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incite STI L L


I don’t know how long I kept at it... I felt reasonably safe, streched out on the floor, and lay quite still. It didn’t seem to be summer any more - Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar


Dear Reader, From all the staff at Incite, we hope you’ve been doing well. There’s no doubt that the current COVID-19 climate has been difficult for all of us, threatening to slow our world and our growth as individuals to a standstill. It’s not all bad though! This past year has been invaluable in teaching us the value of our social connections, fostering new skills and endeavours as well as providing time for much-needed introspection. Delve into the first issue of Vol. 23 as our student contributors interpret ‘Still’, and how this theme has as many meanings as the universe has stars. We sincerely hope that you find even just an ounce of solace in the words and art housed within. Finally, as we progress slowly into a world post-COVID-19, it is pertinent that we continue to nurture our relationship with art, in all of its mediums. Safe wishes,

Editor-in-Chief (Content)

Editor’s Letter

Tenzin Gyaltsen


staff stories a good day for a walk alex chen with a starry night madeleine randmaa echoed circles irtaza abdullah khan portaging sophie zarb candids noah yang dream of a funeral michelle yao ‘E’ ends hate and love roya motazedian the cosmos, cataclysms, and chaos nimasha de silva house of green tenzin gyaltsen nothing sara emira bone dry ekta mishra the bird that never flew ishmanjeet singh thank you // goodbye sarah coker a conversation rafi matin misery mikaela grahlman untitled sean orenuga in my loneliest moments sharang sharma inanimate simi jayeoba rebirth sneha wadhwani always and vicky xie static v.s.z. soul searching yvonne syed china doll zara khan untitled zoya pal journey of inertia alan minkovich sedimentary linah hagazi stillness in snow lubna najm caution: flammable self-assured valencia gomes lessons in love and sex anonymous anne romance revisited katie lee magnolia dance ariella ruby hush, my raging heart jia karim uninvited: to the deep jason waddle a constant in changing times janhavi patel grow numb ayesha umair calm. gillian hodge intrusive thoughts of an insomniac hayley vandermaarl moments b.d. lily skunk’s impasse gillian maltz almost hooriya masood gold is your colour bianca modi have I ever hannah rosales welcome home emily wang seasons in hell oda


6 11 12 15 16 18 20 26 29 33 35 36 39 43 44 48 51 54 57 59 63 65 66 71 72 74 76 78 82 84 86 89 92 94 95 96 100 101 102 104 107 109 110 111 112

art shutter graeme fishman chair yueqi wang north shore mountains graeme fishman moments lauren stempski crawford canoe julia lindsay watercolour flowers labiqah iftikhar dissolving graeme fishman all directions julianna biernacki the perch and pike steven kenny passage of time julianna biernacki into the wild teba faisal lost graeme fishman yellow light javan wellum sunflower tenzin gyaltsen untitled cynthia gu portrait lauren stempski crawford melt lauren stempski crawford the bird that never flew navreet vander into the city julianna biernacki one anna waschuk goddess of time zainab hussain train steven kenny watching the world burn jill letten tears of blood labiqah iftikhar bike sina zand rain nimasha desilva portraits madeline komar untitled vivian wu but I still grow emma wray ziolkowski water body simran imageedit faris mecklai sacred heart julia lindsay day 49 labiqah iftikhar cloudy thinking javan wellum the rat race mansi patel mermay celine jeong entropy graeme fishman sandblast graeme fishman still andrea chang surrealist bear hunter sees a snow leopard javan wellum catbreath brooklyn morris inner reflection yesenia rodriguez converse alysa palazzo you larissa shular a glimmer of joy noor alrajab assorted sandy luu raging heart sandy luu portrait graeme fishman a constant in changing times janhavi patel grow numb ayesha umair still linah hegazi cat saadia shahid everyday julia lindsay bones celine jeong walls miss us too noor alrajab untitled alysa palazzo fall leaf labiqah iftikhar hopeful lauren stempski crawford keats julia lindsay duality julianna biernacki osa lake larissa shular


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stomp over untrampled snow like a rhino marking its territory, with the bizarre joy of taking something pristine and destroying it.

TO THIS DAY, I STILL__ have to hit my head a second time if I bump into something accidentally, because my mom told me I’d grow goat horns otherwise (I wish I was kidding.)





haven’t started my thesis (Dr. Lamarche if you’re reading this, I’m sorry!!)



don’t like answering questions about myself.





listen to One Direction.

bolt upstairs after switching off the basement light as though there’s a demon chasing at my heels—to avoid being murdered or held hostage by an unfriendly ghost.





tie my shoes like bunny ears.

have never wasted an MSAF.












love animation movies and am always astounded by the ever improving graphics and detail. However, handdrawn animation will always remain my favorite as they invoke a sense of nostalgia and serenity that words can’t quite describe.

microwave my cereal.




find myself constantly starting new art pieces, knowing full well that I have dozens of unfinished ones sitting around.

TO THIS DAY, I STILL__ don’t know where my DSi is and I’m deeply concerned about my nintendogs.





think orange-flavoured toothpaste was amazing.



light all my marshmallows on fire.





am a staunch advocate for peanut butter + cream cheese sandwiches (underrated combo).

want to be a princess.











A Good Day For A Walk Trevor woke to the crisp smell of water droplets reflecting the rising dawn. A light breeze rattled the porch. The darkness fled in turn, hiding behind the mountains. It was a good day for a walk. He yawned, stretching, before rising to his feet. It was early, but not too early; late, but not too late. Indeed, it was the perfect time for a walk. He shook with excitement. Max would be thrilled. Max loved walks. Some of Trevor’s fondest memories with his best friend were long walks on wet sands, in tepid forests, and in the concrete jungle. There were always more sights to see, things to smell, and places to be. Those adventures were rarer now. Max was walking slower. He smelled funny at times, and Trevor often had to double back to urge him forward. Not having a tail must have taken its toll. Regardless, Max was always ready to go out. Nature called. Trevor trudged over to the kitchen. It was empty. Plates with a hint of the previous night’s dinner lay on the countertop. Remnants of sweet emulsified tomato paste wafted through the room. On the ground, the water bowl and kibble were untouched from the last time he left it. Strange. Max was missing. The door to Max’s room was slightly ajar. Trevor nudged it open. A rich, complex scent flooded his senses, stamping out the typical, artificial floral aroma. It was rare, yet familiar. Max had produced it many times in the house before. This time, it had not been aerated. Feces. There was no denying the volatile odour that permeated the room. Beneath it, a sickly smell bloomed. Max was curled up in bed. Thick stained sheets surrounded the large frame. Trevor leapt up and barked. He licked his best friend. No response. The cool skin offered no answers. The edges of Max’s mouth did not move. A hearty cheer did not resound from within Max’s chest. There were no hands pushing him back. Trevor barked again. Once, twice, thrice. Louder and louder. He pawed at Max in rough swipes. Max did not get angry. Max did not react. Max did not move. Max did not. Trevor howled. x





The ceiling is towering; the floors concrete. The air is light and cool, and the sounds in the gallery are soft and silvery. It feels hazy like early morning, though it’s almost noon. I notice the dreariness outside, as the clouds refuse to give way to my favourite star. My heliotropic humanness wishes for the clouds to part, to allow a ray to shine through the glass windows. There are one or two other people observing the art, but even more black suits with brass badges observing the people. But there’s a presence in the room, seemingly stronger than the other humans—the presence of Vija Clemins’ drawings. They hang on the white walls, her work an extension of her being. The distilling qualities that I experience in the gallery feel so resonant to the images on the wall as if they were consciously

echoing one another. Celmins once said in an interview that she wants her art to fit her, as though her being could be carried within the edges of the frame. She began her career by drawing every single object in her house, everything she ate, but she didn’t build it up to something it was not. Rather she detailed the everyday and reflected her attentiveness and care for her surroundings into her work. As she became enthralled by astronomy photographs, time and space slowed down under her pencil, paintbrush or charcoal. Night skies were her new subjects. She managed to squeeze the seemingly infinite onto canvases, big and small. This distillation is what entices me; it makes me consider time in different ways. I imagine the time it takes to draw out a


constellation, the time the universe took to be like this, and the time it takes me to look and feel in awe. Melancholic, microcosmic, meditative, infinite, straightforward, yet utterly complex. Paradoxical in a way. Untitled #1 is in a smaller room off the main gallery, surrounded by other re-creations of the sky and drawings of sandy dunes and pebbly beaches. It is smaller than most of her other works, in a thin milky white frame. It’s difficult to take in the drawing from up close. The stars blur, but as I step back, they somehow morph into a pattern of meticulously placed specks. I see my face reflected in the glass, white speckles of stars run along my cheeks and nose. This place in the universe that Celmins has chosen is unique, the photograph she chose to bring to life will probably never

incite be seen or photo probabl graphed again. The sky may look the same every night, but it really is different. Celmins took a little piece of the deep speckled canvas above and pressed it into the paper in front of her. I too am curious when I look up at the night sky. When the stars are out, I am reminded of mellow summer nights near the lake, knees pulled close to my chest, neck craned. Wonder filtered through my eyes as I traced lines between each dot, making my own constellations. Or at the Science Centre, where my brother and I would race to the space exhibit. When I arrived, I immediately felt encapsulated in the giant glittering diagrams on the walls. All the monumental nebulas and spiral galaxies seemed too colourful to be real. How could something that looks so human,

like a paint splatter on an inky surface, exist without our own doing? Or in my Grandparent’s abode, space magazines scattered around the house, beneath piles of New Yorker’s and last weekend’s newspaper. Staring into photographs of how the Big Bang happened, step-by-step, is still too much for my brain. Or the assertion my Mother shared one day, and now I can’t seem to stop telling others too, maybe in hopes of seeing their faces as they try to fathom the fact. That there are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on Earth. In the ever-expanding universe, there is a place in the sky that looks almost like the drawing hanging in front of me. Though space is so unknown, I find comfort here. Its infinite and dynamic qualities are so


overwhelming and yet this image simply demonstrates a serene human perspective, as it dots my pupils with a starry night. As I let Celmins’ work sink in, it has become obvious how much of the everyday I take for granted. The beauty that exists in the smallest things are carriers of joy and amazement, feelings that are so invaluable. I often think that elegance must be something complex and out of reach, but more often than not, real grace and delicacy can be found in the little bubbles of our lives. Whether it be the starry sky on a cloudless evening, the transient eye-contact with someone on the street or the sparkle in your dog’s eyes when you tell them you’re going for a walk—they all hold their place as an understated constant of beauty, charm and comfort. x


Echoed Circles five years in and five more to go, life in loam and silent burrows. every winter, a dance with death, each tanda drains a precious breath.

variable vittles — unabashed pride, great leaps masked by tiny strides, alas, new days herald new hurdles, sorrow life lived in echoed circles. x



summer days search castled cliffs, for small kernels and edible gifts. five at home and five more to come, hungry mouths — to survive or succumb.

portaging there’s a sense of calm that comes when you push off from shore of the campsite where you weathered a storm, before dawn the clouds giving away a hint of light a flicker of hope that the new day will bring the paddle blade taps lightly, piercing the smooth, glass-like surface holding the weight of the canoe of the lake your canoe rests on dragging the water with each stroke powering yourself against nature’s inertia can really empower yourself gravel crunches below your feet the mid-day rays burn your tanned skin the pack straps dig into your shoulders but on this road you embark on a journey travelling from nowhere to somewhere

you’ve done this before all the lakes you’ve traversed all the rocky terrain you’ve trodden and you beam back at the nine o’clock sunshine it’s just you simple, city you voyaging down rapid rivers and sparkling streams across lagging lakes and against weary winds you did this the world outside feels non-existent far away here, it seems the air is fresh here, you can breathe and be free from turmoil here, life simply stops but, see, life doesn’t stop life thrives and flourishes in the moss beneath your feet life grows and matures in the old pines you brush past life flows and ebbs in the fish below your canoe you lived before but here it’s different here you can be still on this road again tracing footsteps past you’re here you completed your journey travelling from nowhere to somewhere x





Farewell Take with you my socks should you go far, and I will be with you each step.


Buzzing To every petal, a honey bee softly sings the life’s quiet hum. Dandelion I draw my breath deep and send these snowflakes to you. Make my wish come true.

Rain A drop in my eye cutting colours of the world— a kaleidoscope.

From one shark to another A tiring life it must be to swim to live— stop and wait for me.


Monotonous sweetness Monday, Monday, and Tuesday. Wednesday, Thursday, FriSat-Sun, and repeat

Biography I drag you onward now I’m straining to catch up. Hold on! I still want—


Frog What a tiny sky it must be, for the frog who’s living in the well. But I must not mock what he can’t see. I live in a well of my own.

Corn Indigestible, but I eat you anyway. See you tomorrow ;) x WORDS by NOAH YANG ART by LABIQAH IFTIKHAR








Ever since Merrilyn’s transfer to U of V’s Lethology faculty, I had become our program’s greatest security threat. What can I say? I’m bad at keeping things to myself.

Mom hates it when I tell our relatives that I’m getting my degree in “sleeping,” but that’s what it is, ultimately. My standard-issue McMaster University hoodie might read Bachelors of Lethology but that sweater rarely sees the light of day. I spend most of my days in the starprint footie pajamas that our Dream Lab provides. Granted, Mom might just be worried about me violating the non-disclosure agreement that I signed when I was first recruited for this training program. The existence of Dreamwalkers like me is on Level 3 clearance with the government. As far as my roommates know, my courses are all about rocks — not astral-projecting outside of my body to complete classified missions in my sleep. “God, Ash, why are you always coming back so late?” my roommates would ask, and I’d deadpan, “It’s been a rocky day,” praying that the bad joke would deter any further questions. Last year, we’d had another Dreamwalker stationed in our dorm room. The two of us would confirm each other’s alibis and collaborate to cover up the truth about our degrees. Ever since Merrilyn’s transfer to U of V’s Lethology faculty, I had become our program’s greatest security threat. What can I say? I’m bad at keeping things to myself. Which is why I’m coming forward with this blog post now.

Here’s another misnomer: traveling outside our bodies like this is known as “dreamwalking”, but we can actually teleport in this state. It’s every tardy student’s dream. I shut my eyes—or, my spirit’s eyes, since my real eyes were already shut—and muttered, “Take me to 980 Hawthorne Crescent.” I waited for a whoosh sound. That was the astral projection equivalent of the disembodied Google Maps voice, letting me know that I’d arrived. However, it never came. When I opened my eyes, I was still in the Dream Lab, hovering a few feet above my sleeping body. I tried again, “Go to 980 Hawthorne Crescent.” No luck. If anything, I felt more drained. Crap. This is either because of the cold or the cold medicine. I could have fallen asleep on my feet, nevermind that I was already asleep. It was the first time my lack of athleticism had ever bled into the dream world. “Having difficulties?” My eyes shot open. Had one of my classmates come back from their own trip? How much did I have to pay for them to do my mission and to spare me from Dr. Dean’s wrath? As it turned out, the speaker was one of my classmates, just not one that I had expected. “Merrilyn?!” It was hard to speak with a slack jaw. “What are you doing here?” She was dangling in mid-air beside me, a translucent figure flickering in and out like a glitching ghost. Her pale complexion and billowing black hair added to the B-horror movie effect. “What am I doing here? I’ve been here, trying to get your attention, since April.” “What? No, you haven’t. You’re doing a semester at U of V. I’ve been pissed since you haven’t responded to my texts. I’ve been…” I trailed off. Merrilyn’s spirit was wearing maroon footie pajamas that were identical to mine. U of V’s Dream Lab had different designs. Merrilyn and I used to complain about how cool their pajamas looked in comparison. I had imagined that she would cere moniously burn the footies as soon as she left. “Ash, when you were first recruited, they told you that there was no risk in dreamwalking, right? Well, they lied. It’s easy to get stuck here, in the spirit realm. I make one trip too far, and the next thing I know, I can’t get back into my own body.” She choked out a laugh like it was a bitter pill. “But sacrificing a few Dreamwalkers and cover-

On the day I saw Merrilyn again, I arrived late to the Dream Lab with apologies dribbling down my tongue and cough syrup dribbling down my throat. I might be in the strangest program ever, but that doesn’t make me immune to the noxious cocktail of viruses that spill over campus when students dread it most: midterm season. Lethology students don’t have midterms, but we do have daily missions. As Dr. Dean briefed me, I shivered — from my cold—though Dr. Dean’s snide remarks about my tardiness were likely also culpable. Merrilyn had this theory that Dr. Dean’s glasses were the only things stopping her beady eyes from freeze-raying everything in sight like a comic book villain. At least my mission was simple. I was to dreamwalk to potentially dangerous points of interest and come back with whatever reports and observations I could gather. It started out like any other session. I crept past rows of unconscious classmates to lie down in my designated bed. Thanks to the incense spraying from the ceiling like mist in the produce aisle at the grocery store, the sleep came quickly as I let the air around me take my soul. They called this astral-projecting, but it was more like astral-floating. I drifted from my physical form like a balloon freed from a child’s fingers.



-covering up their disappearances—it’s a worthy price to pay for good intel. I can’t believe there was a time when I thought their worst offence was not rounding up our scores on our last evals, or not switching out these hideous uniforms.” I’d had many daydreams about reuniting with Mer, but nothing like this. “Where’s your body? You just need to get back into it, right?” “My body’s empty and unresponsive, like it’s in a coma or something,” she flipped her hair nonchalantly and shrugged, “and when our profs realized what had happened, they hid it away downstairs. I don’t think that body’s strong enough for me to return.” Merrilyn’s eyes bore into mine. If Dr. Dean’s eyes were freeze-rays, then hers would be heat vision. “Though there is a strong body here right now that’s vacant…” I followed her gaze down to my sleeping form. “I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve tried to possess one of these shells,” she cooed, “I’m so weak, and the tethers on the spirits are usually so strong. But look at you today—you can’t even dreamwalk. I wonder what would happen if I tried right now…” We dove for my body at the same time, crashing into a pileup that was the closest a sloth like me had ever come to partaking in what sports movies refer to as a football tackle. I’d re-entered my body countless times after walks, but this was my first time prying my way through the door with another party vying for room. It was like competing in a Tug of War, only with my limbs instead of a rope. Finally, I could feel my body slipping away from my spirit’s grasp. It was enough momentum for Merrilyn to shove me out completely. Her arm swung at me as if swatting a fly. Without a physical body to weigh me down, my spirit tumbled through the air like a limp ragdoll. It didn’t hurt when I hit the ground; my head was already pounding like a desperate visitor against a door. Dr. Dean chose this moment to return to the Lab room. Rousing up faster than I did, Merrilyn blinked the sleep from my eyes, sprung out of bed, and locked her fingers—my fingers—around Dr. Dean’s throat in an instant. “YOU!” Merrilyn screeched. God, was my voice always that pitchy?

“Merrilyn, stop!” She flinched. She can still hear me, I realized. I didn’t dreamwalk so much as dreamcreep so my spirit could squeeze into the scarce space between her and Dr. Dean. “Listen,” I pled, “this won’t solve anything! Sure, you’ll have my body, but that won’t matter when the other profs find out. Then, the same people that kept you trapped out here will repeat the same lies to more Dreamwalkers. I want her dead, too, but it’s the system I want gone the most.” She loosened her grip on Dr. Dean. Purple bruises bloomed where her fingers had been, as dark as the gaze she levelled at me. “Do you have a better idea, Ash? Because I’ve been playing by their rules all this time and look where that got me.”

Like the air slipping from a balloon, I felt Mer’s spirit loosen its hold on my body, leaving me enough room to melt back in. “I’m not saying that we should keep on doing that. I’m proposing that you give me my body back before we do anything drastic. I’ll run out of here, and I’ll expose this entire operation for what it is. I’ll — I’ll write a Facebook status or something. I’ll add pictures of this lab and leak some of the classified intel we’ve collected through dreamwalking. Anything that’s proof of what’s going on in this lab. Maybe it won’t stay up for very long, but it’ll be enough, Mer.” I drifted between her and Dr. Dean, then placed my hands on her — my — shoulders, “Or, okay, maybe we’ll just get written off by people like Dr. Dean, but other Dreamwalkers like us should still get to know what’s happening. Then, we can bring all of this down together. At the very least, we’ll get your body back. Trust me, you don’t want to stay in my body; it’s way too vulnerable to colds and spiritual possession. Clearly.” I bent over to envelop Merrilyn in a hug. My spirit went right through her, of course, but she had the decency to pretend to hug me back. “I missed you, Mer.” A pause. And then, “I missed you, too.” Like air slipping from a balloon, I felt Mer’s spirit loosen its hold on my body, leaving me enough room to melt back in. That brings me to the present, writing this piece. You can find all the evidence I’ve gathered on the Dreamwalker program below, including records on the 89 walkers they’ve abandoned in the spirit realm. Don’t let them get away with this. As for Mer, we’ve tracked her body down and we’e trying to find a way to get her back inside. Luckily, our classmates have pitched in. If you’re a Dreamwalker yourself, consider joining us. Dreamwalk to 980 Hawthorne Crescent tomorrow night. It’ll be a rocky road, but the disgraced McMaster Lethology Class of 20-never will meet you there. x

I want her dead, too, but it’s the system I want gone the most. Dr. Dean sputtered, “Ashley, what do you think you’re—” “This is what you get for leaving me out there!” Merrilyn screamed. If their spirits weren’t elsewhere, my classmates would have certainly all woken up. “This is what you get for running this nightmare program! I’ve been alone for months—all ‘cause of you!” Guttural gasps for air were Dr. Dean’s only response. Distantly, I could hear myself making similar sounds, as if I was experiencing an out-of-body experience while already outside of my body. Watching a facsimile of myself suffocate Dr. Dean was not as cathartic as I’d always imagined it to be.












i claw at the mirror what is this ugly thing that scowls at me through the glass? i’m filled with You lungs reek of Your scent eyes paint Your figure Your melody never escapes my ears. Your poisonous ink painted me into a monster.

i love You

i hate you

You don’t answer my messages. have You eaten? are You well? did You at least think of me today, too?

the calendar tells me today was Yesterday so why are You still hanging on my shoulders?

i hate You.

like my favourite cardigan? but i can’t help wanting to wear You (out).

We promised to meet again You’ll keep your promise right? 26


i love You

the Things You gave me sit on my desk i’ll be rid of Them today

i built a tower of thorns as i waited for you You’ll climb up even if your hands bleed right?

i hate You.

i wonder if You felt like this when You threw my heart away did You smile as it drowned under your touch?

but the only thing plantlike about me is my roots that firmly sit in Your soil. it kills me. yet You dematerialized. x

if i was a plant, Your smile and water and soil would be enough to sustain me

yet i face You, my sun.





THE COSMOS, CATACLYSMS, AND CHAOS She lays awake at night; Body— tired, muscles— tight. Though her eyes stay wide open, And she screams her demons away, Her mind remains burdened. Her thoughts splash around like waves; Some reach shores and others hit caves. Neptune’s wrath wreaks havoc and chaos; Her road for the stars — lost in a vortex, And cataclysms rage war in her cosmos. She contemplates how to untangle, Tightly wound emotions deemed unrecognizable. And so, she wanders across the seven oceans Searching for a way to calm her seas— a trident. As the clock strikes two, Her weary mind drowns in dreams— unspoken. x









In this little haven exists a different people. They speak words we don’t understand and bear emotions we can’t feel. They are those who remain at the end of the night – who pay no heed to the final call. Chained to earth, yet still dream – like sailors do of landfall. Some tower, titan-like, overhead, while others cower in fear as we tread. Some glower, primed with poison, while others invite, arms open. In this house, they all grow free, though overseen – careful catastrophe. Roaming their halls with unabashed glee – I confide in them and they confide in me. x


Oh, time, If I could reach out, I’d grab you Hold you tight Take a moment Or two (or ten...) To wallow in nothingness To become one with my breath To watch paint dry and grass grow To escape the burden of constant connection And the grind that never ends

Oh, time, If I could take you back, You’d be surprised by how many roads I’d leave untravelled stories I’d leave unwritten all without a sliver of regret

Nothing Because sometimes, nothing feels better Than just doing

Nothing x




I rebuke my past self For not appreciating those moments of freedom For not letting them live idly For not giving myself time to breathe For filling every hour of every day with a new endeavour



bone dry

Bone dry

Or was it a stop-motion print?

after Carson sings his song.

next to Lynch and Waters,

that were out of season.

that melted and hardened and clung to the walls like crisp cobwebs

In the dry July air,

And asked me why my cheeks were wet

when he climbed into my bed and stroked my hair with gentle care

or Wednesday

or Tuesday

or Monday

or Sunday

Like it did yesterday

And maybe the green monster won’t come back tonight

the dull murmurs from yesterday’s echoes drown the neighbor’s shouts.

Before the TV swallows its pitch-black reflection and

Perhaps it’ll be on one of those late-night cable channels

The blonde one with the young model wife?

Which movie star is in it again?

I have not seen the new movie yet,

tearing down trees for tomorrow’s grand opening.

And the park is closed on Thursdays for repairing and

His water bowl’s dry,

on the grey grass of my dog’s front lawn.

not a drop of dew has found its home

The rain had stopped six weeks ago and


and restless apathy. x

but a reclamation of solitude

for amour or a declaration of chastity,

This is not a beckon

The sun won’t rise if I can’t feel it.

Why park your car if I won’t see it?

Why chime the strings if I won’t hear them?

there is nothing to think when nothing will stay.

I am not afraid when there is nothing coming,

can I smell on dark summer days.

that cloud the streets with heavy hearts of abject pain,

Only when the mildew that spawns from the dank thunderstorms







The Bird That Never Flew Sometimes we get stuck in a rut, You may wake up feeling groggy, sad, and without a courageous strut, But those are the days that truly test your character I hope that you may break free from the strings of your caricature, Because the Bird That Never Flew is a great story Of how a king and queen fell from the highest glory All because they were too scared or afraid That if they failed their passion they would begin to fade, And the story I tell here is going to be you, If you don’t listen to your heart and truly shine through. x









thank you


You added fire to my life. With your grandiose ideas and infectious laugh. You burnt me and gave me no medicine for the wound. I loved every second with you. Speeding down the dirt roads, Screaming into the night sky We wanted to forget who we were. Leave behind the town that hurt us. We were 18.

I wanted to text you, It’s easier to say things when I can’t see your face. Would you hurt me, again? Sometimes, the answer doesn’t matter. I’m not perfect. You know it. We’ve grown into adults. Teen drama doesn’t belong. I’m sorry.

Shit happened. We fell apart. But at night, I toss and turn, Haunted by the thought of us reuniting.

If you knew how we would end, Would you have started it? Here is everything I should’ve said. Letting go of it. I don’t regret anything.

Now that you’re gone, There’s an itch I can’t scratch= Will it always be like this? Now that you’re gone, There’s an itch I can’t scratch Will it always be like this?

I’m older now. My is vision no longer hazy. Are you better than before? Does your mom still dance around the kitchen? I hope you find silence in your mind filled with chaos. My nights are finally peaceful. Maybe closure is all I needed. Knowing that I did not leave you, Knowing only my 18 year old self. x



I was fucked up when I met you, I guess I still might be -But in a different way.


A Conversation WORDS by RAFI MATIN ART by STEVEN KENNY The dialogue begins, A fresh page, possibilities endless, Less worry, more wonder, the naivety of youth, But age is coming, Pencils turn to pens in the blink of an eye, Ideas, once plastic, become rigid with time, Change unavoidable but one thing remains, The exchange continues, it stays the same, It’s hard to pinpoint when it all happened, But you can only reminisce, Careful, or you might forget to --One thing is for sure, the conversation never stops. x






Misery Nothing matters and I wish I could make myself care. Instead, my eyes are locked in a stare with a bottle large enough to cure my despair. For hours I attempt to numb my frustrations and forget my tenacious fears but in my drunken slumber, I convince myself that I deserve love. That I am loved. Or at least, that is until I wake. Then the cycle of self-hatred once again begins, and I find my eyes locked with a poison that is strong enough to kill my demons, yet not me. Learn to love the void, or you too will be confined within the lies of miseries mind, and in truth I do not know what could be worse. For I am twenty-one and fading quickly if this is my denouement then please do it swiftly. x









So, here we are… In the middle of a pandemic. I remember a time where we could walk around the city, go to the grocery store, attend events, and just live life the best we knew how. Now, you better not be caught leaving the house without a mask, maybe some hand sanitizer, and definitely a supreme level of self-awareness as you track where your hands touch, where your feet go, and how others move. It’s crazy to think about how our daily mantra went from “living our best life” to ”social distancing” and “quarantine” and all those cool media buzzwords: “hotspot”, “superspreader”, and well, whatever the hell Donald Trump managed to cook up on Twitter. Has anyone ever paused to think about what’s actually going on? Seriously. We are living in the midst of a global pandemic. That is nothing short of overwhelming. And then, you start to add on the sheer volume of disaster and injustice that is going on around the world. The chances of all of this going on at the same time seems impossible. This can’t really be life, can it? Everyone goes through their own personal struggles as we grow in life. But, they’re usually just that. Personal.

Personal Growth. Independence. Self-actualization. All things that we truly strive for because the human experience demands it. Except now, there’s this thing that torments the human experience as we once knew it. So, I start to wonder if we are in a simulation. Are we paused? Is this some sort of limbo? Did the person playing a Planet Earth version of Sims just say “Hey, what’s the worst that could happen?” when pushing some random buttons? It’s like a paused Netflix show of (insert your name here)’s life that you were going to return to until there were too many people on the account and you simply had no choice but to move on to something else. Don’t get me wrong. I recognize that even the ability to vent my thoughts and feelings about this is a privilege rarely afforded to the average person. And for that, I am thankful. I sincerely hope that anyone and everyone going through something right now will be blessed with the tools to get through it and return to their version of “as we once knew it”. I merely hope that one day, I can look back in time and restart from the ellipsis. x








In my loneliest moments In my loneliest moments




In my loneliest moments, In these nights of despair, In the depths of this nonsense, I can’t find myself anywhere. When work becomes an end, And life a career For my wealth to defend, I wonder why I’m here?

For poets are but children Of lucre dreams unveiled, Who brew in tainted cauldrons Tales of their lives fulfilled.

Is life but a program? Just calculus and code. In order to be a man, I must do what’s foretold:

Real men stay steadfast, Don’t sway with the whim To do what love has asked, For love’s light is dim.

To manage this matrix, To account for myself, To forego all ethics, To only excel.

You can do it to distract, Then throw it in a bin, For words have a loose pact With capital’s great sin. Instead, remain loyal To destined gold, Put poetry on trial, And hide away its mould. x






INANIMATE I am still I promise you that I am As frail as I might seem And as much as gravity has dressed me loosely in slack skin I am still Spreading life to every end of my limbs and every heart my smile touches And I will be still Long after smiles forget what was once their cause and all I give is energy to life I will be dancing in rivers and blooming in spring I will take my first steps and be again— Who I once was x



REBIRTH I wonder if the earth can hear the echoes of laughter If the walls of empty bars still pulse to music no longer playing If there is a version of the past hovering beneath the veil of the present Waiting to burst to life

I can tell the water is happier The blues bluer, greens greener The way it rushes through streams, rivers, creeks As though propelled by adrenaline I can tell the earth is breathing That what we call silence Is perhaps just a frequency we have not tuned in to. x




I can tell the streets do not miss us From the way the grass grows through their cracks The way birds, squirrels, chipmunks have made the terrain their own No longer needing our permission to cross the road










ALWAYS AND If I fuck everything up.

“Always and forever.”

You’re human.

“Always and forever.”

If the world ends.


Come hell or high water.

Tomorrow. Please be there. I’ll be waiting!

Do you not believe me?

…The day after that, too.

I do.

Rain or shine.

I — I don’t.

Until next week?

I don’t know.

Where would I go?

We’re two halves

Even if I’m having a bad day?

of a whole.

I’m not going anywhere.

And yet

A bad year.

you left.

It’ll get better.

You left me.

If it never gets better, then.

No, that’s not true.

But it will.

Then come back.

You don’t know that at all.

I’m here.

I know you. I trust you.

But not really.

How can you know me

What is real?

when I don’t even know myself?

Real enough for you?

People change… people grow.

I don’t know

And are the better for it.

I’m here.

No… not always.

Then don’t go

Even so.

Just please don’t go

You’ll stay with me?

Of course not.


We’re two halves

A decade.

of a whole

A century.

and I promised,

Even if I lose myself?

we promised

I’ll find you.

I said —

Even if I lose everything else?

you said —

Even if.

always and forever. x

If things fall apart. We’ll put them back together.







To the unknown becoming home

How many hours spent facing the same vacant walls, held hostage by subdued whispers of “this was only meant to be temporary”.

Is it better to hold fast To stay and sleep or to rise and fight and burn?

And that is the great paradox — The plight of this existence

How long does it take for a house to become a home?

Because I have spent years craving sleep, longing for a reprieve from the static of chaos, And this numbness is soft and inviting.

How long is too long, watching the sun rise and fall while the Earth persists in its same unfaltering ellipsis, and life’s warm glow rests upon a thousand other places.

But how long before this numbness becomes worse than what it costs to drag each petrified limb up from the floor — to begin living again. x

How many nights on the frigid tile of the bathroom floor until its familiarity becomes a comfort. Funny, how it slips right past you And then you are looking back at it from the other side. To go from leaving home and facing the unknown



i know we have yet to meet so i pass my time dreaming you up, occupied and lost in my thoughts, visiting you in my dreams

you make the old love look cheap and lousy loves that were simply delved into too fast, just a rush of excitement a temporary bliss, never truly meant to build anything worth lasting misinterpreted for the raw, authentic love you have to offer

i mention you in a prayer here and there i don’t even have a name to call you by, but i know you’re out there somewhere i admit, at times i’ve gone soul searching in the wrong people and mistaken them for you

they’ve had nothing on you, my love.

i’m sorry they looked so much like the love i hope you’d offer me someday they smelled like the sweetness of fresh potential they were the big-screen i’d project all my fantasies onto it felt as though i was living a dream of a life turns out, it was only make-believe little did i know, every ideal of what love was that ever existed in my mind would not equate to you you see, that was the old me young, starry-eyed and filled with naivety

you are the only soul who has nurtured my flowers deep into the root, understood just how i blossomed, for i stemmed my way up to bloom i made myself sturdy and strong as i awaited you for i am a beautiful flower on my own, but i long to grow with you and i’d imagine you’d have a bit of hopeless romantic in you too for we were made of the same stardust, back when we were matched in heaven of course, we’d share the same energy visions, dreams. i anticipate the very moment our eyes meet our brows raise, and our souls having waited their entire lives for this, finally greet one another

if i’m being honest, i hope you’ll surprise me. i imagine now, you will be an intermediary between everything i never knew i needed and everything i’ve ever hoped for, at once wrapped up in a basket, tied with a bow, handed to me by God

oh how you touch my mind and my heart without even touching me how you explore my existence like a rare, unknown galaxy

as if the universe hadn’t been waiting for our acquaintance all along.


and through endless conversation, our mouths speak at last, in love, our lips lock and our hearts beat

no, our hearts race faster and faster i picture us well into our twenties: we are dancing to our favourite song stepping across the living room carpet, in our apartment our bodies pressed against one another, we sway to the rhythm of the beat my arms around your shoulders your hands hug my waist, we set the pace together, we are in sync as i look up to face you, i see forever in your eyes — the most we’ll make of our numbered days end of vision… till then, i will be ever searching, soul-searching waiting for you to reach me. x












Here are my limbs, like a china doll’s I snap them off and watch them split, no blood to ooze, just cool hard flesh. Here are my guts, like Gordian Knots, so tightly tangled, I’ll grab a blade and slice right through.


Look at me. What a mess. No one knows the sight of me. I look for my face in mangled bones, and stitch my guts together. Take that rusting blood of mine; scorch it into iron. Hold on to my searing pain, and snap my limbs together, Watch the life pulse through my veins and carve my face from iron. Here’s my face, just like a gorgon’s, take a look, I dare you. Medusa-eyed and silver skinned, the sight of me, all mangled. With slit for mouth and fang for teeth, I’m no china doll. x


i. the world is spinning off its axis and the numbness that consumes you prevents you from feeling how your hands quake. every stilted breath that rattles through your hollow rib cage sends a tremor that pulses in your veins iii. god has left everything in your trembling, scraped palms and the burden of existence fills the hollow cavity of the person you used to be iv. your frail bones were not made to bear such crushing burdens v. you glance at the sky, waiting for an answer. you know it will not come. vi. the chaos is deafening. within the ringing of your ears, you hear desperate prayers begging for it all to stop. the trapped scream clawing up your throat has made its home, and all you can taste is the copper of blood vii. viii. ix. all at once, everything stops. x. xi. xii. the world itself has combusted and all that remains is the carnage left in your shaky hands and the gaping chasm that has swallowed the universe whole xiii. you stare at the void and the void stares back xiv. in it, you see the face of god xv. he offers you a bloody smile and then screams xvi. the piercing shriek echoes in the vacuum and you feel it thrum in your veins. it feels like you’re being burned from the inside-out xvii. you drop what was left of the world—the chaos, the prayers, the blood—into the chasm from the agony xviii. through your tears, you see god devour the ruins of everything that ever existed in a single bite xix. you look at him, horrified, and he stares vacantly at you with his black hole eyes. suddenly he burns; so bright and so fierce, you have to face away xx. xxi. when you look back, you are left alone; in the abyss and in the stillness of what never was supposed to be







Jo u r n e y o f In e r t i a WORDS by ALAN MINKOVICH ART by GRAEME FISHMAN

The photographs of Garry Winogrand were described as being fascinatingly dynamic while remaining still frames. In many regards, Garry was ahead of his time, because that’s exactly what this fruitless journey of mine has felt like — an ever evolving change of state as static as old Garry’s photos. I entered quarantine in troubling circumstances, with this journey beginning and a hunger for a change of scenery burning inside of me. The universe laughed: that distant online rumour became reality, Rudy Gobert touched a few microphones, and I was stuck home for the foreseeable future. I couldn’t bear the thought of reopening that chest, containing the memories before the unrest. A segment of my life had come to end and it was time to move onto the next chapter… But even when you finish a chapter in a book, those words don’t disappear, the text doesn’t cease to exist, the events that transpired don’t vanish, and with my body restricted to the modest confines of my parent’s house, my mind was doing A LOT of rereading. Advice on how to continue this journey of mine always comes back to the same point: keep yourself distracted. Ok. A couple of sit-ups and push-ups a day. A deadlift here and a chest-press there. Time to go for some walks and be in nature, or maybe even watch a movie or two. The tides turn ever so slightly, until a song pops into my shuffled Spotify playlist, reopening the buried chest of memories, the sea violently jerks me back, and I’m back to square one.


incite I lay awake for a few nights. My mind is fixated, and the walls of my room are coming down on me. My mind is a broken record, skipping back to the same clip over and over, endlessly opening and closing the chest. I’m walking in circles, and making no progress. The broken record reaches a deafening tone, the walls pushing down on me with the weight of the world, my mind is in inertia, without any sign of movement, until I’m left with nothing else to do but try and break free. I bury the chest. A different perspective is taken, I focus less on the grand scheme of my progress, and more so on the little things to be done. I message a friend, I do something to further my career. I open a book and study for a midterm. Yet, I can still hear the echo of the broken record as my mind slowly creeps back to the thought of opening the chest and seeing what’s inside. But the only way to go is forward — some chests are worth keeping buried. I end up feeling like I’m in Garry’s photographs. In some respect, a sea of change has passed, the leaps and bounds I’ve taken would impress any other explorer, and I’m dynamic as the subjects Garry portrays. But still, there’s that last barrier, holding me in place, and if I could just break through — I’m almost there. Excruciatingly close. It’s inertia: all I need is that last little push, and my journey will be complete. x





I should be taking the lead Yet I stop rather than speed How can I get there? What do I need? I need to grow Or at least move slow I need more control Movement can lead to improvement I need to realize my own potential Because I, myself am essential Despite being both master and slave, I must create a wave I refuse to be left behind I refuse to sit around wasting time With these shackles on, I will continue to walk And eventually, I will override the clock x




There is a stillness in my joints; a silence from the absence of movement. There is an emptiness in my heart, a heart that has forgotten its rhythm. It doesn’t stumble, it doesn’t stutter, it doesn’t feel or think or pump blood. It’s immobile, paralyzed, wrapped in a sheer snow blanket. Icicles hang from its aorta, the heart’s crown now a heavy burden. There is a stillness hanging in the air; no breaths escape my lips to paint the world with clouds. Buried alive, buried in snow so deep that a hypnotizing white is my reality. A sparkling white — dazzling, blinding. My eyelids frozen, my tears like diamonds studding my cheeks. Am I sparkling and pale, like the snow that surrounds me?

need to be still. You don’t need to stay here, cowering in your prison of ice and snow. You don’t need to bury yourself, not when there is a life to live. It just takes one twitch, one choice, one movement... A breath escapes my lips, shivering lips that can remember the clouds they create. A beat takes a hold of me, a pulse remembering homebound paths, carrying the heat of my blood. A teardrop is born from blinking eyes, from moving eyes, that seek for more than blinding light. That seek more than perfection.

There is a frozen smile on my lips.

A frozen smile, melting into emotion.

The snow has become my home, my refuge from the heat of the world. A safe haven from the chaos of movement. I remain frozen. It’s so easy to stay frozen. To drown in a sea of snowflakes. To barricade in a battlement of stillness.

I am alive and whole … and moving for the first time in an eternity.

I hide in stillness. I hide in ice and snow and numbing pain. In my fears I remain.

All my life thinking it would be so difficult to see the other side, beyond the stillness of snow.

Immobile. Empty. Still. Can there be darkness in blinding white snow? Can there be love in a blanket of fear? Can there be movement in an eternity of stillness? A twitch at my left pinky. A twitch, like a spark of fire resonating through my body, blinding its wsenses in pain. I have forgotten how to move, and my body feels the pain of remembering. I am remembering. That darkness is a blessing. That fear can bring about love. That you can move, you don’t

I can pull myself out of this snow coffin, made of ice daggers and knives of cold.

But snow can be loose, it can be soft, it can be broken. I can pull myself out of the snow. I am not still anymore. x






Caution: Flammable Self-assured 82


Are you hearing yourself? I want to scream. I want to interject as they spew ignorant nonsense.

Their words are untrue. I want to defend myself. I’m always defending myself! Sometimes I wish I could let others inside my mind so they could see the truth. Do you understand now? I would ask after. But that is not possible in this world. In this world, I only have my words. So they speak, and their careless words light a fire inside of me. I desperately want to just let it go, but I can’t help it. The fire glows brighter with each passing second, its smoke filling my lungs. If I keep it in, I think I might suffocate. Suddenly, without a thought, my mouth is open. The smoke escapes, and with it my words. My voice is pitched three octaves higher, the siren of a firetruck that’s trying hard to put out the flames. This happens often. When it’s over, I’m the only one left with scars. Next time, I promise myself, I will stay quiet.

I’m tired. Both from the fire that burns me, and the rescue that follows. I have no breath left. It feels like giving up, but I’ve already tried hundreds of times. I don’t think I could stand trying once more and failing. I am learning a hard lesson: people don’t change unless they want to; people will never understand unless they choose to open their hearts and their minds—

So next time comes, and I try it out. They’re talking. My insides are set aflame once again. My emotions are consuming me from inside-out. I can feel my heart racing, my blood pressure rising. But this time I tell myself not to say a thing. They continue talking. Are you hearing yourself? I want to scream. I want to interject as they spew ignorant nonsense. I want to stand up for myself as they judge me, misunderstand me, create a me that doesn’t exist. Deep breath in, hold, breathe out. I chant in my head, I let go, I release myself of others’ opinions of me. I can’t—I can’t do this. This happens so often you would think I would be over it, but still, I can’t help but think, Maybe I could try just one more time? Maybe this time they’ll understand? The words are out before I have a chance to think it over. I wonder later, Am I fueling the fire?

So when they open their mouths, when they start saying things that are untrue, things I’ve fought countless times over, I don’t react. Sometimes I can feel a spark light inside me when they start. But I take a deep breath in, suffocating it before it grows. To say there is peace in my mind would be a lie, but there is clarity: this is not a battle to be fought. There is no unnecessary fire to put out, no wounds to heal in the aftermath. I only fight when I know change can be made. For now, I let my emotions flow through me and out of me with each exhale. I know my truth and it’s enough. x




Lessons in

X E S d n LOVE a




response of declination, the first boy I ever had sex with pulled back on his jeans and disappeared out the door of my dorm room.


That night, I was giddy with excitement. Nevermind the pain - golden-skinned Adonis boy had been mine to touch. I had kissed him, and had entered the magical realm of people who have had sex.

It begins with a set of large, hazel eyes. The first boy I ever had sex with brought me over to his dorm in residence. Third floor, penthouse. Suite style. A palace compared to my dingy room across campus.

There were a few more times I will not speak about in detail. A couple blowjobs - his hand maintaining a slight pressure on my head. A couple more sad attempts at fucking.

We were meant to be practicing for the debate tournament next week. My young, naive heart, falling for his pair of liquid brown irises, had suggested that I help him figure out his opening speeches.

Sex was entirely new to me, and I was terribly excited by it. I wanted to be good at it, and to be desired by him. So in all those times, I remained silent through my own pain and discomfort.

By the time we had chosen our practice topic, he had made his way from a single wooden chair to my two-seater couch. By the time he had half-heartedly run through his first attempt at a case, his shoulder was pressed against mine. I gave up on the whole endeavor when he placed his hand on my thigh.

Eventually, however, golden-skinned Adonis boy lost interest in me. And so it is that, two years and eleven months later, I find myself inking these words into the ivory pages of a writing journal.

How exciting. A month and a series of snapchats later, he is standing in my dorm room in jeans and a T-shirt. How wonderful to finally kiss a boy.

For much of this time, I have affirmed to myself that I was not sexually abused - that I had agency over myself, and the ability to stop him with a single word.

How wonderful to finally lose myself to someone.

But there is no consent in fucking a frozen body.

How wonderful, that he, golden-skinned Adonis, would have interest in touching me.

And so I have come to realize that he took advantage of me. That he exploited my attraction to him and my lack of experience for his own sexual pleasure - without any consideration for my emotional or physical well-being.

It had to all happen in the same night. I was afraid he would lose interest otherwise.

The first time you have sex informs the way you continue on to love. To this day, no matter how tender the hand, I brace myself for pain. My partner cannot touch my head during oral sex - not even to run their hands through my hair. He damaged my ability to express affection, and I am still fighting to get it back.

The kiss was rough - full of unshaved stubble and my own inexperienced teeth. He was in a rush to get clothing off. I had thought there would be more foreplay. Perhaps a playlist of rock music in the background. But golden-skinned adonis boy was inside me within the span of twenty minutes.

My weapon of choice has been a simple one: self-respect. The nurturing of a small voice inside that says: “I deserve better�.

My memory of that moment is a flashbulb of recollection. I remember the blinding white of the overhead fluorescent lights - my hand against the cold marble of the windowsill, my body tense with every thrust.

One day, I was struck with the realization that I could no longer remember his last name. Somehow, the first boy I ever had sex with had been reduced to four letters and a series of flashbulb memories.

Another minute and he will be done. Another minute and the pain will be over.

But there is still work to be done.

Another minute and I will have completed the act of having sex.

I will continue learning to love myself. I will strip away every leaf from this tree of my life and bloom anew. I will cut him down until he is three letters, then two, then one, then nothing. x

Eventually, I gave up and told him to stop - it hurt too much. He paused, withdrew, and sat naked on my single bed. He joked about blue balls and leaving people hanging. He asked me to blow him. Then, hearing my


S I I V T E E R D E C N A ROM I forget my headphones on Monday.

ise. He passes me my lunch from the fridge and plants a loving kiss on my forehead, “Thank you; have a good day.” And later, I’ll return to find flowers on the counter and a note on the fridge that reads, “We’ll get ‘em next time.”

I forget my headphones, and I hear the birds — undisturbed, little things. They swoop lower than I remembered and sing songs; they’re not pretty ones, but welcome nonetheless. I imagine them saying, “Good morning, love,” and asking how I slept. These are words that I’d heard earlier that day, and words that I’d argue hearing every day are more romantic than any love song.

It’s Friday evening, and we both work late.

We order takeout so that it’s sitting on our doorstep when we get home. Tucked under a blanket that has been warmed in the dryer, we start Episode 8. I add that song from the


It’s Tuesday afternoon, and we’re walking to the grocery store.

soundtrack to our playlist, and we’ll fall asleep as the credits roll. Later, he’ll carry me to bed. And we won’t dream of anything, sleeping deeply ‘til morning.

His hand is in mine, and I’m practically high on that tiny, quiet love that comes with routine. He’s listing the things that we need to buy for the week, but I’m only half-listening. Forgetting is part of the fun. We made cookies last week without flour, and quiche the week before with only two eggs. “Recipes are suggestions,” I’ll declare, “This makes it more personal.” He’ll laugh, and I’ll laugh. And the outcome will be inexplicably good or understandably awful, but we’ll eat it anyway, enjoying what’s uniquely ours.

It’s Saturday evening, and we’re visiting my family.

It’s Wednesday night — date night. He picks me up from work, and we grab food to eat in the car while the sun sets. The sky is a pink-ish-kind-of-blue, and we’re singing throwback songs poorly but with heart. When a slow song comes on, I’ll jokingly – seriously – ask him to dance. And we’ll slow dance in the empty parking lot as time itself lets out a breath. It’s Thursday morning, and we argue about who forgot to take out the trash. I’m rolling my eyes, annoyed, when I turn to see him responsibly exchanging the old bag for a new one. “Next week is my week then,” I prom-

He’s peering into the oven and indulging my father, asking questions about how to best cook a roast. I’m opening a bottle of wine while discussing song selection with my sister. My mother sets the table, and soon we will be eating, drinking, and laughing. And on the drive home, with a full stomach, I’ll know this is as close as it gets to peace. It’s late Sunday morning – my favourite kind of morning. I get up earlier than him and start breakfast. Today, I decide not to decide and attempt to cook all the breakfast foods. The smell of toast and sunlight fills the kitchen, and I’m already excited to eat what’s left of this ridiculous amount of food for dinner and the rest of the week. I hear him stir upstairs and soon after, feel his arms wrap around me from behind. “Good morning, love. How’d you sleep?” he asks. And I tell him that I slept soundly and to remind me not to forget my headphones tomorrow. x







Speak not to me of the magnolia dance that I am surely missing

Speak not to me of the sunflower field where the stalks turn cheek like roving pinwheels and white petals glow yellow like pools of melted butter

dance What good are the lines of a palm that can’t be read? I drink coffee don’t leave tea leaves live the present like I’m dead

Speak not to me of the sunlight, presently I begrudge the absentee miss its kisses on my cheek

So don’t speak to me of missing speak to me of living soon

Speak not to me of the rippling shadow beams slicing moonlight with air awls dancing patterns on my wall

Speak to me of a roaring red dawn that burns blisters on my chest and ekes the green out of my lawn

Speak not to me of the closet doors closed just to lock in the ghosts nor of the carpets thick with dust breeding mites as I grow weak

Then the redness recedes and my eyes cease to itch my blackened chest crackles as the grass whispers myth

I am buoyed into the air by a cloud of flying dreams I weave through stormless blue whispering bye to shadow beams

Speak not to me of the debutante ball the strobe lights are gone and the bars cannot crawl

Although a darker part of me is sad to see them go I shift my gaze down to the valley where the flower forest grows

Speak not to me of the Pettifer dance barefoot I tread as the iron-feet prance crunching tendon and bone ‘neath the flat of their heels as my own teeter back so the men take the wheel

Sunflow’rs spin as gilded clocks glowing gold and ticking tock alighting sparkling specks of dust baring face in sunbeam lust

Speak not to me of the barrel-chested train pummeling forth like a bullet breaking glass and bleeding rain Speak not to me of a piecemeal past and a future congealed nor a present that’s lined where parched lips must stay sealed


I too upturn my cheek feel the sunshine warm my skin sense a cosmic realignment with the body that I’m in The magnolias dance amid the tangled, dew-wet grass and although I ache to join them oozing star-heart lost her chance in the time it took to smile bleeding girlhood slipped right past x


In the hush of the char a verdant spell bursts free reviving the long-frozen willing been to be

Speak not to me of the people not met and the places not seen they say England’s nice and that Ireland’s green










She had rage So much rage that she never knew where to place it So she left some in the cabinets Stored some in a drawer Some, she threw in the ocean Others, she smeared on the floor She shovelled it into her mouth Until she had to puke She tried to send it into the sky She tried to send it as a nuke Control the rage, she told herself Behave yourself, she screamed But nothing could make the trembling stop It even followed her into dreams Let me go, she cried I’ll do whatever you say But the rage just wrapped its hands around her throat And slowly, she turned grey Hush, my raging heart, she choked out one last time Maybe it was fate But this last mountain she could not climb The rage, it took over her life And slowly undid the threads It didn’t stop wreaking havoc, not until she was dead At last, tranquillity The whole world seemed at ease She fell through the cracks of the Earth And finally, there was peace — Hush, My Raging Heart x




Uninvited: To the Deep

An invitation was not sent, yet the doldrums forced its way in and got its way, noisily without consent. No one heard it, but me– the mind is the loudest silence. It’s like a pirate tied an anchor to my brain and tossed it to sea– deeply drenched in Melancholy. Here I am in this body, rather lost, and feeling grungy. In the deep I dwell a bubbling hell in the deep I dwell with the uninvited. In the deep I dwell, but no one else can tell– I am anchored… Still. x



A Constant in CHANGING Times Our lives have changed. And we have started giving it interesting names: “The New Normal”, “The Trying Times”, “Uncertain Terrain”. Despite what happens, life goes on. The current pandemic has created different challenges for everyone. For me, a budding medical student, it has drastically altered my view of medical education. One of the most important parts of the medical school experience is being part of the hospital environment and interacting with patients and staff. However, amidst all the changes that happened in response to the pandemic, our clinical work was completely put on hold for the past 7 months. It was not only time that passed by; we were also losing sig-

nificant opportunities to gain clinical skills, interact with patients, explore medicine, and medical specialties. Although daunting at first, we soon recognized the need to be silent supporters in the battle against this virus. So we (im)patiently waited for the time when we were called back to the frontlines (more like just allowed to be back in the clinical environment). Now, after 7 months, we have returned to the clinical space. I stand confused, smack dab in the middle of the emergency department. There is a weird sense of swiftness; hearts beating, machines beeping, people screaming. I hear the sounds of both agony and joy, uncertainty and relief. Every-


one is busy and everything is moving. Meanwhile, I stare into space, hoping that someone will snap their fingers and freeze time for a moment so that I can see and take it all in! The months themselves are quickly passing by, nearing the day when I will have to pick a medical specialty. I feel anxious, confused, excited and scared all together. But the longer I stay, the more I realize that those hearts will continue to beat, machines will continue to beep, and that people will have to move fast to keep up with time. And I cannot stop it. All I can do is be here, and embrace it. x




The women of the forest would walk along the edges of the thick bushes, past the clear water, stopping to admire an occasional flower or smooth stone. They would walk together, wrapping cord around shafts to make arrows, making garments, tanning furs. Their mouths would burst with laughter, berries, and stories. They would pound cedar leaves to relieve colds. They would collect twine to build baskets. And they knew the forest well. And the forest knew them well. They knew of the mountains nearby, and which face was the most dangerous to climb up. They knew where the dormouse slept during the winter. And, most importantly, they would always warn each other of danger. “Do not go near that lake.” “Why not?”

“It is salty; no fish can live in it and washing clothes in it makes them dry up.” “Oh.”

Caravans would come by, close to the edge of the forest, to trade goods and take the furs to faraway villages that only existed in the women’s stories. They would buy books, daggers, and necklaces



they twinkled as if they were laughing. And sometimes, when everyone was asleep, she would quietly laugh with the stars. But tonight, she did not. Tonight, she wondered whether the weeping lake ever laughed with the stars. Did the lake even see the stars? Or was it blinded by its bitter tears? The more she thought, the more anxious she became. Had the lake ever seen the sunset? Did the lake know about the mountains? And, full of doubts and worries, she drifted off to sleep. The next day, after a dreamless sleep, she awoke early to find the book beside her. The girl stood up, arching herself to stretch, and slipped away to run to the salty lake. As she ran, she passed by cedar trees, a river, and a web, covered in shining dew. The iridescent colours of the web flew by her, blurring into a spectrum, as she ran. The girl began to slow to a gait, and then walked quietly towards the lake. And again, she heard the same sound of weeping. It was more wrenching, more of a feeble bawl today. She saw colourless bubbles on the surface, as if the lake was sputtering. She looked around, not knowing how to console it. Her gaze fell on the book in her hand. So, to calm the waters, she read aloud. Narcissus was a hunter who loved beautiful things. He once looked into a lake. And with that, the lake cried out. It wailed. Its waters became saltier, more bitter, and its bubbles became colourless. Brine began to reach up to the girl, pattering at her ankles. “Why do you weep?” the girl asked. “I weep for Narcissus.” She was taken aback. “I see,” she whispered. “Many people pursued Narcissus, you know. In a forest like this one. And only the lake in which he drowned knew how beautiful he was. Is that why you are bitter?” “I am bitter because of Narcissus, but not because he was beautiful.” Her eyes widened, and the pages of the book in her hand began to twitch with the wind. “I am bitter because, when he looked into me, I showed him his reflection. I beckoned him to look, to stay. And he drowned. And now, there is no one to look into me. There is no one that is entranced by my waters.” The sobbing of the lake became quiet. It was now worse than sobbing; it was the agonizing grief of a memory that no longer existed. The lake became agitated again, and wailed. “Narcissus is gone.” The girl felt tears well in her eyes. The world became blurred, like the iridescent colours of a web. Tracing the outlines of the book in her hands, she took a breath, a sigh. She brought her face close to the lake, and kissed its surface. “Do not weep; do not let your waters remain bitter,” she murmured. “Do not weep, for Narcissus is not gone. He may have drowned, but he lies within you.” And with that, the lake became still. x



from the caravans. Of course, they bought other things, too. But only those things feel as if they should be mentioned. A girl, who knew of the mountains and the dormouse and was one of the women of the forest, went to sift through the books brought by the caravans. The heft of books, so grown-up and significant, made her grin. The pages had drawings on them, sometimes in colour, sometimes not. She liked the ones with more words, so that she could think of drawings instead of simply seeing them. As she leafed through the pages, she came across the myth of Narcissus. She read that he was a hunter, who loved beautiful things. He once looked into a lake, and upon seeing his own reflection, became so entranced by that he fell into the water and drowned. Where he fell, a narcissus lily bloomed. The girl was perplexed by the story. Lakes were for catching fish, washing clothes, and dyeing garments. They were not for gazing into, and for drowning in. Such things were only done by idle people, not by the women of the forest. Nevertheless, the girl bought the book for a set of arrows she had made, and took it back to the forest. Perhaps if she read it again, it would make more sense. So, as she walked back to where the women had gathered to build a fire, she decided to read it again. The girl turned to the first page, smoothed it out, and read. Narcissus was a hunter who loved beautiful things, she read. He once looked into a lake, she read. As she read she realized that, while puzzling over her book, she had gotten close to the salty lake. The one that the women warned not to go near. The girl closed the book. “You are a salty lake. The women of the forest have told me about you. There are no fish within you, and you cannot even be used to dye garments or wash clothes,” she said. She listened carefully. It sounded strange. It almost sounded as if a child was weeping. The girl moved closer to the lake, and was shocked to find that the weeping noise, the sound of inaudible, wrenching sobbing, was coming from within the lake. “Why are you weeping?” She ventured closer, steadily, until she finally saw her own reflection in the water. Her eyes widened, and the stones and mountains and trees began to fade away in memory. The girl touched the surface of the water, marvelling at how it clinged onto her fingers, as if it wanted to be held. As if it was a child, begging for consolation, for comfort. As if it was a vine, growing around her, with small leaves and sprouts. She heard a voice call her from the forest. The girl jumped up out of her trance, shaken; one of the women was calling her. She looked back at the lake, with curious fear, and then turned to run back to the other women as the day began to recede. The women of the forest would gather together at the end of the day to watch the sun sink, surrounded by the colour of flame. Sunsets were the girl’s favorite, not because they had so much colour or because they were quiet, but because she knew that after the sunset, the stars would come out. They would awake, one by one, and






calm. When you hold my hand, the world is calm Like someone pressed the sticky pause button On a remote in the back of my desk drawer Putting the world on hold just for me. You grip my hand, and pull me forward Into the blinding light of a new day And as we’re walking, I can hear everything…


The wind whispering in the trees

The crunching of the leaves beneath your boots

The soft sigh of another person at peace

And closing my eyes, I feel it all…

The sun on my face

The warmth of your fleeting presence

The hug of the breeze as it flies around me

And you’re beautifully quiet, but it says enough.

Some say that peace is hidden in the eye of the storm But for me, peace is hidden in you And as we return, and the world starts up again I’m overwhelmed by messages and phone calls Letters piled high in the front hall Taunts and cries and relentless thoughts And I can’t find the remote to make it stop But I still hold onto the serenity Your hand in mine The calm you give me in a screaming world. x


The witching hour comes

Creeping in the darkness

I lay here in silence,

While intrusive thoughts go

When everything is still.

Straining for blissful sleep Haunting.

The ghosts pervade my mind,

Speak softly in my ears:

Yet you are standing still.

Tick tock, time is slipping My lips remain shut, but

Inside my skull I am


Torment upon torment,

Every wicked thought

Thrashing through the night,

I hear their voices still

The graveyard of my thoughts

Sheets laying askew, Cursing.

Awakens when I sleep.

To tear apart my mind.

I wait for light of dawn,

The dead ascend again


Scares me out of slumber.

But I am still here. Praying. x

Intrusive Thoughts of an Insomniac






Tell me about the moment Where time stood still For a second, Nothing mattered. Nothing moved.

You know what I am talking about When you didn’t know so much could be felt, A moment too clear When that second lasts for a year. What moment came to mind? Was it hard to find? Do you wish it would stay? Or did you hide it away?




For me, Time stood still the morning I woke up to birds, chirping on my windowsill Watching the Muskoka sunrise over the hill The smell of bonfire lingered in my hair To this day, I still feel that warm summer air I will always have traces of that night A time when everything felt so right The sound of my best friend’s laugh ringing in my ear I still see it all crystal clear That morning everything stopped just enough for me to take it in There’s truly no place on earth, I would have rather been


I know you have your moments, too You may even have a few But remember Life is a series of moments. Some will be painful While others you wish you could feel twice I guess you’ll just have to roll the dice, Take them as they come For someday they won’t be moments you are living, But memories of a time you lived. x






Skunk's Impasse

The streets are clean tonight. The road might be pockmarked with gravel, But black tar glitters under one fluorescent light No sneakers lift, no wheels travel.


The curve of the cul-de-sac has not been traced. The neighbours see its concrete circle as the death of an end. Though the hedges beyond appear expertly trimmed and evenly spaced A path unpaved is never a friend. But the deer emerge from the uniform lawns Their cloven soles make clunky music with the solid darkness. Headlights won’t stop their coats of blond, Stop signs stand guard; their antlers rove regardless. The coyotes come next, yellow eyes flashing, Tricking the trees into parting their branches. They catch a mailbox unaware with incisors gnashing Screaming out for each other, waking the neighbours from trances. Finally, the skunk’s hour comes ‘round His stripe sneaks by the impasse, toward the bare path Though the street is void of his enemy’s sound With a tail aloft, he releases his wrath. Though the neighbours are sealed in their units of brick, The skunk’s airborne message is clear. The dead end is just an empty trick, The street might seem clean, but its grime will adhere. x









today i am not september. i am not new beginnings and the crimson flush of autumn, i am not the crackle of leaves underneath worn leather boots, i am not a cascade of heated longing in my body, yearning disguised as a cup of tea, i am not one of the hundred fall poems i write every year. to be alive in september is to begin again, a fresh breath of relief, chances falling in bronze colours onto my cold, bare hands. to fall for an october is an adventure, a newly kindled fire, blazing desire, and hunger pricking at your ribs. to lose yourself in november is to find yourself dripping in yearning, waiting to belong — but there is always an almost. fingertips brush the rough-edged ends of the chapter, yet you never finish the book. but today i cannot find september and i am flailing. the book remains unopened and i lose myself searching for my familiar autumn timeline. for once, i am wary of what the seasons will bring me. x



GOLD IS YOUR COLOUR I’m sorry that you don’t feel valued. I’m sorry that you feel like they don’t see you. But it’s funny isn’t it? That in thinking of all the possible reasons why they won’t give you their time or their thoughts, you give them yours. You use all the paper and all the ink you can find, turning thoughts into time as you write down why they won’t even pick up a pen for you. You write about how you are in their hands in an attempt to write them out of yours, but the pen you chose has their name on it. These are your things so why is their name on that pen? Thoughts, time, things. Thoughts, time, things. Thoughts, time, things. Thou Precious like gold. That’s what those are. Yet, here you are giving them up like they aren’t worth more than gold, on a person who can’t see colour. I mean, I can understand why you do this. My fingers are stained blue, too. You give, and you gave up all your gold, because that is what your heart is made of; it’s a blessing and a curse. Gold is valuable so people simply take. I’m not surprised. Who wouldn’t take an incredible person’s everything?

I wish that I could tell you how much people want you. They may not be authors but they have written chapters and novels and fairy tales in which you are the hero, the villain, the sidekick and —

I dipped my hands in ink for you. But that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because clearly you can only see what you perceive. You haven’t used any ink on yourself, so how can you read anything with clarity? You haven’t written down the reasons why you are lovable, or bled the page with why you are enough. I see that ink bottle sitting in your hand, and that paper beside your bed. I see you reaching for the ink to text them why, but I don’t see you asking why you let them dictate your value. How much time, thoughts, and things have I used up on you? x




The thing is that people don’t know what to do with that much gold. You can’t even be mad at them — they don’t understand what they have never learnt. Meeting a person who radiates the shade of the sun, whose life has so much essence that it warms everyone, is a privilege. Sometimes, privilege can be scary when you haven’t learnt the value of it. Light is scary, especially if you’ve been surrounded by so much darkness that you don’t understand anything but. Walking away is easy but that means you have to close some potential doors. Sometimes, this is not the colour they seek, but that doesn’t make it less precious. Gold is still gold even if someone doesn’t care to recognize it.


have I ever have I ever warned you about falling in love with people you see on the bus temporary passengers you only meet once



if I could write us memories I would have us eating pad thai at McDonald’s or drinking orange juice atop of apple trees with pulp like we’re not fiction a concept that can’t live in a movie we move in between muffled laughs our Soundclouds you reach your stop the daydream doesn’t but even when it does left unfinished saving the best for— if I could write us memories you’d be my button-down shirt unbuttoned billowing like a cape but you’re not my hero don’t heroes leave when they’re done saving? if I could write us memories you would call hey, remember that time when you when you something like I remember something about That was real, right? If I could write us memories I would fall asleep to the sound of your voice and the way you’d whisper, “I love—” have I ever told you we are unfinished cherry on top without the cake book pages without the cover x


WELCOME HOME where my nightmares revolve around me, wrapping me in layers of bounteous malice, sprinting around me like a 200m race gone wrong— it doesn’t stop. it doesn’t stop. where my nightmares revolve around me, but the rest of the world doesn’t wait, you were here before, i say to the distorted nursery rhyme, please don’t leave me again. like i’m viewing the world in another dimension, time itself materializing like a windstorm coursing through me, leaving me behind in the cataclysm of my desolate, torn-up reality.


everything is dark around me now, like 3 am at a forgotten cemetery. all i wanted, truly, was to be able to run again. what casualty, what cruelty— i realize the voice that’s shouting is my own. sing the lullaby again. and again. and again. x



Seasons in Hell

July— has passed There was a time when you told me you tried smoking Hated it— didn’t agree with the taste


August— was quiet You brought about— A taste of late-day grief and evening despair September— is gone Have you found me— Sleeping in the words or hidden somewhere between the white pages I’ve searched for you in crowds, on the streets, in people— Listened to songs looking for a familiar voice Only to find you within words— of novels, stories, and the ones closest to my heart October— is Hell Tell me, what part of me made sense to you? Did I fit into the spaces needed to be filled— Has my liquid essence solidified to become a permanent part of you— Or have I simply spilled over to make room for someone else— You’re an artist in every sense; have we mingled to make new colours? November— is arriving once again




incite magazine volume 23, issue 1 “still” Published February 2021 Incite Magazine is McMaster University’s creative arts and writing publication. We

aim to unite a community of creatives by promoting self-expression, collaboration, and dialogue within our university campus and the city of Hamilton. Every aspect of

Incite’s writing, graphics, multimedia, and event production is carried out by our won-

derful student volunteers. If you would like to get involved, feel free to get in touch by emailing incitemagazine@gmail.com. incitemagazine.ca issuu.com/incite-magazine facebook.com/incitemagazine @incitemagazine

editor in chief (content): Tenzin Gyaltsen

editor in chielf (arts and production): Donna Nadeem

layout director: Elena Wells


Victoria Schofield-Zioba

communication director: Michelle Yao

content editors:

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

art managers:

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

layout editors:

Caroline Bredin, Yoohyun Park, Madeleine Randmaa

cover art: Eye of the Storm by Elena Wells

contributors: (Content): Irtaza Abdullah Khan, Anonymous Anne, Alex Chen, Sarah Coker, Nimasha De Silva, Sara Emira, Valencia Gomes, Mikaela Grahlman, Tenzin Gyaltsen, Linah Hegazi, Gillian Hodge, Simi Jayeoba, Jia Karim, Zara Khan, Katie Lee, B.D. Lily, Gillian Maltz, Hooriya Masood, Rafi Matin, Alan Minkovich, Ekta Mishra, Bianca Modi, Roya Motazedian, Lubna Najm, Oda, Sean Orenuga, Zoya Pal, Janhavi Patel, Madeleine Ramdaa, Hannah Rosales, Ariella Ruby, V.S.Z., Sharang Sharma, Ishmanjeet Singh, Yvonne Syed, Ayesha Umair, Hayley Vandermaarl, Jason Waddle, Sneha Wadhwani, Emily Wang, Vicky Xie, Noah Yang, Michelle Yao, Sophie Zarb, (Artists): Noor Alrajab, Julianna Biernacki, Andrea Chang, Nimasha DeSilva, Teba Faisal, Graeme Fishman, Cynthia Gu, Tenzin Gyaltsen, Linah Hegazi, Zainab Hussain, Labiqah Iftikhar, Celine Jeong, Steven Kenny, Madeline Komar, Jill Lette, Julia Lindsay, Sandy Luu, Faris Mecklai, Brooklyn Morris, Alysa Palazzo, Janhavi Patel, Mansi Patel, Yesenia Rodriguez, Saadia Shahid, Larissa Shular, Simran, Lauren Stempski Crawford, Ayesha Umair, Navreet Vander, Yueqi Wang, Anna Waschuk, Javan Wellum, Emma Wray Ziolkowski, Vivian Wu, Sina Zand



Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy - Anne Frank

Profile for Incite Magazine

Incite Magazine - February 2021  


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