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   PRISM internationa
This Is I low 1 Remember Von" by Cathy Kozak
"Bad Things" by Kalhy Friedman
JUDGE   Joseph Boyden
CONTEST MANAGER   Jeffrey Rieker
Rosemary Anderson, Nadine Bachan, Nicole Boyce
Jane Campbell, Jennifer Chen, Fran Cunningham
Ruth Daniell, Rhett Davis, Jaime Denike
Chris Evans, Charles-Adam Foster-Simard
Tara Gilboy, Sarah Iliggins, Andrea Hoff
Keri Korteling, Laura M. Kraemer, Clara Kumagai
Jen Macdonald, Colette Mai I land, Claire Matthews
Kim McCullough, Leah Mol, Natalie Morrill
Will Robinson, Meg Todd, Laura Trethewey
Lindy Parker Vega, Nikki Vogel, Matthew Walsh PRISM nternati
"Mt. Misen" hv Jordan Moimteer
"Self Portrait (inside a cult)" by Kyeren Regeh
"Morning Light" by Susan Gillis
JUDGE    Karen Solie
CONTEST MANAGER    Jeffrey Rieker
Kayla Czaga
Ruth Daniell
Zach Matteson
Claire Matthews
Ngwalilo Mavvivoo
Bill Pollell'
Rob Taylor
Matthew Walsh
Catherine Young PRISM internationa
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
Rosemary Anderson
Nadine Bachan
Michelle Barker
Sonal Champsee
Kayla Czaga
Rhett Davis
Kate Edwards
Tara Gilboy
Melissa Janae
Ellen Keith
Laura M. Kraemer
Julia Leggett
Kirsten Madsen
Matt Malyon
Claire Matthews
Ngwatilo Mawiyoo
Kim McCullough
Lindy Parker Vega
Beth Pond
Genevieve Scott
Matt Snell
Laura Trethewey
Matthew Walsh
Catherine Young
Maegan Cortens
Christopher Evans
Sam Markham
Kelsey Savage PRISM 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.
Specific back issues can be ordered from the Executive Editor, Circulation:
Copyright © 2014 PRISM international. Content copyrights remain with authors.
Cover image © Robert Betden, "Aurora and Tent, Pontoon Lake, NT."
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. Single issue by mail is $ 13.
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. PRISM occasionally exchanges
subscriber lists with other literary magazines; please contact us if you wish to be
excluded from such exchanges.
Submission Guidelines: PRISM international purchases First North American
Serial Rights at $40 per page for poetry and $20 per page for prose. Contributors
receive two copies of the issue in which their work appears. PRISM also
purchases limited digital fights for selected wotk, for which it pays an additional
$10. Submissions are accepted online or by mail. Electronic submissions are
preferred. All submissions must adhere to our submission guidelines, which can
be found at, ot can be requested by mail at the address
Advertising: For details on how to place an advertisement in PRISM, please visit
our website at
Out 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
UBC Creative Writing Program, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the British
Columbia Arts Council.
July 2014. ISSN 0032.8790
a place of mind
BRITISH COLUMBIA 888     Canada Council     Conseil des Arts
ARTS COUNCIL <±>   fo'*heA|tS du Canada CONTENTS
Karen Solie
Jordan Mounteer
Mt. Misen
Joseph Boyden
Cathy Kozak
This Is How I Remember You
Kyeren Regehr
Self Portrait (inside a cult)
Susan Gillis
Morning Light
Kathy Friedman
Bad Things
Trevor Corkum
Getting Run Over While Jaywalking
Only Happens to Other People
Julie Paul
Squirrel People
Susan Gillis
Full Dark
Vincent McGillivray
As the Paperboy in a Small Town
Jess Knowles
half life
Elise Marcella Godfrey
Monywa Copper Mine
Yusuf Saadi
Breaking Fast
John Sibley Williams
A Dead Boy Martyrs His Mother
David L. White
In a Mall, at Night ee Jackson-Harper
Nature Walk
Sienna Finney
Born Again
One Summer
Melissa Tyndall
I Imagine My Father at 13
Working Sandy Acres
Sidereal Sonnet
Angela Long
A Gazetteer of Planets
Joanna Lilley
Leaving the House
Susan Elmslie
In Praise of Hospital Cafeterias
Leslie Angel
Pope Gregory IX
Chuqiao Yang
Tina Turner: The Wonder Years
Kate Braid
I Seem to Have Come to the Starr
of Something But I Don't Know What
Janice McCachen
La Fille a Bicyclette
Jessamyn Hope
The Reverse
it's difficult to atticulate what one looks for in a poem until one finds it. And
even then, it can be hard to define precisely what one has found. There are, of
course, the obvious indicators of sensibility and proficiency: an ear for diction
and evocative syntax, curatotial acumen, lethally accutate figurative language,
conceptual significance, insight and discipline of form and structute. All of this
applies equally to formal and free verse, to the narrative, the lyric, the avant-
garde and experimental, to the confessional and the found. It's a lot to ask. And
not enough.
There must also be that other—suggestion, implication, consequence—the
poem generates, something along the lines of tone, an atmosphere that supports
life forms of connotation and inference. The crucial unsaid arising from the
proximity of the said. This is whete beauty, what art critic Peter Schjeldahl calls
"the animal joy of the mind," happens, whether the word "beauty" is in fashion
or not. Beauty isn't to be confused with prettiness, mere recognition of like
circumstance, nostalgia, or something that makes us feel nice. It may disorient
our sensibilities, disturb rather than confirm them. It may activate an empathetic
recognition of sotrow, fear, injustice. It can edge over into the sublime and its
intimations of mortality, vulnetability. Here, too, beauty isn't to be found in
lesser qualities of shock, irritation, bombast, ot that which is simply unusual.
Beauty is, in a sense, always a surprise. The above roughly sketched "indicators
of sensibility and proficiency" can be conceptualized, combined, and deployed
in infinite ways to diverse effects. When a poem not so much makes clear what
it intends to do, but does it, surprise happens. Because what "it" is is impossible
to predict. The event of the "it," as Schjeldahl's phrase implies, is intellectual,
emotional, and physical. The bottom-dropping-out feeling, the creeping feeling,
the dawning of an idea, we know it. Though not when, or how, exactly, it will
All ten shortlisted poems engage these notions with wit, style, and skill. I
felt lucky to have received such a strong shortlist, and then I didn't. I had to
choose, as contests dictate, a winner. "Mt. Misen" emerged for me in the tension
it creates between formal and expressive control and the wild and helpless
cry at its core. The thinking, feeling self who from the start "lobbies ... / for
some safety from its own diminishing" finds itself at the hard "right angles /
of contemplation" that contain the inevitability of aging and death. But in the
poem's recognition of transience and eventual absence, there is a vital assertion
of presence in the immediacy of several gorgeous images; for example, the clarity
of its perception of a lack of clarity: "Eastward the Seta Sea / is glaucoma as far
as the eye can manage, / its origins wracked in fog." Tlie music of the couplets,
their enjambments, is measured, but not gentle. It calls to mind the disciplined yet intuitive movement of a meditation in which peace is complicated and hard-
It's an effect very different from the end-stopped couplets of the first runner-
up, "Self Portrait (inside a cult)." Here, the prosody is narrative, nearly prosaic.
A backstoty and its lingering affect haunt the breaks between couplets as they
might in an album of snapshots. The fetishistic quality of the images suggests to
me a simmering, atmospheric menace that survives on privacy. Blinds lowered
in the late afternoon. The authot of the second runner-up poem, "Morning
Light," embarks on the very difficult task of invoking an opportunity that is both
common and intensely absttact—the transformative potential of the everyday—
and accomplishes it with delicacy and discernment.
Congratulations to all the shortlisted poets on theif fine work. It was a
pleasure to spend time with these poems over what has been, for many of us, a
very long winter.
PRISM  52:4 Jordan Mouu/.eer
Miyajima, Japan
Blue-stemmed smoke lobbies at your ankles
for some safety from its own diminishing.
Next to the shrine incense smoulders
and knots around the gentle clack of prayer
wheels turned by a grandmother in a felt coat
who will not meet your eyes. Every grief
is a refugee in transit, wotking its way on foot
with everything it owns. That's how you must think of it
now, not homeless but as something unable
to return. Suddenly you are alone on stone steps
beneath a wooden torii gate, the fight angles
of contemplation. A heavy shovel rests against its post
like a worn-down grin, suffering its black rust and
a crooked handle, rain-smoothed. Eastward the Seto Sea
is glaucoma as far as the eye can manage,
its otigins wracked in fog: it is the same
with us, every proximity receding from its centre
like weather losing sight of how far it's come.
What there is of wind hiking up off the coast has become
a sort of exhaustion hammocked among the blood-shot
leaves of a maple. Cifcling the valley a hawk
gathers his arrogance on low-thermals, slanting
light into a kind of alchemy between his feathers.
Tlie claimed steepness of his privacy. You've missed something, the way old excuses for loneliness no longer work
after too many years of use: a wooden handle narrowed
down by the rough labour of your fingers, old age
thinning out our expectations of loss and function.
10 PRISM  52:4 Joseph Boyden
JL o "judge" a fiction contest doesn't really feel like a natural thing to me. How
does one judge stories that are wildly different from one anothef, that have their
own strengths as well as weaknesses? What criteria do I use when I must weigh
these same strengths and weaknesses against one another?
To compound the issue, the stories I read for this year's PRISM contest
incorporated so many styles. Some were postmodern in their approach, others took
a mythological bent, and still others were strongly grounded in a contemporary
and literary tone.
I'll be honest: to argue that judging something as fluid and as fascinating as
short fiction is anything but a subjective endeavour is to not be truthful. And so
the question emefges once again. How does one fairly do it?
For me, a story needs to transport us to the landscape in which it claims to
exist. I want to live in that world, be consumed by that place, for a little while. And
certainly, I don't want to sense the author's hand working the puppet strings of his
or her charactets. There's nothing more maddening than the author whispering in
my ear, "It's me, the wtitet. Aren't I special? Am 1 not brilliant?" I don't read fiction
to feed a desperate writer's ego. Great fiction introduces fascinating characters up
against obstacles they must overcome. Tlie last thing we should be thinking about
when leading fiction, in my opinion, is the authof.
There's also, of course, that certainy> nesais quoi involved with a fine story, that
magical thing that happens between the reader and the words on the page. This,
of course, is far more difficult to define, but don't we all know it when it happens?
Talk about subjective...
This yeat 1 whittled down some amazing submissions to a runner-up and a
winner. It wasn't easy. It certainly was a labour of love. Both of these stories transport
me to a fully realized world, and both contain characters up against obstacles that
they must figure out how to overcome. There's no question, too, that both contain
that magic I speak of. Just as importantly, not once did I think about the author
behind the words. I became lost in the worlds these writers created, though. And I
was blown away by the beauty of the language in these works that never once got
in the way of the story. That, as well, is an important factor. But there I go again,
being all subjective.
Please, dear reader, dive into these fine works and, if you must, judge them
for their merits. Of better yet, don't do that at all. Just allow yourself to be swept
into these worlds at once so familiar and yet quite foreign. I did the judging thing
aheady, so just allow yourself to enjoy. 11 Cathy Kozak
What I remember first about you is this: the birthmark like a bruise across one
cheek. White hair. Moody blue eyes. Your earring, a tarnished silver cross, the
talisman you never took off. And that you wefe a fighter, your fate clenched in
your fists. Vlad.
I pick up the kitchen phone on the first ring and a queue of coins clanks through
the line. Only the kids would call from a payphone, wheedling money, offering
up their recycled needs: tithes for a beady-eyed guru in Goa, bribes for the
Federali, American dollars for the bonesetter when the youngest is tossed off the
Great Wall by a rogue wind. But the kids are in town for the summer and for
once they all have jobs and apartments, which puts Rich, their father, in a rare,
celebratory mood.
I watch him through the kitchen window as he unfolds himself from the
hammock strung between the house and the blue spruce at the far end of the
deck. From there, the backyard drops steeply to the river, its terraces overgrown
with ornamental grass, running bamboo, lavender, mint, and wild white roses.
Tire roots of two plum trees wade ankle deep in water. It's midsummet but the
fiver is still high, engorged after the dangerous spring runoff. Rotten docks and
white plastic lawn chairs churn past as the current surges towards the dam.
Rich sidles into the kitchen from the deck, leaves his empty wine glass on the
table and kisses me hard on the mouth. He tastes of currants and black pepper,
from the wine, which explains the kiss. When it's over, the Monopoly game
comes out and he moves his chair closer to the counter, where I wait for whoever
is on the other end of the phone. I'm ready to hang up, but something stops me.
"Who's on the phone?" he mouths. Another coin shudders through the line.
I shrug.
Fyodor, our parrot, swivels his furious red head in my direction. "Who's on
the phooone Juuune!" He swings back and forth on the chandelier above the
kitchen table like he's revving up for a night of big band.
"Can't you shut him up?" Rich asks. He lays out the Monopoly board.
Disttibutes cash. Shuffles the Chance cards. Little of his life is left to chance.
Catds are counted. Bets hedged. I am the wild card.
I fling a dishcloth at Fyodor. A riff of static buzzes through the phone line
and your voice, throaty and low, which I haven't heard in thirty-five years, says,
"I want to talk to June."
Fyodor sloughs off the tea towel. "Vlaaad! Vlaaad!"
You growl into the phone. "Who the hell is that?" Static reincarnated into
12 PRISM  52:4 the Vlad I used to know. The bad connection sweeps you away before I can
remind you about Fyodor. I inherited him from your sick friend in Toronto. You
said a parrot would listen better than any person ever would.
"Vlad? Are you there?" No answer. I wedge the receiver between my shoulder
and chin and wait.
At the kitchen table, Rich pours more wine and chants a mathematical ditty
over the Monopoly die, his version of black magic. He scowls at the phone. "If
that's one of our high-flying progeny, the coffers are empty, unless they want
Monopoly money." He laughs at his own joke and Fyodor hops onto the back of
a nearby chair. "Empty coffersss," he croaks, cranes his head closer to the board
and shuffles onto another chair, just out of Rich's reach. Rich swats at him, rolls
the die for me and commandeers my silver Monopoly boot three spaces past
GO to Baltic Avenue. "And so the ted-headed wench crash-lands in the ghetto
again," he announces cheerfully. "You're going to want houses." Advice for a
slum landlord.
The phone line crackles open. "June?"
"Vlad! Where are you?"
Your voice drops low as if someone is listening in. "If you really are June."
"Who else would I be?" I laugh, but the catch in your breath warns me to
stop. I hear you shuffle paper, organizing your thoughts.
"Maybe you aren't June at all," you say in that vague, accusing way I could
never argue with. "You don't sound like her."
"Butyou called me!' The static returns and while 1 wait for it to clear, I peer
at myself in the kitchen window. Raise an eyebrow. Sweep my unruly hair to
one side and undo another button on my blouse, waiting for Rich's wench to
"June?" More static.
"I can't hear you, Vlad."
"Hold on."
Rich moves his silver top hat to the visitors' hall of the jail, tells me it's
my turn and takes his Monopoly money onto the deck to watch the firsr red
streaks of sunset like ribbons in the river. Summer has filled out his shoulders
and thighs, softened his eyes, returned him to his body from the land of debits
and credits. It suits him.
The church bells clang on the other side of the river and the sound drifts
in through the open door. From your end, the wail of a siren. "Vlad? Are you
"You don't sound like June."
"How can you tell with all this static? Who do I sound like?"
Your voice garbles.
Rich comes in from the deck and fans his Monopoly money on the table.
"I'm two hundred dollars short. A misdeal. What else can it be?" Whenever
his life skids into the red, he wants me to join in. While he tries to lasso me
into another imagined crisis, 1 imagine marching into his upstairs office. Id
rearrange his files. Slip Mrs. Axelby's Hell For Leather advertising into Judge 13 Wans investment folio. Add extra zeros to the tax returns lined up neat and tidy
on the shelf behind his desk. One day I'll do it for real. I turn back to the phone.
"Vlad?" More buzzing.
"Yes or no to houses on the Baltic?" Rich reminds me. "And who's this Vlad?"
I cover the receiver with my hand. "My Russian ex from Toronto."
He massages his temples. "The guy with the psychedelic jean jacket. I met
him. Didn't I? You'd just broken up." He narrows his eyes. "Why is he calling all
of a sudden?"
Thirty-five years and he remembers your jacket. "How the hell would /know
why he's calling, Rich?" To distract him, I tell him I want a hotel on the Baltic
instead of houses. He's keen to subvert at least the Monopoly rules to show
there's more to him than rules and regulations. "And I want chandeliers and fur
rugs," I insist. "Velvet quilts and caviar and vodka. Lots of vodka." He whistles
as I line up the hotel, but his accountant's maudlin frown soon takes over and he
folds his hands in penitence in front of him. To him, fun is a calculated risk.
"It's a game, Rich," I remind him. The red hotel gleams malevolent in the
light of the overhead chandelier. Fyodor hops onto my shoulder. "What do you
think?" I whisper. He croons. Baltic Avenue, the red-light district of Monopoly-
land. I'll never get anywhere with this pimped-up palace.
And then the distortion on the phone line subsides and you say, "I need to
make sure you are who you say you are. Tell me something about me no one else
After you disappeared, Rich and I moved to the West Coast. You sent me
two letters. How did you know where to find me? One letter was from the Don
jail. The second was from Moscow six months later. And then nothing.
"Don't be absurd, Vlad. How do I know what other people know about
Here's what I remember: It was you, not Rich, who fed me beet soup and
paid my bills the spring I had that trouble. You who rammed the broom handle
through the glass in the front door. Who stashed the sandwich bag of LSD in
our freezer. You so afraid of the dark you slept wedged between me and the
wall with the overhead light on and your hunting knife under your pillow. The
memories feel like stones in my throat.
"Your friend Jerry," I say. "Do you still see him? He lived with that dancer
who had all her teeth pulled because she couldn't affotd to get them fixed. 1 gave
her a lift home from the dentist that day and she flashed me a mouthful of what
was left. I almost drove off the road." 1 laugh, nervous.
You muttet something in her defense. Your voice turns. "Anyone could find
this out. And Jerry OD'd last year The real June would not laugh at that."
"Obviously I wasn't—"
Thete is a scuffle on your end. "Will you fuck off!"
Was that meant fot me? "Vlad?"
"Vlaaad?" Fyodor hoots. "Vlaad?" Which makes me laugh again.
You bellow into the phone. "What's so fucking funny?"
"Stop shouting Vlad! Tell me what you want!"
Rich makes a move for the phone but I shove him away.
14 PRISM  52:4 You suck in your breath. "If you are June, I want you to keep your fucking
mouth shut. Whatever you told them, they're using it against me."
The church bells stop clanging. An automated voice threatens to disconnect
us. Only then do I notice what's missing from the Monopoly board.
"I'm out of coin," you say. "But I'll be in touch. I know where you are."
Rich tutns off the porch lights.
"Turn them back on," I call from the second floor landing. "And put on the
He stops mid-stride. Stares at his slippers. "What do you thinks going to
happen June? Tlie guy's three thousand miles away."
Is he? "There was no number on the call display."
Tlie muscle at the corner of his jaw twitches. He pushes his glasses onto his
forehead, rubs his eyes. I pull my robe tight across my chest.
"Let mc get this straight," he says. "This Russian you used to fuck. He's
I chew on the corner of my lip. "Stop saying fuck."
He won't look at me. "Around the time you were fucking me."
"Not relevant to the here and now, Rich." I turn off one of the lights. Step
backwards into the shadow.
"Right." He crinkles his nose. "And what did the police say when you called?"
"That he's done nothing wrong —"
"A bit premature then."
"I know him. When he gets an idea —"
"You knew him. Big difference." He fiddles with the chain, curses and leaves
it hanging. "Tlie hardware's come loose. I'll fix it tomorrow." He glares. "If you
"Yes I do thank you very much oh defender of the palace." Before he has a
chance to answer back I thtow in, "Cover Fyodor's cage, will you?"
He stomps into the dark. I shrug my robe to the floor and lie down on the
far side of the bed, cocooned in blankets.
The smell of smoke and the sound of men's voices from the park next door wake
me. It's 3:30 a.m. I slip out of bed and tiptoe to the window so as not to wake
Rich, who will want to know, from the deep, delirious pit of his sleep, why I'm
up. I've barely slept, dragged awake by the same datk dreams. You're late to meet
me when I get off the train in Moscow; I've turned you in to the police; and the
worst of them, the one that's true, I'm alone in that whitewashed hospital room,
blood like a bright red poppy on the sheet beneath me.
Tlie bedroom window is open to catch the cool, north wind that slides down
the mountain until dawn. I should have closed the windows. I'm worried about
your next call, or that you'll show up at the front doot in the middle of the
night, or worse. I press my ear to the screen. The park next door is steep and
unmatked, and most nights it's quiet. But not tonight. Tonight it sounds like
15 a regiment of men are camped beside the ravine like soldiers at the edge of a
trench, camouflaged by cedar boughs from the tfee upended during the spring
storm. Last week, before your phone call, I found a gas-stained sleeping bag
in a cache strung from a branch near the fire pit. A toothbrush and a box of
condoms. Bear spray, a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels, and a hunting knife.
Testosterone like a biological weapon. Bad things happen in dark forests.
Campfite smoke mixes with pot smoke and drifts through the screen on the
stronger, sweeter smell of Rich's newly split cedar. "Goddamn truck," a voice
from the park complains. "You'd think he'dav taken it in for service before he left
on a trip like this."
"Fucking right," another voice agrees.
The last sliver of moonlight slinks between the open slats of the blinds and
the moon drops behind the mountain. The crickets are silent. Bats swoop past
the window. A finch murmurs the morning's first song and across the river the
city garbage trucks roar to life. In the park, one of the men coughs.
"You okay, man?" the other asks.
"Goddamn smoke -" A phlegmy snort interrupts. He horks. "Truck or no
truck, we gotta get 'er done."
I slam the window closed. The patk is day use only. Time to call the police.
I stand in a pool of pale sunlight on the black and white tile in the middle of the
kitchen. Fyodor paces from one side of the windowsill to the other and tracks
me with gold, glittering eyes, pupils tiny as pinpricks.
I cinch my apron at the waist, yank the telephone onto the counter, and
fumble in the cupboard for flour and sugar Damage control. Run, fight, or
make bread. I've survived my share of disaster with this recipe. Guatemalan
bandits. A barrio in Rio. Tlie Cadillac man. A broken home and broken bones.
Fuckups and setups. A bus crash, a tire slash, an ego clash, and the steady drip-
drip-drip of everyday life. And I've survived you. Once. I can do it again.
Two-and-a-half cups of flour. Not three. With three, someone is left out,
tossed by the wayside with the empty wine bottles and condom foil, the brown
carnations and Sunday morning crosswords. With thtee, there's too much love
but no one gets their fill.
A quarter cup of sugar. Combine with flour. Where's the powdered milk?
I scramble through the shelves and cupboards and drawers, drag out bags and
bottles and tins. My mother-in-law's canned herring. Thirty-two quarts of
pickled beets. Tupperware and silverware and earthenware and who really cares?
Where's the powdered milk?
I push my sleeves to the elbows, wish for a tattoo so I can imagine something
I shouldn't: I love Vlad. Vlad is rad. Sad. Too bad. You've been had. Vladimir was
here. Is that adultery? Would Rich divorce me for imagining you etched into my
bicep? Rich is a dish. Quite delish. A real life Dick. June and Rich. Tsk tsk tsk.
Focus June. Yeast. Water. The damned powdered milk. I flour the breadboard, scoop a fistful of dough and throw it onto the board. Peasant bread. Hard
and coarse. That's what I want. And beet soup. I squint at the phone. Did you
16 PRISM  52:4 think the baby I lost that spring was yours? Push the dough away from the body
with the heels of the hands. Stretch it flat. It might have been. Pull the dough
back, turn a quarter rotation. Why didn't you return my letters? Fold. Push
away. I would have come to Moscow. Push away, push away. What do you want?
Sttetch flat. I've got a family now. Push away, stretch flat. Thtee daughters and a
son. Pull back. Fyodor. Turn and fold. And Rich. Push away. You can think what
you want. Push away. I love him. Pull back. I do. Turn and fold. I do. Push away.
Push away. Push away.
It's been three days since I've heard from you. No phone calls. No emails. No
carnage in the night. Google says you don't exist, unless you're the drummer in
the punk band "I in My Soup" or a gay Olympic skater. I draw the main floor
curtains and lock all the doors during the day when Rich is out. He is fed up
with these exaggerations but keeps a can of bear spray undipped on his desk
anyway. I still can't sleep. I imagine bulletproof cars. Burly men stuffed into
black raincoats, lumbering up our stairs.
When I was twelve my father and I were rear-ended in his Buick by the
mayor's drunken son. Tlie next day, and the day after that, a black Cadillac
followed my sister and me home from school. Once, the car stopped and two
men watched as we cut through the woods. A week later they stood in black
raincoats in our front hall. I recognized them right away and tried to catch my
mother's eye but she was already chattering about the wet spring, how her tulip
bulbs had rotted in their beds. "You talk too much," my father told her later,
when it was over. Tlie older man wore driving gloves, the younger one cracked
his knuckles and stared at me. They were confused about house numbers.
My mother fidgeted. "I don't know who's at 622. Are they friends of yours?"
She glanced at the men for confirmation; the older one nodded. "Let me find my
husband. He may know." I followed her into the kitchen. She'd already realized
her mistake and gtabbed my elbow. "Listen to me, June. You are to go back and
make sure they don't steal anything."
I stood guard at a safe distance. Tlie younger man gawked at out wall of
family photos. He pointed to the one of me taken outside my elementary school.
I was wearing a new pink coat. My legs were bare from the mid-thigh down. He
stroked the hem of the coat with his finger. "Pretty," he said.
I leaned in for a closer look. "I don't go to that school anymore," I told him
and befote I could lean back again, he gtabbed my wrist and I stumbled into
him. I heatd myself whimper, as if from a great distance, as if the sound hadn't
come from me at all. A cry like the squitrels caught in the mouse traps in the
attic. When we heard my father's voice and footsteps barge into the kitchen, the
man let me go and the two of them slipped out the front door. It wasn't the last
time I saw the younger man.
My father wanted to know why I hadn't kept them there until he could call
the police. "We were lucky," he warned us. "Tilings could have gone very bad." 17 Rich and I wake at dawn to long, loud shrieks from the kitchen. Fyodor. I rush
downstairs, yank open the door of his night cage. He eyes me, listless, and plucks
a clump of feathers from one wing. "No, no, Fyodor," I croon, my finger firm at
his chin to push him away from the wing. I fill his dish with seeds and a slice of
ripe mango, but he turns away.
Later, Rich comes into the kitchen for his morning coffee, dressed in a white
shirt and stern grey suit for today's audit. He squints at Fyodor. "Whar a racket!"
Fyodor shrieks and swoops down on him, wings fanned wide, flapping and
thrashing against Rich's shoulder. He tries to bite the top of one of his ears and
Rich swears and swats him away. "For God's sake, June! Get him sorted out!"
He slams the front door on his way out of the house.
Fyodor creeps along the counter onto my arm. "Poor Fyodor," I croon.
Tlie vet swivels across the linoleum floor from his bookcase to his desk on a red
leather chair. He hands me a pamphlet - How to Tell if Your Parrot is Depressed. I
laugh at the sad-looking parrot on the front. The vet frowns. On my lap, Fyodor
hangs his head. He won't look at me so I stroke the small, downy feathers under
his wing in time with his breathing. I ask the vet about the attack on Rich.
"Have you been spending more time than usual with him?" he wants to
"Which 'him' do you mean?"
Tlie vet's cheeks flush. "Your husband I mean. Fyodor is jealous, plain and
simple. You might have to put your husband on hold until this blows over."
"I don't think he'd like that."
The vet sighs. "And he likes being attacked?"
Rich and I have spent a lot of time talking about you this past week, though
he still doesn't think we have anything to worry about.
When Fyodor and I arrive home I lock the front door and settle him in his
night cage with the door open. He pecks at his wing and is still. I pour a large
glass of wine and dial Wang's Cafe for take-out. Rich will pick it up on his way
home from the audit. After I've placed the order, I press play on the answering
machine, loll against the kitchen counter with the wine and listen to the usual
telemarketers tempt and cajole. Tlie fourth message is different.
"June? Hahaha. I told you I'd call back. Are you listening and not answering,
like a Nosy Parker? Remember how you used to call my landlady that? Is Rich
listening too? I know you're with him. Your mother told me."
I tewind the message thtee, four, five times. Is this what the calls are about?
Me and Rich?
Are you jealous? My chest feels hard and tight. I can't suck in enough air.
Shit. My mother. But then why hasn't she called? She wouldn't waste a chance to
remind me again of my choices.
The next message is from Rich. The audit's gone well. What about dinner?
He's tired of take-out. When will things be back to normal?
18 PRISM  52:4 The next one is yours. "Why are you still talking to the police? You're making
my life impossible. Why would you do this to me, June?"
Another rewind. Another message. "Will you stop! You're wrecking my life!"
And again. "I know where you are."
And the last of them. "Cunt."
At a church on Spadina Avenue in Toronto, the payphone tings and rings and
rings for the third day in a row. What are you doing in a church, Vlad? It's been a
week since your messages. This number showed up on the call display and I dug
around the internet till I found you. Two dollars paid to some shady place called
Reverse Call and there you are. This morning I left a message on the church
administrator's answering machine, but she is away for two days so I'm back to
this payphone. Maybe you'll answer. I've hardly budged from this chair by the
phone. Worried you'll call. Worried you won't. I can't set my mind to anything
else until I find out what you want. Tonight, when Rich comes home from
work, we'll finish our take-out and sit down at the kitchen table and try to finish
this Monopoly game. Same one we were playing when you called last week.
It's become more than a game. Don't ask me how. Tlie longest game we've ever
played. Neither of us wants to surrender. Rich tells me he's landed on the Baltic
sixteen times. Statistically impossible, he says. I haven't landed on Park Place or
Boardwalk once. Less impossible but if I do, the game is over. He's hoteled up to
the eyeballs. Have you ever wondered, as I did just before we were disconnected
last Sunday, why Monopoly has no payphone? No church?
And then the unexpected happens, as it does when I stop hoping so hard.
"St. Aidan's." A man's voice. Young. Confident. Hopeful.
I gulp down the last of my coffee. "Who's this?"
"St. Aidan's," he says again. "I'm the church janitor. Are you sure you've got
the tight number? This is a payphone."
"Yes, I know. Last Sunday I got a call from this number. From a guy I knew
thirty-five years ago."
"How exciting!"
"He threatened me." I hear sweeping. "Wait. Stop sweeping."
"Okayyy." He pauses. "You didn't say who you're looking for."
"Vlad. Petrov."
His voice softens. "Vlad. Yes. We know him here."
I am tempted to ramble through the rest of the story, claim this janitor as my
confessor. But all I say is, "I want to know if he's dangerous."
"What did he say exactly?"
"Not to talk to the police. That he knew where I lived."
"And you live where?"
"The West Coast."
He sighs, a sigh that is too old for his voice. "Vlad was here yesterday."
I suck in a long, deep breath of air, the first real breath in days. "Are you sure?
I don't remember he believed in God. Or does he work there?"
19 "No, he doesn't work here. As to God, I couldn't tell you. I don't think he
could either. He comes to our soup kitchen."
"Lie's one of the regulars. Been out on the street ten years, give or take. Pretty
harmless. Not fit for a pilgrimage to the other side of the street, never mind the
"Are you sure you've got the right Vlad?"
"He's delusional, which may explain—"
"But he could hire someone. Couldn't he? He could—" I struggle to imagine
it. "Could you ask him? Next time you see him? I never did find out what
he wanted." I can't reconcile it. AH week I've been worrying about how you've
disrupted my nice tidy life. The nice tidy life I still don't always feel at home
in. You, homeless. You, always so full of yourself, at home wherever you were,
especially in Moscow. "I'm more myself here than I've ever been, June," you
wrote in that second letter. "Come to Moscow." I wrote you back, Vlad. I would
have come to Moscow. How would things have turned out if I had? Maybe we'd
both have ended up in some long, lonely soup line.
"How does it happen," I ask the janitor. "If you don't mind my asking -"
His voice is quiet. "I don't know. We just feed them." He clears his throat.
"And pray. You never know who might be listening."
The next day, Rich loses to me at Monopoly. Bit by bit, the rent from his twenty
visits to the Baltic Avenue brothel—as well as the taxes on Boardwalk and his
stints in jail—have added up. He pulls his calculator from his shirt pocket, turns
it on and off, sighs, and slips it back into the pocket.
When the game is cleared away, I drive to town to pick up the mail from
the post office box. Your lettet is waiting, clumsily-addressed and postmarked
Toronto a week ago. No return address. I tear open one end of the envelope and
turn it upside down. Your silver earring drops into my hand.
20 PRISM  52:4 Kyeren Regehr
The child hides in her mother's tulle-
whipped row of thrift-shop bail gowns.
Three gold rings on the bathroom vanity—
none with diamonds.
The Guru's photo in a key-chain frame,
His come-hither smile on the child's nightstand.
Fact (written in a diary): men's feet, not their noses,
are comparable to the size of their fruit.
The child is allowed to lick the bowl and beatets.
She may not squeeze the icing bag.
Two carefully forgotten items: a kazoo
at a playground, lacy knickers on a lover's bed.
Polaroid of the Guru's feet on the bedroom wall.
The diamond is in the heart, He says.
The mothet applies mascara in the hall mitror.
The child strokes the prickles on her mother's legs. 21 Susan Gillis
Without mention of blossoms
Milosz gets the ttee in the poem from ttanslucent to laden with fruit.
Years passed, not months, while he slept,
and that tree must have flowered many times.
In the same way, we turn over mid-dream
or after love, those beautiful hours
we know were passed in the company of genius
but have forgorten in the particulars.
We know the tree stands for promise
and for the desire, which conies much latet, for atonement.
We stand at the west-facing window
and let the buildings opposite turn gold, then back to brick.
The woman singing softly in the kitchen clipped bundles of roses before
breakfast from the shrubs between here and the house by the gate. Vases of
them scent the table lightly as dusk comes on, and lights flicket and go out
briefly aftet supper. She is singing
in the language of the Conquistadors. Hymns. She's an Evangelical;you have
to be careful ivhatyou say, but I am not. I'm delighted to be learning the curse
words of this language I don't know and repeat them often so that our host
puts his hand up to my ear to cover it. He means my mouth. The woman says
a brisk goodnight
and tucking her chin, takes the day's garbage in a bag with her through the
swinging door into the night, down the path to the tip outside the gate. It's not
God that makes them strong, is it; it's faith. Full dark now and voices leap from
her house as she opens the door
and closes it gently behind her. Later I sit alone in the gatden wishing to see
stars. The orange smudge at the foot of the mountains is the city. The dog
saunters by, sniffing, giving me a wide berth. The horned owl calls from the
bordering pines, then nothing. Then again the call. 23 Vincent McGillivray
you are gifted
the front porch.
A naked kitchen.
Frizzle of bacon.
Newscasts from
curtained dens.
Sometimes jazz.
There are spaces
so white,
you taste the
chemical lemons.
Clock like a fist
on the tabletop.
And warmth
in winter months—
an orange-bellied oven,
its apple-pie heart.
Walls where
a room hangs its
little story.
Head of a deer.
Cherubs & imps.
Children in frames
wearing mortarboard crowns,
their eyes racing
through you,
out to the far world.
24 PRISM  52:4 Jess K now les
the version of myself that is a bicycle
is always smoking in my dreams,
maybe the details have scarpered
but i cannot reconcile myself to waking.
the refrigeratot hums undet its breath.
i crawled on my hands and knees today
because you asked me to,
and i think i may have gotten the wrong groceries.
how should a person be?
i cannot sharpen my heels and catch this idea
when it snakes underneath the couch
which is a place i have never gone
unlike istanbul and bucharest which are places
i went to and liked, here is the place where
i tend to out plants, which i have named,
and tongue vitamins and worry about lunch meat.
when do we atrive? will i be forever browsing
the blank faces of inflight safety pamphlets?
do i have enough time to go for a walk in the half-dusk
and avoid my reflection in the lit up windows of jewelry stores?
25 Janice McCachen
in Suzanne's experience, it's seldom good news when the nuns come for you.
But this time, Sister Josephina opens the door to the cell, stows the keys in an
invisible pocket in her black gown, and, though there is no one else but Suzanne
there, whispers, "You're to be freed!" Suzanne can't imagine how this could be
so. Ever since the allied landing in Normandy, they have been emptying the
women's prison of the politicals, transporting them to Germany—to another
ptison called Ravensbriick. Although Suzanne doesn't know it yet, many of these
women will never return.
Josephina hands Suzanne a wool skirt, a white rayon blouse, a winter coat
remade from Suzanne's father's overcoat after his death. These are the clothes she
was wearing the night they delivered her here last January, one week after her
arrest, interrogation, and torture at milice headquarters on Rue le Peletier. On
the way, the guards had taken her to a bar but she'd refused their offers of wine
and cognac, had gone to the washroom and tried to escape down an alleyway,
only to come to a dead end where they caught up to her again. "You certainly
have guts," one of the guards had said, seizing her arm.
"Use the right word," she'd replied. "Not guts. Courage." They'd treated
her with new respect then, saying nothing about her escape attempt when they
handed her over to the prison governor at La Petite Roquette.
Sister Josephina helps Suzanne brush her wild dark hair and pin it in a coil.
She takes her by the hand and hurries her along the upper corridors of the
prison, over the metal walkway above the moat, down the stairs, and across
the courtyard. Josephina's hand is bird-boned, dry and weightless as a paper
envelope. In the courtyard, Suzanne feels exposed, half expects bullets to come
tearing through her from above or behind. Better that, she thinks, than a
transport truck and deportation. When they arrive at the guardhouse, Josephina
fishes in her pocket and produces a small card which she presses into Suzanne's
palm with a smile. On the front of the card, a coloured image of the Virgin
Mary; on the back, an inscription: A ma chere Camille. Avec beaucoup d'affection,
Soeur Josephina. In the six months of her detention, Suzanne has never revealed
her real name. The nun squeezes her hand, gives her two little bird pecks, one on
each cheek, and then leaves her in the hands of the prison governor.
Fifteen minutes later, after signing her release documents, Suzanne finds
herself standing on the Rue de la Roquette, her coat over her arm, a brown paper
envelope in her hand containing the identity papers that bear her Resistance
name and 100 francs. "After the insurrection took hold three days ago," the
prison governor had explained as he too signed the documents, "Von Choltitz
made an agreement: politicals to be liberated in exchange for free passage of
German soldiers out of the city." He handed her the money. "We were told to
26 PRISM  52:4 release the prisoners one by one to avoid a scene. You are one of the last to go.
Bonne Chance," he said, shaking her hand. Heat radiates from the pavement; the
scent of the linden trees on the boulevard mixes with the street smells of Paris:
exhaust, garbage, coal fires, food, dog shit. But except for an elderly woman
walking a beagle, the street is deserted, metal grilles pulled across closed-up shop
fronts, apartments and balconies shuttered and still. In the distance, from the
direction of the Seine and the Hotel de Ville, gunfite rings out.
A few blocks along, Suzanne manages to find an open cafe, asks for the
toilet, shteds her papers and flushes them down the hole. She hasn't heatd from
her mother in several months, doesn't know if Jose, Olga, and their little boy ate
still safe. The child had been a pupil in her mother's kindergarten class. One day,
after school, Olga had come to their apartment above the schoolhouse, asked
that if she and Jose didn't arrive after school to pick up their son, could Suzanne
and her mother keep him safe until atrangements could be made?
Suzanne consulted with her mother. "Why don't you stay at our country
house near Lyon?" Suzanne said to Olga. "No one will recognize you there.
No one will question it. We often have guests stay." It was for the sake of Olga
and Jose and little Thoury, and not because she had Resistance secrets to reveal,
that Suzanne had kept her silence during the torture. As she passes by the bar,
Suzanne catches a glimpse of het own reflection and is appalled by what she sees.
For six months, she's lived on chicory coffee, vile soup, old bread.
She walks towards the river and the Gare de Lyon, wondering if the trains are
running. A few blocks along, a man hacks at a plane tree with a small hatchet.
Others, men and women wearing armbands, pry up the cobblestones and pile
them on a heap of rubble—broken furniture, scraps of metal, pillowcases filled
with dirt. Suzanne puts down her coat and helps a woman in a green dress
load the paving stones into a small wooden catt and then dump them onto the
barricade. When she is too stunned and exhausted to go on, she picks up her
things and wanders away, looking for an open bakery or market, somewhere to
buy some food. On a side street, a little boulangerie displays a few bread rolls in
the window. She goes in, asks for two, opens the envelope to retrieve her money
but finds it empty. She searches her coat pockets, checks the lining, the 100
francs are gone—she's flushed the money down the toilet maybe, or it's been
stolen while she worked on the barricade.
She knows the address of a friend from prison, a girl who was deported in
June. The parents have a flat in the Latin Quarter. It takes her until dusk to
cross the city, zigzagging to avoid the hotspots where the Free French brigades
are shooting from the windows. Her cellmate's parents welcome her into theif
flat, give her a plate of bouillon and potatoes, offer her their daughter's bed. But
Suzanne finds she can't sleep on the soft mattress. She lays the quilt on the floof
and sleeps there, covered by her father's coat.
For a week she stays holed up in the small flat, listening to the gunfire and
sleeping. Finally, the French and American troops enter the city, parading down
the Champs-Elysees to the Hotel de Ville where General de Gaulle, gaunt,
serious, a head taller than his counterparts, strides to the microphone and makes
his triumphant speech: " These are minutes which go beyond each of our poor 27 lives" he slows down, enunciates, pausing before each repetition, building to his
climax: "Paris! Paris outraged!Paris broken!Paris martyred! But Paris liberated!' The
crowd goes crazy, cheering and weeping. Somewhere from behind, sniper shots
ring out. The crowd scatters, closes in again as though nothing has happened.
Later, girls throw themselves at the American soldiers who ride in on the tanks.
Suzanne feels embarrassed for them, for rheir vanity and lack of self-control. She
decides she must get home to Lyon any way she can; she is anxious about her
mother, about Olga and het family, doesn't want to prevail on the generosity of
friends any longer.
They lend her a little money, just enough for a ticket home, but the train
system has ground completely to a halt. At the Gare de Lyon, for a small fee,
someone offers her a lift as far as Fontainebleau, fifty kilometres outside of Paris.
There she finds the bridges have been blown up by the Patron's army. The locals
have built pontoons by stringing together smaller boats and barges and by this
means soldiers and citizens manage to cross the river. At the Melun station,
hundteds of people mill around holding suitcases, children, leashes attached to
small animals. They laugh at her when she moves through the crowds asking,
"Can anyone give me a lift to Lyon?"
A man with a bike approaches her. He is in civilian clothes, looks to be
around thirty, introduces himself as M. Renard. "I'm going in that direction on
my way to Grenoble. If you have a bike, we'll ride there together." Suzanne is
astonished, Lyon is four hundred kilometres away. She tells him she's a political
detainee just teleased from prison. She would willingly go with him but she has
no money, no bike. Renard tells her to wait where she is. Why does she trust
him? Maybe it's his eyes, or the fact he asks no questions. She waits as he wheels
his own bike a little way along the quai towards an American soldier standing
nearby and holding a bike.
"Give me your bicycle," Renard says in English to the soldier. "This woman,"
he gestures towards her, "needs it. She's been in the resistance. And in prison.
She needs it to get home." The soldier eyes her for a moment, then turns back to
"And in exchange?" Renard opens the saddle of his bicycle, and from beneath
it, pulls out a revolver. The American takes it, looks up at Renard. "German?" he
says. But Renard says nothing, just waits until the soldier pockets the gun, hands
over the bike. He wheels it back to Suzanne.
"Let's go," he says, so Suzanne gets on and follows Renard out of Melun and
into the countryside.
For three days they ride, for a while along the river, skirting the larger towns
and the route nationale to avoid the German army. The first night, they stop at
an inn where Renard pays for both rooms. They seldom speak, partly because of
habit: The less you know, the less you have to tell. Also because of exhaustion.
They take almost no breaks and although occasionally Renard slows down to
let her catch up to him, he seldom stops. They eat on the fly, a bit of bread and
cheese, apples or plums still green from the trees. Suzanne grows used to the
view of the back of him, can spot him at a distance even when he gets quite far
in front of her. On the second day, she feels the blood come between her legs,
28 PRISM   52:4 her first period in months. She stops, goes into the woods, rips a piece of the
lining from her coat, wads it to pad herself. Peddling eases the cramps or maybe
just distracts from them. Sometimes hours pass without het noticing. She feels
as though she is sleeping and peddling at the same time.
On the second day, they come round a bend, see on the road just ahead some
kind of blockade; sandbags maybe, or piles of dirt. Closer in, they discover the
carcasses of many dead horses, at least twenty of them lying together in a heap
across the road. Surrounding the heap, the road is a river of blood, the stench so
bad they have to hold their breath. It is a stench that will come back to Suzanne
many times in her life, when she enters a butcher shop, say, or seasons a roast for
Sunday dinner. They detour through a vineyard, where a few hard green grapes
hang on brown stems, then lose their way, backtrack through a wood and lose
the daylight too. It is dark when they come out again onto the toad, riding right
into the beams of two great yellow headlamps. They know it is a tank, lumbering
towards them and that they've been seen. If they try to escape into the trees, they
could be shot. "Don't panic," Renard tells her. "We're a couple of lovers, going
home from a tryst." The tank comes up alongside, grinds to a stop, a soldier's
head appears from the hatch. Speaks to them in English. Renard explains. The
soldier nods. "No problem." he says. "Go along here." He passes them water in
a metal canteen, a couple of cigarettes, an open can of cold baked beans.
On the third day they take the towpaths along the canal. Suzanne's hands
ate claws but her legs have a will of their own, pulling her up over the steep
inclines that lead to the locks. She counts the locks, the numbers on the lock-
keepers' houses decreasing as they near the top of the canal. "Dijon is swarming
with Americans," the lock-keeper at number 1 tells them. Then they're on the
downhill side, trees and fields a blur, the pure physical joy of wind whipping
through her blouse, loosening her hair in a stream behind her.
In less than an hour they've atrived, following the canal all the way to the city
centre, where they dismount and Renard goes off in search of food and water.
Suzanne sits down on the curbside near the entrance to the Cathedral and when
she tries to stand, finds her body has given up the ghost. A couple of American
soldiers move towards her, gesturing, laughing. She doesn't understand their
words but their tone is clear enough. "They think 1 am a whote," she thinks. "A
prostitute too drunk to do her work." She shakes her head, points at her mouth.
"J'ai faim," she tries to say but manages only a string of gibberish. One of the
soldiers roots around in a kit bag, produces the miracle bar of chocolate. The
effect is instantaneous: "The velo," she says, "From Paris. Three days."
The soldier with the chocolate speaks a little French. He nods, says he can
take her and the bicycle in his truck to a place near Lyon, though not into the
city, where the Germans are still dug in. He is the fitst black man she has ever
met. She thinks he is beautiful, even if he began by mocking her. Renard arrives
then, with a slice of ham and bread. He confers with the Americans, shakes their
hands, turns to her. "Go with them," he says. "You'll be quite safe. You must
keep the bike, they'll put it in the back of the truck. You will need it to get home
from where they'll leave you." He gives her an address in Grenoble where he can
be reached, shakes her hand, wishes her well, and rides away. She will never see 29 or hear from him again.
Once back in Lyon, she will sell the bike, send him the money, check the post
each day until she realizes he will never write back. After the armistice, because
she speaks German, she will be sent to Germany to help repatriate prisoners
liberated from rhe camps. The parents of her friend in Paris will never see their
daughter again. In 1948, Suzanne will travel to Canada, fall in love, marry a
Scottish Canadian, live in Vancouver, raise four boys, take in draft dodgers. La
Petite Roquette will be destroyed, making way for a park, leaving only a plaque
to commemotate the women interned within its bleak stone walls. Olga and
her two sons will plant a tree in Jerusalem and make an entry in the Livre des
Justes for Suzanne and her mother, Marie-Louise Couttet. In 2013, when her
grandchildren are helping her to pack up her house and move to a nursing home
in Victoria, she'll come across an old album and find the small card with the
Virgin Mary on the front, Josephina's pretty script in blue ink on the back.
"Have I told you the story," she'll say, "of Mr. Fox and the bicycle?"
30 PRISM  52:4 Elise Marcella Godfrey
The nuns approach the gate, the guards, theif helmets and guns. Slag heaped
behind them. Hills carved, not by the rhythms of rain and tectonic drift, not
the slow shift of a mountain lifting. Machine rhythm. Rigid edges. Tailing
ponds, their flat metallic faces. At the rim of the open pit, the last pagoda.
Inside, people chant mantras. The rest of the monastery blasted and bulldozed.
Each nun weafs a pale pink robe, a golden sash over her shoulder. Some carry
parasols. The guards, hands joined, form a human chain. The nuns, their heads
and feet bare, draw nearer. One guard lets go. His hand answers the unasked
question. Opens the gate. The nuns pass through, approach the pit the way
they would the wounded. 31 MANYA
Where does your story really begin?
The malachire clock in your father's office.
Your small hand against its polished green
whorls. Raw copper ore. Vivid viridian.
Faint vibrations warm against your cool palm.
On the desk behind you, the electroscope
twitches as you hum a forbidden Polish song.
Lesions clot in your mother's lung,
and your sister Zosia descends
into typhoid's photophobic shadow.
How to escape this maze of disease?
Intuition, Positivism,
the Floating University?
A one-way ticket to Paris?
32 PRISM  52:4 YusufSaadi
The gestalt of my kitchen includes madness:
oval wooden cutting boards tinged with blood
and an electric juicer that extracts the guts
from an orange. Terracotta flowerpots on windowsills
shelter exhausted purple hearts
that slump against the pane. The oven throbs.
On the tiled floor a fridge and pantty pose
as rook and bishop. Our ticking
toaster counts down the end of time.
A stainless steel butcher's knife glints
from the granite countertop. The same knife Abraham
concealed in his pant leg for Isaac. On its silver
blade a figure stares at me staring at him
like through a veil.
My mom walks in and turns the radio on.
The adhan is being recited to break fast. A man screams
or sings in cryptic Arabic muffled
by radio static. A haze of steam rises
from the haleem my mom stirs on the stove; the frying
pan's oil sizzles aloo pakoras. There are seedless
dates on white china plates and glasses of water
on the kitchen table.
The ceiling smoke alarm shrieks its sharp
laments. My mom stands on a chair
and fans the alarm with a J-cloth.
As if she's waving a flag in surrender. 33 John Sibley Williams
With two intersecting boards
and a skyful of nails.
With a backpack of black powder
and disassembled machinery.
With a sanctified blade,
beheaded or slipped between
ribs like a love letter
returned to sender.
With white robe
stretched over a lake's calmness,
her hair fisred, submerged,
a kind of baptism.
With night's cold vigil—words,
more words, clasped hands
and the suggestion of candles.
With one holy book or another.
In this case, the story she repeated
over his cradle like a mantra
was about a naked man bound
to rebirth.
But he needs to know
if the boulders moved on their own
from the mouth of an empty cave,
how to distinguish love
from grief.
34 PRISM  52:4 Trevor Corkuin
For mine eyes are upon all their ways; they are not hid from My face, neither is their
iniquity hid from Mine eyes, (feremiah 16:17)
Seven short days before the world was supposed to end, duly and eagerly
prognosticated by all the high-end seers and the various American dreamers,
not to mention the modern-day Mayan disciples clustered here and there like
brilliant Stardust across the globe, Clifford Joseph Mickleson—aged forty-four,
mostly Caucasian, of average height and mind—woke up at his regular hour in
a humid West End Vancouver apartment in something of a disagreeable fog.
Tlie alarm on his phone blared on, a musical ringtone not unlike a vaguely
orchestral version of Celine Dion's "The Power of Love," but in the cave inside
his head, in the dark cottony world where he had spent the previous hours
(closer, he believed, to the beating heart of Jesus), he was lost in raging blizzard,
in the farthest reaches of the North, hurtling across frozen tundra wearing only
a long, maroon-coloured singlet, not unlike the sort often worn during men's
professional wrestling matches. He was racing through the storm, away from
something dangerous, something he knew was right behind him, but which
he couldn't, in his sleeping state, apprehend. Was it a polar bear? The ghost of
an Inuit hunter? Whatever it was, it propelled him along until he came to the
edge of an ice pack, beyond which extended the dark, mysterious recess of the
frothing Arctic Ocean.
"Shucks," he thought, in the dream, surveying the edge of the wotld.
In the midst of this frozen conundrum, he heard a familiar voice, which
he assumed at first was the voice of an angel or Jesus. But it was a deep voice,
possibly an authoritative angel's voice; and when he turned around, there,
standing like a giant before him, was Jacy from work, tall in leather moccasins
and a heavy coat made of pearly caribou skin fringed with eagle feathers.
"Let's go," said this Jacy, proffering a friendly hand.
Clifford grasped the hand and found himself accelerating across the ice at
dream speed, so quickly that his feet did not appear to touch the ground. He and
this dream Jacy sailed like superheroes over endangered caribou herds, and rows
of abandoned igloos, and the larger villages with Inuit women smoking meat
and uttering ancient throat songs and playing bingo by the side of a fire. They
skipped over sleds with trains of magical Huskies straining across the ice and the
lost campgrounds of European explorers who perished of scurvy and loneliness 35 hundreds of years ago.
"Where are we going?" asked Clifford in the dream, not really caring, feeling
protected and safe with Jacy.
"Just trust me," Jacy said, smiling with smoky eyes. And he pulled Clifford
toward him, so Clifford could smell the musky leather of the caribou hide, could
feel the erotic sensation of his skin rubbing up against the roughness through the
satiny singlet at nearly every point of his body.
As Clifford went on tubbing, and while his flight with Jacy continued, his
brain received a message sent along his fine, nervous optic cables, and so, against
his will, one eye cracked open. Immediately, he experienced what can only be
described as a painful, agonizing, and very human spike of regret, remembering
his dream.
So he began to pray.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change	
"Good morning, MyTel Cusromer Service, where your questions are answered
to satisfaction and we exceed your expectations. This is Clifford speaking."
He never even had to glance down at the script anymore.
"Your call may be monitored or recorded for quality control or training
purposes. Please note that in order to process your call we'll need to verify your
identification and account number and can assume no liability whatsoever fot
any incorrect, misleading, or ambiguous solutions advice. And how may I help
you today?"
Clifford was on a roll. In his tiny cubicle, fortified by a silver thermos of dark
roast, he was like some kind of disastet triage centre, handling unruly customers,
upselling on his warranty pledge, averaging 17.4 calls an hour and managing to
keep a serene, non-judgmental smile on his face the entire time. He could feel
the arms of the Lord now surrounding him. There was Glory in His ways.
Around him in the cozy cubicle, he'd stapled up schedules and passwords and
inspirational sayings. There was a prayer card of Jesus with a lamb around his
shoulders, as well as a couple of favourite Scriptures, mixed in with more recent,
secular (but nevertheless uplifting) quotations, such as Be gentle ivithyourself and
Your soul is super spectacular!'and Tliis too, shall pass. He studied these frequently
during the day, as a kind of real-time detox against the emotional, psychological,
and spiritual contaminants that emanated from the city. And from some of the
neighbouring cubicles.
The soft-core metal music leaking out now from an office across the hall,
for example. That was where Lindsay, his supervisor, a pierce-tongued Filipina
with tattoos on her neck, came up with their Goals and Objectives. He had
nothing against Lindsay, or any Asian person at all, but the tattoos and the
piercings caused him mild upset to the stomach, and necessitated an extra round
of cleaning around his work station with his handy Clorox wipes, paying special
attention to all the narrow grooves in between the keys on his keyboard and the
milky streaks on the screen caused by his own spittle.
He was tidying up in this way, while maintaining his Ideal Call Volume,
when Jacy ducked his head over the cubicle wall.
36 PRISM  52:4 "Hey, Cliff."
Clifford felt his heatt speed up. He did not look at Jacy right away. The
cubicles were so low that if Clifford wanted, he could, at any time, gaze across
the small beige divider to study Jacy, the juncture of bone where his jaw met his
skull, the kamikaze mess of blond curls. Jacy had several tattoos; one of a coiled
snake and the other of a spirit bear, one on each bicep, that Clifford could see
when Jacy wore tight T-shirts, which was frequently.
Jacy was, in many ways, a chronic underperformer. He struggled to handle
Ideal Call Volume and became chatty with customers, asking them how their
days were going, consoling them, or cheering them on. He was slow to identify
Customer Need and to address this need through a MyTel Package Deluxe,
offered this week only at an unusually steep discount on account of the end
of the world. He was at the office through a government program for the
underemployed who had been outside the system awhile.
"So did you see that YouTube video last night? Of all the nuns setting
themselves on fire in Jerusalem? That was pretty sick!"
Clifford made a motion with his hand to say I'm on the phone right now but
I will be with you in a minute!!
"Cliff, it was, like, so totally crazy."
Clifford turned away and adjusted the volume on his call. He was just closing
in on a Package Deluxe, with Extras. Jacy remained there, nevertheless, with his
thick arm resting on the top of the cubicle, the toned muscle laid out like a piece
of meat.
Jacy had taken, upon joining MyTel Service a little over a month ago,
something of a keen and unnatural liking to Clifford. Clifford was a quier
type who did not care to socialize with colleagues, although he did try to find
something kind to say, particularly to the disaffected. He believed, in bis heart
of hearts, that Jacy was seeking something truer in his life. So he worked hard
to be Christian. He allowed himself to feel Empathy. Jacy, he knew, was simply
unguided, misdirected—untouched by the ways of the Lord.
Nevertheless, a week earlier in the bathroom, standing side by side in
the urinal on the fourth floor men's room during an approved coffee break, a
break which was not encouraged by Management, or specifically by Lindsay,
but which was necessary when you drank, as Clifford did, excessive amounts of
liquid, he could have sworn that Jacy had fondled his private parts in a way that
might be interpreted as a filthy invitation. Clifford could not help but notice
that Jacy's genitals presented as somewhat large. Clifford's own penis, against
his better judgment, had begun to perk up slightly, an involuntary response
which he knew, from research, was normal, but which made him feel sad and
unworthy for the world. While he commenced in his head to repeat the mantra
his counsellor had urged upon him, the My fear will have no power over me, go
away fear! his organ continued to expand, and Jacy gave him a quizzical glance
that was difficult to interpret.
All of this confusion and misunderstanding had been interrupted by the
appearance of another colleague, Elvis Aaron Mc Whinny, an albino web designer
who wore special dark sunglasses and had worked for several years in IT.
37 "Hey guys. What's shaking?"
"I'll see you later," Jacy had said, and turned before fixing himself up, giving
Clifford another view of his thing.
Now, completing his call, and feeling himself blush, Clifford set down his
headphones and picked up his iPod Nano filled with uplifting Christian music.
Then he stood up and shuffled some papers, to indicate he was about to leave.
Jacy stood too, pushed back his chair, and shut off his phone mid-call.
"Whete you headed, buddy?"
"It's my lunch break. I am planning to enjoy the sunshine."
"Cool! Me too. Mind if I join in the fun?"
Ma was the one who got him believing in the end of the world.
She had loved Jesus from an early age, growing up down south in the US.
Het parents and theit parents and probably the parents before that belonged to
a hollering and hooting kind of church, one with strange tongues and furious
clapping and red-eyed preachers who, Sunday after Sunday, shouted that the
times they were living through were written up in the Good Book, that the sin
that covered the earth like some great, invisible oil slick meant that judgment
day was nigh. So they'd better be prepared.
Though by the time all this believing had filtered down to Ma it was muted
and private and boxed into their tiny aparrment on Bute, perhaps on account
of it being the West End, where sin and crooked ways were always around, like
men holding hands with men, men dressing up as women, all sorts of other
perversity. When he was still in grade school, she used to get him to kneel down
in front of the big crucifix in the living room over the piano and tell Jesus all the
bad things he had done before he was allowed to join her for the sweet and sour
pork chop and Rice-a-Roni casserole she prepared in an earthenware dish.
I'm sorry for lying and pretending and disobeying. I'm sorry for killing ants
with my magnifying glass and touching myself inappropriately and having impure
"Is that it?" Ma had asked once, in her tidy smock, arms crossed, cigarette
dangling precariously from her mouth.
"Pretty much."
"Well just remember, son, that God don't like no smartypants. God don't
like it when you disobey or talk back. God, he commands you be humble."
She'd reached out to play with his hair.
"Angel," she had said. "You know what I want to do?"
"What," he said, with his head still bowed. He could see a sad little flea
hopping across the linoleum like it was training for the Olympics.
"I want us to get to Jerusalem before we all are called to His side."
"Don't you want to go?"
"Ma," he'd said. "We can't afford to go to Jerusalem."
"Don't be doubtful. The Lotd will provide."
After that she had filled up the tub. It was too hot, but she made him strip off
his clothes and plunge in nonetheless. She spoke in a rough, foreign-sounding
38 PRISM  52:4 language—maybe it was Aramaic—while she held his body in the scalding
water, ladling it over his straw hair with a soup pot.
"It hurts!"
"Remember what God said about talking back."
So he shut up. Ma was always right. She got out the soap and scrubbed away
his sin with a rough, sandpaper-like sponge. He bit his lip and thought about the
Devil and sang hymns to all the angels until she had finished up.
Clifford followed Jacy outside onto Hornby. His shoulders were built like a
"What an awesome day, dude!"
Sirens erupted from every distant corner of the city. Helicopters hovered
overhead. The Premier had ordered the RCMP to patrol the major corners of the
business district, fearing the banks would be looted. The officers stood guard on
their statuesque horses, vigilant and stony-faced.
Clifford took a deep breath, trying to envision himself surrounded by white
light, one of the techniques he'd been working on, to ward off anxiety. And in
fact it did seem as though the world was bathed in white. Sunlight glinted off the
office towers. Dots of blue and ted danced across his eyes.
Jacy took Clifford by the shoulder.
"So where to?" he said, steering them north, past the corner at Dunsmuir
where a giant screen had been set up, streaming footage of the extra-solar planet
that was allegedly hurtling toward them, set to destroy the earth, though it
looked miniscule and meek on the screen. A countdown clock was set at 139
hours, 24 minutes.
Cliffotd had in fact been planning to take a walk around the Convention
Centre to watch the floatplanes take off. He looked at Jacy. His office mate's face
had the same expectant expression it had worn in the dream, a kind of invitation.
Clifford remembered his dream, the memory of rubbing nearly naked against
the rough caribou hide. Shame bloomed crimson across his cheeks.
"I need to go to church," he said. "There's a special service today."
"Cool," Jacy said.
They headed to the old HMV building on Robson, which had been
convetted into a massive, walk-in-service church. They passed the bike lanes
jammed with couriers ferrying wills from expert to expert. A parade of shaven-
headed, orange-robed men, Hare Krishna-types, turned the corner at Pender,
jangling tambourines, pounding drums, singing, and swaying from side to side
in one joyous celebration. They were handing out pamphlets and had cornered
a grey-haired woman with a miniature Chihuahua on her way into Kiehl's.
"Are you ready?" One of them asked Cliffotd, touching his hand as they
Just that second, a man dropped from the sky. His body cracked onto the
pavement of the bike lane one block ahead. A small crowd hovered nearby.
"Another jumper," Jacy said, shaking his head.
Inside the cavernous church, thousands were crammed, side by side, mostly
office workets and businessmen, of all ages and ethnicities, praying in silence. 39 Clifford found a spot toward the back, and Jacy squeezed in beside him.
They wete so close their arms were Touching.
"This is neat," Jacy whispered, surveying the room. "It's so peaceful."
But Clifford already had his eyes closed and was praying for his own salvation.
Reverend Sam had said that at the end of days the world would shrivel and the
light would be so bright they might all burn up in one giant flash of intensity.
And then judgment would be at hand. And those who had sinned, those who
had made bad of the promise here on Earth, would be thrown into the bowels
of Hell.
But was it true?
Clifford imagined Hell would be like being forced to stay awake for days
and weeks and months upon end until your brain was deluded and crazy and
you wanted to put a bullet through your heart to end the haze. Or having your
entrails cut out and spooled across a gathering of trees, wrapped like reams of
toilet paper through the pristine branches while you remained fully conscious
of the pain and humiliation, and crowds of your childhood tormenters stood
gathered 'round your face, cheering at high volume in shrill, cacophonous voices
and spitting in your eyes and calling you foul names and dropping red poison
ants into the hair of your armpits and into yout private parts and tickling your
feet and dropping ice-cold drips of watet into the centre of your forehead for
months and months at a time, Chinese water-torture style.
Your world is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
Earlier in the week, like some kind of premonition, Ma had shown up in his
dreams again. She was always showing up, like Cher in her many retirement
tours, but this time was different. She was there to tell him a secret.
It was foggy in the dream and Dream Clifford was dressed in a sailor suit,
like something out of 1950s San Francisco. He had one leg up against a wall and
was smoking a Marlboro Light, nodding invitingly to the scores of sailors with
their anchor and rose tattoos who trolled the lonely pier. And there was his Ma,
with her horn-rimmed glasses and the Margaret Thatcher handbag she liked to
take to church.
Ma! What are you doing here?
Ma came closer, asked him for a light.
As he leaned over to light her cigarette, she began to unbutton the fitst few
buttons of het dress.
Ma! Don't do that. You'll catch cold.
She puffed away on the cigarette then said, in a hacking cough, a hoarse
voice, like she'd had those last few months, There's something you need to see.
She finished the first few buttons, and invited him to look down the front of
her dress.
40 PRISM  52:4 What he saw there made his heart want to explode.
It wasn't racy. It wasn't dirty.
When he looked down, he saw that she had no skin. He could look right
through to her insides. The heart was a little bag of red pus, and the liver a
greyish face, and the kidneys like a set of ornaments purchased at a Sunday flea
market. There were small animals, insects, bloody serpents slithering through.
I told you, she said, buttoning up her dress, and shaking her head, in the way
she used to do.
The night after Jacy had exposed himself in the men's bathroom Clifford lay
alone on his bed. He had been caressing himself in a way that went against the
wishes of Jesus, and yet, as usual, he'd felt powerless to stop. It was as though
he had felt the Lord there with him, the beauty and power and sanctity of his
Love attaching itself to the rose-coloured wallpaper and the overbearing cedar
wardrobe and the prints of the Supremes and ABBA placed tastefully over his
desk. It had been like the very hand of Jesus was the hand that manipulated,
ever so gently, that private place on his body, pulling softly up and down, like
some kind of mystical lever. He'd known this was the Devil, wrapped in the
cloak of goodwill, but so holy were the feelings of compassion and gratitude
and enthusiasm for the world and all its hope and pleasure swirling like an ether
inside his blood that he was rendered helpless and numb.
Yet when he had opened his eyes, when he looked down upon the silliness,
the ridiculousness of what lay there before him—ropy breasts, with their tufts
of sweaty hair; the rotund stomach, like some kind of comical ice-cream scoop
(evidence of his gluttony!!!); the thatch of black hair that ran from his belly
button down into the cove of his groin, sprouting like an invasive species—he
could see that his penis had begun to deflate like a sad, dollar store balloon.
The signs were all around. The websites and airwaves were full.
Clifford's favourite online site gave many reasons why the end of the world
would happen that very year, that very month, none of it to do with the Mayans
or any kind of planetary interference. That was just a front, to calm the irrational
These reasons included, but were not limited to, the following: chaotic
weather, increased interest in vegetarianism, explosion of world travel, earthquakes in
diverse places, fallen angels interacting with mankind, epidemic drug use, witchcraft,
pervasive idolatry (statues, charms, false gods, apparitions), others mocking the
warning signs of the end of age, rampant sexual immorality, including the fact that
men, everywhere, were becoming lovers of other men.
"MyTel Customet Service. This is Clifford speaking."
What a long day. That morning's sweet dream of sailing high above the
Arctic like some kind of Christian superhero had nearly filtered away. It was the
end of the afternoon, and Clifford was exhausted.
"So what happens to my plan. You know. When everything ends?"
They'd been receiving this question a lot. Clifford responded in a calm and 41 what he hoped was a very reassuring manner. Over the lip of the cubicle, he
could just see the top of Jacy's hair, messy and unregulated. It made his palms
"Your account will be credited accordingly, sir. I can promise you that.
There's nothing to worry about there. You will be fully reimbursed."
Now I tell you before it comes, that when it comes to pass, you may believe
that I am He. (John 13:19)
Now, with the end of the day in sight, Clifford wiped rhe iced sugar from a
cream puff off his mouth, dabbing with a piece of paper towel. His head was
spinning. Jacy gave him a sport)' thumbs-up from across the cubicle as he settled
back to his own work. At lunch, as they had walked back from church, Jacy told
Clifford he thought he had a beautiful soul, and that he'd like to sit down with
him for awhile, maybe even that afternoon, to hear more about what he thought
about the End.
"We'll see," Cliffotd had mumbled.
Cliffotd practiced Compassion now. Nervously he licked the last flecks of
sugar from his lips. He could feel his tongue hover there, massaging the lower
lip perhaps a second or two too long, because Jacy glanced up, saw him licking
suggestively, and shot him that questioning gaze again.
"Good afternoon, MyTel Customet Service, where all your questions are
answered to satisfaction and we exceed your expectations. This is Clifford
speaking. Your call may be monitored or recorded for quality control or training
"Fuck off asshole."
"Excuse me?"
"You bastatds ripped me off."
"I'm sorry sir. I don't understand your question?"
"Fuck you shitface."
"Sit. I do not appreciate this type of language."
"Lick my ass."
"I'm going to hang up now sir."
"Suck my cock."
"I'm going to have to disconnect, sir."
"I'm going to have to disconnect now, sir."
Why? Why did he always get all the kooks and cranks? Why not Seong-Li or
Josh? Why not Jacy?
"Thank you for calling MyTel. I hope we have answered your concerns. Have
a pleasant day"
PRISM  52:4 The Mayans weren't the only ones who had gotten into the business. Nostradamus
had also predicted the end of the globe right around now. But some believed he
based his claims on the work of none other than the Mayans.
Clifford's mother had said Nostradamus was a false idol. She said the world
was going to end alright, just as the Bible said. She was going to be there right at
the very end and walk across the bridge of light into the arms of the Lord.
Clifford left work at his regular hour. He loosened his tie in the elevator and
stopped to refasten his shoelaces outside the company door. Thank God Jacy had
snuck out early, as usual.
It was bright outside. The sun had lifted itself reluctantly over the anxious
city and was beaming down onto all the sick and expired odd ends of humanity.
Standing up, Clifford reached into his pocket for a Rolaid. At just that instant
a seagull shat from an overhead ledge and released a wet dollop of birdshit onto
Clifford's good tweed jacket.
"What the?"
Then his cell phone began to ring, another modern day Dion classic.
I'm your Lady... and you are my man...
"Hi buddy. It's Jacy! So are we going to hang or what?"
Cliffotd could feel his throat close over and his heart begin to thunder. He
fumbled in his mind for a Pocket Prayer, but came up empty
"Anyway here's the deal. I'm up at Hotnby and Georgia near the Art Gallety
I thought we could meet for a beer. There's a place near here called Bacchus."
Clifford reached into his pocket for anothet Rolaid.
"So I'll see you in a few? It will be fun! And it might be our last chance!"
Across the street neat the Anglican Church a small gathering of people
had formed a prayer circle. Someone was shaking bells. Another person had lit
themselves on fire further up Burrard. He could see the ball of flame shimmer in
the distance. The ambulance and fire trucks were blinking their long red lights
like messages.
"Okay," Clifford said, heart pounding.
He sneezed, then found a hanky and tried to wipe at the greasy bird shit
from his shoulder to make himself more presentable.
Tlie Mayans had made mistakes about othet things.
Of course, he learned latet, the End took many forms. They said it would
come in the form of some cataclysmic event—an earthquake or tsunami or a
meteor flung from God's hand, hurled into the eatth.
But what if it was something else, altogether?
Clifford got to the comer. And there was Jacy
Jacy standing tall, studying the crowd of faces, looking like a little boy. He
saw Clifford and grinned, waved like a maniac, gestured for Clifford to wait
across the street at Hotel Vancouver. Jacy would head across to meet him.
Clifford swallowed hard, remembering the part of the dream where Jacy held
43 him hard against his chest while they were flying over icy villages.
He watched Jacy advance, with a couple of other commuters, into the middle
of the street, past the fountain where the mass baptisms occurred on the hour
every hour, bodies dunked down fully clothed, lay people trained as volunteers
by the various denominations: Baptist and Pentecostal and Other.
Then Jacy walking, as if in slo-mo, like a film reel from the 1920s silent
era, with the light out of whack, not really dim, more like a kind of leaky blue
pigment—the way the light might look when the world turned off and the
engineers all went home.
On Sunday afternoons they used to sit in the living room together listening to
the radio. He would pore over his textbooks and his mother would drink Earl
Grey tea and knit yellow socks for the Vietnamese boat children and sing along
to the country and western tunes on the radio.
Isn't music a venial sin, he'd ask, looking up and across from her in the dusty
apartment light. Couldn't Barbara Mandrell and Dolly Parton be used in the
ledger against you, when your Works are tallied up at the end?
Son, his Ma said, lighting up another cigarette, and blowing the smoke in
circles in the air in front of her.
A little bit of music ain't gonna hurt us a lick.
Jacy cut into the street, swinging his big man purse over his bulky shoulder. The
couriers zipped by, a group of Japanese students visiting the Art Gallery stood
frozen for a stilled photo at the intersection, fingers bent in the peace sign.
Jacy dodged a couple of cars, before slowing down again. He gave another
small wave, and Clifford raised his hand in return. A forest-green Subaru came
barrelling through the intersection, a petite blond woman leaning into the horn,
like some whacked-out messenger from the future.
He can hear her singing, a kind of metallic, goofy ditty, something with a refrain
in the melody of "The Farmer in rhe Dell." She's swirling around the kitchen,
holding up a wooden spoon and singing directly into it, letting herself get away
with it, letting hetself finally go, dancing like no one's watching, because she's
got one bum lung and the other one's gone to seed and she knows her days are
numbered and the song she likes to sing is like a glorious metronome, beating
time with the hourglass in her heart.
The Jeep didn't stop. The driver perhaps was rushing home to her kids, or
perhaps, though she had honked her horn, she didn'r really care. The end of the
world brought out the worst in certain people, caused them to act in ways they
would have abhorred only a few weeks before. Jacy didn't have the chance to
turn his head, didn't register a cry of surprise, before he was whipped up onto
the Jeep's warm hood, fracturing the windshield before catapulting onto the curb
beside Clifford.
His head snapped at an odd angle towatds a filthy sewer grate. Blood leaked
from his mouth and drooled out from his eyes.
44 PRISM  52:4 Clifford knelt. When Jacy tried to speak, a hot, clotted snake of blood
whished through his lips. Clifford had the sensation that Jacy, lying prone, was
drowning in his own juice.
Call an ambulance, someone whispered.
But they all stayed back, as if in some TV drama.
Clifford leaned in, pressed his ear to Jacy's heart. He could hear its raspy
whisper. He turned his head to look Jacy in the eyes. Jacy peered out, as if
through a dirty window. Clifford could see him in there, smiling and waving,
passing along his secrets.
And before the crowd as witnesses, he pressed his chapped lips to Jacy's face,
finding amidst the blood what should be the mouth, and while he kissed those
lips he imagined the crowd around them roaring and hooting and hugging one
another, tears in their eyes, overcome, like in some real-life commercial on TV.
The curtain call, when it arrived, would be something that would sutprise them.
Of that he was fairly sure. Something puny and unexpected. More like a girlish
whimper than an encore of the Big Bang. They would all be going about theif
merry ways, answering routine phone calls and engaging in Onanism and feeling
great regret and making love, ironing discount underweaf and searching under
broken beds for lost toys and booking online vacations, when, like some great
powerful tremor, the hatd drive of the world would begin to act up, the screen
would go blank, an error message would scroll over the scrim of the evening
sky and the entire globe would fade to an empty, lonely black, a mesmerizingly
perfect annulment, a violet smoky haze.
Clifford knelt beside the body and tried to pray. What he felt in his heart he
could not say, and what he could touch, with his human hand, was the warmth
of another man's body, the heat of his pooling blood. Blue lights flashed all
around him, arriving out of nowhere, and he bowed his head, tried to offer some
impromptu eulogy, some well-loved fragment of Scripture, to utter, in a hushed
whisper, for Jacy's departing soul.
But no words would usher forth into the void.
45 DavidL. White
I'm not the milk
and the milk's not me
I'm Mickey and 1 get milk
the Mickey way
—Maurice Sendak
We cried over spilt milk—
how could we not? The whole
tanker truck jackknifed in
the middle of the intersection,
drove the neighbouthood pets crazy.
There was so much on the road
it looked obscene, almost pornographic,
and the stench lingered for weeks—
That putrid taste climbed into
everything: food, clothing, bed sheets,
we found the froth coming up
in yellow butter from the storm
drains—and with the fume
came the cockroaches,
huge, brown, twitching—
antennae long as cat whiskers,
capable of flying straight into a tall man's hair
and then came the birds that fed on them.
Stores closed, businesses ruined—
the junior high had to postpone school,
even the church refused parishioners.
It was god-awful, remember,
not far from your sister's house,
where your two ragged nephews
sprayed each othet with gatden hoses—
buried your car keys in the sand box—
and the whole place smelled
like such an impressive fart.
46 PRISM  52:4 Come July, the last of it finally lifted,
and left us all slightly better off—
for one thing the street was as soft
as a baby's bum. You and I
sat on your sister's front lawn
watching fireworks set off—
our very own rockets' red glare.
The train moaned low in the distance,
the cool wet grass,
the children sent off to bed,
and deep, deep, somewhere hidden
and dark, the sour breath
of ants fattening through the night. 47 IN A MALL, AT NIGHT
Being like somebody is like being like anybody.
There are times when the last of the mall rats leave
and the great space grows; the escalatots stop
and carry no one upward—the clothing impresses
no one from the dark shop windows—the stars are
gone, the moon is gone, the birds were never there.
The shining sun or the rising moon from the sky
is only a blue light from the sky-light or a darkness
from a sightless hollow eye—
the showering waterfalls no longer fall,
the plastic plants breathe no air, soak no sun
objects with no value, like
pronouns without antecedents—just a this
in the corner: this, this, this, this, this, this, and this.
48 PRISM  52:4 Be nee Jackson-Harper
cold creek runs to the deep lake follow it over barbwire and cow dung through
muck and brush and needles and dead women killed by heroin or Johns
past condoms and hippies camped out round twig fires high and higher on
harder and harder drugs past the angry woman in the pink track suit with
her mad little dog and past the old man with his metal detector detecting but
go undetected past the young guy on the shiny bike who twists ovet broken
ground all glee and gor-tex past the naturalist who charts flora and fauna rilly
hat on grey hair past the young poet who hunts a muse in the water hunts a
muse in the dragonfly who here is ugly thick no magic on him past this to
the lake the shore the rocks the plastic bottle caps and faded chip bags the
squashed beer cans the abandoned fire pits the sticks the rocks the sand the
lake and into the water into the shallows deeper deep down past the roar of jet
skis and motorboats growing faint the watet cold down to where the fish sleep
big sleepy fish green and grey with long whiskets brushing over algae covered
stones here here we are what was it you wanted
It starts with a chinook blustering against dirty glass and the rocky mountains
distant again in the Whistle Stop but this time on a Wednesday again in the
red room with the low chairs the taxidermy and the cheap draft that makes
introductions easy over green felt the low moon visible through the dirty
windows over the Colin range and it's breaking barren cloud as the day ebbs
into night and they blame the moon but it's the wind biting at the cracks that
urges townsfolk now drunk on a Wednesday into unlikely unions urging them
to plant seeds in this still frozen soil.
50 PRISM  52:4 Julie Paul
W ho is it?" Sheri was using her honeyed voice.
Dylan should have said the Big Bad Wolf. Instead he admitted his real
name and his affiliation—the upstairs neighbour—and after she'd opened the
door, wearing a see-through purple negligee with bows and garters beneath, his
purpose for knocking.
"Uh, your lights," he said. "Your car lights are on." He pointed at the
driveway, in case she couldn't remember where the car was.
"Oh, silly me! I was just getting ready for beddy-bye." She pointed at her
"Okay. Well. Have a good night, then."
"Oh," Sheri said. "I will."
Had she just winked at him?
Dylan walked upstairs to the apartment he shared with his wife and daughter
and poured himself a vodka and ginger ale. The long day was nearly over. His
wife, Jess, and three-year-old daughter, Lulu, were visiting Grandma. Back by
ten. He wadded the note and tossed it. He had just enough time for a Law &
Order rerun.
Dylan turned the volume down low because that's what neighbours do, but
he could hear them below. Sheri and Mario. He wondered if Sheri took the
garters off or not. Tlie thought messed up his ability to follow the crime on
the TV show because that's what brains do—they bring up naughty images.
According to Jess, the people below were every kind of wrong. Mario smoked
inside, Sheri smoked more—pot too—and it rose through the spaces in the old
house-turned-apartments, into everyone else's suites. If they weren't screwing,
they were fighting. Often they fought outside in the backyard, just below the
bedroom window. Sheri swore expertly and spent her days off talking non-stop
on her cell phone while tanning and drinking cider from a two-litre bottle. He,
Mario, was quiet: He took it all like a scarecrow, a perpetual cigarette at the
corner of his mouth.
Dylan could smell smoke now; yes, the after-love puff. He'd never smoked
much himself, but he could understand the ritual. He wasn't allowed to forgive
them, though. Jess was drafting an email to the landlord, despite Mario's being
the landlord's nephew. It's the law, Jess said, and he's breaking it. "And their
negative energy is pervasive, messing up your cells," she'd said. "It spreads like an
He didn't feel it; or if he did, he could block it out pretty well.
Jess and Lulu woke him from a nice couch nap, and once he got the whiny
child to bed, he and Jess made love, quiet as thieves aside from the springs, then 51 took their creaky walk to the bathroom and ran a bubble bath. Dylan imagined
Mario and Sheri lying in bed listening below, mapping out the lives of their
upstairs neighbours, talking about them and feeling lucky they didn't have a kid
of their own dropping things, yelling, crying out in nightmares.
But the next morning, Dylan and Jess were not startled from their lavender
sleep by Lulu's bad dreams. No, they awoke to the neighbours out in the yard,
calling the squirrels.
"Hey, Blackie," Sheri said. "Hey, Grey!"
"Watch this." They heatd Mario clicking his tongue, as though he was calling
a hunting dog.
"Far out, babe." Sheri's voice. "Blackie, Daddy's got some nuts for you.
Come get Daddy's nuts."
"God!" Jess sat up, reached across Dylan, and struggled to pull the old
window closed.
"Come get Daddy's nuts," Dylan said, reaching for Jess's ass.
She pushed him away and shouted curses into her pillow. She lifted her head.
"We've got to get out of here."
He sighed. She was right. It was nearly time for their annual move. He could
put it down to bad luck those first two years—faulty roof, no insulation—but
this was the fourth year and it was beginning to feel like a sign: This city didn't
want them. Jess dreamt of a little cabin in the woods, dipping candles, gathering
mushrooms, homeschooling Lulu. But hospitals were not located near the kind
of forest she wanted to live in. His work as an X-ray technician was not the
portable kind.
"I'll get the paper today," he said. "There should be plenty of listings now
that the students are gone."
"Yeah, basement suites with five-foot ceilings and mould."
Mario and Sheri were clapping and cheering outside.
"Blackie ate his nuts," Dylan said, hoping for a little smile. He didn't get one.
The next evening, the neighbours were at it again: anger as pastime. She was
yelling, he was silent, heavy objects victimized as they hit the walls. Then, the
following morning, all was calm again in the yard as Mario clicked his tongue
and the little vermin came boldly to him. Fortunately, Jess had closed rhe window
at some point in the night, so the feeding rituals didn't wake them. What woke
them was Lulu, falling off the chair she'd climbed on to reach the cereal bowls.
She was fine—just a scare—but while Jess took a shower, the scene in the yard
seemed to tutn not fine at all.
"You hurt him!" Sheri shrieked. "You fucking hurt Blackie, you idiot!"
Dylan looked out the kitchen window, and saw a squitrel, run-crawling away
from the fence, as if it had been thrown there, leaving a vague brownish-red spot
on the grey wood.
"What's out there, Daddy?" Lulu asked.
"They are," Dylan muttered. "Just eat your corn flakes, sweetie."
"I might be blind," Mario yelled. "That thing gouged my face, in case you
can't see me."
52 PRISM  52:4 "That thing," she said, "is a living creature, smaller than you. And you hurt
it! You hurt Blackie bad!"
"Sheri," he said. "Don't get near it. You don't know what it'll do now."
"It's in pain, dickwad!" Sheri screamed. "I can't fucking believe you!"
"What are they talking about, Daddy?" Lulu asked.
"Let's get you some juice," Dylan said. "They're just being silly."
That was their agreed-upon way of diverting Lulu from any harsh reality.
It was silly—it was completely ridiculous—but he had a vague notion to call
an ambulance, just in case Mario really was hurt. But then Jess came out of the
bathroom, and he decided to leave it alone.
The paper had turned up few housing options, so they made the coffee shop
tounds. A kid—even one as delightful as Lulu—was not everyone's optimal
tenant, so aftef breakfast they went to family-friendly places that might have
postefs tacked up on theif bulletin boards.
They managed to see three apartments. All were dismal. That night, over
frozen pizza, while Lulu watched Sesame Street at loudef than normal volume,
which felt sadly good to Dylan—a stab at conventionality—they discussed their
"We shouldn't have to suffer."
"We're not the bad guys."
"We've got a child!"
"It's totally not fair."
"I know, honey, I know."
"I'm sending that email." Jess paused. "Or wait. A bettef idea. I'm going to
get a petition going. I'll canvass the other suites and get signatures. Won't the
landlord have to do something then?"
"Don't forget he's the nephew."
"Dylan, you're not helping."
"You're right," he said, even though he had helped, having carried his
daughter the twelve blocks home. "I'll start the dishes."
"Yeah, there are so many." She pointed to the pizza boxes, their three plates.
Then she was off to create a declaration. We the people...
After he filled the sink with hot soapy watef and the plates, he zoned out on
the couch with Lulu, tripping down memory lane as Mr. Hooper and Bob and
Marie talked about not being able to see Snuffleupagus. It made him feel good,
that he could still see that giant furry mammoth, despite being all grown up.
The next morning, when Dylan left for work, Mario was watering the yard,
pissing stance, smoke in the mouth.
"Morning," Dylan said, and then got a good look at Mario's face. "Oh. Wow.
You okay?"
One eye was swollen shut, and Mario had bandages on both cheeks; part of 5.3 one eyebrow was gone.
"Yeah," he said. "You probably heard."
"Well, we..."
"She's left me." Mario turned off the hose and looked at Dylan directly for
rhe first time. "She said I was too selfish for her."
"Oh," Dylan said. "I'm sorry."
"Look at my face, man!"
Dylan looked. "That's pretty beat up, buddy. Hey, I better—"
"I'm fucked, man," Mario said and tossed his butt into the rhododendrons
beside the stairs. "Sheri's my life. You know what she gave me for my birthday?"
Dylan shook his head.
"Fucking boudoir photos. Of herself."
"Wow," Dylan said.
"I know. The best gift anyone's ever given me. And now..." He opened his
hand quickly, like a magician. "Poof. Gonzo."
Dylan had been walking slowly towafds the street, stepping lightly on the
wet grass. "That sucks, Mario."
Mario lit a fresh cigarette. He took it out of his mouth and looked at it.
"She's even got me smoking her brand."
Dylan chuckled. "Sorry, man. Hey, talk to you later."
Mario sat down on the soaking lawn. "Sure," he said, but he was off on
another planet, staring into space.
That evening, things got worse. While Dylan played dollies with Lulu in the
living room, Jess was in the bedroom folding laundry, sniffling every thirty
seconds because she was coming down wirh a cold. She came out, gave Dylan
a weird, silent, sideways nod and waited until he caught the drift to follow her
into the bedroom. He smiled, hooked Lulu back up to Big Bird babysitting, and
stole away, his mind going south.
"Look," Jess whispered.
Mario was outside, shirtless, in boxers, backyarding with his friends again,
talking to them in an extra-chipper voice. "Come try this, Grey! Yum. Come and
get it." He was crouching down, staring at a greyish-brown squirrel, and between
him and the squirrel were half a dozen cigarettes, stuck into what looked like
marshmallows. The cigarettes were lit. "Come on, little guy. Come and try it."
"What the hell?" Dylan said.
"You have to stop him," Jess said.
He sighed. "I'll try."
Outside, he approached the scene cautiously. "Hey, man."
"Oh, hey. Good timing. I'm trying a little experiment. Want to see if animals
can smoke. I saw a baby smoking on YouTube, from somewhere in Asia, so I
figured it might be possible."
"Well," Dylan said. "But—"
"See, if they eat the marshmallow, from the bottom to the top, then their
mouths will natutally end up on the end of a butt. Poof! They breathe in once,
they're smoking." He took a drag from his cigarette and blew rings. "The baby
54 PRISM  52:4 did that choice trick, too, you know. Maybe I'll teach these guys, down the road.
You don't want to overdo it on the first day of school."
The guy had gone manic. "Mario," Dylan said, "you sure this is safe?"
Mario was concentrating on sticking another cigarette into a Jet-Puffed.
Dylan uncoiled the backyard's garden hose from its holder on the wall and
walked back to stand beside Mario.
"Just in case," he said.
"They're aquaphobic," Mario told him.
"It's for the cigarettes. Just in case."
Mario picked up the nozzle and aimed it at Dylan. "You think I'm crazy."
Dylan shook his head. Suddenly he was sweating, heart dancing, as if
something worse than water would come out of that hose. "No, no man. I'm
just a bit of a ... a wottiet. Around fire, you know?"
"Sheri thinks I'm crazy She's got a lawyer now, and she wants half of
everything." He looked at Dylan. "I cut the couch in half this morning. I started
on the bed, too, but the axe head came off the handle."
The hose was still aimed at Dylan, but Dylan was edging towards the corner
of the house, where he could turn and make a run for it. Two grey squirrels were
cavorting around the marshmallows.
Mario looked at the squirrels and then at Dylan. "Hey," he said. "I just got
me a big idea." He looked at the nozzle in his hand as if he'd never seen it, then
put it down. "I'm gonna trap one for Sheri. You wanna help?"
Dylan took a deep breath and glanced up at his own bedroom window. Jess
was up there, watching the showdown. "I should probably go."
"Just take a sec," Mario said. "You got a clothes basket in that pad of yours?"
"Sure," he said. As if he could get it past Jess.
He and Jess had met when both of them still possessed a certain quality—
courage, maybe, a level of risk-taking—that was now gone. Since Lulu had come
along, or even before that, even while she was still a thought, a star-wish, a penny-
throw dream, Jess had become a woman with more to lose. Sometimes Dylan
saw a figurative basketful of eggs on her head, a thing she was balancing as she
navigated through her days. And nights. Even at night, she'd stopped initiating
anything. No surprise nakedness met him beneath the covers. Her mouth guard
was in automatically every night at ten, the sound of its custom-shaped plastic
clicking into place a reminder to Dylan that she was mote intimate with it than
him. He felt big, and sloppy, and needy. A thing to be endured, even if she still
said she loved him every night. A person can do anything regularly, once it's in
the habit list.
Back before Lulu, they just put up with more—if she hadn't come along,
they'd still be in that first apartment making do with the tiny hot water tank,
showering together, leaving the dishes until it ran hot again. They'd both still
have full-time jobs, too, and be socking away a few bucks for a holiday where
nude time was a priority, or else they'd be long gone from this city, with its
condos as expensive as Italian villas.
All of this came to Dylan as he received Jess's look from the window, Lulu in
her arms. He should move away from Mario, get back to his wife and child, and 55 leave the crazy guy to burn whatever was in his path.
But he'd caught a chipmunk once, in a cake carrier. He knew how this trick
went down. "There's a box in the bike storeroom," he said. "Thar'll work. We just
need a decent stick and some bait, and string."
Mario grinned. "Right on, man. We're gonna do this thing!"
When Dylan came back with the box and a broken hockey stick, Mario was
scooping peanut butter and sunflower seeds onto a plate. Dylan looked up at his
window, but Jess was gone.
They rigged the trap and waited. When Mario handed Dylan a lit joint, he didn't
say no.
"Women like gifts," Mario told Dylan. "I shoulda thought of this days ago."
"Chocolates would be easier. Or flowers." Dylan couldn't remember the last
time he'd given Jess anything, othet than the rest of his giant muffin from his
coffee break at wotk.
"Nah," Mario said. "Old hat." He dropped his voice to a whisper. "Check it
A black squirrel was under the box, licking at the peanut butter.
"Isn't that the one that hurt you?" Dylan asked.
"Yeah, the little fucker. Even better to give him to Sheri, to show I didn't hurt
him at all."
"You wanna pull the string?"
"You pull it. I'll give you a signal when he's right underneath. Watch for
this." Mario nodded twice, quickly, then got into position.
Dylan's heart started racing, as if he were back in Grade 6 spying on girls or
waiting to trip the bullies. He felt good. Alive.
He watched Mario with the attention of a raptor, waited for the nod, and
when it came—BOOM!—the box fell before he'd even realized he'd pulled the
"Bingo!" Mario cried, and ran over to hold the box down tight against the
"Nice one, Mario." High-five.
"Team effort, man. Like fucking Sesame Street here. Co-operation."
Dylan wondered if he'd been listening in on Lulu's TV habits. Of course he
had; the floors were like cardboard.
"Just one problem," Mario said. "How do I get this guy to Sheri?"
"I've got just the thing!" Dylan had seen an old cat cattier down the street
in a free pile. He faced, found it still there, and sprinted back, feeling like a
Mario was stoked. They got Blackie in the carrier by ripping one end off the
box and jamming the opening of the plastic cat kennel in front of it. Once the
squifrel made the move, Mario was on his way, grinning like the madman Dylan
believed he was.
In the apartment, Lulu was already asleep for the night. Jess was on the iPad,
scrolling  through  apartment  listings,  with  Mozatt quietly playing  in  the
56 PRISM  52:4 background.
"Well, we did it," he said.
Jess didn't acknowledge him.
"Jessie," he said. "He's crazy but he's harmless. I think if we talked to him
he'd cut back on the smokes."
Nothing. Scroll, scroll, tap, scroll.
"You find anything?"
Jess sighed. "Mostly one bedrooms."
"I dunno," she said.
"What do you mean?"
She looked his way. "You stink like pot."
He nodded, inwardly panicking. Was she moving out without him? "I'll take
a shower."
"A one bedroom is all we can afford, in the good neighbourhoods."
Ah, good. It was only money again. "I'll get another job," he said. "Whatevet
it takes. Unless we change our minds and stay here. I like this place. The tub, the
Jess was shaking her head, pointing at the floor. "Not on your life."
At 7 a.m., pounding on the door awakened them.
"Dylan! Open up, man!"
Mario was holding the squirrel cage. "He's dead." He thrust the cage towards
Dylan. "The little bugger died on us."
It seemed true—Blackie was motionless, laid out on his side.
"Shitty," Dylan said. "I thought you were taking him to Sheri yesterday."
"I couldn't find her."
"Daddy?" Lulu was suddenly hugging his legs. "Have breakfast now?"
"I don't know what to do, man." He set the cage down. "It's like everything
I touch turns to effing dust."
He said effing in front of Lulu. He wasn't such a bad guy.
"Dylan," Jess called, in a thick, smoker's bark. Her cold was worse.
"Hang on," he said to Mario. He swung Lulu up onto his hip and went into
the bedroom.
"Get him out of here," she growled. She opened up the covers for Lulu, who
snuggled into Dylan's spot.
Nothing. He had nothing to say He just nodded and went back to his new
buddy and his new buddy's new pet, a pet with a serious health problem.
Mario was looking at the photo collage on the wall. He turned to Dylan,
wet-eyed. "You're a lucky son of a bitch."
"Thanks, man."
"What's your secret?"
"To what, marriage?"
"Yeah. The domesric life."
Dylan wanted to laugh. It was like asking a priest about his sex life, a jobless
man about ways to get hired. He shrugged. "Showing up?" 57 Mario stared at him, silent for a golden moment. "Exacta-mundo," he said,
and thumped him on the shoulder, hard. "Dude. You are a genius." He moved
towards the doot. "I gotta go man. Sheri texted me. She's at her mother's now,
and she'll have to leave for work soon. I just gotta get down on my knees, you
know. Show up. I think she just might take me back! Thanks, eh?"
Lulu came tottering out. She peered into the cage, hunched over like an old
woman tending to the fire. "Kitty?" she asked. She smiled at Dylan, a bright
smile as though she was looking at a Christmas tree.
The feeling came to Dylan's scalp first: a slow trickle, like the fist-as-egg
trick his brother used to do on the top of his head. The tingle spread to his face,
then his arms, and soon he had the shivers all over. He knew what he had to
do. He had to find the missing piece of this puzzle called his family Lulu was
lovely—a gem of a girl—but she was lacking a winning edge, or something. Jess
was incredibly stressed, to say the least. And he was lonely. The fact of it hit him
like he'd been shoved.
He had a dead squirrel at his feer and a kid who couldn't tell the difference
between a cat and a rodent. How could he even think of raising a child in such
a sterile home? She was shaking the cat carrier and Jess was shouring at him and
he knew only that his next step was to go out and get them a pet.
He picked up his daughter and took her back in to Jess. "He's gone," he said.
"And I need to go out for a bit."
"I'm sick," Jess said. "My throat is on fire."
He leaned down and kissed her forehead. She had a sick-sweet smell about
her. "Stay in bed, and I'll bring home something that will make you feel better."
"A babysitter?"
"I'll take her with me."
"No. Not if it involves that psycho."
"No, no. He's off trying ro win Sheri back."
"Oh, great."
"Come on, Lulu, let's go get you ready."
While she was in the bathroom, calling out for him to wipe her bum, Dylan
was disposing of the body. He opened the cage door, tipped the carrier until
Blackie slid into a wrinkled gift bag, and, after folding the edges down and
sticking them closed with a piece of tape, he ran outside and deposited the bag
into the dumpster.
Lulu was off the toilet when he came back in, running around wirh no pants,
chanting, "I did it! I did it!" She had a piece of toilet paper stuck to her rear.
"Hooray!" he shouted, and told her to get het pants back on. He knew he
should do a re-wipe but what would that do fot her confidence? He was ready
for changes. He didn't want to wipe bums anymore. Besides, if Lulu smelled a
bit off, it would go completely unnoticed at the pound.
Two hours later, they brought home their salvation: a fur-faced wonder, a beast
of cuteness even Lulu couldn't match. Jess was still in bed, so they didn't wake her
58 PRISM  52:4 on purpose. She woke up from all the commotion—the galloping of four paws,
the squeals of joy—and found them in the living room. Dylan really felt better
than he had in months. Animals were therapeutic. They gave unconditional love
and didn't care what you wore or smelled like. Really, they were models of the
ultimate parent.
What followed was not pretty. Snot and tears and venom and whimpering
and fur and names filled the apartment. Lulu was put back in front of Oscar
the Grouch, while Jess and Dylan took it into the bedroom. The fight—an
understatement—was on, despite Jess's sore throat and the adorableness of the
new pet. Yes. No. Yes. No. Ping pong.
Dylan was not backing down. He was on a high, this time a natural one,
despite this valley in his marriage. He would keep the dog and Lulu was on his
side and—
As Jess stomped away from him, he noticed she already had a bit of fur on
the back of her pyjamas. It made him happy.
She went into the bathroom and locked the door—a sign she was not
approachable. Lulu banged on the door anyway, saying cute things like,
"Mommy, Fuzzy wants to hug you," and "Fuzzy's licking my face now and it
tickles! Help!" and bursting out in giggles.
Betrayal was what Jess had called it in the bedroom, and it was the word
she said again when she emerged, her face a bloated pink-and-white map to
somewhere he didn't want to go. He was using Lulu as a tool. How could he put
her in this position?
In other words, they couldn't take the animal away from Lulu now. She was
already in love.
He had doubted Jess's theories before, about the energy of others affecting
them in all those othet places they'd lived with shared walls, but he was staffing
to think there was something to those theories. In fact, just the other day at
work, he'd read of a Japanese man doing crazy things with water. He spoke
certain wotds around vessels filled with water, and the molecules changed shape.
When he said thank you, a beautiful crystal formed. When he said / hate you,
the shape went wonky and asymmetrical. If water could shift with only a word,
why not humans? Some alien on Star Trek had called people "ugly bags of mostly
water." It was starting to add up.
Jess was turning into a Sheri, raging about something when no raging was
necessary. And wasn't he turning into a Mario, just a simple guy out to make
people happy?
He would get Jess some lingerie, and flowers, and candy, put a dollar value
on his devotion and see what happened. Or maybe she would just come around
and lighten up. Because Mario and Sheri were in the backyard, both of them
laughing. Dylan closed his eyes and made a wish. Fuzzy came over and gave him
a watery kiss, right on the lips. 59 Sienna Finney
You once told me about the time
youf grandfather drove you to the hospital
so they could pump your stomach.
I imagined him speeding down the highway,
telling you to hold on
while shaking you with one hand
and snaking around semis with the other.
Your head rocking back and forth
like someone polishing a bowling ball with a t-shirt.
Your grandfather telling the paramedics
exactly what you took before you slurred into another world
still trying to come up for air.
Someday you'll believe in God
and tell people Jesus saved you.
But your grandpa never could
walk on water.
Ancient Egyptians believed the sky a woman
spread over her lover, the earth.
Each night they made love—
mountains turning into knees, canyons into crevices.
She swallowed the moon and each morning birthed the sun.
I waited for you, spinning down the dock,
stopping at the edge to imagine the other side.
We threw glow-sticks in the lake to watch them drown—
glowing as they grazed the bottom.
We were making stars
when we saw one soar across the sky—
a streak so fierce, we could hear it miles away.
I reached for your hand—
but you too were miles above me,
pushing me back down to earth,
trying not to be my sky.
61 Melissa Tyn da ll
You follow Frankie into the field,
the wide, flat tongue of leaves still
soaked in last night's dew.
I imagine spring as you sucker
the crop, snap off the perky, pink
flowers; peel off nursing hornworms,
dash their green guts into the dirt.
Sunup to sundown in summer,
you pick cucumbers or hot peppers,
climb barn rafters, hang
tobacco, cure it over a furnace fire.
In autumn, you shrub ditch banks,
prune stalks in old seedbeds, feed
the hogs, curse their stench.
On winter evenings, few sounds
teach the field where you furrow alone.
Linda calls Frankie inside for dinner,
wipes her hands on her apron, and casts
on the porch light to steer you home.
Don't wfite us as a comet,
our coma packed with dust
and ice. Don't write a sonnet
about its white tail-end thrust
against the skyline. We're not
a stellar comma—not a rest
but a full stop. Not the dot
dot dot of heartbeat in chest,
ellipses on Orion's
belt, an orbiting rock's
return. We're static ions,
the colon on a digital clock,
long burned out. So, don't.
I won't write it if you won't. 63 Angela Long
1. Uranus
If we lived on Uranus
we'd have forty-two years
to perfect this summer,
to entice the sun to shine,
and the Pacific to warm,
so we could float, spread-eagled,
palms to the sky.
We'd have forty-two years
to look at one another
in the light of a northern midnight,
to watch each other's gaze
soften in the perpetual dusk
where birdsong never stops.
It would be easier then
to stare into the bright pits
of one another's eyes,
to see the flecks of Stardust,
to know who we're looking at.
64 PRISM  52:4 2. Jupiter
It's the day of the Full Buck Moon
and my pubic hair is turning grey,
the no-see-ums are back,
the arugula is dying for lack of rain,
and my husband is talking about becoming a monk.
No wonder I have a headache.
It's days like these I wish for a Black Hole,
for the laws of physics to unfetter me,
for my atoms to split into unpredictable sequences.
It's days like these I wish to visit Jupiter,
on a clear night, to gaze
upon her sixty-three moons,
hung in all their phases,
casting shadows upon leaves of salal. 65 Jessamyn Hope
"Today's the day," said Andrea, my diving coach, standing with her thick legs
apart, back arched, meaty arms crossed over her large bosom. "Today's the
goddamn day"
I nodded. My crotch tingled as if I needed to pee, but I knew that was
impossible. Before leaving the locker room, I had balanced over the toilet three
times, the last time unable to squeeze out a single drop of fear.
Andrea squinted at the bleachers on the other side of the indoor swimming
pool, where my friend Theresa sat like a small sun, her light-blond bangs shooting
ten centimetres into the air and fanning open. To achieve this gravity-defying
look Theresa would soak her bangs in hairspray and then press them, panini-
style, between two books. The rest of her hair fell softly to her shoulders, framing
her small, vulpine face, which was twisting around a jawbreaker. Without the
bangs, scrawny Theresa barely made five feet.
Andrea ran her hand through her short, russery hair and said, "What is that
punk doing here again? Does she have a crush on you? Tell your lesbo friend to
take off."
"She's not a lesbian," I said, having only a vague idea of what a lesbian was
and no idea of what a lesbian did. Actually, my sole image of a lesbian was
Andrea, because that's what one of the older divers had called her last week,
the same boy who, to my utter bafflement, always called Greg Louganis "Greg
Andrea clapped her hands and pointed at me between the eyes. "Listen,
my little Star of David, if you don't do the reverse dive today, you're out. Off
the team! You've been wriggling your way out of it for months. If you don't do
the dive by"—Andrea looked towatd the big round clock hanging high on the
cement wall—"four o'clock, that's it. You can walk your coward's ass on out of
here, clean out your locker, and never show your face at this pool again."
I took my time going through the warm-up exercises on the blue gym mats to
the left of the boards. I grimaced through twenty lunges and fifteen push-ups.
While doing my sixty sit-ups, I pictured how nice it was going to be two hours
from now—diving practice behind me, Theresa and I down at the shops, eating
poutine out of Styrofoam containers, a full twenty-two hours to go before I had
to be at the pool again.
The   Pointe-Claite   municipal   pool   had   no   windows,   yet   somehow   a
66 PRISM  52:4 sense of the January outside—already dark at this early hour and twenty-five
below—mingled with the smell of chlorine. Under a very steep, church-like
roof, high enough to accommodate a ten-metre diving platform, lay Canada's
first Olympic-sized swimming pool, built in 1967. Twenty-one yeats later, it
was still the training ground for the country's best swimming and diving team,
and a number of Olympic medalists and World Record holders were diving off
its boards that very afternoon. All around me were strong, beautiful bodies:
practicing handstands, somersaulting high above the trampoline, bounding off
the springboards and soaring into the air as if they had a different relationship
with gravity, seeming to suspend a moment, arms spread open, before falling
toward the water straight as a spear. After emerging from the pool, wet and
glistening, they would grab their pastel shammies and whip each other's bums,
joking and laughing as if we were doing something fun here.
I lay back on the blue mat and stared up at the roof's crisscrossing rafters.
That I would sooner or later have to do a reverse dive—where a diver jumps off
the board facing forward, but then flips backward, toward the board—had been
haunting me for over a year. When I set off for my first diving practice, my dad
said he was allowing me to take up the sport on one condition: that I never, ever
do a reverse dive, which in his South African English accent he called "a gainer."
To make doubly sure I obeyed, he claimed that on any summer day, half the
people in an emergency room were there thanks to gainers.
Why was Dad so alarmist about reverse dives? Probably because five years
earlier in Edmonton, a diver from the Soviet Union named Sergei Chalibashvili
smacked his head while doing a reverse dive and died. I was too young to
remember the accident, but it must have been in all the Canadian papers because
Chalibashvili, to this day, is the only diver to be killed during an international
competition. What happened after the medics carried Chalibashvili away is
diving lore: Greg Louganis, who'd been standing on the ten-metre platform
when Chalibashvili's head hit it, after peeking over the edge and seeing the water
filled with blood, had to go ahead and do the exact same dive—a reverse with
three-and-a-half somersaults—a dive Louganis himself had hit his head doing a
few years earlier in Tbilisi, USSR, which just so happened to be Chalibashvili's
I had recently seen the video of Louganis hitting his head back in 1979 in
Tbilisi. They had replayed it on TV that past October after he once again hit
his head doing a reverse at the Summer Games in Seoul. If 1 hadn't already been
terrified of the dive, 1 would have been after seeing that old black-and-white
footage. It came to me again as I lay on the blue mat, Louganis smashing his
skull against the hard platform and then, head joggling as if he were a bobblehead
doll, losing consciousness in midair and just falling, limply falling, until he met
the watet with a flat back.
"Hey there, Sleeping Beauty." Andrea's ruddy face stared down at me. She
was bent over, hands on her knees, the roof sloping up behind her. "Would you
like a pillow?" 67 3:41
My first warm-up dive—a simple front dive from the one-metre—did not go
"Like piss hitting a plate," Andrea said as I pushed out of the pool. She was
leaning back in her steel fold-up chair, one ankle resting on her knee, her hands
propped on her wide waist.
I grabbed my blue shammy off the bleacher and wiped down my arms and
Eyeing my white thighs, Andrea said, "You're not the skinnymalink you were
a few months ago. You're getting boobs and hips, eh? Too bad. Harder to slice the
water like a knife when you've got bags of fat hanging off you. Not impossible,
but harder."
I nodded as if I were to blame for the new breasts pushing against the
plasticky white windmill on the front of my swimsuit. The team emblem was the
Pointe-Claire Windmill, "the oldest windmill in Montreal," built by Sulpician
priests in 1709, when the only other people leaving snow prints on this part of
the island were the Iroquois. That was hundreds of years before the land became
a subutb of the city, covered in track homes and strip malls, and more than 250
years before my parents would immigrate to Canada, but it never occurred to
me that this windmill wasn't a part of my history. I was very proud of that team
swimsuit. Tlie first time I put it on, I stood in front of my bedroom mirror,
hands down at my sides, chin raised like a soldier at attention, thinking, Look at
that, you're an athlete now.
Back in line for the board, I waited behind Jackie, a buck-toothed girl who
was, it could not be denied, a truly good diver now. When the two of us first
made the team, I had been a far better diver. I had been the best of all the rookies.
Until recently I had always been the best at whatever I did: the fastest runner on
the street, the highest climber of trees, the top student in Greendale Elementary.
I had played Snow White in a production downtown, singing and dancing for
an audience of hundreds while an understudy almost twice my age waited in
the wings. But lately, everything had become a lot harder. My last report card,
hidden under my mattress since the summer, had been a column of Cs. My
parents were too preoccupied, first fighting over Dad's friendship with his new
secretary, then driving Mom back and forth to the Royal Vic for "treatments,"
to notice I never gave it to them. Six months later I was still debating whether
I had the moral obligation to bring the shameful report card to theit attention.
The director of my drama school, after failing to give me a lead role in West Side
Story, asked, "Whatever happened, Jessamyn, to your beautiful voice?" And all
the other new divers had gotten better, executing dives with higher and higher
degrees of difficulty while my dives stayed the same, leaving me the worst diver
on the team.
I have to do this dive today, I thought. I have to do it. It would be proof
that I wasn't going to be a failure from here on out, that I wasn't going to be
the remarkable little girl who grew up to be a big sad disappointment, that I
was still on track to be a remarkable woman, the kind of woman who didn't
let fear stand in her way. If I didn't do this dive, I would officially be a coward.
68 PRISM  52:4 Never to do anything great. Never to be admired. Or loved, not truly loved, the
way Gilbert Blythe loved Anne Shirley. Gilbert never would've been so taken by
Anne, yearning for her year after year, if she hadn't been the bravest and most
talented girl he had ever met. This was my last chance to prove that I was an
Anne of Green Gables, Jo March, Scarlett O'Hara.
After messing up another front dive, I swam for the pool's edge without coming
up for air. The world above was a muffled blur. As long as I was underwater,
everything was on hold.
Andrea pretended I was invisible when I climbed out of the pool, looking all
around except at me, as if my dive had been too terrible to be real.
I got back in line for the board, teeth chattering. Squeezing the water out of
my black braid, I peeked up at the clock. Thirteen more minutes. Maybe I really
did have to pee now?
I looked ovet at Theresa, still sitting on the bleacher, chewing her jawbreaker.
Catching my eyes on her, she lifted her small hand and turned up het small
mouth. I smiled back, thinking, Why? Why did she come with me, every
afternoon, across the slushy boulevard from our high school to the pool? I knew
Theresa was needy, everybody knew it. There wasn't a gitl in our grade Theresa
hadn't dragged into a photobooth, as if she required evidence she had friends.
Still, lonely or not, how could she stand it, sitting on that bleacher, day after day,
watching other kids work hard to get good at something? Didn't it bother her
that she wasn't good at anything?
When I fitst started spending my evenings with Theresa, hanging at the
shops and staying late at her townhouse, often sleeping over since Theresa
lived around the corner from our high school, my mom didn't like it. She said,
"Theresa's mom's never home. All you cat there are microwaved hotdogs"—a
comment so out of character for my mother, a woman who made Toblerone
fondue for dinner, that it still niggles at me decades later. My mother was an
Italian immigrant, a stay-at-home mom, but she nevet said conventional "mom"
things, never scrunched her nose at other women and their homes, and thete's
just something about that microwaved-hotdog comment that I can't quite put
my finger on.
Mom didn't press the point, though. How could she, when we weren't eating
much better at home? Not since the breast cancer came back for the third time,
and Mom and Dad finally told me about the other two times, because this time
was guaranteed to be the last. If Mom wasn't at the hospital, she was either
sitting in the family room on the puffy black recliner, wearing her oversized
auburn wig, a neck brace, and a scowl, or she was locked in her bedroom with
the silver vomit dish, mostly in silence, though once I heard her cry out: "Please,
dear God, just kill me already!" As for Theresa's mom, I had no idea where she
was. I never asked. I just made the most of her absence.
A full year of school nights at Theresa's townhouse, and all I'm left with
now are a few flashes: my hands bringing a plate of frozen hotdogs up to the
microwave; Theresa cackling as she pulled a strand of condoms out of her 69 mother's half-packed suitcase; sitting cross-legged on the beige carpet, passing
the telephone back and forth while we talked on the Party Line to "Nine-Inch
Brian," whom Theresa told, unable to suppress her cackle, that we were Catholic
Who would have thought that an adult man would desire a schoolgirl? But
Theresa knew things at a time, in those last years before the internet, when it
wasn't so easy to find things out. It wasn't a prudish era; sex was everywhere—
Calvin Klein ads, slapstick comedies, music videos (George Michael wanted
yours)—but exactly what everybody was talking about could remain, sometimes
for years, unclear, a little fuzzy, like those scrambled soft-core movies that came
on after midnight. Only Theresa, between "fuck this" and "fuck that," bandied
about terms like blowjob and rimmer and double-team like she totally knew what
they meant, always followed by her machine-gun HA HA HA HA HA!
That's why it was such a surprise when, earlier that year, in the middle of Sex
Ed, while we were watching a close-up of a baby's hairy head pushing out of a
stretched vagina, Theresa fainted. She timbered out of her chair—the shadow of
her spiky bangs passing over the screen—and landed with a crash in front of the
film projector.
"Show time!" Andrea said, when I popped my head out of the water after finally
doing a decent front dive. "Time to shine, Star of David."
I looked to the clock. "You said I had until four!"
"Please," I begged, clasping the side of the pool. "Can't I do a few more
warm-up dives?"
"One more," Andrea said, holding a finger up in front of her face as if I didn't
know what one meant.
I glanced back at Theresa who shook her head like "fuck that." Andrea
followed my eyes and ordered me to go tell my loser friend to get lost.
I said, "I won't look at her again, I promise."
"She's creepy. Tell her to go home."
I walked around the pool, hunched, arms twisted in front of my chest.
Instead of walking around the boards, I took the long way, circumnavigating the
swimming lanes with their furious back-and-forth of goggled swimmers. At the
far end of the pool, I paused to watch Katherine, only one year older than me, all
the way up on the ten-metre platform, standing still, mentally preparing for her
dive. When she started to tun, my chest rose and the breath caught in my throat.
She leapt off the platform with her arms above her head, whipped them forward,
and started falling while spinning, not in a ball, but bent in two at the waist,
atms wrapped around her straight legs, going round and round, and opening up
just in time to pierce the water. I exhaled, and thought about how good it must
feel to be a work of art.
"Coach says you have to go."
Theresa's eyes were as blue and clear as the pool. Judging by her tongue and
lips, het jawbreaker had been blue too.
70 PRISM  52:4 "Bitch," Theresa said. "I still don't get why she keeps calling you Star of
David. Who the fuck is David?"
"Seriously, you have to leave right now."
"You don't have to do it, you know."
"Yeah, I do. You need a reverse to compete."
"Why do you have to compete?"
"Because that's what it means to do a sport, Theresa," I said, although I knew
that I no longer had to do the reverse to compete. I had to do it to quit. Do this
one last dive, and I could walk away with dignity. "I told you, I have to push
"Why do you have to push yourself?"
I glanced back at Andrea who opened her hands in a "What's taking so
long?" gesture.
Turning back to Theresa, I said, "Honestly, I don't know why I hang out with
"Fuck you!" Theresa said with a cackle-laugh and picked up her army
backpack. "I'll wait for you in the foyer."
As I walked back around the pool, again the long way, again hunched with
my arms folded in front of my chest, a doughnut popped into my head—a soft
white yeasty doughnut topped with chocolate icing and pink and blue sprinkles.
Without fail, this doughnut came to me every practice. I could see it, smell it,
almost taste it. The vision of this doughnut, sitting on a piece of wax paper on
a red counter in front of a giant mirror bordered by vanity lights, was at once
ironclad and hazy, as first memories tend to be. When I was four years old and
taking swimming lessons at the indoor pool closer to our house in Dollard-
des-Ormeaux, my mom would buy me a doughnut to eat afterward, and this
doughnut would be in the locker room waiting for me to finish changing into
dry clothes. Cavernous indoor pool, fear of drowning, followed by a doughnut.
Upon my return, Andrea said, "That took too long. No mote watm-up dives."
I looked to the clock. "You said I had until four!"
"Jesus Christ, Jessamyn! Have some mercy on me."
"You said I had until four."
"By the time you're on the board, it'll be four."
Jackie climbed onto the green springboard, and I moved to next in line. One
year younger than me, Jackie still had her childhood body. She adjusted the
fulcrum, moving the knob back with her pale foot and spindly leg.
Crossing my legs against the pee feeling, I ran through the reverse in my
head, because that was what all the great athletes said you should do. Nevet
think while moving, they said. Imagine yourself doing the perfect dive (or dunk
or catch or whatever) over and over again, so when the time comes, your body
just does it, automatically, with grace. 71 I'm standing in the middle of the board, facing the pool. I take the first step of the
three-step hurdle. The second step, the third. 1 jump onto both feet at the end of the
board and, as it's bowing beneath me, I bend my knees and jump as it springs back,
jump high, not out, and when I'm as high as I'll go, no sooner, I open my arms while
looking back...
But if I did as I was supposed to, and only thought about jumping high
off the board, not away from it, how was 1 supposed to make sure I didn't hit
my head? And if those great athletes were right, that you'll naturally do what
you've been imagining, then what was going to happen after I've been imagining
smacking my head all day?
Jackie stood at the end of the board, her back to the pool as if she were going
to do a back dive, but she was preparing to do an inward, where a diver jumps
backward and then flips inward, toward the board. Her pale, freckled face was
stern, her big blue eyes focussed. Her long black lashes were in wet, doll-like
clumps. Jackie would have been one of the prettiest girls on the team if not for
the gigantic buckteeth that prevented her from ever fully closing her mouth.
When she raised her hands above her head, I thought, oh god, here we go.
In two seconds, she'll be done, and I'm up. Jackie jumped, whipped her hands
forward, somersaulted in a fast tight tuck, and opened up—
I gasped. Andrea did too.
Jackie's face met the board. She didn't skim her forehead. Her entire face
smashed into the board, flat down. The board bent under the pressure and
lobbed Jackie off, in an arc, blood sputtering off her face like a summer sprinkler.
She landed on her back, the water swallowing her and blooming red.
It felt as if I had wished this on her, as if my imaginings had been that
powerful. And yet, that wasn't why I felt so guilty. No, the guilt came with the
sweet giddy relief, the weightless tingly sense of good fortune. Now I wouldn't
have to do the reverse. Maybe tomorrow, but not today.
"Call 9-1-1!" Andrea shouted as she ran and dove into the water. She surfaced
with Jackie and sidestroked back with her under her arm. Jackie fumbled for the
steel ladder—at least she was conscious. After managing to climb a rung, Jackie
stopped, opened her mouth, and the blood waterfalled out. All of her ugly teeth
were gone.
A lifeguard pressed a towel against Jackie's mouth, while another lifeguard,
wrapping a towel around her shoulders, said, "You're okay, you're okay, you're
"An ambulance is on the way," came a cry from across the pool.
Everyone stood and watched from the deck, the one-metre boards, the three-
metres, the seven, and the ten, as the lifeguards escorted Jackie out.
"Okay, your reverse," Andrea said, towelling off her hair.
I widened my eyes at her.
72 PRISM  52:4 The rest of the divers, aftet respectfully waiting for Jackie to disappear into the
locker room, had gone back to work. Tlie blood had dissipated into the giant
pool, been disinfected by the chlorine. The place was loud again with the thud
of boards and the swimming coaches' impatient whistles.
Andrea said, "If you don't do it now, you'll never do it. It's a falling off the
horse sort of thing."
Louganis after Chalibashvili.
This had become an even bigger test of my heroism.
"Go on," Andrea said. "The longer you wait, the scarier it's going to be."
I turned from Andrea and walked toward the board. I climbed its ladder
with my heart pounding hard and fast. No urge to pee. I hardly felt my body.
Only the thudding heart. How was I going to control my body if I couldn't feel
"Hey!" Andrea said, approaching the side of the board with her hands held
high, making a triangle with her thumbs and forefingers.
I made the same triangle but upside-down, and we brought our triangles
She said, "Star of David! Powers activate!"
Andrea forced me to do this titual she had invented every time I was
attempting a new or difficult dive. Was she laughing at my being a Jew? Maybe
a little. But mostly, I think, she was ttying to give me a laugh and wish me good
luck. Whenever she said it, I thought of this gold pendant Dad used to wear, a
rather large, slanted Star of David that nestled in his chest hair while we played
in the swimming pools of Daytona. My favourite game was "The Rocket," where
Dad would crouch underwater and I would climb onto his shoulders and he
would spring up and I would go rocketing into the air. That was back when I
wore a Wonder Woman swimsuit and Mom still had hair, dyed-red, carefully
curled hair, which is why she would only wade around in the shallow end,
careful to keep her head above the water and out of the way of The Rocket. But
I always assumed she was watching me soar into the air, thinking, My daughter,
such a daredevil!
Andrea stepped back. I took my position in the middle of the board. I
brought my feet together, straightened my back, and lowered my hands by my
"ONE!" shouted Andrea when minutes later I was still standing in place.
I didn't tutn to look at her. I stayed in position, eyes forward, but she haunted
my peripheral vision with her hands cupped around her mouth.
"TWO! If I get to ten and you still haven't done it, that's it! You're done!"
What was she doing? How was I supposed to concentrate with het yelling
like that?
Her voice boomed everything else into silence. Tlie thud of the boards ceased
again. I tried not to look, but my eyes leapt about against my will. Everyone,
rhe Olympic hopefuls and medalists, the other coaches, the newbies who were 73 far better than me now, had all stopped to watch. Even a few swimmers had
gathered to the right of my board.
You have to do this, I thought. You have to do it. Do it.
The doughnut. What? Why the doughnut now!
I knew what those great athletes meant by not thinking, I really did. Once
I had been able to do it, to simply be, simply move, trust, trust that things were
going to be fine, better than fine, good, perfect, but now I couldn't get my mind
to shut up to shut up to shut up just shut up and go go go
Go go go go go go go
Oh my god, oh my god, I'm going. I'm going! Look, my bare foot taking the
first step.
The second step, oh oh am I really doing rhis, the third step, I'm still not
sure, I'm jumping onto both feet at the end of the board, bending my legs,
There I remained. Frozen. On bent knees. The very picture of a cower.
Andrea didn't bother with "Ten." Everyone watched as I straightened my
legs, but not my shoulders, turned around, and made my way back down the
Andrea shook her head. "Go pack your stuff."
Alone in the communal showers, under a jet of hot water, I stood for a long time,
half hoping Andrea would come and tell me that it was okay, she was just trying
to play hard ball, I was still on the team, and half hoping I would never lay eyes
on her again. It dawned on me that I was in the middle of a second test, that
Andrea was out there right now, standing by the board, waiting to see if I would
come back and beg for a second chance to prove myself.
Out in the foyer, Theresa looked up from her paperback copy of Cujo.
She asked, "Did you do it?"
I shook my head. My backpack was filled with all the things I wouldn't
be needing anymore: Ultraswim shampoo, the shammy, the swimsuit with the
iron-on windmill.
"Good," Theresa said, slipping her arm through mine.
I shoved her arm away and pushed through the glass doors into the wintery
night. Since it was considered nerdy to acknowledge the cold, neither one of us
wore hats, mitts, ot boots, just acid-wash jean jackets, Theresa's hanging off her
shoulders, and Converse high-tops. In seconds my wet hair would harden into
74 PRISM  52:4 Medusa-like icicles.
The sidewalk in front of the building was lined with cars, parents waiting
in the drivers' seats, headlights on. My mom's face used to wait for me behind
the windshield of an old boxy white Buick—her high, plump cheeks, thin lips,
green angora beret over her red hair, black winged eyeliner magnifying her
already big, black eyes. I could always tell when her eyes caught sight of me
coming toward the car. She didn't smile or wave, but she just looked happier,
reanimated, as she turned the key in the ignition. I would climb into the heated
Buick and Billy Joel would sing us down Saint John's Boulevard, past the big
shopping centre and fast food huts. If we didn't pick up Harvey's or McDonald's
on the way home, she would make a huge bowl of her chunky french fries with
the skins still on, which I would soak in salt and vinegar and eat sitting on the
brown carpet behind the coffee table, watching Today's Special, followed by The
Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, Night Court. There were no quotas on TV in
our house.
And it hits me, not then, but today, thirty years later. Thirty years too late.
I'm lying on my side in bed, my husband asleep behind me, and I'm nodding
off after a day spent writing out this memory—the reverse, the reverse—when
my eyes pop open. I clutch the comforter and stare into the darkness of the
bedroom, a dark bedroom in New York City, so far away from there, from
then, from that autumn morning Mom stood in the sunlit foyer in her red
velvet housecoat and, watching me put on my jean jacket, asked whether I
was planning to go to Theresa's again after diving. Mom probably no longer
filled out the red housecoat; it probably hung on hunched, bony shoulders. She
probably no longer filled out her face, but I can't say for sure because I wouldn't
look at her face, at those harrowed black eyes. She said, "I don't like it. All you
eat there are microwaved hotdogs," as I walked out the door. No wonder those
words wouldn't go away. How could I have been so slow? Knowing she had only
a few months left with her daughter, Mom was saying, hey, instead of going to
Theresa's every night, I would really like it if you came home. But she couldn't
say that, knowing the whole reason I wasn't coming home was because she was
there, dying.
Theresa said, "Hey, Jess. You have no reason to be mad at me. I didn't do
anything. I didn't kick you off the team."
Theresa was right, so 1 nodded, but I still couldn't look at her. We crossed
the snowy parking lot, its streetlamps throwing small circles of light on the
compacted snow. Empty white spotlights. The grief was breathtaking. Not for
Mom yet, but for me.
I was gone.
75 Joanna Lilley
The house must be awake when we
leave each morning, not faking.
The house must not waste the day.
The blinds must be horizontal
to collect more dust.
The closets closed, the iron
cooling. The house must be
the order we leave behind.
The radio must be dumb,
though we never ask the dog
if she'd prefer it on,
the dishes exiled. The loo seat
down, or up for the cat
in case we never come home;
the alarm clock re-set,
an amulet to ensure we will.
My husband waits in the car,
a crashed helicopter
on the seat beside him
that he moves when I get in.
I hand him his sandwiches,
filled with morning sex.
He would let the house sleep in,
disorder being proof of life in progress.
I don't want him to help me
shake the house awake.
He doesn't want me to tell
him where his wallet is.
As I bend to tie my shoelaces
in the footwell, he turns the ignition.
Reversing out of the garage,
he says, I'm coming with you
when you go for the CT scan.
76 PRISM  52:4 Susan Elnislie
Water, is taught by thirst.
—Emily Dickinson
Not exactly an oasis in the desert,
but in the face of numb silence
as you bide time before the biopsy
or loosen your watch to let the news
sink in, good to avail yourself
of the $2.22 coffee & muffin combo
or Fairlee pulp-free OJ and bagel,
benign beige plastic chair,
dusty plant languishing on a ledge:
a single bloom, teaching
towatd the window's frosted glass.
On another day this plant
is giving God the finger.
The Food Service worker's skirt
argues with her butt. Luck
sounds like a word babies say,
trying out their tongue. So what
if you have forgotten the names
of trees, the taste of a carrot with the dirt
just rubbed off, which bird
says, "youcheeseburger, cheeseburger,
cheeseburger, cheeseburg."
There is ordinary comfort in wrapped sttaws.
A lady, scraping a muffin paper
with her teeth, somehow
so beautiful. For now
there is no bloom of blood in the syringe—
magenta, a magician's scarf.
Here you are and there you go:
a hiatus before climbing an endless flight
of unpainted stairs or sitting at home, suffering
the Muzak of the incontinent faucet. 77 Leslie /Angel
(credited with unleashing the Inquisition)
There's such a thing as too much gold.
When I assumed this role I wore two crowns,
rode a horse with jeweled caparison
through streets hung with tapestries inset with silvet;
shouts filled my ears, palms carpered my way.
Always the great negotiator, I had such dreams;
why not bring Frederick to account?
But with him roared the firesrorm of Spain,
of England, Germany, strong bulls of Bashan.
I thought to use Christ's sword to heal His body,
swiftly, but the mobs still burn.
Francis, tell me if I ever was that man
who walked barefoot with you, dressed in brown,
just talked, just laughed at the swallow's daring dive,
who hated your cat as much as any Albigensian
because he killed my poor Pappagallo.
I am weary of whispering corridors,
the hush of skirts, swinging censors,
the always carefully measured treads,
the futtive politics, even the colour red.
Weightless as a dead cicada, almost dust,
no strength to cry lama sabachthani, or heart
to hear an answer, I sit in state. I would welcome
any feeling with a wild relief, even hate.
78 PRISM  52:4 Chuqiao Yang
ten years old in the summer with jo, who lived near our catholic school, her
mother was sick, but we thought she was just sleepy, we built forts with sheets
that smelled like sour cigarettes, stared at het brother's porn, and ate aged
couch-cushion chocolates. I had just seen a vhq documentary on tina turner
and was fascinated by her legs. I started calling jo tina because she liked short
skirts. I pretended to be ike. we danced to soft rock, and I told tina she's my
no. 1 girl.
parents offered to culture me, tossing tolstoy, bjork & Steinbeck at me. but
I was still wide-eyed, staring at my friends howling outside, longing to join
them before they left on the weekends to their reserves. I got a phone call from
macey, half-irish, half-cree in the winter who would sing to me but I hung up
to study, convinced myself talent like that was plagiarised.
my plastic fish bottle filled with coke and arms pointed upwatds like a
compass, I toasted my drink on the top of a hill, with macey sitting there and
jolene in a bathing suit, dakota said, weat something less ugly jo, look hot like
my woman here, and held brittany around her waist like a slurpee and sucked
her face.
does tina turner take that kind of talk? I kept waiting for jo to jiggle her limbs
and kick dakota's ass, but she stared at me, waiting for ike to say something.
we found a dead robin with its beak slightly open, and made a time capsule.
I dug it up two days later, astonished it was still the same after such a long wait. 79 Kathy Friedman
W e were ready to go, chests bate, bandanas tied above our eyes, a Super
Sniper machine gun ried to my shoulder with two shoelaces and a space pistol
stuffed down the back of Jordan's shorts when his dad saw us and demanded:
"Where are you boys going?"
"To the tavine," Jordan said, in his high-class accent {ha closs, he would have
said). His family lived in a townhouse on a street that didn't go anywhere—
it just stopped—and from there you could slash through some long grass and
bushes to play in a ravine almost identical to the jungles of Vietnam.
"You can't go down there alone, man, what's wrong with you?"
"But, Dad. It's boiling hot."
"So play in the basement where it's cooler."
Jordan's parents must have thought they were getting a bigger house when
they moved from South Africa, because the basement was stuffed with old
furniture that wouldn't fit anywhere else. It was dark down there, with hardly any
space to play, and a pattern in the wood panelling looked like Satan. Armoire,
then Satan. Bureau, Satan, chiffonier, pouf, Satan—all along the walls. I'd tried
to show it to Jordan, only he didn't care.
Indoors, we had to do the movie where Rambo rescues the Colonel from a
Russian fort in Afghanistan. That one was so unrealistic. I handed Jordan my
machine gun. "Cover me," I said. He kneeled on the couch, firing and ducking,
tossing grenades, while I crawled on my stomach towards the Russians and swept
my hunting knife along the carpet in case there were landmines. Instead of the
Colonel, I pictured my dad in the hospital, his blood leaking out of him through
long tubes. "Hold on," I growled, "I'm almost there." Jordan rolled off the couch
and came to a stop beside the pouf. "Help me, John, I'm hit!" he shrieked, and
died violently
At dinner, Jordan's father went on about everything that was in the news that
day, boring us all to death. He'd lost his job in the spring (a big secret I wasn't
supposed to tell anyone) and now he always wanted to open the paper, stab his
finger at a page, and tell you why so-and-so was completely wrong. My dad wore
long sleeves to hide his tattoos when we had company, so people wouldn't look
down on us. Jordan's dad was talking about the USSR, saying it was going up in
smoke and it was about time, in his opinion. Like a nervous shark, Jordan's mom
kept moving. She jumped up to serve Stephanie more chicken and wondered
what would happen to the Jews, if they'd be better off. His dad said it didn't
matter, soon anyone in Soviet countries who worked hard enough would get
ahead, just like in Canada. Stephanie poked a fork into her boiled potato.
"Why are we living in rhis shit hole, then?" she said, and got sent to her room.
I wondered if Canada would be the biggest country in the wotld once there was
no more USSR. I wanred us to be.
80 PRISM   52:4 Jordan's dad drove me home that day. The windows were down and the wind
whiffled our hair a bit. We were talking about Black Beauty. Miss Patterson had
read it to us all through the spring. Jordan's dad said the book had been banned
in South Africa. "God forbid," he said, "that someone should find a black woman
beautiful. No one told those idiots it's about a bloody horse." He told me how
the whites over there had their own benches to sit on in the park and their own
line-ups at the bank. "Whites Only," the signs said. They were put up, they were
taken back down. If you didn't like it, you had to shut up about it. Otherwise
you could go to jail where they'd beat you up anytime they wanted. He knew all
about that because he used to be a judge. "The whole thing is shameful," he said,
shaking his head. "It's evil. But the blacks don't want us there. They'd minder us
in our beds if they could." South Africa didn't have much choice, he explained,
when it came to the blacks. Why couldn't everyone see that it didn't have much
All through that summer, the summer after my dad's accident, I wanted to sleep
over at Jordan's. I wondered what it would be like to lie next to him in the dark,
in the heat, listening to him breathing. I wondered what his pyjamas looked like.
Mine were green and had a picture of a surfer riding a blue wave. "Surf's Up!"
the shirt said. Were his pyjamas made of silk? I wondered if he snored.
Jordan was my best friend, so my mom shuttled me to and from his house
three days a week, whenever she had to take my dad to the hospital. On the other
days, with my mom at the restaurant and my dad upstaits resting, I was allowed
to take my bike to Mac's Milk to buy freezies. I was scared I'd be kidnapped right
off my bike. Jordan's mom said kidnappings happened all the time. She'd read
about this one kid who didn't even know his parents weren't his real parents until
he saw his own face on a milk carton.
My dad was really strong before his accident; if someone had tried to steal
me off my bike, he'd have found them and made them sorry they were ever
born. He used to tune his guitar and sing me funny songs or tell me stuff from
the old days—how he knew a roadie with only one arm, or about the time his
band nearly opened for The Guess Who. My dad had hair as long as Axl Rose
and I liked tickling my face with it. He used to call me Jumpin' Jack Flash. "My
name is John," I'd say. "Oh crap," he'd say. "I guess your mom and me grabbed
the wrong kid at the hospital." Now his scalp was fuzzy after being shaved, with
purple criss-cross lines where the doctors stapled it shut after he crashed his
Harley. His kidneys were crushed so bad he needed new ones. Though he'd been
out of the hospital for more than a month, my mom still had to look after him,
and the house was quiet and scary without their all-the-time fights.
Everyone said my dad was going to be fine. But sometimes, when I was alone
on my bike, on the lookout fot kidnapping evildoets, my chest would open like
a wound and suck me down into my kidneys, where all our bad things go, and I
knew my father was dying, and my mother didn't care—she'd never loved him—
and Jordan was an imposter pretending to be my friend, and no one would tell
me the truth about anything until it was too late. This thing with Jordan only happened twice. That's it. The first time, 1 was
winning at BOXING SMASH II and trying hard not to brag about it. Seneca
(me) did a one-two jab to Caesar (Jordan) and knocked Caesar down, but then
Caesar climbed up on Seneca and started eating his face until Seneca started
getting back at him—right, right, left, hurricane SMASH! and Caesar went
down, twittering birds circling his head.
"I'm bored" Jordan said, and threw his controller across the room (it flew
into the bureau), and though I was anything but bored, I did the same.
We blinked at each other. Sweat shone on our skin, it was so hot, and even in
the basement the thick air pressed down on us. "We could go up to my parents'
room," he said. "Their door has a lock." And so I followed him up there.
At dinner, Jordan's dad went on about that madman, Saddam Hussein. "He
invaded Kuwait. Just like Hitler, I'm serious. Next thing you know, Hussein will
go after Israel."
"And then he'll come after us!" Stephanie said.
"Ach, don't be ridiculous," Jordan's mom said. "What on earth would he
want with Canada?" But I noticed the groove between her eyebrows deepen.
"They're predicting World War III!" Stephanie said. "Carolyn's brother said
that if Hussein bombs the reactor out in Pickering, all of us are toast!"
"Now that" Jordan's dad said, "is absolute rubbish."
Later, in bed, I thought about folding myself up like a piece of paper and
hiding under the mattress, where no one would ever find me, and if Saddam
Insane came and blew up our house, I'd stay there—not taking up space, not
making a sound.
I was pretty sure my dad would find out about me and Jordan. Maybe he
already knew. Maybe he'd told my mom, and one day they'd call me into the
kitchen, sit me down, and tell me I was a pervert. Or what if Stephanie had been
hiding under her parents' bed? She'd have seen it when Jordan said I had to show
him what the doctors do to my dad: zppt a needle on the bum, zppt a needle
for his privates. Stephanie would tell my parents. Why hadn't I checked first to
make sure no one was watching us? Oh God, oh God... Could he really bomb
the power plant?
All weekend, I hovered near my parents' room every time the phone rang.
"He did whatl" my mom said once, and my heart began to thrash, but then she
said, "Lock him out the house if he pulls that shit again," which meant it was
only my aunt, complaining like usual because my uncle was back to gambling.
On Monday morning, my mom drove me to Jordan's. The radio said
thunderstorms and all day we waited miserably for something that didn't come.
It happened again later that week. Jotdan wandered into Stephanie's room
after lunch and I had to follow him. She kept a real microphone on a stand near
her desk because she was going to be a singer. There were scary posters all over
the walls—people wearing black makeup with metal spikes poking through their
"I'm your worst nightmare," Jordan said. It would have been scarier if the
microphone had been plugged in.
"Gimme that," I said.
"Jordan! Give it." He was gripping Stephanie's microphone with both fists.
"We shouldn't even be in here."
"What are you scared of? My sister's out."
"If your dad finds us in here, we're dead meat."
"But I'm bored" he said, and my heart started galloping, those two words
again like spurs. We hid in Stephanie's closet. Soft, silky things kept swishing
by my head. His breath on my face. It was so dark I didn't see it coming, but
suddenly there was his sticky mouth against mine. I opened the door and ran to
the bathroom, where I spat and spat into the sink.
I went to the mall with my mom. In the parking lot outside Eaton's, a man
with a beard handed her a little cardboard rectangle. He asked my mom if she'd
accepted Christ as her Saviour. "Ignore him," she said, as we walked away fast,
and I asked her if the man was a lunatic. "Mrs. Loewenstern says there's lunatics
everywhere," I explained. I told my mom how one night, a long time ago, Mrs.
Loewenstern's uncle stopped at a petrol station in South Africa. "A gas station,"
my mom intetrupted. "Yeah," I said. "So he fills up, goes in, pays, and comes out
to find two shvartzes sitting in his car trying to start it. 'What's going on here?'
he says, and the shvaftzes get scared. POW! POW POW POW! They shoot him
dead. She tells that story all the time. Whenever Stephanie wants to go out with
her friends."
That night, my parents argued for the first time since the accident. I stayed
upstairs in their room and emptied my mother's purse out on the bed. I could
hear her screaming, "There's no place else for him to go!" 1 tried on her sunglasses
and smooched on her lipstick. I dumped out her wallet and counted every coin.
Two dishes went crash! one after the other. Next, I tissued off the lipstick in case
my dad stormed upstairs. I heard him say, "You go right ahead. You think that'll
scare me?" but he sounded weak, he couldn't fight the way he used to. I'd started
putting everything back in her purse when I found the rectangle from the lunatic
In red letters, it said, "The end of time is coming. Are you prepared? Sinners
will be punished when the Saviour returns to Earth." If it was true, I wondered
what would happen to me. There was that monstet guy from Indiana Jones who
could lift people's hearts right out of their chests... "I saw you with Jordan," he'd
say, and I'd feel my ribs snap open. "You thought no one was watching but God
is always watching." Right before my heart came loose, the monster guy would
tell my dad what Jordan and I had done. His heart would stop, too.
Jotdan's dad got a new job working for a real estate company. They invited me
to the Mandarin Buffet with them to celebrate. I asked his dad what was in the
news but he just said the radio was calling for rain. Jordan had shrimp for the
first time ever. His mom didn't want him to but his dad said, "Let him try it."
They had to pay Stephanie to babysit us now. She gave us celety sticks ot baby
carrots with fruit juice for lunch while she talked on the phone. At night his dad
came home in a suit and gold tie and kissed his mom. She was a publicist who 83 wore a nice skirt and stockings all year long.
When my mom was nineteen, she hitchhiked all over America with her
boyfriend Al. They met my dad at a blues bar in the woods, somewhere in
Virginia—or was it Kentucky? He was on tour with his band. "I woke up one
morning with Al and went to bed that night with your father," she said. My
mom was all-the-time pretty but her smile made her prettier. My dad asked if
she'd lost her mind, telling his kid she was basically a whore, and my mom's smile
skidded off her face and they were at it until late, late, long past bedtime.
Tlie next time Jordan said, "I'm bored," I kept my mind on our Lego castle.
The end of time was coming, and our castle wasn't going to build itself. "I'm so
bored" he repeated.
"I just want to play Lego," I said, ignoring the heavy beat in my chest.
He was trying to do a handstand. His feet kept hitting the chiffonier when
he fell. He said, "That's fine. Maybe Danny will come over to play. My mom
always wants me to play with my Hebrew school friends. She always says, 'Why
don't you ask Danny Fogel if he wants to sleep over?'"
I looked up at him.
"You don't mind, right? I'll still let you play with my Lego."
I pretended I hadn't heard and went on building the castle. Out castle. The
blue piece fit on top of the red piece. White on top of the blue. In South Africa,
a police inspector came to Jordan's house every weekend because of his dad's job,
to make sure everything was okay My dad hated cops, but maybe I could be an
architect when I grew up. I'd build houses with high fences to keep the people
inside safe. Jordan's mom said the fences in South Africa went up and up forever.
Jordan stuck his face close to mine and breathed his hot breath. "My parents
only let you play here because they feel sorry for you," he said.
On TV there was a guy who could heal the sick. People came to see him from
all over the country with their club feet, blind eyes, their scabs and warts and
heart conditions. Tlie show always began with a zoom on his blond wife's face.
She cried black smudgy tears as she read aloud letters from the evildoers her
husband had saved. They'd hobble out onto the stage and he'd ask, "Is there
fear in your heart?" and they'd go, "Yes, Jesus!" and he'd ask if they'd sinned and
they'd roll their eyes up to the ceiling and go, "Yes! I am a sinner, Jesus!" and
then the audience would clap, and then the guy would ask if they'd repented and
if they loved Jesus and they'd go, "Yes!" Then he'd hold out his arm to touch the
evildoer's forehead, and then the camera would cut to the audience who were
shouting and praying, and then back to the evildoer who was squirming down
on the ground now and you knew he was saved.
Jesus loved everybody. Even Jews like the Loewensterns. All you had to do
was love him back and he'd save you from the yuck of your own life. God the
Father was the one you had to wotry about, since he got mad all the time and
when he was mad he liked to blow stuff up.
My dad was scary sometimes, too. Once, before the accident, we had to go
stay with my aunt and uncle. My aunt wanted us to live with them forever. "I
84 PRISM  52:4 bet it's not the first time, am I right?" she said to my mom. Late at night I heatd
my mom talking on the phone, het voice stuffed with question matks, and I
knew she was winding the cord all around her fingers and wrist. "Don't make me
switch schools," I kept begging. When we came back, our house was the same as
how we left it, my Ninja Turtles all over the family room, dishes plugging up the
sink. It was like a ghost had been living there instead of my dad.
I sat in the kitchen with him a few days aftet my fight with Jordan. Toast
crumbs were stuck in his prickly beard. I asked how come Jordan was allowed to
have sleepovers with his Hebrew school friends but not with me? It wasn't fair.
My dad said minorities could be more goddamn prejudiced than white people
sometimes. I asked what he meant but he said, "Nothing, nothing." He wasn't
weating a shirt under his robe and you could see how thin he was, how much
he'd shrunk.
The following Tuesday, I said I was bored and Jordan said, "Let's go upstairs." I
said, "What about your sister?" so we crawled into the armoire instead. In the
dark, I made him get onto his knees and press his palms together.
"Like this?" he said.
"Yeah," I said.
When Stephanie found us, our hands were clasped and shaking as we prayed.
"Jesus will help you," I was saying.
"What the frig is going on in here?" Stephanie said.
"You swore!" Jordan said. We begged her not to tell on us but she did it the
second Mrs. Loewenstern came through the door. Mrs. Loewenstern's face didn't
change, it was smooth as lava after it's already cooled, but she called my mom
that night. I wasn't allowed to play at Jordan's anymore. My mom was so mad
when she got off the phone.
"Who told you to talk to Jesus? Was it your father? Is he losing his fucking
She plunked down in a chair. I climbed onto her lap and she wrapped me in
her arms. "I should have kept you away from him when I had the chance," she
No, I thought. No no no. And then I realized it.
"What was that, sweetheart?" she said, her voice muffled against my hair.
"Did you say something?"
I said it again, so loud I was almost shouting, "Dad's dying now, isn't he?"
I don't know how I knew.
When my dad first started getting his dialysis, I went to the hospital to watch.
My parents wanted me to see what it was like so I wouldn't be afraid. The doctors
had made a thing in his wrist where the blood collected so all the nurse had to do
was stick a needle in there and it all flowed into this big machine through some
tubes. The tubes turned red from all that blood. His left sleeve was rolled up.
Any of the nurses who came in to check on him could see his tattoos—a naked
mermaid, a skull with flames around it, a monkey in a Mexican hat, and way up
on his shoulder, still hidden by his shirt, the worst one of all: a cartoon picture 85 of Satan. My mom said it was okay, the nurses wouldn't mind a few silly old
tattoos. The machine took all the bad things out of my dad's blood and sent the
blood back into him, clean. He waved at me from the hospital bed. "It doesn't
even hutt, John. See?"
Later, after all his blood was back inside him, he asked if I was still scared.
I thought about it. Then I said no. "Next time," he said, "if a bad thing comes
along to scare you, don't run away. You go right up to it, as close as you can get,
and you say 'Boo!' right in its ear."
86 PRISM  52:4 Kale Braid
with thanks to Charles Wright for "Last Supper"
As if I'm looking for light and fotgot my eyes were closed,
today I fly to New Yotk to touch my granddaughtet (the peace of her),
to practice the slow steps of a grandmother, matching hers.
Across the living room carpet, the sun will bow with the rest of us
before her peach beauty.
How is there such love when there's not even blood?
Her father was endowed to me when he was seven, chosen child.
Her father taught me how to love a child
after I thought I never wanted one.
Perhaps down the road she will remember
a love that held her when she was new,
the cheer that watched her rise.
Or maybe I will fade from her life, unimportant
as a misty neighbour who long ago lived next door
and fed her chocolate from time to time.
Our mothers told us to have babies or be barren
but my flesh turned, crossed other boundaries,
rises now to an unexpected light, opens a door, waits. 87 CONTRIBUTORS
Leslie Angel is a reading specialist who has worked in education most of her life,
apart from a stint writing and editing crossword puzzles for a major magazine.
She is constantly writing (much of the time in her head) and has published
poems and short stories in college literary magazines.
Robert Berdan is an international award-winning, Calgary-based photographer
who delights in photographing living creatures from micro-organisms to
Canadian wildlife. Robert has a Ph.D. in cell biology and leads photo tours and
teaches web design. His website:
Joseph Boyden's first novel, Three Day Road, was selected for the Today Show
Book Club, won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, the CBA Libris Fiction
Book of the Year Award, the in Canada First Novel Award,
and was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for Fiction. His second
novel, Tlnough Black Spruce, was awarded the Scotiabank Giller Prize and
named the Canadian Booksellers Association Fiction Book of the Year. His latest
novel, The Orenda, won Canada Reads 2014.
Kate Braid has published ten books of poetry and non-fiction, most recently a
memoir, Journeywoman: Swinging a Hammer in a Man's World. Her poetry has
won the Pat Lowther and Vancity Book Awards and been shortlisted for several
othet prizes. She and Sandy Shreve are currently co-editing a second edition of
In Fine Form: The Canadian Book of Form Poetry (Caitlin, 2016).
Trevor Corkum's fiction and non-ficrion have appeared or are forthcoming
in Descant, Dalhousie Review, Joyland, Little Fiction, Plenitude, Prairie Fire, The
Malahat Review, Event, Grain, and others. His work has been nominated for the
Journey Prize, the Pushcart Prize, and longlisted for the CBC Short Story Prize.
He currently lives in Toronto, where he is at work on a novel.
Susan Elmslie's /, Nadja, and Other Poems won the A.M. Klein Prize and was
shortlisted for the McAuslan, Pat Lowther and ReLit Awards. Her poems have
appeared most recently in Tlie New Quarterly. She has been a Hawthornden
Fellow and a winner of Arc's Poem of the Year contest,
Sienna Finney is a music lover, bohemian, and native of Nashville, TN. She
is currently working on a memoir about Yellowstone National Park (where she
worked in 2009). She holds an English Litetature degree, and currently resides
in Cincinnati, Ohio with her domestic partnet and black cat.
Kathy Friedman has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of
Guelph. In addition to being named a finalist for the Bronwen Wallace Award
for Emerging Writers and runner-up for the Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Award, her
work has appeared in numerous Canadian literary journals. She can be found
online at
Susan Gillis is a poet, teacher, and member of the collaborative poetry group
Yoko's Dogs. Her most recent books are The Rapids (Brick, 2012; nominated for
88 PRISM  52:4 the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry), Twenty Views of the Lachine Rapids (Gaspereau,
2012) and Whisk (with Yoko's Dogs; Pedlar, 2013). She keeps a poetry blog,
Concrete & River, and divides her time between Montreal and Lanark County,
Elise Marcella Godfrey's poetry is forthcoming in Contemporary Verse 2 and has
appeared in Tlie Claremont Review and Wordscapes.
Jessamyn Hope's debut novel Safekeeping is forthcoming from Fig Tree Books. Her
stories have appeared in Descant, Five Points, Colorado Review, Green Mountains
Review, Harpur Palate, and Ploughshares, which nominated her for a 2011 Pushcart
Prize. She was the Susannah McCorkle Scholar in Fiction at the 2012 Sewanee
Writers' Conference.
Renee Jackson-Harper is a Ph.D. candidate at York University. Her research
explores borderlands in contemporary western Canadian literature. Renee served
as founding editor of Tlie Pine Beetle Review at Okanagan College, and as editor of
Uncalibrated Magazine in Jasper, Alberta. Het creative work has been published
in Room, WTF Magazine, The Trinity Review and aired on CBC Radio's "A Verse
to Summer" and on Kootenay Co-op Radio.
Jess Knowles is finishing her BFA in Writing at the University of Victoria. She
is the co-editor of baldhip magazine.
Cathy Kozak is an acupuncturist and 2nd year writing student at the University
of Victoria. She is at work on a collection of linked short stories and a novel called
A Thousand Tricks set in 1970s Morocco. When she's not wrestling the devils and
dervishes of her real and fictional worlds, she reads, ttavels and builds tall tales
for her grandchildren. She divides her time between Victoria and Nelson, BC.
Joanna Lilley settled in Whitehorse, Yukon, in 2006 after emigrating from
Britain. Her poetry collection, He Fleece Era, was published by Brick Books in
2014 and her short story collection, The Birthday Books, is being published by
Hagios Press in their Strike Fire New Author Series in 2015.
Angela Long's writing has appeared in numerous Canadian and international
publications including The Globe and Mail, Utne Reader, and Poetry Ireland
Review. Her work has been widely anthologized. She's the author of Observations
from Off the Grid, a poetry collection distilling twenty years spent wandering
the planet.
Janice McCachen teaches English at St. Michaels University School in Victoria,
BC. She has won several awards for her writing, including CBC's Literary Arts
Contest (2003) and Prairie Fire's fiction contest (2013) and has published work
in The New Quarterly and Hie Antigonish Review. She is currently working on a
Vincent McGillivray lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he works in the
telecommunications industry. His poetry has appeared in numerous litetary
journals, including Tlie Antigonish Review, Grain and CV2. He is slowly piecing
Together his first full-length manuscript.
89 Jordan Mounteer's poems have appeared in The Malahat Review, The Antigonish
Review, Event, Grain, Prairie Fire, PRISM international (48.1, 49.3), and Rita
Moir's latest book, The Third Crop. His nomadic tendencies have dragged him
from New Zealand to South America, and he is currently teaching in Japan.
Julie Paul is the author of two short fiction collections, TheJealousy Bone (2008),
and The Pull of the Moon (forthcoming September 2014, Brindle & Glass). She
lives in Victoria, BC and at
Kyeren Regehr received a Canada Council of the Arts grant to complete her first
collection. Work from the manuscript appears, or is forthcoming, in Best Neiv
Poets 2013, Arc, Room, The Fiddlehead, and The Antigonish Review. Kyeren serves
on the poetry board of Tlje Malahat Review.
Yusuf Saadi is a 24-year-old writer from Mississauga, Ontario. He graduated
from York University with a degree in creative writing and philosophy He will
begin his MA in English with a concenttation in cultural, social, and political
thought at the University of Victoria in September.
Karen Solie is the author of three collections of poems: Short Haul Engine (Brick
Books, 2001), Modern and Normal (Brick Books, 2005), and Pigeon (Anansi,
2009). A volume of new and selected poems, The Living Option, was published
in the UK last year by Bloodaxe Books, and was a 2013 Poetry Book Society
Recommendation. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies across
Canada, in the US, the UK, and Europe, and has been translated into French,
German, Dutch, and Korean. Currently based in Toronto, she is an Associate
Director for the Banff Centre's Writing Studio program.
MelissaTyndall is a bibliophile, caffeine addict and an MFA candidate at Murray
State University. Her work has appeared in Tlie Red Mud Review, Words + Images
and Number One. Her essay, "Ganking Peter Pan: How Sam & Dean 'Full-on
Swayzed' Generational Stereotypes," is forthcoming in an academic collection
about The CW television series Supernatural. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
David L. White is a writer and educator living with his wife and daughter in
the Arizona desert. His poetry has previously appeared and is forthcoming in the
next edition of Southwestern American Literature.
John Sibley Williams is the author of eight collections, most recently Controlled
Hallucinations (FutureCycle Press, 2013). A two-time Pushcart nominee, John
serves as editor of Tlie Inflectionist Review and Board Member of the Friends of
William Stafford. Publishing credits include: American Literary Review, Third
Coast, Nimrod International Journal, Rio Grande Review, Inkwell, Cider Press
Review, Bryant Literary Review, RHINO, and various anthologies. He lives in
Portland, Oregon.
Chuqiao Yang hails from Saskatoon via Beijing. She is currently a student of law
at the University of Windsor. Her work has appeared in Contemporary Verse 2,
filling Station, Grain, Room, and on CBC Radio. In 2011, she was the recipient
of two Western Magazine Awards.
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The Creative Writing Program at U.B.C.
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
Andreas Schroeder
Linda Svendsen
Timothy Taylor
Peggy Thompson
Rhea Tregebov
Bryan Wade
Online Faculty CM.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 e
• 1     I • ] In, I I • 11 •
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Jessamyn Hope
Renee Jackson-Harper
Jess Knowles
Cathy Kozak
Joanna Lilley
Angela Long
Janice McCachen
Vincent McGillivray
Jordan Mounteer
Julie Paul
Kyeren Regehr
Karen Solie
Melissa Tyndall
David L. White
John Sibley Williams
Chuqiao Yang
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