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 PRISM
internationa
3 / SPRING 2014  PRISM internationa
NON-FICTION CONTEST
GRAND PRIZE
''Reunion" by Re'Lynn Hansen
FIRST RUNNER-UP
"Almost-Home" by Julia Zarankin
SECOND RUNNER-UP
"Notes on Breath" bv Jenny Boychuk
JUDGE    Timothy Taylor
CONTEST MANAGER    JeffreyRicker
READERS
Rosemary Anderson, Nadine Bachan, KelleyTish Baker
Michelle Barker, Tanya Bellehumeur-Allatl, Nicole Boyce
Connie Braun, Jane Campbell, Jennifer Chen
Kayla Czaga, Ruth Daniell, Rhett Davis
Charles-Adam Foster-Simard, Sierra Skye Gemma
Andrea Hoff, Keri Kortelling, Jennifer Lori
Colette Maitland, Hanako Masutani, Zach Matteson
Claire Mai thews, Kim McCullough, Matt Snell
Michelle Turner, Nikki Vogel, Matthew Walsh, Catherine Yoiin RISM
nternationa
PROSE EDITOR
POETRY EDITOR
EXECUTIVE EDITORS
ASSOCIATE EDITORS
ONLINE EDITOR
ADVISORY EDITOR
DESIGNER
EDITORIAL BOARD
COPY EDITOR
EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS
Jane Campbell
Zachary Matteson
Andrea Hoff
Sierra Skye Gemma
Nicole Boyce
Clara Kumagai
Jennifer Lori
Rob Taylor
Charles-Adam Foster-Simard
Rhea Tregebov
andrea bennett
Rosemary Anderson
Nadine Bachan
Nicole Boyce
Sonal Champsee
Kayla Czaga
Kate Edwards
Tara Gilboy
Melissa Janae
Ellen Keith
Laura Kraemer
Julia Leggett
Jennifer Lori
Claire Matthews
Matt Maylon
Kim McCullough
Lindy Parker-Vega
Beth Pond
Rob Taylor
Laura Trerhewey
Matthew Walsh
Rosemary Anderson
Christopher Evans
Selenna Ho
Gabrielle Lieberman PRLSM international, a magazine of contemporary writing, is published four
times a year by the Creative Writing Program at the University of British
Columbia, Buchanan E-462, 1866 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1.
Microfilm editions are available from University Microfilms Inc., Ann Arbor,
MI, and reprints from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, New York, NY. Tie
magazine is listed by the Canadian Literary Periodicals Index.
Website: prismmagazine.ca. Email: prismcirculation@gmail.com.
Contents Copyright © 2014 PRISM international for the authors.
Cover image © Meryl McMaster, "Anima."
Subscription Rates: One-year individual Canadian $35, American $40, International
$45; two-year individual Canadian $55, American $63, International $69; library
and institutional one-year $46; two-year $72. Sample copy by mail is $12. US and
international subscribers, please pay in US dollars. Please note that US POSTAL
money orders are not accepted. Make cheques payable to PRISM international. All
prices include GST and shipping and handling.
Submission Guidelines: PRISM international purchases First North American
Serial Rights at $40 per page for poetry and $20 per page for other genres.
Contributors receive three copies of the issue in which their work appears.
PRISM also purchases limited digital rights for selected work, for which it pays an
additional $ 10 per page. All manuscripts should be sent to the editors at the above
address. Manuscripts should be accompanied by an email address. If you wish
to receive your response by regular mail, please include a SASE with Canadian
stamps or International Reply Coupons. Translations should be accompanied
by a copy of the work(s) in the original language. The advisory editor is not
responsible for individual selections, but for the magazine's overall mandate,
including continuity, quality and budgetary concerns.
For details on how to place an advertisement in PRISM, please visit our website
at prismmagazine.ca/advertise. PRISM occasionally exchanges subscriber lists
with other literary magazines; please contact us if you wish to be excluded from
such exchanges.
Our gratitude to Dean Gage Averill and the Dean of Arts Office at the University
of British Columbia. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the
Canada Council for the Arts and the British Columbia Arts Council.
April 2014. ISSN 0032.8790
BRITISH COLUMBIA
ARTS COUNCIL
Canada Council     Conseil des Arts
<y*y>   f°r tne Arts du Canada CONTENTS
JUDGE'S ESSAY
Timothy Taylor
7
Another Challenge
NON-FICTION (
3RAND
PRIZE WINNER
Re'Lynn Hansen
8
Reunion
NON-FICTION RUNNERS-UP
Julia Zarankin
18
Almost-Home
Jenny Boychuk
26
Notes on Breath
FICTION
Harold Macy
35
Gelignite
Madeline Sonik
42
Transactions
Lori McNulty
51
Fingernecklace
Drew Nelles
61
When the Killer Whale broughr Evil
to the Town of Paradise
Bryan Casrille
74
Lettet from Iceland
POETRY
Rachel Rose
15
White Lilies
16
Virtuoso
Miranda Pearson
17
A Walk in the Park
Carla Drysdale
24
Inheritance
25
Rafael's Quesrion
Alisha Dukelow
32
Metamorphosis
Geoffrey Nilson
33
Fractals
Paddy Chitty
40
Flash
Sandra Lloyd
41
Surface Tension
Michael Johnson
47
In the Language of the Mountain
48
Rainmaker
49
Hell
Mark Lavorato
50
Hell
Richard Kelly Kemick
58
British Mountains, Yukon River
watershed, 1851
59
Ghazal of the Caribou Fence
Steven Slowka
60
Archaeopteryx Michael V. Smith      69 Prayer for Solace
70 Prayer for Renewal
71 Letter, 10:28 p.m.
Elee Kraljii Gardiner      82 Sharpening Skates (an excerpt)
TRANSLATION
Paul Celan     72      Corona
Translation by
Iain Higgins
Contributors      83
WANT MORE?
CHECK  OUT   PRISMMAGAZINE.CA   FOR   MORE   EXCITING
SUPPLEMENTS TO THIS ISSUE'S CONTENT. PRISM  52:3 Timothy Taylor
ANOTHER CHALLENGE
JLn last year's note from non-fiction judge Andreas Schroeder, a challenge
was laid down to writers who might submit this year. In essence, Andreas was
pushing creative non-fiction writers to get out of the comfort zone of personal
memoir. It's a form that occurs so spontaneously in our era of compulsive self-
disclosure (yes hello Facebook and your lunch menu status updates, I'm talking
to you) that it would be easy for a newcomer to creative non-fiction to think that
this was the only genre at all.
Of course it isn't. And I won't pretend. Part of me is biased against the
memoir. I came to UBC after twenty-three years in the freelance trenches during
which time I wrote many hundreds of articles—food and travel and business
features, opinion pieces, cultural criticism, profiles, etc.—and never once did
I write a piece of memoir because I wouldn't have been able to sell it. Editors
aren't particularly interested in the form unless you're already famous or have
had something truly extraordinary happen to you. And freed of any disciplining
marketplace, memoirs can become documents written by the authors for
themselves.
You might have thought, then, that I would have been uncomfortable
choosing finalists from a short list of six creative non-fiction pieces every one
of which was memoir. But if there's one thing that I've learned about writing
creatively over the years, it's that no matter what form you're working in, there
is endless capacity for surprise. And so I'm delighted to report my surprises,
memoir pieces that are not inward looking, but branch outwards from
themselves and offer many surfaces on which the reader can alighr. In "Notes
on Breath," a difficult set of family relationships is unwoven and revealed in the
process of an episodic meditation on breathing. "Almost-Home" surprises in
its own way, weaving the memories of an only half-remembered place of birth
into the emigration story of the author's parents. And in "Reunion," the annual
gatherings of a group of school friends is unpacked in all its human complexity,
showing those present to be involved in both a celebration of life as it has been
lived and as it is sometimes only sketchily remembered, at the same time as being
a kind of mourning vigil for those who've passed on. Here the memoir form is
elevated, and the story speaks importantly outward and into the world.
I would like to reiterate Andreas's challenge to writers to explore the
possibilities of other creative non-fiction forms, to stretch themselves, to
encounter the world, to reveal characters other than themselves. But I'd also like
to commend the authors of these three pieces for doing all those things in their
pieces and showing just how penetrating and observant and relevant memoir can
be.
prismmagazine.ca Re 'Lynn Hansen
REUNION
1 went to a Catholic all-girl high school and I'm not sure what this has meant—
what it offered then in terms of a foundation for who I am now. The exigencies
of religion and its doctrine were lost on me. I look to the skies at night and to the
renewal of the trees in spring as my religious philosophy, and maybe the closest
I've come to feeling connected to some larger gestalt is when I'm out walking the
dog in the nearby state park, and a bend in the river that I know is coming up,
comes up again—the oxbow emerging from the wetlands—and amazes me all
over again, crystal waters sluicing quietly past reedy banks.
Perhaps I am different from them, my classmates, who have volunteered
for Catholic Charities, prayed for me, especially since I've had cancer, and who
make their monthly visits to the elderly nuns who once lectured us.
As a class we have stuck together more than most. It happens that we
don't have a reunion every ten years, but every year. I'm not sure what spurs
this on. Perhaps there is only the circumstance of convenience, but it could be
purposeful, as many classmates seek out the ritual of gathering together more
than I do. Most of us still live in the city, and the presidenr of our class had a
reunion one year after high school, and then one year after that, and one year
after that, and we all kept going until we were this group whose pledge it was to
get together next time.
The president's house is a large bungalow done in a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie
style appropriate for Chicago. She still lives within the boundaries of the city
because her husband is a fireman. There's a sense of home when we get there
because she's had these reunions for twenty years, and we know the routine by
now. There is a grand piano and an addition in the back with a kitchen island
and family room. The forty of us who gather can settle in the family room, but
sometimes we migrate to the living room where the piano is, and we gather
round it to sing the school song.
I don't ever remember what they remember, my friends from high school. If
they are talking about a car, and they say that I was in it, I believe them. They say,
remember, you were in the car. And I say I do. One friend remembers an evening
when she deeply gashed her hand as she tried to retrieve a joint that fell beneath
the bucket seats of her car. I was with her, and we were racing away that night,
apparently, to evade her father. She had stolen his car, which I barely remember
was an Impala, and he was following us, driving hers, Nancy exclaims to the
classmates gathered around the kitchen island listening, meaning her mother's
car, and he was going to beat the living shit out of me when I got home, remember?
she asks looking at me. I never challenge the story. There were numerous dark
nights and circlings of empry city streets and meeting up with other classmates
8 PRISM  52:3 who had also borrowed or stolen their parents' cars. I never ask if she was scolded
or punished that evening by the father whom I vaguely remember as stern. The
story always ends in triumph. We pulled over, we dimmed the lights, we lost
him. I don't remember the evening's end any more than the beginning. We met
up with McMurphy who always had the best weed, is how Nancy ends the story,
and I am content to listen and to make a toast with her at the president's house.
And of course I wonder how long I can keep up, keep going back with them
before nothing is the same anymore—nothing is as I remember it, but I have not
reached that threshold.
We have ghosted our past, sketched in the places where we lived, what buses
we took to school, whose houses we stopped at on the way home. I have stood
at the kitchen island, and late in the evening, sat on folding chairs with the
few stragglers who are left sitting in the yard of the president's house. I have
remembered or said I remembered the motels we stayed at as part of the Christian
mentoring weekends hosted for us by the women alumnae of Notre Dame. The
story ends when we all get drunk at the motel, and there's an epilogue—we're
hung-over in chapel at Notre Dame with our "big sisters" at our sides. Someone
mentions how Susan wasn't there that morning at chapel—and I assume here
that I was at chapel—how the nuns forgot the head count, how Susan's absence
wasn't noticed.
I remember Susan.
I remember she had thick, curly blond hair that she used to comb and fix
by pulling her hands through it. She wore dark eyeliner, part of an early goth
look. She was thin and wiry and smoked with hands flicking ash to the air. Her
uniform, the brown plaid pleated skirt and matching vest we all wore, was a
drape on her, and when she moved, it was mysterious, like something captured,
a stuttering. I am not sure, but I think I remember her running through the
school hallways, limbs waving and avoiding capture, running away from the
voices, the nuns who called after her demanding that she come back to class.
By the time we were sophomores she was no longer living at home, the
large condo on Lake Shore Drive. It had four bedrooms, one for each child and
a master suite for the parents. There was a wall of glass that faced the lake. I
remember picking up Susan and standing in the centre of clouds while waiting
in a room of white carpet and couches. Her parents never spoke to me or to
any of us. The details have been brought up at reunions now and then, how
her parents were very religious, very strict. She kept running away from home,
stayed with other classmates and their parents, in other condos. Technically, she
was homeless. She sat at the corner cafe down the street from school and waited
for us. It was called Irving's; it was on Irving Park and had a bubblegum pink
sign with blinking Hollywood lights that spelled out I*R*V*I*N*G*'*S. She
chain smoked there and poured brandy from a flask into her coffee cup and
waited for us to come by after school.
We'd meet her there after class. The rest of us, we who waited for the bell,
waited for dismissal, and went to lockers, and made phone calls, and walked
up the street to Irving's where we could see her waiting in the booth, her face
prismmagazine.ca obscured in the shadow and shine of the glazed windows. We'd tell her of our
day, our history lesson, the talk in theology, the poems we recited in creative arts,
led by Sister Claire who we heard had long ago published a book of poems. We'd
sit down, the four or six or eight of us, and shove each other into the booth, and
Susan would push back, fuck you, no fuck you. She would confirm how insane
it was that we were sruck in high school this last year, taking electives, learning
nothing. She wasn't going back, she pronounced. And we would confirm how
she was better off sitting at the cafe.
It went like that. And then coffee and more cigarettes, and Susan talking
about how no one had learned any Spanish that year, and fuck it, she was going
to France after high school anyway. And she had done acid last week—again with
Terence, the man who seemed to supply drugs as a favour, a genuine favour to
us, with no sex due as payment, just a sort of camaraderie. We all had some form
of low-toned conversation—how nice Terence was. He was Schaffer's cousin. He
just gave drugs away. That was amazing, Terence was amazing, his drugs were
amazing.
And the restaurant becoming whiter as darkness came on, the pedestrians
who passed all wore dark wool coats that spring, and the table wet with prints
of water glasses, and everything unhinged, every pause in conversation led to
laughter, then nothing, then everything again, every word or reprimand from
some teacher repeatable. Did she really say hustler? A hustler? As in whore, or as
in pimp? Did you ask her to explain that? She said hustler, just hustler! Everything
caught, shifting, imitable in variations. We all thought we would unleash
ourselves upon the world wirh a scream and an indelible smear that would prove
we were somewhere. Someone at the reunion always remembers the booth at
Irving's—how we managed to pen our names on the Formica table despite how
difficulr ir was, and we reasoned that management overlooked it because every
table was like that.
I remember the coolness of the evening when we walked out the door. I
think I remember running out the door sometimes to catch the bus at the stop
across the street, and the fluorescence of the bus, and the quiet of thinking I was
soon to arrive home.
I knew about appliances, that there was a dishwasher at home, that I was
expected to empty it, that dinner was in the fridge, that my brother was home
watching reruns of M*A*S*H, waiting for me, that my parents were out at a
restaurant similar to the one I had just sat in with Susan, except it had a bar with
spigots and cocktail shakers, and a waitress who knew them, and who served
them martinis and the evenings strip steak—they had worked hard rhat day, and
then they too slinked themselves into booths.
At one reunion in an informal speech our president remarked how she was
thankful our school was run by the order of BVM's—how modern they were.
The president made a toast to the Blessed Virgin Mary nuns, saying it didn't
matter if we were pregnant or addicted to whatever; we graduated, we got to
college.
I don't recall who was pregnant or addicted. I know that Susan graduated
10 PRISM  52:3 and went to New York to study acting at NYU, and then travelled to France,
then lived in London where she studied a particular acting technique—not
really a technique, she would explain at later reunions, but a method of learning,
not learning, but of knowing yourself, so that your body placement, your words,
become mindful. Tlie technique helps to centre you in acting, and in life, she added
to her webpage.
At later reunions it was clear that Susan had become known for the mastery
of this acting technique, but this was before she was killed, but not really
killed—before she was disabled, but not that either—perhaps I am trying too
hard to give this memory its proper placement—before she died, simply died
from breast cancer.
Every year there was wine, the president liked reds, the Barolos from Italy,
and cucumber sandwiches, and a mystery guest—someone who was last seen in
high school or shortly after that. And there was a strangeness, not with others
but with me, as I tried to remember the classmates who had moved from the
city. Maybe the ones who had moved away were more like me: living in a more
isolated manner on a country acre outside the city. Maybe they also didn't have
a clue as to who they were in high school.
In high school I led a life of austerity, which I thought lent me style—my
long hair, my books, my T-shirts, my jeans. I was always with one or two people
in the corner of a room and never with a crowd. I played guitar. I wrote poems
and stories.
At various times they, my classmates at the reunion, have asked me how
I'm doing. What are you doing now? I tell them that I am a writer, a professor of
creative writing. I live with a partner, outside the city. They were settling down
while I was coming out, I tell them, to make my story succinct. I travelled,
I went to graduate school, I met my partner who taught at the same college
as I did. We had a foster child who is older now, we've raised dogs, first one
golden retriever, then another, I say again for brevity, a cat, a chicken. A chicken?
Someone always asks. I tell them about the chicken. I tell them the raccoon and
chicken story. How I ran down in the night to the hen house. The cries had
awakened me; there was the raccoon with my hen in its mouth. I end the story
by telling of rhe vet who rehabbed the chicken, and the thousand dollars I spent
on this, and everyone thinks it's a good story—and I guess it is. It's a story of
vulnerability and of the quiet of 2 a.m., it is the story of a near vanishing, of what
could easily be overlooked had it not been saved.
There are so many women around the kitchen island and I can peer through
elbows to see marbled cheese there, and a pastry, a baked brie, and a tall silver
chafing dish with meatballs and a smear of sauce hugging the corners. We've
gathered here, this high school class, this wave of us around the kitchen island,
this time we're here for Susan. Billy Joel is on the stereo, and some are dancing in
the house, including the women who have brought their pep squad uniforms—
to cheer her on, Susan, now with cancer.
Maybe they, like me, have run the numbers. We went to an all-girl Catholic
high school. The chances of a woman having breast cancer in her lifetime is one
in eight. If there arc about forty of us at each reunion, five of us will have breast
cancer. Two of us will die from it.
prismmagazine.ca 11 She is slight and bald from chemotherapy, and I find myself sitting alone with
her there on the velvet couch. It is only a moment that she is there alone, while
everyone else is packed into the kitchen, but I spot her, and I sit down, and
she takes my hand, and thanks me for coming. / wasn't sure you'd remember me,
she says. Of course I remember you, I say. Maybe because everyone knows she
has studied the acting technique, or maybe because everyone knows she has
cancer, they move into the room and circle around us. They, like me, might be
mesmerized by her, the way she sits, composed with her back upright, her hands
folded in her lap, her eyes attentive to everyone she is thanking. She sits, and
they come and take her hand. For some reason she keeps one hand on my knee.
The other hand she presses to each who comes by. I remember her arms and
hands flying about the cafe, knocking over water glasses, vibrating like winter
branches. She is effortless and graceful now.
We all listened then, we listen now. She thanks us all again and again. She
thanks us for our little fundraiser. She thanks those who have come to walk with
her, thanks those who have cooked for her, who have read to her, who have taken
her to doctors' appointments. And now, at the president's house, we all want
to help her more, and so a book is passed around where we can sign up, and a
webpage is mentioned called Caring Bridges. We all sign up to help. She thanks
us. She says she needs us. We make simple pledges.
It is late in the evening, and I'm still sitting on the couch with Susan. A
woman approaches—whose hair is cut in a pageboy just below the ears, who
we used to call Poppalowski, who used to wear large, round glasses that slipped
down to the bottom of her nose, which I know only because it has been brought
up at reunions, who is now a doctor of oncology specializing in breast cancer—
and pulls up the ottoman and sits there and takes each of our hands. She tells
Susan to hang in there, to call her, and to not allow them to take all her lymph
nodes. There is no study that shows that taking all the lymph nodes will make any
difference in your overall survival rate. If they test negative, leave them in. It's a
quality of life issue. You'll get through this, the class doctor says, and now makes
eye contact with me. Then she adds that she is a breast cancer survivor herself.
The class doctor leaves and Susan tells me about her studies in London. It's
about living consciously, mindfulness. All could be gathered, she tells me, every
thought, every gesture, along with every breath, all could be gathered by simply letting
it happen and becoming aware. She explains how she worked with a chair for years,
a simple wooden kitchen chair. She practiced sitting and then standing. For years,
sitting, then standing, until she had it, effortless sitting and standing. This is what
she says, Lydia who is Susan who now calls herself Lydia. I heard about this name
change at the last reunion, which I went to but Lydia missed. I thought Lydia
curious. I deeply wanted Susan, the one I remembered. Sitting across from her
now, it makes sense. She seems softer, different.
Sitting there, I think Lydia knows me, knows that half the time I have second
thoughts about my thoughts, that I am paralyzed with a thousand things I could
say as I try to formulate that one statement that might mean something. Suddenly
she turns to me and says, You know what you have been in my life? So important,
12 PRISM  52:3 just everything. Thank you for coming.
She gets up from the couch, leaves me with my hand in my lap. She is
stunningly simple—a bald woman in T-shirt and jeans. She lifts her head up so
that her body seems to face me, and then she faces the room, her spine follows,
then her legs; she seems gazelle-like, standing there in an animal pause, as if on
the wavy ledge of the sierra range. She turns to the women gathered in a half-
circle around her. She thanks everyone again.
Later, she came to visit me where I lived in the country with my partner. The
weekend she sat in my bathroom it was two weeks after her mastectomy. Her
stitches needed to come off. Actually, her wound was taped shut, they had used
topical adhesives, half-inch strips of tape to keep the wound closed. So I did that.
We both sat in the bathroom, and I un-taped her breast. I took a washcloth and
wet her breasts. I kept dipping it in warm water so that her stitches would come
unglued. And she stared ahead, I think at the mirror. She was quiet as I peeled
off her stitches. Then she thanked me.
Later my partner and Lydia and I went to the farmer's market. We bought
an eggplant and Lydia cooked it for us as she had learned to at some restaurant
in London. We went to a wine store and she picked the wine. We ended up
at a stable because we had told Lydia about my niece's horse that was having
a problem with some lameness. Recently, she had begun to use her centering
technique on lame and wounded animals. Lydia had become an interpreter of
horses. She told us this about horses: You wait for the horse to give eye contact,
you hold a hand out before pressing it to the muzzle, then stroke the horse at the
flat between the eyes. She seemed to know about putting a shoulder to the chest
of the horse. It makes them quiet, she said.
I stood and watched her lean into our horse. I watched her roll her arm
into that crevice between the horse's shoulder and barreled stomach. She softly
announced that the horse's back pain was compensation for tendonitis in the
left leg. It was November by then, the air was chilled, the steam poured from
the horse's nostrils; you could smell the hay and the manure and it seemed right,
or at least I could sense that the horse was at ease with Lydia's touch. I Googled
her later and found pictures of Lydia with all kinds of equines. She had stable
owners, and race tracks, and polo teams for clients.
It was probably about that time—that I was standing next to her in the
stables—that a cancer was growing in my body, though I wouldn't have known
it then. I think, ah, Lydia, you missed that one, the obvious one, but then again,
maybe she had not. Maybe along the way, as she drafted herself from a wild
being to being contained, maybe she had known those things—whatever it is
that we gather but do not express.
I last saw her in the city, in her garden apartment. I brought her a cantaloupe
that I put in the small fridge under the counter. She patted the bed and I sat
down next to her and she put her head on my arm and was quiet for a while. I
asked her how illness had changed her. I don't know where I found the tenacity
to ask that, but I wanted to know. She said now she noticed smaller things like
the difference in taste between yesterday's cantaloupe and today's, and noticed
prismmagazine.ca
13 smaller kindnesses like people trying to make eye contact and nod to her on the
street. You thank people for visiting. You thank them for bringing soup. Tliere is no
stammering, no awkwardness. People ask hoiv you how you're doing; you answer.
You rarely lose your way anymore, she said, directing it all to me and, for whatever
reason, I remember this.
A memorial service for Susan is held at the president's house, in the yard. There's
a riki hut bar along the fence and the president is pouring champagne. There are
white folding chairs and flowers on the tables, and women get up now and then
to remember Lydia. Do you remember the pool party? someone says and everyone
seems to join in: We were all naked, the clothes ivere floating in the pool, everyone
was tripping. Everyone was tossing their empties into the pool, watching them sink
without breaking. Remember? And then the parents walked in, their flight had been
cancelled. Tfjey were supposed to be going to Venezuela, remember?
And then someone else gets up and remembers taking the bus out to the
stables the next day: We were all hung-over. Probably twenty of us ivith headaches,
trotting our horses down that path that edged the city and hitting the highway that
bordered the woods. And breaking into a gallop on the highway, remember? The stable
hand yelling goddamn it girls, sloiu down! Remember? The one stable hand? Can you
believe they sent us out with one stable hand? Wasn't his name Rocco? someone asks.
But he took us out again! someone else remembers. Tr>e riding club went there
all the time with this guy. Hie Angry Stable Hand, isn't that what we calUd him?
someone shouts amid laughter, and I ask myself if I could have been a member
of a riding club.
One of our classmates has a home on the river and the reunions have become
twice yearly events—one in the city, one in the country, where inevitably there
is a bonfire and someone remembers the pool party. The pool parry has become
more ritualized, to the point where it must be remembered. And I am beginning
to think that I never attended. It is a couple years after Lydia passed away and a
year since my own cancer diagnosis. I go to sit on a bluff overlooking the Illinois
River and I bring wine and listen. We all feel somewhat celebratory because I
have survived my cancer, or at least a PET scan shows I am clear. I called our
class oncologist, Poppalowski, a few times for guidance, and classmates turned
up at my door with pillows and soups, and I thanked them. We try to agree
on the particulars of the pool part}'. Tliere was a pool party. Lydia hosted it, and
someone else. The next person adds that Susan never hosted the pool party, she
wasn't living at home then. It wasn't in Susans building. It was the one across from
hers. We're never sure if she should be remembered as Susan or as Lydia. At this
new reunion, the one on the bluff, we continue into the night and stare into
the bonfire and rry to remember the particulars. Whose party was it then? And
I feel it again, the futility of the reunion. Others around the bonfire scramble
to pin down whose party it was, whose parents were they, with faces frozen,
standing ar the edge of the pool tarmac. My mind wanders and I remember
sitting on Susan's bed the last time I went to see her. Again, I felt I could ask her
anything... and why are you crying? I asked. Tlie loss, she said. / wanted to keep it
all. And I am crying for the loss.
14 PRISM  52:3 Rachel Rose
WHITE LILIES
It is hard for the dying to leave us.
We make it hard for them. So they wait
for us to step outside before they cut
the cord. So the baby
in the cabin, lungs full of staph,
who had been fighting the infection
for long nights and days
waited until his mother went out
to chop firewood before he sighed
and stilled. How can I forget her
running across the wet pasture
with his body in her arms
as though my mother were a witch
who could bring back the dead?
I picked the thick white lilies from our garden
for his grave, but was not permitted to the place
where the mourners gathered. Instead I waited
in the silent house, unfolded
the image of his mother
with her hair wild as the wind
and the weight of him in her arms
a stone, a feather, a sunflower
as my mother rose to meet her
or what I have imagined, the map of memory
creased and softened
like a star repeating its trajectory into the sea,
the father who did not yet know
coming up the gravel driveway
wirh a shovel over his shoulder
whistling, kicking the mud off his boots
before he opened the door.
prismmagazine.ca
15 VIRTUOSO
If you are good at soccer, the whole world will know
your name. Your perfect foot
will find the ball and send it to the goal. You will
endorse sports drinks, watches.
Beautiful women will vie to have your illegitimate children,
will fish your condoms out of the garbage and insert them.
If you are good at poetry, half a dozen
poets will know your name. Nobody will ask you
to endorse anything, though your need is acute,
and your husband will compete with your boyfriend
not to be the father of your illegirimate children.
If you are good at sex, though,
who will know your name?
What a shame, to have such a private
skill, such talent as can peel back the covers.
You are the one who puts the name of God
into the mouths of your lovers.
Even the chess players, even the speed eaters,
even the spelling bee winners are better known than you.
Only a few lovers remember you in those early hours
when they can't sleep, and that, for you, will have
to be enough. No sexual spectator sports, no audience
to appreciate your cavorts. And if you can't play this fucking
game, your shame will be private, you will not
be picked last for the team, you will not come
in last for not coming
at all; no one will ever know.
16 PRISM  52:3 Miranda Pea.
'.ctrson
A WALK IN THE PARK
We take the sloping wheelchair paths,
past rhubarb leaves so giant you could
curl up and live in one. It's only
three months since his death,
two months off dfink, and we
have to live gently. We're at the age
when you join gardens, when you
require colour, assertive flowers,
with their arched out sentences,
that say again and again it's possible
to remake a landscape,
to let it topple and change.
We are animals that live to endure;
walk these paths to the glass house
with its fragrant air, glimpse
of petrol-blue parrots between
Matisse's cut-out fronds, shining
and graphic. The rose-pink cockatiel
that would return later,
perched on a mail box in a dream.
We are learning about leaving;
about holding on. How the body
is a new sort of friend, flawed,
unreliable. Of all things
clouds are the most beautiful.
You say no, trees. These
are the kind of disputes we can
handle. The slamming of a car door,
a ringing phone—are too much.
prismmagazine.ca Julia Zaranki,
in
ALMOST-HOME
1 have an almost-home that I don't quite know what to do with. The word
Petrozavodsk haunts my childhood memories, and yet I never bothered to inquire
where the city was, or why my would-be geographical origins were so difficult
to pronounce and impossible to explain. Growing up in 1980s Vancouver, when
people still thought espresso was spelled expresso, the only Russian emigre in my
school, I didn't have much reason to talk with anybody save my parents about
Petrozavodsk, the city I knew but didn't know, this home I might have had, but
which I'd never seen. A convoluted consonant cluster of a word that I couldn't
even pronounce in English. A place so far removed from my familiar I began
to wonder whether it was another one of those things from that world that my
parents had made up. And it followed me everywhere.
At home, Petrozavodsk was part of our vernacular. It stood as a placeholder
for my father's last job in Soviet Russia, for life in a communal apartment, for
our ultimate stop before applying for exit visas to Israel, for a life upended.
A family story: As a child, I couldn't pronounce Petrozavodsk and called it
petrocaca. My parents must have been visibly charmed by my neologism since
that is the word they now use. For a while, I wasn't sure whether the city was an
actual place or referred to a state of mind. The here before here.
In those days, I couldn't tell you where home was. From our living room window,
through a pair of binoculars, I watched life unfold in a house across the street. I
studied the layout of Mary and Bill's living room and memorized rhe sequence
of TV shows they watched until I could retrace the interior in my mind and play
through their evenings like a movie-reel: The Brady Bunch followed by Wheel of
Fortune with a break for tea in between and, after supper on Thursdays, Jeopardy
and Knight Rider. I scrutinized their routine until my mother grew suspicious.
"What are you doing with those binoculars?"
"Watching Mary and Bill."
"Well, don't be too nosey."
"I think I'd like to live with them," I told her, which made her pause. "I like
how they do the same thing every night and even eat the same food." What I
didn't tell my mother was that I thought they had a home and I didn't.
"Your grandmother sent those binoculars. They're for going to the theatre
and looking at actors or opera singers up close."
"That's what I'm doing."
A few days later, the binoculars were gone.
I had been peering into Mary and Bill's life through Soviet theatre glasses,
sent by my grandmother from a country that used to be home to a place that
was now somewhere in between. The same theatre glasses I might have used had
18 PRISM  52:3 we lived in Petrozavodsk, where my parents likely would have taken me to the
children's theatre or the circus.
Petrozavodsk became a subtext, a world beneath the one I lived in. Sometimes
it would hover at the surface of my world, and then disappear underground
again. In universiry, a friend in one of my advanced Russian classes told me that
she had learned Russian at the University of Petrozavodsk. I hadn't heard the
word spoken in a few years and looked the place up on a map in the library. It
was the first time I'd heard the city name uttered by someone who wasn't part
of my family. The city existed. Right there, as a yellow spot on a map, on the
shore of Lake Onega, north of St. Petersburg, not far from the White Sea. The
capital of Karelia. Near the churches at Kizhi, which I'd heard about because
my parents had a replica of a small wooden church built without a single nail
on one of their armoires. As I child, I wondered why our house was filled with
churches and not synagogues. Not even a mezuzah on the door. But wooden
churches—some on wood panels, some lying around as extra gifts, some little
statuettes—everywhere.
And then Petrozavodsk plunged into oblivion again.
In an essay called "Journey to Armenia," Osip Mandelstam writes about the verb
tense he would choose to inhabit, if he could. "I want to live in the imperative
of the future passive participle—in the 'what ought to be.'" I'm invested in a
much more tentative space; I would give anything to walk about in the "what
might have been" tense, the one that didn't happen but potentially might have.
An exercise in fiction making. I don't necessarily want to travel back or forward
in time, but I'd welcome a collection of many different slices of the present.
It was my father's idea to revisit Petrozavodsk the summer we met up in St.
Petersburg. Before I joined my parents, I spent most of my days in the
publichka—the St. Petersburg Public Library and archives—reading newspapers
from the late 1920s, trying to figure out whether these homeless emigres in
Paris I wrote about were ever missed back home. I read, searched for clues, and
in the end found nothing, which confirmed my initial hypothesis. Vladislav
Khodasevich and Marina Tsvetaeva, two Russian poets-turned-memoirists in
1920s and 1930s Paris, had been abandoned by their homeland. Their names
erased from literary memory back home, they responded with an urgency to
document a world that no longer existed.
I wasn't sure what else to do in those archives. I went looking for something
more uplifting and saw the Baedeckers—old travel guides—and read Alexander
Blok's copy of the guide he had used during his travels around Italy in the late
1890s in preparation for his Italian cycle of poems. I wasn't sure what I was
doing—all this vicarious travelling, dreaming of elsewhere. Somehow if I knew
where Blok had travelled in Italy, if I held his guidebook in my hand and read his
marginalia, I hoped I might learn something about myself. I might understand
what I was doing living and working in the middle of the middle of the United
States. I might, somehow, know what it meant to be at home.
prismmagazine.ca
19 Petrozavodsk-bound, my parents and I boarded a ten-hour night train north
from St. Petersburg. I was about to see the city I would have grown up in had
we not emigrated in 1978.
Petrozavodsk was founded in 1703, the same year as St. Petersburg, by Peter
the Great's chief governor, Prince Menshikov. More prosaic than I expected,
the city's name literally means "Peter's factory," in reference to the factories that
produced the bulk of Russia's armaments during the Emperor's frequent wars
with Sweden in the early part of the 18th century.
By the time of our visit, not much remained of the city's original Petrine
idenrity as an industrial, iron foundry capital. Instead, I noticed a monument to
Marx and Engels in the rown square. The two were seated on a bench next to one
another, engrossed in conversation, likely postulating the principles of socialism.
A block from them stood a new, controversial monument to a youthful-looking
Yuri Andropov, former head of the KGB in Petrozavodsk and, later, the Soviet
state. Instinctively, we crossed the streer to distance ourselves from the memory
of this man whose three-syllable name I remember hearing—either whispered
with contempt or barked out with rage by my mother—almost daily over the
course of his eighteen-month reign from 1982-84. My grandparents' repeated
petitions for exit visas to Canada were refused by Andropov's regime, allegedly
because they had privileged access to essential "state secrets." I remember looking
at Andropov's photo in Time Magazine—an unsmiling, white-haired man with a
precarious heart condition and a stony expression and wondering why this man
refused to let me see my grandparents.
Here, not far from Marx, Engels, and now Andropov, my father held a
visiring position on the piano faculty at the Petrozavodsk Conservatory from
1975-77 and, given his positive reviews, my parents hoped the job would grow
inro a permanent one. There was also rhe promise of a position opening up for
my mother, once she graduated from the Leningrad State Conservatory, in spite
of the infamous word branded in the fifth line of her passport. In Soviet parlance,
which didn't allow for religion, Judaism was considered a nationality and the
word yevrei—Jew—appeared in uppercase letters in every Soviet passport. I
can think of no less desirable nationality for a Soviet citizen, and my parents'
Jewishness clung to them mercilessly.
My father lived on the faculty floor of the conservatory dormitory, which
functioned as a large-scale communal apartment. He had his own room, but
shared the bathroom and kitchen with twenty others. My mother visited on
weekends or whenever she could get away from her studies in Leningrad. As a
three-year-old, I shuttled between sets of grandparents in Odessa and Kharkov
and my parents in Leningrad and Petrozavodsk, depending on the availability of
childcare. I was growing into a nostalgic nomad.
Is this almost-home of mine responsible for my addiction to northern climates?
I might have grown up here, ferried between school, the conservatory, and our
makeshift dormitory-apartment. I would likely have spent summers in Odessa
with my grandparents, just like my mother had done before me. Summers on
the Black Sea, dark winters near the Arctic Circle, not far from Old Russian
20 PRISM   52:3 settlements and churches built of wood without a single nail. By my mid-thirties,
I would likely already have children of my own, though I'd probably still share
an apartment with my parents, and nobody would have to struggle to place my
foreign-sounding accent.
This dormitory was the site of my parents' first business venture, which entailed
buying and selling large quantities of underwear through a trusted source in
the Ukraine. A friend of theirs from Kharkov, Marina, assured them there was
a killing to be made by importing and selling packs of Nedel'ka—cotton, hip-
hugging women's underwear with the days of the week inscribed on them,
logically called "little week" and made in East Germany. Though available in
Petrozavodsk, Nedel'ka hadn't yet penetrated the Ukrainian underwear market.
The scheme involved my mother lining up for hours in Petrozavodsk, buying
fifty packages of underwear, running to the post office, and shipping them to
Kharkov, where Marina would pick up the parcel, sell rhe heavily marked-up
goods to her network of consumers, keep a modest percentage for herself, and
send the profits back to the Karelian capital. In the end, it turned out that the
Nedel'ka craze never managed to reach Kharkov; women there seemed content
with Soviet or Bulgarian underwear and weren't craving a higher priced, East
German model. Months later, Marina bought one package for herself, sent the
rest back to Petrozavodsk, and my parents lived with the forty-nine remaining
packs of underwear until they applied for emigration visas to Israel. At that
point, they began offering packs of Nedel'ka to friends, colleagues, students, and
neighbours, lest the underwear follow us into the West.
I stood in the courtyard of the dormitory, flanked by three other apartment
buildings with a rusty playground in the center, complete with a metal slide and
a swing set with only one of the four seats remaining, grass growing haphazardly
wherever it hadn't yet been stomped out. Is this where I would have grown up,
thinking of ingenious ways ro cover up my "nationality" like my father's colleague
Lara Matveyenko, who had pasted a photo of her son as a pudgy roddler over
the fifth line in her passport? Sometimes her scheme worked, but her husband
couldn't obscure his roots no matter how hard he rried. Even though he finally
paid enough to have his last name, Lerner, erased from his passport and replaced
with Matveyenko, his communist party membership card srill said Lerner, and
everybody knew that the word "Ukrainian" in his passport was a sham.
"What floor did you live on?" I asked my father.
"I don't remember."
"But you lived here for almost two years."
"Why would I want to remember this?"
I hadn't realized that for all of the two years my father lived here he thought
of nothing but emigrating. He was here at a time when absenteeism from work
was considered a crime and was publicly chastised for missing a day's work when
his train from Leningrad was delayed twelve hours. He had called in "sick" from
a pay phone in Leningrad, but the secretary tracked down the source of his
phone call and quickly informed her superior. The next day, my father was met
with a stern cross-examination from the dean, who determined that "our dear
prismmagazine.ca
21 comrade has lied."
I imagined my parents and the Lerners sitting around the small table in their
room with an Uzbek rug hanging behind their bed, composing letters—offering
each other edirorial suggestions—to the Office of Visas and Regisrration,
begging for family reunification with their fictitious Israeli relatives, the first
step in the bureaucratic process of receiving exit visas to Israel. The Dutch
embassy in Moscow representing Israeli interests in Russia had issued letters of
invitation from Israeli citizens inviting their "family members" to join them in
their "historical motherland." My parents claimed an uncle Schmuel who lived
on a kibbutz not far from Tel Aviv and the Lerners declared an aunt Sarah in a
neighbouring kibburz. The letters were fictitious works of art: Though Schmuel
and Sarah existed, they had no idea who we were and were certainly not our
relatives.
Once the OVIR accepted the query, my parents began the exhaustive process
of collecting documents from every person they had come in contact with—
including my father's ex-wife, the dean of the conservatory, the head librarian
in his hometown, the superintendent of the apartment where he grew up and
where he was still registered—stating that they held no economic debt to the
Soviet Union.
Had the dean's initial refusal to attest to my father's rectitude prevailed
and had a friend of my mother's who had experienced similar difficulties not
advised my parents to march over to the KGB headquarrers located directly
behind the Marx and Engels monument, demand an appointment, and explain
to an official with hair pulled back into a bun that their attempt to emigrate to
their "historical motherland" and seek "reunificarion with relatives" was being
thwarted, I would likely never have made it to Canada. Instead, the official
listened patiently, gave a cursory glance at my photo, which my mother always
carried inside her own passport, and told them she'd take care of the matter. A
week later, the dean cleared my father of any economic debt to the Soviet state.
My parents were lucky. Difficult though their process was, they got away.
Five years later, my grandfather met with a KGB official in Odessa, begging for
similar "reunification with relatives" in Canada, and his request was met with the
official's icy message, which my grandmother still quotes, intoning the syllables
in a spiteful drone that reeks of certainty: "You will not live to see your relatives."
I had come to Petrozavodsk to recover strands of nostalgia from the home I
never had. I thought my father would recognize every pothole on his way to the
conservatory, would show me where he bought groceries and books and the post
office where he mailed letters to my mother. Instead, just about everything had
escaped his memory, apart from the train station and the embankment along
the lake, which, thirty years ago, had been decrepit, dirty, and barely walkable.
My mother took a photograph of me standing with my father on the shores
of Lake Onega, smiling. Thirty years ago the photo might have been a picture of
us at home. Here we are now, on a pilgrimage to a place I've heard of my entire
life, a city that I might have known intimately. I might have known where to
22 PRISM  52:3 buy good coffee, good pastries, good bread, and I wouldn't have had to ask for
directions.
"What did you do when you lived here? Where did you hang out?"
"Hang out? I practiced, I worked, I missed your mother, and I dreamed of
getting out of here."
prismmagazine.ca 23 Carla Drysdale
INHERITANCE
One of my two sons devours books
as I did, bespectacled, silent.
There are childhood facts I'd like to check,
but the past is unpopular
with my mother. Her husband wasn't a reader.
His eye was on me during the day
and at night, when the door opened
and carved a wedge of hall light
into my dark room. I would wait for it.
Her pain was mine when
I heard the hush through the wall
after one of their bedroom fighrs
and her fall into Valium numbness.
My other son peers into
the legacy behind my eyes,
at what I'm trying to hide.
His pleasure and pain
are always mine
as when he kisses his cat or bends
his pen in half and yells at me,
enraged by the words
on the page
in front of him.
24          PRISM  52:3 RAFAEL'S QUESTION
My son carries the name
of the healing archangel. He
sits in tny lap, at the computer's
luminous screen. We look at photos
of my parents, divorced
when I was two. Their faces
sagging, eyes hopeful.
Still alive, but their visits to us
number less than a handful
in his five-year-old life.
Sometimes, after brushing our teeth
he'll say, "Mom, make it like a river."
And I'll cup my palms together
under running watet, and he'll drink.
Tonight as we sit together
I'm silent, because it's hard to explain.
He asks me, "Do you still love them?"
So gently, so gently. Like a lullaby.
prismmagazine.ca 25 Jenny Boych uk
NOTES ON BREATH
J. was born blue. Early and blue like a 5 a.m. summer morning. My morher
yelled at the nurses, forgetting her own medical training and reasoning, as they
tried to rub and gently smack my six-pound body into taking an inhale.
Later, she would tell me it was such a hard labour, and all she could think
was, All of that for a dead baby. I did not go through all that pain for more pain.
But then, I brearhed. I cried.
And I would spend the following years searching for those first few, missed
breaths.
I was five and my mother was bathing me. She knew about the fragility of small
bodies, but also how much they could take. Though she was a nurse, there were
never Band-Aids in the house; if my brother or I skinned a knee, she'd clean it
and leave it to the open air ro heal. We rarely got to stay home sick. A couple of
grape-flavoured children's Tylenol could fix most ailments.
I was paranoid about getting soap in my eyes, so she never poured water
over my head after she had shampooed my hair. Instead, I would lie back,
my spine curved, the top of my head dipped beneath the water as she ran her
fingers through my hair. Once, she pushed me down so my entire head was
submerged—held me there so long I began to struggle, my eyes opening to
her smiling face through the warm water. Of course, I must have known she
would let me up. Let me breathe. But she held a bit longer, her free hand still in
my hair, until I began thrashing. Until she let go. I don't remember gasping for
air—just crying as she said, You're fine. You're fine. What's the matter? Did you get
soap in your eyes?
Maybe it was a lesson. Maybe she was preparing me without knowing it.
What do you do when the person you trust most holds you under? Please don't
misunderstand.
When I was older, my mother came home from her night shifts around 7 a.m.,
and we would sit on the back porch in wicker chairs while she smoked cigarettes
and told me about her night. I listened, sleepy and still warm in my half-
sleep. Every so often she'd tell me about some kid from my school who'd been
admitted with appendicitis or a broken arm, and when I went to school later
rhat morning, I got to be the one who told my class. She often told me things I
was probably too young to hear, but my childish curiosity craved to know. One
morning, she told me it had been quiet in the emergency room all night and
26 PRISM  52:3 she'd needed to go down to the morgue. She was working with a nurse, Cathy,
who was terrified of it. My mother has a good sense of humour: She convinced
Cathy to go down to the basement with her, convinced her that she needed help
with something. As she told me the story, my mother explained that if you press
on a dead person's chest, they will let out a final breath, one last exhale—even if
they've been cold for days.
My mother pressed on some old man's chest and Cathy nearly fainted, my
mother laughed as she told me—then fell very quiet. It's different, though, when
you know the people being kept there. I won't go in when there are people I know, she
said. We lived in a small town and everyone knew each other. Her job was rarely
easy.
The August before I turned twelve, we wenr camping in Nelson, BC for a few
weeks. One day, my father drove us into town to buy new school clothes (my
mother had said the sleeves on my coat were too short). As my father was about
to park, we saw an elderly woman get hit by a car in the crosswalk across the
street. I cannot begin to explain how far it knocked her. Maybe a bus-length.
Neither of my parents said anything. My father parked the truck and my mother
got out so quickly she nearly fell—but all I could do was focus on the woman's
shoes, so far from her body, lying there on the crosswalk. Small, white, faux-
learher heels. I didn't want to breathe; sitting there reminded me of driving by
a cemetery or over a bridge or through a tunnel—it felt like I should hold my
breath.
When my mother came back she had blood on her hands and it scared
me because I'd only ever seen small stains on her scrubs. She whispered to my
father about someone bringing oxygen from the nearby pool and rough shape but
maybe, maybe she'll make it. But I knew she'd saved her.
The next morning we sat next to the radio in the camper, waiting for some
news about the accident or whether the woman had survived. I went outside and
smeared ketchup on my new white sneakers.
The next morning I found them clean, and no one ever said anything about
it.
I travelled to South America the summer before my last year of university. In
Peru, my friend and I had planned to hike from Cusco to Machu Picchu. We
would trek through the Sacred Valley on the first day: a twenty-six-mile hike
through the Andes.
Rather than flying, we took an overnight bus from Lima because it was
supposed to lessen the chance of altitude sickness (the only cure is to descend
back to a lower elevation). But when we pulled into the bus station I knew
something was wrong even before my eyes fully opened. My breaths were short
and laboured as though the air I inhaled bypassed my lungs to go elsewhere. I
prismmagazine.ca
27 reached into my backpack for a prescription bottle holding white, chalky pills—
the pills my doctor had told me he wasn't sure would even help.
I srepped off the bus in a haze.
I was careful over the next few days. I didn't drink the pisco sours, and I slept a
lot. I took stock of every breath as we browsed shops and markets in the Plaza de
Armas. I could breathe, however shallow the inhales, and so I tried not to panic.
Stairs were difficult and I began to feel like someone who'd smoked for twenty-
five years. It didn't matter how much air I sucked in—the mountains had my
lungs in their fists.
On the third night, a woman from rhe tour company visited us at our hostel.
We were to start our rrek to Machu Picchu the next day. The woman asked how
we were doing, if we had any concerns. I lied.
The first half-hour was fairly flat, and I managed well enough. It was early in the
morning. Sunny and cold. Every time I stopped, I pretended it was so I could
take a photo of the ancient stone baths or the sage hills against the blue sky. It
was only me, my friend, and our tour guide (whose name we had not heard
correctly and so we called him "Buddy" behind his back); there was supposed
to be a horse and its handler accompanying us, but they hadn't shown up and
Buddy said they would catch up eventually. Tire horse would be our emergency
transportation if one of us became ill or injured.
I lost track of time and place as we moved further from civilization. My chest
smouldered and I had to stop after every ten steps to try to catch my breath. We
were too far in to turn back, and I didn't want that anyway. I thought of the
many times in my life when I'd wanted to feel real isolation, when I'd wanted
to be somewhere no one could find or reach me. The path through the Sacred
Valley was that place, and I knew it.
If I passed out, what could be done? I would die up there, I was sure. The only
person we saw was a woman who seemed to appear out of nowhere along one
of rhe ridges. She was selling hand-woven belts. She didn't speak Spanish, only
Quechua: a native South American language spoken primarily in the Andes. I
chose one with a frog pattern, and when I placed the Peruvian Soles in her hand,
she looked confused. Buddy explained that she'd never seen the currency before,
and I realized then that we had crossed a threshold, somewhere behind us.
As we continued to climb, I began to feel like I didn't have a body. I felt like
a machine that was slowing down. With each inhale, my chest heaved like it
was pulling a pail of water from the well of my belly. My legs continued to step
forward and I grew tired of expecting them to just stop. I began to feel oddly
weighrless. There were no trees, only the dry, grassy slopes, the clear sky, and
then: a cobalt blue lake below. I'd never seen blue like that before, so deep it
could be bottomless. If anything ever fell into it, the lake would drag it under
and never give it back. I could have placed a stone on my tongue just to try to
understand the density of the lake's colour. And there, I decided I didn't care if I
died. If I had to die someplace, why not in the most beautiful and peaceful place
I had ever srood?
28 PRISM  52:3 Hours later, we came to some Inca ruins: houses perfectly lined up in rows, the
structures made of red stone, the thatched roofs blown away or decomposed
long ago. They looked like dollhouses, like a god could have just reached its
hand into each one and arranged the furniture. I hadn't realized how high up we
were until I saw a town five miles below us. Buddy pointed to the house we'd be
staying in that night, a little further up the mountain. He said the woman who
kept the guesthouse wouldn't be expecting us for a little while longer, so we sat
down in the field and I settled into an exhaustion like I'd never known.
Afterwards, whenever I needed to be reminded how much the body can
take, I went back to that place.
A month later, my father picked me up from the airport. During the ride home,
I told him about my trip. Normally a keen listener, he seemed distracted. When
I told him about Machu Picchu, his expression didn't change. He just watched
the road, and I knew something was wrong with my mother.
She'd gotten hetself addicted to narcotics (among other things) five years
prior and my parents had been split up for the last two of them. But my father
checked in on her constantly; he was so afraid of what might happen if she was
left alone for too long. I'd been staying with her before I left for my trip and
knew what her highs were like: mint chocolate ice cream in the microwave,
the plastic coffeemaker on a gleaming red stove element, the smell of burning
plastic, the kettle shrieking at 4 a.m. A few times I'd found her passed out,
facedown and naked on her bedroom floor. Every time I prepared myself for her
death, I found her still breathing.
We parked in the driveway and my father said he would wait for me to come
back out and tell him things were OK. My mother had had a few bad highs
while I was away and, out of anger, he hadn't been in to check on her for two
weeks.
I smelled blood and cat urine as soon as I opened the front door. I dropped
my backpack in the kitchen and saw the crimson pool on the hardwood, right in
front of the glass pantry door, which had shattered. The blood was smeared on
the walls leading to her room, and the cats had tracked it everywhere too. I felt
nauseous. I stopped at her doorway and saw the lump that was her body under
the covers. I held everything inside of me—I wanted to be brave enough to go
to her, but instead I went to get my father.
He was leaning against the car, looking at me like he didn't want to know.
TJjere's blood, was all I could say.
At the hospital, the doctor told me faces bleed a lot. One deep, long cut across
her face. One cut for all that blood. I stayed with her while they stitched her
up, and my father went back to the house to clean the mess, to try to erase our
memory of that afternoon.
It was late by the time they discharged her. She lit a cigarette in the passenger
prismmagazine.ca
29 seat, and I was annoyed but also grateful she was still high from the pills. She'd
probably be out of it for days. Thar was rhe thing: She always got to come down
from it like it was a dream, while my father and I carried her heavy memories in
our throats. She took a long drag, and I hated her for how confidently she sucked
in the smoke. Like she didn't even need air to breathe.
A year later, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, though at first I refused
to believe it. The years of living away from my mother, wondering every day if
she was still alive (she never picked up the phone), had finally taken their toll.
Instead of fixating on her, I began to fixate on myself. I was obsessively aware
of my pulse, my breath, and the small mechanics of my body. Often, I'd stare
at my face in the mirror, just to prove to myself I still existed. My mind became
completely separate from my body, and I no longer trusred my lungs ro breathe
for me once I fell asleep. My eyes closed only from pure exhaustion.
My doctor suggested I try yoga. At first, I ignored rhe instructors when they
coached the class on how to brearhe into each pose. In mountain pose we were
supposed to press the crowns of our heads towards the sky; we were supposed to
find length in our spines—bur I only felt myself wanting to sink halfway into the
earth. But I kept going every day.
A few months later I began to feel better, but I knew I would never feel
"normal" again. One day, the instructor told us to find the space in our bodies
where no storm had hit and the trees were still standing. I did not know of such
a place. I started crying and continued to cry as quietly as I could for the rest of
my practice.
Afterwards, I sat with the instructor and we talked, gently at first, about my
anxiety and my distrust for my body. She read me a poem that said, Each inhale
is a blessing, and each exhale a prayer. Yes, I thought. Every rime my breath left
my body, I begged for it to come back to me like someone stuck in an impossible
love. I told her I constantly felt as though I would just drop dead at any moment.
She said she understood. But, your lungs haven't ever given you reason to doubt
them, have they? Haven't they always held up?
I supposed they had. There had never been a morning when I didn't wake
up, never a mountain I'd died at the top of, never a nervousness or crisis so bad
that my lungs wouldn't let me breathe again after I'd calmed down. I thought of
my birth. But even then, here I am.
I often wonder if I will have a daughter someday. I'm still young and far from
knowing if I'll have children, but sometimes I think of her. I imagine a nurse
telling me to breathe as I guide her into being. I try to imagine the pain, but of
course I cannot—I can only be sure that I will try to take breaths deep enough
for both of us, so when she enters the world, cold and held, she'll take an inhale
that expands her tiny lungs so big she'll never know what it feels like to have
30 PRISM  52:3 them be empty. But the body makes no promises. Sometimes the best we can do
is wait for another morning.
prismmagazine.ca
31 A lis ha Dukelow
METAMORPHOSIS
And now the land and sea are not distinct, all is the sea, the sea ivithout a shore.
—Ovid
Squirmers, we named tadpoles
scooped in ice cream pails of pond water,
fat raindrops, black pearls.
We sreeped our fingers
in their slippery wriggle;
each morning, poked
for tail tickle, electric
flicker of eye, greening throat,
those almosts.
Then the leg sprouts,
the bulging head crowns,
but when lung sacs swelled
from pollywog gills,
they grew liquidlocked,
couldn't catch dry breath,
went still. Murked specks
mottling the yellow meniscus,
we lifted them half-limbed,
dun stones in our palms,
prodded their cool bellies,
thumbed for throb.
Whispered, wakeup.
32 PRISM  52:3 Geoffrey Nil so n
FRACTALS
I ivoidd meet you now
and I ivould wish this scar
to have been given with
all the love
that never occurred betiveen us.
—Michael Ondaatje, "The Time Around Scars"
in the bookshop i turned to a bargain
copy of wordsworth on the long
table & your soft mass moved past,
not one infinite interner trace
comes back in the query of your smell
but you were between the rows,
swift off-white ghost, milky
palm that will not melt snow,
your form close to what i'd known.
i would meet you noiv
under suburban night, i'd be more
than a spider of airborne static
between dust & light, more
than cabin-fever, i would be
worth the cost of lust,
the selfish flirt with bizarre
in the cold sibilance of skin,
spine vibration under my hand.
i'U follow your lead & look far
'. i would wish this scar
tattooed on my chest like a barcode
warning: i am human, happier
than when i left you at the pump,
hair draped like an auburn
stole, voice-rasp all but fuzzed,
hand in hand in glove,
i didn't have ties, want ropes
or crave what foundation meant,
did you see me lie? what a bluff
to have been given, with all the love
prismmagazine.ca
33 fractaled, self-similar,
scared of that bubble of warm
created in the space between chests
as one body descends on another.
the incubation of voice inside voice
saying enough, sisyphus,
enough, it's lonely on that mountain.
my hubris was like a conversation
with silence, there was so much
that never occurred between us.
34 PRISM  52:3 Harold Macy
GELIGNITE
X had to know how far to push him, where his edges were, what set him off. For
all I knew he could've been my last chance.
After thirty years of marriage to an oaf, one day I hopped in the Chev. Said
I was going out for milk. I'd had enough, and the kids were grown. I did like so
many women and slipped out the door one morning and drove west, toward the
coast, watching the house fade away in the rear-view mirror until I could cover it
by holding up my thumb. I didn't tell him I was going, I didn't pee in his shoes
like my friend Sally did with her dearly beloved. No note, no nothing, just gone.
I bet he's still at home, waiting in his recliner for a supper no one's gonna bring.
I grew up on a fruit farm in rhe Okanagan; the only child of an apple man.
Summers picking and hauling totes, sunlight warm on my bare brown arms, a
babble of talk as the workers moved through the orchard. Winters pruning the
trees, springtime spraying dormant oil and sulfur off the back of the tractor, me
learning how to drive on that Ford 9N, bouncing and jerking the clutch—Dad
hanging on and waving the spray nozzle like a knight in combat, laughing at my
driving and yelling at the unseen enemy. But when the codling moths finally
won, he got to daytime drinking in the dark corners of the empty packing shed
and things got real ugly.
To this day I can remember hearing the soft flutter of grey wings as the up-
valley wind brought the migrating adults, hundreds bumping blindly against
the windows of our farmhouse. Dad just standing in the kitchen staring at his
beat-down reflection in the glass. For every bug hitting the panes, there were a
thousand in the trees laying their eggs under the bark scales. Some nights in bed
waiting for sleep, just around that time between nodding off and staying up to
reach for a magazine, everything fuzzy like the grey moths, I could almost feel
them crawling on my body. Run. Squash them on the dirt path until it's greasy.
Fall down in the slime. Bad dreams.
I was only eighteen when I met Harvey. He was selling agricultural chemicals
out of the back of an old rusted-out van. He slept in there while he was on the
road and for years after he still smelled of Atrazine and RoundUp. Didn't smell
it then, though. I smelt adventure and escape so I married him. Standing up in
the front of our church in the summer, pregnant by Christmas. What a mistake,
but I didn't discover this until well after his ring wore a furrow round my finger.
Still, he did get me out of one kind of valley and into another and gave me two
kids that turned out pretty good.
Lordy, was he unpredictable. No more perching on the edge of the sofa
when the truck crunched on the driveway gravel, wondering what sort of man's
gonna come through the door. Hoping whatever happens, it doesn't wake the
prismmagazine.ca 35 kids again. Which is why I am pushing so hard now. So close to fifty, I can't
afford to take chances. Don't have the time.
The first night after I left, I ended up in Princeton. Driving into the late afternoon,
squinting like a day-caught orchard mole, I blamed the sun for the few streaks
down my face. It was summer and full heat reflected from the dry mountainsides.
Thirsty work, leaving your life behind. The Princeton Hotel was a shaky old
building which has since burnt to the ground. That evening in June, with a hot
smoky wind coming from the wildfires up the Tulameen, it seemed like a palace
to me. I got one of the few rooms they still used and tossed my stuff onto the
bed. The squeal of lonely, tired springs told me it wasn't no Sealy like at home.
After a quick shower and a touch-up on the old war paint, I went down to the
pub.
Coming out of the bright glaring sun into the dark and cool parlour was like
jumping into the Similkameen River, which I had done earlier—my hair still
damp. Blinking my eyes to adjust to the dimness, I walked to an empty table
and plunked myself into a worn seat, caught the eye of the bar lady and got my
first cold beer. It went down with a satisfying sizzle, slaking the road thirst and
beginning to build insulation around my recent sudden departure. The second
and rhird joined it and the buzz crept in.
Tracing my finger thtough the wet rings left by the glasses, I didn't see him
come up.
"Join ya?" A short fireplug of a man stood before me, blue eyes crinkling
with his question. Nice teeth.
"Free country." I sat up and waved to a chair. My God, I think I even flipped
back my hair and licked my lips glossy as he turned away and ordered two more
before dropping solidly into the red vinyl seat.
The beers came and we clinked glasses. I leaned forward to study him. He
wore clothes worked in bur clean. A few tattoos coloured up his arms with a
bruise-like blue from the ink slowly leaching out. Where does ir go, I wondered.
Into the blood, through rhe kidneys, pissed out into some cracked toilet. He had
a shaved head that glistened with a slight sweat sheen. A soul patch dangled from
his lower lip. Later I'd persuade him to grow a full bushy beard. But I told him
you gotta let me shave your neck, keep it clean. I always wanted to shave a man.
Something about holding a keen, sharp razor jusr over the jugular vein that keeps
them honest on a customary basis.
"So, whaddya do for money?" I asked him.
"Professional homewrecker." He smiled and handed me a business card.
David J McNeil, Licensed Blaster. "I don't stand behind my work, I stand behind a
tree. "Funny guy. I needed a laugh.
Dave and I spent that summer running around the province blowing stuff
up. I learned a lot about how things are put together by how you take them
apart. We went up behind Lillooet to the old mines of Bralorne. There was this
hundred fifty-foot brick chimney from an abandoned smelter. For years antique
hunters and scavengers scraped and dug rhrough rhe ruins and now the chimney
36 PRISM   52:3 presented a real hazard of coming down on them. Dave thought that would be a
just fate. Culture vultures, he called them.
The chimney towered over the abandoned company town. It's the same all
across the province. Some big business comes in to dig up or cut down, and
once it's all gone the playboys move on, leaving behind the breadwinners in flat
distress to make their own way. There were a dozen houses with black vacant
windows and kicked-in doors. Some of them half-burnt from drinking parties. I
wondered about their stories—payday at the mine-site, dances in the hall, babies
born, men mourned, never to come up from the shafts.
After putting out his warning signs and stringing up bright ribbon, saying
"Danger—Blasting Zone" all round the site, Dave set to work laying the charges.
I saw him glance up once at a row of shacks in the chimney's slim shadow and
get a devilish grin. The first charge was placed in a cavity he chiseled out of the
bricks with a pickaxe, sweating in the sun but still with that crazy smile. He
called me to bring over a handful of what looked like fat sausages from Satan's
kitchen. Stacking them in like on a Sunday brunch table, the last one he loaded
with a safety cap and fuse. Then he went all round the chimney placing four
more bundles with a delay fuse and linking them to the first charge.
When it was all set up he explained, "The first one, it goes off and takes out
a wedge from that side. Tie chimney leans that way, and then the back ones go
five milliseconds later. Tiat keeps it in one piece all the way down, like a tree.
Now, if I wanred it to crumble all in one pile, they'd all go at once. But I don't
wanna do that, so watch this."
He pulled a Bic from his pocket and lit the fuse. Raised on a diet of TV
cartoons with Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote, I kinda expected a lot of
sputtering and sparks, but the fuse burned inside and just smoked. We had
ninety seconds to get back behind the truck. Dave started his stopwatch and
blew the signal on his air horn since a few spectators had gathered.
The crack of the first charge echoed back and forth through the narrow
valley, followed almost instantly by the resr. For a moment the chimney stood
still above all the commotion at its base. I glanced at Dave wondering what
went wrong. He wasn't even looking up but was eyeing the row of cabins. Then,
slowly, the bricks began to crack with a hollow sound as the eighty-year-old
mortar bonds began to separate, and down she came. The cabins disappeared
in an instant. What was once, now wasn't; their stories gone but safe from the
vultures' scratching.
"Like I said. Homewrecker!" Dave grinned through the dust.
So what's the measure of a man like that? Playing with such high stakes each and
every day, what does that leave him to give a woman? He didn't have a death wish.
He drove sensibly, followed the WCB safety rules strictly, and kept his logbook
up to date. Maybe playing with stuff like nitro and gelignite made him more
aware of his own mortality, how he could be snuffed by a small miscalculation,
made him live for the moment and that moment now included me.
Driving back that night to the Four Pines Motel in Lillooet, Dave had his
sunburnt arm out the window. Tie dtisk air was heavy with sage coming in
prismmagazine.ca 37 gentle over us. We had the radio on but it came and went with the bends in the
road. Dave reached down and switched it off as if he wanted my full attention.
He had it.
"I got a job offer up in the Yukon for the winter. Highway avalanche control.
Sounds like fun."
Fun? Triggering off tons of ice and snow in semi-controlled chaos. Fun? The
Yukon in the winter with all four hours of daylight and forty below. Some fun.
More gravel clattered under the truck. Maybe I should thank the moths. I still
felt the fuzzy buggers crawling on me sometimes. I once saw a blown-up picture
of the adult codling moth, all frilly antennae scanning for someone to ruin.
If it hadn't been for them, I thought, I wouldn't be here now sitting in the
comfortable silence with Dave. I conveniently forgot the thirty years in between,
the two kids now grown up, and the stucco bungalow back in Vernon with the
oaf.
Can you do that? Just put half your life away when it goes bad. Drop a brick
chimney on it and erase your version in a cloud of flying debris? Mix up some
kind of memory insecticide and spray it all gone.
Dave was talking again. "If you wanted to come, I could call you my apprentice
and we'd make more money. One winter up there and we'd be rolling in the
dough. Enough to do most anything ya want."
So what did I want? No damn bugs and a good man to lie beside each and
every night. Someone who doesn't get liquored up and nasty. Someone who asks
me what I want.
Our last job of the summer was up in Prince George, at the pulp mill.
Another stack to drop, but this one had to crumble straight down and it was big!
We laid in the charges, connected the fuses and let 'er rip. When the dust settled,
Dave looked worried.
"Shit, that was only seven. We loaded eight holes." How he could hear, ler
alone count the individual explosions, was beyond me, the apprentice.
Somewhere in the pile was a ten-pound surprise for the excavator operator
waiting to load out the shattered chunks and Dave couldn't let that happen. He
told me to stay put while he took a look around.
He was about halfway across the shard-strewn field when it went off. He was
sat down hard and cut with a bit of flyrock. By the time I reached him on a dead
run, he was staggering to his feet and giving me a goofy grin. The mill's first aid
man was there with his kit and we fixed up the bleeding.
How do you give your heart to someone who might just evaporate? I didn't
feel like starting over, making those first hesitant moves like we did at the
Princeton Hotel, feeling all silly and shy. Going through that time of sneaking
sideways-sparrow-looks at someone to size them up without appearing to.
Dave held onto my arm as we stumbled to the truck. I drove back to the
motel on the hills south of town. We sat for a long time on the bed drinking a
cold beer.
"Tiat was a first. That misfire. Never had one before. Malfunction. Not our
fault. Tiere's some things you just can't predict or plan for." I squirmed around
on the bed to face him. Things you can't foresee, forces beyond our control.
38 PRISM  52:3 Moths, defective fuses, errors in judgment, bad choices. How often do you get
another chance?
prismmagazine.ca
39 Paddy Chitty
FLASH
I search through black and white photographs in albums, loose
in cookie tins. Find his hockey pictures, baseball shots,
his brother's wedding (I'm a bridesmaid), others at the beach,
in the backyard, at our wedding, on our Florida honeymoon.
In each his smile looks Photoshopped, enhanced with the flash
of a twinkling tooth. I don't want the captured moments. Can't
bring myself to toss the lot. Keep a few of the two of us because
I looked damn good back then. The rest I put
in the empty Rieker Antistress shoe box my boots came in.
Since the divorce, our lives touched once—a phone call
at work. Ir was sales relared, and the salesman my ex.
He never expected to reach me. Nor I, him.
I asked for his name and number. (The buyer was out.)
He wanted to come over. I told him no.
I remember borrowing Aunt Lela's Ford. Waiting in the apartment
parking lot after midnight, watching
him go in, the lights go out. The scent of pine
from the Little Trees air freshener dangling from the rear-view mirror.
My eye exam—dilated pupils, blurred vision—
the day I told him I knew.
How clearly I saw.
40 PRISM  52:3 Sandra Lloyd
SURFACE TENSION
Every year someone drowns in Go Home Lake:
a late-winter fisherman on a snowmobile
failing to clear the slushy gap
between ice and shoreline;
boats, loaded with drunken cottagers, whirring
at high speeds through the Haunted Narrows
hitting deadheads that float quietly
down Flat Rock Falls from upriver;
the child unsupervised by parents believing
their son has common sense enough
not to slip on damp rocks and be found
face down in the boat house,
blond hair a feathery fan
waving across the murky surface
dotted with tranquil water striders.
prismmagazine.ca
41 Madeline Sonik
TRANSACTIONS
At all starts when Hal drops by and says he needs a car, and my brother Sam,
acting like God, offers the old man's antique Buick for fifty dollars. Hal slaps his
thigh, and asks if fifty bucks is all Sam's gonna give him. I stick my elbow into
Sam's ribs. I want the little twerp to shut his face, but then Llal slides his dirty
hand into his pocket and pulls out half a bill.
Well, what can Sam do? He's gotta take it. He fishes the keys up, while Hal
glides around the old boat, kicking tires. I'm hoping one falls off, but no such
luck. Hal trawls his commando knife out of his rucksack, rhen tosses his pack
into the back seat. "Okay, boys," he says, waving his knife around, "Let's see
what this junk heap can do."
It's a hot day but me and Sam both break a cold sweat. Sam tells Hal we gotta
be some place, but Hal ain't listening. Next thing you know, we're all cruising
along the highway, past the cows in the field, gold and green stripes of corn and
tobacco, way, way out towards Essex just like we're going on a picnic.
Both Sam and me know Hal is crazy. He stuck a knife into some guy because
he didn't like the way he talked, might have been the very knife he's strapped to
himself for this joyride. It happened a couple of months ago down in Florida.
He could have fried. Tiey still use the electric chair down there, but his pappy's
a judge and fixed it for him to come home. Tiere was a whole big deal about it
in the papers. Maple leaf forever and all that crap. Now Hal says if he's gonna do
a murder, it'll be in his own back yard.
"Why'd ya go to Florida in the first place?" Sam asks like a retard. I could've
kicked his ass.
"Old man senr me to Disney World. Some R & R after juvie, eh?"
"No kidding," Sam says, all excited, like he wants a blow-by-blow of the
Magic Kingdom.
"Yeah," Hal says. He ain't offended at all. "It was real fun 'til this dip-stick
got on my case for jumping the line at Space Mountain. 'Y'all know where the
end of the line is?' he asked. 'Sure do,' I said and showed him."
Everyone knew Hal had a spur-of-the-moment temper. He never let on what
he might do next. Even way back in grade school, he scared all the teachers. Mrs.
Loomis was the only one who tried to get him any help. Instead of math, he got
to go see the school counselor. She was fresh outta college, bleeding heart, all
hopped up on making the world a better place. "Get in touch with your feelings,"
she told him. "Don't bottle it up."
He came back to Mrs. Loomis like a bomb about to explode. "My safety's
off," he told her and went after Mike Riddell with a pair of pointy scissors. After
that, there was no more counseling for Hal. Llis dad put him into "a special
school" but they couldn't handle him there either. Finally he winds up hauling
42 PRISM  52:3 water and chopping wood at good ole St. Jerome's. They call it wilderness
therapy, but anyone who's been there knows it's just a cover to kick the shit out
of troublemakers like Hal.
Sam knows enough to change the subject. He starts making small talk about
UFOs. For a second, my heart starts beating normal again. Then the idiot twerp
points at a cornfield. "There's supposed to be crop circles out there. I ain't never
seen one, but I'd sure like to," he says. I would've smashed him in the face if he'd
been sitting next to me, but instead I kicked the back of his seat and hoped he'd
shut up. The last thing we wanted was to be in a cornfield with crazy Hal and his
knife.
"All that UFO stuff is bullshit," Hal says. He's doing twenty clicks over the
limit and swerves a little when he pops the lighter for his smoke.
"Oh yeah?" Sam says.
"Yeah," Hal says.
Before Sam can say another stupid thing, I butt in, "Maybe we can go for
a drive another time, Hal. We really gotta be some place." I'm talking from the
back seat, I'm sitting next to Hal's rucksack, I look into the rear-view and catch
his eye twitch like a cricket. Hal slams the brakes so hard you can smell the
rubber and the car skids. Sam's and my butt slide clear off our seats. Hal whips
his head sideways like he's having convulsions.
"You mean you don't want to ride with me?" Llis eyes are bulging out of his
shaved head like balloons.
"He don't mean that," Sam says, his voice all wuzzy like he's begging for
mercy. "We like driving with you, don't we, Charlie?" I nod. I'm watching Hal in
the rear-view, trying to decide if we ought to jump and roll, but then everything
settles. Hal touches the gas. We're cruising.
Hal drags on his cigarette like I've seen asthmatics pull on their puffers. Sam's
trying to look like he's enjoying the ride. "Tiem UFO sightings are all complete
bullshit," Hal continues. "Tiere ain't no such thing as UFOs, there ain't no such
thing as aliens, and there ain't no close encounters."
"Lotsa people say different," Sam argues. "Lotsa people say they've seen
weird lights and junk."
"Lotsa people is idiots," Hal says.
Yeah, I think, and Sam's one of the biggest.
"Before them crop circles appeared, people said they seen things in the sky.
It was on the radio, a whole bunch a people, they seen fireballs and big round
metal discs, and some official guy said it wouldn't surprise him at all if there was
aliens or UFOs or shit like that. You got a smoke?" my A-hole of a brother calls
to me.
I'm watching Hal's face, looking to see if his expression changes, looking to
see if he goes for his knife, and when he don't, I throw my two cents in to let
him know I'm on his side. "Tiere ain't no such thing as UFO's," I say, "It's the
Americans testing them nukes."
"No it ain't," Hal says.
"No it ain't," Sam says.
I notice Hal's eyebrow twitch again. I toss Sam a smoke and take one myself.
prismmagazine.ca
43 "So what do you think, Llal?" I try to sound like whatever he thinks is right.
"It ain't what I think," Hal mutters. "It's what I know for sure."
While we're waiting for Llal to tell us what he knows for sure, it suddenly
gets cooler. The wind picks up and some mother of a black cloud rolls in outta
nowhere and starts pissing rain. We hit the city limits and Hal says, "How fast
can this shell do?"
Me and Sam didn't have the guts to ask Hal where he's taking us. We're
moving so fast, my cheeks stick to my molars. I'm keeping my fingers crossed
that Sam don't rile him, 'cause if Hal hits those brakes now, we're out on the
highway with roadkill. I wonder for a split second if maybe I'm dreaming,
maybe this is a nightmare, but then Hal twists the wheel, my head smashes the
side window, and I know I'm not.
When Hal finally slows the car, he says, all gloomy-like, "I been to Hell and
it ain't a ride I'd recommend."
Sam, being the moron he is, asks, "In Disney World?"
"No," Hal says, his voice all low and serious. "In the hole."
It's as dark as pirch outside now, and forks of lightning flash every which
way. Rain thumps on the top of the old man's car, like he'll be thumping on us
if we ever make it home alive and he finds out about this little pleasure trip. I'm
trying to think of some trick to get Hal to take us back, or at least jog him into
a happy place so maybe he won't kill us, but before I can, Hal starts in with that
glum tone again.
"Tiey lock ya up in a little cage, mattress on the floor, bucket to crap in.
Strip ya naked, call ya names, sometimes if ya give 'em lip, they spray ya with
chemicals that stop ya breathing, but that ain't the worst of it. You wanna know
what's the worst of it?"
Hal turns off the highway and drives up a muddy country road; lightning
and thunder exploding everywhere, hail like headlights pummeling the old
man's car. I wonder if ir's a trick question. If we answer "yes" will he pull out his
knife and shank us?
But Sam don't think. He just blurts: "Sure."
I look in the tear-view and hold my breath. If Hal is planning on killing
Sam, he ain't gonna do it yet. "Tie worst," Hal says, "is having no one but bed
bugs to talk to, no one to listen to but them horrible voices in your own head.
Them voices tell you you ain't nothing but a worthless piece of crap and the
world would be better if you just slit your throat, and the worst of it is, you start
thinking they're right, you start thinking about all the things you done in your
life, and the hard cold concrete floor opens like a trap door, and you fall down,
straight into Hell."
"For real?" Sam asks.
Hal slows the tank. Tiere's this rotten gate coming off its hinges, and a sign
you can just barely read saying No Trespassing. Hal levels his foot, and the old
man's car jumps at the gate. Broken wood and bent metal scatter in the wet
brush.
Llal laughs like a lunatic. "Jesus said, 'I am the gate. If anyone enters through
me, he will be saved.'" He drives under a rusting arch. Hailstones shine like
44 PRISM  52:3 birds' eggs in the long messy grass. "That's how I know there ain't no such thing
as UFOs," Hal says, "because I been to Hell, and I met Jesus there."
"Is that a fact?" Sam asks.
I can't make out where we are, and can feel myself start to panic, then a
rod ol light hits a tree and brightens up a tall flat stone, and I realize this crazy
bastard has brought us into an abandoned boneyard.
"I met Jesus there," Hal says again, "and Jesus said to me 'I am the way and
the truth and the life' and 'I am God the great and powerful."
"I thought the Wizard of Oz said something like that," Sam says.
"Yeah, he said something like that too, but he really wasn't great and powerful
and that was only a movie," Hal says. He slams the car into a gravestone and it
topples. Then he parks on top of it. "Tiem lights in the sky ain't UFOs," Hal
says, pointing at Sam, like suddenly he gets the fact that Sam disagrees with him.
"There ain't never been a UFO. Tiem lights in the sky is rebel angels, just like
the kind Ezekiel saw, coming down to earth, reminding us of our covenant with
Jesus."
"Covenant?" Sam asks.
"Yeah," Hal says, "covenant. It means the deal we made with Christ."
"I ain't made no deal with no one," Sam says.
I boot the back of Sam's seat. "Cut it out, hard-on!" he whimpers.
"Let's go for a walk, boys," Hal says like he didn't hear Sam and like he don't
remember it's pissing outside. He must think we're not gonna listen to him,
'cause he unstraps his commando knife and uses it to signal us out of the car.
"We're coming," I tell him, trying not to sound scared.
Sam walks ahead of me, and all I can see is his straight, stupid skull, bobbing
up and down as the rain hits it. Hal walks behind. The point of his knife
touching my soaking wet T-shirt. A thin vein of lightning crackles followed by
an ear splitting kaboom. Tie air smells like sulfur. It ain't safe to be walking in
this storm, I think, but then I feel the tip of Hal's knife, and don't mind the
lightning so much.
Tiere's this little tumble-down building, like a broken box, at the top of the
muddy hill.
Hal makes us go in and tells us to kneel down. Above is a bunch of old
wooden trusses, pointing up, making a triangle, and the floor is cracked wood
and broken stone. I'm looking for a window to dive through, but all of the
windows are covered with boards. There's only a few glints of shadowy light
poking in, making the big rickety cross at the front glow like a UFO.
Hal's waving his knife around and telling Sam to get down on his knees. I'm
already^ down and thinking to myself about that guy in Florida. "So this is the
end of the line," I think and get sentimental and want to hug Sam even though
he's such a jerk. But then Hal ruins the mood by booting me in the back. "Get
your head lower," he shouts.
I'm waiting to feel the steel, wondering which of us he'll take out first, and
where he'll dig first, and what he's gonna do with our bodies after, but the jab
don't come. He's on again about being in the hole and knowing you have no one
in a place like that. No one to help you but Jesus. Outside, the rain stops. Inside,
prismmagazine.ca
45 everything goes quiet. Tie glints of light through the boards get brighter and
twinkly like stars. "I want you boys to pray for your souls, do you undersrand?"
Hal asks.
I can't see Sam now, but I bend my head a little lower, hoping to God Hal
makes a clean rip, and we don't have to lie on this cold stinking floor bleeding to
death. It's driving me crazy waiting, and finally I turn around. Hal is kneeling in
a dim twinkling halo. He's kneeling just like we are, except his hands are folded
together. I can tell by the way his lips tremble he's talking to someone, and then
I notice diamonds of light. Diamonds of light, like hailstones glistening and
melting down his cheeks, falling from his shur and wrinkled-up eyes like rebel
angels falling from heaven.
46 PRISM  52:3 Michael John
son
IN THE LANGUAGE OF THE MOUNTAIN
Tie sun broomed snow into piles
and elders saw each moon pull its brightest tide,
saw the river beacon their salmon home.
The moon of dances and angry moon,
the moon of good salmon
when the liver dozes in its algaed flowstones,
when the geese wing over the stubble fields
the hills bruised in early autumn,
when the wolves come piping their sad prayers.
In this place of coming together
the words for the way moss fills the shadows
under the trees do not mean bow, not fall
on your knees, that is just how they are spoken.
prismmagazine.ca
47 RAINMAKER
They called you in their need,
none believing in your ricketed
legs and bird bones, the desiccated
eagle head you carried.
You shook your liontail scepter
at their quier ridicule,
strutted your beads and spat the dark fuel
of your prayers into the fire.
After the thunder and cloudgrace,
were they tears on wearhered faces
laughing their thanks? Did they
ever believe in you rainmaker—
or was it enough they cried, Asante!
Asante! and drank the water?
PRISM  52:3 HELL
No lake of fire, no, it is waking
to find a drunk driver took her years ago,
and the child, briefly, achingly, on a machine,
and every waking they die again.
Hell is her holding her belly in an ambulance,
who didn't wake, only believed she woke
in the growing dawn, birds just opening their throats,
their song spread into the waters of night like a stain.
Tiink of only believing you woke.
Where she felt a sunrise like a foundry of opals
and the tinder bones of suns, really
there was the windkept croon of winter
on housecomers, the sun gone raggedly
into the last leaves. No more dapple, no sway.
No one would know what toppled firewood
or rusting pail was growing small
and hunched to gnomes of snow.
No one would come in spring and see
between the willow boughs
the chime he hung of hollow reeds
the whittled trinkets that look like his family
whose hands in a breeze come together.
prismmagazine.ca
49 Mark Lavorato
HELL
The gates are made of gold, jasper, pearl.
There is no rain, no storms, just calm blue sky.
Graffiti doesn't exist. Or dissent, friction, doubt.
Wolves and lambs graze together in vegetable patches.
The birds sing in unison, all in the same key.
None of them squawk or shit or beg for crumbs
from old women with plastic bags.
There are no old women. Everyone is
nineteen and fit, like they never were in life.
They can have exactly what they want,
whenever they want. A kind of poolside holiday
where the buffer is always open,
and cocktails with brighr tropical fruit appear
miraculously in your hand on the hour.
There are no hours. And yout entire
extended family is there with you. All of them.
They grin endlessly in the sublime parasol shade,
reclining and content, tapping their feet in time
to the birds, faces tilted up to a cloudless sun
that never moves, never burns, never sets.
50 PRISM  52:3 Lori McNulty
FINGERNECKLACE
J- eppermint saliva lips, two numb bums. Lick, stamp, stick around the salvaged
oak table in the common room where Joe and Gus compete on Fish Friday. First
one to lick and label five hundred envelopes gets his pick of the fresh cod Mrs. B
will serve tonight with garlicky roasted red peppers.
"All good, my jumblies?" Mrs. B scans the mail metropolis forming at Gus's
elbows. "Break for fresh air?"
Joe stomps his feet. Gus pinches a petfect three-fold letter, head low.
"Suit yourselves."
Mrs. B has been group home supervisor since her husband accidentally
shot himself eight years ago. Now she pitches lifebuoys in a sinking, four-storey
heritage house in Greektown that Gus calls the HMS Shitstorm. Tomorrow
when she's flat-lining on the couch with a migraine, he'll try to kiss her on the
lips.
Joe flicks the long braid that dangles down his back like a fat black squirrel
tail. Whenever he squirms, Gus feels the rodent claw up his own spine.
"Don't steal my Cheerios," Gus howls, slapping Joe's hand away from the
cereal bowl between them. Gus pulls the mournful face that makes him look like
a plumpish plus-fifty, though he's only thirty-six.
"You chew like an Indian," Gus shouts.
"You stink like catfish," Joe replies, stomping his lizard-skin boots. His face
braided with sun and age, soft as kid leather.
Marlee enters, slumps down next to Gus, who is quietly nibbling at the edge
of an "O." She and Gus grew up on the wrong side of sane so they're next-door
neighbours. Nuthouse Knobs. Crackpot Criminals. The Deranged. Marlee came
in off the streets, the thing men fucked behind dumpsters. Now, she's on low-
grade watch at the home. Not that she'd ever go through with it, but one rainy
afternoon she swallowed a jar of paint thinner just to wash the stench from her
throat. Tic last time Gus acted out—packed his life in a duffel and hitched the
Don Valley to his brother's place—Donny sent him back on the Greyhound
from Peterborough, pronto. Tiat was two summers ago. He's been good all year.
Mrs. B returns, pointing to her watch. Gus plucks two skinny whites from
his silver pillbox. He'll be slow-mo soon, bleary by dinner.
The rice is one item on the plate. The rice is yellow and smells like butteted
bones. Tie red peppers curl, sodden and sad in their oily, garlic swim. At the
dinner table, Gus pokes at his rumpled fish, feeling his organs flip.
"Last time," Mrs. B says, rising from the table. She fixes Gus a peanut butter
sandwich she glues together with clover honey. With a quick flash of her blade,
she splits the sandwich four ways. Dropping the plate before Gus, she taps the
table.
prismmagazine.ca
51 Gus is squeezing his head. He can see his mother's ash fingers tap-tap the ashtray.
She is butting the stub out, covering her ears. Can't stop the blue-splitting
shrieks.
"Come on, Gus," Mrs. B taps again. He shakes his head, tries sorting
patterns on his mother's yellow peeling linoleum.
"You need your energy. Donny's coming tomorrow," she adds.
Donny's greasy jeans are tucked into oil-stained work boots in the living room of
the care home. He checks his watch, pacing. Crew's on site. Fuck. Shit. Piss. He's
got the engineer's change orders. Cost overruns. Goddamn job is killing him.
Looking up he sees Gus lumbering down the stairs still wrapped in his white
terrycloth robe. Big as a hollowed oak, premature belly spread. Donny shakes a
full prescription bottle at him.
"Don't skip out on me, Gus. You know what happens."
Donny watches his younger brother's eyes dart around the room, taking
inventory. He sees Gus freeze at the sight of his work boots.
Gus bunches the terrycloth belt in his palms, squeezes, lets the fuzzy ball
drop to the floor. He yanks ir back up like a fishing line, absently lets it drop.
Donny pats the couch cushion, coaxing his brother over.
"Look, Gus, we can't do our usual pizza run this aft. Got a date with a wrecking
ball."
Gus bunches the belt in his lap, blinks wet, wandering rears. Donny wraps
his arms around his big old stump of a baby brother, tries to hold the roots
down, keep the disease from spreading. Roor rot. Runs in the family.
Gus sobs into his brother's neck. "I want to come home."
Donny holds him close, tries to stop twenty years of trembling. Five years,
six major episodes, a thousand pills and privare dreams between them.
He can see it in his brorher's puffy eyelids, the grey, candle-drip skin. New
meds are doing a number. He looks more like her now. Same mess of auburn
hair, same staple-sized crease below his lip. Donny pictures his mother seated on
the stairs, the dim glow of her after-dinner cigarette, eyes going in all directions.
And Gus at nine years old, past the biting and moodiness, withdrawing
into his mumble mouth, doing after-dinner dishes in the pyjamas he's worn all
day. While Donny fucks off to his buddy Cheevie's house for double dessert.
Cheevie's dad has Nintendo on the set, a mother who never once tried to pry
open their bedroom door with a chef's knife. Smooth exit man, just like the old
man.
Donny loosens the belt around his brother's waist. "Gus, you can't come
home. You know Pinky's happy as horses with the house all quiet."
"Fuck Pinky," Gus says, turning away abruptly.
What's he supposed to do? Gus left them broke, wandering for days then
begging for money on their doorsrep, sending his wife for depression pills. Pinky
won't let any more of his bad blood in. Last time they took Gus back, he sold
Pinky on the internet. Amazing how many men will drop the price of a used car
on a mail-order Chinese wedding. Gus posred her picture on a dodgy-looking
website advertising Exotic Lucky Asian Brides. Pinky was wrapped in white and
52 PRISM  52:3 pink wedding chiffon, a purplish-pink orchid in her hair, something bite-sized
dangling on the end of a shrimp fork. Gus wrote that she was petite, submissive,
ornamental. Some old goat paid Gus $1,400 cash on a subway to share his life
with "Pinky Cameroon Sparkle."
Cheap Chinese take-out, Gus said to Donny, winking, flashing his wild
smile, as he handed over a wad of hundred dollar bills in the hallway. Donny
could tell Gus was on a mounting high, about to go from glue-headed to God in
a few hours. Meds were sparks going off, Gus had told Donny. Light screaming
through his skull, flash fireworks, followed by the inevitable hours of blind
panic. Gus said he was only trying to pitch in. Pinky was ready to move out.
Gus pulls his belt from his housecoat, tying it like a tourniquet across his
bicep.
Tie familiar phrase rattling in Donny's skull. Tiink you can save your
brother? You can't even save your marriage, useless fuck.
"Pinky will come around," Donny says, trying hard not to look restless. "Her
dad's covering my new equipment loan."
Gus starts to flap his arms, a whooping crane in a stiff wind. Donny holds
his brother's arms down. Gus wrenches away, rising to his feet.
"Pinky s got a face like the back of a shovel."
"Gus." Donny orders, trying to wrap his arms around his brother's aches,
hold his burden tight.
Gus steps away, shouting in a faux-Asian accent. "Twyme,twyme,me,money
backgawantee." He flaps and turns away again. "FuckPinky."
Donny met Pinky in one of those mahogany and brass steakhouses with
the deer antlers mounted above the bar. She was serving rib-eye sreaks to men
who chewed the fat over real estate deals. Turns out her dad owned the place.
Owned three apartment complexes and a dry-cleaning franchise. Her family was
an empire. His was a broken tenement. She danced through the room, pale blue
moons dusting her eyelids, still as a watercolour. He knew he wouldn't be worthy
but he asked her out anyway, tumbling over his syllables. On their fifth date, he
made a nest of his long arms, cupped her bird bones inside, called her My Lily
Hands.
Donny pulls Gus's hand away from his dismal face, turns to see Joe pound
down the stairs toward them.
"Get away Tomahawk Chuck," Gus shouts.
Joe grabs Gus firmly by the terrycloth shoulder. "Smoke break. Ir's noon
polar bear. Let's migrate," leading him toward the front door.
Donny moves in to help, but Joe raises a dismissive hand, motioning for
him to stay put. Gus is led to the front door. Donny hurries to stuff an envelope
filled with pizza money inside Gus's housecoat. Joe shoots him a puzzled look,
stomping his feet.
Native guys float, they had told Donny. Mohawk or Cree, toeing twenty-
storey beams, sready rivet gun in their hands. It was all bullshit. Joe preferred
doing the ground metal framing but left to repair a support brace on the 3rd
floor. Crew said he must've had a rubber backbone the way he bounced down
in one piece. Whatever was on his mind back then never came back. Joe was on
prismmagazine.ca 53 his own so Donny found him a place with Mrs. B. Once Joe settled in, Donny
figured it would be good enough for family so he dropped Gus off with two
green garbage bags and a blue duffle bag, two days after his brother had set fire
to their shower curtain. Abandon ship! Blame Pinky? Sure. He was fucking free.
On site two hours later, the frontload driver shouts down to Donny: Okay to
take anothet run? Donny nods, directing traffic. Raising its toothy bucket, the
driver steers the front loader rhrough wet mud, shattering glass on a downward
strike. Whining like a beaten dog, the low-rise splits in half. Burying his toe in
sharp debris, Donny thinks—this is the job. Build an extension off the house to
give Gus his own entrance. Donny returns to his truck, roughs up his estimate
pad, knowing the numbers won't add up. Pinky will never go for it. Her parents
would pull the loan. He's nothing but a low-level contractor. Pinky's mother is a
princess. Her tiara's halfway up my ass, he thinks. Fuck it. He'll find the money.
Set Gus up in some studio apartment close by. Take him out twice a week, get
his meds on track.
Donny knows the drill. Pour concrete slab, pound the building out, pad an
invoice or two. Take his commission off the top. Throw me an extra buck, he'll
tell the subs, I'll throw in the townhouse complex too.
Things Gus will do for a dollar:
Clean the kitchen floor with a soapy grey mop.
Commit to Cheerios in the morning and finish them.
Buy Marlee and himself cigarettes when she gets her Thursday cheque.
Gus pulls two turtle blues from his pillbox when Donny leaves, his arms heavy
rubber fins. He lumbers to the bus stop, watches the number 12 roll up. He
stubs out his cigarette and climbs the stairs. Staring down at the fare box, he
watches the coins tickle the steel throat, then spit out a paper tongue at him.
"Alberto's pizza," Gus slurs like a drunk directing a cab.
Brusquely, the driver motions him to the back of the bus. Gus sits in the last
row, opens his pillbox, swallows another. Blearily, he watches Bookbag get on.
She sits up front with a friend but waves back. Gus can't lift his sweaty hand.
Tiey rumble on for ten minutes until Alberto's red neon lights up. He yanks the
cord.
At Alberto's, an alert hostess ushers Gus ro a back table. He's blinking fasr.
Skipping ropes and twigs starr to stretch and snap in his head. Flat bottom
spinning between the temples, Gus stabs a fork into his leg so he's clear enough
to order his usual Hawaiian Special. When the silver tray arrives, a large pie,
thick ctust smeared with pineapple and ham, he dips a wedge into his Coke.
He orders another coffee, adds six sugars, then pockets the spoon. The table is
pivoting, but he needs to piss.
Along the corridor in the restaurant, Gus counts gold diamonds fringing
the emerald carpet all the way to the men's room. He teeters before the urinal
next to a bank of stainless-steel sinks. Tie burly man next to him bounces on
his toes. Watching him, Gus bounces too. The man zips. Gus pulls slowly at his
54 PRISM  52:3 fly. Tie man calls him something Gus can't grasp. He grabs his crotch, fumbling
furiously.
"Pull that faggot shit on me again, you're dead." Tie stout man drops his
shoulder and drives Gus hard into the mirror before walking out the door.
"Don't you cry," Gus says, pounding his thigh on the bathroom floor.
"Don't."
He weeps silently, then rising, pictures himself racing up the stairs of his
mother's house, hands locked around a pair of scissors. He digs his keys into his
thighs.
Gus enters the middle stall, unfolds the tabloid paper left behind on the
floor and drapes it across his lap. When he's through emptying his loose bowels,
he scoops out his own faeces with the newspaper.
"There's stuff in here that could bring me down," he mumbles, folding the
mess up on his way back to the table.
When he returns, the manager is waiting to escort him out. Rain flooding
the streets is gunfire in his head. He slaps at his skull while he waits for an
overcrowded bus to stop.
Donny thwacks his muddy work boots against his truck. His cell is ringing the
special tone. He holds up a finger to the impatient engineer.
Gus has left his shit (Mrs. B says excrement) on the table at Alberto's Pizza.
Donny listens, but the phone cuts out so he asks her to repeat it. She does. "I
can't just leave," he shouts at the phone. "I'm the fucking guy in charge," he says,
insrantly regretting his tone. He punches the truck door, feels acid backing up in
his throat. Donny digs his boots into the muck. Mud sucks his ankles until his
boots disappear to the top red stripe of his wool socks.
Beetles storming his lids, something loose crawling. Riding back to the HMS
Shitstorm from Alberto's Pizza, Gus paws his eye socket, fist deep, until he sees
lime-coloured streaks. He slides the bus window open and breathes; the stench
of sweaty fish seat making his stomach churn.
At the next stop, the bus door opens with a shudder. Bookbag waves from
the aisle, then sits down next to him.
She's dressed in black, wishbone thin, prickly teenaged forehead. Gus
watches her smooth back her raven hair, bunch a ponytail she never fastens. Her
fingertips sift and sort, thunderbolts, won't stop moving light around.
Gus pockets his balled fist. He tries to focus on the brittle slogans screaming
across her tits—no blood for oil—draft beer, not war—fuck yoga. Seeing the
bulge in her breast pocket, he taps two fingers to his lips. She slides out a Player's
Light and hands it to him.
"You okay, Gus?"
Gus drives his palm heel into his cornea. Her voice, too shrill. He closes his
droopy lids, makes a wish, opens—she's still there. Emma twisting the curling
iron at her cheek. An orange ball bursts from the rod, ashes dusting her gingham
blouse. A mouth opens—a thousand night birds shrieking.
Gus pulls out the spoon he's stolen from the restaurant, licks the metal, and
prismmagazine.ca
55 sricks it to his chin.
"Tiat's cool," Bookbag says, "like a shiny goatee." She rakes her fingers through
her tangled hair.
Gus can't stop the screams, sees all the bones in Emma's cheek shattered.
"Savemesavemesavememoneybackguarantee." Gus's mouth begins running
on bus rhythm.
Bookbag pulls Gus's hand from his face, gently turns it over. His whole body
vibrates while she smoothes the padded skin. After a while, Gus's baggy body
slumps down in its seat. Together they look out the rain-spattered window, watch
the hanging duck breasrs glimmer along the gluey sidewalks of Chinatown's
Dim-Sum Drive.
"This is me," Bookbag says, rising uncertainly. "Gonna be all right?"
Gus hauls her back down. She stiffens when he slaps something into her
hand. A wad of bills crackles in her palm. Gus is rocking in his seat again.
"Okay, okay I'll keep this safe for you," she says uncertainly. "Four more
stops then pull the cord. See you tomorrow?"
Gus watches Bookbag climb down the stairs, light up, blow a silver plume
through the open doors. He fans the sulphur sting, feeling sharp metal boxes
clang and clip the corners of his skin.
Mrs. B is waiting for Gus in the doorway, knowing better than to make him talk.
She leads him back to his room and settles him down on the bed.
"Trouble comes," she says, patting his hand, then pulling a tight arm around
his torso. "Blame genes, or blame Jesus, just don't let it get you down." She rises
to fetch water for his pills. "Better tomorrow."
Gus lies with his back against the wall, watches the floor beams split, the
light shattering him in a thousand pieces.
Two heel-clicks, three stomps down the hall before lights out. When Joe knocks
on his door, Gus doesn't answer. Gus swallows two white pills, letting the night
swarm slowly under his chin. Metal flies and bounces from the top of his skull.
Knife prick fingertips until his hands go numb.
By 3 a.m., he is still wide awake. His knocking head won't quiet. He decides
to slip downstairs to the kitchen, grabs his favourite apple green cereal bowl from
the cupboard. Mrs. B is lying on the living room couch, a wet facecloth across
her forehead. Gus fills his bowl with Cheerios, tucking the box under his arm.
Creeping past Mrs. B, he sees her hand jerk on her belly. He bends over, kissing
her lightly on the lips. Her eyelids flutter but she hardly moves. Padding back up
to the third floor, he pushes on to the end of the hall, closing the bathroom door
behind him.
From the back of the toilet tank, he removes the pills he's been collecting all
year. He drains the last of the Cheerios box, mixes the blue turtles and "Os" with
water, watches the candies sink and toss in their oat sea. He tosses in another few.
He pulls the restaurant spoon from his khaki's pocket and stirs the mess before
shovelling it into his mouth, craving a long, cement-headed sleep.
56 PRISM  52:3 Mrs. B is clutching the cordless when Donny arrives. Tie ambulance attendants
are balancing Gus on the strercher as they descend the stairs, Joe yelling at them
to hurry.
Donny orders them to put his brother down in the living room. Reluctantly,
they set their burden down. With all his force, he lifts his brother's torso from
the stretcher, works his way down the arms, rorso, feels for the broken soul
bones.
Sirens silent, he watches the ambulance roll down the street.
Donny motions he'll be right back, needs to get the cell from his truck to call
his wife. He closes the front door, making sure he hears the solid click.
In the truck, he steers straight for an after-hours bar. Head swimming in booze,
he drives all morning until he remembers.
On his way home from his buddy Cheevie's house, pie-stuffed and pleased
with himself after winning drunken Pong on Nintendo. Light on in his sister's
room above the garage. When the acrid stench reaches him in the hallway, he
mounts the stairs two by two.
From the doorway, Donny sees Emma on her knees, hair locked in a curling
iron set flat against her skull. Smoke streams from the brittle strands of Emma's
hair. Everyone is screaming. Lying nexr to his sister, Gus is face down, his right
hand closed around a pair of scissors to set Emma free.
Head swimming wirh Cheevie's dad's cheap rye, he watches Emma punch
out weakly with het left arm. His mother is giving Emma the old fingernecklace
from behind, her hands locked around his sister's fragile windpipe. Donny
touches his throat. So drunk he can hardly move.
It won't stop.
Not when Emma falls forward, face striking the bed stand.
Not when Iris mother tears the electric cord from the wall, lilts the ceramic
lamp overhead.
Parked on the demolition site, Donny sucks in a chestful of diesel. Tie smell
comforts him, in a quiet way, as dawn breaks berween glass and steel, bathing
Yonge Street in fractured yellow hues. He bends to tighten his bootlaces, then
rising, deliberately smashes his face against the side-view mirror.
Gus and Mom and he and Gus and Pinky and Joe and the sharp, bottomless
world tucks a rusty hook in his mouth, hoisting him over the city twenty
storeys. His swooning face a wrecking ball, Donny cracks a fat-lipped grin, the
momentum in him growing, knowing now he'll never be able to avoid the crash.
prismmagazine.ca 57 Richard Kelly Kernick
BRITISH MOUNTAINS, YUKON RIVER
WATERSHED, 1851
Explorer Robert Campbell faces starvation with only a mountain range between him
and the Porcupine herd's aggregation, where groups of caribou number up to 95,000.
He saw wolves on the ridge two days past
but didn't have the strength to follow;
waiting for things that never come.
His ribcage sprouts from his stomach
like the barbed blossoms of creeping nettle,
their sharp demands of growth, and later
he'll swear, his skin is transparent
enough to see a root system of bone
and tendon growing out his fingertips.
Tie earth has ways of knowing
what it's about to eat. It circles beneath him.
He wonders what hurts worse,
a frozen or a phantom limb:
to not feel something that's there
or to feel something that's not—
if it aches more to think of the people
you've met and will never see again or
the people who'll never know you were alive.
Tiis intensity of failure is unique to wanting
to be remembered, to raising a lantern
amidst the empty spaces of the heart
and seeing only shadows, all of which
are your own. And everything is so far away
from where it was supposed to be.
His body turns east to the sunrise.
A smattering of hooves,
the mirage-lines of antlers.
58 PRISM  52:3 GHAZAL OF THE CARIBOU FENCE
Tie fox yips of hunters and the herd gallops uphill into the corral's
red throat. Sinew-snares wait with a guillotine's hunger.
Inside a five-foot storage tank, a Humboldt squid—diablo rojo.
Her tentacles corkscrew against glass, her body pulsing kaleidoscopic.
Sockeye spill themselves into natal streams: their mouths
frowning into masks of Greek tragedy, gulping the broken glass of air.
A grizzly pries open take-out containers like clams, nails clicking.
Tie neon of a Chinese resraurant smears his shadow across the parking lot.
Tie fox finds the fallen nest with the thrill of a knife
finding a tomato. Tie snow holds the juice like a cutting board.
prismmagazine.ca 59 Steven Slowka
ARCHAEOPTERYX
A genus of early bird that is evolutionarily transitional
between feathered dinosaurs and modern birds.
When our bones have settled,
and the twisted sheets of my bed
have filled themselves in around us,
like a layer of warm sediment,
I think of photographs I've seen
of ancient, fossilized birds:
Their limbs, ambered by time.
Their twig-thin skeletons
articulated into dance.
I consider the time it took
to freeze them there, the pitch
of your forearm around my ribs,
the angle at which a wing might tuck
a body away from a storm, and the eons
that seem to blow right over us both.
Our legs cement together.
Our chests bead out particulate heat.
It feels compact, transitory,
just before flight.
60 PRISM   52:3 Drew Me lies
WHEN THE KILLER WHALE BROUGHT
EVIL TO THE TOWN OF PARADISE
X he first time we saw the killer whales, they were hunting sea lions in the bay.
The beasts just showed up one day, a whole malevolent pod of them. We had
never before seen one animal hurt another, had never even done so ourselves, and
so we watched, with a shared sense of unease, as the black dorsal fins breached
the sutface, gliding closer and closer to the shore. Abe Crawford summoned his
men to keep an eye on the beach, and soon half the town was there, looking on
as the whales tore into the sea lion herd with sudden, gruesome enthusiasm.
They tossed the floppy bodies in the air before clamping down their smiling
jaws, like kittens toying with yarn. But these were the days when our kittens
were vegetarians—we were all vegetarians, man and animal alike—so the blood
and the violence was new to us. These were the days of before.
The water was still churning and dark red when Abe Crawford announced
that he'd made up his mind. Tiese creatures had carried some evil to our fair
town, he said, and it was our duty to do something about it. We ought to catch
one, he said, and figute out what these animals ate all about, these huge dark
things with the false white eyes. The whales had brought the sea lions—which,
moments earlier, had been sleeping and fucking in peace on the beach—to an
early death, and that's something neither man nor beast has the right to do. Who
will come with me, he asked, and in that moment he became the first brave man
in the world. I will, slurred Abe's brorher Carl, and we all laughed, for Carl was
the first fool in the wotld, and had been so for a long while. Carl took a drink
from his brown bottle.
Only Mary Lawrence spoke up then, sweet Mary Lawrence who was a doctor
and a healer and a witch. Good people, she said, we know nothing about these
animals and perhaps that is for the best. What strange forces might we welcome
into our town if we capture one and keep it as a pet? There are some things
better left unknown. But we didn't listen to Mary Lawrence, and as Abe assigned
orders and duties to his men she walked over to Carl and put her arms around
his shaking shoulders. Mary was a kind soul. Our town was called Paradise then,
in the great state of California.
How to catch the whale? There was no such thing as a net in those days,
so the men cobbled one together using chicken wire from the petting zoo and
tope from the playground. Officials from both the zoo and the school objected,
because now the Shetland ponies might wander into the llama pen, and the
children had nothing to climb on, but the men insisted. We also needed a tank
in which to keep the whale, so we released I Iindenburg—the town's unofficial
mascot, our ancient, beloved pet manatee—back into the ocean, an arrangement
he protested in his silent, disapproving way. With the arrival of the killer whales,
the sea was newly dangerous, and Hindenburg seemed to sense this, his eyes wise
prismmagazine.ca 61 and terrified beneath his wrinkled brows.
Tiat evening, the men shoved out to sea in Abe's pleasure boat. Tie killer
whales were circling harmlessly a few miles out, and they welcomed the boat as a
new distraction, a way to pass the time until theif next slaughter Tiere was one
calf that approached the men with particular gusto, wriggling in the water like
a worm the size of a Volkswagen, so Abe decided that this was to be our town's
object of study. Neither rhe calf nor his mother seemed perturbed when the men
lowered the net and began tugging him toward land. This was the age before
hunting, so there was no reason the whales should feel fear. Perhaps they thought
that the little calf was just heading out on a brief adventure. In a way, he was.
We brought the calf ashore and slipped him into Hindenburg's highly
chlorinated tank. He swam about happily enough, and he soon attracted a larger
crowd than the old manatee ever had. Our children clapped with delight as the
calf moved back and forrh. Our dogs chased him good-naturedly from the other
side of the aquarium wall. Abe, though, declared that this thing wasn't a pet to be
loved—he was a subject to be observed. As she stood before the tank, her hands
on the glass, Mary whispered his name would be Skookum, old trading slang for
"big." One day, she said, he wouldn't be a little calf anymore.
Skookum didn't like to eat vegetables, which was a problem. As the days went on,
we tossed him cabbages and eggplants, sweet potatoes and soybeans, gooseberries
and dragon fruit, but eventually it all just collected at the bottom of his tank in
a pile of rotting detritus. His swimming grew listless. He's going to statve, Mary
said. This is wrong. Don't you see this is not what he eats? He wants flesh. That's
what the whales eat.
None of us knew what it was to eat flesh, so we shuffled out feet and looked
at the dirt. We had not thought this through. But Abe spoke up, as he often did,
with an idea. Skookum's pod had killed many sea lions. Theit blood turned the
sea crimson and their carcasses washed up on the beach. We could collect the
meat of the dead sea lions and feed it to little Skookum. What was the harm in
that? They are already dead. It is, Abe said, in the interest of Science, which is a
word he made up on the spot, though we all understood what it meant: the path
through which we might better understand the new world of Skookum and his
terrible family.
The men of Paradise wandered down to the beach. Abe was fight, as he
often was; it was littered with entrails and haunches and lonely severed flippers,
washed ashore from the bloodbaths that now occurred a few miles out with
unsettling regularity. What a sight! We knew death, of course, but not in this
way—we cremated our dead, man and animal both, with solemnity and gravity
This was something else altogether: life brought to a premature end. We decided
to call this Killing, after the killer whales.
Not all of our men could handle the bloody task; some of us, we will admit,
retched on the beach as if we had drunk too much seawater. But not Abe. He
and his fellow stoics set to work, gathering up the bloody scraps like they were
62 PRISM  52:3 so many mushrooms. Tien they plopped the sea lion parts into Skookum's tank,
and for the first time in many days the whale seemed to blossom into life again,
tearing into his food with that sickening grin of his.
Mary Lawrence srood by the aquarium. Whenever she wasn't stitching a cut
or mixing a tincture, she stayed at the tank, talking to Skookum, watching over
him. She loved and hated that whale; loved him for his obvious intelligence and
sense of delight, hated him for whatever he represented. We all knew Abe was
one of her lovers, and rumour had it that, at the end of their every encounter,
while she washed up and he lay back on her large feather bed, she begged him to
let Skookum go, to let our town remain innocent a little longer.
Abe, of course, would have none of it. He also kept Skookum company, but
in a different way; he rallied the assorted alchemists and warlocks and inventors
of Paradise to build him an arsenal of insrruments, which he then employed
to study the whale. How fast did Skookum swim? How many pounds per
square inch could his jaws crush? What were his various behaviours and bodily
functions? Soon, Skookum's tank was filled with telescopes and endoscopes
and microscopes of every conceivable size and shape, which registered their
measurements in a never-ending flow of printoffs and microchips. Results! Abe
regularly exclaimed, from his workstation at the rim of rhe tank. Finally, some
Results!
Sometimes Carl came to the tank too. He didn't care for Skookum, but he
loved Abe and Mary Lawrence, equally and equally fiercely. He, more devotedly
than anyone, collected sea lion flesh from the beach and brought it to the whale.
Carl was a ghastly sight—his stringy beard, his yellow reeth, his ropy arms
carrying a load of skin and guts, his whole being covered in sea lion blood and
stinking of liquor. He dumped the meat into the tank and looked to his brorher,
who grunted without glancing up from the ones and zeroes on the computer
screen, and then looked to Mary, who patted his cheek and smiled and said
thank you. Tien he wandered off, happy enough for a while.
One day, Carl visited the aquarium with his usual delivery. He climbed the
ladder and dropped the meat in for Skookum. As they always did, the hunks of
flesh floated at the top of the tank for a while before soaking up enough water to
sink, trailing wisps of blood behind them as they eased to the bottom. Suddenly
Mary Lawrence let out a cry. There, bobbing in the tank, was the head of dear
Hindenburg, our poor old manatee. His eyes, once gentle and sad, were different
now—angry in theit glassy deadness, newly accusatory. Tie children at the tank
wept and turned to their mothers. Abe stood at the rim, stunned for once into
silence. Tien, as if taking pity on us, Skookum swooped in and swallowed the
head whole.
More and more of the people of Paradise came to see Skookum, and his size
swelled along with the crowd's. What a creature! Fifteen cubits long, thousands
of stone in weight, his skin as black as the hair of our children, his spots as white
as the heat of the sun. As he grew he became hungrier, and it was difficult to feed
prismmagazine.ca
63 him with the remains of the sea lions alone. Soon all of our dead animals were
thrown into the tank—sinewy okapis deceased of old age, goats succumbed to
cancer of rhe udder—and Skookum gobbled them indiscriminately.
His mood began to change too. No longer content to commune with the
children and the dogs who scampered the other side of the glass, he now rammed
the walls of his tank, as if craving escape to dry land. Let him go, Mary Lawrence
begged, to which Abe Crawford replied, Results! We were never sure what these
Results meant, but Results there were: graphs (both pie and bar), equations,
formulas, diagrams, charts, theses, hypotheses, hypotenuses, Hippocratic Oaths,
PowerPoint presentations. Tiis animal is a carnivore, Abe said. He eats meat. We
are herbivores. We eat plants. He divided the world in two. Tiere were carnivores
and herbivores; there was a then and a now.
Tirough it all, Mary Lawrence stayed at Skookum's side. She liked to perch
on the lip of the tank, dangling her toes into the water and speaking with the
whale. There was one song, a sad old sea shanty, that she particularly loved to
sing to him:
Somewhere beyond the sea
Somewhere waiting for me
My lover stands on golden sand
And watches the ships that go sailing
One morning, as Mary Lawrence sat at the edge of the tank, cooing at Skookum,
the whale heaved his great mass out of the water, fixed his jaws around rhe
woman's long black hair, and hauled her below the surface. The rest of us
watched in shock. Skookum towed Maty through the tank for a few minutes,
then breached the surface again and hurled her upwards, just as he might have
done with a sea lion. Her limp body rwirled in rhe air before falling back into his
teeth, and he clamped his maw tight, bones cracking sickeningly.
A cry went up among the assembled crowd: Mary! We poured into the tank,
dozens of us, led by none other than Carl, who appeared to have gone more
mad than ever: his face twisted and scarlet, nonsensical screams pouring from
his lips. We jumped in, one after another and, confused, Skookum let Mary go
and repaired to a corner of his enclosure. Mary drifted to the surface, and we all
laid our hands on her, tugging her to the side, where Abe waited. He was frozen,
silent. Mary's body was blue where it wasn't red; one of her legs was missing. At
the lip of the tank, amid the beeping instruments and blooping whatsits, Abe
placed two fingets on Mary Lawrence's neck and declared her dead.
Something changed in our town. We had seen the whales kill sea lions, but the
killing of a human—this was new, unprecedented. It felt intuitively different, a
shift in the natural order. What was to be done? We looked to Abe for guidance
but found none. The death of Mary Lawrence did something to his brain; he
retreated to his hut for days on end, and when he appeared in public he muttered
64 PRISM  52:3 and raved. Oddly and increasingly, he grew to resemble his brother, or rather
the man his brother had once been. Carl was also affected by Mary's dearh, if
in a different way. He became silent and steely, stopped drinking liquor and sat
for hours in front of the tank, staring at Skookum. The whale, for his part, was
becoming thinner and deader because we had stopped feeding him. He had
eaten enough meat for now.
One morning, Abe shuffled to the town square and stood on a box of soap.
He wore a threadbare brown robe, and new whiskers dusred his cheeks. I have
had a vision, he said. A being he called Deus had come to him in the night.
Tiis entity was neither man nor animal but something larger and otherworldly;
where before we had thought that everything simply existed, Deus claimed
to have created the world wholesale. It was time, Deus said, to impart certain
principles upon creation: Life, Order, and Justice. That is, Abe said, his voice
quaking, the sanctity of Life; the Order of creation; and the delivery of Justice
upon the world.
What is Justice? someone asked, and Abe crowed, Aha! What indeed!
Abe's revelation seemed to reinvigourate him, and he set about a new task.
Once again he rallied the inventors and engineers of Paradise. Tiis time, though,
he aimed not to build a plethora of instruments but a single, massive device.
Without Mary to keep him company, Abe stayed up all night, feverishly drawing
plans and schematics and blueprints. Carl stopped spending all his time at the
whale's tank and started observing his brother, though not in the happy, puppy-
dog way of before. Instead, Carl watched his brother as if tracking the man's
every move, his face hard and hungry.
First Abe's engineers constructed, overtop Skookum's tank, a huge raised
platform of wood and iron, fifty cubits across, with a trap doof that swung open
at the push of a lever. On this platform they built a tall metal scaffolding, from
which a long, strong chain dangled, looped into a circle at its end. Tie chain
swayed ominously in the breeze as Skookum, confused by the construction and
starved of food, swam in hypnotized circles beneath the platform.
Tie morning after the construction was completed, Abe called the town to
Skookum's tank. He sat on the platform behind a table and carried a hammer
in his hand. This is a Trial and a Sentencing, he announced, and pounded the
hammer on the table. He no longer looked mad; in his brown robe he was noble,
impressive. Skookum the Killer Whale, he said, you are charged with Murder
Most Heinous, Infandous Disregard for the Goodness of Life, and Animal
Complicity in the Death of a Human. For these crimes, the High Court of
Paradise sentences you to Hang Until You are Dead.
We gasped. What was this new law? Were we killers now too? But Abe cried
out, above our objections, This is what Deus has told me! A fin for a hand; a life
for a life. Skookum the Killer Whale must know what it is to be killed. And so
Abe ordered the men to begin.
Tie trap door opened and the chain was lowered into the tank, where the
loop undulated slowly. One of Abe's men hooked a chunk of sea lion meat onto a
line of rope and tossed it into the tank, just within the circle of the chain. At the
scent of fresh blood, Skookum perked up and darted forward. Tie man flicked
prismmagazine.ca 65 the meat in and out, up and down, as Skookum chased after it, frantic and
unhinged. Finally Skookum swam straight through the loop. Now! Abe cried,
and the man let the whale catch the meat. Abe pressed a big red button at the
control panel, and suddenly the chain winched closed, tight around Skookum's
body, so tight we could see the beast's blood billow out as the metal cut into his
flesh. He began to thrash, but his struggles only seemed to tighten the chain
further, until it seemed almost as if the loops might cut through Skookum's
whole body and slice him in half. Now! Abe shouted again, spittle in his beard,
and he lifted a lever, and, with agonizing slowness, the chain began to reel itself
in.
Tie great contraption lifted the great whale clear out of the water. He rose
above the surface of the tank, through the trap door and above the platform,
where, at last, Abe pushed down on a joystick and the chain stopped its terrible
ascenr. Skookum, the life pouring out of him into the water below, struggled
feebly, lifting his tail, twitching his fins, trying to roll from side to side as if he
were in the water. But he wasn't in the water; he wasn't even on dry land. He was
in the air, hanging.
Justice! Abe said, and began to laugh, something he had not done since the
death of Mary Lawrence, rhough there was no mirth that we could detect in this
new laugh of his. Hearing this, Skookum began to cry out too, but his high,
keening whistles carried no threat; they were pathetic now, terrified, the sounds
of the end. In his cries we heard real pain for the firsr time, real fear of dearh's
shadow. We had unleashed something. Skookum lifted his head and rolled his
eye, his real one, not his false white splotch but the portal to his inner life, and
we saw the twilight of out old order in it, and he gave a final call—in warning,
perhaps—and then his huge daik body slumped and was still.
We had killed something. There was no other way to say it. We had done what
the killer whales did—what we had never even thought to do before they came
along. Now we were as guilty as the whales. But no, Abe insisted—this was
different. Skookum had Murdered our Mary Lawrence, he said, but we Executed
the whale. The former was a lawless, individual act; the latter was something we
had done together. I don't recall agreeing to hang that whale, Carl answered,
his voice even. That was you. We were shocked, for Carl had never spoken
against his brother before—had never even strung together a sentence so long or
coherent. Abe looked flustered for a moment, and some tough old part of him
flicked momentarily across his face. No, brother, he said. We did as Deus asked.
Abe's men lowered the body of Skookum down to the platform and opened
the chain with a plasma cutter. One, two, heave, they grunted, and rolled the
whale to the lip of the stage befofe pushing him off the edge. Skookum smashed
against the ground and rolled some more, fins twirling, and then came to rest on
his back, his white belly glaring up ar the sky. The animal will remain here, Abe-
shouted, as a reminder to others who might undo a part of Creation. Tiere shall
be no killing—except of those who kill.
66 PRISM  52:3 And so Skookum's enormous corpse remained in front of the tank. None
of us knew what to do with it, and eventually the thing began to rot, giving
oft a terrific smell. It was an ugly sight, and most of us now did whatever we
could to avoid the tank. Tiose who dropped in from time to time for a look,
however, reported strange sightings. Sometimes, one woman said, under the
cover of night, our dogs would congregate around the body, sniffing curiously
and growling among themselves. She swore that a few of the boldest among
them even took bites of the whale's meat—small, cautious nibbles at first, then
entire mouthfuls, rings of red growing around their jaws. Another woman said
that, around dawn, she saw a few gulls swoop down and peck at Skookum's
blubber before returning shamefacedly ro rhe air. And one man even swore that
he had seen Carl himself dart up to the whale, glance around as if to ensure no
one was spying, and fix his teeth into Skookum's skin, blood creaming into his
beard.
As Skookum's body shrank into bones and gristle, his gleaming ribs arcing
into the air, Abe set about a series of new tasks. First he ordered the construction
of a new building next to the tank and platform and chain, which he called
the Court. Here, killers like Skookum would be tried and condemned. Nearby,
he ordered the construction of a second building, made of stone and adorned
with fantastic creatures, which he called the Church, where, every morning, the
people of Paradise were to give thanks to Deus. Finally, in the town square, he
ordered the construction of another building, taller and more gleaming than
the rest, which was made of concrete and glass and scraped the sky, and this he
called the Government, where he would reside and decide the affairs of the day.
The time has come, he told us, for Creation to be ordered. Tiere are new threats.
There is, at long last, darkness in the world.
Abe spoke more and more. His madness seemed focused now; he held forth
on States and Markets, Faiths and Mores. We rallied behind him. He had,
he said, history on his side. He roiled rhrough town, shaking hands, holding
small children, petting cats and tapirs. All the while, Carl followed him, never
speaking, never challenging his brother's proclamations, but watching carefully.
One day, as Abe stood at the altar of the Church, discussing a vision from Deus,
Carl walked forward, down the aisle. Brother! Carl called. There was a rime
when I could not decide who I loved better: you or dear Mary. But then the
beast you brought ashore killed my Mary, and in that moment I knew: I loved
her more than anything in this world or the world of your Deus. I hate you for
what you have brought upon us. And Carl reached into his tunic and brought
out a blade. Tiere are some who swear the blade was actually one of Skookum's
teeth, though we will never know for sure, because in the carnage that ensued the
evidence was lost. But we do know that Carl lifted his blade and surged toward
his brother, whose cloudy eyes grew wide and whose ever-pontificating mouth
could now only let out a desperate wheeze. Carl plunged his blade into Abe's
body, again and again, blood bursting onto the altar as Deus and all of Paradise
looked on. Tie two men lurched to the ground, Carl holding Abe in his arms,
and the murderer leaned down to kiss his dead brother on the cheek.
prismmagazine.ca 67 We had seen beast kill man and man kill beast, and now man had killed man—
brother against brother, follower againsr leader. We sat in the Church and stared
at Carl weeping as he cradled Abe. Then one of us stood, and rhen anorher,
and then another, and we lifted Carl from the altar. He did not prorest—not
as we steered him out of the Church and into the street, not as we walked him,
instinctively, back to the site of where it all began, back to the tank, not as we
brought him into the Court, where we, all of us, our voices speaking as one, tried
him for the murder of his brother, and where we, all of us, condemned him,
nor to death but to a lifetime ol confinemenr in the grearesr cage of all. We led
Carl back outside and steered him inro Skookum's carcass. 'Tiere, in the whale's
ribcage, now picked clean by dogs and birds and men, Carl stood behind bars of
bone, and we realized that we had built the world's firsr Prison.
We all eat meat now, every one of us, and we srill go to Church every
morning. Some of us preach there, some of us sit in the Court, some of us in
the Government. A great many of us do none of these things and are content
to be ruled. A smaller number are not, and commit unjust acts: kill other men
and women, steal from the new Bank, perform buggeries with the animals, who
now run in fear from us and so must be caged. We cage our criminals, too, with
Carl, and Skookum's ribs grow ever more full of evil men, the worst of whom we
hang as we did Skookum himself: from the chain that dangles over the aquarium
where Mary Lawrence met her end. Carl we keep alive, though, as a memory of
what we once were and as a reminder of what we've become.
68 PRISM  52:3 Michael V. Smith
PRAYER FOR SOLACE
He presents me
a hummingbird, the dark
head of a seal rising
abovewater, a heron
& four wasps
in a log beside me
we are here
for our pitiable
bodies
lush trails
mock our fumbling, zippers
and latex.
prismmagazine.ca PRAYER FOR RENEWAL
Beach, again.
Drawn ro the quietude—
the men a trick
for arriving, I think,
some resistance
to commitment, either
to this inwardness
or to them
what's here?
at the water's edge
a hundred feet down
across the straight
the city
so many small boxes.
70 PRISM  52:3 LETTER, 10:28 P.M.
Clothed in bed. Tie day is pressed into my shirt.
Goats, gelato, beach, strawberries, popcorn.
So much indulgence I'd rather
have practiced my French.
Step into my bedroom, a mess from being half
unpacked. Remind me your lips
are fresh with mischief.
prismmagazine.ca
71 Paul Celan
translated by lean /lip-gins
CORONA
Fall eats its leaf from my hand: we are friends.
We shell time from rhe nuts and teach it to walk:
time returns to the shell.
In the mirror is Sunday,
in the dream rhere is sleeping,
the mouth speaks true.
My eye descends to my lover's sex:
we look at ourselves,
we speak darkly ro ourselves,
we love each orher like poppy and memory,
we sleep like wine in rhe seashells,
like the sea in the moon's bloodbeam.
We stand entwined in the window, they watch us from the street:
it is time people knew!
It is time that the stone got down to blooming,
that unrest beat a heart.
It is time it was time.
It is time.
72 PRISM  52:3 CORONA
Aus der Hand frifst der Herbst mir sein Blatt: wir sind Freunde.
Wir schalen die Zeit aus den Niissen und lehren sie gehn:
die Zeit kehrt zuriick in die Schale.
Im Spiegel ist Sonntag,
im Traum wird geschlafen,
der Mund redet wahr.
Mein Aug steigt hinab zum Geschlecht der Geliebten:
wir sehen tins an,
wir sagen tins Dunkles,
wir lieben einander wie Mohn und Gedachtnis,
wir schlafen wie Wein in den Muscheln,
wie das Meer im Blutstrahl des Mondes.
Wir stehen umschlungen im Fenster, sie sehen tins zu von der Strafie:
es ist Zeit, daf? man weifi!
Es ist Zeit, daf? def Stein sich zu bliihen bequemt,
daK del Unrast ein Herz schlagt.
Es ist Zeit, dafi es Zeit wird.
Es ist Zeit.
prismmagazine.ca
73 Bryan Castille
LETTER FROM ICELAND
I hope you don't think mail from strangers ivrong.
As to its length, I tell myself"you'll need it,
You've all eternity in which to read it.
—Auden
Tb
he winter sun rides low on the horizon, somewhere behind a field of blue and
violet clouds, and beneath it the tarnished spires of rhe old city are bathed in a glow
too dim to call daylight. The new city beyond is a greyness whose edges blur at the
sea. Tie view is heavy, too heavy for an outsider like me, I'm discovering, weighted,
as it were, by a vast and terrible history, a symptom of many of the old cities I've
visited, especially the cities of Europe.
I have come here, to Copenhagen, to comforr Malou in the wake of her brother's
death. One week ago, the police found her brother, Soren, floating facedown in the
Christianshavn Canal. From the roof of the Rundetarn, or "srone rower," we can
see the city. A man with a megaphone says the Rundetarn is rhe oldest observatory
in Europe, and that Christian IV had commissioned it. Tie helical ramp winding
up the inside, the man says, had been built so the king might be carted to the top
in a horse-drawn carriage. From there he viewed the stars.
I'm disinclined to tmst a man with a megaphone, I explain to Malou. It's like
the pinky ring of voice amplification technology.
When she reaches for my hand, I wonder how she means it, whether out of
friendship or romance. Tie muddling of boundaries never bodes well for me.
Tiere's a light in her skin. For her, I'm the fireman raising his ladder, the coast
guard pursuing the source of a flare. I think she believes I've come to save her from
her grief, but all I'm going to do is make it worse.
You suspect the man is lying, Malou asks, about the history of Denmark?
Tie megaphone, I say. If he didn't have it, I wonder, would anyone be listening?
If I were him, I'd make it all up. Fiction is fact without authority.
My brother used to say that.
He could convince you of anything if you let him talk long enough.
I remember the discussion we had about the first American moon landing,
she says. Tie longer he talked, the more I started to doubt the facts, the more
suspicious the video seemed. I watched it on YouTube like a hundred times, and
each time I watched it I fell a little further into doubt. And despair.
Are you paranoid? I ask. Chem trails and HAARP and depopulation?
I don't know. What do you think?
I think you're a terrible scientist.
If you only knew, she says. I've adopted all kinds of theories. Tiis is only the
74 PRISM   52:3 beginning.
Tie last time I saw Malou was three years ago, in college. She and her brother,
Soren, shared an apartment with me from sophomore year onward, in the Delmar
Loop in St. Louis. They had come from Denmark on scholarships to study physics.
They believed in parallel worlds.
At some point, Malou says, gazing out again over the city, it becomes real,
but for now it is not real, it is purely speculation. Imagine if it had been you who
answered my door. Tic policeman says he found your brother's body in the canal.
I can only think in circles now—every thought leads me back to that moment. I've
become obsessed. I've taken to fashioning all kinds of explanations for how he'd
wind up dead, and none of them involve the facts the police presented to me. I
don't want their facts. I want a myth for him. I think he deserves that much.
Fog obscures the Swedish coastline. I peer through a pair of cheap binoculars
from the souvenir shop. Another country, near enough to see, yet hidden, a
nearness that makes me anxious.
It has started to rain when Malou hails us a taxi. The clouds, if it is possible, have
darkened, and the city has become vexing to me for reasons I can't quite locate, and
perhaps even a bit penal for irs barriers of iron and stone. The streets are shadowed
from beneath, by what is buried. In the taxi I nod off until the driver awakens me
with a diatribe on European politics. Malou is resting her head on my shoulder.
She is singing a Danish lullaby.
Do you want to talk about it? I ask her.
She sighs.
No, she says. Not now. Let's not spoil this.
Tie driver's voice gets louder the more he talks.
And does your American media tell you what happened to Lech Kaczynski? he
asks, neafly shouting. I answer no. The man is adamant, glancing back and forth
between the road and the rear-view, tugging on the steering wheel with both hands.
How could they not tell you? he asks. It was Putin! It was the fucking Russians!
Who's Kaczynski? I ask.
Everyone has theories, Malou says, and then she sighs again, grips her head
as if in the throes of a migraine. The man is weaving a narrative for me—a vast
conspiracy of revenge.
Stay with me, Malou says. I kiss her, and I feel so guilty doing it.
Hotels are so lonely and so cold, she says. I can never sleep in hotels.
Tie taxi drops us at Nyhavn. Down both sides of the canal are brightly coloured
row houses—teal, yellow, orange, red—each facade checkered with at least a dozen
windows. The ground floor of each house has been converted into a restaurant
or tavern, complete with patio tables and white umbrellas, and at the street are
blackboard signs with menu items written down in chalk.
I suggest a drink. Malou reminds me that she doesn't drink. She isn't hungry, so
we keep walking, holding hands like younger versions of ourselves. Had we dated
once, briefly, or was it only sex? I recall her body vaguely, the way the moonlight
struck the shallow anthills of her breasts. Our bouts of discfeet fucking (she didn't
want her brother to find out) have catalogued themselves in my memory as a
prismmagazine.ca
75 dream, or something like one. I cannot remember the particulars, or how her face
looked while I was inside her, or whether she ever rold me she loved me.
Tie canal runs down the centre of the street. Tie old wooden boats in it bob
under the adoring, watchful eyes of tourists waiting to board the ferry.
Chrisrianshavn is much the same as Nyhavn, except smaller, wealthier, and
wirh trees. The wind picks up. I tie my scarf and fasten the buttons of my coat.
I want to sleep with you, she says. It's been on my mind all day.
Is that a good idea? I ask.
She looks offended. Is it a bad idea?
This time her kiss is forceful. She has both hands around my neck, nails digging
in. I think of Soren, and for some reason I can't picture his face, at least not as it
was when he was alive. I see it in the water, me somewhere below him looking up,
the sun crowning his head and making a shadow of his features. My memories of
him have always come in intermittent flashes, in rhythms, some days endlessly,
other days nor at all. Today I am plagued by the same image as Malou, the same
circularity of thought leads me back to his submerged figure like the loops of a
clover. Sex wirh Malou is the last thing on my mind, but as she slips her hand
between my coat flaps and squeezes me I know it is the fifst thing on hers.
We look down into the canal together. There are tears running down Malou's
cheeks. On her face I see a complexity I can't interpret. It reminds me how little I
actually know about her, how well, through those three years of college, she kept
herself hidden from me.
This is where they found him, she says. She kneels as if her legs have given out,
and while she's looking down into the water she reaches out for me blindly.
The day after graduation, Soren and I headed for Iceland. It seemed the most ideal
place to unwind, a mythological landscape far from the cities that had contained
us for so long. We wanted nothing to do with the tropics, the touristy resorr strips
along beaches that bore no resemblance to the countries behind them.
We covered the Ring Road's 832 miles in a barely running '96 Ford Mondeo.
By the end of the week the Eyjafjallajokull ice cap had erupted, shutting down
air travel all across Western Europe, stranding us on the island another week and
a half. It couldn't have happened at a more critical time. The worst came out of
us, as often happens while travelling, until we could not even say good morning
without it spiralling into an argument. We parted ways at the airport in Reykjavik
without saying a word. I rhought he might turn back eventually, that he might call
or send a text before I boarded the plane—Don't be pissed at me, the sort of thing
he usually tiied to pass oft as an apology. I remember thinking I would probably
never see him again, because after the Iceland trip he was planning to return home
to Copenhagen with Malou.
I boarded the plane (Soren stayed on in Iceland, though I don't know for how
long), and while I was waiting to get to my seat a little girl in front of me of maybe
four years old whose mother kept dragging her by the arm saw me sobbing behind
my sunglasses.
Ir's awful, she said, and grabbed hold of my right index finger, as if she knew
me. What she'd said struck me as peculiar for two reasons. First, because she could
76 PRISM  52:3 have no clue as to my predicamenr. Second, because she seemed to grasp, with
uncanny empathy, my anguish.
I fastened my seat belt and looked out the window as the plane taxied and
lifted off the tarmac. The clouds were still tinged grey wirh ash. The seemingly
mundane moments of our lives—airplane taxiing and takeoff, for example—yield
the deepest insights. Epiphanies arrive in the midst of a bowel movement, at the
forty-seventh sit-up, on the threshold between wakefulness and dream. Never
when you're trying. It might have been the uncomfortable seat on the plane, or it
might have been the ashen clouds, but something sent me back to the eve of college
graduation, some two weeks prior. Malou had disappeared somewhere that night,
so it was only Soren and I in the apartment together, cutting up lines of ketamine
on the tabletop and snorting it up each nostril in search of rhat parallel world.
Soren described the effects to me, because I had never done drugs.
You're describing a nap, I said.
It's like a lucid dream, he said. Ever had one of those?
I said I hadn't.
Thirty minutes later we were strewn across his bed with a dozen record albums
wedged around us. I picked up one of the albums—Quadrophenia—and gazed
at it as if it held the secrets to the universe. The apartment was hot and stuffy. I
got up and opened the window above the bed to let in the night air, sweet with
honeysuckle. Tiere was an old dressing mirror I'd found cheap at a shop on
Cherokee Street, which I moved on top of the doublewide dresser Soren and I
shared. I could see, from where I lay on the bed, our reflections in the mirror. We
were shirtless. The gold light of the bedside lamp illuminated us as if in a painting.
You're my best friend, Soren said. He kissed me, kissed my neck and shoulder,
kissed my chest, slipped a hand down my gym shorts. The whole time we were
going down on each other I kept imagining what implications it might have for
our friendship.
Later on, when we were reclining against the headboard, sweaty and spent, I
glanced again at the mirror, and found nothing particularly stunning about the
image other than our nakedness and the curtain billowing in the breeze streaming
through the open window. I had nearly fallen asleep when it hit me—the mirror
did show a painting, specifically the Waterhouse painting "Sleep and his Half-
Brother Death," a dreamy, somewhat erotic depiction of Hypnos and Thanatos.
Tie two daimons are sleeping on a bed together. It was this painting that had
solidified my notions of the relationship of sleep to death—the former perhaps
nothing but a less convincing iteration of the latter. I got up, dug through the
closet, and found the textbook from my art history course. In the textbook is a
reprint of the painting, as well as a critique by the nineteenth-century art ctitic J.A.
Blaikie, originally published in The Magazine of Art, which includes the following
observation: Use two figures are both young, and the beauty of youth belongs to one as
much as the other... the strange likeness and unlikeness of the recumbent figures.
The Mondeo had a cassette player that switched tape sides whenever we hit a
bump in the road or hung a sharp turn. "Dear Prudence" would suddenly warp
into "Piggies." Our conversations tended to meander and shift abruptly from one
prismmagazine.ca 77 subject to another as well. One entire afternoon had been spent leaping back and
forth between Wittgenstein and occult symbolism in pop music performances.
We drove for eleven hours that day, ovet barren landscape, flat, stony fields and
bald hills blanketed in volcanic ash. We watched the red lightning flashing around
the crater. The sun was setting, and as the sky grew darker, the lightning became
brighter, more terrifying. Too tired to drive any further in the night, we fell asleep
in the car, each of us with our face pressed against a cold window.
The next morning, wild horses had appeared and were nuzzling through
the ash for something to eat, and a scattering of sheep, utterly immobile, gazed
incomprehensibly up at the blackened clouds.
We drank cold instant coffee from a thermos. Soren read me a tale from a book
of Icelandic myths. I thought of it as a peace offering. Tie story wasn't very long,
but it was bleak, like everything in Iceland. The tale involved a troll wife who tried
to ford the channel between Iceland and Norway. The channels were very deep,
Soren said, and the troll wife was very afraid. She reached out for a passing ship to
hold onto—her lasr desperate attempt at survival—but the ship steered clear of her
(the crew were frightened), and she drowned. To this day her body remains asleep
at the bottom of the sea.
At a certain age, Soren said, you have to make a decision: Will you look for
the hope or the dread? Look ar those sheep, for instance. Jesus Christ, look at their
faces. It's like they think something terrible is about to happen.
The ray of light shining through the clouds and onto my face—I remember it
as distinctly as the sour raste of his breath when he kissed me good morning, as well
as that feeling, deep down, that I had fallen in love.
A collision of atoms, he said, and then kissed my cheek. Positive and negative
charges, he said, unzipping my jacket and unbuttoning my shirt. He was always
undoing my clothing. He hated batriers.
A collision of atoms, I said. That's all it is to you?
We watched the smoke rising from the crarer. Tie morning wore on, but
neither of us felt like driving.
I know you were fucking my sister, Soren said at last. It kind of sucks that you
did that, if you want to know the truth.
I thought you didn't care who I slept with? I said. You said we were friends.
Does this feel like friends?
I don't know what it feels like.
Ah, he said. That makes sense. He rested his head against the window, beneath
his curled arm.
I received Malou's email in the middle of the night, Thursday. It said, Caleb,
something's happened to Soren. Call me ASAP - M.
Tie email came to me as no surprise—I'd already received a letter from Soren
a few days before. Upon finding it in the mail basket I could not open it, some
foreboding seemed to emanate from the small envelope. Instead, I buried it in
the bottom bureau drawer, benearh a stack of old syllabi, a spool of orange thread
whose purpose escaped me, and a thimble—an attempt to hide it from myself and,
as had happened with the other, seemingly random items in that drawer, I hoped to
78 PRISM   52:3 forget about it. On the television, a talk show host asked one of the guests whether
she was still in love with her ex-husband, who had left her for another man. The
guest responded in precisely the same way I imagined I would have, if I wete in her
place, with the question: What do you mean by love? And the question: What do
you mean by still?.
I made my dinner: a bowl of Grape Nuts and a banana. I sat down and ate my
dinner, and while I ate I read the letter. Dear Caleb, I said aloud, and then decided
I did not like the sound of my voice reverberating off the kitchen walls, as it tended
to do. That final evening in Reykjavik, Soren had punched the window in our hotel
room. The blow had left a cluster of tiny blood streaks on the glass. As I read the
first few sentences of the letter, I wondered if any of the impending three pages
might contain an apology for that blow, not that I necessarily required an apology.
I didn't blame him for his jealousy. 1 would have done the same thing.
She's my sistet, he'd told me, and left the room without telling me where he was
going-
I unfolded the letter and flattened it out on the table. It began pleasantly
enough, but about halfway through the tone soured, and finally I had to put down
my spoon and shove the bowl away from me. I must have kept shoving it, because
the next thing I knew it shattered on the floor.
I finished reading the letter, folded it back up, and put it back in its envelope.
I went for my evening run. I carried the letter the whole way in my jacket pocket.
When I returned to the house, I removed the letter from my pocket and found that
it had been soaked through with rain. Every line of ink had bled together and could
no longer be read. Tie only discernible thing was the metre stamp on the envelope:
—this was all that was left. At that I lost all strength in my body. I could no longer
stand. I lay down on the tile, clutching the letter to my chest and then, once I came
to terms with the fact that it was no longer a letter at all, but something ruined, I
crushed it in my fist.
I forgive you, he'd written—
I flew to Copenhagen the next morning.
Soren had gone back to Iceland sometime later, after our trip there. I have no
idea why he went back or how long he stayed there. He said he'd had a hard time
finding a job, that he was running out of money, that he got bored often, that he'd
been staying with Malou and that she never let up on him, that he'd been rereading
Wittgenstein and didn't know what he ever saw in it. It's hands, he wrote, just hands
hands hands. He drank oolong tea, disliked the morning as much as the night,
especially dawn, especially dusk. And of course, he wrote, he was planning to take
his life.
prismmagazine.ca
79 Malou and I are lying in bed together. She is covering her mouth with one trembling
hand. I can hardly hear her voice until she says the police called it a suicide.
And why wouldn't they? I ask.
She rolls away from me, hides her face from me in the darkness.
An officer came by here the other day, she says. A young, handsome officer.
Jusr a boy. He came all by himself ro tell me the news. This is not how we do things
ordinarily, he said, meaning in person. I said so many things to him that I can't
remember. But I remember one thing, that I said I loved him. I might have said
that. He smiled. That's all boys ever do, they smile. He took off his hat. He said,
I'm so sony, bin the department has ruled your brother's death a suicide. There is no
evidence of foul play. I tried to kiss him. I lunged into his arms. He grabbed me
by the arms and said, You can't do this to me, this isn't proper. It isn't proper, okay?
I begged him to come inside, to be with me. I didn't want him to go. He hasn't
returned.
The apartment is dark like a wine cellar. The black curtains are drawn.
Fuck me, she says. I can't see her, I can only hear her voice.
Not now, I say.
When?
I fall asleep, and when I awake, Malou is fiddling with something in the dark.
I reach out and take it from her. Ir's a thimble.
Where did you get this? I ask.
In your coar pocket, she answers. Why?
I ger up and begin to gather my things.
It's just a thimble, she says. Calm down.
I know it must be the thimble from my bureau drawer, although I cannot recall
moving it from the drawer to my pocket. I tell het about the old syllabi, the orange
thread, and the thimble—about everything I kept in the bureau drawer except the
letter from Soren. I hope she will take all those seemingly unrelated objecrs and
fashion some meaning for them, some kind of wild theory that ends with alien
bases on the dark side of the moon. The more ridiculous, the better. I tell her about
the bureau itself, how I had purchased it from a Brazilian man I once fucked at a
bathhouse in Boston.
You paid all that money to have a bureau shipped to St. Louis? she asks.
You don't understand, I say, it's a beautiful piece of furniture.
Was it really about the bureau?
When I get to the door I realize I've not even gotten dressed yet. I rest my head
against the door and take a deep breath.
While you and Soren were in Iceland, she says, I saw Marina Abramovic on the
street in New York.
I'm not familiar with modern art, I say.
She was hailing a taxi, and she gave me that look—the unfazed blankness rhat
seems to be the resting face of the twenty-first century, the look you see on her face
in pretty much any of her pictutes. I mean, Google her if you don'r believe me.
Did she say anything to you? I ask.
Neither of us spoke. I tried—she tried. We were like two fish. I was so
disappointed that she didn't say anything. I thought, at the very leasr, she'd say
80 PRISM  52:3 hello. Tiat would've been enough. Or that's what I believe, anyway. That someone
will come into my life and give me clarity. But of course that isn't going to happen,
because that person doesn't exist. People are people, and nobody's profound in rhe
end.
I nod.
Don't nod if you don't know what I mean.
Knowing there is no other way to do it but straight, I tell her, The truth is, your
brother took his own life.
She is silent. She is somewhere, there, in the darkness, ghostlike, a disembodied
breath.
Do you know what else was in my bureau drawer? Besides the thimble and
the thread and the syllabi? A letter. It came in the mail the week before I gor your
email. Do you know what the letter said?
Why are you doing this?
I asked you a question. Do you know what the letter said?
No, she answers. Her voice has moved across the room, as if across an ocean. I
hear it as if through fog.
Do you want me to tell you? I ask.
If there's a letter, she says, then why don't you let me read it? Go on. Get out
your letter and I'll read it.
Tie letter's ruined. I went for a run and—
You went for a run.
It was raining, and I took the letter with me—
Come here, she says, crawling onto the bed, pulling me on top of her. I can't
see her eyes, but I find them, cover them with my hands, pretending I'm the god of
sleep. For a moment, I start to believe it. I start to think it's true.
prismmagazine.ca 81 Elee Kraljii Gardiner
SHARPENING SKATES (mmr&
She places mine on the bathroom counter.
Grey as cygnets, they lack elegance
but get the job done at the rink every day.
I know where the Zamboni lives,
the third bleacher, rhe powdery heat
in the women's change room,
the bitterness of rhe urinals in the men's.
She brings a rin of oil
from the bottom drawer
and peels off its plastic baggie skin,
wets the stone with oil
until it darkens like a whale's eye,
slides it along the flat of the blade
in circles like the loops she will trace
tomorrow morning ar Earlybird.
82 PRISM  52:3 CONTRIBUTORS
Jenny Boychuk is a graduare of rhe University of Victoria's Department of
Writing. Her poetry and creative non-fiction can be found in The Malahat
Review, Room, Salt Hill Journal, and Birdfieast. She currently lives and wrires in
Blind Bay, British Columbia.
Bryan Castille is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a recipient
of scholarships from Tin House, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Lambda
Literary, and elsewhere. His fiction has appeared in New South, Jonathan, and
Prairie Schooner. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
Paul Celan is the pen name of Paul Anschel, one of the twentieth-century's major
poets. He was born into a German-speaking Jewish family in 1920 in Czernowitz
(in then Romania). Having survived WWII (his parents died in an extermination
camp), he radically remade both German and lyric poetry in response to his
experiences. "Corona" comes from his second book, Mohn and Geddchtnis (Poppy
and Memory; 1 952). He committed suicide in Paris in 1970.
Paddy Chitty was born, raised, and resides in Hamilton, Ontario. She is
an alumnus of the Banff Wired Writing Program and the Sage Hill Poetry
Colloquium and has had poems published in The Great Lakes Review, Women's
Words 20th Anniversary Anthology, Room, and The Antigonish Review.
Carla Drysdale's first book of poems, Little Venus, was published by Toronto's
Tightrope Books in 2010. Her poems have been published in such literary
journals as TJ.>e Same, LIT, Literary Review of Canada, Canadian Literature, The
Fiddlehead, Global City Review, Confrontation, Come Horses, 97 Inc., and in
the anthology Entering the Real World: VCCA Poets on Mt. San Angelo. She is
currently completing her second manuscript of poems, All Born Perfect. She lives
with her husband and two sons in France, near Geneva, where she works as an
editor and journalist.
Alisha Dukelow is entering her final year in the Writing Program at the
University of Victoria. Her work has appeared in Zouch, Beside the Point, and
Fathom. Vancouver Island is her home, but she has also lived in Halifax, Brussels,
and a village that no longer exists in Hokkaido, Japan.
Elee Kratjii Gardiner directs Thutsdays Writing Collective and is coeditor with
John Asfour of V6A: Writing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (Arsenal Pulp
Press, 2012), which was shortlisted for the 2012 City ofVancouver Book Award.
She is also the editor of six books from the Collective, most recently The Stanza
Project (Otter Ptess, 2013). Her poetry earned CV2's Lina Chartrand Award in
2011 and is published in journals, anthologies, and online.
Re'Lynn Hansen's work has appeared in Hawai'i Review, Rhino, New Madrid,
Water-Stone, New South, Poem Memoir Story, and online at contrary. Her
chapbook, 25 Sightings of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, was published by Firewheel
Press. Her book of non-fiction prose poems, Some Women I Have Known, is
forthcoming from White Pine Press.
prismmagazine.ca
83 Iain Higgins is a poet, critic, and translator living in Victoria, BC. His version
of rhe medieval besrseller, The Book of John Mandeville, received honourable
mention in the 2011 MLA Scaglione Prize for an Outstanding Translation of a
Literary Work. His books include the poetic collection Then Again (Oolichan,
2005).
Michael Johnson is from Bella Coola, British Columbia. His work has appeared
recently in Cascadia Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Poetry East, Weber, Forget
Magazine, and The Fiddlehead, among others, and has been selecred for rhe Best
American Poerry and Best Canadian Poetry anthologies. He works at a vineyard
in Okanagan Falls.
Richard Kelly Kemick is currently completing an MA at the University of New
Brunswick, and has been published in The Feathertale Review, The Fiddlehead,
Foothill Poetry, Prairie Fire, and Vallum among several other magazines. Richard
has been nominated for a Pushcarr Prize for poetry, won first place in Grains
2013 Short Grain poetry contest, and is a recipient of an Alberta Foundation
for the Arts grant.
Mark Lavorato's third novel, Serafim & Claire, is published by House of Anansi.
His work has been featured in magazines such as Arc, Descant, Vallum, and Grain,
as well as anthologies, including The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2013. His
debut collection, Wayworn Wooden Floors (Porcupine's Quill, 2012), was a finalist
for the Raymond Souster Award.
Sandra Lloyd is a regisrered nurse with a B.Sc. in psychology and an MA
in creative writing from the University of Toronto. Her work has appeared
most recently in The Antigonish Review, The Rotary Dial, The Puritan, and the
forthcoming Evenings on Paisley Avenue, edited by Marilyn Gear Pilling.
Harold Macy lives in Merville, BC surrounded by old hippies, fundamentalist
Christians, badly-aging cowgirls, loggers, and urban defectors—great sources of
character and story. He has studied writing with the UBC Mentorship Program,
Victoria School of Writing, Sage Hill (SK), and North Island College. His firsr
book was The Four Storey Forest: As Grow the Trees, So Too The Heart (2011).
Meryl McMaster is an Ontario-based artist and a BFA graduate from OCAD
University. She is the recipient of the Charles Pachter Prize for Emerging Artists,
the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship, the Canon Canada Prize, the
OCAD Medal, and the Doris McCarthy Scholarship. McMaster has exhibited
in various galleries including the Ottawa Art Gallery, Prefix ICA, the Eiteljorg
Museum, MacLaren Art Centre, and Harbourfront Centre.
Artist's Statement (2012): Anima means soul or life in Latin and in many cultures,
especially Aboriginal culture, butterflies represent the souls of your ancestors. I
was also drawn ro the symbolism buttetflies have in connecrion to metamorphosis,
which had significance and correlation to the story I was telling in the body of
work "In-Between Worlds." Tirough this body of work I want to transform the
way the viewer and I understand the past from the perspective of the present.
Throughout all the images there is an ethereal feeling occurring. I wanted to
continue this feeling and give a surreal quality to the image by having vibrant
84 PRISM   52:3 coloured butterflies in a wintery landscape. Butterflies fly south for the winter
and wouldn't survive the cold days and nights of Canadian winters. I am also
turning into an icy figure or fading away, and they are landing on me to almost
bring me back to life or even to feed off me like rhey do a flower to keep their
spirits alive. So we almost need each other for survival.
Lori McNulty is a writer, traveller, and digital storyteller. Her work has been
published in Tlie Fiddlehead, Descant, The Dalhousie Review, The Neiv Quarterly,
and Tide Globe and Mail. She has been a finalist in both the 2012 and 2014 CBC
Literary Awards. Africa is next on the horizon.
Drew Nelles is a senior editor at Tfje Walrus and the former editor-in-chief of
Maisonneuve.
Geoffrey Nilson is a writer and musician from New Westminster, BC, and
his poetry has appeared in a variety of publications across Canada including
subTerrain, Hie Rusty Toque, and rip/torn. In 2012, he was a finalist for The
Malahat Review Far Horizons Award for Poetry. He studies writing at Kwantlen
Polytechnic University.
Miranda Pearson is the author of three books of poetry, Prime, The Aviary, and
Harbour. Harbour was shortlisted for the 2010 Dorothy Livesay prize. Her nexr
collection, titled Tlie Fire Extinguisher, will be published in 2015 by Oolichan
Books. Miranda lives in Vancouver.
Rachel Rose (rachelrose.ca) has won awards for her poetry, her fiction, and
her non-fiction, including a recent Pushcart Prize. She has published poems,
short stories, and essays in Canada, the US, New Zealand, and Japan. Her most
recent book, Song and Spectacle, won the 2013 Audre Lorde Poetry Prize in the
US and the Pat Lowther Award in Canada. In 2011 she was commissioned to
write the libretto for Canada's first lesbian opera, working with composer Leslie
Uyeda, which premiered as the opera When the Sun Comes Out in August 2013
in Vancouver.
Steven Slowka was born in Fredriction, NB, and currenrly lives in London,
Ontario. He is in his third year of studies at the University of Western Ontario,
pursuing an undergraduate degree in sociocultural anthropology. His poetry has
previously appeared online in Occasus.
Michael V. Smith teaches creative writing at UBC Okanagan Campus, where
they pay him to make queer short films, do devised performances, and write
subversive books.
Madeline Sonik is an award-winning writer and anthologist who teaches in the
Department of Writing at the University of Victoria.
Timothy Taylor is a bestseller and award winning novelist and journalist. His
most recent novel is the CBC Bookie Prize-winning The Blue Light Project. His
non-fiction magazine work has appeared widely in Canada and the US. He lives
and walks his dog in Vancouver.
Julia Zarankin's writing has appeared in The 'Threepenny Review, Antioch Review,
The Dalhousie Review, and PRISM. She lives, writes, and watches birds with
gusto in Toronto.
prismmagazine.ca
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;?;.,,. 4 IT'S ON
THE 2-DAY POEM CONTEST
Write under pressure. Win prizes. Get published.
Every year, contestants in the 2-Day Poem Contest
are challenged to write an original poem in 48 hours
using ten words that we provide.
Contest runs the weekend of April 12-13, 2014
Are you up for the challenge?
This was like no other contest!
-NATE
Thanks for another fantastic trip
through the creative washing machine.
-ANDREA
Lots of fun! A totally different poem than I
would normally write. Always interesting to
see what comes out!
-CHARtOTTE
REGISTER ONLINE AT WWW.C0NTEMP0RARYVERSE2.CA
CONTEMPORARY VERSE 2
The Canadian Journal oj Poetry and Critical Writing m^"
The Creative Writing Program at U.B.C.
mj
m
The University of British Columbia offers both
a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a Master
of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. The
M.F.A. degree may also be taken by distance
education. See our website for more details.
Students work in multiple genres, including:
Poetry, Novel/Novella, Short Fiction, Stage
Play, Screen &? TV Play, Radio Play, Writing for
Children, Non-fiction, Translation, and Song
Lyrics &? Libretto.
Steven Galloway
Nancy Lee
Annabel Lyon
Keith Maillard
Maureen Medved
Faculty
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'Mf-$ml§m
Andreas Schroeder
Linda Svendsen
Timothy Taylor
Peggy Thompson
Rhea Tregebov
Bryan Wade
Online Faculty (M.F.A.):
Luanne Armstrong, Gail Anderson-Dargatz,
Joseph Boyden, Brian Brett, Sioux Browning,
Maggie deVries, Zsuzsi Gartner, Terry Glavin,
Wayne Grady, Sara Graefe, Stephen Hunt,
Peter Levitt, Susan Musgrave &? Karen Solie
www.creativewriting.ubc.ca UBC Bookstore
Ca n a d ^^Mp
university general
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Save 20%
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Join our bookclub.
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©peettive Wnien
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for PRISM International.
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52
SM is contemporary writing
Jenny Boychuk
Bryan Castille
Paul Celan
Paddy Chitty
Carla Drysdale
Alisha Dukelow
Re'Lynn Hansen
Iain Higgins
Michael Johnson
Pvichard Kelly Kemick
Elee Kraljii Gardiner
Mark Lavoraro
Sandra Lloyd
Harold Macy
Lori McNulty
Drew Nelles
Geoffrey Nilson
Miranda Pearson
Rachel Rose
Steven Slowka
Michael V. Smith
Madeline Sonik
Timothy Taylor
Julia Zarankin
72006" 86361
03
Cover image © Meryl McMaster, "Anima."
prismmagazine.ca
$12

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