of the city as I can in the short time that I am here. So far, I feel as though I have put forth a valiant effort to fulfilling this mission, however I am constantly overwhelmed by the amount of things to still left to discover. It’s almost as though the more I see, the more things I realize are still left to be seen. In a city that has experienced such rapid growth, the list of things to do and explore has become utterly bottomless. My quest to explore Hamilton has proven to be insatiable one but I wouldn’t have it any other way. x


ime. Time passes inexorably onwards, each second lost, remaining only in intangible memory. It’s the only dimension we cannot backtrack in, the only one where we are—like pawns on a chessboard—forced to move forward in, always. We spend one third of our lives sleeping, the rest doing the duties assigned to us by others, submersing ourselves in the mundane details of surviving so much that we lose out on the precious hours meant for us to live. Yet, in our desperate bid to garner a few more breaths, we overlook the moments which take our breath away. We run out of time for the things that really matter. What items on your to-do list will remain un-checked at the moment of your dying breath? What do you wish you had more time for when you have little time left? Have you used your time wisely? x



can’t get enough of the amount of pages dedicated to dogs on social media. I am a total dog person and watching a little pupper eat ice cream makes me so happy. x



never really understood how people would get sick from eating junk food. My conclusion was there must be something wrong with their stomachs, right? Meanwhile, I am the girl who was proud to announce that my dinner consists of a bag of chips, a chocolate bar, and a roll of cookie dough. I know, I am real good at adulting. When it comes to junk food, I can honestly never get enough. My grandpa always told me that came from him, so thanks to my genetics and somehow unreal metabolism, I can feed my addiction, literally. x



t’s nearing 7am on a Saturday morning and I have not yet caught a snooze. As I sit here with a cup of cold tea and a soggy chicken wing, I can’t help but think, “Wow—I really just can’t get enough of Incite, can I?” And also, sleep. Seriously though. Well… anyway, I hope you enjoy this issue! x MORE



An Open Letter to 2017 “In this world, it is not similarities or regularities that take us a step forward, but blunt opposites. And all the opposites in the universe are present within each and every one of us.” –Shams Tabrizi Rule 39 / 40 Rules of Love

Once upon a time, In a land far, far away, There lived a man who knew all the secrets of time and fate. He walked the City of Firsts, Tabriz, speaking of affection, introducing to the world a profound series of observations, ‘The 40 Rules of Love’. It is more than eight hundred years since the birth and death of Shams Tabrizi that I have stumbled across this humbled universe of poetry where silence speaks in volumes to both the learned and unlearned. Upon discovering this craft, I had aimed to learn the eloquent clockwork of penned syllables and ancient ghazals. Yet, as my perspective blossomed, I became aware of the age-old divide between yesterday and today, cognizant of the historical code of living more—with more emotion and humanness alike—and its absolute extinction today. Regardless, it seems I have become a cynic since then, with a certain lethargy in my pulse and an unkempt feeling of ambient emptiness. I imagine I am not alone in this incoherent qualia of fatigue, particularly amidst a wave of chaotic world events. I imagine that the act of gasping for air has now become a universal phenomenon, what with knowing that graves are planted more often than flowers and that missiles fall more often than rain. It is during these times, while a familiar tenor of tragedy plays the forgotten role of white noise, that I find myself immersed in Tabrizi’s spangled realm. Lost in the 8


notion that, once, crisis was the innocent child of simple misunderstandings and linguistic mistranslations, when people were still seen as people, not taxonomies. Cast away by the idea that, not so long ago, perhaps when we were children and the moon still followed our tracks, we felt more than this detachment, more than numbers and strategy; when war was reciprocated by emotion. It is no wonder as to why we long to be birds sometimes—so as to set ourselves free from a tangled abyss of sorrow and divide. It is for this reason that I write this letter to the 2017th year of the Common Era, seventeenth year of the third millennium and twenty-first century. Dear Two-Thousand and Seventeen, I hope you bring more with your arrival. More love for the unloved, More voice for the voiceless. Understanding for the misunderstood, Hope for the hopeless, Welcome for the unwelcomed. I hope you bring more promise than threat. I hope you bring more “human”. Sincerely, Waiting for Air x






It scared Ana how much she loved being drunk. The whole experience. She loved the slow ascent, the suggestion of unsteadiness, the realization that world was slightly less solid. She loved the way her handwriting slurred and her jokes carried less weight. She felt magic when she drank. She loved that apex of naïve invincibility, of feeling like she could blame her youth on that seventh shot of whatever-it-was. She loved waking up in a haze. Have another. It was Ed, or a distorted version of him, extending his arm with a blur of pink on the end of it. Vodka cranberry? Maybe a cooler. Accepting wasn’t an action that registered with Ana, but rather seeped from the bottom of her brainstem, a reflex arc in the nighttime. Ed did not appear drunk. He never did. Come on, he said, let’s go out front. He pulled her through the crowd and to the front of the house. They were going to play Chicken, he said, just like when they were kids. “I’ve never played,” she said, “but isn’t it dangerous?” You’ll be fine. “I swear people have died.” I’ll go with you. This is different. He went first, looking both ways almost mockingly before he lay down on the pebbly pavement. He crossed his hands over his heart and stared at the sky, his chest rising and falling so shallowly she wondered if maybe he had stopped breathing. She stared at him, taken by the way his shirt draped over his body when he lay down. He raised his head.

Come on. I dare you. Tell us what we’re doing is dangerous. Try to save me. C’mon, he said, lay with me. Whether because she was drunk or captivated or naïve, she did as he said. She lay in the street with a palpable but controlled sense of unease, the way that you feel when you first ride your bike without a helmet, or sit in the backseat with four extra people and your seatbelt undone. She waited in a silence that she knew was supposed to be reflective, a silence she was supposed to direct inwards. But instead she was biding her time, listening, waiting for someone to ask what they were doing. Stop us, she thought. Come on. I dare you. Tell us what we’re doing is dangerous. Try to save me. Isn’t that all adolescent games of chicken ever are? A dare, a challenge to oppose the invincibility of youth? A silent show of vitality and stupidity and bravery. Ana wondered if maybe that was the very same dare that was driving everything she did. But more than that she felt an overwhelming desire for the pavement to open up to take her in, to adopt her into its cracked watercolor so that people would traipse over her, day in and day out, not seeing a girl but just a blip in the road. She imagined her edges flattening and blurring, her lines and contours flattening into gray. She had never felt more beautiful. x




When the Canon Ends …with a laugh, he placed a hand on Marcus’ shoulder and said, “You thought I’d leave you here after all we’ve been through? You’re hilarious.” Quinn met his eyes and added, “No way, man, you’re coming with me. Together, we’re unstoppable.”

Regan folded the book shut, holding it to her chest and giggling. At long last, she had finished reading The Cursed Blade Of Elvenwood: her new favourite book series. She bounced in her desk chair, squealing and seeming as though she would gain lift off. Setting the book down beside her laptop, Regan launched her browser and clicked open a new tab, immediately going to The page for her fandom couldn’t load fast enough. Even though she may have just finished the last book, Regan needed to stay in the world of her beloved characters for just a little longer, and seeing her OTP (Quinn x Marcus) together would be an added bonus. Her eyes were drawn to the first fic, one with a poorly drawn cover photo likely done in MS Paint. Despite this, she decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and read the description. It was difficult for her to refrain from gagging as she saw that it featured Alex x Quinn. That ship, aka: the most disgusting thing to have ever disgraced the internet. The fanfic may have not been tagged as Alex x Quinn, but the description made it all too clear. Naturally, it was also a high school AU. Judging by the typos and chat-speak used in the description, she could only 12


guess it was written by a 12-year-old and would be ridden with cringe-worthy errors. Could it be any worse? Regan wanted anything but shallow AUs and that abomination of a ship. She had something very specific in mind: her OTP set in the canon universe of the books, well-written and peppered with a nice dose of hurt/comfort. She wanted something with some length and some plot, too. Surely, that wasn’t too much to ask for. Taking a deep breath, she opened the filter tab and selected Marcus and Quinn from the drop-down menu. She then checked off the “pairing” box, feeling her heart sink as she saw the number of corresponding fics drop from 4,038 to 22. “Oh, come on. It’s got to be more popular than that,” she muttered to herself. She scrolled down the page, finding that just about every fanfic that matched the search criteria to be a drabble of about 300 words with a useless sentence-long description. A few even said ‘Lol, I suck at writing.’ She rolled her eyes and scrolled farther down. Still, nothing worth reading came up. After forcing herself to sift through all 22 of the fanfics, Regan was losing

hope. Somehow, none of them seemed to be anything that she wanted besides involving Quinn x Marcus. Even then, she figured that the characterization would be so terrible that it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway. She then went back and unchecked the “pairing” box, seeing that the number of fics now totalled 683. She stretched her arms over her head, fingers interlaced, before preparing for the second round of browsing. By about the 5th page of results, after having read the description for every fanfic before it, she found the one. It had no cover image, yet it was a hurt/comfort Quinn x Marcus fanfic set after the books and was 90,000 words long. It even had several reviews and favourites; it was everything she was looking for. Hours later, Regan’s eyes burned from the backlit screen. She read it all in one go and it was written incredibly well. Quinn and Marcus were adorable together, and she cried at least once while reading it. The fanfic captured their personalities just as well as the books. Then, she realized she needed more. Frustrated, she shut her laptop and climbed into bed, vowing to dig through again tomorrow. x




The Pressure to Do Everything I am a high-achiever. A perfectionist with a type-A personality. Those are the labels I would use to describe myself. But with those labels come expectations. The expectation to always be on top of things and to have a wide variety of interests—to be good at everything. When I came to this realization, I decided I needed a change in perspective. So I took the following steps to come to a place where I could come to terms with my unhealthy behaviour and making changes to shift to having a more positive attitude.



One night, I was having trouble falling asleep. So I decided make a list of all the things I ever wanted to try and all the changes I had ever wanted to make in my life. Making that list that night, I realized I never felt like I was doing enough. I consistently compared myself to others, their successes and accomplishments. It made me feel so ashamed of my own failures because I wanted my life to be picture-perfect at all times. I finally came to understand how much pressure I was putting on myself and how unhappy that was making me.



2. BE HONEST Looking at each item on that list, I recognized that many of the goals I had written down were dreams of a former version of myself. I would not even enjoy doing some of those things anymore. I felt guilty that I had once wanted those things, but had never achieved them. At that point, I had to come to terms with the fact that giving up on those dreams did not mean that I was failing myself. In fact, I was doing myself a favour by leaving those goals behind. Understanding that those were no longer my thoughts made me feel more liberated than ever.



Many goals on that list were things I had never tried before. I knew that, starting something for the first time, I would be far from perfect. That thought terrified me. But understanding that I had to start from somewhere to improve made all the difference. As Maureen Johnson once said, “Dare to suck.” There is no easy way to master any new skill—it takes time, patience, and a lot of failure along the way. This has been one of the hardest parts of my journey, but giving myself permission to feel frustrated while embracing my fear of failure has made me less afraid to try new things.

Having so many goals, I felt the burden of having to choose one from a plethora of different options. I believed that choosing one would mean giving up on everything else. But I have to come to understand that there is no point in wondering what could have been. Because there is nothing so irreversible that, in the future, I cannot make the decision to choose a different option. The regret that festered inside me, I realized, was counterproductive because it makes me feel like my options are limited. In fact, it is quite the contrary.

Now, I am open to anything and everything without feeling overwhelmed by all the thoughts of something that “could have been.” I feel more positive and excited about all the things I have yet to try and understanding that I have time to pause, take a breath, and enjoy living in the moment. x



Inside the Garden of Evil ART by ERIN FU




Addiction is not caused by drugs. Addiction is caused by a buildup of emotional stress, and the very act of using ‘drugs’ relieves the addict from their stress. It is a learning disorder—the learned indulgence is continually rewarded so much that they do not know how to stop. Ultimately, addiction is escapism from your inner demons. Stefan sat back in his chair after finally finishing his paper. He put a joint in his mouth, took out his lighter, but hesitated— the memories of his therapy session still haunted him. Stefan sighed, taking the joint out of his mouth as he recalled some lingering, vivid moments. “Grass isn’t addictive, man! It’s not like cocaine. I did my research—weed doesn’t do anything to the reward pathway thingy. They did this experiment on mice, and the mouse chose to drink cocaine over water. The mice chose cocaine over life itself! Now that’s addiction!” Stefan fiddled around with the joint in his hand, examining each wrinkle in the paper. It was skillfully made. He ripped it apart, emptying the contents into a container. “That is also escapism, Stefan. You know they re-did that experiment again, right? They gave the mice friends and toys and all sorts of things. The mice didn’t choose cocaine when they had friends to hang around with, or things to do. They only did it because there was nothing to do in their cage. You have an addiction problem, and I think it’s important for you to admit it.” Something just didn’t sit right with Stefan. The implications were massive—was he really escaping from something? He stared at the devil’s lettuce, feeling the temptation. He had no withdrawal symptoms, and yet he still wanted to do it all the same. He put his stash away and out of view, and tried to sit still in his chair. The boredom itched within him, and he pulled out his phone instinctively. “I’m not in a cage! I have friends! In fact, with the internet, I have friends I can talk to any time I want!” Stefan gulped as he scrolled through his Facebook feed. He sent out a few messages, but nobody read them yet—only thirty seconds had passed. Stefan felt uneasy, as if a sort of ironic karma or justice was being delivered. He had never felt so alone

in his life. He switched to Instagram, and then Snapchat, and then Twitter, before finally putting down his phone. A sort of existential dread began to creep on him—as if the entire room was closing in on him from the weight of his thoughts. He felt smaller and smaller in his miniscule bed, and his mind started to race. He noticed a few drops of sweat emerging on the side of his head. His phone buzzed, but he didn’t want to look at it. Stefan was too busy trying to understand his thoughts. “What do you mean, anything can be a drug? Drugs are substances you take for fun.” “Don’t you have fun when you do these things, Stefan?” “You mean even something like the Internet? Our phones?” “Absolutely.” “What about girls? Not like sex; I mean like relationships.” “Have you seen the movie Love and Other Drugs, Stef?” “And books? Exercise? Studying?” “Workaholics exist too.” “You’re crazy man, you aren’t making much sense.” “Stef…” Stefan finally got up and put some herbs in his water pipe. He had been clean for three days, but it wasn’t worth it anymore. He lit up the plants, and felt the sin enter into him, causing him to cough. He reached for a water bottle—taking a few sips—before he felt his world becoming illusory and surreal once more. The anxiety was disappearing, transforming and twisting itself into curiosity and appreciation. Stefan lay there, a little disappointed in himself, but mostly relieved that he could finally think again. If everything can be an addiction, are we just supposed to pick out the ‘healthiest’ ones or the ones that contribute the most to our identity? Identity. Stefan wanted to write it down, but with what? He glanced around, hoping to find a pen, a sheet, a notebook—anything that wasn’t too far away. His gaze turned to the window scenery, at the white puffs of clouds in the clear, blue sky, forgetting about his quest and feeling small once again. Who am I? Beyond all these layers of escapism, who am I as a person? And what on earth am I escaping from? x MORE



God, the Glutton The bell chimed twelve times and the service began. The priest, a knobbly old man with watery eyes and tufts of white hair sticking out of his head at odd directions, stood from his high-backed chair. After countless wars had ravaged the lands, the cathedral was one of the few buildings that had been repaired to near completion. The hall itself was vast, with pews stretching from the front doors all the way to a makeshift altar, cobbled together from loose wooden planks and rusted metal. The congregation, subdued as they were, needed little encouragement to be hushed into silence. After a short fit of coughing, the priest raised his voice such that it carried easily in the empty cathedral, “Blessed brothers and sisters, for we are all blessed under His watchful eye, we gather to give thanks and supplicate ourselves before His might. We seek to know Him for He is great—” “And we are weak,” replied the congregation. “Yes. Yes, and we were weak. Weak indeed. It was this weakness that nearly led to our final destruction and the end-of-days when invaders and enemies swept across our lands, assailing us from all sides. We were helpless against the rape, the pillage, and the cleansing fires that swept through our metal cities. We were helpless, but not He. When all was lost and civilization seemed at its end, it was He who, with gentle hand for His flock and spiteful first for His enemy, brought His holy wrath across the lands. Blessed be His name! Blessed be His image!” The old priest took a few ragged, wheezing breaths to compose himself. “We gather on the anniversary of His victory against the foes of our world to recognize the covenant into which we, His chosen people, have entered in return for the continued protection and grace we receive at His feet. Please rise and follow, to undertake this holy pilgrimage.” At this point, the congregation stood and formed a great column, two by two, reaching from the front of the cathedral all the way to the back. With the priest at its head, waving incense to and fro, the column descended down a great stone staircase behind the rickety altar. Down they descended into the near-darkness of a stone-corridor that snaked left and 18


As it was roused, the brute’s droopy eyelids slowly pulled apart and it smacked its lips, as if in anticipation. right, but always deeper into the heart of the cathedral. At last, the corridor opened into a room, even more expansive and boundless than the building above. Tall pillars extended upwards towards a great domed ceiling high above. Yet, where the cathedral was spare, this room was cluttered. Packed from wall to wall were treasures and trash in equal measure. All the objects shone brightly with the firelight emanating from the ornamental sconces high on the marble pillars. Each of the objects, be it a waste bin, candelabrum, or china set, was polished to radiate its light, such that the overall effect was near blinding for the congregation and the priest at its head. The column navigated towards through these holy relics towards the back wall, and the raised dais at its base. On the dais, the size of which made the altar pale in comparison, was a throne made for a giant. Seated on that colossal throne— “Our Lord, our Saviour, Holy One, Blessed-Destroyer-ofFoes!” cried the priest with his assemblage grouped behind him. The priest had fallen, somewhat awkwardly, to his knees with his head pressed against the stone floor. All the pilgrims followed his lead. Seated in the throne, the man, or creature bearing the semblance of a man, sat fifteen-feet tall with its head slumped backwards. The shrill screeching of the priest slowly roused the human-like being, whose head straightened to attention,

setting its jowls and numerous chins quivering. The giant wore threadbare rags, which may have been a robe at one point or another, but now did little to cover the creature’s many folds of fat or its gargantuan belly. As it was roused, the brute’s droopy eyelids slowly pulled apart and it smacked its lips, as if in anticipation. The priest, having now caught his divine’s undivided attention, continued his sermon, “O Great Liberator, we come bearing our humble offerings in return for your great deeds, both those in the past and those to come, and to honour our continued covenant.” The congregation parted and eight of the more physically able, clerical members stood and pulled forward a wheeled cart laden with the carcasses of two elk, a skinny heifer, one hog, a string of rabbits, and even a small grey wolf. The cart was left at the foot of the throne and the clergy withdrew, backpedalling with their heads bowed low. Now fully awake, the giant grunted its affirmation and reached one hand, each finger as long as a full-grown man, towards its fleshy tithe. It grabbed the entire cart and raised it level with its poison-green eyes, the sags of its arm blubbering from the sudden movement. Without further pretense, the monster emptied the contents into its cavernous mouth. Soon, little could be heard over the sound of knobby yellow teeth crunching through bones and meat.

The priest, still kneeling before the throne, was wringing his hands in anticipation as he watched the feast and awaited divine judgment. At last, the giant pulled a particularly long bone from between its teeth, and belched heartily. “More.” The low, booming voice reverberated throughout the entire cavern, echoing off walls too distant to be made out by the naked eye. At the sound, the entire congregation, priest included, cowered. Undoubtedly, many would have fallen to their knees had they not already been on them. The priest, after two attempts, managed to find his voice and shakily replied, “S-S-Sacred One, w-w-we have failed you. Our self-penance w-w-will be severe for we have nothing left to offer. The season was harsh and a-a-almost nothing survived.” For a moment, the giant looked perplexed, its ogrish features contorting into some semblance of a bemused expression. Then, all at once, the creature exploded into a bout of thunderous laughter. When, finally, the last remnants of the cackle subsided, it leaned forward, close enough that it’s noxious breath washed over the priest, and replied jovially: “Worry not, tiny priest, I am just and slow to anger. Besides, I have long missed the taste of man flesh.” x






Lovation, Loving something, or someone even with the harm they cause. I keep dancing, I never tend to stop I keep dancing round the circle Of our endless bittersweet love Lovation I’m dancing to the beat of your drum I keep dancing, I never stop. Is it possible to love a monster? Some nights, I’m wrapped in your arms Such a sweet feeling The arms of a beast Yet as comfortable as a baby’s blanket Some nights, I’m weak Alone and cold Scared of what might happen again, Will he hit me… once again? Then for a second, I think of ending it all. Ending him. Grab a pillow? A pot? A knife? Hit him with a pan. Stab him. Poison his food. What can I do? Anything to end him. But then, I’m not a monster, am I? Does this make me a monster? Don’t we all have some darkness hidden in us? Hidden in our souls, Waiting to come out and explore evil? Lovation. I forgot about love for a second

Even with this pain I think I still love him. Why do I still feel this way? On the floor I lay Weak from the night before Bruised with wounds…

I keep loving him And I just don’t know how to stop. Lovation, I keep dancing round the circle Of our endless bittersweet love, “Why can’t I just leave?” I was tired I was weary, A deep realization came to me Like a sharp ray of light In the darkness of the night, I felt shame and pain Empty and guilty All this while, “Why don’t you love her” “Why don’t you tend to her” “Why don’t you water her garden and see her grow?” “Serve her” “Pray for her” “Why don’t you just love yourself? I felt the butterflies in my stomach I wondered how I could love another Without loving myself first. Lovation, I love you but I have to love me first As sudden as an April shower There was a realization of self love The evolution of my mind soul and body My soul breathes, “at last she loves me”. Lovation, Developing deep love for oneself I keep dancing, I never tend to stop I keep dancing round the circle Of my endless honey sweet love, My personal ritual became love and happiness I water my garden Tend to it And it grows Lovation I’m dancing to the beat of my own drum I keep dancing, I never stop. At last, I love myself And I will never stop. x




Superheroes Aren’t Made Overnight I want to live a good life, but what is a good life without the things that make you the happiest?

Our eyes met from a distance. It has been four years since the

it did. So often, I would hear the same comments reiterating

recent memories, all I could see was my nine-year-old self

the same message: “You will not succeed”. To hear that my

playing kitchen on her living room floor. She leaned in to give me a hug. “Hello! How have you been doing? Have you finished school yet?” “Almost,” I smiled in excitement, “only a few more months to go!” We laughed. “So close to the finish line! What program are you in again?” My smile grew higher, “I’m in the English and Cultural

passion wasn’t enough for the ‘real world’ brought me into conflict with my intentions of the future. I want to live a good life, but what is a good life without the things that make you the happiest? It hurt, discouraged, and separated me from what I love; but little did I know, it brought me closer. Creativity is a powerful tool; it doesn’t take four years of education to understand that. My time here at McMaster as a

Studies program at McMaster and I really enjoy it.” I took

humanities student, has taught me to embrace experience, to

pride in my field. It always gave me the feeling that I was a

use my stories as a weapon to inspire others. And although

superhero in training. “Oooh.” She tightened her lips in an attempt to hold in a smirk. “Good thing your parents have money.” EXCUSE ME? I let out a soft—and obviously fake—laugh, turned around, and walked in the opposite direction. Her reaction didn’t come to me as a surprise, in fact, I get the same response almost 95% of the time I discuss my interests in writing and literature. I liked to think that the 22

stigma surrounding the humanities had no affect on me, but

last time I saw her—however, when I tried to picture our most


I may not remember every literary term or each one of Shakespeare’s plays, I have learned to play off my inspiration from external doubts. What others think should only make me stronger, because I know myself better than anyone else. Now, every time I hear a remark that inferiorizes my success, I laugh it off—as it just becomes another story that will help me to create change in the world. x







We poke holes in our flesh and paint our nails with lead inject poison, insert silicon pour chemicals over our heads.

And though we bleed when we feel the sting and though we hurt as we’re scarring,

We spray on cancer and adorn our ears stick plastic on our eyeballs and drink up the tears.

Just turn up the drugs when I’m feeling sore and kill the pain so I can feel no more.

We dip our fingers in perfume as ink seeps under our skin nip, clip, tuck, trim suck our stomachs in.

There was no doctor that ever could warn for I was dead before I was born. x

When things feel like they’re stagnant, or worse, falling apart, remember there will always be more:

hugs / sunny days / time / laughter / chances to start over / songs that capture exactly how you’re feeling at the perfect moment / opportunities to reinvent yourself / full moons / feelings you haven’t felt yet / cups of tea / dogs to pet / streets to walk / mornings to sleep late / first impressions to make / cookies / moments when you feel like everything is as it should be / cathartic tears / good books / first days of spring / afternoons to spend doing whatever makes you happy / constellations / changing fall leaves / snowy nights / Christmas lights x WORDS by ZOE HANDA

Nothing lasts forever People come and go Errors are perpetual In case you didn’t know Existence willed from nothing Conception into birth Onward into time and space The

Fate is not forgiving Sometimes you will lose Impermanence will have its way There is no absolute The upstream incantation Rejection of the flow Upending law of entropy The bravest highest hope Heaviest ambition Compounding natural law No one outlives gravity But fatal human flaw 26


Wills and vows and big estates Contractual choking hold Stewardship of luxury The foolish miner’s gold Ephemeral, the waterfall Evading human grasp Measure, hold, experience But never once to last Unsteady is the harness Danger holds the trek Are necklaces a noose to hold A gemstone or a neck? ‘Having’ as a state of being Burden of the mind Religion in our ownership A cancer of a kind Corrosive and conspicuous The gold-infested Self The antidote for gluttony Is not sold on a shelf Give yourself to nothing Or sneeze away the soul Your precious rubble diamond ring Is just a lump of coal x




A Home Full of It Everything I have dedicated my life to is in the search of getting enough of it, but I never will. I have surrounded myself with my passion. It is my lifestyle. Without it I am nothing but an empty drone awaiting the end. I pity those with nothing. What is life without purpose? Who desires a life without value? Not me. Thus, I fill my existence with value to the brim and there isn’t anything with greater value than the material. They say that home is where the heart is, yet I believe my home is where I keep all my stuff. The living room, the bathrooms, the attic—they are all full. Some with throwbacks to the good old days, or gifts for the upcoming holidays. I’ve learned that the bathtub is a great space to hold excess produce. Cold porcelain keeps food fresh and when they ultimately rot it is easy to dispose of the spoiled remains down the drain. I am told I have a problem. A mental disorder, but I know that is wrong. I



dare not say the term. Compulsive. It’s such a nasty word. I am at my strongest in my current state. My behavior is a manifestation of want, rather than need. If anything of mine ever lost value, I am certain I would throw it away. Luckily, I have never had to. The pillars of my existence lie with admiration and consumerism. With such a wonderful purpose in my life, I love to review all that I have kept and stored. But my desire to purchase is of higher importance. A full trunk and an empty wallet are states that bring me to euphoria. While maintaining a healthy lifestyle is difficult, my stuff makes it worth it in spades. Having access to my master’s collection of DVDs gives ease to sleeping on the floor and eating cheap ramen noodles for most meals. And of course the bed is filled with my wardrobe. I’d be ashamed to shop without wearing the newest trend. I have lots of things, but everything of mine holds great meaning to me and will

never be discarded. This polka dot shirt, I wore it in high school. And I’ve had this old lamp for a long time. Oh look! The shoes I wore to my wedding. Never know when I may need these. The list continues: a VCR remote, a partly used candle, an empty family portrait frame… My family resents me. They hated who they thought I was becoming as I found who I truly am. I was told I would suffocate. That I would be buried alive, killed by my narcissistic pledge to consume. Such arrogance they possess. I suppose I am better off now. The new guest bedroom presents a bounty of extra space. It opens up the possibility for new things. If I don’t get it I will die trying and I just might. But I will always need it. I forever need more. x

They say that home is where the heart is, yet I believe my home is where I keep all my stuff.




For More Love Unlock the suffering of suffering

You’ll go nuts. We promise! I read it on a milk carton before I put it in the fridge. Now it rests next to the butter on the top shelf. The next time I open the door, I’ll get a whiff of almond. I buy more milk and butter than one might expect a vegan would but I present a charming case for weekends. She will miss her children tonight. The phone isn’t ringing and it’s stable on its base. We’ll visit them tomorrow in a van and return every Sunday until we leave with him in April. I’m close to home so I can feel sorrow building, and as each pup dies each family asks Was it mine? There are three left Also mother [she breathes faster and with a tormented, unreachable calm]. I sleep the other way on my bed now, with my feet where my head used to be. I tried to sleep with my head in the corner where wall meets wall but my knees aren’t nimble like they used to be now less capacity to disengage from hallway foot traps so I use the mini fridge as a step up Lost a knuckle on the way up For days I’ve been walking less one hinge Nobody asks where it went We all care too much Move slowly, as luminous as a skipping rope moves fast. Sit patient and full of aim. 30


fake it till you make it it’s all fakery anyway [?] Sometimes I can’t help being active in quiet and passive in noise. A friend left yesterday. I want to leave, too. The most pitiable stories shriek, dead, inside possession. Don’t knock. Call and wait. I’ll unlock the door. Hardwood floor inside White vinyl tile in the kitchen Stacks of plastic water bottles, full, draining slowly. The stories [most worthy of pity] shriek, watery, through possession. The stories [most pitiable] laugh, dead, around possession. The stories [most pitied] rest, vibrant, in possession. A thirteen year old girl next to me on the bus watches me while she coughs. Phlegm rises up her throat and onto my hand. I wipe the mucus on her sweater, stand up furious, melting over myself in misery and she coughs again with a blank scrape through her lungs. I do my best design real action to match up with action as I want it to be But, there is always disparity x



sorry running late will be there in ten stopped for coffee needed that late anyway ouch hot splashes on my fingers

forgot my keys do I go back check my phone—no uh oh the bus is coming soon this stop seems farther than usual it passes me just missed it at least I can catch my breath

ugh can the bus come any faster maybe I’ll scroll through Instagram phone buzzes where are you now we’re waiting for you shoot ten minutes have passed already why didn’t I wake up earlier

sorry I’m running will be there soo nx





The moment Jenny raised her hand in class, Al knew she’d found her first friend. “Supernova,” the girl said. “When a big star dies, it’s called a supernova.” “That’s correct, uh…” Mr. Fields peered at his attendance. “Chun Li?” “Jenny. Call me Jenny. That only happens if the star’s really big though. Something like the Sun becomes a red giant then a white dwarf. And if it’s a red dwarf…well, the universe isn’t old enough for one to die yet. So we don’t really know.” Jenny petered out. “I…I think it’s pretty cool.” >> MORE


Al leaned forward, trying to glimpse the girl’s face from the back of the class. “It is cool,” Mr. Fields finally said. “That’s wonderful, Jenny. Where’d you learn so much about stars?” “From ax book,” she said, shrinking inside her hoodie. “What a nerd,” someone muttered. At lunch Al wandered the Grade Nine hallway, and finally found Jenny sitting by herself in the stairwell. “Eating alone sucks, doesn’t it?” she said, plopping down beside her. “Remember me?” Jenny stared at her. “No.” “My name’s Al—I’m from your science class. Short for Alessandra.” “Alessandra,” Jenny repeated, and Al liked the sound of her voice. It was sweet with a slight accent, and made her name sound like music. “So Al, why’re you eating alone?” “I’m new here. I don’t know anybody. Why are you eating alone?” Jenny silently poked at her lunch. Al glanced into her Tupperware. “What’s that?” she asked. “Uh…chicken gizzards, I think.” “Can I try some? I’ll trade you my Snickers.” Al held out her chocolate, and eventually Jenny accepted and loaded her chopsticks with gizzard. “Open wide,” she said, with a grin. — “You know, my family’s new to Canada too.” “Really? Where are you guys from?” “Vermont.” “Ah.” — Al invited Jenny over for dinner less than a week later, but it took Jenny ages to work up the courage and return the favour. When she did it was awkward as expected. Her parents fumbled their English while Al fumbled her chopsticks, and as Jenny chewed her fish in their plain, dimly-lit kitchen she thought of Al’s dining room which was twice its size. Overall, though, it went well; Al liked her parents and her parents liked Al, and that was all that mattered. After dinner Jenny showed Al her bookcase full of astronomy books, and felt her chest warm with pride as she touched the worn-out spines. “Holy crap,” her friend whispered. “Where’d you get all these?” “My mom was an astronomy professor in China, and brought everything she could.” “No way!” “Yeah way. Kinda hard to get a job here with that degree though, that’s why she works in a restaurant now.” “Nothing wrong with restaurants. Your mom makes awesome food. I’d eat anywhere she worked.” “I swear you like Chinese food more than I do.” Jenny grabbed her telescope, and together they sat in the backyard for hours watching the stars. After a while, Al pulled two beers from her backpack. “Oh hell no, my parents would kill me.” “They won’t know, I’ll bring the cans back with me. We gotta celebrate our friend-iversary.” “Our what?” “One year ago today I met you in science, and we bonded over space and gizzards. Now cheers,” she said, and they knocked their cans together. They sipped their drinks in peaceful silence. “Hey,” Al later murmured. “Thanks for being my bestie.” “Thanks for being mine,” she softly replied. — The first time Al heard someone call Jenny a chink was on the subway, coming back late from a Taylor Swift concert. Jenny tightened her grip on Al’s arm and turned her face from the vitriolic man in the aisle. “Don’t do anything, please,” she whispered. “But—” “No, don’t even look at him. Let’s just get off at the next stop, okay?” Al gulped. “Okay.” 34


If there was anything Jenny loved nearly as much as stars themselves, it was Star Wars. “I can’t believe this is happening,” she said, hugging her popcorn in the theatre for Rogue One. “I’ve waited years for this.” “I hear it’s good. It better be good. If not I’m gonna slap someone at Disney.” Al grabbed a fistful of popcorn and shot her a cheeky look. “Ready to see Donnie Yen kick some butt?” Jenny had made her watch the entire Ip Man trilogy when she heard the main actor played Chirrut in the film. “Hell yeah, I am.” Two hours later, they both sighed as the credits rolled and the theatre brightened. “That…was an experience,” Al murmured, in awe, and Jenny could only nod. Later on the escalators she smiled wide. “Hey, you know what else this means?” “What?” “There are Asians in Star Wars now. Like, yes!” Jenny spun around on the escalator step. She had a rare, elated expression, the one usually reserved for talking astronomy, or stargazing together under a clear night sky. “I know I’ve been going on about this, but honestly, this means a lot. I nearly cried.” “Don’t worry, I get it,” Al laughed, slowly realizing that maybe, she really didn’t. That night on her laptop, Al opened her list of movies she wanted to see in 2017. She thought of Jenny’s face lighting up when Chirrut came onscreen, and removed the entry for Ghost in the Shell. — Jenny tried to be invisible. She knew no one else at the holiday party. They were Al’s co-workers from girls’ summer camp, and though they were lovely, Jenny was painfully, obviously the token person of colour in the room. “No offense,” she confided to Al in the kitchen, “but I’m like, a single cornflake. Swimming in a bowl of milk.” “Chill, Jenny, they’re nice people,” Al said. And they were, until someone mentioned Trump. “You know there’s a Facebook group where women are posting in solidarity?” “That’s so nice!” “Yeah; we get troublemakers though. Black Lives Matter, mostly. It’s okay, their comments always get removed.” Jenny squirmed uncomfortably. “Oh God. Why are they so divisive over everything?” “Right? Like hello? Just because we’re white, doesn’t mean we don’t have the same experiences.” Jenny thought of her years scrubbing the ugly, Chinese accent from her voice. She wondered if the girl had ever done the same. When talk turned to Canadian politics, someone named Megan teased Jenny and Al for not being oldstock Canadians. “Honestly, Kellie Leitch isn’t that bad,” Megan later giggled. “Don’t talk to me about her,” Al groaned. “My parents love her, it’s gross.” Jenny thought of all the times she wished her parents were more like Al’s, and felt sick. “Yikes,” said Jenny, as they walked home that night. “Yeah. Sometimes Megan’s a little much.” “A little? I wanted to punch her teeth.” Al looked horrified. “It wasn’t that bad…” “It was.” “…Was it really?” Jenny stared at her feet, saying nothing. Her cheeks burned. “I’m sorry,” Al muttered. “I’m sorry. I should have said something.” Jenny pulled her close, and watched their breath rise into the sky. There, through the light pollution and puffs of clouds, she saw the slightest twinkling of stars. “I’ll do better,” whispered Al, almost too quiet to hear. — “So, what sign are you bringing to the Women’s March?” “Uh, I’m still making it. It says ‘Say no to white feminism, intersectionality or bust’.” “Nice.” “Do you think people will have a problem with it?” “If they do, they’ll have to get through me.” x MORE



Ice After Fire:

Getting More Out of Life After Exam Season

“Why are we moving?! Who’s moving?! I’m not moving!” I squeaked as the wind pushed me in the opposite direction. I held tightly to the Pathogens on either side of me as they tried to stop me from falling. Maybe Frost Week and ice skating weren’t my thing. As the chilly winter breeze froze my face, I recalled how different this feeling was from the heat I felt during an exam. Exams were gruelling and stressful. I found that period to be like a volcanic eruption—information just spewed out of me during the exam and then turned to rock weeks later, creating a solid foundation where only the memories of the eruption remained. Although there was tremendous pressure during exam season, it probably happened for the better. At least then instead of continuously being stressed, I could be stressed out in spurts. Nonetheless, I was given some time to cool down during vacation until the dreaded school days came back again: more problems to solve the weekend before a midterm, more papers to write the night before the due date, and more exams to suffer through. It was like an endless cycle where I made mistakes, learned from them, and perhaps made those same mistakes again! However, it was important to remember that although the volcano erupted now during my years in university, it may go dormant one day and I wouldn’t have eruptions or new beginnings so frequently. I may get a job eventually where I won’t have 36


the chance to fall and fail. I liked to think of failing as a privilege; not everyone had the ability or opportunity to fail and learn. Before I could fully cool down over the break, a new semester started—a new beginning with more to look forward to. Suddenly the volcanic eruption had allowed for growth and diversity in the metaphorical forest surrounding it. In the midst of all this diversity, I tried new things, whether it was learning a new instrument, trying a new sport, or taking electives outside of my program. I wanted to take full advantage of this feeling of diversity and open mindedness before the volcano erupted again and the exam season began. Perhaps it was because of this feeling of diversity and wanting more out of my university life that I went on this skating trip. Regardless of the reason, all I knew was that I hadn’t twisted an ankle or broken an arm in the first ten minutes of my skating career. This was probably due to the fact that I was holding on to two sweet Pathogens for dear life. Maybe doing more didn’t necessarily have to be about ice skating and burying the memories of exam season. Maybe more was just a way of life. There was always more to come—be it fire or ice. Although, more did involve exams and pressure, it also left way for there to be more to look forward to. I could not really appreciate cold wind without feeling the heat and pressure. x






In the starless, hailing night, love arrives, knocking on our weatherbeaten door. When finally let in, love makes no complaint; it simply blows the dust off the furniture.

Love makes no attempt to fly from the present, dropping in with full, courageous attention. Unflinching at wrinkled scars and open sores, love declares its intention to heal.

Love shares its bird’s-eye view wisdom: in vulnerability, we routinely destroy rather than create. When the audience breaks the dancer, artist, or innovator, it is often not about their technique, but our own pain.

Instead of lifting those in need, we ask, “What if?” “What if my troubles lie too heavy on my chest?” “What if my moment-to-moment fear suffocates me?” Love counsels, “Look uncertainty in the eye, then beyond it.”

There exists a better tomorrow for us and our children; the exhilarating prospect is that we are the ones to build it. With hope, the blurry future makes way for a clear vision: we dedicate ourselves to peace and human equality.

Despite the suffering that persists on Earth, our home, love whispers tenderly, “And yet, there is more to do.” Naysayers and critics fade into white noise. Love believes in us, one thousand times over. x




A Trumping Presidency

Society can be a fickle entity. As fast as a clock ticks, the general public can go from loving you to tolerating you to despising your existence. This happens often to public figures, ranging from philanthropists to celebrities to politicians, as we infiltrate their private lives while simultaneously treating their public lives as pure entertainment. Arguably, the greatest recipients of public animosity and admiration in recent times have emerged from the ashes of the 2016 American Presidential Election. An election mired in scandals, controversial rhetoric, and perhaps what can generously be described as nationalist propaganda, the contrasting images of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were perhaps the most striking. Hillary Clinton, to many, symbolized lifelong public service, civic engagement, and advocacy for the poor and the vulnerable. Instead, the American public chose to elect Donald Trump, a boastful and blunt billionaire businessman who, arguably, was never even seriously expected to receive the Republican presidential candidacy, let alone the American presidency. Despite his many negatives, ranging from his dubious business deals that reportedly destroyed many lives to his inability to filter his words or be accepting of differences in individuals, Trump was selected by the American public to become their next Commander-in-Chief. Despite being a billionaire who likely has never had to deal with the difficulties facing those living on the streets or those following tight budgets as they try to survive in run-down neighbourhoods, the American public believes he is the answer to their economic troubles, the saviour of their livelihoods and the one to raise them all out of poverty. Trump is the dreaded 1%, and yet such a huge proportion of the remaining 99% threw their complete and utter support behind him. For many who were not Trump supporters, the question that still remains is: How? How did Trump become president of the strongest nation in the world, without any impressive (or even existent) history of political or civic involvement? As someone who has never fought for the people (and perhaps instead often fought against them), how did he convince them that he will champion their needs? The answer, we can try to argue, might be simpler than expected. He didn’t. Because he didn’t need to. There are a myriad of sides to this issue, of course, and each will result in a different reasoning. For fear of oversimplifying this election, it must be acknowledged that greater issues were at play here—the deep undercurrents of factors such as racism and sexism, for instance, also guided the direction of this election. Emotions arising from a multitude of issues, ranging from those aforementioned to others such as the influx of refugees or the outsourcing of jobs, were heightened throughout the election, and played a huge role in leading to Trump’s presidency. 40


But for the sake of narrowing the scope of this topic, perhaps one overarching argument that may encompass all these issues is that the American people, the working-class individuals, those fighting to survive on a daily basis, felt that their government had deserted them. They needed more, more from their government, more from the administration they had voted to elect, more from the people who had the power to change their lives. Without commenting on whether the government truly had deserted them—or whether they simply saw the bad without appreciating the good—it can instead be argued that this was an unexpected (perhaps naïve) case of growing public resentment that the Democratic administration did not plan to encounter. While they often highlighted their past achievements and simultaneously emphasized the divisive nature of Trump’s campaign, their approach seems laid-back in the assumption that Trump could not be considered a solid candidate. An assumption, perhaps, held by many of the public as well. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned there after all. For the Democrats, a Trump presidency was laughable. For many, it was impossible. As a businessman and not a politician, Trump was regarded as someone who only provided the entertainment, not a legitimate solution. And that, perhaps, gave Trump the greatest opportunity to exploit and manipulate

the American public’s need for change by giving them an option different from what Clinton represented. His direct words to the public to make America great again—to finally put the American people first—resonated with the many individuals who had felt that their own livelihoods had been lost in the midst of arriving immigrants and refugees, or in the focus on other issues such as equality and acceptance of cultural, religious and racial differences. His lack of political experience, political correctness or political understanding fell in line with the views of the people. They didn’t want a president who was a continuation of the current administration. One can argue that this election was never really even about Trump as much as it was about his ability to speak plainly, like a regular person, and persuade the people that he would make the next four years about them. While the future will only tell how right the American public’s decision was, at this moment, their desire for change— something that Clinton, as a Democrat and as a member of the Obama administration, could not become—has led to the election of someone who can be considered as perhaps the least qualified in American history as the 45th President of the United States. Trump, for the American people, was an answer to their call for more. x MORE



(inspired by dr. neil degrasse tyson)



sometimes when i am thinking about the universe and all that it holds (time, space, matter and all the rest of it) i can’t help but feel small and rather insignificant in comparison. this is how my sister found me once, sitting on the floor, mid-existential crisis. when she asked me what was wrong, i said: nothing. i’m just a lot smaller than stars are. she smiled and stared at me for a few moments. do you know, she asked, where your atoms come from?

came from those very stars. you are connected and relevant and significant without even having to try. did you know, she continued, a bit breathless now, that the most astounding fact about the universe is that it is within you? of course you’re not small, she smiled. don’t you see how small stars are? that’s only from a distance, i said.

well, i said. and i did not say anything else.

maybe you’re looking at yourself from a distance too, she said.

atoms, she paused, the ones that make up the human body and just about everything else

and that was the end of that.

those atoms have come from the bellies of rioting stars that flung themselves across space in protest when it came time for them to die. every atom, every molecule every breath and blink and beat of your heart is traceable to the crucibles that cooked life itself. your atoms and my atoms and all of our atoms

i am older now and when i look up at the stars, i still think about the universe & how incredibly vast it is; a vastness that i cannot even begin to fathom and i still think that the stars are very big despite how small they appear to be from where i stand but now i think, yes, stars are very big but they are in me so i am big too. x MORE






Ah, you’re almost awake! The show is about to begin, and it would have been a shame if you missed even a second of it. I see that you are quite weary. It must have been hard moving through traffic today; that fog hasn’t lifted since yesterday evening, or that’s what I’ve been told by my assistant. You know she’s always scurrying about those streets in your head, passing messages from one place to another whenever I need her to. Her name? Oh, I believe it’s Thoughts. She’s new around here—previously worked in waste management. Did you know she specialised in memory disposal before she quit? I’ve been inside the entire night preparing for your arrival. I’ve asked Imagination (nicely this time, I promise) to redesign the cage and add some extra features to the stage. Thankfully, I asked him while he was in his ‘ideal state’ and was at peak productivity time: between 2:30 AM and 3:00 AM. If you ever need him to do anything especially insane, that’s your only window of opportunity, but don’t tell anyone else. If Imagination gets too many requests, he’ll get himself into another emotional meltdown, and no one wants the misfortune of seeing it. There’s someone missing: someone important and very much essential to this production. Oh, yes! Logic! Do you remember seeing her yesterday? Maybe before you fell asleep or started daydreaming? It’s alright; we’ll just have to make do until she comes back. Imagination’s telling me that the cage is ready now. Ready to step in? It’s much more spacious, but because I don’t want you to get too close to the cage’s door, I’m going to ask you to stand on the opposite corner around that pile of metal chain with the cuffs. You’ll need to put the cuffs on, unfortunately. I know it’s difficult to do, but that’s what you signed up for, remember? As you know, your audience members are Temptations. Responsibilities went on strike (again) overnight, so they’ll be here today, too. Don’t worry about Responsibilities; you’ll figure out how to deal with them later. Self-control will be on stand-by the entire time, so call whenever you need her. We are now ready to start a new day! Good luck, you fool. Three, two, one: eyes wide open! We are live.



Metal on metal, you hear those beats As the voices call away. Clutching and holding to slivers left While they float high to escape, You give your last best shot. They’re too loud, too strong; They have you at their mercy. Chains resist, those beats continue to wail, But what lies beyond has latched To the very centre of mind and heart. Temptation calls; you greedily answer As a new, unthinking monster descends, Ready to break free and take off. The screams of chains almost succeed, But even they can’t bring you back. Metal on metal no more. The wails cut short and the beating gone, You stand among broken chains. Free? Yes, at least for a while. Step out of the cage; take your first true breath. The beast takes over, no fighting at all. Indulgence begins with no sign of end. Helpless, useless, you’re stuck in the unknown. You see but don’t think, hear but don’t think Until the monster leaves, Satisfied. You see a mess, a wasteland. Regret creeps in, ready to lecture. Self-control has left, marching with rage. And you? You stay still, unmoving Until sense reaches your legs and you return. The cage gives no greeting; The black bars glare unnervingly. Back to that corner you go, As the fog resettles once more And you wait for a new tomorrow. x







I’ve never flown a kite. When I was a child, I would watch my brother and his friends

fly large, colourful kites high up in the air. So high they would only be specks of reds, blues and greens weaving in and out of the white clouds. I would yearn to hold the rough, tough thread and manipulate it with my fingers. With only a twitch of my hands the kite would spiral up in the air, performing pirouettes and arching in the wind. Dancing, just for me. But three-year-old me was too young to hold the string. Too young to shoulder the heavy responsibility of flying a kite. I wasn’t big enough to hold the string. Not strong enough to handle the kite. At least, that’s what my brother would say. So I’d sit and watch those kites, and I’d imagine that I was tied to that string too. I’d be flying high up in the air as well, the kite twirling above me. My steady companion would guide me up, up into the sky. Some days I would be dancing alongside the kites instead, no strings to ground me. My hair would flutter through the air as I hopped from kite to kite. I’d throw my arms out, hands running along the smooth material of the kites, flitting from side to side and carried by the wind. And then the lines would blur and I wouldn’t know where the girl started and the kite ended. In those moments I was the kite: free, weightless, colourful. I’d let the wind carry me back down, floating slowly and slowly towards the ground. And then I’d be me again. The little girl who could only watch her brother and his friends fly large, colourful kites high up in the air. x




I find myself alone once again, In this empty room, I wonder why I enjoy it so much Maybe because when it’s quiet I can feel all the hollow spaces in myself beating Lub dub lub dub Or maybe because when it’s quiet I can finally listen to myself We as humans reflect what we feel and see in the spaces around us Tick tock tick tock There goes the grandfather clock You planted seeds in the emptiest parts of my heart And I screamed I WANT MORE I want to be full I NEED MORE The flowers grew and grew and grew but you are not what made them grow I made them grow, I watered them, I loved them, and I watched them blossom Even the ones I thought would wither and die I used to think that you were the one who planted the seeds, the one who made my world bloom But as the clock keeps ticking and I keep moving I realized that I have been gravely mistaken I almost called you to thank you Ring ring ring—click Can you believe that? I almost called YOU But then I remembered that all along It was me, I was always the sun I am the sun x 50



& amongst the laughter of a thousand waterfalls, your silence was the loudest a deafening silence that made emptiness my very new religion hours of worship hardly cured me, barely held me away from your vivid memories a cloud of memories flashing across the sky in the rubbery embrace of my mind perhaps, a day with more hours, will wash away the bee sting— the suffering from my ocean’s fingertip x MORE



Over the past century, we have seen the gradual rise of the middle class, increasing disposable incomes no longer delegated purely for needs, and mass production of goods. Alongside these changes, came also economic materialism— known more colloquially as consumerism. Today, being a consumer is a regular part of our lives. We get bombarded with thousands of advertisements each day from a variety of mediums: online targeted ads, billboards, television, radio, posters, and more, all selling a vision for better living that can be achieved if you only just buy. We live off of money borrowed from banks, we swipe for that rush of dopamine that comes from the thought of “This is mine now”. We envision a brighter future with a coveted object, but once we bring it home, it turns “meh” and eventually, you start to think, why did I even buy this to begin with, I barely use it. But then there’s always something new that’s shiny and exciting, begging to be bought. We indulge in hit after hit of instant gratification, because as soon as we buy, the happiness fades and we’re urged to buy again to feel that fleeting moment of bliss once more. Buy, lose interest, buy another. Rinse and repeat. Although consumerism is beneficial from a macroeconomic perspective—higher demand drives economic growth—one has to wonder about the psychological cost. Could it be that our drive for fulfillment with material goods is actually causing us less happiness? Is it possible that our drive for more stuff stems from the need to fill the emptiness within: a hole that used to be filled with our connections to family, friends and a higher meaning to life? Tibor Scitovsky, a renowned economist and Stanford professor, coined the term “joyless economy” where the increase in material wealth correlated negatively with happiness and life satisfaction scores. Several studies backed this up: the United States—despite their boom in material wealth in the past decades—saw no corresponding increase in citizen happiness, while other findings suggest a positive

correlation between materialism and psychological issues such as depression, narcissism and paranoia. Although counterintuitive—after all, why do we buy things we do not need if not to feel happy at getting something we want?—these findings can be explained from a biological perspective. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centres, regulating emotional responses and providing the motivation to achieve anticipated rewards. It can be your friend or foe… depending on what you decide is its main source of stimulation. Evolutionarily, it has been used to encourage behaviour that facilitates survival—such as forming connections with others as humans are inherently social creatures—by making these actions more pleasurable. Nowadays, it lights up in the consumer’s brain every time something is bought and can be a dangerous benefactor to destructive behaviour such as addictions like chronic overeating, substance abuse, and more. As the world grows evermore fast-paced and people distance themselves more from authentic relationships in favour of superficial online “friends”, it is no wonder that many fill the human connection void of the dopamine rush with inanimate goods that press the same neurochemical buttons. Yet, material possessions cannot replace people. With people, every experience and connection unearths something new, while the novelty of a commodity fades shortly after purchase. With reconnection to friends, family, society and a deeper meaning to life, we no longer live with the need for something external and superficial to heal psychological wounds—we already have everything we need inside us. With the increased value of things that cannot be bought but that have to be earned—trust, fond memories, love, fulfilment, friendship, and more—we gain a greater appreciation for what we have for much longer. We ought not to confuse pleasure with happiness anymore, nor more quantity with more quality. After all, having less means we appreciate what we have more… less equals more. x MORE



Talk Less, Learn More Dear Aminata, As a university student, you have learned and continue to learn a lot about yourself and the world around you. For the most part, this learning doesn’t come from a classroom. Your friends and peers are beacons of knowledge and you’ve also learned a lot from your lived experiences. University thus far has been filled with a lot of growth and change, but most people are thankful for this experience at the end of their undergraduate career. Once you’ve learned something new, like most people you know, you almost immediately share it with those closest to you. You strongly believe education should be communal because engaging with others is crucial in learning. However, there is often a danger of going too far overboard in this process of sharing—an attempt to make your voice heard can overshadow or even silence differing opinions. Think back to your staff dinner last December. Unsurprisingly, the conversation turned to American politics and the recent presidential election. Normally, if this conversation were to happen in a university setting, you would’ve quietly listened to the arguments made, weighing their merit. That night you decided that you could contribute meaningfully to the conversation and made your argument. It wasn’t well received. In hindsight, that makes sense—it wasn’t articulated very well. This did not justify the immediate dismissal of your point, but it happened anyway. Seeing as how the vast majority of your coworkers are white, and significantly older than you, you decided that they weren’t “woke” enough to understand the point you were making. Thankfully the conversation fizzled out, sparing you further awkwardness. As you are fond of list-making, here are a few things to keep in mind should you find yourself in a similar situation again…



How to “Talk Less and Learn More”: 1. Don’t be conceited. Yes, you are passionate about the subject, may have studied it extensively, and may have read every single think piece even remotely related to it, but we all have our blind spots. You will find your discussions a lot more productive when you engage with the ideas of the person you’re having a conversation with and make an attempt to understand their point of view. You don’t have to agree with them, but you also don’t have to be an asshole. 2. Being “woke” is a process. If your knowledge about a particular thing only comes from secondary sources, it might be a good idea to learn about the first-hand experiences of the person you’re having a conversation with. There’s a huge difference between knowing something and understanding it, and people have expert knowledge when it comes to their own experiences. Use it to learn more! 3. Most importantly, listen. I can’t tell you how integral this is. If you are so dead-set on being right you are not willing to listen to what may be valid counterarguments, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Don’t bother. Listening, believe it or not, is the first step to actually having a conversation. It is easy to default to thinking “I know more, I recently studied this in x course,” but remember, that knowledge is meaningless if it isn’t put into good use. Stay humble.

These are just a few things to help you out next time you find yourself in an argument about something you are passionate about that people have a hard time understanding. Or vice versa. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but will hopefully be a useful reminder next time you’re at a dinner party and the conversation turns to politics or another equally contentious subject. Remember, you would not be learning anything if you were never wrong, and it is good for your ego for you to be able to admit it from time to time. After all, to err is human, right? x Best, Aminata






A pile of stuff. That was all it really was. Clothes, shoes, and knickknacks galore. I stood under the burning sun, watching my friend gather up five identical pairs of designer jeans and toss them onto the pile. “Are we almost done, Frankie?” A whiney lilt seeped into my voice as Frankie climbed onto the cardboard box and sat atop the pile, bouncing a little to make it all fit. “There.” She blew a loose strand of red hair out of her face and took a theatrical bow. She was all too pleased with herself for finally following my advice and decluttering. Her bedroom had been stuffed to capacity before she agreed to donate some things to charity. “Now we’re done.” She hopped back onto the porch and narrowed her brown eyes at me. “Unless you want to donate something, like that hideous old hat. Just let me buy you a new one already.” She reached out to flick the peak of my red baseball cap. “I’ll buy you a dozen hats if you just stop wearing that one.” She never understood. I didn’t need a dozen, only the one. I didn’t answer her. The humid air was starting to get to me. It was as if all the houses on the deeply suburban block were locking me in. I pulled off the cap for a minute and ran my fingers through my curly hair. Frankie raised her eyebrows in anticipation, but I disappointed her by slipping it on again and stuffing my hair through the hole in the back. I looked up to the baby blue sky. “It’s good shade,” I said. That was true, but it was only half the reason I wore it. I wore it because I loved the way the red had faded into a salmon pink. The way it had protected me from the sun rays on the coast long before we’d moved to the city. I loved the way I could trick myself into smelling the salt water lingering within it. Lifting my head to the sky, I felt my body relax as I leaned back. The hot sand molded, melted, and sunk beneath me. I smiled up at my old pal the sun, but suddenly I wasn’t feeling the sand anymore. Prickling me in the back were the green blades of grass on Frankie’s manicured lawn. “What’s with you?” Her voice felt distant until I pushed myself up, leaning on my elbows as I lifted my head to look at her. “Nothing,” I said. I couldn’t shake the hometown smile even though the feeling was gone. I put a hand on my head just to make sure the cap was still there, as if it could have floated back to the beach by itself. “So that’s it?” Frankie asked, though I’d lost the trail of our conversation. “You’re not going to donate anything ?” She circled the donation box, daring me to toss in my cap. And then, I did. Without thinking, I pulled my red cap off, untangling it from my curls and tossing it into the box. I didn’t wait to see the look of sheer shock and elation on Frankie’s face. Instead, I stared at the cap—my cap—sitting atop the pile of stuff just as it had been when I bought it for two bucks at the surf shack. Ever since the move, I’d thought my red baseball cap was more than just a faded old cap, but it wasn’t. The memories were. x






Now, she no longer had the privilege of youth. She put down the repulsive clutter of food and went upstairs to weigh herself. She wanted less of something. Exactly how much less eluded her, but she was confident that when it did decrease enough, she would know. And if you knew that she was a fifteen-yearold girl who grew up believing that “thin” and “pretty” stayed together in matrimony, you might guess that this “something” happened to be her weight—a number on a scale, a reflection in the mirror, a snicker here and there. But this thought became more than a phase of antics that would see its end through time. Gradually, she learned that it wasn’t necessarily her weight that bothered her, but the way that her body refused to be hidden. Her first realization that she was standing on a scale at one o’clock every day was three months ago, the same time her parents began sleeping in different rooms. Everything appeared larger, louder, and more shrill. The slices of bread that she was holding, penetrated by large air holes, broke into rock-like crumbs that scattered on the plate. The mayonnaise was muculent, sliding between the wet leaflets of lettuce and thick, oily ham. The empty chairs by the dinner table, however, were what screamed at her. When she was younger, she could hide underneath the table to avoid the monsters in front of her. Now, she no longer had the privilege of youth. She put down the repulsive clutter of food and went upstairs to weigh herself. Her inner voice read the digits in a piercing timbre, a sharp whistling noise that blew against her train of thoughts. She winced in pain. The day after she fainted in school, her father drove her to the clinic. When she looked up at the man climbing the stairs above her, she noticed a shock of white hair that she hadn’t seen before. He rubbed his face in a slow up and down motion and waited for his daughter outside. She quietly walked into the examining room, the sound of her footsteps in sync with the monitor next door. She felt nauseous. The doctor, a young woman with a tight bun, was diagnosing her—explaining to her a “pathology” of why she was an alarming number of deviations below the weight standard for her height. She quietly nodded at the verdict; there were no drugs that could cure her disease, only a diet plan that she should follow. She hadn’t expected a miracle anyway.

What she did fervishly try, however, was to bridge the invisible gap between herself and her mother. Stepping into her mother’s office, she caught a glimpse of herself in the glass door. She now wore the same, affectionate smile that her mother used whenever she proclaimed that she no longer wanted to be friends with Katie from school over the dinner table. As if her mother still ate dinner with her. She was barely fifteen, but she could suddenly grasp her naïvety in attempting for reconnection. Similar to all the other days when she had came to visit, her slim and elegant mother sat rigidly with her piles of papers. She wearily looked up at her, then she drove them home in silence and quietly slipped upstairs, leaving her alone in the kitchen— the kitchen drowning with empty plates and sordid food. She began to grasp the fact that she had dug herself a purgatorial hole that refused to stop itself from spewing toxicity. She tried in vain to extract meaning from herself and wolfed down slices upon slices of red velvet cake. That night, she cried to awaken the more desolate areas of faith, but it welcomed her with the impertinent images of judging eyes and gentle, white lies. “I should’ve been able to …” she thought and enveloped herself in surmise. Her parents, battered with their own misfortunes, were unable to help her. But somehow she knew that she had to climb out of this swamp, resilient and forgiving to first herself, then others. When she saw the divorce papers on the table, laid casually with the hydro and electricity bills that still addressed “Mr.” and “Mrs.” from a joint account in a single line, she almost breathed a sigh of relief. The silence became solidified and justified, like an abandoned child who finally found an adopted home. She quietly went upstairs and tucked the scale in the depths of her closet. This time, when she looked into the mirror, she saw an emaciated child instead of the stoic adult she had pretended to be. Tomorrow the sun will rise, and she will dance along the width of her own shadow. x




Points of Entry How can one approach art to try and understand it? This seems to be one of life’s unanswerable questions. In the past I myself have stood in front of art scratching my head with an “I don’t get it” look plastered on my face. Throughout my time in art school I have come up with a working method to approaching art. I treat each individual work like a great mystery novel for which I get to conjure the ending. The key to any mystery are the clues and I believe every work of art has its own set of “clues,” provided by the artist, called “points of entry.” These can be anything within the artwork that captivates the viewer’s attention. Points of entry can take the form of a bright red circle in the middle of an otherwise gloomy painting or subtle monotonous drumming produced by an elaborate media art installation. They can even be as simple as the title of the work. In other words, points of entry are tools artist can employ to facilitate the viewer’s interpretation process (conjuring the ending to the mystery). The best part is the viewer’s interpretation does not have to be right. For example, in the case of the work “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Indians from A to Z,” currently on display at the McMaster Museum of Art, artist Robert Houle presents, in my opinion, a fascinating mystery with several points of entry. Upon approaching the work three points of entry: the bright colour blue, the English alphabet, and the title, helped guide my many interpretations of Houle’s piece. The colour blue immediately caught my attention upon entering the gallery space. It was not just any hue of blue, but the exact same shade as the blue Crayola pencil crayon you find in the 12-pack set you begged your mother to buy you as a kid. This positive association drew me in to the piece even further and I realized I was looking at a long ledge-like structure that resembled the top portion of a podium. Along the ledge I could see the letters of the English alphabet, each individual letter stenciled on its own orangey-brown pamphlet-looking envelope. Twenty-six letters in the alphabet meant that there were twenty-six envelopes resting along the ledge, evenly spaced out. Immediately, I wanted to make sense 60


of these ambiguous clues. My eyes moved upwards and I noticed that a string of words were stenciled along the top of the ledge spanning across its length. Most of these words were foreign to me but I was able to recognize a few: Cree, Iroquois, Ojibwa, and Yukon. Ah-ha! It clicked. These were the names of Indigenous nations from A to Z and each nation corresponded with its appropriate letter stenciled on one of the envelopes. Suddenly I became eager to contextualize this information in relation to the title of the piece. I looked back down at the envelopes and understood this: if I opened each one maybe I would learn about the corresponding nation. The whole set up of a series of pamphlet-like envelopes resting along a long ledge reminded me of something. It looked like the brochure shelf at a doctor’s office where you would find an array of resources outlining ways to prevent the flu. This association solidified my reasoning that the envelopes were an offering to the public; free knowledge to learn about various Indigenous nations. But wait…they were tied shut with knotted leather string. If I was supposed to open each one, why were they sealed shut? Looking around I noted that the museum had not provided a prompt like “Please touch the work” to help indicate that this piece was touchable (like they usually do). Uh-oh…perhaps my theory was flawed, or was it? The most interesting and frustrating aspect of this work, for me, was the mystery surrounding the degree of audience interaction. Could I open the envelopes or not? The fact that I had an inkling that I should refrain, because of typical museum decorum, stifled me. But at the same time it got me thinking about the piece on another level. Maybe this was the point! After all the exhibition in which this piece was presented was titled “Unapologetic: Acts of Survivance.” There definitely seemed to be an unapologetic irony evident in the work. On one hand, the envelopes were laid out and titled in a way that tempts the viewer to open them. On the other hand a mix of conventional museum etiquette and the act of tying the envelopes shut seemed to disinvite the viewer from interacting

Robert Houle Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Indians from A to Z, 1985 acrylic, raw hide, wood, linen Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery Acquired with funds from The Winnipeg Art Gallery Foundation Inc. Photographer: Ernest Mayer Houle

with the piece beyond looking at it. So what could this mean? “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Indians from A to Z,” laid out in front of you, but that didn’t mean you had access to the information? If so, it almost seemed like the artist intended to entice the viewer and then never satisfy that desire. If the work was indeed meant to be touched, he would have instructed the museum coordinators to encourage people to do so. I could almost see him smirking in my head, like the piece held secrets that only he and other Indigenous peoples knew and had the right to. This idea surfaced questions of worthiness and entitlement to certain types of knowledge. Who is allowed to know everything about Indigenous people? And why is it a secret? Or is it even a secret at all? What if I open up all the envelopes and find nothing inside? Maybe then this work would be about a loss of history; a people’s inability to preserve their ways because of colonial ethnic cleansing. Or maybe this work is what the second portion of the exhibition title suggests, an “[Act] of Survivance.” Perhaps Houle is shutting the viewer out in order to preserve

what is left of Indigenous history, tradition, and knowledge after many years of colonization. Ultimately, every one of these interpretations is conjecture. The artist was not standing beside me to confirm my elaborate theories or to answer my questions. But what I hope to have illustrated was that he did not need to be present at all for me to form any sort of understanding about his piece, the given points of entry sufficed. Whether or not my interpretations were what the artist was going for is beside the point. I think all artists, especially those making work with a distinct message they want to relay, have to run the risk of not being understood the way the work was intended to be. It is not the job of the viewer to guess the “right” answer to an artistic mystery; we are not responsible for coming up with the understanding, but rather an understanding. “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Indians from A to Z” is on display at the McMaster Museum of Art until March 25, 2017. x MORE


A Life





André only realized how much he disappointed his parents when he heard his brother’s eulogy for them. “Mama and Papa were the best parents André and I could have asked for,” Blake read off a piece of paper. His voice cracked on the last word, and he paused to scrub a hand down his wet face. André could see him crumpling the paper’s edge with his fingers. “They always said that they would do anything to see us successful and happy in our lives. Everything they did was for us; I don’t remember a single day when they didn’t push themselves to the limit to put us through school. They rarely took any time for themselves. They sacrificed everything for us, moving here from Ghana and building a life for our family.” Blake swallowed and then continued, but André could barely hear him over the thundering of his heart. André knew that he didn’t have the most wonderful life. He worked a predictable and uninspiring office job, he didn’t have a significant other, and his relationship with his family was not especially strong. He lived in what he thought of as a comfortable mediocrity, never pushing for more than what he was given. That wasn’t to say that he didn’t want to advance, but Andre believed that things would come to him if he waited. It really wasn’t a bad life. At least, he used to think of it that way. But now, listening to the tales of his parents’ back-breaking efforts to give him and Blake bright, happy futures, he wasn’t so sure. — After the funeral, André couldn’t stop remembering his youth. How his parents worked almost all the time. How they enforced rules about homework and school that chafed at André then, but which he now missed dearly. How they beamed with pride every time Blake brought home an A on an assignment and how they yelled at André for his Cs. How even when he brought home a good grade, their happiness was always tinged with the expectation of failure. Eventually, André had just…stopped trying. How much of that was because of his parents, though, and how much was because it was just too much effort for him to try? When had he become so passive? André remembered one of the last conversations he ever had with his parents. They were talking to him about his career, suggesting that he think about working towards promotions. When he’d laughed and said, “I’m happy where I am,” they had

started to talk about all their sacrifices to bring him to where he was, and he’d lost it. “Stop always talking about what you did for me! I didn’t ask you to!” André had yelled, ignoring their wounded looks. “I don’t care if you’re disappointed; this my life, not yours!” They hadn’t spoken again until on the phone a week later, when all of them apologized and shoved the subject away. His parents’ faces still burned in his memory. It’s a funny thing, death—it can illuminate so many more things about people than life can. André didn’t think he ever understood his parents better than he did now that he was going through his life, searching for anything he had done that would have made his parents proud. What would have made him proud. Because the crux of the matter was that even more than disappointing his parents, somehow, without even realizing it, he had disappointed himself, too. And that had to change. He needed to change. — He went to visit his parents. The wind was chilling as it whispered through the graveyard around him. His parents’ graves stood before him, cold and accusing. Too late for regret, the wind seemed to say. If his parents were watching right now, he suspected that they were echoing the sentiment. He didn’t blame them for their rejection. He’d done everything to deserve it. André didn’t have anything to say to them, to these ghosts of his parents’ expectations, except that he had finally decided to try again, and, despite his insecurity, what a welcome, exciting change that was. He told them that he thought his purpose was to give others like him, trapped in their own cycles of mundanity, some purpose as well. This was his new vision. “I’m sorry, Mama, Papa, for everything,” he said at the end of his visit, soft. “I hope one day I’ll make you proud, the way you always wanted to be.” The wind rose again as André walked out of the graveyard and called a cab, and it felt, suddenly, like comfort, support, and apology all in one. It was more than he ever expected to be given. It felt like forgiveness. When the cab driver arrived, she politely ignored the tears on his cheeks. x MORE



STARK I sit to wait for my coffee to cool as another quiet silhouette tucked into a private corner like the waiter’s notepad in his apron. Steam from my cup is rising— amidst this low fog my senses open like grand drapes bewitching me into the princess and the pea. Shadows around me define their light as negative space does the positive but here through a finer, conspicuous contrast so explicitly defiant to reflect the third essence in replication or distortion. Among the humdrum murmurs the ticking of my watch steals the show pricking my numb ears with awareness, stirring within a sleeping existence. By now the coffee has lost its bitter tongue to the chaos my storytellers organize. x 64





An old wrinkled lady sat in a chair next to the window, A little girl climbed into her lap. Grandma, The little girl said, Tell me about the old days! Tell me of skyscrapers that kissed the clouds, of streets paved with silver and crowded with crowds, of shelves filled with everything no one has now. Oh, said the Grandma, That was long ago now. Back when the earth was scarred with plows, Back when we thought we could never run out, Of the precious fuel we couldn’t live without. Most people lived in cities not made of glass or steel, But in slums built of cardboard and uncertainty. So few owned so much, Blinded by excess and greed, That there was nothing left over for the rest of the world; And the gap between rich and poor widened so wide, That nobody knew what could be inside. The wealthy few were slaves to their phones and their things, Blind consumers brainwashed into thinking That more stuff would mean happiness And money seemed free. Never thinking of what came before, only what we saw in the store Or what had to break to hold something whole. Dear Granddaughter, these were complicated times, Filled with Costco and loneliness, plastic and excess, racial frustrations, political mess, Trump and big business and oil and marvelous and terrible wealth and waste and more and more and more and No one bothered to stop— and think about the end That our capitalist system failed to project. The system is fragile, Inherently unstable, Deregulated and derailed, burning faster and faster through the carbon cycle of a planet once perfectly balanced. Always looking for cheaper production for a higher profit, Always more poor people who will do more work for less, Born into a system that ensures their necessity, Making sure that there’s always more for me, Our wealth, after all, depends on their poverty. Profit maximization through privatization, And sweatshops and hunger And Nobody cared. Because we had excess in everything, Because we had More. Perhaps we felt we deserved it. That somehow we earned it. The enormous Global South 66


Became our factories Enslaving their people into More making They were the ones who bore the brunt of this inevitable collapse, Until finally it reached the shiny shores of the West. The breaking point came, and sooner than anyone thought, Sooner and faster and badder and There was no going back, No more fossil fuels to burn, No miraculous new power source came, And all of us to blame. No, instead, Those who remained Were just forced To learn Lessons in Less. This of course came after a terrible century of Wars over water, Wars over food, Wars over power, of power and greed, Protests and hunger and Clash between classes Over several decades, the modern world crashes A society built on Lessons in More, A system that depends on excess, And teaching our children from their births To consume to their whole lives till their deaths. But Grandma, The little girl said, Don’t you miss having More? Three dozen cereals to choose from At the grocery store? Isn’t it true what the men in suits say? Isn’t competition natural? Isn’t freedom and choice the right way? People are saying that capitalism is coming back! That we can have all those shiny pretty things again, what about that? The old woman looked sad, but said slowly, I tell you this story my dear, For a Lesson in Less. This lesson was forced upon us, But one we can choose, too. To consume less. To buy less. To live greener, live freer, Less waste that wastes away in once beautiful spaces, Landfills that fill, to the brim with no brims To tell the men in power That their system can’t last forever That we can choose change, or be crushed under the weight of it. With forgetting the past as a catalyst That a different world is possible, another way exists. x MORE



The Pursuit of Everything Mankind wants nothing more than more time, to experience, to breathe, to live. Yet that creator gave every being an unwinding clock. So why question the pursuit of everlasting life? The Philosopher’s Stone gives all.

Centuries ago before the glimmer of modern science, there was Alchemy, a forbidden practice held deep within castles and convents. Only the mad and desperate practiced it, in search of being able to turn any metal into pure gold. The Philosopher’s Stone, that elixir of life, that unholy ex Machina. The greed for wealth and long life had perpetuated the belief of such an iconic totem. Alongside the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail, the Philosopher’s Stone revealed ancient secrets and gave mankind godly power and knowledge. But were they really mad? Truly insane? Does anyone really believe in aging? Growing weaker by the days and then passing on. With that stone one ceased the passage of time and never grew tired. Death would simply be a fever dream. Those were the hopes of those long since forgotten first scientists. To ascend mortality and walk among gods. Because before the greed of money, the gluttony of food, and the lust of the body, there is the fear of the unknown What drives man more than fear? Sleeping forever, entering the void or waking anew with no knowledge of your past self. Mankind wants nothing more than more time, to experience, to breathe, to live. Yet that creator gave every being an unwinding clock. So why question the pursuit of everlasting life? The Philosopher’s Stone gives all. Once the instinct of impending finality is gone, 68


one can live more wealthily than King Midas himself. Luxuries beyond imagination. Infinite possibilities encapsulate the stone. Obsessiveness is but a byproduct, Immortality is the key. When one finally has it, there is nothing left but to observe. Over-watching as a greater being, selecting those who will join you in eternity. You are the Messiah, the second coming. You have stepped outside of reality. You command the very Ether itself. Your ego becomes macro. Your reach becomes the limit of the mind and body. Time becomes fluid, flowing from your selfish hands, ebbing back and forth. What will you do now? Look beyond your finite home, your earthly tethers? Perhaps you fall into madness, murdering to witness death. Perhaps you become a hermit to escape the presence of temporal humans. Live among ancient redwoods, the only other creatures that experience and understand your new blight. Your still mortal memory will not be healed by the Philosopher’s Stone any more. Times then will seem like moments ago. Decades seem like seconds, centuries are hour and the millennium is a day. Ceaselessly day to night, they are the same to you because, you are now lost in your mind, staring up at the void you foolishly did not accept all those centuries ago. What a difference a choice makes, right? x




New Year, New Stressors As I stare at my friends and partner all laughing about how hilariously horrible 2016 was, I can’t help but feel a sudden overwhelming weight on my chest. That year is over, thank god… right? With a new year comes a great feeling of hope? Or as one of my favourite quotes by Bill Vaughn about the New Year says: “An optimist stays up until 70


midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” How utterly accurate, since my pessimist self has made sure to say a good old “good riddance 2016”. This weight however was a new found feeling. It’s almost as if it appeared after I thought the worst had been over— like a building decided to just fall upon me as I was walking by in ignorance. This year so far was looking not that much different in the grand scheme of things. Each New Year promises to us a beginning that we tend to lie to ourselves about. My own personal weight in this ignorance was the ever-looming pounding in my head. It kept saying: graduation, job applications, rental agreements, 5 year plans, experience,

resume building, thesis planning, family pressures, and the great whole end question, “Who AM I?” I had been living in this ignorance for the past year, like this day would never come. As most of us were focused on surviving our last finals, assignments, etc., we forgot to remind ourselves how close we were to this end goal. We forgot to remind ourselves to soak up each moment, or at least I forgot to. While I was focusing on getting 12’s and surviving two jobs and full-time school, the building of uncertainty fell upon me. What was there to do now, though? This weight had turned into a full-fledged brick attached to my ankle. Like I was drowning in a series of uncertain answers. The time had come

to force me to make a decision. I could choose to allow myself to embrace this uncertainty, to feel the anxieties and stressors, to allow them to come as they please. Or, choose to dwell and avoid feeling the true moments of life and not allow future uncertainties to overcome my mind, heart and emotional wellbeing. I feel as if there are these focused moments of everyone’s lives where we feel the great stressors from those closest to us. We feel their eyes and their words more heavily due to knowing that these day-to-day decisions could impact us greatly. Our greatest achievement in these moments, are not based on what we accomplish or what we decide, but on how we deal with these grand stressors in life. x MORE





As I skidded back onto my side of the road, I could feel my adrenaline pumping, but not because of the near disaster. My destination was in sight.

The streetlights glanced down onto the empty sidewalks, their lamps lighting the way for everyone and no one. Store windows lined the street, all dark except for the occasional display by an optimistic owner who chose to light their products at all hours. The traffic lights were red, bathing the intersection in what could have been thought an ominous shade. Yet despite the hour, the road was still busy, or rather just too busy for me. Two minutes. I weaved my way amongst the other vehicles, at a speed and a temper that most would have balked at. A bus, filled with a few passengers far too tired to notice me speed by, honked its disapproval as I flew across its path and through the next intersection. The buildings on the next block slowly—but for me quite quickly—morphed into residential houses. I idly wondered how many sleepers I woke as I sped past the dark windows. One minute and a half. Someone was walking their dog across the street, making me marvel at the variety of reasons for people being awake at this time. I blared my horn, further testing how deep more sensible people could sleep. The owner yanked his dog back to the safety of the sidewalk moments before I thundered by. The mutt barked at my exhaust in case anyone had managed to slumber through my passage. It had rained earlier in the evening and as I took a shortcut through less frequented roads, I felt the dampness seep into my car. I shivered in my pyjamas but assured myself that a little cold was worth making it on time. One minute. I swore silently to myself and pressed my foot closer to the floor. I rumbled over a pothole before I even knew I had crossed it. I might never have noticed if it weren’t for the splash of the gathered rainwater that splattered the side of my car.

Rounding the next corner brought me a view of my current street merging with a broader avenue. I was close. Unfortunately, a bigger road meant more traffic and I was introduced to this reality when I almost drifted straight into a car trailer. I would have yelled at the driver if I had time and if I could have silenced the part of me that knew it was actually my fault. Thirty seconds. A late night construction crew was huddled around some ditch they had dug in the road. They looked as happy at their job as I was pleased to see them in my way. The sight of a coffee cup in one of their hands made me grimace. I passed the workers by pulling into the opposing lane of traffic, narrowly avoiding an oncoming car. As I skidded back onto my side of the road, I could feel my adrenaline pumping, but not because of the near disaster. My destination was in sight. 15 seconds. I flew across the final intersection, heedless of whether it was my turn. I slowed to a stop in the parking lot and looked out at the building in front of me. For a moment, I just stared at the sign, insides too cold to feel any emotion other than disbelief. A sign hung on the supermarket door, neon letters seemingly mocking my plight, the harsh brightness only fuelling my frustration. The sign read CLOSED. Stifling a shout, I took my phone from my pocket and entered a quick search. There was another grocery store, about five minutes away. I looked at the clock, and saw that the store would close in just under three. Three minutes. As I gunned my car’s engine back to life, I lamented that there was never enough time. I needed more. Still, if I was going to get milk for my morning coffee, I had better stop moaning and start hurrying. x MORE



Those Who Wander When I was young and my parents would announce to me that our family was going away on vacation, I would jump up and down with excitement. I would count down the days and pack three backpacks of activities to do, and go to sleep every night dreaming hypothetical dreams of what might happen while I was away. I didn’t think about what the trip must be costing my parents, how fortunate I was to have such amazing experiences, or what could possibly go wrong while we were away (missing flight connections? Impossible!). I was young; barely ten years old. And to me, travelling was about as close to magic as any human could get. From my naïve eyes, the trips always managed to meet my dreamed up, overly high expectations. Who cared how sick I got during car rides? I got to see pretty scenery. Who cared if my dad managed to take a wrong turn on Confederation Bridge and drove to Nova Scotia instead of Prince Edward Island? I got to see the red beaches and potato fields anyway. Who cared if I almost got heat stroke? I got to go on a cool hike! I only ever walked away from vacations with fond memories and stories to tell. I couldn’t put it into words then, but family vacations almost felt like a dream world to me, one in which I was living in a parallel universe. The vacations weren’t trips, my home not my home. I felt like the place and what I was doing had become my normal life. And when I got home, it was as if I dreamed the entire thing up. Maybe that’s how the trips always met my expectations—because they had the same dreamy quality that my imagination had. I always desired returning to the dream world. As I got older, my family got busier and we took fewer trips. On the single trip I remember from high school, my family went to California. Sure I was excited; sure it was a wonderful time. But it didn’t have the same dreamlike quality. I didn’t pack my three bags of activities, nor did I dream up those 74


same zany scenarios I had in elementary school. Instead, I got carsick, boat sick, and stuck next to a man on the plane back who decided to have phone sex with his girlfriend before takeoff. There were even times during that trip, dare I say it, where my family drove me nuts. Don’t get me wrong; I still had an amazing time and really appreciated the fact that I was fortunate enough to be going. I just couldn’t see the glitter and glamour I once had when I was younger. At the end of that trip, I was definitely happy to be home. Though we took very few family vacations after that, and I did very little travelling on my own, I began to have that feeling no matter where I went or for how long I went. That happiness to be home again. Almost relief. Over the summer, a friend of mine moved to the UK to start her teaching career. We were Skyping back in September and talking about how much we missed each other. I jokingly said, “Clearly the only solution is for me to come to you.” She laughed along with me, knowing it was a joke. Except it became serious. And before I knew it I was booking flight tickets to go see her and we were making plans to see other cities in Europe. Our plan: meet in London, and try to see Amsterdam and Paris. In one week. When I hit the final button confirming my flights, I didn’t feel the glimmer of excitement I had as a kid, nor the happiness I felt in adolescence. I felt dread. Every bad scenario started playing in my head. What if we were late for one of our buses? What if we got lost in the city? What if we got sick of each other? The worst part was knowing I was paying for the trip myself and worrying I was wasting my money. The drive to the airport was absolutely nerve wracking. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take a lot of effort not to cry. My Nonno had recently passed and I had a strong desire to stay home and be with my family. It was the holidays, for goodness sake! And here I was leaving them.

When I got home, sure I was happy to be home. But in the back of my mind, I was already thinking about where to explore next.

My nerves were finally put at ease eight hours later when I arrived in London and saw my friend. She gave me the world’s biggest bear hug and I could feel my tension melting away. I finally started to feel excited for the adventure ahead of me. That trip was not perfect by any means. It was seven degrees colder than the forecast predicted and we were freezing, my fear of missing a bus nearly came true, and we couldn’t get tickets to see two of the museums we wanted to see. But the experience did so much for me. It wasn’t life changing or magical or fairy tale-esque. Instead, it gave me the chance to reconnect with my younger self, the one who got excited about things and who could shrug off those unfortunate moments and chalk them up to funny stories to tell my friends when I got home (case in point: the “how we almost missed a bus” story became the “how we accidentally stole train tickets and almost got caught” story). When I got home, sure I was happy to be home. But in the back of my mind, I was already thinking about where to explore next. x MORE



It is common to say, “Go and travel the world,” or “Do whatever your gut tells you.” However, no one really emphasizes the importance of choosing words carefully. As students finish high school, they all come with high expectations to university, hoping to have a great career and a great job. Well, it is not that simple if you do not pay attention to how you write. Most of the students forget about writing because they stop caring, or even worse—the “cruel” reality—they do not know how to write. Think about it! Today, teachers do not focus on grammar as much as they used to. They teach students some basics subjects like, English, math, science, arts, and even physical education. That is enough to cover a school day, but does it cover enough to help you through university? Sadly, no; students struggle with writing throughout their undergrad. It is not enough to be able to listen, to read, and to do homework to pass a subject. University is all about the experience and the opportunity to find a professional path for the future. A career, which gives more income to pay debts, to have security for a family, and to enjoy a peaceful retirement. How are these things going to happen if students have a “sophisticated” vocabulary, which does not make sense? Learning words, studying MORE words, and memorizing MORE words does not guarantee a future, unless students understand and learn how to apply the correct vocabulary to a context. Students grasp the idea, but sometimes the concept is gone because they have not yet learned how to use a word properly. Learning words and MORE words becomes hectic. As students, we need to encourage each other to write MORE and perfect our language. Do not let word choices limit you! Avoid limiting words, improve the language more! It is going to make a difference every day. Our choices are limited. It is up to you to make MORE words count in this world. x 76



INCITE MAGAZINE VOLUME 19, ISSUE 3 “MORE” Published February 2017 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, design, multimedia and event production is carried out by our wonderful student volunteers. If you’d like to get involved, feel free to get in touch by emailing @incitemagazine

Editors-in-Chief Jason Lau, Sunny Yun Art Direction Lauren Gorfinkel Copy Editors Takhliq Amir, Angela Dong, Catherine Hu, Emma Hudson, Rachel Guitman, Nimra Khan, Henry Krahn, Aminata Mageraga, Alexandra Marcaccio, Jennifer Scora, Coby Zucker In-House Artists Mimi Deng, Shirley Deng, Lauren Gorfinkel, Theresa Orsini Art Curators Alexandra Decata, Camelia McLeod, Imasha Perera Layout Designers Matthew Lam, Angela Ma, Tram Nguyen, Gabby Yoo Event Planner Leah McDonald, Annie Yu Promotions Coordinator Dana Hill Cover Credits Imperiosus by Kashyap Patel Art by Jason Lau

Contributors (Writers) Aamna Abdullah, Tumi Adegoroye, Abeer Ahmad, Afreen Ahmad Malik, Takhliq Amir, Tashyana Davidson, Angela Dong, Isabella Fan, Elina Filice, Dina Hamed, Oprah Hamilton, Zoe Handa, Catherine Hu, Emma Hudson, J.A.F.P. (Alejandra Fernandez), Sam Jackson, Osmond Jian, Manveer Kalirai, Sonia Leung, Patricia Lora, Valerie Luetke, Angela Ma, Aminata Mageraga, Alexandra Marcaccio, Sherri Murray, Kashyap Patel, Srikripa Krishna Prasad, Josh Ravenhill, Muskaan Sachdeva, Gagandeep Saini, Nicholas Schmid, Michael Swanson, Rachel Tran, Annie Yu, Sunny Yun, Michele Zaman, Coby Zucker. (Artists) Alexandra DeCata, Kayla Da Silva, Mimi Deng, Shirley Deng, Colline Do, Ross Edwards, Jessica Escoto, Leah Flanagan, Parker Flood, Erin Fu, Lauren Gorfinkel, Katrina Hass, Grant Holt, Robert Houle, Linda Joyce Ott, Nimra Khan, Matthew Lam, Clara Larratta-Gerrard, Ans Li, Angela Ma, Shawnee Matinnia, Luke Meneok, Camelia McLeod, Sherri Murray, Nia Nijiati, Brandon Ng, Eric Van Nus, Theresa Orsini, Imasha Perera, Kira Salena, Qian Shi, Jasmyne Smith, Melanie Wasser, Shannon Wu, Gabriella Yoo. Special Thanks to McMaster Museum of Art for hosting our Imperfection distribution event!

xix :iiiv

As the dust settles around me, I am clean As the waves pass over my legs, I am dry. When life all over dies, I bloom in between When the world dies in chaos, I stand high! Blood, sinew and tears, I have shed to live A life filled with my unforgiving Furies. All the brute force, I must struggle to give, To stay alive and gain what I had once dreamed. I continue, for I know not when all this began, I face my terrible demons, with unfortunate odds, For I am the only Device of Man, I am the best Agent of the Gods! x

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