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 nn
international
Fall 2011
Contemporary Writing from Canada and Around the World  PRISM international
2011 Earle Birney Prize for Poetry
$500 was awarded to
Lorna Crozier
for her poem
"Duet"
which appeared in PRISM 49:3
Special thanks to Wailan Low whose generous support keeps this PRISM poetry prize available.  PRISM international
Fiction Editor
Cara Woodruff
Poetry Editor
Jordan Abel
Executive Editors
andrea bennett
Erin Flegg
Advisory Editor
Rhea Tregebov
Production Manager
Jennifer Herbison
Editorial Board
Meredith Hambrock
Elizabeth Hand
Tariq Hussain
Michelle Kaeser
Lucie Krajcova
Kari Lund-Teigen
Alexis Pooley
Melissa Sawatsky
Kevin Spenst
Erika Thorkelson PRISM international, a magazine of contemporary writing, is published four
times a year by the Creative Writing Program at the University of British
Columbia, Buchanan E-462, 1866 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1. 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.
Email: prismcirculation@gmail.com   / Website: www.prismmagazine.ca
Contents Copyright ® 2011 PRISM international for the authors.
Cover Illustration: "dinosaur drawing #17" by Ryan Quast.
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US and international subscribers, please pay in US dollars. Please note
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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 a one-year subscription. PRISM also purchases limited
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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 self-addressed envelope with
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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
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For details on how to place an advertisement in PRISM international, please
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Our gratitude to Dean 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.
September 2011. ISSN 0032.8790
A
BRITISH COLUMBIA     988     Canada Council     Conseil des Arts
ARTS COUNCIL C±>   for tne Arts du Canada Contents
Volume 50, Number 1
Fall 2011
Fiction
kris bertin
Is Alive and Can Move / 7
Craig Boyko
The Door in the Wall / 28
Shashi Bhat
Why I Read Beowulf / 50
Andrew MacDonald
Krupkee, on the Molecular Level / 67
Nonfiction
Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti
from The Chairs Are Where the People Go / 22
Poetry
Susan Holbrook
The Disney Princesses / 16
7b My Vermiform Appendix / 18
To the Belugas Seen Through the Underground
Viewing Tank at the Vancouver Aquarium / 20
Lesley Battler
Doing Business With Poets / 25
Peter Chiykowski
Fossil Record / 41
Carolye Kuchta
Twenty Reasons to Avoid Thinking / 43 Jan Conn
Into a White Space I am Driven and Let Go / 45
Ourselves Lit Up / 46
Andy Weaver
71.  / 47
73.  / 48
94.  / 49
Bert Almon
Canada Customs Office / 59
Homero Aridjis
La Historia del Viento / 60
The History of the Wind / 61
Retrato de Mi Padre / 62
Portrait of My Father / 63
translated from the Spanish by George McWhirter
Dexine Wallbank
Tuesday / 64
Annette Lapointe
Produce (a snuff film) / 65
threadwork / 66
Contributors / 76 kris bertin
Is Alive and Can Move
I'd made it through a real rough patch, and so I had to do everything
I could to try and get something going that would keep me together.
My brother wouldn't let me stay with him but he did put up the money so I could get an apartment. Said he'd help me more if I started going
to meetings, but I said I didn't need that shit. Said all I needed was a job,
and believed it, too. Eventually I'm hired to do cleanup at one wing of
a building at the far end of the university campus—mostly dorm rooms,
but there's a cafeteria and kitchen, a daycare, and two floors of offices for
the teachers. I had to clean from midnight until it was done, which was
usually five in the morning, and for the first time in years, I really try to
stay on top of it and do a good job because I really have nothing else.
I got hired even though for the first week I had to smoke every five
minutes, take a dump every two, and was sweating so much I looked
like I'd been out in the rain. But the cleaning boss, Charles, seemed to
understand. He has one of those big, bloated noses and you could see
he'd been through some rough patches himself. You could never know
how bad someone else has had it, but even the worst alcoholics didn't
have it as bad as me. I was a special case—even the doctor said so—but
it was still nice to know he had an idea or two about it. One time, he even
asked how I was handling it, and I said good, because it was mostly true.
The job gave me a place to be at the exact time most everyone would
be going downtown to drive drinks into them. And it was a job that, for
the most part, was quiet and didn't involve other people. Sometimes I'd
see a college kid or two, shuffling around in their pajamas but that was it.
And the only other people I'd see were the professors, a couple of young
ones who would even talk to me sometimes. They seemed to always be
working late, smoking pipes and cigars and laughing a lot. I never really
let myself get in too close, because something about them seemed dangerous.
It was impossible to start the shift at the dormitory end, because any
day of the week the kids would be going right until three or four in the
morning, and if you cleaned it too early, you'd have to pick up trash,
mop up drinks or even puke, broken glass, shredded papers, then come
back and do it all over again. Instead you'd start with the offices, go
down each floor, sweep, mop and buff. Change garbages. Vacuum the
prismmagazine.ca mats near the doors. Clean walls once a week. Wipe down doorknobs
and railings and light switches with disinfectant. Do the toilets and sinks
and stock everything up too.
Charles said I had it right. That it was best never to even see the kids,
to never even lay eyes on them. A guy who had my job from before, a
few years ago, he got fired for fucking one of the girls.
"Whether or not he even did," Charles said, "And I fucking tell you
he did not so keep that in mind, too, young fella."
One night I did end up seeing a girl, at maybe quarter to four, hanging over the stairwell, watching me buff the floor. Her tits were dangling
down at me in her silvery shirt and I had to do everything not to take a
second look at her. Problem was it was summer, it was hot, and we were
both stripped down to almost nothing. I had on shorts and a muscle
shirt, and she had on that party top, and as far as I could tell, her underwear. Even with the noise from the buffer and all the space between us, I
swear I could almost feel her body against mine. Smell her. It had been
so long since I'd been with a woman, I almost dropped that big hand-
operated thing down the stairs a dozen times.
She kept saying stuff. You're hot. You're younger than the other guy. I like
your tattoos. Shouted right down on top of me so it bounced off every surface and into my ears. And to be honest, I was scared, scared all around.
For my job and my life and to even be seen with her. But I was most
scared of what she might think if I actually went for it, if she got a good
look at my face and eyes and smelled the stink coming out of my pores.
So I put my head down and pushed hard on the handles, as hard as I
could, got out of there with the job half done, my prick sticking straight
out in front of me.
And so I kept away from there until the very end of the night for both
those reasons, and because the only way for things to get back to normal
was for me not to lay eyes on any bottles, not to even smell the stuff or
look at it. I knew I couldn't even look at someone when they're screwed
up and having a time. Doctor told me I had to do whatever I had to do
in order to make it work, and the old guys who'd been able to quit altogether all said shit like It never gets easier and I had to believe it because
what else could I believe? Even all the pamphlets said the same thing,
and I imagine the meetings would too.
Being alone might not have been the solution I needed though. For
the first part, it was. When my system was changing, trying to turn itself
into something that didn't run on grain alcohol and bar food, I needed
to be alone. When I would have sudden bursts of energy and the air
smelled fresh, when all I wanted to do was tell the world how beautiful
it was, when I was so emotional the taste of Mike and Ikes nearly moved
me to tears, I knew it was good no one was around. Same as when I'd
8     PRISM 50:1 have a real downward dip and I would be so angry at absolutely nothing—angry at dirt and streaks and myself and the walls—those were
times it was good to be alone. And then when I'd have a black-out, and
I'd come out of it, scared and confused and I would have a moment
where I wasn't sure if it was a new day or one that happened a long time
ago. Those were times I was glad to be alone.
And then other times it would've helped to have someone there. Part
of drinking so much that your brain is permanently fucked means that
you have trouble staying focused on tasks, or else you can get distracted
from the ones you need to be doing by ones that don't matter. For a
while I got to counting all the bricks at eye level. I got to thinking for
a while that if the number of bricks came out odd, it was an omen that
things were going downhill again. I'd feel grim and grey and once even
thought about opening one of those big green windows in the bathroom
and stepping out headfirst. When it was even, I'd get a burst of energy
and I'd hear a whistling sound like my life was flying down the right
path. Those were things that another person could have kept from coming.
The brick count came out odd a few too many times and so I started
to get the idea that the building was against me. It wasn't a thought that
occurred to me—it was just that one day I realized it was what I believed,
was what I had always believed about the place. Almost immediately
after I realized it, I started to see it everywhere.
There was a brick missing from one of the walls, low and on a corner
that I hadn't noticed. I'd walk by it, or just clean the little red crumbs
where the hole met the rest of the wall. It wasn't until I realized that the
dirt and bits around it on the ground were from someone's foot, climbing
on it, that I paid it any attention. When I stuck my foot in and took a step
up, I realized there's another brick missing, a whole arm's reach up near
the top. I felt something slimy up there and let go, and a moment later a
few white things went plop onto the ground. At first I thought they were
worms—maggots—and I froze, held my breath while my brain tried to
work it out. With what I have, figuring things out can take longer than
it should, and it was only when I smelled my hand that I finally realized
what they were. It's a horrible smell. Latex and cum. Somehow that was
worse than maggots and I heard myself scream.
The scream started a chain reaction and then other people are screaming, too. Shouting, yelling, a bunch of men's voices coming down the
hallway. I watched a group of kids bust through the atrium, carrying
something over their head. They were chanting. Saying Edmond Burke,
the name of the building. I could feel something bad coming off them so
I went up the stairs to the cafeteria and stood behind a bunch of garbage
bins just to get something between me and them. Then I noticed what
prismmagazine.ca    9 they were holding. A person. A girl. The girl from the dorms—no pants
on, just sneakers and that silver shirt. At first I think they're going to
throw her through one of the windows, but then they open the door and
throw her outside. It almost looks like a prank, until they chuck her right
at one of those boulders near the doors, the ones that kids sit on. She
lands on her back and makes a terrible sound but I don't stay to watch
the rest.
I scramble into the cafeteria. Hide. Hide for so long that I fall asleep.
When I wake up, it's still dark, but I leave that whole area alone, don't
even go back to it. The next day I don't get in trouble for my shitty job,
and there's no blood or skin or teeth or sign of struggle and the boulder
looks fine. The condom is still in my uniform pocket though, and there
are more used ones in the missing brick. To me, it looked like a pattern,
but when I was feeling like that, everything did.
And then, a voice in my head said something In this place makes you
crazy. A moment later, it added you probably have It too.
The next week, one of the walls collapses. I was the last person to be
told, and so I just come across a whole mess of caution tape and scaffolding and tarps and dust where I was supposed to be cleaning. When I call
Charles, he apologizes and tells me to just leave that part and move on.
"Yeah, the fucking thing just let go. Been spitting rocks the size of
grapefruits out the front of it for years. One kid even got hit in the 90s,"
Charles tells me. "The whole fucking thing just let go. Two kids died.
Girls. Happened to be walking through the door at that exact moment.
There's gonna be a hell of a lawsuit."
Avoiding the mess fucked with my hours, because it took a solid 2.5
off of them, but I don't say anything. Instead I put my hand in a locker
and slammed the door a few times. I knew at the time that it wasn't productive but it made a kind of sense. It was about my hours, but for those
poor girls too, like if I felt bad pain it could somehow straighten things
out for them and me.
When I look back I know I'm acting this way because I refused to
take the pills they said I needed after my hospital stay. I thought refusing
them would make me stronger, that if I could get through on my own,
it would be for the better. And so in that state, thinking about what the
bricks and the kids and the wall meant kind of made me decide things
I shouldn't have. Like that the building was alive. That it did stuff to
people, and did stuff on its own.
It gave me something to do for the rest of my nights, on my smoke
breaks, in the toilet bowls. Gave me something to look for when I was
doing the floors, gave me cracks to see in the ceiling and little differences
to notice. I was sure the school was moving. Maybe it was all marshland
underneath or a slow sinkhole or something, but there were signs of
10     PRISM 50:1 growing and shrinking, no doubt about it. The more I thought about it,
the more I remembered stuff that had been one way and was now another, like a whole door that used to be under the stairwell, and the giant
mirror that was right next to the south double doors that was just gone.
"What happened to that stuff?" I would ask out loud. I wanted to ask
Charles but then I wasn't really sure if he was on our side or Edmund
Burke's. I wanted to go look for the girl in the silver shirt from all those
weeks ago, but I was both scared I wouldn't be able to find her, and that
I would, that I'd lose my job up there on a hot, sticky night.
I mostly didn't think about the building during my daytime. I'd just
watch tv and smoke and take walks, but more than a few times I catch
the tail end of an idea of a memory I'd once had that could help with
my theory. Memories are hard to hold onto without booze, and I even
thought about buying some Russian Prince just so I could make my
brain work right—not even to get drunk, just a few ounces to grease the
wheels and get things going.
I didn't give in, though, not then. I'd get into bed and sleep when I felt
like that, and eventually my missing memory came to me. Spider-man
dealt with this shit once. A living building. It was a museum and it tried
to kill him. And a green guy was in it. Like a mummy or a zombie, all
rotten and shit, and he controlled the museum. He made chandeliers fly
around and wax cavemen chase Spiderman around. In the end, a suit of
armor cut spider-man's head off. Or no—Spiderman cut the green guy's
head off. But it grew back.
I tried to explain it to the guy at the comic shop and he said he wasn't
sure which issues I meant. He said it sounded more like a Twilight Zone
episode but I said no, it's definitely a comic. I read it as a kid, and then
again at the library in the can back in '01. It was a pretty dull day so him
and me went digging through the oldies and I realized it wasn't a zombie, it was Spiderman's enemy, the Lizard. We found four Spiderman
comics with museums in them, but only one of them had the lizard. It
wasn't the right comic, but it was close enough that I bought it. Read it at
the McDonald's nearby and even though it wasn't the one I remember,
it seemed so familiar that it made me feel better, even if it didn't tell me
how to solve my problem.
I lost the comic book before I could read it twice, but I saw the lizard
guy the next night in a dream. He was standing in the hall at the school,
upstairs near the toilets, and he had a mean hard-on sticking out of his
pants and labcoat. Hissing and laughing and playing with himself, trying
to keep it going so he could give it to me. He didn't look real—looked
like a guy in a costume, but I got the idea that maybe the costume was
alive, growing on the guy like moss.
"Don't come forward," I said, but of course he did.
prismmagazine.ca    11 As he came at me, I got a jolt of pain in my guts like I'd been knifed
and I fell backwards over my mop bucket, tipped the thing over and
within seconds I was soaked in brown water.
The green guy's rubber feet squeaked after me and it was then that
I realized I wasn't dreaming, I was just seeing shit. I heard the echo of
my own voice spiraling down the halls and bouncing off the floors and
then it was quiet. Then I saw just how dark it was outside. That it was
just another night and the hall was empty. The doctor warned me I was
probably gonna see shit. He said I'd feel good for a bit and then it would
be like detox all over again. And it would be bad. I thought it had come
and gone but there it was after all. It doesn't take long to realize I'm going to need those pills he talked about
I barely finished my cleaning that night because I was so fucked up
over the lizard. I kept looking over my shoulder and even fell down the
stairs because of it. Ended up scraping my hands and bashing my knees
and it took everything, everything in me not to walk to Ron's or whatever bar would let me in at 8 am to drink my face off.
It hurt to go to the doctor. To say that I fucked up and I couldn't straighten myself out on my own, but he was nice about it. He said what he
said before, that it's not an option to go without the pills. That a guy as
young as me can still make it if we get on top of it. He prescribed the
stuff, which is usually for old people, but said it would help me keep my
head straight. He also gave me a chart of stuff to eat, vitamins to take.
Said that people who have alcohol dementia need nutrition more than
anything else. It's important to eat three meals, make them healthy and
never miss them.
I realized too, that I hadn't been drinking enough water, just a few
cups of coffee and a can of coke to stay up. The doctor straightens all that
up though, and after a while, I actually feel good. I start getting that high
all the time and for a while the job gets better. With something as easy as
the right food the right amount of times, the right pill at the right hour,
things make more sense. Three weeks is all it takes for me to feel like a
teenager again. At night, the school is quiet, like a church, and when I
clean it, it's like a whole new place to me. It's like I've just come back
from another planet—one that looked just like this one, except without
straight lines and right angles. I stop seeing shit, hearing shit, thinking
insane thoughts, and more than once I have a hard time remembering
what it was even like before the pills.
It stays away from me, and I don't even think about the building
growing or moving, or controlling people's minds. I just about forget
all about it until I find that comic book in a bag with a bunch of porno
magazines and moldy burger wrappers. I laugh out loud, and remember
12     PRISM 50:1 how crazy I was being, like it's so far away from where I am now. But
then, I look inside, look a little too close at one of the pages and that lizard is smiling too hard, his mouth too wide. And I feel it, like it's all fresh.
I close the book. Throw it out.
One night the professors get me in their office. I'm going by with the
dust mop and one of them shouts, Hey, and I stop. I don't know why I
stop. One of them has a sixty-ouncer, drinking right out of the neck with
one hand like the kids would do, except it's a fancy scotch I've never
heard of. I get the sense from looking at them that maybe something had
gone wrong for one of them, and maybe the other was the kind of person
who'd go along with anything. Then he passes it around the room a few
times, and when it gets to me I watch my hand bring it to my mouth.
Feel my mouth open, my throat take it and send it down to my belly, and
feel everything get dull. Even though I stand there and joke with them
and listen to their shit, it takes everything to keep it together. I feel like
I'm falling backwards into something like a bed, but warmer. Something
like water, but softer. I realize that I believe the building is moving again.
I believed it with my first sip. And more, I've always believed it.
I want to say something like no sorry, I don't drink, say it now and
launch it back ten minutes ago, but I can't. I realize that going to meetings and all that probably would have trained me to say it. I would have
said it when I met them, would have shaken their hands and told them
about my disorder or disease or whatever you call it.
Then we're outside, and I'm on my hands and knees, showing them
the slope in the ground made by the building as it moves forward.
"That's amazing," one of them says.
"This place is fucking haunted to shit anyway," the one with the beard
says, "all I hear is people saying they wish the department was somewhere else. Jane saw a ghost here once."
"Fuck Jane," the other one says, then the bottle goes around again
and we're leaving to get more and I don't even think about my mop and
bucket, up on the third floor. Don't think about the unlocked maintenance room, the extension cord running down an entire hallway into a
stairwell. The six dirty washrooms that need to be cleaned.
We're at a bar after that, and they got us each a pitcher and we're in a
place that doesn't even care if we drink right out of the jug. Then I realize we're at Ron's, and I brought us here. Nick's behind the bar, watching me, and I get the sense that maybe I'm dreaming, maybe I've floated
here in a dream and really I'm in bed, groaning and rolling around and
kicking the shit out of the sheets. Maybe I'm still good, and I haven't
drunk a drop and everything's okay.
"I need to put together a resume," I tell the professors. "I need to get
prismmagazine.ca     13 a new job."
"Take out an ad," the younger one says, "I'm sure you can do a lot of jobs."
"I'm alive," I tell them, "got two legs."
"Is Alive and Can Move," the other one says, moving his hands like
he's creating a headline before our eyes.
There's a long black piece in my memory like a blindfold and then
I'm on a beach with my shirt off.
"Look at that," one of the girls says. There are girls.
We look out across the harbour at the city and even though it's late,
the lights and the fog and the sky all around it are this deep purple, green
at the edges like a bruise. There are clouds overtop of it that aren't over
us, and you can see the little flashes of lightning way in the air as things
get ready to open up.
"The school's moving," I tell the professors. "In the past two months,
it's moved two feet. That's why the wall collapsed."
"Of course it is," one of them says. "According to my research, the
whole city's on the move. It wants to get into the Atlantic."
"Really?"
"It's a living thing, the city. I know that sounds like a joke, but it
grows and changes and learns. Does stuff. Just like us. Except it runs on
people."
"That's bullshit," I say, but I can feel myself getting scared. "Gonna
need a new job."
"He's a professor," one of the girls says in a voice I don't like. Everyone looks at me like they're serious, though. Like I'm not being fucked
with.
"Your body runs on a bunch of smaller things going around and doing stuff. Your blood, your cells, antibodies, bacteria, all that stuff. A
city's the same thing, except we're those little guys making it work, keeping it alive. You see?"
"Yeah," I tell them. And I do. I can actually see it in my mind, all of
us climbing over scaffolding and driving our cars and walking up and
down the streets like water through a pipe. I want to ask them if they
know somewhere I can get a job, but then someone passes me a drink
and I realize I don't know anyone's name, don't even know who or what
they are.
"The city's gonna dump us all into the ocean," the bitchy girl says.
"You think two feet is impressive? Try a kilometer a year. That's how
fast the city is trying to kill us."
"It's true," the professor says, but this time I can hear something in his
voice. Then his friend speaks up and I realize they've been bullshitting
me, going around in circles making shit up.
Smoke pours out of the other professor's bearded mouth as thick as
14     PRISM 50:1 taffy, and he says "Oh yeah, the world's coming to an end. This is fucking it."
Then there was thunder, and that feeling you get inside, that rumble
that wants you to run away like an animal on a nature documentary, and
I could almost see it. I could see that bruise colour spreading through the
sky, and then I saw it. Everything shook and I felt it right in the middle
of me and the city actually moved, moved a whole block over. Like ka-
chunk, and there it was, settling in, nestling into place like a cat. And the
thunder got louder and louder and the sky lit up again and when it was
over, when the noise from the sky got quiet, almost everyone was laughing like crazy. I could feel something coming, something coming right
up from inside of me, so I make a point to try and drift off to that place
where everything gets dark and I can sink into myself like a stone down
to the bottom of my thoughts. Then something bad happens.
Three years later I go back to that school and eyeball from the corner
of the steps to the tree, and count out the paces and put my hands flat
on the earth and I swear it's taking a goddamned walk up the city. I'm
completely dry, and I'm on my medicine, and I've been stone-cold sober since I was back on the street but I swear it's moved. It's a cold fall
day and I know it doesn't make sense, but it's all there. And I can still
see that same dark shit in all the kids that look at me like I'm some kind
of monster dragging my belly in the dirt, but it's actually the other way
around and they'll never ever know it.
prismmagazine.ca    15 Susan Holbrook
The Disney Princesses
The Disney Princesses outnumber you.
The Disney Princesses are stuck to pencil cases, socks, toothpaste, bandages.
Soon they will appear on dogfood and pink insulation. The next time
you go to your mechanic he will offer you the Disney Princesses
timing belt.
Dykes worry their daughter will get teased about hemp overalls and soy
sandwiches, so they buy her the Disney Princesses backpack,
overcompensating.
But even if you wanted to shield your child from the Disney Princesses,
you couldn't. Someone will lend her a Disney Princesses eraser, and
she'll be hooked, because the Disney Princesses are like crack or PEZ.
The Disney Princesses appear in threes, blooming from fused hips.
The Disney Princesses stick together, at least the white ones do.
The Disney Princesses are Charlie's Angels without the guns.
Vm offering for sale a brand new Pink Disney Princess Flip-Open Slumber
Sofa. When it is in the sofa shape, it has Cinderella, Snow White and
Sleeping Beauty on the front. When you open It to sleep on, the blanket has
Cinderella, Snow White and Belle on It. The entire cover can be unzipped
and laundered.
The Disney Princesses don't wear pants.
The Disney Princesses are post-feminist.
I've never seen Jasmine, Mulan and Pocahontas together on snowboots.
The Disney Princesses are not ideological.
The Disney Princesses love you a lot, as long as you are a girl.
The Disney Princesses have an anthem.
It says there's a place where hope and dreams can last for all time.
In other words, the Disney Princesses would rather never be satisfied.
Each Disney Princess has a male love interest, but he never appears on
the thermoses or underpants.
The Disney Princesses prefer hanging out on your pillowcase talking
about hope and dreams with you.
That way you and the Disney Princesses can love each other, but it
won't look suspicious.
16     PRISM 50:1 The Disney Princesses do not associate with Barbie; they are virtuous
maidens from days of yore and Barbie keeps gynaecological
appointments on her Blackberry.
The Disney Princesses had oatmeal and quail eggs for breakfast. Barbie
had a diet pill and a grape poptart.
The Disney Princesses just titter at Hannah Montana. Soon she will be
a human woman, and her wall of socks will come tumbling down.
The Disney Princesses can be unzipped and laundered.
The Disney Princesses have a rubber backing.
The Disney Princesses may warp in the dishwasher.
Do not inflate the Disney Princesses.
The Disney Princesses are a choking hazard.
prismmagazine.ca    17 To My Vermiform Appendix
They took you
without asking.
In there for something
else, the surgeon
a contractor eagerly
thrashing behind
the drywall,
"while we're in there..."
Just because you do nothing or
because of something you might
do. If only they'd cut off my
elbow, I wouldn't have broken it.
Blowfish on the menu,
the prime minister still in office,
yet you were considered too shifty-
eyed to keep around.
Maybe I liked you,
maybe I didn't consider you
a fifth wheel
a bomb ticking,
worm turning.
Take a kidney out
and at least do some good.
Why are some vermiform
things reviled
while others are cock
of the walk?
18     PRISM 50:1 I never got to see you.
You could have been the shortest or
fattest or most all around
gorgeous vermiform appendix on record.
Hell, I don't even know if you
were fixed retrocecally or not.
Was your lumen partially
or totally obliterated?
You may have been vestigial
but you still stockpiled my gut flora.
What if I run out of gut flora?
Where will you be if I need
an efferent urinary conduit?
You'd be awesome at that.
Under McBurney's point,
3 inches southwest
of my scarred umbilicus
you don't lie
untroubled.
prismmagazine.ca     19 To the Belugas Seen Through
the Underground Viewing
Tank at the Vancouver
Aquarium
You do not show us
up like the sleek orcas.
In the impossible
Sani-Flush blue
of Canada's Arctic
exhibit, you swirl
lumpily. Peppermint
gum wads. Chubby grubs.
Bleached bean pods. Foetus
heads blubber-browed and
low-eyed, bodies
the graceless and perseverant
trunks of short-
legged dogs.
You look as if you were missing
something. Something not yet
bloomed from the lumps.
Helical tusk, wings.
You look as if you were missing ice.
20     PRISM 50:1 You have great personalities,
sacks of potatoes, toothpaste
squooges, shrink-wrapped
former athletes,
gnocchi. You rise
to the sunny deck,
where children drop
fish into the squeaky pink
sphincters of your gullets
then run to the gift
shop to squeeze
you while you
drift back
down.
Clouds.
prismmagazine.ca    21 Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti
from The Chairs Are Where
the People Go
An excerpt from a collection of 72 mint-essays as told to Sheila Hett by
Mlsha Gouberman
2. How to Make Friends in a New City
If you're just finishing school—maybe you're in your early twenties,
maybe you're moving to a new city—you need to make friends. The
very most important thing to know is that this isn't easy. It's really
easy to make friends when you're a child, and it's really easy to make
friends in high school and in college. And for a lot of people, I think, it's
a real shock to discover that making friends doesn't take care of itself in
adulthood. When you come to university you're crammed together with
a couple of thousand people who are around your age and who share
a bunch of stuff in common with you, and most important, are at that
very same moment also looking for new friends. In this sort of situation,
it would take a lot of conscious effort to end up not having friends. But
adult life isn't like that. You may move to a new city, maybe for a job
that doesn't easily put you into contact with a lot of people with whom
you have much in common. So what that means is that it's work, and
maybe for the first time in your life you have to actually take making
friends on as a project. I knew so many people around that stage of life
who suddenly found themselves isolated and couldn't understand why,
and had never thought of making friends as something they had to bring
conscious effort to.
If you see making friends as a project, you can understand that there
will be efforts and costs and risks. You have to go to functions that you
don't exactly feel like going to, you have to stick your neck out and make
gestures that are embarrassing or can make you feel vulnerable. You'll
have to spend time with people who seem initially interesting but then
turn out not to be. But all those things are okay if you see them as the
costs involved in a project. It's useful to identify what you like to do,
because friends are the people with whom you can do those things. So
22     PRISM 50:1 if you like to cook, you might take a cooking class and meet people who
are interested in cooking. Or if what you like to do is go drink in bars,
then find people who want to drink in bars with you. If you like to watch
television and make fun of it, find other people who want to do that. It's
useful to remember that friendship needs an activity associated with it.
If you're the ambitious sort, you can try to create your own world
around you, and may be have a party at your house every two weeks.
I think Andy Warhol's grandmother gave him similar advice. This gets
you more than friends—it can create a whole community. I'll say it takes
a certain kind of person to do this, though. But if you can do it—if you
can put yourself at the center of something—it really works.
When I came to Toronto, here's what I liked to do: I liked drinking
in bars and I liked thinking about the Internet. This was at a time when
thinking about the Internet wasn't so popular, but drinking in bars still
was, so I just started a club, and I put out the word, and I invited other
people. I was the only person at my organization at the time who was
really interested in thinking about the Internet. It was at a time when
sort of every organization hired one person to be their web guy. So there
were all these lonely, isolated web guys scattered around the city, and
we started a biweekly bar night. I was completely new in town, but just
by starting something like that, you really put yourself in the center of
all kinds of things. Being a host—it's a really super-valuable service that
a lot of people are disinclined to do, and if you can do it, it's a great way
to meet people.
65. Who Are Your Friends?
Teaching my classes, I started to notice during the breaks that there was
so much warmth between these people who often had very little in common. They had engaged in a fairly passionate and intimate kind of play
with each other, and the connections between them happened so quickly, and they developed such a collective fondness for each other. But this
fondness lacked the traits we normally associate with adult friendship.
They didn't know that much about each other. They didn't know
what was going on in each other's lives. But they felt a strong and genuine closeness. They were happy to see each other. And I started to think,
Oh—friends are the people you play with. That seemed like a pretty
good definition of friendship to me, and I was satisfied with it.
Then, about five years, ago a friend of mine moved here from
Kelowna, B.C. She said, You know, in Toronto, friendships are all based
around talking. What you do with your friends is you go out for coffee or
drinks, or you go to their apartment and you talk about stuff. She said, In
prismmagazine.ca    23 Kelowna, what you do with your friends is go swimming. It just seemed
really beautiful to me that in Kelowna your friends might just be these
people who liked floating around in the water with you—that the people
floating near you are your friends.
68. Social Capital
A lot people I know who work in the arts think they're poor. And it's
true that some of them might not have much money, but the idea that
they are somehow "the poor" is, I think, an idea too ridiculous to even
merit giving it serious consideration.
24     PRISM 50:1 Lesley Battler
Doing Business With Poets
Global Guidelines for first time poetry readings by downtrodden Oil tycoons
1.
enemy poets dance
on the stanzas of
mass production
2.
orphic forces
stockpile
oracular hats
cadres of losers
aim phrase tasers
hum as they pump
Bedlamite into
children hidden
in Oulippan labs
3.
do not fall for
linguists who
would riddle
critics with wit!
last October
they elected
attack dactyls
prismmagazine.ca    25 4.
always follow
global protocol
never blindfold
a poet or spirit
one off in a black
Mariah to Nigeria,
South China Sea,
without providing
new-hire orientation,
dinner at the Westin
5.
do not be
a brand hero
never overthrow
a rogue poet
on your own
bribe a fixer
to deal with
syllabic tribes
illegally supplied
with anagram
machines
running
pentameter
a million
rimbauds
a day
26     PRISM 50:1 6.
caught in
stage light
miles from
the nearest
Power-Point
you can drown
in their groundwater vowels
7.
call for back-up
evoke all the ores
black helicopters
flying monkeys
bookmarked in
your Blackberry
crack their
poetics into
metric feet
process
bellicose
verse
render hostile
lexicon into
honest sonnets
prismmagazine.ca    27 Craig Boyko
The Door in the Wall
""▼" "W" ere, duck. Here, ducky duck."
I     I Laurel Peggery sat on the edge of a park bench, scattering hunks
.X. _JL of bread in an appetizing arrangement across the gravel bank.
The duck, however, was grooming himself and took no notice.
She was a tall, sturdy, stolid woman, dressed neatly in several layers
of grey thrift-store sweaters, jackets, and scarves. Her posture was scrupulously correct—though at present her supplications had brought her
forward about five degrees from the vertical. A furrowed forehead and
deep character lines, running from her nose to the corners of her wide
mouth, made her look formidable; but her eyes were moist and beseeching.
A man came ambling towards her along the path. She stuffed the loaf
down into her purse and kicked aside the crumbs on the ground. She
corrected, or rather over-corrected her posture, so that she was leaning
backwards about five degrees past vertical. She crossed her knees and
folded her hands and stared resolutely at the trees across the pond.
The man took no more notice of her than the duck had, and so was
startled when, at the last moment, she fixed her gaze on him and said
firmly, as if reproaching herself for some weakness, "Good morning."
He was surprised to see that she was young and attractive. He was past
her before he could return her greeting; and though he soon forgot all
about the girl on the bench in the park, the rest of his day was haunted
by a specter of disappointment and dissatisfaction with life.
Laurel watched him till he was out of sight, then shook herself and
returned to her task.
"Here, ducky. Here, ducky duck duck duck."
A battered seagull flapped to earth twenty feet away and began strutting back and forth, watching her from alternating eyes. She hissed at it
and threw a pebble in its direction, but her aim was poor and the gull,
unruffled, continued his surveillance.
Suddenly a squirrel dashed out from under her bench, seized a hunk
of bread in its mouth, and bounded away in undulating leaps. She hissed
and stamped her feet after it.
"Filthy vermin." She glared pointedly at the seagull, who had taken
advantage of the distraction to come a few steps closer.
28     PRISM 50:1 The duck, meanwhile, had completed his ablutions and sat down at
the edge of the pond with his back to her.
"Duckeeee," she whispered, holding out a golden, spongy crumb.
The duck shivered his feathers with luxurious contentment and settled
more deeply into the sandy bank.
Laurel held the crumb between her thumb and index finger before
her eye, like a jeweller appraising a diamond, and, rocking her forearm
back and forth, carefully took aim.
The first crumb landed in the pond, the second, somehow, in a shrub
behind her, but the third landed an inch from the duck's head.
He looked at it. She held her breath.
He prodded it with his beak.
Then he picked it up and, with a toss of his head, flung it into the
pond. Laurel, the duck, and the seagull watched as it grew sodden and
sank below the surface.
"Oh, to hell with you," she said, and threw the rest of the loaf at the
duck. Anger did not improve her aim. The bread rolled into a tuft of
marsh grass, where it was promptly rescued by the seagull, who carried
it across the pond and began tearing it apart and squawking. Soon the
area was swarming with shrieking gulls.
Laurel kicked gravel at the indifferent duck, then got to her feet and
strode home.
Lionel Pugg moved to the city to get away from a girl who did not love
him and promptly fell in love with a girl who would never love him. He
did not know that at first; at first—indeed for four years—he didn't even
know her name.
Angel was his waitress at the first cafe he visited, his first day in the
city. She dressed like someone at the beach; she wore oversize flip-flops
and shuffled penitentially from table to table, her head cocked to one
side as if always peering around some corner. She took orders standing
heavily on one foot. She had a bluff, brash manner that terrified and
beguiled him. She nearly gave him a heart attack when she called him
"dear."
"All right, what's it going to be, dear."
Though he was ravenous, he asked for a coffee, not wanting to put her
to the trouble of fetching a menu.
"Is that it?" she asked irritably.
Lionel Pugg was a knobby, gangly, twitchy young man, with sunken
eyes, a concave chest, and hunched shoulders. He had thin skin and
more than the usual number of nerves, so he quivered like an overwhelmed antenna. Angel thought he looked like a creep.
"You can take up the table because it's slow today," she said, "but
prismmagazine.ca    29 don't expect me to swoop down every five minutes to refill you, if that's
all you're having. Somehow I don't peg you for a big tipper."
Lionel agreed, by gesture, that he was an abominable tipper.
He finished his coffee as quickly as its temperature allowed, left a five
hundred percent tip, and fled without risking further talk or eye contact.
From that day forward, he ate his meals at the cafe whenever Angel was
not working, and sat there quaking with dread that she would come on
shift before he could finish, and left shuddering with disappointment
when she did not.
He wrote her a novel. It took him three years to complete. It was about a
waitress, brash and beautiful but otherwise rather without qualities, who
fell in love with one of her customers who had also fallen in love with
her. This mutual affection was happily discovered one day (on page ten)
when the customer asked the waitress to marry him, and she agreed.
Several chapters were dedicated to the technicalities of the wedding and
the details of their blissful cohabitation, but this only brought the book
to page 57—a rather paltry offering, he felt. He had shown that these
two would be happy together (which had been his secret didactic purpose), but perhaps their happiness had been too easily achieved? So he
decided to have the waitress kidnapped; that got the ball rolling again.
To make the kidnapping plausible, he had to supply the waitress with a
garish back-story, which reached as far back as her distant ancestors and
as far forward as her decision to become a waitress. Then there was the
question of the kidnappers' motives, inevitably informed by their own
characters and back-stories. Finally, out of fairness, Lionel felt obliged
to provide the customer-protagonist with a history and pedigree too. By
this point, the hero bore little resemblance to the author, and the heroine probably had as little in common with her original; but he reassured
himself that the portraits were metaphorical and still recognizable. If he
was not a burly secret agent in fact, he was, anyway, rather taciturn; and
if Angel was not a dispossessed Balkan monarch in fact, she was, anyway, rather imperious.
Then came the action. His counterpart, the customer-protagonist,
tracked the kidnappers first to their hideout in the Sierra Madre, then,
from coded documents found there, to their headquarters in Washington, D.C, and from clues there, to their homes in Toronto, Phoenix, and
Dublin, and from there to outposts in Brussels, Kuala Lumpur, and the
moon. The waitress-heroine, meanwhile, was too beautiful and brash
to remain idle. By the time her husband had hunted down and, one by
one, killed off her kidnappers, she had successfully reverse-engineered
their mind-control device and transmitted the blueprints to her Balkan
accomplices. She had never been in any danger and was not grateful
30     PRISM 50:1 for the violent rescue. She divorced him, and on the last page threw her
wedding ring at him and told him to get lost.
This was not as Lionel had planned. But it seemed the more he subjected his characters to situation and event, the more vivid they became,
and the more vivid they became, the less control he exerted over them.
Consequently his novels never ended the way he thought they should—
that is, happily—but always with some vivid, attractive character telling
the protagonist what his flaws were, throwing something at him, and
stalking off the page. In this case, the ending rather undermined his secret didactic purpose; so he reassured himself that the heroine and hero
were total fictions and had no relation whatsoever to the real waitress or
himself, and that, at 458 typewritten pages, Served Cold was a respectable
gift, a genuine love-novel.
He did not want to bother his love at work, so he carried the manuscript around with him for another year, hoping to run into her casually
on the street. In fact, he saw Angel somewhere about town almost every
other week, and on several occasions literally bumped into her. Finally,
on one of these occasions she took him by the shoulders, held him upright to scrutinize his face, and demanded to know where she knew him
from.
The memory of the pressure of her hands on his arms rendered him
aphasic.
"I know I've seen you somewheres. Was it Lulu's? Do you know the
Donkey? It wasn't the restaurant: Ah well: mysteries. What's that you got
there? It looks big enough to be a book." She laughed at the outlandish-
ness of her imagination. "Hey, I've got a date but come buy me a drink
anyway in case I'm stood up. It's just across the street."
The mention of the date restored him to speech. "I couldn't possibly
intrude," he said, and ran away.
At their next encounter, he did better: He thrust the manuscript into
her hands, said, "I wrote this for you," and then ran away.
He stayed away from the cafe for six weeks. When at last he mustered
the courage to return, Angel showed no sign of recognizing him. However, though it was busy and he ordered only coffee, she came around with
the pot and refilled his cup several times. Finally she asked him what he
was doing that night. "I'm thinking of going to a party and I might need
a date, in case it stinks."
Angel had not read the novel, but she had removed its elastic bands
and identified it as a novel. She had no way to judge its worth—nor any
inclination to, since it flattered her to suppose it a work of genius. Though
she still thought Lionel was a creep, she began taking him around with
her to parties and bars and introducing him to other more attractive men
as her genius admirer. She found him useful, for she did not like to be alone.
prismmagazine.ca    31 The mail had arrived. Laurel tore open the mailbox, clutched the three
letters to her chest without looking at them, hurried upstairs to her apartment, locked and bolted the door behind her, then sat down at her desk
to inspect her booty.
All three envelopes were identical: the same size, the same colour,
with the same stamp in the same place, and all three addressed in the
same meticulous handwriting—her handwriting. Three more of her self-
addressed stamped envelopes had found their way back to her. One of
them felt a little heavier than the others. She saved it till last.
The first contained only a business card-sized piece of thin grey newsprint on which a single sentence had once, apparently long ago, been
typed or photocopied. It read,
We thank you for your Interest but regret that your novel does not
seem right for our list at this time.
The Editors
Neither the envelope nor the piece of paper gave any clue as to the identity or affiliation of these "Editors." Nevertheless Laurel put the rejection
slip carefully aside, to be filed later in the bottom drawer of her filing
cabinet, which was euphemistically labeled "Correspondence."
The second envelope held a genuine slip, one full third the size of
a regular sheet of paper. The paper too was heavier—possibly even
24-pound—and hardly translucent at all. However, the text on the slip,
though longer, was no more encouraging.
Dear Author,
The editorial staff would like to thank you for the opportunity of
reading your manuscrtpt(s). Please excuse any delay (s) that may have
occured In awaiting this response.
The editors reviewed your work(s) with careful attention and real
enjoyment. Unfortunately, however, given the quantity of submissions that
they receive, sometimes even quality work must be declined. Ultimately,
they did not feel passionately enough about your work(s) to be able to give
It the support that it deserves.
They regret that the large number of manuscripts) that they receive
makes It Impossible for them to respond to you In a more personal manner
or to comment In detail on your work(s). They wish you the best of luck In
finding a home for It elsewhere.
32     PRISM 50:1 There followed an invitation to buy some of the publisher's most popular novels at a discounted price.
Her gaze lingered for a while over the words "real enjoyment," but
finally drifted contemptuously to the typo in the first paragraph ("occured") and the solecism in the last ("manuscript(s)"). These should perhaps have cheered her up, but did not: Although it is no dishonour to be
criticized by the ignorant, it is still depressing to be rejected by them.
The third envelope contained one full, uncut sheet of paper. Fastidiously she unfolded it and smoothed it flat upon the desktop. From her
expression, it would have been difficult to pinpoint the moment at which
she read the familiar words, "Although we read your manuscript thoroughly and with careful attention, we regret..." She stared at the page for
a long time, her eyes roving across it seemingly at random. The text was
identical in substance, and in places identical in phrasing, to countless
other pieces of "correspondence" she had received over the years; long
familiarity had rendered her snowblind to this sort of letter. At length
she focused on the signature, and discovered that this one was unique
after all: It had been signed by hand, in real ink. The name itself was illegible, but the complimentary close read, "Thanks for thinking of us."
Also the word "author" in the salutation had been crossed out, and her
name (or one very much like it) had been written above.
She ran her fingertips over the handwritten words; she closed her
eyes and felt the indentations the pen had made in the page.
Then she filed it away with the others.
She returned to her desk and withdrew from a drawer a notepad and
a fat pen. She sat staring out the window for half an hour at the blank
windows of the brownstone apartment block across the street. She sighed
heavily; then she began to write.
I cannot tell you what she wrote (I can't quite see over her shoulders)
but I would guess that it was part emotional autobiography, part intellectual wish-fulfillment. I imagine numerous sad, lonesome characters,
most of them novelists, seeking one another and, implausibly, finding
one another; I imagine them coming together in voluble explosions of
clever and affectionate dialogue—the solitary person's idea of friendship, of love.
But I am daydreaming. I may not be able to tell you what she wrote,
but I can tell you how she wrote: She wrote hunched over her desk as
if trying to protect it from blows; she wrote with her head down and
her tongue clamped between her teeth; she wrote quickly and steadily,
never pausing to find the right word or consider a character's motives;
and she wrote for hours at a stretch. It has been said that we read to forget ourselves, but that when we write, we have only ourselves to find. I
think that Laurel Peggery wrote to forget herself.
prismmagazine.ca    33 She was interrupted that evening by the phone. It took her a moment
to recognize the sound; then she lunged across the room—but drew herself up short, finally lifting the receiver with a shrug of indifference that
was not entirely convincing.
"Yeah?"
It was her sister. "Have you eaten?"
Laurel gasped irritably. "Is that all you called for?"
"As a matter of fact, Marcel and I were thinking about going to a
party."
Laurel said nothing.
"Well, do you want to come?"
Laurel sat down at her desk and stared out the window. After a moment she sighed and said, "I suppose this is just another way of asking if
I've eaten?"
"Huh?"
"Or asking in your sly way if I need any help paying the rent? Or
whether I ever think about moving into a nicer, larger, sunnier apartment? Or—"
"Where's all this coming from?"
"You're worried about me: that I'm not getting enough social interaction—is that it?"
"I—we—I—merely thought that you might like to meet some new
people."
Laurel stood up. "Well, let me tell you something," she said with quiet
ferocity. "I don't need any help meeting people. In fact, I—" She cast a
wild glance around the apartment, then slowly extended her free arm in
a gesture of exasperation or resolve. "I just don't need any help meeting
people. I'm not a charity case."
"Okay okay. If you don't want to come, you don't want to come.
Sheesh."
After a pause, Laurel said, "I certainly do not."
"All right all right. But hey listen: If you don't want to come to the
party—will you come over and babysit?"
Laurel took a step backwards. Her mouth moved speechlessly for a
moment. "I suppose that's the real reason you called!"
Vivian tried for several minutes to convince her otherwise, but Laurel
was intransigent.
"You didn't want me to come at all! You knew I'd say no!"
"To be honest, I thought you might. But I always hope you won't."
"Well, Vivian, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I have changed my
mind. You'll just have to find another babysitter."
"Huh? You're coming to the party now?"
"Certainly I am coming."
34     PRISM 50:1 "That's great," said her sister. Then, plucking up her enthusiasm, she
said, "We'll pick you up at nine."
"I shall expect you at ten."
Angel swept through the party like a breeze stirring piles of leaves. She
tried on people's hats and eyeglasses. She asked one man what he was
drinking, and without waiting for a reply dipped her finger in his glass
and tasted her finger. "Delicious." She elbowed her way into conversations, which she listened to for five seconds, then summed up in one provocatively naive phrase: "But you can't fit all that money in one bank," or
"University is for saps," or "Jewish boys are yummy." Her proclamations
were as unanswerable as insults, and, satisfied by the silence they left in
their wake, she flounced on to her next group of victims. Within about
two minutes of their arrival, every man at the party was keenly aware of
her presence, and every woman was keenly aware of their awareness.
Lionel, too embarrassed to break uninvited into other people's discussions and yet terrified of being left alone, followed Angel around the
apartment at a distance of about six feet, his eyes fixed firmly on the
back of her head. He tried to look absorbed and filled to the brim with
contentment so that no one would talk to him; but his discomfort was
as manifest as a bad smell, and he wriggled and grimaced and clenched
his fists like someone suppressing murderous urges. So no one talked to
him.
"I'm sick of you gibing my heels," Angel told him at last. "Go, meet
some nice boys and girls." She made shooing gestures, which Lionel
fended off like falling blows.
"I don't want to leave you." He took a deep breath and let it out in a
quivering moan. "I—love you."
"Can it with that crap." She looked around to make sure no one had
heard him, then gave him a light, almost affectionate slap on the mouth.
"How many times do I have to tell you?"
"I can't help it," he said miserably, his head, shoulders, and spine
drooping under the weight of his shame. "I wish I could but I can't.
That's just the way it is."
"So what do you got to keep telling me it for? Look," she said. She
grasped him by the arms and twisted him around by the torso, his feet
remaining sunk in the carpet as if in mud.
"Where," he said without looking up.
"Over there. That chickie-poo's been standing all by her lonesome
since we got here. Go cheer her up."
Lionel shuddered at the idea. And indeed Laurel Peggery looked intimidating, standing at full height against the far wall, arms crossed, eyebrows raised in sarcastic expectation.
prismmagazine.ca    35 "I can't," he said. "She wouldn't want to talk to me. I'm not interesting. I wouldn't have anything to say."
"Lioney," said Angel in her saccharine voice. "You do like me a little,
don't you?"
Lionel simpered like jelly.
"Then give me a kiss," she said, giving him one, hard, on the lips,
"and go say hello to that stuck-up bitch." Then she shoved him clear
across the room. Flailing and staggering, he collided with Laurel at a gallop, his forehead and her chin coming together with an audible crack.
"I'm so sorry," he cried. "I must have tripped. Are you all right?"
Laurel, after recovering some of her poise, said, "Certainly I am all
right."
"I'm really just so, so, so, so, so, so, so, SO, SO sorry."
"Don't worry about it."
"Are you sure your chin isn't hurt? My head is throbbing'' And indeed
there were tears in his eyes.
Laurel stopped rubbing her chin, which was glowing red. "My chin is
fine, thank you."
There was a long pause, in which Lionel opened and closed his mouth
like a fish and Laurel aloofly examined the backs of her hands.
"It's a good thing you're so tall," Lionel finally blurted, "or I might
have broken your nose."
Laurel drew herself up to her full stature as if she had been insulted.
"I am not so extraordinarily tall. In fact I'm hardly above average for my
body type."
Lionel blushed and began blinking rapidly at this allusion to her
body, which he found majestic and awe-inspiring in its dimensions.
"I, I, I," he said in three different intonations, then cleared his throat
and tried again: "That is, I meant to say, I, I, I—I'm the one who's so
short."
Laurel could not be agreed with without feeling placated; so she argued reflexively, "You're not exactly tiny."
Lionel would have liked to escape this conversation. Normally he
was very adept at escaping conversations: The slightest distraction, or
lapse in the other person's attention, provided him with all the excuse
he needed to unburden the other of his tiresome presence. Even when
in the dentist's chair or splayed out on an operating table, the moment
the talk deviated from his particular case he would offer to come back at
a better time. But Laurel's beseeching gaze never left him, and pinned
him to the spot, writhing like an insufficiently etherized insect. Since he
could not escape, he sought desperately some justification for his standing there, taking up her time.
After many syllables that did not contribute intelligibly to his mean-
36     PRISM 50:1 ing, he said at last, "I saw you standing over here by yourself and I
thought, gee, there's someone who's not having much fun either."
"Certainly I am having fun," said Laurel, as if affronted that he could
have thought otherwise.
Lionel wilted and said, "Oh."
After another minute of anguished, ringing silence, Laurel said airily,
"I would hate to think you came over here to talk to me just because you
felt sorry for me."
"Oh, no! No no! It's just that you were by yourself, and..."
"I came with my sister and her husband, but they have wandered off
somewhere."
"Oh!" cried Lionel, clutching eagerly at this chance. "We should go
find them!"
Laurel shook her head. "They'll wander back." Then she prepared
herself for a disclosure by adjusting her posture. "To be honest, I get
quite enough of them as it is. And since I didn't relish the prospect of
following them around like a child or a dog, or of being thrust upon
their casual acquaintances like a visiting yokel cousin, I remained behind, here. After all," she said, and looked at Lionel, "I'm quite capable
of introducing myself."
He did not however take the cue and invite her to do so now. His
thoughts were following a different path. "Then you did not come with—
your boyfriend?"
"I most certainly did not. I do not have a boyfriend."
Now he understood. His face flushed with sentiment and he sighed,
"Then you're shy too!"
Laurel balked. "Certainly I am not shy!"
Lionel dissolved into an upright puddle of despair. "I'm so sorry.
When you're shy, like I am, you start to imagine that everyone else must
be shy too. I am very sorry."
The abjectness of his apology nearly made Laurel smile. "It's not so
horrible as all that. It's nothing to apologize for. I mean, being shy isn't
so bad. It doesn't hurt anyone—no one but yourself, anyway. It's like
riding a bicycle in traffic."
"Oh, but you can hurt others cycling in traffic! Cars swerve to avoid
you and crash into telephone poles. Or they run you over and damage
their undercarriage. Or they send you to the hospital and feel terrible all
week."
"Are we still talking about shyness?"
"No," Lionel admitted—then reconsidered. "Well, yes! There's nothing more dangerous, more disastrous, than a shy person let loose in a
room full of people. Your awkwardness makes others feel awkward.
Your embarrassment makes everyone embarrassed for you. The sight
prismmagazine.ca    37 of your self-consciousness, as raw as an open wound, makes everybody
handle you self-consciously. No one can be honest, no one dares be
blunt. That's the worst part: Your uneasiness gets in the way of your
words, your behavior, your personality, so that on top of everything else
you feel like a liar. Shyness is a toxic spill, spreading uneasiness and dishonesty, contaminating everything it comes in contact with. Oh, it's vile,
vile!"
While Lionel trembled with humiliation at his outburst, Laurel considered the truth of it. At length she asked, almost shyly, "What made
you think I was shy?"
Lionel turned his head away from the thought of his mistake like a
baby turning away from an unpalatable food. "Oh, who knows? A beautiful woman—standing alone—no boyfriend—"
Laurel's face became very still and very grave. She had never in her
waking life been called beautiful. Was he flirting with her? Was he teasing? She stared at him balefully, intimating the consequences of toying
with her emotions.
Lionel sensed that he had made another error, and apologized. "I'm
a fool. I don't know what I'm saying. Pay no attention to me."
"You speak very...cavalierly," said Laurel.
"I know," he moaned. "I never think before I speak. I'm so nervous I
just blurt out whatever idiocy comes into my head. It's awful. I'm awful."
"Yes—I suppose that was just a piece of 'idiocy.'"
"Oh, definitely!"
Laurel's mouth moved for a moment. "'Definitely'!"
Lionel was bewildered. "Well, sure it was. It was just a mistake."
"Then you did not mean it at all when you said that I was...that I
was—"
"Shy? No!" He moved the sweat around on his face with a sweaty
sleeve. "Heck no. It was a mistake."
"I wasn't talking about that."
"You weren't?"
"No."
He peered at her. "What were you talking about?"
Laurel hesitated, then said, "I was talking about something else."
"You were?"
"Something else you said."
"Something I said?"
Laurel snorted. "I suppose you don't even remember."
"I don't," he confessed miserably. "I don't remember. Sometimes I
don't even remember what I've said. Sometimes I don't even hear myself. I don't hear myself and I don't hear the other person, either. I don't
hear anything and I sure don't know what I'm saying half the time."
38     PRISM 50:1 "That's what I figured. You spoke carelessly."
"Boy, you could say that!"
"In that case, I will not hold you to it."
"Gee," he said, "I appreciate that." His posture, pallor, and shortness
of breath were those of a man who had just been chased for a mile by
feral dogs. His exhaustion briefly overwhelmed his fear of offending,
and he looked around with candid desperation for Angel.
"I see that I am keeping you from your—friend," said Laurel.
"No, not really." He had spotted Angel across the room, draped over
a giggling young man whose ears she was cleaning with her tongue.
Lionel's despondence and wistfulness were too much for Laurel's
pride. "I hear my sister calling. Goodbye."
"Goodbye," he said softly, long after she had left the room.
When Laurel was a girl, she had been ashamed to show her feelings.
When it came time for her friends or cousins to go home after a visit, she
would go behind the house and scrape her knee on the stucco so that she
could cry openly and without embarrassment. That night, after she arrived home, she went into the bathroom and stubbed her toe repeatedly
on the corner of the washstand. At last the toenail split; and she sat on
the edge of her bed and wept silently for ten minutes. Then she pulled
herself upright, bandaged her toe, washed her face with cold water, and
sat down at her desk, where she wrote late into the night.
Lionel left the party soon after Laurel. He wandered the dark, empty
streets in aimless dejection. Soon he was quite lost. He was glad to be
lost; he deserved to be lost; he began positively to wallow in his lostness,
and turned down obscure streets and narrow, unmarked alleys. Finally
he came to a dead end, where a brick wall sealed off the passage. He
sighed profoundly, almost sensually, pleased to have this final confirmation of the universe's utter disdain for him. He was about to turn and go
when his eye detected the shape of a door in the shadow of the wall. He
stepped nearer, and reached out with his hands.
There was indeed a door here, where there could be no need of one.
Why should someone wall up an alley only to install a door in the wall?
The door was incongruous in its appearance too. It was made of a heavy,
lacquered wood, and in the obscurity of the alley he could feel that its
surface had been elaborately carved. It was the door to the inner chambers of a judge or to a library in a stately old mansion, not the sort of
door that connected one dirty alleyway to another. The knob was warm
to the touch. He turned it.
When Lionel was a boy, he had had an imaginary fairy friend who
told him that he was a changeling. However, when Lionel tried to return to Fairyland with him, his friend had informed him that he was not
prismmagazine.ca    39 wanted. "Away with ye, ye blethering gobhawk," he had shouted, and
thrown stones. The stones, though imaginary, hurt. Lionel had never
seen his friend again.
The door was locked. He jiggled the knob, then turned and slowly
retraced his steps. He tried to imagine what he might have found on the
other side of the door—and for a while forgot that he was not wanted by
the universe. He too, when he arrived home, wrote late into the night.
40     PRISM 50:1 Fossil Record
Peter Chiykowski
After my sister died
Mom embalmed herself
with spiced rum, red wine,
food rich in salt. From her darkness
she told me how ribs are brittle and
lungs soft—the planet remembers
only those lucky bones
that cast their shadows
into the earth.
In school
I studied fossils, learned
the binary of skulls and limbs
from the hard memory
of sediment. Rivers banks,
tar ponds, graveyards,
these too can be defragmented, read off
the spinning disc of the world.
Trilobites etch themselves
into the technology of rock
and two million years later
my sister will be buried in ground
more yielding than skin,
eyes, or tendons, the tissues
too fine
for the touch of calcite.
Here, in the grave soil,
my sister's decaying body
seeps into the toes of mushrooms,
the tubed roots of crabgrass,
dandelions, and honeysuckle.
prismmagazine.ca    41 Here I will take my mother
when she too wants to
divulge her secrets to the earth.
Here I lift a trowel full of dirt
into ajar and seal it with wax
that will harden to its shape.
Here I sit and hope that
that the world does not forget
the soft ones, creatures without
shells or claws, we who must
make fossils for ourselves.
42     PRISM 50:1 Carolye Kuchta
Twenty Reasons to Avoid
Thinking
The ancestors crave reading material.
A quality short-wave radio can pick up anything, anywhere.
But on every channel, in every language,
it's your voice crowding the man you love.
A footnote: character #3 will be beheaded by terrorists on page 107,
but you're only on page 35. Her sisters are screaming.
But not as loud as her.
The imaginary forest where your doctor wants to hold your hand
is the one you've already undressed in for him.
No one understands the magician's tears,
as he insists he never saw this rabbit before.
Your dentist wants to dominate and caress you.
You remind him of his mother. (Smile, please.)
Denial is a home for the elderly-minded.
Truth, the boot, reckoning them homeless.
Now that your doctor is imagining
you loosening your shirt,
he notices you rubbing naked against the trees.
Page 68. Still screaming.
Consequences scatter like bunnies
under the moral rifle.
The hygienists have gone home early.
prismmagazine.ca    43 Your mother has forbidden you to mention wasps.
You watch the black feet
tread across her pink neck.
Suffocating in a room of antique stuffed animals.
An amber eye, a bent ear: the ancestors.
Page 89. Footnote: she blames you.
Just before the power failure—the voice of the doctor's
wife comes through on the short-wave. Cracking.
His mother wore a pearl necklace too. Yours
is clipped to a napkin over your breasts,
glimmering and tightening in the evening light. (Open.)
Your mother reaches to scratch her neck.
Page 106. Footnote: angry people don't die.
They just wander invisibly cursing you in the wind.
In a medical lab, two dogs experience a moment of synchronized curiosity
causing themselves to become stuck together for three days.
A sad end to romance.
The last page tears itself from the book, whipping away.
44     PRISM 50:1 Jan Conn
Into a White Space I am
Driven and Let Go
I am seasick in the orphanage
that is not by the sea. I have a tiny bell
tied to a shoe.
I have a sharkskin shoelace
left behind. I am one; they are many.
I have no naps left to call upon
in case of danger. A lucky star I should
thank. Landlocked cereal
and no more milk
could be my founding mother.
prismmagazine.ca    45 Ourselves Lit Up
Some of us learned the brilliant idea
of rotating our own image from David Bowie—
others got it wrong.
I gulped so much homemade night
it was seizure territory.
I considered removing to a smooth pale bowl
and lapping cool lush tea,
or setting up shop in a failed ghost town.
Now that I've glimpsed four large red fish
hanging from his handlebars
I'm going to re-evaluate my impression
of his youth.
When I press my lips together like this
it's a naked bivalve contest.
Does anyone believe I pushed
a wheelbarrow of unrepentant snakes up that hill?
Let's add a sliver of Elizabeth Bishop's pale dirty light
to this poem. Now queue up the centred look,
the inward gaze.
46     PRISM 50:1 Andy Weaver
71.
Warmonger porn decree to buy and shred
The new gal cheers the girlie terror cell
Stillborning screw the churl that overfed
On flag unfurled, with flagging William Tell:
Pay, if your greed malign, whatever bought
Demand acquitted; fall guy apropos,
A lie that your onslaughts will not let clot,
Dethinking honest men with status quo.
Woe, if, cliche, O's book salon disperse
Its game of craps while slaughtered lambs hold sway,
Do double dutch while the real men converse,
Don't fret the dove Joseph Smith squirreled away;
Blest advice verged Good Book accrues its stone,
And glocks you with glee after beads are drawn.
prismmagazine.ca    47 73.
The first frontiers erased and so controlled
While fellow thieves, for fun, accrue, harangue
Again their vows to take what's not been sold,
What war requires, with so much sturm und drang.
For me the beastly buy-rite holds such sway
That laugher rosettes black death's sole bequest;
So William Bligh might write the disobey,
Blankcheque himself, and seal the crew's arrest.
For me the beastly crowings of desire,
Memory caches of uncouth cockeye,
Act the beachhead, with cunning lustful lyre,
Perfume the scatty shit with Spanish Fly.
Saboteur weav'st, mistakes that make the song,
To make that hell, cash cow will cleave its wrong.
48     PRISM 50:1 94.
Say that the hour perverts with its mcfun,
That few and fewer sing Pierre Trudeau,
Boo, good enoughers, in the middle tone,
Egg-headed, scold, and do the dew of woe;
Say brightly through a poet's grieved embraces
What heightened nature keeps you on the fence;
Say all the hordes are lower forms of races,
Mother's gut skittered out their commonsense.
The scorner's glower becomes the scorner's meat,
So pride oneself on one's unflinching eye,
And when that glower embrace the mercy seat,
Disgraceful creed white slaves the flaming tree:
The weakest kings yearn power that exceeds;
Banish the jester, hell will verse its creeds.
prismmagazine.ca    49 Shashi Bhat
Why I Read Beowulf
I started reading Beowulf 'about a week ago, not because it was on the
syllabus, but because I am in love with my English teacher. I would
read anything for him. The cover of my copy of the book has a black
background with the title in white block letters, and under those the
jacket designer has placed the silhouette of a man, but just his top half,
like a passport photo, except that the silhouette is made entirely of silver
mesh. I keep turning back to this picture on the cover and wondering
how they made it look three-dimensional, and half-expecting the pattern
of metal to bulge into discernable features, to turn into a man's face.
Once I finish the book, I will begin to drop casual references to it
in class or at English club meetings. "This reminds me of my favourite
epic poem," I will say, pretending I don't know that it's also my English
teacher's favourite epic poem, and then I will quote brilliantiy, lingering
on the alliteration. Mr. Sears will pause, turning away from the blackboard to face me, holding a piece of chalk in his hand. Sometimes, in my
most reckless moments of imagination, I see him dropping the piece of
chalk in amazement.
I am not sure yet exactly which passages I will quote, because I am
only on page 4. I reached page 4 this morning, as I sat in the hallway
of the school with my best friend Amy. Every day we have our mothers drop us off exactly 45 minutes before the bell rings, and we sit on
the ground outside the English office. I'm usually reading and Amy is
usually peeling the varnish off the floor. The varnish lies in a loose coat
over the hardwood and cracks as we step over it. Our school building
deteriorates at an exponential rate; it seems like every day another part
of it breaks off. One time I bicycled by and looked at the school and
thought to myself, with fierce affection, "That is my high school," relishing the still-newness of ninth grade, and just at that moment, a piece of
one of the window frames creaked loose and fell from its hinge to the
pavement.
Amy regularly peels the floor in patches all over the school. We eat
lunch in stairwells, our backs against the concrete walls and legs crossed
in front of us, sandwich bags in our laps, cackling at each other over
inside jokes we've had since second grade, and she'll take a break from
peeling the floor to peel her tangerine, trying to remove each peel in one
50     PRISM 50:1 long strip. She peels the floor in the gymnasium during stretches, and
then leaves the waxy scraps in small piles here and there so that later
when we're made to do push-ups, people's hands and shoes accidentally
land on these piles and their limbs go sliding sideways.
I keep telling her not to do this, but lately she's sort of been turning
on me. I do think it's natural to get irritated with your best friend, with
whom you spend so many hours, encountering so many opportunities
for disagreement—over which movie to see or whether to eat at Subway or Tim Horton's or whether Americans have the right idea about
making the drinking age twenty-one or whether moustaches worn ironically can ever look really handsome—but once you have invested so
many years in a friendship, such things should cease to matter. I'm not
sure Amy recognizes this. Although our lives have run parallel since age
eight, when, in Mrs. Hollifriend's class, we both agreed that dinosaurs
were not as fascinating as everybody else seemed to think, lately I've
been thinking that Amy might easily drop me, like a jacket with a hole
in it, like a hair elastic that's lost its stretch. So today, we're sitting there
outside the English office and I go, without really thinking, "Amy, what's
wrong with you? Why do you always have to peel the floor and deface
our school?" and she turns to me and goes, "At least I haven't memorized every article of clothing owned by my English teacher." It's sort of
a joke of hers that I spend so much time gazing at Mr. Sears that I must
have his clothes memorized by now, except that it's not really a joke,
because I know that he owns six button-downs (three different shades of
blue, one white pin-striped, one yellow, and one grey) and white athletic
socks that show when he sits down, and four pairs of pants that are all
sort of beige-ish brown. Only once did I see him wear a pair of jeans,
at the English Club fundraiser, which was a car wash to raise funds and
awareness for literature from the Augustan Period. We used the money
we made to buy used copies of Gulliver's Travels on Amazon.com and
then we just handed them out to people on the street. Mr. Sears called
it "Spreading the Word." He smiled when he said it, his mouth an open
oval. It took me the first half of the car wash to adjust myself to that new
jeans-wearing version of my English teacher, but then I found something
beautiful in his effortlessness, and decided that his casual style did not
take away in the least from his devotion to our cause.
I like to record these lists of clothing, and also all my related thoughts
and observations, in a notebook, a Moleskine notebook like the kind Mr.
Sears said Hemingway used.
Also, sometimes in class his socks fall around his ankles and I want to
duck down on to the half-peeled floor and crawl under his desk and pull
them up for him.
prismmagazine.ca    51 Because of all this pent-up sexual frustration, I've cultivated a new
hobby, namely, interacting with pedophiles in Internet chatrooms. Or
not pedophiles, but one pedophile in particular. His name is Ronald, and
we've been talking online for about a month. He has asked me to think
of him as my boyfriend, though he's really more of a manfriend, because
he is 41 years old. When I told him I'm 14, he typed, "Your age is my
age in reverse," as though that means we are meant to be. He says I'm
exotic because of my Indian background, so I didn't tell him I was born
in Canada. After I'm done with school and English Club meetings or
band practice, I go home and go on "Internet dates" with Ronald the
pedophile. We'll Google important political figures and then discuss our
findings, or we'll furnish an imaginary home with furniture we imagine buying on eBay, and sometimes we'll go to freerice.com and spend
hours defining words and ending world hunger.
Usually while I'm doing this, my parents are either working late or in
the basement praying. They have created a God room in the basement,
where all of our Hindu Gods and Goddesses hang in rows around the
blue walls, staring out with peaceful expressions.
"You are as beautiful as a goddess," Ronald said to me once, after
describing himself as an agnostic. I'd added him on Facebook and he's
on limited profile so he can't see my address or anything, but I did allow
him to see my photos, so he looked through all the ones of me and Amy
and told me that I'm infinitely more desirable than she is.
I regularly watch To Catch A Predator on Dateline and am amazed
at how often the child molesters resemble the guys my dad works with. I
told Ronald about this and he found a bunch of episodes of the show on
YouTube, and so we watched those on another Internet date. We witnessed one predator wearing a large shapeless hat atop his large shapeless head, entering the house, unaware of the NBC cameramen drinking
coffee behind the decorative curtain. Then the decoy thirteen-year-old
chirps something about going to change into her bathing suit and the guy
with the large hat smiles to himself and actually, literally starts rubbing
his hands together in anticipation, and I bet he has really dry hands so
bits of skin are flaking off them and also he has this backpack on that's
maybe too small for a grown man, and he takes that off and started
rifling through it, but before we found out what monstrous equipment
he has in this backpack, Dateline correspondent Chris Hansen emerges
from behind the decorative curtain and introduces himself, and the man
with the hat removes his hat and uses it to cover his face.
"Don't worry, my darling," Ronald said to me, "I am ten times the
man he is," which makes me wonder if Ronald knows how math works.
Ten times a pedophile, I think, as I look through his Facebook pictures.
Unlike most people's Facebook photos, Ronald's feature no other peo-
52     PRISM 50:1 pie. Mostly they show him leaning against a blank wall, his head rounded
in a way that indicates he took the photo himself with one outstretched
arm.
In my most recent conversation with Ronald, he asked me for my phone
number. I was reading Beowulfwhile talking to him, and thinking maybe
I should rent the movie instead, and I was caught up in thinking about
Mr. Sears and whether the movie version would be significantly different
from the book version and checking Wikipedia to see whether the movie
script used quotes from the Seamus Heaney translation. So I'd pushed
the Ronald conversation window to the side of my screen, and all of a
sudden he typed, "Are your parents home? Can I call you? What's your
phone number?" all three questions in a single row. I pictured him on
a sofa, his laptop on his lap, sinking back into the cushions as he waited
for my reply. And maybe due to all my unreturned love and daydreams
for Mr. Sears, I started imagining what would happen if I fell in love with
Ronald the pedophile. He lives in the next town over, so it wouldn't be
a long-distance relationship. Instead of Internet dates, we could go on
actual dates to local hotspots and events like Heritage Village Day. We
could climb each of the 144 flights of stairs to the top of the CN tower in
Toronto, something I have always wanted to do, but Amy refuses to go
with me. "Would you climb the CN tower with me?" I typed, and Ronald said, "Yes," with a winking emoticon and so then I typed my phone
number in one swoop of momentum, with no spaces or dashes.
He dialed the numbers just as quickly. I let the telephone ring four
times, fanning myself madly with my copy of Beowulf, the mesh face
fluttering forwards and backwards as I wondered whether to answer the
phone. But then I realized if I didn't answer, the call would go to voice-
mail. Ronald would leave a message accessible to anybody in my family,
because this was our landline and not my cell phone since my parents
for some reason won't get me a cell phone. Also, my parents were not
out at work or at the store or at a baseball game or wherever it is parents
go when strangers call the house. While a weird man preyed on their
child, my parents prayed in the basement, singing light religious tunes
in their atonal voices and clanging finger cymbals that clashed with the
ringing phone. My parents might put down their photocopied Sanskrit
mantras at any time and unfold their piously curled bodies to get up and
answer it. I wondered if Ronald would pretend to be a salesman, and
then I thought, if my parents pick up the phone, Ronald will probably
never speak to me again. So I answered it.
There was no pause at all, and I heard a soft, wheedling voice say,
"You didn't think I'd call, did you?" and then, the door to my bedroom
opened, and I saw a man standing there, peering around the doorframe
prismmagazine.ca    53 at me and grinning this slow grin and saying, "What do you want for dinner?" because the man was my father. I immediately hung up the phone
and told my dad rice was fine as always for dinner and he asked what I'd
been doing the past hour and I said (very convincingly, I think) that I'd
been researching the incarnations of all the various Hindu gods.
In English class third period, Amy has disengaged herself from me and
moved to sit with this new boyfriend of hers. His name isn't even worth
mentioning, but he was in my fourth grade class and he used to try and
join conversations but everybody hated him and ignored him so then
he would just give up and stare at the wall. But then one day, he started
talking to the wall, and telling it things and asking it questions, why won't
they talk to me?, all I have is you, and so on, and I wonder if he and Amy
have similar conversations now.
Before Amy started dating him, and before I had fully fallen for Mr.
Sears, we would spend all of class laughing silently behind our open
notebooks. The first book we read in this class was Washington Square,
and we both hated it, so we left post-it notes throughout the pages of
our copies, to warn future readers. Our notes said things like, "I hate
this book," and "Don't read any further," and "Aunt Penniman is a flat
character," but now I regret writing those post-its and wonder if I should
retrieve my copy from the library and remove them. I won't though,
because that would be like erasing our history when already I can feel
Amy slipping away, and it's different from that time she bleached her
hair orange and became cool for a week and sat on the radiator where all
the cool kids sit. It's different partly because relationships of weird teens
last forever. It might not ever be me and her sitting and laughing again.
Instead of socializing with Amy, I try to imagine Grendel from Beowulf and draw pictures of him across my notebook in red pen. I compile monster parts from passages in the book and from generic TV monsters, heads that nearly aren't there, dissolving into the lines of the page,
wide white teardrops instead of eyes, teeth protruding through stretching
mouths. Their bodies have torsos disproportionate to arms, veins visible
through the surface of skin like the bulging, textured, veins of leaves,
legs narrowing into a pair of skeletal feet that leave bony, blood-filled
footprints, footprints that stalk over the page of notes that I'm supposed
to be taking. Instead of grammar exercises, I've drawn penciled, mesh-
faced men, weaponless, knees curling under them like paperclips.
Mr. Sears goes on with his lesson, and in the background I hear someone call him, "Oh Captain, My Captain," because he is one of those
teachers who tears up textbooks and says there shouldn't be a rubric for
poetry. Mr. Sears delivers an impassioned speech about some Alexander
Pope poem and then he asks me a question, but since I've been drawing
54     PRISM 50:1 monsters instead of paying attention, I only know that the poem may or
may not have something to do with haircuts. I curse myself for not listening and wonder if this is karma for the time I invented a Hindu holiday
as an excuse for skipping gym.
"Disappointing," Mr. Sears says, and his head tilts sadly sideways under the weight of his disappointment. "You have to do the reading," he
tells me, "or there's no point in coming to class."
I want to tell him that I have done the reading, I've done more reading than any of these other fools, but he turns away and makes a joke
about how his wife never reads any books either, with the exception of
Harlequin romances.
In the romance corner of the room, when Mr. Sears turns to the
board, Amy her boyfriend caress each other's faces. In an online article,
I read that if a boy touches your face, it means it's true love. The boyfriend bends his head and tucks it on to Amy's shoulder, and he looks
almost handsome. It's the only time I've seen him look anything other
than stupid. The only person I can remember being that close to me is
my mother, and I find it painful to try not to yearn for that strange, solid,
intimate warmth of a human head. Amy sighs her chin into the boyfriend's palm. She pulls at his nose and he embeds his fingertips into her
cheeks, and I worry that they will accidentally gouge each other's eyes
out.
I wait for Amy after school as I always do, but she doesn't show up. I
duck into the library. Nobody's using the computers, so I sign into my
account and find Ronald online.
"What a terrible day," I type.
"You're early," he says, and then, "What happened?"
"My friend ditched me for her boyfriend," I type, and then, because
it's not like I'm in a committed relationship with this Internet pedophile,
I tell him that I have a crush on my middle-aged English teacher and
about my moment of embarrassing inattention in class.
There's a pause, and then Ronald types, "Pretend I'm him."
I suppose what Ronald wants me to do is to lean into my screen and
to enact an elaborate sexual fantasy I have about Mr. Sears. It's true
that I spend much of class time and much of my own time fantasizing
about my English teacher. I imagine us in a warm fireplaced room with
burgundy wallpaper and clawfooted furniture, but we've disdained this
furniture to sit on the floor. We read to each other from a shared copy
of Beowulf. Mr. Sears holds the book and I turn its pages. Our heads are
pressed together, my hair over his shoulders. For some reason in this fantasy I have flaxen hair, despite being Indian, and I'm wearing an empire-
waist gown and a wreath of flowers, and Mr. Sears dresses similarly in
prismmagazine.ca    55 18th-century garb, like maybe a navy waistcoat and white pantaloons.
We're sipping from glasses of wine, no, goblets of wine, no, chalices of
wine, and we're uttering guttural words to each other in Middle English,
as the fireplace flashes at us like an unanswered chat window.
The problem with these fantasies is that I never actually get past the
reading part, so I don't know what I'm supposed to describe to Ronald,
and so, to diffuse the situation, I type the letters LOL.
"What's so funny?" Ronald asks.
I try to think of something provocative to ask him. I type, "How old
were you when you lost your virginity?"
There's a long pause and then Ronald types, "Haven't we had this
conversation before?" which doesn't make sense because Ronald and I
have certainly never had this conversation before, or even this type of
conversation, since our imaginary dates have remained pretty tame and
educational, and it occurs to me that I am not the only teenager with
whom Ronald regularly speaks on the Internet.
Ronald starts typing long strings of text, full of typos, and I realize
that he's describing all the things he's going to do to me, except I don't
understand most of the terms so I open up a separate window to look
them up on Urban Dictionary.
He begs for a response. I'm thinking of his Facebook pictures and
how he could be a guy that works at my dad's office. My dad could
be right there in an adjacent cubicle, entering numbers into his computer with the Lord Ganesha desktop wallpaper, working overtime for
the money to send his daughter to medical school, because I haven't yet
told him that I plan to get an English degree and concentrate in pre-1800
literature. I humour my parents, because they are pious and kind and
easily deluded, and if you try to have a serious discussion with my father,
he will always bring God into it.
Ronald's words become more garbled and he's used the F-word at
least four times. He waits for me to say something. I consider the keyboard and then type the letter "M" repeatedly so it seems as though I am
moaning, and I follow it with exactly seven exclamation points.
"You are so beautiful," Ronald types, though he spells beautiful wrong,
and I assume he's looking at my pictures, and then he says, "Are you still
having a terrible day? Let me come there and comfort you."
Through the library door, I see Amy and her boyfriend walking
through the hallway. They are peeling the floor together, in one unbroken strip. They walk slowly, as not to tear it, focused on the piece of
varnish that passes through their collaborating hands and curls and trails
behind them.
It's possible that Ronald is talking to four different girls right now,
four different fourteen-year-olds typing covertly in their high school li-
56     PRISM 50:1 braries before catching the school bus home. One by one they must sign
off, until he's left with a single girl who does what? Answers the phone
and talks to him? Invites him home?
"Okay," I type to Ronald, "I can be home in fifteen minutes." I give
him my address, 53 Pickett Crescent, near the intersection of Elgin Mills
and Yonge, and I send him a link to the Google Map. "I can't wait to see
you," he types, and I don't let myself wonder what he means by the word
"see."
I leave the library, and see the shapes of Amy and the boyfriend's
bodies as they turn the corner at the end of the hall. I head in the other
direction, towards my locker, and on the way I notice the door of the
English office partway open, and spot Mr. Sears.
When I knock on the door, he tells me to come inside. I shut the door
behind me and begin speaking without making eye contact. I count the
posters of authors that line the top third of the room's walls.
"I just wanted to apologize for class today," I say. He's wearing the
lightest of his blue shirts, and standing, half resting on the desk. The
other English teachers have all left, and I realize I've never been alone
in a room with Mr. Sears.
"That's all right," he says in his infinitely understanding way. "You've
just got to stop being distracted in class. I know you love this stuff."
I almost drop my backpack at hearing him use the word "love," and
I walk up to him, tell him, "I do love this stuff. I love books. I'm even
trying to get through Beowulf, though I admit it's going a little slowly..."
Mr. Sears has chalk on the pocket of his shirt and I reach my arm the
arms' length between us and brush the chalk off his shirt with my fingers.
He grabs my hand and holds it in place. He frowns in a way I haven't
seen on him before, the skin of his eyebrows pulling together and downward.
First he glances at the door, perhaps double-checking that it has no
window on it. Then he kisses me. It's unfamiliar because I have never
imagined this far. He picks up the straps of my backpack and slides them
off my arms. He lifts me up as the backpack drops on the floor with the
thumping, clattering sound of books and pencils, and he places me on
the edge of the desk. The lights in the room are white rectangles in lines
across the ceiling, and I look at them because I'm not sure if I'm supposed to look at Mr. Sears, whose head I want to hold in my hands but I
have this awful feeling that the second I place my hands on his face, his
features will turn to mesh, the metal cutting the tips of my fingers. He
pushes his head next to my neck and when he breathes, he smells like
coffee, like cough drops, like an old man. On the pocket of his shirt is a
tiny embroidered penguin; a clothing detail I have already memorized
and written down in my Moleskine notebook, where I also keep track
prismmagazine.ca    57 of my friends' birthdays and my better homework grades, and where
I record it when a day is particularly beautiful. He moves one hand to
grip my spine like it's the spine of a Norton Anthology, and I think of
five things: Thought number one is of all the times I've seen him pick
up a book in class and slam it face-down, pages spread open on the
table. Two, I consider Amy and her boyfriend, and wonder how far
around the school hallways they've gotten, hand-in-hand and laughing.
Three, I think of Ronald searching the houses for number 53, parking
in my empty driveway, pressing the round yellow doorbell, thinking
he's about to rape some stupid little girl. Four, I hope my parents arrive
home from work fairly soon, so when this is over, I can phone them to
pick me up. And five, I remember the time I overheard Mr. Sears speaking to another male teacher and saying, "What a dog," in reference to a
girl, an expression I didn't know people still used, and it had taken me a
moment to realize what he meant, before I convinced myself that I must
have misheard him, before I pictured the head of a dog on a female human body, sad-faced and teeth bared.
58     PRISM 50:1 Bert Almon
Canada Customs Office
Waiting to clear our daughter's goods, I sit on a grey chair and hear
the date-stamp going chunk-June 6-chunk, chunk-June 6-chunk. There's a
buzz in the office about a shipment of twenty Ducati motorcycles: the
speedometers are in miles instead of kilometers, a sign they aren't really
meant for Canada. The word "goods" has a tangible quality. Canned
goods, dry goods, luxury goods, leather goods. I consider that the word
has no singular: "the good" takes us from strong-boxes and bills of lading
to ethics, and in this office we have mostly regulations, for restricted
goods, allowable goods, prohibited goods. Yet the enormous manual on
the counter builds merciful exemptions into the system. "No one may
import a switchblade knife into Canada except a one-armed person."
I can see a cluster of Ducatis roaring into a terrified little Alberta
town, ridden by one-armed Hell's Angels, switchblades held between
their teeth.
prismmagazine.ca    59 Homer o Aridjis
translated from the Spanish by George McWhirter
La Historia del Viento
eComo escribir la historia del viento,
si el viento no tiene cuerpo
para acostar en la mesa?
iComenzo un dia en el llano,
nacio en las ramas de un fresno
o lo pario una ola de mar?
No importa,
nacera en alguna parte
y morira en otra parte.
La historia del viento es un quejido
que va de un extremo a otro del tiempo,
es el susurro de una sombra que anda.
La historia del viento es un latido en la arena,
una voz en la puerta, una huella en el pecho
que oye el hombre pasar a su lado,
cuando el hombre se oye pasar a si mismo.
60     PRISM 50:1 The History of the Wind
How can we write the history of the wind,
if the wind has no shape
to lay out on the table?
Did it begin one day on the plain,
was it born in the branches of an ash tree
or did a wave spawn it off the ocean?
No matter,
it is born in one place
and dies in another.
The history of the wind is a moan
that runs from one end of time to the other,
the hiss of a shadow walking.
The history of the wind is its whip over the sand,
a voice under the door, a foot pressed on the chest
which a man hears pass by him
when he hears himself pass on.
prismmagazine.ca    61 Retrato de mi Padre
En este cuarto abierto a los cuatro vientos,
padre, juego con tus retratos.
Veinte afios despues de haberte ido,
no se cual rostro es el mas tuyo,
si aquel donde eres un soldado sobreviviente
de la matanza de griegos en Esmirna,
o aquel en que miras a mi madre con ojos enamorados,
cincuenta afios despues de haberla conocido.
O en esa instantanea de tu muerte
en tu tienda llena de telas y sombreros,
con una taza de te negro en la mano,
y cara de forastero, como cuando Uegaste al pueblo.
Padre, quiero verte de nuevo,
pero en vez de hombre toco papel
Mexico, jueves 20 dejulto de 1986
62     PRISM 50:1 Portrait of my Father
In this room open to the four winds,
father, I am picking through portraits of you.
Twenty years after you have gone,
I don't know which face is most you,
if that one, where you are a soldier surviving
the massacre of Greeks at Smyrna,
or that one in which you look at my mother with loving eyes
fifty years after having come to know her,
or in that snapshot of you dying
in your store full of fabrics and hats
with a cup of black tea in your hand
and the face of an outsider, like when you arrived in town.
Father, I want to see you again,
but I am touching paper in place of a man.
prismmagazine.ca    63 Dexine Wallbank
Tuesday
the soup's on the stove
the vacuuming's done
the fire's been lit
the table's set
the laundry's in the dryer
the marriage is over
the clothes are mended
the dishes are washed
the pets are fed
the bulbs have been planted
the child is gone
the leaves are raked
the wood is stacked
the gate is shut
the wood is stacked
the gate is shut
the gate is shut
64     PRISM 50:1 Annette Lapointe
Produce (a snuff film)
vegetation that dies in the fridge
moves at 12 frames per second—slow
slow, like early spring without dirt
releasing liquified organics
sloughing colours in the crisper       they pool
break the door seal and you smell
decay—sweet and sinus-sharp
lean into the icebox, breathe
and you flinch
the slow dissolve creeps loose
this threshold melt
prismmagazine.ca    65 thread work
you think I'm regressing
through
needlework, access to late Victorian
deep femininity, corsets, heavy wools
and knitted jumpers
you think the needles are phallic
long grey shafts pulling
and pulling until they spew out
white spools of lace
you don't recognize the snares
that pour out from knitting
needles, crochet hooks, this is
the first stage of the hunt
when I stretch spiderweb
shawls across deer paths, catch
my first animals, you'll see
it's not a question of cocks
just hooks, pull loose intestines
and tangle them, chew in the dark
on new animals, new fierce girls
knit raw meat, and eat
66     PRISM 50:1 Andrew MacDonald
Krupkee, on the Molecular
Level
It probably wasn't Krupkee's fault. Not wholly, anyway. Moshing,
headbanging, fighting in the pit, these things happened. If you went
to one of their shows and didn't suffer a bloody nose, some bruised
ribs, you were a ghost, a never-attended.
Other behaviour was less acceptable. Forcing your way on stage, for
example. Or assaulting members of the band.
Lev didn't see what happened. He was backstage, playing cards with
one of the security guards, a Russian Jew he knew from the last time a
band of his played here in Cherkasy. The story, related first through Udo
the lead guitarist, then Vanya the drummer, who got his information
from Beatrice the Groupie, who in turn heard it from Ceylon the bassist, was fairly complicated. Someone either tried to get on stage or had
actually made it. That person, if you believed Udo, came on stage with a
singular purpose: to punch Krupkee in the face. If you believed Vanya,
he was just looking for the toilet. Beatrice the Groupie swore that the
man from the crowd, high on heroin, was only looking for an autograph.
Ceylon, however, claimed he sprinted across the stage and groped her
left breast.
Each story ended the same way: with Krupkee breaking a beer bottle over his head. When Krupkee began mimicking sexual intercourse
with the fan, the crowd stormed the stage en masse, where they cheered
Krupkee, swore at Krupkee, threw various items at Krupkee (including several pairs of brassieres, an empty 26-ounce bottle of Prince Igor
vodka, and, most memorably, a bar of soap trapped in a wet sock).
The band didn't stay to play the final set. It was only after they had
taken to the road that Lev turned on the radio and learned two things.
First, that the individual whose head Krupkee had damaged was the
youngest son of Ukraine's Minister of Defence.
And second, that the blow had caused hemorrhaging in his brain, an
injury that led to coma and would, in all likelihood, result in death.
"ChristJesus," Udo said, crossing himself.
Vanya, who didn't drink and split driving duties with Beatrice the
Groupie and Lev, sent the bus careening through two red lights before
prismmagazine.ca    67 pulling over next to a laundromat.
Several minutes of silence passed before Krupkee shouted, "Just fucking drive."
Wrapped in a blanket at the back of the bus, he was shaking, crawling
like an infant on his hands and knees to the toilet.
Sometime during that first day on the road Lev radioed someone he
knew with the Kiev police department, an old friend who used to play
bass with Lev in a garage rock band when they were teenagers in Yalta.
A few minutes later he was speaking to another agent, someone higher up who explained that he would be doing the nation itself a favor by
turning Krupkee in. "The Minister will of course show his gratitude," the
agent said, adding that the Minister is a man given to extreme generosity when circumstance works in his favor. The agent spoke in stilted,
formal Ukrainian. For all Lev knew he could have been speaking to an
ingenious recording, a puppet worked by strings.
After, he resumed his conversation with Vanya who, for the third
time in the last hour, wanted to know whether the women he knew in
New York liked their men uncircumcised. Lev assured Vanya that they
did.
"It's exotic over there," he said, patting Vanya on the shoulder. "They
get bored of cut men. Trust me. You'll have women throwing themselves at your cock's feet."
The band revered Lev for his worldiness, his wisdom. If he said
American women liked foreskin, then American women liked foreskin.
If he said he could procure them fake passports and have all of the band
smuggled to New York in business class, then such a miracle would inevitably come to pass.
In reality, Lev had only been overseas once, in the 70s. Over the
course of those three weeks he had sex with more women than he could
count. Yet for reasons he couldn't quite understand, the majority of
women he had sex with had, themselves, immigrated from Europe a few
years earlier. They were at the parties Lev and the band he was managing attended; they were waiting backstage after the band's concerts. To
Lev such a thing was as absurd as eating your national cuisine while on
vacation.
Certain people—notably Ceylon, the bassist, who seemed more than
the others to have at least some semblance of an umbilical cord tethering
her to reality—plied him for specific details about how exactly he would
effect their escape to America.
"I have friends," Lev said. "Sources."
Ceylon folded her arms, squeezing together tattoos of fists, one on
each breast, until the knuckles met.
68     PRISM 50:1 "Sources who? Can we get names?"
"Relax," Udo said, sucking the final embers of life from a twiny little
joint. "Let the man do what he does."
The truth: Lev had never intended to get any of them passports, and
even if he had, the likelihood of the band making it through airport
security was pointlessly slim. Two of the band members had mohawks,
and all with the exception of Beatrice the Groupie had face piercings.
Vanya had a tattoo of fingers reaching around his neck, while Krupkee's
knuckles had his last girlfriend's name etched into the skin.
Still, like a good manager, Lev told them what they needed to hear.
For example: "There's a recording company in Idaho who will take
you under their wing."
(Lev didn't even know where Idaho was, or if Idaho in fact had record
companies.)
For example: "I know a woman in New York who rents out her basement to immigrant musicians for cheap."
(The only woman Lev knew in New York was a lawyer who decades
ago defended one of his clients when he exposed himself to a homeless
woman in Rhode Island.)
For example: "Once we get some distance on the road, everything
will be fine."
(Only an idiot would, given current circumstances, believe that anything, let alone everything, would be fine, regardless of geography.)
By then the decision to turn Krupkee in was academic. Not that Lev
told anyone. Maybe he could barter a trip out of Ukraine for himself.
Maybe he could have some debts cleared away. Maybe he could, in
time, move back home, or at least rent an apartment in the same building as his ex-wife and son. A few floors up, Lev would see him doddling
to school in his oversized parka, his mother holding his hand. Lev a
guardian angel, the sky, the moon.
Lev stopped the bus within walking distance of a 24-hour McDonald's,
on a little-used rural road just off the highway. It was close to four in the
morning. With the lights shut off inside, the bus was nearly invisible.
One by one Lev took orders, scribbling items on the back of a poster
from the band's Moscow show. Only Krupkee failed to surface.
Ceylon nodded to the back of the bus. "He's drinking the toilet water
again."
Lev found the band's lead singer as advertised, piss drunk in the bus's
washroom, a piece of surgical tubing transporting the vodka from the
toilet bowl to his lips. His pants were around his ankles, his penis flaccid,
fused with sweat to his right thigh. Lev nudged him with his foot until
one of his eyes eased open.
prismmagazine.ca    69 Krupkee strained to sit up and stared at his penis. Laughing at the
sight of it, he slumped back against the toilet. "I tried to masturbate
the feeling away. Usually you can masturbate any feeling away. But I
couldn't masturbate away the fact that yesterday I was me, and today
I'm a murderer." Krupkee coughed. "Probably a murderer. A criminal,
at the very least."
Lev offered no argument. He reached over to the roll of toilet paper
and spun it until Krupkee's genitals were hidden under a pile of dimpled
white squares.
"I love everyone in this bus," Krupkee said, sucking on the surgical
tubing as if it were a soother. "But I love you the most."
"Such a charmer."
"Aren't you going to say you love me back?"
Stepping over Krupkee's legs, Lev informed him that saying he loved
Krupkee back would be a lie, and that Lev, more than anything, was a
man who made it his business not to lie.
At a gas station Lev called the place he still optimistically referred to as
"home." His son would be sleeping, his ex-wife, either sleeping or fucking the man she was living with now. The math professor. Or physics,
Lev couldn't remember.
She answered on the fourth ring, voice a drowsy whimper.
"It's me," Lev said. "How is he?"
"Asleep. Like normal people."
Lev chewed the raw skin on the inside of his mouth.
His ex-wife breathed into the phone. "They showed your picture on
TV. People have been calling non-stop. Is it true what they're saying?"
"Maybe yes, maybe no," Lev said. "Depending on what exactly is being said."
Pressing the phone against his temple, Lev wanted to say, just let me
hear him breathe. Let me synchronize our hearts. Even a hundred miles
away, Lev believed in the power of breath to bind father and son. Breath
and music could work magic. Lev longed for the day when he could
bond with him over The Clash, The Sex Pistols, the Ramones.
"I should go," she said finally.
Before hanging up Lev said he was sorry for bothering her, an admission of guilt he regretted seconds after uttering it.
It came down to this: sometime during the marriage he forgot he
loved his wife, and by the time he remembered that he loved her, she
didn't love him back.
There were affairs, aborted pregnancies, Lev's alcoholism. No single
event tipped the scale. Lev lost his marriage by accretion, the gradual
process of addition (Lev's various failings as husband and father) and
70     PRISM 50:1 subtraction (her diminishing capacity to love him in the face of the aforementioned facts).
The turning point came when she changed the locks on the door to
their apartment. That same night, Lev tried to stab the lead singer of the
band he was managing, with a butter knife. Within a week he had embezzled the band's profits. In a month he burnt every bridge he carefully
constructed in America, the place he'd promised to bring his family once
he made the right contacts. Finally, after a month and three weeks, Lev
tried to commit suicide by taking sleeping pills and passing out naked, in
the dead of winter, in an alley behind a strip club.
Sometime between one and one thirty in the morning, the doorman
went to the alleyway for a piss and, looking down, found himself urinating on Lev's face. His suicide attempt, like most other things in his life,
was close but no cigar.
Eyes closed, Lev recognized the smell. Ceylon's scent, the lavender body
soap she used mixed with a particular kind of cigarette, hand rolled,
dusted with flakes of a brown powdery drug. Potent, eye-watering.
She gave Lev's arm a squeeze and said to meet her outside in five
minutes.
It was dark, the bus silent, parked in a field between Cherkasy and
Kirovohrad, large stalks of wheat giving it some manner of cover. Walking to the door Lev accidentally stepped on a leg he suspected belonged
to Udo, who grunted, shifted position, and fell back to sleep.
Unlike her colleagues, Ceylon had a high school education, not at a
remedial technical school but the academic stream, and held a few college credits under her belt. She had started playing with the band on a
whim. Three year's later, and here she was, still on the road, still holding
out for fame and fortune. Outside, she buried her face in Lev's armpit
and began to weep.
He assumed she was afraid of being arrested. To allay her fears, he
told her that the people he contacted were professionals. They smuggled
people out of the country for a living. Geniuses, artists, criminals too.
Lev said he knew hundreds of success stories. Besides, she hadn't killed
anyone.
"Only Krupkee has," Lev said.
After smearing snot and makeup on Lev's chest, Ceylon said she
didn't give a fuck about being arrested.
"I've been arrested before. Arrested I could handle." Shaking, she
withdrew a small plastic tube from her jacket pocket. In the moonlight's
dim glow Lev mistook it for some kind of thermometer. She pressed it
into his hand.
"I pissed on three of these in the last week," she said. "All three, the
prismmagazine.ca    71 fucking pink lines." She took his hand and put it under her shirt, on her
naval. Lev felt it quiver, felt her stomach expand and contract. Ceylon
spit close to her own shoe. "You know, more than anything I'm scared
shitless of whatever could survive in there."
Feeling the warmth of her stomach, Lev said he knew the feeling,
though he wasn't sure he did.
According to the wonky clock on the dashboard, they were almost two
hours ahead of schedule. The monastery's parking lot was peppered
with cars. Tourists but no police, as far as Lev could tell, unless they
were plainclothed, lying in wait.
Lev checked the map, to make sure he had the right place.
The monastery, an imposing grey stone structure built in the 18th
century, rose up skyward, windows dreary rainbows of stained glass.
It was famous for surviving a small plane that crashed directly into its
largest steeple. According to press releases, the plane's pilot, an epileptic
who kept his condition hidden from his employers, suffered as seizure in
mid-flight, lost control of the plane, and woke with the front end of the
plane buried in the house of God.
Nobody on the plane was hurt. Passengers reported going through
some kind of religious conversion. After the crash, a deaf woman
claimed she could hear. A cripple could use his legs again. Another
woman claimed to be have conversed with the Virgin Mary in Turkish,
a language she neither spoke nor heard spoken in her life.
The Ukrainian Catholic Church had the crash officially declared a
miracle. The plane had been left there for posterity's sake, integrated
into the monastery's architecture like two children's toy's smashed together.
Here, Lev assured the band, they would find temporary lodgings,
would shower. In two days, Lev told them, their passports would be
delivered by a smuggler from Lviv famous for the wine-coloured birthmark on his cheek
"I've heard of him," Udo said.
"Of course you have," Lev said, parking the bus across four spaces in
the monastery's rear. "He's the best at getting people out of the country.
Nobody can touch him."
What he didn't say was that in a matter of hours Krupkee would be
arrested.
Two monks in robes tossed sacks of garbage into rusty blue tin. As
the bus pulled up they stopped momentarily, waved, then began tossing with renewed vigor. Lev himself avoided entering the monastery.
Though he didn't believe in God per se, he recognized the karmic danger inherent in entering a holy place for the explicit purpose of betraying
72     PRISM 50:1 someone's trust.
Instead he sat on the front steps, waiting to intercept the police when
they first arrived. A family of four Germans tossed replicas of the crashed
airplane back and forth, the propeller bent, the snout crushed.
Ceylon dusted cigarette butts off the stone steps and sat next to him.
"The people are nice here. Boring as shit, but nice. Have a smoke I could
borrow?"
Lev reached into his breast pocket for his pack and held it out to her.
"Smoking's not good for a pregnant woman."
She brushed her bangs out of her face. "It's fine for the woman. For
the baby it's trouble." She pulled her knees to her chest and rested her
chin on top of them, the cigarette hanging limply from her lips.
"You've told him?"
"Not yet." Ceylon pushed her jaw in Lev's direction, eyes crossed as
she watched Lev light the smoke. "They must have good abortionists in
America. Not like here. My cousin got one and almost died. In bed for
weeks, bleeding from everywhere." She considered the cigarette's burning tip. "Besides, the world has enough Krupkees."
A few hours of waiting and Lev grew antsy. No sirens, no police officers,
no arrests. He spent half an hour pacing around the parking lot, smoking
himself hoarse. Eventually he went inside, crossing himself awkwardly
as he crossed the threshold.
Following the vague hand gestures of a mute monk, Lev found a
working telephone in a room he could only describe as a janitor's closet
on the monastery's second floor. The phone was an old rotary. Pressing
one end to his ear reminded Lev of the tin cans and string he used to
communicate with his own father when he was young. He dialed the
operator and read the number he'd been given.
A different agent answered this time. A woman. Apparently the Minister's son had come out of the coma. Prognosis: life likely but not a
certainty, brain damage probable. Lev could hear papers rustling on the
other line.
"We'll still need to bring the band in," the agent said.
"You mean Krupkee?"
"It says here everyone." She proceeded to read off the names of each
band member, including Beatrice the Groupie, whose last name Lev
hadn't known until now.
"The last person I spoke to said it was only Krupkee"
"What's written down is written down."
Lev rested the earpiece back on its cradle.
The entire band, including Beatrice the Groupie, Udo, and Vanya.
Including Ceylon. The baby. Inside Lev's mouth a flap of dead skin
prismmagazine.ca    73 brushed up against his tongue. He shifted it up and down like a lever. Up
down, up down.
Across the foyer the airplane's propeller went round and round, the
turning blades wider than Lev's leg. It hung on the wall like the head of
an animal. The glass windshield of the cockpit was new, the glass polished to near invisibility. Any dents in plane's metal had been pounded
out, the scrapes from the crash painted over.
On the main floor Ceylon and Krupkee stood beside the German
family Lev had seen earlier, mystified by the propeller's lazy spin. Its
breeze unsettled the teal spikes of Krupkee's mohawk the way wind
passes through blades of grass.
Lev watched as Ceylon, with almost imperceptible slowness, took
Krupkee's hand. They leaned inward until their shoulders touched.
Krupkee knelt down, put his head to her stomach and listened.
Udo and Beatrice the Groupie were already on-board, nude and spooning in one of the seats. Vanya had to be pulled away from an intense
philosophical discussion with a bearded monk triple his age. The subject, as far as Lev could tell, related to the merits of vegetarianism. Before
getting on the bus Vanya made Lev announce that from now on, no
meat would pass through the bus's front door.
"How long are we going to have to wait now?" Udo wanted to know.
"Does what's his name, birthmark face with the passports, know where
we're going?"
Krupkee put his feet up by the windshield and pinched his socked
toes together. He was holding one of the tiny plastic airplanes from the
monastery's gift shop over his head. Over and over he made it divebomb
into Lev's shoulder, bouncing off into a tailspin before taking flight for
another run.
Twice Lev thought he saw police cars screeching up the road. Who
knows? Maybe he had. Maybe the authorities were just collecting sufficient evidence to arrest Lev as well. Offering him the illusion of escape.
How long could they put you in jail for aiding in the escape of a criminal? He fumbled with his pack of cigarettes and dropped them on the
floor.
Krupkee used his foot to drag the pack across the floor towards him.
"Do you think I'll be a good father, Lev?"
"Now's not the time, Krupkee."
"Simple question. Yes or no? You have a son, so you're more qualified to speak on the matter than the rest of these idiots."
Lev loosened his grip on the steering wheel. Truthfully, he could see
Krupkee getting stoned and accidentally dropping the baby into a toilet
filled with vodka. He could see Ceylon and Krupkee having a shotgun
74     PRISM 50:1 wedding, Krupkee spiraling into post-partum depression chased with
benzadrine, eventually overdosing and leaving Ceylon with a fatherless
child, a tiny apartment, bills needing to be paid. His son like Lev's son,
raised by a man who isn't his father. God forbid, a fucking mathematician.
On the other hand, a part of Lev, a very small part, the kind of small
that must have existed solely on the molecular level, entertained the
possibility that two rotting trees could collide with such gentle perfection
that somehow, sodden and useless, they stood stronger together than
each had apart.
Lev shrugged, batting the toy airplane away. "Nobody knows anything about anything, Krupkee."
It was as close as Lev could come to finding truth.
prismmagazine.ca    75 Contributors
Bert Almon's latest book, Waiting for the Gulf Stream, was published by
Hagio Press in 2010. He teaches a poetry masterclass with Derek Walcott
at the University of Alberta.
Homero Aridjis, one of Latin America's greatest living writers, is also
a pioneering environmental activist, two-term president of International PEN, former Mexican ambassador to Switzerland, Netherlands
and UNESCO, and recipient of important literary and environmental
prizes. Among translations into fifteen languages of his forty-one books
of poetry and prose are Eyes to See Otherwise (New Directions) and Solar
Poems (City Lights).
Lesley Battler lives in Calgary and knows too much about the petrochemical industry.
kris bertin is a writer and bartender out of Halifax, NS, with stories
published (or soon to be published) with The Malahat Review, The New
Quarterly, Riddle Fence, The Antigonish Review, and others. He works at
Bearly's House of Blues and Ribs under the tutelage of Industry Legend™ Dan Falvey.
Shashi Bhat is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Dalhousie
University. Her fiction has appeared in several journals, including The
Missouri Review, The Threepenny Review, and Event. Her first novel is forthcoming from Cormorant Books in 2012.
Craig Boyko lives and writes in Victoria, BC.
Peter Chiykowski schemes and writes on the West Coast of Canada.
His poems and stories have appeared in magazines across North America, including The New Quarterly, Grain Magazine, On Spec, and Fantasttque
Unfettered. In his spare time, he works on Rock, Paper, Cynic, a web-
comic with over ten thousand readers.
Jan Conn's most recent book is Botero's Beautiful Horses (Brick Books,
2009). She won the 2006 Malahat Review PK Page Founders' Award
Poetry Prize and a CBC Literary Award for poetry (2003), and a research
scientist who lives in Great Barrington, MA. www.janconn.com
76     PRISM 50:1 Misha Glouberman is a performer, facilitator, and artist who lives in
Toronto.
Sheila Heti is the author of three books of fiction: The Middle Stories, Ttc-
knor, and How Should a Person Be? Her writing has appeared in The New
York Times, McSweeney's, n + 7, and The Guardian. She regularly conducts
interviews for The Believer.
Susan Holbrook's poetry books are the Trillium-nominated Joy Is So
Exhausting (Coach House, 2009), Good Egg Bad Seed (Nomados, 2004)
and misled (Red Deer, 1999), which was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther
Memorial Award and the Stephan G. Stephansson Award. She teaches
North American literatures and Creative Writing at the University of
Windsor. She recently co-edited The Letters of Gertrude Stein and Virgil
Thomson: Composition as Conversation (Oxford U P, 2010).
Carolye Kuchta has a BFA in Creative Writing and an MA in Literature from UBC. She recently completed her first poetry manuscript,
White Fire Legends. Her poems have appeared in The Porter Gulch Review,
The Chadwick Garden Anthology of Poetry, and Ripple Effect Anthology. She
teaches English at Capilano University.
Annette Lapointe grew up in rural Saskatchewan. She has lived in Saskatoon, Quebec City, St John's, Seoul, and Winnipeg. Her first novel,
Stolen, was published in 2006.
Andrew MacDonald won the Western Magazine Award for Fiction and
was a finalist for the Journey Prize. His stories, reviews, and essays appear in places like The Fiddlehead, Event, Matrix, Feathertale, The Pinch,
and The Journey Prize Stories 22. He lives in Toronto, where he's writing a
novel and more stories.
George McWhirter is the co-editor of and the principal translator for
Homero Aridjis's Eyes to See Otherwise, originally published by New Directions. McWhirter has won international prizes for his poetry and is a
UBC Professor Emeritus.
Dexine Wallbank is a professional violinist who lives and works in
Victoria, BC. She has had poetry published in The Antigonish Review and
Contemporary Verse 2.
Andy Weaver's first book of poetry, Were the bees (NeWest Press, 2005),
was shortlisted for Alberta's Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry.
His second book, Gangson, was published by NeWest in 2011. Weaver
teaches contemporary poetry and poetics at York University.
prismmagazine.ca    77 The Creative Writing Program at U.B.G.
y I
The University of British Columbia offers both
a Bachelor of Pine Arts degree and a Master
of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. The
M.F.A. degree may also be taken by distance
education. See our website for more details.
Students work in multiple genres, including:
Poetry, Novel/Novella, Short Fiction, Stage
Play, Screen & TV Play, Radio Play, Writing for
Children, Non-fiction, Translation, and Song
Lyrics 8e Libretto.
Meryn Cadell
Steven Galloway
Keith Maillard
Maureen Medved
Andreas Schroeder
Linda Svendsen
Peggy Thompson
Rhea Tregebov
Bryan Wade
Online Faculty (M.F.A.):
Luanne Armstrong, Gail Anderson-Dargatz,
Joseph Boyden, Brian Brett, Sioux Browning,
Maggie deVries, Zsuzsi Gartner, Terry Glavin,
Wayne Grady, Sara Graefe, Stephen Hunt,
Peter Levitt, Annabel Lyon, Susan Musgrave
8e Karen Solie
www.creativewriting.ubc.ca
Faculty PRIS
Literary Nonfiction Contest
1st Prize $1,500
Entry fee: $28 for 1 piece; 7 for each additional piece
DEADLINE: NOVEMBER 30th, 2011
Short Fiction Contest
1st Prize $2,000 / 2 Runner-up Prizes of $200 each
Entry fee: $28 for 1 story; $7 for each additional story
DEADLINE: JANUARY 27,2012
Send
us
your
words!
Poetry Contest
1st Prize $1,000 / 2 Runner-up Prizes of $300 & $200
Entry fee: $28 for 3 poems, plus $7 for each additional poem
DEADLINE: JANUARY 27,2012
www. dii smmasraz me . ca
FfDDLEHEAD
"In the Centre Ring... The Fiddlehead's 21st Annual Literary Contest"
$1,500 Ralph Gustafson Prize
Two Honourable Mentions: $500 each
$1,500 for Best Short Fiction
Two Honourable Mentions: $500 each
Entry Fee: $30 for an entry from Canada and $36 for
an international entry. The entry fee includes a one-
year subscription to The Fiddlehead.
Deadline: postmarked by
 1 December 2011
Complete guidelines on our web site:
 www, thefiddlehead. ca	 ncepaper
Asian Canadian Arts ot Culture
University
of Victoria
Master of Fine Arts
Writing Program
For more info
e-mail:
writing@uvic.ca
website:
http://writing.uvic.ca
Core Faculty:
Lorna Crozier Tim Lilburn
Bill Gaston Lorna Jackson
Joan MacLeod David Leach
Lynne Van Luven
Lee Henderson
Maureen Bradley
Students focus in a selected genre: fiction, poetry, creative
nonfiction, or drama for stage or screen.
Graduate awards and teaching assistantships are available.
Apply for Fall 2012 now.
Deadline: December 15,2011 Annual Non-Fiction Contest*
$1500 in prizes available,
plus publication!
$34.95 entry fee includes
1 year of EVENT
5,000 word limit
Contest Judge Zsuzsi Gartner
Deadline ApriM 5, 2012
Visit event.douglas.bc.ca for more information
Canada Council     Conseil des Arts
for the Arts du Canada
^\ Douglas College WARNING
ENJAMBMENT
BREAKS LINES.
Performance of enjambment can lead
to experimental manipulation.
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SM is Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Translation & Creative Nonfiction
50:1
Bert Almon
Homero Aridjis
Lesley Battler
kris bertin
Shashi Bhat
Craig Boyko
Peter Chiykowski
Jan Conn
Misha Glouberman
Sheila Heti
Susan Holbrook
Carolye Kuchta
Annette Lapointe
Andrew MacDonald
George McWhirter
Dexine Wallbank
Andy Weaver
Cover Illustration: dinosaur drawing #17
by Ryan Quast
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