CREATIVE COLLECTION #1 | AUGUST 2017
CURIOUSELEMENT VAKSEEN LINDA CRATE ALISON HENDERSON MATT HORRIGAN
SNEHA KANTA RACHAEL BINDAS CARTER VANCE MEERA NEHME
Photo by Melissa Upfold, Calculated Colour
Welcome to the first Creative Collection of The Curious Element! The response that I received to the Call for Submissions was excitingly overwhelming. My inbox was constantly flooded with works from very talented people. I wish I could’ve fit more in!
Thank you to everyone who submitted and who is involved in this Creative Collection. I could not have put this together without you! This Creative Collection has plenty of wonderful poems to transport you to different locations and experiences. There are creative essays and reflections to offer an individual’s viewpoint. And beautiful photography to look at. Throughout the Creative Collection are photos by an amazing photographer, Melissa Upfold, including the one in this spread. Her beautiful work reflects many different female personas. She also captures nature and objects in an ethereal light. The photo on the back cover looks like a place a unicorn could emerge from at any moment. I wish I could’ve included more of her work. Instead, you will just have to check out her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/calculatedcolour The first item in this Creative Collection is an interview I did with a brilliant artist - Vakseen.His work caught my eye the second I saw it - and you’ll see why in the next pages. We talked about how he got to doing the work he does now. You can see more of his work on his Facebook page: https:// www.facebook.com/Vakseen/ Keep an eye on the website for more submission opportunities. There will be some opening very soon. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy this Creative Collection! Happy reading! Jacqueline Abela
Vakseen is an artist and a music executive. When I saw his art on Instagram, I was completely blown away and wanted to get to know the artist and how he came to be creating these incredible pieces. Tell me about yourself and your art.
My artist’s name is Vakseen, my government is Otha Davis III. I’m a visual artist. I’m also a music producer, song writer, a music executive, and I manage talent. That’s really what encompasses my days - music and then art. Did the music side come first in your business? If we’re being technical, not necessarily first. I’ve been into the arts for as long as I can remember. I was always drawing and doodling. I did art in high school but never really took any classes - I’m self-taught. In high school, the art teacher I had was somewhat discouraging. She was trying to censor some of my work; it wasn’t even explicit or anything of that nature, it was more about the perception because you knew what was there but you couldn’t see it visually. It turned me off from wanting to pursue art. I graduated high school in ‘97 so at that time it was much different from now, where you can make a career out of being a visual artist. I got into music when I was in high school and that really took over my life and my focus. After I graduated high school, I got much more serious with music. I was in a group and we decided we wanted to try to put an album together and really start pursuing a serious
career. I was an artist and started producing music out of necessity. I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and moved to Miami to better my chances. In Miami, I had an opportunity to intern at a very successful record label and I jumped at the chance. All this time, I was focused on music and I wasn’t pursuing art whatsoever. At work, I was doing customer service work on the phone so between calls I’d be sketching and doodling and I still have a lot of those doodles. I ended up doing the album cover for my group. There was definitely things that I was doing but I just wasn’t pursuing art seriously. So I got into the music business with that internship and my career just took off very, very quickly where I had less and less time for my creative output as an artist and a producer and I was more focussed on the label’s artists. I accomplished a lot of amazing things at the label and at a certain point felt like I had reached my ceiling there and in Miami. In 2011, I just felt it was time to take what I was doing to another level. I was actually set on moving to New York but my girlfriend at the time suggested LA, and I was open to it. We made a trip out and on 1 April 2011, we moved there officially. Once I moved to LA and stopped working for a label, my time freed up completely. There is an immense creative energy here in LA that you can’t really explain; it’s just here. I think it’s all the creative minds that come here to make it. So with the additional time and that energy and people
seeing my older stuff from high school and saying, “Man, you should do something serious with this,” I decided that I would buckle down and take it seriously. 1 January 2012 was when I decided to start taking art seriously in addition to what I was doing in music. I already had a professional career in music and I decided, okay, I’m going to be a professional artist. Almost immediately, I had my first gallery exhibition and then my artist career just took on a life of its own.
How did you get into that exhibition? I’m a very proactive individual. Just working on the business side of the music biz, I understand how important certain things are. Opportunities are not just going to fall in your lap. You have to go out and seek opportunities. I’ve always been that way with my career. I’m very diligent and on top of things. It was just me looking for an opportunity to show my work somewhere. The art gallery is actually in walking distance from where I live, so I could’ve just walked in and asked, “How do I get my work in here?” Most of the things that were on display were my work from high school and I was such a novice that they had to frame it for me, so it’s cool to look back and see how far I’ve come, knowing that I have to go after what I want. Was Vanity Pop born in LA or was there a moment that inspired the series? It was when I was in Los Angeles. All of my earlier paintings within 2011 to late 2012 are all cohesive, in that they were all female based, definitely abstract, and there were some cubism elements within the design, but it was nothing close to what I’m creating now and it was doing very well for me. I sold all of that work, I don’t have any of my older pieces. It was doing very well in a commercial aspect, but for me, it was so simple to do those pieces. I could do them in my sleep, so to speak. I needed something that challenged me more as an artist. I needed something that allowed me to have a voice and say something, but at the same time, still have something that had that pop appeal to it. I also understand just from working in the music business that you have to have something unique and something distinct that allows you to stand out from all the competition. There’s a million people who are trying to do the exact same thing that you are trying to do. I understood that and I was actively seeking it. I wasn’t trying to force anything because I’m a very organic person. Things have to just naturally happen for me and everything I do in my life. The very first piece I did was called Ignorant Butterflies and it just happened completely organically. It happened just creating and that was the first piece within my Vanity Pop series and I had a really great
reception to the piece. It’s a very bold piece and it was a lightbulb moment where I thought, okay, I’m onto something. I was still doing other work and I slowly did a second piece, then a third piece, and I think by the third piece, I realised I absolutely had something and I was going to focus all of my time on building, developing, and ultimately mastering this style. I did Ignorant Butterflies in 2012 and I’ve been mastering ever since, so it’s been 5 years now that I’ve been doing this style. I still do music, you’ll see music pieces here and there from me that are in the older style, but I guess it’s only really because there’s such a demand for them. I thoroughly believe that if you have people supporting you, you don’t want to necessarily let those supporters down. It’s funny because people love those pieces but I walk a fine line, I love everything that I do, but I try not to do too many of the music pieces because I want people more focussed on my Vanity Pop style as that’s very, very important to me. How long does it take you to complete a piece? It depends on the size. The average piece that I do is probably 20x20 inches and, on average, that will take me roughly 3 weeks. I also have to balance my time because music is still in the forefront, as far as the revenue coming in, just because I’ve been working in the music business for almost 15 years now on a professional level, whereas I’ve been a professional artist for 5 years. Coming into this year, I’m in a blessed position where most of my originals have sold and I am coming into a time where the demand for my work is exceeding the actual work that I have available. I’ve sold probably 4 or 5 originals this year, so I have maybe 6 originals left and I just accepted a huge solo show this July and the goal is to do 6 pieces in 3 months. Coming into it, I don’t know how the hell I’m going
to make this happen, but it’s possible. So now, I’m trying to finish a 24x24 inch piece in 2 weeks while I’m very focussed since I have a deadline that I have to meet because it’s such a huge opportunity. The show is at La Luz De Jesus gallery and it’s pretty much the gallery that is known for breaking pop surrealism. Mark Ryden got his start there. A lot of prestigious artists in the pop surrealism genre got their start at this gallery. This year was a 31 year anniversary so it just puts in perspective how long they’ve been doing this and the kind of artists that come from this gallery. I’ve shown there before in group shows, but it’s my first solo show there so I’m taking it for exactly what it is - a huge, huge opportunity. How do people interact with your art at shows? I create for myself first and foremost, but if I’m expected to make a living from art, which I’m blessed to do, you have to pay attention to what people say and what supporters say as well. It doesn’t mean you have to act on it, but you have to at least have that option to make that decision. I love standing back at shows and I won’t introduce myself initially. I’ll sit back just to hear an organic conversation. If you introduce yourself straight away, it takes the organic element out of the equation. I want to hear them in their natural element and what they think. Those are my favourite moments because I learn so much about my own work. I’ll hear these messages that people say which I didn’t intend but I can see where they come from. You learn a lot about your work and a lot about yourself. A good 95% of the time, people automatically assume the Vanity Pop series is collage. It’s so funny to stand back and watch because a lot of the times, people will walk by a piece and almost dismiss it. Then they’ll come back after they’ve viewed the rest of the show and see a group of people around my work which encourages them get really up close to investigate and they’ll be like, “oh my god, wait, this is a painting?!” That’s the simplicity of it, my work is very complex but it come across as so simple that you dismiss it. You’re like, oh I can do that. Collage holds a certain reputation that anyone can do it so it’s not real art, but the reality is that you probably couldn’t. It’s all about an artistic vision and pulling off simplicity effectively is one of the hardest things to do. You’re not working with multiple elements and there’s not a lot of room for error, so you have all these dynamics at play. Once I do introduce myself, people are amazed and they want to know more about the work. A lot of the times, people will try to convince me that it is mixed media. There’s depths to the piece that you can only see in person and, with the way I paint it, each section is the slightest bit raised and it gives
that feel to the point where people will argue with me that it is mixed media, it is collage. I understand it because it looks like it is, I totally play into the optical illusion, and at this point I’m playing that much further into the optical illusion by adding things like white edges to look like a torn piece of paper. So I’m painting these sorts of things into it, I’m painting subtle shadows to really play into it, because my art has really taken on a life of its own. It wasn’t my initial intention for it to be interactive whatsoever, I’m just creating a painting, and it’s completely become an interactive experience where people are up close and trying to really figure out what’s going on. They’re looking for an area where a piece of paper might be slightly raised so they can say, “Ahh, it is a collage!” But they never find it. I love how I handle these situations, just standing back watching, because then there’s also the element that most people don’t expect a man to be creating such feminine work and there’s always a “wow” aspect for so many different levels and I love it. Are the subjects in your paintings women you know or do you find reference photos? They’re women we all know in a general sense, which is what allows me to be successful with my work. My work is very emotion based and that’s the biggest thing that you get from my work. When you see it, it’s going to make you feel something, and that’s because it’s key for me to capture these poses that are very emotion based. I do a lot of my own photoshoots, I get inspiration from magazines, I typically try to lean more towards foreign fashion and beauty magazines that have really obscure shoots, things that are way more edgy than the stuff that we see in Harper’s Bazaar, for example.
Those are the kinds of things that I look for just because they’re the things that resonate with me as a creator and creating for me. As much as I listen to what people are thinking and saying, I am creating pieces that I love for me and I just really trust my taste and my intuition knowing that this is crazy, this is hot, everybody’s going to like this. And then from there, it just really boils down to if you appreciate my stuff. I understand that what I’m creating, it’s something that’s so bold and in your face that you’re either going to like or you don’t. There’s never really a gray area for people and, thankfully for me, most people really appreciate what I do and it draws you in. I’ve heard a couple of times that my work is disturbing and I was very curious to know what makes it so disturbing to them and one said that it’s very colourful and almost psychedelic and that they couldn’t even explain how they felt. So for me hearing that I thought, mission accomplished. You feel something. You don’t always know how to express what we feel, but you feel something. Another woman told me she wouldn’t have one of my pieces in her house because she’d feel like it was staring at her the whole time because I have all these juxtaposed pieces that are abstract portraits of women and I can see how something that bold and distinct staring at you could make you uncomfortable if you aren’t secure in yourself or whatever the case may be. I haven’t heard anything negative but that’s some of the things that I do hear. It’s almost all typically praise and amazement that it’s a collage. Every piece is going to speak to someone differently. What do you love about the LA arts community and being involved in that? LA is a major hub for entertainment period and there’s endless opportunity here. So many creative careers are started here, so many are taken to another level here. For me, I had a career moving here. I was blessed to do a lot of major things in the music industry, but honestly, art was nowhere on my radar as far as pursuing it seriously and professionally. Pursuing it period. It wasn’t on my radar moving here and that’s the really unique thing about my personal situation, that just says so much about the climate here, about the city of LA. There’s all this creative energy, you have all these creatives, and if there’s a such thing as being too much opportunity for a creator, that’s what this city encompasses and I don’t believe there’s ever such a thing as too much opportunity. LA is just that, it allows you to really flourish and figure out who you are as a creator and really thrive in that fashion. It feels like home. There’s a lot of politics and things that I hate on the business side of things, where I
deal with a lot of things that your average creator doesn’t have to because I work with contracts and things like that, but at the same time it allows me to get that much further in my career because I have a different understanding of the business and marketing of an artist that most artists don’t have and that’s what really allows me to be so successful in my career. I come with a business mindframe but I’m also a true creator first and foremost. Have you ever felt completely overwhelmed and, if so, how did you work through that?
I’m feeling quite overwhelmed these days because I have 6 clients in music where I’m managing their careers, I have my own career to manage, I have a relationship. I’m very passionate about my art and as much as I’m doing music, that’s on the forefront of things. I have this huge solo show that’s coming up. I’m very stressed lately. Balance is key to dealing with my hectic day to day life. I love what I’m doing but it’s important for me to keep a balance and with that comes going to a lot of live music shows and travelling within the country or even internationally. I travel a lot and that is key for me to be able to unplug. It’s not as crazy as people can imagine because it’s not like I’m in and out of corporate meetings, I’ve scaled a lot of that stuff back. Managing your own career is a lot, that’s a job in itself. Balance is absolutely key and I love enjoying life to the fullest so I have to take that time to really enjoy the things that make me happy because that in turn allows me to continue doing what I’m doing. It’s about taking care of myself in all aspects to keep that balance. What music do you like to listen to and that inspires you?
I’ve always listened to some of everything. My favourites are urban music. Hip hop is my foundation, but I love r&b, soul, jazz, rock, you name it. I’ve never been too big on country, but there’s definitely country records that I can appreciate. Pop music as well. I’m very well versed in music. I have vinyl. I really appreciate good music. There’s a lot of good music coming out now, but it wasn’t like that for a while there. The 90s and 80s and prior are the music that I really love because that was before the business took over the creative aspect of it. There was always business involved but music has evolved so much because of the business and now you have so many artists that are just doing things not because they love it but because of a cheque and for all the wrong reasons and you can hear that difference in music.
Photo by Melissa Upfold, Calculated Colour
Home is Where the Bombs Are
My thoughts cannot return home. Home is where the bombs are. Where devastation and death Lurk around crumbled corners. Where ghosts of loved ones Are re-exploded, then Strewn across shattered plains.
Oil wells, once gushing black, Now spiral in flames of orange, Spewing venomous smoke, Searing tender young lungs, Darkening old bloodstreams.
Hospitals that once reached out, Are missing limbs, and wings. The brains and blood Of doctors and nurses Form pools of muck, on Floors of operating rooms, No longer in operation.
Markets that once gave sustenance, Display only the dreaded fruits of war. Ovens that warmed the bread of life, Are now cold, and look silently, at the Listless bodies of massacred families. My thoughts cannot return home.
Darryl Denning 12
Napping in the Alley
Rag-clad and fuckin’ tired
There’s nothing in my pockets.
Wake up, sir; you can’t be here—
The damp gutter is too good for me
Kristopher Cooley 13
Books in Bed It was well enough for me, this silence in summer-mocking air, this calm of constant refrain from the bedside bookstand to the motioned figures beneath sheets, living like weâ€™d gotten on in years past the fitful flirtations of collegiate clumsiness, past the blues of honeymoon contemplation to that open water of cool-eyed passions, still embers that heat rooms when the windows are open. It was so close for once, that shade of sun you kept imprinted on skin, that sinew of toughened mystique you had in glittering presence, and all those figures you had in shapely dresswork. But arenâ€™t you still that bad girlâ€™s blandishments, that one all those Llosa novels, all that cheap whiskey talk, all the tired grandee strutting had warned against? Oh, in stillness, how wrong it was to believe, though it was enough for me, if not for you.
This crashing stretches out, infinite in crest and ever-looming shape, the same as water salt, mixed solution. You never loved us like you did the sunshine, the humid air, the longing liberation from too clean streets and last yearâ€™s fashions. But it isnâ€™t some crafted secret, something you have to work with plastic line-make triangle, with bureaucratic nooses and parchment paper. How much more could it be, else written between the space of Renaissance star charts and space age thinking of the year? But, then, the obviousness of cross waves becomes an often mystery at these elevations, the winding down of roadways procession-like in exact time.
Liberty I cannot precisely define liberty -
about the life I live.
is it country-size
It was on television last night.
or something as tight and small as a pea?
I shut it off.
is it real or totally imagined?
Liberty, liberty, liberty.
does anyone I know live there
I’d rather not repeat myself
or is it a forbidding, unfriendly place?
but the sound of some words is just so all-embracing,
I hear church bells ring on the hour.
And walk the sandy path down to the beach.
I could move in and live there.
I prefer blue skies but am not unduly troubled by gray ones. I’m not in jail. The sidewalks are not slippery. The air is easy on the lungs. I’m not out on a ledge. I’m trying to think of what irks me most
Liberty okay so it’s a pea. it’s imagined, and I’m a stranger here myself.
But try to evict me. Just try.
with a broom and bust the webs dripping from your parlor ceiling.
But it occurs to you that, these days, the spider that spun these is the only other creature now living in your household.
And the first, in living memory, to have done nothing wrong.
The Way You Live Now
Youâ€™re about to reach up
Everything the Coyotes Took there are coyotes
lure in the wood and i cannot
in the wood
the beautiful trees
i want them all to suffer
i have loved
as my beloved pets
so much since i was a child,
but always failed to show
i will spare them no mercy
will paint them all as villains,
until i was an adult;
and won’t bat an eye as they cry out
beneath a sea of spring, summer,
to me for sympathy;
autumn, and winter
and i will look them dead in the eye
there are many memories
saying “the sympathy you neglected to give
i have there— they told me coyotes took both of my cats so i can find no beauty in them the way that others do,
empathy i will give you”; and they will mourn because they will see there’s no end to
and i want to punish every single one
the flames of my fury when it comes to everything they’ve
for the acts of two;
stolen from me that i cannot get back.
because if it’s not my pet then it’s someone else’s they’re trying to
tiger and jack? that’s the very same
Don’t Want to Kiss You i miss the aperture of
golden orange sun sometimes smothered
in a red jam
the ivory lilting clouds,
that danced across my freckles
ponds and lakes
kissing me with a warmth
gargling with the hues
that encouraged the light inside me to
of autumn trees:
crimson, chartreuse, canary,
no matter the darkness—
but i don’t miss your
sometimes i even miss
pretty pink lips
on my own
and rainy days where i would
fall lost into rainbows
that’s what i tell myself
or the elbows of
i know we are dead and gone to one another,
but i’m always chasing
pinioned in garments of a
Linda Crate 19
So Many Times i will
but i admit that the world’s conquered me
a time or two
and i wouldn’t be brave enough to climb
because i don’t starve
to the highest height
but i’m trying to become braver;
and i don’t need their
i refuse to let the sky
be the limit
because i am
i am a fountain of words
with a lot to say
let them try to understand but they
are shallow and i am deep
every time i’ve been knocked down
they climb mountains that aren’t
because there are so many versions of me
that have been murdered
thinking they’ve conquered the world,
i have had to recreate myself so many times.
Especially Your Heart you aren’t supposed
like a pirate and i let you—
to walk in
i still wear the daisies in my hair
like a forgotten anthem
for they won’t take you
trying to forge
a memory of my own spring
and your eyes face forwards
one that doesn’t mix the memory and the desire of
you into one quilt of bent clouds of a blue-white
i’m well aware of this
and yet i cannot help but look back
but it’s not always easy to move on
into carnelian days where the
when you’ve always been left
sun painted me gold
or the lake sang
they say go forward
with all the hues of autumn
but you keep looking back
or you just looked into
wondering what’s wrong with you and what you
my eyes and stole
could have done to salvage everything
especially your heart.
Linda Crate 21
Simply Me i know thistle and thorn
i burn like a wild fire and i am the deer that
leaps the highest
never to be ensnared in any hunterâ€™s net
when it comes to who they want
i am the one that always escapes
me to be
scrapes from death
because i am supposed to be
with swift hoof or wing because i am the one
this pristine, pure thing
that lives life on her own terms
full of grace and dignity all too ready
i refuse to be another
to sit upon their pedestals;
cog in the machine
in their chains,
my life, my magic, and my dreams are far more
and in their
important to me than fitting in;
never shall i care what they think of me
but i refuse
let them love me or hate me
i am a wild thing
i will still be
no one will ever tame me
Linda Crate 22
In books he read on the sly at the library, the few that mentioned homosexuality—except in a nasty or stupid way--he learned that gay men are distant from their fathers, a great truth on page 234 in a book written by a doctor.
Jeff enjoyed his dad, who played softball, helped him with geometry problems, watched reruns of Rocky and Bullwinkle. What distance?
It took years for Jeff to take a cigarette lighter and burn the doctor’s book, burn it right up, every word. Not the real book, he hadn’t gone to that library in years, but the one inside his head where the doctor prescribed pills made of lies, made him swallow.
I was born an angiosperm in January. A perennial reaching for springtime sun in a swampy underground. I thought November came after May every few months, or weeks or days— like a fractured clockwork engine. I followed the Gold Rush along sundoged tundra trails Ran away, ran down and up— and almost robbed a bank in Kansas, but drove to a Ghost Ranch in Santa Fe instead. And then, the storm comes in, the car goes in the ditch. S H A T T E R And I rot, like fleshy tree sap or a penny under a Welcome Mat. Trapped between a rock and the soft, heavy smog of silence and decay.
A pinwheel in a hurricane or a stubborn screw. or Fast and SlowGnawing at my finger tips to release the ambivalence of the confluence of the twoI would scintillate and groan and agitate the house flies. I have spent my gazed upon days rehearsing normal. Living subterranean, Undeserving. Wondering what I did wrong. Not loving myself enough to know that I wasn’t okay. A Kaleidoscope Mangrove-swamp subsisting in brackish water on rations of hoarded oxygen clinging to a shoreline that is not my own. And then there’s the loneliness.
I Cavorted and Rotted.
You tell yourself I tell myself,
Fast or Slow-
I am not a withering flower, I am a lone wolf. Too strong for the pack. I don’t need them, those ravenous socialites.” But I was driven from the pack— and with the hard sun of summer, I call back to them with a distant pleading howl, yearning to pull at their fur with Romulus. I was not tame, and was therefor captive, loitering on the edge of society without a plot. But then, of course, Silence is Sound. I tear my sirloin fingertips like skinning the blubber off a whale. Flesh that is not my own Swollen, bloody and imperfect. They call it ‘Wolf Biting.’ And what do I say to the voyeurs? “I am trying to make them look like yours, so that I too can be flawless.”
My housemate is there beside a desk covered in electronic equipment new, a mixing board and an audio interface and he says “this is really nice!” “This is really nice! But do you need this? It’s expensive. You could just use mine!” That’s one dream. I’m eating, in another. Like a child eats cake. It gets smeared everywhere. Is that the way in which I harm you? The mess, the newly absent cake, or the knowledge I’m consuming? They used to call privileges “blessings” and no, they couldn’t count them then, either, indulging or not. These dreams are nightmares, you know, because there’s nothing to brag about in eating cake or audio equipment. My artist friends skim poverty but some of them came from rich families, did Masters’ degrees and learned canons about blessings. (Most people who read poetry think I have a job. Most people who don’t think I live off of my parents. In another dream, I go skiing with my mother, and on the way back we stop at the bakery we always stopped at, and we speak accented French and hear accented English. You, who work at bakeries,) Where did you go to school? There are times I’ve dipped below a grassy-fence line, and found it more like a plane, surface disturbed by waves, maintained in tension by molecules, clinging to fingers that push in, characteristics visible from the side, through a glass, like in that high-school experiment with the bent pencil. At recess, with the clear blue sky... Only the guy next to you, holding hands... When you’re lucky, the air at your back...
Driving three hours in the dark to listen to memories from June,
the street lights hopscotch orange black orange black,
tires hum as they marry the asphalt, the lullaby of the restless,
a plastic bag parachutes toward me on the toes of a Winter wind,
we pass one another, running.
un-capitalist i fidget with the heavens and hells lurking to fold and open the poverty of humankind. corrupt in the institutions of education, race, of mental recovery from an unknown disillusionment. then they think they have got it figured. all i see is an invasion of two interludes bisecting trauma for instant recovery stuck on billboards.
* for H
you showed me the bright sun – it shone as a spot of gold dust – the ramifications of history did not damage planets. we clung on to each other – cocooned in a thin layer of fabric – your hands with the leftover oil – from coastal food, my feet soles with sand granules. you took me to the corner of Benaulium beach – broken shells were washed ashore – the corner of shells – see, how the sea saves nothing for itself.
you were a soliloquy in yourself – away from the maddening crowd – i was pulled by your gravitation – seagulls took flight into the vast, one layered blue sky.
the light tinge of moon – visible on an afternoon – captured by your lens – while a man played the violin. your eyes – brushstrokes of observation – we sat down on broken stairs, listening to muffled voices – the silences in open, unoccupied spaces were inviting. a bicycle cast a shadow of its own – then basked in the sun. outside my own being – there was you – an extension of my breathing self. I realized you
were the openness, the vast sky, sounds of birds and the texture of sand. you were the force of life – gushing through my bloodstream – i realized – the reason to live.
Rachael Bindas 30
Vanity You coat your eyelashes in slick black, Elongating the fine hairs. Longer. Longing for more than simple stagnancy. Bags of dying orchids under your eyes Reveal an exhaustion deeper than sleep deprivation. Pewter ash covers the porcelain of your eyelids. Porcelain cracks. Chips. Breaks. And you cannot bear the thought of external fragility. Your tear ducts fill to the brim. Tears leave thick gray track marks in their wake. The salt tastes stale on your tongue, Smears your fresh rouge lips, And you imagine blood dripping from your chin, Like memories you wish to forget. Drip. Drop. But the stains on your soul cannot be hidden With drugstore concealer.
You coat your eyelashes in slick black, Elongating the fine hairs. Longer. Longing for more than simple stagnancy. Bags of dying orchids under your eyes Reveal an exhaustion deeper than sleep deprivation. Pewter ash covers the porcelain of your eyelids. Porcelain cracks. Chips. Breaks. And you cannot bear the thought of external fragility. Your tear ducts fill to the brim. Tears leave thick gray track marks in their wake. The salt tastes stale on your tongue, Smears your fresh rouge lips, And you imagine blood dripping from your chin, Like memories you wish to forget. Drip. Drop. But the stains on your soul cannot be hidden with drugstore concealer.
Rachael Bindas 31
Phantasm How desperately I yearn to lose myself in your fervent touch. To beat as one with the constant drumming of your heart. To be engulfed by the flames of your kisses, drowning in a simple ecstasy. To be consumed by the flames of your skin, until night fades, stealing you away from me.
Rachael Bindas 32
Small Pleasures Iâ€™m on the lookout for small pleasures. One a day is enough. The sun colour-washing the sky, distant stars prickling the universe, a maple stretching up out of a cracked limestone wall flaunting its orange red plumage. All these are gifts that hearten. Once I was too busy to notice. Now, I have the time.
The Naming of Things I know the word’s there just dangling
It is mute, blank-faced.
out of a stuffed niche in my Temporal Lobe.
Others wait while I grope, my hands forming
It hasn’t seen light for a while;
a replica of the word I’m after.
needs to stir and show itself.
Sometimes I wait, my pencil hovering
After I’ve made a thorough search,
until a word floats by and I snare it
the word comes as though just roused.
like a silvery glistening fish
I prod and test it for soundness.
and land it on the page.
We look each other in the eye.
Its essence will evaporate I know,
‘Will you do?’ I wonder. ‘Do you grasp the situation
finding its way back to a dark cranny
and fit nicely into the slot?
where it will lie in wait until I tease it out again.
Are you what I had in mind?’
The Waiting Room We sit, hands in laps, staring ahead like animals caught in head lights.
They don’t call us patient without reason.
The hands on the clock creep from one minute to the next.
The PA system breaks the stillness. “Is that my name?” we wonder.
How much combined effort it took us to come in today.
We ponder our chances.
Joan Wilding 35
I Am Not Phil
Come out, they tell me, just for a minute. Peek your head out so we know you’re alive. You don’t have to stay long; Cold winter air will do you good. You can go back to sleep, you can tumble your plump body down into burrow-please show your cocoa-eyes to us, even once is enough. I am here but I am not ready to face the day. They should know by now guilt moves neither man nor beast; a duty to perform is the one I like least. The monkey that dances, the man-clown twisting balloons in the park--go bother them. Go peel the covers off their bedsheets, splash their silly noses with ice-cold water and leave me alone in this llittle hole. Year upon year, on this day they repeat. They cajole, they entreat, they promise not to forget me tomorrow. But nobody cares about an oversized rodent in July, even if I only sweat from my feet. Lay off the grass, they may say, and I’ll say I’ll poke holes in your landscape year-round if you let me. What does a man care about my shadow; what does it matter whether I come out today or on February 3? I am not even from Punxsutawney. I will cast no shade or I will stay drowsy in my bed until my heart stops, a freak accidental death today or tomorrow. Either way: winter will end, more or less, in six weeks.
Black Squirrel After Ada Limón’s “State Bird”
Confession: I did not want to be here, amongst the upright stones that hold their breath, then sing, like screams at early dawn. Their hands kiss mine, and nails draw scars of their names right where my pulse knocks, in red, your name only, flaming. I wish my eyes would show me everything they see that makes me dream of death at night. Also, friend, I’ll admit this: when I came to shed my tears, a gift for your new home, I met the black squirrel by the fresh flowers buried in spiraling dry leaves. He looked my way when I cried out your name.
If denied its ultimate i noble Amphibiology is reduced to a muddled amphibology or more sonorously amphiboly.
In either case, it’s lost its way and its capital A, having gone awry from science’s sound rationality to “nothing will satisfy.”
The hirsute hoodlums accosted the mark who to avoid being bearded borrowed the porcupineâ€™s rebarbative poise
The boys with the beards threw up their hands turned on their heels and into the distance peeled without pause
So if frazzled by fortune remember this verse staying cool might work butâ€Ś so might the reverse
Inspirational Phrases Inspirational phrases on bedroom walls t-shirts and coffee mugs in curvaceous fonts and Easter pastels remind us that our mistakes are not regrets but alternate pathways shaping life to be some beautiful purposeful journey so when ruminating about drinking too many vodka crans and gyrating hips to no music it should be seen as a golden sun setting in the west emitting a ray of hope towards the path of controlled drinking until next happy hour
You know it’s summer when the steering wheel feels a little warmer There is no Freon in the air conditioner but it’s ok roll down the window to the cars driving by on suburban streets running over splashes from last night’s rain watering the manicured grass of designer houses with children outside swimming in the turtle pool drinking Kool Aid and eating hot dogs on crumpled sandwich slices living the best of their youth as you take a turn on the freeway exit to get onto the perimeter highway the sun follows you
Photo by Melissa Upfold, Calculated Colour
A Wuthering Night BY RACHAEL BINDAS
Falling asleep upset with you is like breathing without air—suffocating. Enough of an insomniac already, I suppose one more thing keeping me awake all night truly doesn’t make much of a difference. The only difference is that any other night, I can lie there, listening to the rain crashing against the windowpanes, dreaming awake. But tonight I’ll stay awake as long as it takes to write and rewrite this piece of shit of free verse, until it becomes something even decent.
I really only write when I’m upset, because poetry is my solution to everything I don’t know how to fix, hoping these meaningless scratches on torn paper may prove something to you. But these failed acrostics and dull prose attempts could never accurately capture the way I feel about you. The sound of your favorite show blares in the background as I write this, but it sounds awfully similar to the pain in your voice that I inflicted when we last spoke. I hate when you’re upset—it’s like a piece of my soul just feels incomplete. So when it’s aimed at me, it’s less like feeling somewhat incomplete and more like feeling completely vacant. Empty. I know it’s useless to hope for this storm to subside, knowing morning will only bring more of the same, but I’m growing tired as the seconds tick on, and my handwriting is slowly becoming more and more illegible with each word, so goodnight, my Heathcliff.
BY COURTNEY STEIGER New Year’s Eve three years ago. We went to our friend’s house and left at 2 a.m. We walked all the way across town in a blizzard back to his house because the cab companies were too busy. It was 6 km and an absolute white-out. When we got home we both laughed because he looked like the abominable snowman. We took off our winter things and the house smelled like peppermint and stale Christmas tree. We made hot chocolate and danced around the kitchen, we held each other’s hands and he wrapped his arms around me. Then we crawled under the covers in his room and he pressed his icy toes against me. We swore we’d do this for the rest of our lives. I was so happy. He was so buzzed. We were so in love. Fast-forward three years. The night before he left for university we danced around his bathroom to Thomas Rhett’s hit “Die A Happy Man.” He promised it’d be our song forever when we’d heard it a year prior and he said he’s never broken a promise. Later that night we laid in bed and cried; I think we both knew this would be the last night we spent together. I stayed up every minute because I knew if I fell asleep, our deadline would approach quicker. He snored beside me and it was the first time in my life I didn’t mind the noise. And then before I knew it he was gone. He was walking to his car and I was yelling down my driveway “I love you! I love you!” and he said “I love you too, but that doesn’t make things work. I love you, I do, but that isn’t enough anymore.” And with those words and the slamming of his car door, he was gone. I crumbled into a little ball of heartache because that’s all I knew how to do and laid on the grass beside my driveway until 7 p.m. when my neighbour came home from his Thanksgiving dinner and helped me inside to bed and gave me a glass of water and told me to call if I needed anything. Here are the things I realized while realizing I had just been left: Somebody can be your whole life and then one day, all you have left of them are some old T-shirts and a handful of memories. You can spend months wondering why they left, but it won’t make them come back. If I knew we’d say goodbye I would have held him more, and played with his hair, and rubbed his back before he even had to ask, and smiled more. Damn, I would have loved him so much harder. Around the one-month mark, I cried in the abandoned Zeller’s parking lot at 2 a.m. because I saw a video of us joking around on his couch and the sun was beaming, and so was I and he had that big goofy grin on his face — anybody that knows him, knows the exact one I’m talking about. Fuck I miss him. What makes it so easy for somebody to leave? He kept saying things would get better but I just wanted “better” to mean “back together.” We had fought before, spewed out venomous words like my life depended on it. But we always found our way back together, because that’s what happens when people care about each other. But that wasn’t the case—at least not this time. He cared, but not enough to stick around. I went through all the stages that every self-help book I owned said I would—denial, anger, and then depression. Around the two-month mark, I was cleaning through my closet and I dropped his bottle of
NON-FICTION - TSUNAMI BY COURTNEY STEIGER
cologne and it shattered the same way I did when he left and it’s all I could smell no matter how much I scrubbed and I was so angry I smashed all the photos of us in my room. Fuck you. I went from being some proud, I’m-too-good-for-him girl to some wanna-be poet who begged him to come back. The night of our would-be anniversary I sent him a message along the lines of “Our love spread all over the fucking world, from the lock bridge in Paris, to the Romeo and Juliet wall in Italy, to the top of a mountain in California, our names are scrawled into trees and written on metal and etched in stone. If this was some once-in-a-lifetime love like you always said it was, then why was it so easy for you to leave. Please come back to me.” Pathetic. My dad keeps telling me to let dead things be dead — referring to people, relationships and love. I always used to tell him “you never fail to amaze me” and then it felt like I woke up one day and amaze was replaced with disappoint —yeah, that sounds right, you never fail to disappoint me. I miss when we cared so much that we couldn’t sit beside each other for more than five minutes without a forehead kiss or an I love you or a handhold, but sometimes that wasn’t appropriate so we’d just drink our morning coffee and pretend not to look at each other. If I could go back I’d love him so much better. But I can’t. So I won’t. And in another lifetime maybe we’re together. But here we aren’t. And that’s that. I actually miss things I never thought I would. Even hockey games. Yep, I even miss those stupid hockey games where I sat on a smelly bus with his team for six hours then froze my ass off in the arena. I keep staring at my hand trying to remember what it felt like to have his intertwined in it. I knew everything about him, like where his scars are and what they’re from and what his family was like when he was young and why he loved Christmas so much and where he got his sensitive side from and how he gets veins in his arm when he’s mad and how his face goes red when he tried not to cry and the freckles on his arms and scar on his face and mark on his chest and spot on his ankle and the saddest part is I’m starting to forget these things because they aren’t mine to remember anymore. I saw him for the first time in three months and my mom said that it was better to be alone and alive than have dead company and I’m not really sure what she meant but I bet being dead would hurt a hell of a lot less than whatever I’m feeling now. When you’re 18, you’re stupid enough to believe that your first love is your forever love — that they would never hurt you because they have your heart and your virginity, and then one day, all at once like a tsunami, they scream at you and break the plates, and tell you you’re too much, and they can’t handle it anymore, but they really mean that they can’t handle you, and then you’re left with a gaping hole of where they used to be and it hurts and you’re frozen and you have to learn to breathe again. And it feels like today is the end of the world, but today will end, and tomorrow will be better and everything will be okay. It’s not the end of the world. Sometimes you just need to remember that love doesn’t always last forever.
My Parents’ Home, Not Mine
BY MEERA NEHME Summer 2014. I stared up at the ceiling in my bedroom, clutching onto the soft green covers that dripped off the right side of the mattress. I breathed heavily as I pictured in my head the scene I would be introduced to in exactly two days: a run-down airport in a deserted land, surrounded by guns and dust. So I thought. My parents had told me exciting stories of the beautiful landscape in Lebanon, about the days they would go play in the snow and then go down to the beach, about the concerts in the mountains, and the road trips around the country they would do in a few hours. I would see my mother’s eyes tear up as she told me stories about her wonderful aunts that spoiled her with their love, and the incredible sense of family and hospitality in her village. Sadly, in all of the light they shed onto their loving country, I only focused on the shadows: the war that had forced them to flee their paradise. I remember the day a great Lebanese leader was murdered. Although too young to understand the impact of the events on my family, I sensed fear for a country I had been told to call my own. My parents, aunts, and uncles all gathered in my grandparent’s living room, as a foreign Arabic resounded from the TV. People marched, cried, screamed, and images of dusty cities accompanied with the constant sound of guns replayed over and over again. There it was: my preconceived image of my country. Nonetheless, I continued introducing myself as a Lebanese. When asked to present where I came from in the third grade, I presented Lebanon, without paying any second thought to my decision. After all, what else would I say without being ridiculed? I was clearly not Canadian. Instead of having a grilled cheese sandwich (the cheese, orange, to my surprise) for lunch, nicely stored in a Ziploc bag, I used to pull out large Tupperware’s containing a tightly wrapped Pita bread, with tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, olives, and kibbeh. My eyes were darker and my eyebrows significantly larger than all the other girls’ and I had an accent in French and in English, although I excelled in both subjects. *** I was forced to go to Lebanon that summer. My grandma, unable to come visit anymore because of her old age, had been begging my dad to come see the new home she had just bought, and the rooms she had arranged specifically for us. It was only when I arrived to Lebanon did I realize how much she missed us. A room for my sister and me was ready, decorated with pink flowers on the wall and pink bedsheets. I wish I could have thanked her, then, but I only focused on the heat in the house and the sudden loss of power, that I later learnt happens more than once a day. As my plane landed on Lebanese grounds, I looked outside the window. At the sight of the bright sun and the green mountains, I suddenly felt ashamed that I had fallen for the images the media had repeatedly transmitted to me throughout the years. Although many soldiers roamed the airport as well as the country, there was no reason to fear for my life. To my surprise, everyone went about their daily lives like we would in Canada, with freedom. As we got into my aunt’s car, I observed my parent’s homeland, as well as their reaction. They were as speechless as I was. Having left the country in a terrible state, they seemed to be in a totally different country. Large billboards filled Beirut, and to my surprise a McDonald’s emerged every few kilometers. Once in a while, my mom would nudge me and say: “You see those holes in the walls over there. These are bullet holes that have been there even before I was born.” The war residues were part of “my tour”, and since I was lucky enough to never experience it, I was fascinated by it. On the third day, my mom asked my aunt to take us to her old home. As we drove through run-down houses, my mom excitedly described to us the home she remembered. When we entered the city, she told us to look around and proudly told us that she was born here, in Achrafieh. My sister and I looked around and without thinking, I blurted “It looks like slums”. I regretted it instantly, seeing that what I had just said consisted of a great insult towards my mom, who had spent her life in this place, without ever
NON-FICTION - MY PARENTS’ HOME NOT MINE BY MEERA NEHME
thinking of fleeing it, despite the war. Lebanon was a cultural shock to me. I am glad I got to see the beautiful country that I heard about so much throughout my childhood, but at the same time, I was disappointed that I did not feel a great connection to it. On the contrary, I felt like I belonged more in Canada, although I had never identified myself as Canadian before. I only went for two weeks, but it was more than enough for my family and me. It was a pleasure to meet my dad’s side of the family, however, the excitement of introducing me to what they thought was unavoidably my country wore me out. Everyday, I was introduced to dozens of people, not to mention that whenever I finally found peace alone, my grandma would come rushing after me to see if I was okay (or hungry). Electricity and water would cut off for several hours a day, where my Canadian body would melt away in the heat and humidity of the city. Coming back from Lebanon, as I saw the flat and organized city of Montreal from the airplane window, I felt at home. It took a trip to “my homeland” to finally realise that I had been home all my life.
Art by Sheila Tucker (Essay continued on next page)
Ours to Create BY SHEILA TUCKER Most of us go to our grave with our music still inside us. - Oliver Wendell Holmes
I have always considered myself a poet and a writer. I love the way authors weave words into something exciting and cathartic. I feel that same way when I write. Why then have I turned to expressing myself through oils and watercolours? I took up painting recently after four life-saving surgeries. I believe the trauma of that experience is only now surfacing, in the form of facial imagery. Mainly done as abstracts, my faces materialize on canvas without forethought—extensions of my inner self. In this sense, they are a bit like digital avatars. Each has a name: Joy, Anger, Reverence, Malice, and so on. Some of my faces are animalistic, others are realistic, but all stare straight ahead, some locking eyes directly with the viewer as if to challenge in some way. This one (on previous page) is Thoughts. She is contemplating her past, her present, her realisation that she continues to morph, as does everyone. Life’s experiences make us the people we are and, actually, we can control this process for the best outcome if we’re aware of what’s happening to us. For me, painting these avatars personifies emotions and issues. For instance, Malice, the face I first painted, has a mean look to her eyes. Her mouth, voluptuous at first glance, has a slight grimace. Malice is the disease that wanted to kill me last year. She is now locked into a canvas and will never get out. There is something comforting about staring at her and knowing I am now safe. My Joy face is the realisation that life is beautiful, and that I’ll never take anything for granted again. Carpe diem. We humans have been creating portraits of animals and of ourselves for thousands of years. Think of the 33,000-year-old Burrup petroglyphs, the 3,500-year-old bust of Nerfertiti, or today’s Self Portrait by Chuck Close. We create because it is instinctive. We call it art or industry or survival, because creation is as much about beauty and statement as it is about utility. Which brings me to another aspect of art and creativity: the instinct to leave one’s mark. Whether I am a blacksmith, a graphic designer, a musician or a fiction writer, the work I create is “my baby.” A finished canvas is my statement about and to the world. We leave our stamp in many ways. Marilyn Monroe left hers in her movie performances and in hand imprints outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. John Lennon’s music is still played on radio; he also left line drawings that he’d sketched throughout his life. The scientist Jacques Cousteau conducted underwater expeditions and produced films and television series that live on. Famous or not, we all want to be remembered in some way. As creative beings, we are compelled to paint, carve, shoot films, or write from a place deep inside ourselves. Perhaps it is to leave a legacy. I think it is a deep desire, a collective unconscious motivation to evolve with the planet, to be a part of change, of additions to or modifications of our world.
NON-FICTION The poet Thomas Gray wrote his masterpiece, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” in the eighteenth century. Several stanzas acknowledge the human wish to construct, make music, build countries, learn more, and create more than often they were able, due to workloads and lack of opportunity. Peasants had a hard life of toil, after all. One of my favorite stanzas in Gray’s poem is this one:
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,
Or wak’d to ecstasy the living lyre.
So, yes, the time felt right for me to branch out from writing and evolve as a creative being. Knowing after my experience that I am far from immortal, painting is a newfound discovery. And if even one piece of my work still exists in a hundred years, I’d be satisfied, knowing that I’d left my stamp.
Photo by Melissa Upfold, Calculated Colour
PHOTOGRAPHY - SHEILA TUCKER
PHOTO ESSAY - BRIAN MICHAEL BARBEITO
Mosaics: Journeys through Landscapes Urban and Rural
BY BRIAN MICHAEL BARBEITO
PHOTO ESSAY - BRIAN MICHAEL BARBEITO
PHOTOGRAPHY - MELISSA UPFOLD
Photo by Melissa Upfold, Calculated Colour