Fall 2012, Issue 3
TABLE OF CONTENTS Amanda Paananen 4-5
Jeff Charles Groat 42
Sibeal Foyle 6-8
Mark Barton 43
Interview with Liz Bachinsky 9
Nina Masall 44-45
Alan Canning 10
Eryne Donahue 46-47
Josh Elford 11-15
Nina Masall 48-49
Geoffrey Nilson 16-17
Eve Cooper 50
Stephanie MacKay 18
Stephanie Peters 51-57
Paris Field School Feature 19-22
Jessica Holzfoester 58
Kitty Leung 23-24
Roxanne Charles 59
Jessica Lar-Son 25
Gunilla Kay 60
Interview with Tanya Evanson 26-27
Shandis Harrison 61
Vivian Pencz 28
Jared Vaillancourt 62
Mikayla Fawcett 63
Gabriel Craven and Mikayla Fawcett 32-34
Tessa Nickel 64-66
Genevieve Grant 35-39
Surrey Arts Gallery 67
Lee Beavington 40-41
Jeff Groat Coordinating Editor firstname.lastname@example.org Claire Matthews Managing Editor email@example.com
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Roland Nguyen Publishing Editor email@example.com Weronika Slowinski Associate Publishing Editor firstname.lastname@example.org Rhea Paez Arts Editor email@example.com AndrĂŠs Salaz Associate Arts Editor firstname.lastname@example.org Connor Doyle Literary Editor email@example.com Taryn Pearcey Associate Literary Editor firstname.lastname@example.org Marlow Gunterman Web Editor email@example.com Victoria Almond Operations Manager firstname.lastname@example.org pulp Standing Committee: Alex Hawley Simon Massey Shandis Harrison Jessica Lar-Son Geoff Nilson
On Gender Animus
I envision the Eastwood-type all elbow up on a generic fence some generic ranch squints a grizzly half-focus on distant gradated mountains From his manly-man fingers calloused dirt cuticles dangles a Camel cigarette smoke rises and screens indistinguishable from low-level clouds The fence casts a shadow separates stark division between before/after dark/light implicit/explicit
Anima Freud called it Dark Continent Another way of saying I don’t know or I do know and don’t want to touch That ancient nothingness can swallow you whole dance your bones to dust A void turned inside out A serpent swallowing its tail The place you go when you die The place before you’re born
Mirror Neurons: A Poem about Love
Any social scientist worth their salt reveres the pickled sixties seminal studies cured in discourse sealed in font. The ethics a little looser then can you imagine an anthropology student with a camera in a playground not getting arrested. Well he did not instead from his viewfinder reflected the cadence of children on film. Called it interactional synchrony or the wisdom of Play. A singlelensreflex moment in mimicry a rhythmic ritual beating the common 72 per minute. This is True nature Cats circle deer prance lovers align birds flock fish school Listen: your brain and my brain they’re talking right now. On the line
Epigenetic Epigram It’s a matter of synaptic intimacy I’d imagine much like growing wings more metamorphosis than evolution. I speak of cells that shift-shapes unsheathe change clothes fashionably abrupt at the adaptive outfit outlet mall and that’s not all designer DNA half price.
Did you know? You can heal your broken genes now. It’s a new era Science can let her hair down. Time to undress and readdress.
5 long distance.
Sibeal Foyle stands among architects at her exhibit in Benghazi.
A WORLD APART: A TALE OF TWO SISTERS LIVING IN DIFFERENT REALITIES North Vancouver artist and Fine Arts Instructor Sibeal Foyle created a series of paintings inspired by the Libyan Revolution that occured in the spring of 2011. She was awarded the BC Arts Council Grant to exhibit her series in Benghazi. Her elder sister, who married a Libyan and settled down in Benghazi with her husband and children, experienced firsthand the turmoil and destruction that resulted from the civil revolt. During the Revolution, Sibeal tried to convince her sister and family to leave for fear of their safety, but to her sister Libya was her only home, and so refused to leave. Although they were apart, Foyle’s sister sent her poetry she had written, along with pictures and stories of the upheaval. These momentos helped build a series in which BC’s landscape is superimposed with images of the civil conflict in Benghazi, creating a drastic contrast between the two. Due to the exhibit in Benghazi, she became the first non-Libyan to display work about the revolution within the country. The ten day exhibtion had over 350 people attending the opening, though it had no publicity prior to the event. Many women were touched by her piece, Freedom, and according to Foyle some of them were close to tears, and confided in her how the figures in the painting were of their loved ones: sons, brothers, or hushands who were killed during the revolt. Once the exhibit closed she donated the paintings to the Libyan Government.
“I was so touched, and it was one of the first personal experiences of seeing first hand the transformative power of painting.”- Foyle
Resolution 48” X 50” Oil on canvas
On March 19th, 2011 the UN Security Council Passed resolution 1973, which commits to sending air support to protect civilians in Libya from Gadaffi’s well-equipped army. Although spring has arrived in Canada, the colours in this painting look like an autumn scene as the reds bleed into one another, reflecting the mounting death toll in Libya. We are constantly on the telephone begging my sister and her family to leave Benghazi. She refuses, is terrified of what is happening, but fully commits to support her family and her adopted country in the fight for freedom.
After Delacroix 48” X 54” Oil on canvas
Gadaffi’s troops surrounded Benghazi, threatening to go from house to house and ‘show no mercy’. My sister Mairead and her family, like the other 1,000,000 residents in Benghazi, were terrified and under siege, hoping for NATO to intervene before it was too late. The French were the first to fly into Libya, defend Benghazi, and start bombing Gadaffi’s tanks. Because of this initiative, many Libyans view the French as their heroes. This painting incorporates an outline of Delacroix’s famous painting La Liberte, leading the people as a powerful reference to France having gone through their own revolution. My sister had sent me photos of her sons and their friends, all former students who took up arms and substituted the original 18th century images of the French rebels with them. In the bottom right corner, a sailboat lies peacefully at anchor in Canadian west coast bay.
48” X 60” Oil on canvas
Conversations with my sister in Libya increasingly showed her distress over the huge numbers of those dead and missing. This painting references the walls in Libya that are covered with images of those who have died as martyrs in the revolution. The ghost-like figure in the foreground calls out defiantly from death as a reminder why they sacrified their lives, and not to let their deaths be in vain.
High Price Oil 48 “ X 60” Oil on canvas
Fireworks turn into explosions, bodies are thrown upon impact, and images of war intermingle with and hover over a solitary man and his dog rowing peacefully on a Canadian lake.
48” X 54“ Oil on canvas The Libyans wrap their dead in cloth before burying them. The death toll mounts.
interview BY PULP
Elizabeth Bachinsky is the author of five collections of poetry including Home of Sudden Service, I Don’t Feel So Good, and The Hottest Summer in Recorded History. She lives in Vancouver where she is an instructor of Creative Writing and the Editor of Event magazine. On September 27, 2012, she was a keynote speaker at Under-city: Writing the Suburban World at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. pulp caught up with Liz, and asked her a few questions on writing.
LIZ BACHINSKY Q: What were some of your earliest experiences with poetry? A: One of my earliest childhood experiences with poetry was the poems of Shel Silverstein in Where The Sidewalk Ends. I also recall reading the poems of Robert Service because my mom had his Collected Poems on her shelf as well as an anthology called A Book of Good Poems, edited by C.T. Fyfe, which I loved and still love. Q: Where do you find the most enjoyment, living and working with poetry? Writing, teaching, editing, reading, etc? A: All of the above. I love my life. I love what I do. It is a privilege and a gift to be able to write as I please and share what I love with people who care about writing and writers and reading. What could be better?
A: All of my characters are invented. Even material that is drawn directly from my experience is invented! Q: How are you able to channel a real-world event into a poetically charged piece of writing? A: I try not to worry about “charging” my writing...like a battery. Language is already so loaded with power, I don’t need to add much. Q: Where do you find authority in your work when inventing something totally of fiction? A: I try to write as honestly and openly as I can. I don’t worry about whether or not I have the ‘authority’ to write about something, but I do ask myself if what I’ve written has the capacity to harm anyone. If the answer is yes, then I consider that material carefully. Is it important? What am I trying to say? What function does the material serve?
Q: You also are known for playing games with your poetry, as in Q: When writing a poem, is there any intended Curio. What do you think is an important thing for a young writer audience you have in mind? Do you ever have a to remember? specific goal or keep to a rule? A: It’s fun! Have fun! Language is a medium. It is good for writers A: Sometimes I write with people I know in mind, to come to understand how to use it as such. Don’t stop, no like my sister or a good friend. This helps me matter what. It’s those tenacious few who don’t give up who make remember to write as honestly as I can. literature happen. So keep writing! Q: To what extent are the people that inhabit your poems inventions, and to what extent are they from experience?
Technological Spaces 48’ X 36’ Acrylic on canvas
This painting was originally conceived in pastel, and then transferred to acrylic for the first Surreyalist show Psychologically There in Gastown, Vancouver. At the time, Alan was interested in urban spaces and futuristic landscapes. The concept was to “create a nightclub that existed high above the city streets”. He speculated that it would cater to society’s elite. One theory today is that “as the rich have better access to technology than others, the urban landscape becomes more privatized”. However, he feels that as these new private spaces expand, so does the growth of today’s social problems, one of these being increased isolation.w The themes of isolation and social decay are prominently featured in this work. The colours are acidic and slightly unappealing to evoke a dystopian vision. Mainly, it is a place for the spectator. As such the individual is “superseded by the constant flux of movement and sound, not unlike today’s rave and DJ culture”. In this space, “people do not belong any more than they are needed. By the morning, they are indeed erased from the landscape”.
fiction NAKED POETRY
I drink with Doyle and my brother Goo on the hood of a Corolla, which belongs to a person I don’t know. When the Mariners game finally ended with a win after 4 hours, hordes of tired yet content people leaked onto the streets of Seattle. We found a secluded parking lot far away from the stadium where it costs five dollars to park, as opposed to twenty if you’re parked by the stadium. We hide our beers by placing the can in an empty Taco Bell fountain cup. Seattle police are much less forgiving about public drinking than our police at home in Surrey. We walked to Safeco field after having a few beers in the parking lot of our motel. It was a long and arduous stumble, but we got there in one piece and the ticket checkers didn’t throw us out before we got to see the Mariners play. Doyle and Goo want to go to Cowgirlz, but since I’m 17 and can’t legally join, they decide no man will be left behind. Cowgirlz is a coyote ugly night club around the corner from Safeco Field where the employees leave their pride at the door when they punch in for the night. The girls dance on the bar and pour pitchers of water on each other’s tight white tees purely for entertainment purposes. They walk around and sell shots of liquor in beakers where if you pay a little extra they will let you grab it from their mouth with your teeth. “Pound these then head to Jack-in-the-Box?” Goo asks. Doyle raises his Taco Bell cup and chugs from the straw. The beer is warm, the byproduct of not finishing it during the baseball game and ordering fresh, cold stadium brews instead. Doyle coughs and chokes on his beer and drops his cup on the pavement. A family of four walks by us and avoids eye contact. They up their walking speed and disappear. Doyle covers his mouth with his hand. Vomit oozes from between his fingers. It seeps from his hand and drips onto his chest. He darts swiftly behind the random Corolla and unloads the remainder. It’s midnight and an entire day of drinking and the smell are starting to get to me. It smells like stale beer and week-old hot dogs with fried onions. I feel a pain in my stomach and a burning sensation in my throat. I wait a second for Doyle to be finished so I can take over his position behind the car, but you shouldn’t force a full stomach not to be full. So I join the puking rally where I stand, and luckily it doesn’t hit my clothes. We finish with our Jack-In-The-Box excursion and Goo stumbles about 100 feet behind us. We look back to see him standing with his pants at his ankles, unloading a full day of beer drinking on the door of a rickety convenience store. But 2 AM isn’t a time for hustle-and-bustle and people don’t make their way down this particular street unless they have to. It looks as though the city workers aren’t allowed to cross into this part of town. Garbage is strewn all over the streets, and every building is spray painted with gang signs and penises. The place we’re staying at is called Le Hacienda Motel, and it’s no Hampton. There are cracks in the cement of the parking lot with weeds and grass growing from them, like the earth
is trying to break free. There are back alleys with dirty blankets and pillows, and there’s a faint smell of burnt rubber from lingering garbage fires. Beside one of the pillows in the alley is a rusted hatchet and we hope its only use was for chopping wood to add to their fires. As we enter the parking lot, me and Doyle notice a couple of girls walking on the ledge on the second floor. The two girls meet our eyes as we approach our room on the ground level. One is wearing what looks like a muumuu meant for obese women, though she’s far from that. She has a cute face with messy brunette hair. She’s a natural beauty, with no need for make-up. Her friend has sleek brown hair and the look of a veteran smoker. She has slightly bigger bags under her eyes than the other girl. They look to be in their early twenties. “Just be your usual, beautiful self, Theo.” They descend the stairs to come talk to us. Doyle knows me. He can tell by the look on my face that the closer the girls get to us the more nervous I become. I haven’t told him that I’ve never had sex before, but I’m certain that my brother Goo has enlightened him on the subject. Confidence doesn’t come easy for me. Doyle marches right up to the girls with unwavering bravado, even with the puke smell still emitting from his clothes. We have no chance. “Hello boys,” the girl in the muumuu says. I’m surprised to see that they said hello first, isn’t that the job of the guy? I peruse my mind for smooth words. Should I tell them I’m good at baseball? They won’t care. Should I tell them I get good grades? They won’t care. “We’re from Surrey. We’re your northern neighbors,” Doyle tells them. I’ve been lost in thought. I hadn’t noticed that they were already mid-conversation. “I’m Aahana,” the girl in the muumuu says. “And this is my soul mate Kelsey.” “It’s great to meet you girls. I’m Doyle and this tasty piece is Theo. Look at his beautiful head of hair. Go ahead and feel.” I feel the heat rise to my face. Aahana smiles and runs her hand slowly though my flow of almond hair. She slowly slides her fingers to the back of my head and starts rubbing it. “You have beautiful hair,” she says to me softly. “So, you girls want to come have a couple beers with some stud baseball players? We have plenty to go around,” Doyle asks. “Maybe,” Kelsey says coyly. They walk away giggling and disappear across the street and out of our sight. Doyle has a dejected look on his face. “Sorry,” I say to him. “Don’t apologize. Just be more confident next time. Girls find that super sexy.” Out of the back window of our room we can see the alley with the blankets and hatchet. The window does not lock and there’s a stool that would make it almost comfortable to hop in through it and onto the room’s couch. Our room is large. We have a living room, a kitchen, and a separate room with two king-sized beds. We decide I get the couch, but for fear of bed bugs and semen stains I decide sleeping tonight won’t be an option. We have a very large broken TV that resembles a radio more than a television. Only static
Doyle marches right up to the girls with unwavering bravado, even with
the puke smell still emitting from his clothes. We have no chance.
comes from the speakers and there’s no picture. We try to adjust the antenna, hoping to find some sports highlights. The TV would function better as a brick, though. There’s a portrait above the couch of a lion about to attack a zebra. The lion can take one calculated pounce and the zebra becomes his prey. Goo suggests we do a centurion: a shot of beer every minute for 100 minutes. “We aren’t doing the centurion,” Doyle tells Goo. Goo puts his head down and cracks open another beer. I nurse mine. Each sip is like thick sludge in my throat. Doyle’s chin slowly falls to his chest and his beer slips from his fingertips, centimeters away from plummeting to the motel room floor. “Close the door. My dink is shriveling,” Goo says. I stand up to close the door and two girls walk in. Doyle perks up. Goo grins and takes a swig from his can. He then grabs two fresh ones from the mini-fridge. He hands one to each of the girls. “Your room is just as ugly as the one we have upstairs,” Aahana says. Kelsey grabs a single chair and slides it near Aahana. Aahana takes the beer, sits, and Kelsey joins her on her lap. “Are you girls from Seattle?” Goo asks. “I’m from Portland. And I vastly prefer the art culture compared to here. Seattle is just all about baseball and football. It’s sickening!” Kelsey rants. “I’m from Seattle. I’ve always wanted to live by a harbor, that’s why I moved here last year when I turned 18. But I couldn’t afford a place near there so I’m stuck in this place for now,” Aahana tells us. “Do you girls like sports? Athletes, perhaps?” Doyle asks. “I don’t get sports. They’re too barbaric,” Kelsey says. “I respect the culture of sports. And I love athletes,” Aahana says slyly. “You two are pretty calm and cool considering you’re hanging out with a couple really drunk dudes,” I say. “I just like people. I enjoy doing the simpler things like writing poetry and lying naked on the beach. I’m a firm believer in fate and the signs. And I’m getting very good vibrations from you gentleman. I know that you’re harmless,” Aahana says. “Why?” Doyle asks. “Because destiny is a beautiful thing,” Kelsey responds. “What are your guys’ signs?” Aahana asks. “Scorpio,” Doyle says. “Sagittarius,” Goo says. “Leo,” I say. “We’re fellow Leos then, my beautiful lion,” Aahana says to me. “Can I feel your hair again?” She starts fast. She tucks my hair behind my ears, then strokes me very slowly. She keeps her eyes on mine the whole time. Blood starts to flow very quickly to my groin and I cross my legs to conceal my erection. “You have amazing hair, my fellow Leo. It’s like a beautiful lion’s mane.” Kelsey’s phone vibrates and she looks down. She turns to Aahana and says, “My special friend is here. Are you staying?” “I’m staying,” Aahana says. “Be safe,” she says and gives her friend a sly look. I thought she shot me a look before she walked out, but I could have imagined it. “Where’s your friend going?” Goo asks. “A friend of hers is here from out of town. They’re probably going to fuck right now.” “A guy or a girl?” Goo asks. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” “I would.”
She puts her hand slowly on my knee. “What do you guys do for a living?” she asks. She crosses her legs slowly and her second hand starts brushing the back of my neck. “Brick-layer,” Goo says. “Security,” Doyle says. “Writing student,” I say. “So you appreciate poetry?” she asks me, then adjusts her muumuu to show some skin on her chest. “I appreciate poetry. But I can’t write it well enough to do it justice,” I say. She runs her hand from my knee to my thigh and tightens her body closer to mine. Now there is no space between us. She places her head on my shoulder. I guess I said something right for once. “So are you a poet?” Doyle asks Aahana. “No, I’m a stripper, though I’ve only been doing it for three weeks. There was a contest recently and Kelsey and I both entered it. I won and Kelsey came in third, because my boobs are bigger. The strip club hired me on the spot. I’m wearing my best outfit right now actually. We just got off work when we saw you boys coming to the hotel.” She slides her hand up my body as she stands. She drops her muumuu. It is like watching a series of stillshot photos. We’re frozen in the moment, watching this beautiful girl remove her clothing with a smile. Her outfit is a vibrant, pearl-white. Her top is tightly compressing her large breasts, barely covering her nipples. Her bottom is perfectly worn, as though it was placed on her by the hands of an angel. This is her best outfit indeed. “I hate wearing the heels though,” she tells us. “They start hurting my feet after like three dances.” We nod. She sits down next to me again and nestles back up against me. “It’s kind of funny though. People come in and pay me upwards of 100 dollars for me to give them blue balls. It’s sad really.” I feel her body against mine, the smoothness of her skin resting on my shoulder. I feel her breasts pressing against my ribcage. She lowers her hand to my thigh. She crosses her legs and smiles to herself. “So have you ever had sex with a virgin?” Goo asks her. I nearly spit out a mouthful of beer. I see Goo smirk at me. Doyle tries to hold in his laughter. “I have actually. My really good friend and I got really drunk one night a couple years ago and he confessed to me that he had never had sex at the age of 22. He was really embarrassed and he had a lot of questions about it. I told him he had nothing to be ashamed of and that I would gladly have sex with him for his first time because no one would love him like I would. But it wasn’t good. I regret doing it. It was something I vowed never to do again because it’s too much pressure. I don’t want to be responsible for any negative experiences that could affect the rest of a person’s sexual life because sex is a beautiful thing. I can never do that again.” Her answer is followed by silence. My head starts to burn viciously. My anxiety is starting to reach boiling point. I can’t breathe. I think I am going to faint. Goo and Doyle don’t look as fazed as I am. They are actually smiling. What do they have planned? “I have some vodka,” she tells us. “Anyone want to join me in taking a shot?” “Yes,” Goo says. “Yes,” Doyle says. “Absolutely,” I say. “It’s in my room though.” “Oh, Theo can walk you there then,” Doyle says. “I can?” “You have no choice. Me and your brother have to finish our beers before we take a shot and you can’t let her walk to her room alone dressed like that do you? You need to protect her.” I’m standing at the door. I don’t remember getting up or walking here. I don’t remember Aahana
standing up, either, or grabbing my hand. I walk past my shoes at the door, though I don’t remember taking them off. Could this be the alcohol? The boys wave us goodbye. My heart is a wrecking-ball. Every beat feels like it’s trying to burst through my chest. She takes my hand as we walk outside of the room into the cold and dark night. I give her my sweatshirt because she is essentially naked. Every breath is a battle. Maybe this is a panic attack. I keep looking at her body with amazement. I gawk at how little effort I put into picking this girl up. She beams at me. I am amazed that a girl like this would show so much interest in me. She leans over and reaches into her heels to grab the keycard. She reaches slow and keeps eye contact. It’s an inviting gaze, so I return it. She opens the door slowly and waves me in. “I just have to clean up a bit,” she tells me. “Make yourself a little more comfortable.” I lay down on the bed. This room is much smaller than the one I’m staying in. There is no separate room for a bed. A tiny tube TV hangs from the roof in the corner and I assume it’s broken. The bed is messy and in the middle of the room. There is a dresser in front of the bed with clothes leaking out of it. I see a pair of jeans on the dresser. They are not female jeans; they’re much too large. I readjust my position. She walks out of the bathroom with a notebook. “I feel so much more comfortable when I’m naked,” she says, and begins to strip. She smiles gently like I am her high school crush. She is a professional. Every movement is fluid
They are not female jeans; they’re much too large. I readjust my position. and meticulous. She’s completely naked. Every thought leaves my head. I feel no nerves in my body. I relax. I have tunnel vision aimed towards this beautiful girl’s nakedness. She straddles the bed and places the notebook on the table beside the nightstand. She grabs the collar of my Mariners t-shirt with Ichiro’s name and number on the back, and sticks her tongue down my throat. Her tongue is warm and strong. She swirls it viciously in my mouth and throws me hard on the mattress when she finishes. She edges toward the table and sits down with her notebook. She reads poetry to me. Allura is the name of her first poem. It’s her stage name and there is no need for real names in her poetry. I try to concentrate on her poetic form and devices because I want to give her a worthwhile critique, a reflex of being a writing student, but I’m finding it hard to concentrate. The notebook is strategically placed to cover her breasts, but I can see the landing strip leading to her pussy in all its glory. She crosses her legs quickly and continues reading. I still can’t really make out the words she is saying. My head feels light and my groin feels heavy. I wonder if I should just grab her and throw her on the bed. “What do you think?” she asks. “You’re very talented.” “I was on acid when I wrote this. I imagine many poets are when they write. Only acid and sex enlighten me to the true colors of the world.” I nod. “So why am I the only one who is naked?” she says. It takes a couple seconds to kick in, but I realize she is speaking to me. I rip off my Ichiro t-shirt and toss my jeans across the room to the dresser, and they land beside the other pair. I hope that I don’t accidentally grab the other pair in the morning. And if I do, I hope they are the same size as mine.
Old Wolf silver strands stuck nip & tucked behind the ear, gauss map convex libido backhand & palm on back, circling the classroom. the nun and the woman must war in her. ragged numerology complex curve cleaved between symbols & equal signs, algebraic buss, compressed with hardware because it just sounds better. there is a sweet spot in numbers you can hear.
Note: italics from â€œThe May Irwin-John C. Rice Kissâ€? by Eugene McNamara
Knots Rabbit runs up the hole, around the tree and back down again. It’s called the turn and it goes in the bight. The bite? No, in the middle, the U-shaped dangle, that’s the juice, you’re a quick study. Rabbit runs up the hole, around the tree and back down again. He’s one scared little rabbit! He’s a rescue rabbit saving friends from the foxes and hawks. What’s he gonna do, chew their toes off? No one could catch the Bowline Rabbit. I could. No way, he’d bite your toes off! Wouldn’t stand a chance, I know trick knots and snares. Show me! Never give away your secrets, what about the clove hitch? Too easy. Square knot? Reef knot. Sling knot? Those are all the same thing, Grandpa! Oh, a quick little monster, you’d surprise your troop leaders with the old Manharness Hitch. What’s that one for? It’ll never tighten, it will always break, used on wagon drag-lines, we’d haul the bastards into the bush west of Prince with the Boy Scouts, Christ, two hundred pounds each, no lightweight camping for us, the army boys used it for lugging field guns into position, make a large loop. Like this? Bigger, now pull through the loop, under, then over. Like this? Under, then over. It won’t stay. Listen, you have to grab it tight, here, gimme the rope. You spilled on my pants! Shame to waste good whiskey. It smells. You watch your tongue. Mom is gonna be mad. She’s always mad, especially with me, one splash never hurt no pair of pants, try the hitch again. Like this? Under, then over, now pull it closed. You taught me a lasso? You sure are mouthy, what time is it…half past…when is your bedtime? I bet your mother lays into me for this one. Can we put on some records? Some long-haired instrumentals maybe, but forget about Gracie Fields, her voice sounded just like your grandmother. He turned out just like your predictions. Razor sharp with a mouth, but I guess I have something to do with that. Taught him some rope-work and sure as shit, he smashed up the place. Glass everywhere. An eye for mischief indeed. I wish we could go dancing again. Do you remember the coast in ‘49? Enlightened deco facades, flashing pier and the long boardwalk, extended like a vowel into the ocean, positively in the waves, riding them. I still can’t believe you bribed that doorman! You always had stones. Sorry about the photographs, meant to set frames, have them multiply. Meant to pay more attention, really. After the funeral I lost interest. I smashed the camera in the driveway when that bastard neighbour tried to set me up with some short skirt from his golf club! I told him where to stick it. What a waste. What a god-damn waste! I’m sorry, I’ll keep my temper. You always listened to me ramble about Edwin Arlington Robinson, but could never stand my hollering.
Sad Clown The Moulin Rouge opened in Paris in 1889 during a post-war era of change. Social movement was rampant as the Industrial Revolution had presented endless opportunities for those willing to work in this burgeoning city. The middle-class was firmly established and those people actively sought leisure activities to offset their hardwork. This seedy dance hall attracted a lively cross-section of patrons, including the popular artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Already comfortable at similar venues, he quickly became a regular at this newly established night spot. Not only did he have a reserved table, but it was also here that he found comfort and inspiration. He was an artistic contributor in his own right to the dark and sexy ambience of the Moulin Rouge, creating advertisements that are still used today. It was here that he came to know many women, including Cha-U-Kao. Cha-U-Kao was painted in oil by Toulouse-Lautrec on a small card measuring 64 x 49cm in 1895. This handheld image, aptly named The Clown Cha-U-Kao (Musèe d’Orsay, Paris), is one of many images that he produced of this woman. It shows a private moment, one that allows for a bleak sort of voyeurism. She is dressing, back slightly turned, her left arm raised mid-movement. It opens for us a view of her large, bulbous breast not completely covered by the dark strapless gown she wears. It appears to be too small, as her back also bulges, pushing the dress down in an awkward manner. The maladjustment of her clothing does not stop there, as a bright yellow ruffle struggles for footing. Cha-U-Kao appears to be seated on a couch of wild orange and brown brush strokes. The earthy tones root her firmly in the room despite her gown (and the hint of legs beneath) kicking off the left of the card. A small white table holds food and drink which add to the solitary feel of the moment: a meal taken alone. On the highly textured wall painted in colours of the forest, one framed portrait of a man gazes off into oblivion. Cha-U-Kao was a prostitute, and most likely a lesbian, so the significance of the man on the wall is debated, however, one cannot dispute his addition to the sadness of the moment. She is aged, with skin thick drooping with age. White hair is fixed high with a bold yellow ribbon that matches her crinoline tied atop. A bent neck tilts her face downward, hiding her mouth, however, there is sadness in her face. Her choices have formed her, her lifestyle has a hold on her, whether by habit, or resistance, she is there still: dressed as a clown. Toulouse-Lautrec suffered from a rare physical condition, thought to be a result of inbreeding, which left him with underdeveloped legs and constant pain. A life of suffering and deformity birthed much fodder for this curious artist. Indeed he often portrayed sordid details. Cha-U-Kao performed based on reputation at this point in her life. She had earned the respect and stage-time through years of notoriety as a gymnast, dancer and performer. Even her nickname was based on a high-kicking dance that she was known for. This snapshot of her, beyond her prime, dejected and ridiculous, is unapologetic and raw. “In some ways Cha-U-Kao’s life—beginning with notoriety as a lithe-bodied performer, and ending with her sad demise and physical ruin—was a perfect example of Toulouse-Lautrec’s interest in human physical destruction and decrepitude” (National gallery of Australia).
Moulin Rouge. The Eyes of the Moulin Rouge. Web. 1 May 2012. Musée d’Orsay. La clownesse Cha-U-Kao [The Clown Cha-U-Kao]. 2006. Web. 1 May 2012. National Gallery of Australia. Masterpieces from Paris - Exhibition Book. 2009. Web. 1 May 2012. Toulouse-Lautrec Foundation. Biography. Web. 1 May 2012.
PARIS FIELD SCHOOL SUMMER SEMESTER 2012
Before the summer semester had even oﬃcially begun, the students of Kwantlen Polytechnic’s Paris Field School study met to prepare for the intense six week course load that would, under normal academic circumstances, be done over the span of four months. This condensed curriculum would help the students understand the Haussmann renovation of Paris along with the social issues that came with the new city design. Students learned about integral artists of the late 19th century to the early 20th century, focusing on artistic development prior to and after the Impressionist Movement. While studying the transformation of Paris and its effect on the art world, students created artwork that corresponded with the artists of this era. Once the six week academic prep work was over, it was time for the students to experience Paris firsthand. They spent two weeks in museums like the L’Orangerie, Pompidou and the Louvre, seeing in person the artwork they thought they’d only experience in print.
Paris Field School
PARIS FIELD SCHOOL STUDIO WORK: REFERENCING IMPRESSIONIST AND POST IMPRESSIONIST ARTISTS
Courtney Burt Untitled
50” X 38” Charcoal on stonehenge
During the i“Paris has a real disjunction within the city of what people see and what people choose to see. Impressionist painters, such as Courbet, addressed social issues within scenes and subjects in their paintings, depicting the realities of changing metropolitan cities. Impressionists’ paintings capture experiences that can relate to anyone and, therefore, one is able to look at the scene and place themself within it. I have created this work in conversation with Courbet’s painting, The Spring. Courbet depicts a nude woman sitting alone alongside a creek. Her back is turned to the viewer as she interacts with nature. Her left arm and hand extend out to the left as water trickles through her palm and fingers. The left side of her face is slightly shown as she tilts her head in a pleasurable manner. Although this is an image of a nude woman, the shape of her body and rendering of the plump flesh force the viewer to rethink the idea of beauty. The female’s body is shown in a way that may appear differently then in one’s imagination. A sexual tension is created in the image because the female’s back is turned to the viewer. This invites the audience into a private moment. The viewer is now a voyeur. Females have always manipulated their bodies to look ‘beautiful’. What I have drawn depicts the desired female figure. One can see the displacements and reconfiguration of the organs and surrounding ribcage. Courbet’s illustration of female nudity reveals the body, which is hidden underneath the corset. The corset is a tool used to create the illusion of the desired female figure. The results of wearing such a garment, however, were never revealed, because women wore long dresses that covered their skin. I have taken Courbet’s painting one step farther, clearing away the sexual connotation, to form the grotesque actuality of female figure manipulation.”
Paris Field SChool
Stephanie MacKay bent raw
42” X 30” Metal rod, tulle
This piece is a response to ToulouseLautrec’s oil painting La Clownesse Cha-U-Kao. It focuses on the discourse surrounding the artist and his body of work. At the core, this conversation seeks to capture the human condition in all its fragility.
Rhea Paez Untitled, diptych 24” X 36” Oil on panel
Immersed in sleep, the male subject is left vulnerable, unaware of the gaze of the viewer. The diptych displays two moments, one where the viewer is aware of the subject and one where the subject is aware of the viewer. In these two moments, a once intimate moment of gazing at a sleeping figure becomes disrupted with what seems like the figure’s unwelcoming gesture; the figure has covered himself up with the blanket. This exchange can also be seen as one between a voyeur and its subject. The ambiguous viewer adds to this voyeuristic quality. This diptych references Siesta, Pierre Bonnard’s intimate painting of his wife Marthe lying on the bed.
Paris Field School
INSIDE THE JOURNALS: SKETCHES AND INTIMATE THOUGHTS OF PLACES VISITED
“It’s about 6 million people whose bones now serve as a money making spectacle”- Courtney Burt on her visit to the Catacombs, Paris.
“...what I was most perplexed by was the carving. I was completely blown away by how real it looked...”- Tessa Nickel on seeing Nike for the first time at the Louvre, Paris.
“They stare at you, aware that you’re a tourist... it makes it that much harder to be inconspicous about drawing strangers. ”- Rhea Paez, on sketching in the underground Metro in Paris.
Print media installation
Stalemate The stout, worn worker with red blistering hands is he still his earlier self, caught in youth, trauma of the world yet to make its mark? Is Earth’s cycle throwing us? Cognition spins cylindrical webs, constantly away from their start. His skin flakes, cells renew. A new man.
Our notions move still. The threads wind around entangled labyrinths, though your body moves at (at least) six hundred miles per hour right where you sit. He aches, bones brittle. Bright blue eyes darken. Bloated tongues held in pockets of taught confusion. A fresh babe, oxygen intoxicated, breathes, grows, suffocates. Was Πτολεμαῖος right? Galileo? Anybody?
interview BY PULP
Q: What first drew you to poetry, and more specifically, spoken word and slam? A: Poetry saved me from suicide and has continued to save me ever since. I started to write as therapy. Writing was a release for the confusion of emotions I experienced in my early teens. I didn’t decide to write; I simply couldn’t stop. Without poetry, I could not and cannot function. I wrote secretly for many years until I decided to get a degree in Creative Writing and English Literature at Concordia University in Montreal. At that time I also began hosting a radio show and so began my affair with spoken word. My writing style was ‘stream of consciousness’ - which lent itself well to spoken word - so when a friend invited me to share my work at an event in 1995, it was so well received that I became inundated with invitations to perform and everything took off from there. I now incorporate music, languages, mysticism, rap, dub, storytelling, and comedy in my work. Regarding SLAM, I should note that I operate outside of that scene, though I did try it once. SLAM competition has value as a space for emerging artists (especially since open mics have steadily dwindled). I use SLAM as a teaching tool in my classes (I teach Creative English to ESL students) and have also created a non-competitive version I call ALPHABET SLAM that I use in peer writing workshops. SLAM is a great stepping-stone, but it can become formulaic.
interview BY PULP
Q: What are some of your influences, poetic or otherwise? A: Music (jazz, world, reggae, hip hop, fusion & experimental), African Diaspora, Sufism, Buddhism, mythology, archeology, languages, the griot tradition, Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Amiri Baraka, Gil Scott Heron, John Cage, Saul Williams, Sheri-D Wilson, and of course the basics: nature, truth, beauty, love, sound, ecstasy, unity, freedom, sex, death, goddess and the human condition. Q: You tend to involve the audience when performing certain poems. Was there anything in particular that made you decide to start doing this? How does it change the experience of performing when the audience is involved? A: My teaching style is student-centered and I found that using that strategy in spoken word performance allows the audience to become an active participant in the poem. It promotes improvisation, furthers my agenda of “no separation” and it’s just plain sexy. Q: What are the benefits of performance poetry compared to poetry that stays on the page? Is it a much different experience for you to release your work on a CD rather than in a chapbook? A: The work will tell you how it wants to be shared, if at all: on the stage, page, video or CD. Each medium has an audience and each has value. Live performance is word released to a public group – the speaker is visible and there is an immediacy that is both dangerous and delicious. A book is something read in private and so the author can hide inside the pages, invisible. A video is the poem in visual form and a CD is a complex production that allows for a combination of all of the above paired with polished layers of sound. It also invites others to participate: musicians, sound engineer, producer, CD designer, and photographer.
Q: Do you think that performing your work in any way influences what you write/ create? A: Writing and music come from the invisible world. I can only edit the work to maintain its integrity using my understanding of literature and sound. If I get in the way of these things, I am lost. Q: What is it like to perform in front of young poets, particularly students, who may be experiencing spoken word for the first time? Does your performance change at all in regards to what kind of audience you’re facing? A: Not really. I did two shows almost back to back, one audience was adults and elders, the other youth – the response from both was fantastic. That tells me the work is a mirror where anyone can see himself or herself reflected. If I keep polishing myself, the reflection gets clearer and clearer. I disappear and only you are left. Q: Under-city: Writing the Suburban World and Slam-a-palooza focus on suburban writing and authors. Do you have any particular thoughts or feelings about the suburbs? A: I did not grow up in the suburbs, nor have I ever thought about it outside discussion of mainstream lifestyles. I see the suburbs as gated communities, tract housing ad nauseum, strip malls and clusters of conglomerates ready to receive blind consumers. Suburbs create an insulated and false sense of reality separate from urban or rural social issues like poverty, farming, etc., so I can see how there could be a lot to write about…
Angelai is the type of artist who is not afraid to break away from traditional use of material. She combines elements that borrow from different disciplines, not only within the field of visual art but also from science, which adds a cognitive-instrumental layer to her work. The dynamism of her work creates a conversation around the aesthetic and utilitarian aspects of art, but can also be seen as an exploration of materiality. The artist is often covered in different substances found inside the sculpture studio such as clay, logs, plaster, and concrete; by the smell of welded metal and burnt wood and wax, and by the constant noise of power tools piercing through the different materials. In this atmosphere she creates her sculptural pieces which serve as a reflection and commentary of the social world.
Angelai’s explorations merge performance art with installation, creating a work that serves as a permanent record of an ephemeral action. One such piece that shows the integration of installation and performance is Steps, a work based on the documentary Home by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. The inspiration for the piece comes from a scene where a Canadian ship coasts through the Arctic; Angelai reenacts the event using a sheet of plaster to represent the ice sheets that are deteriorating due to the human impact of global warming. She walks across the solid yet fragile sheet of plaster, each step causing the plaster to break. To her, the tension created between controlled planning and unpredictability during the performance mimics “the choices we make where there is an unknown outcome”.
EUPHEMISM=DYPHEMISM 20’ X 17’ Newspaper and monofilament
In EUPHEMISM=DYSPHEMISM Angelai questions language in media and the manipulation of information. The piece is made up of strips of newsprint; by stripping off sections, they are disjointed, but by joining them together they become whole again. The viewer is only provided a glimpse of what was originally a part of the entire article, section, advertisement, or image, much like print and media today. She feels language in newsprint is conveyed in a manner that appeals to readers and, by creating more transparency, it allows readers to percieve the bigger picture and attain a greater understanding of the media. By utilizing open sections between the strips “the viewer is able to peer through and get a literal sense of transparency, which one may be looking for in print and media”.
4’6’’ X 1’6’’ Plaster and monofilament
Gabriel Craven and Mikayla Fawcett
‘Twas a harsh night for trekking the cities of old. In the bleak wasteland winter, even the mutants were cold! A smart wastelander would have known not to stay out in the ruins ‘till the end of the day. What fortune for us that Elliot’s less bright, for if he’d stayed safe at home, he’d have missed quite a sight.
Past the husks of old houses, through the curtain of snow, he squinted and spotted an electronic glow. In front of his eyes rose a curious array. ‘Twas the Omni-Mart (Incorporated) X-mas display! Putting up lights and shovelling the lot was an eager platoon of Omni-Mart bots.
The droids were built long ago, for exactly these reasons – to manage the store through various seasons. With coloured eggs in the spring, and pumpkins in fall, long past man’s descent, they still managed the mall. Even though their designers had died long ago, still they arranged the plastic mistletoe. He stepped into the shop, asking, “What’s all this noise?” “Why, it’s X-mas, dear customer,” chirped the bot stacking toys.
“X-mas is a time celebrated in December; it starts for us in October, goes straight through November.” “So we adorn every surface in red and in green, though for decades, we’ve nary a customer seen.” The eager droid guided him throughout the store, and he was dazzled by more lights than he’d ever seen before.
“Wait a moment,” said Elliot. “What’s X-mas for?” Said the Greeter, “Why, giving, and giving some more!” “And for finding those gifts that come straight from the heart, a smart shopper knows to shop Omni-Mart!” Elliot thought about that, for a moment or two, and then had an idea of what he could do. He chose a scarf, a bobbly toque and a coat, and paid with old bills from a dead diner’s float.
While wished happy travels by the bright, smiling screens, he loaded his pockets with canned pork and beans. Though he still doesn’t know much of the world from before, thanks to X-mas, he likes it a little bit more.
fiction Courtesy Flush
My name is Maggie and I have a problem. I have to go to the bathroom. Well, I’m actually already in the bathroom, but so is someone else and I can’t, you know, go if someone else is here. Literally, I’m stuck between a roll of three-ply toilet paper and a tampon disposal box. If we’re getting technical, I’m between that toilet paper and tampon box on the fifteenth floor of the government building I work in. Just stuck waiting for whomever else is in here to wrap it up and leave. There is not much to do to pass the time in a bathroom stall. I’ve already separated a sheet of three-ply toilet paper – your tax dollars at work. I picked a hang-nail off of my middle finger, then looked at the HPV poster on the grey stall door. HPV has become quite the growing concern, although it never really hit its stride and became popular like going to rehab did. It’s more like global warming, before everyone just gave up trying to restore the planet. I could be a carrier, of HPV not global warming, but I’m not too worried about it. I mean, even if I am a carrier, I am certainly not distributing the damn thing. I would have to have sex in order to spread a disease. That’s not me talking, that’s science. It’s been a very long and dry year and a half. I could try to put myself out there, but I don’t see the point in starting anew just so it can eventually end. Someone always leaves. Jake left with our savings, all $308.54 of it and an old cage that used to house Uncle Buck, my pet hamster. When Don left, he shacked up with Reginald. Shortly after Jerry left for Toronto for a temporary position, he met a new girl, who I’m sure his mother loves, and married her six weeks later. I wasn’t even invited to their wedding. I hope that Jerry finds her in bed with the gardener, pool boy, and/or mail man. At the very least, may their perfect white picket-fence become infested with ravenous termites. Most recently there was Max – All right! She flushed the toilet and now she’s washing her hands. While she’s busy making soap bubbles I pray that no one else comes in because my stomach is starting to cramp up. But as my life thus far has depicted, the door opens while she is still out there washing her hands. “Hi, Sue,” a woman says as the heavy bathroom door closes behind her. “Hello, Meryl,” says the woman washing her hands. Meryl is my new boss. She just finished her three month probation period, so I guess she is going to continue being my boss. My old boss was the one who gave me a promotion before she took another managerial position in the more lucrative private sector of a top-ranking pharmaceutical company. It’s quite a step up from a lowly government job. She really makes an effort not to sound too pleased with her new life when we occasionally chat on the phone. The conversations always end with us agreeing that we should go for lunch sometime in the near future. I’m still waiting. “How are things?” asks Meryl. “Fine, thanks. I’m just gearing up for my trip to Cuba at the end of the week.” Sue’s voice is
high-pitched at the end of her reply like someone is squeezing a pre-pubescent mouse to death while it’s talking. “Oh, that’s right,” Meryl says. I can tell she doesn’t really give a shit about Sue’s trip. Who actually wants to hear that someone else is going off to explore the world while you’re at work? But Meryl feigns interest using a well-versed B.S. routine that we all know too well. She asks Sue where she is going to stay, what time her flight is, etc. Then Meryl asks a different question altogether. “Have you seen Maggie Sherwood?” I avert my gaze, then remember that unless she is from Planet Krypton she can’t see me. “Maggie? I think I saw her at the coffee cart during our break this morning,” Sue replies. “Not after that?” “I don’t think so.” Sue turns off the tap. Was she washing her hands this whole time? What a nut bar. “I’ll just page her. Have fun on your trip. Send us a postcard,” Meryl says. Sue hums “The Girl from Ipanema” to herself as she leaves the bathroom. I roll my eyes. Ipanema is in Brazil, not Cuba. I learned that on Rock and Roll Jeopardy. Max and I used to watch that show together every night on channel 67. We kept score as we raced each other to come up with the correct response, always making sure to phrase our answers in the form of a question. Meryl goes into the stall right beside mine. She had nine stalls to choose from. Why did she have to hunker down right next to me? While Meryl is doing her business I try not to listen. I look up at the ceiling and then at the floor: thick grey cement above me, below me, and beside me. I am completely surrounded. I hear a flush and listen as the stall door opens, then I wait for the sound of running water. Silence. I turn my head to the side to better hear the gentle flow of water running. Still, there’s only silence. “Oh! Sorry, Meryl. I almost whacked you there,” a familiar voice says. “Not a problem…Jillian is it?” Meryl asks. “Yeah, that’s right. Hey, do you know when the elevator is getting fixed?” Jill asks. “It’s out of order again and the fifteen flights up are quite a trek.” Jill is my very best friend. I bet she’ll block the door so I can get a little privacy, or at least stand outside and give me a heads up if someone’s coming in. A knock on the door, or maybe, just maybe, I can convince her to cluck like a chicken. “I’ve let maintenance know,” Meryl says. “I think every other floor has as well. It shouldn’t be much longer.” The door closes behind Meryl as she exits. “Jill!” “Maggie? Is that you in there?” “Yeah. Listen, I need you to do me a favour –” “Do you know there’s a package on your desk?” I didn’t know that. As far as I knew all there was on my desk besides my PC and phone was a yet to be completed copy of my Q.E.D. report, a Starbucks cup filled with coffee from home, and a very expensive chrome frame with the sample picture still inside. My co-workers think that the woman in the shot is my mother. I don’t correct them. “No. Who is it from?” I ask. “Oh, I think you know who.” It’s another “love package” from Max. He’s been trying to get me to take him back since we broke up a year and a half ago. Every so often he sends me these packages filled with my favourite things, but they’re never actually my favourite things. He always gets it wrong. Brownies (yes), with nuts in them (no). Jelly
beans (yes), popcorn flavoured (no). Flowers (yes), dried (no). “It’s been a while since he’s sent something, but I recognized the little red bio-hazard sticker he always puts on his packages. When was the last time you got one?” Jill asks. “Just about five months ago, on September 14th,” I tell her. I only remember because he brought the package on the day the last season of Survivor had started. That was an uncomfortable interaction. Me: How did you get up here? Him: I played hockey with the guy that works at the front desk. Me: Why are you here? Him: I brought you something. Me: Again? I don’t want it. Him: I bet you will once you see what’s inside. Me: I don’t want it. Him: Don’t you miss me at all? Me: Him: Don’t you get lonely without me? The fact of the matter is I’ve gotten used to coming home to any empty apartment, cooking for one, and hanging out with Jill every other weekend or so. I guess I wouldn’t be as lonely if I had a cat, but I don’t like cats. “Maggie Sherwood, please come see me in my office as soon as possible.” Meryl’s voice blares over the vintage 1960’s speaker that is affixed to the cement wall. “What’s that all about?” Jill asks. “She probably wants that Q.E.D. report,” I reply. “You’re not done yet?” Jill asks. “The processor involved is really hard to figure out sometimes. I’ve only been working on it since I got the promotion,” I say a little heatedly. Jill grunts in response. She has always said that she was really happy that I got that promotion, but I know that it bothers her a little bit. It shouldn’t though; she didn’t even apply for the position and I’m not her superior now or anything. I’m not anyone’s superior. I didn’t get a secretary, or an office. The only things that I got were a small pay raise and a daily dose of insanity caused by that damn Q.E.D. report. I still have the same worn desk and the same generic job title. I’m the same me. “Jill, can you watch the door for me while I go to the bathroom?” I say hesitantly. It sounds stupid when I say it aloud. “You want me to leave?” Jill asks. She sounds hurt. “Yes. No. Not like that. I don’t want you to leave me alone. I just have to, you know, go. So I want you to make sure nobody comes in,” I say. I’ve really got to go badly. My stomach starts to gurgle at an audible level. “Maggie Sherwood, please come to my office immediately.” Meryl’s voice comes through the bathroom speaker again. Jill and I ignore it. “I know how to help you with your situation,” Jill starts to make very strange noises. “Whoooooosh. Whoooooosh,” she says over and over. “What the hell are you doing?” I ask. “Making water sounds so you’ll have to pee,” Jill says, sounding like a six-year-old that just received a gold star from her teacher. “I don’t have to pee,” I tell her. “Then why are you sitting with your bare ass on a toilet?”
I cannot believe I’m having this conversation. “Can you just come out of that stall so we can talk face to face?” Jill asks me. “No! That’s the point. I am sitting bare-ass on a toilet, because I have to go and I am not leaving this stall until I do.” “Go?” she says. Now I know that she knows and that she’s just screwing around with me. “Look, I know that you find this really funny. We can laugh about this tonight over drinks, okay? My treat.” “How many rounds are we talking here?” “Jill. Please. Go,” I whisper. “But I thought you were the one that had to…all right, all right. I’ll go block the door for you,” she says, knowing I have reached my ‘Jill’s idea of fun’ limit for the day. “Maggie Sherwood, contact me immediately.” Meryl’s voice sounds urgent and even louder than before. I should probably go see what she wants when I’m done. I hear Jill open the door and then it closes. I am finally alone. “You know…” Jill says. Oh my God. “Jill!” “I just wanted to say that you could have just ‘gone’ and given the other people in the bathroom a courtesy flush. No one would have heard you. No one would have been the wiser,” she says matter-of-factly. “I’ll keep that in mind for the future.” My jaw is clenched and the whites of my knuckles would put a freshly cut coconut to shame. The door closes again. I think I’m alone now, but just to be sure I try to look between the thin gap between the stall door and its frame. I can’t see anyone. I bend forward as much as my stomach will allow and look for feet. I still can’t see anyone. I am actually alone. I start to go. The door opens. What the hell is going on! “Maggie, guess what?” “Lexi, is that you?” I ask. “Yup. So, guess what Carl told me last night?” she asks. “That he’s going to leave his wife,” I say without missing a beat. “Circle the calendar.” I know that’s what he told her. That’s what he always tells her. I try to recall that expression about a Jackie versus a Marilyn, but my mind is blank right now. The only thing I can think about right now is number two. I think back to a lazy Saturday morning when I was brushing my teeth. Max came into the bathroom, positioned himself in front of my toilet, and peed right in front of me without a moment’s hesitation. Then the goddamned door opens yet again. “I told her not to come in here,” Jill says. “You told me Maggie was in here,” Lexi retorts. “I told you Maggie was in here, right before I told you not to come in,” Jill says. I sit on the toilet seat in stunned silence. “I couldn’t wait for her to come out. I have such good news. Carl told me he’s leaving his wife,” Lexi says. I can feel her beaming through the stall door. “Circle the calendar,” Jill says. “Maggie already said that, Miss Smarty Pants,” Lexi says this to Jill in a tone that greatly suggests that Jill should be disappointed in herself for not coming up with something more clever, instead of questioning why it was said to her twice in the span of a minute to begin with. I can’t wait any longer. These two are having a conversation that could be picked up and continued
by sleepy five-year-olds. My stomach is seizing. I start to go. What sweet relief! Words cannot express– “Attention staff.” Meryl’s voice booms over the speaker. “We believe that there may be biohazardous material in the building. Since we have been unable to confirm the integrity of the suspicious package with the person it was intended for, we have chosen to evacuate the building. Please evacuate the building in an orderly fashion. For those of you on higher floors, an alternative should you require one, is to seek shelter in a bathroom,” she states in cool, even tones. After the length of time it took that fat rhino in Jumanji to run down Main Street, the bathroom door swings open and I hear a flurry of my co-workers enter the cement-walled room. “It stinks in here,” someone says. “Ever heard of a courtesy flush?” another person asks. “Gross,” someone else says. “Who’s in that stall?” I hear Meryl ask. Oh shit. Over the next four hours I stay in the stall. Three separate trucks full of men in Hazmat suits come and go. They take my bio-hazardous love package. At 9:07 I hear Jill come into the bathroom. We don’t say anything about why I’m still in here because we don’t need to. She tells me that Lexi is waiting outside. Despite my many protests, I am taken with them to Guilt and Company, a local bar, where we listen to an improv music jam. The music is so horrible, for a moment I wish I was back in the stall. I settle for another Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Jill attracts the attention of a dapper looking man who turns out to be one of the many men that was at our office building earlier in a Hazmat suit. Later on, through what can only be described as an alcohol-fueled game of telephone, I am made aware that the package purportedly contained nut-free brownies, watermelon flavoured Jelly beans, three packages of tulip seeds, and a half-ounce container of Cosmic Catnip. I immediately order another round of drinks. The next morning I wake up alone in my apartment to the ringing of my telephone. After sliding into my white bunny slippers a la Pee-wee’s Big Adventure I answer the phone. “Hello?” I mumble as my chapped lips momentarily refuse to be parted. “Did you find it yet?” Jill asks. “I was sleeping,” I say as I recall the dream I had last night about being rescued by Christian Bale before he turned into Bill Murray. “Call me when you do. I want to see it.” Jill sounds quite chipper which is confusing to me seeing as she and I closed a bar together last night. “I will.” Following the end of our conversation, I root around my bedroom. After a grueling and rather untidy search, I find the decrepit box in the kitchen cupboard that’s to the left of the fridge, the one that’s full of expired packages of the Raman noodles Max used to eat. I find an old plastic bag that I got from the corner market, and fill it to the brim with noodles. Without missing a beat, I turn and walk to my front door. I step into the hallway and give a quick smile to my neighbour Tom as he passes me in the hall, while I silently chastise myself for looking shitty in front of him. I drop the bag of noodles down the garbage chute, fingering the handle for a moment before letting it go. When I head back inside I start to rummage through the box while sitting cross-legged on my kitchen floor. After what seems to take the lifespan of a mayfly, I finally find what I have been looking for. It’s a black and white photo of me as a young girl. On the back of the photo, in my mother’s superlative handwriting, it reads, “Maggie goes potty: January 1988.” I think I have the perfect place to show it off.
Forgotten Forest our Sri Lankan driver peers ahead through a windshield wet with rainforest each dip and potholed turn throws my stomach to the butterflies I scan the sleepy morning mist a veil for verdant wisdom my heart opens to a wild, untamed touch on foot, the terra cotta trail caresses lined by leeches waving suckers seeking the offspring of my marrow our guide pulls from a magic pouch salt to mask palpitating flesh insects sing with timbal trumpets to the rhythm of six percussive legs a zebra butterfly stretches her stripes and dragonflies dash forth four-winged faeries chasing breakfast avoiding dew-sparkled spiderwebs an orb weaver holds in patient perch on the almost squares of silk her eight arms embracing the labyrinth’s eye a dead trunk arches over the path sporting spots of lichen-age ferns sprout fresh limbs on this drooping corpse the scent of nascent bloom rises above loamy death life ebbs and rain flows like a neap tide, its moisture sucked into the insatiable earth abiding roots eager as a suckling babe
the guide asks: “would you like to lead?” my soul ignites the way the full moon agrees with the sun I take charge like a bloodhound sniffing out secrets around every bend inspecting sori and each immense microcosm
after the green vine with a forked tongue clear serpent streams appear their tails in the highest mountains while trees spark a thousand stories shown in twisted trunk and slithering branch where the divine endures in the planned pattern of scale and leaf a primate hollers from the canopy the alpha male demands I stay beneath we must turn back, yet I am called drawn to the otherness of this temple finally alone with God seeing him in the frail fronds of a fern in the spiderwebâ€™s meticulous mandala the thousand land-oars of a millipede the veins of the forest under my skin the tropical sky opens once more bathing my intimate shell in cloud we retrace our gallant steps and stumble upon a monk my surprise at his hermetic home is not his he offers his selfless shelter and serves tea steeped by sacred hands our path diverts and ends in a river wedded white by upstream falls I carry my shoes and cross the spirit waters in search of the omniscient undertow of raw and rapturous Sinharaja
clutched by my sultry hotel bed silent and naked leg muscles tight as grandfather bamboo sodden clothes strewn to a cockroach floor belly button kissed by an industrious leech the creature bloated by my blood I hear the voice without reason the wild howl within primal, druidic, forgotten beckoning my nuclear return
JEFF CHARLES GROAT
Rush Hour at Joyce Station I never saw the mess – choice or chance, I won’t say. Instead: confusion compounded
What’s going on? Someone’s down there. Everyone, please exit the station.
The imagination, morbidly curious, stares.
Is that his shoe?
On the train, they heard him collide and punctuate the screams of emergency brakes. Beneath the SkyTrain car, pulp squeezed between the rails like a tube of toothpaste.
How do I get home from here?
photo courtesy of Junichi Ishito
Gastown Sonnet A mild May afternoon, winds stroke with brushes And the Yorkshire seaman stands in silhouetted fashion. The faithful tourists on Blood Alley begin to rush Towards Waterfront Station, Tulips grow over rails and die on opened ground. Victorian mosaics lead to Edwardian architecture; A thousand naked windows surround The marble street and are fixated on the weather. West Coast Express makes vowel noises under Rickety bridges, the sound soars across the harbour, It can be heard by the barefoot Native who sleeps under cover With his wooden carvings of womenâ€™s virgin Eyes. Itâ€™s often hard for me to look behind As I follow the street lamps to the Canada Line.
“Constellations are patterns we recognize in the sky and mythologize. They are not complete entities; they are invented mnemonics. Sometimes, when I look at the sky and attempt to remember the name and shape of a constellation I see a blinking satellite and am reminded of how my personal life exists online. My data is scattered around in space like a dust trail. A two-part installation, Constellations Are Not Real, was created from tagged conventional portraits on Facebook. Fortyseven images along with their descriptions of place, date, and attached comments have been reworked into an exploration of the self-portrait in the age of social media. While the photographic portrait has long been used as both a memory aid/memorial and a tool of capture and control, it can be argued that these uses have been pushed to their public limits with the platforms of digital and social media. A personal album or slideshow online includes shared public comments tracked across time/ space that interact with tailored Google advertisements in the margin. Facial Recognition Technologies (FRT) have moved from their less
Constellations Are Not Real Media installation
successful uses in law enforcement to popular social media applications that will automatically recognize and tag a friend’s face. The complications between personal and public, memory and recognition, commercial imperialism and self-representation, are opened up and splayed across the floor in the installation of Constellations Are Not Real. Conventional tagged portraits of the artist are taken out of their Facebook album and reworked to explore these tensions. They have been collected in the form of a rotating slideshow where the face is traced with dots and lines of simple FRT biometrics. A corresponding installation of commercial-grade graphic vinyl photographs uses these same images and their data (descriptions, comments) and removes them from their visual context leaving the viewer with a ‘star map’ of Facebook and FRT biometric drawings.”
Erin Donahue’s Constellations Are Not Real is currently showing at the Surrey Art Gallery until December 16.
Passive Aggressive after Allan Ginsberg, “America”
Earth, you’re dying Earth, you’re dying and there’s nothing I can do about it I’ve watched you lived through you your old age is familiar to me now did you notice you’re off balance? It’s annoying more so it’s frightening one side is rich and excessive I guess that’s my side of you, Earth but the other half it’s neglected why haven’t you been taking care of yourself? Earth, did you notice your aesthetics? Green and blue on the atlas, on the globe round and tilted Earth, so full of dreamers promise for the human race my race a race against the end your end Earth, it hasn’t been that long since I last saw you cry, two days ago in fact, you’re bipolar now it’s hot dry you’re causing me to sweat I’m not nervous, though stop telling me I am Earth, even if I was why should you care you’re departing
I’ve seen this before, you know if you think you’re going to patch everything before you
go you’re sorely mistaken I won’t allow it you gotta be honest, Earth Earth, I have never seen such blue skies as the one you gave me today an airplane graces your courtesy and I see you have no grudge …do you? Tell me Earth, I wouldn’t tell anyone do you blame me? I was only watching do you blame me? What about you yourself blame yourself. I can’t even look at you Earth, I’m scared let’s be honest with each other you gotta be honest are you afraid for me? No, Earth, I’m not trying to avoid you, I guess sorry are you into forgiveness? I don’t get you I wish I could before you go, Earth Earth, I wish I knew you better you’re fluid you’re like that one guy I saw on TV, you know the one he was taking a long drag from his cigarette and he just looked so cool I’m not sure but I think I can hear your wheezing
fiction WHAT WE NEED TO GET BY
The moment you read the letter, you know that your mother is dying. Laurel, Hope all is well. Found this picture of you and E. Thought you might like to have it. Much love, Mother. Enclosed is the photograph of you and Emmett. You are small, maybe seven or eight. Still young enough that you’re both exactly the same size. You’re in a garden, sitting in the grass in front of a blooming rhododendron. Pictures from your childhood are rare; your mother didn’t own a camera. Nothing is familiar. Not the park, not your white dress, not the reason you look annoyed while Emmett laughs. Because there are so few photographs from the past, you are always alarmed by how you and your brother looked as children. You marvel at the lightness of your hair, the roundness of your cheeks. You see bits of your current self in that tiny person, but Emmett is unrecognizable. You examine his bright eyes, his smile. This is the first time you have received a letter from your mother. Everything about it – the conventional greeting, the photograph, the affectionate salutation – is so unlike her that you wouldn’t believe she wrote it if you didn’t recognize her handwriting. It is very tight and beautiful, but not overly elaborate. You examine the photograph again, trying now to figure out why she kept it. She rarely keeps photos or anything unnecessary. Your homes growing up were always very clean and empty. Banging in the upstairs bedroom tears your attention away from the photograph. You stuff it into the back of the box on the counter that you use to hold miscellaneous papers: bills, receipts, coupons. You have no intention of sharing the letter with Grant. Upstairs, River is crying on the floor. The blanket tied around his neck like a cape indicates that he has, once again, dressed up like Batman and attempted to fly from his dresser to his bed. It’s alright, you say, picking him up off the ground. River sobs and clutches his left knee. You sit on the bed and rock him, silently cursing your husband, his brother, and the television. River doesn’t watch TV because you don’t agree with it. There isn’t one in your house. But last month Grant took him to visit some of his family in Calgary for the weekend. He swears that River watched less than an hour of cartoons with his cousins, but it was enough to put ideas in his head. People can’t fly, Sweetheart, you say when River stops crying. When you think about it, you realize that Batman doesn’t even fly. He’s just a person. You think about letting River watch a Batman movie. If you make him watch that violent one with the Joker, maybe he’ll be so afraid he won’t want anything to do with Batman. The film isn’t appropriate for a five-year-old, though, and television is never the answer. Instead, you will go to the library and get him a Batman book. In the afternoon, you pick up the phone three times to call your mother but never get past
dialling. The next day, after picking River up from kindergarten, you drive out to visit Emmett. There’s no point in calling ahead, he won’t have left his apartment. He doesn’t come to the door when you knock. He calls from inside, Who’s there? It’s me, you say. Can I come in? The door’s open. He’s in his recliner, half a pizza in a box on the ground. He’s holding a two-litre bottle of Pepsi between his thighs. You don’t know where to rest your eyes. Emmett’s gotten bigger, if possible, and his threadbare white t-shirt is tight against his stomach. His skin is sallow, his hair droopy and thinning. The apartment is a mess. He smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. Hey sis. Hi Emmett. How are things? He laughs humourlessly. Great. He’s watching The Price is Right, and River has already parked himself right in front of the TV. You want to ask Emmett to turn it off, but you decide not to. This way you’ll be able to talk in peace. Back up, River. You’ll ruin your eyesight, you say. That’s an urban legend, he says. You taught him about urban legends after a kid at school told him spiders were going to nest in his hair. Emmett, I need to show you something. Can we talk in the kitchen? You’re embarrassed by the amount of effort it takes him to get out of his chair. You look away, pretending to read the newspaper on his coffee table. Well? he says, once you’re sitting at the kitchen table. You show him the letter. That’s weird, he says. It doesn’t sound like her. She wouldn’t say that. He doesn’t understand. You don’t want to explain it to him, but you have no choice. I think there’s something wrong with her, Emmett. This seems like some kind of last effort. I think she’s dying. He looks at the letter again, studies every word. Then he looks up at you with big, sad eyes. She didn’t send me anything, he says. He’s shaking a bit now, and you realize that he is going to cry. A part of you wants to hug him, and another part wants to slap him. He’s a grown man, for goodness’ sake.
He looks at the letter again, studies every word. Then he looks up at you with big, sad eyes. She didn’t send me anything, he says. 52
Emmett wasn’t always like this, lost and pathetic. Sometimes you want to announce it to people that laugh at him, or worse, look at him pitifully. You’ve seen his neighbours roll their eyes as they hold the elevator door for him, waiting for him to waddle in, inevitably making the elevator uncomfortably full. You want to tell them about Emmett as a child, how he used to be funny and happy. People used to love him. He was the sort of child that would see a stranger crying on the bus and hug them, so sweet and earnest that people weren’t put off by it. Even in his teen years, he never lost his compassion. Every time you switched schools, Emmett was well known in a matter of weeks. He was handsome, but more so he had a way of
looking people in the eye when he talked to them. Girls fell in love almost instantly, though he rarely noticed. It’s not like that, he would say. She’s just looking for a friend. You had a much harder time adjusting when you moved schools. You didn’t know what to say, how to approach people. Emmett would invite you out with his new friends, expertly manoeuvre conversations so that you had to talk. He always looked out for you. Look, you say, patting his arm. She sent me the letter because she knew I wanted it more. I was always begging her for pictures. It doesn’t matter, okay? Emmett doesn’t even brush the tears off his cheeks. He just lets them pour down his chin, drip down his neck. You smile encouragingly. You know she’s crazy, Emmett. You know it isn’t personal. But even as you say it, you know you’re lying. It’s possible that it wasn’t personal, that like you’re saying, your mother arbitrarily chose the child she thought would appreciate the correspondence the most. You’re pretty sure, though, that your mother has written Emmett off. That he is a disappointment, even more than you. It’s not fair, of course. It’s her fault he’s like this. The doctors say it’s no one’s fault, but you know better. Back when it started, you dragged him to see countless counsellors and psychologists. He was diagnosed with depression, anxiety disorders, and put on medication. I know you want to blame someone, Laurel, Dr. Walker said when he called you into his office after Emmett’s appointment. You sat in the stiff velvet chair and let your eyes wander around his office: dark wood furniture, shelves full of hardcover books. Depression is a chemical imbalance, he continued. It’s not about you, or your mother, or even Emmett. It’s not about what happened to him. It’s a disease. Grant tried to convince you, too. He brought home a model of the human brain from school, drew you diagrams. You wouldn’t try to blame anyone if he had cancer or dementia, he said, shoving an artist’s rendition of an unhealthy brain in your face. But nothing anyone said could change your mind. Everything fell apart after Emmett found your father, drove out to Saskatoon to meet him. You were against it from the start. You never liked any of your mother’s other lovers, so you figured your father would be a disappointment as well. It was important to Emmett, though. He threw himself into the project. He did research, talked to people. He was good at getting what he wanted back then. You had been married to Grant for three months when Emmett found him. Lance Logan. An MP for some little suburban district outside Saskatchewan. Just phone him, you said, but Emmett wanted to see him face-to-face. You tried not to think about it while Emmett was gone. Tried not to worry or even be curious. Emmett showed up on your doorstep at three in the morning, two days earlier than he was expected to return. He was upset, shaking, and he had a black eye. He’s an asshole. A psychopath, he said. You pulled him into the house, made him a cup of tea. He’s got a family, Laurel. Kids our age. He’s been married to the woman for like, thirty years. Stop, you said. I don’t want to hear it. He lost it, Emmett continued. I told him who I was, and he went ballistic. Said that if I went anywhere near his family he would kill me. I told you it would be bad. You tried to stay calm, not to look shocked. I just thought that maybe he didn’t know we existed, he said, quieter now. But he knew all along. He hired a guy to scare me off. Emmett pointed to his eye, swollen and red. You got him some ice and tried to convince him to
sleep in the guest room, but he wouldn’t stay. He stumbled out into the night and found his way home. That was the start of it all. The search had been propelling him through life for the past year, and with it over he had nothing. He bounced around between a few meaningless jobs, stopped hanging out with friends, stopped coming over to your house for dinner. It was a gradual withdrawal. At first you thought he just needed space, but then you started to worry. You went to his place and told him you could talk about it. It doesn’t matter, he said. It’s done. You can’t really blame your father. He was a faceless absentee for your entire life. It was no surprise that he was despicable. Your mother should have warned Emmett, though. If she had told you two anything about him it wouldn’t have had to be like that. You went to visit her, when his behaviour first started to alarm you. She was staying at a women’s shelter since her most recent divorce. You went in the evening and she was perched on her little cot in an immaculate skirt and blouse, her hair tied up elegantly. The other women were avoiding her. Laurel, she said calmly, as if you had stepped in to her private office. You tried to sit on her suitcase, the largest of her three piece Italian leather set. It felt unstable, so you had to lean forward and squat awkwardly. Mom, you need to talk to Emmett. Your mother didn’t respond well to orders. A minute arch of her eyebrow was her only reaction. He found our dad, Mom. He found Lance Logan. A stranger wouldn’t have noticed anything, but you saw the change in her face. Her jaw tightened, her eyes darkened. It’s bad, Mom. He threatened him. Emmett’s really broken up. Can you talk to him? A minute passed. You tried to be silent, not to push her. Acknowledging that she wasn’t responding would only give her an excuse to chastise you for being impatient, and avoid the subject at hand. Finally, she said, Emmett deliberately went against my wishes. This wasn’t really true. She had never forbade you or Emmett from finding your father. She had simply refused to talk about him. Had either of you consulted me, I would have prevented this, but you went behind my back. Shame on you both. He needs you, you pleaded. Out, she said. You grabbed her arm. Please, Mom! Get out.
“ She was perched on her little cot in an immaculate skirt and blouse, her hair tied up elegantly. The other women avoided her. ” 54
Over the next couple days, you toy with the idea of calling her. You feel guilty either way. Finally, you call on a Tuesday morning when you know she’ll be out getting her hair retouched. Remy answers the phone, and you chat with him for fifteen minutes in spite of yourself. Remy is your mother’s fifth husband. He’s rich, old, and charming. Retired from some ridiculous, high paying job in the fur industry, he spends his
time sipping wine and collecting luxury cars. You should hate him; he’s blindly and irrationally in love with your mother, for one thing. He plays up his French accent, too, dropping little phrases like mon cheri, and sacre bleu into everyday conversation, just because he knows your mother has a soft spot for the French. Three of her husbands have been French. Still, despite your best efforts, you can’t help but be fond of him. The greatest mystery is how he ended up with your mother. He seems like the sort of man who would have a plump, loving wife, five or six grown children, and an army of grandchildren that climb all over him and steal caramels from his pockets. He asks lots of questions about River and Grant and yourself, and you find yourself answering them enthusiastically. It’s just nice that he cares. Your mother’s marriages always meant a brief season of luxury in your childhood. You can hardly remember Henry, the first husband, but you do remember the elite private school at which you attended kindergarten while he and your mother were married. You had to wear a uniform: a navy blue dress, and Emmett wore matching shorts. You both wore knee socks and black shoes, but Emmett’s had laces while yours had a buckle. He learned to tie the laces himself that year and you were jealous. In that kindergarten class you took Latin and Origami lessons. You remember this only because it was such a shock when halfway through the year you moved out of Henry’s house and started attending a public school, where the carpet was dirty and the only lessons seemed to be colouring and playing with sand. You loved it. Most of the girls, it seemed, wore pink corduroy pants and rubber boots, but your mother always insisted you wore dresses and tights. After Henry there was the basement suite on Broom Street, which you thought was a magic playhouse because it was under a real house. You thought no one else could see it. You and Emmett used to take turns running outside and rapping on the bathroom window, which almost touched the ceiling from inside. Sometimes the Upstairs Lady would lean her head out the window and yell at you for standing in the garden, then you would run back inside, where you imagined she couldn’t get you. You asked Grant once if he ever looked back on childhood events through adult eyes and interpreted them differently. It was two in the morning. River was a year old and you were trying to teach him to self-soothe. Both of you were tense, listening to him cry in the next bedroom. You had been contemplating the Broom street house, the peeling wallpaper and exposed pipelines. Yeah, said Grant. I always thought my parents were overprotective. I didn’t get why they were always worrying, freaking out about whether I was home on time. Now that I’m a father, though, I get it. You were annoyed. That’s not what I’m talking about, you said, and you went to pick up River. Don’t do it, said Grant. Laurel, stop! You started to run as if he were going to chase you. As you rocked River, you thought about what it would be like to grow up exactly as your parents did. To you, the idea was terrifying. Your most consistent strategy as a parent and human being was to think about what your mother would do, and then do the opposite. Grant didn’t seem to worry about it, though. He was a biology teacher, just like his father. He grew up in a neighbourhood almost identical to the one you lived in now, where the houses came in three shades of beige and there was barely room to park a bike between them. The couch in your living room came from Grants’ parents, as did the dresser in your bedroom. Grant was not only okay with all of this, he seemed to be unaware that there was any other way of living. The next morning, your mother calls you back. You’re in the kitchen cleaning the breakfast dishes. River plays with Lego in the living room and Grant is packing his lunch for work. How’s the weather? she says, and you laugh because she’s never made small talk before.
What’s wrong with you? you ask. What do you mean? I know that you’re sick. There is a long pause, and you can hear her breathing into the phone. Pancreatic cancer, she says, finally. Three months. There is a brief moment when you consider being the heroic daughter. You think about doing research, finding out all there is to know about her ailment. Grant would love to help you with this. He would find books and educational videos. You could learn the best way to look after a cancer patient and care for your mother on her deathbed. In mid-thought, you realize how ridiculous it is. It’s not your place. You know that Remy will care for her, even though she doesn’t deserve it. Should I come? you say, finally. I don’t see why, she replies. You hang up the phone, and Grant, spreading mayonnaise on bread, looks up at you. Who was that? You almost tell him, and then you don’t. You don’t tell Emmett either. Your mother’s words float around in your head. You think about it all the time, trying to sort out how you feel. Not grief, really. Not sympathy either. You are simply compelled to think about it all the time. Halfway through washing the dishes the urge strikes. You need to stop, sit on the couch and think thoroughly about your mother suffering. You need to imagine her letting other people see her in pain. You’re driving River to school and it becomes too distracting. You pull over and think about her losing her hair. Sitting in a bathrobe, barefaced. River ends up half an hour late. You keep the thoughts secret for weeks. Just thoughts, never obligation to take any sort of action, until one night it wakes you up at three A.M. Before you know it, you’re on the internet booking two tickets to Montreal. I’ll come with, says Grant, when you explain it to him the next morning. No, you say. It’s just going to be me and Emmett. You haven’t spent much time around death. You always thought that the tense emotions around the event would overpower the awkwardness of social interaction. You imagine, as you sit on the plane next to Emmett, watching him watch the in-flight movie, that the grief, anger, and complicated emotions surrounding your mother’s bedside will overpower any sense of self-consciousness. That you will be able to cry, yell, or speak honestly. Instead, as you arrive at Remy’s door you are uncomfortably self-aware. You agonize over your appearance on the front step. You, tired and dishevelled from the flight, Emmett’s dreary state exaggerated by the Pepsi stain on his pale yellow polo shirt. You don’t know how to greet Remy when he answers the door. You smile instinctively, being that you haven’t seen him in years, then immediately regret it. What kind of a person grins like an idiot while their mother is dying down the hall? Emmett doesn’t stop to take his shoes off. He steps right onto the gorgeous white carpet lining Remy’s hall in his dusty loafers. You try to remind yourself that none of this matters. Your mother is dying, and this is so much bigger than appearances and manners. Still, you can’t push down the anxiety in your stomach, can’t stop smoothing your skirt, tucking your hair behind your ear, pulling it back again. Your mother is in bed, plain but immaculate. Her hair is pulled back in a sleek bun, and she’s wearing a black cashmere cardigan. The room is bright, sunshine pouring in through the gauzy curtains. There is a machine next to her bed, something you can’t quite identify but unmistakably medical. She looks weak, her face noticeably slimmer, but her expression repels pity. Laurel, Emmett, she says, nodding to each of you. You don’t know what to say. I’ll leave you to catch up, says Remy, and then the three of you are alone. Emmett shrinks back; ashamed of himself, you think. You grab hold of his hand. It seems right that the two of you would be united here. But then, to be united is to be together against her, and to treat your mother as the enemy in her own home, as she lies ill, seems cruel. Have a seat, your mother says, her voice sharp. Don’t stand there gawking. You sit on the small divan next to her bed, close together like small children sharing an armchair.
Well, she says. You came all the way here. What is it that you want? Just to see you, says Emmett. To talk to you. He leans in toward her, so desperate. His voice quivers and you know he’s going to cry. Stop it, Emmett, she says. Go somewhere alone and collect yourself, this is ridiculous. I’m fine, he says. He leans back in the chair and breathes deeply. You pull a slip of paper from your purse and say, River made you a drawing, Mother. It’s not really true. River drew the picture, a generic landscape in crayon, weeks ago at school. You grabbed it off the fridge just this morning. Your mother glances at the drawing but doesn’t reach out to accept it. Emmett sits up again with new resolve. Does it hurt, mother? he asks. Does it hurt to talk, or to eat? I’m perfectly all right, Emmett, she says. Emmett is quiet for barely a minute. Can I get you anything, mother? he asks. Would you like some tea? No, Emmett. Be quiet. He continues in spite of her. Is there anything you wish you could do, Mother? Before you die? She stares straight ahead at the wall, inhales deeply. You’re being exhausting, Emmett. You’ll have to leave now, she says. I need to rest. Remy will feed you before you go. He tries to help her adjust her pillow, and she slaps him away. Out, Emmett! You ache for him, but you need a break. You escape to the bathroom, splash water on your face and look at yourself in the mirror. You stare into your own eyes and see the bits of her. You’re different, looser, less polished, but she’s there. On your way to the kitchen, you pass your mother’s room. You peak through the door and see her. She’s asleep, her face relaxed and refreshingly passive. Emmett comes up behind you, creeps past you and enters the room. Stop, you whisper, but he ignores you. He goes back to her bedside, and sits next to her. He takes her hand gently and holds it between his own. You don’t know how long you stand there watching him watch her, his eyes exuding a love she will never deserve. Finally, he touches her face. A gentle stroke of the hand. Then he rises, tiptoes toward you and leads you out of the room. Let’s go, he says. You haven’t heard him speak with such authority in years. It’s better to leave like this. On the plane ride home he talks to you. Nothing significant; you talk about current events, summer plans. You haven’t spoken like this in a long time, and you like it. You’re stuck with a twohour layover in Winnipeg, thanks to buying last minute tickets on the day of the flight, and you find yourself aimlessly wandering through the airport shops. You want to know what happened, how Emmett could possibly feel better about things after that miserable trip, but you can’t bring yourself to ask him. Somehow that was enough for him, and you don’t understand it. You’re flipping through the clearance section of the airport bookstore when you come across a Batman DVD. It’s a season of the 90’s cartoon series, stacked between a coffee table book of M.C. Escher art and a candle shaped like an owl. It’s marked down to four dollars and fifty cents. You pick it up, carry it to the counter. It makes you a bit uncomfortable, but River will love it. Maybe he even needs it. You promise yourself to give it a try.
Meet Alcohol, Your New Dad He stands before you—prim and proper. All you notice are the thin strips of crimson in his suit and the blood red tie. This is the new man in your life now. His husky voice tells you to call him Dad, his face is masked in black, darker than the night sky. He is always there. When you don’t want him to be, he insists, pushes his way into your life. As the bottles multiply his presence grows stronger. Hope runs out. The man you once loved is gone—this destructive force has taken over. There are no happy moments, no recollections of fun times. If there were, they would be tainted. The candle collides against the wall, red chunks radiate outward, land on the floor. Your mom, the target, narrowly missed. You wonder what it will be like to walk down the aisle without a father. Your children won’t have the kind of grandfather you did.
Untitled 43’ X 28” Digital print
This installation focuses on the problematic nature of the gaze, and is intended to be self-reflexive, addressing one’s desire to look at even the most horrific. Through this photograph I explore how even dark subject matter can become aestheticized when it is made into a visual image. The subject is dear to my heart as it addresses many issues I believe are extremely important, such as intergenerational trauma, abuse, addiction, and the marginalization and displacement of aboriginal women through the Federal Indian Act. The piece itself focuses not on the social issues themselves, but rather our desire to see and yet ignore the problems we find in our communities. Despite the harsh reality of this photo, we cannot deny its visually pleasing quality. With this installation, I would like to open up a conversation as to why we are able to find pleasure in the hardships of others.
Gunilla Kay’s work appeared in the 10th Annual Swedish Women’s Educational Association International Exhibition in Paris, France. Kay is a student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in the third year of her BFA in Visual Arts.
Kärlek 12’ X 12’ Raiku
Gunilla Kay’s relationship with her husband, John, now deceased, inspired these paintings.
Moomin Troll and the Snork Maiden
Hope for Love 12’ X 12’ OIil on canvas
12’ X 12’ OIil on canvas
Adam and Eve Under the Tree in Eden
12’ X 12’ OIil on canvas
“John and I were soul mates. The exhibit’s theme of love made it natural to visually represent my memories of our time together. We read about The Moomin Trolls by Tove Jansson and adopted the names ‘Moomin Troll’ for John, and I was ‘Snork Maiden’, his girlfriend. I think what attracted us to these characters was the simple style of hippos and their adventures. Jansson created a whole family of characters, who were mostly sweet and very human. John drew very lovely and goofy drawings of the moomins and wrote poetry to go with them. He adapted the characters to fit with our family. John wrote poetry until almost the end and we treasured every word.”
4’ X 6’ Oil on board
61 “This self-portrait depicts only three of my nude selves, from different views, huddled in a corner and growing out from the feet. The hidden nudity represents the personal aspects of one’s self and how people project an image in order to show others how they would like to be seen. It reflects how, in reality, few people project their entire self and therefore the image associated with a person deviates from the internal self.”
Short Talk on Hair after Anne Carson It tends to get everywhere, doesn’t it? No matter how well you clean or how vigilant the pick and prune there is always one more strand a reminder of the soft scalp that laid across your chest and whispered, Don’t go.
You talk with your hands Even here, at rest, buried in your shirt, ear pressed to the soft hollow below your collar bone, I hear you, bent low over my cold shoulder, your fingers trembling as you pinch and pluck the petals from the rose I grew, counting, always in ones and twos. Darling, I thought you knew. My feet are not so cold as my shoulder. Please, don’t apologize – I realize that I’m the one at fault. But if I could have my way, we’d lay as close as sweat to skin, each breath kept and shared if I could only let you in.
Truth In Findings Truth in Findings “I took seven articles, cut out most of the words, and left sentences that I created from different lines of the article. I then took those newspaper pieces, scanned them, and edited them into black and white on the computer. I mirrored the images and printed them. I then used gel medium to transfer them to thicker paper. I displayed them off of the wall using 2 inch nails.”
6’ X 1’ Phototransfer on paper
NaCl NaCl “I have always been bothered by the fact that when someone is talking about climate change they say, ‘We are destroying our earth!’ To be more precise, we are destroying our human environment. The earth will go on existing but our actions may cause the environment, which we as humans need to survive, to be a thing of the past. We may bring the creatures and plants that live now down alongside us, but the earth will remain. “In potash mining, when they clear out a long stretch of minerals underground, they leave the earth hollow. Only days after leaving that space, salt crystals are already growing, ﬁlling the void that humans have left there. The earth ﬁlls in its wounds and lives on. Potash won’t be there again, but the salt has taken residency. I have created a representation of these salt crystals in my piece. I feel like this is a perfect example of how the earth heals itself to its own beneﬁt and doesn’t much care for the humans living on it. If we take care of our environment, we can go on living here, but if we essentially commit suicide and kill the creatures around us, the earth will go on existing anyhow without us.”
4’ X 4’6’’ Bamboo, tissue paper and lcd lights
A Diamond is But a Stone 4’ X 4’6’’ Bamboo, tissue paper and lcd lights
A Diamond is But a Stone “People will spend thousands of dollars on diamonds, when really they are a relatively common entity in our world. I took inspiration from New York based artist Kirsten Hassenfeld’s ornate and decorative lanterns. I am comparing the worthlessness of my tissue and bamboo, which creates a beautiful and desirable lantern, to the desire for a cut stone that, in reality, does not have the value we place on it.”
Winter 2012 issue of Pulp Magazine, Kwantlen Polytechnic University's Arts and Literary Magazine.