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Soliloquies Antholog y I I I 21.1


Soliloquies Anthology 21.1


Copyright Š 2016 Soliloquies Anthology Soliloquies Anthology retains first North American Serial Rights. 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 publisher. Manufactured in Canada Printed and bound by Caïus du Livre Soliloquies Anthology, c/o Concordia University Department of English 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West Montreal, Quebec H3G 1M8 soliloquies.ca


Contents Poetry Letter to Bouchard from the Burke Cottage at Dick Lake, ON – D.A. Lockhart 8 Letter to Waxman from Earl Sussex Motor Lodge on the Highway 181 near Minden, ON – D.A. Lockhart 10 Roommates – Sarah Mudrosky 11 BLACKBOX – Mark Grenon 12 domestic blues – Melanie Power 17 Barcode Poetry – Kyle Flemmer 18 frypress – Simon Banderob 24 trespass – Simon Banderob 25 Movement One – Bronwyn Haney 26 Unfortunately – R L Raymond 28 Jiszká (Daughter) – Ilona Martonfi 30 Van Gogh’s De straat – Ilona Martonfi 31 The flowers in her hair – Sara Marinac 32 In the Centre of the Room Sits – Ryan Tellier 33 Things I Remember About Home – Nahrin Youkhanna 34 Fins for the Sickle – Evan J. Hoskins 35 Litany With the Fall of Icarus – Michael Lottner 37


Prose Juan’s Sacred Birds – Michael Goldlist 41 Buick LeSabre – Travis Dahlke 53 The Rooms Beyond the Garage – Tara Isabel Zambrano 59 A Dirge for Harvard Square – David D. Brown V. 65 Soap Opera, Starring Rachel Kim – Rachel Laverdiere 69 Amazing Grace – Elizabeth Smith 75 Border Control – Aaron Kreuter 87

Contributors

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Editorial Team Editors-in-Chief Meredith Marty-Dugas Jake Byrne Managing Editor Ted Elliot Artistic Director Mariah Dear Poetry Editors Ali Pinkney Annah-Lauren Bloom Julia Weber Adrian Ngai Fiction Editors Zaynab Solange Midgette Sarah MacKenzie Gabby Vachon Media Editors Oliver Skinner Charles Gonsalves Tyra Baltram


Foreword

W

e are living in interesting times. Amidst growing economic, ecological, and social uncertainty, art and literature can serve as a salve, or as a

tonic. In the first issue of Soliloquies Anthology’s twentyfirst volume, you will find humour, pathos, heartbreak, blood, guts, and tears. In that regard, this issue is a microcosm of that which literature strives to capture: innocence and experience. Many thanks to the writers and my incredible editorial team who made this issue happen; without them, these pages would be blank. Thanks to previous Editorin-Chief Kailey Havelock for her guidance, and Maxwell Addington for his design expertise. I’d also like to thank the Department of English, the Concordia Association for Students in English, and the Arts and Sciences Federation of Associations for their institutional and financial support. I’d also like to thank you, dear reader. Remember that the jungle may be dark, but it is full of diamonds.

Jake Byrne Editor-in-Chief


Poetry


D. A. Lockhart

Letter to Bouchard from the Burke Cottage at Dick Lake, ON

Dear Lucien: Couldn’t help but think of you as we sat down, past dark, at this birch wood dining room table in that cottage on this froze-out lake just south of Rousseau. You should know it’s mid-January, well past all of that festive garland and all those tinsel-eyed celebrities singing tunes even our parents grew resentful of, particularly after the bills came rolling in. And they always came rolling in. From that you know it’s the time of year when nobody wants to work, if it’s even to be had, and the only time Canada Post can’t skip on deliveries is when it’s your utility bill, or credit statement although your place is the lone cottage at the end of an ice-rink private drive the length of a bad syrup trail at an Eastern Township sugar-shack. And here we thought it was the best kind of place for a bunch of us odd-job-and-EI-stretching-seasonal workers to hide out on our treaty obligations and pretend that revving up forty-year-old skidoos on a pristine snow-silenced lake is the same damned thing, if not better, than singing Robbie Robertson and playing euchre into an ice-fog winter night. We all have our own ways of forgetting the things other folks oversold us. You know flags and currency. We all know that you tried the whole “forget confederation thing” a couple of times because you figured out the long way that government policies are built on favours to folks with no riding bets on language and culture. Maybe our general hope is that you could have pulled both of us over the threshold of history as neither of us are the type to write history. That’s the job for those that do constructive things with their time after the holidays. Because of that we’ve been bringing out the skidoo three times daily and using our band cards to buy higher octane gas on the cheap. I do hope our collective separatist movement away from full-time

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industriousness finds you strengthened and fulfilled. Just know that when the nights are clear, I swear we can see the place blue aura of an inextinguishable northern star, rising proudly like an osprey against that strange but determined Lower Canadian horizon. Best, J.W.

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D. A. Lockhart

Letter to Waxman from Earl Sussex Motor Lodge on the Highway 181 near Minden, ON Dear Al: I’m sure that this letter finds you as a surprise, but the fact is that it had to come to you in the same way that spring can settle in way too close to winter’s prime. Fact of the matter is that the lady and I got held up in a swank little rental on the Gull River. You could call it a regular retreat so long as you call it in the same vein as squirrels building nests together with the refuse of existing trees and lazy consumers. Had to tell you that we came across the Larry King masterpiece of yours from the 1970s, all puffed out in that glorious red jacket with a grin that just dared the world to try and wrestle scraps away from you and yours. Even the lady couldn’t get over how Kensington could look like Curve Lake during Pow-Wows or those peak of sweet summer days. We liked to believe that the science of fine art stems from being able to see one’s self reflected in the work of others. Truth be known that work north of the headwaters struggles to get compensation for time put in the way the Leafs have since old George Armstrong notched up that clincher in ’67. Sure there were movies for George and a new barn for the Leafs, but guys like you and I got stronger pasts to hold to than futures to reach for. Because it’s clear that you know that too, there will always be a spot at the euchre table with us if you make this far north because empty wallets and Casa Loma look the same on and off treaty lands. The only thing that makes or breaks a man is a total confidence to embrace all of the things he can’t have, and the perfect placement of a well-crafted joke. If anything, we should see ourselves the way we’ve always wanted to. J.W. 10


Sarah Mudrosky

Roommates This table is sticky and I suspect that it will still be sticky when I return.

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Mark Grenon If the sun In her eyes

BLACKBOX

Then cognitive Collapse Or what Parents dreamed If pruning Gardens to nothing Then life plans Left undone Or synapses Pruned to chaos If the black Box of love Then the black Box explodes Or symptoms Break loose

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Then plot’s pruned To plotlessness Or the family You’d have had If pets as Child surrogates Then the sleep Or the light Or dying in Your pupils If selves Editing us Then who or what’s Left post-edit Or why the wrong Synapses are edited Or manuscripts On water and fire If puzzles Then games or breaks 13


Or down Or through If where some One was left Or where A bomb cores If a face Wakes elsewhere Then wherever Hurricanes rage Or where Plutocrats pry If where Then why Faced with This or that Or this And that If the synaptic Trap opens Then landscapes Borderless 14


Or walls or walls Then walls or walls Or if not walls A skypress If the waters Invite Then know Decline Or rise or walls Or sleep On the ceiling If the end Then it begins Or beds beckon If stakes Are staid Then the skypress’s Crest falls Or the bed Falls through The floor Antlered herds

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If their eyes Or hooves For sale Then biomarkers Or a skylight Filled with falling If then or Or if then Then or if Or if then or And in the event That or then Provided that Walls guard Deerhooved Gardens Then the skypress Cracks us home

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Melanie Power

domestic blues blueberries in our pancakes like thin-skinned constellations, bursting between teeth. tomorrow seems so far away. the rush, the pull, the scrape of cutlery on plates and then—the lull of loving. we fold cloth napkins into laps, sighs slipping from blue lips.

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Kyle Flemmer

Barcode Poetry

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Simon Banderob

frypress The frypress is as long as your arm twice as heavy thrice as strong. The frypress has 100 steel teeth and frothy aluminium gums unwiped potato juice. The jaw is hinged to a cast iron limb feed the mouth, yank the arm. It cuts anything—potatoes, other vegetables— everything to french fries. As dishwasher, the frypress is my favourite patient. It takes time to wash its sides and spine, its baleen and stamp, its blades and eyes. The frypress is too cumbersome to fit in the washing machine. Many minutes pass, picking its molars with a bamboo splinter. It needs my pink hands, my wrinkled fingers to clean it. I am good to it, often it is good to me. I have been bitten only once stamping a bloody grid on my hand it was so precise, so beautiful i could not believe it: my hand pouring into the fries; the brown oil sizzling. 24


Simon Banderob

trespass against my better judgement skinnydipping with you is nearly perfect in this yankee pond in these new england woods guarded by vermont shotguns  

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Bronwyn Haney

Movement One Imagine: tab of juicy fruit gum you slip from yellow casing snug in your jeans (two pieces of lint sleep sound in an empty shell next door) Fruitful Volition. Joyous occasion! Mouth wave surges drool I’ll tell you a secret: do not wonder whether or not he has a girlfriend, or distract yourself by pulling a grape marker across the page as you wonder whether or not he has a girlfriend. Instead :

pull a peach

from the pocket of your letterman. Wrap all of what you are that is in your mouth around the tender fruit flesh. Claim it, for now. Do not ignore the psithurism, the light around you. Ignition: the moment immediately following anything big or hard or loud enough to make your knees buckle All those times the scent of roses, or the memory of them 26


removed from the kitchen were tight and plenty! in your nostrils. Alone: the cold in the air tastes extraordinarily delicious, and you reconcile with your desire to desire many things— you interrupt the moment with something to make it better, or your mouth feel less cold: you pull a prune from your pocket. Even a rat enjoys watching the night, the stars. (are you) Alone? Hardly.

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R L Raymond

Unfortunately they were tuned to the frequency of dead fish their smiles off a bit from decks with crooked planks under masts that tilted just a tad from where they waved with broken-looking wrists had they glanced down at the water seemingly still like a thin frozen layer concealing chum-coloured madness they may have reflected left the ropes knotted lowered the gangplanks doffed their hats

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to captain and crew stepped back out onto solid ground and into the throng of loved ones— unfortunately they were tuned to the frequency of dead fish a few miles from shore from sight the waves would swell their dreams and fates churned into one water-logged inevitability  

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Ilona Martonfi

Jiszká (Daughter) Your eyes. My girl. To have you. After all these years. It’s true I can do this. Working with a brush on blank canvas, clumsy, naïve, turquoise stucco ceiling. Oil on linen. Step into the void, into the nothing bringing the body chaotic. I’m touching your face. As if, we disappeared. As if, this family never existed. Nameless. Daughter, how can this be? It’s difficult coming from the streets. Out of the silence, you suddenly sing. You, who grew up without a mother. Visit in my dreams. Excerpt, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers to the Psychiatric Ward: A Memoir

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Ilona Martonfi

Van Gogh’s De straat Caricatured, coarse full-bleed watercolour olive trees and cypresses, azure sky 2, Place Lamartine in Arles on the right bank of the Rhône there is no longer a lie in the way to recreate deformities. The street scene excavated using cut-up, erasure, put on public display madness and grammar of space red clay roof tiles these houses in the Midi sun and all the nobody people, they knew who I was painting for the blue and lilac. The yellow earth remain fixed upon canvas the mistral scouring Provence dark lunar mare river sedge, watercress lavender fields look for omens, prophecies birds’ claws and skulls. Why this obsession with death? 31


Sara Marinac

The flowers in her hair The flowers in her hair are fake, why would you want that anyway would you want fake flowers in your hair? Follow me into the garden and we will put real flowers in our hair or the men on the street will buy some for us. If you go about and wear fake flowers in your hair men will use you. They won’t place diamonds on your fingers, would you want that? I would want that for in life I have men of this sort. I woke up in a strange bed this morning for I will probably never end up in this bed again. He had a name, I knew his name when my head fell on his pillow I might have even screamed his name—but I doubt that

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Ryan Tellier

In the Centre of the Room Sits the monk’s second bowl of rice

Fat monk, grow wings!

the monk walks up the mountain Thin monk, grow wings! the monk walks up the mountain and the monk down the mountain sits in zazen, … the monk by the pond palms one black stone the moon luxuriates in the dark, green water a frog greets – tongues – a fly.

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Nahrin Youkhanna

Things I Remember About Home My grandfather’s orchard. Green plums. Apricots. Mulberries. We would let the apricot seeds dry in the sun and eat them. Damascus at night, loud bustling, smells from street vendors. Mama’s friends in our yard early Friday morning reading coffee cups, fortunes transmitted back and forth between laughter and coughing, the smell of smoke rising. Summers spent in the village, sleeping through the burning heat of the afternoon, until a breeze brings a long awaited coolness.  

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Evan J. Hoskins

Fins for the Sickle He’s slapped with waves of emotion. Forgets essentials of a sea. Water, water struts around. Dorsals emerge from an ample Spring. The barn succumbed to the swamp. Logic planned poorly, capsized nonchalant long ago. It watched the slat-boards shrink. He befriended a boy with baleen bristles. Fell in with the rolling plains. “Don’t open tin cans half-way,” he’s told. Half-open cans they brand seagull traps. Call him the Ignorant Executioner. The bobbing contraptions steal heads. Call him the Pelican Assassin. He’s worried about getting scurvy. Frightened to go out like Franklin. So he drinks fourteen litres of Yates. Stops when something at the centre falls apart and when the sun sinks in the evening. He sees the hues of it leaving, embarrassment bright on a drooping face. It shows shame like a sunflower. The Hercules’ come down again tonight. Wings and props flop the poplars in a rubber wind. They buzz the floating city, drop a helpful haze of poison. Dispatch the micro-life. All krill are killed inside the Ring Road. The boy has been swinging the trees. 35


What a fresh morning he’ll have tomorrow! Free from allusions, pesky narration and crustaceans. So, he’ll get the prairie cliché ready for bed, though he hasn’t bound a sheaf all day. He’ll brush the whale’s teeth before they chat and bruise already muddled tongues.    

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Michael Lottner

Litany With the Fall of Icarus The Atlantic Ocean lies just beyond the courtyard’s chalk-pink walls, its mint-green arch. I eat eight shrimp whose tails meet at the center of the plate to form a mandala. That night, a very blue darkness creates a space the way all questions do. We listen to the nearby ocean for a response, uncertain if one has or will ever come. And there you have it. The history of our people. What were you thinking, naming each and every cloud that rolled through here? You hint at a storm forming the way an infant penetrates the eye of language from outside. One parent could swear the child said raining, raining— but good things come in all shapes and sizes. The mist between two ideas never fails to be mistaken for distance. Nice weather, we say, as bonbons fall from the sky.

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Prose


Juan’s Sacred Birds

S

Michael Goldlist

ometime after the death of his boy, Juan’s skin became coarse and scaly. It was slightly red and rumpled around his big dark eyes, and if you looked closely, a drip of crust hung where the lobe of his long ear met the skin of his neck. Juan was too much the gentleman to scratch his scalp in public, but there too dry white flakes crawled under his thick black hair. Though his face was only modestly affected, and these symptoms were easily overlooked by employees and guests because of his position, his shoulders and chest had privately erupted in a relief map of angry red mountain ranges, and were thus daily enclosed in a fine seersucker blue and white suit, the legs perfectly tailored and crisply creased, the jacket held together by a single large opal button. Putting on the suit was painful, but no sharpness of itch could distract him from his thoughts, so he ignored it. When his doctor caught sight of the rash, he prescribed Juan an array of ointments and salves, a few of which Juan tried before donning his suit in the morning and heading out into the terrace of the hotel. But Juan hadn’t the heart to keep to any medical regime; hadn’t the heart to unwrap the special soap suggested by Magdalena, the head house-keeper; hadn’t the heart to stick to the diet of oily fruits and fishes suggested by Juan’s


Prose sister when she last visited. He hadn’t the heart, because his heart was busy with thoughts and images of Miguel, his son, who had died at the age of three from a fast and vicious cancer. Juan’s heart spent its energy trying to squeeze more images from the few he retained. Trying to pump more life into the memories, the words, the way Miguel laughed. Sending questions coursing through his veins, searching for more of Miguel, more—­but no more was to be found. He was not despondent, mind you. His hotel flourished; he had time for friends and family. And when Alberta finally became completely lost, he managed well, granted the divorce, forgave her in his heart, and moved on. Miguel’s death would not kill Juan, and when his skin became inflamed and lizard-like, Juan seemed to accept it with an ease that comes to those for whom physical suffering is relief. It simply made sense to him: he had lost his son, and now his skin was grieving. He also held in his heart a deep, almost buried conviction that it would go away. When he was done. When it was done. And when would that be? Maybe when he would have another child? I let you know all this so you can imagine how he walks. Slowly, so as not to irritate the skin. Also, amazingly, you must know that Juan simply didn’t sweat. Even in the noonday sun, on the shadeless beach greeting important guests and bringing them trays of mango juice, even in that suit he did not sweat. A slow-walking man, a hotel owner, rich, not bad looking even with some facial skin issues, and

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Michael Goldlist never sweating. There’s an authority to that man. And you probably don’t know about his son, because you’re just staying on the man’s resort. But then there are the birds. The entire stretch of beach—the palms and the mossy outcroppings, the white sand, and the brilliant blue waters—are bounded by high cliffs. This is why there are only a few roads down here. This is what has kept the beach less touristy, at least compared to St. Diaz only a few miles north, which is jam-packed year round. Juan’s beach is a cove, isolated. That is the attraction. The repulsion, however, is the damned birds. Hundreds of thousands of white gulls, the kind with the pink streak on the neck, who nest in the cliffs, and circle endlessly. And shit. And shit and shit and shit. Of course, your botanist or your ecologist will point to the benefits of guano. The sulphur is the finest fertilizer, and is why the cove seems impossibly lush and green, whereas neighbouring beaches like St. Diaz are dry and yellow in the summer. But your resort owner will sit and wonder why the gulls must breed at the peak time for tourists. Americans and European tourists, people unaccustomed to being shit on. Juan’s father, who had purchased the land and set up the resort, could hold forth on the difference between white men and Latinos for hours, his anger at attracting so few white tourists apparent. “They are life-denying,” he would say. Life-denying because a little bit of bird shit caused them to recoil, to become nauseated, whereas other cultures endured, in fact enjoyed, the various wonders of nature. Juan’s father grudg-

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Prose ingly accepted that his place was for “locals,” cursed the whites and the other beaches and wrote all signs in Spanish. When Juan took over, however, he realized that the resort, despite being labelled rustic, was as finely appointed and well-groomed as the others along the miles of coast. It was really just the birds. If they could be dealt with, profits would increase. This was before Miguel’s death, so profit and loss and the smooth running of the resort were foremost on Juan’s mind. The first thing Juan tried was to blast some of the breeding grounds on the cliffs. Nothing too serious, just some daily explosion to keep them away. But the environmentalists seemed to think that displacing a few thousand birds would cause the ocean to boil, so that avenue was barred. There was talk of netting, hunting, baiting, and even poisoning. But these options also fell to either environmentalists, or politicians, or other landowners who saw no reason to mess with the ecology that left everybody but Juan and his land shit-less. It really wasn’t that bad, I can tell you. Occasionally, maybe twice a day, one of the guests on the terrace or down on the beach would be shit on. And they would usually run into the ocean, dip a few times, and that was that. But maybe his father was right. Maybe Latinos were better at abiding the grim and gross than spoiled whites. Juan had been shit on plenty of times, both as a teen when they first took over the property and in his maturity. He was no fan, either. But you abide. Especially in such a beautiful place,

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Michael Goldlist with such greenery, such bright flowers, such warm sun and cool ocean breeze. And so when Juan got his greatest lesson in abiding pain, maybe it’s no wonder he had his epiphany. On the beach one afternoon, sweatless skin burning, suit tight and hot, trying to squeeze a few more drops of Miguel playing in the surf, he saw a particularly large gull shit a great white streak on the back of an older Argentinian woman. She looked up to Juan amidst the giggles of her grandchildren and said, “Good luck, no?” Juan said, “Yes, very good luck.” Then he turned round to the bar and poured a shot of fine apple brandy and brought it out to the woman. She winked at him and shot it back, then walked slowly to the ocean to wash off. Juan strolled back to the bar and told Paolo, the young bartender, to do the same with any other guest. That had been the beginning of the tourist season, a little more than a year after Miguel’s death. Paolo and the other staff were kept very busy giving out shots, as the gulls were especially thick that year. I assume Magdalena added the towelling—either she or Paolo would take a clean towel, soak it in salt water and scrub the shit while the target drank their shot. It became a sort of popular distraction for the guests lounging in the heat. I’m fairly certain Paolo added the bell, the dull brass one that had been used in Juan’s father’s time to announce dinner. And so after a splat: a ding, vigorous towelling, a shot of brandy, and some mild

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Prose cheering and giggling. So there was still shit, but Juan managed to work around it. Near the end of that season, a wealthy couple from Paris came to the resort seeking “something off the beaten path”. Do gulls have radar? The very first day, not an hour after this beautifully thin, young and rich Parisian set out her towel on the chair of the tiled terrace, a gull, with Luftwaffe accuracy, pinned her right between the breasts. She pushed her wide brimmed hat up, and stared down, not understanding exactly what had happened, and before she could fully process the humiliation a bell rang out and an athletic young man was jogging towards her with a towel. Behind him, an older gentleman in a fine seersucker suit was carrying something shiny and small between his thumb and forefinger. With an explanation in a Spanish she couldn’t understand, she was scrubbed and virtually force-fed a shot of sweet brandy while her husband watched shocked and the others around the terrace and pool applauded lightly. After she had been led to the ocean to cleanse, Juan, in battered French, explained to the husband that this was their tradition, and that it was immensely good luck. From what I understand, that was all Juan said. Tradition and good luck. Whether Magdalena chimed in, or some cunning regular at the resort added more to the story, I can’t say. But the Parisian couple came away with a story that somehow spread quite quickly among wealthy travellers. There was a beach resort, not far from St. Diaz, which was more beautiful, more pristine, less touristy, with

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Michael Goldlist sacred birds. And if one was lucky enough to be shit on, the village elder enacted an ancient tradition involving a special local liqueur and holy bells. It seemed the Parisian couple was having a hard time conceiving the woman was shit on, and maybe it was the news of her pregnancy a few months after the trip that convinced them. By the next tourist season, Juan’s resort was booked solid, having taken some of the regulars from St. Diaz and some new, and very wealthy Europeans. This was a good season for Juan financially. He invested some of the profits in more help and upgraded the pool facilities. Between trying to figure out how best to use the money and managing his skin pain, he was occasionally, little by little, pulled away from the impossible questions of what Miguel would be like now, what he would talk about. Would he like boats and cars? And he was losing, little by little, the image of how Miguel’s face had been those last few weeks—a drawn squinting look like he was trying to wake up from a dream. The money, the extra work—he thought maybe it was God’s way of ringing a bell and giving him a shot of brandy to abide rotten luck. And so the third season after he instituted what was becoming the hallmark of his resort, and after adding a painting of the white gull with a pink streak over the check-in counter in the marble lobby, and after room rates had been raised fifteen percent and were still completely filled, and after the inflamed and mutinous rash had begun to recede, came the event, the thing that I most want to tell

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Prose you about. Remember, he still walked gingerly, still took his time in all things, still said little, and still did not sweat. And there was still the birds, and still the shit. And now there was more white people. There was a couple, American, I think from Ohio. They were at Juan’s resort for the first time, on vacation with their pride and joy, a five-year-old named Danny. Who knows why—you can guess as well as I can— but these were the kind of parents to whom everything a child does more than five feet away from them suggests imminent death. These flabby white parents watched Danny like a hawk, wouldn’t let him in the pool, where Latino children as young as two were splashing about, wouldn’t let him in the ocean, where octogenarians were passively floating, wouldn’t even let him eat the grilled shrimp with lime that Paolo gave out to guests. Danny wasn’t allowed to do much of anything. I know his name was Danny, by the way, as did everyone else in the resort, because whenever he crossed the invisible but ironclad five-foot perimeter around his mother, she would sit up and cry, alarmed and crackling with a nervousness only scarcely veiled, “Danny? Danny?!” To which Danny, not seven feet away, perhaps behind a potted plant, would call out, “Hi mom,” and the pale mother in her black one piece and mystery novel would slowly lower herself back onto her towel at the exact rate at which the boy returned to the safety of her presence. Paolo had said that he knew for sure, had a feeling as strong as a migraine, that the mother was going to get it. Magdalena called Paolo an idiot for that remark, and then

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Michael Goldlist confided, a little embarrassed, that she had the feeling it would be the moustached and vastly freckled father. But shitting birds will shit where shitting birds will shit, as no saying goes. And with a glorious and languid inverted arc, the kind that makes you wonder at the miracle of flight and swear that the creature must be joyous, a single gull released its grip on the terracotta roof and swooped casually above the terrace and pooped on poor Danny—eyes upturned and captivated by the bird—square on the forehead, right between the eyes. If you’ve ever witnessed a child hurt themselves, then you’ll understand the silence that follows. A breathless moment, like the eye of the storm, where he decides whether or not to cry. The moment after usually depends on waves of energy directed at him by adults. If they ignore him, so long as he’s not seriously hurt, he will forget his pain and continue about his business. And, think about this now, there is nothing inherently unpleasant about bird shit on your forehead. It doesn’t sting, it doesn’t burn, it doesn’t even smell. And if you’ve never been shit on before, what’s to say that it isn’t a lovely feeling? We like sunshine on our faces. The spray of the ocean. As Danny stood, still upturned, in his own world, with the white spot on his face, who knows what thoughts were about to form. Who knows what Buddha-like thought was about to spring into his mind about the nature of phenomena and emotion? We’ll never know, because that breathless silence was slashed by a blur of pale flesh that

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Prose shrieked, “Danny!” at a pitch that woke sleeping dogs for miles. Paolo rang the bell and jogged over with a towel, and Juan was right behind with a small, not even quarter full, shot of brandy. While his mother had him by the shoulders and was screaming, “Are you alright?” the first tears were forming in Danny’s eyes as it dawned on him, through his mother’s display of anguish, that something bad had happened. Even before that thought could fully take hold and Danny could spring into a wail, Paolo, enacting the tradition for the several-hundredth time, got a towel on Danny’s face and scrubbed, while saying, “Good, good!” in English. When he removed the damp towel, Danny saw this dark sweatless face, a little scaly, between him and his mother, beaming and nodding and handing him a little glass. In his stunned amazement, Danny took the glass and drank what tasted like very spicy apple juice. Juan winked. And so Danny winked. Juan stuck out his tongue. And so Danny stuck out his tongue. Juan put a hand on Danny’s head and said, “Good luck!” Danny, very happy to hear the phrase he associated with blowing out birthday candles, squeezed his eyes together and opened them very wide and smiled at Juan. Juan closed his eyes and opened them and smiled too. Juan kneeled in front of Danny, staring into his eyes; Paolo walked away, towel over his shoulder; and the mother, still

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Michael Goldlist shocked and breathless herself, stood, her mystery novel at her feet. A little tableau. And then: “What did you just give him?” Juan, looking up calmly, explained in his barely passable English that it was a tradition. But everything got muddled, and the mother couldn’t appreciate the fancifulness of the gesture, or the raw appeal of life in Latin America, or the tender moment that had just occurred between Juan and her son (wherein, I swear to you, Danny learned something). All that gets filtered away and all she hears is brandy. “You gave my son alcohol?” she said in an octave so low it had whales hot and moaning in the ocean. Then the father, red faced like a bull, demanded to know what the hell happened here. But Juan wasn’t getting it, wasn’t understanding what the source of the trouble was. And then when he did, he didn’t have the heart to argue as the parents berated him, clutching Danny. He didn’t have the heart to even offer comping their room for the night as they stormed off to pack. Didn’t have the heart to explain to the other guests who were staring, bewildered, what had happened. He didn’t have the heart, because it was busy pumping fresh blood into his face, into the skin under his eyes, the skin on his chest and shoulders. Juan, still on one knee on the hot terrace, sweatless in his fine suit, holding an empty shot glass, was almost crying. And I can tell you, Danny looked nothing like Miguel would have. But no matter—Juan somehow got some

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small accidentally heartbreaking sliver of an answer, as providential and meaningless as bird shit.


Buick LeSabre

M

Travis Dahlke

y colleague sitting over there was meant for a different time. He refers to cars as ‘ponies’ and wears dilapidated boots made from Tibetan leatherworkers. In our laps we have steel; no spinning chambers or pipethick barrels, but I know he keeps that stuff at home. Probably near his bed or in a closet. I can make out the outline of nicotine patches through his Kmart, polyester buttoned-down, which explains why it is so very crisp inside his car. When you hear about stabbings on the news, they don’t seem as gruesome as they are in movies. There’s just a flash of silver between discontented lovers or some cavemen spilling out into the street after last call, and then it’s all over. No precursor or after-cursor. Nobody drags their nail on a piano wire and slams on the keys. Sid tells me this from the front of the car, with my dick to the threads of an open bottle. Too much coffee, and it’s only the third bottle so far. I’d say that four in the morning is the latest it can get at night. When it is so quiet that you can hear a clicking from the traffic lights. Moths all dead somewhere, or in the bellies of bats. A screen flickers in someone’s upstairs apartment and I deduce that the occupant has an early shift


Prose at one of the nearby cable manufacturers, or that they haven’t been able to fall asleep yet. I move from the privacy of the back to the front-seat. Sid keeps saying the exhaust stacks on those factories are as close as it gets to Heaven. Whether he means figuratively or if he is speaking in a literal sense, I do not know. Some dew flashes on the hood and I take our silence as an invitation to sleep for five minutes. “Do you catch the nightly cable shows?” “No, I don’t.” “They’re all so blue,” Sid says. “Like they’re tinted a blue hue,” and he whistles the last word. I don’t want to say anything else because I don’t want to draw out any more whistling. The cops glide by without acknowledging us, lurking down the city rivers, illuminated by docked laptops. Sid uses tiny binoculars to bring everything closer. He gestures at a bus stop where I see household faces on posters that I cannot place. There’s scrubbed out graffiti on the route map that looks like some superimposed revision to the neatly laid veins. “Wait, is that our guy?” It’s not, but whoever he is, he’s spitting a lot. Ducking into the motel. Ugly guy. “Would you know I got my wife pregnant in one shot? First time we met.” Sid laughs like oil barons laugh. “Well, she was hostessing at a steak house back then, so we weren’t really married yet. She wanted to do it faced the other way so she could watch some live car

54


Travis Dahlke chase. Sirens blarin’. Shoulder blades like broad axes.” “Shoulder blades?” “A woman’s shoulder blades are everything.” “Where’s your kid now?” Sid doesn’t say anything and just kind of waits for me to forget. He follows a passing taxi. I ask him about this alleged stabbing and notice that the radio is on at a low volume. Looping commercial jingles or songs, I can’t tell. Sid has been humming some Loretta Lynn junk this entire time. It narrows to a dry whistling. “Sid, please.” “Do you think a car can be haunted?” He asks no one in particular. “No.” “Just think about it. Getting stabbed. Like god damn.” Our pistols are empty. Just hunks of comfort metal we keep at our sides, in case we need to point something at someone. It’s tough to accept that the power lines overhead are not reflecting daylight on their bowed tendons. It seems to me the sun should have risen by now, or that an early bus should have passed along this route. But my worry kind of recedes, and I could pretend to sleep now. “Look at these smokestacks,” Sid says with distinct yearning. He must know I’m faking. “Just reaching up and up. It looks like they’re

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Prose kind of praying, doesn’t it?” All of the natives are hidden away, and I find myself missing them for a reason I cannot place. A street sweeper lurches by, on the way to clean somewhere else. The manufacturing district side of town doesn’t get a ton of housework. I get this sense that we are not going to get a visual on our guy. He’s somewhere else. It seems everyone is and I’m starting to get the feeling that I might never be elsewhere with them. “She passed a good twelve ago. Sheila.” Sid’s talking about his wife. “Hey, that’s okay Sid.” He waves his palms like he’s fanning a small fire. “The thing I always tell people, about Sheila. About what was so odd after she died, was these bars that she had made. Just regular molasses, bittersweet chocolate bars like always, some recipe from some dumb aunt I maybe met once or twice. Four days after it happened, there’s the plate sealed in Saran on the counter of our big, empty house. Only felt giant because it was so quiet I suppose. I kept ignoring them, you know. Trying to box up all her belongings and move on.” I am struggling to remember those people on the bus stop billboard. I’m sure that I know them. “Finally I tell myself it’s stupid and to just eat a bar. She didn’t bake ‘em to just get all stale.” He gives himself a moment. The street sweeper brushes are alive, kicking up the cities dust and mica.

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Travis Dahlke “What I tasted in those bars, it was the damnedest thing. Sheila’s thumbprints, hair, all her worries and sweat. Whatever was muddling around in her head while she laboured over them. I don’t know, maybe she was thinking about errands that needed to be done or some old memory. It all went in. Each one moulded by her fingers. It’s just so strange.” Sid is still watching out the windshield, and I would kill to feel what he feels right now. Me in the passenger seat, holding a warm bottle of my own urine. Sid eventually talks himself to sleep. Smokestacks stretch up higher and higher like skyscrapers in worship. I grab the binoculars from around Sid’s neck and look through them to distract myself. We wait just a little while longer.

57


The Rooms Beyond the Garage

F

Tara Isabel Zambrano

or about six months during my senior year at the university, Ian picked me up every Thursday at 11a.m. in the parking lot of Walgreens, twenty minutes away from his house, a fifteen-minute walk from my dorm. Then we drove to his place, parked in the garage and fucked in the back seat of his car. The radio in the car would be switched on the whole time, his wife’s voice whispering through the speakers while we stripped, kissed, moved hastily. It was to make sure she was in the station making announcements, advertising jewelry and carpet cleaning deals, doing her thing. After a while, she felt like a much-needed presence between us. Perhaps it was her voice. The calm of it. Her sudden chuckle on air. Or where she lived: in the rooms beyond the garage where I never went, even when Ian asked me to. The door not shut tight, but latched lightly, like their marriage. And I was happy the way things were: perhaps it was my age, perhaps it was how Ian kept his deep-set black eyes open, almost contemptuous in the ease with which he moved inside me. How he lay on his back and pressed my breasts against his chest in the limited space that didn’t allow us to drift away, our hearts pounding,


Prose transmitting our secret back and forth. On our way back from his garage, we’d buy black pepper chicken from Panda Express and eat from the same bowl, just like a real couple. At times, I wondered about the layout of Ian’s house: the color of the walls and the furniture, his closets and shower curtains. If I’d ever come through the front door and recognize it. The suspense wasn’t maddening, but it gave me something to imagine about his life. However, I could sleep walk in his garage without tripping, through the trash bins, a room heater and an unplugged refrigerator, a battery operated car, all on the left side. A stack of electrical engineering books in right hand corner. Digital logic and Boolean algebra, decimals of dust and our skin settled within 24ft by 22ft space. Ian taught engineering at the University I attended. He had a seamless laughter and curly, long hair tucked behind his perfect-sized ears. The first time I talked to him, discussing his recent paper on power transistors, we were sitting almost knee-to-knee in his small, sandalwood-smelling office. I wanted to touch him. As he drew the current-voltage characteristics that described the behavior of diodes and regulators, I saw the skin under his eyes was quite dark. His voice was rough from lecturing and a smile broke from his parted lips. It seemed like he wanted to touch me too, but something held him back. When he said my name, the way he softened the vowels, he looked fragile and dense 60


Tara Isabel Zambrano as a star. At the beginning of our affair, his wife sang along the songs she played, shared jokes. Then something about her changed. She sniffled often, on-air, and blamed it on allergies. She fumbled while giving out information for events, misspoke the names of callers, screwed up song requests as if she was no longer conscious of the world. Some days, we’d sit and talk, drink the leftover water in his car, stare at the windshield and give each other an affectionate squeeze. I asked Ian if she knew about us and he told me no — she had no clue. For a few weeks in a row Ian cancelled our dates. At first he said he had to travel for conferences and then it was something else. When I confronted him, he almost cried. He told me his wife was in bed most of the day staring at the door or at their yard. Under no circumstances would she go into the garage. He brought the car around in front of the house to take her anywhere. As he described her condition, he shook his head like I was a jerk and unable to understand. Then he shrugged and walked off. I concentrated on my studies. I started thinking about other guys. I went out to the tracks and ran laps. One fast, one slow, one fast again. I read three books at the same time. By dinnertime I was so tired I could hear something buzzing in my ears. After an evening run, I saw Ian on campus, or a man that looked just like him. Before I could call his name, he got into his car and drove away. I started walking in the direction of 61


Prose Ian’s house: through the familiar intersections, past the Panda Express. My palms were wet with sweat, my head heavy with a dull ache, my feet continuously moving despite the throbbing pain as if they had a motor attached to them. I circled the neighborhood twice before stopping in front of a brick colored, two-story house. It was dark but the porch light was on. The front door was open and two men were carrying a ladder inside. There was a man dressed in a light blue shirt and khaki pants, roaming in the living room, speaking into his phone. The house looked empty. I knocked at the door to get his attention. Yes, he said and looked up. Hi, I waved and introduced myself. I used to live here. Was passing through the neighborhood and saw the lights. Oh, we bought it recently. Then he shook his head and chuckled as if covering up his disappointment. The owner was in a hurry to sell it. I wanted to ask him if he knew the owner. Or where he went, what happened to his wife? Perhaps a phone number...but all I managed was—do you mind if I take a look around? Sure, he said and shrugged. Watch out for nails and wood chips. They’re everywhere. I walked in. It wasn’t the revelation I thought it might be. The living room extended into a dining room, then into a family room through a passageway and final-

62


Tara Isabel Zambrano ly into a bedroom. There were empty squares on the walls, a tan-grey carpet peeled halfway across the floor. A woman’s wig sat on one end of an old dresser, covered with dust, a dead spider on the top. As I walked closer to my reflection and then away, I looked like someone else. Hair rumpled from a restless sleep, arms crossed. Dumbfounded. The other side of the dining room led to a kitchen, long and narrow. The countertops were stained; the stove and the fridge were missing. Perhaps, a place where Ian and his wife stood side by side and made dinner. A place where he might have comforted her when she found out about me. Or about the cancer. Same thing. Unknowingly I stepped towards the door on the back side of the kitchen, my hands shaking, my legs wobbling. Garage, one of the men alerted me. I looked at him, startled. I know, I whispered and removed my hand from the door knob. Then I walked out slowly, my arms held out to the sides like a child crossing a stream on a narrow log. Outside, the sky was an endless pit of lavender light. The air didn’t move. The ground was still. The man in khaki pants said something but I sliced off the words and ran until I reached the Walmart. Then I stood in the parking lot, under the stark glare of the overhead street light, my palms cupped over my knees, waiting and watching the back seats of the cars as if I had nothing else to do while the traffic and the neon signs grew louder and louder. 63


A Dirge for Harvard Square

L

David D. Brown V.

ily is a prophet, or maybe she isn’t. Around her, days blend into nights blend into days, and hours of my life slip away loose and unremembered. We’re wandering, drinking, sweating, under the eaves of a giant stone library; Lily laughing and telling me scraps of jokes and chopped up fractions of stories, smiling at me and touching my hand. A German Shepherd slinks out of the yew hedge that lines the brick path, head held high, watching us, wide-eyed. We stop, “Careful,” I say. Lily squats on her haunches and sets down the near empty vodka bottle on the path next to her. “Naw.” She smiles at it. “He’s not a stray. He’s someone’s pet.” She’s right. The dog has a full chest and clean hair. There’s a patterned collar around its neck. “C’mere boy.” Lily says. She makes a kissing noise. “C’mere.” The dog seems reluctant. It looks over its shoulder, away from us. Then it looks back. “C’mere,” Lily says, her voice high-pitched and inviting. Lily told me that we are enlightened. She told me that we’re unburdened by memory, and worry, and want, and hope, and mercy. She says this state is tran-


Prose scendent. Lily wears silver rings, and narrow jeans, and gaudy acrylic nails that stick out a half inch past her fingertips. Her black leather jacket is loose and boxy. The dog trots over to her and she scratches it behind its ears and it closes its eyes. Its tail swings lazily from side to side behind it. It cranes its neck. Lily coos and smiles at it. She looks up at me, grinning. “He’s cute, ain’t he?” she says. “Yeah,” I say. Suddenly, I’m nervous. Lily’s right hand drifts down from its muzzle and picks at the bricks cobbling the path. Her left stays at the dog’s head, scratching behind its ears. She nuzzles it gently with her cheek. The dog nuzzles her back, entranced. “Lily. Lily, don’t,” I say. She ignores me. Lily wants to live forever. Her current method is: drink vodka ‘til you’re pickled. Formaldehyde would work better, I don’t say to her. She finds a loose brick and scrabbles at it for a moment before she can find a fingerhold, and without looking away from the dog she pries the brick out of its decayed setting. She nuzzles the dog again, grinning happily, and the dog, eyes half-lidded and tail wagging harder now, leans into her. She stands up, one hand scratching the dog behind the ears and the other clutching the brick. “Lily. Don’t. Lily don’t do that.” Like mammoth hunters. Like taiga wolves. Lily says that together we will live and die and nothing more.

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David D. Brown V. She lifts the brick in her right hand, hefts it above her head, and in one clean motion, twisting her body like a batter swinging at a baseball, her ochre hair swinging out behind her, she slams it on the dog’s face, and there’s a sound like a melon being dropped, and its face crumples like tinfoil, and blood spatters up onto her jacket and face, and when she lifts the brick away the dog’s eye is gone and all that’s left of what was once much of the left hemisphere of its skull is an oozing pulp of torn skin and shattered bone. And the dog, whining almost inaudibly, stares up at Lily in horror and awe that I find all too familiar as she cocks her hip back again for another blow. “Lily. Please. Oh, Christ.” I say, almost whispering. Lily told me: she once heard The Doors say that out here on the perimeter there are no stars. She knows about these things better than I do. She swings the bloody brick again, and again the melon dropping sound, and I flinch. The dog’s head snaps around this time and its right eye goes dull. “Lily, oh Christ no.” I say. Lily told me: she once heard The Doors say that out here we is stone. Immaculate. She said it tenderly, murmured it into my ear one night as we lay in the grass together, and I strained desperately to hear her beautiful voice wrap around every syllable. Is it a lie if you believe it? Some small part of me wanted to say. Is it the truth if I do?

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Prose The dog rocks once and staggers, catching itself. Then its front legs fold and it collapses onto the brick, splayed awkwardly in the middle of the path. Blood pools under it and begins to flow through the grid of spaces between the bricks, red on red. “Christ.” I say. Lily. My Lily. Lily drops the brick. Her face is blank and still. For a moment she looks at the dog’s body. She tries to wipe the spattered blood off her face with her sleeve, but the leather just smears it around. “Leave the body,” she says, and turns and walks away, and after a moment spent staring wide-eyed at the corpse on the path I pick up the vodka bottle and follow. This is us, nomads in full bloom. Smells good. Days into nights into days, and no memory.

68


Soap Opera, Starring Rachel Kim

T

Rachel Laverdiere

he world returns in gauzy confusion. My throat feels as though I’ve inhaled a roomful of acrid gas. I attempt to open my eyelids, but they are too heavy, and I can’t lift my arms either. Life has finally managed to pin me down. Pain spreads its fingers into my chest and claws at my throat when I cough. Through the fogginess, I understand the essence of this situation: I am still alive. Although my facial muscles are frozen, on the inside I smile. I will get to hold Jesse’s tiny hand in my own again. The thought of my precious brown-eyed son calms the qualms of my latest tragedy. The image I conjure up of his gaze, intense and wise since the first time I held him in my arms, and the tiny scar above his upper lip are an emotional salve. I won’t let my husband Yang Sop bring him to the hospital; I refuse to let Jesse see me hooked up to machines. We’ve simply told him Mama is getting the rotten spot removed. It must be naptime at the daycare right now. Or maybe not; I’m not sure how long I’ve been laying here. I imagine Jesse’s sturdy hands reviving me as he imitates his father’s acupressure techniques, his warm


Prose fingertips brushing against my corpse-frozen features until the icy sheen on my eyelids melts away. Sound becomes less muffled: there is a whooshing in my ears and a steady beeping nearby mimics the cadence of my heartbeat. I hear the rhythm pound against my temples and force my shallow breaths to cooperate with the chorus line. My eyelids are freed and I am no longer lying on the cold metal table in the cavernous room with fluorescent lights glaring down on me. I will my arms to move, but they lie like dismembered stumps at my side. I sense their heaviness, a lead apron over me. I blink and try to move my head, but the best I can do is angle my line of vision downwards. There is nothing but a thin white sheet restraining me. When my fingers and toes finally agree to wiggle on command, I smile again, a slight lift at the corners of my mouth. I notice someone standing at the foot of my snowy bed. He looks like an angel hovering in the mist; I swallow my urge to chuckle. The truth is that I am flying high. I am in my own personal soap opera. I am the strong female lead who has survived. “Did you take the whole lung, doctor?” I ask with a wonderfully dramatic swoon. Although I can’t manage to lift my arm, mentally I drape it across my forehead. “Yes, I’m afraid we had to,” Dr. Bigsby responds. “We attempted the sleeve resection, but the tu-

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Rachel Laverdiere mour destroyed too much of the upper bronchial tube.” He moves to the side of my bed, so I can see that fuzzy caterpillars have crawled into a furrow at the bridge of his nose. He checks something on the beeping machines, writes another something on his clipboard, and then asks, “Would you like to see your family?” “Yes. Yes, Doctor, send them in,” I sigh amidst the beeping machine. *** My family gathers around my bed. Yang Sop, cast as the stoically handsome hero and muscular bodyguard, holds one hand. My mother, the matriarch faithfully holding up the floodgates and not letting the quiver of her chin betray her angst, takes the other. My older brother Lynn, the travel-weary rebel in a black leather jacket, stands at my feet. It hurts to see their faces so solemn. I imagine my younger brother and sister pacing the antiseptic linoleum in the waiting room: Roxanne wrings her hands, tears streaming down her lily-white face as she prays to the rosary; Ron, a dreadlocked ne’er-do-well, shakes his fist and rants at the injustice of it all. Cancer, the invisible villain, lurks in the shadows. “Hey, Rachel, is there anything I can do for you?” Lynn asks. I love the way he always says my name in French. He’s a tough-looking softy, a cross between a Viking and a biker, a bad-ass Jesus. His helplessness must be killing him. “You could massage my feet…” I manage. It takes

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Prose everything to keep a calm façade. I watch my foot-phobic brother rub my frozen feet. Raucous laughter threatens to tumble from my mouth onto the starched bed sheets, so I clamp it shut. Once I recompose my thoughts and have cinched the punch line, I whisper, “Gather round.” It is so hard not to giggle; one of these beeping machines must be delivering some merry-making drugs. “I have something important to say. I have a Korean name,” I say. A raging forest fire blazes up my throat. I am surprised no flames escape my lips. My family looks around at one another, their eyebrows raised quizzically. They shrug their shoulders. “Kim One-Lung,” I tell them, bursting into a fit of giggles, relieved to reveal the ruse. For the first time, pain sears the left side of my body. I wheeze and gasp, struggling to siphon air back into my withered lung. My family’s voice rises with emotion. Knee-slapping laughter buries the tears we’ve been resolute not to shed. For two years the doctors had said it was all in my head, until I met Dr. Juliana. On my twenty-fifth birthday I found out I had cancer—and everything finally made sense. My family’s been holding their breath for two months. I close my eyes. “What does it mean?” I ask Yang Sop, my voice barely audible. My eyelids have grown so heavy I can hardly keep them open.

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Rachel Laverdiere My husband frowns a little, then a slow grin spreads across his face until his eyes are almost swallowed up by his high cheekbones. I’ve always loved the gusto behind his expressions, but I haven’t seen much of it since Dr. Juliana called. “It means ‘the root of wisdom’,” he says, and the toothy smile I’ve missed softens his angular face. He squeezes my hand. We just might survive. “It’s perfect,” I say, but I’m not sure if the thought makes it past my lips. My brother squeezes my foot, and I drift off.

73


Amazing Grace

N

Elizabeth Smith

o one but me seems to realize it’s Christmas in July. There is a thick layer of snow covering the sidewalk but no one thinks to shovel. It’s been Christmas since December, when I came home from church one Sunday and found Dzadza dead in the backyard, by the pond where I used to eat peaches and watch the koi fish, swimming lazy with the sun digging into their backs and mine. He’s still out there, mostly sleeping with the hunting rifle by his side, but sometimes he gets up to smoke a cigarette or smile at me, while I watch him from the back door, my forehead pressed against the screen. No one knows it’s still Christmas so I’m the only one in church wearing my puffy jacket and boots, but there are little salty puddles surrounding and drowning everyone’s shoes and the bottom of their pants are dripping as they thaw. My mother hisses at me to take off my coat. Underneath I’m wearing my black dress. The itchy one, with a lace collar and a pearl button on each wrist. My mother sits on my left and my dad is on my right. Justine, my sister, is on the other side of my mom, but she leaves a large gap between them so it doesn’t look like we’re here together. She is hunched over herself like a


Prose dog being scolded and she’s kicking the pew. Every few minutes the man in front of her turns around and gives her a deep frown. His face reminds me of a toad that has dried up in the sun. My parents look straight ahead, their whole bodies absorbed in the sermon. There are some books tucked into a shelf on every pew and I flip through one of them. It’s small, with a green cover. There is a drawing every couple of pages, pictures of doves and crosses and fish and that sort of thing. When it’s time to say the Our Father I tuck the book back into its slot and my parents each take one of my hands into their own fleshy palms. It feels like they are trying to absorb me and I don’t like it. Everyone is chanting together and the prayer transforms into a storm that is surrounding me. Each voice is forcing the breeze in another direction and I don’t know where it’s going to carry me. A baby lets out a cry from the raised platform in the back. The room smells like mothballs and dust and sour milk and salt. An altar boy, dressed all in white, rings a bell and then rests it on a silk cushion. The sound echoes around me and I try to find it. There are some paintings of Jesus high up on the wall. In the painting to my mother’s side he is kneeling down, talking to children, dressed in colourful robes. In the painting to my dad’s side he is in the same pose, but is surrounded by old people. Some of the old people stand with bowed heads, their necks drooping sunflowers. One is wrapped up in

76


Elizabeth Smith a blanket. Everyone except for Jesus is crying. I wonder if Jesus cried when he was a baby. I wonder if people would have believed Jesus if he were a woman, or if they would have burned her at the stake. Justine is playing with her hair. She rolls it between her fingers. She pulls out a piece and tightens her fist around it. She looks at it with squinted eyes, trying to decipher a tiny message that has been written on it. She puts the hair in her pocket. We line up to receive the Body of Christ and take tiny steps toward the altar. The choir is singing “Amazing Grace” and I remember how my mother used to sing it to me when I was a baby. I also remember how when we would go for long drives I would pretend to fall asleep so that she would carry me inside and dress me in cotton pyjamas. As we walk to the front of the church I watch the colourful sunlight reflecting on my mother’s cheeks and nose. It is coming from a stained glass window of a narrow pathway. There are angels on either side of it and they are smiling. I wonder what secrets they know. Suddenly I am in front of the priest. He is very tall and has sun spots on his face. His collar is choking him, his neck swells around the edge of it. “The Body of Christ,” he says. “Grace will lead us home,” I answer, reciting the next part of the choir’s song instead of saying Amen. The priest hands me the Host anyway and I put it in my mouth and walk away.

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Prose I let the Host dissolve slowly while we listen to one more prayer. The taste reminds me of Red River cereal and I can’t tell if I like it or not. On our way out I dip the tips of my fingertips into the bowl of Holy Water by the door and dab it onto my forehead, chest, and shoulders. I wonder what it tastes like. Is it salty from all of the skin that bathes in it? *** Justine’s middle name is Grace and I think that she is going to die. She wants to go shopping for a bathing suit, even though the public pool is frozen over. Our mother drops us off at Kipling station and then we take the subway all the way from Kipling to Yorkdale. They are blasting the AC all through the tunnels and I wrap my winter scarf tight around my cheeks. Justine doesn’t tell me to take it off or look at me funny and I wonder if she knows that it’s still Christmas too. She’s wearing jeans with holes in the knees and a long-sleeved shirt, which would probably look unusual if she wasn’t next to me. I sit beside her. Neither of us say anything. I listen to her quiet, uneven breathing while I read the banner ads. When we get to the mall I’m thirsty so we line up at the Tim Hortons. I get an iced coffee and I feel like a grown up because I’m drinking caffeine. We go to Sporting Life to look for bathing suits. Justine picks out a couple: a sporty one and a bikini. She also gets some swim shorts and then asks me to come into the change

78


Elizabeth Smith room with her. It’s a big one, with a bench that I can sit down on and a mirror that folds in three. She gets undressed really slowly and I watch her three reflections in the mirror. Paramore is playing over the speakers. I spend a lot of time looking at her boobs. I think her nipples are pinker than mine and smaller too. Sometimes my nipples shrink up in the cold and I want to ask her if that happens to her too, but then she interrupts my thinking. “You can’t tell anyone, okay?” I look up from her boobs into her face. Her eyes are very blue today. Sometimes they are green or gold. Her eyelashes are so long, like tiny fingers trying to reach out and touch me. “Can’t tell anyone what?” I ask. Justine points at her thighs, where there are angry horizontal lines running across them. Some are scabbed over, but most of them are dark brown and faded. They are very tidy and remind me of lines on a page or a measuring tape. “What happened?” I ask. Justine doesn’t say anything for a minute. I feel hot even with the AC, so I unzip my puffy coat. I’m not sure if I should look at her or her reflection, but the mirror feels safer, so I keep my eyes there. “I did it myself,” she says. “So I need to get some shorts for swimming.” She tries on the bikini with a pair of black swim shorts. It has tiny palm trees on it and I think she looks very pretty.

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Prose “When did you do it?” I ask. “I dunno,” she says. “All the time, I guess. Usually when I’m in the shower or the bath.” She takes off the bikini and the shorts and I look at the lines again. I’m scared that one of them is going to break open and fill the room up with blood. “But you have to promise you won’t say anything.” I nod. I wonder why she is showing me and why she asked me not to tell. She tries on the sporty bathing suit next, with a pair of navy swim shorts. “Which one do you like better?” she asks me. “I think the bikini is cuter,” I say. Whenever I hear the bath running I get goosebumps on my arms and legs. I wait outside of the washroom door and feel the sweat pool in my armpits and in the palms of my hands. The doorknob is brass and shiny and I can see a puffy reflection of my face in it. I wonder what that version of me is thinking. I want to talk to her and ask her what I should do. But I don’t ask her anything and I don’t tell anyone about Justine’s scabs because I promised that I wouldn’t. *** While Justine is in the bath, I look in her room. The door is always closed and when I turn the knob my stomach swirls, as if I’m seasick or filled with hot oil. Once, we shared the room. We had bunkbeds. I slept on the bottom. Before we would go to sleep we liked to talk about where we were planning to go in our dreams. I think sometimes we dreamed together.

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Elizabeth Smith Now her room feels like a different world. The air is thicker and moist, and I think maybe I’ve entered a cave by the sea, or the mouth of a giant. The blinds are black and pulled shut and there aren’t any mirrors or pictures on the walls. She has a cactus on the windowsill. It is the kind that looks soft but hurts when you touch it. I wonder how the cactus stays alive in here without any light. I wonder what I’m doing here and I wonder if Justine is still breathing or if the tips of her fingers have raisined in the water yet. I stand in the middle of the room for a while but the stale air begins to suffocate me. I look through her drawers but I don’t find anything interesting. The bathing suit we bought at the mall is in the bottom drawer. I take off all of my clothes and fold them in a neat pile on the edge of her bed. Then I put on the bikini. It’s too big for me everywhere. I wonder if I should start shaving my legs. I feel stupid so I put my clothes back on and try to arrange her drawer back to the way I found it. I look underneath her bed next. It is very clean and there is a silver tin box. There is no lock on it and it seems to be glowing, like a pale moon hiding behind rain clouds. I hesitate for a second before opening it. I’m not sure if I have room inside for any more secrets. The inside of the box is filled with hair. It is dark and tangled and it reminds me of seaweed that’s been washed up on the beach. I can’t stop looking at the hair

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Prose even though I want to. It grins at me. I hear water sloshing in the bathroom. I close the box and slide it back into its home. When I close Justine’s door behind me I hope it stays that way. *** My dad likes to shoot the squirrels in our backyard with a hunting rifle. Even though I grew up with the sound of gunshot in my ears I still jump every time he does it. It sounds like the bullet is coming from inside of you. That’s how my Dzadza got the gun he used to shoot himself. My dad keeps his rifles locked up in a black fireproof case in our basement, but he leaves the keys on top where anyone can find them. Sometimes I rub my palms along the outside of the fireproof case. It’s bumpy and cold. It makes all of the hair stand up on my arms. Whenever I touch it I can hear something inside of me screaming. The walls in our basement are made of fake wood planks that have faces on them if you look hard enough. The carpet is thin and a dirty green colour. The colour of vomit or an avocado half that’s been sitting out too long. The rest of the basement is filled with large plastic bins that have old Hallowe’en costumes and Christmas decorations in them. My dad’s workout equipment is down there too but I don’t think he’s touched it in years. On the wall in front of the treadmill there is a banner for Ontario Place. Justine modelled in it with three fake family members. In the photo

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Elizabeth Smith she has crooked bangs and is smiling big and her two front teeth are missing. My mom printed out speech bubbles so that everyone in the picture is talking. It says “You can do it, burn those carbs!” No one really goes into the basement except for me. It’s a nice place to be alone, with the black fireproof case and all. I go down there when my parents are out grocery shopping and Justine is in her room. She is listening to music loudly but I’m careful walking down the stairs anyway because I don’t want there to be a chance that she can hear me. I run my fingers along the walls and feel the rough texture of the fake wood planks as I take each step. I hold my breath until I get to the bottom, for good luck, maybe. There’s only one window in the basement, and all of the cold Christmas light peers in one direction, through a tunnel in the maze of bins, pointing out where I need to go. I think about when Jesus was being born and the Three Wise Men followed the North Star. I wonder if this could be my North Star. I take off my shirt when I get to the case. I sit on the floor with my back pressed against it and my eyes closed. It feels like I’m sinking into the cold metal, or turning into it. I wonder if when I open my eyes I’ll be inside the case, a hunting rifle on my side and snow underneath my body. I think about the way I screamed when I found Dzadza in the backyard by the pond with the gun be-

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Prose side his body. I think something escaped out of me that day but I don’t know what yet and I don’t know how to find it. I think about how my dad came running down the hall and how he wrapped his arms around my body so many times but it wasn’t enough and I couldn’t stop looking. Everything outside was white. The sun was white and so were the trees. Dzadza’s skin was white, and his blood, and the snow, and I think I was white too but I couldn’t see. I wonder what colour I am now. The police showed up with their yellow tape that said Do Not Cross This Line. They were bees swarming around a beekeeper collecting honey. Not stinging or hurting, but surrounding. One of them was a woman in a pantsuit and she sat me down in our tiny kitchen and asked me questions: “Do you understand what happened?” and “Is there anything you want to know?” I remember looking down at the wooden kitchen table and seeing a drawing of a little boy I had done a few weeks before. Justine thought it was cute and sealed it up with clear nail polish. After Pantsuit left the kitchen my mother brushed my hair behind my ears and kissed me on the top of my head. She told me and Justine that we couldn’t tell our cousins about what happened. Her siblings didn’t want their kids to get upset, so it had to be just between us. I nodded my head and said okay. Later that day I tried to go out onto the front porch but when I opened the door a squirrel hopped off the railing and onto the brown and white speckled ce-

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Elizabeth Smith ment. The squirrel froze when it saw me. I was so afraid. All the squirrels my dad has shot over the years are coming back to life. I don’t know what he does with them when they die and I don’t know where they’re coming from, but every few days another one appears. They don’t do much, and some of their bodies are deformed or missing limbs. They all have blood knotted into their fur. Just like Dzadza, no one knows they’re there but me. *** I’m standing in my room, my arms are folded on top of the windowsill and I’m watching two grey squirrels chase one another up a tree. I can’t tell whether they are alive or dead. Justine is in the bath again and it’s snowing. I can’t see my Dzadza but I know he’s in the backyard somewhere. Pacing and smoking, probably. I think about the time that he bought me a dwarf hamster from the pet store. I never really cleaned the cage and so my room always smelled like salt and hay. My mother came in one day while I was sleeping and she woke me up by screaming. She said there were worms in the cage, but really they were baby hamsters. I guess the hamster was already pregnant when my Dzadza bought it. Dzadza took me to the library the next day and we took out some books on how to raise baby hamsters. I named the babies Bonnie and Clyde even though I didn’t really know who Bonnie and Clyde were. One day my cousin came over and picked up Bonnie and

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Prose squished her until she died. I overfed Clyde by accident and he died too. Their bodies are in the garage. I’m waiting for Christmas to pass so that I can bury them in the yard. I watch the window fog up from my breath and imagine that it isn’t Christmas. I imagine that the world isn’t white and that I don’t need to wear a puffy coat or scarf because I’m warm all the time. I imagine that I can’t see the dead squirrels in the yard and I imagine that I don’t know what Justine is doing in the washroom. I think if I pretend that I’m warm and the world has colour everything will be a lot easier. I take off all of my clothes and climb under my covers. I stop listening to the sound of water sloshing in the bath and I try to fall asleep.

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Border Control

T

Aaron Kreuter

hey had been driving for a long time. They were almost at the border. The world spewed past. Are we normal yet? I don’t think so, not yet. I’m feeling half-normal, I guess. More or less. More or less half-normal. Yes. Exactly. What if he asks us if we’re normal? We’ll have to lie. I’m definitely not normal enough at the moment

to lie. Let’s do a practice run. Okay. Good afternoon citizen. Good afternoon citizen-officer. What a lovely forehead you have. Passports, please. Purpose of visit? A little bit of business, a little bit of pleasure. What do you do for a living? Me? I’m a reckless subverter of the status quo. What’s the name of your firm? I’m freelance. Any firearms, tobacco, alcohol, carrots, or


Prose drugs? Is a parsnip considered a carrot? A parsnip is not a controlled root vegetable under the root vegetable act. Then no! No sir! None of the above! One last thing...Are you normal? Yes. No! Sort of. Please pull over to the side. Full car and body search. You’re in a fairly deep amount of trouble, I’m afraid. Told you I wouldn’t be able to lie. Maybe by the time we get there we’ll be normal enough to squeak through undetected. I hope so. I hope so too. I don’t know, I’m thinking maybe I’m normal now. You feel normal? Hold on. I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe I’m normal now. Approaching normal. Approaching a state of normal. Approaching a state that may or may not be called normal. Maybe. Maybe. We’re not far from the border now. What will we do if they don’t let us back in? We’ll have to make some serious changes. Yes. Some serious, serious changes.

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Aaron Kreuter We wouldn’t have to worry about being normal anymore, either, that’s for sure. Imagine. But if we are normal, or if we convince him that we are, we’ll be home. Normal and home. Just a bunch of normals. Until that, too, changes, of course. Obviously. They passed a sign announcing the last exit before the border. Their hands found each other. They had been driving for many, many hours and the next moments would determine to a great extent what came next. The border huts rose on the horizon like a great beast giving birth to the future.

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Contributors Simon Banderob is, in order roughly chronological, and mostly alphabetical, an actor, author, clown, director, editor, poet, playwright, podcaster, puppeteer, radio producer, storyteller, disgruntled dishwasher, itinerant landscaper, amateur cyclist, declassé stationery snob and lumpenbourgeois for all occasions. Simon was the onetime host of the Discordia Poetry Slam, and a two-time member of the Throw! Poetry Collective’s slam team and a past poetry editor of Soliloquies Anthology. Since 2011, Simon has been inflicting his work upon readers, listeners and live audiences in Canada, the United States and Germany. David D. Brown V. is a freshman at Concordia University, where he studies English and Creative Writing. He grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Travis Dahlke currently lives in the state of Connecticut. His writing has appeared in Five Quarterly, Sediments Literary-Arts Journal, The Tishman Review, Noble/Gas Qtly, and “Love on the Road 2013” (Malinki Press). Travis also has a recently published chapbook with the Head and the Hand Press, which is being sold inside of a literary vending machine. Find his writing and illustration at sparrowmeat.com.


Soliloquies Anthology Kyle Flemmer founded The Blasted Tree Publishing Company in 2014 as an outlet for his writing and to build a community of emerging Canadian artists. He graduated from Concordia University with a double-major in Western Society & Culture and Creative Writing. Kyle is passionate about social satire, philosophy, and science, and enjoys writing poetry, short stories, and critical essays. His poem “White Dwarfs” was a finalist for the 2016 Irving Layton Poetry Award. Mark Grenon has written reviews for books of poetry by Elena Johnson and Joshua Trotter for the Antigonish Review. He supplied the text for a video poem entitled SEED which was screened at the Visible Verse Festival in Vancouver, at the Rendez-vous cinéma québécois in Montreal, and at the Antimatter Media Art Festival in Victoria. Mark Grenon will have his poetry featured in upcoming issues of Matrix and filling Station. He has lived and taught ESL in the Czech Republic, Taiwan, Chile, and in Montreal, where he currently lives. Michael Goldlist is a Toronto-born writer, actor and producer. He’s written for film, television and theatre. Michael’s first full length play, Gwen Powers, was produced by Toronto’s WORKhouse Theatre, and his upcoming plays include In The Pits, commissioned by TheatreFix. He has a BA in Theatre and Philosophy from Kings College, and an MFA from The New School in New York. He dearly loves his wife Kiara Kent.

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Contributors Bronwyn Haney is a writer living in her childhood home of Montreal, a city which continues to raise her and teach her all the magic tricks she knows. Evan J. Hoskins is a grad student at York University; the Poetry Editor for Existere; the founder and host of Slackline Creative Arts Series in Toronto; and a helping hand at Brick, A Literary Journal. His recurring dream is of running endlessly without fatigue. He hails from Manitoba. Aaron Kreuter is a writer of fiction and poetry currently residing in Toronto, Canada. He has had work published in Best Canadian Poetry 2014, One Throne Magazine, Vallum, Carte Blanche, FreeFall Magazine, Grain, and subTerrain, among other places. Aaron’s first poetry collection, Arguments for Lawn Chairs, was recently published by Guernica Editions, and a collection of short fiction, You and Me, Belonging, is forthcoming from Tightrope Books. Rachel Laverdiere currently writes and teaches in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She has worked as a language teacher in South Korea, Quebec and Saskatchewan. In 2016, Rachel’s short fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in filling Station, FreeFall, Dime Show Review, Soliloquies Anthology, The Quilliad, Sulphur and untethered. Rachel’s flash fiction was shortlisted for the Geist 2015 Short Long-Distance Writing Contest.

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Soliloquies Anthology D.A. Lockhart lives in Windsor, ON. He is the author of Big Medicine Comes to Erie (Black Moss Press 2016). His work has appeared in Contemporary Verse 2, Windsor Review, Sugar House Review, Vinyl Poetry and Prose, Straylight Literary Magazine, and Mackinac among others. He is a recipient of Canada Council for the Arts grant for Aboriginal People and various Ontario Arts Council grants for his poetry. He is a member of the Moravian of the Thames First Nation. Michael Lottner studies Honours English Lit. & Creative Writing at Concordia. He is primarily interested in writing that struggles with a self’s access to narrative experience. Michael also paints, trades stocks, and uses the sunshine emoji as often as possible. Sara Marinac is perhaps best known for senseless, ceaseless meandering. She likes to write, read and sleep in tall socks. She also studies English Literature and Art History at Concordia University. Ilona Martonfi is the author of three poetry books: Blue Poppy (Coracle, 2009), Black Grass (Broken Rules, 2012), and The Snow Kimono (Inanna, 2015). She writes in chapbooks, Canadian Woman Studies, carte blanche, Vallum, Soliloquies, Fiddlehead, and elsewhere. She is the Artistic Director of The Yellow Door and Visual Arts Centre Readings. Ilona received the QWF Community Award in 2010.

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Contributors Sarah Mudrosky is a slowly-emerging Montreal writer of fiction and poetry. She is currently finishing up a degree in Creative Writing at Concordia University, and her work has sporadically appeared in Creations, Subversions, Soliloquies, and The Void. Melanie Power is a poet from St. John’s, Newfoundland and is studying English Literature at Concordia. She has been published in (parenthetical) and Soliloquies. She misses the sea sometimes but it’s nice here. R L Raymond tells stories through poetry, fiction, photography, and painting. He has been published in journals and collections across Canada, the United States, Australia, and Europe. He earned his Master of Arts in English Literature from the University of Western Ontario. Please visit www.RLRaymond.ca for more information. Elizabeth Smith is in her final year at Concordia University, where she studies English and Creative Writing. She is afraid of a lot of things but she is starting to realize that it’s okay. Ryan Tellier is completing his undergraduate degree at Concordia University. Last year, he wrote an honours thesis at the Liberal Arts College comparing the works of Marcel Proust and Samuel Beckett. This summer, he received an undergraduate research award to study the compositions and writings of John Cage.

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Soliloquies Anthology Nahrin Youkhanna is finally in the last year of her BA in English Literature. Previously too afraid to submit, she has been working on a short story since 2009 that has now turned into a poetry project. Her time is mostly spent wondering if she will ever be cool enough to pass for an existentialist. She loves waffles and telling people Oscar Wilde facts they never asked for. Tara Isabel Zambrano lives in Texas and is an electrical engineer by profession. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Lunch Ticket, Necessary Fiction, Juked, Parcel, Moon City Review, Gargoyle and others.

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Soliloquies Anthology is a student-run literary journal published out of Concordia University. We publish emerging and established writers both in Montreal and internationally, twice annually in print.

soliloquies.ca Printed and bound in Montreal, Quebec

Profile for Soliloquies Anthology

Soliloquies Anthology 21.1  

Soliloquies Anthology is Concordia University's undergraduate literary journal. The journal publishes poetry, fiction, and non-fiction from...

Soliloquies Anthology 21.1  

Soliloquies Anthology is Concordia University's undergraduate literary journal. The journal publishes poetry, fiction, and non-fiction from...

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