T H E V E G L I T E R A R Y MAGAZINE annual, winter 2016
Interview with Sean Michaels
interview Compiled by Alex Keys and Emily Mernin
Required of a professor
The Astrologer Who was Well
Stripmalls in the Woods
Traces: For Reconciliation
The Last Spring Cleaning
Can a Ceiling Fan be a Juror?
To Monday the Cat
Lullabies for Little Whales
Ozzy on Libertad
Two Wise Men
French riot police
sick and sad girl
Untangle My Mind
the veg literary magazine winter 2016 vol. 12 #1
The Veg Literary Magazine is funded by the Fine Arts Council of the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) of McGill University. The content of this publication does not necessarily represent the views of the AUS or McGill University. internet firstname.lastname@example.org twitter.com/veg_mag facebook.com/thevegmagazine thevegmagazine.tumblr.com printing by
Dear Reader, You’ve missed us. We’ve missed us. Everyone misses everyone and nothing’s on target. Bless the stars. This issue - our first ever annual - brings us an interview with McGill’s Mordecai Richler Writer-in-Residence Sean Michaels, alongside a staggering variety of poetry and prose. You’ll bump shoulders with schoolyard philosophers, the rivers of Hades, cosmic sea-life, and even somebody’s cat. It’s ever a party with The Veg. Perhaps a minor note - one of our selections carries a heavy weight. Let this serve as a content warning for rape and sexual assault. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who submitted poetry, prose, and artwork to us this past year. In ever shifting landscapes, where grey skies can loose snowstorms or stone golems, it’s always comforting to know there are folk still scribbling their inner workings on paper… and yet others willing to read them. Happy Spring, friends.
Love, The Editors Kat Boechler Marinella Iballa Nina Ciffolillo Alexander Keys Özlem Maviş Emily Mernin Joseph Mulholland Kira Smith Jacob Wald Mark Weissfelner
Interviw with Sean Michaels Sean Michaels is McGillâ€™s 20152016 Mordecai Richler writer in residence. His first novel Us Conductors won the 2014 Giller Prize. In 2003, while completing his B.A. in English Literature at McGill, he founded one of the first music blogs, Said the Gramaphone, which he continues to maintain. His writing has since appeared in The Guardian, McSweenyâ€™s, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, The Walrus and The Believer. He writes a weekly music column for the Globe and Mail, and is now working on his second novel.
Compiled by Alex Keys and Emily Mernin
VEG | Who’s your favourite character in fiction? SEAN | It’s hard to choose. There’s a lot of possibilities that come to mind, so I’ll just name the first one. I think often when you’re thinking about things that are close to your heart, they tend to be linked back to childhood. For me, there’s a character in the books of the Finnish writer Tove Jansson called Snufkin, who’s this guy with this green kind of Robin Hood cap, and this big green poncho, and he smokes a pipe. He’s quite melancholy and private, and he comes wandering out of the woods, and stays for a time, drinking and talking and smoking and then wanders away. He’s an inveterate wanderer, and I’ve always been struck by the way that Jannson in those books makes a character who’s full of mystery and secrets seem very lovable and not cold. V | How do you balance your various writing projects? You’re writing your second novel now but you also have a music blog and a column in the Globe and Mail. S | I try to really separate it. It’s hard, I have more things on my plate this semester than I’m used to. I try to prioritize to some extent; the most important thing for me is the fiction writing, so I try to privilege that and give that time every day. I fit the other things in, like I plan ahead to know exactly when I’m going to work on those other bits and pieces. I write for the Globe on Thursdays, and I prepare for the class on Monday afternoons and Tuesday mornings. You just have to apportion your time really carefully, but it helps when the deadlines are so time dependent. I post to the blog on Mondays, the class is Tuesday afternoon, the Globe is due by Thursday afternoon.
V | Have you ever missed a deadline for the column? S | No. Honestly, being a freelance writer one of the first things you learn is that the number one thing that helps you to be a working writer is meeting your deadlines and being a pleasure to work with. Ultimately your talent and the quality of your work matters less than turning in what you need to turn in. Often editors just need to make sure that everything happens. Otherwise you could be a genius that makes their life a lot harder and that’s not necessarily very appealing. V | Do you think there’s a big intersection between literature and music? What do you see that being? >>>
S | There’s a lot of intersection but it’s also really surprising to me how separate and how different they are. The economic model is very different, especially now. I’ll go to a concert and look at fifty, a hundred, or a thousand people who’ve all paid twenty to forty dollars for a show and I’m so jealous. If I come to town and do a reading, often they’re free or close to free. There’s ten people there, and they don’t all buy the book. And then the musicians kind of glower at me, because they say there’s people all over the place who might hear about and buy your book, in a way that isn’t really true anymore for music, and that there’s fewer people who split the pot with you as a writer than as a musician. I’m not sure if that’s true, but anyway. There’s other differences. Music is often a collaboration, and writing is really a solitary activity. Reading a book is a very intimate experience and readers feel very close to you as an author. For musicians you don’t feel as close; there’s more of a celebrity thing. But they’re both art, self-expression, and music like writing reaches each writer or listener in a unique way. Each member of the audience experiences the art and interprets it a very different way, and the authorial intention is kind of irrelevant. I think of music and writing as siblings, but quite different in a lot of ways. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about music, and more of my friends are musicians than they are writers, so it’s interesting to compare the tribes. Musicians are anxiety-ridden in different ways than writers tend to be, and they tend to be less self-absorbed. Well, singers and writers are very self-absorbed, but if you meet a guitarist or a drummer they tend to be very chill. V | How do you render sound or music in a novel? S | For me it starts with prose style. The best writers’ sentences have a feeling, a kind of timbre, that surrounds and occasionally even subsumes the meaning-content of the words. It has to do with sound, sonority—meter, emphasis, alliteration. These can have an almost synaesthetic effect. Their importance became even more clear to me during the process of Us Conductors’ translation into French, during the past year. My translator, the writer Catherine Leroux, would send me her French drafts, and I found myself getting annoyed at sections wehre the French version had a different sort of sound feel than the original. I would sometimes say to her that I’d prefer a translation which was less accurate but that preserves the sound-felling of the sequence, the rhythm of it. So I guess for me that is the place where writing is at its most musical—it’s not in its references to or descriptions of muisc, but in the way that the writer uses the musicality of the language on the page.
V | Has your book been translated into any other languages? S | Just French so far. We’ve sold the rights in the Czech Republic and Italy, so that’s going to happen hopefully. It’s really weird because unlike the French where I was like “No, no, no, change this word”, the Czech they’ll send something and all I can say is “OK, seems fine…” V | Does the unique linguistic space of Montreal influence you as an Anglophone writer? Do you engage with the French lit scene in Canada at all? S | I do engage with it a bit, I try to read French books. I don’t read that many, but it’s one of the things that I keep pushing myself to do more of. I’ve been really happy with my experiences at festivals where there’s a mixture of French authors and English authors, because we really are kind of ships passing in the night, but we should be more connected to each other. Quebec does such a good job of celebrating its own writers, cultivating its writers, and I want to take advantage of all that flourishing here and be a part of it and also enjoy it. I’m going to Trois Rivieres this Saturday for just such a thing. But they are kind of separate worlds, because there’s a lot of Anglophones who don’t speak French well enough to do it. There’s more French people who read English, actually, kind of disappointingly. So I would really love for English readers to make more of an effort to explore that part of the world here, especially if you live in Montreal. I don’t know that the language of Montreal has informed my writing, but it’s definitely helped my artistic practice. First of all just hearing different rhythms in the language around you, but I’ve said before that one of the things I love about Montreal as an English speaker is that every day feels a little bit like you’re in a foreign country. Even though we all get really familiar with all the French, when you go travelling in a place where your first language isn’t the dominant language, something just kind of gets activated. I find that every little moment becomes more precious and special. It’s easier to live in the moment and notice these tiny little differences and occurrences, you know, if you’re somewhere with a Cyrillic alphabet all over the place, or Chinese characters, or even Spanish or anything, you have that experience where every beat you’re like “Look at that fruit stand!” in way that you wouldn’t pay attention at home. There’s just enough difference that your mind is more attentive to these little moments. It’s so pleasurable. And so living in Montreal I feel like I experience that, where there’s just that slight obstacle to comprehension that makes me more attentive and thoughtful. I’m always disappointed when I go to Toronto or the States, anywhere English speaking, that everything feels too easy, like annoyingly easy, and I feel myself becoming intellectually lazy without that little challenge. >>>
V | You mentioned the Cyrillic alphabet—did you visit Russia for Us Conductors? S | Yeah, once Us Conductors was far enough along, and I’d written at least a couple of drafts—so far enough along that it would justify the expense of going to Russia—I went. It was expensive and I had no money, so I applied for some grants. I kind of falsified a grant application to help me out. I pitched some travel articles, so I ended up writing about the Moscow restaurant scene for The Guardian and I wrote a little piece for Reader’s Digest. It helped pay my way. So I did go, and I don’t speak Russian at all, but I learned the Cyrillic alphabet. It’s really neat in Russia because although it sounds super different, tons of the vocabulary is taken from French and English. It looks different on the page obviously, but once you learn the alphabet you can see a sign and sound it out. Their newspaper is called The Gazette, but it looks quite different (газета). Once you can sound that out you’re good. V | Do you think the Canadian literary scene right now is “healthy”? Do you think of yourself particularly as a Canadian writer? S | I think I end up thinking of myself as a Canadian writer, but I like to proudly think of myself as a Montreal writer. Regional identities I think are very authentic, whereas national identities are really constructed, and I’m very wary of the dangers of that kind of nationalism and I’m not very fond of it. I think that we would all be better off if we were less interested in people from the same “country” and more interested in people we see as kindred spirits, who make work that appeals to us. However obviously the country matters, particularly from a bureaucratic structural standpoint. I like the way that we support the arts here; there’s a public responsibility and we all kind of contribute to supporting the arts. That’s good, I think it helps make it a healthy scene, and it is surprisingly robust. But on the other hand I do think that awards such as the one that I won, the Giller, occupy a disproportionately large amount of the national conversation about writing. The Giller and Canada Reads use up so much of the oxygen. In so many book clubs, the Canadian books that they read are ones they’ve heard about through those two accolades. A lot of money goes toward supporting those structures, and I really wish people would take interest in the wide array of Canadian literature rather than just the big prize winners. Although I have benefited from that. V | Who are your literary inspirations? Do you ever feel yourself resisting the influence of an author you love?
S | The writers who helped me crystalize my understanding of my own voice were Salman Rushdie and F. Scott Fitzgerald—Rushdie’s kitchen-sink, overflowing cup of language and image and dream and all these things, and then Fitzgerald’s precision and clarity and beauty in this very different mode. Those two authors together were really important to helping me understand how I could move forward. Recently though I’ve been very envious of writers like Miriam Towes and Jonathan Franzen, who take stories that are very nuts-and-bolts, real life, naturalistic, not this poetic lyrical heightened reality, with real dialogue and characters who are having real messy experiences, and somehow they’re able to pile all those scenes onto each other and build something that’s resonantly beautiful. It’s something I’m trying to explore a little bit, so sometimes I would say that in my writing now I try to lean less on the Fitzgerald/ Rushdie side of things and push towards other voices that disrupt my patterns and habits. We all read things and think “I could never do that”, so it’s an interesting direction to try and nervously head towards instead of away from. V | What did you learn writing your first novel that you’re bringing forward? Is there anything you would change in Us Conductors looking back? S | Yes, there’s a scene actually... There’s one crucial scene that happens near the end, when Lev finally tells the true story of his last conversation with Clara before he left America, and there’s a part of it that I would rewrite because a lot of readers did not get it. I feel that writer’s frustration of being misunderstood. There’s a couple lines of dialogue that I would love to tweak a little bit, and I’ve been trying to decide if that’s something I’d be allowed to do. There’s so many copies, there’s so many editions, but could the next edition see improvement? I think the answer is yes but there’s also something embarrassing about capitulating to your own need to change something. But I heard once that the American and Canadian editions of How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti have an entirely different chapter, or some massive difference. So I’m pretty tempted, but you really want to treat a book as a document— Us Conductors is a document of the book I wrote when I was writing Us Conductors. But I do have that temptation when I feel like there’s an error in that book, where something wasn’t as clearly articulated as it ought to have been. To the first part of the question, that was a book I really thoroughly outlined before I wrote it, and that was very helpful. I didn’t know if it would work or not, and it did, and now it’s a piece of advice I give to people, to outline novels. It doesn’t work for everyone, but I’m an advocate of it. >>>
So the second novel that I’m working on now I’m working from a detailed outline again, but I think that the next novel I write I will not work from an outline. Now I’m getting annoyed and it isn’t working as well, so it’s interesting, the lesson I learned from book one I’m maybe un-learning in book two, but we’ll see. V | How did you respond the reception of Us Conductors, positive or negative? S | I’ve been a music critic for many years, so I’ve thought about criticism a lot and I’ve spoken to many musicians, friends, colleagues, about reviews in particular and I’ve been a big defender of the importance of criticism. But when my book was on the verge of being published, I was suddenly feeling something that I did not expect at all, and that was a profound and cuts-you-to-the-quick kind of fear. And the fear wasn’t that I sucked, or that the book sucked—I felt like perhaps I sucked and perhaps the book sucked, but ultimately that was less important to me than the idea that it might garner bad reviews and my capacity to be a writer in my life might be put to an end. I.e. if it got bad reviews maybe I wouldn’t be allowed to be a writer anymore: nobody would buy it and nobody would ever publish one of my books again, it would earn no money, and my identity and livelihood would be taken away from me. Fiction writing wasn’t my livelihood yet, but the idea that that could ever be my livelihood, all of it would be taken away, and that had never occurred to me really as a critic. I’d always thought about the importance of criticism to making art better or challenging art and so on, but never the material consequences that an artist can feel from the reception to their work, and that’s a reception that’s both from the press and readers. So suddenly I felt really, really scared about a kind of failure that I’d never put myself in a position to experience before. So that was really scary and I learned a lot from weathering that, and it gave me a different respect for every creator. It was a relief that I survived it, but it also meant that if I got a bad or lukewarm review I had to learn not to see that as challenging my very existence. Obviously the thing that helped most with that was winning a big prize, because you realize how much everything’s just a giant shit-show. For the same book, five people love it, five people like it, five people don’t really like it, five people hate it. You know, five people think it deserves the biggest prize in the country and five more people think it shouldn’t even be nominated for the second biggest prize in the country. That kind of thing really helps you realize how taste is so specific and individual, and also helped me focus back in on myself and remember why I was writing, which was for the private individual satisfaction and fulfilment I get from putting words down on a page. I like to think that if the book had completely failed that I might have written another book anyway, but I’m not sure.
V | Do you see that fear coming back? S | I don’t know, I really think that I’m going to be in a much better position for the second book. I keep saying that and people are kind of skeptical—they say the expectations are going to be higher for the second book, but actually for me the fear is lessened. The hardest thing about being a writer is having enough money to continue being a writer, and that fear is gone. If this next book does a little bit less well, which I think it has to—I’m not going to win the Giller again—that’s fine. I don’t think somebody’s going to take away my “writer’s license” now; I’m kind of a made guy for a little bit, for another book or two. People will publish my work. So even if it does less well and my life takes a turn, it’s fine, I’m being conservative, I’m saving money, I feel like I can keep on going. I’ve reached readers and found a little audience. So I try to keep in check this ambition to be bigger than I was a year ago. In some ways if I’ve peaked there but I’m able to be sustainable in some way, that seems like a dream. That’s really what we should all be aiming for, a certain sustainability, not being king or queen of the mountain. V | As a Veg tradition, if you could be any vegetable, which would it be? S | I think I’m drawn to the eggplant. I’m trying to think of what the clever hilarious defence is... I like that they’re heartier than they look. •
J u l e s To m i
French riot police clash with student protestors over new labour laws in angry scenes on the streets of Paris
Required of a professor a warning that only the images in poetry deserve to be analyzed, to leave the real ones cold (or at least teach me to distinguish from the two) that it is not because the sun shines with a particular slant on his back that you two will be happy that your chance encounter a week before did not foreshadow the placement of his arm on your waist that even this arm did not pause, for a reason that he does not compose metaphors about the dip of your neck itâ€™s just a neck and that was just a sunset and the music was a separate thing entirely
Blackbox 35 mm
The Astrologer Who Was Well
Monday came, all was well. Tuesday came, he not sick. Wednesday came, and still he was well. Thursday came, and dinner was ended: he went down to the water-side, and took a pair of oars. Being in the middle of the river, he presently fell down, only saying, â€˜An impost, an impost,â€™ and so died.
Source: Account of the death of astrologer/alchemist/herbalist/occultist Simon Forman, who had (allegedly) predicted the date and circumstances four days earlier. From the autobiography of William Lilly.
Elko, NV That summer our bones were chalk: old commiserates in a dry month. The pant and squeal of hogs in the backs of hog-trucks making eyes at us at stoplights, us as parched and quizzical. The hot slate, shaded in lines of arithmetic, us producing cloudy Kilimanjaros when we clapped, like we learned about from Mr. Arrowroot, who rattled his pearly eyeglasses as he coughed.
Tabagie Gothic I leave your apartment: bricks bleached from years of acid snow. Ivy chokes the sides of dry cleaners. Villeneuveâ€™s a carnival. I donâ€™t write much anymore, just carve islands on sidewalks with copper leaves, tracing lacunae with the stems. The 80 roars past and I limp a little, home before the rain.
Stripmalls in the Woods First impression: the colonial manors, bricks bleached in old age, porches that span a lifetime, you having traced the dowels until they were ground to bone. If there is sin it is infant sin, too new to hate, caught only on camera and never in the sinew of your teeth. And the crust-punks on Church Street are only apparitions if you close your eyes long enough, shuffle, cough, avoid eye contact
Mutter Courage 35 mm
Traces: For Reconciliation 1. A rope swing, a teardrop, painfully intact (darkened in the middle) eerie negative-space that frames the door to the school behind: Red-brick and derelict haunted by ghosts that Earle Birney convinced us were not there.
2. The monosyllables sting most— Birtle. Tuque. Etc.— the homely homophones of Canadiana that repel the mud slung, thought so lyrical (so naïve, to think that poetry could raise the dead). 3. A putrid green shellacking (totalizing) the decaying furniture— of a boiler-room—the secrets in the basement, the easy metaphor no less wrenching for its ease. The place as if suddenly abandoned time frozen too late for four boys fleeing Lejac (hearts stopped) now buried by winters of neglect. Sometimes it’s not snow but the thaw that has to hurt. >>>
4. The putrid green again: the sickly hue of a lab experiment (the pride of D.C. Scott that grew like an insipid mold: choked the hearts and cloaked our eyes). Back in the classroom the strap searing. Making droplets on the floor (140 of them). Above, a mural of headdresses flakes and chips to dust.
staring back Digitally-improved ink illustration
sick and sad girl Digitally-improved ink illustration
The Last Spring Cleaning Hesitate before throwing away the spiked choker from your war goddess phase back when you painted your nails with blood and molten metals. You might find the odd tampon still sealed in its wrapper, coated with a fine dust of graphite and pencil shavings. Save that. Also keep the knitting needles you haven’t touched since second grade, when your obsession with Laura Ingalls Wilder convinced you that you could make anything you needed with your hands. Never lose that desire to tame the wild and unknown, even if doing so consists only of winding thread around itself.
Extract the memories from old makeup bottles before throwing them away. If you find a magnifying glass, always keep it close at hand. Be ruthless with old love notes, broken trinkets, magazines you always planned to read. You won’t need them where you’re going, but keep the melted birthday candles, the greasy coins relatives brought back for you from foreign countries, fragments of wishes not yet expired. Be sure to slip the baby incisor the tooth fairy generously let you keep beneath your parents’ pillow when you’re through.
Can a Ceiling Fan Be a Juror?
no no Please, no No No No No I said No No No No No No No No No No No No Please no no no n o n
To wake up on a burning pool chained to yourself is blasphemous (and done before). Yet I sit here alone, very much and very similarly untaught, still chained to myself on this unforgiving mirror. I expel all my distaste, I waste all my fluids, only to end up with a scalding, humorous infection that twists itself in my already contorted innards and it is a shame that no one notices. How easy it is to dress up my imps, to cloak them in clean skin and milky bones, and to pile them on top of one another (oh, how deceptive we can all be). The blistering sting distracts me from remembering that even though I have secretly made myself your slave, Charon takes only from me, while you walk away unscathed, and my red eyes were just a sad green all along.
Acheron Trust me that you are in a disturbingly dark amusement park. I promise this is engineering, just hear me out: The wet beads (I see you shaking, not to worry), are mere glitches on the interface. You have not stopped firing, (something bumped you and confused the wiring). You are not standing on your feet on that dun hill, You are standing on your head in the right field and while you are not underwater, you should consult the apothecary. I said, consult the apothecary! I know, I know... We should not be talking up here, Sometimes we wish for cobwebs and creaks instead of this sphere of a council of... Oh, we have definitely lost our balance!
The beads are now below the windows, rolling, rolling, we are submerged, I think.
Ozzy on Libertad Chris Forget
I landed in Santiago at 9 am December 28th. They took my planter’s peanuts at customs. I tried to get them back but my resort-traveler Spanish limited me to si and no and the Chilean officers threw the bag into a wet cardboard box with the rest of the confiscated snacks. Chile does not allow fresh alien produce into the country and I could not expect to persuade any locals. Miguel greeted me outside with musty air and gatorade that tasted like sour strawberries and introduced me to his uncle Alvaro. We walked over to his silver subaru station wagon full of avocados. In the backseat I squeezed my carry-on between my knees and Miguel hyperactively slammed my suitcase onto my lap. It was a two hour drive out to Viña on the coast and the ride was quiet and uncomfortable until we started talking about sports and rolled a few cigarettes, while I turned to the sandy mountains and pink flowers scattered like grass in the Martian desert Santiago. “You wun some bregfas?” Alvaro mumbled from the driver’s seat, self-conscious of his accent while speaking to me, king gringo. We stopped at a mcdonalds and ordered two hamburgers and a cafe con leche. I nibbled through the thin patty and thought about how I followed through with my idea of traveling, which was proof of how much I wanted it. I came to visit Miguel because he is my best friend who I pity. I thought of his drug dealer/father divorciado, new home and family with 80 inch screen TV (he is not accepted there). Miguel dropped out and was adopted at 18 like an orphan by his grandfather, who rented him a room in an indoor parking lot that smells like hermit cigarettes and sticky floors by the sea. Miguel lived in an apartment about half the size of my bedroom. A TV, bathroom, small closet, ashtray, mini fridge, microwave, and a bunkbed that is stacked perpendicular rather than parallel. I had the top bunk and I hit my head on the ceiling. The alpaca wool blankets kept me warm and helped me sleep well into the afternoon on quiet summer days. As soon as I dropped my bags Miguel wanted to show me the city and get some weed but
his friends either replied with nada or never texted back at all. I knew he would be preoccupied until he found some. While I watched him scroll through his contacts I felt a queasiness that became a dizzy feeling, like you get when you strain your neck and you feel the blood rushing into your head. We took an old red micro bus that braked hard for pedestrians and scraped the railings that stop cars from falling off the steep ocean hills. We raced by the sandy houses, the glass shopping mall and the German restos, into the heart of Viña where we moved through grocery stores and said permiso with our heads down to the old ladies we bumped into and bought some green manzanas to eat in the park with stray dogs. On our way home in the humid afternoon we crossed a homeless man named Ozzy on the corner of Libertad and Primer Norte who sold bandaids loudly and chopped weed under his breath. His dry hair and black eyes made my face harden and I felt the same heat in my stomach I used to get when boys tried to stir up fights before school. Ozzy asked us if we wanted to smoke a caño as we passed him but I said nah and kept walking. When we got to the end of the block Miguel told me to wait and I watched him look at his phone then back at the corner, and I told him to move under a tree for shade. I gave him a small Chilean bill and told him to pay the rest. Walking next to sweaty Miguel I returned to the corner feeling humiliated and stood in front of Ozzy’s hippy friends, who drank liquor on a patch of green grass giggling in chileno gringo gringo. Ozzy took our pesos across the street under the yellow bridge and through a dry river parking lot full of sand. The construction workers bowed their heads to him, and then we saw him pull up dead grass from the shadows under the bridge. When he returned he put on an honest smile and handed Miguel the grass wrapped in yellow newspaper. Miguel opened the paper and Ozzy gripped Miguel’s wrist and pointed to the pastel green cop cars across the street while he smirked at both me and his friends. “This isn’t fucking weed.” I pushed the grass into his face but he dodged it. “Disculpa,” he apologized with his back turned to me and went back to his sudsy friends. “Nod my prolem enemore”. He laughed and I smelled the stale beer on his breath that seeped through his missing teeth. I expected him to run away but he seemed to be enjoying our conversation. The dinero was staying in his pocket, but it seemed like only I had realized this. Miguel was startled out of his weed dream and pushed Ozzy, saying “Give us our dos gramos! You hobo piece of shit.” But Ozzy kept laughing with his feet planted in the grass. He pointed with his head to the Policia Volkswagens behind us. “Come on, we trusted you,” I pled. “People should be able to trust one another, peace around the world? Amor para todos?” “Amores perros” he replied. “Life’s a beetch”. Still smirking, he ran back under the bridge. The police waited for us to walking back down the shady boulevard Libertad.
Macaroon For a better today, I wake up at sunrise, maybe sunset. I unravel my bike along the lakeshore and I buy a macaroon, maybe a lottery ticket. I challenge the girl whose eyes I cannot see to look at me; I look at her forehead. For a better yesterday, I sleep at sunrise, maybe sunset. I tumble in cartwheels into the neighbourhood sea, my weight breaking seashells under my fingertips. My father’s suit is muddy, my father’s shoes are thick smoke.
For a better tomorrow, sunrise and sunset climb in unison to the top of the valley and fade out. My window overlooks a forest, my bike has no wheels, the sea grows hard, my father’s suit is washed shiny clean. I hand the girl my macaroon, my lottery ticket, and I look at her eyes.
Zoe Quinn Shaw
Untangle My Mind Winsor Newton Black Ink
To Monday the Cat Cold, embarrassed and dignified, burdened by a certain body and intelligence something escapes her after sleeping; it steams out her eyes, before icing over, awake and aware again of her scant absurd vessel. Max Henry
Universal Soul Brother
Let me tell you how I darkened with the cold patches of your shirts, mended sparingly, their based frugal threading bore witness to my quick cower when you exposed your chest unblemished, tall.
Varicose Veins Miya Shaffer
I. I begin at nine years old. I stop running in gym class to sit by a wall Long-haired girls with tight shoes sat there, tall in their spines, gapped in their teeth. I am wearing blue shorts that crease like snail shells when I cross my legs. I cross them. Ashley comes over and turns to me, red. She is third grade defiance. The future mother of kids without ice cream and password-locked channels on their TV. She tells me that crossing your legs isn’t good for you. My grandma crossed her legs all the time. Now it looks like all her veins are gonna to explode out of her skin. They’re blue and bumpy. Varicose veins she calls them. I uncross my legs quick. My veins are greenish but they are safe and when I press them right, they disappear. II. A girl from our neighborhood goes missing. Her name is Gracie Jay and I see her at every grocery store and streetcar stop Gracie walked home from school everyday but yesterday she never came back. The neighborhood started to heat up with Gracie gone: sirens, dogs, men with tall hats and round boots. I wasn’t allowed to sit on the sidewalk like I do everyday. Someone had cut it off with bright yellow police tape I watched from our window instead. My mom was on the porch talking with our neighbor, Annie. Annie was on the phone with Gracie’s mom. It’s gonna be ok, baby Moms never call each other baby.
III. I am by the wall in gym class. Taking my hair in and out of a ponytail — (Wrap the string around it/Take it out/Wrap the string around it/Take it out) Ashley comes over with a new haircut. When she smiles, the tips of her hair creep up her cheeks like ivy. Long hair isn’t good for you I put my hair back into the string. You can get little bugs in it. And when another girl has long hair and you sit next to her, she can get little bugs too. Lice, she calls them. She takes out a new comb for her new self. When she brushes her hair, a thick blue vein peeks through her forehead. IV. (Azure/lapis/indigo/cobalt/robin’s egg) V. They find Gracie out by the lake. My mom is crying when she says that Gracie isn’t alive anymore. Ashley says they found Gracie in the lake. Yeah — they opened this big garbage bag and inside was Gracie. Then, they opened another one, and Gracie was in there too. My brother says they found Gracie all over that lake. One bag was tied shut with a necklace that Gracie had. The long-haired girls open their gap teeth (A couple of laughs) I look at the space between my shoes. And the grossest part? When they first saw Gracie, she was blue. Like actually blue! Her veins had exploded or something, I don’t know really. Ashley puts her hands on her cheeks and pulls them so far to the side that I think her lips might split. I imagine her mouth RIPPING OPEN and out fall her TEETH, ONE BY ONE. The teeth pile together and the LICE from Ashley’s HAIR join in too. They CRAWL ALL OVER her teeth till they form ONE GIGANTIC BALL OF ASHLEY.
VI. They opened another bag, and Gracie was in there too But I am also in there with her. VII. Later, I sit in the bath. Watching the bathwater spill over my legs and settle back down (Spill over/settle down/spill over/settle down) When the water grazes my kneecaps my veins glint blue They are jagged in the bathroomâ€™s fluorescence and when I move quickly they dash out of my skin and shriek into the open air But, when I press them right, they disappear.
Two Wise Men “All smart kids don’t eat,” John said. “They don’t have time to think about food. That’s how you can tell – if you can see their ribs, they’ve got brains.” Rob didn’t think he was right. Mindy Meyers was the smartest girl in the class, and she was as plump and soft as a powdered doughnut. “Their metabolisms are through the roof, too,” John continued. “Their bodies have to eat every ounce of fat just to keep their brains running. That’s why smart kids only ever eat jellybeans and drink pop, you know. They have to fuel themselves up with sugar just to keep their eyes open.” That might’ve been true, Rob thought. Mindy Meyers drank a Pepsi everyday. “My cousin knew this guy named Hep, and the kid was a genius. Total genius. Never ate a day in his life, and then just dropped straight dead from starvation.” “That sounds pretty dumb,” Rob noted. “No, Hep just had other things to think about, you know. Food is pointless.” “Mindy Meyers is real smart.” “Meyers? She’s doughier than you.” “Yeah, but she’s smart.” “No way she’s smart. Her brain’s all clogged up, her metabolism isn’t fast 4 0 enough to be smart.” “That doesn’t make sense.” “To you. That’s because you’re fat.” Rob wasn’t sure what to say, and it made him feel very fat. “Makes perfect sense to me. Smart kids don’t eat. That’s why I’m starting a diet. Yessir, I’m going to be the smartest kid in the class. I’ll only eat icing sugar, and pretty soon my body will be shrunk right down and my brain will swell up. That’s the only way to be smart in this world, you know: dieting.” “Won’t you be hungry?” “I’ll be too busy thinking to be hungry. I’ll probably be the next Einstein, soon enough. Honest to God, I may find the cure for cancer doing this.” “What if you drop dead like Hep?” “Well, obviously I won’t be so stupid about it.”
Lullabies for Little Whales
“Tell me about the sea as if I’d never seen it or heard of it before” I said, “imagine water, like the water in a glass of water or from your tap or in the bathtub, except this time it is every colour of blue and green and grey and sometimes dark like when the stars are out. Sometimes only one colour and then sometimes all at once, and this water sloshes up against the land. Sometimes the edges are made of rock and moss and spruce-roots, (a spruce is a tree… imagine a tall stick, bigger than any stick you’ve ever seen, reaching alllll the way up in the sky, and covered with tiny pointy green needles, millions of them, in neat rows clustered in less neat bunches), sometimes the edges of the water push up against rocks that are smaller, (we call them pebbles when we can hold them in our hands and search through them for agates and beach glass) But when the rocks are so small that they all look the same, that is when they are called sand. The water is filled with salt and deeper than any glass of water you have ever seen or even thought about. It goes all the way to the bottom of the earth sometimes, as far down as the sky goes up which is very far. And inside all this space live many creatures quilted together by coral and by forests, like we have forests here, only this time they grow down into the water, and we call them kelp, from time to time. These forests don’t have trees like sticks with millions of dark green needles, they are long and tangled and flat and slippery, attached to hollow tubes with puffy leafs. The creatures who live there have eight arms sometimes, with spots and gooey heads, these are called octopus. And sometimes the creatures talk to each other by singing songs and they have families, just like you are my family. They are so large, not even the largest bathtub in the whole world would fit them, most likely. And they are called whales.
Some of the creatures live in shells and when they grow too big to stay in their homes, they move on and, sometimes their too-small houses wash up on the shore (made of the tiny invisible rocks called sand) and when you take them home (only some of the time, to be kind to the creatures who lived there) you can put one up to your ear and hear the sound the sea makes. I wish I could show you but I don’t have one right now… Imagine you were breathing large enough for the whole world. That is what the ocean sounds like, to me. The sounds are made by the water as it is pushed and pulled by its best friend, the moon. They are dancing together, and they have been forever. Even though they may seem far apart to us, the universe is bigger than you could ever imagine. Do you think a whale, larger than the largest bathtub in the whole world, could imagine how big the universe is? Maybe. Perhaps that is what they sing about, to each other, in the deep blue, or green, or grey sea when it is bedtime. ‘Tell me about the universe as if i’d never seen or heard of it before’ they say to their mamas. And they float, as whales do when they sleep, under stars, just like we do. ‘Imagine space, like the space between the ocean and the moon, except this time it is filled with bright shining stars, and round balls of rocks (we call these planets) and it stretches on and on, and it seems like forever’”