2018 W O R D S
T R A N S P O R T
Y O U
HEATHER FROESE beholds Fred Wah On His Way. JESSE BIXBY says Scaachi Koul’s One Day We’ll All Be Dead matters. CARLY HARSTAD braves a bathroom baptism in Holy Tap Water. C.S. BROATCH winds up her mechanics in Horology. CHYNNA MOORE scripts a 30s-era western in The Only Moll for Miles.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR I got my first tattoo when I was 18, a quote on my left shoulder blade that reads “One day when you realize how perfect life is, you’ll tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.” When I first saw our cover for the 2018 issue of Portal, I couldn’t help but notice its resemblance to the words permanently emblazoned on my skin. I was suddenly aware that the cosmos always had a plan for me, even if I was unsure which road I’d take. As our cover image suggests, this issue of Portal is about taking a moment to contemplate the larger universe, our own small roles within it, and the road ahead that calls us forward. It also speaks to our tagline as it transports readers from remote farms in Wyoming to the white sandy beaches of Bora Bora, from the rocky shores of the Nanaimo River to Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher. This issue also bravely tackles important topics of grief, loss, self-identity, recovery, and healing; its themes subtly remind us that, like the figure in the road, we all need to pause and look up. In assembling these 88 pages, we’ve also looked back to an exclusive interview with Canadian poet Fred Wah in October when one of Portal’s poetry editors, Heather Froese, sat down with Wah to learn about his writing process and passions over an enviable 50-year career that is still evolving and inviting a national response. His long list of credentials is an inspiration to those in our Creative Writing department; one can only hope to duplicate his level of success, not to mention his will to innovate new forms. Also unique to this issue is a feature written by distance learning student Shauna Andrews. Virtually Yours addresses the challenges of taking exclusively online classes from Powell River, especially when seeking writing advice and workshop critique from classmates—some of whom she’s never met. Her choice to learn in isolation was not easy, nevertheless, she persisted with the support of peers and professors at viu, and the digital community at her fingertips. Some of the writing in those workshops appear here, but Portal invites contributions from every faculty and campus, so it is much more than a Creative Writing project. Each piece in this issue was chosen for its excellence, but there are several we’ve chosen for the cover precisely because they demand attention even in title. Carly Harstad’s Holy Tap Water is a remarkable memoir of one terrifying night in an eight-year-old girl’s memory, seeing her mother for the first time as simultaneously unhinged, frightening, and vulnerable. The tension and sense of foreboding is palpable, her selfless instinct to protect her younger sister heartbreaking. Aislinn Cottell’s Dream Construction and Guided Descent are otherworldly, concrete yet ethereal, arresting for their novelty, compelling for their reach. Chynna Moore’s Only Moll for Miles is a timely script with a feminist view that parachutes us into a roadside saloon and the offstage affairs of women performing for a band of wizened and weary loggers during the Great Depression era. Finally, C.S. Broatch winds up her readers as her timekeeper does the story’s “mechanics” in Horology, a genre-bending work of fiction; its detail is mesmerizing and its humanity more so. I hope these authors, and all those proudly showcased here, can look back on their experience with Portal and appreciate how much their words meant to us. Portal is a direct reflection of the intellectual and emotional preoccupations of our time, as can be seen from the intensity and sentiment on each page. Seeing the magazine pull together over the course of two semesters is an experience that has brought us together, and wherever we go after graduation, I’m proud to say we created an issue with a little bit of each of us in it forever. Moving from southern Alberta to the West Coast to dive head first into the Creative Writing program at viu was a leap of faith for me. My 18-year-old self didn’t understand the full implications of that tattoo; if you trust the process and listen to your heart, life will feel perfect. I hope this issue offers you a similar off-road journey, one so memorable, unpredictable, and inspiring, you are compelled to contemplate its greater meanings. Jesse Bixby Managing Editor
2018 W O R D S
T R A N S P O R T
Y O U
© 2018 by the authors, artists, and photographers issn 1183-5214 Portal is published by students in Vancouver Island University’s Creative Writing and Journalism department. Prime words. Compelling art. Momentous beginnings. Portal is your gateway to accomplished short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, scripts, interviews, art, and photography by Vancouver Island University students. Enter Portal’s literary universe and discover worlds and futures ready to unfold, language and images—provocative, passionate, or playful. What makes Portal so portentous? It is “of ourselves and our origins”—a contemporary portrait of literary talent in the making, a portable guide to the viu from here. Portal Vancouver Island University Rm 221, Bldg 345 900 Fifth St., Nanaimo, bc v9r 5s5 firstname.lastname@example.org portalmagazine.ca twitter.com/portalmagazine facebook.com/portalmag Portal is printed by Marquis Imprimeur Inc., 2700 rue Rachel est, Montreal pq h2h 1s7 on 70 lb fsc-silva enviro.
Watcher Natasha Baronas
MASTHEAD Managing Editor—Jesse Bixby
Art Director—Rachel Jackson
Acquisitions Editor—Quinn Stacey
Designer—Chloe de Beeld
Fiction Editors—C.S. Broatch and Jesse Bixby
Fundraising & Events Coordinators—Megan Wolfe, Chantelle Nazareth, Chynna Moore
Poetry Editors—Aislinn Cottell, Joel A. Simmons, Heather Froese, Quinn Stacey
Print Publicity—Cole Schisler and Catherine Charlebois
Script Editor—Megan Johnson Barr
Audio-Visual Editor—Megan Johnson Barr
Non-Fiction Editors—Cole Schisler and Catherine Charlebois
Social Media Editors—Megan Johnson Barr and Megan Wolfe
Book Review Editors—Alim Rawji and Shauna Andrews
Blog and Website Manager—C.S. Broatch
Copy Editors—Aislinn Cottell, Catherine Charlebois, Megan Johnson Barr, Jesse Bixby
Dancing With Sarah Packwood
FRIENDS OF PORTAL Dean of Arts and Humanities viu Creative Writing and Journalism viu Media Studies viu Liberal Studies viu Music viu Graphic Design viu Foundation viufa viusu viu Bookstore viu Centre for Experiential Learning Rhonda Bailey Mike Calvert the Navigator E-script virl chly
Wordstorm Broken Pencil Capilano Review Event Fiddlehead Geist Glass Buffalo Prism International ubc mfa sfu Masters of Publishing Save On Foods Iron Oxide West Coast Floatation Systems Old City Station Pub Coach and Horses Carlos O’Bryan’s Neighbourhood Pub Cowichan Valley Co-operative Marketplace (cvcm)
TABLE OF CONTENTS Fiction 12 29 34 46 49 50 55 62
Giving Grief a Name Braedan Zimmer Eden C.S. Broatch The One Who Knew Us Best Rose McQuirter A Curve of the Wing Margaret Hampshire While It’s Still Alive Damon Vaillancourt Natural Order Aislinn Cottell My Father’s Fields Zoe McKenna Horology C.S. Broatch
Script 37 Only Moll for Miles Chynna Moore Poetry 11 14 19 23 26 28 43 53 54 57
Sashimi Laura Mota In Retrospect Liam McParland Party at the Plaza Nicolas Ismirnioglou Glimpses Joel A. Simmons Dream Construction Aislinn Cottell Brainstorming Love Poems Spenser Smith Undertow Anika Michaux Second Growth Quinn Stacey If a Tree Falls Maria Elsser Guided Descent Aislinn Cottell
Non-Fiction 8 16 20 24 32 44 58
Holy Tap Water Carly Harstad Superman Shelley Wakeman Grand Theft Auto Zach Cooper Virtually Yours Shauna Andrews Sage Joe Blackburn Bird’s Eye Spenser Smith On My Way: Beholding Fred Wah on the Art of Expecting the Unexpected Heather Froese
Book Reviews 64 The Haunting of Vancouver Island by Shanon Sinn Reviewed by Amanda Jones 65 One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul Reviewed by Jesse Bixby 66 The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron Reviewed by Alim Rawji 67 Men Walking on Water by Emily Schultz Reviewed by Catherine Charlebois 68 a perimeter by rob mclennan Reviewed by Quinn Stacey 69 Escape from Wreck City by John Creary Reviewed by Joel A. Simmons Tenacity Natasha Baronas
HOLY TAP WATER Carly Harstad
y mother was nocturnal,
or at least some strange variation of it. While she usually went to bed at the same time as my sister and I, she would inevitably wake up and spend most of the night out in the living room. At some point she would sneak back into bed and fall asleep until one or two in the afternoon.
I lived with my dad in Nanaimo and only got to visit Mom in Duncan every other weekend. I would have liked to go every week, but Dad said gas was expensive. Sometimes my mom and I would take the bus to Lake Cowichan to pick up Kelsey from Gary’s house. Kelsey was my little sister and Gary was her dad. Mom only had one bedroom, so we all slept in the same bed. I was eight and Kelsey had just turned five. I always slept in the middle so I would know when Mom woke up and got out of bed. I liked that she stayed up so late because it meant I would get her all to myself. I lay there quietly for a few minutes until I couldn’t be still any longer. I would pretend I had woken up to go pee or get a glass of water. She would usually tell me to go back to bed, but I could almost always convince her to let me stay up by asking her for a snuggle. Mom would smile at me from her overstuffed chair and I would climb up onto her lap. It didn’t matter what was on tv, but my favourite was Jeopardy. A blue alien light reflected across her face. I pressed my ear against her chest and listened to her heartbeat with my eyes shut, breathing in the smell of her sweet shampoo as she rocked me to sleep. Most nights she just watched tv, but other nights she cooked. Sometimes it was just mac and cheese, but sometimes she would wake up my sister and I to help her make entire meals—spaghetti and meat sauce with garlic toast. Once we made a chocolate cake and she let me lick all the batter off the spoon. Dad never let me have sugar so late at night, but Mom and I ate nearly half. These nights she was always giddy. Her eyes lit up and she laughed that high-pitched giggle she had when
she was happy. She would sweep me off my feet and we would dance around the house while she sang Rod Stewart lyrics. Sometimes she chased me around the kitchen or flicked tomato sauce at me with a spoon. Those were the good nights. Other nights weren’t so good. Sometimes when I got up, I’d find her lying on the couch, sobbing into a blanket. She usually couldn’t tell me why she was crying, so I learned not to ask. Instead, I would tiptoe across the room and she would pull me into her arms. I would let her cry into my hair. Other times she didn’t seem to notice me, so I would pull a blanket over top of us and tuck in wherever I could. By morning it was like nothing had happened. One night I was awoken suddenly by the bedroom light and my mother burst into the bedroom in her plaid housecoat. “Girls! Girls! I need you to get up,” she said. My sister groaned and rolled over while I wiped my eyes. Mom was frantic. She rushed over to the bed and pulled the blanket off us and threw it into the corner of the room. “Girls! Get up, NOW!” Kelsey looked at me with wide eyes. Tears were pouring down our mother’s face while she yelled, but I had no idea whether she was sad or angry. I grabbed Kelsey’s hand and pulled her to the edge of the bed. “My babies. My babies are going to hell, and it’s my own fault,” my mother mumbled as she paced around the room. She dropped to her knees in front of us. “My girls, my beautiful baby girls, you know Mommy loves you, right?” Kelsey looked at me. I looked at Mom. “Mom? Are you ok?” She put her hands to her eyes and began to sob. “How can I be ok when my babies are going to hell? How am I supposed to sleep knowing my children are not baptized?” Her Pain Amanda Jones
Holy Tap Water
I didn’t even know what the word “baptized” meant. My mother was loosely religious; she was raised Catholic, but had given up any type of practice years before having children. We had never gone to church. She jumped to her feet and ran to the closet, the tail of her housecoat gliding behind her. She threw the doors open and began pulling shoe boxes from the top shelf. She found a small wooden box and opened it, then turned to us with a triumphant fist held high in the air. “The rosaries!” I looked at Kelsey, who was preoccupied with picking at the fake diamonds stitched to her Cinderella nightgown. She had been through plenty of Mom’s outbursts, but didn’t seem to notice how peculiar this one was. Maybe she was too young to see that this was different. My mother walked over to the bed and sat down beside us. She took my hand in hers and looked at me with an expression I didn’t recognize. “Don’t worry Little Bean, it’s going to be alright. Mom is going to save you,” she said. “Up now! Come with me to the bathroom.” I grabbed Kelsey’s hand as our mother steered us toward the bathroom. She lifted us up, one by one, onto the bathroom counter. I put my arm around Kelsey and pulled her in closer.
My mother got down on her knees and began to pray.When she stood, I saw her eyes were wild, unrecognizable. She had become someone else.
“Just as Jesus was coming out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending like a dove. A voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” She bowed her head and made the sign of the cross across her chest. I had seen Grandma make that sign before every meal, or if we did something bad.
She poured three glasses over each of us. The water was everywhere. Once she had finished, she kissed both of us on our foreheads and cupped my face with her hands. “It’s all going to be just fine. You girls are going to be just fine. You will both go to heaven. You won’t go to hell after all.” I nodded my head. “Mommy? Can we go back to bed now?” I asked. “Of course, Sweetheart. You and your sister go to bed and I’ll meet you there.” I walked Kelsey back to the bedroom and helped her change out of her soaking wet nightgown. When we got into bed she pulled close to me. “Carly? Is Mommy having another bad day?”. I bit my lip. “Yeah, but she’ll be fine. She always is. Go to sleep ok?” While my sister fell asleep in my arms, I listened to the sounds of my mother moving around the apartment. As hard as I tried to fall asleep, I couldn’t stop worrying. How was tap water going to save us from going to hell? Why didn’t Mom pour any on herself? The next night, after dinner at my aunt’s house, we had a bath. I always washed Kelsey’s hair for her because she was afraid of getting soap in her eyes. After I finished scrubbing her hair, I pushed it up into a mohawk, like I always did. “Mom! Come see Kelsey’s hair!” I yelled. She came into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet. As she was admiring Kelsey’s hair, I reached over and grabbed the cup from the previous night, which was still sitting on the counter. “Look at my little punk rocker! Carly, should we give you a mohawk too?”
Reaching over, Mom turned on the tap. She grabbed the cup we kept by the sink to rinse our mouths out after brushing our teeth and quickly filled it up. Then she dumped it on my sister’s head.
She turned to me, and just as she looked up, I poured a big glass of bath water right over her head.
Kelsey yelled out in surprise and told her to stop, but our mom just kept mumbling prayers. I pulled Kelsey in closer as she dumped a second cup over my head. I tried to cover her with my body, but it was no use.
I stood tall and proud, the empty cup in my hand. “It’s ok Mommy, now you’ll go to heaven too.”
“CARLY!” she screamed, her mascara running and bangs glued to her forehead. “What on earth was that for?”
SASHIMI Laura Mota
Once, he obligated me to eat uncooked salmon. I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stand the flavor, nor the textureâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; it was like a second tongue, frigid, dead inside my mouth. My bowels rebelled, my eyes filled. He took his time watching my nausea, then, finally, allowed me to spit. Last night, from Taipei he sent a photo of his dinner: sashimi, a note that the trauma is only mine. Raw and cold, as his love.
Colour Party Amber Morrison
ess hesitated, her head swivelling toward me as she completed a half turn in my direction. The pavement was battered and cracked by years of exposure to heavy rain and the sea air. My dress shoes flirted with the dirt that lined the roadside ditch. I hadn’t changed out of my suit.
It had been two months of this, being woken up in the middle of the night and dragged outside. I sighed and a thin plume of vapour rose in front of my face. I hadn’t wanted a dog. When my mother first brought it up she was curled around a mixing bowl on the couch. She had ended up there sometime during the night. “The Jensens got a chocolate lab.” Her voice barely cut through the heavy silence. I’d been sitting with a book in the old armchair beside her for nearly an hour and had taken her to be asleep. “Did they?” I continued reading. “They brought it by to see me yesterday. I’ve never seen a pup so adorable.” “That’s nice, Mom.” It was close to a minute before she spoke again. “Maybe you and I could get one.” I closed my book and set it on the lamp stand beside me. “Mom, a dog is a lot of extra work. They crap and piss all over, they’re constantly hungry—” “I understand,” she said, her voice growing quieter as she slipped toward sleep. “Just one more thing we would have to take care of.” I had brooded over her choice of words, blood rushing to my head. We.
Tightening my scarf around my neck, I searched for Jess’ form among the lengthening shadows. I was about to call out when she came scampering out of the forest brush, little more than a blur. Bits of moss clung to her dark chestnut fur. “What have I told you about running around in there?” I asked, pointing toward the forest. “You’re gonna get a tick.” She looked up at me, panting, her tail wagging behind her. “Do you know how hard it is to get one of those things out? I can’t do it myself. I’d have to take you to a vet and pay the vet bills and—” Headlights appeared from around the bend, the first since we’d started walking. The road was on the edge of town, a few miles from the nearest house. I knelt between Jess and the approaching truck, wrapping my arms around her. I’d been bringing Jess to this road for a while now. I couldn’t bear to walk the block by my house. The last time I had was the night my mom lost her driver’s license. That evening, when I got home from class, the car was gone. Jess had peed in the kitchen and after I finished mopping it up I grabbed her leash from the top shelf of the shoe closet and tightened it around her neck. I drew my hood over my head as we emerged from the house. She pulled excitedly on her leash, but I yanked her backward and she tumbled toward me before regaining her balance. She stopped pulling. We sulked around the block. By that point, my mom rarely left the house, so I had expected to be able to use the car that night. I was supposed to be going for drinks. I hadn’t been out much lately, no time with all the appointments. Every selfish thought evaporated when I saw our car wrapped around a streetlight. I pushed by a man who had
his phone to his ear and pressed my face against the driver’s window. My mom was hunched forward, her weight supported by the seat belt. Her forehead rested on the top of the steering wheel. Blood leaked from a gash above her left eyebrow. I ripped the door open. Her shoulders rose and fell. Later, I learned she passed out at the wheel. From then on I drove her to all her chemo sessions. In a few moments the truck was by us, taillights receding into the distance, then fading completely. I loosened my grip and Jess wriggled free and bounded ahead, continuing to outpace me. Before long she’d disappeared again. The day my mom was moved into palliative care, I had been sprawled across my bed, studying for a midterm, when my alarm buzzed. “Mom, you have chemo in half an hour,” I said. “We’ve got to head out.” She was asleep on the couch, as she so often was. She pulled the blanket tighter around her shoulders. I squeezed my arms between her body and the couch and lifted her easily. I carried her, still cocooned, out to the car and laid her into the reclined passenger seat as gently as I could. When we arrived at the hospital, I brought the wheelchair out of the trunk and rolled her into the waiting room. “Thank you, Sweetie,” she said, giving me her bravest smile. It was the one she gave me after I held her hair back while she hovered over the toilet; it was the one she gave me when she adjusted on the couch and sucked in a sharp breath to mask the pain. “Are you going to stay?” she asked. The sessions usually lasted around three hours, sometimes four. “I have a midterm at 8:30 tomorrow. I was kind of hoping to get a couple more hours of study in.” “You could study here,” she said. “It’s too loud in here. I can never get comfortable in these chairs,” I added quickly. “Alright.” She couldn’t hide her disappointment as well as I wished. “How about we watch a movie tonight?” I offered. “There’s that new Disney one on Netflix.” She smiled as I kissed her on the forehead. “ok, I’ll be back to get you in a couple of hours.”
When I returned, a doctor intercepted me outside the treatment room. This had been a particularly hard session for her. They were keeping her overnight in palliative care.
I told him she needed to come home. I had popped popcorn and laid blankets and pillows out on the couch. He assured me it was just for the night. It was just to make her more comfortable. She never left the hospital.
The last light of the sun was fading now, almost behind the mountainous horizon. “Jess,” I called. “Come here.” The December air grew more frigid as night fell. Each breath now produced a thick cloud of vapour that rushed past my face. It was time to head back. I watched the treeline, but no shape emerged. “Jess, it’s time to go.” My tone was more forceful. Nothing. After a few moments, I tucked the middle and index fingers of each hand under my tongue and blew a loud, shrill whistle. I waited for her familiar outline to come bounding toward me. “Jess!” I scrambled down the ditch, my shoes sliding through the loose dirt, the fresh frost. I sprinted toward the trees. I was only a few strides into the forest, the thick canopy already blotting out streetlights, when my foot caught on something and I stumbled. I careened head first into a tree trunk. My body shivered violently as I tried to get my bearings and on my feet, but as I stood my head throbbed so intensely I shrank back to the ground. Wet flakes of snow were beginning to erase the green of the grass, the brown of the dirt. Everything would soon be white. I lay there on my back, absolutely still, with numbing hands balled up in my pockets, waiting patiently to be swallowed by the snow. My left hand brushed against paper. I pulled it out. It was the program for my mother’s memorial service. Her picture stared back at me from the front cover. Flakes settled over her loving gray eyes, her thick chestnut hair. “Jessica.”
Dark Pines Amber Morrison
D R T N C Y O
RETROSPECT Liam McParland
Do you remember the night I carried you out of the sea? It was March and this was your third attemptâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; the second I stopped. Grandpa pulled me out of the water and onto the pebbly shore as I futilely wiped tears off my wet face. Do you remember the night I carried you out of the sea? I like the taste of gin before I like the company of strangers. Back at the tent trailer, I attempt to work out what happened, what caused me to fall in. Do you remember the night I carried you out of the sea? How much time and liquor later? At Sebastian Beach I waded in. The incident slipped into murky memory, and finally resurfaced for a breath tonight. Do you remember the night I carried you out of the sea? I nearly woke on the bathroom floor, but found my way to bed. Shoes still wet at work, four hours later.
Foreboding Natasha Baronas
DO YOU REMEMBER THE NIGHT I CARRIED YOU OUT OF THE Author
SUPERMAN Shelley Wakeman
Nanaimo Lakes Road is clogged with vehicles at every access point to the river. Cars appear abandoned, parked at odd angles to get at least two wheels off the pavement. Barely visible foot trails swallow up river-goers as they leave the hot, dusty road and enter a cool, thick stand of old-growth timber. Beyond the trees people pick their way down riverbanks strewn with loose rock, hauling tubes, rafts, picnics, and coolers of beer. Others hike across, settling on perches far above the river’s edge.
very summer the twisty rural
On July 31, 1996, Hudson and his friend and driver, Steve, hiked into one of those spots. “I didn’t want to go,” he says now. “I usually did, but for some reason I didn’t this time. It was a gut feeling.” Steve wouldn’t take no for an answer. They found their pack of friends on an outcropping over 30 feet above the river. Dressed in shorts and a casual button-up, Hudson’s gel-slicked brown hair contrasted laser-blue eyes. The July sun baked the rocky ledge, the water’s quench luring him forward. A chill of excitement coursed through him. Hudson was a cliff-jumper, addicted to the thrill. “I bet I could dive from here,” Hudson blurted out. This was a run-and-jump spot. It was imperative to get up as much momentum as possible to clear the 15-to-20 feet of rock and boulders that edged the pool. “One of the girls dared me,” he says. A gym junkie and mvp in rugby, hockey, and baseball, he felt invincible. He took several practice runs. As he did, people were trying to talk him down, but adrenaline owned him. He went for it. “I thought I was Superman. I ran like hell, then I felt my foot slip at the edge. I was going down head first into the rocks, but I was able to pull out of the dive and get my feet under me. It was so fast, a few seconds, yet I saw my whole
life. Then I felt it. First my right foot. Crack. Then my left. Crack. I went into shock. I was only six inches from the water; I knew I was going in, so I took a big breath.” In the deep river pool, Hudson clung to the side of the boulder. People scrambled to get him out of the water. Don’t touch my feet,” he pleaded. “I’m all broken up.” A chain of human hands, friends and strangers, conveyed him back up to the ledge. His feet were balloons. There were no cell phones, so the girl who dared him made a mad dash to the road where she eventually found a house and had the owner call 911. “I should have been dead. I almost lost my leg.” The words are shaky. He spent six months in the hospital. His right heel had exploded, leaving a gaping hole that required six gruelling surgeries. Part of his calf muscle was used to rebuild his mangled foot. He had to learn to walk again and, ironically, that process began in water. His mvp days were over. Not only did his foot never regain its proper shape, the loss of calf muscle left his leg permanently weakened. He did return to the river though, one year later. After obsessing over the stupidity of the jump, Hudson decided he needed to see the scene again.
In a cathartic moment he looked over the edge and down at the rock that maimed him, then saved him.
“I needed to do that,” he says, “I’ve never been back since.” He tries, unsuccessfully, to hold back tears. “It’s so vivid,” he says, “like it happened yesterday. Sometimes, I push myself back and scream ‘I don’t want to go over!’” His knuckles are white, viced to the arms of his chair. *Some names have been changed per the subject’s request.
Englishman River Falls Taylor Rutberg
When We Talk About Love 2 Amber Morrison
I was skinnier then, sported corduroy Levi bellbottoms and Playboy aviators, smoked Export A Gold. Didn’t know white filters were more toxic: chemicals and a good dosage of fibreglass into pink lungs. Rob wore army fatigues and was always angry, yet his gloves were Mickey Mouse paws. The bass felt eerie in the mix as he disappeared into the visuals room to trip out. Minutes turned to hours as the drugs slowed down time. We looked for him, but he was Casper on an unfriendly trip. Meth, mushrooms, he was out of his mind, got The Fear Hunter S. says is the worst. Rob returned to us transformed. Eyes darker, cavernous, his face gaunt despite a robust physique. My sweatshirt was stolen by a pretty girl who gave me backrubs. The sweatshirt was new, black, and baggy. Her name was Rose, from Abbotsford or Aldergrove or somewhere small. There we escaped rural lives or stifling suburbia to explore the city lights and get high, dance, dance, so afraid, so confused— what was to become of our lives? Went to Denny’s in the morning to hide our saucers under coffee cups. I poked at pancakes, but couldn’t choke them down, then knees pressed against the Explorer backrest folded sweaty legs chafed raw from dancing in thrift store pants. I kicked them off, slept for a day.
GRAND THEFT AUTO Zach Cooper
was a six-year-old when I had my first joy ride. All it took were four magical words, “I’m heading into town” to make me stop watching cartoons and playing with g.i. Joes. I sat on the floor trying to get my winter jacket on and pretending I knew how to lace up my winter boots. My dad opened the door, inviting a frigid gust of air into our double-wide.
I sat in my seat waving to my father until a loud thud jolted me forward. His round belly slid across the hood of the truck like Luke did in Dukes of Hazzard. He swung open the door and turned off the truck.
“How’re the boots going there, Zach?” he asked.
“My God, are you ok buddy?”
“I think I’m good, Dad,” I replied. “Where are we going? Can we go to Burger King again?”
“Did you see that Dad? I was driving!”
“We’re going to the store to get something for Grandpa and then we’ll drop it off,” Dad said, rustling my blond hair. We stepped off the porch onto the frosted grass and looked around at the vast hay fields. I opened the door to the red truck and got onto the seat. My father walked to the driver’s side door, patted himself down, said, “Forgot something. I’ll be back,” and headed inside.
away from me except for my father who was sprinting toward the truck as it headed for the neighbour’s fence.
Eight years later, I was 14 and living with my mom and sister in Sequim, Washington. My mother had wanted to be closer to her family on Vancouver Island, but she and my father separated soon after the move. I lived for the weekends when I could go to Dad’s wide open acres, my beloved atv, and bags of dope.
As the truck hummed, I watched the gear stick jostle from the elevated idle of the engine. I put my hand on the faded numbers and felt the vibrations hum through my wrist and up to my shoulder. I glanced from the house to the dash.
My mother’s duplex was small and everything was split. The driveway was cut in half, our small patch of lawn was shared with our neighbours to the right, and every duplex had the same white vinyl siding. Worse, there was no joy riding.
Then I did it. I followed the pattern on the ball of the stick with my finger. One, two, three, four, five, R. My fingers wrapped around it and I jostled the stick from side to side. Nothing happened.
One rainy day my sister and I had the duplex to ourselves. I stood over the oven watching the timer tick down on my pizza rolls and listening to my sister talk about her learner’s permit and the driving she’d been doing with Dad.
I went as far right as I could, pulled back, and the truck made a wounded sound. The stick popped back suddenly. I let go, looked out the window, and saw my house moving away from me. In fact, everything was moving
“Dad said I’ll be ready to learn to drive standard soon.”
“Nice. I can drive the truck. He lets me drive it around the property,” I said.
The Dam Spenser Smith
“ok Zach. I doubt that.” “I’m serious. Ask him.” “I bet you couldn’t even start Mom’s Corvette in the garage,” she dared. “Oh, yeah? Watch my pizza rolls.” I opened the garage door off the kitchen, flicked the light on, and stared at the red ’79 Corvette. There it was, the craving. My mouth started to salivate, my heart rate rose, and adrenaline made my hands quiver as I opened the driver’s door. My mother left the keys in it since the garage was always locked. I climbed into the leather seat and glanced at the T-top. “What, are you scared? Do it already if you know how.” I pushed the clutch to the floor with my left foot and turned the key. The bass of the exhaust echoed off the garage door. I revved the engine and squeezed the steering wheel as the horsepower shook the panels. I let the car run for a few minutes with the garage door closed and the carbon monoxide invited me into a deep daydream. The garage filled with exhaust and I gazed out the windshield of the Corvette and saw open highway, high rpms, and quick moving scenery. I turned the key toward me, and the rumble of the engine cut out with the dream.
I was 15 when I first did hard drugs. Two years later, I was well into it. I started on oxycodone, but soon transitioned to heroin after Washington enforced stricter laws on pharmaceutical narcotics. The change backfired and
resulted in dealers switching to a cheaper product. They weren’t sure their product would match the potency of the pill so they cut their heroin with “pure”: uncut heroin, fentanyl, flour, and sugar. On my phone I have an article from the Sequim Gazette: “The summer of 2011 brought a string of non-fatal heroin overdoses largely involving Sequim’s teens. Five people—a 16-year-old, a 17-year-old, two people in their 20s and one 60-year-old.” I was the 17-year-old.
I’d come to Canada in 2012 and since then I’d been running from everything, everyone, and myself.
I had turned into a homeless, streetlevel heroin user doing anything to support my habit.
One morning, I saw a maroon Cavalier with unlocked doors. I walked by and glared through the driver’s side window. Loonies and toonies glistened in the cup holder. I scanned the parking lot, climbed in, and heard a light jingle in the ignition where the keys dangled freely. Was this a bait car? I scooped up the change, eyeing the keys. My hand trembled. I checked all the mirrors. The parking lot was empty. The road was clear and my lead foot was anxious. I pinned the gas pedal to the floor and heard the engine echo. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw flashing lights. On my knees with the cool kiss of steel on my wrist, I finally felt free. Non-Fiction
Poetry Rachel Jackson 22
GLIMPSES Joel A. Simmons
Heartbeat syncs to the drumming of your Nikes against concrete, electrons pulse from calcaneus to cochlea EMP knocking out reality endorphins purge a sympathetic system.
Standing over the stove when Facebook reminds you of tremendous loss, you time travel through world-wide networks possible the way chicken noodle has flavour youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re just too sick to taste it.
Confidence to kiss your date comes in a Grolsch-branded pint glass, carbonated stars escaping gravity pour like pop rocks scattering comet debris across your tongue.
The April sky opens splattering liquid life across the prairie, stems of bluebell and buttercup clutter your palm trailing gold pixie dust a yellow brick road for the fey to follow you home.
Because the village gathers on our front lawn like a medieval militia, cavalry blazing red, blue, red, blue screaming up the driveway while peasants claim victory over domestic monsters.
hen i started at vancouver Island University in September of 2013 I didn’t have a cell phone, credit cards, a computer, or a bank account. In April 2018, I will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and English, having attended only a few classes—physically.
I enrolled at viu after a two year off-the-grid hiatus on Savary Island; all I wanted to do was learn. I took two classes—one English, one Creative Writing—at the Powell River campus, to motivate myself to write and to stay connected to the part of me I was afraid might fade while I went back to living a relatively normal existence. Normalcy frightens me. The Powell River (pr) campus had a small selection of first- and second-year courses delivered face-to-face or by videoconference. They were a place to start, but what would happen after that? “Well, people usually move,” a counselor there told me. Fair enough. After two years taking all the classes available to me in Powell River, an academic door shut. I hit a wall. There was nothing left to enroll in if I wanted to stay where I was. Or so I thought. Just when I was losing faith, the portal reopened. Jay Ruzesky, a professor who had taught me in previous videoconference classes, suggested I Skype in to one of his upcoming English courses. I could participate, email in my assignments, post in online discussion forums… I could study in real time, even from real distance. It worked.
In the interim four years, I have lobbied professors for this privilege even when the courses weren’t officially offered in this format, and I’ve been persuasive enough to get access. This system soon became my main method of connection and opened up my options for a heavier course load. Two classes a semester turned into three, or four, and before I knew it I was nearing a completed degree. I’ve had to fight for it. Not everyone would, or should, do it as I have, but it can be done. I don’t think this life fits every learner; it takes a healthy dose of self-motivation, passion, and resolve. It’s hard. I am isolated at home, using Wi-Fi to connect, and the pr campus library for resources. I read about events happening each week I can’t attend due to travel costs and work and home responsibilities. I lose vital interactions with my peers, professors, and possible employers and mentors. I have been extended, by every educator, the same access to office hours as any other student, but have rarely used them. Instead, I depend on my laptop and willpower. Along the way I got my share of unsolicited opinion. I was told I would have to move to Nanaimo. I was told my method was leading to a general deterioration of learning environments and that university should be inconvenient. I let the comments pass, but in truth I didn’t have a strong counterargument at the time. I’m not doing this because it’s easier, or because it’s my first choice. I am doing this because I am trying to find a balance, and I don’t want to give one thing up to accommodate the other. I depend on technology to facilitate the whole degree. My relationship with it has been a volatile one, beginning with adoration, then eschewing it completely, and now reluctantly re-embracing it with qualified respect.
In Grade 7, I learned to type on msn Messenger, chatting for hours and tying up our home phone line. In Grade 10, I had a brick-sized Nokia cell and a pay-as-you-go plan to text my friends. I opened a Facebook account. However, after high school graduation, all that changed. I decided to get as far away from electronics as I could. I wanted that; needed it. I wanted to be everywhere and do everything, so long as it wasn’t in my hometown. In my family, graduating high school was an achievement in itself. I was never pressured to pursue university, and so, at first, I didn’t. I assumed I’d get there, eventually. In the meantime, I had plans—sporadic, nonsensical plans with no strings attached—and none of them included getting a degree. I wanted to become a masseuse, and then a yoga teacher, or a holistic wellness specialist. I wanted to own a hostel in Vietnam. I wanted to work on cruise ships. I wanted to visit 25 countries before I was 25. I wanted (and still want) to be able to complete a crossword puzzle in another language, and speak at least three more. I visited China, several countries in Southeast Asia, New Zealand, and Australia. Naturally, when I returned I wandered around, a bit lost. I lived in Montreal, Tofino, Mexico, and Central America. In rural southern Saskatchewan I stayed in a farm house on an acreage with horses, chickens, and cats, growing something green, building something sturdy, lifting something heavy. When I moved back to bc, I headed straight for Savary Island. There, I met my partner JT, and we lived even more remotely on this snail-paced Northern Gulf island. We calculated our power needs to align with the 15
minutes a day we used the generator to charge batteries and pump water. We had spotty cell service. It was intimate, delicate, incomparable. Savary life was constrained, liberating, and then suddenly, after two years, over. In 2013, JT’s 10-year-old niece, Cloey, came from the lower mainland to stay with us for a few weeks, but as the summer weeks turned to months, we realized we should be prepared for her return to school in September. I had thought our next destination would be Spain or Brazil. We moved back to Powell River. I got a job as part of a management team at a restaurant. We bought a home and dug roots deep into a life that felt right. Cloey has lived with us permanently since 2014. Neither my partner nor I was prepared for a parental role, but we adapted. Contrary to our fears, parenting has been an awakening. It has transformed me into a maternal, responsible adult.
I’ve learned how a child can reveal what is important and what is not.
After I graduate in April, I will look for career opportunities in Powell River and beyond, one that might suit my desire to edit and write. Because of what has been possible so far, I am convinced prospects will arise. When I started connecting to classes via Skype, I saw it as a steppingstone en route to a very unclear future. I saw myself giving up everything to go to school, or giving up school to maintain my family life. I wasn’t prepared to choose, and as it happens, I didn’t have to. Getting here has not been a simple task, and that is what has made it so valuable.
DREAM CONSTRUCTION Aislinn Cottell
world but cannot find what I am looking for. Sky-scrapers fall short of the stars I seek. Disillusioned, I steal: shining moments scraped from sweat-stained windows and crumbling colonnades; I keep them with kind gestures in my change purse. I fill hip-flasks with forgotten faces, cram Tupperware with cracking hopes and stack my suitcase fullâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a symphony of sidelined sob stories. I walk. Carry them, down five-lane freeways, across bridges, through stoplights and traffic cones.
I return home, dreams cradled in my coat pockets. I go home, and with each page, I
cities. Onward Grace Pedde
BRAINSTORMING LOVE POEMS Spenser Smith
A poem where I’m an Oklahoma tornado and you’re a single, shaky barn on the edge of the plains. A poem where you’re nicotine and you know I’ll keep coming back.
A poem where two 20-somethings argue over where to eat. One dines out, the other eats canned ravioli at home.
A poem without language, only our scents sprayed on paper like a perfume sample.
A poem where we’re a summer blockbuster with no plot —only good guys (you), bad guys (me), and everyday explosions.
A poem where you’re a mountain lion, and I’m the trampled needle grass beneath your paws.
EDEN C.S. Broatch
ways, tweaking and smoothing with a quiet finesse. I wasn’t until years later that he even noticed. He started to like curry. One button-up multiplied into 10. It wasn’t until his Pink Floyd T-shirt disappeared that he realized all the faded black crew necks were gone. His friends, who frequented grungy bars in tight jeans and V-necks, stopped coming around. Now, every Sunday morning they went to St. Stephens and sat in the third pew. After church, the ladies would gather in the kitchen over lemon squares and discuss the upcoming charity calendar while the men would congregate outside to review obituaries.
he changed him in little
During their anniversary dinner party, Bob Handlen had stopped by and Harvey barely recognized him. In his prime, he had been adored for his thick hair. He was the James Dean of the Lower Eastside. Now it hung in greasy strands past his ears and liver spots freckled his face. Afterward, Harvey stood at the bathroom sink with his breath fogging up the mirror while he prodded his face. When had it gotten so stretchy? Had that sun spot been there since their honeymoon in Fiji? “Why don’t you have droopy eyelids?” he accused Elle, catching her frowning from the bedroom. She slid out from beneath the duvet wearing the blue French silk slip she had gotten for Christmas. Her hair, done up for the party, now sprang in chaotic coils. If she had aged at all, it was with all the elegance of royalty. She opened a drawer and pulled out three glass bottles. “For your eyes. For your neck. And this one? This one is for everything else.” The jars opened with a slight grind, glass on glass. He put the creams on in the order she had taken them out, observing his reflection as if to catch the reversal of time. He couldn’t see much change. He shuffled to the bed, groaning with the mattress as he sank into it. Elle reached over to rub in some cream
Breathe Paul White
between his brows. They organized the blankets into a smooth blue calm and shut off the bedside lamps. The thought of his drooping skin and turkey wattle continued to haunt him into the night. The dark corners of the room were occupied by the members of the seniors’ bowling team, eager for him to join their hunch-backed, shuffling quartet. The next morning, Elle’s friends cornered him at the café they frequented for coffee. Apparently, he and Elle were now of the age that taking a retreat to a tropical island was totally acceptable. Until recently, the thought of beaches turned these women green at the gills. Somewhere between giving birth to children one and two, the women had grown self-conscious of their ballooned and stretch-marked bodies, but now their wrinkled elbows and crêpe-like skin seemed to usher in a new sense of adventure and rebellion. Personally, Harvey thought they were conniving old ladies who ruled the congregation with sweets and judgement; not that he voiced any of this to Elle. Harvey was of the general opinion that travelling was rather exhausting. His anxiety was somewhat quelled when they insisted that at this particular beach, his worries would melt away, for only the nicest, friendliest guests frequented it. Besides, they said, why would he care what strangers thought? “Lighten up Harvey,” they said. “Live a little. Your crosswords can wait,” they said. A few weeks before their departure, Harvey had had to listen to the church ladies squeal with laughter after returning from a shopping spree at the mall. A young shop attendant had tried to help them find “a suitable wardrobe” for their upcoming trip. They supposedly left the store in a flurry of rumpled shifts and tunics, the salesgirl near tears. “Oh, she’ll have a story to tell now,” Elle had said, as the thunderous cackling of seven over-70s vibrated through the house.
Occasionally, while subjected to their monthly couples’ massages or co-ed steam baths at the rec center, Harvey wished—just a little bit—that they could experiment in cable and frozen dinners. When he and Elle had posed naked for a local art class, surrounded by curious eyes, he thought taking up bridge might be more his style. He imagined a vacation that would require a little less sunscreen in the unseen crevices of his physique. Admittedly, he thought Bora Bora sounded like heaven, but....
When they arrived, they were greeted by a shirtless man strumming his ukulele. Fragrant orchid necklaces were draped over his shoulders. They were led through the marbled reception area to airy teak bungalows. Harvey had purchased a book to help him identify the colourful fish that swam under their stilted deck; he was hoping to spot the elusive lionfish. The bellhop told him that several artists had tried to paint the beaches, but no colour in their pallet did it justice. The crushed coral sands that honeymooners flocked to were gently lapped by calm azure waters.
Harvey had been told, once, that nipple colour and lip colour matched. They were wrong.
His skin had never really grown accustomed to the sun, but even so, as he undressed that first morning in the safety of his hut, he attempted to expose a bit more of it. He tried to slip the gold wedding band from his finger, but the flight had swollen his joints and the humidity
wasn’t helping. The embarrassing effort reassured him that the band wouldn’t be lost in the water. He watched the sun rise over the water for nearly an hour. It was time. Although the lone venture frightened him, his wife’s friends frightened him more and, sheepishly, he had decided that it would be best to get there ahead of them. He opted to wear the thin pair of flip-flops he’d bought in the airport after realizing he had only packed his heavy white runners. The thongs were braided in yellow and pink plastic and were as uncomfortable on the feet as they were to the eye. By noon, the sand would be threateningly hot on his soft soles. Where would he put the keys? With no pockets and no bag, they felt foreign and oppressive in his palm. Should he leave them in the hut? His wallet was tucked away in the lockbox in the closet. He placed the keys on the kitchen table and latched the door behind him. He would have breakfast at the bar, then move to the south beach where they had agreed to spend the day. There was a slight chill in the air and goosebumps sprouted all over his skin. He was grateful for the complimentary white robe. It was sheer linen that ended at his thigh, but offered some comfort nonetheless. The resort was quiet enough, but he enjoyed the world even more when it was completely hushed. He was pleasantly surprised to discover the breakfast cabana was almost empty. The only other vacationer stood at the bar, sipping orange juice. Harvey studied the
man’s Hawaiian shirt, a blue and purple sunset with the silhouette of a palm tree. The shirt seemed desperate, and with his genitals dangling below, much more disturbing than full nudity. Harvey ordered a grapefruit juice that arrived in a wine glass with a crazy straw and orange slice. The man, John, cornered him at the bar. He was overly jovial, waving his arms around and swaying from foot to foot. John was a substantial man and the counter was small. Harvey pressed against the corner of it, hoping to keep an arm’s length between them. He was so distracted in his attempt to stay nonchalant that he remembered very little of their conversation. Harvey finished his drink in record time, but just as he was about to make his escape, they were joined by a lady in a grass skirt, John’s much younger girlfriend. In a flurry of awkward movements, Harvey looked down and away from the woman’s exposed chest, which brought his gaze to the hem of John’s shirt. His upper lip started to perspire. He must be having some sort of fit. They seemed to corner him with their exposed flesh and wide smiles. “Harv, darling,” Elle hollered from across the room, drawing the eye of the few vacationers starting to trickle in. She was wearing a toga-like contraption that covered very little and Harvey felt a wave of pity for that poor salesgirl. “We’re headed to the beach.” He made his exit, careful to use his peripheral vision to avoid bumping into chairs—and bodies. “I noticed that scrotum piercings are much more popular now,” Elle said, taking his hand and following a line of wrinkly derrières. “One guy had about 20 rings around
his penis. I think it might have something to do with what those ladies in Africa do, you know, around their necks. Of course, I didn’t ask him if it was working.” “That man in there, John, just told me about the cruise he took to the Yukon with 2,000 other naked people.” “Oh! How fun.”
Yes, 2,000 naked people. All that sagging flesh en route towards the innocent polar bears.Those poor Canadians! “A little chilly up in those parts, isn’t it?”
“I’d imagine. John was wearing these god-awful sunglasses, the reflective type. I could see everything in them! It was a nightmare.”
“Ben Franklin advocated ‘air baths’ you know. Nudity,” she said with great wisdom, “is a wonderful equalizer.” “I used to worry my pants were too short or my sleeves were too long; now I’m worried my skin is too baggy!” They joined Elle’s friends under a semi-circle of colourful umbrellas and cabana chairs. The women threw down their towels and book bags and marched for the water, screaming as they ran on wobbly legs into the blue. Elle’s toga was flung to the sand in one freeing movement and she pranced to the water’s edge, dipping her toe into the warm salt water, looking back over her shoulder to beckon him to join her. Harvey disrobed and made for the ocean, his bare ass as white as the bleached sand.
Morning Embers Fiction Natasha Baronas 31
SAGE Joe Blackburn
ild horses thundered on the plateau above the Ashnola River, their hooves trampling yellowed grass and sagebrush. The horses had absorbed it into their coats and when we got close enough to feed them apples, their scent was a mix of animal, herbs, and sunshine.
I’d never thought of sunshine as having a smell, but it did. The horses smelled of it, and so did we, but we smelled too of soil and recently unearthed garlic. Our bedding had an aura of ponderosa pine, a subtle vanilla. We smelled of baked rocks and dried grass. Our bodies had begun to forget what soap felt like. Sure, we washed ourselves in the river every day to soak the grime and sweat of our labours away, but soap was so passé. So were houses with solid walls, electricity, financial obligations, and monogamous relationships.
three years, through urban hazards and rural statements. I thought we were inseparable, but her movements were mercurial and fickle. My best friend, Josh, had become intimate with her a few months earlier, something that left me hard-hearted. He had come with us to the Similkameen Valley to work the farms, an act I had tried to stop. Our relationship was tense, and the blazing temperatures didn’t help. Josh had been my rock for the greater part of a decade. He had found me on a bench outside our high school, when I was morbidly obese and ready to murder anyone who looked at me the wrong way.
He looked at me the right way.With careful coaxing, he lured me away from homicidal tendencies and showed me the soft hair-like tendrils of connection. It saved my life.
I sat alone in my tent. The tinkling sound of the river flowed by, ever-present, a cool balm on my thoughts. The river forked just south of our camp, and the larger prong rushed by 100 metres past our small tributary. The Ashnola was muffled by trees, just enough that I could hear and feel the horses.
Later, we had explored the cosmos together on lsd, mushrooms, and salvia. He’d gotten lost and sworn something else was wearing his skin. Josh was wandering around the forest, doing who knows what.
My girlfriend, Heather, had left for Portland more than a week earlier to see another man. We’d been together for
“Hey my friend,” Pierre called from outside my tent. He had a smooth Parisian accent, more pleasant on my ears
Summer Haze Author Kiara Strijack
than that of the ubiquitous Québecois youths who swelled the ranks of fruit pickers during Okanagan summers. “Stop thinking about girls and come make a fire.” “Yeah, buddy,” Mo said, drawing out the words. I could hear the smile in his voice, see his forked red beard. He and Pierre had been with me for several months— solid where Josh had become fragmented. They were experienced, worldly, and open-minded. Josh was tangled up with the old me; these two saw the new. “All right, all right.” I dragged myself off my bed and stumbled through the open tent flap into the dappled sunlight of early evening. The ponderosas were tall sentinels around us, and the river sparkled with dimples of reflected light. Pierre, tall and dark-haired with a beard going white, stood beside a feisty red-headed German man. Mo was slight, balding. When he smiled he had a fey glimmer in his eyes and he was smiling now. “Where is Crazy Josh?” Mo said. They’d been calling him that whenever he wasn’t around. On top of betraying my trust and following me to the valley, an act that required him to abandon his place on Vancouver Island, and live out of his car with what little he owned, Josh was showing more and more signs of psychosis. He talked about events that had never happened and things that hadn’t been said.
When he drank whisky, he made no sense, existed on a different plane. Even sober, his interactions with strangers made them visibly uncomfortable. I wanted him gone.
He’d always been a danger to himself, but I couldn’t bear the weight of pushing him over the edge. I had been on that edge myself and he had pulled me back from it.
“In the bushes somewhere, licking poison ivy,” I said. “Hey, why don’t we go see Olivia?” “I said stop thinking about the girls.” Pierre laughed. He had recovered from her rejection, but I was seduced by the tall Québecois gypsy and thought it was the perfect way to take my mind off Heather. “All right, let’s go see the horses.” We forgot the campfire and hiked the plateau. The herd chomped on sparse grass and shrubbery with no rush to be anywhere else. They had no fence, no feeding times, no obligations to jump or ride. They had no bills to pay, no creditors calling. I wanted their wild-hearted freedom.
ONE WHO KNEW US BEST Rose McQuirter
e found another body amid the grass. It was splayed out against the frozen soil, embracing the earth as though it couldn’t wait to become one with the landscape.
Its eyes were wide—the chill of late December had squeezed its heart into ice. Its fur would never thaw last evening’s dusting of frost and death. Its veins would never feel warmth again.
smelled of cigarettes and pain and was always blowing smoke in my face. Sometimes he would mention the accident that brought the farm to the brink of poverty. A farmhand had been trying to unjam some machinery when a moving saw caught his flesh. Workers were reluctant to return. Gideon never continued past the words ‘so much blood.’ “I know,” I murmured, reaching for Liam’s hand.
“Must’ve been the cold,” I said, pulling my coat in closer around me.
His fingers were dry and pink in the frigid breeze, his knuckles cracked.
“Maybe.” Liam crouched and prodded at the cat with a branch, studying the remains with mild curiosity. He wasn’t surprised.
“I should go home,” I announced. I knew soon that Liam would soon lead me to the farmhouse, where Gideon would be lurking with iciness in his eyes.
The Wyoming winters regularly revealed bodies in the field behind Liam’s home. Deer, raccoons, and dogs came in the dark to take their last gasps.
The rooms of that house left me cold for hours. The wooden flooring was cool against my steps and groaned under the weight, like thin ice. Its structure was becoming more frail with every cold spell, rattling beneath Gideon’s movements; his voice shook the windows and Liam.
“I won’t stay long,” I said, cold sweat on my skin. Liam stood. When he looked away from the carcass, I could see the exhaustion in his eyes. His father must have put him to work yesterday evening, sent him out into the shadows and bitter air with seeds to plant and garden tools. Liam never said how long his chores took. He only said that his father wanted the farm to stay ‘healthy,’ whatever that meant. In fact, their farmland was sickly. The property was vast and neglected. The barns and the paddocks leaned against winter’s breath, surrounded by farm tools left to decay and sink into the earth. There was an overpowering stillness on the fields, enough to make the fear in my heart seem noisy.
“You know,” Liam started, still studying the corpse of the cat from a distance. “When the cold comes to get you and me, we’ll be together.” He was saying things like this all the time, words to bring us closer together. I couldn’t help but feel as though he was looking for someone to freeze along with him. I sometimes wondered what Liam found when he dug holes for his father against the bitter night air. I wondered what he saw at the edge of the fields, standing in the doorways of the leaning barns, watching from behind run-down tractors. Whatever it was, I didn’t want to know.
“Dad just wants things to look up,” Liam said. Liam’s father, Gideon Brack, inherited the property from family. He was a hefty man who favoured a brown bathrobe and never ventured past their porch. He
The letter had come three weeks ago, slipped under the front door on my day off. I stared down at it and noticed soil smudged on the edge of the envelope.
I had done my best over the last decades to boil the images of the Bracks from my head. The Florida heat had, for the most part, melted my recollections of them. Yet here I was again, two decades later, pressing down the memories that made their way up my throat. The letter in my jacket pocket was real. Gideon Brack died of a heart attack on his porch three weeks ago. I was here, because 19 years before, Liam Brack had frozen to death, frost bitten and alone. Some school kids found him out on the roadside, consumed by winter. Gideon claimed that Liam had keys and that he never heard Liam’s fists on the doors, on the windows. Isolated Industry Natasha Baronas
It was the only night Gideon shut out the cold. The Brack’s had no living relatives. Gideon repelled anything with a heartbeat. Not even lingering deer at the mouth of the woods set foot on his icy fields, unless they were already dying. Maybe they could smell the decay. Maybe they could hear the pressing silence that breathed between the remains of the long dry grass, the leafless trees, the old machinery. Maybe they saw the eyes that watched from barn windows. All of it would have been Liam’s, if he hadn’t gone cold before his father. It turns out that Gideon, even in his last, useless years, wrote a will.
The One Who New Us Best
Our land will go to the one who knew us best. Anna. I was responsible for all of it now. I was responsible for the silent fields that drew in animals so close to death. I was responsible for the farmhouse and the frail bones of old sheds.
Gideon had signed everything over to a woman who had visited the property for two winters when she was 17.The longer I sat, the more I could hear the threat in the quiet. Memories dragging themselves up out of the holes in my mind.
“I won’t stay long,” I told the silence. I cleared some of the junk off one of the couches in the sitting room and started sorting through boxes. An hour passed. I thought of Liam when he wandered the grounds planting seeds. I thought of how his last night might have gone, roaming the fields with garden tools, placing all the seeds in the dead soil, ignoring the faces that peered out from the sheds. He returned to find the front door locked and with that, Liam Brack froze.
I forced myself out of the car. The cold was immediate and unkind. Liam’s fields stretched out beyond the farmhouse, dead and dirty and patched with snow. The trees beyond the grass seemed to have backed even further away, intimidated by the frozen soil, the rotting leaves, and the faces in glassless windows. Nature itself was haunted by the Bracks.
An insistent knock pulled me from my nightmares. It was far off and soft, but still broke the resting quiet as if it were glass. I must have dozed off because the room was much darker now. Night had settled beyond the windows. There were still papers spread out on the floor; they seemed to be the only useful thing Gideon had hoarded away, his certificates and receipts.
Their farmhouse was nearly as bleak as the landscape. The paint was peeling from the siding, the gutters were clogged with dead leaves, and the sides of the house were crowded with piles of trash.
The knock came again. I stumbled past boxes and over books with determination, but stopped in the hallway. I was suddenly thinking of the accident Gideon couldn’t unsee, the farmhand whose leg was caught in a blade. He dragged himself to the door of the outbuilding and wailed like a dying animal. The other farmhands pounded on the door as this man bled into the grass. So much blood.
I wasn’t surprised to find the front door unlocked. Gideon had regularly left it wide open as people do during the hot months, inviting in the cold air. I thought I could hear Gideon’s voice inside. Something about crops and animals and bringing the fields back to health, bringing them back from the dead. The raging quiet absorbed whatever I had heard in an instant. I was alone again. I pushed through the front entrance. A familiar hallway reached out before me, leading the way to the kitchen and the sitting room. There were boxes spilling books about raising livestock stacked in the corridor, blocking doorways. I was thinking of all the hours I would have to spend sorting through Gideon’s belongings, all this trash he couldn’t let go. I knew I had to clean this place up myself. Gideon wanted me to sort through all his treasures and read through his strange notes, to do his odd chores. I would sell the place and then I would forget about the Bracks all over again. The rooms smelled as they did 20 winters ago, conquered by the stench of old tv dinners and rotting food, the reek of cigarettes and pain clinging to the walls. No space was safe from clutter. Every corner and shelf was crowded
with mugs, empty picture frames, candles, books, and random pieces of cutlery. The collections created bizarre shadows against the walls.
I was thinking about Liam locked out on the porch, hands blue and face gaunt. Gideon must have silently turned all the locks, not said a word. The knocking was even more insistent. The spaces between the rapping were shorter each time. I was unsure now if the fists were beating the front door or the sitting room windows. The walls too seemed to be thumping as though something was inside them. There were footsteps upstairs. I could hear all the faucets in the house turn full blast. There was suddenly so much noise. All those things from the fields, from the sheds, were banging to get up out of the floorboards, pulling themselves up the cellar stairs, pressing their bloody palms against the windows. I pulled open the front door. The house fell quiet. Out on the porch, I found myself in Gideon’s place, watching the fields and their midnight fog. I could see figures dragging themselves up out of the grass, coming for the one who knew them best.
FADE IN: INT. BAR—NIGHT A calendar reads APRIL 1933. A group of men gather around the main stage. The stage lights dim and a figure steps out from behind the dark curtains and sits. A lone spotlight illuminates BIBI LABELLE, a petite blonde with a perkiness suggestive of far younger than her 50 years. Loud cheers ring out as she points offstage. Music begins and she sings. BIBI (singing)
I’m a ‘Huss without a home. I’m a dame without a dome. A text without a tome. A garden with no gnome. Cheers continue to fill the air. Seeing a leg at the wing of the stage, she harshly motions it away.
But here for now, I’m stayin’. For this here town, I’m prayin’. If they’re too happy to take me in, then surely they’ll take the vermin. Piano music ramps up as she stands up. She steals a glance at the wing again before singing.
I’m the only moll for miles, show me what to do. I deal in dollar smiles, and I don’t got the flu. She winks. A patron slams his mug on the table, realizes it’s empty. The bartender fills it, he slams it down again, suds flying.
The greatest game in town is only me and you. She starts her finale dance.
The greatest game in town is only…(innocuously innocent) …me and you. The audience applauds wildly as Bibi takes a bow and the stage goes dark. She exits the stage, watched by her young assistant DELL GARRETT, 19, a tall, lanky, otherwise nondescript girl. INT. DRESSING ROOM—NIGHT Bibi enters her small but cozy dressing room. It’s filled with outfits, boas, and other props. Dell follows, quietly closing the door behind them. Bibi checks her makeup in her vanity mirror.
Did you see that, Darlin’? That man went out of his way! I don’t know whether to bemoan the male species or be hopeful for it! She takes off her pink boa and the telephone on her vanity rings.
The Only Moll For Miles
Oh, that must be ol’ Mae in San Anton’! She takes the phone behind her dressing screen.
Mae! How are you? Oh, my dear, that is simply wonderful! Dell takes each clothing item that Bibi hands to her and averts her eyes.
Well Honey, that name means song of joy, at least when one spells it without the “e.” Y’all better decide soon to set her numerology. (pause) I don’t blame you for covering your bases. Dell, not really listening, gets out a casual pink dress and hands it to her.
You enjoy her while she’s young. Once they’re 13 they’re hell raisers! All right, talk to you soon, Mae. Buh bye. Bibi steps out from behind the screen, phone in hand, now dressed in the pink dress.
Oh, that Mae. A grandmother at 51. That chile will be her nurse in two years, I know it. She checks herself out in the mirror.
DELL BIBI DELL BIBI DELL BIBI DELL BIBI DELL
Bibi? Yes, Darlin’? You don’t really mean what you sang in that song of yours, do you? Hm? I mean, I know you’ve sung that song forever, but you don’t want to be shown… Oh, Sweetheart, of course not. I’m just givin’ people what they want. It’s good for business. But this place is the only one for miles—it’s not like you have to try that hard. They’ve been travelling for miles, cutting down trees and doing god knows what. They just need a distraction. ok then. Bibi turns around and puts her hands on Dell’s shoulders. Dell is nearly a foot taller.
I’m a big girl. I can handle myself. Dell worriedly murmurs as Bibi pats her arms in assurance. INT. BAR—NIGHT The two enter the bar area where JOE SORLEY, 62, is tending. Dell and Bibi sit at the bar as he delivers their drinks.
One water for the little lady, and an English gin for the littler lady. Bibi takes her drink with a contented smile.
Thank you darlin’.
Hey Dell, you listen to that Rosie Red show, the one about a girl who’s always getting into trouble? A little miss came by askin’ me if I knew anyone in here who was a fan.
Danger, not trouble. And she—
DELL AND BIBI
“always gets her man.”
Sweet Jesus Joe, everyone and their mistress listens to that show.
Not me, I’m too busy dealin’ with the worst the lumber industry has to offer. Bibi rolls her eyes.
BIBI DELL JOE
Sure, Joe. What did you tell the girl? I told her I knew a kid who needed to get out and meet people. Not that she’s likely to stay here long enough for me to make an introduction. Dell looks downcast, then anxious.
The Only Moll For Miles
Honey, don’t you worry. We’ll be here. Bibi puts her hand on Dell’s. Suddenly, a drunkard staggers over to her.
Hey, Toots. How low can ya go? My foot goes as low as it needs to to kick you square in the… The drunkard grabs her arms.
Hey, listen little dame. I’ve been sawing down cedars all week. The least I deserve is 30 seconds with the star of the show! Suddenly from behind them steps GEORGE “CROW”, 33, sporting a brown coat and a long black braid under a wide-brimmed hat. He has an intimidating presence.
GEORGE BIBI GEORGE DRUNKARD
Miss LaBelle, is this man bothering you? Among other things. Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave this establishment. Or what?
He laughs grotesquely. George smirks at the drunkard, grabs him by his clothes, runs him to the door, and throws him out on the street. Dell laughs with Bibi and Joe as they welcome George back. Dell looks at the wall clock and her demeanor changes. DELL
I gotta go.
Where else? To hit the bricks.
You mean “hit the books.”
What’s the difference? Dell leaves in a hurry. EXT. APARTMENT—NIGHT Dell climbs a ladder up several levels to the small deck of an apartment. INT. APARTMENT BEDROOM—NIGHT Dell climbs through an open window into a bedroom. She’s met by LILLIE WERNER, 24, a paleskinned, overly-made-up redhead who’s come off her latest hangover. The two look at each other. INT. LILLIE’S SHOWER STALL—NIGHT Lillie is helped into the stall by Dell and its curtain is drawn. INT. APARTMENT BEDROOM—NIGHT Dell looks through Lillie’s drawers for bottles. All she finds are empties, so she sets about making the bed. Lillie enters in a silk kimono robe. Dell turns to look at her. INT. APARTMENT BEDROOM—NIGHT With a washcloth and a dollop of cold cream, Dell tries her best to wipe off Lillie’s old makeup before applying it anew. Lillie holds Dell’s hand to her face, wanting her to stay. Dell’s thumb touches Lillie’s lips. Lillie nods ever so slightly. Dell’s hand brushes Lillie’s robe off of her shoulders and onto the floor. EXT. APARTMENT—NIGHT The full moon shines brightly on the apartment building and Lillie’s lit bedroom window. FADE OUT FADE IN: EXT. APARTMENT—DAY INT. APARTMENT BEDROOM—DAY Dell awakens and climbs off Lillie’s bed, fully clothed. As she moves over to the window, she stretches her neck. Lillie, wrapped up in her sheets, awakens.
Reeds Spenser Smith
The Only Moll For Miles
I love you. Dell doesn’t answer.
Let me ... just once. Dell, agitated, glares at her. She takes the half-full bottle out of Lillie’s reach, puts it into a bedside drawer and jams it shut before climbing out the window. INT. BAR—DAY Joe is wiping the bar counter. He smiles at Dell when she comes in. Dell yawns and turns to see a girl sitting at a far table. The girl is MILLIE DANIELS, 18, dressed in a brown coat, her long dark hair loose. Her smile is eager.
That’s the new girl I was telling you about. I thought you could show her around. Millie waves. Dell turns back to Joe and frowns, then goes over to Millie’s table and sits down.
MILLIE DELL MILLIE DELL MILLIE DELL
Hi, I’m Millie. I-I’m Dell. Dell. That’s an unusual name. You dress Bibi LaBelle, don’t you? She’s a legend—35 years performing up and down the west coast. Yeah, yeah. After a while, I tune out. Anyway, I’d rather listen to— Rosie Red of course! What happened in the last couple shows? I just drove up from Marching Pass so I missed a few. You drove? EXT. BAR—DAY Millie is showing Dell her car, a black convertible speedster. Dell is transfixed.
I thought I’d drive while you tour guide. Dell is still distracted.
Yeah, sure. Millie gets into the driver’s seat and starts the motor. Dell snaps out of it and hops in the passenger seat, slamming the door.
We’re in for quite a ride. She floors the gas and they speed off.
Patience Haley Waite
UNDERTOW Anika Michaux
Carry me, carry me to the ocean side silt, Earth’s bedrock worn to aging bones.
All that’s left is hollow driftwood against sore, residue in the shape of your hand.
Nestle me close. After all we’ve been, shouldn’t that be the last thing I’d want?
Carry me, carry me so I won’t dread that fleeting moment when I see you.
Carry me, carry me so I won’t have to bear it alone, lift my limbs through the waves, cast off dead weight.
Let the tide cleanse, let me forgive, let the sea swallow, carry my body to the soft black outline of your shadow.
Our eyes will meet and everything will rush back: Camel cigarettes, Calvin Klein cologne, black ice car freshener, ocean salt.
Left with waves, circling gulls, and clothes that cling to my shell.
BIRD’S EYE Spenser Smith
park my mazda 3 at Forest Park Elementary. A few photographers angle their cameras at a small grouping of fir trees in the schoolyard. We greet a smiling woman in her mid-30s struggling to set up a bulky, rusted tripod.
“I heard about the owls, so I grabbed my dad’s old camera equipment and came as quick as I could,” she says. I’m relieved I’m not the only amateur photographer here. I ask if she’s seen them and she points at the three tall firs in front of us. Sarah and I scan the trees, but all we see are needles and branches. Three weeks back, I messaged a complete stranger on Instagram, hoping he would share his owl-finding secrets with me. His Nanaimo owl photos were incredible and seeing them inspired me to give wildlife photography a try. He shared some helpful tips, from looking for pellets to listening to surrounding birds, but not any specific locations. Today, luckily, he sent me a private message that said Forest Park Elementary was home to a nest of great horned owls.
I never really felt I belonged. As a child, I sincerely believed my father disliked me, even though the evidence (hearing him say “I love you” every night) proved the opposite. Once, in Kindergarten, our class had to colour a carrot. As a four-year-old, I hadn’t mastered how to hold markers properly. On a few occasions, my teacher, Mrs. Pawson, had pulled me aside to show me, but it hadn’t stuck. Still, I was determined to try my best and, surprisingly, I managed to stay inside the lines for the most part. Mrs. Pawson then instructed each of us in the class to hold up our work. “He painted his carrot red!” one of my classmates shouted, pointing at me. The class erupted with laughter. I stared down at my black Velcro Nikes. I
vowed never to colour in class again. I later learned I had trouble distinguishing colours.
Sarah continues to scan the trees and, this time, she sees what she thinks is the owl. “It’s right there,” she says, pointing upward. I still can’t see it. Sarah grabs my camera from my bag and takes a photo of the location, so I have a better point of reference. On the camera’s lcd screen, I make out the mottled brown, camouflaged backside of an adult great horned owl. Even though Sarah has no interest in birds or wildlife, she knows seeing an owl for the first time is important to me. I’m grateful for her company, her superior sight, and her ability to differentiate greens and browns. “I never thought I’d marry a birder,” says Sarah. “I never thought I’d meet my future wife on Tinder,” I say. Six months ago, I knew virtually nothing about birding, now I spend most of my free time combing the rainforests of Vancouver Island. Sarah points at the trees again and now I can see it. I set up my tripod as fast as I can, fumbling with the knobs and levers. Once my camera is in place, I snap photo after photo, but the owl still faces away. While cranking our necks to try to relocate the adult, we notice the nest. Two little heads pop up from a clump of needles.
As a child, I was obsessed with basketball. While my dad was watching Michael Jordan make his famous gamewinning shot with 5.2 seconds left in the 1998 nba Finals, I was shooting hoops on the Little Tykes net in my front yard. I attended my first basketball camp at eight years old and made the Grade 6-8 elementary team when I was in Grade 5.
At 13, my parents made me go to Luther, a private high school away from my childhood friends. My older brother, Dylan, excelled at Luther’s high-achieving, International Baccalaureate program, and my parents hoped I would follow in his footsteps. Within my first month at Luther, I grew depressed and lonely. I called my mom and pretended to be sick so she would pick me up. I missed basketball tryouts after school that day and gave up on my life-long passion for just a single afternoon of sanity.
At 15, and after two years of social isolation at Luther, I started drinking and smoking weed. A year later, I dropped out of high school. By 20, I was injecting cocaine and prescription opiates.
I swindled tens of thousands of dollars from my parents—sometimes with elaborate lies or emotional pleas, sometimes by digging through their wallets— to stay high. I bought hydromorphone pills on the street, each vivid colour denoting a different milligram strength. These experiences were in stark contrast to my dulling sense of friendship and intimacy.
Even in the brightness of a warm April evening, the owlets’ yellow eyes gleam. Unlike the adult owl and its fully-formed feathers, the owlets are covered in an adorable, wispy fuzz. Both babies, curious about us, jump out of the nest. Their movements are slow and bumbling as they each hop to separate branches. I point my camera toward the owlet closest to us, about 30 feet up, and take a few shots. It bobs its head in swift circular motions, like animatronics at a natural history museum. Since an owl’s eyes are in a fixed position, it rotates its head to determine the location and distance of objects. Like me, it makes do with unconventional vision.
Great Horned Owl Spenser Smith
The other photographers catch on (cued by my booming laughter and excitement) that the owlets have risen from their nest and they join us. The woman with her dad’s old photography equipment sets up her tripod, directs her camera toward the owlets and, grinning, presses the shutter.
Today, after three detox centres, two treatment centres, and one psychiatry ward, I am sober. Looking at past relapses, I noticed a pattern: I had no hobbies. In four years of sobriety, I’ve tested a myriad of them: skateboarding, drumming, website building, hiking, writing, photography, and now, birding. Because of my tendency to quit new hobbies within months of starting them, birding could just be another fad, although I like to think I’m taking it seriously; I recently purchased a $2000 telephoto lens for my camera even though I’m a full-time student with over $30,000 of student loan debt and an upcoming wedding that will cost $15,000.
The sky is black and we are alone. Minutes ago, the adult great horned owl flew from the nesting area, presumably to hunt for food. For the past two hours, I’ve observed the lives of an owl family. I am hooked. Sarah and I walk back to my Mazda. I can tell she’s tired from standing for so long, but she hasn’t complained once. Inside the car, I review hundreds of photos on my memory card. I come to one of the moody blue sky from earlier in the evening that transports me to my driveway as a short 12-year-old looking up at a 10-foot hoop. I am dribbling and my Nikes (laced, not Velcro) are red and black like the colours of M.J.’s Chicago Bulls. On the drive back, somewhere between Northfield and Bowen Road, Sarah puts her hand on my knee and smiles—her green eyes meet my brown and even I can see the difference between past and present in the curve of those crescent moons.
over the mountains as we trudge across the dew-soaked field, a motley-looking crew in rumpled clothes weighted down with gear. The grass has grown long, obscuring the trail as we push our way through, gumboots slapping against our pant legs the only noise in a silent field.
he sun is just breaking
As we near the gate, a flock of cedar waxwings flies up out of the willows and all binoculars rise. The recorder notes species and numbers as they are called out. He is the newest addition to the group, stuck with this task until it can be passed on. Jim motions a silent reminder to proceed slowly and quietly. Hunting season has opened and the mallards will spook as soon as they detect us. A flurry of frantic wings explodes off the pond as we near the wooden viewing platform. We, too, are propelled into action up the slippery stairs, rapidly scanning the water, calling out numbers for wood ducks as they disappear into the shadowy reeds, and for pied-billed grebes diving like porpoises below the surface. The widgeon and pintail soon return to browsing among the grasses or napping with heads tucked snuggly under wings. Sandpipers and dowitchers probe in the muddy banks for their breakfast. Our spotting scopes are set up to scan the hidden corners. At the far end three swans, surreally white in this drab fall landscape, leisurely feed their way across the shoreline. Jim calls them out, “Three trumpeter swans.” I turn to look and catch a flash of yellow on a bill. I correct, “Two trumpeter and one tundra.” All eyes shift to the swans. Tundras are rare, usually seen only once or twice in a season, and we love them for this. They play hide-and-seek among thousands of trumpeters in this valley, their winter home. “Absolutely not. Write down what I said,” Jim barks as he glares at me, stabbing the air in the general direction of the recorder. “Three trumpeter swans.” An uncomfortable stillness settles over the group. Jim’s memory has begun to fail, necessitating late-night calls to arrange who’s ‘already driving past’ and can pick him up, who will ‘just happen to have’ a spare pair of binoculars, who can carry his spotting scope if he should wander ahead without it.
My pockets grow heavier with anticipated needs, like his strange black licorice I now pretend to like. So many gentle untruths skirt around the edges of his dignity.
Yet this I cannot do. I cannot lie about this bird; to do so would be to lose all respect. When I first stumbled into this strange land of bird watching, I didn’t know a dipper from a dunlin. Taken under Jim’s wing, I found myself spending bleary-eyed evenings in fields under moonlight, calling for owls gliding silent and fearsome overhead. I would collapse into the car, soaked but victorious, having found the one and only slatey-backed gull. I had lain on boardwalks in twilit mountain meadows, battered thermos of hot chocolate forgotten, listening to the whooping wings of a wilson’s snipe beating against the spring air.
“Three trumpeter swans,” Jim says again. “But there’s yellow on the bill,” I say. He looks angrily back out at the swan. “That doesn’t mean anything. Five percent of trumpeters show some yellow on the lores.” My heart sinks. Most tundra swans have yellow on the bill, but there’s a small percentage who don’t. Trumpeter’s bills are always black; they never vary. He’s got it backwards. The guidebooks, a birder’s refuge, are out and someone tries to hand Jim a copy. He pushes it away. “I don’t need to see a picture to know what I’m talking about.” Subtly, the others on the platform are edging away from us. Across the water, the tundra swan rears up, beating its wings in the air, a deep vibrating rumble. We watch as it settles, wings folding in across its back. The old Jim would have said, “Never trust colour. Never trust size. You find the bird in the way one part flows into another, how the pieces join into the whole.” I take a breath. “It doesn’t matter about the colour on the bill. I’m saying it’s different from the others. The top of its head doesn’t smoothly slope to the bill; it dips. Look at the curve of its wings, they’re higher up the back.”
Jim angrily lifts his binoculars and glares out over the water. We are mute, at a loss as to how to console this angry stranger we all love. A raven passes overhead, its croaking voice echoing high across the sky, but no one calls it out. Then Jim’s shoulders relax. His tight grip on the binoculars gradually softens. He turns and looks at me, mouth in a near smile, and speaks over his shoulder to the recorder. “See how it holds the scapulars up over the torso? Put down two trumpeter swans and one tundra.” Relief soaks through the group. We are back together, purposefully scanning the willows, the skies, as we file back through the gate. We are birders. The swans drift out of view as the cold wind rustles the cattails. Chestnut-backed Chickadee Spenser Smith
WHILE IT’S STILL ALIVE Damon Vaillancourt
heard it last night as I stole my way through the living room for a cigarette. The noise wasn’t loud, but it caught me off guard—a subdued struggling you teach yourself to avoid because the solution isn’t apparent. The problem might solve itself, or not be as bad as it sounds. Interfering might make it worse.
In the morning, Linny explained. It happened every so often: a bird would fly into the chimney, ash would stick to its wings, and it would wind up in the fireplace, trapped. I shouldn’t worry about it, she said. Hank was going to install a new chimney cap sometime soon. He’d been busy and under a lot of stress. It wasn’t that big a deal. Linny made us both coffee and we talked about my new job, life in the city, and the weather. She said she was proud of me for getting away from the country. “Nothing ever happens out here,” she said. “Nothing good, at least.” She’d lost weight since the last time I’d seen her. Started smoking again, too. Our mother had made us promise we would never take up the habit, but, deep down, I think she’d known we wouldn’t be able to escape it. Linny and I shared the silent guilt as we lit up on the front porch. Her black beady eyes were just like our mother’s; the bony arms and nervous smile as well. We’d inherited more from our mother than we liked.
Girl in Soft Breeze Jasmine Schulz
I told Linny how I’d snuck out for a cigarette overnight and how foolish I felt for hiding it from her. She said it’s ok to have secrets—even between sisters. She pulled on the sleeve of her blouse, covering the bruises on her arm. I asked her what we should do about the bird. She took a long drag off her cigarette and said, “Just let it be. After a while, it’ll probably tire itself out, then we can bury it in the backyard.” “Can’t we let it out now?” I asked. “While it’s still alive.” She shook her head.
It’s too late,” she said. “Either it’ll escape through the chimney, or it’s already inhaled too much ash to ever fly again.
We watched the clouds move across the morning sky and listened to the cars on the highway. There was so much I wanted to tell Linny about life outside of the country, how things could be different for her. Though I was afraid it would just make things worse; we might become even more distant. I told her I was going to try to quit smoking, again. She let out a small sigh and said she was too. We finished our coffees without another word and I called the airport to confirm my flight. When we went back into the living room, it was dead quiet.
NATURAL ORDER Aislinn Cottell
nce, she’d thrown her cat
into a river. Not a big river—more of a wide stream, really. Shallow, perhaps a foot deep. Nothing dangerous. After that day it became a river, though. She’d been a child, a girl of 11, and the cat had been more like a kitten.
“She’ll follow me anywhere,” she bragged to her friend, scuffing up the yellow summer dust. The gravel road was riddled with potholes, and crickets, and the occasional sunning garter snake. The kitten scampered through the ditch alongside them, darting erratically through the limp weeds and dying thistles. The slightest touch sent her skittering. “Really? Isn’t that more a dog thing?” “Nah, you can train cats, if you try. When they’re small.” “Huh.” They reached the end of the road and tramped into the field. The tall August grass trilled with cricket song and the sharp snick of iridescent dragonflies hunting through the hovering clouds of midges. The kitten lurched from one knoll to the next, leaping wildly at each disturbed insect. They laughed and moved ahead, making for the river. It was man-made but well-established, boasting a proper ecosystem of fish and beaver. It wound slow and lazy through the pastures, a dull brownish-green until the light caught its edges, and then it sparkled like cracked schist. They wandered the bank, picking cattail blooms and shredding them to grey velvet. A red-winged blackbird followed and scolded raucously from a safe distance, scarlet feathers flashing. Further along, the river narrowed, slipping smoothly around a jut of glistening rock. “I bet we could make that,” said her friend. The leap required a running start. Her friend went first, thumping solidly off the rock before skidding into the
Bonnell Creek Spenser Smith
slick clay on the far side. Then it was her turn. She eyed the gap, retreated several feet, and launched herself forward. She hit the rock at an angle, dovetailing in the ruts the older girl had left, before a steadying hand grabbed her elbow. They’d made it half-way up the slope on the far side when the cry pierced the air behind them. The kitten had reached the edge of the river and now paced, fitful, halfcrouched, on the far bank. Its mouth opened again, tiny teeth and pink tongue flashing. “Aw, crap. Hang on.”
Years later, she confessed the story to an anonymous thread online. The other posters told her it was good she felt guilt, that this proved she was not a sociopath. She was also gently reminded that kids will be kids who did stupid things, that sometimes growing up involved collateral damage. This was just the natural order of the world. Besides, the kitten had been fine, hadn’t it? This was comforting. She was only human, after all, and everyone made mistakes. She started a blog and posted all her old pictures of the kitten. For a while, she stopped dreaming of water rushing over rocks under mellow sunlight.
Returning to the river, she knelt close to the water as the squelching earth allowed, and stretched out a hand. “C’mon! C’mere!” “There’s no way she’s gonna make that.” The rock was closer to this side of the bank, but she still staggered upon landing to avoid the kitten. “I’ll just toss her over. She should be fine, yeah? Cats land on their feet.” “Throw her in,” said her friend. “What?” “Get her used to the water.” “I don’t think....” “It’s only a few inches deep, she’ll be fine.” It wasn’t hard to catch the kitten; it hadn’t yet learned the art of mistrust. It hung in her hands, barely protesting, her fingers spanning easily its soft, delicate chest. She hesitated. A tiny heartbeat throbbed, thimp thimp. Quickening. “Hurry up!” She swung her arms, elbows bent and awkward. The kitten sailed, each limb stiff and outstretched, and hit the water with a splash. There was a moment of frantic spray—then it was on the bank, then 10 feet away, huddled and shivering in the dry grass. “Ha! Oh my God! I can’t believe you did that!” She’d barely noticed the jump on the way back. Her hands were hot now, beating with shame. She’d reached for the kitten, but this time it shrank back, ears flat, eyes huge and staring in its drenched skull.
In 2017, hurricane Irma hit Puerto Rico. In the Web news footage, people looked small, even as the camera drew closer. They were huddled in groups of three or four, in the remains of broken buildings, some lifting bricks and shards of wood from the glistening streets. Many were wearing brightly-coloured golf shirts, or tank tops and surfer shorts. The rush of water was sibilant in the background and the young reporter in black galoshes and a bright red raincoat had to raise her voice above the noise. The woman who threw her kitten into a river cradled her first morning coffee and listened attentively. The reporter said the hurricane had been a devastating blow to a region already struggling with insufficient infrastructure and widespread poverty. They’d gone media dark for nearly an entire week; unprecedented in the 21st century, the age of information. Apocalyptic.
Scientists say the extreme weather is linked to climate change, but many deniers still claim the events are due to regular cycles in the earth’s atmosphere, and are, in fact, perfectly natural.
Next to the video was a list of links to relief efforts. The woman put down her mug on the kitchen table, her hands uncomfortably warm. As she moved to close the tab, a mother walked in front of the reporter. She seemed lost, barely aware of her surroundings as she looked blankly into the middle distance. She was overloaded with a backpack and bulging cloth grocery bags, and an infant, wrapped in blue cloth and tucked against her elbow. Its tiny face was almost hidden amid the folds. Strands of dark wet hair clung to its too-pale cheeks. The woman watched, frozen, as the child looked directly into the camera—eyes huge and staring.
Logs Tangled in Rope Quinn Stacey
SECOND GROWTH Quinn Stacey
Teeth here grow in symmetrical rows, planted by deliberate people, who knew that every atom of waste they left would someday overlook everything. Mandibles lay by the service mains waiting for fire season, dislocated jaws sat bleached, calcified, a ziggurat of limbs, nerves pulled up through taproots: harvest, replenish, flag the remains. We followed roads marked for deactivation around lakes no one had heard of,
passed burnt-out antique coupes rolled off the right-of-way, saw machinery falling upwards at impossible angles. Each generation, mindless on a Friday afternoon, had left oxidized ivory between the switchbacks, along cold streams of putrefied enamel, filling the timberlands with cyclic decay.
I know now the sound a tree makes when it falls, the gentle screech of roots releasing earth, moaning under their burden. It’s like an untrained bird singing off-key soprano, harmonized by the deep baritone sigh as dirt loosens, and gives way with a percussive thud. I wish I would have known this sound, that night you clutched your keys to your chest like they could still the shallow gasping of your breath. You pointed to the door, spoke with such conviction, hand white-knuckling the knob. But between the words you wielded like a weapon: a plaintive cry.
Like air escaping lungs of a body that no longer Poetry breathes.
IF A TREE FALLS Maria Elsser
I Ih f a kn d o I w the wn n rec ou , og ld h n a the so ize ve gen und d th e : tl rel eas of r e scr in oot eec h ba g ear s rit th o , sig ne the h. I I w had I ou kno f ld w yo hav n th u e e lea were know n vin n’t n yo g: uw A e las re fa t p lli be ro ng Iw co fore test . l lap o se. I w uld h a o v u tie ld e ca d he sup yo have ugh ap po ur ed rts fa brok t you soi to ll, en . l o yo n u no yo r tr ur ur u yo roo nk, u c so o ished ts, ou nce yo ld ho agai u, up ld y n ou . Bu rse lf Iw Il tId e asn t y idn o ’ ’t u t. to wh ther go. kn e e ow to n y to Iw if y pp ou hea an r ou led, de rt ma he de wo N as lik o o ou w ds, , eu nd ntr l i . s s ain way ten ing ed , bir to ds, the off s tre ing sop -ke es i y n r g ba an rit o, o pu sigh ne nc s w tua pe ith ted rcu a Hummingbird Moth thu ssiv d. e Kiara Strijack
MY FATHER’S FIELDS Zoe McKenna
fence in lazy contentment and she wondered if it had moved at all in the 10 years since she had last been here.
cat was draped over the
Sarah’s white Pontiac Firefly felt out of place in the long dirt driveway, nestled between her brother’s old truck and the family tractor. She unfastened her seatbelt, but made no move to get out of the car, shifting instead to lean her forehead on the window. The sky was dark and bruised, casting an odd light over the fields of sunflowers surrounding her childhood home. The flowers looked duller than she remembered. Colder, maybe. “Hey,” said a muffled voice. A knuckle tapped three times on her window and Sarah lurched away from the glass. Her brother, Peter, was peering into the car. He held his
dark hair back out of his eyes. Sarah took a deep breath and got out. “Hey,” she echoed. She shut the door, leaning against the car. He was broader now, with a dusting of stubble. “I’m, ah,” he fumbled for words, “I’m glad you came, Sarah.” She pulled her lips back into a tight line. “How could I not?” He moved forward and gathered her into a hug. After a moment, Sarah wrapped her arms around him too. He smelled like sweat, but she felt her shoulders relax. “Come on,” Peter said, pulling away and gesturing towards the house. “It’s going to rain. Plus, Mom’s waiting to see you. She saw you pull in a half hour ago.” “Oh,” Sarah said.
My Father’s Fields
She followed him inside to the kitchen. If she had been asked to draw a picture of her earliest memory, she’d have drawn this room. Yellow cabinets mirrored the fields outside and handmade dish towels hung over the handle of the oven door. Sarah wiped her palms on her jeans. “You made it,” her mother said, moving from where she had been leaning against the sink to greet them. Her hair was whiter now. The crow’s-feet that had always been present around her blue eyes were now lost in the maze of newer lines. “Of course,” Sarah said. “I wasn’t sure if you’d come,” her mother said. She hadn’t been certain, either. “I’ll always come when you need me, Mother,” Sarah said, as she was pulled into a hug. Her mother felt frail between her arms. “We’ve always needed you,” her mother said. Her voice was low and her breath itched Sarah’s ear. Sarah frowned and pulled away.
At the funeral home, the guests poured in, a mass of black that reminded Sarah of the locusts that swarmed the crops in summer. The faces were familiar; watered-down versions of people she’d known growing up, names she’d lost over the years. “I’m so sorry for your loss.” “Thank you.”
“You have to go see him,” Peter said, pulling her aside. “Do I?” “This is your last chance. He’s our father.” Sarah was quiet for a moment. “There was a reason I left, you know,” she said. He grimaced. “Jesus, Sarah. I know,” Peter nodded his head toward their mother. “Please. For her sake.”
They entered the viewing area hand-inhand. She remembered walking the fields with Peter like this years ago.
They had run through the rows of sunflowers together, vanishing deeper and deeper into the maze, until they’d lost sight of the paths at the edge of the crops. He had been six or seven, nestled beside her as they hid in the safety of the dappled light. Their father had been a stern man. He’d carried tension in his shoulders and on his face. In death his stress had fallen away. His face was soft in a way Sarah had only seen in glimpses growing up: when Peter was born, when her grandmother had passed away, the day she left. “ok?” Peter asked. Sarah realized she’d started crying. She nodded. She stepped forward and kissed her fingertips, then pressed them to her father’s forehead. She wasn’t sure if there was something she was supposed to say. Maybe she was like him, in that sense. Words were difficult.
“He was a good man.” “Yes, thank you.” “He’ll be truly missed, Sarah.” “Of course. Thank you.” Peter was better at this than she was. His eyes were damp, the tip of his nose rosy with sadness. Sarah’s face was stony, darkened further by retreating to the corners of the room. “It’s alright to cry, you know,” an older gentleman said, sidling up to her. Sarah smiled at him, unable to place his face. He soon left, ushered away by her silence. It was an open casket funeral. Sarah wasn’t sure why her mother insisted on this. The thought of entering the viewing area made her stomach turn.
The next day, Sarah sat on the fence post at the end of their driveway. The sun was setting, the soft honey smell of sunflowers blowing from the fields behind her. Distant power lines were pulled taut across the sky, peppered with crows. “You look like a pixie, perched up there,” her mother said. Sarah smiled. “Dad used to say that.” They were quiet for a moment, watching the light drip away. “Will you be back?” her mother asked so softly the words were almost lost in the breeze. Sarah shifted closer to her mother and reached for her hand. Falling Down Paul White
GUIDED DESCENT Aislinn Cottell
Imagine seeing, as if for the first time, a well-known street: worn shadows etched with new connotation. The dogs that whine behind the fence are strange; this hedge is just more foliage. Become a tourist, sightseer, pretend to lose the thread that leads back home. Now reach furtherâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; unlearn the names, forget the words. Let the sound become gibberish on your lips: bush, bush, bush, bush, bush, bush. Let birds become rips of fabric, fluttering from lamp posts. Let the sky heaveâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; unbounded by direction, hang from the skin of the world, and gaze downward. Trees are chandeliers, pavement a rhinoceros hide. Unhinged, let the universe tilt on its axis, leave your mind at the door, lose your footing, and fall. Poetry
ON MY WAY:
BEHOLDING FRED WAH AND THE ART OF EXPECTING THE UNEXPECTED Heather Froese
red wah was on viu’s
campus in late October 2017 to deliver The Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poet’s Lecture, a compelling and visual call to poetic arms entitled On My Way to Get a Pail of Water, which he characterized “as a statement on geopoetics.” He also offered interactive class visits, a student event, and an offcampus reading at White Sails Brewing. Before all that though, Wah had time to sit down for an interview at a café to discuss his roots, tish, identity politics, being an accidental poet, and the voices in between.
Wah has been a writer-in-residence and taught writing workshops across North America, including a Canada– Mexico cultural exchange. He has taught at Selkirk College and David Thompson University in Nelson, the Kootenay School of Writing, and the University of Calgary. He is currently on faculty of the Banff Centre for the Arts for the “In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge” program. He says teaching has always been his most enriching “learning experience,” one that allowed him to get excited about what his students read and draw creatively on their energies and shared interests.
Many people you are reaching with this lecture are university students, writers themselves hoping to have a career like your own someday. How did your experience at university, both as a student and instructor, shape your career?
“I’ve always felt that my teaching informs my writing—the feedback from my students, how they responded to their own culture, how they fit in politically and socially, the kind of innovative art they were into… I came out of university very interested in that sort of writing as well.”
In the early 1970s, a well-known Canadian poetry editor asked Wah to send him work for an anthology. Wah did so, but received a rejection letter saying his writing wasn’t in the mainstream “style” the editor sought. Wah’s early poetry was improvisational and experimental, based partly on his interest in jazz. Twenty years later, the same editor was revising that anthology and this time was interested in including Wah’s work, the same poems he’d rejected two decades earlier. This was evidence of a “shift in attention” over this period that has made Wah’s early work more accessible to both general readers and students of poetry. hf:
While at university, you were affected by the Black Mountain influences of the 1960s in Canada, an avant garde revolution that broke away from the more traditional poetry that preceded it and moved into an era of contemporary language and modernism. What do you see when you look at Canadian poetry now?
“I see a lot of fascination with spoken word and hip hop, a relationship to music, songwriters being called poets. I don’t know that I see where it’s going. I don’t really care, in a way, because people are writing, engaging, and enjoying it. That’s energizing. I like that.”
That energy feeds Wah’s writing and informs his relationship with his publishers. Wah wants to be close to his editors and maintain regular communication with presses he works with and, therefore, he has never been interested in larger publishing firms for fear they’ll take control of his work. A number of Wah’s students have followed in his footsteps seeking out, or starting, smaller Canadian literary ventures, which he finds interesting. One such student started Calgary-based literary magazine filling Station, still going strong 25 years later. Technology now makes publishing easy, Wah says, but in the tish days they had to steal paper, stamps, and use mimeograph machines.
You were a founder of the Canadian poetry newsletter tish, and have edited sum, Open Letter, Swift Current, West Coast Line and The Literary Review of Canada, all small, grassroots publications, much like ours—Portal. How do you feel about these long-standing regional and national publications and the ever-growing field of self-published work?
“I frequently found students coming into my class to ask, ‘How do I get published?’ Personally, I think that’s the wrong way to do it. I encourage them to do it themselves. That was my experience —there were four or five like-minded people at ubc in the 1960s [Frank Davey, George Bowering, Daphne Marlatt, Lionel Kerns, Jamie Reid], so I got together with them. It’s a political and philosophical position for the creator of the work to have control over it.”
These publications are also often among the first to publish writers who might otherwise be marginalized by more mainstream institutions. Wah served as President of the Writers Union of Canada (2001–2002) and worked on its Racial Minorities and Social Justice committees. He is inspired by “the voice in between” and feels gratified that you can now write from a minority position and be both heard and validated. Wah envies the ability of younger writers entering the scene now to do this more easily than he did at the outset of his career and feels, now that it’s more accepted, we’ll see powerful new poetic movements and alliances where once were solitary efforts.
In the 1980s, your poetry explored your mixed heritage—being part-Chinese and part-Swedish —growing up in Swift Current, Saskatchewan and the West Kootenays where your parents owned or ran several Chinese-Canadian cafés. You faced some challenges as a result of your racial and cultural identity, and your poetry works through these struggles. What would you tell that younger version of yourself who hadn’t yet embraced his identity, knowing what you do now?
“When you try to find a sense of equity for yourself, you start to realize examples of it in the world around you. There wasn’t a language for my mixed heritage—or any kind of marginalized identity—until the 1970s. During the 80s there was an increase in attention. Identity politics has only really exploded over the last two or three decades. It has surprised me how the kind of issues I addressed engaged a community.” Non-Fiction
On My Way
Wah is encouraged by the proliferation of Canadian poetry that has expanded and diversified this community. He noted that when he was on a Governor General’s jury in the 1990s, there were only 100 poetry titles to evaluate; now, there would be 400-500. That said, only a handful of these Canadian poets are taught in the schools, something he wanted to remedy. hf:
As Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate from 2011-2013, you said one task associated with your role was to make contemporary Canadian poetry more accessible. How did you do that?
Your most recent work is a 114-ft long poem written on one side of a printout of the Columbia River while another poet, Rita Wong, writes along the other. When you came to a bridge you each crossed over to write on the other side. The work—“Beholden”—investigates the river’s history from the fur trade to the US-Canada Columbia River Treaty, from the river’s ecology to Indigenous relationships with the land. How does research like this inform your poetry?
“I think writers read and research and both are part of writing. It’s a writer’s job to offer intellectual context; a writer can’t be ignorant. There are Indigenous connections to the river many people aren’t aware of and I wanted to bring attention to these in my poem. I had to dig. I guess I was looking for a language. I treat whatever I’m looking at as a possible place to respond, to engage, but how do I find a language to do that?”
“I approached teachers and professors countrywide and asked them what would motivate students to write and study poetry. Most of them suggested YouTube—a series of brief videos packed with content and inspiration for young writers. I travelled around the country and found a local poet in each place to feature in an episode on Canadian poetic history, styles, and cultures.”
Wah was inspired by what other writers and artists have to say about creativity as well as current issues and events. He feels being open to unexpected opportunities while working toward your own goals is essential to a writer’s success.
Wah has learned that stumbling into something rather than always actively seeking it out can be just as rewarding.
In his experience, it’s useful to set up a way of writing, a way of thinking, that welcomes the unexpected, an attitude that gave birth to his current creative endeavour: The Columbia River Project.
The language Wah has found has earned him many accolades: a Governor General’s Award, Alberta’s Stephanson and O’Hagan Awards, the Dorothy Livesay Prize for Poetry, and the Gabrielle Roy Prize for Literary Criticism. In 2013, he was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada. Would it have been possible to write this script for his career nearly 60 years and 26 books ago? hf:
Can you plot a course as a creative writer with any real expectation of it coming to pass?
“I didn’t really choose to be a writer. It wasn’t intentional; I sort of couldn’t avoid it. I was addicted to it. The community around writing was attractive for me. As American poet Ed Dorn said, ‘One’s expectations are one’s own irrelevant fantasies.’ I think intention and expectation are usually a problem that gets in the way. Charles Olson said, ‘Our disgraces are our graces.’ We have to be willing to try and fail. Ultimately, it’s the only way to succeed.”
BEHOLDEN: A POEM AS LONG AS THE RIVER Listen—on my way to get a pail of water down by the creek buhdum, buhdum, Columbia River starts humming its invisible Kootenay qi path breathing what exists through itself is called as is meaning “Going to the Water” hears the cadence as a wet prelude to Pacifica meanders slow and murmurs love this skin of earth’s contour hello Sister Tongue hello winding mirror klahowya goodbye Mother goodbye weaver woman hello David Thompson now this quiet water maps diesel along the marshes of locomotion crossing North down the map of the River of Heaven Steamboat Mountain are you worried about a future— Nowitka truly every Edge does Water make these islands of its life
Bibliography Scree: The Collected Earlier Poems, 1962–1991 edited by Jeff Derksen (2016) Toward. Some. Air.: Remarks on Poetics with Amy De’Ath (2015) Permissions: tish Poetics 1963 Thereater (2014) Medallions of Belief (2012) is a door (2009) Sentenced to Light (2008) Articulations (2007) Isadora Blue (2005) Faking It: Poetics and Hybridity (2000) Diamond Grill (1996, 2006) Alley Alley Home Free: Writing West (1992) So Far (1991) Limestone Lakes Utaniki with Peter Bartl (1989) Music at the Heart of Thinking (1987) Rooftops (1987)
BEFORE THE CANOES OF MEMORY WERE
Waiting for Saskatchewan (1985)
Before the canoes of memory were perpendicular to the Columbia’s “own-goal” North was stolen by Gagliardi’s road map substance democracy bored into interior strate just because he disliked the hyphen in ThompsonShuswap that hard pill to swallow you see he had no intellectual property rights yet tried to narrate gauze over the flow where the source kicks in ‘round Kinbasket who knew there would be this silhouette of greed this litter of a new domestic bliss.
Grasp the Sparrow’s Tail (1982) All the Maps (1981) Owner’s Manual: Poems (1981) Breathin’ My Name with a Sigh (1981) Pictograms from the Interior of B.C. (1975) Earth (1974) Tree (1972) Among (1972) Frequency Grace Pedde
Mountain (1967) Lardeau (1965)
HOROLOGY C.S. Broatch
imon james morton began to hallucinate eight days before he died. Seven days before, he forgot who Jeanie was. At six, he couldn’t taste or smell. At five, he couldn’t see or feel. At four, he couldn’t hear.
Yet, just 82 hours before he died, Simon woke from a fantasy about a beautiful girl in a white dress with a pink flower behind her ear. There was a hazy morning light and silence, which he could not understand. The room was lit by a faintly glowing lamp on an end table by the worn leather chair. In the chair sat one of his granddaughters, reading a book. The pages crinkled as she snuffled from the cold and mumbled the words under her breath.
When his granddaughter was little, she begged to sit inside it and hide, and now he wanted to gather her up in his chest and protect her against the world he could no longer see or smell or taste or touch. “Clocks have stopped.”
“Enkelin.” His German accent was loud and grating in the quiet.
“I knew it would drive you mad, but my fingers are too cold, and I need them for tomorrow. A few more days, after the full moon, I’ll wind them up.”
“Opa.” She put the paperback on the table.
“Get up and wind them.”
“Why so quiet?”
She sat on the edge of his bed and placed a cold hand on his cheek. She remembered when he was taller, sturdier than the 100-year-old roots sheltering her from the mighty winter winds. His cheeks were weathered bark.
“It’s late.” Simon turned his head to the left and the right. The wall beside his bed, the bed he would die in, was tacked with photographs and paintings. Directly to Simon’s left was a painting done by his late wife. The lines were perfect, delicate, alive. They stirred something inside him that was only awoken by the winding of a clock and by the curve of her breasts. Their dinner table, covered in an embroidered cloth yellowed with age, was given to Simon after the war, for the lives that had been thrown into the sea to rust. The room was a museum. People had forgotten how to use their hands to craft beauty; they were so seduced by the riches of the new world. When he could not turn his head to see further, he recreated the room behind his unseeing eyes. Suddenly he realized what it was that bothered him so: the clock. “Awful damn quiet.”
All the clocks had wound down. The seven-foot Blackwood Kammanassieberg grandfather clock, made in 1809, had St. Michael melodies, a horizontal barrel, back-striking hammers behind glass fitted with Blackwood beading and dried by a Timber Kiln. He imagined himself inside the case of the clock, hollow and dry and ancient. If the pendulum had stopped swinging, so too would his heart.
The nervous pounding of blood in Jeanie’s veins eased as she wound it up. The ratchet and clicks of the springs seemed like breathing and she calmed. Over the 19 years she had been shadowing her grandfather, he had told her 229 times, 12 times a year: “Never tell, never miss a detail, never (ever, ever) mistreat your hands.” The clock’s heartbeat, the mechanical gears sliding against each other, the smile that softened her Opa’s mouth, made her forget all those times. She set to work on each piece, sighing as they came to life. Donning her bifocals, she inspected the clocks’ faces, whispering their names as they ticked to life.
Jeanie leaned over the workshop table, hands deep inside Win’s chest. George stood in a quiet vigil across the room.
The fire in the corner soothed her stiff joints, flushing her nails once tinged white with cold.
They had built an extra wooden plank to support his neck, and his arms hung over the side.
“Sorry Win,” she sighed, blinking the strain from the ultraviolet light out of her eyes. “I just can’t see anything wrong.”
Jeanie perched on a step-stool. Secretly, she liked working on him best, and always saved his repairs for last. Some mechanics, like the Jackalopes, were shiny and new and barely worn. Others, like Windigos and Big Foots, were older and needed a little more love.
The center wheel was set, meant to rotate once per minute, the escape wheel once an hour. Time is kept by the release of potential energy contained in the mainspring. Their rhythm echoed Jeanie’s beating heart. “Simon would know.” Jeanie removed her greasy, smudged hands and wiped them on her canvas apron. She leaned over the table and closed the square door. When the screws and bolts were all back in place, she began to polish the titanium. As the tarnish disappeared, Win sat up. His legs dangled from the table as she massaged pink soap on the seam between his metal and fur. Win was small for his species, which often grew to be 15 feet tall. He had a skeleton thin body, with brown skin, sunken eyes, wide lips, and yellow fangs. “Well, you’re cleaner than the old man.” That was as much praise as Win would ever be able to muster. Every month he would have a new story about how his quartz crystal was dying. It resonated at a natural frequency; it’s what gave them all life. If it was dying, there was nothing Jeanie, or anyone else, could do about it. It was not something kept in a toolshed for safekeeping. Usually, she enjoyed explaining to him how the crutch worked, or how German Hand Nuts were far superior to American Hand Nuts, regardless of the gossip. However, tonight her knees were tired, and her fingers were sore, and her bedside manner slipped away. Now that there was just three of them left in the workshop and the end was near, her energy was fading.
She was assaulted by the smell of rust and iron and warm copper when she opened his hatch.She checked the gasket to see if it needed replacing or lubrication. There was a collection of rings and gaskets hanging from the walls in different sizes, customized for comfort. After replacing these, she used silicone to clean the sides of debris and the stem and crown. If the crown was damaged, she would remove the pin vise, and set the new unit in epoxy to create a secure seal. She went through the mental checklist: shaft, rubber gasket, washer, hex nut, dial, cap nut. Next, she inspected George’s crystal, second only to diamond. Each one was different. Nessie needed a waterproof crown,and dustproof pin; nocturnal Chip had an ultraviolet bulb that allowed him to see in the pitch black. Standing on the stool, Jeanie was almost the same height as George. His face was as smooth as a sculpture, but she could see black hair where he was growing out a patchy beard. It made him look younger somehow, though there was a wrinkle between his brows. She turned away, biting the inside of her cheek. “Here’s that book, the one by Paul Hardly.” “Oh, right. Thank you, Jeanie.” She felt a sort of gravitational pull toward his slow, easy smile, but he faded into the tree tops before she could say anything.
“Alright Georgie boy, you’re up.” Of course, George wasn’t his name, but it’s what the Mortons called him.
Her shoulders stooped and she brushed her bifocals up into her wild hair. Twisting her neck clockwise, the tendons ground and the bones cracked. She put out the fire, clicked off the lamp, and turned to go. She would check on Simon and fall asleep to the rhythmic sound of the Blackwood.
George was tall. His torso fit along the work table, but his knees bent over the edge and his feet touched the floor.
As she closed the door, a beam of moonlight illuminated the workshop table and one lone screw.
Rising Sunset Spencer Croft
The Haunting of Vancouver Island: Supernatural Encounters with the Other Side Shanon Sinn Touchwood Editions, 2017 367 pages isbn: 978-1771512435 $20.00 Reviewed by Amanda Jones
“Rain splatters against the window as lightning flashes across the sky. The dark, empty barroom lights up for a long moment and then another. Thunder shakes the old inn’s beams. Bottles rattle behind the bar. The man slowly steps out of the darkness and onto the wooden floor in rubber gumboots dripping with water. A heavy axe is suspended from his right arm. From beneath his old-fashioned raincoat hood, dark, unblinking eyes stare menacingly…”
assistant at the Nanaimo Museum and joined the British Columbia Ghosts and Hauntings Research Society.
This spellbinding collection of folklore is set in one of the most naturally stunning parts of “supernatural” British Columbia. From ethereal forests to mystical coastlines, Vancouver Island is renowned for its visual and spiritual influences on inhabitants and visitors alike.
The Haunting of Vancouver Island is not merely a collection of stories, it is a journey. Each chapter follows one story and begins with its location on a map of Vancouver Island. In addition to cartography, the book boasts a collection of black-andwhite photographs (some from the author himself ) and images, a 7-page bibliography, and an 11-page index.
In this, his first book, local author and journalist Shanon Sinn delves into stories that range from wolf and orca spirits to Sasquatch and serpent myths. Sinn has been connected to supernatural phenomena since childhood and his search for truth led him to write a blog called Living Library about folklore and legends. He also volunteered as a research
Armed with notebooks, recording devices, camping gear, and his passion for the outdoors, Sinn crisscrossed Vancouver Island to compile evidence for this project. He visited an old friend to bring stories from Ahousat and the Nuu-Chah-Nulth people, as well as Coast Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations.
Sinn skillfully constructs each story with care, balancing fact and descriptive language. The Haunting of Vancouver Island: Supernatural Encounters with the Other Side is a comprehensive and enthralling collection of ghost stories about this hauntingly beautiful part of the world.
One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter Scaachi Koul Doubleday Canada, 2017 256 pages isbn: 978-0385685351 $25.00 Reviewed by Jesse Bixby
Scaachi Koul’s debut national bestseller One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter is a collection of essays, each hilarious, refreshing, honest, and vulnerable. Koul writes as if she’s having a conversation with an old friend, alternately light-hearted and hardhitting. She tackles race, feminism, online harassment, relationships, body image, her Indian heritage, and what it means to live in Canada as a child of immigrants. She isn’t afraid to tell it like it is, especially where it courts controversy.
tell them I love them and that the code for my debit card is 3264 and please help yourself to the $6.75 that may or may not still be in there, depending on if I purchased a pre-flight chewy pizza-pretzel, the World’s Saddest Final Meal. My stomach churns and my palms sweat and I think about all the things I should have said and done before this plane nosedives and the army finds parts of my body scattered across the Prairies. My legs in Fort McMurray, my arms in Regina, my anus somewhere in Edmonton.”
“And while Canada purports to be multicultural, Toronto in particular, a place where everyone is holding hands and cops are handing out ice cream cones instead of, say, shooting black men, our inability to talk about race and its complexities actually means our racism is arguably more insidious.”
Trying to navigate the world in 2017 is no small feat and Koul speaks to what it means to attempt it. Dedicating an entire chapter to her social media stardom—Koul has attracted over 25,000 followers on Twitter, many of whom followed her long before her days of One Day We’ll All Be Dead—she confronts online bullies and writes of the consequences of being so visible.
Koul informs and educates readers, all while remaining true to her unapologetic and witty demeanor. Sharing personal stories of her life wedged between Western and Indian culture, she isn’t afraid of letting readers in on every detail. One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter is laugh-out-loud funny and you might just find yourself wanting to be her best friend, before she overthinks her own death:
Koul’s title is comparable to Amy Schumer’s The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? She has been published in The New Yorker, The Globe and Mail, and Jezebel and was born and raised in Calgary. She currently lives in Toronto, working as a writer for BuzzFeed. This is her first book.
“I text or email or call anyone I think would be sad about my death and
“Words could be empty. It was the return of a gesture that held meaning.” Claire Cameron’s The Last Neanderthal presents readers with the dual narrative of two women separated by 40,000 years. While these two characters are different in almost every conceivable aspect, they both serve to illustrate themes: the indomitable human spirit; female empowerment; and the nature of humanity.
The Last Neanderthal Claire Cameron Doubleday Canada, 2017 isbn: 978-1478964605 $29.95 Reviewed by Alim Rawji
The majority of the novel follows a Neanderthal named Girl who is exiled from her family and must find a way to survive on her own in the harsh and untamed wilderness of the world. Cameron beautifully writes this pre-historic society in a way that is simultaneously familiar to our own, and strange and simplistic enough to be 200,000 years ago.
what appears to be a loving embrace. They are coined “The Lovers” and could potentially catapult Rosamund’s career as she’s always craved. The female skeleton belongs to Girl, but who does the male remains belong to? This mystery compels the reader forward as the most interesting component of Rosamund’s story. Rosamund’s mundane anxieties over her pregnancy and future career pale in comparison to Girl’s tale of survival in the Neanderthal world. In any other story, they might have been much more poignant. It certainly doesn’t help that out of the 30 chapters in the novel, Rosamund’s point of view is only featured in eight.
Girl is raised in a family with three brothers; Him, Bent, and Runt. Her father is strangely absent for a huntergatherer society. Cameron gives it a matriarchal structure in which Girl’s mother, Big Mother, is the leader and decision-maker of the family unit. The responsibility of finding an appropriate mate and beginning another family falls to Girl.
Readers want to find out how Girl ends up entwined in the arms of the mysterious male Neanderthal, but the slow pace of the writing can be frustrating at times. Girl’s main conflict, the exile from her family and journey into the unknown, doesn’t begin until chapter 13. While the world Cameron builds in the previous 12 chapters is excellent and thorough, much of it might have been explained in flashback or peripheral detail.
The other part of The Last Neanderthal’s narrative revolves around the 21st-century archeologist Rosamund Gale. In the defining moment of her career, she discovers the remains of two Neanderthals in
Overall, The Last Neanderthal is an excellent concept, but is flawed in its execution. This isn’t to say that it wasn’t an enjoyable read, but one that could have been improved by changes to its structure.
Set on the cusp of the Depression, author Emily Schultz fictionalizes her family’s rum-running past in this fast-paced fourth novel. The story opens in Detroit following the disappearance of Alfred Moss, a player in the city’s burgeoning booze trade. His presumed death, after falling through ice while smuggling rum across the Detroit River, places the master of operations, Reverend Charles Prangley, in a tight situation with the loss of a Model T, alcohol, and cash. He is unable to pay the monthly smuggling tax to the Purple Gang—real-life Jewish thugs who dominated the area, which upsets the delicate balance of the ring.
Men Walking On Water Emily Schultz Knopf Canada, 2017 560 pages isbn: 978-0345811011 $25.00 Reviewed by Catherine Charlebois
Under the shadow of the presentday Ambassador Bridge, Schultz’s characters unknowingly involve themselves in each other’s lives. Each has vices. Moss’ young widow, Elsie, seeks financial support from the Reverend, unaware of his involvement with her husband. On the other side of the bridge in Windsor, Reverend Plangley frequents a brothel owned by a savvy French-Canadian woman. She develops a link with the minister’s secretary, Faye McCloud. Faye has recently become aware that her boss is blackmailing his congregation of Pentecostal Lutheran parishoners. Linked by secrecy and corruption, each character is compelled to resolve the mysterious disappearance of Alfred Moss. Set in four parts, from December 1927 to just after the stock market
crash in 1929, the noir novel’s panoply of characters subverts stereotypes and tropes. Elsie Moss’ character arc from a depressed, diffident young mother to an assured woman is astounding, though sadly Schultz rarely focuses on other female characters, preferring to follow Prangley’s unscrupulous machinations. While Schultz writes beautifully, using unusual metaphors and unique imagery—men “separately together” becoming “dull with grief ” and pain “spider-climbing across” a skull—she fails to truly evoke Detroit, once known as the “Paris of the West.” Furthermore, historical trivia, songs, and the Purple Gang’s retreat occasionally hamper the narrative’s flow and fails to paint a fuller picture. The work also suffers from structural problems and a slow start, but despite this Schultz weaves an intriguing tale chock full of mystery. Her emphasis on the failures of Prohibition and its hypocritical effect on American society ring true. Her focus on the factors that would have led ordinary men to walk over water is refreshing, if not always fully realized. This is a harrowing tale of corruption and intrigue that eschews the minutiae of rumrunning to give us deeply flawed characters who attempt to overcome their chaotic pasts and find redemption. Hailed by Stephen King as his “new hero,” Schultz keeps her readers thirsty until the last drop drains from the bottle.
Ottawa poet rob mclennan has written over 30 books of poetry, as well as several works of fiction and non-fiction, and operates his own small press called above/ground with his wife Christine McNair. He has won the John Newlove Poetry Award, the cbc Poetry Prize, and the Council for the Arts in Ottawa MidCareer Award. He has two daughters, one 25, the other, Rose, three, to whom this book is dedicated.
a perimeter rob mclennan New Star Books, 2016 isbn: 978-1554201280 80 pages $18.00 Reviewed by Quinn Stacey
In addition to caring for a toddler, mclennan purchased a home with his wife in a residential neighbourhood of Ottawa; the “perimeter” in the title a reference to the fence around the property. Much of the book was written in notebooks before the purchase of the property and the birth of his daughter, but the emotional and thematic core of the work responds to these events in mclennan’s life. a perimeter is broken into three sections—The Rose Concordance, Alta Vista Poem, and A perimeter— connected thematically, as well as stylistically. His distinctive poetic voice and technique use the negative space between words and lines to add emphasis. The Rose Concordance is four pages of a father’s life with a newborn; the language is sparse, making use of very few words to guide the reader through a new father’s emotional terrain. There are large gaps in the typography, breaking the poem into halting patterns, mirroring the sleeping and eating cycles of mclennan’s baby. The wide line breaks also signify the routine interruptions of her father’s work and the stutter of his writing process. The epigraph of The Rose Concordance is a line from American poet Alice Notley’s book Culture of One: “This codex is about identity. I can’t help it.” The epigraph is important to the overall work as Notley felt a collection of poems formed the
whole; ie the poet herself. A perimeter collects seemingly disparate works about external change to capture the poet’s internal identity. His confident style suggests broken prose deliberately wrought into rhythmic lines. The poems have a cyclical nature, a sense of being caught in the patterns of silence and noise, snow and thaw, the intermittent storm of a newborn’s sleep. Ottawa’s expansion into the country and in mclennan’s adaptation to the changes in his family and physical home imply multiple forms of construction. Alta Vista Poem is 26 pages and is not one poem, but many. The poems are both imagistic and vague, his metaphorical language pleasing in its wordplay. The geography of mclennan’s poetry traverses streets, lakes, and streams around Ottawa; the poems have an insular and local feeling, although several poems are less rooted. In a 2013 interview with The Mackinac Magazine, mclennan said he had been following a daily writing schedule for “nearly 20 years,” shifting between his home in the Alta Vista neighbourhood, a coffee shop in the morning, a pub in the afternoon, and his home again by 6pm. The key to his practice was being in the public sphere; observing people to let his mind wander for “an hour or three.” He thrived on this routine until a young child changed all that. You can hear the infant cry in the middle of a line, the breath and space a rhythmic device that conveys great feeling. As much as the book is about interruption, it is also about making a home and filling it with love. The poems of all three sequences suggest a man who loves where he is and what he is doing; clearly the poet abides in his life. a perimeter is a memorable collection and mclennan’s voice is both original and poignant.
Escape from Wreck City is John Creary’s debut collection of poems. With content ranging from pg to r rated, these poems about sex, drugs, and family are best read aloud. Though you may be hard pressed to find perfect rhymes, Creary clearly has an ear for making speech pleasing to hear, and this book has mastered the rhythm and line breaks that make couplets powerful.
Escape from Wreck City John Creary Anvil Press, 2017 95 pages isbn: 978-1772140965 $18.00 Reviewed by Joel A. Simmons
Creary’s poems are at times deeply personal, and at other times bizarrely impersonal. In “Druggy Pizza” we blur our way from Winnipeg to Toronto with an odd cast of characters. One person sleeps in a laundromat after losing his keys, and another is stranded because the flight oversells seats. These various recurring vagabonds come and go throughout the book, but are thinly drawn in terms of physical and personal detail. The effect is that these characters resonate emotionally rather than being individually memorable. “September Eleventh Zygote” witnesses the birth of John’s son, Nolan (to whom the book is dedicated), whereas “Shudder Island” is an intimate look into Creary’s personality. When Nolan asks, “if he were, you know, washed out/ by accident,” John tells us that the question makes him nauseous, hoping that his “meaningful silence… would become more clear/ with patience, in the course of time.” Small moments of insight like these are what make Escape from Wreck City so enjoyable. The book itself is divided into four sections containing at least one prose poem, or piece that otherwise doesn’t subscribe to the couplet form dominating the rest of the book. There are nine to 12 poems in each
section, without any clear thematic logic. The divisions are numbered rather than named. Titles often work well as the first line of the poems, such as with “The Pigeons Flock in Awe,” or they come full circle to reflect on the poem’s closing line, as in “Beyond the Windmills.” The book’s colourful cover, its texture, and the overall quality of Anvil’s production adds to this reading experience. Escape from Wreck City’s sheer linguistic mastery is beautifully aural, contemplative in content, and rife with vulnerable scenes that pull the reader out of this auditory landscape to revel in human imperfection. This is a book that earns its place in your library because of poems like this one:
Short Story We placed the empty bottles on the open windowsill. Your insults were like glass and outside the leaves were an electric yellow. We smoked cigarettes in the streets, rode old bicycles through this dreamcity. Our music was loud, drifting off the boulevard. I read you punch-drunk poems of bad lovers under a tumultuous sky and together we felt like something was finally unravelling. Later, we traipsed into the afterhours, staggering. I was secretly in love with the way you slept in the tall grass, your face masked in a warm sunset. You kiss like a sledgehammer. I am like dead meat or heavy traffic and we are a short story.
CONTRIBUTOR BIOS Shauna Andrews is completing a double major in Creative Writing and English at viu from her home in Powell River, bc. Natasha Baronas holds a ba in Sociology from the University of Winnipeg and is a member of the Love of Learning program. This is the third time her photographs have been featured in Portal. Jesse Bixby is a third-year Creative Writing student at viu. She is Managing Editor for Portal 2018 and Features Editor at the Navigator. Her book review in Portal is her first publication in a literary magazine. Joe Blackburn writes science and medicine articles for The Energy Blueprint. He is a fourth-year Creative Writing major at viu and the recipient of 2017’s Meadowlark Award. C.S. Broatch is a third-year student of Creative Writing at viu. “Eden” and “Horology” are her first publications. Catherine Charlebois is a fourth-year student completing a ba in History and a minor in Journalism at viu. She has been the Sports and Lifestyle Editor and Production Manager at the Navigator. She has also worked as Editor for The Compass. In 2016, she received the British Columbia and Yukon Community Journalism Scholarship Award. She hopes to pursue a career in publishing or journalism. Zach Cooper is a second-year student pursuing a ba, majoring in Creative Writing and Journalism at viu. His short stories “The Swift Epidemic” and “Three’s a Crowd” were published in the Navigator in 2017, where he is a regular contributor. This is his first publication in Portal. He worked as an editor and writer for Incline Magazine 2018. Aislinn Cottell is completing a ba in Creative Writing and Journalism, with a minor in Chemistry at viu. Her work has appeared in The Thetis Island Quarterly, the Navigator, and Portal. She has worked at the latter two publications as news, poetry, and copy editor. She won the Cowichan Valley slam poetry contest in 2014 and has received eight scholarships, including the cvrd Arts scholarship and the Chemainus Legion Branch #91 Fine Arts scholarship.
Spencer Croft majors in Geography and minors in Sociology at viu; his goal is to pursue his Masters at viu’s Community Planning program. He was exposed to graffiti at a young age, which resulted in a passion for art as an early creative outlet. He mostly paints with acrylic on canvas in a style that can best be described as urban traditional, often intermixing graffiti elements with traditional landscape painting. Maria Elsser is a third-year student at viu, double majoring in Creative Writing and English. She has had previous poems published in The Mitre, a literary magazine from Bishop’s University. When she isn’t reading, she participates in poetry slams. This is her first publiscation in Portal. Heather Froese is a third-year student in Creative Writing and Journalism at viu. She published “The War Room” in Portal 2017. Margaret Hampshire is majoring in Creative Writing and History at viu. She is a volunteer naturalist in and around the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island with the Comox Valley Naturalists. She has worked in helicopter aviation, commercial photography, and the construction trades. Carly Harstad is a third-year English student at viu and was runner up for the Creative Writing department’s 2016 True Story Slam. This is her second publication in Portal. Nicolas Ismirnioglou is a Creative Writing Major at viu. “Party at the Plaza” is his first publication. He was the 2017 recipient of the Bill Juby Award. Rachel Jackson is a published artist and poet in the final year of her ba in Creative Writing and History. Her work has appeared in (parenthetical) and three issues of Portal. She served as an Assistant Art Director and Art Acquisitions Editor for Portal 2017, and Art Director for Portal 2018. Amanda Jones is a third-year Creative Writing student at viu and has completed the first- and second-year requirements for a minor in Vsual Art and continues to work in her studio. “Her Pain” is 30”x36” mixed media on canvas and was completed in 2016. This piece expresses her younger sister’s struggle with heroin and meth addiction. Zoe McKenna is a third-year English major at viu, with a double minor in Creative Writing and History. Her short fiction was published in Portal 2017, and her non-fiction work appeared in The Compass Rose 2016 and 2017. She received the Meadowlark Award for Fiction in 2017.
Cliffs of Moher Kiara Strijack
Liam McParland is a third-year English major pursuing a career in teaching. “In Retrospect” will be his first published poem. Rose McQuirter is a second-year English major at viu. Her short story “Wheel to the Sky” was published in the 2016 edition of In Our Own Voice. Anika Michaux is in the last semester of her Creative Writing major at viu. This is her first publication. Chynna Moore is a Creative Writing major at viu. Her script, “Last Moll for Miles” appears in this edition of Portal. Amber Morrison is an emerging artist and writer attending viu for her ba in Visual Art and Creative Writing. She has won awards in painting (2013), art history (2014), sculpture (2016), curation (2017), and creative writing (2017). Her short fiction has been published in Portal 2016 and 2017. She served as Assistant Curator at The View Gallery and is currently a Program Coordinator at the Nanaimo Art Gallery. Laura Mota is a first-year student in the ba program. She was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil where she worked as a portrait and fashion photographer. Her photography has been published in the Navigator. “Sashimi” is her first published piece. Sarah Packwood is a Creative Writing major and Visual Arts minor at viu. Her work has been published in both Portal and the Navigator, where she is also their Social Media Specialist. She is the former host of Into It, a radio show on chly, and blog at intoitmedia.com. She is currently a Gallery Assistant at The View Gallery. Grace Pedde is a first-year student in the Visual Arts program. She is Secretary of the viu Art Club and has participated in club activities and projects. Alim Rawji is a fourth-year Creative Writing student specializing in science fiction. As a third-time staffer for Portal, he has taken up the responsibilities of Fiction Editor, Business Manager, and finally, Acquisitions Manager. Taylor Rutberg is a fourth-year Philosophy major with a minor in English. She is an amateur photographer, with the temperate rainforests of coastal bc being her favourite environment to capture. Jasmine Schulz is a first-year student at viu majoring in Creative Writing. She was awarded the Nanaimo Pottery Co-op Award for artistic creativity. Joel A. Simmons was Poetry Editor for the 25th anniversary issue of Portal in 2016. “Glimpses” is his second publication with the magazine.
Spenser Smith is a Regina-born writer and photographer who studies Creative Writing and Journalism at viu. His writing has appeared in, or is forthcoming in Maclean’s, Prairie Fire, The Puritan, The Maynard, (parenthetical), text, sky, The Quilliad, and others. His poem, “We Met on 5th” was the winner of the 2017 Blodwyn Memorial Prize. He’s been the recipient of the Pat Bevan Scholarship in Poetry, the Barry Broadfoot Award for Journalism/Creative Non-Fiction, and, most recently, a bc Arts Council Scholarship. He is the associate editor of the Navigator and 2017 Managing Editor of Portal. In 2017, he founded Birds and Bark, a Nanaimo-based birding and photography website. Quinn Stacey has taken courses at viu in graphic design, digital photography, visual arts and did a year at Concordia University in Creative Writing as well as a ba in Creative Writing at viu. He has published in The Mind’s Eye, co-founded The Blind River Vocalion, a literary magazine that published six issues, operated a performance venue called The Chrome Horse, and has hosted many concerts and poetry readings. Kiara Strijack is in her second year at viu, pursuing a ba in Creative Writing with a minor in Psychology. She learned photographic techniques in the Parksville/Qualicum 4-H photography club. During her four years in the club, she entered her photographs in local fairs and had her photographs displayed and sold in local art galleries. Damon Vaillancourt is in his final year at viu, majoring in English with a minor in Creative Writing. “While It’s Still Alive” is his first published work. Hailey Waite is a fourth-year Visual Arts major at viu with a focus primarily on oil painting, though she enjoys working in other media such as ceramics and photography. She has shown her work in many student exhibitions, as well as juried shows, and plans to continue her education and practice in the arts. Shelley Wakeman completed her third year of Creative Writing in Spring 2017. She has a passion for writing creative non-fiction and memoir. “Superman” is her first published piece. Paul White is currently in his third year at viu pursuing his ba major in Visual Arts. He has displayed his work in the Art Splash show (Ucluelet) in 2013, 2015, and 2016, a student art show at viu in 2017 (Post Portrait), and had two art pieces published in the 2017 edition of Portal. Braedan Zimmer is a third-year viu student majoring in Liberal Studies, with a minor in Creative Writing. He has received the President’s Award, two Meadowlark Awards, and the June Jefferies Award. He has had an essay published in The Compass Rose and is currently an editor at the magazine. Townie Sarah Packwood
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Drummer Brain: The Percussionist’s Approach to Music, Learning, and Remembering
Heritage Graffiti: The Conservation of Anti-Preservationist Art
Hans Verhoeven, Music
Cathryn Spence, History
The Rights of the Dead: Women and Wills in Early-Modern Scotland November 2018
Eliza Gardiner, Theatre
Prison Theatre: Rebelling Against the Man, Playing Women, and Restoring Justice in Antigone
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I was Never Here: Stories about Media and Belonging March 2019
Sasha Koerbler, Music John LePage, English
Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: The Bottom Line
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CONTRIBUTORS Shauna Andrews Natasha Baronas Jesse Bixby Joe Blackburn C.S. Broatch Catherine Charlebois Zach Cooper Aislinn Cottell Spencer Croft Maria Elsser Heather Froese Margaret Hampshire Carly Harstad Nicolas Ismirnioglou Rachel Jackson Amanda Jones Zoe McKenna Liam McParland Rose McQuirter Anika Michaux Chynna Moore Amber Morrison Laura Mota Sarah Packwood Grace Pedde Alim Rawji Taylor Rutberg Jasmine Schulz Joel A. Simmons Spenser Smith Quinn Stacey Kiara Strijack Damon Vaillancourt Haley Waite Shelley Wakeman Paul White Braedan Zimmer
Cover Design by Chloe de Beeld Photograph by Kiara Strijack