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 PBD
y international
SUMMER 1994
Contemporary writing from Canada and around the world $4.50 (plus G.S.T.)  JWL
international  TI
JVAJ international
Editor
Anna M. Nobile
Executive Editor
Vigeland B. Rubin
Fiction Editor
Eden Robinson
Poetry Editor
Barbara Nickel
Advisory Editor
Keith Maillard
Editorial Consultant
Patricia McLean Gabin
Associate Editor
Shelley Darjes
Business Manager
Gregory Nyte
Editorial Board
Frank Borg
Mel Gantly
Alan Levin
Margaret Macpherson
Vincenza Micheletti
Tana Runyan PRISM international, a magazine of contemporary writing, is published four times per year
by the Department of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver,
B. C. V6T IZl. Microfilm editions are available from University Microfilms Inc., Ann Arbor,
Michigan, and reprints from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, New York, N.Y.
Contents Copyright © 1994 PRISM international for the authors.
Cover art by Roxanna Bikadoroff
One-year individual subscriptions $16.00, two-year subscriptions $24.00, library and institution subscriptions $22.00, two-year subscriptions $36.00, sample copy $5.00. Canadians
add7%G.S.T.
All manuscripts should be sent to the Editors at the above address. Manuscripts must be
accompanied by a self-addressed envelope with Canadian stamps or International Reply
Coupons. Manuscripts with insufficient postage will be held for six months and then discarded. The Advisory Editor is not responsible for individual selections, but for the magazine's overall mandate including continuity, quality, and budgetary obligations.
Payment to contributors is $20.00 per page plus a one-year subscription. PRISM international purchases First North American Serial Rights only.
Our gratitude to the Canada Council, Dean Patricia Marchak, and the Dean of Arts' Office at
the University of British Columbia.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Government of British Columbia,
through the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry Responsible for Culture.
Publications Mail Registration No. 5496. July 1994 Contents
Vol. 32, No. 4 Summer, 1994
Mark Anthony Jarman
Shaena Lambert
Lynne Macdonald
Robert Mullen
Marilyn Gear Pilling
Beverley Brahic
April Bulmer
Michael Crummey
Margaret Gunning
Steven Heighton
M. Travis Lane
Patrick Lane
John B. Lee
Mark Mahemoff
Lynn Strongin
Fiction
Do The Locomotion    73
The Falling Woman   42
Personal Literature    55
A Hero of Her Times   7
Son of Night, Brother of Sleep
29
Poetry
65
Nude    41
Mrs. F. Johnson   25
Rev. F. Johnson   26
Victor Johnson   27
Mabel Johnson   28
Three Pictures of Ann
. Somedays    54
In The Light, Wherever Eyes
An Elegy, Years After Sarah
Graveyard in the North Country,
Again   70
The Ecstasy of Skeptics    72
Fly's Wing   39
Silence    50
Too Spare, Too Fierce   51
Held Water    52
Lights    53
Think of the White Refrigerator
Standing in Your Kitchen   40
Pantoum: Perpetual Care    38
A Climate of Affection   67
68
69
Roxanna Bikadoroff
Cover Art
Venus of the Desert
(mixed media)
Contributors  81 PRISM international
wishes to congratulate
Dorothy Speak,
who has been nominated for the $10,000 Journey Prize
for her story "Relatives in Florida," which first appeared in
PRISM international, Vol. 31, No. 3 A Hero of Her Times
Robert Mullen
i
Opening her eyes isn't easy to begin with, and even with her eyes
open the cloud still gets in the way, the thick heavy sweet-
smelling cloud with the bitter lining with which they've covered
her to keep her calm.
She's not wearing her own clothes, which is confusing.
Whose arms are these? Whose useless hands?
Is it malaria again? Will there be dancing? Will the man in possum fur
and cassowary feathers come to drum on his pigskin drum?
Lucid periods intervene. The picture on the wall, a washed out water-
colour, comes into better focus and becomes a window.
She remembers blood for a moment, blood in water, but this is harmful
and she moves on.
First the drummer appears and then the long bark masks to startle the
disease and then the sweepers with their brooms of grass to sweep that
out the door. But here, in and out of her cloud, people move silently and
speak in low voices.
Here, it seems, it's disease which has startled the doctors.
The first one to stay still is Dupree, a black man with a name tag, an orderly, a bucket-and-mop man.
"This is a hospital. People get sick here. There's no need to apologize."
She can't sit up. She can't even roll over properly. He couldn't fix that
for her, could he?
"Not my field but I'll pass it on. I could bring you a fresh pitcher of
water."
Her head will move, so she shakes it. Something still works. What's
the point of fresh water, that's what she's thinking, when she can't reach
for it? The doctor, the one who'll decide when she can sit up, is called Stroud.
Stroud pulls up a chair beside the bed and takes one of her hands out from
underneath the sheet.
Stroud looks at the bandages, which forces her to look at them as well.
"There's no hurry, is there? You can stand one more night, can't you?"
He's taking no chances. He's brought the needle. That means oblivion
again, followed by nausea.
"How about first thing tomorrow morning, won't that do?"
They keep their promises at least. The next morning is the end of the
drip. It's disconnected. Dupree wheels it out. She's being returned, she's
thinking, to the appetitive mode.
Dupree brings her some breakfast covered with a tin hat.
"Hold on. I'll crank you up. Just don't fall out on me."
But she would already have been in for a swim by now. She would have
had a look along the riverbank for turtle or crocodile eggs.
"You're down for a shower at fourteen hundred hours," Dupree says.
Stroud himself loosens the last of the restraints.
"Go slowly. There'll be some dizziness. We don't give prizes here for
overdoing it."
The river is full of crocodiles and the jungle full of snakes and now she
can barely make it to the window and back.
"You were out there for two years. That's a long time. You must have
found it quite a strain."
She did and she didn't. Quite possibly she would have been under exactly the same strain anywhere else.
"That sounds promising. Hold on to that. That might be a good place to
start when you feel strong enough."
If she can sleep she can put up with anything. Sleep draws a line under
it. In the morning she can get up and go down to the river and everything
begins again as if for the first time. Sleep wipes the slate clean.
But other times the night works against her. She lies on her mat in the
dark long before she's ready to sleep because a light would attract mosquitoes and any movement or the sound of her radio and people will assume that she wants company. She lies with her eyes closed composing
her next letter: Dear Richard or Dearest Richard?
It depends on who else she thinks might read it.
Learning the language is daywork and that she relishes. She must also
be able to recognize the women's honey call, their termite call, their nest
call. A yam call, on the other hand, is just a fart. On each of her breasts, a Popo woman wears a small tattoo. Without
that she would be crabby and sluggish. Her milk could turn. The tattoos,
the women claim, just appear one day.
She smiles at this. She finds it unlikely that a tattoo just appears. As
she's listening to what's being said, she's also taking note of any evasions.
Stroud, right from the start, wants her to make appointments in advance. He wants her to get up, put on a robe and slippers, and walk down
the corridor to his office at the time they've agreed.
It's Stroud who suggests that she keep a diary. She agrees, to please
him, although her wrists still ache.
"A few minutes a day. Start with that and gradually increase it."
Her wrist hurts. Her handwriting as a result is atrocious. Will this
strange unrecognizable handwriting, perhaps, enable her to express herself more freely?
Stroud has already read all of Richard's books on the Popo. Lots of
people have. Stroud wants to know if so much work having been done already on the Popo made her own task easier or more difficult.
Richard can't eat pears. It's not the taste he doesn't like, it's the filaments. Richard, possibly, could eat a pear if someone put it through a
blender for him first.
Also the beard on the dust jacket's missing.
Dupree she can ring for at any time, though she tries not to abuse this.
Dupree looks at what she's scribbled in the notebook and says yes, good,
with a little effort he can just about make out what it says.
She blushes. It's ridiculous. She tries desperately to think of something else that she could pretend she wanted.
Beard or no beard, she's impressed. He's so relaxed, so self-assured,
that he almost puts her at ease as well. All she came for, on the other
hand, is a reading list and to discuss what courses she'll be taking.
"I've looked at your transcripts." He smiles. "I can see that I don't
have to tell you to work hard."
Hard work impresses him, that's nice to know. Did he notice, though,
how she was trembling? With a transcript like that, surely, she's soon agonizing, she could have been calmer.
Ambivalence she's expecting. She knows she'll be buffeted. From loving, from over-valuing the people you've chosen to study, you can soon
swing to wanting to wring their necks. Loving, though, should win out in the end.
"Because?" Stroud asks.
Because how dare she judge them? Because the Popo weren't put onto
the earth just to please her or to pander to her preconceptions. Nor, she
might add, was anyone else.
Richard's books, she comes to realize on rereading them, are solely to
do with Popo technology. This is true even when he's writing about ritual
or myth. Every time somebody there told him a story, Richard asked
himself what that story was good for.
She types things for him if the secretaries are all busy. She can type,
so why not? She organizes his files for him because she too needs to be
able to find things.
She waters his plants because it's either that or else slip on the trail of
spilled water that he leaves across the floor.
A crocodile's strength is the water, a monkey's the vine. A monkey is a
sack full of fruit, a crocodile a basket of rotten meat. The Popo too, Richard points out, like to play with dichotomies.
In the meeting of a monkey and a crocodile, the riddle goes, which
stands to lose the most?
The crocodile, the Popo say. Its self-respect.
He agrees with her that there may be more to be said about the Popo.
She's pleased, surprised. Then, before she can catch her breath, he suggests that she should be the one to finish the job.
"Work with the women. They're tough as nails. I never got to first
base with them."
It's not just a follow-up, she'll be breaking new ground. The women
were clannish, he says, and secretive, a world within a world.
"That was the one nut I couldn't crack." He smiles helplessly. "Why
not see what you can do."
She finds it hard to fathom how the women can masturbate right there
in front of her while continuing to carry on a conversation about something else entirely. Without the least embarrassment a woman, if the
mood comes over her, will double one leg, folding it under her skirt, and
use her heel to rub her crotch until her eyes glaze over.
The women, on the other hand, go into the river still wearing their
skirts, letting the water lift the material around them like the petals of
flowers.
Dupree wants her to eat more, to eat everything in fact. A lot of
thought's gone into the menu, Dupree claims.
10 "This?" She holds up a glob of mashed potatoes. "A lot of thought's
gone into this?"
He can practically see right through her, Dupree claims. There's more
meat on a soup bone.
For six months they're together most of the time. She's drawing up
the protocols for her own work. They're talking about what clothes and
medicines she should take. If anything should happen to her, she's discovered, he'll hold himself personally responsible.
She's also been reading through his field notes and listening to his
tapes. She's amazed, most of all, by how much he was able to make later
from so little.
Of his five published books so far, only the first is dedicated to his wife.
To his dearest Helen. She tries, though, not to read too much into this.
She has to ask Stroud for a second notebook. Stroud shrugs. She was
expecting a little more. She can buy a new notebook herself any time she
wants, Stroud informs her, in the hospital shop.
Only one door here is locked, the last one.
A Popo man, before he sets off on a trip, cuts off a patch of his wife's
pubic hair. That's famous now. That's the opening of his third book and it
launches his tour de force, his pathbreaking and compelling dissection of
magic.
Why pubic hair and why a woman's? What is it used for? What in particular does it protect against? Being devoured by quicksand is one thing.
There are photographs of the amulets which the men make from the
hair, but none, of course, of the devastation left behind.
Dupree thinks that she should eat more because this will demonstrate
her willingness to co-operate. Also, if too much food gets sent back,
Dupree worries, the kitchen staff may become demoralized.
"Do you own stock in this place?" she asks Dupree.
The weekend at their cottage before she leaves is to be a special treat,
but at the last moment Helen can't come. One of the children has caught a
cold. Children are always catching something or other, Richard explains
this.
The first thing they do is go for a walk together in the woods to start
breaking in her new shoes. The trees are beautiful, the leaves are turning, and when they stop to rest he kisses her.
She kisses him back and he seems surprised.
"I didn't think you went in for this sort of thing," he shifts the blame.
11 The women show her some marks, two shallow indentations in the soft
ground near the river. The women ask if she knows what made these
marks.
"Which animal?" the women giggle.
The women say that these are knee tracks. They make their fuck-fuck
gesture. Didn't her mother ever tell her? The knee tracks of a man copulating.
The women have a different story about the pubic hair. A man going
away on a journey cuts his wife's hair there in order to make her unattractive, to embarrass her and so keep her faithful during his absence.
No one enters a hut, the proverb says, if the thatch is torn.
He'll like this. This is yet more technology. This is the Popo killing two
birds with one stone.
The women are surprised that she should know how to fish. They
watch enthralled as she ties a fly out of feathers and skins a stick for a
pole. They follow her to the stream and look on in amazement as the fly
moves lightly, insect-like, across the surface.
"Aren't you afraid that you'll stop menstruating?" one whispers.
She was bitten by a fish once, but that belongs in another story.
"What sort of fish?" Stroud may well be wondering. "A red herring?"
Or are Stroud's suspicions, too, aroused by anomalies?
The men are impressed. They've never seen such beautiful fish. The
men are amazed by her competence, by the competence of a woman in
such matters. Perhaps she could have gotten them to sign an affidavit to
that effect.
With eyes rolling, with hips rolling, with the fish held high above their
heads, the ululating women parade her triumph through the village.
II
It was Onapollona who was responsible for the first yams. Onapollona,
a rebellious child, furious when his parents refused him food, dug the first
garden and planted his own turds there.
People must have noticed children's fondness for their own excrement, that's one thing to say. Also children, especially male children, are
spoiled and allowed more or less to run wild, perhaps in the hope that
they too might make some serendipitous discovery.
12 Her letters must be careful, guarded, that's why they take so long to
write. Her letters, before they reach him, will pass through many hands.
That's where jargon comes in handy.
He was better on behaviour than on feelings, he doesn't dispute this.
He was best on the set pieces. Behaviour, he admits, was much further
up on his agenda.
"Observe some feelings," his advice runs. "And then let's hear your
theories."
Other people's, he means, feelings.
Onapollona, during another temper tantrum, put jackets on all the fruit.
This is what monkeys complain about in the mornings. It was Onapollona,
irritated by the noise the monkeys were making, who dared the crocodile
to have teeth.
Stroud wants you to make your own decisions. Stroud insists on it.
Stroud's own suggestions, when he makes any, are simple-minded and
obvious: Keep a diary. Keep appointments. Exercise. No heavy reading.
Stroud, for want of a better word, is all foreplay.
Dupree goes into a song and dance over the books she wants. Dupree
brings her some magazines instead. Dupree is a puppet on Stroud's
strings.
"Play by the rules," is Dupree's advice. "That's the best way. At least
have a look at the pictures."
Women plant the fruit trees because only women know how. A girl,
from an early age, is given some coconuts to look after, to keep hidden
until they start to sprout. A girl can do this, the women believe, but not a
boy because a boy would never have the patience.
A girl, a Popo girl, she can write down because she's observed it, is
given to nourish what a boy would just eat.
Onapollona was ready for sex but nothing else was ready for sex with
Onapollona. His mother refused. His sisters refused. His aunts refused.
Onapollona was going around holding his penis in both hands.
"Oh, that Onapollona," the people laughed. "He has to carry what no
one else will touch."
Infuriated, Onapollona sought revenge. Taking an empty pot into the
jungle with him, Onapollona beat on it while he was urinating, thus setting
off the first thunderstorm.
13 The bandages have come off. There are still scars, but further fading
can be expected. Short sleeves need not be ruled out if supplemented
with bracelets.
Dupree, he says, has seen worse. He's seen throats slit. Scarring isn't
a problem there, they can smile.
The woman in this room previously was afraid of water. Keep your
ears open and you learn things. She had to be washed every day using a
nearly dry sponge. In this very room, Dupree says. On this very same
bed.
Religion he reserved for the men. Men, his argument goes, build a
Spirit House and surround it with taboos, men conduct rites and make
fetishes and only men can blow the sacred conch shell.
Esse est percipi. Religion, to exist, must be seen and heard.
The women, it's true, have no Spirit House. They don't need a Spirit
House, the women tell her. They have real houses.
There's a dry season and there's a wet season owing to the fact that
Onapollona was first a boy and later a girl. This happened when Onapol-
lona castrated himself in a fit of pique. This also accounts for why vaginas
bleed.
She's having sex with Stroud, which perhaps is inevitable, but she's
having it for some strange reason upside down, with her legs wrapped
like vines around his waist, her ankles locked behind his back, her own
back arched and her head, at the moment of truth, all but bouncing off the
floor.
She wakes up from that exhausted, but knowing that nothing has
changed.
Onapollona castrates himself so that he can bathe with the women.
Onapollona shows the women his breasts and his cunt but what they can't
see, not at first, is his penis, which he's kept hidden in his armpit.
"Oh, that Onapollona!" the women laugh, their dark eyes sparkling.
Richard, in the volume on Popo mythology, is quite witty at the expense of poor Onapollona.
Ill
A myth is a symptom, she thrilled the first time she read that. A myth
breaks out wherever something is unclear, problematical, or threatening.
A myth is the human imagination working overtime.
14 Myths give the game away. The myths of a people, while masking
their deepest anxieties, at the same time point to where those anxieties
are to be found.
By thinking the unthinkable, Richard puts it succinctly, myths seek explanations for the inexplicable.
A man owns the family's pigs but it's the woman who, when the piglets
are born, nurses them at her own breasts. Pigs, which are subsequently
allowed to graze freely in the forest, belong to the husband, but only the
wife can call them back.
Once a woman copulated with a pig and it was fatal. The woman
swelled up and swelled up and finally she burst. A man copulating with a
pig, on the other hand, is what produced lizards.
To see him again, she'll have to wait a year. There's a conference then
where they'll meet. She tries not to anticipate this too much or to expect
too much or to mention it too often in her letters.
"Because if you did?" Stroud asks.
She would have thought it was obvious. She'll have a long walk and
then a long bus trip and she'll then have to meet a plane which flies only
twice a week. She views any possible happiness, that's why, as being
suspended from a single slender thread at which men with machetes are
hacking.
Their stories are above all about disobedience, about the failure to observe taboos or to follow instructions correctly. Whatever new knowledge an infraction may produce, the results for the protagonist are always catastrophic.
A woman goes to a part of the jungle which she has been warned to
avoid. A child lifts the lid of a cooking pot. A man plays his drum during a
thunderstorm. Whatever's forbidden, the myths say, there was once
someone who tried it.
The woman is eaten, the child falls into the pot, the man's inopportune
drumming causes an earthquake.
When she can't sleep, she sits up. She can hear coughing. She can hear
the footsteps of the nightshift orderly. She's still a little leery of putting a
lamp on in the dark.
In, you breathe. Out.
Adultery, the women believe, causes blindness. Too much adultery,
the women say. A little produces only flatulence.
15 Woman is water, they say, and man is the paddle. One water, they tell
her, grinning proudly, making the fuck-fuck sign again, but many paddles.
There are women and there are trash women. The fairer sex too dichotomizes. There are women who keep their gardens weeded and their
huts swept and there are women who don't.
The surest way to attract a trash person is to chew too loudly. The
best way to get rid of a trash person, the women say, is to mention some
work which needs to be done.
There's a sing-sing for her on the night before she leaves. The singing
will protect her and ensure that she returns. There are flowers from the
jungle strewn on the beach and fish wrapped in breadfruit leaves are
roasting under the sand on a bed of coals.
The women sing and they sprinkle her with coconut water and they
warn her about the jungle ogre which preys on women alone, All Penis. It
looks just like a stump, like dead wood, the women describe All Penis,
until you brush against it.
The dangers of the bush are but the everyday dangers writ large.
That's axiomatic, but it doesn't necessarily make you any less wary.
Stroud listens and he makes his notes, that's it. Stroud remains impregnable behind the fortress of his desk.
In a Popo village, a man fears something in his food which will cause his
testicles to shrink. Threatened in the village by women's treachery, a
Popo man is stalked in the jungle by the ogress No Cunt.
She hopes for him to be at the airport, but she won't be disappointed if
he's not. She won't use it against him. Your only love magic is a little perfume.
There's no Richard. There's no one with her name on a piece of cardboard. Instead, he's sent Helen.
"He's tied up. You know what he's like. In a world of his own."
He's that sure of her. He's that sure of both of them.
"We've got all afternoon." Helen takes her bag. "Would you rather eat,
sleep, or shop?"
Stroud takes only notes, not sides. That must have been very disconcerting for her, that's Stroud's two cc's worth of sympathy.
But she does need to shop. She'll need to take presents back for the
women and some tobacco for the headman. Richard's always inviting her
16 to come with him to conferences, Helen says, and for once she decided to
call his bluff.
Because the streets are strange and crowded, they go everywhere
arm-in-arm.
"He said six o'clock back at the hotel. Six o'clock for us, that means,
and he'll be there when he gets there."
The men have their sing-sings in the Spirit House, surrounded by
feathers and fur, and the women have theirs on the riverbank surrounded
by flowers.
"They don't even pretend, you mean," Helen understands at once, "to
share one world."
The women have no fetishes, only their tattoos. Only their good behaviour. Women don't cut off their husbands pubic hair before going on a
trip because Popo women don't go on trips.
They can change first, Helen suggests. Then they'll have a drink in the
bar. If he's not back by eight, they'll eat without him.
They have two hours alone, that's all he can manage. He comes to her
room. They undress. All that she hoped for, all that she imagined, has to
be compressed into that one, squeezed into that one, small space.
He warns her again afterwards about supporting her theories with evidence. Where are the women's rites? Where is their sacred precinct?
She's not going to argue, surely, is she, that religion is just a good feeling?
Her mouth is dry. Her stomach has knotted. She pulls the sheet back
up to her waist. She hadn't been planning on arguing, just then, about
anything.
She leaves him some notes. It's easy enough to borrow, from Helen,
one of the books that he's been given to review. She writes the notes in
pencil, in the margins, where in a week, in a month, whenever he gets
around to turning the pages, he'll find them.
Tiny tokens, tiny time capsules of my love.
IV
If a myth is a symptom, then a rite must be the cure. A myth is speculation, imagination in flight; a rite is where it comes back down to earth.
The women, first of all, love the batiks. They love the colours and marvel at the fineness of the material. Instead of making shirts, they cut the
material into long strips which they hang up to decorate their huts.
17 I must have been very happy on my trip, they think, to have chosen
something so beautiful.
I worry that he thinks I'm attacking his work. There was so little time
to explain. I worry about this mainly at night.
I'm operating in a vacuum, that hasn't changed. Now it's Stroud sitting
impassively. I go on because it's easy to go on, because there's no resistance.
You work during the day and at night you blame yourself, that's how to
recharge your batteries in a vacuum.
They don't want me to fish for a few days. Naturally I want to know
why not. Because I'm almost the same as they are now, they say, except
for the way I dress and my mistakes in grammar.
I wait, elated. Taboos, I have it on good authority, exist for the purpose of demarcating the sacred.
We're all, the women tell me, one water now.
Illness can be an opportunity. Given the illness, that's all I mean to say,
seize the opportunity.
Stroud, incredibly, manages neither to smile nor to frown. Is he even
alive? Stroud is a sponge calmly soaking up everything that spills.
We go all together to see a young girl. She's lying on her mat. She's
being rubbed with coconut milk. I ask what's wrong with her and they say
everything, she's finished, she's dying. There is, however, in the hut, a
conspicuous lack of grieving.
One woman watches in the doorway and another starts to sing.
"She was a child," the menstruation song says. "She was an ugly
thing."
Dupree measures my progress by my appetite. I'm doing fine, Dupree
thinks. I'm getting a good reputation in the kitchen.
Just once, as a reward, I'd like him to stop, sit down, and talk to me
properly. But he can't.
"What would I put on my time sheet?" Dupree says.
Some moss is placed between her legs. That's all she'll wear, but she'll
be wrapped in leaves from head to foot just as a yam or a fish is wrapped
in leaves, the women point out, before it's placed in the fire.
I too must undress. Not even my wrist-watch is allowed. In place of
my white person's clothes, there's a skirt made from grass for me to
18 wear and some bougainvillaea because they know I'm shy about showing
my breasts in the village.
I look like a bird now, they think. A large bird with a crimson ruff which
they sometimes see in their dreams.
I ask again about the tattoos but the answer remains the same and the
women are adamant. The tattoos simply appear. There's nothing on
the breasts of the child when they put her into the leaves but there is
on the breasts of the woman who emerges.
Dear Richard: I offer you a belief in the miraculous.
The breasts ache a little afterwards, the women say, but that's normal.
It will happen again later when the breasts swell with milk.
"Don't we want children hanging from us?" the women say. "Don't we
want pigs?"
It's nearly dark when we leave the hut. There's just enough light to
find a likely place in the jungle and make a clearing, pushing back the
leaves and the twigs with our bare feet.
"Snakes," someone whispers, "crawl away. Snakes, go back into your
holes."
The girl will be left here. Three days will have to pass. She'll learn
songs and be fed through a straw and later, when she takes a husband,
this will become her first garden.
"She talks to him softly at night," the marriage song says. "In the
morning she hands him his axe."
Alone again in the dark, on my mat, I write letters in my mind and I
tear them up. This must take a toll. My mind fills up with the confetti of
discarded solutions.
Alone, in the dark, in lieu of sleep, I see Helen behind a barricade,
waving.
On the third day we make dancing sticks. We attach some feathers to
them. These are better than men as dancing partners, better than husbands, the women say, because husbands get hungry.
The package of leaves is now reopened and a face appears. The eyes
blink. We start pounding our sticks. Perhaps the girl has been drugged,
briefly, and the tattoos applied in that way.
She moves stiffly at first, as we pound out the rhythm for her dance.
"Be many," the stick song says. "Be more. Fall from their wombs."
The drugs now are only to help me not to stay awake all night. Dupree
brings them in last thing.
19 "Now I lay me down to sleep," Dupree calls out cheerfully.
Calmness, rationality, both feet on the ground, in daylight, are now my
own responsibility.
What he found in the Spirit House was syncretism. He found a religion
made of other religions, a weave the threads of which he was able to
identify as animism, Hinduism, Islam, and an ancestor cult.
Is religion more like a carpet, then, than a feeling?
The danger, always, he himself teaches this, is that you stop once
you've found what you were expecting.
Is it possible, against all the odds, that anyone else, even Stroud, can
have figured out what's best for me? If he knows, what's preventing him
from saying?
Illness may also be just an excuse. There must be other people, genuinely sick people, that's what I'm thinking now, who could use this bed.
And then where will I hide?
A rite provides both knowledge and pleasure. A rite celebrates even as
it commands. The persistence of a rite depends on its having more than
one reason.
After the dancing, we throw one another into the air. We use a mat.
We're jubilant. We throw one another again and again and what we're celebrating, I conclude, is love: the weightlessness, the fear and the thrill of
flight while at the same time knowing that you're going to be caught.
V
At the least, before claiming knowledge, the hero must pass through a
period of isolation. This happens again and again. How many times does it
happen that a hero must first be destroyed, disembowelled, quartered,
flayed alive, for what, committed by anyone else, would be the most trivial offence?
Fortunately, in myths, this isn't always fatal.
I know what the terror feels like when it's on the way, I know that well
enough to predict it. It comes in spasms at first and mainly at night at first
and I know I should have found a way to intervene before it spread, before it took up residence, stretching from one dark night all the way into
the next.
Stroud makes it sound so obvious: instead of the panic button, that's all
it entails, push some other button.
20 Mother living and father dead, Stroud remarks, that's all he has. That's
not a lot to go on. Childhood can't be changed, Stroud concedes, but they
nevertheless keep certain statistics.
I see through this. We exchange, I think, knowing looks. Stroud sees
me seeing through this.
You've found taboos. You've found a ritual. You should be ecstatic. Instead you lie awake on your mat at night rehearsing. Thus you fall into
the embrace of the great destroyer of sleep.
I rehearse it all, the packing, the farewells, the muddy walk, the bus
ride, the various flights which may or may not connect, and at long last
stepping once more into his office.
I rehearse a smile, just a nod, a loving look, an apology.
Somewhere there must be more reasons, stronger reasons, more
drastic reasons, Stroud thinks, reasons desperate enough to motivate a
desperate act. To reduce an intelligent and capable person, these are
Stroud's words, to the state in which they found me.
I must frown. I know because Stroud smiles. That's how he keeps
things on an even keel. Stroud only seems to be a mirror.
How could I possibly be happier completing my work under anyone
else? How could anyone possibly think that? How could he throw that at
me right out of the blue when I haven't even changed clothes, when I
haven't even finished my speech?
Under the circumstances, that's Richard's point. The word "circumstances" reverberates with meaning.
"Are you all right?" Richard says. "You look terrible. Did you manage
to sleep on the plane?"
I use the nod. I lie. I say plenty. I must look like a ragdoll.
Stroud exerts control without seeming to. I'm on to this now. I've
jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
"Tell me then." Butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. "I'd really like to
know how I do it."
It's simple. I want him to keep looking at me, it's as simple as that, and
I start to squirm the moment he starts looking down at his notes.
I should be unpacking, especially my notes and the film. I should be arranging, organizing, the things you should do when you get back. Helen,
waving Helen, I've heard, is anxious to see me.
You make things instead, mainly animals. You make them out of coat
hangers. When you run out of coat hangers of your own, you go out to a
21 dry-cleaner's to buy more. Tied in knots, you tie knots in metal.
The wire is just stiff enough, that's what I think now, to challenge a
flagging ability to manipulate the world.
Stroud wants to know if anything like the pipe-cleaners ever happened
before. It's just a hunch, Stroud says. I may have been wounded once before, that's the hunch, and later, wounded again, tried to crawl back into
the same hole.
There were only the pipe-cleaners. He tells you the name of an animal
and you try to make it. You play with his pipe-cleaners to please him because isn't that what all children do?
Mother living and father dead but this wasn't always the case. The opposite can also apply. We're speaking about influences, Stroud understands, not ontological status.
Father living, breathing, laughing, tossing me into the air; mother immaterial.
There's nothing sinister here, I make clear. Alone with her on those
fishing trips he's scrupulously shy. Their togetherness, their companionship, his easy and genuine delight in her company, become all hedging
and awkwardness when she needs a bathroom.
You learn to go off by yourself, make a small hole in the leaves, and
squat over it. You try not to eat too much and hardly drink anything the
whole time that you're in the woods.
I try to earn love, that's another way of saying it, the same way I earn
my allowance.
Sometimes it's my notes that have gotten wet. Sometimes my film is
overexposed. Sometimes I realize at the last moment that I'm wearing a
grass skirt but have forgotten to cover my breasts.
The coat hanger animals lined up on the coffee-table have become the
enemy now, a hostile committee headed by Richard.
"What's she trying to pull?" the committee wants to know.
This is what happens when I do manage to sleep.
The restaurant is the best part, the one on the way home, because
then she can gorge herself. She's slept on the ground, she's been wet and
she's been cold without complaining, and now she can order anything she
wants.
You study the menu. You read every item. They might have changed
something since the last time. At that age, you just want to absorb love.
22 I associate pancakes with that, as much butter as I want, a small white
pitcher of real maple syrup, and the smell of his coffee.
I could go on for days, as proven by the fact that I've already gone on
for weeks, or I could just walk out of here. Even Dupree says so. Just
start walking down the corridor as if I owned the place, Dupree says, a
little farther every day, and then one day just keep right on going.
The strings, of course, are me, not Richard. What a stupid lie. It's me
who won't eat pears or mangos.
Stroud wants to know about the fish. Someone was bitten by a fish
once. Reading through his notes, Stroud must have found that dangling.
"It was stupid," I say. "Just rotten luck. Bad timing."
He knew, of course, in his own shy way, that there was no such fish,
that she hadn't been bitten. A fish is just what comes to hand. And he reminds her that there's a first aid kit in the tent.
I take care of it. I go into the tent. I take down my shorts and my
bloody pants and fold a towel between my legs, but when I come back out
he's already started loading the car.
"Get in." His voice is cool and distant. "Sit still. You'll be wearing
dresses after this. Your roughneck days are over."
Sometimes I'm swimming. Sometimes the whole lake turns red.
Sometimes, in the worst case, that first and never mended parting of our
ways and his heart attack become conflated.
And now I'm supposed to stand up, I challenge Stroud, alone, with only
a single instance as evidence, and argue that menstruation, for the Popo,
is a sacrament?
VI
Often the origins of the hero are confused and problematical. This
probably accounts for the hero's restless searching. Love and affection,
approval, the birthright of others, the hero will encounter only as a second language.
I practice packing. I tell Dupree it's in case of fire. Dupree tells me that
the snow's gone, that the grass is growing, that the baseball players will
soon be flying north again.
So, too, the hero, battered by winter, revives in springtime.
23 I know what the panic feels like. Thus I know when to take the medication. I'll know then, having taken the medication, exactly how long it will
be before help arrives.
The logic of this, I'm forced to admit, is irrefutable.
Nothing will have changed, but I'm prepared for that. I won't bail out
again. I don't know yet how I'm going to deal with the son-of-a-bitch, but
I know that I have to.
Stroud laughs, not an everyday occurrence, and rocks back in his
chair.
"Which of the son-of-a-bitches is that?" Stroud says slyly.
What I do know now about dealing with Richard is first of all to make
sure that he's really alone.
I pack one more time and this time it's for real. I've got work to do.
I've got people to see. I pack and then I breathe.
I breathe the way I've learned, slowly in and slowly out, urging the
calm out to the tips of my fingers and down to my toes.
I ring the buzzer and then I wait. I wait for Dupree to appear. Dupree,
grinning, glad for me, sizes up the situation. The point of no return has
passed.
"Carry your suitcase, lady?" Dupree says.
24 April Bulmer
four poems
Mrs. F. Johnson
I laid down by the little plot, my heart tethered to the stone. And God fell
upon me like a warm blanket, though I still shivered in the cold.
I prayed early that evening; God my horsepower. For Him my faith
cantered, unreigned. But your death, daughter, was a saddle, a dark
weight: your body folded untidy as a map in the rumble of the black
coupe. Heart a compass, the needle spinning dizzy till it stiffened north.
Days I cradled your ukulele—a mute infant in the swell of my dress. The
pick a half moon eclipsed by the clutch of my hand.
I built you a wedding cake, a sweet cathedral. Folded linens, buffed
silver, bound your notebooks of poems. Laid your silk hanky red as a
heart in the hollow of the chest.
I tied cans to the fenders. Planted paper flowers in the muddy hood.
Fastened your slim boots to the broken buggy God drove you to His
throne.
25 Rev. R Johnson
The endless mourning of the wind, grieving my daughter. God, I want to
tell you of the endless mourning of the wind. Some might speak of the
beauty of the earth as she accepts our loss. Some might say, in her womb
the calla lilies bloom their Easter grace.
But all winter I bear the weight of death like the burden of snow. And my
heart, a stunned fruit, holds its juice, almost bitter.
26 Victor Johnson
Last night I woke to death's great howl. Called her close, pulled the burrs
from her paws. Stroked her and buried my mouth in her wild coat. She is
a weary dog, bearing our weight to the water, the scruffs of our necks
secure in her muzzle. Mourning our thin lives. Whimpering a little as she
buckles the collars, fastens the heavy stones.
Last night in the light of this kitchen the sleeping dog dreaming of pups,
their new bones.
27 Mabel Johnson
Or was it as in my dream? My sister packed a small valise: calfskin Bible,
wide-tooth comb. Boarded a clean passenger train. It whistled long
through the winter night. She dreamed of birds and the Saviour's slender
arms. At the station he offered her a kiss, touched her wrist. Dusted the
years from her shoes. Jesus showed her the bathtub, the jars of little
soaps. A chest of drawers for her cotton cloaks and wings. Son of Night,
Brother of Sleep
Marilyn Gear Pilling
My sister says she was at Death's door that afternoon, but I
always think of Death as being separated from us not by a door
but by a river. I ask her if she really means door.
Yes, she says, I see Death living in a colourless house in the side of a
hill. You can't tell there's a house there. Just the door, and not until
you're right in front of it. There's no buzzer and no door handle and no
peep-hole, but Death knows when you're there, and He opens the door
and takes a deep breath. That sucks you in.
"I even know the hill," she continues.
"Where is it?" I ask.
"You know that gravel road at the east side of the farm? You know how
the hill goes straight up and there's a bush on both sides? Down there, in
the bush, in the side of that hill."
"I see. You could have told me this before, Rita. I've been up that hill
alone many times at dusk. I even played in that bush when we were
kids."
My sister Rita is a doctor. She's had three husbands, no children. I
have three children, no husband; we always make a joke out of that. I'm
happy about the way it turned out though; my three kids are what I'll give
thanks for on my deathbed.
Rita's short hair has the burgundy shine of old French wine, and it
clicks into place like a metronome when she moves her head. My sister
went into medicine to defeat death. When she talks about the latest advances in medical science, she says "we." "We know now that cancer is
many diseases." She practices up north, in the little town near the farm
where we spent summer holidays and weekends as children. Rita is not
usually fanciful. At this moment, we are talking on the phone. I am wearing a housecoat that was dainty rose blush when I bought it, but now is
plain faded puce. As Rita talks, I'm twisting my face under the light and
plucking the black hairs that are taking over my chin with the relentless-
ness of Leiningen's ants.
29 "Yes, well, as I say," Rita continues, "I was at Death's door when our
mother came out with this. Trust her to do it then."
"What did she say?" I'm thinking of having electrolysis done, but
there's a satisfaction to the tweezer's thrust and tug; somehow it's more
than hairs I'm rooting out.
"It was last Sunday afternoon," says my sister. "I've got this fever of a
hundred and four, maybe a hundred and five, I'm sitting there with three
woollen blankets around me, coughing my guts out, and wondering
whether I could have AIDS, and Mom says, 'Oh, you know, Rita, for the
last six months or so I've had this funny sensation. Especially when I walk
any distance. This sort of pain, not really pain, this feeling that goes right
up my arm and into my jaw. My throat burning too. I wonder if I should
mention that to the doctor some time, do you think?'"
"What has she got?" I ask, putting down the tweezers. I would be doing something like plucking my beard at a time like this phone call seems
it's about to turn into.
"Classical angina."
"What does that mean?"
"Given what is already wrong with her heart, it means she won't be
around more than two years at the very most."
I don't see Death as waiting for us behind a colourless door. I see him
in a ground mist on a far shore making scarecrows. He's stuffing them
with straw, dressing them in the clothes of the new arrivals. Some of the
scarecrow bodies are crosses, crosses on which the clothes of the dead
flitter in a little wind that twists in and out of the ground mist from the
four corners. Some of the bodies are round, stuffed plump with straw.
One scarecrow is pregnant, a great straw belly hanging low over a belt
whose long dangling end makes her look as if she has a penis. One is a
small child, limbs of stuffed pink stockings, a tinfoil pie plate face.
I see Death straighten and get into his hot tub. He is lolling there on
the far shore of the wide river, scalding his bare white bones in the
steam. Son of night, brother of sleep.
Bare white bones. Our skeleton. Hidden under the epidermis, gradually revealing itself as our bony prominences proclaim themselves to the
world. Death slowly becoming visible as we age. The other day someone
told me about a body worker who can put her hand on a person's flesh and
feel their skeleton. Know all its secret turns. Know Death. I saved that
anecdote for Rita. I think she went into medicine to know Death, as well
as to defeat him.
Death lolls in his hot tub and sends his boatman across for us. Like in
the myths.
30 I suppose these days the boatman might be hooked up to a walkman
that's blasting into his ears a Chili Pepper tune like Suck My Kiss. He
might be driving an outboard motor with a bumper sticker that says, "I
don't date anyone who uses four letter words like Don't, Stop or Quit."
But I like to think he's a half-naked guy in an old row-boat. One of the
seats is loose and you nearly tip the boat sitting down. It's night, of
course, but there's enough moon for you to see his shoulders and arms,
and you hunch behind him and watch his muscles get huge and then relax,
watch his muscles breathe like the plastic cover of a Harley Davidson
filled and deflated by one of those trickster winds. You start to smell his
sweat about two-thirds of the way across. There's no deodorant where
he comes from.
You smell his sweat and every now and then you feel a stone scrape
the bottom of the boat. This river isn't so deep in spots. Some of the
water from the oars comes into the boat and baptizes your scalp. I said he
was half-naked; I didn't say which half. Al he's wearing is a grey muscle
shirt. He stands up, and the boat goes back and forth like D. H.
Lawrence's rocking horse. His cock is bobbing like a teasel in an east
wind. You shove the broken seat off to the side so it sticks out over the
water like a ragged wing, and you have one last fuck down there in the
tepid water in the bottom of the row-boat, rocking now like you did
where you began, in the cradle of your mother's womb, drifting off
course, cold water slurping in over the sides and biting at the edge of the
mortal coil you're about to shuffle off. You come with an apocalyptic shudder. Then you sit up, and there's the shore and Death way off to the left
clattering out of the hot tub, rubbing his bones dry with a toddler's pink
sleepers, shaking the creases out of his black cloak.
Saturday noon, two weeks after my sister's call, I walk into our mother's apartment up north. She has my father out of the nursing home for
lunch. They sit across from one another, a loaded plate in front of each.
"We commend this food to Thee and ourselves to Thy service, for
Christ's sake, Amen," says my mother.
My father used to be the one to say that. Now his blue eyes stare
straight from between the rigidified muscles of his face. He does not
know me today, any more than do the vegetables that startle me with
their technicolour clarity against the white plates. August tomatoes, red
as the medieval hospitals for victims of St. Anthony's fire. Bright green
lettuce. Half a roll, buttered yellow. Pork chops stewed in apples. My
mother finds cooking difficult. She has worked all morning to prepare this
food, then gone through the laborious process of bringing my father out
of the nursing home. She is sitting there with a hollow doll across from
31 her, eating with it, pretending it's real. The TV on low to provide the
talk.
This situation is just an extension of their years together. Now my father cannot talk; in former years, he did not talk because anything he uttered would be used against him by my mother. She was the prosecuting
lawyer and the rest of us provided her with a lifelong task.
"Come into the back bedroom," says my mother now, as she clears
the table. Her voice is more animated than it has been in years. "Rita
brought me two new outfits from her trip to the city last week. I don't
know which one to keep." On her way into the hall, she bangs her toes on
the doorstop. "Oh ouch that hurts!" she says. "If there's something to
kick, I'll always kick it."
A week ago, Rita phoned me and told me our mother had been told her
prognosis by the family doctor. "What do you think her reaction was?"
Rita asked.
"I wouldn't venture a guess."
"Well," said Rita. "There's been a spring in her step ever since. I'd forgotten she could be so chipper."
Half-way down the hall to her bedroom, my mother turns around and
faces me. "I've been thinking about my funeral. I know what you'll want,
Vivian."
"What will I want?"
"You'll want me laid out in the coffin for everybody to gawk at."
"Actually, you're right. It'll be hard for me to believe you're dead if I
don't see you."
"Oh, I knew it. I told Rita that's what you'd want. I knew you'd want
me up there on view. Well, I'm not sure, Vivian. Your dad would want a
normal funeral if he was able to say. But I might fool you all and get myself cremated." She turns and flounces into the bedroom.
On my mother's white bedspread is a cherry suit jacket with pleated
skirt. The other outfit is navy and white. "I'm leaning towards the
cherry," says my mother. "The skirt's a little short, though. I don't want
to look like Barbara Bush."
"Who's that?" I say.
She wheels around with her mouth open, then realizes I'm joking. "Go
sit with your father. I'll be out in a minute."
My mother has never worn cherry in her life. Inside her castle, a prosecutor. Out in the world, Jenny Wren. Beige blouses. Grey coats. I remember the time Rita and I were sitting on her patio, and Rita passed on
to me the comment of a friend: "Your mother is almost a saint, isn't she?"
"Did you do a BM or the other when you were in that bathroom?" I answered Rita that day, in my mother's voice.
32 "The other," Rita said, hanging her head.
"I never saw anybody that could do either so fast. You must wait until
the very last minute to go in," I replied. Rita and I have lots of scripts like
that down pat. Our mother's choicer comments. "A saint," I howled that
day. "Oh my God!" Rita and I rolled our eyes.
Rita is my baby sister. I was seven when she was born, and my parents let me choose her name. I love Rita as much as anyone on this earth.
My mother moved into an apartment up here two years ago so that my
dad could go into the nursing home in the town where he was born and
where my sister is the doctor. Stripped of her little kingdom, the house
she tended and rarely left in forty years, my mother turned into Jenny
Wren inside her new place as well as outside. Or maybe a tiny brown field
mouse.
The first time I visited her in the apartment, she asked me to move
away from the living-room window. "Why?" I asked.
"The neighbours might think you're staring at them." She got up and
pulled the blind.
She put her piano on mute, used the TV only with the sound off, stood
up and said, "Oh shush, please shush" if we laughed. A month later, she'd
moved the phone from the living-room to the back bedroom. "I wanted to
get it away from the front door," she said. "Mr. Dennis can't hear what
I'm saying back in there."
Mr. Dennis is the superintendent for the four-unit building. I pictured
him crouched outside my mother's door on his arthritic sixty-year-old
legs to hear her tell Rita and me over the phone what was on her grocery
list.
"People up here go till they drop. I know what they're thinking.
They're thinking I just shoved your father in the Home because I couldn't
be bothered any more."
"Mom, they're not thinking that at all." My mother is seventy-three.
She kept my father at home until exhaustion altered the very contours of
her face. She got up to him three or four times a night the last year.
"Oh yes they are. I know what they're thinking. I can't even go out to
the fowl supper, among people I've known all my life, without getting,
'My, John was looking good when I saw him last week.'" My mother's
face twists into a know-it-all leer as she relates this.
"Mom, they don't say it like that."
"Oh yes they do, I know what they're all thinking."
The farm is deserted now, but Rita and I go out every time I come up
from the city. We'd never change a stick or a stone, and we'd never sell
33 the place to strangers. Summers on the farm is where we had our happy
times.
It's not just the memories from our childhood the place holds. I can
never go up the gravel road at the east side of the farm—the hill Rita
joked that Death lives under—without remembering the conversation
Rita and I had there a couple of years ago. It was spring. There were a
million dandelions in the ditches. We were near the top of the hill when
Rita said it.
"My kid would have been grown up and away at university by now."
I stopped. My jaw must have been resting on my knees. I stared at
her. I'll always remember exactly where I was when Rita said that. It's
how everybody knows where they were when JFK was shot.
"I told you about that, didn't I?" she went on. "I was pregnant when
you were. You were twenty-seven, I was twenty. My baby was due the
same month. August, 1973."
I still couldn't speak.
"I was in first year medical school. I had an abortion. There was no
way I could have a baby and become a doctor. Stop looking like that,
Viv."
My daughter with a first cousin her age. My sister a mother. Me, an
aunt. The world swerving and criss-crossing.
"Rita, you never told me."
"I was sure I had. Stop looking like that. It was a long, long, time ago."
This evening of my noon hour visit to my mother and her cherry suit,
Rita and I have been out to the farm. We're driving back into town along
the ninth line as far as it goes before you have to turn right or end up in
the river. On our left a huge red sun has just gone below the horizon,
leaving behind the fire of a pure orange light in the west sky and fields. I
like to think of orange as red somehow tempered by the yellow of understanding. The cattle in the fields to our left are humped black shapes. On
our right, a full white moon and utter darkness.
"Stop the car, Rita."
Rita gives me a quick look, then pulls over into the long grass of the
ditch, grey now with fine silk dust, and turns off the car. Both of us get
out. Country smells of hay and wet wildflowers and gravel and grazing animals. A thousand crickets and one low cry from a cow to her calf. The
orange light. The immense moon.
I stand for a moment in the middle of the gravel road, then move over
and put one arm around my sister. "Rita, you're a doctor. Stop everything right here, right now, just like this." Rita doesn't answer. I hear the
cattle methodically pulling up the grass and chewing away at it.
34 I lay my head on my sister's shoulder. "Rita, I don't want her to die."
Again, Rita says nothing. I wonder if she's about to cry. I wonder if I am.
Then, for some reason, I remember the day Rita cut her hair.
Rita's hair wasn't always smooth and burgundy. It was blond and unruly and down to her waist until one day a few years after she started up
her family practice. Rita went out in the morning and had her hair cut
short and dyed. Then she came home and went to bed with a bottle of
wine. She drank all the wine and she cried all that day and most of the
night. She wouldn't speak. Her second husband told me that. He said he
didn't know what to do. He phoned all their friends to see if anyone knew
what was wrong with Rita.
The ditch beside this road is full of wild carrot. Rita still hasn't spoken.
Silently I remember a day when I was around five years old, my mother
telling me the fancy name for this weed—Queen Anne's lace—and helping
me and my cousin make a bride's garland for our hair. The ants crawled
out of the white petals onto our faces. Like those black beard hairs even
now emerging onto my chin.
"Smell the river," says Rita.
"Yeah," I shout, whirling her around by her arm. "Want to go down
and have a threesome with the boatman?" Rita knows my death fantasy.
She laughs, and the two of us dance a jig, right there on the deserted
country road. "Come in your muscle shirt and catch us if you ca-a-a-n!" I
holler, as we get back into the car. "You'll find we two are a h-a-a-andful!"
The cattle are all stirred up as we pull away. Bawling and sticking their
heads through the rail fence.
In her fifteen years of family practice, my sister has encountered
Death only once outside the walls of the hospital, and that was earlier this
summer. She tells me about it when we get back to her place after dancing our jig, and the way she tells it, I feel as if I'm there.
"Remember how the first two weeks of July were this summer," she
says. "Remember how beautiful? Just the way I remember those long
ago summer days on the farm. No clouds, that huge blue sky, the red
sunsets every evening, and the strangest thing of all—no bugs. Everybody was talking about the weather. So perfect it was unnatural. Like a
dream almost. Day after day. Like living in a never-never land.
"On the Thursday of the second week, the ambulance went out Code
Four. Code Four means you expect the worst. We got everything ready
in Emerg. We waited and waited. Then we got the signal that means
whoever they went for is beyond help. A few minutes later comes the call
that the mother wants her own doctor. That turns out to be me."
The mother is Jenny Malone. Forty years old. "I delivered her twins
35 three years ago after years of fertility drugs and failure. She was the
best, most careful mother you could imagine, Viv. Everything you could
do to make a farm safe for children, Jenny and Doug did it. Jenny never
took her eyes off those twins. That's the first thing she said to me when I
got out there to that beautiful, prosperous farm of theirs on the fourth
concession. The fire trucks and the police cars and the ambulance were
all lined up down the side of the lane and along the gravel road. The
neighbours had her on the couch, in the kitchen. T never took my eyes off
him, Dr. Rita. I was looking right at him when it happened.'"
My sister is drinking wine the colour of her hair as she speaks. She
sets down the glass and leans forward. "They were such good parents,
Vivian," she repeats. "They couldn't have been more careful of those
twins. They went to extremes."
Into my head comes the old Arab tale about the last act of evasion being the final twist that delivers you into the hands of Fate. I've always
been fascinated by that story. There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent
his servant to market. The servant returned, frightened, and told his master
he had seen Death in the marketplace and Death had looked at him in a
threatening way. He begged his master to lend him a horse so he could ride
to Samarra and avoid his fate. After he was gone, the master went to the
marketplace. He saw Death there and asked why Death had threatened his
servant. "I did not threaten him," Death answered. "I was merely expressing my surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra."
I don't interrupt Rita's story. "They'd rented a machine that digs post-
holes, Viv. It was standing in the corner of the barnyard. Craig went up
to it and climbed on it and it fell over and crushed him. Doug had to use
the tractor to get it off him. There was no way that machine should have
moved, Vivian. It was solid as a silo. The police and the firemen were
hanging from it when I got there, and they couldn't make it budge. Craig
weighed thirty pounds. He was three years old."
"What did you do, Rita?"
"I sat with Jenny for a while and then I went out to the barnyard to see
Craig. Craig's corpse. Somebody'd brought a blue towel from the house
to cover him. That was all it took, he was such a little gaffer." Rita pours
herself another glass of wine. Her third.
"The thing is, Viv, no one is with him. Jenny's in the house, Doug's
with the police, somebody's taken Donny to the neighbour. I go and sit by
Craig until the undertaker gets there. It doesn't seem right, leaving him
all alone. It seems like something of him is still there."
I'm picturing it as if I'm God. The cloudless sky and the bug-free barnyard. No boatman this time. Death himself over by the tractor wearing
36 the helmet that makes him invisible. My sister beside the small patch of
blue, her head bowed, the July sun creating an arc of burgundy flame
across her hair. And there, circling overhead like birds in waiting, two
forms I can't make out at first, even though I'm God. Circling round and
round and round in that never-never land blue. My eyes follow the forms
until at last they come into focus. Rita's long blond hair and the child that
would have been twenty this month.
Mid-September, I'm up from the city for another visit. Our mother has
moved her phone back into the living-room. When I tell her I'm going
with her to church, she says we'll have to leave a bit early—she's shaking
hands at the church door before the service. Friday evening she washed
dishes with the other ladies after the church social, she says. That cherry
outfit has been seen at the hairdresser's, at the post office, at church, at
the nursing home, and at her cousin's, all in the same week. My mother's
got a definite date with Son of Night, Brother of Sleep. She's finally free
to live.
"I can't believe it!" I say to Rita, as we drive out to the farm Sunday afternoon, goldenrod high in the ditches, the trees already beginning to
turn.
"Don't forget perversity's always been her presenting characteristic,"
says Rita.
When the boatman comes for our mother, there'll be no shenanigans, I
tell my sister. He'll have his pants on, a clean white shirt, maybe even
suspenders. The row-boat seat nailed down solid. Death'll be standing
tall at his gate with his black cloak pressed and fastened all the way down
with sprigs of wolfbane from his garden.
His garden. I describe it to Rita. Elephant garlic and dead nettle and
wormwood along the fence. Rue, its blue-green leaves giving off that
strange, acrid scent. Hyssop with its sharp, bitter taste. Horehound and
wolfsbane and creeping thyme. Our mother'll be weeding Death's garden
before she's ten minutes off the row-boat, and it won't be weeds she's
pulling. It'll be sloth, ungodliness, gluttony, unrighteousness. Her angina
gone, she'll root them all out in jig time, as she would put it.
Then she'll set to work ironing the clothes off the scarecrows' backs.
She'll get at them one by one—the pink blouse of the child with the pie-
plate face, the emerald maternity top of the pregnant lady with the penis,
the red plaid shirt on the chubby one nearest the gate. She'll set the iron
on high, deftly turn the garments this way and that, press them perfect
till the humid, beneficent billows of steam rise up to rival the ground mist
and finally overcome it, till the horehound lies down with the wolfbane
and both slowly raise their withered limbs in a gesture of defeat.
37 Mark Mahemoff
Pantoum
Perpetual Care
That bird must be an emblem or guide
standing on the tree top perfectly.
Her whistling is heard above a panoramic view
while clouds move heavily like ships.
Standing on the tree top perfectly
you observe a serenity similar to Valium.
While clouds move heavily like ships
you fizzle with nervousness and settle down to stillness.
You observe a serenity similar to valium
while freshly chiselled granite is shifted into place
you fizzle with nervousness and settle down to stillness.
As stamps become expensive and journals lose their subsidies.
While freshly chiselled granite is shifted into place
we mourn the sudden loss of his anger and laughter.
As stamps become expensive and journals lose their subsidies
twelve months disappear and your poem's out of context.
We mourn the sudden loss of his anger and laughter
when the holiday is over and it's time to start worrying.
Twelve months disappear and your poem's out of context
while epitaphs are touched up and dead flowers soon removed.
When the holiday is over and it's time to start worrying
her whistling is heard above a panoramic view.
While epitaphs are touched up and dead flowers soon removed
that bird must be an emblem or guide.
38 M. Travis Lane
Fly's Wing
What in us has no words, most moves.
A fly wing strikes against a fist.
Pinned laundry on a kite line.
Someone soars and will be down again.
Another flutters on the lawn,
a dying insect.
The moon tugs at its cord,
bored, bored with all we have meant to it.
No one has scissors.
The grossest joy
teeters on small clay footsteps.
It will be here in a minute or so.
Consider a swarm of midges,
a bouquet, a galaxy
almost like Theo's thalictrum—
starry mass whose oblongated circles seem to buzz,
a wheel of fluff for Jacob to ascend,
frail ladders, broken fly wings-
Nothing's permitted. The sense of thrust,
the breaking of the shell—
and pippin's head, larval, blind-eyed,
all stomach and yell,
breaks through to a new capsule.
Call it nest.
39 John B. Lee
Think of the White
Refrigerator Standing
in Your Kitchen
The pumpkin has a beauty all of its own.
The full figure
of an incandescent light bulb
is lovely beyond words. Think of the luminescent blue globes
of school rooms; the brown rumps
of quarter-horses.
Think of harp seals and the
deep, rich, throbbing resonance of bass fiddles.
Think of bumble bees. Think of brandy snifters.
Think of the word opera, the word ocean, the word oh. Think
of eggs.
Think of the white refrigerator
standing in your kitchen
like an intensive care nurse quietly checking your charts
adjusting the drip of your dreams
a plump angel
full of cool oranges
singing your dog to sleep.
40 Beverley Brahic
Nude
Woman lying on paper
take down your arms
Hide your breasts their
shrivelled nipples tense
as berries on a brier in winter or
olives shrunk to the pit
You can't read the small print
and your tongue is dry
what you say is full of guilt
Forget you were tempted
The fruit of the place
you grew up in—
the window you opened
to toss the core into the gravel
(where the dog got it
later spat it out)—
wasn't round Round
was an artist's trick
Woman your back bars
the page like a horizon
the sea always beyond
banging at cliffs Half-peeled
with a knife on the table wasn't
what you thought It was just
a trick of perspective It was
words, at the vanishing point
There Now can you sleep?
41 The Falling Woman
Shaena Lambert
Some of my dreams feel like memories. In one, Mother has cornered me in a stall. She is trying to get me to close my teeth over
the snaffle bit. But it's massive in my mouth, it tastes like tin and
the green spit of horses, if it is pushed over my tongue I will gag. Her
hands are as fierce as weasel's claws, and they are tugging at the sides of
my mouth.
In another I am bareback on Douna, her quarter-horse, while Mother
is below and behind me, I can see the shadow of her black hat. The dry
hills rise around us, pulsing with crickets. Then Mother slaps Douna's
rump, and yells grip, but I can't grip, I can only bounce on my crotch in
the white sunlight, watching the dirt blur while I tip away and fall.
Once Ben and I were lying here staring at the dark ceiling, and he
asked me about my childhood. I grew up in the Okanagan Valley. It was
dry, I said. There were cactuses about the size of your thumb bunched
around the grey rocks. Hidden punishments. Tell me about your mother,
he said. I changed the subject.
I don't talk about her. I dream her. As I walk along the slushy street,
or heat my plastic dish of Stouffer's Veal Parmigiana in the microwave, I
see the hills rising up, leached of colour, speckled by pines. Sauble Mountain curves above the flats like a reclining hip, a granite cliff cut into it, revealing the etched outline of a falling woman. It is hard to see her, it always was, you have to focus or have someone else point her out, and
even then she is partly wishful. Her hair is five milky fissures. Her arching body is a scar in the rock, like a pock on the moon's face. She fled a
marriage her father had arranged—according to an Okanagan legend-
galloping in the dark up the back of the mountain. But as she reached the
top, the moon disappeared; she lost her way and plunged off the cliff.
I see Mother's legs, bowed from riding, her jeans tucked into her
steel-toed boots, her checkered shirt which must have belonged to my
grandfather—Papa. I see her belt with the cattle horns engraved on the
buckle; they meet in the middle like a crescent moon. I see Mother's arthritic knuckles, her thumbs strong as crowbars. She rolls up her sleeve
and throws down her hand, thumb up, on the kitchen table, daring Uncle Nesbit to a thumb wrestle. I see her walking out into the dirt yard, the
screen door slapping behind her. She walks low in her hips because they
ache, still, from my uncompromising birth—the only thing that was bigger
than she was—the only thing that knocked her sideways, got her thumb
down and twisted until she screamed.
All day today I couldn't picture her face; it blurred under her hat brim.
Then I closed my eyes to sleep and her stare burnt into me, her mouth
curled. I could see her gold incisor, the yellowed skin of her throat. Ellen, she screamed and I sat up in bed, What the hell do you think you're
doing? Nothing, I wanted to say. I wanted to hold out my hands, show I
hadn't touched myself. Then I remembered, she's dead. Any voices I
hear come from me.
But now I can't fall back to sleep. I'll pay for it tomorrow. I'll be
lightheaded as I clean teeth with my little tools, the tiny scaler, the suction hose, the miniature bowls that hold the prophy gel. This kind of work
is like playing Barbie—everything's tiny, even the teeth reflected in the
mirror. Today I picked out parsley from the back fissures, then I poked
my head into Dr. Stephen French's office. He had X-rays of an embedded
wisdom tooth spread on his desk, the photograph of his wife and twin
sons on the wall behind him. He looked up, startled, his eyes rimmed by
round glasses, like dark birds caught for a moment in a trap. Then he followed me down the hall and we studied the patient together, under the
heated lamp. When I passed Dr. French the silver amalgam I saw a mole
near his collar.
One of these days I may close his office door behind me. Look at this
strange occlusion, he will say, and I will stand behind him, observing the
ghostly markings of teeth. Then I will touch that mole with my finger. He
will close his eyes and shudder like a horse.
I never knew my father. When I was six, Serena, my cousin from Vancouver, told me I'd been born out of wedlock with a hired man. I'd seen
Mother demonstrate a headlock on Walt, our current hired man: he'd
stood stock still like a rabbit and remonstrated softly, Now really, Mary,
before landing on his back on the floor. When Serena mocked me that day
I knew Mother had done something unseemly, like the headlock on Walt,
that had made my father want to disappear.
It was only when I was twelve that I got the facts from Aunt Clara,
Serena's mother. That was the summer they drove into the dirt turnaround in a red convertible, chrome fenders and spokes and white vinyl
top all shining at once. Serena sat proudly in the front, dressed in red-
and-white seersucker, and when she stepped out carefully, so as not to
dirty the white leather on her saddle shoes, I saw her dress had a magnif-
43 icent bow at the back. I instantly wanted it. I wanted everything Serena
had with a complete, black need the minute I saw it.
That night after supper I had Clara to myself. Serena had begged off
the dishes, saying she was sick—but I knew she was soaking in the bath
water reading the Signet Romance which she'd shown to me furtively
that afternoon. Mother had gone to check on Douna's foal. As her lantern
disappeared into the barn, Clara sighed. "Your mother used to follow
Papa out there every night. They were inseparable." She had told me
this story—it wasn't the one that interested me—about how, by age
three, Papa had given my mother her first horse—not a pony, a gelding
named Gibraltar. How Mother knew how to ride deep in her stirrups,
cueing with the pressure of her legs. I remembered this story every time
I circled Mother in the corral and she yelled, Don't tiptoe, don't slump,
don't flap your elbows, let out your lead when you canter. I had two red ribbons hanging from the feed room wall, among the sea of her blue ones.
"What was my father like?" I asked.
Clara scrubbed at a casserole dish, her forearms swaying. He had a
thin face and dark hair, she said, and he could blow smoke rings just by
snapping his jaw. He sounded like the men at Dan's, the main bar in
Keremeos. As we hurried by the open door one day, my mother's boots
clumping on the board walk, I had glimpsed a man rubbing his white stomach, the eyes of other men glinting near the pool table. I couldn't picture
my mother succumbing to any man, but her particular disgust at the men
who visited Dan's—the way she gripped my hand, then yanked it as
laughter rolled out of the darkness—made it harder to imagine.
"I think she did it to rebel against Papa," Clara said, scouring at the
glass casserole beneath the filmy water. "But it backfired. When Papa
found out, he swore he'd horsewhip Les if he didn't marry her—and
horsewhip your mother if she didn't agree."
Clara stopped and looked out toward the barn. We could see Mother's
light through the feed room window.
"Then Papa had his stroke, out in the field. After he was buried, your
Mother told Les to get going. Get going or she'd run him off."
"But why?"
"That's your Mother," Clara shook her head. "I guess she couldn't
stand the thought of having him around one more second." She pulled out
the plug and let the brownish water drain away.
After Mother died I found an old picture of her at the bottom of the
horse medicine cupboard. She is about fourteen, standing on the back of
Gibraltar, holding the reins like a circus performer, smiling brazenly into
the camera. I could see the defiant beginning of anger—of wanting to be a
boy, being told she should have been a boy—and being wrapped up in a
44 girl's body. I imagine her crossing the bare yard to the horse barn in the
afternoon sun, her shadow elongated in the dirt. She pushes her new
breasts in with her elbows so she will not see them in her shadow. She is
fiercely repelled by the growth of her body—for good reason. It will
prove fertile as a chicken's egg. It will betray her.
My heels ache from a day squeezed in high heeled slip-ons. I wouldn't
be caught dead in orthopedics; that would be the beginning of the end,
the spiral toward old age, which starts with orthopedic shoes, moves to
opaque stockings, then spreads up to swallow hips, back, and finally hair.
The last stage is when the scalp shows beneath the dyed strands of
henna. Then it's death—the body lies back and comes apart, only the
bones and teeth are left, gleaming against the soil.
It was two months ago this weekend that Ben and I drove to his
sister's cottage on Lake Huron. We arrived at night and made love in
darkness. As I tried to sleep—tossing in the strange bed—the wind threw
sand at the kitchen window. Next morning I saw the white-washed shingles had blown away in chunks, leaving gaps of tar-paper.
I walked to the beach and let the wind hit me. When I came back, I
found Ben around the side, out of the wind, chopping driftwood into splinters. He held on to the wood for too long, then brought the axe down and
almost nipped off his fingers.
"I need to talk to you," he said.
We squatted next to the house, looking out at the garden of driftwood,
listening to the wind moaning against the boards.
"I've been in agony," the words came out with his hot breath. "I've decided to tell Judy—maybe she'll take me back, maybe she won't, but I
have to come clean."
On the drive home I sat beside him, not saying a word, drinking coffee
from my styrofoam cup, drawing lines in it with my thumbnail. Ben had
taken a shower before we left and his hair was wet, even his nose shone.
"I have a lot to thank you for," he said. I peeled away a bit of cuticle and
left a pink crescent beside my thumbnail.
Now I yank the blinds down, they rattle to the radiator, and when I
turn the plastic wand there is darkness. Back in bed I ease my legs out,
leaning on one hip, trying to find the position that will let me sleep.
All day Serena and I had been planning to go to the stable to read her
paperback. But in the morning we changed the horse sprinklers, then
drove with Mother and Clara into town. It was late afternoon when I slid
the stable door open on its runner, closing it behind Serena. Inside, the
clay floor retained its coolness, and I could hear Douna blowing through
45 her nose. Mother's collection of tack hung on the walls around us—
bridles with bits dangling down, reins coiled around each other, western
saddles splayed on their racks.
We hoisted ourselves onto the wall between two stalls and sat with our
legs dangling down, watching the colt nurse from Douna's swollen teat.
Serena took a frosted lipstick from her red purse.
"Put some on," she offered.
"I can't," I said. "My mother will see."
"What's she going to do? Whip you?" She made a shiver of feminine
contempt—for my mother for whipping me, for me for being whipped.
Then she reached into her purse again, drawing out, at last, the dogeared paperback—My Darling Ravager! On the front a pirate captain, his
shirt streaming open at the chest, clenched the hilt of his sword with one
hand, while his other grasped a woman by the waist. Her back was
arched, her lips open and her eyes closed. "Swooning with desire," Serena explained. She leafed to a place she had marked.
"This is the part where the pirate captain has tied Lady Birkwith in the
hold. Listen to this: 'You swine,' she cried out, her violet eyes flashing,
'you'll pay for this.' He gave her a mocking half-smile, then she felt his
strong arms grip her. She breathed in his murky scent, gasping as his
mouth found hers. She tried to struggle, but found she could not, did not
want to. A hot tide of passion surged through her. Then she gasped again,
as the sweet torture of his hands began to unlace the bodice of her gown."
We looked at each other and laughed.
"How big are your breasts now?" she asked.
"I don't know."
"Mine are bigger than last year," she said.
She pulled open the elastic collar of her dress and showed me a cotton
training bra. She tossed her Alice-in-Wonderland blonde hair back over
her shoulders.
"Well. Let's see yours."
I untucked my checked shirt from my jeans and lifted it up. "Ooh," she
said, "you've got dark nipples." I felt a blush of shame course through
me. Her hair was blonde; mine was a tangle of muddy curls. Her nipples
were pink; mine were an unseemly dark shade, like eggplant. I knew my
face in the dusk was plain and pinched like my mother's.
I got Papa's bridle from its peg. It was an ancient thing with cross reins
and a breast harness for barrel racing. I'd polished it many times, a painful
process, particularly in the hot summer: so much leather to rub back and
front with saddle soap, so many bits of plated silver.
"You be Lady Birkwith," I said. "I'll tie you in the hold."
She rolled her eyes but agreed, lowering herself reluctantly onto the
46 hay-strewn floor of the empty stall. She held out her hands and I laced the
reins around her wrists.
"Ouch, that pinches," she said. I unhooked the clip of the harness and
wrapped it around her forearms, over her breasts. I watched my dark
weasel hands knot the leather around the steel base of the manger. We
looked at each other and Serena giggled.
"This is so silly," she said.
"I know." The white leather of her saddle shoe glowed where it stuck
out in front of her. I pushed back her skirt on her thigh.
"What are you doing?" she giggled.
"Just something." The sun had sunk beneath the high window. I ran
my fingers along the straps of her training bra.
"Oh, Pirate," she laughed. "Don't do that."
"I'll do what I like," I sneered. Then I whispered, "The sweet torture
of my hands are touching the bodice of your dress." I pushed up her skirt
until her white underwear showed. Then I pushed my finger against the
cotton crotch.
"Don't," she said suddenly.
"Why not?"
"I don't like it."
"Too bad."
I pulled back the elastic of her underwear at the leg and looked at her
vagina which was bare still, like a child's.
"Untie me," she hissed.
"No."
"You untie me this instant or I'm going to tell Aunt Mary."
I felt like I was falling. "I don't care." I took a piece of hay and dabbed it
in a mound of fresh green manure, then I ran it along the white leather of
her shoes, over her frilled ankle socks, and up her dress. I smudged it
across the pink sateen-covered berets and dabbed it on each of her
cheeks. She started to cry.
"Be quiet," I said. "They'll hear you." She cried like a child, not caring
what noise she made. I shook her a bit, but she started crying harder.
"Stop it."
"You let me go," she wailed.
"Stop it, or I'm going to smack you."
She let out another howl and I slapped her across the face. My palm
tingled. She stopped crying abruptly and looked at me.
"Please," I whispered. "Stop crying and I'll let you go."
Her mouth turned down and she drew a long gulp of air, then let out
another howl.
"I'm going then," I said. I stood up and walked out of the stall. I closed
47 it behind me and leaned against the door. She kept crying.
"I'm going," I called out to her, and this time I did. I slid the door
closed behind me and walked down the road, across the flats to the base
of Sauble Mountain. I climbed up the path until I came to my favourite
rock, which had retained heat in the dusk like a warm-blooded animal. I
sat on it, looking down at the flats, the barn, the house.
Night came. I heard Mother hollering, our collie Freya barking, then
Clara's concerned voice. Two black figures approached the barn and
went in. Then, a short while later, they came out. Serena's silhouette
blended with her mother's. I waited until the moon came up, large and
full, until the rock had grown cold and I was shivering. Then I walked
back down. The bunch grass looked cool and very clear and the stars
overhead shone with a painful brilliance.
My heels ground the dirt as I crossed the turn-around. Then I saw a
glint of silver near the horse barn, in the shadow of the ponderosa pine-
it was Mother, the bit of Papa's bridle dangling from her hand. I walked
across the bright yard toward her, then stood a yard from her. She stared
at the ground.
"I don't know why I did it," I said.
"Why did you use Papa's bridle?" Her voice quavered in the dark.
My tears were a dark tar I couldn't release. She still made no move to
punish me, the bridle hung limp in her hand, and when she looked up I
saw she was also close to crying. If I crossed the moonlit dirt she would
reach out and enfold me, I would breath the suede of her jacket. Then a
breeze bristled the pine, the moon went behind a cloud. "Mother?" I
called because I couldn't see her face. She was against me, I felt her
clench my collar.
"You're a bad girl, aren't you?"
'"No," I said, "It was Serena—"
"You're a very bad girl," I felt her breath on my face.
She yanked me around to face the stable wall. "Say you're bad," she
said, pulling up my shirt. "I'm bad," I cried, as the reins whistled through
the air, biting into my back. I clung to the siding as she hit me with a blind
relish.
Afterwards, as I lay on my bed in the dark, the door opened. It was
Clara; I could tell from the smell of lemony talcum. She was wearing a
Chinese-style dressing gown of turquoise and red satin which rustled
stiffly as she sat on the side of the bed. I thought at first she was stroking
my head, but then I realized she was combing my hair.
"People do things they regret," she said.
I didn't say anything. She worked away at the knots in silence. "Papa
hurt your mother once," she said at last. "Perhaps you know that."
18 Mother had never told me this. But when Clara told me, I knew I had always known, that I'd been born with this knowledge, that I'd carried it
with me from beyond my earliest memories and dreams.
Mother died of pelvic cancer when I was seventeen. She's buried in
the flat expanse of graves near Keremeos. I picked out a slab as marker,
nothing else. It says:
I've gone to where the darkness ends,
To where the wind blows free,
I've gone away from this small world,
To face my master eternally.
I don't think she would have liked it, especially the part about the
master.
Fourteen floors down, I can hear the thud of cars crossing the street
bridge that draws the four lanes from the QEW into the three lanes of the
Gardiner. Beyond is the grey body of the lake, untouchable, serenely polluted. When I close my eyes at last I travel down the freeway, past the
frozen neck of the lake, and I look down on the moonlit farm, the whispering corn flats, the old horse barn. Black and white and gray and dun
and roan, the horses wait, blowing through their noses. Mother's teeth
gleam where she sits on Douna, under the soughing pine. I swing behind,
resting my body against her back, and then we begin to canter toward the
top of the mountain.
49 Patrick Lane
four poems
Silence
It is night and the new moon
reaches through the branches of the elms.
Today I planted the potatoes in the spring earth
and tonight we fought
over my silence, you calling me a hermit, me
saying nothing. Two thousand miles away
the grass begins to grow on my father's grave,
my brother's, and my mother burns
the few letters that might have explained who she was.
In another week the elms will leaf and I
will have to go far to see the night.
Under the earth the harvest prepares itself,
the eyes of the potatoes sending out long tendrils
some of which will be roots. My mother's silence,
my father's murder, my brother's death. These are
what I think of under the moon. They are not
a sadness, though you in your anger
think it so. The words between us
are only words. It was your eyes I was afraid of,
their sudden flowering, and what was behind them,
my body no longer wanting anything
but peace, the quiet I have searched for, the moon,
my shovel still in the earth, dead wood, iron.
50 Too Spare, Too Fierce
Once when the dawn is large enough
you will go out into that stiff blue and find a cat's paw
in the bird bath, a gift from the crow to morning.
There was a moment last night when you started walking
the iron rail in your bare feet on the bridge above the river
you believed you wouldn't fall. Now, this morning,
you shake so badly you can't hold the glass,
lowering your face to it, your tongue
a thick blue muscle trying to drown.
Outside, mosquito larvae dance
among the claws and the little red cords
where the birds come to bathe. Old crow,
I will come as soon as I can.
51 Held Water
I have discovered I cannot bear to be
with people anymore. Even the querulous love of old friends
defeats me and I turn away, my face staring
at the hard sleet
scraping at what little is left of the trees
in early spring. The bellied pods of the wysteria hold
my face, upside down
in minute mirrors of held water. Ice falls from the eaves.
The telephone rings and like a monk I chant to myself
the many names of whatever gods I can find
in the temple bells of the hidden voices. I know
under the rotting snow there are small flowers
like insistent girls giggling in narrow attic beds,
and yes,
I know the flowers are not girls, just as
I know that what resemblance there is is lost
in the ordinary crying we think we will release
and don't. The little furred pods of the wysteria crack open
dropping the mirrors from their blue hands.
Ice slides from the roof and for a moment the air is torn.
I think if I wasn't afraid
I could play back the sounds of my friends,
the measure of their voices
almost steady in the hard wind out of the north.
Little flawed bells.
If I didn't hear them I could almost listen.
52 Lights
There are these lights in the sky.
Little butterflies of the night,
Little dreamers. Each time my lover
Rises to walk in the early garden
I watch her from the window.
I cannot take my eyes from her.
See how she leans under the shade,
The cherry blossoms above her
As she touches the cat
Who follows her everywhere, wanting
Only to be with her as he sits
Among the thick dark mosses.
How much night there is.
How I wait, knowing, for now
She comes only to me,
Her small feet, wet with dew,
As white as stars
In the early morning grass.
53 Margaret Gunning
Somedays
Somedays, the harshness of nostrils
Bus-lurching crowds, rudespeak
of news-seekers, is too much for me,
I need to nestle, to throstle,
wrestle with the renewal
(of your mint-melting
inner adagio)
The bus vomits; I catch hold of things
again. Taking charge of the crowd,
grabbing thumbs
manipulating the traffic
pulling the world with a pair of
pliers
It's no good any more: I need your dependable
light somnolence: the old silk robe
of your being
(I need to
wear you
like
hair)
54 Personal Literature
Lynne Macdonald
The Story of Frank
This is a true story. It's Frank's story. My best friend who's dating
his best friend tells me; details are skimpy, chronology is scattershot; it is meant to be simple and declarative and race to the end
like lemmings to the sea. It goes something like this: Frank is a druggie at
Rochdale, in Toronto, and a major dealer. So when he gets busted big
time, really big time, he's sent to Kingston Penitentiary. For how long,
it's not said. While he's in Kingston, he takes university courses that will
eventually allow him to become a lawyer. You know he's smart from the
moment you talk to him but most people can't even have traffic violations
and become lawyers. But never mind, this is his story and he's different
than anyone on the planet.
So he finally gets out of Kingston and starts articling. Or he writes the
Bar Ad and then starts articling. Concurrent with this is the fact that he's
got this daughter by this wife he divorces when he gets out of prison. Or
before. Anyway, when he gets out, he gets full custody of the child
(again, not explained, but he's different, you must understand this), and
moves back into his mother's home with her. And when he's at work either doing the Bar Ad or articling, and his mother's off teaching, there is a
nanny looking after the daughter.
Except that one day, the nanny is pushing the baby around in a stroller
on a sidewalk near the house and whoosh, up drives a big black car and
someone climbs out and, pushing the nanny aside, grabs the daughter and
drives away with her. The nanny looks up into the sky as if something
there will answer her questions.
When Frank gets home and finds out what happened to his daughter,
he's very angry. Apparently, he knows who might have been driving that
big black car and later he makes death threats to them and they make
death threats back to him. These people have something to do with his
ex-wife. He gets his picture in the local newspaper where he complains
about the slug-footedness of the local constabulary in regards to his
daughter's case but does not mention death threats from any direction.
Time goes by. The police try to find his ex-wife, who, rumours have it,
might be in British Columbia, the far North or any other spot on the
55 planet except Toronto. A year later she is finally found in British Columbia, in a log cabin, in the Interior somewhere, with a group of men and
women and children of dubious kinship. The ex-wife doesn't know where
her daughter is; no one else seems to know either. The next spring the
body of the little girl is found when the pond at the bottom of the hill from
the log cabin finally melts.
Notes on the Story of Frank
This story is a fairy tale with no happy ending for miles. Frank is tall
and dark and somewhat handsome (handsome in the sense that one is
handsome if seen from a very long distance, the parts are there), and can
be seen to be the sympathetic hero. His loss is supposed to explain his
subsequent descent into alienation and bitterness, ice forming around his
heart when his daughter's body is found. The ex-wife is either the Wolf or
a really stoned and absent-minded Grandma at Grandma's House, depending on whose side you're on. The daughter is the unfortunate child
who really does lose her way in the forest. The nanny becomes a nun,
she's so racked with guilt, although no one expected her to throw herself
in front of the car or anything. There is no love interest.
It is presented to me as a fairy tale, and I like it like that, it makes it
easier to tell, over and over. Except that I'm drinking at the same bar, at
the same table actually, as Frank one night, about a year after I'd heard
the story, and he points to another man up at the bar, a small nondescript
sort, and says, "That's the guy who kidnapped my daughter." And I,
knowing now how much Frank lies, say, "Yeah, right. The guy who kidnapped your daughter is standing right there and you're not throwing
yourself at him and strangling him."
"Yeah. It wasn't his fault, he's a junkie." Which seems too magnanimous for Frank, the man everyone warned me to stay away from for a
three-week period because he'd almost strangled this new girlfriend just
because she wouldn't see him anymore. I'd been out of town; we were
having one of our "off" times. I saw them once, walking up Yonge Street
holding hands and I almost vomited; he'd never held hands with me in
public.
"I don't believe you."
"I'll ask him over."
"Don't you dare. I don't want to talk to him. I don't believe—"
Introductions are made. I smile sweetly and this kidnapper/junkie and I
carry on a conversation of sorts. We do not talk of death threats or kidnappings but he does tell me that Frank was in the same cab "when he
was born." I ask quietly, "How could he be in the same cab when your
56 mother was giving birth to you, aren't you about the same age?" Which
makes the kidnapper/junkie almost rupture with laughter. I find out that
"being born" means the first time you shoot heroin. I am not a naive
woman, but I am very literal; I believe in the stories I am told. I know
there are grey areas in life but I think it's unreasonable to be able to know
where these areas are when things are presented to you in black and
white.
The How Television Fucks You Up Story
I'm at a staff party that I don't want to be at and I'm wearing a dress.
Which is extraordinary in itself but the dress is the kind that I never
wear: it's cotton and tight and short. It's like I don't know what to wear if
I'm not in jeans and a T-shirt so when I have to go to one of these grown
up affairs, I go way the other way and buy something so unlike me that
hardly anyone recognizes me. I even have to remember to hold my stomach in all evening.
At one point in the evening this best friend of my boss, after being introduced to me in a group of others, asks me to dance. He dances very
close, practically on the spot. He moves his hands around on my back in a
way that suggests that he isn't just trying to figure out whether or not I'm
wearing a bra. I almost develop a full body rash, we are that hot. He is almost as handsome as an actor. He looks like men looked like on television
when I was a little girl growing up. He looks like one, he smells like one
and he dresses like one. I am extremely flattered. And my nipples are
paying attention.
He's also married, as my nipples should have known. So when the last
dance is sounded and we're the last people on the dance floor and we've
almost reached the point where we're going to have to start taking
clothes off, he has to drive back home to the suburbs. He isn't that married; he wants to see me again. Soon. I croak, "Sure." And then stand
there, wondering if it was all a figment of my imagination or if it had really
happened at all, watching him put his leather car coat on at the coat check
and catching his smile around his friend's shoulder before they walk out
together.
Now I'm aroused and standing in the middle of the dance floor, alone,
so I run off to "our" bar. Frank and I are in one of our "every once in a
while" phases: every once in a while he talks to me like I'm a human being; every once in a while we actually go home together; and every once
in a while I actually think of trying to meet someone else. Most of the
time though he's like a bad pop song that lodges in your head and drives
you crazy for days.
57 Frank's there, just like I knew he would be, except that he's entertaining some woman and her friend. My face drops when I see them at his
table but I go over anyway, and crouch by his side. He is being nice tonight; he talks to me and smiles. He may be in shock about the dress; he
may be trying to fuck the other woman and wants to fool her into thinking
that he is a rational human being. Al I know is that I've been in love, or at
least major obsession, with him for a long time and I want him. Tonight.
Arousal and alcohol always make me dramatic; okay, alcohol makes me
dramatic, arousal makes me confused. So I go back out into the night, to
my apartment. I'll call him from there; this other woman can't possibly
know him or love him like I do, no one can. So I pick up the phone and call
the bar and ask for Perry Mason. Frank picks up the phone and without
bothering to ask who it is, he says, "What do you want, Cheryl?" Which
even though it's a little creepy, I still think it's pretty nifty. Not a stride
off, though, I tell him that I want him to come over, that I miss him. He
tells me to wait outside the building for him, that he won't be that long,
he'll come and get me.
I think I might have been crazy about him for the Perry Mason thing
alone. The bartenders don't think twice or laugh or say, "Who?" They
just hand the phone over. He's called all the time in there, for bail or
other such things. And everyone asks for Perry Mason.
So I go downstairs to wait. I'm drunk enough now that I'm having imaginary conversations with him. I may have even taken a drink out with me,
for company. And finally, after what seems like ages but which is probably just about the exact amount of time that he has to spend trying to find
out whether this other woman will sleep with him or not, he appears, all
in white, like some weird, tall, skinny angel. It's like for one very long
moment I'm waiting and waiting and then all of a sudden he's there, walking toward me in this white suit and he's smiling and saying something
nice like he missed me and I'm crying from the drinking by then and he
picks me right up off the ground and carries me to his car, telling me he is
there now and I'll be just fine. I'll be just fine.
The next morning he tells me I've gained weight and when I get up
from the mattress on the floor and put "The Low Spark of High Heeled
Boys" on the turntable, he asks me if I'm aware that new music has been
released in the last twenty years. The room smells of sex and cigarette
smoke and past selves.
The First Real Life Version
We actually go to the movies one night, together. It is a disaster; real
life does not become us. I have not realized how much more he doesn't
58 want real life than I do. I'm supposed to select the film and the only thing
that interests me is this Robert Mitchum mystery-noir thing which turns
out to be more stupid than noir. Frank sits beside me tossing popcorn
from the popcorn cup into his mouth without using his hands, which annoys me, and talks very loudly for no reason from time to time. Mind you
I'm a little spiky, myself, without alcohol; it usually dulls my senses and
makes me err on the love side of the love/hate thing.
When we walk out into the cool night and street lights behind the theatre, he launches into a diatribe about how awful the movie was, like I'd
personally raised the money, hired the actors, and directed the thing myself. I am hoping that we can go off to have a few drinks; with a few drinks
under my belt, I can tell him to fuck off. But he wants to drive me home
as he has to get up and work the next morning, or so he says. So we get
in the car, looking like we might actually be a real couple, silent and tired
after a hastily grabbed movie on a week-night, the corners of our mouths
pulled down, our stares blank.
He slides onto my bed once we get to my apartment and I sit as far
away from him as I can but not that far as the apartment is only about ten
feet by twelve. He notices. He gets unfriendlier by the moment. There is
some test going on and I don't know exactly what it is but I don't want to
break that distance. We chit-chat, struggling for conversation, lobbing
dead-ended sentences at each other. He didn't like my movie selection so
I won't curl up at his side like I'm Doris Day or someone; you can play
that game both ways.
But soon he's standing up, really perturbed now, with a frown that is
threatening to crease his face permanently. I've severely pissed him off.
Beyond asking him how, I don't really know how to remedy the situation;
I've been crazy about him for a year now and chased him all over the
place and now for the first time he is actually sober and focused here in
my apartment, and it's way before midnight, and he can't leave soon
enough for me.
The Story of Cheryl
I'm not the sort of person who has stories written about them. Until
I'm twenty, I lead a pretty normal life in a small southwestern Ontario
city: one sister, two parents, a cat and later a dog. My father is the principal at the local high school; he got to shake Trudeau's hand and lead him
into the school away from the helicopter's blades and sit beside him on
the platform in the front of the assembly when he visited our school at the
height of Trudeaumania. My mother is the smartest person in the world
and she can see through walls when it comes to anything I'm trying to
59 hide from her. My sister is freckled and cute and my best friend. I read
too much; I am way too dreamy; I dawdle; I under-achieve. I don't know
it, but I am waiting to leave.
So if you have to shift my life into a narrative form, and you want it to
be somewhat near the truth, it goes something like this: I finally move to
Toronto, the city of sophistication, the place where I belong (or so I have
thought since I could read). I'd gone to university at home with all of my
friends, and now, in Toronto, I finally have my own place and my own job
and I go out at night with new friends. We aren't sitting around talking
about books or art but it will do. I am still in love with the city and I'm an
adult, and since I didn't get my MRS in university, I will meet the man I'll
marry right here in Toronto which will be even better.
So I meet a lot of guys but they are all good-time boys, even I know
that, though I try to pretend that each one might be the one. I try to see
the potential in people, not the reality. And then one day, because my
best friend starts going out with his best friend, I meet this Frank guy
who is tall and skinny and not very attractive physically, but his eyes are
deep and dark, and he is really smart and quick and he makes me think.
Back then, making me think was the greatest aphrodisiac in the world.
So I let him drive me home the night we meet, and, as it happens, we
get to talking so much that we decide to stop off at Fran's and have a coffee. Once there, he thinks he'll be really charming by being insulting,
which alarms me but at the same time intrigues me. At one point, just
when the waitress bends over to refill our coffee, he leans across to me
and says, "Do you know what you are?" and without waiting for my reply,
he spells out c-u-n-t and says, "But the c isn't a cedilla" and I think I'll die,
the air leaves my body so fast. The waitress doesn't flinch, but I scrinch
my eyes at him and look over at someone else, and he glares at me in that
way that even then, in the beginning, I know to be his significant glare,
and reaches over to hold my hand. I know even then too, that there is too
much of an edge to his behaviour for it to be just juvenile.
He is the smartest person I've ever known, but he is smart in a bad
way. And he kisses too roughly, and doesn't talk to me sometimes the
day after we've had sex the night before. But his best friend tells my best
friend who tells me about his story. Some days I think I'd been waiting all
my life for a story like his. And I think his story must mean that he has another side to him that no one hardly ever sees. And signifies a loss that I
can equate with my abortion, which troubles me only when I think of it,
which is hardly ever. So not only does he have another side that I can
force myself to remember when he's being particularly horrible, but now
we have something in common. And all of this dicking around being mean
to me and then being nice to me and then being mean to me again, blah
60 blah blah, is just his version of The Taming of the Shrew.
So I don't really have a story by myself at this point anymore, it's "our
story." And it's not a fairy tale, it's more like the classic Hollywood
screenplay, I think: boy hates girl, girl hates boy, years go by and their
friends grow truly sick of them both and move away, and then, one day,
in minute one hundred and five of the movie, girl and boy kiss with
clenched teeth and suddenly fall in love. You've seen it a million times.
So I ignore trivial details like how sick he is or what he's like to sleep
with. It's how we'll eventually come together, all slights forgotten, in a final recognition that we were meant for each other, and marry and have at
least six children, that is important. I'll stay home and colour with the
children and make big suppers and he'll get home late and tired from
work, and over the years we won't talk that much but we'll always know
we know each other like no one else does, just by looking at each other.
He can even go out at night, as long as he comes home to me. He can
even fool around if he really wants to, as long as he doesn't fall in love,
and he comes home to me.
If you're in a sonnet, you don't fight the rhyme scheme, that kind of
thing. You see, it is all about the children, those children lost in the
woods.
The Next to Last Real Life Story: Sunday at the Art Gallery
Andy Warhol is going to be signing his new book at the Art Gallery.
The signing will be on a Sunday afternoon, the shakiest time of the week
for those of us who live in bars. If I want to go with Frank, I have to show
up at his house at one o'clock and we'll take the bus down together. This
is relayed to me in the opposite of tones usually reserved for an invitation
to spend at least part of Sunday together. I almost turn back about three
times but I'm at his door at one o'clock. He is ready, but looks very surprised to see me. We walk in silence to the bus stop. As we wait for the
bus, he tells me that he knows "some people" in New York who know
Andy. He is going to ask Andy about them. I laugh. We ride the bus in silence.
Once we get to the Art Gallery, he wants to have lunch. We sit in the
cafeteria and I order a glass of wine and a salad. He is disdainful of my request; he is going to have one of the entrees. Everything is out of kilter: I
am acting like a nine-year-old, and he is acting like he is the king of whatever country he is pretending to be in. He treats the waiter like he is his
personal butler. I am hungover and confused and he is shaking his head at
me because I'm not pontificating about art. I know it is hopeless and always will be.
61 We leave the cafeteria and enter the room where the signing is to take
place and discover that hundreds of people have formed a long line-up.
Andy is seated behind a plain wooden table, signing soup cans and copies
of his new book. Frank and I get in line and he starts telling me that
"these people" he knows in New York had been "left out to dry" by Andy
and he is going to confront him when we get up to the front. I step on his
left foot with both feet and twist around the cuffs on his shirt and say,
"Don't you dare embarrass me" and he pulls his arms up and around and
pins my arms behind my back. I whine loudly. The right buttock of the
woman in front of us twitches.
We wrestle with each other for the next half hour as we slowly make
our way up to the front of the line-up. When we get to the table, Frank
doesn't confront Andy, he doesn't even say anything to him, and he actually buys a copy of the book. We leave the stifling hot room and walk out
into the fresh air. What would I like to do now? I am asked. I can't think of
anything else in the whole of the city of Toronto on a fine, sunny, blue-
skied Sunday to do except have sex with him, which I don't want to do. I
don't know, I say quietly. Vexed with me because I've become even
more pale and sullen than usual, he throws up his arms and says, "See
you later" and we leave each other and go our separate ways. I've never
felt so lonely. I cry all the way home on the subway.
The Dream Story
About five years after I leave Toronto for good, I have a dream about
Frank that is so embarrassing that I only tell a few close personal friends.
After I finish telling it, my women friends say, Really? and spin the word
out really long and end it up really high, like I couldn't have come up with
anything as anachronistic if I'd installed a wringer washer in my laundry
room. My men friends think it is very romantic. And sweet.
The gist of the dream is this: it's been years since I've seen Frank, we
haven't even lived in the same city for years. But one night I'm coming
home from work and when I reach the door to my apartment, at the top
of a long flight of stairs, I notice that the door is unlocked. I shrug in that
way that dreams allow you to—so it's unlocked, there must be a reason—
and walk into my apartment. I place my groceries down on the kitchen
table and on the table, rather mysteriously, is a cocktail glass, like a
champagne glass, filled with something that might even be champagne.
Now I am getting a little concerned (what is this?), and drawing closer to
the glass, I notice that there is something in the bowl of the glass. It is a
ring, a single white pearl on a gold setting. I hold the glass up to the light
and suddenly, from behind the curtains, steps Frank, who, raising a glass
he'd been holding behind him, says, "Will you, darling?"
62 The Last Real Life Story
My parents' surprise twenty-fifth anniversary is in a month's time, and
I ask him if he would like to drive the sixty miles or so to come to the
party. This is a really big deal, this anniversary; my relatives and my parents' friends are all going to be there. I am terrified to introduce him to
them. I know how weird he really is, but I don't want them to know that /
know; I don't really want them to know either, but it just seems imperative that they meet, at least once.
He surprisingly agrees and on the night of the party, he phones about
seven o'clock from a local bar, saying that the friend he's arranged to see
at the same time is running late, and he'll try to get over when he can. I'm
in a frenzy as now he'll miss the surprise part. I know I should be thankful
he's even called, but there is a feeling that I'm afraid he's not going to
make it; either that, or he's going to splat weird all over the place when
he finally does get here.
He calls again. And then finally arrives, about eleven. I introduce him
to my father three times; I am quite drunk now. I know I'm losing it with
my father but I try to stay on the sidelines and not talk to anyone for too
long. And Frank is being precisely polite. When everyone has left, Frank
and I go out to his car and drive around the block a few times; we've
hardly talked at the house and he's going to stay the night at his friend's.
We sit outside the house in the car for a long time; just before he puts the
key back in the ignition, we hold hands and look out our respective windows in silence. I mention his daughter, and my abortion, in a slur of
drunkenness. There are tears in his eyes.
The Really Real Life Story
Life never does happen the way it does in books. When I think back to
that time now, it looks and feels like I think life would if you were one of
the characters in a Dorothy Parker story—everything's out of focus and
slightly nauseous, and nothing's really what it's supposed to be. It just got
worse over the years between Frank and me. The story of Frank and
Cheryl wasn't a fairy tale or a Hollywood movie or a Shakespearean comedy. There was no story. I moved away from Toronto once and then
came back for one more year, until I finally left for good.
Whether Frank was talking to me or not, it didn't help that when I
looked over any night of the week from whatever table I was at in the
bar, he'd almost always be staring at me. I'd count. There'd be other
people at his table talking to him, the waiter coming by, and he'd still be
staring at me. I used to believe that that meant something, that those
eyes of his could see into my soul, that he was the only person on earth
63 who really knew me. But that was part of the myth that might not even
have been true; he might have just been crazy as a loon and fond of fucking up principals' daughters.
My sister used to say that I only became animated when I talked about
him; the rest of the time, it was like I was just waiting to be asked. And I
know that. There are still more questions than answers, but he's the only
story I have, like athletes who peak in high school and leave competition
forever for pick-up games on Saturdays. I have a good, steady life now,
but it's a daily one; there's no narrative arc.
Every once in a while, usually when I'm rooting around for my income
tax receipts, I come across an old business card of Frank's. The business
card is wrinkled and dirty from being handled. One night just before I left
Toronto for good, I drunkenly taunted him, saying that he'd screwed me
around and never cared for me in the first place. He pulled his face close
to mine and said, "I'll tell you exactly what I think of you."
And he took a business card out of his jacket and wrote something on
the back of it. He stood up and handed the card to me and walked over to
the bar. I was sick to death of us by then, but I was still afraid to look at it.
I put it in my jacket and didn't turn it over until the next morning.
It said, "8.5."
64 Michael Crummey
Three Pictures of Ann
The blade of her right shoulder
a blue tattoo;
back still wet from a shower
the skin studded with
tiny beads of water
Twenty-four
she doesn't believe in God or in love
towels her damp hair
into tangles
Blue scar stitched beneath skin
where it can't be reached
fixed there
almost permanent
White duvet
the warmth of her asleep
the fact that she
doesn't need you to be here
She trusts herself implicitly
the way a sleeper trusts the heart
to continue on its own,
as if her body is
everything there is to know;
pierced her ears with a sewing needle
a bar of soap held behind
each lobe in turn
65 Blur of her face almost touching your face
a single light turned to the wall
on her desk;
silver earrings
hoops the size of an iris
in.
Morning light
newspaper opened across
the breakfast table,
a long grey braid of smoke
curling above her head
All week long in the lab
she dissects small animals,
studying their central nervous systems
gastro-intestinal tracts
cardio-vascular mechanisms
Ask her sometime,
she can tell you why
nothing lasts forever
Looks up from the paper now,
eyes so dark they seem
to have no pupil
a cigarette held half-way
to her mouth
What, she says to you
What is it?
66 Lynn Strongin
A Climate of Affection
Burnt umber
moves over and under
the circles of the mind.
I feel like a very old merry-go-round
scorched and
shined.
Turning the gears
of affections, reflections
where things my mother taught me
to make the clockspins less long
fail.
Brass and bronze
sheet over.
Smoky mirrors darken.
There's the gold ring;
but what's to change
me? A bit lame but still in orbit,
slow with the end.
Counting on the bowl of roses on the table, the warm supper,
the circling clime, the winding down.
67 Steven Heighten
four poems
In The Light,
Wherever Eyes
Leave me. I love her most when her eyes leave me
Sunrise, the sun a palette of reds she raises
Among olive trees by a dry rill, where she kneels
Painting a scene I'll have to guess—of the sun
Above a stand of jack-pines, by a stream
Brawling with snowmelt, spring—?
I see her some ways off   I like the way
She's become a stone for stillness, seeming to know
How an artist has to disappear
Into landscape and lover
to see them, and scratch the page
as twigs a frozen tarn, but
here it's high summer, and hot—so the leaves
of this orchard in the foothills
Of the Alpilles, where her palette is setting
the mustard afire, grow clenched, and now I see
how I love her most when her eyes leave me
and she is not for me but for the rills
the pulsing
of poppies and sunburned olives and the sea
for the shadow of her fingers etched into sage
for a breath,
brief drawings
on the canvas of a field
in the light where her eyes lead me
68 An Elegy, Years
After Sarah
So her ceiling a map of stars. First time we made love
late afternoon late winter, and after as she slept
how her room fogged up with dusk
and paper stars she'd stuck up there in childhood
came out in strange constellations
and I missed the earth
till her room was night her breath deepening the stars
cooling down: I said come closer and her eyes
half-opened—flashing back whatever light there was—went out.
69 Graveyard in the North
Country, Again
Through a telescope of bone: nebulae
of fossils, shale
atmospheres under a field in winter can you hear me
hear me still where the bones grow
lonely as brown, brittle grass (but bones
never do grow "lonely"
no)
and if the dead could dream
and we overheard:
a door into the earth door closing behind us
a way out a ways beneath winter neither here nor
elsewhere over thunderheads of clay hailing down
free of small talk voided of in-trays out-trays
and the clock-
punching sun "by salaries
betrayed" and sold and
sucked dry of all our currency in the bargain
basement of the grave
Through the fine scope of a finger's bone: cells and
neutrons iridescing
like the fireflies we saw one dusk
hovering in the hollowed
ribs of a dead horse, by the fence
of an Indian graveyard in the Rockies
ah,
if the dead could drink
and our words were rain:
70 / loved you like afield without fences
filled by the mountain's galloping shadow.
Every quarter of the wind that rolled
like a gust of forgetting through the senses
drives me toward you. Each hour of broken road
I choked down with the bile of custom
crumbles into dust with the dumb wisdom
of the elements, is spread apart by weeds,
enveloped by the steady rockfall.
Years now, roofless, drunk with the rains
at the treeline where only trails make choices,
we're still climbing together to the col
as your bones sink deeper roots into the plains
and spur the dust of Assiniboine horses.
71 The Ecstasy of Skeptics
EXIT signs in the scholars' hallway
lead through polished sheets of plate glass
into air into thin air—
outborne
from an ivory silence
where the world was to be rephrased
where the skeleton key of learned
rigour, cracks
feckless in the lock, where screens
glow green as chlorophyll (or
landfill, breeding—a Babel
of cavilled, rootless words that mean,
in the heart's hearing, what?)
This tongue
is a moment of moistened dust, it must learn
to turn the grit of old books
into hydrogen, and burn
The dust of the muscles must burn
down the blood-fuse of the sinews, the tendons'
taut wick, these bones like tinder giving light
to read by, and heat, the winter light is already
lagging, we'll soon be less than cinders, adrift
in an aftermath of space...
Voices in the scholars' hallway
lead through fastened doors
into catacombs of jargon, parchment hives.
Now, love. This way. With the lights on. Blazing.
72 Do the Locomotion
Mark Anthony Jarman
The doomed coach touched my shoulder. Go. I jump the boards.
The other team's goon kept saying, "Choo 'n me, choo 'n me." I
thought this was a little overly dramatic but maybe it gave him an
edge. The other team's goon hit me and I dropped, half my face burning.
I did the dead cat bounce. He had wrists like 4x4 posts, snake tattoos.
Broken orbital bone or something in my cheek. My body said, stay down;
gravity said, stay down; my ex-wife somewhere in TV land said, stay
down; Waitress X at a restaurant screen said, please stay down please. I
got up. He popped me in the temple. I got my bell rung. "Know where
you are?" they ask. I look around. "Yeah. The fucking minors."
Where the others imagined the bus crawled to, I don't know. To some
place they expected to get something. For me it crawled toward her—
exclusively. But when the seal leaked oil, we crawled very slow. When
the headlights and electrical blew, we taped big flashlights to each outside
corner of the bus. The reaches opened before us and closed behind, and I
kept hearing the stupid galoot voice: you and me, you and me.
In Philadelphia our team bus stopped at a red light and kids trotted out
with spray cans. Around Germantown grand stone mansions are gone to
scum, filigree porches tilting, colonial pillars falling, nothing like them in
Alberta. George Washington used to hang out here; now he'd get rolled,
killed for his wooden teeth. Where the republic began it now unravels. At
my uncle's stop the train platform is burned, the lights smashed. My uncle has to use a tunnel to cross under the track. It's absolutely dark as the
lights are smashed out. A kid has hidden a newspaper machine there on
its side. My uncle, eighty-four, steps through the blind tunnel and walks
his shin into the metal corner; he falls in pain, his Irish voice cursing, and
he has to crawl out of the filthy tunnel. There's a garbage strike, weird
rabble hanging around, air conditioners on like constant helicopters. Is
this our fate? All of us in our dotage, cursing where we live, unable to
stand or understand what plays on TV or the radio, tripping over objects
in the black tunnel, something maliciously placed in our way, gunfire,
dark roving gangs, the old world seeming to shrink and fall around our
73 ears. I worry Philly or L.A. is waiting for us no matter where we live.
They're just seeing it first at a few select theatres.
Monday's mauve light goes on forever. Weather keeps changing over
the land, piles up on mountain cusps and whaleback dunes and wrench
faults. The weather spills onto the high plains a bit at a time, like out of a
heavy bucket. Hail falls, then low cloud lies on the valley while above the
peaks the sky moves in blue and orange streaks. A weird mix, like with
the waitress, chalk and cheese, not right but exciting. I want a train to
her brain, to meet in beauty and in blood; delaying her sleek underwear
and slow hips, learning the tongue behind her teeth, careful in her slender
throat. To move inside her is to live. I look out clean windows and jump
from car to car, bed to bed, until I hit that final set of wheels going down
slow, that final mattress, that final breath under the fourteen cow heads
nailed to the cabin. Ten Hail Marys and ten How's Yer Father. Waitress
X is naked on my parents' pale couch, seashells on a glass table, a whitewashed fireplace. Across town a tornado writhes. Her back, the long cinnamon path of her back. When I have finally written it off, a month and a
half later, she phones out of the blue. She swears she called me dozens of
times, even long distance from the coast, on her holiday. She says there
was no answer; she says she hung up because a woman answered; she
says any number of things, pushing the right buttons. I laugh. It's funny, I
can't be mad at her. But my elation is followed by moodiness: she will put
me through the wringer again and I am letting her. As I become older it
seems less simple to pin blame. Before: that is wrong, and that is correct; she's to blame or she's a saint. Now I try and it swings back to me,
partly my fault. Murk is operative as I walk to the Chink store, Red
Mango Grocery, for milk and the phone booth. The Intended asks me not
to call it the Chink store. I call Waitress X at her mother's. The same
suggestive voice lingers in the mother, a slow "Bye" with some promise
inherent. In one week her daughter leaves to school down east. Diminuendo.
Thirty-three Stolen Cars
As well as the occasional addict's body, thirty-three stolen cars have
been dumped around the lake roads this summer, stripped and chopped,
then towed into Salvage King Ya! I can't complain. They give me work,
purpose. Repairs can be affected, good can come from bad. This is my
new $1.49 philosophy.
The road to my cabin swerves south and east around a farm's pocky
hillock stamped and trodden by stonedumb cattle and a few witty pigs.
74 You can read this one field: it says failure. Every clod, clump and lump of
gumbo, every piece of wet straw and handful of wet mud possesses the
same character; no other field in the water district looks quite so bad,
none is as redolent of slow-motion penury and genteel hillbilly neglect.
Farms a quarter-mile to the north have oil lease dividends, neat rows of
silos, Norman Rockwell putting-greens; seldom is heard a discouraging
word. This rise by my lake has muck, ruts, broken trees, glacial boulders
where buffalo scratch themselves, and a ruined Model T with a wasp's
nest glued to the ratty upholstery. Something in me wants to own that
hill, that torn up real estate. I could get Neon to do an artsy installation:
two or three big crosses silhouetted on the crest.
For the first time (at least in this lifetime) I am collecting things. In the
Salvage King Ya! yard I have a '53 Plymouth Belvedere hardtop, a '38
Buick, a '35 Chev. Also, a '62 Ford schoolbus, two speed axle, and a 214
T baler, with a Wisconsin motor. I deal in fouled plugs, cracked blocks,
mortal coils. Also, top quality tamarack, cut, split, cord delivered $99.
My honour roll: an Austin Cambridge with fins; a Borgward Isabella,
black, from Tijuana; a Viva Vauxhall that my little brother who's taller
than me burned on Groat Road; a Delta 88 we sold to deft Crees, who
alone knew how to get it started; a '55 Chev the colour of a battleship; a
six cylinder MGC, rare; and a steel-blue Austin Healy 3000 that belonged
to Woody, then Luke. These have all been through my family. But now I
am settling down, getting dulled out, a shift in psychology. I may join that
new cult that worships Studebakers.
Waitress X is wearing a white leather belt with studs, white heels. Her
face seems a little tired. She leaves soon. Waitress X says, My boyfriend
Joe keeps asking if I'm seeing someone, I'm never home, he says. (I
sympathize.) She says, I told him I'd call at midnight but didn't phone until
one-thirty. Where were you, he wants to know, where were you? I ask
her the same question because she wasn't with me.
You're quicker than I thought, she says, not quite an aside, not quite a
joke. She claims she wants to make things simpler but she's obviously
added another guy to the equation, another curious member. Grab a
brain, the famous coach said to me at the Detroit training camp, grab a
brain. Genius, systems, motivation, they say, vision. He has halitosis,
veins in his eyes the shade of Mars, he's put on weight after the new contract. I treat them like human beings, the coach says, and how do they
repay me? Goddam two-timing boozing hillbilly low-rent shithead skirt-
chasing trash son-of-a-bitching sleazy eggsucking dogs! It rolls off us.
The coach will be fired and we'll still be skating. What's their life expectancy? Everyone's on the bubble; nothing's what you think.
75 The forward tests his skate blade, cuts his finger. They're maybe too
sharp. "You'll be flying," I say.
"Or else I'll go to cut and eat the boards. Blow out my knee again."
"Don't say that. Bad juju."
The goalie signed a termination contract, was demoted to New Brunswick at the trading deadline. I was a free agent with compensation-
asking price a minor league forward "to help us in Salt Lake City." I am
held together with velcro and tape, a king of shreds and patches, I no
longer speak standard English. I think I need some time away from
hockey, from humans, from the locomotion. The coach said to the press,
"He's greasy but let's face it, in the playoffs you need greasers. He
doesn't mind a little snot on his nose." Overhead the Americans cruise
sharkfinned torpedoes through the balloons, over my Dominion. Two
floors below me, bodies are ferried back and forth in discreet station wagons, grey with smoked glass. Across the avenue at the daycare, youngsters learn to shrug. There's a tiny yard with a tiny hedge. They come
out at ten-thirty on the dot and scream.
With winter ending they moved me up from defence to have some size
at centre. Twelve goals all season. I couldn't play centre; I lost faceoffs
and was waived from the circle, I was benched, had trouble taking a pass
in full stride, realized how much I used the boards to move the puck, the
puck always rolling and hopping for me, over my stick and my sweater did
not fit. I was cold and sweating. No champagne. Tired at the rough benches after only a couple shifts, leaning my head on painted cinderblock,
cool. Cough hard; hurting inside, put phlegm into the sink.
Tired, tired! Jesus. Am I too old? Our line was so bad the coach put the
hotshot defenceman out to cover up, to rush up the ice. I found myself
gravitating back to defence to cover him while he was up ice. What exactly was the point? But I didn't want to quit on a low note, especially after a trade. Then I borrowed a Sherwood with green lettering and potted
three goals and I thought, I can do this for awhile, I've still got it. As long
as I've got my lucky stick.
Cowtown Blues
At the same moment I am driving north with the Intended and Neon,
my Waitress X is leaving me, leaving to her college in the east. Both of us
out on the sunny road, farther and farther apart, like a math problem: if
two cars drive in opposite directions at seventy-six miles per hour, how
long before they are no longer an item? Sick of the same highway, I take
backroads. I'm jealous of her joining a motel bed with her driving companion. Inevitable, I know, she's not going to sleep by herself. She insists
76 she will phone, write. I know she will do neither. I'm passing every car
we see; my arcs around their metal are recklessly perfect. Why are you
doing this? asks my Intended. She throws my rhythm off. I wasn't aware
a rhythm was there until it was ruined. I am driving the car too hard, the
revs are high, red line, Quaker State 20-50 spread thin. Faster. I want to
wreck the engine, be in debt, be a bum on the high chapparal. I imagine
smoking pistons rocketing through the curved shining hood. Instead, a
five-point buck sails over the windshield, crossing the road in one leap, a
quick turn and a horned animal races along beside my car. Green eyes.
We stop at a farmhouse off the Correction Road north of Edmonton
and Neon unloads a little dope. They are working on their skidoos in a lit
hangar. Big swinging lights. The party line phone has two rings. It's the
boys from the farm up the gravel road; they always have bags of drugs,
though they don't seem the type at all, looking more like extras on Hee-
Haw. Very hayseed, yet coke, mescaline, even acid, a kind of nostalgia.
You sure you don't want some, they ask Neon, some good mesc. It's organic. Maybe some other time, we say. Neon looks tiny by the farmboy
brothers, shoulders on Neon like a trout. All of us went to a cockfight but
it was low-rent and gave me a headache: one animal cuts up another and
money changes hands in the stands. I used to tape my hands illegally. I
don't care to dwell on the parallels, thank you very much.
Even though I rarely saw her at the end, I am sad Waitress X is leaving. Lace waves tossed from her smart hips, champagne and lox on
someone's else's coffee table. I loved her then when it was simple. The
stairs and her walk. The team loses and studies the floor. That feeling.
The city will seem empty, just knowing she's not inside its walls.
In certain skeletal light, on certain high avenues, the mountains to the
west leap forward as if pulled by a lens, as if you're pulled by the wrist
into a lunar beauty of white thorns, and I think this is how it is on the
moon. From that high pure ice, from those glaciers, trout spray down
from the clouds, rose-coloured graffiti on their flanks, lunkers in search of
an absent ocean. The river straightens after the city and the mountain
trout are hooked by Americans or their pricey guides. The trees thin out.
P.J. Perry, the sax player, shows us a pretty spot to fly-fish. We tramp
through a wheatfield, all blue and gilt, and climb down a cliff to the river's
edge, gather at the river. We toss a stick for a dead dog. The fish move in
wavering grasses, in a bent lens, carried past like the moving floor at the
airport. At the Stampede the palm reader turns away, refuses to tell me
what is there. What? What? She gives my money back. Go away, she
says, go. (The coach touches my shoulder: Go.)
On the midway I hear an old guy mumbling to himself, eating a corn
77 dog: When I was a child there was a grand old tree; but it was hit by a bolt
from the sky. Rain and snow got in to strip it. With a whoop the gang
rushed to the sleigh and piled in the way your dad did. The horse pulled a
score of years back. When I was a child, he says, it was a grand old tree.
I am a child at Jawbone Lake for the summer. The small town priest
commands electrons of grief from us, pulling it from the assembled like a
hormonal cheerleader. The choir sounds like mutinous cows. The locals
assume we're rich. Sermons centre around donations from "the visitors."
My older brother, a late '50s greaser, swaggers to confession, and for
penance the old priest orders him to mow the church's lawn. My brother
tells the old priest to fuck off. The next Sunday a ballsy bulldog walked up
the aisle in the middle of mass and sniffed around the altar, the priest's
ankles. We all pretended not to see it, assuming it's Jehovah's Witness.
Twelve miles from the lake, my Ex-wife is talking after church, the
same small town church, her white shoes on the white sunny steps and
her blouse with pale pink stripes like a beach tent pulled tight by her
strong back and breasts, light flowing down her golden throat, and in the
slight gaps in the blouse front where a delicate chain leads into her white
Eaton's bra. My fingertip once followed and curled in the cool air between
her levitating breasts, where there is no sun except light through a summer dress; a face close to the hovering flesh, the dangling medal and beneath her ribs, her curved, goosebumped navel, her link to her mother.
The priest nods in the heat, depressed, ready to pack it in. He's tired,
has to cover too many towns, never thought it would end up this way.
Children on the swing, swing. An old woman in black clutches corn poppies, and children on the swings swing, and my Ex-wife stands on the
wooden steps in the white shoes I once polished in our cellar. The cranium has little to do with memory. It's centered in the mouth and fingers.
A woman's unfolding of certain asexual vegetables and fruit, her calm
teeth. The trouble we go to for our few minutes, swearing of course we
won't be back or rashly insisting that we will. Where a republic begins is
where it unravels.
As I wash my hands in an enamel basin, a dead passenger washes up
from the plane, from the Turbo-Arrow, water rippling over his face, into
his open mouth like gin. We're all passengers, all floating. I get on the
party line again, holler into static.
By Shirt is Blue's place, we watch a horned owl hit a snowshoe rabbit
from behind, take its head right off. I had sympathy, decided this was a
78 pertinent message. The message: if today is your birthday you are intuitive, a natural athlete, sensual, unorthodox and stubborn. Cycle highlights change, romance, travel. Major domestic adjustments can be expected, could relate to residence and marital status. Your lawn will catch
fire.
A Cult And Alcohol Wrecked Our Marriage
Cognac, mal du pays, homesick. The TV is low and my Intended is
covered in coleslaw, but the weatherman had not lied. Eyes closed, I'm
seeing my Ex-wife's horses, reading Keats, a poem To Autumn, a porn
mag called Angels in Pain and no more stars fall down on meals seizing in
restaurants. I wonder why is it always raining in this near-desert?
I Took Scars
My head got hit by a stick last night, a forward trying to go around me
lifted his stick and caught me. I didn't notice it until shampooing in the
morning, a tender welt announcing itself in the hairline just behind my
temple. I start wearing a helmet again. My thoughts are scrambled. The
patio tables are crawling; the sky, a yellow shell, flexes. I read the paper
like my father, read papers from three different cities. I took scars, became infatuated with aloe vera, Vitamin E, a woman to fix my face.
The condo window in late fall: cars move under us like iron filings doing
the locomotion; cars plough into each other on the hill for no reason,
rocking over the curb and slicing fenders through a small mountain of
corn for sale on the empty lot. The hawker flees as a Chevrolet looms
sideways, a red Buick powering it along like a bad dance partner; they
can't stop, mash magically into another car, smash another car, skating
away in slow motion from the corn mountain. Traffic backs up the hill, police lights smeared in rain and then in snow. Women walk by with armfuls
of Taber corn, a last hidden taste of summer, while cottonwood leaves
crumple, turn into themselves like people in winter; the branch gives
them up in fingerprints of rain and then we wake to crystals of snow, to
their goon saying, you and me. A coach touches my shoulder and I have
to learn winter over again each and every year. I can never really remember winter; the change seems impossible. Our windows fog, then go to
frost under one huge cloud the grey of swimming mammals. We look like
Russia again and I'm plugging in the car's block heater, I am sleeping on
the Winnipeg couch. I'm moving. Away. Go. Romance makes some realization about itself inside this astringent season but that makes little dif-
79 ference: Waitress X is the death rattle of romance. He pops me in the
temple and I enter a new republic. What I have done to women is now being done to me. You're not allowed to lose. I think it's in the contract.
The diabetic general manager calls me up to his office full of ice cream and
posters of Sonny Liston's unquiet ghost and there I am served memory
like a burning dessert.
80 Contributors
Roxanna Bikadoroff's award winning illustrations have been published in numerous magazines and books, both locally and internationally.
Beverley Brahic lives in Paris, where she is director of the bilingual English program in a
French lycee. Her articles on schools and education have been widely published in Canadian
newspapers. Poems are forthcoming in International Quarterly and The Antigonish Review.
April Bulmer lives in Toronto. She is the author of A Salve For Every Sore (Cormorant
Books) and has recently completed another manuscript.
Michael Crummey, has had his poetry published most recently in The Capilano Review,
The New Quarterly and Quarry. He lives in Kingston, Ontario.
Margaret Gunning received honourable mention in the Edmonton Journal Literary
Awards and has had poems published in blue buffalo and The New Morningside Papers
(1987).
Steven Heighton won first prize in the 1990 Prism international fiction contest for his
story "Five Paintings of the New Japan" which went on to win a Gold Medal in the National
Magazine Awards. His first collection of stories, Flight Paths of the Emperor (Porcupine's
Quill, 1992), will appear in French translation this fall. A second collection, On Earth As It
Is, will appear next spring. A collection of poems, The Ecstasy of Skeptics, will be published
by Anansi this October.
Mark Anthony Jarman lives and teaches in Victoria. He is the author of Dancing Nightly
in the Tavern and Killing the Swan.
Shaena Lambert is currently working on a book of short stories, The Firebird. A writer
and political activist, she has published non-fiction pieces on peace and environmental issues
in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, and other newspapers. She lives in Toronto.
M. Travis Lane is the author of Temporary Shelter (Goose Lane 1993) and Night Physics,
forthcoming later this year (Brick).
Patrick Lane's most recent books include Winter (Coteau Books), Mortal Remains (Exile
Editions), How Do You Spell Beautiful (Fifth House).
John B. Lee was the 1993 winner of the Milton Acom Peoples' Poetry Award for his book
Pig Dance Dreams. Mr. Lee lives in Brantford, Ontario with his wife and two sons.
Lynne Macdonald lives and works in Vancouver. She recently won first place in
Dandelions Another Bloody Fiction Contest.
81 Mark Mahemoff was born in Sydney, Australia in 1965. He has had previous works published in Australia and Denmark. Currently, he works with people with intellectual disabilities.
Robert Mullen lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. A first collection of his stories, Americas, is
due out in the fall from Coteau Books.
Marilyn Gear Pilling's fiction will appear this year in The Malahat Review, Canadian
Fiction Magazine, Queen's Quarterly, Carousel and The Pottersfield Portfolio. She was
shortlisted for Event's Creative Non-Fiction Contest, Prairie Fire's Hot Shorts Contest,
and in Prism international's Short Fiction Contest.
Lynn Strongin's work has appeared in numerous anthologies and periodicals, including
Rising Tides, The Southern Humanities Review and Descant. She is currently looking for a
publisher for her latest collection of poems, and is also editing a novel, Emma's Book. She
lives in Victoria, British Columbia.
8 pj^JClV/l international
$2000 1st Prize
and
5 Prizes of $200
plus publication payment
Judge: to be announced
Deadline: December 1, 1994
For entry form and rules, please send
a SASE (outside Canada enclose SAE with IRC) to:
Fiction Contest
Prism international
Department of Creative Writing
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, B.C. V6T IZl
Canada niversaries
can be personal, communal, national or universal. They can be occasions for joy or sadness. They can hallow or haunt. They include
birthdays and weddings, death-days and saint's days, feasts or fasts.
Help us celebrate our Fiftieth Anniversary!
The Fiddlehead's Writing Contest for 1994
$300 for best Poem
$300 for best Story
$100 each for runners-up
Submissions: Not to exceed 10 typed double-spaced pages per entry.
Deadline: December 15, 1994.
Judging: Blind; please type name on separate sheet.
Entry fee: $16 per entry; includes a year's subscription to
The Fiddlehead.
No submissions previously published, or accepted for
publication, can be considered.
Please send a self-addressed envelope and Canadian
postage if you wish the manuscript returned.
Winners will be published in 1995.
Send submissions to:
The Fiddlehead
Anniversaries
UNB PO Box 4400
Fredericton NB E3B 5A3 Creative Writing M.F.A.
The University of British Columbia offers a Master
of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. Students
choose three genres to work in from a wide range of
courses, including: Poetry. Novel/Novella, Short
Fiction, Stage Plavs, <v Screen  &  TV  Plays,  Radio
format or tutorial.  ^38-^^^ The thesis con
sists of imaginative writing. The Department of Creative Writing also offers a Diploma Programme in
Applied Creative Non-Fiction.
Faculty: Sue Ann Alderson
George McWhirter
Keith Maillard
Jerry Newman
Linda Svendsen
Bryan Wade
For further information, please write
Department of Creative Writing
University of British Columbia
Buchanan E462 - 1866 Main Mall
Vancouver, B.C.  V6T IZl The Malahat Review
announces
"first NOVELLA PRIZE
Judges for 1994 will be Jack Hodgins, Michael Kenyon and Jane
Urquhart.
Submissions for the 1994 Novella Prize must be received in the
Malahat office by September 1, 1994. For practical reasons we
cannot consider works longer than 60,000 words. Submissions
previously published, or accepted for publication elsewhere, are
not eligible.
Entrants' anonymity is preserved throughout the judging. Please
write your name and address on a separate page.
If you wish your manuscript returned, please enclose a self-
addressed envelope and sufficient Canadian postage.
Entry fee per novella is $20. This entitles you to a subscription to
Malahat for yourself or for a friend.
Prize $400
plus payment for publication
The Malahat Review, University of Victoria, Box 1700, Victoria,
British Columbia V8W 2Y2 The Vancouver International
Writers
(& Readers)
Festival
October 19-23, 1994
More than 50 writers from across Canada and
around the world will gather in Vancouver
October 19 through 23 to take part in
Canada's premiere literary event.
Join them at three venues on Granville Island
for five days and evenings of readings, reflections and
lively, audience engaging discussions.
Annual "not to be missed" Festival highlights
include the Literary Cabaret, The Poetry Bash,
the Authors Brunch, The Great Canadian
Spelling Bee and The Bill Duthie Memorial Lecture.
Watch for our program in all Greater Vancouver
bookstores, libraries and community centres in early September.
For further information call 681-6330
/ill
VanCity
BBSS
illi _.
Granville Island Hotel Vancouver   Fiction
Mark Anthony Jarman
Shaena Lambert
Lynne Macdonald
Robert Mullen
Marilyn Gear Pilling
Poetry
Beverley Brahic
April Bulmer
Michael Crummey
Margaret Gunning
Steven Heighton
M. Travis Lane
Patrick Lane
John B. Lee
Mark Mahemoff
Lynn Strongin
ISSN 0032.8790

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