a product message image
{' '} {' '}
Limited time offer
SAVE % on your upgrade

Page 1

Letter from the Editor “The Opposite of Loneliness,” she says, “It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together.” This notion was something that resonated with me as my 14 colleagues on the masthead and I assembled the 2015 issue of Portal. We built on a collective dream to establish the brand and our contributors in the Canadian literary firmament, bonded over selections and editorial meetings, and were determined to make an impact on the national scene one issue at a time.

I

n marina keegan’s poetic essay

There is a wealth of talent at viu and I’m immensely proud that this can be celebrated in Portal. With arresting prose and stunning visuals, Portal publishes the very best student work from all viu campuses and is an opportunity for creative writers, editors, photographers, artists, and designers to add to their burgeoning portfolios, show future employers what they’re capable of, and leave a legacy of their time as experimental undergrads. In December, our team assessed over 300 submissions, from comics to literary fiction to sci-fi inspired photo manipulations, to humorous personal essays, each expressing tastes across the spectrum of reader interest. Their themes range from non-traditional concepts of home, to tensions in both romantic and familial relationships, to struggles with identity. Despite the recurrence of these perhaps typical student concerns, this newest iteration of Portal seems to offer a broader representation of genre, while addressing darker material and challenging topics with bravery and finesse. We contend that art and literature must provoke and make a study of morality and human nature, and, as such, Portal celebrates creative and visually stunning works that demand deep introspection. The stories and art inside will take you from the exalted world of “The Kingdom” to being both on and under the sea, from a not-so-distant future to a world in which one could believe “It Could Never Happen To Me.”

This year, the Ralph Gustafson Chair of Poetry was a First Nations author from Winnipeg, Katherena Vermette, who, like Eden Robinson, a First Nations writer from northern British Columbia, spoke to us about the writing process. In a nod to these talented writers, our contest this year was dedicated to art and writing inspired by First Nations culture, with suggested themes that included unity, diversity, and tradition vs modernity. We received many strong entries and believe our winner, “There Are Many Words For Maple,” achieves all these lofty ambitions. With clean lines and a rich use of colour, we are aiming to show an increasingly modern aesthetic with our design. To this end, Ellen McCluskey’s artg 344 class presented us with an array of arresting covers to choose from, each capturing the moodiness and dreamlike wonderment of the work within. Our chosen cover at once transports and immerses. I also wish to thank our loyal advertisers, donors, and supporters who have attended monthly events both on and off campus and cheered us on via social media. Literary magazines have always been a labour of love, with countless unpaid hours spent on editorial, art direction, design, and fundraising. With the recent loss of Descant and funding cuts to The Capilano Review, it has been a tough year for the Canadian literary community, so we are grateful to be so encouraged by our fellow magazines on the newsstands and by the artistic community on Vancouver Island and further afield. As another year draws to a close and the pages of this issue bend open, I am struck by how all our hours invested in inventive fundraisers, late-night editorial sessions, and the celebratory launch, constitute the opposite of loneliness. I hope you will find the same as you are transported within and find yourself among friends. —Jessica Key Managing Editor, Portal 2015


© 2015 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 nonfiction, 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 portalmagazine@viu.ca http://mediastudies.viu.ca/portal/ http://twitter.com/PortalMagazine http://www.facebook.com/pages/Portal-Magazine/28967008926 Portal is printed by Marquis Imprimeur Inc., 2700 rue Rachel est, Montreal pq h2h 1s7. Portal has been printed on recycled paper since 1995. Portal 2015 is printed on 70 lb fsc-silva Enviro.


Mago Sean Anderson Sea Monster Sean Anderson

Portal 2015 Team Managing Editor – Jessica Key

Designer – Reese Patterson

Acquisition Editor – Heather Gregory

Cover Designer – Chloe de Beeld

Fiction Editors – Sarah Corsie, Heather Gregory, Jillian Ostrand

Business & Advertising Manager – Danielle Cunningham

Poetry Editors – Antony Stevens, Philip Gordon, Kelly Whiteside Script Editor – Lucas Baird Non-Fiction Editors – Jennifer Cox, Francine McCabe, Danielle Cunningham

Ad Sales – Daniel O’Brien, Tegan Matthews, Hannah Smith, Yvonne Dubyna, Kandace Morran Social Media & Events – Natalie Golbeck, Jennifer Cox, Kandace Morran, Yvonne Dubyna Blog – Jayde Gilchrist

Book Review Editor – Heather Gregory

Website – Antony Stevens, Kandace Morran, Jayde Gilchrist

Feature Writers – Jennifer Cox, Francine McCabe

Launch Team – Yvonne Dubyna, Jillian Ostrand

Copy Editors – Sarah Corsie, Heather Gregory, Kelly Whiteside, Jennifer Cox

Publisher – Joy Gugeler

Art Director – Lucas Baird


Friends of Portal Ellen McCluskey and the artg 344 class

The Navigator

Thrifty’s Double-Up Program

The Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poets Lecture Series

viu’s Campus Career Centre

Rhonda Bailey

viu Bookstore

Robin Davies


Table of Contents Interviews 35 Turtle Spirit: Katherena Vermette on the Distinct Joys of Writing Home by Jennifer Cox 53 Our Canadas, My Truth: Eden Robinson on Storytelling in a Divided Nation by Francine McCabe Book Reviews 66 All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews Heather Gregory 67 The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill Sarah Corsie 68 Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese Lucas Baird 69 Sweetland by Michael Crummey Jessica Key 70 and a bird sang by Diane Bestwick Danielle Cunningham 71 bp: beginnings edited by Stephen Cain Philip Gordon Script 22 Amontillado Reid Eccles

Fiction 08 14 27 42 50 59 61 62

The Kingdom Lucas Baird Like a Storm Emily Reekie Vultures Brendan Abbott Spectatores Lucas Baird Rare Species Gisèle Merlet With You Doug Hopwood With His Ship Courtney Poole The Last Farmer Brendan Abbott

Non-Fiction 16 Reduce and Ser ve Jessica Key 19 Nobody Nose Jordan Peterman 20 Flaming Arrows Danielle Cunningham 32 Speaking of Trees Doug Hopwood 39 Crossing the Hecate Strait Francine McCabe 44 It Could Never Happen to Me Hannah Smith 57 Old Salt Molly Barrieau Poetry 13 Because You Asked Why I Yawn Before We Kiss Antony Stevens 18 Passive Aggressive Poetry Kelly Whiteside 29 Chilkoot Trail Mile 16.5 Stephanie Crawford 30 Under the Dark Stephanie Crawford 31 Stay Low Leah Myers 38 There Are Many Words for Maple Lorin Medley 41 Scales Francine McCabe 48 I Am Blackbird Lorin Medley 51 Shucking Rose Willow 52 Aubade of June Helena Snopek 56 Tthunu si’lu Hayley Rickaby


The Kingdom by Lucas Baird

t is july and i am waiting for Julie on the edge of Redding Lake. My gaze traces her progress across the plane of the water, bubbles of breath mixing with spray from her kicks and strokes that upset its glass surface. She finally appears, beaded and slicked, blinking at me. I smile as she pulls herself forward, wrists deep in the disturbed lakebed, and levers herself onto a bent knee followed by a wobbly upright stretch.

“Yeah, it’s way off schedule,” I say, laughing a little. “I think Mr. Stoddart’s pitching a fit at the municipality, or like, the contractors or whatever. He said he was gonna give someone hell.”

I make a show of thumbing the top of the stopwatch hung about my neck and Julie smiles wryly. Across the lake, the geese are returning.

“I’m tired of coming here.”

I slide the twice-folded towel from my forearm into an outstretched gesture and she reaches a slender hand to the towel’s fraying hem before she pulls it from my grasp.

Julie looks back at me then continues walking up the beach. I follow her to the Rubicon where the sand becomes cool grass.

“Probably a new record,” I say.

“I mean, like, to do this, the training,” I push.

“What?”

“It’s part of the scholarship,” she says. She watches me under the cover of a stray hair, rubbing her sandy feet on the grass. Once satisfied, she slips on her orange flip-flops. “You’re here, too, Sam,” she says.

I

“Y’know, like, you were fast today.” “Oh, yeah? Yeah? I don’t know. I wasn’t paying attention.” She screws up her nose at me as she yanks at her dark hair with the towel. “That’s why you did so well. You weren’t thinking about it,” I offer. Julie flexes the edges of her mouth and makes a snorting sound, but I think she appreciates it. I take a second in earnest to count the dots of sand in a crust about her ankles. “I hope they fix the pool soon,” Julie says. She has taken a few steps away up the beach away from the water’s edge. I haven’t moved.

8

Fiction

Julie extends her thumbs and hooks them under the edges of her swimsuit’s rear, drawing the digits down in a smooth motion along the contour of her figure. I watch the fabric recentre over her.

“Your dedication’s really cool, anyway,” I say, swallowing.

I pause, thinking it over, then shrug. I try my best for sheepish. “I wouldn’t be, without you,” I say. I approach her and kneel, collecting the shoes I’d discarded earlier. She’s looking at me when I look up. I stand as she folds her arms across her stomach and contemplates the water. It’s calm again, dappled with spheres of trapped light. The muddy plumes from Julie’s arrival have settled, the lakebed no longer mimicking the sky over a brush fire. There is a tremendous, smothering calm. “I hate smelling like it, for one,” she says. “What?” “I don’t know, the lake. I don’t like the smell. It sticks to my skin.”


Gradient Brendan Abbott

“Well, we usually smell like chlorine,” I say. I wonder if I’m still supposed to stand here, next to her. “Chlorine’s safe, though,” she says. “It’s like a perfumed embrace from your grandmother. You know it’s covering up something worse.” “You don’t appreciate au naturale?” I reply. I can feel her eyebrows cut me. “I don’t appreciate smelling like a lake.” “You smell fine. That can’t be all though, can it?” Julie casts her gaze to the water. The geese are crying. “I honestly don’t like losing track of the bottom,” she says, after a moment’s pause. We’re both looking at the lake’s subdued surface. “You mean when it gets deep?” I ask. “It’s different with a pool because you can always see the bottom. It’s bright and tiled, you can count the lights as you swim. You measure the seconds from when you pass the painted 'T' to when you flip into your turn,” she says. “I just don’t know with a lake...” There’s an odd pause and I look back at her face. “I don’t think there’s much more in it than some trout and some leeches. I mean, like, I used to worry about crocodiles, but we’re not quite in that hemisphere,” I say. I’ve folded my arms against the chill of the shade. “Sometimes I’ll be swimming along and I’ll start imagining a great, grey-green cord of scales rippling below me in the dark, the sick flashlight glow of eyes meeting my paddling. But really, that’s all that is, imagining. I know my world,” Julie says. I’d forgotten that she’s vivid when you get her talking. “I think the worst part, for me, is just the dark. It’s like being suspended over a starless night, always poised moments before falling. I hate the anticipation of waiting to tumble. It’s oblivion.” “Christ,” I say.

Portal 2015

9


The Kingdom

“It’s a lot to consider, the absence,” she says. “Nothing but self in the dark.”

“We have got to hang out,” says Phoebe, smiling at Jay. I watch Julie fold her hands across her stomach again.

“Y-yeah,” I let the statement hang in the air, against my better judgment. I’m struggling to pull together something else, something to do her thoughts justice, when she speaks again.

“Definitely, for sure. You coming out on Friday? Dermot Beach,” Jay says. He has a band of flesh between his tan and the shoulder of his sleeveless shirt that’s trapped between skin tones. He looks from Phoebe to Julie and back.

“We should go get breakfast.”

***

Phoebe West picked up Julie at 11. Julie snapped her head to me, expectantly. I slung my towel over my shoulder and pulled myself over the lip of Phoebe’s green Jeep into the back seat. Phoebe looked from Julie to myself then back to Julie, then smiled at me pleasantly. I nodded and grinned in return, not quite sure what to say. The sun was glaring overhead as we drove. Phoebe was talking to Julie about the summer fireworks in a few weeks. She’d occasionally glance back at me, but never to talk to me. I sat as still as I could, jostled about in the back of the Jeep with pebbles, fir needles, and empty beer bottles. The roads back to town curved and winded, never giving Phoebe the chance to speed, though I heard she loved to. When we got to The Seyward Street, Phoebe was laughing to Julie about something from prom. There were already one or two cars parked in front of the cafe, the Jeep towering over beaters and top-down sports cars. As the vehicle’s rumbling engine choked, I heard a burst of static. There was a radio set up on a weathered stool on the patio, buzzing along with the chirruping summer bugs.

“Oh, I don’t know. Hopefully!” says Phoebe. “I don’t think so,” says Julie. “Ah, come on. Just try it,” Jay pushes. He smiles at Michael and Michael laughs. “Just try it,” parrots Phoebe, laughing as well. “Yeah,” says Julie. Everyone laughs except Julie and I. We still have our towels. Phoebe kisses Jay on the cheek as he slips from her grasp and walks toward his car. “I’ll see you soon,” he says to Phoebe, giving Julie a little wave. I see her nod. “Bye boys,” says Phoebe. Jay looks at me as he walks past, expressionless. Michael glances at me as well, like I’m an animal he’s never seen before.

“We never get to see each other anymore,” I hear Phoebe say. Julie opens the café door for her. “My work schedule’s so bad.” “Look who’s growing up,” says Julie. I grab the door and like being suspended over a starless hold it as she follows Phoebe inside.

It’s night, always poised moments before falling. I hate the anticipation of waiting to tumble. It’s oblivion.

*** I’m walking towards the door to the café, a few steps behind Phoebe and Julie. As they reach the threshold, Jay Creedwell comes out, laughing with Michael Bohl. Jay smiles at Julie and greets Phoebe with a hug. Phoebe puts her arms around him and Julie stands to the side, gesturing a greeting to Jay and his friend.

10

Fiction

“Fuck off,” Phoebe smirks. The interior of The Seyward Street smells like burnt coffee and croissant. We walk past several booths before Phoebe and Julie sidle themselves sideways onto the red cushions. Julie looks up at me as I sway indecisively, marooned, before she makes room. “What does it mean when a guy just wants to hang out with you and kiss instead of doing anything else, like, instead of going on dates and stuff,” says Phoebe. She’s playing with her bangs.


Starry Night Jessica Reid

“Probably something cruel,” replies Julie. “I mean, I’m not opposed to it, I’m just wondering,” says Phoebe. “Like, is that a serious thing? Whatever.” A waitress walks by and asks if we’re ready to order. Her nametag says Cassandra and she has burning hair, like the meat of an orange. I’ve seen her at school. “I want a scone,” says Phoebe. “A salmon bagel, please,” says Julie. “Just coffee, thank you,” I say, when Cassandra’s eyes finally fall on me. She departs with a turn on her heel, checkerboard outfit flowing with her. I think she was in my church group

when we were younger, but I can’t really say for certain. Waylon Jennings is on the radio. —she loves me in spite of my wicked ways she don’t understand— “I hate this cowboy shit,” says Phoebe, offhandedly. —a good hearted woman, loving a good-timin’ man— “Mm,” mumbles Julie. *** Phoebe was finishing her scone and talking to Julie about hiking on Mount Hinder as I slipped out of the booth and walked away. I went to the bathroom and stared at my reflection in the mirror.

Portal 2015

11


The Kingdom

In the gloom cast by the overhead bathroom light, I could see there were bags under my eyes. My father had yelled at Lucille for barking last night. I couldn’t get back to sleep for hours after I’d heard the soft thump and the yelp. She scratched at my door and whined softly, but I couldn’t bring myself to move. I was leaden with breath and sweat. I didn’t see her when I got up to go to the lake.

“I hate living in Stanburgh.”

My lower lip was all chewed up so I leaned close to the mirror and dragged it down with my fingertip. The soft pink was crisscrossed with lines of red. I steadied myself, hands on the cold edges of the sink, as I felt a wave of nausea hit me.

“Well, why do you like it?” I ask.

What was that, anguish? Revulsion? When I returned to the booth, Phoebe was gone. “She left,” said Julie, responding to my quizzical glance. *** “Do you like living here?” I ask Julie. We’re walking on the shoulder of Cumberland Avenue, the road that runs along the edge of Calling Creek Park, carrying our swimming towels. The afternoon was wasting away. “Here, like...here?” She gestures around herself, looking at me warily. “Or here, like, the planet, this life?” I catch myself smiling. “I guess whichever is a better answer,” I say. Julie’s nose crinkles like bunched curtain fabric. She wrinkles it, averting her eyes to the forest to think. The branches are reaching for us, high up on the tree trunks that are themselves on a steep embankment. “I think it’s important to find things to like no matter where you live,” she says finally, looking at me. “Otherwise, we’d just be sad.” “So that’s a yes?” I say. “I guess,” she pauses. “I like it as much as I’d like anywhere else. What about you?” “Which answer?” “Well, again, whichever works. Here or everywhere.” I don’t really need to think; the response comes easily.

Julie frowns. “I just don’t like the people,” I offer. “People live everywhere,” she replies.

Our progress halts as Julie bends to retrieve a leaf from the dust. I stop a foot ahead of her. She arcs her back into a stretch as she returns to her full height. She holds the leaf to the air between us and it catches the sunlight; I see the outline of her thumb through the leaf ’s veined skin, backlit, and a web of colours in its mottled flesh. She holds the tired flora like a magnifying glass, squinting at me through it. “The same reason I like you,” she says. “We only see true colours after things fall down.” *** The sky was a bruised pearl. Cool grey light seeped from the edges of the dark purple, low-hanging clouds. The sun had begun its retreat beneath the dour fir trees standing in regiments up to the mountains and down to the sea. Overhead, the power poles were a line of charcoal crucifixes along Gardenia Avenue, each connecting our small shadows to the kingdom above. At the corner of Redwood Drive, Julie smiled quietly and said goodnight before turning left. My father was asleep in a deckchair on our porch. Lucille was also asleep, at the other end. I shuffled quickly inside, turned off the light, and hung my towel in the bathroom. I turned on the light in the kitchen and rifled through the mail on the table. Still nothing from the university. My swimsuit was long dry, so I didn’t think twice about throwing myself headfirst into my bed. At 1:30 in the morning Julie texted to ask if I wanted to go to the beach on Friday night. I made a joke and asked which beach and she told me not to be an asshole. haha k but sure I will Good. Engulfed Kent MacDonald

12

Fiction


Because You Asked Why I Yawn Before We Kiss by Antony Stevens

Are there magnets in my dreambreath? Is the only way to taste my heart through a wisp of “good night” or “I love your eyes?” Sleep embedded in your tear ducts like gold dust and I’m prospecting for a cordial morning with you, your hair pressed in flawless, anti-gravitational angles. Angles is an anagram for gleans—the way I extract you, like a pack of Pokemon cards. I yawn, not in exertion, but in awe from gazing up at the little dipper, like two kids in a backyard tent fighting to stay up past that 12th strike, poking our heads out the fly, saying “Close your eye and I’ll close mine.” We starwatch through each other’s window and wrestle with our faces on the dewy earth floor until the final love-tap, or until that 1 am grandfather bell tolls for us. We used to talk of bargain bins, and twist-tie wedding rings, but never of bubble wrap urns or when a yawn may mean my last heist with you, my last chance to steal your lips into mine, safe, your every spoken syllable sifted. I’ll wear Dollarama chapstick to keep those words from peeling. So if you ask me when our foreheads press before bed why I yawn before we kiss I’ll tell you: “Because,” and I’ll hold my lips to yours and yawn.


Like a Storm by Emily Reekie

T

thunderclap deep in my chest, immediate and sudden and so close. It is the sound of a streak of electric fire across my skies, lighting everything up like day and blinding me for everything else. here it is. like a

I don’t look up for a long time after he says it.

“Did you hear me?” He knows I did. He just wants words from me, acknowledgement that I’m breaking him down into small, devourable pieces. Remorse that we’re both letting it happen. My eyes move up from my feet to the ceiling, but not at him. “I just—” Michael says, “I just need you to know. You don’t have to say it back.” We lie in the orange glow from the city outside, in the cold, tangled in damp sheets. I listen to him breathing out his hurt in slow exhales. My bag is on the floor next to the bed, and I lean over to rummage through it, pulling out an old mint tin. I bring it under the covers with me. His heat is out and the only warmth in the room is beneath the blankets. “I need a light,” I say and he leans over his side of the bed to grope through the pockets of his discarded jeans.

If I turn back, strip down silently, slide back into his bed, it will be just the same as if I’d never left.

I give him the joint from the tin because I know he likes to be first, to feel the heat from the small flame on his nose and to take something and spark it into existence. He likes to tell me things like this when he’s stoned. I don’t know about a lot of the things he says,

14

Fiction

but I like the way his mouth moves around his words and how different his voice is from mine. I throw the tin back onto the floor, but it misses the purse and clatters against the floorboards. The small red ember makes the room look darker as it moves from his hand to mine and back again. Smoke slinks up in the dim orange light and curls into question marks. I watch it dancing before he puffs up his cheeks and blows hard into the air, clearing the tendrils away. “I’m not trying to make things complicated,” he says, as though I’ve accused him. “I know what we said. It just feels different, doesn’t it?” The expectation is clear in his voice, and I fight the urge to speak the line he laid out for me. Yes, it’s different. Yes, I love you. Instead I fumble out of his bed and find my clothes scattered across the floor. The cold on my body is shocking; my shirt feels hostile against my skin. “I’m sorry,” he says. “It’s ok,” I say, “I should go anyway.” I dart a thin kiss onto his cheek and leave the room before he can argue with me to stay. Outside, my footfalls are loud against the ice on the sidewalk. The lamps are beacons pulling me forward and soon I’m not walking toward home, just walking. My phone goes off in my pocket a number of times; he has sent me four messages.

Come back. No strings, promise.

I’m sorry I freaked you out.

Coffee?

Fine. Get home safe. See you later?


Stop in the Name of Love Yvonne Dubyna

I stand still on the pavement, my breath pluming out into the night and my fingers numbing around the phone. If I turn back, strip down silently, slide back into his bed, it will be just the same as if I’d never left. Just the same as if I’d told him the things he wanted me to, let him take me up and hold me, and believe he was giving me something I needed. “Hey.” The voice is close and low and, when I turn, a man is standing on the sidewalk behind me. His hands are in the pockets of his jacket and he motions at me with them. “Give me your phone and your bag and I won’t hurt you.” There is no one else on the street. It’s nearing dawn and the sky is lightening into a bruise. The man stares into me, his eyes boiling under his brows, and somehow I know there isn’t anything in his pockets but hands, but it doesn’t matter. If I refuse, he’ll hurt me anyway. I hold out the phone to him, its screen still alight with the messages meant to pull me piece by piece back to the cold apartment. I slip my bag off my shoulder and toss it into the street. He starts to climb over the snow bank after the bag and I turn and walk away from him. My heart is pushing

at my ribcage, tight and fast, but somehow I’m not as upset as I know I should be. There isn’t anything in my purse I can’t replace and I feel lighter without the phone. My house keys are still in the pocket of my jeans. I can hear the man shuffling away with my things, but I don’t turn around and he doesn’t come back. I think about his eyes, fierce and immediate and honest. He needed my things, so he took them. He offered me a simple choice. What he wanted was superficial and easily given, and held no pretense of a deeper sacrifice. I think of Michael’s eyes, the wounds that bloom up in them when I don’t let him anchor me, the dishonesty they flash when he offers to take out my garbage or holds a door open for me. These simple actions demand recompense in little clippings of my soul. How deep these waters are. An anchor dropped would only drown us both. When I do make it home, day has crept in, the sky grey and the sun invisible. I make coffee and breakfast for myself and think about the mugger, how maybe I should have told him about how instantly I loved him. Like lightning.

Portal 2015

15


A Study of Notable Anomalies (Amie) Sean Gordon

Reduce and Serve by Jessica Key

​ e truth was, i was never going to be the h soft-spoken, domestic goddess he wanted to come home to after a long day of work, and I knew it long before his male colleagues made a sport of ranking girlfriends from best to worst. I placed poorly because I didn’t wake up at 6 am to make his lunch or do his laundry. Then again, I hadn’t signed up to be his mother. I did cook dinner several times a week, but we ate a lot of stir-fry. I once attempted redemption in the form of moussaka, a Mediterranean casserole featuring vegetables, seasoned ground beef simmered and reduced with tomato sauce and red wine, cheese, and a thick layer of béchamel. It takes two hours to make and a lifetime to live down.

T “

My plan was to impress him with my virtuosity before he noticed I’d polished off his entire box of hot pockets.

​ t the time, I was living in a double-wide trailer with A a mustard yellow kitchen and seven shades of wood laminate. My friends called the bedroom “Fifty Shades of Wood Grain.” We were there because he was a forest firefighter who had to be within 15 minutes of the fire base at all times, so Sprout Lake it was. For me, that meant commuting 45 minutes home at 2 am after 8-12 hours of wrangling drunks at a seaside pub. ​ uckily, in an effort to adapt to my surroundings in L nearby Port Alberni, I always had a fully stocked liquor cabinet. I favoured recipes that featured alcohol: amaretto and orange zest panna cotta, moussaka with liberal amounts of red wine, you get the picture. He had been away on a fire for two weeks, and I knew he’d be home around 7 pm. My plan was to impress him with my virtuosity before he noticed I’d polished off his entire box of hot pockets.

16

Non-Fiction

​ e recipe said, when cooking with eggplant, it’s Th important to salt it so it releases its excess liquid and bitter flavour. My eggplant parmesan would have benefitted from this knowledge. Recipes, like relationships, don’t always turn out as expected. In both, we are constantly editing the original. It starts out subtly, subconsciously even. In quiet ways we try to mirror what they want. I thought of Warsan Shire’s poem “For Women Who Are Difficult to Love” and the line “You can’t make homes out of human beings.” I wasn’t happy with where I was, geographically or in my relationship, but I was clinging to the hope that I was enough for him, that everything we had gone through was worth it. ​ at night I did what the recipe told me: buck up a Th zucchini. Peel, boil, and slice potatoes. Panfry the whole works until both sides are browned. Layer these in the bottom of a casserole pan. Sauté ground beef, onions, garlic. Add nutmeg, cinnamon, and cumin. Stir in tomato sauce and a beaten egg. Add wine. Let simmer for 20 minutes, or until reduced. ​ is is when everything went sideways. The sauce Th wasn’t reducing, but my bottle of wine was, and the pan-to-ingredient ratio was way off. The ground beef mixture was spilling over the edges. I had red stains on my t-shirt that evoked murder. I painstakingly transferred some to a second dish, leaving just enough room for the béchamel and praying that all would reduce satisfactorily. ​ échamel is supposed to be one of the easiest things to do B in the kitchen. It’s remedial cooking, stovetop 101: whisk together butter, hot milk, and flour to make a white sauce. ​I managed to screw it up. ​Three times. I phoned my mother in a panic. What do you say when your adult daughter calls you in a breakdown over, well,


spilt milk? I don’t remember what she said, but I finally got the sauce right, unceremoniously dumping it into the casserole dish. It came perilously close to overflowing, but I held my breath and jammed it into the oven. It turns out it does rise, not much, but a little. I cleaned up the kitchen, sat on the floor, clutched my bottle of wine, and stared into the depths of the oven.

That’s how he found me. The table was set, a perfect moussaka on the stove, amaretto panna cotta and Greek salad ready in the fridge. I was crosslegged on the linoleum floor, covered in sauce, crying, and swigging directly from the bottle. It wasn’t the last time I cooked dinner for him, but it was the last time he asked.

Portal 2015

17


Passive Aggressive Poetry by Kelly Whiteside

(via text) Seen 1:15am


Crystalliferous Kent MacDonald

Nobody Nose by Jordan Peterman

O

11 years old playing on my elementary school playground, another kid said to me, “Your nose is so big!” ne day, when i was

Looking back, you’d think I could disregard the opinion of an obnoxious child, but it cut me deep—deep enough that I began to look at myself in the mirror, sometimes multiple mirrors, fixated on every angle of my enormous beak. I hadn’t even considered that I might not be cute. Had my aunts been lying to me my whole life? One careless comment killed my confidence, but I was lucky to live in a culture with a strict taboo against commenting on someone’s appearance unless it was a compliment. I was fortunate to grow up with a strong support network of friends and family who helped me re-establish my confidence. Although it took nearly a decade, I eventually stopped worrying about my nose and learned to accept the way I looked. The first time I visited the Philippines with my girlfriend, Jezel, I expected people to stare at me. After all, I was a few skin tones lighter, and a few inches taller, than most inhabitants, so I stood out. Our arrival was a big deal in her small hometown where they saw few foreigners, and what I expected to be a quiet gettogether quickly turned into a full-blown event. Jezel’s aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and neighbours came with astonishing amounts of food and all the warm beer we could drink. Despite the numerous inebriated relatives lining up to serenade us with karaoke, I remained the centre of attention. As I was introduced to Jezel’s large extended family, I was shocked by a recurring theme in the topic of conversation. “Oh my god, your nose is so big! I’ve never seen a nose that big before!” This again? I immediately regressed to my 11-year-

old self, embarrassed, self-conscious, and personally insulted. The rudeness was bewildering. I felt that surely there was a reason I was their target of criticism. Racism? Jealousy? Ignorance? I felt personally slighted, but only until I heard the things they said to each other. “Wow, you and your cousin are so pretty, but she’s a little prettier.”

Had my aunts been lying to me my whole life?

“I haven’t seen you for so long. You’ve really gotten fat!” “I have a great remedy for all of that acne!” I guess I got off lightly. Hearing these insults flying back and forth, I was fully prepared to witness a brawl. So why were they all smiling? Jezel laughed off the comments and even lobbed a few back. She explained this was how relatives talk to each other in the Philippines. When you meet a new person, or see someone you miss, the conversation starts with the most obvious first: the way he or she looks. If she is too fat, too thin, or too dark, you tell her. And if his nose is big, you point at it, analyze it, and call your friends over to take a look. It isn’t an insult in their culture to drop conspicuous criticisms into “friendly” conversation. *** Not long after, I learned that Filipinos mock each other mercilessly about their flat noses, and when they were commenting on mine, they were really saying, “That’s the biggest, most beautiful nose I’ve ever seen.” I guess that nuance got lost in translation.

Non-Fiction

19


Metamorphosis Wen Ke

Flaming Arrows by Danielle Cunningham

I

f you ask post-secondary graduates to weigh in on the most valuable lessons they’ve learned from their education, they may tell you they mastered how to “prioritize,” “follow instructions,” “network and establish professional relationships,” or “stretch a student loan by buying boxed wine and Kraft dinner.” If you ask me, I would tell you I learned how to unequivocally, unapologetically loathe group projects.

Being a student in the Business program means enduring simultaneous group projects—an inescapable reality you learn to accept. Each group endeavor starts the same way: you introduce yourselves and establish group standards before addressing your weaknesses, but assure each other of your redeemable qualities and shared commitment to excel. Weeks later, you abandon nearly every clause in said agreement as you quickly discover the magnitude of those weaknesses. Suddenly, your group efforts are less harmonious and instead more like a scene from The Hunger Games, flaming arrows and all.

Loved ones might discreetly place a business card for the nearest crisis clinic on your nightstand.

At this point, it’s every member for himself. You kick your laptop and other inanimate and animate objects, not to mention your heels, as you scream profanities. Loved ones might discreetly place a business card for the nearest crisis clinic on your nightstand. You might ask yourself, “How did I get here?” There must have been some occasion that was the source of the belief that you cannot trust anybody, ever. Then you look back on the semester, and you remember that time the least involved group member made comments about an assignment already submitted. “Maybe we should have gone for a greater word count,” she may have said, despite having contributed only trace amounts of content. You

20

Non-Fiction

withhold a response, reserving it for the confessional peer review. Then you recall the time someone waited until the night before to submit their contribution to the collective assignment and it was riddled with errors. Individuals like this rely too heavily on the editorial skills of others, ignoring the reference guide and displaying no proficient English skills despite what you’d expect in fourth year. They have contributed something beyond merely attending group meetings, but it amounts to a sense of entitlement and little else. Though they’ve waited until the 11th hour to contribute, it’s your mark at stake, so you burn the midnight oil and grudgingly make adjustments. This reminds you of the group member popularly referred to as the “groundhog,” given that he only surfaces for group presentations, on important due dates, and at exams. The member otherwise vanishes into e-space. This person may be an absolute genius, but nobody can determine whether this is more than a rumour, much less their first name, due to their perpetual absence. At this point, you are finished reminiscing and are at the height of your frustration, so you seek a higher authority, perhaps a spiritual one, or the closest alternative, your professor. You ask what you’ve done to deserve this. He tells you that group projects simulate the workplace and prepare students for the realistic conditions present in most organizations. He will then assure you that you will be avenged in the peer review, where all injustices will be rectified. After all, uncooperative members will lose their 5% participation mark. Even if my education has taught me this, somewhere in the madness I’ve also found a resilient spirit, one that allows me to survive the barrage, resist the kicking, and dodge the flaming arrows. They burn less, more often miss their mark—a valuable lesson surely.


A Night at the Carnival Elissa Doerksen

Amontillado by Reid Eccles

Based on the short story “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe. * To suit Portal’s layout and style guide, traditional film script conventions have been altered to suit the magazine format. EXT. CARNIVAL—NIGHT MONTY, 27, smokes a cigarette. He is leaning against a carnival trailer, his alabaster skin illuminated in the flashing lights. He wears a grey blazer, open with a tank top, a black tie, and blue jeans. MONTY (V.O.)

I’d put up with his shit for years. But when insult met disrespect I could not stand idly by. He needed to go. I needed him gone. There are crowds everywhere. Each vendor’s stand is engulfed in loud, garish people. Carnies sell from their booths.

MONTY (V.O.)

I treated him like a brother and gave him no reason to doubt me. I needed him dealt with, and dealt with completely… MONTY walks between the vendors and booths, carrying an eight-pack of beer.

MONTY (V.O.) (CONT)

…to the point where he completely realized why. EXT. HOUSE OF MIRRORS—NIGHT MONTY drinks a beer and smokes, near the rusty, beaten down trailer. A sign reads FORTUNATO’S HOUSE OF MIRRORS.

MONTY (V.O.)

I understand why he did it. He had an ego, but in truth he was just a wannabe goodfella. The 20 colourful reflections condense into one, stumbling out of the centre of the mirrors. NICK, 30, is a broad, oafish Italian male dressed as a clown. He wears a brightly coloured jumpsuit and a large conical cap, both embroidered with a stylistic F. His face is painted white with red crosses over his eyes. Bells jingle atop his hat.

MONTY (V.O.)

The one thing he knew was his dope, high-grade dope. His knowledge put his countrymen to shame and this made him useful to me. NICK nods to MONTY and flips the House of Mirror’s open sign to closed.

MONTY (V.O.)

22

Script

We called him Nick the Prick, but around here he was just Fortunato the Fortune Teller.


NICK approaches MONTY, who tosses him a beer. MONTY

Ah, Fortunato. Looking remarkable as always.

NICK

Funny guy, hey? What are you after Monty? It’s the middle of the carnival.

MONTY

I’ve come into Amontillado, or what passes for it nowadays. I have doubts.

NICK MONTY NICK

Amontillado! Impossible! No one is moving shit right now. It’s the middle of carnival. Like I said, I have my doubts, but I couldn’t risk turning it down. (Beat) Though the connection wasn’t Italian, so I’m on my way to pick up Ronaldo. He will tell. Ronaldo doesn’t know Amontillado from White Amnesia, from Novocain! Come on, let’s go. I’m off the clock. NICK picks up the beer and grabs MONTY around the shoulders as they walk off.

Portal 2015

23


Amontillado

Loser Rio Trenaman

EXT. THE VAULT—NIGHT MONTY slides his key into the lock of the dirty glass door. There are steel bars barely visible through the dust. A banner on the roof reads the vault—records & vinyls. No one would be at the shop for the weekend. I told them to enjoy the festival. INT. THE VAULT—NIGHT MONTY leads NICK past the racks of dusty records. Local demo tapes are spread across the counter. Dusty candy bars fill the shelves beside the broken cash register. MONTY unlocks a door behind the counter. MONTY

Watch the stairs, Nick. INT. BACK ROOM—NIGHT Tables covered in bricks wrapped in brown paper extend down the hall. The hum of marijuana grow lights fills the air. NICK runs his hand over the bricks. He smells the weed plants. His nose crinkles.

NICK MONTY NICK MONTY

This smells like shit. What is this? Some Mexican swag? It’s not the weed. There’s mould growing down here. We should go back up. I don’t want you getting sick. A little mould won’t kill me. Where’s the Amontillado? Further. They reach the end of the hall.

NICK MONTY NICK

24

Script

That smell is horrible. The mould must be worse back here. I can come back with Ronaldo. Fuck Ronaldo. I was just saying it’s bad.

Rat Rio Trenaman


Reid Eccles

MONTY

The Amontillado’s in here. MONTY pulls a heavy mat off the floor revealing a trap door. He flips up the metal ring latch and opens the door. NICK holds his nose and looks away. MONTY hands him a lighter. NICK peers into the black of the crawl space, then begins to descend the steps. Suddenly he is struck on the back of the head. He falls into the dark. INT. CRAWL SPACE—NIGHT NICK awakes in the dark. Chains rattle as he tries to move, but cannot. A muffled voice is heard above him.

MONTY (O.S.)

You can feel the mould down there, can’t you? I bet it burns. NICK shakes the chains fiercely.

MONTY (O.S.) NICK

Come, let’s get out of here. No? (Beat) All right, Nicky, but I’m going to have to leave you. The Amontillado?! There is no reply. NICK laughs desperately.

NICK

Good one, Monty. Come on, buddy. The boys are going to wonder where I am. NICK fumbles with the lighter in his chained hands.

NICK

Monty? He sparks the lighter. The crawl space illuminates in the light of the flame. Two hollow eyes peer into his. The decayed body of a young woman is shackled to the floor to NICK’s left. INT. BACK ROOM—NIGHT The mat has been dragged back over the trap door. MONTY stacks boxes of records on top of it. NICK’s muffled scream vibrates up from the crawl space below.

MONTY (V.O.)

It was more satisfying than I could have imagined. MONTY crouches down to the trap door.


Amontillado

INT. CRAWL SPACE—NIGHT

Mitosis Reese Patterson

The chains shake nearly as loudly as NICK’s trembling voice. NICK MONTY (O.S.)

For the love of god, Monty! You fucking killed her!? For the love of god? You don’t know a thing about love! This is all on you. You killed her! I didn’t do this! INT. BACK ROOM—NIGHT MONTY bounces on the trap door.

MONTY

This is all on you! You hear me? You can skim my dust and talk shit behind my back, but this, Nicky, this is all on you, you miserable trash! You thieving...! MONTY stomps on the trap door. INT. CRAWL SPACE—NIGHT NICK’s eyes soberly stare at the girl’s corpse. He closes the lighter. INT. BACK ROOM—NIGHT MONTY squats listening. Nothing.

MONTY

Nick! You hear me!? This is all on you! No response.

MONTY

Fortunato! The jingle of bells. EXT. THE VAULT—NIGHT MONTY locks the record store and lights a cigarette.

MONTY (V.O.)

At first my heart grew sick. But the more I think of it, my heart yearns for their immolation. He watches the carnival lights beam into the night’s sky. A ferris wheel peaks the roof of the Vietnamese grocer across the street.

MONTY (V.O.)

A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. I’ve thought about those words for many years now, and I believe them to be as true as any others. MONTY flicks his cigarette and walks off in the direction of the carnival.

MONTY (V.O.)

Half a decade and no one has disturbed them. FADE TO BLACK

MONTY (V.O.)

May they rest in peace. The jingle of bells.

26

Script


Vultures by Brendan Abbott

t

the sun set behind the Sierra Nevadas. I could smell the cold before it penetrated the hot sweat on my skiwn. The reins slipped in my bloody hands again and again. I swiped futilely at my pant legs, but that isn’t easy at a gallop. I had to stop. I had to get the doctor’s blood off me. he air chilled moments after

The town was behind me, out of sight. Two ridges on either side left me in a shallow valley with a creek meandering down its centre. The water was cool on my hands, but the blood was stubborn. My white linen shirt was red from cuff to elbow so I took to cutting the sleeves off while my horse, Scout, caught her breath. The blood was still evident by the time I got the sense I was lingering too long. I unfastened the small saddlebag hanging from Scout’s side to make sure some act of God hadn’t removed the good doctor’s medicine. I wasn’t quite done refastening the bag when I was interrupted by the sight of five riders on the ridge-line outlined in the twilight sky. I hoisted myself up onto Scout’s saddle, dug my spurs into her flanks, and held on as she took off with all the haste she could muster. The riders were some 500 yards back and I was in the shadow of the valley, but I wanted out as if they were close enough to whisper in my ear. Maybe they didn’t see me, but they sure as shit got an eyeful in town. The valley led me south before opening into a plain. The homestead was about 20 miles to the west. It was a long way to go. I’d already forced Scout to keep at a gallop for close to a mile, but I didn’t want to stop out in the open, and I didn’t want to look back. I stopped and dismounted in a patch of brush that lined the bottom of a shallow foothill. Scout’s sides heaved and she staggered slightly in the dark. Above me the moon hung naked in the sky. The starlight was enough to ride in, but also to be spotted in.

I lingered in the bush for about 20 minutes with no sign of the riders, giving me time to consider my situation. Going straight home gave my father the best shot of surviving, but if they followed me there I’d be hanged and they’d take the rest of the medicine and who knew what else. The other option was riding around south of the foothills. I’d lead them away from home and hope to lose them before turning back. That was at least 40 miles and my father had been pale as a goddamn corpse before I left for town. If death were racing me home, it seemed wrong to tarry. As I set off, I got to thinking about what the hell I was doing. I’d killed a man because he wouldn’t give us the medicine we couldn’t afford, on behalf of the drunk and hollow man that was my father. Hell, I’d imagined killing him myself more than a few times. The man had taught me the power of violence, and that “me and mine” always came before “them and theirs.” If his life didn’t depend on it, he’d have told me I was putting my thumb over the muzzle of death’s rifle. I chose the long way. I led Scout through the bush heading south. There was still no sign of the riders. Half a mile down on open ground I took the saddle and nudged her out into the

Fiction

27


Vultures

moonlight. The thought crept into my head that maybe I was in the clear. I looked back over my shoulder at the smattering of bushes and felt the overwhelming urge to run. I kept Scout at a canter for a lot longer than I reckon she liked. There was no sign of the riders, but I sensed they were right on top of us, circling like scavengers. It was hours before we came across water again. It was a tiny, slow creek I could well have stepped over without noticing. It tasted strongly of dirt, but we lapped it up just the same. Froth from Scout’s sweat accumulated around the billet under the saddlebag. She hadn’t worked this hard in all her years of herding.

I would’ve said the Appaloosa was something of a friend, but now she was just a tool worn straight through.

I felt a great desire to sleep by the creek, but our dallying soon chilled me and I knew if I gave in I’d never wake, so we rode on. Hours passed. Scout’s pace faltered until she began to stumble and I got off and walked with her. The slower I went, the faster my father failed. The ruddy glow from the eastern horizon washed away the stars and urged me onward. Approaching the homestead from the south required a long, slow climb to the ridge-line that descended down into our land. We were close. I started to wonder if the riders had identified me, even with my face covered, if they’d be down there waiting for me. I picked up my pace and clambered to the crest of the hill. A thin, grey vein of smoke rose from the

chimney. There was no sign of riders, but I wouldn’t know for sure until I walked in the front door. I turned and saw that Scout had stopped a ways down the hill. Her head hung low and she seemed ready to fall over. I would’ve said the Appaloosa was something of a friend, but now she was just a tool worn straight through. She looked different from other horses: the white of her hindquarters faded into brown under the saddle. When I was a kid I thought she looked like a knight’s courser with a white caparison draped over her rear and I’d liked her ever since. But she was the horse they’d seen when I fled town. If anyone came sniffing around they’d find her before the medicine, or the blade I’d used. I led her to a thicket of bushes that filled out a small crater in the hillside. When I cocked the pistol she turned and I swear to God she looked right at me, like she knew. “You did good, Scout.” I had to look away. All I heard was the ringing in my ears, but through my boots I felt her hit the ground. I crested the ridge and ran down the slope as fast as I could. The glass vials in the small medicine pouch rattled violently, but I had to keep moving. The ridge-line behind swallowed me in darkness. I told my father that Scout succumbed to exhaustion. The next day some men came by. They left a few minutes later, quiet and empty handed, none of them noticing the vultures circling the southern ridge.

Against Cotton Candy Skies Kelly Whiteside

Observer Rob Wilson


Chilkoot Trail Mile 16.5 by Stephanie Crawford

The first time you know what it is to be alive, you are on your hands and knees coughing out a yellow cloud of penicillin dust. When you finish rinsing from your mouth the vile contents of the cracked-open antibiotic capsule prescribed for your seventh bout of strep throat— with snow, because your water is too precious to waste— you look back down behind and you see: the long steep slide of boulders you crawled with numb and mittened hands giving way to the clumsy leveraging of forearm and elbow, as you lifted yourself and your 42 pounds of gear up the Golden Stairs and didn’t stop even when you wept from exhaustion. Because you were convinced—in a way that was half delirium and half 12-year-old melodrama—that if you did, you would be left alone and forgotten on the rocks. You look down and think you can see the exact spot where you decided there was no point in feeling sorry for yourself, that you were going to keep on moving no matter what—and you did. You did, and you made it to the summit, and the sky is vast and clear and blue, and a little ways off there’s a small Canadian shack, and you haul yourself to your feet, and you spit out the taste of yellow, and you start to walk.


Under the Dark by Stephanie Crawford i. Gathered for the end of summer, at my grandparents’ we eat red grapes and Asiago, search for the last overripe raspberries under the dark green leaves.

iv. We play Yahtzee in the den, blinds pulled down, rolling dice on the corduroy tablecloth.

Three jam jars glow in the failing light— company on the drive home.

Grandmother’s full house miscounted as a chance. She picks up the eraser; I pour tea.

The next morning, a phone call. ii. My grandfather inhales slowly, moves his left foot. iii. On Saturday, my grandmother cooks Cream of Wheat, serves half-burnt toast with homemade raspberry jam from a jar with a masking-tape label. I count her pills out on a napkin, switch off the stove, coils red, waiting, while my grandfather suffocates in another room.

v. Nearly winter, four days before my grandfather takes his long-expected leave, sleeping daughters at his side. Alone under the dark, my grandmother dies. vi. In spring, when bright buds peel open on the maple by my window, I find letters curled in blue ink on a masking-tape label. In the backyard of a stranger’s house, the raspberry blossoms crumble.

Kite Flying Brendan Abbott 30

Poetry


Stay Low

Dear little self:

by Leah Myers

Stay low beneath the grown-up gaze of glazed pupils and low eyebrows. Do somersaults in the grass and don’t think twice before climbing onto rooftops, hanging from monkey bars, or doing backflips on trampolines. Stay low and crawl beneath dinner tables. See how women’s shoes look like stilts, notice adults’ laughs, marvel at how amused they are by conversation, and observe the ridges and fissures in their skin. Stay low and pray that when you age, your wrinkles come from years of laughing and squinting in the sun, rather than eyebrows raised in skepticism, pursing your mouth, sucking in anger, or kissing ass. Stay low and before life hardens you, look in the mirror and memorize your smile.


Speaking of Trees by Doug Hopwood

I

They stare at me.

like to ask elementary school

students why photosynthesis is like playing with lego when I visit classrooms as a volunteer. The grade two kids troop into the classroom after lunch break, noisy and excited. Petra, the teacher, holds up a tiny brass bell. When the kids’ eyes are on her, she strikes the bell once. A high, sweet note fills the room and gradually fades.

“ok,” she says, her voice strong and clear, “arms folded on your desks, please. Rest your head on your arms, eyes closed, and breathe deeply.” Her tone softens and she speaks more slowly. “Breathe in slowly, filling your body all the way down to your toes. Now hold and breathe all the way out, emptying yourself.” After half a dozen cycles, she rings the bell again. The kids sit up, calm and focused. “Today we have a special guest. He is a forester and he is going to take us for a walk in the forest and talk about trees.” I’ve volunteered in Petra’s classes for 20 years. I love doing it, but I’m often frustrated by how much I am unable—or unwilling—to say. “Today we’re going to learn to recognize the leaves of different kinds of trees,” I say. “Can anyone tell me what leaves are for?” Hands go up, very politely. I choose a little boy stretching his hand skyward.

I want to tell them, when you grow up, you need to help our country do better. “To feed the tree?”

“That’s exactly right. Now, we all know trees are made of wood, and wood is very heavy and solid, but here’s the amazing thing: wood is made out of air and water.”

32

Non-Fiction

“The leaves of the trees breathe in carbon dioxide from the air and the roots get water out of the ground. The tree splits those molecules apart into atoms and puts them back together as wood. It’s just like playing with lego; you take one thing apart and use the pieces to build something different.” Petra organizes the children as they don boots and raincoats and we walk through a new subdivision next to the school to reach the forest. The kids stomp their gum boots in the puddles and I resist the urge to tell them about the forest that was here just two years ago. In a few days the developer’s slash fires had sent tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air that the trees had patiently stored in their trunks over many decades. We arrive at the edge of the woods and I gather up a handful of cones as I wait for the children to gather around. “Here’s how to identify a Douglas fir.” I pass out the cones to small eager hands. “See the three little prongs on the bracts? Don’t they look just like the back legs and tail of a little brown mouse who is trying to hide inside the cone?” Learning to recognize the different species is a wonderful start, but there’s so much more I want to say. For example, Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries on earth, has a program to re-plant forests on 15 million hectares of land, while Canada, with all our wealth, is destroying 50,000 hectares of forest every year. I want to tell them, when you grow up, you need to help our country do better. Our next stop is a big cottonwood tree, splendid in its tawny autumn foliage. “Does anyone know what they make out of cottonwood trees?” I ask. A few wild guesses are offered—tables, totem poles, hockey sticks? “Give up?” I say. “Toilet paper!”


The Kingdom

I love their laughter, but I feel badly about promoting the idea that trees are here only for our use. “Now, what kind of tree do you think this is?” A pine tree? Oak? A palm tree? Douglas fir? “Good guesses!” I say. “Actually, it’s a Sitka spruce, which looks a lot like Douglas fir, but here’s the difference: when you grab a twig of spruce it’s very prickly because the needles are pointy at the ends.” I demonstrate, grasping the twig and grimacing. They all want to try. “Ow-ow-ow!” they howl with delight. Sitka spruce is used to make guitar tops, which makes a nice story, but only one spruce out of 10,000 ends up as part of a musical instrument. Most are made into plywood or pulp. Loggers started felling spruce 100 years ago to make airplanes to fight the “war to end all wars,” another fact I don’t mention. “ok, here is one we all know. What kind of tree is it?” “Maple!” 20 voices shout in ragged unison. “That’s right! Where do we see maple leaves?” “On the CANADIAN FLAG!” When I was young, Canada was seen as a peaceful and well-behaved country. Americans traveling in Europe used to sew a maple leaf on their backpack to cash in our country’s good reputation. Now, with the tar sands and our refusal to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Canada is increasingly reviled as a global villain. When Canada pulled out of the Kyoto Accord in 2011, an official from Tuvalu, a tiny island at risk of drowning under rising sea levels, called Canada’s behaviour “an act of sabotage on our future... reckless and totally irresponsible.” Our beloved maple leaf is slowly decaying into a symbol of greed and selfishness. Back in the classroom, Petra once again helps the children to focus. With her index finger in the air she silently mouths the words, “Everyone touch your elbows.” They have to read her lips. A few of them catch on. She waits a moment and then touches her own elbow. In total silence, she repeats the procedure, with exaggerated mouthing of nose, knee, ear, until eventually all the children are quiet, watching intently. I review key points and remind them of the lego analogy. A good grasp of photosynthesis is the foundation needed to understand the global carbon cycle and climate change. A forest, powered by solar energy and constantly recycling its materials, offers a model for how a sustainable human economy might work. It won’t mean much to them today, but it’s a tiny seed of knowledge now planted in these young minds.

Facade Rob Wilson


The Ralph and Betty Gustafson Trust was established at Vancouver Island University in 1998 from the estate of the late Ralph Gustafson (1909–1995), one of Canada’s preeminent poets. For over six decades, Ralph Gustafson practiced his craft and shared his love of language with successive generations of poets. He wrote almost 40 books, including more than 24 books of poetry, a collection of essays, and a book of short stories. He compiled the first anthology of Canadian poetry, published by Penguin in 1942, and was a music critic in New York for over a decade before returning to Canada in 1963. His book Fire on Stone, published in 1974, won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, and Configurations at Midnight received the 1993 qspell a.m.. Klein Poetry Prize. Gustafson was a member of the Order of Canada, co-founder and life member of the League of Canadian Poets, and a life member of Keble College, Oxford. He was the recipient of numerous medals, honorary degrees, and awards of merit, including the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal, and the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada. While he worried about poetry’s place in the world, he continued to grow in his art, to write with clarity and efficiency, poems filled with wisdom. In spite of fad and fashion, Ralph Gustafson sang with the best of contemporary poets, in an exultant voice.

34

NON-FICTION


Sun Hall Spenser Smith

Turtle Spirit: Katherena vvvette on the Distinct Joys of Writing Home by Jennifer Cox

W

e are all turtles , says Métis poet Katherena Vermette. “We walk around with our homes and our spirits on our backs.”

As the 2014 Ralph Gustafson Chair of Poetry, Vermette visited viu October 22 to lead an engaging afternoon student discussion, and the next day delivered an evening lecture for the public, discussing how her experience of writing “home”—Winnipeg’s North End—has influenced her poetic aesthetic. Before she began her lecture, she acknowledged the Snuneymuxw territory as well as her own Métis heritage. “It is important for me to respect the territory I enter as well as the territory I come from,” she says. “It is how I define myself, how I identify.”

Vermette’s first book of poetry, North End Love Songs, won the 2013 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry. The book is also the 2014-15 featured book in the Winnipeg Public Library program, On the Same Page, a province-wide initiative that encourages all Manitobans to read and discuss the same book at the same time. Vermette was also named one of cbc’s 12 Canadian writers to watch for 2014. “I had this quiet little career where I was going to write some poetry and probably go back to teaching and now I feel a lot more people are paying attention. It feels like I have to be really good and I am bound by this perfectionism. I read and submitted poetry and stories for about eight years before I signed my book deal. It’s about keeping at it, learning to edit, and being patient. You have to really love writing.” Vermette graduated in April 2014 with an mfa in Creative Writing from ubc. “I wanted to learn how to write properly, commercially, because

whenever I wrote a short story it was like a poem. I wanted to know that formula because I had no idea how to write fiction. I would recommend it for learning how to organize your writing and meet deadlines. I thought it was going to be very artsy, but it was quite structured.” Vermette is also an active member of the Indigenous Writers Collective of Manitoba, a collective that has been invaluable to her growth as an artist. “Poetry found me another home among these people. They write about families that look like mine,” she says. “When you’re in a chorus and everyone is making ‘I’ statements, then you can share your story too. It feels very safe.” Within this group, she met younger Métis and Aboriginal writers who inspired her and gave her hope for the future. “Art begets art. The generation coming behind me is intensely powerful. Part of my job is to help new writers through teaching, talks, workshops, mentorship.... You want people to like your work enough that they hear their own song and go after it.”

When you’re in a chorus and everyone is making ‘I’ statements, then you can share your story too. It feels very safe.

As for her advice for new writers: “Get a thick skin. People are going to say things, and have opinions, and you can’t get defensive. Some things are true and some things are nasty. Some compliments are also not true. The inspiration is just a tiny part of the work. Sometimes you have to write a lot of stories before you get to your story.”

When Vermette first studied poetry in high school, she read William Blake and E.E. Cummings. She

Non-Fiction

35


Tur tle Spirit

didn’t discover Indigenous poetry until years later when she read Marvin Francis. “He spoke to me because he wrote about the street and specifically my street,” she says. “Urban experience is important, significant, and specific. It’s different from a rural experience. The poetry decides what it wants to be, but a street poem is very different from a pastoral poem, the idea that you look on the natural world with awe, with yearning to return. That doesn’t come into play in the street, in urban settings. There is a lot more presence and survival that goes on. It’s definitely a different tone.” Poetry is a natural fit, since it evolved from, and complements, the oral tradition of Indigenous communities. “I have never completed a poem without having to read it out loud, so what ends up being on the page is an echo of what is read. Poetry is supposed to be oral. Still, I was devastated to learn that as a young wannabe writer because the whole attraction was to sit in a room alone with the door closed and tell stories, but you have to get up in front of people. I thought I could figure out how to have a successful writing career without having to do that.” At 17, Vermette decided to leave Winnipeg’s inner city neighbourhood because she didn’t see many success stories there. She spent years as a traveler, searching for her identity in unfamiliar landscapes. It was not until she returned to her roots that she found what she was looking for. When she came back to Winnipeg at 27, she didn’t want her daughters to grow up amidst the hardships that she experienced. “I wanted to keep them safe, to wrap them up in my shell. I was running away from what my pain was. I didn’t want to deal with it.” During this time, Vermette found connection in poetry. “I always had a backpack and I always had poetry,” she says. When she was a young girl, her mother had given her a pink Hilroy notebook that provided a safe place to try to make sense of her

36

Non-Fiction

world—“when I had the opportunity to speak what was in my head, I spoke in poetry.” When Vermette began writing, she wanted to write about street injustice, resistance, and resilience without the context of her own history. She quickly realized this was not possible. “All those girls and women on the street were my story and I had inadvertently written myself home,” she says. “I was writing about myself at the ages my daughters are now, which added an extra layer. You walk through the world as a young girl and try to figure out who you are. I constantly am exploring why women do not feel empowered. I don’t know where it’s going to go yet. Things evolve. Young women have this crazy strength and vulnerability.” She wrote North End Love Songs as a tribute to her environment, both her physical landscape and her spiritual identity. She wrote of trees, birds, parks, and city streets, of friendship, family, loyalty and belonging. She wrote of a girl looking down Bannerman Avenue where, “branches overhead / interlace like fingers / cup around her / hold her in,” and Selkirk Avenue, where a girl walks, “head down/ body huddled / into herself… as if she could / hide and not feel / the cold.” In her poems, the girl listens to “the stifled sobs behind / her mother’s closed door / smells her stepfather’s / cigarette” walking in the rain under “winter naked elms / such a cold November / a season warmer/ than her house.” To shape the collection, she invoked the medicine wheel and its four seasons, the four stages of life (childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and elderhood) and the four aspects of self (physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional). As she cycled through these phases, she attempted to show the beauty in the brokenness of her community. “I tend to write about things you don’t necessarily want to write about, things that are not obviously beautiful.”


One such act central to the collection is a poem that gave Vermette a way to come to terms with the loss of her older brother whose journey home on a winter evening ended tragically: “they think / he tried / to walk across the river / in a cold November when / it was almost frozen.” Her family was torn apart when he went missing and this loss was compounded by the fact that local authorities did not take his disappearance seriously: “no sense lookin’ / they said/ he’ll turn up when / he gets bored / or broke.” His story was in her blood and therefore in her poetry. “Spiritually we are connected to home because we are connected by blood memory,” she says. “Blood holds memory. We may not remember things that happened to our grandparents, or things that happened before us, but we carry these experiences in our blood.” Likewise, trauma can be passed on through generations. “I was told in my early years to write what I know,” says Vermette. “I wrote a lot about pain and anger and sadness and craziness...and I practiced by seeing.” She was writing her own experience, but also a universal experience of a girl on the cusp of adolescence coming to terms with her family’s brokenness. “You change it from something that happened to you to a poem. You play with cadence, you play with words, and it becomes something else. When you write something and put it out in the world, there are so many variations with respect to what it means....” Poetry has given Vermette the language of catharsis. “In my childhood everything was a bit chaotic,” she says, equating her home life to a storm. “Poetry allowed me to come into the eye and let all the chaos happen beside and around me, because when poetry happens there is joy, a very distinct joy.”

Katherena Vermette Bibliography: • The Seven Teachings Stories (2014 & 2015) • North End Love Songs (2012)

Anthologies: • Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond (2013) • Manitowapow—Aboriginal Writings from the Land of Water (2012) • Debwe Series (2011) • The Exile Book of Native Fiction and Drama (2010) • Other Tongues: Mixed Race Women Speak Out (2010) • Tales from Moccassin Avenue (2006)

Apocalypse Now Rob Wilson


There Are Many Words for Maple by Lorin Medley

The grownups have shifted shape— their goosey legs weaving baskets along Tsimshian Way, the whole town in a stupor. What did we know? A blanket of fog, sly spirits moving chum and eulachon up the river. We’d roll smokes for the old man, boast how long the ash grew until it collapsed on his pillow and caught fire. I seen grown men piss themselves and morning knock them sober with a fish bat. We’d play “hunt the bottle” with cousins by the beer parlour, wait for men to clatter out the door like oysters from a sack, grab their empties and dogleg to the rainforest,

let our ribs breach like whales, ream out the huckleberry on a snag, call it a stupid kid, take a swig, smack lips, cuff a head, say, “Look! A drowned wasp. I dare you to drink it.” Still, someone gathered salal, raked herring spawn, and chopped fish at the cannery. Someone found a wealth of pine mushrooms under low clouds of blackflies. Auntie and Uncle got restless feet; they left Prince Rupert, thumbed rides to Vancouver. Granny said, “There are many words for maple,” meaning don’t go. They got bruised there, and when they died no one took their clothes away.

Sleeping Tides Bryce Gardiner


Crossing the Hecate Strait by Francine McCabe

I

fall with the bow of the boat. I can hear the old wooden hull creaking and groaning as I stand and look out the skylight: no daylight. The boat rocks starboard and I stumble, grabbing my bunk before losing my balance. It is only my second day at sea and I am still finding my legs. Even small jolts send my heart racing. I peal my grip from the bunk and try to focus.

watch my feet rise and

“What if I can’t do it? I know your dad doesn’t really want me out there,” I say to Travis the week before, when he asks me to fish for a season. “You’ll be able to do it. Don’t worry about my old man,” he says, putting his arms around me. Now I struggle to dress in warm layers as Norgale continues to lurch. I pull on my last wool sock and climb the ladder to the wheelhouse. The small light above the stainless steel stove illuminates the 18-foot room. The five windows that line the wheelhouse reveal surging, angry water.

I knew the north wasn’t going to be like the Johnstone Strait. I had done my research. The Hecate Strait was an unpredictable crossing from mainland British Columbia to Haida Gwaii. It was shallower then most straits, which made it susceptible to sudden weather change. There would be times when we wouldn’t see land. My chest feels full of rocks and my shoulders keep inching closer to my ears. The wind continues to pick up as daylight breaks. The sky is overcast, a dull grey. The boat lurches violently. “It’s getting rougher,” says Travis to his dad. “We probably should have waited for better weather before crossing. There are no other boats out here.” “Well, we’re here now. Hopefully she’ll make it,” John says with a throaty laugh.

“Morning,” I say to Travis’ dad John, the Captain.

Is he talking about me or the boat? I am trying to focus on something that isn’t moving—a magnet on the fridge.

He grunts and peers through his binoculars. A 47foot salmon troller is no place for girlfriends, but when his second deckhand didn’t work out, Travis convinces him to give me a chance.

Everything is swaying with the sea. Norgale slams down hard, like a head-on collision, and there is a loud bang. I fall sideways on my seat. Have we hit a rock? We’re going down.

I rinse my face in the small sink, careful not to use too much water. Norgale’s tank can hold 400 gallons, but we will be out here for at least two weeks, trying to fill the freezer.

“A tote came loose up top. We have to make sure everything’s secure,” Travis says. He grabs my rain slicker and throws it; the crisp new smell of plastic.

My stomach rolls with the waves. Every time I open my eyes my head spins. I am sure if I don’t eat something I’ll be hanging over the edge of the boat heaving into the wind. I sit down at the galley with toast and tea. I feel drunk.

A 47-foot salmon troller is no place for girlfriends.

“Come on!” he says with a cheeky grin. He can read me like a compass. The meek may inherit the earth, but they would never get the sea. First mate indeed.

Non-Fiction

39


Crossing the Hecate Strait

I pull on my bright orange rain gear, a toque, and my neoprene boots. Outside, the wet cherry-stained mahogany deck reflects slate skies and the metallic water frothing at its sides. I struggle to stay on my feet while we retrieve the tote, gripping the safety line. Many of the other boats in our fleet have no safety rails and half the deck space. We check to make sure the rest of the gear on the main deck is secured. “Hey, hold on to the side of the freezer,” Travis shouts. I watch him as he checks a few more lines. He maneuvers around the freezer and toward the ladder up to the dodger. He doesn’t hold the safety rail; his steps are calculated. He dances with Norgale. My shoulders relax for the first time that morning. “I’ll make sure everything is secure up top,” Travis says. “We’ll be in the really rough stuff soon.” He pauses at the base of the ladder and looks me in the eye. “You okay?” he shouts over the wind and crashing waves. “Okay!” I shout, grasping the metal rail. I watch the metre-high waves crash over the side of the deck and bury my boots as the wind whistles between the threads of my knit toque.

I can’t tell where the sky ends and the water begins. The wind whips and clangs through the rigging. Ocean spray coats everything. We are leaving the protection of Triple Island. Bills, chores, and unsettled conflicts mean nothing out here. I brace myself and my knees buckle as we hit the first three-metre wave. Norgale’s bow disappears for a brief moment. My salty tears mix with the ocean water crashing over me. Travis comes down the ladder. “Are you going to make it?” We make eye contact. I shake my head up and down. “Good, let’s get back in the cabin.” I hang my damp gear up by the warm stove and slip my feet into my cabin slippers. Travis does the same. “Everything’s secure?” John asks from the captain’s seat. Our gaze meets and his mouth twitches. I am going to make it.

Worn Sarah Corsie 40

Non-Fiction


Scales by Francine McCabe

I’m adrift. Months spent fishing has left me bogged down, cast out, reeling. I’m left with too much space. I keep misplacing keys, losing things. I’m left alone in the house stumbling on the still silence of night. I find scales on my skin, and the taste of salt won’t leave my lips. I’ve been left, caught somewhere between land and sea.


Spectatores by Lucas Baird

I

met lick in 1993 in an Indonesian coffee shop/ tattoo parlour by the sea, where it smelled like petrol and fish. She was Korean and took great pains to remind me of this with her lilting lisp. South Korean.

Lick had a habit of carrying a rabbit with her. She clasped it to her chest, just below the bow of her uniform. It was a small, daft-witted thing with a bald streak down the side of its brown head, bisecting an ear and the lazier of its eyes. I asked her once what had happened to it and all she would admit to was her brother and a tire iron cast in a scene of deep, choleric spite. An alcoholic episode. The rabbit’s name was Avery—Avey, Avington, Ah-Boo—all contingent on Lick’s mood. I would sit in the coffee shop and smoke and scowl as a matter of habit. To reach the storefront, you had to slide down a ring of eroded stairs and brave a saltlicked metal railing on the edge of the hungry water. I liked to fantasize about speeding down the steps faster than the truancy officer, so much faster that he would trip, pitching himself into the cold wake with a thumping splash.

The only people who ever seemed to arrive at Bosco’s coffee shop were people who were wandering.

The coffee shop’s owner, Bosco, had a heavy Javanese twang and would chew on coriander while handgrinding coffee beans behind the steel counter. It made his breath smell like a soap dispenser, and he’d offer an overdramatic sigh at the slightest request, boiling the recipient in his damp breath. Adjoining the coffee shop was a tattoo parlour with a steady stream of customers. The owner was a towering

42

Fiction

Russian man with a series of tattoos spanning the length of his cheek: 7.62, 5.56, .357 etc., stamped in a steady, curved text. They ran off his face, down his neck, brushing his nipple, all in an even line. His name was Orlov and he claimed they were from his time in The Wars, calibres with which he had ended human life. I thought he was full of shit, but I wouldn’t put it past the massive, balding man. Orlov and Bosco had purchased the building when they were married, but split under harsh circumstances. From what I gathered, Bosco was having an affair with Orlov’s brother. Being practical to a fault, the men couldn’t bring themselves to revise the shared agreement, for fear of problems keeping the building rented. They stayed together, in spirit, grasping for the occasional glimpse of the other, all very saccharine. In all our time together, I never once remember seeing Lick eat. She was skinny, sure, like plastic wrap on chicken bones, a weird and firm porcelain figure. She chewed vegan vitamin pills with strange names like Benzaprolecetamin and Forest Agave Moon Dust and sucked water like a bubbling drainpipe. If I expressed concern, she assured me that it was all part of a newwave health trend that Her Cousin the Doctor had suggested, something I was nowhere near new city enough to understand. The day I met Lick, the soft air was rising off the sea in little wreathes and gasps and Lick was bundled in a thigh-length black coat against the gnawing cold. She appeared as a figure of dark edges, her hair hanging about her shoulders, Avery a bewildered bump peeking from the neck of her outfit. Lick’s legs, which protruded out from a meagre gap between her socks and her school skirt, were the colour of the air. She walked past me at a steady stride, smelling of smoke, and entered through the greasy glass doors behind me.


I counted the hairs on the back of my wrist before wrenching myself from my seat and entering the shop. The air inside warm and thick. Lick was standing just beyond the counter, eyeing the menu on the wall with wary eyes. Bosco was puttering about with an assortment of utensils, grinding his teeth. I approached Lick slowly, more out of curiosity than anything else. I asked for her name and she told me on the second try, her oddly round eyes blinking quickly. She said she was on a trip with her class. She got lost in The Observatory, and when she finally left the room full of stars, everyone was gone. I asked her why she didn’t call someone and she just shrugged, jerking her bony shoulders in a sudden motion. Instead of finding them, she just wandered. The only people who ever seemed to arrive at Bosco’s coffee shop were people who were wandering. I liked to keep track of the other visitors, those souls wayward enough for the trek: Malcolm, the willowy Irishman, with fishhooks set in his lips and purple lines sketched across the crooks of his elbows; Bernadette, the widowed financier, who told me I looked like her late husband; and Marta, who taught me about the ego and the anima. As we sat and talked, Lick would frequently pinch up her skirt. It was a tick, brought on not by nerves, but by an obsession with disorder. The plaid surface would retract in waves between her grasping, thin fingers as she stared me in the eye and talked about stars. There were no straight lines to Lick; the even plaid was broken into a mismatch of angles and shapes when she grasped at her skirt like it was the only handhold she’d allow herself. When I asked Lick about the rabbit, she tousled Avery’s head fur and told me that the bunny contained the dearly departed soul of Truman Capote, entrusted to her by Capote’s late confidant, a meister of the occult. Lick said sometimes the rabbit would shiver and quake and recite unproofed lines from In Cold Blood verbatim. I never witnessed an episode, but she seemed to truly believe it. We made a habit of meeting every few days. I was frequently alone and Lick was frequently lost. I couldn’t go back to the boarding school, and she could never find her class, so we made a time of it, meeting in moments. I would talk about My Uncle the Sommelier or My Grandmother the Poet and Lick would talk about constellations very far away.

***

Dual Rio Trenaman

In 1994, Lick asked me to stay with her as she received a tattoo in Orlov’s parlour. She sat Avery in my lap, then began to disrobe. I watched her snowy back appear from a sheathe of cloth as Orlov fretted with needles, gloves, and inks. It took close to an hour, while Orlov meticulously scratched, and Lick glowered and grasped my hand. When the work was done, Orlov stood up and upon Lick’s back was the purpled phrase O crassa ingenia. O caecos coeli spectatores. That night, Lick held my neck close as we watched the sky dim. She spoke very quietly and told me that she might’ve killed herself, on the dock in the cold waters. I told her that I knew this, and said not to worry.

Portal 2015

43


Pulled Back Matt Lineker

It Could Never Happen to Me by Hannah Smith

ungry black eyes, at the time just a curiosity. He was amiable, leading me around with a gentle hand and a soft voice.

but hold my tongue until she disappeared. Behind her made-up face and practiced laugh, she was boring, rude, and self-centred.

“Down here is where we keep our extra stock—you know, cups, napkins, straws. That creepy corner is the staff area.” He pointed to a dimly lit room. Its ceiling dripped and two tables were shoved against the wall, strewn with crumpled wrappers and plastic forks.

When he led me back to the front area, I was introduced to Courtney.

“The bathrooms are over here.”

Besides Courtney, there were only two other girls, all three bagging orders. An invisible line separated the women from the men in the kitchen, all immigrants from India, most with questionable work permits.

H

I poked my head into the women’s washroom. There were three stalls with crusty toilets and moaning pipes. Flies buzzed around the rusted sinks and fluorescent lights. I crinkled my nose; a bitter taste filled my mouth. The Burger King staff room was the only place not monitored by cameras and the bathrooms were toxic, never to be used. We ascended the stairs again and he stopped halfway. “Can I tell you a secret?” I nodded. “I have a crush on your sister.” I feigned a smile like I did after my father died. “Oh? How did you know I had a sister?” “She works at Cobs, right? Kind of looks like you? I’ve seen her a few times. She’s seriously the most gorgeous girl I’ve ever seen.” He leaned against the stairs, a hand poised dramatically over his chest. “Is she single?” Those black eyes fixated on me. “She’s in a relationship, sorry. Besides, she’s pretty demanding,” I said. “You should still introduce me.” It wasn’t the first time guys had gushed, “Your sister is so hot” and “If I wasn’t with you….” Whenever they were over, she’d strut around the house after a shower in the smallest towel wrapped around her curvy frame. I’d sneer,

44

Non-Fiction

“You must be Hannah! I’m going to train you on the cash register,” she said.

One of the sandwich-makers smiled at me. “Hi, I’m Jimmy,” he had said, thick lashes lining downcast eyes. Courtney invited me to watch a movie at her house that night with Hungry Eyes and her boyfriend. I got the feeling it was a double date, although he was interested in my sister. At the house, The Vow played on a flat screen, Courtney squealing when Channing Tatum revealed his abs. I had taken the empty leather loveseat and Hungry Eyes joined me. Halfway through the movie, he pulled my chin towards him. “What about my sister?” I moved back. He smirked before reeling me back in. A week later, he said “I love you.” By then, I had already fallen into bed with him. I assumed it was the proper thing to do, so I said it back and did my best to satisfy his hunger, too eager for approval. Over the course of a month, three more cameras had been erected in shadowed corners. “They’ve been put up because of us,” Hungry Eyes said, with a satisfied grin.


Portal 2015

45


It Could Never Happen to Me

I was less pleased. “We need to stop flirting at work then.” By the time Hungry Eyes grew bored of me, I had already moved on to Jimmy, but he soon relocated to Victoria. Hungry Eyes flashed me a knowing smile when I heard the rumour Jimmy had left. “If I can’t have you, no one can,” he said. * * * “You have to bend over the window and smack this broom on both sides of that white painted line,” he said with a grin, pointing to a faded line on the drivethru pavement. “Why?” I eyed the broom suspiciously. “To keep the drive-thru timer in check.” “Okay?” I raised an eyebrow. “But for how long?” “Until your shift is done.” He handed me the broom and stood behind me. “Are you kidding me? I have an hour left. What if a car comes?” I pushed the broom toward him. He crossed his arms and smiled. “Then you’ll take their order and continue once they leave.” He loosened his arms to adjust his silver nametag. “I don’t want to have to report you.” I rolled my eyes and shook my head, turning to the window. Five minutes in, my neck started to tingle and I turned to see his eyes on mine. He licked his upper lip slowly.

'Wait! Don’t I get a hug?' He held out his arms, 'We’re friends, aren’t we?'

When my shift ended, I let the broom fall to the ground. “I need you to do something in the bathroom before you go,” Hungry Eyes said when he saw me grabbing my bag.

“Wait! Don’t I get a hug?” He held out his arms. “We’re friends, aren’t we?” I lingered at the door for a moment before walking toward him. “Sure,” I said, letting him embrace me. He didn’t let go. Our eyes met, his hungrier than ever. He pressed his lips to mine. I pulled away, but his hand grasped my jaw, nails digging into my cheek. I tripped over myself as I escaped his clutches, walking backward. He laughed, a lion cornering its prey. “Stop. Please,” I said, my words coming out in low whispers. His eyes were dark slits as he moved his fingers over my chest and down to my pants’ zipper. He pulled it down and did the same for his own. He turned me around, pinning my shoulders against the blank wall with hands too strong for his slender stature. I focused on the patterned floor surrounding a nearby stall, speckled tiles of blues and purples. He moved quickly, pushing our pants down to our ankles. It could never happen to me. And then he was spilling himself onto me, letting it drip down my leg. Satisfied, he moved to the sink to clean up. “Wait five minutes, then leave,” he said, before closing the door behind him. On my way out, I passed the office, door shut. With trembling hands, I unlocked my mother’s van and stepped in. I slammed my hands against the steering wheel and released a series of screams. Drained and out of breath, I drove home in silence. When I arrived, I was unable to hold the phone steadily. My mother dialed for me. “I’ve been raped.” My voice sounded distant, not my own.

He stood in the centre of the bathroom.

When the police arrived, the constable pulled me aside. He smiled, black eyes glinting. “Are you sure you didn’t just have sex with him? Maybe you have a boyfriend and you don’t want him to find out that you cheated,” he whispered. “It’s a long process with a lot of paperwork and I don’t want it to be for nothing.”

I remained by the door. “So? What is it? I’m leaving.”

It could never happen to ... me.

“Are you really going to make me clean toilets?” I followed him.

Imbroglio Lucas Baird 46

Non-Fiction


I Am Blackbird by Lorin Medley (for Joanne)

1 Cedar cradles the acreage near Roberts Creek, chickens fart eggs to wash on Sunday and the big-mouth rooster might’a died, but Uncle was only a good shot when sober, and no match for a cock-a-doodle-doo waving its hat like a willie. 2 Doom dadda-doom dadda-doom dadda-doom Horse whinnies porchside for a jump on his back.

3 This is what I learned at school today: G is for giraffe, I for Indian. stuck in a corner like kindling, angry slivers pulled out by flashlight forever and ever, Amen. 4 My salmonberry smile leaps ropes of mane to horse’s neck; our giddy-up, lub-dub heartbeat tears through bramble and cottonwood. This knot of a girl gets tossed and ears flick at the apple-shaped thud of her fall.


5 There’s just one thing I don’t like about Uncle Dan always climbing me and now my brother does it, too and says I’m easy. 6 From shoeless feet to cropped hair I stretch out in sorrel, bend milkweed stems for beetles’ zigzag, open nostrils like seedpods. The whole wide world of oat grass and finch song opens its cupboard just for me.

7 Blackbird soars above tree branch. I can almost touch the red wing tips, answer its birdsong. I am blackbird: conk la-ree conk la-ree!

Silence Chloe de Beeld


Rare Species by Gisèle Merlet

B

an “oasis of tranquility,” sheltering “many native and rare species of birds.” Amid the enchantment of “majestic English oaks and Lombardy poplars from the 1920s,” roadwork had changed this green and peaceful landscape into the misery of a lunar one. It was a dreary scene.

uttertubs marsh is described as

A bus shelter offered some protection from the dust and noise of this ruined terrain. Once under cover, I braced myself for a 20-minute wait. When I looked over at the wooden bench, I noticed a young Chinese girl in her early 20s who lifted her head ever so slightly to reveal she was crying. “Can you tell me what the problem is?”    She said, “No, thank you,” under a veil of straight black hair, partially hiding a blemished face and sad eyes. This girl was in trouble and terrified. I thought of my daughters and granddaughters, grown up now. “Maybe I can help.” “I can’t keep it .…” 

Next time, don't believe everything they tell you.

She spoke in broken English and leaned her head on one hand, elbow propped on the back of the bench, the sun shining on her. “Are you pregnant?” She moved her head up and down like a little bird trying to find a worm. “Are you all by yourself? Is the father here?” I asked.

50

Fiction

“No, in China now,” she whispered. “Where are you going?” “Hospital. They will take it away.” “Would you like me to go with you?”    At last she looked up. “No, thank you. The translator’s there,” she smiled, but her sad eyes betrayed her. “Thank you for talking.” From the corner of my eye I saw a #3 bus approach. If I stepped on, I would be late for dinner, and Jean didn’t like unexpected changes.  * * * We sat together at the front. “Next time, don’t believe everything they tell you.”  “My mother told me, but I didn’t think…” she said.   Both her mother and I were too late with our shrewd advice. The next stop was the hospital. “Be strong, you will get through this,” I said, feeling inadequate.   She rose slowly, staggering a little, and left without a word. My eyes followed her hesitant figure and I thought how alone she must feel so far from the nest. I don’t even know her name. The sun still shone, but the day’s brightness had faded for me. This moment will mark her life forever. Her mother would probably never know the challenges of a Canadian education. She would admire her daughter’s English pronunciation, see the changes in her demeanor, but she would fail to appreciate the truth of that day and its false promise of shelter and tranquility.


Shucking by Rose Willow

Our ancestors were toilers of soil, hewers of wood, descendants of the dislocated-plains. The coast, 1989. I dig for clams with a garden hoe. You pry oysters off rocks with a wrecking bar. The ocean turns tide spews spray across the rocks some disgruntled warrior, showing no mercy to the hunter-gatherer. I rake regret, a patch to scar the ocean floor, as you salvage half-full buckets and retreat. Hurricane forces clam up tight. You shuck. I steam. Pour wine, measure carefully our words to one another.

Solitude Samantha Oldaker


Bear Reese Patterson

Aubade of June by Helena Snopek

Dawn is a bitter lover; at five o’clock by a warm slice of moon she unmakes sleep, crows paint the sky in gashes with blue-hour wings. She comes from the island’s cusp where woods peek through our wooden houses, just in reach of the foamy ocean where brine bursts my lungs. She peels starlight from my bed. Morning birds desire only to forget, so I won’t remember you or me. A summer breeze will shiver. I will wrap myself in trees—pines to wear proudly in wind-combed hair. Come morning, the sky undresses with brazen lights and I wait with half-closed eyes. Dawn whispers— It is June, but I’m thinking of you —and so sends me clouds, hides the sun under skin like aged glass. I find Autumn’s secrets scattered in corners of June’s grass, a morbid scavenger hunt. Don’t begrudge me; even as poppies bloom I feel the musk of September’s leaves floating on the coast, the edge of my unmade bed. I can’t help that even as the pear-tree parades first fruits; premonitions of rain caress my tired head.

52

Poetr y

Lifeline Corinna Maier


Our Canadas, My Truth: Eden Robinson on Storytelling in a Divided Nation by Francine McCabe

E

den robinson’s perspective on

storytelling in both modern and First Nations’ cultures is a function of her journey as a writer in a predominantly “mainstream” nation. She will be the first to admit the truth is a matter of perspective.

FM:

You said in a BC Bookworld interview that “books were telling a truth, not the truth.” Can you elaborate on this?

ER:

The great masters can capture a lot of different truths, but they are often contradictory. In university we discussed a Native writer who had written about racism in Canada. I was the only Native person in the class and I felt everything in the book was accurate, that all the racism he spoke about was true. This was in the 80s. Everyone else in the class said, “No, you’re wrong. Racism in Canada is over. He is an extremist.”

anything in my life. While attending a Grade 11 English prep class for university, I watched horror movies like Cronenberg’s Scanners, moody teens blowing things up with the power of their minds. It appealed to me, but I didn’t like the way it ended, so I wrote a story for class ending Scanners the way I would have wanted. The teacher read it out and the class loved it. It was the first time I received enthusiastic feedback for anything. Until you get a writer’s high, you don’t know. It’s just amazing.

We had a long conversation about “our Canadas” and our Canadas were very different. I saw this because I was outside the mainstream and they were solidly inside. So when I’m talking about what I think is true, other people might not see it as the truth until I start explaining my point of view. FM:

When did you first become interested in storytelling, telling your truth?

ER:

In my teenage years I became an obsessive reader of horror, that claustrophobic, gothic feeling where you feel trapped, you feel something bad coming. That resonated with me. I became interested in Stephen King, when other young adults were reading Sweet Valley High and The Babysitters Club, which didn’t seem relevant to

In my second year at the University of Victoria I read The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje and it blew my mind. So for the next three years I wrote bad copies of that; I focused on poetry for a long time. It helped me with my structure and language, but I eventually turned back to fiction. I’m yappy, so it was very hard for me to condense things into poetry. It’s a distilled form and I tend to chat. FM:

After writing poetry for so long, how does a novel-length work come together for you?

Non-Fiction

53


Our Canadas, My Truth

ER:

Like planet accretion. There’s bits of debris flying around one central idea; it’s like a gravity hub. Other ideas are drawn in randomly and when I get enough material it all starts to collapse into a novel, it starts to spin. If it sounds messy and chaotic, it is. Maybe it’s not the best way to go about writing novels, but it’s exciting. There are some cooks that can cook without messing up the entire kitchen, but that’s not me. That’s just how I write. In the early stages, everything just pours out, splatters. Once I work with the material for a while, it reveals its own structure. Thankfully, in the rewriting and editing process it develops polish and nuance—wonderful things. If I’m terribly manuscript blind, that’s when the editors come in and say, “This obviously goes here, here, and here.” In the beginning it’s a solo act, but toward the end it’s a collaboration.

FM:

Do you have characters that don’t follow your plot plans? What do you do with them?

ER:

Always. It’s really annoying when your characters come to life and have their own thoughts. Sometimes it’s an issue of a character wanting her own novel and you just have to trim others out, but it’s important not to edit them out too early on, for me anyway. You follow them to interesting places, but it’s obviously just an aside that gets trimmed later. You have to be willing to look a little messy to get to the point of being in control of your material.

In the beginning, it's a solo act, but toward the end it's a collaboration.

54

FM:

Did you publish much in Canadian literary magazines?

ER:

No, I would send out my work and had very little success. It wasn’t until the end of my ba that I really got the hang of writing and got more feedback. I found out there are five different levels of rejection. At the beginning you get a form letter—postcard, generic—and then when you’re closer to being published, you get a conditional letter: “If you fix this we will consider publishing you,” the fifth level. I got stuck there for a long time.

Non-Fiction

The short story “Traplines” was conditionally accepted by PRISM International and I won a short story contest and started getting published more regularly. Then I was picked up by the Bukowski agency and publishers became interested. FM: Why do you feel storytelling is so important in First Nations culture and indeed in our culture generally? ER: We are pretty invisible despite the fact there are a million First Nations people in Canada. We are the minority, but we are often “representative of the problem.” We “need to be fixed.” To the government, federal and provincial, we are an impediment to resource extraction and that is the narrative of Native people right now. The focus is on our constant problems. I think we are more than our problems; we have a lot more to offer, including writing, which has a really low barrier of entry. If you have the time and you can write, it’s one of the professions receptive to hearing Native voices. FM: Have you consciously resisted representing Haisla life as some critics suggest? ER: The things I resist writing about are sacred. It’s not something that the Haisla community really wants in fiction. In the potlatch culture, to tell someone else’s sacred story, you need to throw a potlatch. I tend to stick to the stories that are neutral, in the public domain, the Haisla public domain. Some First Nations are very open and some are not open at all; we are in between. When we shared the deeper stories, the stories that deal with the cannibal dances, the tanis, they were broadly misinterpreted. You can tell that even by the name; we don’t call them cannibal dances. It’s a much more complex story and it was simplified to “The Haisla eat people.” Interpretations of our culture were not nuanced, so there is huge resistance to going through that again. The stories I want to tell don’t tread on that territory. FM: When you got stuck on the ending of Monkey Beach and you decided to go home, to visit the actual location, what were you looking for? ER: I was looking for very specific details: the smells, the sounds, the physical location. Dad graciously agreed to take me up to Monkey Beach and I asked him if we could go in the same boat my character


Gisèle Merlet

was travelling in. So, he dug out an older boat with a put-put engine and we spent the morning getting to know the beast. I learned I don’t really like boating. You need a good support bra when you’re out in the choppy channel in a 14-ft speed boat and don’t forget the mosquito repellent and the Gravol. The boat broke down and we had to jimmy-rig something. He got us out to the calmer spots and then I took over. I quickly discovered my father had walked the territory, had boated the territory, had trapped on the territory, so he had traditional and cultural knowledge of the land. We taped the trip and I had a notebook for story after story. It was a terrific learning experience. I loved going back to Monkey Beach. I hadn’t been back since I was a kid. The memory of the place and the physical reality of it were very different. FM:

How did this journey inspire The Sasquatch at Home?

ER:

That book actually came about because I am very bad at reading contracts. I was invited to give a keynote for the Henry Kreisel Lecture at the University of Alberta. I read the part [of the contract] where they discussed pay and where I would be staying and ignored the other four pages. Toward the end it said you will publish a version of this keynote within a year. I don’t think I would have gone into as many personal stories if I had known. It was a fun book to write and got me back into the swing. I thought about all the things I wanted to say, what I hadn’t said at the lecture, what I could do to round it all out. The way it came out was exactly what Dad taught me on the way to Monkey Beach; it came out as stories. I didn’t think that was the way I would write a non-fiction piece, but it was a very comfortable way to share information. I’ve written essays before and I find them a little alien, but that was my way of explaining.

FM:

What advice would you like to pass on to aspiring writers?

ER:

Be very, very gentle with yourself. Aspiring writers I’ve met beat themselves up for not showing people their work. If you’re not ready to show it, you don’t have to. Your first novel will probably have glaring technical issues; you are an information wrangler, trying to do it with style. The more you work at it, the better you get. Writing is something you can only learn by doing. If this is something you really want to do, it’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding.

Eden Robinson Biography: The author Thomas King said Robinson “is a real talent. Not only that, but she can handle a crowd as well as any pro I’ve seen.” Robinson, a Haisla/Heiltsuk First Nation writer, grew up in Kitamaat, a reserve on the northwest coast of British Columbia. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Victoria before completing a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. Robinson is one of Canada’s first female Aboriginal writers to gain international attention for her publications. Robinson won the uk’s Winifred Holtby Prize and had a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1998. She has been shortlisted for Canada’s Scotia Bank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award and has won bc's Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. She received the University of Victoria’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

Bibliography:

• The Sasquatch at Home: Traditional Protocols and Modern Storytelling (2011)

• Blood Sports (2006)

• Monkey Beach (2000)

• Traplines (1996)


Tthunu si’lu by Hayley Rickaby

* This poem is a combination of English and Hul‘q’umi’num’ language from the Cowichan Nation in British Columbia. Hul‘q’umi’num’ is an oral tradition, so many words were never written down or had multiple spellings. The full English translation of the poem follows.

Huyiwule lhakw’ tsitsulh, qu-qui’lum tthu stseelhtun sus kw’suts qw’ uyulush stutes tthu sq’umul’ as tthunu si’lu sus i’ enthe snuhwulh hun’shaqw tthu liqwul shkwitth’tsalus qa’ tu tthu Cowichan River. Tthunu si’lu is t’ut’I’t’ulum’ a st’ilum about tthu syuw’a’numa’ sus tthu sniwuyulth, sus on tthu spuhels i’enthe ts’elhum’ tthu lhelhuqum’ tu an shtun’ni’ws from hith.

Bald eagles fly above, eyeing the salmon and trout that dance near my paddle as my grandpa and I canoe across the calm blue water of the Cowichan River. My grandpa is singing a song about the first people and their teachings, and on the wind I hear the whispering of an ancestor from long ago.

Serenity Imtiaz Taj


Blub John Geddert

Old Salt by Molly Barrieau

H

is hoarse voice resonates across harbours and through walls. Philip Bruce Hildred, popularly referred to as “Bruce” since his teens, has been a seaman his whole life. “I made a life on the sea,” Bruce begins. “I fished everything there was.”

Sixty boats later, not much has changed. His diesel-stained jeans and holey socks reveal a man whose primary concerns reside with the welfare of the ships he builds and restores. His long, straw-like blond hair shows no sign of aging, however, his sun-damaged skin belies his years. A topless mermaid tattoo graces his right bicep, followed by the wren’s crest for his mother on his forearm, artistry by his older sister, Rosalind. His parents met during World War II, both in the Navy. His mother, Mynonie, joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service in England before traveling alone to Canada, giving birth to Rosalind on Salt Spring in the 1940s. His father, Philip, a house builder, sailor and photographer, promoted Bruce’s love of the water. Six weeks after he passed away, Mynonie suffered a heart attack, losing the function of half her heart. Bruce gave his heart to boats at 13, dropping out of high school to pursue the seaman’s life. “It didn’t teach me the difference between a troller and a trawler,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. (A trawler is a boat used in commercial fishing voyages. The troller is a fishing technique, trailing

the baited line behind the boat). He has, unsurprisingly, been a troller and owned a trawler. “I was the youngest skipper with the biggest boat on the west coast,” Bruce says. At 22, he owned “a 52-footer,” with more female deckhands than men. “My sister was one of the best.” Nearly two decades later Bruce set out to find a boat suited to meet the standards of a veteran skipper. “I went to Denmark and they had one. I bought the Lil’ Kristine on my 40th birthday,” Bruce says. “On a fisherman’s paycheque.” Bruce recalls his small, but familiar crew. “I had my nephew, my son, and my best friend with me.” “It was a decommissioned boat,” he continues as if letting me in on a secret, “I brought it around the world, on the radio operator’s license number….Nobody could speak Danish!” Beginning in Denmark, Bruce and his four-person crew traveled through the Bay of Biscay, off the coast of France, then southbound toward Madeira Island. Bruce recalls his fascination with the island, “It’s a big volcano where everybody lives around the edges.” Using his uncanny knowledge for water, he continued south, treading the path less-travelled, avoiding a popular route west from Portugal. “Everybody goes out there, you’ve got 1700 miles of ocean water to go across and you’re fighting current and tide the whole way.” Hitting the Cape Verde Islands on the 17th parallel, the large wooden vessel headed west toward the Caribbean. “We stopped in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, shut the engine off to change the oil, and swam.” Bruce remembers his son leaping from the top of the rigging. “Silas climbed up the top of the rigging and jumped.” “I was stuck in Panama for a couple of weeks,” he says. “There’s mangoes everywhere, you pick them up, take a bite, and throw them away.”

Non-Fiction

57


Old Salt

Continuing the trip from the canal, the unnamed, unregistered boat arrived in the Victoria Harbour where Bruce and his crew were welcomed with balloons. His young daughter, Karen, platinum blonde like her father, climbed onto the boat and swung from the rigging just as her brother had weeks before. In 2014, Karen gave birth to Bruce’s first granddaughter and “princess,” Westley Nova. Despite these near misses, Bruce is well-known for his bouts of bad luck. In August of 2001, while working with a faulty grinder, dozens of screw-like shards

hit Bruce like shrapnel. Unfortunately, one made it through his right eye, causing severe vision loss. He continues to work at Ladysmith Marine Services, a patron, hired hand, tenant, and one of the last boat corkers at the yard. Now Bruce nurses boats back to health the way he has himself, breathing life into their old bones before treating them to a new coat of rustcoloured bottom paint. “I shouldn’t be alive,” Bruce says. “If you write my story, no one’s going to believe you.”

There are mangoes everywhere. You pick them up, take a bite, and throw them away.

58

Non-Fiction

Klompenmakerij Yvonne Dubyna


With You by Doug Hopwood

o

n a windowsill, someone has laid out tiny souvenirs of European cities and made a miniature map of the continent for tourists a centimetre tall. Two Eiffel towers next to one another. We could each take the elevator to the top of one and call across in teeny voices, “Bonjour! Ca va?”

There is a London taxi cab, but I prefer the oldfashioned double-decker bus. Remember how we used to swing on to the platform while the bus was still rolling? We’ll go up the steep curved stair and all the way to the front. I’ll say, “Two for Piccadilly, please” and pay for both of us when the clippy comes for our fares. “Two bob” she’ll say, and I’ll give her half a crown and get a tenner for change. Here’s the Colosseum. Let’s get off. They were horrible to Christians and lions here—not that we are either. I’d rather stroll along the narrow cobblestone streets, under the flower-bedecked arch of the via della Pilota and along to Trevi fountain. With you here, what to wish for? I’ll toss in a few centimes for luck. Now we need that taxi. It’s a genuine Matchbox toy, made in England, with the empty space beside the driver for our suitcases. We’ll go right across to the Island of Cyprus. Did you know, for thousands of years, the people of Cyprus have felled and burned the native cypress trees to smelt the copper they mine here? That’s why the words for the island of Cyprus, the element copper, and the cypress tree are all from the same root. One day we will make a trip to a tiny village along the coast and find a little restaurant on the hill above town. We’ll order the fish, delicate fresh smelt, fried and served with tomatoes still warm from the sun, and onions and olive oil. The cook will send the little girl in a skirt with a red sash up the hill for wild greens for our salad. The table will be outdoors in the middle of an orchard of lemon trees and the waiter will bring the plates and reach up in the tree and pick a lemon. He’ll take a sharp knife

from his apron and his moustache will be very black and impressive and he will cut the lemon in two and set one half on each of our plates. The wine will be very cold and pale amber, clear and sharp with the taste of the pinewood barrels, and we will talk or not talk as we eat our meal. I know, it’s not really the island of Cyprus, it’s a souvenir ashtray of the island of Cyprus. I am not one centimetre tall; I am six feet, or I was before my shoulders stooped. You and I are not going to Paris, or London, or Rome, or anywhere, because there is no you, anymore, and for a long time now. I am standing in the rain, by myself, next to a dull green two-storey building in the cramped campus of a small college in a nondescript town somewhere in Canada, and I am on the outside looking in. Still, it is a very fine ashtray, with a picture of a cypress tree, perhaps hundreds of years old, tall and dark green and slender and pointy as a church spire.

I am not one centimetre tall; I am six feet, or I was before my shoulders stooped.

Next to the ashtray is a tiny white porcelain cup, the kind they will use to serve coffee after our meal in the outdoor café. The coffee is very strong and dark and sweet. After the coffee, we will sit under the shade of the cypress tree, leaning into its yielding bark. The warm air ascending the hillside will gather up the fragrances of the orchards and carry them to us, mingling with the distant peal of goat bells and the scent of salt from the sea. God, I love this place. Anywhere, with you, I am happy.

Fiction

59


Rained Out Reese Patterson

With His Ship by Courtney Poole

I

t had been years since he’d seen the north Atlantic as anything less than forbidding. Now, at dusk, when the air was still and the setting sun turned the sea to rose quartz, he could admit that there was some majesty to it.

Most men didn’t dare brave the waters north of the colonies, but his lady was built for it, reinforced at the bow and stern, with hundreds of cross-supports like ribs along her belly, and a wooden hull twice as thick. He built a special ice-breaking prow and her broadside cannons cut down her enemies in a hail of lead. Even her sails, glowing gold in the dying light, seemed impervious to the eager frost. Her wooden deck gave a long, mournful creak, howled as the ice nipped her. He ran a thick leather glove over a curved section of the wheel, as though in consolation. She would sail no further. “Captain,” called his first mate, stamping the chill out of his boots as he crossed the deck. “We’re ready to depart.” Far below, the whaleboat and a lifeboat bobbed in the water, sheltered by his lady’s great hull. “Good. Go now.” He clapped his first mate on the shoulder, squeezed it, and pushed him toward the ladder. “And what about you?” The man jammed his hands into his pockets. “You can’t—” “Go now. Get those men home safe.” “Captain—” “You have your orders,” the captain snapped and gave the man another shove, “and I have mine. Go.” The first mate nodded and descended to where the dinghies waited.

Now that he was alone, everything seemed so quiet. The ice groaned and the ship’s deck wailed as they both shifted in the cold. He could hear the squabbles of tottering great auks on a berg, they stretched their vestigial wings before diving into the frigid sea. He watched them through foggy breath in the sputtering light of his oil lamp and tried not to think about his crew in their tiny boats making their way for land. An hour or so later, he awoke to the sound of a scream. Whether it was his or the ship’s, he didn’t know; she was listing hard now, creaking as she filled with water through the wound in her belly. It lapped at his pants. He wouldn’t last long, for that he was grateful. He slid up the slope of the deck as far as he could, ignored the ice water tearing into his skin like shark’s teeth. Not yet. He remembered the first time he set eyes on her, was told he could have her, said her name in quiet reverence. He’d sung plenty of shanties about love, but he’d never loved anyone so much as this ship. Then she had badly needed work, new sails, and a crew, but now she stood broken upon the thick winter ice, empty except for him, her sails tearing where her mast leaned into the dark. He thought of how far he was from home and tipped his head up to the sky. Stars punched through the dark velvet, no moon lit the charcoal water. There was nothing left for him there. His hands itched. He ached to grab the wheel, have his crew unfurl the sails, and steer her out of this passage. Her white sails flapped, wet, and he wished for just one length of it to wrap up in as he waited, a fitting shroud. When the icy waters took him, it felt like fire, like absolution.

Ficiton

61


Cable’s Out Reese Patterson

The Last Farmer by Brendan Abbott

B

of his snowy fields from the back porch of his farmhouse. It faced east, and the rising April sun sprinkled through the treed ridge on the far side of his land. In the warm glow of the morning, the white gave way to brown. It would be a month before the soil thawed enough for him to work it. The faint scent of rotting summerfallow signaled spring’s inevitable arrival.

uck surveyed what he could

Buck stepped back inside and poured himself a cup of cheap drip coffee from a darkly stained carafe. He returned to the porch with his coffee, placed his tobacco kit on the small table, and sat in the only chair. Grinding, unnatural pain flared in his knuckles as he pinched some tobacco onto a rolling paper. The table was as old as the house, both built by his longpassed father, and though it wobbled it suited Buck just fine. White paint flaked away along its edges, revealing t he yellow his younger sister Anne painted some 40 years ago, and the blue his son Darcy repainted a dozen years after that. The cigarette was rolled smooth and even despite the betrayal of his joints, and he smoked it with great pleasure. Later that day, Darcy surprised him by driving from Edmonton in his new truck. Buck watched him pull up next to the farmhouse, his own truck falling into its imposing shadow. His Ford was nearly 30 years older and two feet closer to the ground.

He wondered if his farming forefathers felt this way when a tractor was parked in the horse stalls.

“What the hell is that?” Buck called out as Darcy jumped down from the driver’s side. “What’s what?”

62

Fiction

“That goddamn thing you just drove up in.” Buck kicked wet snow from one of the truck’s wheels, revealing matte black powder coating with chrome accents. “Jesus, Darcy, you know you might scratch something driving up to the farm, eh?” Buck laughed, then coughed, then hacked. They walked around back and as Darcy stepped onto the porch Buck said, “Get me a beer, would ya?” Buck pulled out his flask and took a swig before Darcy returned with two cold Lucky Lagers and sat on the step. “So, how’s it going, Dad?” “Oh, you know, lots of work. Combine is seized up all to shit so I might need to trade ’er in come harvest.” “How’s your back?” “Back’s fine.” “What about your knees?” “Fine, everything is fine. I’ll loosen up when it gets warmer.” They drank in silence. Buck rolled another cigarette and Darcy looked out at the fields he had grown up in and run from. “I brought you something. It’s in the truck. I thought, you know, you could use some help around here.” “I don’t need no goddamn help, Darcy.” “Maybe not, but another set of hands wouldn’t hurt. You’re 63 and I know...I know you never intended to do this all by yourself.” Buck coughed and spat. He took over the farm at 19;


his father had died of a heart attack at only 49. He had thought his own son would do the same. “Look, just wait here and I’ll go get it,” Darcy said before disappearing around the side of the house. Buck tried to imagine what insult his son would come back with: a cane, maybe, or Velcro shoes. Buck took a long swig of whiskey from his flask and tucked it in the inside pocket of his jacket when he heard Darcy’s footsteps crunching in the snow. Buck was unprepared for what he saw walk around the corner.

“What the hell is that?” “It’s...well it’s a robot. This Korean company is making them. This one is an agricultural model, supposed to learn the ropes in no time.” “I don’t want it.” “I’m not returning it, Dad. It’ll help. I’m leaving it here regardless.” “Like hell you are.”

Portal 2015

63


The Last Farmer

“Just park it in the barn or something, ok? Tell it what to do and it’ll do it.”

fields around him to make sure he had no witness and then instructed the robot step by step.

***

“Not bad.”

Two weeks later Buck stood at the door of the barn studying the robot and shaking his head between sips from his flask. It had no face, just two small lenses, and had the stature of an emaciated teenager, thin metal limbs and bulbous rubber gaskets around its joints. Even its purple paint job mocked Buck’s life-long loyalty to John Deere green. He wondered if his farming forefathers felt this way when a tractor was parked in the horse stalls. He climbed up on the tractor and tried the ignition. The engine cranked, but refused to start.

He felt, briefly, a sense of pride, though not the same as when he looked upon his golden fields. It was too easy. “Get me a beer, would ya? From the fridge inside.” It reappeared with the beer seconds later, a trail of muddy footprints heading to and from the back door.

“Fuck’s sake,” Buck said to himself, and the robot turned its head. He hopped down and groaned at the aches in his joints. He was being watched so he stood up straight, spat, and walked outside to the stilted fuel tank near the silos. Rust showed through the flaking paint like scar tissue. He filled one of the nearby jerry cans with farm fuel, then headed back across the muddy yard. His fist locked from the pain in his hand and the bones between his shoulders ached. The jerry can fell from his hand and sank into the grassy muck, nested upright. When he got to the porch, he rested and rolled another smoke. He sat in his chair and his right hand curled inward. He pried the fingers open with his left hand and pressed his palm to the table. The robot was half way to the jerry can before Buck noticed. He thought to yell at it, but his curiosity got the better of him. The robot picked up the jerry can effortlessly, walked in a small semicircle, and headed back toward the barn in its own footprints. Buck held out the paper and pinched tobacco onto it, but his stiff, spring-loaded knuckles made rolling impossible and he spilled tobacco. He flung his hat by its frayed brim into the yard. The robot was standing empty-handed at the barn door looking in his direction. Buck’s exertion brought on a coughing fit that ended in a hollow rattle. He waved at the robot and it came immediately. “Roll me a goddamn smoke.” It glanced at the table and at Buck before squatting easily. It took the crinkled paper between two of its dexterous, rubber-tipped fingers and waited. Buck surveyed the

64

Fiction

“Ah, shit.” *** Buck leaned against the barn door, beer in hand, watching the robot smoothly empty the jerry can into the tractor. Old black rubber boots were stretched over its metal feet. Buck climbed up on the tractor, put his beer in the cup holder, and started it. He drove to the stilted fuel tank and topped up the tank. The robot walked along behind him, its steps made slightly awkward by the boots. “Follow me, Tin Man.” Buck drove up through the mire to where the spring sunshine had baked the earth dry enough to till. He parked the tractor and idly sipped his beer, the robot standing by. “Fuck it.” He got off the tractor and ordered the robot up. Once it was seated, he climbed onto the side so he could lean over the robot’s shoulder. “There’s your ignition. That’s the gas. That’s the brake. That’s the clutch. Use that to put it in gear. Use that to lower the tiller.” He pointed to each in turn. He’d taught Darcy the same thing 20 years ago. Darcy had stalled it. After its first pass, Buck lowered the tiller an inch and let the robot work.

***

By August, Buck’s fields were gilded in wheat. He sat in his chair on the porch. On the table were 12 perfectly rolled cigarettes and seven empty cans of Lucky Lager. The robot drove the combine, no longer needing instructions. Buck held up his beer in salute when the robot drove past, but it didn’t look. Buck sighed, kicked off his boots, and began picking idly at the table’s faded flakes of blue and yellow. His mind wandered to thoughts of horses.

Outerstellar Jon Hiebert


PORTAL 2015

65


Book Reviews The winner of the Rogers Writer’s Trust Fiction prize, and shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller prize, Miriam Toews’ sixth novel is a heartbreaking and tender account of the Von Riesen sisters, Yolandi and Elfrieda. Elf wants nothing more than to die, and repeatedly tries to end her own life, while Yoli wants nothing more than to save her: “She wanted to die and I wanted her to live and we were enemies who loved each other.”

All My Puny Sorrows Miriam Toews Knopf Canada, 2014 321 pages ISBN 978-0-345-80800-4 $29.95 Reviewed by Heather Gregor y

Elf is a world-renowned pianist with an adoring fan base and husband —the formula, by all accounts, for success and happiness. Yet since she was a teenager, she has been unhappy and unsatisfied with her life. The Von Riesen family grew up in a small Mennonite community in Manitoba where its strict religious leaders frowned upon Elf’s passion for music and desire for knowledge: “Public enemy number one for these men was a girl with a book.” Despite pianos being forbidden inside the home, Elf is given one as a troubled child and defiantly throws herself into learning music, leaving home at 17 to study in Oslo. The other family members are also outsiders in their community; their mother defies Mennonite tradition, and their father commits suicide by throwing himself in front of a train. Yoli is the writer of a series of children’s books about rodeos and a self-described indiscriminate lover. She has two children by two different men and a life that she is struggling to keep together. She idolizes her sister and can’t understand why Elf wants to die.

66

Book Reviews

Yoli rushes to Elf’s side when she is hospitalized and tries to love her back to life even when it is clear Elf wants none of it. Elf begs Yoli to take her to Switzerland so that she can die legally and with her sister by her side, but Yoli struggles with what it would mean to help her sister end her life, and wonders if it is the only way to keep her from suffering. Yoli’s thoughts are at once both stumbling and eloquent. Toews forgoes quotation marks in dialogue so the story tumbles forward, both exhausting and exhilarating. Yoli is everywhere at once, stretching herself thin trying to save her sister, to be a good daughter to her mother, a good mother to her own children, to keep afloat her floundering career, and to reconcile her second failed marriage: “Airport, car door, buy a shower curtain, get divorced. I spoke aloud to myself .... Airport, car door, get divorced. There was something else I’d forgotten.” Toews asks difficult questions of the reader. When should one be allowed to die? Is wanting to die enough reason to do so? What does it mean to help someone end his or her life? Toews lost her own sister and father to suicide. While All My Puny Sorrows is a work of fiction, Toews explores the right to legally end one’s life with dignity. Toews does not take a definitive stance, but challenges her readers to do so. All My Puny Sorrows is both difficult and beautiful. It is a timely addition to the conversation on the right to choose and a venturesome work of fiction.


The twins are high school dropouts, wandering the city and living a frivolous and hedonistic existence. Yet their lives are overshadowed by the infamy of their father, the abandonment by their mother, and their own desperate struggles to become more than what the public perceives. O’Neill emulates the unique and dryly humorous voice of one of Canada’s other leading literary ladies, Miriam Toews. Like Toews, O’Neill creates an effortlessly cool and seemingly carefree heroine, who finds herself surrounded by remarkable and idiosyncratic supporting characters. The Girl Who Was Saturday Night Heather O’Neill HarperCollins 2014 403 pages ISBN 978-144344-245-9 $22.99 CAN Reviewed by Sarah Corsie In her sophomore novel, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, Heather O’Neill returns to Montreal, this time during the mid-90s Quebec referendum. Nouschka and Nicolas Tremblay, 19-yearold twins who have grown up as minor celebrities due to their father Étienne Tremblay’s folk music career and scandalous downfall, live in poverty with their elderly grandfather, Loulou. They share a dangerously codependent relationship, one that is somehow both toxic and endearing.

Despite this association, O’Neill’s voice is entirely her own. The Girl Who Was Saturday Night reads almost like poetry. No sentence is wasted, not a single word superfluous. Each image, no matter how simplistic, is drawn in metaphoric language that is plainly beautiful. It is exotic and familiar at the same time, fitting the intelligent and hopelessly adrift Nouschka, our narrator. The story revolves around the Tremblays, but is less about family and more about the desperate struggle to stay afloat within the space between loneliness and independence. Nouschka and her brother Nicolas are “two parts of a whole,” their lives inextricably tied to each other’s to the point of stunting any personal development. The only thing that differentiates the twins is how they choose to assert themselves as separate from the

created personas that have haunted them since their father forced them to perform alongside him for the masses of adoring Québécois. Nicolas, rebellious and reckless, resorts to petty crime, while Nouschka seeks the thrill of new lovers and being desired for more than her unwanted fame. The legacy of their father has soured to become a mockery of their current lives, as revealed in a documentary meant to capture the rise of the fallen star, but that only exposes the cracks in the crumbling facade. The Girl Who Was Saturday Night was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Heather O’Neill’s debut novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals, was the Canada Reads pick of 2007, winner of the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction, and shortlisted for both the Governor General’s Award and the Orange Prize for Fiction. Her writing is acclaimed for its unique voice, and the magically animate city of Montreal plays the role of both setting and character in her novels, making them both inherently Canadian and romantically foreign. The Girl Who Was Saturday Night is a story of tragedy, love, and the symbiosis of these two inescapable elements. No one will be saved, but no one wants to be, and all that one can do is “keep moving forward, even though it might be awful and strange and difficult.”

Portal 2015

67


Medicine Walk draws immediate comparisons to Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Wagamese’s protagonist, Franklin Starlight, is referred to throughout Medicine Walk as “the kid,” as was the protagonist of Blood Meridian. While McCarthy’s story primarily concerned itself with the “how” of violence and inhumanity on the frontier of the American West, Wagamese’s story explores the “why” of violence, specifically that directed at the self and loved ones.

Medicine Walk Richard Wagamese McClelland & Stewar t, 2014 246 pages ISBN 077108918X $29.95 Reviewed by Lucas Baird Richard Wagamese’s Medicine Walk is a parable about relationships, a culpability for sadness, and an exploration of ‘manhood’ set against the imagery of the Canadian outback. Wagamese was born in 1955 in Ontario, and currently resides in Kamloops, bc. He has seen acclaim as an author, producer, broadcaster, and as a journalist for the Calgary Herald. Medicine Walk is Wagamese’s 11th published work and his ninth novel, following 2012’s Indian Horse, winner of the 2013 Burt Award for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Literature.

68

Book Reviews

Franklin, a mixed race cowboy, is tasked by his caretaker, “the old man,” with attending to Franklin’s dying, estranged father, a drunkard with a bum liver named Eldon. Eldon requests that Franklin take him to a ridge in the wilderness where he will die a “warrior’s death,” buried so that he may follow the sun. Eldon is intent on using the trip to explain to Franklin why they have lived apart, and the fate of the kid’s mother. Through Eldon’s recollections, we come to understand him and his sometimes vicious, unreliable behaviour towards the kid. Where violence in Blood Meridian is cast as a pervasive element of the human experience, Medicine Walk reveals how violence is an option Eldon chooses himself. He appears emotionally neglectful and unreliable, but through his reminiscence about war, his mother, Franklin’s mother, and his everpresent alcoholism, the reader sees how his life became something other than his own. On pages 86-87, Eldon’s drive is explored as he chats with his childhood friend, Jimmy, and speaks to the narrative’s multi-generational patriarchal anxiety: “Takes more’n that.”

“Oh, yeah. Like what?” “I dunno. I guess ya kinda gotta be like them guys in the stories.” “White guys?” “No. Heroes.” “Like your dad?” He remembered looking at the sky…. He felt the sting of tears .... “Yeah,” he said. “Like that.” Using “the kid” for Franklin deepens the story’s focus on manhood and parenthood. While Franklin behaves more maturely than his father, Franklin is nevertheless still the child in the relationship. Both Eldon and Franklin are defined by the absence of a mother and their subsequent relationships with their fathers. Through these parallels, and the subsequent breaks from convention, Wagamese constructs a narrative that is polemical, to use a term coined by the writer Thomas King in his essay “Godzilla vs. Post-Colonial.” The kid reveals the meaning of a medicine walk 65 pages into the book: “Everything a guy would need is here if you want it and know how to look for it.... You gotta spend time gatherin’ what you need. What you need to keep you strong. [The old man] called it a Medicine Walk.” Eldon has prepared a Medicine Walk so the kid can continue living and gain small comfort in dying. Wagamese manages to craft a prosaic and engrossing work describing gorgeous wilderness and the decay common to rural Canadian towns. The most impressive feat of Medicine Walk is its capacity to heal both its reader and its protagonist in turn.


Sweetland is Michael Crummey at his best: examining the tone and timbre of Newfoundland, and the nuances of the people who live there. When the government offers $100,000 in a resettlement package to move off of the isle of Sweetland, most of its residents jump at the chance to escape the day-to-day hardships of Atlantic Canada. All, that is, except Moses Sweetland, who shares his name with the island. Unwilling to relinquish his home, Sweetland perseveres through months of angry letters and macabre threats until a tragic accident finally prompts him to sign.

Sweetland Michael Crummey Doubleday Canada, 2014 320 pages ISBN: 978-0385663168 $32.00 Reviewed by Jessica Key

He does not, however, plan to actually leave the island. Sweetland fakes his own death shortly before the last ferry leaves the island and spends the ensuing months living off the land with only his neighbour’s left-behind dog for company. The ornery old man clinging to his home may sound like a trope, but Crummey’s talent for quirky characters makes all the residents of Chance Cove become distinct and alive. From the loveless neighbour Loveless, the bawdy Priddle brothers, and the Harlequin-addicted shut-in Queenie (who gave Sweetland window-stripteases as a teenager), the novel certainly is not missing any colour despite the desolate landscape.

brand of dark, dry humour matches the piece’s overarching theme of mortality. In interviews, Crummey has mused on the notion of a “new Newfoundland,” but this novel seems almost a eulogy to the fishing towns of past. His strength as a poet shines here, with lyrical language and an eye for detail. The descriptions are vivid and evocative, and enough to make even the most far away reader understand the uniquely bleak beauty of the east coast of Canada—though they might have to Google some of the jargon. Crummey grew up in Buchans, Newfoundland and is the author of five books of poetry, one short story collection, and three other novels: River Thieves, The Wreckage, and Galore. He has won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Writer’s Trust Timothy Findley Award for outstanding body of work by a writer midcareer. He has also been a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award (including one for this title), the impac Dublin Literary Award, Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and the Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Award.

The focus on the island, and on Sweetland himself, is told through flashbacks that reveal present realities—like an explanation for Sweetland’s scarred face. The book is a slow build, moving from the threats of severed rabbit heads to playful incidents that are funny yet haunting. Crummey’s distinct

Portal 2015

69


and a bird sang Diane Bestwick Self-published, 2014 287 Pages ISBN 978-1-499662160 $15.00 Reviewed by Danielle Cunningham

The novel and a bird sang is an emotionally-charged account of a Han Chinese woman’s second pregnancy under China’s onechild policy. Diane Bestwick shakes her audience out of the comfort of their western lives and immerses them into a world where unimaginable inequality and corruption still exists.

Spirit,” while birds are revisited on occasion to maintain thematic consistency with the story’s title. Birds and their nests are utilized to represent the family values Lei cherishes. The vulture is used to denote negativity and characterizes the antagonist, Gang, who is determined to tamper with Lei’s plans.

In a country where women “must decide between subservient obedience or honouring their inner voices,” Lei is overcome with the desire to keep her unborn child against a rigid, unforgiving, government-enforced policy. Subsequent troubles in her marriage, employment, and safety arise as Lei fights to protect the life of her second child.  

The novel is an immersion into the impoverished conditions that residents in China’s countryside experience, imparting the reader with knowledge of regional customs and landscapes. Individuals embrace strong familial values that are mirrored in action and dialogue.

Bestwick seamlessly incorporates details of China’s modern and traditional customs, politics, history, geography, and religion, making the country come alive. Though the names of characters have been altered, the storyline is inspired by true experiences Bestwick’s colleagues shared with her from 2003–2011 when she taught four one-hour esl classes daily to 58 students aged 15-17. First-hand accounts from Chinese women living under strict government policy inspired the story’s perspective, but Bestwick’s personal knowledge of China is underscored in content reaching far beyond issues of female empowerment. Despite the wide gap that exists between North American and Asian cultures, Bestwick effortlessly introduces unfamiliar experiences and Chinese expressions. In doing so, she enhances the story’s authenticity. Characters are personified using symbolic Chinese figures, such as the “Ox Demon” and the “Snake

70

Book Reviews

The reader is intimately involved in the life of the protagonist and her family. Each chapter is unpredictable and stirs emotion and suspense while making the reader empathetic toward women who struggle against a profound gender bias. Bestwick, now 72, has retired from teaching in favour of being a grandmother to her six grandchildren. She has considered writing a sequel to and a bird sang and is an advocate for international women’s rights. Bestwick donates all proceeds from book sales to an orphanage where she and her students volunteered in Tianjin, Northern China.


work. It is with this in mind that Toronto small press BookThug has put together bp: beginnings, a collection of some of Nichol’s earliest and most important formative work. This serves as both a catalogue of significant rarities for avid Nichol fans and collectors, as well as a primary introduction to Nichol’s unconventional poetics. Stephen Cain, the book’s editor, includes a 28-page introduction wherein he discusses the importance of each of Nichol’s included works, the unique challenges of translating such nuanced poetry to the page (especially in instances of typographic or concrete poetry), and specific changes or origins of works included. The insight by a writer steeped in Nichol’s works is invaluable and helps make this volume more than just a general assembly. bp: beginnings edited by Stephen Cain BookThug, 2014 251 pages ISBN: 978-1-77166-03508 $23.00 Reviewed by Philip Gordon If you’ve dipped more than a toe into the ocean of Canadian literature, you have heard the name bpNichol. Born in 1944 as Barrie Phillip Nichol, he was one of the earliest progenitors of concrete and sound poetry, and his life long Martyrology series taught the world how to play with language. bpNichol completed over 30 volumes of writing, not including chapbooks, miniature publications, limited edition folios, and other miscellanea. Despite such a large volume of work, fans of Nichol’s poetry can find it challenging to locate his older and more obscure

All the material included is arranged chronologically by publication and Cain takes great care to explain the nuances of Nichol’s publication history, including the different ways he spelled his name before settling on the “bpNichol” we know and love today. The poetry itself is an interesting journey through Nichol’s different styles and themes. The first included volume, Cycles Etc., opens with a series of typographic and concrete poems, continued in the second collection, eyes. Journeying & the Returns is our first glimpse into Nichol’s more traditional poetry, laden with the curt but emotional phrases that make Nichol’s work so powerful. In the second canto of the poem’s first sequence, he gives us: “a hawk / circling / eyes / the foot’s slight displacement / of a leaf //

hangs // drops // struggles / in the sombre green.” In sequence two, canto two, Nichol’s romantic heart begins to bleed onto the page: “lying here, / watching the candle flame, / I hold you / and hear the rain.” There’s a bit of everything in bp: beginnings. Clocking in at just over 250 pages, the book includes 10 of Nichol’s early publications. The sheer volume of material can be a bit overwhelming at times. Ordering the book chronologically is an effective way to show the progression of Nichol’s craft, but it means that monotonous sections of more traditional verse aren’t broken up by any of the visual or experimental poetry that made Nichol famous. By the same token, fans of Nichol’s plainer poetry will have to dig through several volumes before they reach the bulk of straightforward writing at the end. Critiquing Nichol’s early poetry at this point feels a bit like critiquing Shakespeare, but it’s enough to say that it’s less refined than Nichol’s later work, though charming in its adolescence. bp: beginnings as a whole functions as a perfect glimpse into the past; it gives us an artefact of poetry’s evolution through the eyes of one of its most thoughtful practitioners. For the CanLit fan unfamiliar with Nichol’s formative work, bp: beginnings is a superb place to start. For the completely uninitiated, however, it might prove a bit daunting, with no effort made to smooth the transitions between Nichol’s styles or highlight the best. Still, as Nichol himself says in the introduction to The Other Side of the Room: “If you want to start somewhere, you should start at the beginning.”

Portal 2015

71


Contributor Bios Brendan Abbott is a fourth-year Creative Writing student at viu. He also studied Photographic Technology at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton. Sean Anderson is a fourth-year Art and Graphic Design student. This is his first publication. More of his work can be seen on Instagram @bromunkey. Lucas Baird is in the fourth year of his ba program, majoring in Creative Writing. He received the Meadowlark Award for Fiction in 2014 and forgot to remove his sunglasses while accepting the accolade. He is very rock and roll. Molly Barrieau is in her third year, working towards a major in Creative Writing and a minor in Modern Languages, with a focus in French. She has worked for The Navigator for two years, as a copyeditor and the Online Content Reporter, and has had several published articles. She received the Chancellor’s Aboriginal Excellence Scholarship in her first year at viu. Chloe de Beeld is a third-year Graphic Design student at viu. In 2014, she placed second in the Crime Stoppers Poster contest and was a finalist in the viu Theatre Department’s Man of la Mancha Poster Design contest. She has received tuition scholarships as well as the Pacific Horizons Scholarship. She would like to thank Ellen McCluskey for her mentorship in the Design Photography II class. Sarah Corsie recently graduated with a ba from viu, with a major in Psychology and a minor in English. She is currently Portal’s Senior Fiction Editor, and her photos “Green Waterfall” and “Magical Mushrooms” were featured in Portal 2014. She worked on the editorial team that prepared titles by Dennis Lee and Michael Crummey for The Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poets Lecture Series. She has also been an editorial assistant to Cynthea Masson for her novel The Alchemist’s Council to be published with ecw Press in 2016, and has been a copy editor for Lachesis Publishing in Ottawa. She plans to pursue a Masters in Publishing. Jennifer Cox is a fourth-year Creative Writing major and Liberal Studies minor at viu. She has been a Feature Editor for Trio magazine and has written lifestyle articles for The Ottawa Citizen, Island Parent, About Town, and Comox Valley Record.  She is also a regular contributor to The Navigator.  In January 2015, she wrote and directed The Dance, performed by the Satyr Players in the viu One-Act Festival. Stephanie Crawford is a third-year Creative Writing major at viu with a focus on fiction and poetry. “Under the Dark” and “Chilkoot Trail Mile 16.5” are her first publications. Danielle Cunningham is a fourth-year Business and Journalism student with a focus on International Marketing and Public Relations. She is the Business and Advertising Manager for Portal 2015 and is part of the non-fiction editorial team. She is the Director of Communications for the the Business Students’ Association at viu and is helping to coordinate this year’s Vancouver Island Leadership Conference (vilc). Elissa Doerkson is a ba student majoring in Digital Media. “Night at the Carnival” was showcased in the ppoc-bc Northern Branch Salon in 2013. She thanks her mentor, Tineke Ziemer, of Northern Persona Photography who has helped to develop her work.

72

Contributor Bios


Yvonne Dubyna is a third-year Anthropology major and Creative Writing minor at viu. She is one of the launch coordinators for Portal 2015. Reid Eccles is a fourth-year student working towards a ba degree at viu with a major in Creative Writing. “Amontillado” is his first published work and was developed under the guidance of Jay Ruzesky. Bryce Gardiner is a third-year Digital Media student at viu. This is his first publication. John Geddert is a third-year Liberal Studies major and First Nations Studies minor. Last year he lived in Florence for a viu field school. His photo “Blub” was taken on the “Hill of the Crosses” in Florence, Italy. Philip Gordon is a Creative Writing student from Vancouver Island, an editor of the literary magazine text, and a reader for PANK. His work has been published in Vallum, The Puritan, The YOLO Pages, theNewerYork, (parenthetical), and others. His work “Noise” and “How to Write a Poem for a Girl You Like” were published in Portal 2014. He can be found at twitter.com/greymusic_ and grey-music.tumblr.com. Sean Gordon is a fourth-year Graphic Design student at viu. His artwork “Masks” and “ZZZ” were published in Portal 2013. Heather Gregory is a fourth-year student working towards a ba degree with a major in Creative Writing and a minor in Philosophy. She is Portal 2015’s Book Review and Acquisitions Editor and in 2014 was Managing Editor and Fiction Editor. Her short story “About Me” and a review for Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth appeared in Portal 2014 when she won the Jason Mayes Memorial Scholarship. She worked as an Editorial Assistant on the Dennis Lee and Michael Crummey titles for The Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poets Lecture Series, and is currently the School Liaison for Nanaimo Children’s BookFest. Jon Hiebert is enrolled in the Healthcare Assistant program at viu. He has submitted several pieces of artwork and comics to The Navigator. His creatures, monsters, comics, and otherworldly images can been seen at zhectoid.deviantart.com Doug Hopwood graduated with a bsc in Forestry from ubc in 1990. He has done technical writing, but thanks Susan Juby and a supportive group of fellow writing students for renewing his interest in memoir and personal essays. He attended a Basement Writing Workshop in 2010 with Kerry Washington and a one-week creative non-fiction class with Tom Henry in 1999 at the Victoria School of Writing. He was the winner of the 2014 viu True Story Slam. Emily Johnston is a third-year Graphic Design student at viu. Her artwork “The Shack Islands” and “The World Inside Me” were printed in Portal 2014. She has designed brochures, programs, ads, posters, artwork and logos for various local businesses and music and dance organizations. She has received bc’s Dogwood and viu’s Aboriginal Chancellors Entrance scholarships, the Nanaimo Arts Council Achievement Bursary, and the Christie Marilee Memorial, Beginner’s Painting, and Graphic Design Faculty awards. Wen Ke is a Graphic Design major at viu. “Metamorphosis” is inspired by Franz Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis. Wen would like to thank Rick Conroy for his mentorship in artg 342 on this project. Jessica Key is a fourth-year Creative Writing major at viu, working on a minor in Journalism. She is Portal 2015’s Managing Editor and has previously been Senior Non-Fiction Editor and Feature Writer, as well as serving on the Board of Directors for The Navigator. She was privileged to work as an editorial assistant on The Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poets Lecture Series, consulting on the Dennis Lee and Michael Crummey editions. She has previously been published in Portal 2014 and Incline, viu’s online news magazine, and her story “Layers” won third prize in the viu True Story Slam in 2014.

Portal 2015

73


Matt Lineker is a first-year Graphic Design major at viu. He is the winner of the 2014 President’s Award at Nanaimo Christian school, the Dogwood District Authority Award for Photography in 2014, the Governor General Academic Medal in 2014 as the top academic student at his school, and the Passport to Education Scholarship in 2012 and 2014. He would like to thank Josh Patience for his mentorship. “Pulled Back” is his first published work. Kent MacDonald is a first-year Graphic Design student at viu. “Crystalliferous” and “Engulf” are his first publications. Corinna Maier is a second-year student in the ba program with a major in Graphic Design. She had two art pieces displayed in 2013 at a local art show and has done some event photography. She was the recipient of an entrance scholarship from viu in her first year, as well as a scholarship upon high school graduation. She has been selected two years in a row for a scholarship from the Promotional Products Professionals of Canada Association, and in 2014 was awarded a scholarship from the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board. She would like to thank Ellen McCluskey for her mentorship and for instilling a passion for photography. Francine McCabe is in her final year at viu finishing a ba in Creative Writing. She is the past recipient of the Mary Garland Coleman Prize in Lyrical Poetry and was awarded the 2014 Pat Bevan Scholarship for Creative Writing. She is currently an intern with Brindle & Glass, a Victoria-based publishing house. She has worked for two years as Student Journal Production Assistant for Relational Child and Youth Care Practice. This is her second year on the Portal masthead; last year she was the Senior Poetry Editor and the Book Review Editor. She is planning a future in the publishing industry. Lorin Medley is a fourth-year viu Creative Writing Major from Comox, bc with poetry and fiction published in Portal and The Island Word, and a feature article published in the Comox Valley Record. Published works include “Origami” and “Unspooled” in Portal 2013 and 2014; “Sacred Bells Susurrus” in Portal 2013; “Bonding,” “Irene Gone,” “Coho,” and “Pink Lady” in The Island Word 2009; and “On Valentine’s Day, where does your heart lie?” in Comox Valley Record 2007. Her short story “Oh, Lamb” won first prize in the 2014 Islands Short Fiction Contest. She has attended writing workshops with Harold Rhenisch and Jack Hodgins, studied fiction with Steve Schoenhoff, Anne Ireland, Kathy Page, and Steve Guppy, pursued poetry with Brad Robinson, Marilyn Bowering, and Robert Hilles; and co-edited Dennis Lee’s title in The Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poets Lecture Series. Gisèle Merlet is a senior student at viu who graduated in 2005 with a Liberal Studies degree. She is now working on a degree in Creative Writing. Her short stories “Ultreïa” and “Only Angels Roamed” were published in Portal in 2012 and 2014. She won third place in a short story contest held by the Nanaimo Arts Council for “The Leather Pouch” in 2012. She also received the Bill Juby Award in 2013. She would like to thank Joy Gugeler for working with her on a directed study to get her collection of 14 short stories ready for publication. Leah Myers is a Creative Writing major, graduating in spring 2015. A photojournalism transfer student, she placed second in the 2011 student photography category of the Ontario Community Newspaper Association Awards. She has been published in community newspapers across Canada and served as Managing Editor for viu’s The Navigator from 2013-2015. This is her first poetry publication. Samantha Oldaker is a Philosophy and Psychology student working towards her ba. “Solitude” is her first publication. Reese Patterson is a fourth-year Graphic Design student at viu and the designer for Portal 2015. His art and design work has been displayed around downtown Nanaimo and he was the winner of the 2013 Nanaimo Crime Stoppers Ad Campaign contest. He won an award for Overall Excellence in Graphic Design at viu in 2014. He also designed the cover for Portal 2014. Jordan Peterman is a third-year ba student at viu majoring in Anthropology. He is new to creative writing and has been inspired by Creative Writing professor Susan Juby and the workshopping process. This is his first published work. Courtney Poole is a second-year ba student majoring in Creative Writing with a minor in Psychology, but she has previously studied Biology at uvic. Her writing was developed under the guidance of Creative Writing professor Robert Hilles. “With His Ship” is her first publication.

74

Contributor Bios


Emily Reekie is an undeclared undergraduate student, focusing on Creative Writing. She previously attended York University and won third prize in The Flying Walrus’s flash fiction contest for the 2012 Winter edition. She would like to thank Susan Juby and Robert Hilles for their invaluable mentorship. Jessica Reid is a fourth-year Graphic Design student at viu. For over six years she has specialized in creating company brands, one of which won first place in viu’s Entrepreneurship Competition. She received the Student Graphic Design Award from the Graphic Designers Society of Canada. Her work has been published in Portal multiple times and she was recently featured on theWiredBeach.ca Hayley Rickaby is a fourth-year Creative Writing student at viu. Her short story “A Walk In The Park” was published in Portal 2014, her poem “Helen” was published by Silver Birch Press in 2014, and her non-fiction piece about the Vancouver Island Self-Publishing Conference was published on the Federation of bc Writers website in 2015. After she completes her ba in Creative Writing she plans to enroll in viu’s Education Assistant program. Hannah Smith is a fourth-year viu student working towards a ba in English with a minor in Creative Writing. “It Could Never Happen to Me” is her first published work. She would like to thank Keith Harrison for his guidance. Spenser Smith is a first-year ba student majoring in Creative Writing. His poem “Giver” was published in The Navigator and SKY Magazine in October 2014. His photos “Wally” and “Into the Sun” have been published in The Navigator and text in October and December 2014. He would like to thank his friend and mentor Bryan Eneas for helping to develop his work and photography skills. Helena Snopek is a third-year Liberal Studies major and English minor at viu. She won the Morris Donaldson Memorial Scholarship in 2013, the Helen “Nellie” Keigan Memorial Award in 2014, and the second-year English Department Essay Competition in 2014. Her poems “Repatriation” and “West Coast Baptism” were featured in Portal 2014. Antony Stevens is a games critic and poet studying Creative Writing and Journalism at viu. He has written game reviews for a number of online publications, most recently Canada.com. He is a performance poet, loves anti-formalist games, and holds his breath as he writes. Imtiaz Taj is a third-year Psychology student. He graduated in 1990 with a Fine Arts degree in Theatre Arts, Journalism, and Fine Arts Photography from the Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. He has exhibited in nyc Pittsburgh, Bloomsburg, Rochester, and Toronto, among other cities. A founding member of Bloom Magazine, bup's literary and fine arts journal, he has been reporting and photographing for over 20 newspapers and journals in the past 25 years. Even in today’s digital age, he prefers to use his 35mm and medium format cameras. Rio Trenaman is a fourth-year Graphic Design student and received the William and Peggy Mawhinney Memorial Scholarship in 2009. “Rat,” “Victor,” and “Dual” are his first publications. Kelly Whiteside is a third-year Creative Writing student at viu. She also works as Production Manager for The Navigator. Her poem “Fragile” was published in Portal 2014. Rob Wilson is a second-year Journalism and Digital Media student whose photos “Crossed Lines” and “Gothic Sandstone” were featured in the inaugural issue of text magazine in 2014. A self-taught photographer, he has been practicing photography since 2012. His photographs can be found at throughalensdarklyphotography.tumblr.com. Rose Willow has a history degree from the University of Waterloo and is working on a second degree in Creative Writing at viu. Her short stories and poetry have been published in The Society 2013 and 2014, The Write Stuff 2014, and Spring. She has also written for Horticultural Magazine and Senior Lifetimes. In 2013, she won first prize for the short story contest in Senior Lifetimes and third prize for poetry in the Tisdale Writers Group Inc. In 2014, she won first prize for short fiction, and second prize for poetry, from the Tisdale Writers Group Inc. She has attended workshops by Myrna Kostash, Tom Wyman, Harold Rhenisch, and Sue Wheeler, where “Shucking” was first developed.

Portal 2015

75


80

GENRE TITLE


1861 Dufferin Crescent www.thebuzzcoffeehouse.ca


Nicol Street Pawnbrokers www.nicolpawn.ca

250 753-3355

Shop online or at 124 Nicol Street Collateral Loans 7-Days a week Only Mid-island source for Tippmann Paintball Gear & Peavey Electronics Huge selection of new/used Jewellery Open late Thurs & Fridays West Coast Native Art Musical Instruments

Profile for VIU Portal Magazine

Portal 2015  

This is the 24th edition of Portal Magazine, created by the students at VIU

Portal 2015  

This is the 24th edition of Portal Magazine, created by the students at VIU

Advertisement