Soliloquies Anthology 19.2
Editorial Board 2014–2015 Editor-in-Chief: Rachel Rosenberg Managing Editor: Annah–Lauren Bloom Creative Director: Gersande La Fleche Online Editors: Travis Wall and Carlos Fuentes Fiction Editors: Rudrapriya Rathore, Hailey Wendling, Fawn Parker Poetry Editors: Jenny Smart, Jacqueline Hanna, Parker Baldin, Kailey Havelock Graphic Design & Art Direction: Maxwell Addington Copyright © 2015 Soliloquies Anthology All rights reserved. Except for brief passages quoted in a newspaper, magazine, radio, television, or website review, no part of this anthology may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author of the text. ISBN 978-1-77185-497-9 Manufactured in Canada Printed in Montreal on recycled paper by Rubiks Typeset in Adobe Devanagari & Brandon Grotesque Design, layout and illustrations by Maxwell Addington Soliloquies Anthology, c/o Concordia University, Department of English 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West Montreal, Quebec H3G 1M8 soliloquies.ca
A Letter from the Editor 5
POETRY Étude Tess Liem 11 St. Olav’s Shannon Quinn 12 Rabbit’s Stories Shannon Quinn 14 Miss Euclid Gary Robinson 15 Spring Tide Sasha Tate–Howarth 16 Caught Sasha Tate–Howarth 17 Misdirection Michael Daley 18 West Wound Amber Moore 20 I Never Promised You a Pool Table Jill Talbot 22 Pistachio Virginia Boudreau 23 Ginger Virginia Boudreau 24 standing on God’s doorstep Jessica Robinson 26 Meatball Mix Brad Garber 28 All Tomorrow’s Parties Geoff Nilson 29 FICTION Black Pearls Evan Lawrence 33 The Babysitter Katrya Bolger 39 Sock Caterina Incisa 41 Struwwelpeter Caterina Incisa 45 World at Large Charles Pinch 47 The Prime Meridian Adan Jerreat–Poole 53 Watching Hannah Mark Rowland 59 NONFICTION Facing Away from the Sun Jen Karetnick 65 Contributors 82
A Letter From the Editor
pring in Montreal is not really a season in the traditional sense. We take what we can, but realistically we won’t see leaves sprouting for a long time yet and it will definitely continue to snow. Nevertheless, we begin to gather at events, like sleepy post-hibernation bears. The warmest way to enjoy a Montreal spring, though, is to find yourself a seat in a café that faces a big window, where we can cozy up and read. Literature is one of the best forms of escape that exists. It might be someone else’s words, but you to put them together yourself. Reading lets you sink deep into some weird and wondrous scenarios. There are some surreal worlds in 19.2: we have a girl who falls in love with her ex-boyfriend’s sock in Caterina Incisa’s ‘Sock’ and a meatball-recipe-meets-love-poem in
Brad Garber’s ‘Meatball Mix’. We have stories that take us traveling: Ontario via Sasha Tate–Howarth’s ‘Spring Tide’, Vancouver via Jill Talbot’s ‘I Never Promised You A Pool Table’ and Geoffrey Nilson’s ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’, and even as far out as Norway in Shannon Quinn’s ‘St. Olav’s’. We have an analysis of foreskin cream through Jen Karetnick’s nonfiction essay ‘Facing Away From The Sun’, and tales of lost people in Michael Daley’s ‘Misdirection’ and Jessica Robinson’s ‘standing on god’s doorstep’. Tess Liem’s ‘Étude’ is an ode to a music teacher, while Virginia Boudrea’s ‘Pistachio’ is an ode to a nut. Then we have some strange journeys: a road trip in Amber Moore’s ‘West Wound’, a boat trip in Evan Lawrence’s ‘Black Pearls’, the adventures of a rabbit in Shannon Quinn’s ‘Rabbit’s Stories’, and a Ukrainian museum visit in Charles Pinch’s ‘World At Large’. To round off this diverse collection, we have the stories and poems that touch on all-encompassingly relatable topics: lost love in Sasha Tate–Howarth’s ‘Caught’; long-distance yearning in Adan Jerreat–Poole’s ‘The Prime Meridian’; burgeoning attraction in Katrya Bolger’s ‘The Babysitter’; illness in Virginia Boudrea’s ‘Ginger’; and spite in Gary Robinson’s ‘Miss Euclid’ and Caterina Incisa’s ‘Struwwelpeter’. Our Flash Fiction Contest Winner, Mark Rowland, submitted to us from London, England. In fact we had a few international participants this round, which is an exciting 6
accomplishment for our little contest! His short short, ‘Watching Hannah’ portrays jealousy in a way that is without cliché and probably relatable to a few of us. As always, I’d like to thank my editorial board. You did amazing work choosing, editing, and generally keeping me calm. Thank you to Andy Fidel for taking photos at our events and making us look damn good. Thank you to the Concordia Association of Students in English, and the Arts and Science Federation of Associations for continued financial support, printing help, and funding awesome events. I think all the Concordians involved with this journal will agree when I say: what a long, strange semester this has been. I have no statistics to back it up, but I’m reasonably sure that last issue was one of the best-selling in our history. Finally, I’d like to say congrats to those members of the Soliloquies staff who are graduating! So let’s read, find sunny patches to sprawl under, and wait for June. Rachel Rosenberg, Editor-in-Chief
Your hands havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t trembled yet. r.h. draws a comma in the air l.h. up, a palm stop. You tell me Vienna is not a sound I can just hammer out of the piano. I ask you what you would hear if you went deaf. On my score, you circle a rest.
Bear stands guard outside a hospital in Norway. Bear protects girls having their stomachs pumped after they’ve been caught swallowing tides. At night Bear swells then floats (big for a bear, small for a moon). Bear tells me how in the sky light leaps before leaving to bury itself because all things have bed times. Bear’s religion: if we are not all collectively looking tending trying if only some of us one of us that’s something even as pieces of ourselves crumble, crack, crawl away to start a new life, that’s something. 12
Bear sends a telegram to each girl after she leaves If lost, meet at indigo to midnight Will find Bear’s weakness: returning wrong girls to right places I came back Bear still wrong, still thirsty. I came back silly snoring Bear city finally showing in your fur. I’m here slip my hand in the sweet curl of your paw at rest if not all of us only some only one that’s something isn’t it
Rabbit you were skybound needle feet in fast flight. Pocket luck writing history in lemon & salt & sweat all of us under your influence. Give us one more story Rabbit: afterparty in Valhalla how they got the guest list all wrong how when you got there you told them fuck off â&#x20AC;&#x2122;cause all the really good gods were gone. Last recorded images of you were taken by telescope, skycam, outside the ATM floating in a sea of candles trafficking in arcadia notebooks spinning in magpie order. Those of us you left behind we took our insistent hearts strung them up the tallest tree. In the end I was just one of many desperate for you to look needing you to see. 14
Empress of the Universe she kneels under the sun couch watching ants hurry: black sticks on the laneway unaware of a looming small thumb which not knowing its omnipotence already has begun a game of subtraction without understanding the concept of zero
Curled naked on the dock I watch your quick slip into the lake, rain all night quiet against the water and your shout of pleasure at the cold muscles of the waves. Your ease surprises me. Only a year ago, crossing the city soaked in rain, biking over the Don River to hold you while you shook, crying in your parentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; attic: your quick breath, unfamiliar.
Gathered like salmon in the harbour: our open mouths. All the breath leaving all of us breaking heavy over the city, rushing over the old shoreline, glacier carved, buried Garrison Creek. I am hollowed out. We are falling sick in the knot of each other, trying too hard to keep speaking, leaving space. In July the smell of the lake is everywhere: dark pavement slippery like a fish, white spray catches our ankles and you are there on that last day: brightness spilling. I miss you more than I thought.
Who only has at heart our getting lost—Robert Frost, ‘Directive’ Earth holds us painfully against its breast made of humus and branches—Billy Collins, ‘Directions’ Pinch the barbed wire out by my ‘back forty,’ blackberries down now, dug up last summer, what straggled back crushed by snow. Twist beneath the rusted barbs above the neighbor’s creek, a thread of snowmelt, pasture shot with scrap metal twined by septic pipe and morning glory, gaudy walls tinged with mould abandoned by banks and industry— a town no more a town, Frost says. Trespass the creek long enough, you’re in the lake, upstream, you’re on a smoky ridge. She slips under Highway Nine, past the onetime depot, stairs worn by miners who detrained with travel kits, and gawked at cedar stands in glacial till where twelve men reluctant to hold hands clung by gnarls of logger thumbs to ring a hoary trunk. 18
Follow the creek under more wire, into the overgrown. Borrow a machete, but don’t let the poodles hear you slash. You’ll get cut, everybody gets cut. Don’t go all Lewis and Clark over otter, raven, hawk on high. Good days you hear no wood nymphs whine four-wheelers or shooters boom up the dump. On that rock ledge the Salish Sea gets in your hair, clings to your arms. Tankers huff on the Strait, waves suck from grit. A bobcat last year scrambled out ahead of traffic, coyote crossed a snowfield, snout turned back to cars and driveways on our islands of pastel. A young cougar devoured a tethered goat, owners punching cell phones from bay windows. You won’t be whole again beyond confusion. You find what you want to find, but please not up there. Go live some place else.
On the day of the final push, an archetypal wound opened and we went west and I willed the scab to start to form, harden with resolve. You shoved everything you owned in cardboard boxes that smelled like melons and filled my car, even though I had carefully curated my belongings, leaving at home old journals and photos of Mom from the cottage. We enjoyed northern Ontario: the black water and plump blueberries we mixed with too much coffee. I stuck my feet out the window while I read Murakami stories to you, like the one about Kobe, for whom â&#x20AC;&#x153;everything was by the books.â&#x20AC;? We liked that. It seemed sensible. Manitoba was scraggly, with tan coloured grass that looked exhausted, bent over, and surrendering. I paused in my reading.
By that point we were onto the firefly who “hadn’t slept with a girl for ages.” Everything seemed mournful and dry. The next stretch was flat and hollowed but beautiful, a relief until we stopped for gas and powdered doughnuts only to find a genocide in the grill of my Pontiac: dozens of layers of grasshoppers, green and sharp, stuck out stubbornly as if punishing us for forgetting that this wasn’t easy, that we abandoned silences and choked words, coughing that echoed across the plains. We arrived in the sunshine to shiny offices and so many potted plants: a rich place, an arrogance we wanted a part of. Now, five days later we are already at the peeling phase, the scarring, and now: new skin.
I Never Promised You a Pool Table
We were gonna get one from the Mood Disorders Association, a discard, and I didn’t know how we’d fit it inside our one bedroom apartment, but I wanted to give you the moon and the pool table was the best I could do. I would sleep underneath, we’d use it as a dinner table. It could be everything. I’d never been any good at pool but there’s something cool about being able to hold on to those sticks and brush off the tips. I’d be even and you’d be odd. But all I can say is I tried: I got you Olympics mattresses instead, donated to Addictions Services by Vancouver 2010. And I’d hope you’d dream big. Our cherry trees outside suggested we might just make it. I wanted to promise you that.
Bleached chartreuse, aftermath of a bruise and the underside of a cloud filled with rain: itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a hint, a suggestion, timbre worn smooth and the way an adultererâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s persuasive whisper splits like splintered shell between your teeth, casing spilling tender flesh and a promise.
Through your kitchen window the garden is a vertical decoupage of unclipped twigs trowelled onto an umber background. Gold grasses pulled like taffy are sugarstrung, holding onto November light. The kitchen is warm, pungent with cinnamon It makes me hungry for those years weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d never thought to consider that simply stirring batter, blue mixing bowl tucked into the crook of your arm, would send you to bed for the rest of the day: your breath as scant as green in that flower bed outside. You settle suddenness of shrinking bones into pine rocker, it lurches on faded linoleum, moving into a dance line of dust motes rising. Sun catches the pallor of your thinning skin and I try to keep my voice light, joke about the hazards of baking your favorite cookies this early in the season.
Even to my own ears, the words are brittle: bald vines scraping cold panes, spiced shapes snapping in my hand. I begin to clean the counter, your head nods, lolls to the side. Your breath fast and shallow. I try to prop a pillow, pause. My fingers linger in the softness of your pale brown hair, newly grown again, and I am loath to wash the residue of flour from my hands.
standing on Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s doorstep
we walked the streets looking for mercy in bathroom stalls and alleyways. windows were left open to let a draft in, bent heads hung, staring at the cross glowing bright enough to outshine the moon. pretty girls softened the blows, bright lights and broken bones, begging for blurriness. paper thugs and salt brown slugs littered the streets. the world is lonely and afraid and always has been, always has been about empty words but full glasses. somewhere, there is a God making things grow to watch them die, hospitals with no beds, stuffed envelopes and patient mouths, open, waiting. I stood on His doorstep and I was drunk and He cried and I felt bad. we stood there and watched the pretty girls sell their teeth for somewhere to hide, pretty boys sell their blood for wine. all this from His doorstep.
it was a broken sort of street. cracked pavement, cracked sky. He tried to catch a chill and I watched.
½ beef I find you naked in the kitchen.
Would you like a mimosa?
The doors are
open, siskins on the feeder, soft talk on the passing sidewalk. ½ pork Michael Franks sings jazzy sex through the speakers. I knead meat in the bowl. (2) eggs
Freshly dripped coffee…sweet, acrid, nutty…fills the pot.
I must touch you, trace you under my fingers. tomato soup chocolate to taste.
Your bare feet are flowers to look at,
I could lick the grease from your fingers. Certainly, I will help you
roll the balls. salt
Be careful when you fry them. ½ cup oatmeal or Wheaties Come and stand in the
sunbeam. We won’t let anything burn. Listen to the sizzle and the buzz of hummingbird wings. milk
I will hold you here, lips buried in
your hair. The air is warming through shuddering maple leaves, flowing across you. onion
Here is to us in this
feeling, here is to us in these rising bubbles. Here, here…here. “spices”
All Tomorrowâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Parties
whatever happened they sure left quick front door open furnace burning the air oil stained driveway from a leaky Chevrolet one stray wingtip at large in the closet sequins in the couch cushions like lost change the house its unfinished skin loose Tyvek flapping in the wind like an untrimmed sail laced with neo-Edwardian detail premium unaffordability in a neighbourhood of abandoned split-levels the lights are on the sheen is off wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be long before the finches move in make nests in the gables & shit on the Scotchgarded carpet a home away from cold
Black Pearls Evan Lawrence
n Chicago, she stayed with Clara and her new man Jon, a real estate developer who raced Jboats on the weekends. He was thirty-two and collected red wines from places she’d never heard of, could not even conceive of visiting, though Jon had taken Clara twice to Europe on “wine runs.” They said this as if these trips were as simple and ordinary as running out to the grocery store to pick up a bottle for dinner. Jon owned a basement apartment that he’d converted into a wine cellar. He brought up a bottle in honour of Charlotte’s arrival and began the ritual of its uncorking. As the bottle breathed, he talked about the region of France where the grapes were grown, sounding like a sommelier as he explained that the vines needed to suffer to produce the best fruit. Then he brought out three glasses and a decanter. Once
the wine was poured he instructed them to wait another seven minutes while he told them an anecdote about his stay in Provence. When the wine was finally ready, Jon plunged his nose into the glass and made a deep snuffling sound that reminded Charlotte of a hungry pig at its trough, or, perhaps more accurately, a boar sniffing for truffles. Charlotte wanted to hate him but couldn’t. He was clever and charming, like that guy from Sideways only much better looking, and she wondered if Jon would ever drink wine from a plastic cup in a fast food restaurant. Maybe if he went bankrupt. She relished the image as she sipped her wine, agreeing with Clara about the complex bouquet of flavors, their subtle synergy. She should have realized that first night in Chicago that her friendship with Clara was terminal. Instead, blinded by the brilliance of Clara’s new life, she fooled herself into thinking they were as close as ever. They ate out at trendy restaurants with bizarre themes. First there was the frenetic sushi bar, where there was a DJ and the ambiance was blacklight exclusive. And then they went to a sterile restaurant with an operating room theme where the food was served on stainless steel carts. They sat in actual wheelchairs, slicing open haggis and blood sausages with scalpels. Jon paid for everything, slipping his platinum card into the server book and raising an open palm against Charlotte’s protests. 34
They did typical touristy things too. While Jon was working, Charlotte and Clara rode to the top the Sears Tower, and went to the Chicago Museum of Art, where they played the pointillist game in front of the Seurat. Laughing hysterically, they charged and retreated before the canvas like a raucous, overprivileged tide. Then there was that ugliness at Tiffany’s—another sign of impending doom—but Charlotte did her best to ignore it. She’d gone upstairs alone to find a necklace she liked and intended to purchase. The jeweler, a middle-aged woman in a crisp suit, gave her a quick up and down as if appraising a used car and then pretended to be busy polishing a string of charms. But when Clara came up behind her—wearing her Christian Louboutin pumps and this season’s Louis Vuitton—the woman was all smiles and compliments, practically begging her to try things on. Clara’s porcelain white skin and patrician features certainly played their role, especially contrasted against Charlotte’s decidedly non-Anglo face. Charlotte stood back and watched Clara first admire and later purchase the very necklace she’d come prepared to buy, an elegant rope of tapered black pearls. Afterwards, she didn’t tell Clara what had happened. She was too embarrassed. Instead, she told herself to forget about it. But what Charlotte could not forget, what troubled her long after the Tiffany’s incident was Clara’s self-betrayal. It was her 35
willingness to play the role of the rich man’s concubine. The day after Tiffany’s, they went sailing on Jon’s yacht. It was their last day together, and when they got out on the lake the wind was steady and the waves frothed as they broke. Jon said it was good sailing weather. He turned the bow into the wind so that he and Clara could raise the main sail, pulling lines and cranking on what Jon referred to as the wench, laughing in gusts at his own joke. “It’s a winch,” Clara said, pretending to look exasperated. They unfurled the jib sail, a vast white kite that shuddered and snapped as the wind sent long ripples over its face. And then Jon returned to the helm. He turned the ship out of irons, and the sails puffed, pulling the lines taut and keeling the hull. At first, Jon held firm to his course so that the waves broke over the bow, splashing Charlotte and Clara. Clara shrieked, a topless cheerleader’s trill, until Jon fell off-wind and righted the hull. Charlotte was repulsed. Who was this ditz? Where was the smart, studious Clara that saved her from failing chemistry? Now she was giggling like a Playboy Bunny, playing trophy bimbo for this nauseatingly rich man. It was like watching reality television, The Bachelorette or some such garbage. And so, in an act of feminine defiance, Charlotte demanded to take the helm. Jon stared at her, looking confused, as if he’d just walked into a screen door. “Have you ever sailed before?” he asked. 36
“No.” Charlotte held his gaze, pleased with herself as Jon glanced about the lake. There was nothing but water, the surface dappled with the shadows of clouds. “I’m not going to run into anything.” Jon blushed. Charlotte pushed him out of the way and took the wheel in her hands. “Wow,” Clara said. “I’ve been out here all summer and I’m still too scared to sail this thing.” Charlotte tried not to look disgusted. She held the wheel firm at ten and two and didn’t move a muscle. Her heart did a little dance. “So. Um. How does this thing work?” “Alright skipper,” John said, his voice not entirely clear of condescension. “See that compass there?” Charlotte nodded. “Just keep her steady. I’ll trim the sails.” It wasn’t that hard once she got the hang of it. There was a slight delay between her movements and the boat’s response, and she found herself overcorrecting to stay on course. But to be completely honest, it was kind of boring. All she did was stare at the compass and turn the wheel whenever the yacht strayed too far to starboard or to port. Jon didn’t bother explaining anything to her. He cranked a winch every now and then with a dissatisfied frown, and Charlotte could tell he was waiting her out. 37
Wisely, Clara went below deck and made them all drinks, mojitos, with fresh mint and sticks of real sugarcane. She came up and handed a glass first to Jon and then to Charlotte. Then she climbed up onto the foredeck and beckoned to Charlotte. “Time for girl talk,” Jon said, smirking. Charlotte nodded and followed Clara up towards the bow. The yacht was in a patch of sun, and they sat with their legs dangling over the side, listening to the hull scything the waves. Charlotte liked the way the wind tussled her black hair and she let it loose. As she watched Clara sip her drink from a neon Curly Q straw, she remembered a night when the two of them had stayed in watching romantic comedies and drinking rum and cokes. Wanting to sound sophisticated perhaps, Clara had called their drinks Cuba Libres. At the time, one of Clara’s parade of boyfriends had just cheated on her with another girl in their dorm. Muffling giggles, they’d snuck down the hall at 3 a.m. and covered her door with obscenities, writing with indelible black markers. That was less than two years ago. Now, when Clara glanced up at her, Charlotte asked her if she was happy, but she didn’t really need an answer. Clara’s happiness was as bright and clear on her face as the sun on the white deck. Charlotte felt like a shadow by comparison. She felt as though there was a hollowness opening up within her. 38
The Babysitter Katrya Bolger
n the summer, the babysitter comes home from boarding school a year older. She is the neighbours’ daughter, a witness to four siblings’ births after her own and blessed in the art form of bossing around those far littler and more fragile than she. Her boarding school breeding shows: every story is marked by its authority of taking place beyond the borders of the neighbourhood, beyond the monitory gaze of her parents. When she talks about kissing boys, she talks of doing it at school dances or in the corridors of her dormitory, weakly lit light bulbs hiding the deed overhead. When I talk of kissing boys, it is in my dreams. When the babysitter comes over, we sit on the front lawn and read sections of women’s magazines. To practice your literacy, she says, handing me a copy of Modern Housewives.
The cover is of a woman poised over a metal tray of muffins. The backdrop is of a kitchen that sings of aesthetic and familial harmony. Flip to the back pages, she says. I watch as she runs her index finger over the pages with fresh revelation as if satisfying a whole famine of womanly knowledge. In the back pages are the horoscopes which disclose details about sex and companionship. Since I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know my star sign, she diagnoses me as a crab. Yes, you have a crab temperament. Look how youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re holding that magazine. Like claws. In the mid-afternoon, I follow her and drift into the kitchen on cool bare feet. I fill a pitcher to the brim with tap water and she empties the Kool-Aid from its package, as she insists on doing. The water swims with ribbons of the red powder. She swishes it around with a spatula and pours me a glass. I take my first sip of the over-sweet drink. The babysitter laughs when I set my glass down on the counter. Your mouth, she says. She hands me a napkin. I raise it to my lips and impart the shape of a kiss. I pocket it like a wish.
Sock Caterina Incisa
he relationship lasted six months. The breakup was over the phone and Lucy was devastated. She cried for six days and six nights and on the seventh day she rested. After all the crying she decided to give her room a spring clean, reorganize her life, and get herself back on track. She pushed aside her bed, and amongst all the dust bunnies and chocolate wrappers was her ex-boyfriend’s old sock. She picked it up. It was plain black, very similar to hers but with different ribbing on the toe so she knew it was his. A wave of sobs suddenly broke forth. Lucy’s roommate ran into her bedroom. “What’s wrong?” she asked. “I-I f-found Michael’s sock,” Lucy stammered. “So?” asked her roommate, putting an arm around her friend.
“What should I do with it?” “What do you mean?” “Like, should I keep it?” “Why on earth would you keep one of his old socks?” “It’s the only thing I have from him.” “That’s because he was an asshole who never gave you anything.” Lucy looked at the sock and shook her head. “He must have grabbed one of my socks by mistake. He wouldn’t have left with just one.” “Throw it out. This is unhealthy.” But Lucy didn’t. She kept it under her pillow and would stroke her face with it at night and use it to dry her tears. But one day two buttons popped off her cardigan (she had been eating a lot of breakup brownies) and this gave her an idea. She sewed the two buttons on her ex-boyfriend’s sock, which gave him a lovely, quizzical face. She adored her sock puppet boyfriend. They would stay up talking all night, getting to know each other again. He would ask about her family, and now he remembered all her cousins’ names and offered to drive her grandma to the hospital. Of course, being a sock he couldn’t drive, but the thought was very sweet. They still had rough patches, like the time when one of his eyes fell off. It looked like there was nothing to be done; she had no more thread in her sewing kit. She swore she would be 42
his nursemaid until the day she died. In the end Lucy found some thread, operated on him, and he recovered well. Lucy’s roommate often heard her chatting away in her room, but Lucy explained that she was just Skyping with her headphones on. It felt quite exciting to have to hide their love. It was just like when they first got together and he still had another girlfriend. Eventually Lucy stopped caring about being judged and wore her sock puppet boyfriend on her hand. People in town would see her whispering to her sock puppet in the supermarket aisle, at the bus stop, in the doctor’s office. Lucy’s roommate kicked her out and Lucy and her sock puppet boyfriend had to move back in with her parents. Lucy’s parents had never liked her boyfriend, but they definitely did not warm to his sock reincarnation. Lucy’s mother would sneak into her room at night and try to steal the sock puppet but Lucy clung on to him tightly; she enjoyed being the big spoon this time around. After a while her parents decided to stage an intervention and her beloved sock puppet boyfriend was snatched from her by lumpy cousin Justine and thrown into the garbage disposal. Lucy’s heart forever broken, she lived out the rest of her lonely life working as a sales assistant in the menswear section of a local department store. The legend goes that her ghost still haunts the sock aisle, searching for her long lost love. 43
Struwwelpeter Caterina Incisa
hen I broke up with my girlfriend she was so distraught that she vowed not to cut her nails until we got back together. It’s been six years now. Her nails are so long that she can’t work, so she begs for money on Main Street. Baggy smocks and ponchos are the only clothes she can wear these days. People in town call her Struwwelpeter. Everyone knows that she’s like that because of me. It makes my new girlfriend so fantastically jealous. I like to take her for walks by my old girlfriend to remind her what a great catch I am.
World at Large Charles Pinch
For Frances, March 17th
1. In March, Vic Le Notre visited the Glasnost era museum
dedicated to the work of Nikolevsky, Yev-Nikolai. The museum, famous for its exhibition of micro-miniatures, was located within the compound of a 10th-century Orthodox nunnery in the city of Kievâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;Kiyvâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;Ukraine. In the main gallery were two rows of microscopes focused on tiny sculptures. One revealed a scabies mite shod in black stilettos (Sarcoptes scabiei laboutaine). Another had a map of Madagascar carved onto a sesame seed and a third, the Palace of Versailles, complete with parterre gardens, etched onto the head of a pin. But the one Vic liked the best was Calla Lily Trapped Inside
a Hair Follicle. A microscopic long-stemmed lily inserted into a hollowed strand of hair. Vic figured it was a hoax until he saw the tiny hair positioned on the slide tray.
2. In April, Nat La Vicke visits the Brezhnev era museum dedicated to the work of Yev-Nikolai Nikolevsky. The museum is located next to a 10th-century Rosicrucian cemetery in the city of Odessa—Odesa—and is famous throughout the Crimea. Inside the museum are two rows of microscopes focused on tiny, mechanically driven dioramas. The first reveals the building of the Great Pyramid at Giza, complete with whip-masters and a scowling Khufu (hwfw). The second has a re-enactment of Marie-Antoinette at the guillotine with a mob of ten thousand crowded into a space the size of a molecule. This one is accompanied by a soundtrack. Nat cocks his ear to the lens and hears the queen cry, “No, not my head! Not my pretty Austrian neck!” In the last one, he sees Vic Le Notre look up from the microscope in the next room and scratch his head. Nat figures Vic figured it was just a hoax.
3. I recall quite clearly the two of us standing beside the last exhibit. You told me you didn’t want to look into it—you were scared or something. “It frightens me,” you said, and shook your head, your hair coming loose and your face taking on 48
that pouty look I love. I assured you—I said, I remember reassuring you—that none of it was real—the little parasites in high heels, the pharaoh, and the story of Vic and Nat and Kiev and Odessa were just fabrications I put down on paper because, well, I was pissed off. Things aren’t like they used to be. You have a job now. I can’t drink anymore (let’s leave that where we found it) and there’s some question about who the father is. But understand: your neck is not on the guillotine and you are not the Queen of France. I would never do that to you. I would never inflict such atrocities upon you, Maryann, any more than I would concoct some spy body to survey (in the sense of surveillance) your life (and find out who the fucking father is), any more than I would throw you in front of a speeding train or sentence you to years of hard labor, like a pyramid builder, while whip-masters lashed and I watched them, thinking about you, of course. The finest gift I received from you was a strand of your hair. I recovered it from the bathtub, the same day—you remember—that I bought you a rose. “You bought me a calla lily.” “A lily, right. A calla Lily. I’m sorry.” If only you would change your mind. If only you would do that. I promise I will dismantle all this improbability. Promise to disassemble this frightening world-view of our world and 49
make a new world, a not-so-scary world. I can do that for you.
In the final sequence of ‘World at Large’ I have Nat looking into Yev’s last microscope. I thought about this one for a while. I began the paragraph (energetically, confidently) with a gerund—Nat look-ing, Nat lean-ing forward, that is, Nat bend-ing down to look into the microscope, but after reading it a few times, I thought, Go simple. Nat looked into the last microscope. He saw a big black circle. It looked like an eclipse of the sun but instead of a yellow corona, this one was blue. He fiddled with the focus (you could do that) and was a little shocked to discover a big eye looking back at him. Even more shocked when he felt the force of a gale at his back. This was the breath rushing from the big nostrils just behind him in the face with the blue eye. It was bloody disquieting. Nat told himself it was just a hoax.
5. The thing about fiction—what I love about fiction—is
the way it allows us, me, to recreate our lives, to construct Edens and Utopias, from the simple garbage of words and the common stink of languages, the shit, even, of speech, the rancidness of slang and the cruel combustion waiting to explode inside the neologism—well. Let’s move on. There are two endings to this story. I do not know which is the real or which is the best ending. I do not know who the 50
father is or if it was Mary Ann’s hair (a single clean strand) that I recovered from the bathtub. But I do know that was the day I bought her a calla lily (actually, a rose).
6. In another room of the same museum, Vic looked into
the last microscope and saw Nat looking at a big black circle. He saw him pull away in shock and then tremble in the rush of air at his back. Vic knew Nat had seen a big blue eye with golden flecks in it staring back at him. Nat didn’t know whose eye it was, of course, but Vic knew that his own eye was blue and there were not only flecks in it but they were—
7. Because this is fiction and because my name is Nick, the
following can happen, does happen. Marie-Ann goes into the museum and looks into the first microscope. What she sees is the hair I recovered from the bathtub lovingly combined with a calla lily (single long stem) I bought her the same day. Next, a blue sky followed by a sunset, lurid yet romantic. Next, a Cross and Rose, both dating to the 10th century (that explains the rose). Next, two Rosicrucian symbols (a rose by any other name. A lily? A calla lily?). Next, two cymbals. Next, our beating hearts beating together. This one comes with a soundtrack and when Marie-Annette cocks her ear to the lens, she can hear the sound of our lovemaking. In the last frame, an eye—mine, I believe—is looking back at her. 51
She knows this eye, blue, my eye, and there are not only flecks in it, but just as Vic is thinking (and Nick is writing) MarieAntoinette (who knows who the father is) is saying, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Golden.â&#x20AC;? I would like to think he has my eyes. I would like to think I have his eye. My name is Nick. I am Nick. My name is Nikolai Nikolevsky. I am Yev. This is fiction and I do not exist.
The Prime Meridian Adan Jerreat–Poole
lorence glances at the clock. 11.46 a.m. here, 6.46 a.m. there. Dregs in the coffee cup. A book of critical essays, yellowed with age, is spread open on the table. He is sleeping. He doesn’t dream. This is what she does now: traces the parallelisms of their existence. Flore leaves the house before he wakes; he eats breakfast, Flore’s dishes are dry in the rack. He follows, always the pursuer. Sometimes she likes thinking about it this way. Florence rushes backwards through time from the dusk and snow to catch a few notes in the tenor of his voice before the midday sun hangs like a Chinese lantern over southern Ontario. She is getting accustomed to living in two places at once. She awakens at 6.45/1.45, leaves the library at 3.15/10.15,
turns her East coast folk music down at 9.20/4.20, when her one roommate, Jared, who works at an Indian take-out/ alternative music store, returns home. It’s become a habit, like brushing her teeth or pointing her toes forward when she walks. As a child Flore had terrible duck feet. She marks her page and goes for a second cup of coffee. “Late night, dear?” asks the woman behind the counter. “Early morning,” Florence smiles. The woman behind the counter doesn’t get it. “Did you know trilliums can be pink?” Flore adds. The woman offers a concerned look, on the house. It wasn’t always easy: when Florence first arrived, she would force herself to hold their two realities in her mind, the way an apprentice monk forces meditation. She sketched artless figures of his body, produced films of his movements and photographs of his coffee machine. Otherwise, he would cease to exist. Otherwise, she would return after 8, 9, 10 months as if from a space capsule, amazed that things had progressed without her. Yesterday he cut himself shaving: that is real. Otherwise, they would descend into fantasy. Fantasy brought disappointment, fabrications, imagined betrayal. Toilet paper stuck to his chin: real. He is always following, a lame dog on a lead. Sometimes Florence hates thinking about it this way. 54
It seems that Flore is always waiting for him to wake up. She wants to shout, Don’t you do anything other than sleep? Why do you sleep? She sleeps. She doesn’t sleep. Flore regrets the lowering of her eyelids as the night opens up into the shape of a cherry blossom. She dreams of party lights flickering somewhere across the Atlantic. She doesn’t dream at all. Her sleep is thin, a veil distressed by remembered footsteps. She sleeps. “How’s the work going?” “Slow.” Florence admits—only to herself—a crush on this younger scholar, who admires her well-shaped and perky grammar. “Already on your second cup?” Florence nods. “I’ll get a tea and join you, if that’s okay.” It’s okay. Flore likes when the scholar flirts with her in the elevator, purposefully brushing against her arm or back, catching his balance on the arch of her spine, or elbow. In these moments, she is nothing but curves. She tells herself it is harmless. “Nice books,” he said when they met. She misheard him, and blushed; she was and still is pleased by the attention. Before she left, Florence used to think about leaving. She threw herself into the future, never realizing that she was not, in fact, an arrow, but a boomerang. 55
Time starts here, at the Prime Meridian. Florence once read a book in which the hero tries to blow up the Prime Meridian, symbolically destroy time. She pictures this literally: a piece of Canadian morning impales her upper left thigh; her clean, pressed laundry hangs off the back of his neck. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I think our garbage days have been mixed up,â&#x20AC;? he might joke. She writes it as a sitcom, although another person could make it into a compelling drama. She mounts her bed each night, hot water bottle between her feet and a crudely constructed continent (Alaska is misshapen; Quebec too large, Saskatchewan too small) between her knees. The weight of waiting will not make her bend. Sometimes she feels nothing except the absence of flesh on her skin. She goes out each morning in search of new wor(l)ds, mining for semi-precious stones, offerings wrapped in paper and tape. Flore receives, in return, pressed pink trilliums, unprotected by the laws that stop him from sending white flowers. He sends them into the future: he is an optimist. Florence pictures him flirting with his peers, women with wide fish mouths stained red or purple or orange, women who bend, women who brush against him purposefully in elevators, escalators, stairs; she does not discriminate against 56
setting. The scholar is translating haikus into English. “Would you mind looking over my paper when you have time?” “I’d love to, but you know my expertise is Joyce and the Modernist city.” “Still, I respect your opinion.” He has bought her a biscuit, so she says Yes. Florence admires the haikus and reads their translations. She researches for her thesis on Finnegans Wake and Cavalier poetry of the English Republic. She reads herself backwards into time. Flore goes picnicking on the Prime Meridian each Sunday. She waits for time to break like a dinner plate. His midnight will be thrown into her morning and somehow he will end up spreading paté on a piece of bread, right beside her, right there. Flore goes picnicking on the Prime Meridian. She takes a sip from the mug, glances at the clock. 12.00 here, 7.00 there. She exhales deeply, crumpling in on herself like a paper bag. Finally, Florence can focus on her work. Finally, she can start the day. He is awake.
Watching Hannah Mark Rowland
annah McConnell is on TV again. She’s being interviewed on the morning news. She’s doing some kind of Arctic walk to raise money for African kids or something. People often ask me if I’m happy for her. I tell them that I am, and that’s sort of true. But I also, with all my heart, hope she gets eaten by a polar bear. Before you start judging me, I don’t a hundred percent want her to die. If she did meet an untimely end in the Arctic, would I say a little prayer of thanks to Jesus? Probably, but that doesn’t mean I’m not also happy for her. The world isn’t black and white, you know. It’s shades of grey. It’s like the little angel and devil on your shoulder. You might listen to one over the other from time to time. I have to say, since I got fired, my angel’s been slacking off.
I haven’t heard from Hannah in a long while. She dropped me like a stone once she made the move to television. I guess she’s busy, though. She’s on TV a lot, especially in the daytime. Can’t seem to escape that little face of hers. I was really excited for her at the beginning. I was proud of her. I tried to tell her as much, many times. Our college professor used to tell me that I was the most talented in my class – the best writer, the most natural on camera. “I shouldn’t really be saying this,” he’d say, “but there’s only one place you’re going, and that’s to the top.” Hannah was in the middle, but she got better, thanks to me. I carried her through that course. Did she ever thank me? Not in any real way. Only with words.
Facing Away from the Sun
On Mangos, Mohels and Melasma Jen Karetnick
icture a hot glue gun, the kind you use for crafts. Now think of electricity, and how much it hurts to shock yourself even the tiniest amount. Put the two together—molten glue, and countless electrical shocks—and apply that equation to the tender skin of your face. This is what a facial laser treatment feels like. To endure it, you have to sit with a numbing cream on your skin for an hour beforehand, and it still feels like your cheeks are being plied with lightning-struck lava. Afterward your face stings, swollen for hours or even days, having been attacked by a metaphorical hive of bees. The texture of your skin feels like sandpaper, as if each tiny pore has developed a scab—which, in a way, is exactly what has happened. Why torture yourself so? There are many reasons: Out
of shame. For having freckles. For experiencing childbirth, which can implant itself on your face. For not being beautiful. * Melasma. Photo damage. Hyperpigmentation. Liver spots. No matter what you call it, or at what stage of life you acquire it (though it most commonly affects women of childbearing years), the brownish dots and streaky lines, a visible Morse code disfiguring one’s face, communicate nothing but embarrassment. If you’re really good with cosmetics, some can be camouflaged just enough that they make the hollows of your cheeks more pronounced, or the angle of your jaw sharper. But if you live in Miami, like I do, where there’s heat and sweat and unavoidable mango gathering, and if you’ve had melasma as long as I’ve had—for almost two decades now, I recently realized—there will always come a time when your spots are exposed. Not only does tropical light melt away the base that temporarily covers my dark patches, it charcoals them further, and creates new ones next to them with the finesse of a child with a crayon. So for every treatment I undertake— and there are many, ranging from drugstore creams that do little good to expensive and more effective laser abrasions that are still, alas, only temporary—there’s the sun, grinning at me over the fruit trees, waiting to undo any of them with a handful of Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber Crayolas. 66
* “How do you like the program so far?” the technician asked. She was preparing the chemical that would take several top layers of skin off my face like old Scotch tape off a window. Not in one even sheet, but flaking and peeling and shedding in pieces as small as dandruff. “It’s great,” I replied. “I think it’s working, a little. But...” “But what?” “It sort of smells really bad.” The odor, difficult to analyze, is something like a combination of rotting lilies and my teenage son’s soccer socks after he’s played a tournament. Sometimes, when I am in a very sensitive condition, I can smell it on my face hours after I’ve applied it, under my makeup and countless other scented lotions and powders. She laughed, her breath puffing like a cotton ball over my forehead as she bent to apply alcohol to my skin. The western exposure examination room, overlooking a parking lot in Avenutra and beyond that, a strip mall, seemed too brightly lit by the setting sun. After the treatment, I wouldn’t be allowed out in the sun—not even to walk from the car to my classroom—without a hat. “The first time I tried it, I almost threw up. I had to hold my nose every time I put it on. Do you want to know what’s in it?” “Um...” “It’s foreskin,” the tech confided as she began to swab the 67
peel around my nostrils and upper lip. It smelled like the inside of a hospital’s disposal bin for sharps and toxic fluids. “You know, from circumcised baby boys. Okay, let me know if the burning becomes too much and I’ll turn on the face fan.” * I was sitting at the outdoor bar at Monty’s, a popular happy hour spot on South Beach, overlooking the crystalline bay and drinking a Painkiller, a Caribbean cocktail involving pineapple juice, coconut and rum. I was waiting for a friend. Meanwhile, for company, I had my journal and a book of poems. Two men, obviously tourists, took bar stools next to me. Sunburned from a morning on a fishing junket, they were marked identically by their designer glasses like a strange breed of northeastern bird. They were loud and stocky, very drunk already on what was probably beer, mid-thirties men that reminded me of the boys with whom I had gone to high school. Two shots of tequila later, the men struck up what was more like an interrogation than a conversation: Why was I alone? Where I was from? Why wasn’t I at work? What did I do? “I’m a writer.” “Is that why you have spots all over your face? Are they 68
ink spots?” Laughter. High fives. I ordered another Painkiller. * It was Oprah Winfrey who blew the penis whistle publicly. On her show, she highlighted the products of SkinMedica, whose inventor, Dr. Richard Fitzpatrick, may have been the first to see the potential in the artefacts of circumcision. To say that there’s foreskin in face lotion isn’t entirely accurate, however. That’s the equivalent to declaring that eating applesauce is akin to digesting tree bark—a logical fallacy. What I have been slathering on my face nightly contains the descendants of foreskin cells. Many of SkinMedica’s products, which include the gag-inducing TNS Recovery Complex® that I have tried (the product FAQs call the scent “unusual”), contain a “physiologically balanced, naturally secreted and stabilized combination of multiple human growth factors, cytokines and natural proteins responsible for the production of collagen and other extracellular matrix proteins.” In less complex terms, that’s hormones and proteins—the stuff found in fresh, young, elastic skin cells. These cells are grown from fibroblasts, the type of cell instrumental in healing wounds and making connective tissue, which themselves originate from the newborn foreskin. While researching the subject, I read a post on, of all things, the VegetableGrowingGuide.net. (I also saw a veritable 69
murmuration of penises, with and without foreskins.) The blogger wrote, “If the same exact body part (i.e. clitoral hoods) was being cut off from infant girls, I wonder how many women would still use the product? From a medical point of view, clitoral hoods would work just as well in the manufacture of wrinkle creams.” Never mind that the clitoris, however much it has in common with the penis, becomes permanently affected by circumcision. Never mind that it isn’t legally performed in hospitals or safely at home just after birth and/or by medically trained and licensed personnel. Never mind that in most cultures, it’s taboo. Clitoral hoods, unlike foreskins, can’t actually be collected as anything besides trophies. Nor are women the only members of the human race vain enough to apply collagen grown from foreskin fibroblasts. Still, to answer the question, how many of us afflicted with melasma would still use it, assuming that it worked as advertised? Enough that some would probably even volunteer our own clitoral hoods in exchange for a lifetime supply. * The patch appeared around the sixth month of my first pregnancy. I had already resigned myself to the fact that I was not a healthy pregnant woman. My joints ached, and whenever I lay down my limbs felt like they were melting into the mattress. 70
I could barely get up to walk, and would frequently have to sit down again right away. I was breaking out in blistering rashes, and having unheralded attacks of nausea and diarrhea so severe I’d wind up in the hospital, having my gallbladder and other organs tested. I developed allergies to eggs and wheat—the only two food items that appealed to me. The unevenly bordered peninsula of my left cheekbone seemed like the last straw. In fact, it was only the first in what would become a very large pile of hay. While I remember that splotch and several others as distinct, pictures from the day of Zoe’s birth show me with blotches of varying sizes all over, too big to be called freckles but not conjoined enough to be a tan. It’s as if someone sprayed foundation on my face using a stencil. I had read about the possibility of these patches, called melasma, or “mask of pregnancy,” sometimes also referred to as chloasma. They appear when hormone fluctuations and sun exposure are present, and pigment-producing cells become overactive. Autoimmune thyroid disease, which I already suffered from but which wouldn’t be diagnosed until after my second pregnancy, is a contributing factor to melasma. So is medication that increases photosensitivity, including antibiotics that I had been taking for acne the year before I became pregnant for the first time. Darker or olivetinted skin, as opposed to a peaches-and-cream complexion, 71
was an element in the equation, too. Certain ethnicities and races/cultures—Latin, Asian, Middle Eastern, Jewish—were at risk. I, apparently, am a perfect, spotted storm. I should have figured out that I’d been given fair warning that I don’t respond well to sun. I was teaching at Alexander Montessori in South Miami while my husband was in his last year of medical school. After spring break, a fourth grader asked me if I’d gone to the beach. I smiled down at her. “Yes, I went every day.” “You’re really tan. But it looks like you have a mustache now,” she told me. My smiled faded immediately. The stain on my upper lip took considerably longer to resolve. * A bris, or holy circumcision, occurs on the eighth day after a Jewish baby boy is born; the eighth day is considered to be symbolic of the first day after the week it took to create the world. The eighth day is also when a baby is supposed to have transcended merely the physical and gained a soul. That soul must then be offered up to the Jewish God via a little sacrifice. The mohel, or the guy with the scalpel, is instrumental in joining this covenant, which is what bris means, of the physical and metaphysical, or body and soul, together. 72
Medically speaking, and perhaps more interestingly, the mohel told us, the eighth day has been found to be when the baby’s vitamin K levels are at their highest ever, leading to natural clotting. (The subtext of his aside: Weren’t the ancient Jews smart? How did they know this stuff, anyway?) To perform a circumcision, the foreskin of the penis is sliced from the head the way a peel is separated from a mango. This allows the glans freedom from its hood and prevents bacterial infections and conditions such as phimosis, or inability to retract the foreskin. * This is an arguable, and greatly debated, stance—especially by men who have been “cut,” as they say, against their will. That is to say, when they were babies, before they had a will, or one that could be enforced. However, while there are only slight measurable indications that men without foreskins experience less infections and complications, it’s enough for the Pediatric Association of America to recommend circumcision for all male newborns. This is probably why many unhappily circumcised men blame Americans for the custom. Others blame the Jews. The anti-American, anti-Jewish fire is fueled by articles on inflammatory sites like The Huffington Post about irresponsible or poorly trained mohels who have accidents and clip off a baby’s penis entirely. They cite outdated 73
religious beliefs as being responsible for the ongoing custom that endangers infants’ genitals, and support their claims with evidence from the insurance companies, who won’t pay for a bris because it’s a religious ceremony. Of course, the insurance companies will pony up if the circumcision takes place in the maternity wing, performed by a doctor. Our mohel also happened to be a trained doctor of medicine, but Blue Cross still wouldn’t support it. Go figure that logic out. Regardless, the extremely minor surgery, which takes five or seven minutes, is accompanied by the boy’s Hebrew naming, as well as the declaration of the baby’s godparents, who will become responsible for his upbringing should something happen to his parents. It’s quite an auspicious ceremony, and involves many rituals and traditions. (And if you hire a mohel who is also an MD, the baby gets anesthesia.) One of these traditions involves the keeping or placement of the baby’s foreskin after it’s cut away. If you’ve watched Meet the Fockers, then you’ve seen the scene where Gaylord’s parents open the scrapbook they kept of his childhood accomplishments and his foreskin flies out, only to end up sizzling in the fondue pot. I don’t know any Jewish parents who have actually kept the baby’s petrified penile part in an accessible place, but I do know that the mohel handed a small packet containing 74
Remy’s foreskin to Jon, to be considered his responsibility as the Jewish father of a Jewish son. Jon buried it under one of our 14 mango trees. He has never told me which one. I find it interesting that as much as they need it to ripen, mangos can also be damaged by the sun. Some of them are born with black spots, a kind of canker. Others develop them on what seems to be perfect, fragrant skin from being burned from the sap, or on the cheek that blushes first, the one that is most exposed to light. With these flawed fruit, I feel kinship. I collect them where someone else might leave them to rot. But then it appears that no one minds a mango with one or two bad marks; they’re prized nonetheless. * I’m not sure how circumcised men and uncircumcised men feel about each other. Do the cut ones nod to each other at urinals? Slightly scoff if they’re whole while others are not? But when I glimpse someone on the street with melasma, I think, sister. In fact, about six million American women are living with noticeably patchy skin right now, and worldwide, there are 45-50 million of us, according to MedicineNet.com. Even celebrities suffer from this condition. I was astounded to come across a clip of model/actress Brooke Burke-Charvet talking about it on a show called The Doctors. She removed her stage makeup on the air to show the audience that she, too, had to put up with a less-than-perfect complexion. Follow-up 75
posts revealed that even the laser treatment she underwent didn’t make much of a difference to her melasma. Her willingness to share was both comforting and discomfiting. One wonders, with the kind of access and money a woman of Burke-Charvet’s stature has to the latest dermatologists, procedures and technologies, what she’s still doing with a light brown banner wavering across her cheekbone. If she can’t get rid of melasma, what hope is there for the rest of us? I hesitate to estimate how much money I’ve spent on this facial shape-shifter that feeds on self confidence. Aside from the natural and over-the-counter remedies like Bio Oil and Cellex-C, or anything with hydroquinone or kojic acid, there’re the Lancôme and Clinique “skin brighteners” and “spot faders” of the world. A pricey, prescription-only step up: Vials of SkinCeuticals, tubes of Tri-Luma (which can cause skin atrophy after eight weeks of use), Tazorac, custom bleaching pads (which can’t differentiate between light skin and dark skin, so you have to “colour between the lines”). Microdermabrasion and chemical peels after Botox, so you can battle the spots that hide in the wrinkles. Thanks to my pals Groupon and LivingSocial, who seem to specialize in dermatology deals, I’ve partaken in half a dozen facial-byvolcano fractional laser treatments, likely the same kind that didn’t help Brooke Burke-Charvet. You can even freeze your 76
skin with liquid nitrogen, though this can leave the spots darker than before in some women; who wants to risk that? The only thing that comes for free with melasma is the optimism that maybe the next visit to an office will prove to be the last one necessary for a very long time. * Maybe I’m a little harsh on myself. I certainly don’t look forward to smearing foreskin on my face every night any more than I wish to harvest fruit three or four times per day during the height of season. I didn’t choose melasma any more than I chose the sex of my babies. Plus, the treatments can be more embarrassing than the disease: after a peel, I want to hide like snakes do when they’re shedding their skin. I fantasize about the days when socialites went to clinics in Switzerland, were put under anesthesia for three weeks and slept through all their procedures, as well as the recovery. But I have to continue teaching, dining, reviewing restaurants— in short, performing my job(s). I have to keep showing my face, as it was, or is. Today, it seems likely that the problems aren’t only from pregnancies and today’s hormone-sun combos. Damage from my youth, from when before sunscreen was such a mandatory beach accessory—hell, let’s face it, we smeared baby oil on ourselves—is surfacing as my skin ages, becomes thinner. What I truly long for is “beforeskin,” the unblemished cream 77
of my own birth canvas, still waiting to be stretched. I’m tired of dodging raindrops so they don’t accidentally ping the wrong place in the carefully reconstructed mask of skin tones, or pretending that the reason I don’t like to get my face wet when I swim is because I have an eye allergy to chlorine. * The patches shift like palm frond shadows over the pool; once I get rid of one, another springs up, cheekily waving hello. I’d like to close my eyes and stay in the sun, but I can’t afford that kind of ignorance. Every day, I must be conscious of where those piercing rays are and turn away, retreat to my office and lose myself in the dusk of a room, lighted only by a computer screen.
Caterina Incisa is a first year Master’s student in the English Literature and Creative Writing program at Concordia. Originally from London, England, she moved to Montreal in July 2013. When she isn’t writing thinly veiled fiction about her ex-boyfriends she can usually be found watching trashy shows on her laptop or reading inspirational autobiographies. Jen Karetnick is a poet, critic, educator and the author of 12 books, most recently the full-length collection of food-drink poems, Brie Season (White Violet Press, September 2014); the chapbook of poetry, Prayer of Confession (Finishing Line Press, June 2014); and the cookbook, Mango (University Press of Florida, October 2014). Her poetry, lyric essays and craft essays have been published widely in literary journals and anthologies around the world. She works as the Creative Writing Director for Miami Arts Charter School; as the dining critic for MIAMI Magazine; and as a freelance food-travel writer. Charles Pinch’s short fiction has been published in The Puritan, The Steel Chisel, The Forge Literary Journal, In/ Words, The Impressment Gang and others. This is his CV. If he had a life, he’d have a bio. Ten bucks to the first person who can find him one.
Evan Lawrenceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Shenandoah, Blank Fiction Magazine, The North Central Review, and Six Minute Magazine. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri, St. Louis MFA Program. Currently, he teaches English at Penn State Erieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s The Behrend College, and serves as Fiction Editor for Lake Effect. He is writing his first novel. Amber Moore is an English teacher in Calgary. She has a MA in English with a specialization in Gender Studies and is currently pursuing a MA in Education with a focus on literacy. She is recently published in untethered Magazine, The Quilliad, In/Words Magazine & Press, Multiplicities, The Steel Chisel, and has forthcoming work in Education Canada Magazine and FreeFall Magazine. Gary Robinson lives in Ottawa where he writes poems and short stories. His poems have been published in Canada, the UK and India, his short stories in Canada and the US. Currently he is writing a travelogue on a trip he made to India in late 2014. Brad Garber writes and photographs in the Great Northwest. He fills his home with art, music, plants, bones, books and love. He was a 2013 Pushcart Prize nominee.
Tess Liem was born and raised in small town Alberta and then raised some more in Ontario where she did a BA in Linguistics and English Literature at the University of Toronto. She moved to Montreal four years ago and spends most of her time playing piano, reading, writing, eating and sleeping. Adan Jerreatâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;Poole is a PhD student in English & Cultural Studies at McMaster University. Her work has appeared in The New Quarterly, The Steel Chisel, and In/Words Magazine. She reads almost anything and everything, from YA fantasy to cyberpunk, historical fiction to the Classics, short fiction and poetry. But she always comes home to To the Lighthouse. Shannon Quinn lives in Toronto, Canada. Her poetry had appeared literary journals in Canada, the US and the UK. Her first collection of poetry, Questions for Wolf, will be published by Thistledown Press in the fall of 2015. Geoffrey Nilson is a writer, editor, critic, and musician whose poems and essays have appeared in PRISM international, Lemon Hound, subTerrain, The Rusty Toque, and rip/torn. An alumnus of The Banff Centreâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Wired Writing Studio, he studies Creative Writing at Kwantlen Polytechnic University where he is the web editor for Pulp, a literature and visual art magazine of student work.
Jessica Robinson is a young Canadian writer based in “The City Above Toronto,” who spends her time watching people and trying to do them justice on paper. She has had poetry published with Purple Pig Lit, The Furious Gazelle, and Room. She is currently a contributor for The Lambda, the Laurentian University newspaper. You can find her on Twitter @hey_jeska. Jill Talbot attended Simon Fraser University for psychology. Since then, Jill has pursued her passion for writing, appearing in various literary magazines. Jill lives on Gabriola Island, British Columbia. Sasha Tate–Howarth is somewhere close to finishing a degree in Creative Writing and English Literature at Concordia. Her poetry has previously been published in The Void and Soliloquies, and she recently presented her academic work at the Literature Undergrads’ Colloquium at Concordia. She is from Toronto. Virginia Boudreau lives in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia where she works as a Learning Disabilities Specialist. Her poems and prose have appeared in a number of Canadian Literary magazines, including Cumberland River Review.
Michael Daley is the author of three poetry collections: The Straits, To Curve, Moonlight in The Redemptive Forest, several chapbooks, and a book of essays, Way Out There. His translation of Alter Mundus, by Italian poet Lucia Gazzino, was published by Pleasure Boat Studio. His poems are also in recent issues of Gargoyle, Rhino, North American Review, Bijou, Cascadia Review, Clover, and forthcoming in Spillway. He lives in Anacortes, Washington. Katrya Bolger is a student, a writer and a speculator on the human condition. Her post-secondary education has been split between the streets of Montreal and the halls of McGill University where she studies International Development and Cultural Studies. Katrya writes to collect scraps of observation and revelation for sure future utility, while improving her remarkably illegible handwriting. Mark Rowland is a journalist and project manager based in London, UK. He is currently unemployed and looking for things to do. He loves music, cinema, words, and making food. He thinks you should go see Tommy Wiseauâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s The Room.
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