September 2022 RCLAS Ezine Wordplay at Work, Issue 93

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Evelyn Lau is a lifelong Vancouverite who has published thirteen books, including eight volumes of poetry. Her memoir, Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid, published when she was 18, was made into a CBC movie starring Sandra Oh in her first major role. Evelyn's prose books have been translated into a dozen languages; her poetry has received the Milton Acorn Award, the Pat Lowther Award and a National Magazine Award, as well as nominations for the Governor-General's and a BC Book Prize. Evelyn's work has appeared in over a hundred magazines and anthologies, including the Best American Poetry and Best Canadian Poetry series. From 2011-2014, she served as Vancouver's Poet Laureate; she has also served on numerous national grant and prize juries. Evelyn's most recent collection is Pineapple Express (Anvil, 2020).




Write On! Contest 2022 Poetry Winners & Honourable Mentions


10th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2022 Poetry First Place Winner Jessica Lee McMillan Interloper The first to be accused of robbing the good Captain were local Indigenous men and the bullet hole is still wedged in the doorframe by the white thieves who put it there Accessory to precarious lives, the house stands in limbo of livelihood and trespass When I enter, an interloper, I rewind generations back, and un-nest cultural selves in each room, a settler, an immigrant's child touring false pasts; a witness out of time on these front steps This colonial inheritance lords a hilltop named for presiding ghosts but not the ghosts it made in its providential prime This house is a tenuous threshold sooted in knowing its golden wallpaper curls in detritus networks, feather fine atop bones of brutality Under its garden of opulent flowers, opiate trash blooms from Royal Ave


10th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2022 Poetry Second Place Winner Alan Girling tree cognition ‘As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there

are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know.’ –Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense

so much going on with trees that I don’t know— layers of bark furrowed peeling leaves variegated needling the riotous serpentine intertwine of roots sheer multiplicity obscuring flowers too though more tenderly trunked are unfinished Gaudis in the garden primary in palette petals coyly whorled slyly sepalled true shades and taxonomies unnamed by me thus unseen are through ancient and cyber texts among the known knowns but once then twice removed granting the known unknowns bark and pith grow silent grain enslaved to a shortfall of tree cognition as when we rowing galleys in straitened spheres


worth rent to the sum of nerves and skin are ground to mere toil timber bound in booms— as when the knowing of unknown unknowns no longer seeds sanctity awe things thus revealed scarcely growing


10th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2022 Poetry Third Place Winner Susan McCaslin Drawing Four Breaths water, earth, air, fire circulating through the all in all hold what cannot be spoken boxed or caged all possibilities here now including even the dark heart that would destroy to preserve its power Yet still a greenness flares where rivers contour love from love gathering in streaming arms the jostled, unjusticed poor who would if they could resound their whys and needs not merely to be saved for heaven but to be heavened here on earth Spotted owls’ hoots and whistles ignored by ears attuned to economies of extraction signal intimations of extinctions Yet hidden in the racket of cities that block out the stars a quietness whispers reminding us that we more witless than the creatures are music longing to sing fire, air, water, earth four long breaths away from home


10th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2022 Poetry Honourable Mention Celeste Snowber Water Litany It was the colours that bent her body towards the earth a prayer to the sea tiny opalescent gems gleamed through mud pebbles, twigs and shells shaded green weeds of sea rhythm of bending reaching and picking gathering and releasing placing and holding in pockets— tiny jewels of the sea formed in the tango between wind and tides she too was shaped by gusts, wind and oceans woman of seascapes this one gesture arms and shoulders hips and pelvis leaning close to earth a litany to water, hands in sand and salt sea glass and mud she dropped down where timelessness and grace entwine to inhabit her past— fluidity, bypass the shards of her own scars luminous.


10th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2022 Poetry Honourable Mention Dean Gessie Diary of a Dead Eel Boy at the wane of day my father and I would strike out small in tall rush and long shadow greasy wellies and waders orange and blue through kloo-ik kloo-ik and a-wick and a-wick my father and I would navigate fruiting bodies upright catkins and egg-shaped leaves down to bat song air at crag point o’ dark and the one twisted ash and succulent grasses split the green curtain he did with his club-fingered hand and bid me break my slipping gait with the sober refrain care is the order while hopping goat-like scree and rock chimney at river’s edge we left good altitude leaned one the other on sharp degrees waterward and entered the lair of the eel down to the killing stone mucked with bone gut and gill dark now darker on the face of father’s eyes flint knives for sacrifice and organ dissection he ran silence through nocturnal notes and brackish molecules blood spores in the nose spillers he’d take and drive the stakes like a looney railman laying bed and ties into the sea gather line and hook under foot and stab a worm fatway short to make show of the ends out went the line and sinker straight points aft of entry and father and I bent crooked obtuse and tautness in the hands that were the sign of a true lay or untold fears coal lorry black behind him I stumbled hammering spare stakes tossing hooks and smelling and hearing blind and always the glup of water and kee-ik of little owls and the dank of sulphur salt and nettle through sand and heron shit we skittered palm-reading nylon and slack for hunger and urge shoring up spillers and skirting carbon rust of hippo tusk and macaque jaw and dung beatle and then he bade me do that thing that was holy of holies and life for life and seed for seed but come the shot recoil and treadless boots come the slip fall and lumbar shock at sedge bar and bubbling ho! and breathless hee! and gasp and pee and neck and ice and skin and smart and entropy and amber trilobite and salt shad and mud fart and snot jelly and black hole and father cursing the weight of the boy and sinkers of melted led and iron pipe and always the hook and the mouth and the boy’s leg for anchor and bloody minutes cut into his hands until the earth gave way at the bottom of the world to the mud golem and the O-mouthed oily thing wrapped long at his leg and father looking fire-eyed and hellbent at eel and eel boy and stomping spineless and clubbing paste-wise the jaw eyes and tooth plates in its ugly face and returning next day with the sober refrain care is the order and spillers worms and hooks.


10th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2022 Poetry Honourable Mention Alvin Ens I Am the Poem I am the poem conceived in ecstatic experience shaped in embryonic thought birthed in burst of labour thrust into context of culture coddled or condemned I am the poem shaping history shaped by history being understood I understand graduating green and glowing pummelled into publication to please or perish I am the poem an infinitesimal pebble on plain or path perhaps weighted fingered chosen sheathed and slung to slay the next Goliath I am the poem praised into local saint or sage a speck in the universe to be entered into history as a footnote


2022 RCLAS Write On! Contest Poetry Winners & Honourable Mentions

Jessica Lee McMillan is a poet and educator who has worked in non-profits helping people with barriers for 15 years. She has a Master’s Degree in English and is enrolled in The SFU Writer’s Studio for 2022-2023. Her work has appeared in dozens of journals and literary magazines across Canada and the US, including Train Poetry Journal, Pinhole Poetry, GAP RIOT Press, Antilang, Blank Spaces, Red Alder Review, SORTES, Lover’s Eye Press, Tiny Spoon and others. She is grateful to be a member of RCLAS and is a member of The League of Canadian Poets. She has just completed her first chapbook. A first generation Canadian, Jessica is a settler who lives in New Westminster on stolen and unsurrendered lands of the Halkomelem-speaking People and, in particular, the Kwantlen, Kwikwetlem and QayQayt First Nations. See more about her work on jessicaleemcmillan.com.

Alan Girling

writes poetry, mainly. His work has been seen in print, heard on the radio, and viewed in shop windows. Such venues include Panoply, Hobart, The MacGuffin, Smokelong Quarterly, FreeFall, Galleon, Blue Skies, The Ekphrastic Review, CBC Radio and the streets of New Westminster, BC. He is happy to have had poems win or place in local poetry contests and to have had a play produced for the Walking Fish Festival in Vancouver, B.C.

Susan McCaslin has published sixteen volumes of poetry, including her most recent, Heart Work (Ekstasis Editions, 2020). Her selected poems, Into the Open,was published by Inanna Publications in 2017. In 2012 Susan initiated the Han Shan Poetry Project that helped save an endangered rainforest near her home outside Fort Langley, BC.


2022 RCLAS Write On! Contest Poetry Winners & Honourable Mentions

Celeste Nazeli Snowber, PhD

is dancer, poet, writer and educator who is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at SFU. She has published widely and her latest collection of poetry (2021) is The Marrow of Longing. She can be found at www.celestesnowber.com or dancing between the land and sea. Photo Credit Michele Mateus

Dean Gessie

is an author and poet who has won dozens of international awards and prizes. Among other honours, Dean was included in The 64 Best Poets of 2018 and 2019 by Black Mountain Press in North Carolina. He also won the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award in England, the Allingham Arts Festival Poetry Competition in Ireland, the Creators of Justice Literary Award from the International Human Rights Art Festival in New York and the UN-aligned Poetry Contest in Finland. Dean’s short story collection – called Anthropocene - won an Eyelands Book Award in Greece and the Uncollected Press Prize in Maryland. He has a book of poetry forthcoming [goat song] from Uncollected Press.

Alvin Ens

was a high school English teacher. He calls himself a mentor, editor, poet, and writer of prose; he is a member of Fraser Valley Poetry Society and Fraser Valley Christian Writers and several clubs beyond. In 2005 the Abbotsford Arts Council awarded him Abbotsford’s outstanding literary artist.


2022 WRITE ON! CONTEST COMMENTS FROM OUR POETRY JUDGE NATALIE HRYCIUK POETRY WINNERS Poetry First Place: JESSICA LEE MCMILLAN – INTERLOPER Poetry Second Place: Alan Girling – tree cognition Poetry Third Place: Susan McCaslin – Drawing Four Breaths Poetry Honourable Mentions Celeste Snowber – Water Litany Dean Gessie – Diary of a Dead Eel Boy Alvin Ens – I Am The Poem First Place Interloper by Jessica Lee McMillan There is so much to admire in Interloper, a skillfully crafted, tightly structured poem that uses richly layered language. The poem draws the reader in on the first read, and invites us back for multiple readings, each one yielding new meaning. The poem centres on Irving House, a famous historic landmark in New Westminster which was built in 1865 for Captain William Irving, who operated sternwheelers on the Fraser River during the Gold Rush and became a prominent citizen of New Westminster. Built of California redwood and consisting of 14 rooms, it was described at the time as the “handsomest” house in B.C., clearly intended to display his prosperity and status. But Interloper has less to do with the construction of the house and more to do with deconstructing the past. As hinted at in “false pasts” and “witness out of time,” our views of the past are shaped by our own cultural and racial identity, and the times we live in. This poem challenges conventional views of history, shifting the reader’s perspective with words carrying multiple shades of meaning; for example, the interloper in the poem is the speaker, but in another sense the captain, a colonial settler, is also an interloper. The poem begins like a good story, introducing not only characters and conflicts but themes as well – power, racism – using strong images that centre on a robbery that left a bullet hole in the doorframe of the house. The first three lines of the poem draw our attention to the fact that there is more than one version of a story – “white thieves” were responsible for the bullet hole, but “local Indigenous men” were the first to be accused when the “good Captain” was robbed. The word “good” is significant. A man of his stature would have expected respect; good is used as if it's inseparable from his title as Captain, meaning his integrity came with his status in the community and was not be questioned. Although we are not told who made the false accusation, it’s implied that he expected his word to be believed against the word of indigenous men. To the reader it’s clear the accusation was motivated by racism, so a seed of doubt is planted in our minds regarding the integrity of the captain, and good acquires a tinge of irony (try reading it out loud with air quotes). That tone of irony, of scepticism, continues throughout the poem. Just as the bullet hole is “still wedged in the doorframe,” the imbalance of power in this story also stays wedged in our minds as we read the rest of the poem.


Online descriptions of Irving House emphasize that it’s still intact; other homes from that era have not survived. Also, great pains have been taken to restore it to its former glory, making the restorations as authentic as possible. For example, the original gold wallpaper on its parlour walls was cleaned and restored, removing 130 years of soot. However, in the poem the house is described as an “accessory to precarious lives” and a “tenuous threshold,” making ghosts “in its providential prime.” The house may have been built on Nabob Hill, a prestigious residential district, but the poem exposes the precarious nature of power and prestige. One of the most powerful images in the poem are the sooty curls of golden wallpaper “in detritus networks, feather fine/atop bones of brutality.” The poem keeps drawing attention to images of decay and destruction that lie beneath the restored walls of this house. The house was built to reflect the genteel aspirations of the newly rich colonialists, but words and images in the last two stanzas remind us of the proximity of decay and instability. “Opiate trash blooms from Royal Ave” – what a potent image – especially when you read aloud the line to hear the assonance in opiate and royal. Second Place tree cognition by Alan Girling tree cognition is a reflective, lyrical inquiry into our relationship with trees. It is a timely poem; reading the title may put you in mind of recent discoveries by tree ecologists that indicate trees not only communicate with one another but perform other cognitive processes. You may be thinking of Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, by Suzanne Simard, published in 2021. However, this poem has less to do with the cognition that trees possess, and more to do with our limited cognition of them, and the consequences of those limitations. The first two stanzas of tree cognition focus on the speaker’s awareness of how little they know about trees – “so much going on with trees/that I don’t know.” What follows this simple prosaic declaration are nine lines written in a completely different style. They are rich with language that conveys the beautiful complexity that the speaker observes in both trees and flowers. By comparing the flowers to “unfinished Gaudis in the garden” the poet seems to be saying that plant life possesses an architecture of its own that rivals what humans are capable of creating. The second to fifth lines of the first stanza are a pleasure to read aloud – listen to the repetition of “r” in these words – “layers of bark furrowed peeling…the riotous serpentine intertwine of roots.” The choice of language in these two stanzas mimics the mysterious processes going on beneath the surface, processes the speaker can’t see and admits to not understanding. Assonance, alliteration and consonance are used liberally, and words that relate to plants, such as trunk and sepal (I had to look this one up), are arranged in interesting and unusual combinations, as if a new language is needed to describe what we don’t know. Language is used playfully and melodically, as in “coyly whorled slyly sepalled.” In stanzas two to six, the poem expands. The desire to know what’s “going on with trees” is shared by others; the rest of the poem makes clear that humans are ruled by the need to know and understand the world around them. Above all, humans feel a need to create taxonomies of knowledge. The epigraph, a quote from Donald Rumsfeld, is an effective way to introduce this often obsessive need to categorize. The rest of the poem is a wonderful extrapolation of the quote. What happens when “bark and pith grow silent”? What happens when we don’t even know what we don’t know? Is it possible that much of value is lost simply because we don’t value what we don’t know or understand? In Stanzas 4 and 5 concise language and images are used to convey the utilitarian aspect of our approach to trees – they become “timber bound in booms,” and, like “rowing galleys” who cannot see because they steer a ship from below the upper deck, there is a lack of vision in our approach.


The poem ends on a powerful image. The word “growing” has a double meaning. The “knowing of unknown unknowns” is consequential for trees – they stop growing in our value or estimation, no longer inspiring a sense of “sanctity/awe.” In a more literal sense, trees also stop growing, as we neglect to protect old growth and mismanage the harvesting and planting of trees.

Third Place Drawing Four Breaths by Susan McCaslin Drawing Four Breaths is a beautiful and poignant poem that resonates with echoes of the Romantic poets, particularly William Wordsworth. The poem draws on a concept familiar to some yoga practitioners, who believe that reconnecting to the four natural elements – water, earth, air and fire – helps us to connect to our own inner nature. The inhalation and exhalation of breath is essential to yoga practice, and we see this reflected in the last stanza, especially in the last line – we are “four long breaths away from home.” Each stanza in the poem uses lyrical, nuanced language that contributes to the poignant tone as a whole. In the first stanza, simple, one-syllable verbs convey the ephemeral quality of the four elements, which “hold what cannot be spoken/ boxed or caged.” These verbs also draw attention to an emerging theme in the poem – that humans are destroying themselves and the natural world by subjugating everything to their greed and thirst for power. The tensions in human nature are reflected in nature; stanzas 2 and 3 contrast the destructive tendency in us with our impulse to reach out and take in our “streaming arms/the jostled, unjusticed poor.” Water is used here as a powerful metaphor for both the life-giving and destructive properties of human nature – what gorgeous phrasing and imagery – and the effective repetition of “r” sounds unifies this stanza. The poem continues to move between the tensions established in the first three stanzas. Stanza 4 points to the pious and self-righteous in our nature; even when we are motivated by a desire to do good, we don’t listen to the “unjusticed poor,” thinking that they need to be “saved for heaven,” not “heavened here on earth.” Notice the parallel use of language here that turns nouns into adjectives. Stanza 5 introduces sound imagery which conveys the most explicit critique of human behaviour – we ignore the “hoots and whistles” of spotted owls, our “ears attuned/to economies of extraction/signal intimations of extinctions.” These four short lines, in themselves ‘economical,’ convey so much, and resonate with the feelings expressed by Wordsworth, in his sonnet, The World is Too Much with Us: The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours In another poem, Intimations of Immortality, Wordsworth’s speaker mourns the loss of the connection he used to have with the natural world. The last two stanzas of Drawing Four Breaths echo this expression of longing. “Hidden in the racket of cities” is a “quietness” that reminds us we long to transcend our human bonds and be one with the natural elements. It is our “home,” but we are removed from it by “four long breaths.” At the end of the poem, a beautiful circle is completed as the poet returns to the four elements the poem began with.


Poetry Honourable Mentions:

Water Litany by Celeste Snowber Form and content work so well together in Water Litany, which moves in a rhythmic, hypnotic flow that simulates the movement of waves. A “woman of seascapes” bends to dip her hands in “sand and salt/sea glass and mud.” The line breaks and use of present participles – “bending/reaching…gathering and releasing” – contributes to the flow and the poem culminates in a beautiful last line – “shards of her scars/luminous.”

Diary of a Dead Eel Boy by Dean Gessie Diary of a Dead Eel Boy offers an extravaganza of language that immerses the reader in the multi-sensory experience of a boy going eel fishing with his father. This poem needs to be read aloud so that the use of sound devices can be fully appreciated. The poem is rich in sensory images. A few examples: “dank of sulphur salt and nettle”; “oily thing wrapped long at his leg”; “kloo-ik kloo-ik.” The poem is also enriched by vivid metaphors – “like a looney railman laying bed and ties into the sea” and “untold fears coal lorry black.”

I Am the Poem by Alvin Ens I Am the Poem is a highly imaginative poem that plays with both language and ideas. It contains an abundance of alliterative verbs and personification, as in “coddled or condemned,” and “pummelled into publication/to please or perish.” The poem sizzles with humorous and hyperbolic touches that every poet can relate to. We all hope that our poem, “an infinitesimal pebble,” will be “chosen/sheathed and slung/to slay the next Goliath,” but the self-effacing voice of the poet reminds us that the poem may “be entered into history/as a footnote.”

POETRY READINGS Jessica Lee McMillan reads “The Interloper” Poetry in the Park, Aug 10, 2022 Video - https://youtu.be/qHkg5_lzN7g Alan Girling reads “tree cognition” Poetry in the Park, Aug 31, 2022 Video - https://youtu.be/ddvLnm-mTk8



Find the Write on! Contest Fiction winners in our Summer 2022 issue https://issuu.com/rclas/docs/june_sum mer_2022_ezine_issue_92 featuring stories by Marlett Ashley Wren Handman Janaya Fuller Evans Dean Gessie Alvin Ens DK Eve Watch for our 2022 Non-Fiction Winners to be featured in our next issue!







Peanuts by Jerena Tobiasen

Photo: Grandpa and the two boys I’ve had a great life. I’ve created a cozy home amongst the trees and spent most of my time foraging for food. I’ve rarely ventured far from home. . . until the day the old man came. It had been a quiet spring and was still too early for most vacationers to arrive at nearby campgrounds and cabined resorts. I had heard voices and chaos when the old man and his companions arrived the night before, but I didn’t rise to greet them. The next day, the sun slowly crested the mountains and by late morning its warmth began to embrace the cool fresh-water lake that lapped at the shore mere feet from my home. With it came a strong odour of frying bacon and maple syrup. I preferred seeds, nuts, berries and fungi. I also enjoyed small frogs and bird eggs when they were in season. Sometime after noon, when the sun shone stronger on the lake, I noticed the old man for the first time. He was pale in colour, as if he’d spent the entire winter indoors. The few wisps of hair that sprouted from his pink scalp were devoid of any colour, but the sun glinted off it making it look silvery. He reclined on a flimsy folding chair that sagged under his weight, a newspaper spread across his chest as if shielding him against the day. He looked remarkably similar to many others I’d seen occupy the cabin that nestled among the fir trees behind him. Two young boys popped out of the bush and engaged him in conversation.


“Can we go fishing yet, Grandpa?” asked one of the boys. “Soon,” the grandpa answered. “I’d like to finish reading my paper first.” “Grandma said you’d take us fishing this afternoon,” the smaller boy insisted. “I will. Just let me finish the paper, then we can put the row boat in the water.” “Okaaaay,” the boys sighed in unison and disappeared into the cabin. “Grandma, did we bring peanuts?” Peanuts! Whoa! Now they have my attention! “Over there,” the grandma answered, but I couldn’t see where there was. I heard several noises from within the cabin and presumed the boys were searching. “Found them!” a young voice shouted. The cabin’s screen door banged behind the boys as they returned to the grandpa’s side, the older boy carrying the bag of peanuts. I had a penchant for peanuts. They were not indigenous to my area and only appeared with the vacationers. Not all vacationers, mind. Just the ones who knew that some of the local residents are fond of them. I scooted over to the edge of the clearing and waited. My nose twitched as I inhaled the heady aroma of fresh peanuts. I tiptoed from beneath the brush and froze, waiting to see whether they’d notice me. “Look Grandpa!” the younger boy shouted. He was pointing at me. But for my twitching nose, I remained motionless.


“That’s a chipmunk, right grandpa?” the older boy asked. “Does it have stripes on its face?” the grandpa asked. “Yes,” the older boy answered, crouching down to better examine me. “His coat is reddish with black and white stripes and he has white lines around his eyes.” “He looks like he’s wearing a mask,” the younger boy interrupted. When the older boy stood up like a human, he still held the bag of peanuts in his arm, unopened. I took three tentative steps toward him and froze again, willing the bag to open. “Bring me the bag.” The boy handed the bag to the grandpa, who used a sharp tool to slash it open, then held the bag toward the younger boy. “Take two peanuts and put them on the stump. Then step back and see what happens.” The boy did as he was told, placing those peanuts right in the middle of the old tree stump that sat four feet in front of the grandpa’s chair. My body rebelled, no longer obeying my brain’s cautious commands. Of its own accord, it began to scoot toward the tree stump. Stop! my brain screamed, and my body froze. For many heart-beats, it was a battle of brain over body as I inched toward that tree stump and the delicious-smelling peanuts being warmed in the sun. Before I knew what had come over me, there I sat, on top of the stump with a warm peanut shell in my hand-like paws. I rolled it around, checking every segment for a sweet spot into which I could sink my teeth. When I found it, I sat up quickly, surveyed my environment for danger, and bit hard into the shell. I nearly fell over, the aroma of the seeds was so tantalizing, but I fought to control my desire, and forced myself to eat the first seed daintily. As I savoured the mashed meat


sliding down my gullet like butter, I began gnawing on the second one. And, when that was finished, I cracked the second shell. Moments later, I sat on that sun-warmed stump, empty-pawed, surrounded by a pile of fragmented peanut shell. I cleaned my face, and gave my ears a scrub, then I sat up resting on my haunches, my paws folded neatly in front of me and stared at the old man. “What do you think boys, should we give him more?” the grandpa asked, extending the bag to the older boy. Warning bells clanged in my head, as the older boy moved toward the stump. I darted under the brush. When I turned around, the boy was standing next to his grandpa again, and more peanuts sat on the stump. “Stand away, boys,” the grandpa said to his snickering grandsons. I watched the boys shuffle toward their grandpa and sniffed to make certain my environment was safe. Then I dashed to the top of the stump and found five lovely peanuts warming in the sunshine. Imagine my disappointment when I realized that I had eaten my fill. What to do? What to do? I wrung my paws as I pondered a solution. Hastily, I stuffed two peanuts into each of my very flexible cheeks and trapped the fifth one between my teeth. Instinct told me to scuttle back to my home and return quickly in case more peanuts appeared on the stump during my absence. I chided myself to hurry, but scurrying wasn’t an option. The weight and volume of the nuts slowed me down. While, my custom was to dart through tiny spaces, the mouthful of legumes hampered me. At one point, I became stuck in some branches and had to back track a few inches.


When I finally arrived home, I removed the goobers from my mouth and stuff them into the opening of my burrow. When all five groundnuts were arranged in my pantry, I raced, rather than scooted, back to the tree stump. At the edge of the clearing, I paused, concerned about the noise coming from the grandpa and his two grandsons. I realized too that the grandma had joined them. “Shhh! Stop laughing,” the grandma said. “He won’t come closer if you keep up that noise.” The boys grew quiet. The grandparents didn’t move. Confidently, I scooted across the clearing and up the side of the tree stump and froze midstep. What the heck! I marvelled, ogling the heaping pile of peanuts sitting on top of the stump. I couldn’t help myself: I squeaked out loud. I looked toward the old man and his family, then back to the plethora of groundnuts. What should I do? I can’t fit all of them in my mouth. Eight maybe, but, my gosh, there must be twenty or thirty! I took a delightful sniff and pondered my predicament. I know . . . I’ll take as many as I can carry and call for help with the rest. So, like any healthy, male chipmunk, I stuffed as many peanuts into my mouth as could fit, and lumbered back to my home, along the people path, my chin skidding occasionally on the well-worn trail. At the foot of the tree that crowned my burrow, I extracted the shells and stuffed them into the opening. When I could stuff no more, I yelled as loud as I could, asking my family to come and help me. I scurried around the tree and entered the burrow through a concealed entry. From inside, I tugged each crispy carcass along the corridor to my larder and arranged them in neat rows for later consumption. My heart pounded with urgency.


When at last I erupted from my burrow, five family members greeted me. I explained hastily what we had to do, and they followed me back to the tree stump. At the clearing, I burst into the campsite and scooted up the side of the stump. Come on! I squeaked to the others. When I reached the top of the stump, I froze mid-step and issued one long and plaintive wail. Except for the few shell bits remaining from the first two nuts that I’d eaten, the stump was empty. I was squeakless, and frankly felt quite deflated. I had begged my family to help me carry an amazing stash of peanuts, promising each of them a share for their help. What a fool! I scolded myself. You promised them the world and now there is nothing! It’s all gone! Sheepishly, I looked toward the underbrush where my family looked on with disgust. “Are you crazy?” one of them chirped. “Humans can’t be trusted,” another squeaked. Two squealed with laughter as they realized that I had been duped. But for one, they turned and left, taking their giggles with them. Even the grandpa and his family laughed at me. My youngest sister had stayed behind, though, and looked at me with her sad brown eyes. I hung my head in shame and embarrassment. “Boys! Don’t tease,” the grandma scolded. As the older boy moved toward the stump, I scooted to the shelter of the bush and crouched next to my sister. I’m sorry, her eyes said. In the next moment, my sister’s eyes became wider than I’d ever seen them, and I followed her gaze toward the stump. There on the top, in the lovely sunshine, sat all of the peanuts once


again. I waited as the old man and his family disappeared into the cabin, leaving the beautiful peanuts behind. Hesitantly, I climbed the stump. I turned to my little sister, still squatting under the brush, and chirped that the coast was clear. In a heart-beat, she was perched beside me. I waited while she devoured one of the lovely goobers, then we stuffed our mouths with legumes and lumbered to my nest. Each time we returned to the stump, I was relieved and grateful to see that the diminishing pile had not been touched. When the stump was devoid of nuts, and my larder was overflowing, I helped my sister carry her share home. Exhausted, I returned to my burrow and munched on the twin seeds of one last pod, tidied the shell bits into the refuse tunnel, and crawled into my nest for a nap. During that nap and many naps since, I dreamed of the old man who brought the delicious peanuts, but I never saw him again, and I never wondered where he went. Instinctively, I sensed that he’d never return.

Peanuts copyright Jerena Tobiasen




RCLAS Announcements


FREE ONLINE ZOOM EVENT. Everyone welcome. RCLAS presents In Their Words Online Edition with host Ruth Kozak Date: Thursday September 15, 2022 Time: 7:00pm Pacific Time Zoom room opens at 06:50 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada). To receive ZOOM link RSVP by email to secretary@rclas.com You can also contact Ruth Kozak via Facebook.

Three Feature Presenters: Garry Ward presents Lawrence Ferlinghetti (American poet, painter, social activist, and co-founder of San Fransisco’s City Lights Booksellers & Publishers) Jerena Tobiasen presents Catherine Cookson (Prolific British novelist) Angus Pratt presents Pablo Neruda (Chilean poet, diplomat and politician, 1971 Nobel Prize winner)


RCLAS presents Tellers of Short Tales – Online Edition Feature Author Joseph Kakwinokanasum Date: Thurs Sept 22. 2022 Time: 6:00 to 8:00pm Pacific Time Zoom room will open early for open mic sign up starting at 05:50 PM Pacific Time Let us know on the Facebook event page if you would like to attend. OR you can RSVP by email to secretary@rclas.com The evening will include an Open Mic for short stories. Space is limited. FREE ONLINE ZOOM EVENT. Everyone Welcome.

Joseph Kakwinokanasum grew up in the Peace Region of northern BC. A proud member of the James Smith Cree Nation, a storyteller, and writer who gratefully lives and works on the unceded, and un-surrendered territory of the Sooke Nation. Awarded the Canada Council for the Arts: Creation Grant for Aboriginal Peoples Writers and Storytellers in 2014, he achieved his certificate of writing through, The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University in 2019. In 2020 he received honorable mention in the Humber Literary Review, and was shortlisted for the CBC Short Story Contest. In 2021 he signed with Tidewater Press. His debut novel, My Indian Summer is available fall 2022. His essay, Writing in the Eye of the Storm, appears in the anthology, Resonance: Essays on the Craft and Life of Writing, (Anvil Press 2022). Joseph was selected by Darrel J. McLeod as one of The Writers’ Trust of Canada’s “Rising Stars.”

Website: https://starblanketstoryteller.ca


Writing Workshop: RCLAS presents How To Create a Play with facilitator W. Ruth Kozak Date: Monday Oct 3, 2022 Time: 7:00pm – 8:30pm Pacific Time Zoom room will open early at 6:50 PM Pacific Time FREE Online Workshop Register by email to secretary@rclas.com Registrants will be emailed the zoom link Become a RCLAS member today or renew for $35 a year. https://rclas.com/membership/become-a-member/ Description: We all enjoy the theatre, whether it is a full-length drama or just a skit, but how many of you have actually written a play? Playwriting is a different medium and uses a different narrative form than fiction. A good play, whether a drama or comedy, is carried by mystery and the questions the play poses.

Bio:

W. Ruth Kozak is a historical fiction writer and travel journalist who also instructs writer’s groups. Her play THE STREET: A Modern Day Tragedy was successfully staged in 2000 by Theatre in the Raw, Vancouver and was very well received. Currently she has almost finished another play, written in the style of the Greek dramatists HOUSE OF THE MUSES about the lyric poet Sappho. Ruth is also an adjudicator for the one-act play contests held each year by Theatre in the Raw. www.ruthkozak.com www.inalexandersfootsteps.com


Coming up this fall… RCLAS presents Tellers of Short Tales – Online Edition Featuring Haunted History BC with Gina Armstrong & Victoria Vancek https://hauntedhistorybc.com Date: Thurs Oct 27. 2022 Time: 6:00 to 8:00pm Pacific Time "Dialogue on Death and Dying – an evening of poetry” Date: Wednesday November 2, 2022 Location: Century House, New Westminster

RCLAS presents In Their Words Online Edition with host Ruth Kozak Date: Thursday November 17, 2022 Time: 7:00pm Pacific Time

RCLAS presents Tellers of Short Tales – Online Edition Feature Author Trevor Carolan “The Literary Storefront” Date: Thurs November 24. 2022 Time: 6:00 to 8:00pm Pacific Time

Watch for Fall Workshops and more events to be announced. www.rclas.com