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   PRISM internationa
FICTION EDITOR
Anna Ling Kaye
POETRY EDITOR
Leah Horlick
EXECUTIVE EDITORS
Sierra Skye Gemma
Jen Neale
ONLINE EDITOR
Jeffrey Ricker
ADVISORY EDITOR
Rhea Tregebov
DESIGNER
andrea bennett
SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATOR
Zachary Matteson
EDITORIAL INTERNS
Selenna Ho
Daniel McDonald
Karina Palmitesta
EDITORIAL BOARD
Rosemary Anderson
Nadine Bachan
Michelle Barker
Jane Campbell
Alison Cobra
Ophelia Crane
Kayla Czaga
Kate Edwards
Charles-Adam Foster-Simard
Tara Gilboy
Melissa Janae
Julia Leggett
Jennifer Macdonald
Matt Malyon
Hanako Masutani
Zachary Matteson
Sandra Maxson
Kimberly McCullough
Daniel Otis
Beth Pond 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-A62, 1866 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1.
Microfilm editions are available from University Microfilms Inc., Ann Arbor,
MI, and reprints from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, New York, NY. The
magazine is listed by the Canadian Literary Periodicals Index.
Website: prismmagazine.ca. Email: prismcirculation@gmail.com.
Contents Copyright © 2013 PRISM international for the authors.
Covet photo: "Amber" by Maleonn, 2008, courtesy of Magda Danysz Gallery
Paris-Shanghai.
Subscription Rates: One-year individual Canadian $35, American $40,
Intetnational $45; two-year individual Canadian $55, American $63, International
$69; library and institutional one-year $46; two-year $72. Sample copy by mail is
$12. US and international subscribers, please pay in US dollars. Please note that
US POSTAL money orders are not accepted. Make cheques payable to PRISM
international. All prices include HST and shipping and handling.
Submission Guidelines: PRISM international purchases First North American
Serial Rights at $40 per page for poetry and $20 per page for other genres.
Contributors receive three copies of the issue in which their work appears.
PRISM also purchases limited digital rights for selected work, for which it pays an
additional $10 per page. All manuscripts should be sent to the editors at the above
address. Manuscripts should be accompanied by an email address. If you wish
to receive your response by regular mail, please include a SASE with Canadian
stamps or International Reply Coupons. Translations should be accompanied
by a copy of the work(s) in the original language. The advisory editor is not
responsible for individual selections, but for the magazine's overall mandate,
including continuity, quality and budgetary concerns.
For details on how to place an advertisement in PRISM, please visit our website
at prismmagazine.ca/advertise. PRISM occasionally exchanges subscriber lists
with other literary magazines; please contact us if you wish to be excluded from
such exchanges.
Our gratitude to Dean Gage Averill and the Dean of Arts Office at the University
of British Columbia. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the
Canada Council for the Arts and the British Columbia Arts Council.
January 2013. ISSN 0032.8790
Sb
BRITISH COLUMBIA «»     Canada Council    tcmseil des Arts
Arts council <c*z> ,or the Arts     du ^mxta PRISM internationa
FICTION EDITOR
Anna Ling Kaye
POETRY EDITOR
Leah Horlick
EXECUTIVE EDITORS
Sierra Skye Gemma
Jen Neale
ONLINE EDITOR
Jeffrey Ricker
ADVISORY EDITOR
Rhea Tregebov
DESIGNER
andrea bennett
SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATOR
Zachaty Matteson
EDITORIAL INTERNS
Selenna Ho
Daniel McDonald
Karina Palmitesta
EDITORIAL BOARD
Rosematy Anderson
Nadine Bachan
Michelle Barker
Jane Campbell
Alison Cobra
Ophelia Crane
Kayla Czaga
Kate Edwards
Charles-Adam Foster-Simard
Tara Gilboy
Melissa Janae
Julia Leggett
Jennifer Macdonald
Matt Malyon
Hanako Masutani
Zachary Matteson
Sandta Maxson
Kimberly McCullough
Daniel Otis
Beth Pond 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^162, 1866 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1.
Microfilm editions are available from University Microfilms Inc., Ann Arbor,
MI, and reprints from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, New York, NY. The
magazine is listed by the Canadian Literary Periodicals Index.
Website: prismmagazine.ca. Email: prismcirculation@gmail.com.
Contents Copyright © 2013 PRISM international [or the authors.
Cover photo: "Amber" by Maleonn, 2008, courtesy of Magda Danysz Gallety
Paris-Shanghai.
Subscription Rates: One-year individual Canadian $35, American $40,
International $45; two-year individual Canadian $55, American $63, Intetnational
$69; libtary and institutional one-yeat $46; two-year $72. Sample copy by mail is
$12. US and international subscribers, please pay in US dollars. Please note that
US POSTAL money otdets are not accepted. Make cheques payable to PRISM
international. All prices include HST and shipping and handling.
Submission Guidelines: PRISM international purchases First Notth American
Serial Rights at $40 per page for poetry and $20 per page for other genres.
Contributors receive three copies of the issue in which their work appears.
PRISM Aso purchases limited digital tights for selected wotk, for which it pays an
additional $10 per page. Al manuscripts should be sent to the editors at the above
address. Manuscripts should be accompanied by an email address. If you wish
to teceive your response by regular mail, please include a SASE with Canadian
stamps or International Reply Coupons. Translations should be accompanied
by a copy of the work(s) in the original language. The advisory editot is not
responsible for individual selections, but for the magazine's overall mandate,
including continuity, quality and budgetary concerns.
For details on how to place an advertisement in PRISM, please visit our website
at prismmagazine.ca/advertise. PRISM occasionally exchanges subscriber lists
with other litetary magazines; please contact us if you wish to be excluded from
such exchanges.
Our gratitude to Dean Gage Averill and the Dean of Arts Office at the University
of British Columbia. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the
Canada Council for the Arts and the British Columbia Arts Council.
January 2013. ISSN 0032.8790
A
BRITISH COLUMBIA 8K?     Canada Council    ConseildesArts
a.rts Council «c*z> f°''tneArts     du Canada MENU
FICTION
Jennifer Manuel
8
Urchin
Mark Sampson
28
Going Soft through Luxury
Zoey Leigh Peterson
39
Division Day
Mattin James Ainsley
62
That Ain't Me
NON-FICTION
Sarah Selecky
4
Grandpa's Fries
Amela Marin
16
Nettles
Julia Zarankin
45
Beat, Pulse, Stir, Mash
Chris Galvin
55
Breakfast Under the Bodhi Tree
Fiona Tinwei Lam
77
House
POETRY
Claire Kelly
6
Yellow Wart
7
Jack-O'-Lantem
Rhona McAdam
13
Aristotle's Lantern
14
Culatello
15
The Year of Food
Evelyn Lau
21
Burns
22
Alarm
23
Something Happened
Alisa Gordaneer
25
Market/Place
26
Eggplant
27
Elimination Diet
Jane Spavold Tims
37
beaked hazelnuts
John Barton
38
Pottage
Zoe Whittall
41
Spring at 36
44
Hotel Atlas
Kate Kennedy
53
Another winter on the marsh
54
La Cumbre, Argentina
Laisha Rosnau
59
Bite Marks
60
November
61
Shame, Revisited
Catriona Wright
74
BBQ
75
White
Contributors
79 Sarah Selecky
GRANDPA'S FRIES
IVly grandma was Italian, extremely petite, and superb in the kitchen. She
taught me how to make fluffy, air-filled tapioca by whipping egg whites into
meringue before stirring them into hot milk. She liked to eat oranges with thin
slices of Vidalia onions, gatbanzos, and a slim drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil on
top. Grandma always served herself on side plates, or in small glass ramekins, to
make sure she ate tiny portions.
My grandpa, however, was Polish, morbidly obese, and liked to show off by
eating strips of raw bacon. He'd dangle the bacon over his mouth, wiggle it, and
then lap it up with a grin while my cousins and I squealed in horror. He ate three
meals a day in his brown La-Z-Boy while he watched television, and he kept a
generous stash of hard candies in the side table drawer beside him. Our game:
to pester Grandpa slowly and deliberately until he yelled at us or gave us candy.
He usually gave us candy at fitst, which meant we would come back to push our
luck a second time. Then he'd yell. This terrified us in the best way.
My cousins and I were at our grandparents' house in Evansville, Indiana on
the day of the tornado warning. This was the first time I'd experienced one, but
my cousins lived through tornadoes every year; they weren't afraid this time,
and I followed theit lead. My three cousins lived in Evansville, so they often
stayed with our grandparents during rhe day. I was visiting from Sudbury, and
this was the first time my parents left me there on my own. In their absence, my
grandparents' house felt different, more tangible. It was as though a pane of glass
had been removed from a diorama, and now, on my own, I was free to see and
touch and live in the real house.
As soon as the rain started, Grandma called us down to the basement, the
safest place to be during a thunderstorm in tornado season. Grandpa ignored
her, so we did too. He heated a pot of oil and stood at the kitchen counter and
sliced a whole bag of russet potatoes. He chopped each potato in half lengthwise
first, then chopped it again three or four times to make long wedges. The sky
grew darker and darker as he worked. Grandpa kept the peels on; that's whete
the vitamins were, he said. Then he plunged the wedges into the oil. The tain was
coming down sideways and thunder shook the kitchen walls. Grandpa's colossal
body filled the room like the weather; his billowing grey sweatpants and T-shirt
loomed above us. Grandma stayed downstaits for all of this, in patt because of
the storm, in part because she didn't like to watch Grandpa use the deep-fryer in
her kitchen. The storm only enhanced his performance.
When each batch was ready, he scooped them out of the oil with a slotted
spoon and dumped them out on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. They
wete steaming hot, crispy and golden. The light coming out from under the stove
PRISM  51:2 hood was the only light in the dark kitchen, and it cast a glow that made the fries
look dramatically bright. Grandpa let me and my cousins salt the potatoes after
each batch was done. We took turns with the shaker. Then he'd put another few
handfuls of wedges into the hot oil, and we'd wait for the next batch. We were
way too afraid of Grandpa to sneak any into our mouths.
The stotm closed in as Grandpa cooked. He didn't rush it, though. It must
have taken him about half an hour. The last batch was done just before the power
went out. There was still enough light to see—it was only mid-afternoon—but
the clouds had turned the yellow-green of a bad bruise. Grandma still waited
for us downstairs. We brought the fries to the basement on a big white plate.
Grandma had put out papet napkins for us, even though she wouldn't be eating
any of it. She'd turned on the little red radio and was listening to the news.
The storm took some trees down in the neighbourhood. One came down
across the street. Men with chainsaws would have to come chop it up and clear
the road the next morning. My aunt and uncle would have to replace theit garage
because of the damage; fallen branches from the ttee next doot had crushed the
roof. No one was hurt. We were lucky.
In the years before and since, Evansville has seen more than one powetful
tornado rip through the city: entire subdivisions have been destroyed. On this
day, the storm must have been more dangerous than Grandma and Grandpa
let on. But learning about the danger came years later; I don't even remember
hearing the news that day, even though I know Grandma was listening to
it. What I do remember: the wind and rain whipping at the small basement
windows, the vibration from heavy thunder, like something was being thrown
at us from above, and the potent feeling of polished independence that came
from spending the day with my grandparents. I would call it sophistication, if I
were to describe that feeling today. But I was a child—only seven years old—and
besides, it feels more honest to name it with the food itself, the flavour of which
is so vivid I can taste it now: Grandpa's fries, still hot from the oil, almost sweet,
crunchy with too much salt, t
prismmagazine.ca Claire Kelly
YELLOW WART
Amanita flavoconia
It's your colouring,
no one's hungry enough to try.
You could be deadly. A teen phenom
in a rusted rattletrap. Go fast enough
and you're a solid blur of rickety
undetpinnings.
Ot you may be delectable.
Sauteed or stuffed. Paired with tomatoes.
Or drizzled with a balsamic reduction.
Tasting of the petfect earth.
Chrome yellow dappled on orange.
Arresting lack of pattern, but somehow
all's cohesive.
Until nature goes soft.
Rain stripping you smooth.
A cat's eye beacon,
a reflector in the undergrowth.
PRISM  51:2 JACK-O'-LANTERN
Omphalotus olearius
Crowd of charlatans. Orange
doppelgangers clinging to oak-root.
Dreaming the lives of chanterelles:
froth of golden silk and chiffon,
shuffle-step around the stage, shellacked bee-
hived manes, lips mouthing edible harmony.
Gut rot, but so pleasant to look at. Anyone could
be hoodwinked a second time, lured by scent.
Bring one with you in the datk,
watch its gills glow.
prismmagazine.ca Jennifer Manuel
URCHIN
J_/vetywhete thete are bicycles and sea urchins. Small children, soaked from
swimming, wrap themselves around my legs and arms. Scuttling alongside me,
they move wherever I move. Suckerfish on a white whale. The adults sit along the
low sides of the dock beside the briny fragrance of the sea urchins, some of which
are in buckets, some dumped on the dock into spiky hills of purple and red.
These adults, whose fat cheeks are slicked with a glossy sheen, look at me and
laugh. Toothless for the most pan. Empty chambers of cracked urchins surround
their feet. All of them fist sticks and screwdrivers except for two women who
smoke.
When the woman from the white house approaches, the children unstick
themselves from me and scattet. Without explanation, she ties a bracelet around
my wrist. It is made with putple and red string, braided. The type of bracelet
children give one another in friendship. She stands too close, the smell of her
stagnant breath like the mud of low tide. Her fingernails are thick and yellow
and rimmed with dirt and dried-up mucous.
They voted to send my husband away from the village, she tells me. She
squints sidelong at the other adults.
I know, I say. You've told me already.
He's not allowed to come back, she says, and he's not allowed to talk to little
Violet so you tell me if she says anything about him at school. Sometimes he
sends Violet presents but she's not allowed to keep them so you tell me if she has
something fancy new. Also, Violet lies and she steals things. But she's supposed
to talk to her teddy beat; if she talks to her teddy bear, she won't lie and steal.
I want to say: Now that you mention it, there's a calculator, two magnifying
glasses, a box of chalk and a brand new skipping rope missing from the classroom.
Plus my pair of sandals with the fake gemstones.
But there is het slack, vacant face. And there is how, like a child, she dresses:
shirt buttons mismatched, one pant leg caught inside the top of her sock, a
dribble of lunch on her breast. So, I nod. And I smile. And I creep backward
until a blood-red urchin ruptures under my shoe.
From the big window at the top of the white house, a voice calls out. It is the
woman's mother, Violet's grandmother, who sits there at that window all day and
watches the boats and counts the catches. Have you heard, she asks me, about
the man whose skin turned into tree bark?
No, I yell.
On the floor below the gtandmother there is a smaller window. It lets a
narrow tube of light into the basement where Violet sleeps on a matttess with
her mother and het teddy bear, between greasy fishing nets and orange buoys.
PRISM  51:2 Every night Violet lies awake there in the dark, while her mother snores, and
worries the Basket Lady will steal her away.
I should probably tell you sometime, the grandmother says, and laughs.
Violet's mother twists the bottom of her shirt into a long cotton auger, her
eyes cast downward. She grumbles and scurries back to the house.
Children return to encircle me, bouncing and squealing, holding urchins
out.
Eat it eat it eat it eat it eat it eat it eat it eat it eat it.
Standing the closest is Violet. She is a twelve-yeat-old copy of her mother,
put togethet with the same odd mixture of large bulging fish eyes, greasy strands
of black hair, tender red swollen gums and woolly yellow teeth, cavernous
nostrils encrusted with tings of green snot. Unsmiling, tongue gaping, she comes
upon you like a wall-eyed spectre and enters the small orbit of your face without
warning. Evety two weeks a counsellor flies into the village on the mail plane
from Gold River to teach Violet how to talk to her teddy beat and how to keep
personal boundaries. The lessons learned never last more than a day or two.
There is an urchin in Violet's hand, and it is cracked wide open. The insides
are a swirl of liquid and black organs, specks of seaweed, gritty bits of sand.
Without draining any of this, she pries her meaty lips into the hole and tilts her
head back. I watch, repelled, as she sucks at it all. The noise is desperate, like air
gobbled in suffocation. Excretions of something gelatinous spurt out the sides
and onto her cheeks. With her finger, she scrapes the gonads at the bottom of
the shell and slips them into her mouth. She drags the back of her hand across
her face and, aftet wiping the slime onto her shorts, tosses the hollow globe into
the ocean where it floats above a submerged bicycle and dozens of coffee filters
that bob below the surface like paper jellyfish.
A boy, hopping from foot to foot, drops a purple urchin into my left hand.
Salt water trickles into the creases of my palm. My skin prickles.
Are the spines poisonous, I ask.
Several adults crinkle their noses, No.
We offer you that tucip to thank you for reaching our children, says the
woman with cheeks like rye bread. She giggles, and her shoulders lift up to her
ears.
So you got to eat some because it's a gift, Teacher, says another giggling
woman.
When I moved here last month, atriving by boat with five Rubbermaid totes,
a set of rain gear and no roads to make any retteat, I learned that there is no
word for welcome in Nuu-chah-nulth. It's shown by giving food. And when it is
offered, you must accept. Since then I have come down the hill from my house
across from the school to accept rock stickers, chitons, geoducks, gooseneck
barnacles and one fish eyeball. But those things had been cooked. They had been
cleaned. And they had not been pulsing with dark viscera.
Around me, more people from the village start coming and going, taking
away their share of urchins or staying a moment to eat them right there. Some of
the children stand and watch me, waiting, while others sit, making heart-shaped
prints of theit wet bums on the cement dock. Armies of dogs saunter among the
prismmagazine.ca 9 bicycles. An elderly man is seated in his boat, and from time to time he looks at
me with anticipation. Now and then, from the other side of the dock, I can hear
teasing voices and then something encoutaging and then a torrent of laughter.
Violet pulls back her lip like a horse, and she laughs too.
You're real scared, Teacher!
Am I really, Violet?
On Violet's back is the knapsack she carries everywhere. It's filled with
surprises, mostly stolen. Candy, fridge magnets, braided bracelets, tarnished
rings, batteries, beads, broken cigarettes. She gives these surprises away as gifts to
othet children, to relatives, to strangers who fly here to catch a big fish. Tokens to
obligate reciprocity, to delay inevitable rejection, to coerce love. I wonder about
the calculator, the magnifying glasses, the box of chalk, the skipping rope. Are
they inside that sack now?
Then I notice her feet. And she notices me noticing.
We both look at the sandals, two sizes past her dirty toenails. Teal stones
set on the leather straps. Sure, I could demand them back. But there would be
pouts and undulating whines and inconsolable crying. The usual tactics. Sobs
so hard the drool suspends from her lips and snot bubbles from her nose. She
would then scream that it's het gtandmother's fault—She's so mean to me!—and
I would find my sandals one day washed ashore or up in a cedar tree.
If I eat this urchin, I say, I get those nice sandals.
Strands of gummy spit stretch at the corners of Violet's mouth.
Jeez, Teacher! she says, but then raises her eyebrows, Yes.
Yesterday afternoon two Elders visited out classroom to tell the story of the
Basket Lady and Mucous Boy. Wool blankets draped their brittle legs, even
though the day was watm. All the children gathered at their feet except Violet,
who sat at the far edge of the rug, a frog of a girl, squatting on her haunches,
sticking her tongue out at whatevet moved past.
Old Mary, the Che:k:tles7et'h' woman who runs a candy store from her
house in the village, passed a basket of fry bread to the children. Good lessons,
she said, always happen over food. As you take in the food, you take in the
lesson. You digest what you've learned. It becomes a part of you.
Nan Lily, who lives somewhere up the coast in a hut of driftwood and torn-
up tarp, reminded the children about the Basket Lady. How big and fat she is, as
tall as anything, and real ugly too, covered with hair from her head to her yellow-
nailed toes. How she steals children who are bad, rubs chewing gum over their
eyes and tosses them into the woven cage she carries on her back. Barefooted, she
thumps around the rainforest behind the reserve with naughty children, blind
and forgotten, wriggling around inside her cedar basket, their limbs in knots.
Tangled like a nest of snakes.
The children clutched theit fty bread like squitrels, nibbling tiny bites
during the long silences. Sometimes Nan Lily paused so long between sentences
I wondered if she was in fact taking a brief nap. During these spells Violet came
to my desk.
10 PRISM  51:2 The fitst time she said: Nan Lily keeps glaring at me.
I don't think that's true, I said. Why would she do that?
Because she thinks the Basket Lady should get me, she said.
The next time she said: I hate the part about Mucous Boy. I don't want to
hear it.
Why not? I asked. It's just a story.
It's not just a story. It happened for real.
The third time she said: I have to use the washroom.
I don't know, I said. Just a minute.
I looked out the window beside the classroom door. Through it I could
see a circle of orange construction paper taped to the window of the primary
classroom across the hallway.
A secret signal from the other teacher, which meant one of the younger
children was already in the washroom. Violet was not allowed to be alone with
younger children.
No, I said. Not right now. Maybe later.
Jeez, Teacher! Violet said and stomped her foot. Maybe I'll have to pee right
here and maybe it'll go all over your stupid sandals!
She flung herself back down onto the carpet.
One time, said Nan Lily, the Basket Lady stole a boy. His mother loved him
very much and she could not ever forget him even though he had been very,
very bad. Every day the mother sat on the shore and prayed to the Creator and
cried. She cried so hard that snot came out of her nose: first as a trickle, then as
a bubble and finally as a thick strand. The snot fell to the ground. The mother
thought nothing of it. But soon she saw a face in the snot. The snot grew into a
boy, a boy made from mucous. And the mother was not sad anymore. Chuu, she
said to the children, which meant simply: done.
Klecko, klecko, said the children. Thank you, thank you.
Later that afternoon, the class went to the library to write their own narratives
on the computers. The school library is in a portable across the field, which was
damp with drizzle that day, so I changed into my rubber boots. Violet stayed
behind with a teacher's assistant to finish her writing at her desk. She was not
allowed to use the school computers because the week before, the same week her
father had sent het a new television, I caught het searching the Internet for sexxi
boobs koks vajinah. The counsellor had flown in on a chartered flight to help.
When I returned at the end of the afternoon, the bell had tung to dismiss
the students. All the children were gone. Violet and my sandals wete also gone.
I found her composition assignment on her desk:
i do stuf for my gramma, i got her cofee and i rob her feet, i am reel
stoopid. and i am durty. my dad sez so. and my gramma sez so. i shud
wip my bum mor. i shud wip my nos mor. it is allways snotty, like
moocus boi. gramma luvs me lots too lik the mom of moocus boi. i no
becuz gramma give me nu sandells. they got bloo roks on the top. thank
you gramma, the end.
prismmagazine.ca 11 The urchin's spines, which protect the creature from predators, are hard and
yet btittle. A few snap off as I plunge the screwdriver into the urchin, prying
it into the mouth, breaking the small circle of five teeth. Around and around
I work the screwdriver until there is a hole the size of an egg yolk. At the sight
of those membtanes and digested waste, ovaries and other organs, I feel myself
faltering. What can I do now but go on? Everybody watches and waits for me.
Violet holds her hand in front of her face like a wall so that nobody can see she
picks het nose. She chips away at that encrusted ring around the edges of her
nosttils. It is something she often does whenever she feels anxious or guilty, and
she thinks the small wall of her hand keeps it secret. But evetybody can plainly
see what she is doing, can see her hand swiveling during the excavation, can see
when she occasionally pokes the tip of her finger into her mouth. Yet we pretend
it is otherwise and we turn our eyes away.
Suddenly I am spilling over with urgency: a strong need to end Violet's
tension. Is it pity? Mercy? I rim my lips around the hole and pour the salty
liquid and its slippety contents into my mouth. It splashes against the roof of
my mouth and I force it down. My eyes water. There is a tightening at the back
of my throat. My face contorts with retching. The hopping boy points at the roe
still inside the shell, shaped like orange tongues, and tells me I'm supposed to
eat those. When I try to scrape them out, the boy sighs, tells me I'm going to rip
them doing it like that, and pulls them out for me.
You have to be real gentle, the boy says as I swallow. He hurls the shell away.
There is laughter, some applause from the adults and then mote laughter.
The woman with cheeks like rye bread says, You weren't supposed to eat the
whole thing.
I wasn't?
No, she says, screwing up her nose. Just the roe. And maybe sip some of the
salty liquid. But not all that other gunk. That stuff is real icky.
Violet is walking away already. She crosses the grass to the door of the white
house. She is barefooted. From the window above, her grandmothet scolds her,
tells het she is dirty and that she should clean herself sometime. Although my
stomach is unsettled and there are gritty bits still caught in the pockets of my
cheeks, I pick two urchins from the pile to take to the white house to share with
the grandmothet. I'll ask her to tell me about the man whose skin turned into
tree bark. Good lessons, I recall as I pick up my sandals, always happen over
food. As you take in the food, you take in the lesson. You digest what you've
learned. It becomes a part of you. I
12 PRISM  51:2 Rhona McAdam
ARISTOTLE'S LANTERN
In reality the mouth-apparatus of the urchin is continuous from one end to the
other, but to outward appearances it is not so, but looks like a horn lantern with the
panes of horn left out.
— Aristotle, Historia Animalium
Who named you urchin? No imp
with that devil mouth: pentangle in a spiny orb.
Five teeth and a tongue and
fifteen hundred breathing-atms.
Five hundred million days asleep in stone bedrooms
you scoured from the ocean's flank with unstoppable teeth.
Five hundred million nights toaming the food beds
with your dark lanterns.
Lover of fives, the untouchable number.
Untouchable in your cloud of spines.
In clouds of your fellows you cleave the stems of sea-forests,
kiss stone into sand, bring bridges to theit knees.
Your teeth grow into their blades. Nothing
can dull them, gaining edge from inquiry.
You embrace the dark in your brittle centre.
You are the eye, every cell shrinking from light.
Your barbs bristle towards danger, bury a poisoned cusp
in your enemies. Regrow lost splinters.
You cast yout children out into the sea.
They grow into arrows: two arms and a mouth
and five terrible teeth
strong enough to eat you.
prismmagazine.ca 13 CULATELLO
In 1881, Parmesan poet Giuseppe Callegari named culatello as one of the foods
that would be served in Paradise.
On the flatlands beside the Po
black pigs graze beneath the slender trees,
growing fattet than the land.
A good life, well-lived
they say, shepherding you
to the end of it,
and into the next.
Shorn of your bones
you are bathed in wine,
massaged with salt
and rested.
When you next appear,
little bottom in your string vest,
it's hanging in cellars
by your hundreds,
meaty pears, pendulous
in a darkened orchard.
Po breezes wrap you in flora,
their bloom between the threads
a soft grey down
to blanket you.
You dwindle
through the summer heat
and winter mists, meditating
on wine and spice until
for that last meal you ate shaved
thin as tissue, stained glass
against the light,
a wafer of flesh melting
upon a grateful tongue, becoming,
in some long tomorrow,
other flesh.
14 PRISM  51:2 THE YEAR OF FOOD
It was a year of walking around food,
of narrowing in on microbial detail, or out
to topogtaphy. There were grains,
fruits, mountains, oceans
and gtass. Buckets of food,
handfuls of food, a few grams of food shaved
from a nugget. Living food,
old food hung from a roof-beam,
lit by a cellar window. Soft food,
food with crystals or black stones
at the core. Food that bled,
wept, shrank in the service
of its history. Food the colour of salt
or set adrift in brine, or bathed dry
in salt and left on a shelf to cure.
Food on paper, in pictures. The sound
of food being made, the memory
of food lost with its makers, food introduced
by misadventure, or war, or
intermarriage. Food as I had not known it,
food not made at high speeds by machines
for neatness of handling or ease
of consumption, not extruded in tubes
or formed into slabs. This was food
for praise, for poerry, for eating,
each piece different, difficult, odd
or uneven, misshapen,
of nonstandard colouring. Food with family
scandal or conquest in its crumb.
Food to dwell on
for one
hungry-minded
year.
prismmagazine.ca 15 A mela Marin
NETTLES
"XT
IN o!" I threw myself forward to grab hold of the super's arm but it was too
late. He was holding the plant, roots and all, victoriously, although his expression
changed as I tried to stop him.
I had come to get the keys to my new apartment. The super was giving me
a tour, because the fitst time I had come to see it, I was so eager to lease it that
I only looked at the kitchen, my favourite room. The tout had revealed the
apartment as having exactly what I needed; it was quiet, surrounded by the
lush greenery of parks, picturesque trails for taking up running, and, somewhat
mitaculously, still within my budget. In addition to the kitchen, which met my
standards, it had a large bedroom for me that opened up to the porch, as well as
one for my son, with whom I was sharing the apartment.
As soon as the super had opened the door to the porch, I spotted them: three
stalks growing proudly from a flower box. My heart started pounding as though
I had seen a former lover across the room.
On hikes and at farmers' markets I had sought out nettles, hoping to find
them fresh and pale-green. I wanted to touch their soft leaves with those tiny
stinging hairs, just as I had when nettles and I first became friends, some 15 years
before. Perhaps I hadn't really looked very hard, hoping in secret for a dramatic
reunion such as this.
Thinking that the colout of my face reflected some sort of nettle trauma,
the super had moved quickly, nipping the stalk of one of my precious friends.
Luckily, I was able to stop him at one. Two stalks remained, aiming skyward.
"I like nettles," I said, trying to sound casual. It was a very odd sort of
kismet that had brought me to this beautiful and bright apartment, where I was
intending to write about the war, to find nettles growing on my porch. They had
been an essential part of my war diet. Here was my chance to thank them, or pay
tribute after so many years.
It had taken me almost a decade to publish my first article about the war. I
began with food, which had been a source of pain when there was none, and a
source of comfort and joy when we had enough to eat and share with friends.
Now I was ready to tell a longer story.
I had worked as an arts administrator ever since I moved to Canada, the
same job I had done before immigrating. In order to write the book that felt ripe
to me, I decided to quit my job as the executive director of a national association
and write full-time.
"You like nettles?" the super asked. "Have you ever eaten them?"
"I have, a few times," I responded. I didn't want to go into the war story.
I could see he was excited to have come across a fellow nettle-eater. For Europeans,
it is a clear sign of poverty. Or quirkiness.
16 PRISM  51:2 "I didn't like them," he added. "We were poor, so my mother would make
them very often, with onions and potatoes."
Onions and potatoes! If only I had had onions and potatoes to make the
soup with, instead of white rice, a regular staple in humanitarian aid. The rice
we received during the war was so small and cracked that it looked like some
remnant of an ancient civilization. In fact, I had heard that some of the food
distributed by the United Nations dated back to the Vietnam War.
"Where are you from?" I asked him.
"From Romania."
"Oh? Where in Romania?"
What if he is a relative of Herta Miiller's? I was in the middle of reading her
novella The Passport, which featured a small village in Romania where she had
been born. It was just announced that she won a Nobel Prize in Literature. My
imagination travelled at the speed of light. The nettles were just an omen: I was
bound to get a Nobel Prize for the book that I was going to write here in this
nettle-blessed apartment.
Of course, I couldn't remember the name of the village she had come from,
so when he answered, I didn't hear what he said. That is, I didn't even listen,
seatching my memoty in vain, while at the same time writing my acceptance
speech and mentioning this fated encounter with only nettles as witnesses.
I don't even remember if I said goodbye as I was leaving, nodding while he talked
and, at the same time, listing to myself people to thank and dividing the prize
money.
Like many people who don't believe in higher powers, I develop little superstitions
to get me thtough when times are tough. During the wat, it was my friends' love
that carried me thtough the streets, among millions of sniper bullets and shells
that fell on the city daily. My favourite writers would magically protect me in
bed if I strained my eyes in candlelight and reread beloved books, struggling to
understand humanity through their words and thus give some order to the chaos
around me. I even tried translating all the military terms and all the words for
violence into English, thinking that these words might somehow be easier to
undetstand in another language, might somehow become harmless, like bombs
dismantled in translation.
The war I am referring to, my war, was in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Until the war I
had been living a charmed life with my family and friends. The war took us by
surprise. It wasn't so much shocking as unbelievable; disbelief somehow softened
the blows. But reality soon sank in when my two-year-old nephew was wounded
in the first month of the wat, a bullet exploding in his btain. When a friend was
killed walking back from work, just after we had parted, and then more friends.
The world I had known disappeared and was replaced by a new reality I soon had
to become accustomed to.
This realm I stepped into and dwelt in for three years was entirely new,
entirely disorienting. Living in a city under siege meant living with no electricity
and water, with meagre food supplies and under constant danget of being killed.
In the first year of the war, apart from bread rations (250 grams a day per person)
prismmagazine.ca 17 and United Nations packages of dried basic foods (flour, beans and rice, with
some variations), you could get very few things at the matket. Nothing green.
Since the front lines were right at the edge of the city, the local gardens and
orchards were not accessible. What you could get were gtapevine leaves from
porches and backyards, which served a double purpose since they could be eaten
or smoked, depending on one's priorities.
And nettles. War was good to nettles. They finally had a chance to spread
in unplanted gatdens, usually on or close to the front lines, by abandoned
roadsides, in parks that doubled as cemeteties. No wonder then that they have
been used for centuries both as food, as medicine and as fibre to make fabric.
"Do you like it?" I asked my foreign guests, mostly journalists who were
reporting from Sarajevo, some of whom became part of our war family, serving
them up bowls of precious nettle soup. I don't think I looked them in the eyes
when I asked; I preferred to allow them to lie about how delicious it was. After
all, my Sarajevan friends loved it. A soup with something green in it! We licked
our plates and wanted more, which we got the next day, and the next, and the
next, and the next day after that. We ate nettles throughout the year, having dried
the tare plant for the winter. I've read somewhere that nettles were widespread
on wasteland and on distressed soil. The explanation is literal, but it fits the
metaphorical wasteland and distress I remember from that time.
A decade after the war, I read an account by an American writer I knew
who came to the besieged city a few times. He had interviewed my family for
the book he was writing, and in it he described the nettle soup we shared with
him as tasteless. I remember being terribly hurt by his words. Even though I
knew very well he was right. We were the happiest when we could add spices to
the nettle dish, especially when it was made of older leaves, which have a very
specific, sharp, asttingent smell. But admitting something like that in the midst
of war to ourselves would have felt like a defeat. Tasteless, smelly soup, when it
is the only thing you can eat and give to yout hungry children, becomes a dish
fit for royalty. In a novel by one of my beloved writers Danilo Kis, which takes
place duting WWII, a father tells his son a story about how nettles ate eaten by
princes to petsuade him how special he is. I retold that story to my children. I
told them they were privileged to eat a delicacy served only in royal courts. Or
how nettle pie was infinitely better than spinach pie. And they believed me. We
all believed.
There I stood, on my new porch in Canada, touching the jagged, neatly
paired nettle leaves, caressing theit feathery stings. Touched the right way, the
thorns are hardly noticeable. If you pass beyond the point of fear of being stung,
they let you into their rich world. I used to tell my friends that I was healthy
because of all the nettles I ate during the war. They clean the blood like no other
plant. And that I was fearless thanks to them. (I allow myself slight exaggeration
here and there). After all, the nettle plant was sacred to Thor, the hammer-
wielding god from Norse mythology who wore it to banish fear in the presence
of danger. With the nettles near, I was ready to write about the war. Anything
could happen now. If a war were to start the next day, I'd be fine. Fine with three
(now two) nettle stems growing in the flower box.
18 PRISM  51:2 And so rhat fall I began a new life in my new apartment. My book was progressing,
mostly in my head; I was making notes and some really bad drawings and
watching my third nettle stem recover from the super's attack. I staffed running
in preparation for my first 1 OK the following spring, a run that benefits children
with cancer. My nettle friends disappeared with the first signs of wintet.
In January, I got the news: a Toronto publisher was interested in my book,
what was now to be a novella if I could finish it in six months.
In January I also learned that I had breast cancer. The stage and prognosis
were not known until two months later, after the surgery.
In my mind both pieces of news came at the same time. It was simply easier
to remember the two moments—of joy and soirow—merged.
"Grasp the nettle," the saying goes. It is what I had to do, with the war,
and now again with cancer. I embarked on a voyage that felt like a long dark
tunnel, where I had to find light within to move forward. The book became the
light. As in math, two negatives were going to produce a positive. The war that
I was going to speak of and the cancer treatment that was ahead became closely
connected. The thtead I saw was woven from nettles.
Creating a new diet around a cancer treatment from the bounty available to
me in Canada was a much easier task than inventing dishes from sparse wartime
rations. Besides, I didn't have two hungry children to feed anymore. In spring,
when my treatment started, I happily discovered that my nettles were back,
this time much bolder, not the two lonely stalks anymore, but three vibrant
plants spreading throughout the flower boxes. Even though I had a variety of
green vegetables at my disposal, I chose to cook with nettles: soup and pie to
share with friends. This time, the dishes were delicious—truly so, not just in my
imagination—infused with life, with memories of survival.
In early spring, as I was about to start chemotherapy, the super showed up
at my door. In his arms was a large bag of nettles. A month or so before he
had tried to persuade me that chemotherapy wouldn't make me healthy. He
had mentioned me to his mother (I assume telling her how he met someone
who ate nettles) and she told him that a neighbour in Romania, who had been
diagnosed with cancer, ate only grapes for a month. The turnout had disappeared
miraculously. I had thanked him for his kindness. I had told him I preferred to
try chemo first and resort to grapes later (or mushrooms or popcorn or any other
foods that well-meaning people recommended as a cure of cancer).
"I'll stick to nettles," I had joked.  So he decided to help me.
"This will make you healthy again." He had picked them for me at his
friends' farm, a few hours from Toronto. It seemed to me that he had planned
the ttip to coincide with the nettles growing big enough to be picked. But he
wouldn't admit it when I asked. He said that he just happened to notice them
and happened to remember I liked nettles.
It might be an acquired taste to eat nettles. I trust that they did make me
healthy again.
There is a twin to my super's bag of nettles. During the war, a soldier who
had been a waiter in a restaurant on our street would show up at our door with
treats for children—cherries or apples he had picked on the front lines. It was
prismmagazine.ca 19 the only fruit they saw in a long time. His family had left the country and he was
missing his nieces and nephews, so he befriended my children. Once he brought
a huge bag full of nettles, the most precious gift in the second year of war,
when even nettles were hard to get. We had to dry them because they don't last
long—a day ot two, even if refrigerated, a luxury we didn't have, living without
electricity. Our apartment turned into a meadow of nettles spread everywhere
on old newspapers. To thank him, we threw him a birthday party. He cried and
promised he'd be back with more. But we never saw him again; he was killed in
action soon after.
The treatment and the book were completed almost simultaneously. The book
had become an anchor to my life, especially in the first months, when the outcome
of my treatment was uncertain. I met almost all my deadlines and finished the
book on time. Working on my first book in a life-and-death situation, I was no
longer afraid that the book wouldn't be a masterpiece. I decided that it had to be
the best book I could come up with there and then. By the time I found out that
my cancer was stage one and caught on time, I had finished most of the writing.
People usually bring their friends and family to hold their hands in the chemo
room. I brought my manuscript and my iPod. For a few hours, while I received
the drugs intravenously, I listened to my favourite music and cut the text. It felt
like the best place to decide what was important and should stay in the book,
some sort of imperfect child born to father war and mother cancer.
I was still bald when I got the first copy of my book, having just finished
tadiation therapy. By the time of the launch I had very short hair, which looked
almost like stinging nettle hairs, upright and prickly, growing on "disturbed
ground" that was my body in abundance.
Another winrer passed, and in early summer I decided it was time to leave that
apartment. The home had served its purpose. As I was packing, I thought about
what to do with the nettles, whose stems were just beginning to show in the
flower box. In the end, I decided to give one plant to each of two friends who
were fellow nettle-lovers, having lived through the war themselves. Perhaps I
thought that by doing this, I would find the nettles easily if I needed them again.
I left alone one stem.
My friends told me that their nettles withered and died within a week. I
don't know what happened to the third one. But I hope it disappeared too, that
the people who moved in didn't and wouldn't need it.
This past spring, I saw nettles at the farmers' market, but only once. I thought
I'd engage the woman selling them in conversation, ask het if she liked nettles
and tell her my stoty. I thought I'd buy some, invite friends for dinner and make
a pie. I approached her and smiled. She smiled back, ready to tell me about the
benefits of nettles. At the last minute, I changed my mind. I turned towards the
farmer standing beside her and reached for the spinach, f
20 PRISM  51:2 Evelyn Lau
BURNS
I don't remember the injury.
The pot of roiling water knocked off
the element, the cascade of scorching drops
splashing slow-motion through the frozen air.
I didn't see her there, she'd say afterwards,
again and again, her face abashed
and lit with love. I imagine het horror
when it happened, the sound of het shriek,
the rush to embrace and inspect for damage.
The avalanche of her relief
when I stood there, whole, spotted
like a leopatd but unharmed, too surprised
to wail. The pain, what there was
of it, too foreign for my soft, still-forming
mind to grasp. Probably it had been my fault—
lurking around her legs in the kitchen
like a neighbourhood cat, rubbing up
against her good smell of talcum powdet
and rhubarb pie. I remember the afterwards,
how she handled me with such care
for days. As though I was newborn
again, unbroken by the rough passage.
Almost reverent in my presence, her slim
pale hands rubbing ointment in circles
onto my body like a blessing.
A decade later, her own arms would be scarred
with burns like a chef's, from the hours
of angry labour in the kitchen—
the slamming of hot wok onto the stove,
the splash-back of spitting corn oil.
Spoons and knives hurled into the sink,
cutting board slapped onto the counter.
A cacophony of pots and pans yanked
from cupboards, the crackle of sizzling
stir-fry like flames in hell—
beneath it all the ballad of het frustrations,
a spoken-word diatribe accompanied
by kitchen implements.
prismmagazine.ca 21 ALARM
The baby's been kidnapped.
It's not my fault! I scream into the wind
as I run, lugging backpack and diaty
past the Korean convenience stores
and Vancouver Specials of my childhood.
The sky the colours of a Ming vase,
goldfish swimming in milk.
But of course it was—
I'd been sneak-eating again,
stealing out to the Supet-Valu
for a brick of ice cream and day-old Danish
when the baby needed to be watched,
tended. Was she the sister?
The mothet? The endless, intrusive self
psychologists say show up in every dream?
Then the fire alarm went off. 2:45am,
red-hot and watbling, ululating
through the building. Doors slamming
along the hall, toilets flushing, fire truck
careening down ashen city streets.
Nervous laughtet from the townhouse gardens.
But we'd drown before we roasted—
sprinkler heads like little guardian angels
hovering over us every few feet.
I'm still dressing, moving underwater
slow, when it all dies down—
the alatm sparking in short butsts, fizzing
into uneasy silence. Bird-shaped shadows
on the wall. I've grown too old
for emergencies, real or imagined,
external or self-wrought. Who knew
there'd come a day when the face
in the mirror, the passport photo,
would be this one? In a few hours,
the alatm's miniature twin will blare
the morning news from the bedside table.
22 PRISM  51:2 SOMETHING HAPPENED
Chinatown. Stacks of oranges for sale,
globes of citrus fruit heaped into a gold mountain,
gleaming in the midday sun. My parents jockeying
for position amid the chaos of batgain-seekers,
the slap and jostle of elbows and shopping bags—
snatching produce from this mound of plenitude,
a flood of fruit for pennies a pound.
The wonder of living in a land
like Canada, where there was so much food
you could let it go to waste—
toss out a mouldy bean or wilted lettuce,
scrape into the garbage the last cold grains
of rice from your bowl. My father had driven miles
out of the way for this sale and he was smiling
with relief, blinking the petpetual haze
of wo try from his eyes—
yes, here even the unemployed could eat,
there would be no digging through the ditt
for roots and worms. My mother's hands darted
through the pile, squeezing, juggling,
hefting an orb to her face for a sniff
of distant Florida sunshine, yards of citrus trees
where fruit nestled among the shiny leaves
like gems. Her fingertips read the Braille
of dimples and soft spots like fontanelles
in the rind, searching for signs of rot—
dots of green and white blight,
the sunken squish of a btuise
that meant spoiled flesh.
I hovered on the edge of the crowd,
the shrivelled po-pos who had known starvation
shoving me aside on theit way in. Bored,
embarrassed as any ten-year-old by this display
of need, yearning to go home to Gone With the Wind-
I fantasized myself a budding Scarlett O'Hara
in the skirt of stiff fabric I was wearing
for the first time that day,
powdet blue, with the sheen and slipperiness
prismmagazine.ca 23 of polyester. I was jiggling
with impatience, pent up life.
That's when the man came around the comer.
A burnt gargoyle of a face,
drunk at noon, a bum from nearby skid row—
his first gtab was sly, furtive,
but when I stood mute and motionless
as someone playing statue,
his lips stretched in a rictus of pleasure
and he came around again, and again,
circling the block, thrusting his hand
under my skirt while a few feet away
my parents picked oranges. Was that all?
A sale on oranges in Chinatown,
my father out of work and worried,
a man's grimy hand between my legs. How proud
and grown-up I felt in this hold of silence,
guarding my parents' little kingdom,
keeping them safe in the discount supermarket.
24 PRISM  51:2 Alisa Gordaneer
MARKET/PLACE
Market
Eastern Market stalls loaded with Satutday morning ghosts: I crave berries
and lettuce, peppets, cucumbers, candy-red plums, tomatoes (bushels
of tomatoes, bushels upon bushels) and the fitst cotn and shouts of
watermelonwatermelonwatermelonwatermelon taste it! But thete are few vendors
in this eatly blizzard. Snow vortexes across the shed's open floors. I buy flaccid
collards, a paper bag of potatoes, a dozen eggs like condensed snowballs. One
item from each vendor. A leek. Maple syrup. A purple turnip, skin withered by
frost. Steam rises from coffee into a spatter of hail. Dinner will be a confused
soup. But pretend abundance, dollars folded into gloves. Today, nobody
shouts. An old man asks for spare change and gets a pale Mexican tomato
instead. He salts it right there. Seeds catch in his beard. A drop of pale juice.
Now that's something, he says.
Place
I drive across the freeway for milk. Park and lock. Slush crusts pavement, the
automatic doors stick halfway. Aisles upon aisles. Cans. Jars. All the food has
become cardboard, metal, glass, plastic. Suggested servings with no content,
no context. Resemblance/remembrance gone. Even the meat, a barnyard
divided. Cows recline on Styrofoam, diapered under cling film. Portioned
representation, mere slices. Ham-pink, steak-red, chicken skin-flaccid. An
iridescent trout, its eyes glazed white. I think of Eat up because the starving
children, and Waste not want not. And You are what you eat. Boxes, cans, jars.
Controlled substances. We consume. On a cereal box, happy children play
basketball. We can't eat children. Or basketballs. What else could be inside? At
least there's milk. Gallons of it, white plastic udders stabled in the cold case.
And still nothing to eat. An old man asks for change and I want it too. He tells
me this: a farm once stood on this site.
prismmagazine.ca 25 EGGPLANT
You've been choosing an eggplant from a cardboard box
beside the market's door, standing for five, ten minutes
mesmerized by thin purple skins, green caps.
Wedged, blocking other shoppets as they pass.
Standing and stooping as though you were kneeling in church
instead of outside Wong's Groceteria in greying half-light.
You'te choosing an eggplant from a cardboard box
in late November, when eggplants are scarce and the dark rises
like bruised skin puffed black. It will open into smoke and seeds.
Small-noted music because someone has told you
baba ghannouj is the food for pampered old fathers.
Your bag is already heavy: tahini, garlic, lemons like toys.
Yet you're still choosing an eggplant. Because you want to dawdle
in this flickering doorway, making the overhead bells chime
as life passes in and out.
You're choosing an eggplant to roast until it collapses
inward, like your father's lungs:
indulgence and indulged, rooted in one.
You want to call forth taste where no taste can be found.
To do one sacred task: spoon that rough paste
into his still opening, hungering mouth.
26 PRISM  51:2 ELIMINATION DIET*
(*a controlled experiment)
what's safe:
rice
apples
water
what's not safe:
asparagus, avocado, artichokes, almonds, bananas, berries, bagels,
beef, blood sausage, bacon, and cinnamon, cardamom, cumin,
cilantro, carrot, coffee, chicory, cannelloni, cannoli, cayenne,
curry, collards, cheese, donuts, deer, daikon, duck, eggplant,
eggs, flour, farina, fennel, farfalle, filberts, goosefat, grease,
grapes, guava, horseradish, ice cream, jalapeno, jicama, kohlrabi,
kale, lemon, lime, lutefisk, marjoram, mace, mushrooms, milk,
nutmeg, noisettes, onions, otanges, octopus, olives, pineapple,
pork, potatoes, peppers, pizza, peanuts, peaches, pears, quince,
rabbit, radish, shrimp, salmon, soursop, turnip, thyme, tamarind,
udon, umeboshi, vanilla, waffles, xanthan, xigua, yams, yogurt,
zucchini, zabaglione.
like breath, moving in. moving out.
like your own mind,
like your own sense.
unanticipated reaction:        all foods become impossible, every bite
risks sullen potential.
what's safe:
the process of elimination
eliminates.
(*an uncontrolled result)
prismmagazine.ca 27 Mark Sampson
GOING SOFT THROUGH LUXURY
And then the phone rings while you're enjoying a few preprandial olives. Or was
it capers? Yes capers, those little green buds that you fish from the brine-filled
jar in the fridge, which squeak when you chew them. You are enjoying a few
preprandial capers in the late afternoon when the phone rings. Nothing wrong
with that. Nothing wrong with capets or olives. This is who you are. Your wife
watches you from her place at the kitchen nook, where she's chopping celery
for the salad. You are stitring the tagout. She watches you move from the stove
out to the living room to answer the phone. Your wife knows you better than
almost anyone. Knows that you love being in your mid-thirties, that you take
disproportionate enjoyment in it. The cardigan, CBC opera, the whiskey with
an "e" before bed. She knows you don't believe the grey hairs in your beard or
the paunch you're getting. Fuck them both, you've told her. / can see middle age
the way Sarah Palin can see Russia. She laughed when you said that. This is who
you are.
You reach for the phone and realize that, no, it is definitely an olive. You're
actually thinking There's nothing wrong with a few preprandial olives when you
shuffle over to the cordless phone. The olive's pit is still in your mouth when you
pick up and say hello. You'll remember that later. You'll remember plucking it
from your mouth, that little spent bullet, and rolling it between your thumb and
finger as the person on the other end delivers the news. You'll remember how the
pit was an off-pink, the colour of pigeons' feet.
You set the phone back in its charger. It lets out a tiny chirp when you do.
You go back into the kitchen. Your wife looks up, sees the news written all
over your face. Sets her knife down.
"Liam?" she asks, and you nod, solemn.
She gets up, the slinky curve of her hip maneuvering around the nook, and
comes over to where you're standing. Pulls you in, puts het arms under yours and
up around your back.
"Poor little guy," she says.
"Poor little guy," you say back.
Except none of this will happen unless you go to university. You can't deny it.
Yes, it all starts with you in first year, sitting on your dorm room bed watching
a girl with short red hair and a rainbow belt flip through yout CD collection
stacked on the window sill. Fact: You are in love with this girl. Deeply, hopelessly,
completely in love with her. This is before you knew what a rainbow belt meant.
The girl is seventeen (was skipped ahead in school) and wants to major in classics.
You listen to the judgmental slap of each CD case. You want to race to your own
defense, say: Look, I was raised by farmers in a shapeless jerkwater! How was
28 PRISM  51:2 I supposed to know Janet Jackson wouldn't amount to much or that Michael
Bolton was just lame?
I need to bring you some real music, Rainbow Belt says. And does. In
hindsight, you would've suspected Van Morrison or Bach. But instead, she
brings Scarlatti. Who the hell listens to Scarlatti? Answer: the two of you, there
on the floot of your first-year dorm room, your backs propped against the bed,
your blue-jeaned thighs touching, the loose end of her rainbow belt, with its
cold metal tip, splayed across the back of your hand. You listen to the piano
music flood your room and think: Who knew fingers could do thati
Rainbow Belt looks at you. Yes?
Fuck yeah, you reply.
Okay. So. Do you make a move? Of course you do. You're 18 and living on
your own for the first time. Sex is just one grimy dorm room bed away. But with
a tenderness you'll appreciate later, Rainbow Belt kiboshes yout advance. I'm
seeing someone, she says, almost sadly. I think you've met het, that time we were
all at the Student Union Building together for poster day.
Oh. Right.
So now you occupy two types of friendship, circles that overlap in a Venn
diagram. In the first, you become Rainbow Belt's good buddy, as dependable as
a sidekick. You're there duting the biggest belly laugh of her life (a flight of fancy,
now forgotten, told in the Day Student Lounge, something about the Muppets
doing Aeschylus); and, more importantly, you'te there to lend a shoulder when
her fathet abandons the family for another woman. You intercept her at a crucial
moment in that despait, invite her up to your dorm room to let her rage about
her dad for hours. You listen intently; you console het. You make her laugh;
you make her weep; you make her laugh while weeping, and she tells you she
treasures you for it. And yet. In that second circle of the Venn diagram, you
spend years watching over the flame-like flicker of her movements—the way
she talks with het hands, the way she bounces between groups, the way she flirts
with both genders—and still fantasize about having her, having her completely.
You accept the fact that this will never happen. The first ttuly adult decision of
your life.
Except. Except let's fast-forward, say, five years. You've graduated, acquired an
entry-level job in your field and moved to the other side of the harbour, where
rents are cheaper. You have a one-bedroom apartment, a George Foreman grill,
a bus pass. Your commute is a ferry ride across the harbour to your city's small
but bustling downtown. During the last two years of school you gained about
thitty pounds and so decide to join a gym. You go Tuesdays and Thutsdays after
work and once on the weekends. You want large lean muscles, the cut look, like
the pro wrestlers you watched on TV as a kid. You'te sutprised at how swiftly
you get into shape. Soon, other changes come. You are matuting. Dramas on TV
don't engage you as much anymote. Neithet do Hollywood movies or episodes
of Friends. You're rereading Douglas Coupland and discovering Philip Roth. You
notice how radio commercials have statted to annoy you—like a dog whistle
prismmagazine.ca 29 you're only now beginning to hear—and so you switch stations, permanently,
to the CBC.
Then one summer evening, the phone rings. It's Rainbow Belt! She's back
in the city after two years abroad. Had switched her major from classics to law
during third year and got to do a really cool exchange program in Ireland. She's
back now, articling at a firm downtown. She's bought herself a tiny condo in one
of those ugly glass buildings that have metastasized along the waterfront. She
relays this fact to you, sheepishly. You wanna come over?
So you come over.
The first words out of her mouth when she gets a good gawk at you are,
"Wow, you look fantastic." And you do. Good pecs and a flat stomach and
all that. She herself has put on weight, but it suits her, makes her vivacious.
She's grown her hair long and dyed it black. She's also acquired an Irish harp
tattoo on her shoulder—you can you see it peeping out from under the strap
of her skimpy green tank top. Rainbow Belt welcomes you in, apologizes for
the size and mess of her condo and offers you a drink. In three minutes flat,
she's introduced you to whiskey with an "e," has educated you on the difference
between it and whisky without an "e."
You sit together on het white Danish couch and set yout drinks on her coffee
table, which is really just a trunk with enormous hinges. She apologizes, again,
for the condo. It'll seem even smaller, she sighs, once Gord moves in. If he can
ever sell his pub in Dublin and immigrate here.
Your eyebrows fly up like loose balloons. Your face goes slack and a thousand
questions pour into your eyes. She understands your confusion instantly, and
wants to set you straight. You will never quite remember whether she spoke
these words aloud or simply implied them through a kind of whiskey-induced
osmosis: Look, don't call what I was a phase, because it wasn't. And don't call it
experimenting, because I wasn't. That was who I was then, and this is who I am now.
Right.
Her nascent heterosexualiry, if it's even nascent, has suddenly made you
uncomfortable. You've become acutely aware of her proximity to you on the
couch. You try talking to her about other stuff—your job (she has no interest),
her family (don't even go there)—but all she wants to talk about is Gord, Gord
Gord Gord. It's so hard, she says, doing the long-distance thing, as if it were
a Celtic dance with elaborate hops and complicated spins. She's scared Gord
won't be able to sell his business and move here. She's scared she's made a terrible
mistake, coming home and buying this condo while still so young and poor.
She's scared, period. She's getting all weepy and maudlin—it's the whiskey with
an "e," probably. And look at you, Mr. Confidence, moving in to comfort her,
putting a hand on her side. You're convinced you wouldn't have the confidence
to do this if you were still flabby and watched Friends. But you do have the
confidence, the strength to be strong. And she reciprocates, puts hands on your
sides, up your back really, to where those new racks of muscle are. She readjusts
her legs on the couch to draw you in.
Okay. So. In this circle of the Venn diagram, you learn that, up close, her
dye job looks awful but is full of fantastic smells. You learn her chest is soft and
30 PRISM  51:2 yours is hard. In this variant on the situation, she takes her time pulling away
from you and then wipes yout saliva off her lips with the back of her hand. The
moment ends with her wide-eyed, a little shocked, and saying, "That can't ever
happen again." But you're not sute she means it. A new circle has been added to
the Venn diagtam. You're unclear where it overlaps, or what it all means.
So back to those olives. You've taken up the habit of a few olives (or capers)
before dinner. Nothing wrong with that. This is who you are. Such indulgences
make you feel like you've arrived, like you've settled into a final, stable version
of yourself. Indeed, you love what your life has become. Your wife is excellent at
being your wife. Your job satisfies you and the fridge is always full of food. You
love your routines—classical music in the morning, jazz in the evening, three
newspapers at Sunday breakfast.
But then you get the call that delivers the news. You can now say for certain
that, yes, you had an olive in your mouth when you shuffled over to answer the
phone. "Shuffle" is a more accurate verb than "waddle." You are heaviet, yes, but
you still go to the gym three days a week. It's hard, mind you—you're not so
much building muscle anymore as sculpting fat—but your wife is encouraging,
doesn't begrudge the hours you spend hoisting weights and grappling with the
elliptical machine. She herself does hot yoga. Who the hell does hot yoga? Lots
of women in the neighbourhood, your wife informs you. And even a few men.
Even a few men go to hot yoga, she informs you. You do not go to hot yoga.
So you answer the phone with your olive pit and your cardigan on and your
extra pounds of weight. The person on the other end who delivers the news is
a friend of Rainbow Belt's. You'll remember how at first you thought she was a
telemarketet—they call so often now—and the rudeness you had at the ready.
You'll feel bad about that. You'll feel bad about the olive in your mouth. And
you'll feel bad when the friend of Rainbow Belt's says, "Somebody's with her
now but she just wanted me to call a bunch of people and ..."
So I'm "a bunch of people"
now
Two minutes later, in your wife's arms, you cannot explain how much that
stranger's words have hurt you. In the circle of the Venn diagram you now
occupy, those feelings must stay unsaid. All you can say is "Poor little Liam" and
all your wife can say is "Poor little Liam." And you'll reach for something then,
in that moment, a sttength you've taken for granted, a hardness you assumed
was always there. You'll need to be strong for your friend. You'll reach for this,
this comforting capacity within a younget you that Rainbow Belt treasured, and
realize it's not there. There is a weakness in its place, a softness that has crept up
on you. You realize you're a man who enjoys a few preprandial olives and has so
few reasons anymore to be strong, to pull off the feat of strength Rainbow Belt
will need from you now.
But hold on a sec. You can't go blaming an olive for your shortcomings. Think
about it. Think about what else might have led to this failure.
There's a different version of you. A version that existed once, perhaps doesn't
anymore. A mid-twenties version of you who quits that entry-level job (who the
prismmagazine.ca 31 hell quits a job?) to go backpacking around Europe. Belgian beers and Prague
spires and all that. You do work a little bit—bus tables in Paris, teach ESL in
Poland—but mostly you just travel. Gain a knowledge and awareness of the
wotld you didn't have before.
You come home after a couple years. Admittedly, you're scared. Who
wouldn't be? You're not sure what's next. But to yout surprise, you get a job tight
away. A different, better job than the one you had before. You can't believe your
luck. You're convinced it's not luck. You congratulate yourself on being talented
enough to get a different, better job.
You reconnect with friends, including Rainbow Belt. Gotd has, finally,
moved to Canada and she's going to marry him. When you meet the guy, you
wonder why. He's nothing like you'd imagined, nothing like what you'd expect
an Irishman to be. He's not funny; he's not a good stotyteller; plus, he's really
short. And apple-cheeked, like a leprechaun. In fact, you will henceforth refer
to him in your mind (but never aloud to her, except for that one time) as That
Apple-Cheeked Little Leprechaun, or TACLL for short.
You also notice that, after TACLL's had a few shots of whiskey with an "e,"
he's sort of mean to her.
Overall, you're unimpressed with TACLL. But Rainbow Belt loves him and
is going to marry him. Besides, she's pregnant. She's going to marry TACLL
because she's pregnant. If it's a girl, they'll name her Cara. If it's a boy, they'll
name him Liam.
You go to their wedding. Keep your mouth shut except for You look so lovely,
thanks for having me and all that. And she does look lovely. Gone is the dye job,
het hair returned to its natural auburn flare; she's lost weight and her wedding
dress is like sculpted frosting around her boobs. (TACLL, for his part, is wearing
a white tuxedo. Who wears a white tuxedo on their wedding day?) You know
you should be staring at Rainbow Belt as this marriage goes down, thinking your
mawkish little thoughts about her, feeling that small, inappropriate ache at the
sight of her being happy with somebody else. But you don't. You don't think that
stuff at all. There's a problem.
The problem is the wedding photographer. You can't stop staring at her.
She's this sporty little thing with curly brown locks and brainy eyewear—the
sexy librarian look, only with a camera. You can't stop watching her, watching
her in action. The way she dips and crouches to get a good angle, the polite but
firm flap of her hand to get people to Move In so she can take her shots. She's so
professional. So jaunty. You can't help yourself. You find yourself chatting her up
all night. She's busy as hell—it is a wedding after all—but she seems receptive to
your advances. You don't know it at the time, but the wedding photographer is
your future wife. After several shots of whiskey with an "e," you find the courage
to ask her out. She says yes despite that stupid grin on your face.
You take your future wife for Ethiopian down on Quinpool {I love Ethiopian!
she exclaims) and everything goes swimmingly. There have been other women in
your life but nothing like this. Your future wife is completely outside the Venn
diagram, ovetlapping with nothing, her own isolated circle, a singular version of
32 PRISM   51:2 herself. You dig that. You dig that a lot. After dinner, you agree to go out again.
And after that, again. It all advances quickly. It's all great.
Of course we'll go. Why wouldn't we go?
It's a question your wife posits as you release each other and retutn respectively
to the ragout and celery. It's a question that looms over your head even after
you've retracted your hesitations with a flippant No, of course. Ofcourse we'll go.
Why wouldn't we go? It's a question that lingers over the next three days,
persisting in the air like a bad smell. It's a question that hangs in your face as
you stand in front of the full-length mirror in your bedroom, getting dressed for
Liam's funeral. The mirror. You don't recognize the man in it. For the first time,
you realize he looks old. Lines in his cheeks turning to jowls, shading under his
eyes the colour of gun barrels and those blasted streaks of grey in his beard. In
this dress shirt, you can see how he's become a medley of hard and soft, of muscle
and fat. Good arms and shoulders but an unmistakable paunch. He looks like
a man who enjoys a few preprandial olives in the late afternoon and a whiskey
with an "e" before bed.
Your wife comes in then, wearing a tasteful black dress, and you turn from
the mirror. She sets her small sequined purse on the bed so she can come tie yout
tie. This after you struggled to get the top button on your dress shirt to close.
You're not sure whether your neck is this thick because you're in shape or because
you're out of shape. At any rate, the button closes and your wife ties your tie,
standing in front of you, forming the knot and tightening it around your neck.
Strangling you like she secretly knows all yout secrets.
The first time you meet Liam is on your wedding day, a little gaffer in short pants
and a tie, a rambunctious three-year-old who charms everyone within a 15-foot
radius. The second time is a year later, when you run into Rainbow Belt at
Costco and she tells you that TACLL has divorced her and returned to Ireland.
You think about these two events and how one may have held clues to the other.
How much did you see, how much did you detect, on the biggest day of your
life? Answer: not much. But who could blame you? At the reception you are a
mingling machine, hopping from guest table to guest table. And so maybe you
don't spot how TACLL exudes a low-grade annoyance at evety adorable thing his
son does. Maybe you don't see how Rainbow Belt—her red hair now chopped
into a bob, her stomach undulant with the weight she's put back on—sits at their
table with her back like a yardstick, het hands folded in her lap.
You are truly shocked, a year latet, when she breaks the news to you over
your oversized shopping carts in Aisle 16 at Costco, her hair long again and Liam
propped on her hip. (His knobby knee jabbed you in the ribs when Rainbow
Belt hugged you, a hug that lasted a bit too long, you thought.) Son of a bitch.
Son. Of. A. Bitch. Really? She nods. He was never happy here, she says, never
comfortable. And he really hated being a dad. You are aghast. You can't believe
there are men who still do this sort of thing. And you roll your mind back to
your wedding day, to see if there were signs, if there were indicators. But if there
were, you didn't notice.
prismmagazine.ca 33 Or maybe you did. Now that you think about it, maybe you did notice,
but you were too caught up in the celebration, the once-in-a-lifetime decadence
you'd waited so long for and felt you eatned. Cake smeated in your beard and
limo waiting outside and all that.
So yout future wife is now your wife.
You decide to become homeowners. It seems like the reasonable thing to
do. At the bank, you sit primly together in the loan manager's office, a united
front of fiscal responsibility. The loan manager is trying to explain the mortgage
rate he's offering you, but you're just not getting it. As you watch your wife nod
appreciatively, you realize then how much smarter she is than you.
Okay wait, you say. This is, like, Prime?
This is almost better than Prime, the loan managet tells you. It's, like, Super
Prime. It's Optimal Prime.
Optimus Prime? you quip, and your wife throws you a withering look.
So the two of you leave the bank with yout Optimus Prime mortgage. The
house you buy is in the west-end suburb of Clayton Park, which is ideal because
your job has recently moved to a building near the Atmdale Rotary and your
commute, according to Google Maps, will only be 5.3 kilometres door-to-door.
You don't realize it at the time, but you will have vittually no reason to ever go
downtown again.
Following the run-in at Costco, you and Rainbow Belt exchange a lot of emails.
She and Liam are moving into a new place, a tiny clapboard house in the north
end of the city. She promises to have you and your wife over for a meal just as
soon as she's settled. It takes a year—renovations and all that. The one weekend
she's free, your wife is not. Your wife has a huge wedding to shoot down in the
Valley; she'll be there overnight. So you go alone. You bring a bottle of wine.
Seems like the polite thing to do.
You find Rainbow Belt's house in a state of delightful chaos: Liam's toys
strewn everywhere, unfolded laundry piled on the couch and the boy running
around like a maniac. When he sees you in his mother's doorway, he halts on the
hardwood, plants both feet and looks up at you with unrestrained charm, even
though he may not remember precisely who you are. You tousle his hair and
hand Rainbow Belt the wine. She hugs you. You notice she's lost weight since
you've seen het last.
The two of you demolish the bottle of wine before she even gets dinner on
the table. Thankfully, she has a second bottle handy to serve with the salmon
steaks and asparagus she's prepared. You watch as Liam dutifully eats everything
on his plate without being told to. You watch as the second bottle of wine comes
and goes.
Soon it's Liam's bedtime. So what will tonight's filibuster be? Rainbow Belt
asks him. But it's only a single glass of watet and two stories. She invites you into
his little-boy bedroom—Power Ranger posters on the walls and a bureau covered
in dinkies—and suggests that you read the stories to him. You demut but she
insists. So the three of you cuddle in together, there on his bed, like a family, and
34 PRISM  51:2 read Doctor Seuss. It feels weird. But also not weird.
Afterwards, the two of you retire to the couch, throwing the laundry into a
nearby chair. When it's clear Liam's down for good, she breaks out the whiskey
with an "e."
Three shots later, you're barely coherent. You try to engage Rainbow Belt
about anything else—the weather, the recent war in Lebanon, your Optimus
Prime mortgage—but she will have none of it. You're back to where so much of
this started, with her talking about Gord, Gord Gord Gord. He's nothing, she
tells you. He's a fucking child support payment. He doesn't even write Liam a
lettet when he sends the bank draft from Dublin. I can't believe my marriage
ended up exactly like my mother's.
Do you say what you're thinking? Of coutse you do. You've had the equivalent
of an entire bottle of wine and three shots of whiskey with an "e." The words just
sort of slip through your teeth before you can stop them. How could you matry
that apple-cheeked little leprechaun? You expect shock, perhaps rage. Perhaps a
slap across the face. It's what you deserve. But instead, she places het forehead on
your chest—the pec muscles there still firm, surprisingly firm, from all the hours
you've spent on them in the gym—and lets out a weepy, frustrated I don't know.
Okay. So. You black out there for a while. The planet totates, it's now 4am,
and you come back to find yourself lying on the edge of Rainbow Belt's queen-
size bed. On, not in. You open your eyes and a grimy dread creeps into your
stomach as you realize where you are. You pat your body frantically. Yes, thank
God—you're fully clothed. You hear Rainbow Belt breathing along the other
side of the bed. You look over. She's there, the covers pulled up to het arm pits,
her back to you. Her shoulders are narrow, her hips wide and forming a tall
mound in the duvet. She's wearing her PJs, thankfully. You scour your brain for
what happened over the last several hours. You don't know. Anything could have
happened. An infinite numbet of possibilities, of circles in the Venn diagram.
But what matters most is what you do right now, the versions of your future
you'll unleash with your actions, actions that could tear down everything you've
built up for yourself, the life you've come to love. One stroke of her red hair
would do it. One comforting caress of her cheek.
You get up. You find yout shoes. You pray you've sobered up enough to drive
home.
On the trip downtown, you and your wife discuss the last thing Rainbow Belt
posted to Facebook before Liam got really sick and she disappeared completely.
It was the simplest of status updates: ... will not cope. It hung on her page like an
admonishment before the condolences started pouting in. I wouldn't cope either,
says your wife, now, turning off North St. and onto Brunswick. I wouldn't. I
don't know how she's doing it.
Will not cope. It spoke of such decisiveness, the closing off of all other
possibilities. And then you think of Liam, forever frozen in his one little circle.
Liam, who got leukemia.
Who the hell's kid gets leukemia?
You haven't spoken to Rainbow Belt since that one night. You couldn't
prismmagazine.ca 35 face the awkwardness. Then, a year later, Liam got sick, and it was even mote
awkwatd to call her. Even in the two yeats during which Liam was diagnosed,
died, you did not call her. You did not call her. Not once. And you're ashamed
of that.
You and yout wife pull into the parking lot of a stone church downtown.
You haven't been downtown in ages, and you're a little ashamed of that, too.
Ashamed of the decadent routines that have kept you in Clayton Patk, that have
softened you, that have tenderized you like meat. Olive by preprandial olive.
You get out of the cat and your wife takes your hand. Let's go be strong for
your friend, she says. The wind picks up as you head into the church. It liberates
a leaf from one of the trees near the door. You watch as the leaf twists and twists
in the ait, making random loops, but never see it touch the ground, t
36 PRISM  51:2 Jane Spavold Tims
BEAKED HAZELNUTS
Corylus cornuta Marsh.
paired hazelnuts hang
husks curve
ttanslucent, lime
they ripen
this year, they are mine
uptight red squirrels agitate, on guatd, we watch
the hazelnuts ripen, slow as cobwebs falling, nut pie
browning through the glass of the stove door
green berries losing yellow, making blue
dust motes in a crook of light
float, small hooked hairs
shine
two more days
hesitate
and ted squirrels
bury their hazelnuts
prismmagazine.ca 37 John Barton
POTTAGE
George A. Walker, Society Pea Soup
Wood engraving, 1987
A time capsule few think not to open at will
The soup can waits on the shelf, its label
Bossed with a gold seal crisp as a flag
The advertised contents our collective unconscious
A reduction to gelatinous brine
We call eloquence, tagged
As intellect preserved before use, language we cut
With water, part diminishing part; to some of us: precious
So many dented cans of it, metaphor in facsimile
Reduced still further at the till
Hunger priced to cheapen each nutrient, appetite cooking up
Unearned cravings for poignancy, pro forma if anxious
What we dish out unfit to hold salt, memoty's shill
Each can a void we cast aside in a recycling bag.
38 PRISM   51:2 Zoey Leigh Peterson
DIVISION DAY
When the country broke up, someone had to clean out the fridge at the national
archive. The task fell to Mitchell, not only because he had the smallest office to
pack up, but because it was his hometown mayor who had started this whole
mess, and the rest of the staff liked to half-pretend that they held Mitchell
responsible. Also it was commonly known he would've volunteered anyway.
After Mitchell drained away the various creamers and condiments, he was
left with untold leftovers in reusable plastic containers, which he investigated for
clues. That's when he noticed. There was one container for each region of the
countty—the former country—and each one provided a murky plastic window
into the cuisine of that area. Or so it seemed to Mitchell. In point of fact, when
the rest of the staff gathered to witness this miracle, nobody was entirely satisfied
with how their own region was represented.
Beet salad is more of a northern thing, said Lome of his leftovers. His wife
was from up north, he explained with some resignation, but if he'd known this
was happening, he would've made comcakes. Mhina, proud northerner, said
that she had never in her damn life eaten a cold beet, and perhaps softlanders
should let people from the north decide what is or is not "a northern thing."
Ruben complained that his coastal creote was lacking its sauce because of the
nut-free policy a certain incomer had imposed on the bteakroom. And Marcia
and Patricia—who'd always shared lunches, and whose rivered city was being
partitioned as they spoke—atgued about white gravy versus brown gravy,
swearing discreetly in their respective languages, which they both understood
perfectly. Even the refrigerator began to whine and strain.
Hana and Lukas were the first to broker a deal. She gave him two leftover
potstickers to put in his container in lieu of doughboys, and he donared his
kasha-loaf to stand in for buckwheat ribbons. Karina and Harlan conspired
to create something like a traditional highland stuffing. Marcus began to gush
about "pinkfish-and-peatips," a heretofore secret delicacy which had been
kept from mainlanders. The breakroom pulsed with sympathies and schemes.
Grandmothers were telephoned. Recipes were exchanged, scribbled on the back
of old money from the coffee fund that nobody had taken to the bank in time to
redeem.
By five o'clock, they had it worked out. The containers were labelled and
placed back in the fridge, geographically, a relief map of plasticwares. Then,
standing back to admire, they noticed a gap in the terrain. There was nothing
from this region, the capital. They couldn't think of what would best represent
their adopted home, this city of tongues. So Mitchell was sent to fetch their
beloved director, the only person in the capital who was actually from the
prismmagazine.ca 39 capital. The director came and peered into the refrigerator. He said, What, you
think someone's going to keep this fridge running? Get your containets and go
home, before the borders close. I
40 PRISM  51:2 Zoe Whillall
SPRING AT 36
What is virtue, anyway? She swallows a melatonin pill at dawn
and climbs into bed; the sun rises without our observation
before we pull the heavy curtains together.
On the kitchen countet a handwritten note reads
1 saved a man from overdosing on heroin tonight
I think we know him from somewhere. Do we know a Matthew?
He has beautiful green eyes. He said thank-you.
I turn the note over and write To-Do. Today my tasks are simple.
Boil the chicken carcass for soup and write a short story.
Make some rice and vegetables to pack in Tupperware
for her second night shift tonight; remember to be lucid,
notice the details, describe the room, respect the reader
cut the carrots so she won't choke; soften the onions
three spoonfuls of peach yogurt in a glass jat
I clutch a rounded mug of coffee while she sleeps,
on either side of fate, destiny and wish. All failed concepts.
What is vittue anyway.
prismmagazine.ca 41 2.
This week a train de-railed
killing three and injuring 60
A ticket collectot at our subway station
was shot in the neck
I woke up tense, as I often do
wondering if I'm in the wrong movie
I am not naturally a tense petson
I wonder if it is my medication for breathing
That makes me this way; if it's my giflfriend
Do I absorb her stress
I would like a coffee, then to quit coffee
To lose three lbs and then eat chips
I contain a multitude of annoying human flaws
And I'm tired of mid-thirties; and I don't want my
friends to die in the ways in which they are
this decade, one after the other in a
senseless tumble
42 PRISM  51:2 Biking in the sun without sleeves
is a miracle, is a salve
Makes the bloodsport of bike lane
ping pong, like a river raft trip in an Ativan haze
Oh sun, you are a fraction of perfection
Even though you're slowly aging me
Certainty sun, I like knowing my friend Lisa
has had the same phone numbet for ten years
It's the only one I have memorized
Besides my 858-2523 my childhood partyline
Today our heads a pirouette of a madman in Norway;
Amy Winehouse dead at 27 from booze.
I have four slices of apple,
a boiled egg; red jam in a
small whire saucer; a circle of pepper and salt
drawn on the plate
I'm trying to write a novel and a film
In this heat; I Used to Love running,
sings a countty voice. The table next to me is
Pregnant, the table to my left breastfeeding
Everyone appears anxious and nobody reads anymore
prismmagazine.ca 43 HOTEL ATLAS
You have a book of translations in Btussels
You have climbed up onto the roof to take photos in Btussels
You have twelve days left of touring in Brussels
You realize your parents never taught you to travel in Brussels
You have an itchy throat and variant paranoia in Brussels
You are in room 426 at the Hotel Atlas in Brussels
You read about YouTube composer Nico Muhly in Brussels
You reproduce only what you understand in Brussels
You are annoyed that writers are considered public intellectuals in Brussels
You go to lunch with a painter and a diplomat in Btussels
You don't know which fork to use in Btussels
You have a gitlfriend you don't feel like fighting with in Brussels
You anesthetize your tonsils with black cherry lozenges in Brussels
You do not correspond with Elizabeth Bishop in Brussels
You have twelve days left of touring in Brussels
You do not know how Asia feels about the book in Brussels
You cannot nap without a slow fade in Brussels
You have stopped short of crying out twice in Brussels
You wish you knew how to buy the drugs that keep you charming in Brussels
You are in room 426 at the Hotel Atlas in Brussels
You wonder about kissing a man with a bruised shoulder in Brussels
You say oiseau with a shy Montreal accent in Brussels
You flirt with the other poet on tour in Brussels
You cannot translate the problems with monogamy in Brussels
You have twelve days left of touring in Brussels
You are happy to comment on that in Btussels
You autograph your own name on the title page with a spelling error in Brussels
You are in room 426 at the Hotel Atlas in Btussels
44 PRISM 51:2 Julia Zarankin
BEAT, PULSE, STIR, MASH
JL host my first dinnet party in Missouri as an end-of-semester gathering for
my Russian language students. They show up to class four mornings a week,
memorize paradigms, endure bingo with irregular verbs, act out skits on a
limited vocabulary, play Simon Says until they mastet the names of most of theit
body parts, learn idiomatic expressions, sing along to Russian songs, declaim
poems, parse contorted sentences. As a reward, I invite them to dinner.
I imagine that my kitchen will be nothing like my mothet's chaotic realm:
last-minute recipe alterations and an adrenaline rush before the guests atrive. My
culinary landscape will be an injury-free place of order, calm and recipes followed
to the line, where crucial ingredients never go missing at the last minute. And
already, I notice myself slipping. As I cook, I engage in a one-sided dialogue with
Mark Bittman, the author of my cookbook, wondering whether it would be
acceptable to add some extra cilantro to the guacamole. Would another egg for
the frittata hurt? A little more cumin in the chickpeas? I had a vision of ending
the meal with carrot cake, but find myself with only a muffin tin an hour before
my students are due. I decide at the last minute that, tonight, carrot cake will
masquerade as muffins.
I tweak the ingredients in the muffin recipe to resemble my mother's carrot
cake. More walnuts and raisins, less sugar, more nutmeg, perhaps an extra egg,
one-to-one with the wheat and white flour ratio, and—why not—a teaspoon of
vanilla. The muffins rise, some of them shaped like the onion domes on Russian
churches from my lectures. Little enclosures of spirit. My students are greeted
by counters laced wirh traces of flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Linoleum floors
crisscrossed with cattot peels.
I used to watch my mother's hands in the kitchen. Coarse fingers, cracked from
too much time doing dishes or dicing vegetables between piano students. Long
before Iron C/?<?/~appeared on TV, my mother's cooking already resembled an elite
sport: vicious, it demanded endurance and feats of memoty. Without resorting
to measuring units, her fingers intuited proportions and acted as barometers of
consistency and taste. She would dip her index finger into the borscht before the
guests atrived, taste it, clench het teeth and run to the liquor cabinet. Without
explaining anything, she would add a capful of vodka and breathe, relieved.
"Now I can taste a hint of my grandmother's borscht," she said. My mother's
cooking was the intuitive science of remembering.
I first called my mother for cooking advice the day I tried to replicate her eggplant
dip from memory and accidentally over-blended the whole thing into a soup.
prismmagazine.ca 45 I had just moved to Missouri and imagined the monotony of the geographical
terrain would feel more hospitable if my apartment smelled of home-cooked
meals. No matter how many ingredients I added, the liquid mass refused to
thicken.
"How do you make your eggplant dip?"
"I like to add tomato paste. Back when I was gtowing up in Odessa we added
raw onion and tomatoes. In Kharkov your great-grandmother braised the onions
and added broiled peppers. The Shevchenkos from Bulgaria tell me they add feta
cheese at the end."
My mother dictates recipes the way she tells jokes. Punchline first.
"Do you have the recipe written down?"
"I have Aunt Maya's version in the recipe bag somewhere, but you know her
recipes. It's like she leaves the impottant steps out on purpose." My mother still
kept her collection of family recipes in the same indestructible Soviet plastic bag
that had once held a coveted spot in our luggage when we emigrated. Sandwiched
deep in a suitcase full of linen sheets and duvet covers that we intended to sell on
the black matket in Vienna, the recipes left the Soviet Union intact.
"Can you send the recipe to me?"
"What do you want to do with it?"
"I want to make it properly." I could have told her I was trying to make a
home for myself in the middle of Missouri, and failing. I could have told her the
move felt like a mistake, the job wasn't turning out to be wotth it. That I wanted
to come home to Toronto.
"Well, don't forget to squeeze out all the liquid from the baked eggplant
insides and always use the pulse button when you blend them in yout food
processor. Orherwise rhe whole thing turns to soup."
If it hadn't been for an email from E-Harmony informing me that they didn't
have a single match for me within a 200-mile radius of Columbia, Missouri, I
might never have bought my first cookbook. I had already tried my luck with
JDate, hoping to meet someone from a shared cultural background. I went on
dates with other tortured academics, including a psychologist who grew up with
a domineering mother he couldn't stop talking about, and various Russian-
Jewish consultants who wore the requisite black leather jackets and ultimately
detetmined that I was neithet Russian nor Jewish enough for them. The whole
time, my gteat-grandmother's mantra lurked in the back of my mind: "The way
to a man's heart is thtough his stomach." Which I loosely translated as "you'll
nevet meet a decent man until you leatn to cook."
I ordered Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything on the recommendation
of a friend who understood my predicament. If my great-grandmother were still
alive, she would have concluded that, at the age of thirty-one, I'd already run out
of time.
Under Bittman's tutelage I learned how to knead dough for baguettes.
He told me how much pressure to apply, which muscles to flex, how to probe
the sticky texture with my knuckles. I repeated the incantatory rhythm of his
imperative verbs. Beat, pulse, stir, mash. When my phone didn't ring or my
46 PRISM  51:2 email inbox remained empty, I turned to my oracle. I devoured Bittman's lessons
in washing and slicing leeks efficiently. Made mental notes on the proper way to
roast and catve a chicken.
I began to speculate Bittman's upbringing was much like mine, that clearly he
was a child of displaced immigrant Jews, wanderers attempting to read logic into
our culinary heritage. He had a mother like mine, whose eggplant dip became
her only chance at conversation with family members she doubted she'd ever see
again. He understood my mothet's impulse, as a twenty-six-year-old immigrant
recently transplanted to Edmonton and immersed in a language she could barely
decipher, to reread family recipes that she had neatly transcribed on graph paper
and had probably memorized. The recipes offered a moment of escape, a breath
of fried-onion-infused air straight from her grandmother's apartment in Odessa.
Bittman's tone offered orders that masqueraded as suggestions, steeped
with possibility—just enough options and ideas for added ingredient—so that
my sense of independence never felt compromised. I started off as an excellent
student and dutifully stocked my kitchen with pataphetnalia and equipment:
measuring cups and spoons, cookie sheets and a food processor, a lemon juicer, a
spatula, spices bought to approximate the colout scheme I remembered from my
mother's spice rack, and a cast-iron frying pan, which Amazon.com referred to as
a skillet. I stocked my pantry upon Bittman's wise recommendations: variously-
shaped pasta, canned beans, spices, dried fruits and nuts, olive oil, vinegar and
soy sauce.
The apartment isn't what the students are expecting. They're surprised by my bare
walls, my Spartan furniture, my piano, the collection of classical music CDs in
the living room and organic cereal boxes in the kitchen. I can see them scanning
my apattment for traces of another person, a sweater left behind, a toothbtush
out in the open, shoes I might have forgotten to hide. Nothing. They make eye
contact with me, but I can see their eyes wander, looking for vestiges, trying to
interpret the meaning behind unopened boxes lining the wall of my study.
I did not design the evening as a potluck, but one of my srudents brings
homemade borscht. Andrei had spent a month in Russia this past summer, fallen
in love with a Russian girl whom he hoped to matty, and now makes borscht
according to her grandmother's recipe. He almost ruined the whole thing by
adding three spoonfuls of mayonnaise to the soup, but his classmate Anna
stopped him just in time.
Nikolai arrives with a homemade foot-long deet sausage, made from the deer
he hunted and killed a few months back. It's local and organic, he assures me,
since he knows I do the bulk of my grocery shopping at the farmer's market. Part
of the allure of the market is that it relieves me from having to shop at a grocery
store called Schnuck's, whose faux-European-sounding name reminds me that
I'm living in mid-Missouri. Nikolai is older—a student in his late thirties who
had developed a fascination with Russian literature and wants to read it in the
original language. The others bring chocolates and flowers, just like our Russian
textbook suggests in the section about hospitality customs. Even though we
prismmagazine.ca 47 speak English, we address one another by the Russian names I gave everyone at
the start of the semester.
A week aftef our phone conversation, my mother's eggplant recipe arrived on
my doorstep in a bubble-wrapped package, secured with duct tape on all sides.
In all my years of schooling and all my trips to camp, every letter I received
had been written in my father's hand. As a child, I found his Russian script
easier to decipher since he took the time to write in block letters. My mother
spiced up his neatly constructed prose with marginalia—kisses, hugs, hope you're
eating healthy, don't forget to write your grandparents, we miss you!—and her words
ran wild, sometimes cutving around the edges of the page with added arrows,
exclamation marks and pictures, but she could nevet sustain an entire lettet.
Propped against my apartment door, the oversized padded envelope hunched
over slightly, waiting for me to rescue it. My mothet had misspelled my address,
writing "Forom" Drive instead of "Forum," and omitting an "s" in Missouri. She
underlined each line of my address exactly as my father did, but wtote the return
address in the top left corner in larger letters than the destination.
I opened the canary-yellow DHL package to find the entirety of my mothet's
recipe collection, with a post-it note attached to the plastic bag: The eggplants are
in here somewhere! Call if you have questions! Kisses, Mama.
One of the last of our Soviet-eta relics, the plastic bag accompanied us by
train from Ukraine to Austria, where we spent a yeat in Vienna in a Russian
immigrant boarding house while waiting for visas to Canada. Then it flew with
us across the Atlantic in February of 1979, when we landed in a snowy field that
the stewardess called Edmonton. The bulky, creased, almost granular plastic may
once have been green, but that was during a former incarnation, before rhe bag
had been folded, unfolded, washed and hung to dry on my great-grandmothet's
balcony in Odessa. We stopped washing plastic bags when we immigrated to
Canada, but my mother still treated this one as a prized commodity. I once saw
her reinforcing its broken corners from the inside with tape.
I had tried to read my mother's recipes a few times as a child, but the lexicon
stood impenetrable: scrawls on scraps of paper in hurried Russian script with
measurements set down in grams and milligrams instead of cups and teaspoons.
Some were recorded in uncertain English script on lined index catds. Even
though I spoke both Russian and English, I found the recipe bag operated in a
language beyond my reach.
Holding it upside-down by the reinforced edges, I shook the bag and watched
recipes spill onto the carpet, the mismatched pieces of papet and scribbled index
cards contrasting with my bare Missouri walls. My mother began collecting
recipes when she started cooking seriously, immediately after marrying my father.
From there I deduced that the bag must be thirty-one, the same age as me.
I immediately recognized the carrot cake recipe on a lined index card
with pumpkins drawn in the comers. It was written by Margaret Jackson,
my mother's first Canadian friend. I had overheard a conversation about her
disastrous marriage to Mr. Jackson, who turned out to be a philanderer, her
emigration from Nordrhein-Westfalien, which I took to be a city in Germany
48 PRISM   51:2 rather than a province, the birth of her only daughter Steffi, by C-section, who
consistently disappointed Matgaret by preferring tennis and boys to Goethe and
piano lessons.
Long after my morher's friendship with Margaret Jackson had dissolved,
her carrot cake recipe remained a regular fixture in my mother's entertainment
schedule. The cake was different from the recipes she had brought with het from
Russia, which were either custard-filled or shortbread-based. Vegetable cakes
appeared exotic to my mother's immigrant taste buds; to her, carrots had their
place in a pot of beef stew, or chicken or vegetable soup, or in a frying pan,
sauteed with onions and garlic. So this is what Canadians eat, she thought to
herself, and ultimately developed affection for it.
The recipes tracked the evolution of my mother's cooking, and all her culinary
phases: from Campbell's mushroom soup in a chicken casserole to marinated
tofu, from white flour to whole wheat and then spelt, from butter to Crisco and
back to butter, and a quick foray into macrobiotic territory and bee-pollen fruit-
shakes. Even Margaret Jackson's carrot cake changed over the years. My mother
replaced sugar with molasses, eliminated the white flour, doubled the spices and
tripled the walnuts so the cake became denser and heartiet until finally carrot
cake disappeated altogether from my mother's repertoite of desserts, because it
had left the land of cakedom and entered the realm of health-food.
Some of the recipes were English lessons in disguise, which my mother learned
in passing, on the phone with relatives who had emigrated a few generations ago.
I remember eavesdropping as my mother wrote out words phonetically, as if
English conformed to Russian spelling rules: A recipe for pumpkin cake called
for half a teaspoon of salt, which she spelled "said," taking into account that
the final "d" on many Russian words is considered "voiceless" and pronounced
as a "t." When my mother spelled "zucchini" with a Cyrillic "14" at the end,
and substituted the Italianate consonant cluster "cch" with a simple "k," I knew
exactly what she meant. The end result looks like this: Zuk-H-n-I4. As if she
could predict that almost thirty years latet she'd have a dedicated reader parsing
her syntax, interpreting her marginalia.
She followed almost every new English word with a Russian definition in
parentheses. She reminded herself that chocolate chips were located in the same
section of the grocery store as walnuts—a word she already knew. After our move
to Vancouver, her recipes became more adventutous: Once out of our watchful
relatives' reach, my mother discovered spices, wheat germ and ethnic cuisine.
Before long, she had mastered the use and pronunciation of sage, turmeric,
fennel, tarragon, curry, thyme and "marjoram"—with a stress mark on the first
syllable.
One scrap of paper listed the contents—eighteen dishes—of a menu
my mother concocted in 1984 for my aunt, a published poet, and uncle, her
chartered accountant husband. The meal—transcribed in a mixture of English
and Russian—consisted of:
liver pate
hummus
eggplant dip
prismmagazine.ca 49 vinegret—a Russian salad made of chopped cooked beets, potatoes, carrots,
onions, and pickles
Olivier salad—a Russian potato salad made with eggs, peas, mayonnaise and
copious amounts of dill; "Olivier" is meant to sound French
caviar
selyodka pod shuboi—literally, "herring under a fur coat" of beets and sour
cream
baguette and Ak-mak crackers
marinated salmon
cream of yam soup
spinach and feta fritatta
green salad
ratatouille
roast beef
boiled beef tongue with wine sauce
eclairs
pound cake
raspberry soup
tea and coffee
My mother's menu read like something out of the Ancient Roman res gestae
tradition—a literary precursor to autobiographies. Emperor Augustus was
the fitst to tell the story of his "deeds done," and his catalogue of glorious life
achievements appeared on his funerary inscription. My mother's double-digit
list of courses lacked direct mention of military conquests, but it represented no
small feat in a kitchen with no sous-chef to do the prep work or dishwashers to
clean up. Like Augustus, my mothet was casting her image for posterity.
"Do you cook like this for everyone?" the poet had asked after dinner.
"I don't want my guests to go home hungry." My mother had grown up in a
household where my grandfather would rather go without an extra pair of panrs
than have his guests think he couldn't afford to put four extra courses on the
table.
"Why don't you serve more bread?"
"Bread?"
"Yes. Stuff them with bread." The published poet's golden rule of dinner
parties.
Yet, no matter how hard she tried, my mother never fully embraced the
concept. I used to think that everybody's mother entertained by cooking for
three days straight on little more than four hours of sleep and then unfurling a
feast that continued until long after midnight. My mother's dinner table spread
made up for her heavily accented English and her occasional grammar mistakes.
I put out hors d'oeuvres: a cheese plate with crackers, homemade tapenade,
guacamole with tortilla chips, hummus, grapes and melon. In my mother's
recipes, I found a note that melon is a good palate cleanser. I slice Nikolai's deer
sausage, but keep the bulk of it for myself, since Andrei unexpectedly serves us
50 PRISM  51:2 borscht as a requisite second course, which Russians refer to as the official first
course, pervoye.
"Professor, did you make all this food?"
"Of course."
"You cook, too?" Oksana asked. "Wow. Ochen' otlichno!" She had invented
that expression herself—very excellent—and used it proudly, no matter how
many times I told her that one would never qualify "excellent" with "very."
"I've never tasted this," Vlad said, scooping up hummus with a cracker.
"It's hummus. Middle Eastern."
"What's this?" Anna said, her mouth full, pointing to the egg dish she had
just taken a bite of.
"Fritatta."
"Where did you learn to cook?"
I think for a minute. My students hadn't seen me preparing for theit arrival,
laying out a half dozen recipes, combining directions from each one, pacing
frantically around the kitchen while the fritatta cooked and the chickpeas
percolated, wondering about my last-minute additions and subtractions. They
hadn't witnessed me scream at both my mother and Mark Bittman while tossing
out my first attempt at cream cheese icing for my carrot cake muffins because I'd
thrown in a cup of salt instead of sugar. Nor did they know that my hair wasn't
wet from a last-minute desire to swim laps before the guests arrived, but because
my attempt to extract the cheese plate from the fridge resulted in a poorly sealed
Tupperware containet full of hummus falling and landing on my head. The
hummus they ravenously consumed had been delicately scraped off my hair and
arranged in a Japanese bowl my mother had given me as a housewarming gift.
"I have good cookbooks, and I use many of my mother's recipes."
Going through my mother's recipe collection, I'd found echoes of her
conversations in broken English and nosralgia-drenched Russian scrawled on
restaurant napkins, note cards, faxes, other recipes, backs of bank deposit slips,
torn-out Russian notebook pages, newspaper clippings, hotel stationety, dot-
matrix printer paper. I'd worked my way through traces of moods, hints at
desire, phone numbers and names I'd forgotten, trying to reconstruct a life I
barely recognized. I'd caught glimpses of the woman who packed her life into
twenty suitcases at the age of twenty-five and followed her husband and three-
year-old daughter on a train thtough Ukraine, Poland and into a new world.
The recipe for sheyka (literally, a "chicken neck") reminds me of our
temporary, one-bedroom immigrant housing in Vienna, where life revolved
around our kitchen table. The labour-intensive delicacy of sheyka involved
cramming stuffing into a "sack" made of chicken skin, sewn togethet and
roasted. I held the skin tight as my mothet stitched it together with a needle and
thtead, the scent of home still within reach. I don't remember my mother ever
making sheyka in Canada; the process felt too arcane, too elaborate, and chicken
fat schmaltz had already disappeared from our diets for good.
In the beginning, I sorted the recipes chronologically, by geographical
home, but my system broke down when I noticed my mother revisiting het
prismmagazine.ca 51 culinary archive with a deft editor's hand. Almost evety recipe includes changes
to the original—additions, subtractions, clarifications. She didn't demarcate her
life chronologically and I envied the way her borders had become fluid, the
way she freely added a touch of cumin to het grandmother's eggplant dip and
how she positioned guacamole next to Russian beet salad in her series of hors
d'oeuvres. She had crafted a home for herself in the unlikeliest combinations and
juxtapositions of ingredients.
My students talk about the semestet and their favourite characters in the
textbook. Someone changes the CD to another, more familiar Russian band,
DDT, whose song I had played in class when we studied case endings, and we
sing along.
"Do you like it here, professor?" Anna asks, suddenly.
"I love teaching at MU," I answet honestly. And immediately, as if
interrogated.
"Was it strange to move here from the East Coast?" Masha asks.
I wondet if they notice the barren walls of my apartment, the boxes I haven't
yet bothered to unpack in my study. "I'd call it an adjustment," I say.
Anna has anothet question. "Are we the best class you've ever had?"
"Definitely the best language class." It's the only one I've ever taught on my
own. But they don't need to know that.
They smile, proud of themselves. Mitya proposes a toast, and we drink
(Coke, water, orange juice) to a great class, a great semester and a great teacher. I
blush and thank them for being wonderful. We had discussed Russians' love for
toasting at parties and how the toasts deteriorate towatd the end of the evening.
When you've had enough to drink, anything sounds plausible. We toast Nikolai
for his tasty deer sausage, which he claims would have tasted much better with
his homemade apple whiskey, and then Vlad toasts the deet that had a quick
death, and then Andrei toasts Russia, and soon it's as if we are drinking for real. I
52 PRISM   51:2 Kate Kennedy
ANOTHER WINTER ON THE MARSH
To explain about the aquatics
of this night, the tidal pull of the bar
on Main Street, leaving winter
enjambed in the door, half out
half in. Snow melting on the rug
as it plunges down the road.
Moira mixing herself a Caesar
to join some others.
Nick as he joins her behind the bar,
slipping easily from role to role,
bartender even on his night off.
The steam from his cup of tea
melting the ice in our drinks.
Then a dog, black,
surging among the stools,
now behind the bat too,
tail beating gallons of drink mix,
boxes of wine,
head nudging Moi as she fills
a dish amid the rest of the spill.
Two sodden sleds dripping
as their stoned owners slide
into a table in the corner.
Slush soaking into the chairs,
pints coursing through a dubious
clientele so merrily oblivious
to who's waiting, who waited on
this night as it circles and drifts,
a blizzard that's only half outside.
prismmagazine.ca 53 LA CUMBRE, ARGENTINA
Adventure finds us in the triangular restaurant
canary walls and red tin mailboxes, bright communique.
With the scatfed owner arrives a load of wood for the stove
necessity of the shoulder season. Recently atrived from the Horn
we fairly glint in surroundings so suggestive of expedition, dispatch.
May, it's austral fall and the days are scorched, the nights whistling.
Still our manner runs a little unnecessarily ruddy-cheeked
as though in gaitets ot goggled, our tired donkeys lashed
skis just out of sight, very last of the pemmican in our palms.
All our pedestrian discoveries, boozy meanders
here lent a sudden whiff of some true find, some late frontier
as we plunder curries and pilafs, another bottle of Malbec, cry,
Look, you home-lubbers, all we have stumbled upon!
54 PRISM  51:2 Chris Calvin
BREAKFAST UNDER THE BODHI TREE
Oometimes in summer, ants drop down from the dangling aetial roots and
gnarled boughs of the bodhi tree. The neighbours joke that of all the trees lining
Bach Dang Avenue, ours has the most ants. Yet we still sit here, drinking Thuy's
iced coffee and brushing the tiny red creatures away before they can bite us. I eat
breakfast in the company of this tree and these people almost every day.
Our lane runs perpendicular to the avenue, with its two-stotey pastel cement
buildings on one side and a branch of the Perfume River on the other. Each
morning, my husband's cousin Thuy and her friend Ha set up their stands at the
foot of the lane, under the tree. A type of banyan, it's at least twenty metres tall
and produces pea-sized green figs that turn purple, then black, as they ripen. My
neighbours call it cay Bo De, the Buddha tree. It was under one of these that the
Buddha sat awaiting enlightenment.
It's still dark when the generators for my neighbour's ice machines rumble
into action and I hear Thuy's alarm clock through the wall dividing my house
from hers. At four thirty, the first cyclos clack past to pick up the rectangular
bricks of ice. The neighbours' dogs goad each other to bark. I brush my teeth,
rush into my clothes, and step outside to help Thuy catry her plastic tables and
chairs down to the terra cotta-tiled sidewalk ovetlooking the river. Whenever I'm
not booked to lead an early tour, I give her a hand to set everything up before her
first customers arrive. A rooster ctows, his voice like a rusty hinge.
In the bluish pre-dawn half-light, I wheel out the glass and metal case
containing eggs, frying pan, hotplate, and homemade garlic-scented pate for
banh ml. The wheels snag in the broken pavement. I cross Bach Dang in a slow
zigzag, the motorbikes and cyclos flowing around me, and ease the case up over
the curb to its spot by the massive tree trunk. If four people encircled the trunk
with arms outstretched, they'd barely touch each other's fingertips. On the side
of the trunk opposite to Thuy's breakfast stand, a waist-high ochre-coloured
cement enclosure surrounds an altar for those who died in this part of Hue'
during the Te't Offensive of 1968.
On Thuy's side, a small, sand-filled blue and white ceramic pot sits in one
of the knotted crannies in the bark. The pot bristles with red-dyed bamboo
stems of burned incense. Thuy pushes three new sticks into the sand, the smoke
cutling upwards into the shiny heatt-shaped leaves. "The bodhi tree is a symbol
of longevity," she tells me. "This one has been hete since before any of us around
here can remember."
In another nook, a birdhouse-sized wooden am, an altar with three walls
and a peaked roof, shelters three cups of rice wine, a vase of chrysanthemums,
an incense pot and a tiny plastic comb. We bum incense here for the spirits of
neighbours who have passed on.
prismmagazine.ca 55 One morning, as I sweep the tiles free of bodhi leaves, two elderly women
approach, arms swinging, out for a brisk walk before the morning heats up.
"Looks like there's a new person selling here," one says to the other as they
draw near. When I smile at them, they stare, giggle, cover their mouths, and
scurry on, glancing back and whispering. The other expats living in Hue' are
teachers, doctors, de-miners, and owners of fancy restaurants. None sell food on
the street.
Thuy arrives, lugging buckets of water for washing glasses and dishes. She
keeps everything sparkling clean. Laughing, I tell her about the two women. She
laughs so hard that she has to sit down. She's always amused by the way the local
people react when they hear me speak Vietnamese or see me doing anything they
don't expect a foreigner to do. Usually, it's something mundane, like lining up
to get an official document or buying a sleeping mat at the market. Thuy forgets
that she used to react the same way.
I savour the chocolaty flavour of my first iced coffee and watch the sunrise,
the joggets and the reflections of trees and houses on the watet, still and then
rippled by a rowboat. The bread girl unloads her wicker basket from her bicycle.
She exttacts twenty baguettes from under a purple cloth. Thuy piles them up in
her glass case, reties her shoulder-length hair into a fat ponytail and asks aftef the
health of the girl's mother.
Even as the girl cycles away, two young boys in white shifts and navy-blue
school trousers pull up. The taller boy, sitting on the bike's book rack, hands over
a few ragged bills. Thuy asks them if they've done theif homework and if theif
grades are good. She slathers two baguettes with pate, tucks in some sprigs of
coriander and wraps a square of newspaper around one end of each sandwich.
Until Miss Ha arrives, most of the customers come for coffee. Ha gets up at four
to cook, then loads up her bicycle for the half-hour ride over. She carries her
coal box, soup cauldron and teapot on the rack over the rear wheel. A basket of
dishes, herbs and condiments hangs from the handlebars. Beef noodle soup is
the most popular breakfast in Hue', but banh canh soup is a close second. Miss
Ha makes hers with fat pink crab dumplings. She has rarely missed more than
two or three mornings in each of the twenty-one yeafs since she first set up hef
charcoal box under our tree.
A small crowd gathers on the low stools forming a semicircle around her
battered aluminum pot. When I catch her eye, she nods and ladles pork stock
and crab dumplings over broad rice noodles in a china bowl. She nestles a
quail egg into a handful of chopped coriander on top, followed by a sprinkle of
pepper-salt and a dollop of chili paste dotted with crisp pork fat.
As I eat, a few over-ripe figs plummet from the tree, splatting the tiles with
brown goo. My neighbours howl with laughter when I nickname it cay ein chd,
the dog-turd tree. Then they slap at the tiny biting ants. I've heafd that in India,
people eat these figs, which are so much smaller than the ones we eat in the
West. When I ask if people in Viet Nam eat them too, my neighboufs look at
me strangely. "Who would eat that?" "Crazy!" Slap, slap, slap!
Tall, white-haired Mr. Anh pulls up on his motorbike with his miniature
dog perched between his knees. He joins the group of neighbours arguing about
56 PRISM   51:2 the football game televised the night before—which team won, and who has lost
money betting on the wrong side. Mr. Anh buys Bong Da, the soccer newspaper,
from the wizened old man with a missing thumb who walks between the tables,
offering his armload of daily newspapers. The neighbours lean over it, fingers
stabbing at statistics, and the argument escalates.
I place my stool on the parapet, drink a second coffee and watch the river
life and the rippling reflections of the sunlit buildings on the opposite side of the
water. At the base of the parapet, a lone man climbs out of his rowboat to scoop
snails from the riverbed. Boats chug by and slide under the arch of the Gia Hoi
Bridge. The black silhouette of the bridge is mirrored in reverse on the water.
One boat transports oil drums. Another carries pineapples bound for the Dong
Ba Market, and dragon boats head out to take the first groups of toutists to the
Thien Mu Pagoda and the emperors' mausoleums.
Several neighbours buy their coffee and breakfast to go. Ha ladles the banh
canh into clear plastic bags and twists them closed with elastics. Nothing spills
out. I walk back to our house to fetch Grandmothef's chipped blue earthenware
bowl for Ha to fill. Grandmother sits in her low chair outside our front doof,
waiting for me to bring it back up the lane.
Just as the sun's hot rays poke through the branches of our tree, the rau
muo'ng woman passes, waddling under the weight of the baskets of water spinach
suspended from her yoke. Thuy sometimes buys all hef fruit and vegetables for
the day from the yoke-slung baskets of these itinerant women. She calls out: "Oi!
Rau muo'ng!"
Turning, the woman peers at us from under the brim of her conical hat. Her
gap-toothed smile creases her face into a netwofk of lines. She lowers her baskets
to the pavement and eases herself into a chair. Thuy pours her a glass of tea. They
trade gossip and the woman giggles at Thuy's juicy tidbits. Thuy knows evefyone
in the neighbourhood and misses nothing. They talk about the storekeeper's
niece, who is twenty-eight and still has no children, and they discuss the sums
of money a neighbour spends for her day-long len dong trance ceremonies.
Then they whisper about the family who had gambled all theif savings away and
had nothing left to pay for their son's funeral. Thuy tells the woman how our
neighbors all pitched in to take care of the costs.
The rau muo'ng woman rolls the thin cloth of her loose pants up to her
crotch, revealing bony legs draped in sagging skin. Shouldering the load of
leaves, she stumps down the cement stairway to the water's edge. She wades
in, plunges the baskets of leaves up and down, and raises them to let the water
stream through the woven reeds. She pulls out two bundles of water spinach for
Thuy before she rolls her pant-legs down and, eyeing the oncoming traffic, sets
off down the road.
As Thuy and Ha bring the chairs and tables back up the alley, repack Has
bicycle and sweep up their patch of sidewalk, the che woman comes with her
own glass and metal cart, and hef multicoloured "sweet soups." At eleven, school
children pour into the streets and line up to buy treats before lunch. My little
niece Ca, Thuy's daughter, will clamouf for me to buy her a glass of iced lotus
seeds in syrup with coconut cream.
prismmagazine.ca 57 Here with the people in our xom, our neighbourhood, I feel as if I'm taking
breakfast with family. Some neighbours stroll out to the bodhi tree still wearing
the clothes they slept in. Others arrive in pressed trousers and crisp shirts for a
quick soup before work. The "uncles" sip bitter coffee. The two new motheis
nurse their babies, nibble banti mi, and swap stories. Thuy buys hopes of riches
from one of the old women and grubby urchins who walk all day in worn-down
plastic sandals, selling lotto tickets. Sometimes, if I have an early-morning touf,
I include a stop here for tourists craving caffeine. I tease Thuy that I'll miss hef
delicious coffee if she wins the jackpot.
"I'll still make coffee," she says, "but when it rains, I'll take the day off."
During monsoon season, Thuy and Ha string up a blue tarpaulin and everyone
gathers under it, adjusting the chaifs to avoid the rain that drips through the
holes. In cold weather, we wear puffy wintef jackets and huddle together around
Has coal box. It's the only time I drink my coffee hot.
Thuy breaks into a wide smile. "I'll buy a building and open a real cafe. Then
it won't matter what kind of weather we get."
Ha shakes her head. "It wouldn't be the same without your banh mi and
coffee. If you left, maybe I wouldn't sell here anymore."
I stop here every day, though sometimes just for a quick coffee before going
elsewhere for breakfast with my husband. The neighbours may ignore each other
or not see each other for most of the day, but the tree brings us all together each
morning. It's my favourite place to be during my favourite part of the day. Even
during ant season. "I'd miss you both," I tell them, f
58 PRISM   51:2 Lais ha Rosnau
BITE MARKS
You don't want to leave bite marks
on a man's shoulder to have another
woman notice them. His shirt
should not have been off. It wasn't
that hot. She slept with him
fifst, you were with another before
her, your swaps separated by months
then weeks. What kind of traveling
companion was she, dressed like you,
journaling just as furiously?
You said goodbye to each other in India,
Except you couldn't say it, one of you
in a silent retreat, the othef
withdrawing out of the countiy.
It was Valentine's Day. Years latef,
drunk, she tells you that she was in love
with you, briefly, foolishly, the way
those things happened. Years aftef that,
you remember when you switched
lovers, hypothetical same-sex affairs,
but you can'r quite imagine that any more.
You feel old enough to know what it's like
when both men and women stop looking.
You buy boxes of apples from the orchard, sink
teeth into skin, leave them unfinished, souring in air.
prismmagazine.ca 59 NOVEMBER
Dishes continue, I don't. The window,
this feeling, the evening blinks
and poof! What happened to all that
light? I come out of corners, swinging
with lame suggestions, palms open, waiting
to meet with something they can hold.
A sharp-shinned hawk dives and a quail hits
the pane behind my chaif and bang! there goes
my concentration. Boots pulled on, I go
outside to see the damage but it's only feathers.
The larger bird will eat the smaller
elsewhere and I'll find
nothing, not even in spring.
60 PRISM  51:2 SHAME, REVISITED
Other people do it better, I'm sure.
These kids requiring costumes, gifts,
something like talent, balanced just so.
These kids are costing me some nights
of sleep, some sense of mid-level sanity.
Other people do it bettef, I'm sure,
but they seem to love me for it, or despite.
I manage crafts, pumpkins, candy—consumption
something like talent, balanced just so—
then the party we go to puts me to shame,
lanterns slung through trees, witches cackling,
"Othef people do it better." I'm sure
I'll feel okay with a drink in my hand. My baby
lion roars around the party, unsteady, showing
something like talent, balanced just so.
I hope for her so much more than a cat costume
unpeeled, cold skin against a vinyl seat, thinking,
"Other people do this better, I'm sure."
Sweetheart, don't reveal too much, too early
or remembering will become the same as to forget,
something like a talent, balanced just so.
prismmagazine.ca 61 Martin James A insley
THAT AIN'T ME
YESTERDAY
I'm gonna kill a man tonight. I keep running the wofds over in my head and
they ain't quite making sense, like it's somebody else talking and I'm missing the
gist of it. But nobody's talking; it's just me. I'm gonna kill a man tonight. Maybe
it's sitting on this barstool, toed up to a bar I sat at a hundred times before,
watching a hockey game I saw a hundred times before—I don't even know who's
playing—the TV stuck between bottles of Canadian Club and Bunny's display
case of old rodeo trophy belt buckles. Maybe that's what makes the idea hard to
digest. How nothing seems any different. I never killed nobody before.
—You know Alicia's not workin' tonight, eh, Duck? says Bunny. We're Bugs
and Daffy.
—Yep. I know. I'm meetin' Carl.
I scratch my neck. I shouldn't, but fuck, it's itchy. Gotta get some more
cortisone. Tomorrow, maybe.
Fucking Kamloops. I keep ending up on this same fucking barstool. Bunny's
giving me the eye. I flick the rim of my glass and nod and he brings me anothet
CC & 7. I put a pack of Exports on the bar and Bunny sets down an ashtray.
Like turning over cards, me and him, with the new smoking ban, but fuck 'em.
Nobody checks this shithole. It ain't worth their trouble to save a bunch of
washed-up rodeo cowboys and loggers and middle-aged fucking drunkards and
drifters from killing themselves of lung cancer. They'd jusr as soon bulldoze the
joint and put up Spanish-style condos.
I guess it ain't strictly true that I nevef killed nobody before. If it were, I
wouldn't be sitting here with killing in mind. But that first killing wasn't like this
one. It wasn't planned. I was there, but it wasn't my fault. That one I'm sofry for.
That one I'd take back if I could. Carl and me, we know how it went down, and
I wish I could have stopped him. But he went up for it, judge and jury, and I
didn't. But that's fair, cause it wasn't me that did it.
Somebody's put Johnny Cash on the jukebox, so it looks like some hockey
player on tv is singing I fell into a burnin ring of fire I went down down down,
when Catl walks into Bunny's.
—Fuck it's cold out, eh? Sure come up fast. Catl hoists himself onto the stool
next to me and Bunny clunks an open Budweiset on the bar in front of him.
—Cold enough, I say.
—Fuckin' A, Carl says, slipping a black toque off his bald head. —I was out
in my shittsleeves a week ago. Figure it'll snow tonight. Carl takes a swig of beer.
—Wasn't sure you'd show. What'd you decide?
—I'll do it. And you'll keep shut up.
—C'mon, Duck. Don't be like that. We go way back. What's done is done,
and don't forget who did the time. This is business. Nothin' changes.
62 PRISM   51:2 I turn to look at him, but he's staring at the TV. He's a wall of solid muscle.
A spiderweb tattoo crawls out of his collat and up the neck to his ear. —Nothin'
changes, I say, but I'm not sure whether I'm asking or agreeing.
—Look, you're gone for a day, make the delivery, and it's over. Till the next
one. Like fallin' off a log.
We watch the game quietly for a few minutes, then Carl says, —Good. So,
tonight?
I nod.
—Ready to go?
—Yep.
We finish our drinks. I let Catl pick up the tab and we leave together.
Outside, he starts for his car and I say, —Just come with me, man. He hesitates.
—I can drop you back here later. I'm comin' back into town before I light out.
To say goodbye to Alicia.
He shrugs, puts his toque on and climbs into my truck. Because of the cold,
I guess, the engine won't catch. Two tries. C'mon, motherfucker. Three. Tujning
over slower. This can't end in Bunny's patking lot. Take a breath and a five-count.
Carl starts to open his trap and the old girl roars to life on the fourth turn. I
crank on the heater and light a smoke, letting her warm up a bit. —Clinton's
place, tight?
I pull out of the lot and head out, away from town. I was counting on this.
Clinton lives on some forest acreage up out of the scrub. Way off the highway.
No sightlines. But we're not going that far. I need to ascertain some facts.
—Clinton know?
—Know what?
—Everything you know, I say. —Gets more complicated if it goes past you
and me.
—No, man. Just me. I told him I'd take care of you. If Clinton knew what I
know, my market value would diminish, savvy? Besides, I figure history counts
for something. This is between you and me.
I believe him. Carl's a rattlesnake, but he's no liar. Half an hour out from
Bunny's I pull off the blacktop onto a hard-packed gravel road. We're into pine
and starting to climb. No light but the Chevy's headlights slashing the road
ahead. After a couple of switchbacks I pull over. —I gotta take a leak. I say it the
way I rehearsed it, and sure enough, I gotta piss. I leave the engine running and
step over to the ditch. When I'm finished, I walk around the back of the truck.
It can't be this easy, but when I reach for the tailgate my hand is shaking like a
leaf, and—
Something's coming up the road. A low rumble, but I don't see any lights in
the trees. Helicopter? What is it?
It's nothing. It's my fucking heart pounding in my ears.
I reach under the tatp and pull the Ruger out from where I stowed it. I
slide back the breech-bolt and snap a cartridge into the chamber, walk back
to the driver's-side door, open it and point the rifle at Carl. —Show me your
hands. Roll down your window. You got a gun. Tell me where you got it stowed,
prismmagazine.ca 63 then take it out real slow, like it's your daddy's underpants, and drop it out the
window.
Carl's real attentive. —I got a .45 in my coat, he says, and draws the zippet
down and carefully takes it out and hucks it across his shoulder. It makes no
sound in the snowy ditch. —What are you doin', Duck?
I tell him not to budge as I reach in behind the wheel to cut the engine and
pocket the keys. I scoot around the back of the truck and find his pistol in the
ditch. —Now get out, I tell him.
—I knew we shoulda taken my car.
—I ain't workin' for Clinton no more, and I can't let you talk to Alicia. Stand
up there, I say, and wave him up into the headlights.
—C'mon, man, we talked about this. What's the problem? The money's
good and—
—I almost got caught the last time. I'm forty-two. I can't go to prison. I want
out —
—You want out—
—and if Alicia ever knows I was there that night, me and her are finished. I
got a. ... maybe I got a future with her. You know? Chance to settle down and be
somethin'. You got no right to fuck that up, after what you done.
—What / done? So, what, Catl says. —You're gonna kill me, now? I did
eight fuckin' years, man, and I kept my mouth shut the whole time. I coulda
taken you with me. You think I didn't want out? You nevet thought it was your
goddamn fault I was there in the first place?
—That's history.
—History. You don't know about fuckin' history. This is history, he says,
clawing at his tattoo. —This is history. He turns and pulls his coat up his back,
showing a thick, ragged scar that runs diagonal from under his belt to his right
shoulder blade. —Cocksucker. Well, if you're gonna shoot me with that thing,
lemme enjoy a smoke firsr. He holds out his hand and I toss him my pack of
Exports, but he can't catch it with the light in his eyes and it hits him in the
stomach and falls at his feet.
—Lighter's inside, I mumble. —That was twenty years ago, Carl.
Once he's got a lit smoke in his mouth, he tosses the pack back and I light one
up myself.
—And I spent nearly half that in the pen, Duck. For what you did.
—You killed him, Carl. I was drunk. I can hardly remember what happened.
—Yeah, your memory never was too good. He takes a long drag and the
cigarette crackles. He blows smoke rings into the light and says, —Gonna do it?
—Huh?
—Gonna kill me, or not? That's what you brought me out here for, isn't it?
I raise the rifle and point it at his heatt. He smirks and takes another drag. I
point it at his face. The rifle shakes in my hands. Fucker fucker fucker. I lower
the barrel to his chest again.
—What's the mattet, Duck?
I back away, keep the Ruger trained on him.
64 PRISM  51:2 —Can't do it? He puffs out another smoke ring. —Shoulda done some time.
Woulda hardened you up. Your problem is you never lived with what you've
done, what you are. I lived with me, man. That's what prison is for. Everybody
should get the chance.
I open the passenger door, roll the window back up and slam the door
locked, then I walk back around the tailgate, keeping my sights on Carl all the
way.
—You always was full of self-righteous bullshit. Like I evet had anybody but
my own self.
—Just keep runnin', Duck. You gonna leave me here, you sorry piece of
shit? I ain't gonna freeze to death out here, if that's what you're hopin' for. Fact,
I'm gonna walk back to town and when I get there, I'm gonna have a chat with
your little Indian girl, there. Ain't leaving out a single detail. Let her live with it
for awhile. And then I'm gonna find you and whip you blind. Eatliest fuckin'
opportunity.
I climb back into the truck and start the engine. Punch it in gear and floor
it. Carl dodges toward the ditch. He hammers the door panel with the heel of
his fist as I fishtail into the road, spraying gravel.
I drive fast, skidding tound cotners, and find my way back to the main road.
There's a forest service campground I know of.
ONE WEEK AGO
The rowboat sways a bit in the wind blowing out of the East. I turn up my collar
and dangle my beer bottle between my knees. Figure I'm lucky, I been a brush-
ape this long and still got a thumb to dangle a beet by. Guys I know've lost whole
limbs to a thrown-back spar or kicked-back power saw, or just plain old slipshod
fuckin' carelessness. The water ripples washboard-clean and some ducks kick up
a fuss near the shore. Alicia's got het line hanging off the bow, but I packed mine
in a while back.
—What's the matter, there, Duck? You done fishing?
—Ah, this was your idea. I don't mind being in the boat, but fishing's a bit
much. I never did see the allure.
She doesn't want to, but she laughs anyway. —Har de har har. Dork.
—Hey, Alicia, I say. —What d'ya call a cowboy with his brains kicked out?
—Duck? she says.
—That's funny. Nah, it's a logger.
She laughs again, freely this time, a sweet, high whinny of a laugh.
I take a swig of beer. —What d'ya call a logger with his brains kicked out?
—Already heard it, she says. She's trying to stop laughing.
—A fisherman. I grin and light a smoke. —Gettin' cold. Reckon we oughta
head back soon?
—In a while, she says.
It's been sunny all day, ptetty warm for Octobet, but it chills fast, now, when
the sun goes. The aspens and willows among the pines on the shore are mostly
bare, white trunks against the datk evergreens, like the forest's veins. The sky has
prismmagazine.ca 65 a streaky ribbon of pink cloud. Cold to look at.
Seeing Carl last night's put me in a stew. It's blackmail, pure and simple, but
what can I do? I gotta go back to wotking for Clinton. With Carl looking over
my shoulder. How long?
—Duck, she says. —I've been thinking. Thinking I might go back to
Williams Lake. To the Tsilhqot'in. Take Mom back to live with her sister. Alicia
reaches into my coat for my cigarettes and lights one up hetself. She takes a deep
drag. —So she can die at home, you know? She needs more and more care, and
I'm trying to hold down two jobs here. It's just me.
She's leaving? Fuck. I've only been seeing her for a couple months. Did Carl
say something?
Alicia's a teacher, but she's only getting sub work in Kamloops, so she
waitresses at Bunny's. I didn't know she was Archie's sister at first. I figured
the family moved away from here long ago, but she showed up at Bunny's this
summet, 'bout the time I finished up that last job for Clinton. Nobody comes
from Kamloops, but evetybody comes back. I ask her why she did.
She tells me when she finished up high school she went off and got herself
a degree in history and English. —I grew up in denial, goes her joke, —but I
went to school in Vancouver. She lived in Langley a few years and came back to
Kamloops to take care of her momma when her momma's boyfriend died in a
highway wreck. —He was a long-haul truck-driver, she says. —White guy from
northern Quebec. Lou. Lucien. Told really funny stories. He fell asleep at the
wheel—probably drunk—and drove a truckload of fresh-milled lumber into the
ditch. He was a drunk, but he was good to Mom, especially after Archie died.
Lou never lost a job. Except that last one.
—Why'd you all leave Williams Lake in the first place?
—The short answer is it was a shithole. Especially for Natives. This was the
80s. My mom and all her brothers and sisters had gone to the residential school.
Had all their language and culture beat out of them. I'm the end product of that
process. I don't know three words of Tsilhqot'in. Haven't lived on my people's
land since I was three years old. I didn't even know anything about those schools
until I went away to university. Mom never said anything about it, except for
the time she got to go to Montreal in '67. She was in a school pipe-band or
something, and they played out there for the Expo. She loved that. Still tells that
story, but she never says anything else about that school. Anyway, Mom ended
up off the teserve, married to a Dutch farmer—my father—who beat up on her,
and one day she just had enough.
She dips her cigarette in the lake to snuff it out, then drops the filtered butt
into the plastic bag she brought along for garbage. —I figure I could get a pretty
good teaching job there, maybe for the Nation, on one of the reserves, she says.
I can't read nothing in het face.
She skims her fingers on the skin of the lake. —If I did take Mom to Williams
Lake. If I did that, I wonder if you'd come along. I know we haven't known each
other long-
—I already left there once. When I leave somewhere, I like to stay left.
—You came back to Kamloops.
66 PRISM  51:2 —Yeah, 'n' look what happened: I ended up with you.
She laughs, but I know it ain't that funny. More'n she does.
—Maybe you could find work as a ranch-hand, she says. —Do something
with horses. You keep telling me that's what you want to be doing, rather than
logging. Get a cushy job on a dude tanch, telling your whoppers to German
tourists while you tide the tange. You'te a born cowboy, Duck.
—Yeah, I'm a regular John Wayne, I say, but she's right about me. Working
in the woods, I might as well be in a coal mine. Claustrophobic, is the wotd.
The hills to the West of the lake are blanketed in shadow, now, the sky
glowing pink and orange above. Some pale white lights appear here and there
in the trees. Chimney smoke in falling columns. I'm shivering. If I went to
Williams Lake, Cari'd find me.
—We oughta get back, I say. —Fish ain't bitin'.
—It's so peaceful out here. Alicia looks at me. What are you running away
from, Duck?
—I ain't ... I dunno. The past is past, you know? Best to forget.
—No. Forgetting is dying. It's giving up. They want us to forget. Who would
I be if I let that happen?
I shake a couple smokes out of my pack, offer one to Alicia. She takes it
between her lips and leans in to my flickering Zippo, holding her hair out of the
way with one hand. Het eyes flash behind the flame and I don't know how to
hold on to her. I light my own with the same flame. It casts an orange glow on
the bottom of the boat.
—No, the past isn't past, she says. That's one thing I've learned. It's always
with us. You gotta live with the past every single day. I don't mean living in the
past, like, unable to let stuff go, but ... facing up to it. To what you are, where
you come from. We live in history. We can decide what's going to happen, what
the next part of history will be. But you can't do it without also looking back.
Look at you and me. Where our histories meet. Cowboys and Indians. I oughta
cut your heart out, by rights, but I know you're different.
I can see Archie's face in hers. Bloodlines. I start to say something. I say
something else. —I ... I done some things. That I ain't proud of.
—We've all done things we'te not proud of. But you gotta own your mistakes.
You're not your great-great-grandfather, but you come out of that history, just
like I gotta live with what my momma went through, and the things I did to her
myself. I used to hate myself and I blamed her for who I was. We can't control
what we inherit, but we can make the best of it. Of the worst.
A loon cries somewhere on the lake. I wonder if Hank Williams ever heard
one. "Hear the lonesome loon"—that's my song. Fuck it. I can handle Call.
—Listen, I say. —You serious about goin' to Williams Lake?
—Yeah.
—'N' ... 'n' you serious about me comin', too?
She nods.
—Well. I'm thinkin', the work here's already thinnin' for me. Maybe I oughta
head up there. Look for a job. Find a house to rent. When I got it arranged, you
and your momma can come up.
prismmagazine.ca 67 She throws her arms around me, rocking the boat. —Really, Duck? You
want to do that?
—Sure. Sure I do. Rent a house with some land behind it, a place a body
could fide a horse, like you said.
I breathe into hef hair. We could make a start. A real home. Leave the past
behind.
—When would you go?
—I'll just break the news to the foreman this week that I'm clearing out and
I could head up there Saturday or Sunday.
She looks real happy. A couple of ducks come in across the deep red sky,
squawking. They splash on the black lake near the shore. It's neatly datk.
There's one way to make sure Carl never finds me. I know what I have to do.
THE DAY BEFORE THAT
I'm sitting at the bat, jawing with Bunny, as usual, when Carl walks in with the
same old shit-eating grin on his face and I'm almost happy to see him when
everything it means hits me upside the head.
He's about fifty pounds heavier, and shaved bald where he used to have his
wild woodsman haif and beard. More tattoos. A heavy gold chain holding down
a black t-shitt where a red plaid flannel collar used to be. But I don't mistake
him for a second. He must've been out of jail for years already. I didn't think he'd
ever come back here. I'm trying to decide who's dumber: him, for coming back,
or me, for thinking he wouldn't. He comes right on over and the notion occurs
that he's looking for me.
—Duck, you old son of a bitch.
—Carl. I shake his hand. —Long time no see.
He laughs like this is the funniest damn thing he's heard all week. —Long
fuckin' rime is right. Near twenty years, by my count.
—Yep. Guess so.
I look around for Alicia. The place is busy tonight. Maybe I oughta get Catl
outta hete.
—I figure you owe me a drink, he says. —Let's go sit in a booth. I got some
business to discuss with you. He lays a heavy hand on my shouldet and fairly
knocks me off the stool, pushing me towatd a table in the corner.
Alicia sashays by with her tray as we're heading over and Carl says, —Bring
me a Bud, honey.
We sit down in the high-backed booth. Up on the wall behind Carl an elk
head states at me with his glassy black eyes. I get a hard cramp low in my bowels.
Carl makes some chitty-chat about the weathet and shit until Alicia brings us the
beers.
—Who's your friend? she says.
—This here's Carl. Old buddy of mine, I say. We used to wotk together on a
logging crew. Carl was a bucker, too. Carl, this is Alicia.
—How do, Carl says.
Alicia shakes his hand and gives me a funny look. She isn't satisfied with my
introduction. This is like giving Carl the gun to shoot me with, but better him
68 PRISM  51:2 than her: —My girlfriend, I guess you'd say.
—Pleasure to meet you. Who'da thought this old cowpoke would have a
gitlfriend? And such a pretty young one, at that?
She gives him a sideways smile, like she's heard that one before.
—Well, he does have his moments. I'd love to stay and chat, boys, but I'm
working. You fellas stay out of trouble.
Carl watches het head off. Thin, satisfied smile on his face. He turns back to
me, says, —Got any smokes?
I pull out my pack and push it across the table. —Lighter's in the pack.
—Nice piece of ass, back there. He lights his cigarette careful and slow, like
it's a blasting fuse. His deep-set eyes blink up at me over the flame. —She's pretty
... tanned.
—Is there a point anywhere nearby that you might mosey on up to?
—It's funny, is all. She puts me in mind of that Chilcoot Indian we once
knew. Archie, wasn't it? You remember Archie, don't you, Duck? You didn't take
too kindly to him.
—Times change. Maybe I changed. We ain't here to catch up on old times,
Carl. You said you got business.
Carl looks around the bar, through the haze, at the rodeo trophies, saddles
and old tack hanging from the beams, taxidermy and faded Charlie Russell
prints. The woozy blare of country-music radio. —What'd you say that girl's
name was? Alicia?
—Carl, shit or get off the pot.
He leans back in his seat. —I'm wotkin' for Clinton, now. He said you up
and quit.
Working for Clinton. Shit. Him and that goddamn elk leering over his
shoulder.
—Yeah, well, it ain't like I'm gettin' a severance package. I can't do it no
more. I'm gonna go back to regular work. It's like they say in the movies: I'm
gettin' too old for this shit.
—Clinton says he needs a mule, and you're the one he ttusts.
—He'll have to get hisself a new one. Why are we flappin' our jaws, here. I
already told him all this, like, a month ago. Why don't you do it, you're so tight
with him.
—I'm an ex-con. I can't cross the border with a cat full of greenery.
—Well, there's no fuckin' way. I don't trust Clinton, and I sure don't trust
the fellers he does business with. I had to display a fuckin' firearm to get out the
last time. And then I had to cross the border with my nerves wound like guitar
strings.
—Well, Duck. Lemme reframe this situation for you. Clinton's got a delivery
near ready to go and he wants you to take it next Saturday—week tomorrow. I'll
meet you here around ten. Be ready to go. If you're not here, I'm going to have
to introduce myself properly to of Archie's little sister there.
Carl stands up and unfolds a fin to leave on the table. —I hope I'll see you
here. You know, it's just business, eh? We used to be real tight, Duck, back in the
day. Couple of brush apes. I'm willing to let bygones. He knocks the table with
prismmagazine.ca 69 his knuckles. —Same old dive. Bunny ain't even wiped the dust off them old
bottles. And this shitty fake country music. Only thing worse'n country-music
radio is every other damn kind of radio, I guess. Hey, Duck. What d'ya call a
logger with his btains kicked out?
I almost smile. I ain't heard that one for a while. I say, —A cowboy?
He winks at me and walks out into the night.
TWO MONTHS AGO
—My daddy was the one fucked evetything up. We had a ranch up neat Williams
Lake. Been there for five generations. My great-great granddad, Irvine Spencer,
was a soldier in the U.S. Army and by the time they marched him out to Utah
in 1857, to put down the Mormons, he'd had enough. Killing Indians was one
thing, I guess he figured, but the Mormons was white.
Alicia gives me a look.
—I'm just sayin' what my own granddad told me, I say. —I ain't sayin' it was
right.
We're lying in her bed. First time and it's loosened my lips bettet than a bottle
of Southern Comfort. Giving her my life story, and then some. I'm downright
loquacious. —By winter they'd heard of gold on the Fraser, so one night old
Irvine and a couple other fellas snuck off and come up to join the Gold Rush.
My granddad said they killed a sentry getting out of the camp, but I nevet knew
whether to believe that part. In the next couple years, old Irvine kept heading
north and finally made his own strike in the Cariboo Rush, on Keithley Creek,
in 1860. Most prospectors never found nothing, and most of them that did
blew it on whiskey and whores. Old Irvine, though, held on to some of that gold
when his stake played out and bought himself some head of cattle and a couple
of horses and srarted ranching.
—Where'd he get the land for the ranch? Alicia says.
—What d'ya mean? But she knows I know what she means.
—That's where my family comes from, you know. I'm Tsilhqot'in, but my
mom took me and my btothet out of Williams Lake when I was a baby and came
here. That ranch might have been my people's land.
—Well, maybe you're lucky and you just don't know it.
I'm sorry I said it. She turns away from me and leans up on an elbow. The
blankets fall away from her shoulders. —Sorry, I say. —I wish my momma'd
done the same for us and took us out of there. Had that courage.
I put my hand flat on her shoulder blade. Let my callused fingers ride down
the muscles that ripple under the skin, soft and glowing like caramel. She lights
a cigarette with my brass Zippo and rolls onto her back, leaning up against the
headboard. She blows out a stream of smoke and her small breasts pool across
her ribs, little datk nipples pointing up.
—So you're descended from a murderous, disloyal, land-stealing Indian-
killer, is what you're telling me. You couldn't have mentioned that before I slept
with you?
—That ain't me.
—Just finish your damn story.
70 PRISM  51:2 —Well, after that, my family was tanchets. Not much to tell. We nevet made
a fortune, but we kept on there. The homestead passed to the oldest son each
generation, except my daddy was the third son, but his two older brothers died
in the war, so he got the ranch.
—Can I have one a'them smokes, I say. Alicia lights one off the cherry of hers
and passes it to me. I take a deep drag and continue.
—Daddy always figured there were better ways to make more money, so
what with gambling and bad investments and one thing or another, he let the
ranch go to seed and mortgaged the hell out of it and finally had to give it
over to the bank. He packed up me and Shelley and Momma and moved us to
Vancouver when I was about fourteen. The old man didn't know nothing but
ranching and losing money, so he ended up as a short-order cook and Momma
waitressing and taking in dress alterations. The four of us squeezed into a two-
bedroom apartment near Chinatown and Daddy started in to dtinking and
beating my mom.
Alicia's put out her smoke and she's got the blankets tucked up around her
neck. Her brown eyes are welled up with tears but her jaw's set like stone. I
don't want her sympathy— probably she's seen worse, and it don't bother me no
more—but I don't know how else to play this. This is the stoty.
—One day I guess I had enough and I took a poke at the old man and
naturally enough he clobbered the living daylights outta me. When I came to,
he was gone, but my momma said I'd better light out, so that's what I did. I
was sixteen and I never saw him again. He blew his brains out a few years later.
Put Momma and Shelley outta his misery, anyway. I came for the funeral, but
Shelley wouldn't talk to me. She was ten when I left, and she never forgave me,
I suppose.
—Shelley's the one first called me "Duck." When she was little, she couldn't
say "Derek." Gosh, she was a sweet little thing. Wheaty-blonde hair and eyes
blue like those Easter-egg candies with the chocolate under the shell. She looked
like she'd blow away in a stiff breeze but, damn, was she bullheaded. She wouldn't
never sit still, except when she rode a horse. I never seen a horse get the better of
that girl. My name's the only thing I got of her. Momma says she's back East, out
in Toronto, designing theatre sets ot something. When I think about my little
sister Shelley, sometimes I get to thinking I'd like to go back to ranch work, get
back up on a horse of my own.
Alicia slides outta bed and into her jeans and a sweatshirt. —I'm gonna put
on some coffee. Want some?
—Sure.
I lay in the bed awhiles, listening to Alicia move around in the kitchen.
Clink of cups. Tap running. Little groan in the pipes. Shiff stuff, shiff of her knit
slippets on the lino. I get up and pull on my jeans and go out to the kitchen.
Wrap my hand around her thick black hair and pull it aside to lay a kiss on the
back of her neck.
—Wanna put on some music? she says.
—In here? I look into the living room. —Won't wake up your momma?
She shakes her head. —That one sleeps like a log. Go on. Something good.
prismmagazine.ca 71 She's got some good music. Kind you don't get on the radio no more. Steve
Earle. Hank. Lucinda. Emmylou. Townes Van Zandt. Some old blues and
Motown, too. I put onTownes's Our Mother the Mountain.
Feel like I'm setting to bunk in this town fot a while. I got an itch to go, but
this gitl's got her hooks in me, for sure. I've only known her for a couple weeks,
but it feels like longer. Her momma's asleep upstaits. Felt funny meeting that
one. I almost said I was sorry. I only put the pieces togethet myself today, when
Alicia told me her big brother Archie was dead. Twenty years ago, he was beat to
death by a couple of redneck fucks outside a bat. Ttue story.
TODAY
Cars and streetlights and Carl's voice stop Duck! and Archie's ruined red face swing
past me on a merry-go-round I'm kicking and kicking and the horse with the golden
bridle rides up and down the pole past the mirror and the blood starts to stain the ice
flowing down his auburn flanks and I don't want to see that face no more so I kick
that's me that's me as he goes up and down in front of the mirror and I only see my
own face there in the blood and I kick harder and harder and my arm is gripped in
a vice and I fly through the light into the black.
Bolt upright, quaking like fever, wet sleeping bag around my waist. Fucking
horse dream again. Cold shaking hand across to my watch, button-on the
light, says it's nearly six. Carl ain't dead. I gotta remember. I feel around for the
flashlight, light up the tent, my icy blue egg. I gotta move.
Fucking Carl. I shoulda done it when I had the chance. More fool me for
thinking I'd wake up with a clean conscience. Snake-oil's all that is. I ain't never
gonna have that chance again. Scratch the itch on my neck, but it burns. I've
rubbed it raw.
The tent-fly unzips like a siren in the quiet and I crawl out with my sheepskin
coat and hat to put on when I can stand up straight. A fresh dusting of snow fell
in the night. I piss behind a tree and a thick cloud of steam rises. There's a touch
of light in the East, but ovethead the stats are still clear and bright through the
pines, you could count them if you had the time.
Gotta get going. I'll stop somewhere on the road for a cup of coffee and a
muffin.
I tie up my bed-roll and tent and heave 'em into the ctummy. All my worldly
goods, there in the tmckbed. Power saw. Corks. All my brush ape shit. Toolbox.
Saddle I ain't used for years. Guitar I can't hardly play. Canvas hockey-bag full
of clothes and my rifle stowed in the cab. Maybe I can find some ranch wotk in
Albetta. Get the fuck out of the woods.
A loon cries down on the lake, setting another shiver through me.
I climb in the truck and light another smoke while the engine warms up.
I'm never going to see Alicia again. I see that, now. That line from Shane
comes to me, There's no livin with a killing. There's no goin back from it. That was
Daddy's favourite. Stupid kids' movie. But I think it's true.
A blanket of cloud rolls across the sky, snuffing out the stats. I pull out of the
campground in the grey dawn and head along the road. The trees thin some, and
72 PRISM   51:2 behind a split-rail fence to one side a few cattle root around in the thin snow. On
the other side a fog creeps off the lake. Dry snow whispers across the blacktop
like smoke in the Chevy's headlights. After ten or fifteen minutes, the country
opens up a bit, and I see a young chestnut horse, running like the devil's on her
tail. She vanishes behind a hillock and I stop the ttuck and get out.
The winter daylight starts to rise, and everything's glowing grey and blue.
The cedar fence rail creaks under my boot when I lean into it. Push down. Let
up. Creak. Another loon call breaks the quiet, and then comes the soft thunder
of shod hooves. Over the rise beyond the fence, the filly gallops back around
a brake of aspen, puffing thick clouds out her nostrils. She's a three-year-old,
I reckon. Maybe only fourteen hand, but she'll be good for cutting and calf-
roping when they throw a saddle on her. Strong and fast. Blowing hard. She cuts
left short of the fence and flies past where I'm standing. Playing to the gallety,
that one. Her coat like red silk gathers in the cold light and flashes back fire.
Snow's statting up again. Like ashes. I drive again heading for the highway.
Heading East into the cold light. The snow starts to fall thicker. In the mirror I
can't hardly see where I've been.
prismmagazine.ca 73 Catriona Wright
BBQ
The grapevine is strangling the basil. In the grill coals blink black
then pale grey, shedding the smell of lightet fluid.
All the mint from the balcony bathtub has been juleped.
It is unseasonably warm. We are sensibly drunk.
I am wearing a dress I bought yesterday from my neighbour.
A polyester cosmos of flying saucers and tulips.
We fight ovet the relative merits of day jobs, if they suffocate
or inspire. Dodging our voices Frank Zappa cackles about rutabagas.
The catfish grows oily and succulent in its foil shroud,
cayenne-dusted whiskers igniting the air.
74 PRISM  51:2 WHITE
i.
Growing up in green,
my father ate white,
only white in green
Ireland and on white plates,
at that. White fish,
potatoes, salt,
parsnips. The way he
told it Sunday roasts
were slabs of fat, white
unmarbled, unmar-
red. Served with a side
of cauliflower,
washed down with milk. An
albino diet,
monochromatic,
monogustatic.
Diet of static,
white noise. When they moved
to Canada, the sight
of so much snow set
his stomach
to grumble. He fell
upon the mounds of it,
the sugared, floured
mounds of it and shoved
the cold into his mouth.
It tasted white.
prismmagazine.ca
75 II.
He found a wife who
knew a thing ot two
about white: rice, thick
yogurt, feta, breast
milk, diamonds. O-
ver the years all that
white carried itself
through my fathers' dooms
of blood, hurried, white-
tushed for a front row spot at
the aortal boom and bust. My
father tried to calm
the white with white:
matgarine, tofu, pills.
But it is white now
that slows the flow of
blood thtough arteries,
snow-narrowed streets.
76 PRISM  51:2 Fiona TinweiLam
HOUSE
i\ few years after his fathet moved out, my four-year-old son and I eventually
also relocated to another neighbourhood. We moved into a drafty brown stucco
house that at first seemed way too big for us. For six interminable months my
son pined for our cozy former abode.
"I miss the green house," he'd wail inconsolably, sitting on the stairs with his
head in his hands.
I felt the same way—he and I had memories of the three of us spending time
together in a way we would never be doing again. It would take a while to let
go. The tenuous, imaginary buffer from the realities of single parenthood that
I'd clung to was gone. Those were hard years of overlapping losses: my mothet's
cognitive decline leading to her death, the departure of my son's father, and the
loss of an opportunity to have a "whole" family.
That winter, after my son's fathet found a new partner, I tried to compensate
for those losses by making Christmas extra special: a bigger tree, more
decorations, more presents—and my first attempt at a homemade gingetbread
house. I lugged the organic ingredients home on foot, in the rain. Carefully
followed the multi-day recipe instructions step by step. Mixed the dough, tolled
it out, cut the pieces, baked them, assembled them. But every step had its tiny
crisis. A forgotten ingredient. Extra trips to the store. Shrunken gingerbread
segments that wouldn't fit togethet. Royal icing that wouldn't set. A clogged
pastry tube nozzle. Kitchen floor and counters strewn with flout, broken
candies, and crumbs. I was covered in flour, then dough, then crumbs, then
icing sugar, then icing. Finally, one of the two roof pieces broke in half when I
was struggling to place it atop the walls. As I grew more frazzled, my son grew
more impatient—for him the whole point, of course, was decorating the house
with candies.
I barked, "You'll just have to wait!" to my whining son while I tried to stop
the caving-in roof from sliding down with one hand. As I squeezed mote royal
icing into the yawning gaps with the other hand, the self-mocking poet in me
was jolted into an epiphany. The metaphotical underpinnings of the whole
process became patently obvious. Ruefully, I realized I was trying way too hatd
to make a home for my son on both the symbolic and the actual levels. All my
efforts were ultimately irrelevant. Home was neither the building we inhabited
nor a decorative seasonal baked good that would be tossed in the garbage in a
week.
The next year we made a less ambitious house—even baking an extta roof
piece as insurance after the ptevious year's debacle. When I burnt the gingerbread
parents, I just cut out new ones from the extra roof. After cobbling together a
somewhat lopsided but stable hut, I wondered how and where to position the
prismmagazine.ca 77 new gingerbread family figures. I decided to have the mother and child holding
hands by the open front door.
"Where should I put the dad?" I asked my son.
He shrugged, indifferent. I hovered with the piece for a while, then placed
the fathet by the doot with his hand touching his son's head to create a visible
bond between them. As I looked down, it seemed apt—the mother and fathet
were separate from each other, yet joined by their child.
I cemented them down, wondering how long it would all last. I
78 PRISM  51:2 CONTRIBUTORS
Martin James Ainsley's work has appeared in The Malahat Review, The Arbutus
Review and British Columbia Historical News. He has a BFA from the University
of Victotia and is now working toward an MA in Creative Writing at the
University of New Brunswick. He lives in Fredericton with his wife and two
children, but the West Coast is home.
John Barton has published ten books of poetry, including Hymn (Brick, 2009)
and For the Boy with the Eyes of the Virgin: Selected Poems (Nightwood, 2012).
Co-editot ofSeminal: The Anthology of Canada's Gay Poets (Arsenal Pulp, 2007),
he lives in Victoria, where he edits The Malahat Review.
Chris Galvin lives and writes in Canada and Viet Nam. Het writing has appeated
ot is forthcoming in Room, Descant, Asian Cha, The Winnipeg Review and others.
Chris is currently polishing a collection of personal essays about Viet Nam.
Alisa Gordaneer is from Victoria, BC, where she writes poetry and nonfiction.
She teaches writing of all softs, and contributes a monthly column about the arts
to Victoria's Boulevard magazine. These poems are from Still Hungry, a recently
completed collection of poems about food.
Claire Kelly lives and writes in Fredericton, New Brunswick. She has had poems
published in Exile and in the Malahat Review.
Kate Kennedy was botn and taised in Lillooet, British Columbia. She currently
lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she works as a freelance editor. Her poetry
has appeared in The Fiddlehead, Grain, The Antigonish Review and Ryga.
Fiona Tinwei Lam is the Vancouver author of two books of poetry, Intimate
Distances and Enter the Chrysanthemum, and editor of The Bright Well, a collection
of contemporary Canadian poetry about facing cancer. Her poetry, fiction and
non-fiction have been included in over 18 anthologies. Her first children's title,
The Rainbow Rocket, will be released by Oolichan Books in 2013.
Evelyn Lau is a Vancouver writer who has published five volumes of poetry,
two works of non-fiction, two short story collections and a novel. Lau's poetry
has received the Milton Acorn Award, a Governor General's nomination, and
a National Magazine Award. Her most recent collection, Living Under Plastic
(Oolichan, 2010), won the Pat Lowther Award for best book of poetry by a
woman in Canada. Lau is the 2011-2014 Vancouver Poet Laureate.
prismmagazine.ca 79 Maleonn is a photogtaphet from Shanghai, China. His work examines the
Chinese identity, stuck between its history and the construction of its future.
Described as one of the 50 leading artists in China by Japanese magazine MAC,
Maleonn has exhibited all around the world, including at the Victotia & Albert
Museum in London, the Photogtaphy Museum in Chicago and the Shanghai
Biennale.
Jennifer Manuel has taught elementary school in the farthest northern
and western corners of British Columbia. She is cutrently writing a novel,
which explores the ethical and cultural conflicts faced by teachers in remote
communities, as het MA thesis in Education at the University of Victoria.
Amela Marin is a writer and translatot living in Toronto, where she moved from
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her novella, The Sea, was published in 2010
by Quattro Books. Most recently, she has been exploring the intersections of
food, language and memory. Find Marin at www.amelamarin.com.
Rhona McAdam has lived in BC, Edmonton and London, England, and
spent a year studying food in Italy. Het poetry collections include Sunday
Dinners (JackPine, 2010) and The Earth's Kitchen (Leaf, 2011) and Cartography,
(Oolichan, 2006). Her first book of nonfiction, Digging the City: An Urban
Agriculture Manifesto, was published in 2012 by Rocky Mountain Books.
Zoey Leigh Peterson's fiction has appeared in The Malahat Review, Grain
and The New Quarterly. She lives in Vancouver and is at work on a novel.
Laisha Rosnau is the authout of the novel, The Sudden Weight of Snow
(McClelland & Stewart, 2002) and the poetry collections, Lousy Explorers
(Nightwood Editions, 2009) and Notes on Leaving (Nightwood Editions, 2004).
She lives in Coldstream where she, her husband, and their two children are
resident caretakers of Bishop Wild Bird Sanctuary. Rosnau is wotking on het
second novel and thitd collection of poetty.
Mark Sampson has published one novel, Off Book, and has a second, Sad
Peninsula, forthcoming from Dundurn Press in 2014. He has also published
stories and poems in journals across Canada, including This magazine, Pottersfield
Portfolio and FreeFall. Originally from PEI, he currently lives and writes in
Toronto.
Sarah Selecky s short-story collection This Cake Is for the Party was a finalist
for the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Ptize, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize
for Best First Book and longlisted for the Frank O'Connor Short Story Award.
She is also the creator of Story Is a State of Mind, a digital writing retreat. Find
Selecky at www.sarahselecky.com.
80 PRISM  51:2 Jane SpavoIdTims is currently working on a manuscript of poetry about growing
and gathering local foods, under an artsnb Creations Grant—an ideal project for
a writet and botanist. Jane has poems forthcoming in Carousel and published
in All Rights Reserved, The Dalhousie Review, The Antigonish Review, and The
Fiddlehead.
Zoe Whittall is a Canadian poet and novelist. She has published three novels and
thtee poetty collections. Her latest novel is Holding Still for as Long as Possible,
published by House of Anansi Press.
Catriona Wright has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto,
and she is an associate poetty editor for The Puritan. Her work has appeared in
various publications, such as Riddle Fence, CV2, Room, and The New Quarterly.
Julia Zarankin's writing has appealed in The Threepenny Review, The Antioch
Review and The Dalhousie Review. In het former life, which ended in 2008, she
taught Russian literature at the University of Missouri. She now lives and writes
in Toronto.
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Ctl, The Creative Writing Program at U.B.C.
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Rhea Tregebov
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Peter Levitt, Annabel Lyon, Susan Musgrave
&? Karen Solie
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