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VOL. 2, ISSUE 3
• MARCH 2019
First Things 2 Masthead 4 Contributors
R O O F T O P P E R by Susan Grundy
A T M O N T E B E L L O , L A S T N O V E M B E R by Jane Callen
Flash Fiction 27
H O W N O T T O D I E I N A F I R E by Pamela Hensley
H E A D P H O N E S by Mo Duffy Cobb
T E E N S P I R I T by Amanda Feder
F O R Y O U by Sohini Chatterjee
F L O R A L S C A P E S by Emily Sweet
Z S Ó F I A A T T H E B A L L E T B A R R E by Ilona Martonfi
T R I P T Y C H by Willow Loveday Little
u s by Jeanne Perreault
U N T I T L E D by Emily Jones
B E Y O N D Y O U R C H E R R Y T R E E S , M A M M A by Sandra Sjollema
D I D O ’ S A S S E RTAT I O N I F S H E H A D E X I L E D A E N E A S F R O M C A R T H A G E by Sofie Athanasia Tsatas
U N W I L L I N G by Evi Cox
D A U G H T E R S by Lynda Lesny
W O M E N I K N O W by Danielle Wong
E M P T Y by Preeti Vyas
F R O Z E N F I R E by Mayy Elhayawa
M Y T H I C A L F O R E S T by Renée Cohen
A L L E Y C A T S by Jeanne D
CONTRIBUTORS J A N E C A L L E N (At Montebello, Last November, p.32), an emerging writer of short fiction, received a Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing, Humber University (2010) and the Krehm Mentorship, Ryerson University (2017). Her stories are published in GRAIN (Finter Street), Exile Editions (Grace), The White Wall Review (Stel) and shortlisted by the Malahat Review (Red Scare). S O H I N I C H A T T E R J E E (Poem, p.13), holds an MA in International Relations which does not explain her literary inclinations. She is from India and her poems have so far appeared in Coldnoon: Travel Poetics, Rag Queen Periodical, Café Dissensus Everyday, Quell Bell and Whisper and Roar: A Feminist Literary Collective. Chatterjee identifies as a feminist and dabbles in writing and research focused on gender and politics. M O D U F F Y C O B B (Headphones, p.16) is a freelance writer, editor and the author of Unpacked: from PEI to Palawan (Pottersfield Press, 2017). Her essays have been published in The Rumpus, Literary Mama, Damselfly Press and more. Duffy Cobb holds an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she is the Founder and Editor of Cargo Literary, a digital imprint that publishes transformational travel experiences. She lives in beautiful Prince Edward Island, and is the President of the PEI Writers’ Guild. R E N É E C O H E N (Artwork, p.37) is a freelance writer and a mixed media collage and abstract artist. Her work has been exhibited in group and solo shows in Montreal. E V I C O X (Poem, p.48) thrives on the interplay and collision of words, emotions, and sounds. A Toronto native living in Montreal, she is also an accomplished translator with a Masters and a Ph (no D).
J E A N N E D (Artwork, p.25) is a young illustrator and designer living in Montreal. She spends most of her time wondering about her place in this world and likes to stay home way too much. She might be seen sitting near these windows at the National Library, only on sunny days, if you are lucky. M A Y Y E L H A Y A W I (Poem, p.41) is an Assistant Professor of English Poetry and Cultural Studies at Ain Shams University, Egypt. She was a post-doctoral Fulbright Alumna at Stanford University, the Leader of the Fulbright Humanities Circle in Egypt, and a Guest Speaker at different universities including: Yale, UC Berkeley, UC Merced, Stanford, Florida Atlantic University, San Francisco State University, and the University of Texas, Kingsville. She has published a book titled Paradoxes of Diaspora in the Poetry of Derek Walcott and Seamus Heaney, and a number of articles and poems in international anthologies and journals including: Universal Oneness, Verbal Art, Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies, Other Modernities, among others. Her areas of research include diaspora literature, gender studies, digital humanities and media studies. She is currently the Chief Learning Officer at Experts on Demand, an IELTS Speaking and Writing Examiner at ILSC, Canada College and Conestoga College, Instructional Designer at Dawson College and Teacher Trainer at TEFL Academy, Canada. A M A N D A F E D E R (Teen Spirit, p.8) is an emerging writer from Montreal. By day, she works in television broadcasting. She was grateful to be selected for the 2018 Quebec Writers’ Federation Mentorship Program, during which this story was completed. S U S A N G R U N D Y (Rooftopper, p.42) recently changed paths, from marketing consultant to fiction writer. One of her short stories has appeared in The Danforth Review. Earlier this year, she completed 5
her first novel, a story about a hard-edged Montreal architect who breaks free from a painful ancestral cycle. Susan lives in Montreal.
Director of The Yellow Door and Visual Arts Centre Readings. QWF 2010 Community Award.
L Y N D A L E S N Y (Poem, p.30) lives in Sudbury, ON, and has had her poems published in The Pendle War Poetry Anthology, Talent North, Sulphur, Understorey, The Silver Birch Press, The Windsor Review, among others. In 2018, her poems, “Flight” and “Reconnect” were included, respectively, in the Greater Sudbury poetry projects Raining Poetry and Poetry on the Trails. She continues to attend local Open Mic events and to submit her work to Canadian and international publications.
E M I L Y S W E E T (Poem, p.20) is an awardwinning poet. She enjoys writing articles and has most recently been published in Reader’s Digest and Goodlife Fitness Magazine. Emily is an English and Philosophy student at York University who wishes to be a teacher. Her love of nature, which enhances her appreciation for life, coaxes her to create.
J E A N N E P E R R E A U L T (Poem, p.49) is an P A M E L A H E N S L E Y (How Not to Die undergraduate student at McGill double majoring in a Fire, p.27) is a Montreal writer. Her stories in English Literature and Latin American Studies. have appeared literary journals including EVENT They enjoy writing poetry, going to museums and magazine and The Dalhousie Review. Last October reading about strong women. she was a finalist in the Bristol Short Story Prize in the UK and was published in their anthology. She is S A N D R A S J O L L E M A (Poem, p.28) is currently at work on her first novel. originally from Tsawwassen, B.C. and has lived in Montreal for many years. Her poetry has been widely E M I L Y J O N E S (Poem, p.46) grew up in the published on-line and in hard copy anthologies. She north, on the prairie, and by the sea. Her poems have is the author of three poetry chapbooks, including appeared in the Denver Quarterly, Mandorla, Vallum, Where the wild lives (Sitting Duck Press, 2008) and White Wall Review (and upcoming in The Island Un/daunted in the Black and Gold (Sitting Duck Press, Review). She holds an MFA from the University of 2014). Her poetry discusses personal and political Chicago and was winner of its emerging writers issues, and sometimes both at the same time. She series in poetry. She lives in Montréal and teaches is a part-time university professor, researcher, and poetry to youth through the QWF. community organizer.
S O F I E A T H A N A S I A T S A T A S (Poem, p.26) is an aspiring writer and music historian currently pursuing her Master’s degree at the W I L L O W L O V E D A Y L I T T L E (Poem, University of British Columbia. She received her p.38) is Montreal-based writer and poet whose work Bachelor’s degree from McGill University and has appeared in The Dalhousie Review, Westmount currently spends her time between Montreal and Mag, and Write or Die Tribe. She holds a Bachelor Vancouver. Her love of reading and writing poetry of Arts from McGill University and is an active came to her in a moment of self-struggle with contributor to Graphite Publications and Medium, mental illness and so it has helped her to heal and where she holds Top Writer status in three categories. move forward. She hopes that her poetry can do the Passionate about creative process, Willow curates same for others, and she one day plans to publish the event series, “Pieces of Process.” You can find her books in both poetry and music history. on Medium, at Instagram handle @willowloveday, or on LinkedIn. P R E E T I V Y A S (Poem, p.40) is an engineering graduate student from India studying at McGill I L O N A M A R T O N F I (Poem, p.12) is the University, Montreal, Canada. You may call her author of three poetry books, Blue Poppy (Coracle an amateur artist or poet. You can frequently find Press, 2009), Black Grass (Broken Rules Press, 2012) her in old bookstores in Montreal reading her and The Snow Kimono (Inanna Publications, 2015). recent poems about life, work, nature, and love. Forthcoming, Salt Bride (Inanna, 2019) and The Sometimes, singing them in melody. She is a jolly, Tempest (Inanna 2020). Founder and Artistic optimistic person who often gets overwhelmed by
the intricacies of life and channels her thoughts through words or colors. She maintains her work in her personal poetry blog called Zenith. D A N I E L L E W O N G (Poems, p.14) is a poet and author of short fiction. She has a collection of poetry about life with a child with special needs titled Bubble Fusion. Some of her other work is found on Soft Cartel and in various anthologies, such as Lean In, The Way Through, and Overture. She showcases some of her work on her website, https:// daniellewong.ca, as well. She was born and raised in Saskatchewan, but now lives in Montreal.
N O N - F I C T I O N by Amanda Feder
n the cusp of teenagehood, I was increasingly preoccupied with a search for the elusive Cool, and suspected that this exciting, slightly nauseating sensation in the pit of my stomach was it. I brought home Live Through This, a seminal grunge album of the 90s. When I heard Courtney Love alternate between singing and screaming— her voice, throaty and off-tune—my whole body tingled and my heart sped up. I had no idea what she was screaming about, but I understood. “You’ll love her. My favourite song is ‘Teenage Whore.’ It’s so honest,” Jen said when she introduced me to Courtney Love. She was trying on her sister’s plaid skirt in front of a full-length mirror, rolling it up at the waist until the hemline cut across her upper thighs. “Does this look slutty?” Jen had invited me to her house that afternoon and soon after announced that we were best friends. By association, I was deemed equally close with her other friend, Carly. Jen was tall and thin with thick brown curls. She had a sophisticated way about her; she drank coffee and encouraged us to do the same. Carly was petite and blonde, a creative type who wrote haikus and tore holes in her jeans. They were the prettiest girls in our sixth-grade class, and I was in awe of them. I was chubby, still being dressed by my mother, and soon to be starring in a children’s production of Charlotte’s Web. “Acting must be intense,” Carly said once when I told her I had rehearsal. I had no idea what they saw in me. Both Carly and Jen had older siblings, and they mined their stuff to feed our cultural
education. When Carly shared her brother’s Stone Temple Pilots album, we listened to one song on repeat for hours. The spoken word track was called “Wet My Bed,” a focal point of the lyrics being a search for cigarettes. The singer’s voice was hoarse— his heavy breathing, scary and sensual at the same time. We decided the song was a druginduced improvisation, proud for being able to spot such a thing. “My brother gave me a puff of his smoke,” Carly confided in us as we lay on our backs on her attic f loor, listening to Scott Weiland slur his words. My heart ached with envy. While my friends kept introducing us to new cultural artifacts, perhaps in quiet competition to outdo each other, I had nothing to offer. I cursed my parents for making me their first-born and giving me a sheltered upbringing. I became irritable in their presence. My growing frustration with my life deepened my feelings of kinship with Kurt Cobain. I scoured boxes of old books and records in our basement, hoping that my mom and dad had once entertained interests of some redeemable quality that I could use to impress my friends. Sifting through a pile of dusty VHS tapes, I found a film with the handwritten label, Rocky Horror. The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack spun on the rickety family record player throughout my growing up. My sister and I choreographed dances to most of the songs in our living room. My sister insisted on wearing her pink tutu for every one of those dancing sessions. She was five years old and tiny for her age, quiet, with dark eyes and a button nose. I was four years older, and I threw her little body around
the room, barking orders and correcting her movements. We knew most of the lyrics by heart but had never seen the film. Years later, my family drove by a repertory theatre screening the movie. I was stunned to see the number of people waiting in line outside. My parents explained that these screenings had a cult following, and people would dress up in silly costumes and sing along, even throw popcorn at the screen. I watched with wonder as a young woman in line wearing a purple wig and fishnet stockings licked the cheek of the man next to her. I detected traces of sex and drugs and decided that the VHS tape would establish my proximity to both. A story about a mad alien scientist was my best shot at proving my maturity and good taste to my friends. I invited Jen and Carly over for a special showing on an afternoon I knew my parents would be out. When the girls arrived at the door with three male friends in tow, I felt a tightening in my chest. In the last year or two, male schoolmates had shape-shifted from nuisances to mystical sources of validation. “Hear this is gonna be the bomb,” one of the boys said as he passed me into the house. My cheeks went hot. Illicit spin-the-bottle games had become a staple at unsupervised social gatherings, and I wasn’t sure if their attendance signified a change in agenda. We went down to the basement. My five guests crammed together onto the large couch, the boys digging their hands into the bowls of snacks I had laid out. I turned off the light and pressed play on the VCR, pulled out a foldout chair beside them and cracked open a Coke. The smallest of the boys f licked jellybeans across the couch as a campy wedding scene played out before us. The first musical number prompted giggles, and the restless boy, emboldened by the tittering of the group, slid up onto the armrest. “Stop!” Jen squealed, her prepubescent chest now the target of a candy attack. The impish grin smeared across his face made her brutal assailant look more like an elf.
“Oh, you don’t like it?” he quipped, the multicoloured ammunition whipping through the air. His face f lushed as he triggered high-pitched shrieks from his mark. The soda began to bubble in my gut. The film wasn’t grabbing my audience’s attention as I had hoped. I shoved a handful of Cheetos into my mouth to quell my nerves. The room did go quiet for “The Time Warp.” There was no way for us to tell that the scene was iconic, that the song would be played at every high school dance and wedding and Halloween party we would go on to attend. We watched, dumbfounded, as old people in neon bow ties and cummerbunds, cheap party hats and sunglasses, jumped to the left and stepped to the right. “This is weird,” Alisa snorted, throwing her legs across a guy’s lap. I kept my eyes glued to the screen and guzzled down my pop. Soon Dr. Frank-N-Furter made his dramatic entrance, wearing heavy purple eye shadow, dark red lipstick and high platform heels. As soon as he belted out “I’m just a sweet transvestite!” the boys erupted into a performance of distaste, snickering and cursing and slapping the sofa. When the “sweet transvestite” threw off his cape to reveal a bustier, garter belt and thighhigh stockings, one boy yowled, “Shiiiiiiiiit,” stretching the word out as far as it could go. I cringed. “Shut up!” Jen commanded. She lurched forward and narrowed her eyes. “I love this,” she said with a sincerity I had only heard her use when describing her favourite icons like Kim Gordon and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Her admirer turned towards the television, still jabbing his friends’ shoulders but the impact softened. The boys’ mockery subdued, quieting to a chorus of clicking tongues. Sensing this was a moment I needed to exploit, I started mouthing the lyrics, hoping Jen would notice I knew all the words. But watching the actor strut and thrust his hips started to make me feel light-headed. I thought of my sister in her tutu, looking like a cartoon pixie, spinning and jumping in our
living room. My mother sang “Hot Patootie Bless My Soul” to my sister and I at bath time. I discovered that in the movie, this song ends with Dr. Frank-N-Furter hacking Meatloaf to death with an ice pick. “Awesome!” Alisa cackled. I plastered a smile across my face, kneading the ends of my sweater sleeves. My head started throbbing during Susan Sarandon’s “Toucha Toucha Touch Me,” where she begs for someone to make her feel “dirty.” I had heard these lyrics countless times but had somehow never bothered to ref lect on their meaning. I thought of my parents’ faces, watching our afternoon dance recitals, exchanging glances as they smiled and clapped. I mumbled an excuse to my friends, ran to the upstairs bathroom and promptly vomited. I returned to the basement and sat through the rest of the movie. At first sign of the credit roll, I lied and said my parents were on their way home. My guests got up to leave. I watched from the doorway as they filed down our front steps. Jen pivoted when she got to the end of the driveway. “Let’s watch Carrie next time!” she called back at me. I smiled and nodded. When she turned away, I noticed the logo on the back of her t-shirt for the first time. It read “Tragically Hip,” and had an illustration of a woman holding her hands up to her face, crying. I was puking for the next two days. My parents fussed over me, told me there was a bug going around at school. I didn’t mention Rocky Horror. “Do you want to watch a movie together?” my mom asked, stroking my cheek as I lay in bed. I swatted her hand away. “No, Mom, I’m fine,” I said. “Can you close the door on your way out?” I felt sick and yearned for my mother to comfort me, but I knew I had to face this alone. I wasn’t a kid anymore, and I needed us all to be on the same page about that. � 11
P O E T R Y by Ilona Martonfi
Z S Ó F I A AT T H E BALLET BARRE Swathe yourself in knit warm-ups. Unschooled. Clumsy, naïve, Step into the illusion, into the nothing, Zsófia. Black painted walls and the ballet barre, dim and dusty attic loft. Rose-pink tulle skirt. Glissando. Disembodied. Dancing en pointe. I wonder if that girl still exists as you were on that day, Zsófia? Large round windows, with a view of Montmartre. Paris. 18ème arrondissement. Bringing the body chaotic. Flattened, angular choreography. Simple, least beautiful gestures, I am touching your face. You say, I am cold and distant. Innocence. Dark and purity sides. Consumed by light. Nameless. Questions. Because I drew you into my madness. Daughter, how can this be? Swan-maiden as mortal woman.
P O E T R Y by Sohini Chatterjee
FOR YOU Writing a poem is like reaching across scalding history for you Skin peeled off flesh, bereaved, mourning archived scars for you. Writing a poem is like turning sunshine to amber, memory too hollow Weighted sorrow, failed metanoia, ossified guilt in letters for you. Writing a poem is like taming fire in full regalia, jumping off the cliff Holding my breath 90 seconds too long, heaving ashes in ink for you. Writing a poem is like courting ornate melancholiaâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;waiting for meadowlark Absent songs, so replaced with grief, laughing at amnesia, starves symphonies for you. Writing a poem is like petals a plenty forgotten on the third line in the fourth book Holding secrets in ignis fatuus, searching for the ringlet, so many scriptures were burnt for you.
P O E T R Y by Danielle Wong
WOMEN I KNOW Sustenance in Bread To my Mom
Flour flies on her face as she throws more onto the dough she kneads. With precision and imperceptible speed she packages the dough into bread pan after bread pan. She dances around the kitchen pulling out fresh bread from the oven and replaces them with new ones loaf after loaf kneaded packaged thrown in the oven pulled out of the oven. Flour flies and lands on the ceiling the floors in her hair. The last loaf finally baked she takes it out like all the other loaves. Bare-handed. Flour-handed. She smiles. We sit at the table, milk and brown sugar ready. She slices one loaf. She sits with us. After school treat. Maybe this feast will be dinner.
Calling I watched her dance with every step up and over rocks, twigs, and roots and heard her thank the trees, the rocks, the earth for guiding her. I heard voices familiar and unheard before: my mother, her father, and his. They danced alongside her and sang, and skipped, and smiled as deeper into the woods we went. I watched her dance while I was pulled up and away, torn between staying with her and joining them.
N O N - F I C T I O N by Mo Duffy Cobb
hen she puts them in, I become an advisor, an educator. I become an author, an editor of a literary magazine with comments and readers. I am a seasoned traveller, a writer scribbling madly in the dark. I am a freelancer, an English teacher propelled into the chaotic throes of entrepreneurship. A presenter, an authority, a reference—an adult. When she takes them out, I am her mom. When she puts them in, she is my little girl again, the one I nurtured and disciplined and watched grow through the ages. She is one month old, two years old, five and seven—all at the same time. When she takes them out, she is almost twelve and she wants a grilled cheese. When she puts them in, she hears her dance tunes and her hands square her face like she’s in a musicl.ly video. She bends her knee in and out in a plié, unaware that she’s doing it. My baby girl has grown into a dancer, with a body that leaps into rooms ahead of her. When she takes them out, I am a maid in the middle of my fifth load of laundry. I sort and pile and hang, folding my education degree into my Master’s degree, my world a blur of baby socks and dishtowels and an endless cycle of grass stains. I wonder if I should start working on my PhD, then become plagued with the irony of whether or not I would ever use it. When she puts them in, I become the
questioner. Have I outlined the boundaries, the daytime hours of tech talk and screen time, the dangers of the online unknown? With transitions on the horizon, she is growing up faster and faster. What is she watching, is it appropriate? She hasn’t yet tried deception, and for now she adequately self-polices. I’ll never tell her that when I was young, I tried to get away with everything. I look at her and squint. I want her to know the fear that somewhere, I am lurking. When she takes them out, she asks me what I’m looking at. Intuitive, this one. Maybe she senses a shift in me too. We are growing up together, I always tell her. The days of consent are coming, the days of nerves and new relationships and mom fears. But I try to pace my answers to her questions, and never to project the panic I sometimes begin to feel. “Nothing,” I say, and go back to planning the Home and School auction. When she puts them in, she feels grown up. She joins her friends in the Cloud, texts, laughs, and uses hashtags rhetorically. She is smart and funny. She sends her girlfriends videos, pictures, and writes messages, making jokes about the boys in her class. She has style and reputation and status, seethes a confidence that I never quite achieved. I wait for the phone to ring, wonder when the baby might wake, and wash the same dishes over and over again. I have my own life, sometimes it feels like I used to. With the oldest bridging tweenhood, the youngest a decade her junior, and a son who will start kindergarten in the fall. The age gaps are real. I catch myself thinking, “this is temporary,” to the mayhem, the midnight interruptions, and the constant ground breaking of new
frontiers, but then swallow the lump in my throat when I consider for a moment leaving all of this behind. The velocity of motherhood and the heartbreaking speed at which it passes is both its blessing and its curse.
plans to cut up her t-shirts to make purses. She’ll get an old zipper, and could I get some thread? Where is that craft box, the one with the old patches? Her ideas overflow, from tickle trunks to Halloween boxes and deep into the back of craft shelves. “Before you make new clothes,” I start, “Could you put away the ones on your When she takes the headphones out, she is floor?” When did I become no fun? planning. A sleepover this day, the mall that day. What we will do this summer, how many When she takes them out, she is the one friends she can have? The movies, adventures, who badgers me—in the middle of this one ice creams, and swimming. Where will she have article an editor is waiting for, or a proposal wifi? I tell her to slow down. She says she can’t. for an idea I must get down before it spins She reminds me so much of my younger self: away. She crashes into my world with bright, sparkling, vibrant—before age blanketed questions like, “Who is Trump anyway and me with the comfort of routine. It is so easy to why did he get elected?” Her whole class is become paralyzed with the mundane and, every upset with him. And when she walked home day, this small, wild spirit reminds me to shake with Claudie, she said he made the people go it up. home, to their home countries. As if they had a choice, Mom! Grampie’s TV has weather all When she plugs her headphones in, I the time, Mom, all the time. And she needs a badger her—re-focusing her attention on her new white shirt for choir, bigger ballet shoes responsibilities. Has she done her homework, and to go see her friends. And her science is her room picked up, has she practiced her fair project is just around the corner. And lines or studied for her math quiz or sold could I pleeeeease just let her dye her hair those tickets for the draw on Saturday? It pink. French tips, Mom. Everyone is doing it. is hard to tell where her chores finish and And she’d really like to have the class party mine begin, between fundraisers and event this year and get Dad to DJ it. He would planning and remembering the nuances of be so great at that. And could I serve ice an overscheduled life. The lines are blurring. cream cake, it is graduation from grade six after all. I ask, “Honey, did you LOSE those The internal conf lict continues. Why do headphones? Please, please would you put I only need her when she puts those small them in again?” Yes, yes, she promises, but white buds in her ears? “It’s not a competition, could I please butter some toast first? Yes, Mom,” she would say. “I love you more than anything for peace and quiet! headphones.” When she puts them in, I think of my first But something in me feels that she is Walkman and the long list of songs that travelling when she wears them—leaving for f lowed from battery operation to the human places unknown. When the headphones go cochlear. Smashing Pumpkins, Runaway Train, in, her world doesn’t collapse, it expands. It Lenny Kravitz, the Grateful Dead shows, becomes Hollywood and wrecking balls and Zeppelin bootlegs from the shops in Dublin princess rap battles. It becomes cake channels when I first left the country by myself. and tour dates and cat videos. I struggle to Phish. The music I searched for in dingy believe that people watch YouTube channels old basement record stores, in the days of on DIY fashion hacks, but she says it’s true, authenticity. You had to become an inquirer, and they have millions of followers. to follow leads looking for certain albums, to borrow and tape from your friends. Active When she takes them out, she can’t wait to tell participation. me about them. She regales me with how she
Peeling off the plastic of a new CD and reading the poems of the music inside was considered a major thrill, even if it was only a selection of the month from Columbia House. What’s it like to have all the music in the world f low straight into your consciousness? Google Play, Sonos, Spotify, all competing for your attention, marketing and advertising and commercials along for the ride. I will always remember the slowing of the music as my Walkman batteries on a long bus ride died. Siri, will she miss this? “Siri, do you love me?” she asks. The headphones pop out and she giggles. For t h e moment, the wrinkles have come out. We have built a bridge, in the dark, over time, over history. “Come on, Mom, you’re okay,” she says, comforting me and finally, reversing our roles. I am learning new skills, a new design, and gaining understanding. The information superhighway has us both journeying on new waves, as mothers and daughters. Connections haven’t changed, although AV ports may have. We have become an old tune played on a new mode, fiddlers in a grand dance. �
P O E T R Y by Emily Sweet
FLORALSCAPES The Keeper of Calla Lilies She grows into the garden she tends, Wind streaming through her hair. Bluebells stirring in response, Startled by the sudden gust, Rubbing together in reassurance. Harnessing the rush of the hose, Gnarled hands, Receiving cold refuge from the tired sun, Legs sturdy as sunflower stocks. Haphazard Hair, Toppling as wild leaves, Springing from a hedge of neglect, She abandons the bush for a flower plot, Spiking her hair as a guilty tribute, A reminder of sprouts once shaped. Cala lilies clamor, Pale petals brush, Softer than a tender loverâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s touch Poppies blush red in jealousy Stems sway Brittle seeds cluster An escalating envy The weather warms their fire Bloodlust.
She sits amidst the outrage Her cheeks flush with hope Dirt clumps to her clothes Not wanting to leave her side In return For housing grains of ground She is given garden wisdom. Powerful as a tree trunk Rooted in gentle insight She sprinkles spring water Quelling parched spirits Rivalries depart Rising as warm steam Daisies reach out in thanks Vines overlap As seamlessly as conjoined notes Words softly rustle from her lips Shivering in her throat before breaking into air. â&#x20AC;&#x153;My vibrant flowers float in my mind, Even as the moon distorts their shades, With my garden I am entwined, So as the world around me fades, With my marigolds outside, with what shall I fill my head? I could wind up my mind like ivy, But I end up in a garden of wonders instead.â&#x20AC;?
P O E T R Y by Emily Sweet
Life Beneath His Sole My dream house. Full of flowers, Devoid of flies. Filled with laughter, Starved of lies. Vines hug the sandy walls Crawling slowly, carefully. Flat feet some call leaves Pitter patter protectively The neighborhood watch comes to town, Peering eyes and rules abound These weeds adorning your fence, Don't look appealing for potential residents The dandelion heads, Held high and true, Have supported me long before you. Pull them up, they did say, Or our new gardener will head your way I spied a man of the straggler sort, The gardener tromping in. Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s victim To the beck and call of nosey neighbors. Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cloaked By wisps of dawn The grim reaper of dandelions The man they sent to uproot my weeds, Didn't have the pleasure of witnessing their fruition from seeds. The sprouts added color to snow covered ground, Telling me that hope could always be found. Reaching heavenward, they found the sun Turning yellow to match its shade Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
He began to tug, pull and huff, Floral leaves fell from their communal centers. The petals settle in sordid soil By the worms they are eagerly engulfed Yellow splashes of sunshine: Dandelions fashioned from their ancient idol, sun, Were trampled under cheap plastic work boots. Life decays fast human-made waste is built to last Decades after my dandelions disappear Those repulsive work boots will still be here What is more of value... A fleeting wonder or a lasting disgrace? Moments of life are encapsulated in time Through the gaze of my hapless dandelions So pure and innocent Hardly lasting as long as I. When they are old and gray, In one breath I can blow them away. My exhale scatters their seeds, Sending future generations into the breeze. Their life has passed us by. Yet long after I am dead, When in the casket they lay my head, The plastic in the gardener's boots will outlive me, For years after I’ve been laid peacefully. My dandelion friends, Once with a complexion of cheer, Are dust in synthetic treads The device with which they met their demise, The murder weapon. These boots survive my cries. The shoes protected the gardener's feet Ensuring it would be over soon, As he snuck to my gate at dawn Removing the “weeds” at last
Beautify the neighborhood Increase the wealth, by any means Shrugging as the chainsaws scream We need more things and less of the living! But my so-called weeds still loved me, They held firm in the ground Wanting to stand tall. Live beauties, Playing tug a war for my love, With a sigh they gave way to the gardener's glove Hands skilled in the art of removing life Clumps of their bodies lay still Upon the newly-paved road Laid in the breeze to ease the journey of new tires Enticing new buyers Buy, buy, bye. Goodbye to my yellow friends, Who now lay flat, My sunshine trampled. A streetlamp was soon erected See, a better bet than weeds But all I see are the dark shadows he leaves Casting pale yellows into darkness No cheery bright hues But the mosquitos were sure enthused Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the sun's sickly rival, He rudely intrudes through a bare window, Shining his light where heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not welcome Peeking through my eyelids Prodding me to react Reminiscent of the street-wide sea Of clipped lawns, Drenched in a shade of chemical green. Prime pickings for a potential purchaser Snuffed out, Like my hopeful dandelions, Was the light inside of me And my hope for a world joined in serendipity.
A R T W O R K by Jeanne D
A L L E Y CAT S 25
P O E T R Y by Sofie Tsatas
DIDO'S ASSERTION IF SHE HAD EXILED AENEAS FROM CARTHAGE
do you really think I needed you, that I would cry and weep and let you stay, my kingdom has prospered again since your exile the cobblestones sang when your horses hooves left their place upon them, the pillars grew taller, the people smiled and laughed, and celebrated your absence, the air smelled fresher, no more of treachery, and I, Queen of Carthage, never felt more powerful, than when I kicked off your boat to the next land that would ruin you.
F I C T I O N by Pamela Hensley
HOW NOT TO DIE IN A FIRE
arguerite had always feared dying in a fire. For years she’d lived in a luxury retirement residence with security cameras and 24-hour attendants, but she still worried that if the place caught fire, she’d never get out alive. The attendants would forget about her, or be overwhelmed trying to help other residents, or they’d run out to save themselves instead. It had happened before. It had happened in L’Isle-Verte where all those elderly people were trapped in that nursing home, and either choked to death on toxic fumes, or suffered the agony of watching their f lesh melt like candle wax from their bones. Marguerite complained to her sons about this. She told the young caregiver at the reception desk. She told the doctor who gave her a f lu shot in November. But everyone ignored her or placated her. She was just an old woman, not quite right in the head. One night in February, the fire alarm went off. Marguerite’s weak heart beat like a snared rabbit’s and her arthritic hands began to shake. Gripping the rails at the side of her bed, she managed to get up and dress in her robe and slippers unassisted. She was the first to make it to the designated gathering place and to wait beneath the exit sign. Lord have mercy. She prayed as she stood there waiting. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, please don’t let me die this way. Amen. The fire alarm kept ringing but no one else came. What’s the matter with them? They will die in their beds. They will die in the worst possible way. She looked down the hall, then around the corner, and then let herself out of the building. “I will not burn to death,” she said out loud as the metal door slammed shut behind her. It was -28°C outside the residence. Snow and sleet hit her cheeks and forehead. As the wind blew through her periwinkle robe, her jaw began to shiver so violently that the filling from one of her remaining teeth f lew out like spittle from her mouth. Above, the sky was black as ash and empty as a graveyard. She looked up, and her eyes rolled back into her head before she fainted on the slab of ice below. Marguerite lived to be ninety-three years old. �
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
P O E T R Y by Sandra Sjollema
BEYOND YOUR CHERRY TREES, MAMMA You told me not to pluck, Mamma The dark maroon cherries But I let the dark pink Petals rain down on me Over the years In silk grass I sat silent Like the good girl You wanted me to be Circled and darted me eyes To catch each shrug of wind You cleaned the houses of the rich, Mamma Had to make a living in the town With half the rainfall and the manors On the cliffs Private tennis courts Gated driveways I used to tag along
You said you had to work You said This was not The mother/daughter reunion Dust in the corners spilling Over the lines Between some kind of control And dirt I romped in the dirt in our backyard Bungalow by the beach Sat on roughness Three cracking steps Sat waiting For your blue Toyota To pass me in a dash In the blur Approaching dark
P O E T R Y by Lynda Lesny
In ten years or so The daughters of some of the men Perched at a crowded patio on a busy city sidewalk Sipping payday beer Will be old enough to become body parts. Meat to be graded on a beauty-pageant scale of One to Ten Evaluated for worth based on the “Would-You-Bang-Her?” chart. But right now family is the furthest thing from the minds of these men. And they’ve forgotten all about “checking their boys.” The drinks are working their magic. The credentials between their legs have once again taken charge of the situation And like so many times before They’ve let themselves get caught up in performing for each other. Each of them is totally absorbed in seeking approval Scoring points From the very same gaze that they aim Laser-like At all the invisible women Daughters of other men Passing by their section of the world. Just for fun They shout out crude catcalls Empty echoes of what they think the other guys want to hear. They spread their privilege like subway legs Comment loudly on the shapes and sizes of female body parts Walking by. This is just another one of their spectator sports Locker-room immunity attached
Another one of those pissing contests that they use to establish dominance To broadcast chest-beating masculinity. They’re just having fun. Later on Once they’ve parted company and made their way back to their respective homes Maybe there will be a daughter waiting A little girl who will run and greet her daddy at the door Happy that he’s made it home Back from wherever Long used to the smell of beer on his breath. Maybe the man will take a few minutes to ask his little girl about her day Once he’s showered off the world and some of its ugly dust Home being where the heart is And all of that. And maybe he’ll wonder if now is the time that he should finally let his little princess know That soon Very soon The inherited gaze of posturing males will reduce her to a plaything To a few cuts of meat An assemblage of parts built for performance But that everything will be okay Because Daddy will always be there to protect her.
F I C T I O N by Jane Callen
AT MONTEBELLO, LAST NOVEMBER
wouldn’t go out of my way to befriend Virginie, but I’m f lattered that she accepts me into her circle. She fascinates me. I wonder what remains when she peels away her public persona. Gallic and elegant. Black Merino pullover and skirt glimpsed under her open Persian fur. Around her neck a single strand of pearls. By Mikimoto, she tells me when I admire them. White lacy stockings and the solid oxford boot popular with the Holt Renfrew crowd. Hair thick, dark and straight. Possibly the result of ritual brush strokes. Hair you’d expect to see on a well-kept child. I knew only of her by reputation until yesterday, when we both arrived at Le Chateau Montebello, the resort on the Quebec side of the river. It’s a fifty-minute drive from Ottawa if you board the car ferry at Navan. It was an early day in November, so there wasn't any pack ice yet, no snow. But the ferry runs all winter because of a technological gismo that pipes hot air under the water to break up ice. Virginie is with William, the senior lobbyist with the firm. He’s also my husband's closest friend. Do competitive co-workers make friends on the job? Better to say William is my husband’s most trusted ally. Co-opted from the provincial party’s Big Blue Machine, Will orchestrated the present prime minister’s election campaign. He delivered the largest majority in history. Today, Will opens any door he chooses on Parliament Hill. Appointments with Deputy Ministers litter his calendar. He assures senior management their corporation has the ear of key players in Ottawa. Will’s been good to me too. Last year I convinced him to join the board of directors
of the non-profit where I work. I knew I was asking him to slum it. This wasn’t a position he wanted or needed on his CV, but Will joined the board. He opened doors, sent streams of funding our way, made me a winner by association. This weekend retreat at Montebello is sponsored by my husband and Will’s employer. Reward for hours they’ve put in beyond what’s reasonably expected. My husband shares this perk with me to compensate for his emotional abandonment of our marriage. That would sound harsh if I said it out loud, but it’s true. A brief respite from the stressors tainting our day-to-day life. Still, I hope for time alone, a moment together on neutral ground. Marketed as the world's largest log cabin, Montebello is a star shaped mansion nestled among firs beside the Ottawa River. The chateau hosts not only prosperous businessmen like my husband, but also politicians in power and visiting foreign dignitaries. It’s acompete contrast to the venues my employer hires for similar events. Cheap and cheerful: that’s the vibe nonprofits embrace. Deadening hours in beige meeting rooms. I attend bland business dinners where I drink modestly and keep the greens out of my front tooth gap. Worse, the after dinner mingles. Ignoring my swollen feet in knock-off designer stilettos, I make small talk with lacklustre companions. They’re bores, but they’ve got complete power over my lowly job. Whether I get to stay or leave. At work I’m the volunteer co-ordinator. I wrangle the unpaid workers who offer their skills to our cause. At Montebello I’m the wife of a superstar rumoured to be the next
executive in boardroom. His promotion may be announced this weekend. A man on his way up, the sort Montebello prefers to serve. Few expectations on me. Assume a selfeffacing demeanour, appear supportive, and behave in a manner suitable for the partner of my high-f lying spouse. Not difficult to execute, I tell myself in the mirror. Those circles under my eyes aren’t fading, not even with the faithful application of Clinique Shadow Corrector. They’re old friends, William and Virginie. In his sixties, William has cycled through several notable careers, and been married three times. Remarkably, his ex-wives remain active in his life. Will’s too charming to forget, but that charm must be a cover. He can be difficult, I'll bet. Not dangerous like men who headline the Ottawa Citizen, or men who fell their women with crossbows, or hire police informants to torch their homes while they’re away on business. Not a physical threat. Will’s blue eyes charm merely by staring at you, but when things don’t go his way, he disengages. He’s done that in a board meeting. He simply turns away. You’re left with a feeling of loss, of having failed to live up to his expectations. I imagine that’s why his wives remain in his orbit, to preserve the illusion that they meet Will’s standards. Virginie’s a media relations consultant, a pretentious title for someone who organizes events like this. She creates themed gettogethers where decision makers get down to business under the guise of being on an adventure. Will opens doors, Virginie sashays through in her Louis Vuitton booties. Montebello is a staple in Virginie’s portfolio, but it's her first time here as a guest. The rustic escape accessible from the city. A brilliant choice, Virginie. I'm stating the obvious, but she nods agreeably, and wants to know which of the activities she’s arranged might appeal to me. Education sessions on sipping champagne with the sommelier and shucking oysters with the five-star chef ? Perhaps a therapeutic body massage or the tour of an Arabian horse farm? At the open bar, we’re waiting for dinner to be announced. Onto my second pinot noir. It’s delicious and
I’m feeling fine, but my stomach rumbles, reminding me that I haven’t eaten for hours. I waive off the bartender’s offer for a refill. Slow down, don’t spoil things. She claims to be a champagne connoisseur. The tulip-shaped glass must be one third filled with the wheaten-coloured liquid. If the tiny bubbles fall into a straight line as they travel upwards, Virginie says they have great legs. She likes that kind of discipline in nature. I giggle, but she isn’t joking. She’s rather wistful. She knows the owner of the Arabian horses. Resting her lacquered fingertips on my forearm she encourages me to participate in the outing even though I don’t ride. Arabians are housed in stables cleaner than most people's homes. There’s a Baccarat crystal chandelier in the centre ring. The massage beckons to her. Lowering her voice, Virginie reveals she suffers from tendonitis. Last summer she toured Baden-Baden. In Germany, she adds, in case I’m clueless. Muds, sprays, hot springs. Merveilleux. Her hands f lutter like a clutch of pigeons hovering over breadcrumbs, fingers banded in multiple rings of silver. I remind her of the limited number of appointments she’s made available. If she’s serious about a massage, she needs to book a spot. She nods again. When Virginie nods, I feel like she’s taking mental notes for her post-event report. She wishes to tell me more about Baden-Baden, but she wants that massage, so she excuses herself to find a hotel phone. We’re nearing the end of the champagne appreciation. Virginie missed out; the bubbly did have great legs. I’ll remember to tell her. Next up, the oysters. For most of my husband’s colleagues, this is their first try at shucking. Guess they’re a burger crowd when they’re not at Montebello. When the chef inserts his knife into the tip of an oyster, my husband leans forward in the chair beside me. A burst of profanity, followed by the need for BandAids accompany the opening Malpeques in our kitchen, but when the chef slips his knife in the point the mollusc, it opens as if with a well-oiled key. My husband’s on his feet, volunteers to try his hand, curious as to why
his methodology proves a hazard. I refuse to be the wife trailing in his shadow. I stay put even though I’d like to try my hand at shucking too. The chef sautés spinach steeped in Pernod, then dollops the garnish over raw oysters on the half shell. The heat cooks the oysters. My husband’s coworkers inch towards the groaning board, nibble more politely than I imagine they scoff back those burgers. My husband is elbow to elbow with the chef. He’s forgotten that I’m in the room. The cook in our house will commit these recipes to memory, but I scribble down notes in case he needs them. Slurping back an Oyster Pernod, a colleague discovers a pearl, displays his find between his index finger and thumb. An irregular and swollen oval, not the perfect sphere of Virginie’s Mikimotos. Virginie’s in luck. This is the kind of memorable moment she hopes to create this weekend. My oyster education is spoiled by a lack of drink. There’s Perrier, but we’re out of champagne. Silver buckets on the sideboard hold upturned empties in melting ice. Poor planning. I’ll mention this to Virginie too. She’s just entered the room; she can add that to her post-event review. Virginie chooses the chair vacated by my oyster-shucking husband. She’s wearing a shearling car coat with a russet wool scarf draped about her neck. It’s the same shade as her lipstick. I envy her discipline and her attention to minutiae. Virginie arranges herself in the straightbacked stacking chair. A sturdy woman, she’s neither fat nor muscular. Her square face and even features could be called attractive, but it’s her attitude which fascinates. A regal aura —or is it hauteur? How old is she anyway? I suspect that she’s in her forties, although she could be older. She's wearing sun glasses, so I can't see the skin around her eyes. Is she hung-over? Virginie’s ram-rod posture makes for a commanding presence. Feet f lat on the f loor, her hands folded in a formal way on her lap . . . it’s easy to imagine her as a child. The gleaming hair in braids, perhaps
a worsted gray tunic with woolen stockings and oxfords not that much different from the ones she wears now. She’d have been an obedient child; Nuns drilled catechism into her head. My godless childhood required endless recitations of verse. Milton and Yeats, poetry learned by rote to the smack of a wooden ruler. “I wonder how Will’s faring with curling.” Virginie has arranged the game as an alternative to oyster shucking. "He always wins." There’s an edge in her voice as she turns away. My mention of Will offends her. Shrugging off her hostility, I join the line for Oysters Pernod. When I return, she’s gone. Sucked, slurped and swallowed. The oyster tasting’s complete and my husband is deep in conversation with a colleague by the table of spent champagne bottles. Slipping my arm through his, I meet his f lash of perfect teeth with a tight-lipped glimpse of my MasterCard-financed veneers. He returns to his conversation; I lean into him and feign wifely interest. Fight to keep a connection. There’s an unscheduled and urgent meeting which threatens to take up the afternoon, possibly most of the evening. No time together this weekend. Foolish to imagine there would be. He’s distracted, already thinking ahead. No apology for leaving me high and dry; instead, he makes clear his expectation that I participate in the social events without him, to make a good impression. Then he disappears. No backward glance or show of affection. Even an insincere embrace would be welcome. Virginie’s charging up the hallway, her dark brows threaten to knit, then she disappears too. I’m off the radar. I remind myself that at a corporate retreat, business requirements take precedence. Even at here five-star Montebello. I’m not in the mood to tour a horse stable no matter how dazzling the chandelier. A chilled bottle of champagne with great legs is more to my liking. And silence. I’ve had my fill of small talk. I don’t know how my husband does it. I guard against blurting my
incendiary interior monologue. It’s too early for champagne, so I return to our room, grab my pea-coat and duck out the west door. Just in time. The equine aficionados are gathering on the far side of the star-shaped lobby. It’s colder than I anticipated. The sun’s lost behind a bank of dirty clouds. Pulling my collar close, I rearrange my viscose scarf around my neck for maximum warmth, not fashion like Virginie. I plunge my hands into my pockets. The wind off the water stings my skin, and I forgot my gloves. The grass breaks crisp underfoot. Ice crystals gloss the stones on the path. Behind me, the dark firs and the red-cedar resort overshadow the land. Eastward, where the Ottawa River laps alongside the property, I can’t make out where the grey sky ends, and the icy waterline begins. November isn’t the best time to visit Montebello. The canoes are stacked in the boathouse. The worn wood docks lie slippery with damp. I pick my way along the shoreline, keep the log hotel at my back and feel freer with every step. I want out. That’s what I need to say to my high-f lying husband if he ever stoops to listen. I want out. There’s a man up ahead, gazing towards the river. Has he escaped the retreat too? Moving closer, I recognize Will. An inky reed in a black overcoat, set against the grey. His blond forelock whips in the wind. A gregarious wave of his leather glove in my direction. Why’s he here? Shouldn’t he be involved in whatever strategic plan is under discussion? When I reach him I’m shivering. I reveal my bare hands. Unbuttoning his coat, he pulls my blanched knuckles close. Without thought, I extend my arms. His heat burns my skin. He wraps his coat around me, and we stand like this until I break the silence. “I found you.” Adultery is an unseemly word to describe choosing love when you need it. Will unlocks the cedar-plank door of the corner suite. It’s secluded on the top f loor, removed from the block of the rooms Virginie booked for employees. At the bedside table, he turns on
the radio, lowers the volume. The mournful trumpet of Chet Baker accompanies me as I step out of my panties and jeans, then abandon them on the moss coloured carpet. I’m still wearing my t-shirt and bra. Will folds me in his arms again. This time we dance tentative steps to the jazz on the radio. My body relaxes with each stroke of his gentle hand on my bare ass. Chet finishes his song. Will’s hands run up my torso. Cool and playful. Lifting my arms above my head, he removes my bra and shirt. Nina Simone’s raspy words take over from Chet, but the mood is broken. We can’t dance to her. Will unbuttons his blue plaid f lannel shirt. The one he wore curling earlier. Reveals a thicket of golden hair trailing down his chest. Unlike my husband, a hairless breed of man. Aroused by Will’s nakedness, I find myself reaching for his belt buckle. I want more of this. Three wives. Will understands what pleases a woman. He enjoys discovering the idiosyncrasies of our lovemaking. He’s amused by my confession that I’ve never been with an uncircumcised man. Invites me to feel the pleasure of this act. The last time my husband and I had sex he was keen to be done in time to catch the eleven o’clock news. “He’s a son of bitch. Don’t know how you put up with him for so long.” Filling the Jacuzzi under the bay window, Will blesses it with the complimentary bottle of Mumm’s from the gift basket. I’d rather drink it, but he finds this gesture romantic. Lighting a thick ivory candle, he dims the overhead fixtures. Candles are a fire hazard in the red cedar hotel, but Will isn’t much given to playing it safe. The jets tumble the water and when it’s warm enough he lifts his lean legs over the side, offers me his hand. We stretch out, limb to limb. His arms, the golden hairs f lat and wet, enfold me. “You deserve better.” I reach to kiss his cheek, content to forgo the Arabian stable with its Baccarat crystal chandelier. When my husband demands to know why I didn’t follow his instructions, I’ll tell him it's because I deserve better. �
A R T W O R K by Renée Cohen
P O E T R Y by Willow Loveday Little
I made you my altarpiece. Even your well-balanced hinges Were washed gold by candlelight. I. You are made of three men Who confront the origin From three cardinal directions. I am the North Star. I picked you Because I love being flanked By symmetry: On the outer panels, Two triplets in stride And one right down the middle Carry my litter, mirrored In profile from torso to the illuminated Gilding of your genitals And identical Roman toes. I am Aroused by palindromes.
II. Cracked tempera outlines are An eagle’s view of a dusty canyon. You are stronger together. Together. My holy men. Quarrel wastes breath but You don’t breathe. A painting is Lungless, so sleep Your air away; Oxidation corrupts plywood. III. Circles eat themselves into Stupor but triangles elect A leader whose throne Is acrid incense. Burns them stable. The pyramids are proof. False idols are a joke to Me. My laughter Echoing against the space between Shards of stained glass bright enough To reach fingers to the Madonna’s Image, like the lung’s alveoli Grasping at the throne’s cusps Is the only testament I desire.
P O E T R Y by Preeti Vyas
I thought of making some tea last night, To fill my empty body up, With something warm. But you know, everything is dead cold inside, I couldn't feel the warmth, The tea dripped in the hollow chamber within me. I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t feel it moving, It dripped down my throat, hitting the abyss, I have lost the sensation. My legs are shivering, My fingers are numb, My eyes are sunken. I need someone to prepare the fire for me To heat up my feet and my whole body, It's icy cold, I am telling you.
P O E T R Y by Mayy Elhayawa
She can hear his voice But lives in silence She used to see his face Before blindness She can smell his smoke But her fire is frozen He intrudes into her loneliness But her skin is dead Her heart is motionless She doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know Why she survived so long.
F I C T I O N by Susan Grundy
iam was six when he started to shimmy up the doorway moldings. “Look Mom!” he’d cry from the ceiling. “No hands!” Lena tried to discourage him. “Why don’t you play hockey or soccer like a normal kid?” she would ask, but there was no stopping the climb that carried her son through boyhood and adolescence, from doorways to signposts to the roof of their house and all the other roofs in their neighbourhood. The taller he grew, the greater the assent. The therapist said he would grow out of it. Lena was not so sure, but she carried on as single mothers do. “I’m glad you’re here,” she confessed to the police when they came knocking on her door —incriminating words that she later denied. Although she was angry with her idiot son, Lena had no intention of testifying against him. She claimed to be ignorant about his YouTube video, the one responsible for the new silver strands in her hair, the same video that had blown up on social media The police forced her to watch the footage, all eyes upon her. “Do you recognize your son’s baseball cap?” they asked. “No comment.” “Does it bother you, what he does?” one of the cops whispered, hoping for a confession. “Breaking into abandoned buildings, hanging off forty-story buildings? What do the kids call it? Urban exploring? Urbexing?” Lena said nothing. The police lingered for hours, waving their search warrant, checking every drawer, every closet. They confiscated cell phones, computers, camera equipment. Before leaving, they locked Liam’s wrists in handcuffs. “Looks worse than it is,” Liam told her. As Lena closed the door behind them, she heard the neighbours congregating on the sidewalk, her privacy now invaded on both
sides of the front door. Her son had gone too far this time. Liam returned home victorious, the evidence too thin for a conviction. Urbexing had triumphed over the legal system. It was clear to Lena that her son had learned nothing, and had every intention of carrying on as usual. The video of Liam, teetering on the edge of oblivion four hundred feet in the air, played over and over in her mind. She couldn’t sleep. But when she explained to Liam that his urbexing was slowly killing her, he simply took Lena's hand, and told her not to worry. Lena stared down at the fingers she loved so much wrapped around her own, and the germ of an idea began to form. At five o’clock on a Friday afternoon, Lena pushed against the revolving doors of the Imperial Bank Tower in Downtown Montreal, and made her way against the crowd of exiting office workers. The guard behind the security desk turned away to answer the phone. Lena waited for the elevator to be empty, and then stepped inside, pressing the top button for the 40th floor. As the door was closing, a tall man with a briefcase slipped inside, and studied the panel before retreating to the far corner of the elevator, diagonally across from Lena. He tapped his feet while they were hurtled upwards, his Louis Vuitton loafers gigantic next to Lena’s sneakers. She watched the numbers flash on the panel. When the door opened onto the 40th floor, Lena rushed into the hallway, tripping over the grey-blue carpeting. Her knapsack fell to the floor. “Can I help you?” the tall man’s voice called from behind her. She stopped and turned. The skin on his face was smooth and flushed. He looked young enough to be Liam’s older brother. “I’m looking for Blake & Smythe.” She remembered the law firm’s name from a sign in the lobby.
“Their offices are on the 30th.” He eyed the backpack with either curiosity or suspicion–– Lena wasn’t sure. “Your first time here?” he asked. “I’m familiar with the building.” It wasn’t a lie. She’d watched Liam’s video at least fifty times. He pressed the down button for the elevator, and showed no sign of leaving. “Think I’ll take the stairs. I need the exercise.” Lena sprinted towards the flashing exit sign that she recognized from the video. Inside the stairwell, she steadied herself against the concrete wall, and studied the bright red steel of the rooftop door looming from the top of a narrow set of metal grated steps. The door appeared more intimidating than on film, and she considered that it might now be connected to an alarm. She pulled down on the metal bar, and then pushed. The door didn’t budge. She pushed harder. Nothing. “You’ve got to be joking!” Lena hurled every part of her raging motherhood against the steel. The door yielded. Lena held her breath waiting for the deafening bell or shrill siren, but the only noise came from the high-pitched whistle of rushing air. She stepped outside and the door slammed shut behind her. The force of the wind whipped Lena’s long hair in every direction, blinding her. She crouched down and pulled out a camera and a black ski mask from the knapsack. After adjusting the mask on her face and tightening the straps of the knapsack, she set out to follow the phantom footsteps of her son. Later that evening, Lena wrote the first entry in her journal. The rooftop swept away the anger towards my son, and the tedium of responsibility weighing on my shoulders. No longer playing the starring role, I graduated to a silent spectator. What a performance! Under the sky’s unfathomable vastness, the sinking sun illuminated the city with her fabulous golden light. Everything else paled in comparison. For a precious moment, nothing mattered.
Lena did not mention in her journal how the door had refused to open, that she was stuck on the rooftop, how she made an unforeseen phone
call for help, and forty-five minutes later a palefaced Liam had flung open the red steel door. She didn’t have to record any of this. It was all caught on film. “See how it feels?” Lena asked her son through the lens. Liam was quiet that evening. They ordered Indian food, and watched her video. Lena helped herself to seconds. Liam barely touched his plate. He asked his mother to swear that she'd never pull a stunt like that again, or post anything on the Internet. Lena asked what he would promise in return. Neither agreed to anything. *** A year has passed. Last spring Liam graduated from college, and moved into his own apartment on the other side of the city. Tonight he treats his mother to dinner. Lena checks the weather before changing her clothes and stepping outside. It is almost midnight when she crouches down on the gravel and grabs on to the gutter rail, expertly swinging her legs over the edge of the roof. Her dusty shoes dangle seven stories above street level. A bitter wind bites on the bare skin on the small of her back where the windbreaker rides up. She adjusts her ski mask. Breath softens. Heart calms. This is her favorite moment, the one that follows the inspiration, the planning, and the uncertainty of what might happen. She has arrived safely at tonight’s destination. Perched on this rooftop under the night canopy, Lena feels alive. Clouds recede, the atmosphere clears, and shadows become transparent. Lena leans forward to peer down at the street. This is not the highest rooftop she has navigated, not even close, but the days are numbered for this abandoned building, once a garment factory. Tomorrow, it could be sitting in concrete rubble. Later tonight, while the details are still fresh, Lena will record notes in a journal for the book she will one day write. In the meantime, she reaches for her camera. The sound of crunching gravel. Lena turns her head as the flash from a lighter reveals the faces of two teenagers. Confident the boys
will keep their distance, Lena looks to the east where the full moon has paused directly above the Imperial Bank Tower; hovering like a luminescent large dot of exclamation. “Perfect,” she whispers, and takes a photo. Lena looks to the north where Liam is fast sleep. She thinks of quitting her job, and exploring other cities. For now, she swings her dangling legs back onto the roof and brushes the gravel dust from her jeans. The two teenagers say nothing as she heads for the fire escape. They’ve heard the stories about a middle-aged woman with a black ski mask who never speaks. There’s a rumor among the city’s outlaw explorers that to cross her path on a rooftop is a sign of good luck, like receiving a mother's blessing. It is the boys' lucky night. They stand and salute her. �
P O E T R Y by Emily Jones
UNTITLED I I used to side with the universe I trusted the wind and its wildness I leaned between the trees like a lanky treat Now I stamp out every arrogant thought Every gem I turn into a stew I've learned that my heart is small, my mind is small, and my hands are small, twinkling like toys at the end of my limbs Like the witchy one, I exert my will in the woods of light and shadow I sleep on a heap small enough for a child
II My family possessed the major quality of valor But someone planted the seeds of fear and doubt, we came tumbling down The women of my family were known for their black eyes that flashed My eyes turn to mist and fade at the sight of things I have the qualities of an aging woman The wavering voice, the worried expression, the tell-tale precision and imprecision of my manner Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s enough to make one want to be a man or to go tumbling down in an act of valor Sword flashing in the hand in the field 46
III When the wind truly blows, will this little one of the mass, pipsqueak of the farm, flow like grass? I will be long gone I will have walked in the wind and passed on many hundred years before On what side did I step? I walked like an Egyptian I went the human way My whole body, like a skeleton, music in the air Oh, what will those hands grab next! They said What messages will pop out from the jaw, what ideas from that bowl for a head? What will those knees do? What will her hips say when she walks? Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d gone to preach to the smallest of things, my red lips parted Nope, nothing of note! So what if God made me his little mute I heave as a slave heaves, by the sheer will of my stance Sheer will! From dawn of time, the end of his disc
P O E T R Y by Evi Cox
"superwoman!" they caw you can't be her, do all that! and i wonder did anyone ever ask her if she wanted to be "superwoman?" perhaps: we are what we are by default.
P O E T R Y by Jeanne Perreault
not a cry for help, it’s a resolved, half-choked sob. it’s raking through my body, i feel it running in my blood, ripples coming at the surface but never breaking the skin. it stays deep undersea, beside sunken thoughts and fears; it shrinks from the surface, we form a great pair. they can see the ripples on my skin as a mildly disturbed river, vindication, they cannot see the tumultuous sea beneath, where the waves crash against one another violently, dark like blood; this is how the single tear forced out finds its way into the vessels – troubling the whole body – never letting it rest.