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 PRISM international
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•jpaaac\(p*  PRISM international
2009 Earle Birney Prize for Poetry
$500 was awarded to
Sue Sinclair
for her poem
"Cherry Trees"
which appeared in PRISM 47:4
Special thanks to WaUan Low whose generous support keeps this PRISM poetry prize available.  PRISM international
Fiction Editor
Rachel Knudsen
Poetry Editor
Elizabeth Ross
Executive Editors
Nadia Pestrak
Dan Schwartz
Advisory Editor
Steven Galloway
Production Manager
Jennifer Herbison
Editorial Board
Margret Bollerup
Tenille Campbell
Krissy Darch
Lauren Farconi
Christine Leclerc
Rebekah Lopata
Lenore Rowntree
Michelle Wright PRISM international, a magazine of contemporary writing, is published four
times a year by the Creative Writing Program at the University of British
Columbia, Buchanan E-462, 1866 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1.
Microfilm editions are available from University Microfilms Inc., Ann Arbor,
MI, and reprints from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, New York, NY. The
magazine is listed by the Canadian Literary Periodicals Index.
Email: prism(g>   / Website:
Contents Copyright ® 2009 PRISM international for the authors.
Cover Art: Garden Bird No.l by Shuxin Liang.
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Submission Guidelines: PRISM international purchases First North
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Our gratitude to Dean Nancy Gallini and the Dean of Arts Office at the
University of British Columbia. We gratefully acknowledge the financial
support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the British Columbia Arts
September 2009. ISSN 0032.8790
BRITISH COLUMBIA     889    Canada Council    Conseil des Arts
ARTS COUNCIL <±>   for the Arts du Canada Contents
Volume 48, Number 1
Fall 2009
Julie Booker
Geology in Motion / 12
Sadiqa de Meijer
Where The Sky Is / 26
Lucretia Smith
Pop Star Sparkling / 36
S. Kennedy Sobol
End-Effectors of Series A / 56
Mary B. Valencia
Blue / 45
Jeff Steudel
Hornby Island Vacation / 7
Good Light / 8
Anna Mioduchowska
Outside The Frame / 9
Jordan Mounteer
Waterskitter / 10
Nashira Dernesch
Mennonite Boys in Wet Underwear I   11 matt robinson
Citadel Hill I  19
Inland, From The Ocean / 20
Leanne Averbach
A Thing Past I  21
Patricia Young
Interpretation / 22
Taboo-Girl / 23
Dance? / 24
Warren Heiti
Metamorphoses, Book 10 I 25
E.A. Carpentier
The Dumb Supper I 32
Ronnie R. Brown
Skin I  33
Lauren Carter
The Double / 34
Aaron Giovannone
You Will Sit Here Until You Aren't Embarrassed to Look at These Photos I  39
Smoke Machine I  40
A Constellation of Inattention I 41
Grand Opening at a Winery I 42
Ben Hart
Faldero / 43
Flaneur / 44
Jane Munro
What if a name / 51
For see how the jasmine releases and lets fall its withered flowers / 52
Here, the air is visible / 53
The inner eye / 54
Contributors / 66 JeffSteudel
Hornby Island Vacation
In a dry field that slopes to the ocean
and belongs to the farmer
who made his fortune
in the parking lot business,
I watch the dragonflies
sell the sound of electric
crimped air, their glide
uneasy, even clumsy
as they sputter and fall
until double-winged charges
prop up their flight path; surely
they must go broke.
The bee's golden parcels:
drop-off, pick up;
the wasp's tenacity
around the peach pie—
and me, knowing I will soon
leave this small economy
when September comes,
top-heavy and buzzing,
to get back to work. Good Light
Comes with shadows. There are cherry branches
on this page, their serrated leaves dulled, the edges
lost. Through the tall maple, circles of sun shine
kaleidoscopic on the long dry grass. The woodshed
heaped in hops. Like me. The old blue paint
chipped on the window frame around four panes
caked with resin—dirty like the years of home
renovation when we all slept in the same small
basement room. In the dust and in the sun, things
take new shapes. A fern touches a cedar bough
like I want to touch you. Green on green. Limelight
glows through new growth of red-spine leaves
over the cabin door. To one side of this lawn chair,
ants climb into pine cones, over yellow moss, and up
blades of grass. To the other, the lost light of us.
And though the eastern sky still holds—blue, a wisp
of cirrus—and the sinking sun flashes its finale
on the aluminum chimney cap, nothing is brighter
than the sound of you chopping tomatoes in the kitchen.
8     PRISM 48:1 Anna Mioduchowska
Outside The Frame
—after The Song of a Lark, painted by Jules Breton
Everything but the bird here.
A field waking from mid-summer sleep,
an outline of a village. The sky
flushed with the effort and the pleasure
of reinventing itself.
Bare throat straining from a white blouse,
a young girl caught in the act—
hand attached to sickle, waist to hay bag,
lips in the upturned face parted
as if sound could be inhaled.
The rest of her passerine brown,
kerchief, mid-calf skirt,
bare feet kneading the path.
Those feet too are all ears,
as the dirt under them, the dew.
The lark is outside the frame,
the frame on a wall of an air-conditioned
room embedded in tone-deaf matter.
The song a concrete, heart-rending
presence.    9 Jordan Mounteer
It is never too long to watch them, skating over
patterns of koi. Their poise is a truce with water,
untraceable logic. Legs like thinnest poplar twigs.
Condensation on the grass rises in a sustained note.
Morning's dewy lactations. Smoke from a brushfire
settling. Behind the teahouse a woodpecker
ratatats on the neck of a birch.
A whine. Mosquitoes are the arrogant cousins,
who will never know the elegance of two dimensions.
They buzz protests to three candles, wicks dipped in citronella.
The pond surfeits a waterfall I vainly tried to stack in May,
finding its own course through the antlers of ferns.
A tiny tributary, like an afterthought, a tongue's wet cluck
while it ponders at something. I've worked on the little stream
all week, each day brushing off fresh algae and fitting green
and grey stones in the channel.
It's a cobblestone road only waterskitters use,
up and down with useless business.
10     PRISM 48:1 Nashira Dernesch
Mennonite Boys in Wet
After swimming the dam, defiant
to horseflies and clots of manure,
you pulled the leeches from my back,
breath hot as the blood
easing its luscious path down.
I had read the word eroticism
on the back of a stolen novel
and spied then what shape it held;
those white briefs dripping and transparent
in the sun, boys escaping up the riverbank,
sliding in the silt against each other's skin.    11 Julie Booker
Geology in Motion
Lorrie and Katie tended to say too much.
Imagine two fat ladies in a kayak!
In skin-tight wet suits. Eek!
Talked up Alaska until they couldn't back out.
Over egg white omelettes in Lome's kitchen, Katie read: "If you meet
a bear, stretch your arms overhead and say, 'Hey, bear, hey.' The bear
will come toward you, but it's a bluff charge. Only drop when he's one
foot in front of you."
"What about the camper in the news last week," Lorrie asked, "the
one who got mauled?"
"The grizzly was ten feet away. He dropped too soon."
"He dropped too soon," Lorrie repeated, as if measuring how close
she could come to fear. Animals, she trusted. She had other things to
worry about. Since the bariatric surgery she'd dropped 140 pounds. Another sixty to go. Katie had chosen the slow route—melba toast and
tuna—but the scales held stubborn at 280.
Lorrie didn't know why a flashlight was on the gear list from the kayak
company, considering the twenty-four hours of daylight. She and Katie
went shopping for neoprene gloves, inflatable Therm-a-Rests, checking
the strength of the nozzles. Oversized Gortex pants were difficult to find.
In Mountain Equipment Co-Op, they lay on the floor in XL sub-zero
sleeping bags, trying to imagine the frigid night air. Drawstrings tight
under their noses. The manager smirked, made them practice stuffing
themselves into sleep sacs, two giant blue pills.
At the Anchorage airport, Lorrie said a quiet prayer of thanks they were
going to Seward. They weren't joining the lineup of men boarding a
small craft to go further into the bush, overgrown beards and never-cut
hair, second-skin parkas and dusty knapsacks. Two dour Native women
in line with the bushmen. As if the loudspeaker had called, "Last flight
to Severe Depression."
It took a while to get to Miss Cathy's B & B. As the van passed through
town, Lorrie watched the back of Katie's little-girl head peer out the window. When had she gone grey? Her hair in a tight ponytail on top like
a fountain, ends spilling down towards her triple chin. Not that Lorrie
12     PRISM 48:1 felt superior. Before the surgery, she wore her hair high like a bird's nest
Anything to draw the eye up.
"The Yukon Bar Steak House. Hobo Jim's Pizza, Sourdough Bakery,"
Katie whispered, as if the words themselves might bring on the weight
"Eveiything's poison to me but no reason you can't live a little now that
you're nice and slim. And look, Chinese right here in Alaska."
The B&B had a rusted iron bed frame at the end of the driveway,
flowers growing through the springs. Miss Cathy waved as she crossed
the yard, her figure trim, not counting the beer belly.
"How are you girls?" Her voice raw from cigarettes. "You're in the
Bear's Den around the back. How long you staying?"
•Just tonight We're off to Northwestern Lagoon tomorrow."
Miss Cathy's mouth dropped. "You girls got balls."
She unlocked the cabin door, handed them the bear paw key chain.
"Don't be lookin' so worried. That ain't real bear. It's squirrel. The kitchen's in the back of the house. Help yourself to whatever."
"Jeezus," Lorrie said, once Miss Cathy was gone.
The room barely held the two of them. They shimmied round the
bed, having to turn sideways, Pardon me. Katie fell back, smothering a
dozen black bears in migration across the comforter. Lorrie held up two
cushions in front of her breasts, shook them so the tassels quivered.
"Are those teeth?" Katie asked.
Lorrie inspected the tassels. "Plastic."
Katie turned to the side table, tapped the nodding heads of three miniature grizzlies.
They wandered through the backyard, the tangle of wildflowers. The
outhouse door was open, a flush toilet inside. They went in the back
door, past stalagmite magazine piles, knives and forks like weeds in cups
on the laundry machine, into the kitchen where Lorrie made herself
some green tea beneath a sign: Life is short. Eat dessert first.
Katie filled a bowl with Honeycomb, brought the box with her from
the kitchen. The two of them sat at a round dining table that cut into
their bellies, looking at the framed maps, sailor figurines and dusty nautical instruments. Books crowded the shelves. A ship porthole stood on
the sideboard with a murky Jesus behind. His arms open, pointing to the
surrounding titles: Finding Health. Healing Yourself.
"That new appetite suppressant's making me hungrier," Katie said between mouthfuls. "And the nightmares. I drop off for an hour and wake
up thinking, Now where did that come from?"
With Katie smack up against her in the bed, Lorrie tried to sleep, but
the midnight sun called to her through the drawn curtains. She went for
a walk along the highway. Surgery won't help a bit if you don't change
the way you live. Cars whizzed by her. All this way for pine trees and     13 asphalt. When she returned to the Bear's Den she found Katie asleep on
her back, one arm high across her stomach, anchoring herself, the other
hanging over the side of the bed, her fingers twitching in the icy Pacific,
dangling over the edge of a kayak. A nightmare probably taking hold
right then.
"Most visitors do a half day jaunt in Resurrection Bay. Some go further
out to Aialik Bay," Wendy, their guide, explained the night before the
excursion. When they showed up at Alaska's Here, Wendy was kind
enough not to do the usual full body scan, to scowl at the obvious challenges. "Our water taxi will take your gear and kayaks out to the farthest
bay west of Seward." Wendy was rosy-faced, fresh out of college. The
type that burns energy just by standing still.
"Northwestern, where the glaciers calve all night like thunder," Wendy had said a month ago on the phone to Lorrie. "It's magical." When
Lorrie had called other outfitters, they'd described their trips as nice,
great beautiful. But not magical. One thousand dollars for three days,
booked solely on the hint of transformation.
On the boat-taxi out to the campsite, Katie shivered in the cabin while
Lorrie stood on the deck, hanging onto the yellow recreational kayak, its
cockpit larger than a sea kayak's. She'd learned the difference after a bit
of a mix-up on the phone. "No, not for larger bodies of water, for larger
bodies." Lorrie faced the wind, loving the spray on her face. She saw
islands of rocks, then the almost-camouflaged, spindle-shaped harbour
seals, unabashedly sunning their big bellies. Puffins flying so low to the
water, she could see one's red and black eye looking at her, a dozen fish
held crosswise in its beak. Look at all the snacks. She missed the comforts of home for a brief moment before spotting the grey bumps in the
water. Porpoises. The boat gained on them. Lorrie watched their sleek
bodies slipping over and through the waves, perfectly designed for play.
Further out Lorrie pointed at a shot of spray just ahead of the boat. She
looked back at the cabin, but the driver was chatting with Katie. Lorrie
watched the whale move alongside like a shadow. It was mammoth, appropriately insulated, swimming effortlessly. She knew she was the only
one who'd seen it.
The taxi dropped them on a remote, stony beach. The two of them
struggled to pull their kayak and equipment high up past the tide line.
Lorrie extended the poles as far as she could until her arms shook and
Katie took over. They draped the tent bending without grace to pin the
corners, then straightened up to get their breath back. They hammered
pegs into shifting rocks, taking frequent breaks. Careful not to trample
the beach greens that had survived the elements, taken hold without soil.
No-trace camping meant no fires. No digging toilets. They teetered to
14     PRISM 48:1 pee along the shoreline, balanced just long enough to shit into silver foil
Wag Bags.
The sun slipped behind the glacier, but it was only a dimming, a signal for the bugs to swarm. Wendy cooked while they strolled along the
shoreline in D.H. Lawrence-style mosquito net hats.
"I'm starving," Katie said.
"Me too."
Every time the glacier across from them thundered, they froze like
space creatures stepping over moonstones. Looked up to see what had
fallen. Of course, they missed it every time. The sound delay about thirteen seconds.
"There. Where the new waterfall is. Where the ice is still tumbling.
See it?" Lorrie said.
They sat on the rocks, lifting the nets of their hats for each swift spoon
of curried noodles. Lorrie ate watching the glacier like a TV, the constant sound of running water from the ice mass. When she looked over at
Katie, Wendy was ladling more soup into her empty bowl. Lome's was
still half full. How did that happen?
Wendy read to them before bedtime about geology in motion. She
pointed to maps printed earlier in the year that showed the glacier sitting
where they now camped.
"No one's sure why the earth is warmer. It could be because we've
damaged the earth's atmosphere. But maybe our orbit's altered. Or continents are slufting near the poles, or maybe the sun itself has changed."
She didn't sound sad, like time needed to be slowed down or humans
were at fault. The glaciers just had their own journey. And while they
were shrinking, heading for the sea, other geological features were expanding, like the mountains in Resurrection Bay. Tectonic plates were
continually slufting. No one was to blame.
They went to sleep with the glacier framed in the tent vestibule window. Fully fit by night sun. Lorrie slept in shorts she would never wear in
public, her mummy bag unzipped, not needing as many layers as she'd
anticipated. Ice rumbled, masses fell while she snored. In the morning,
Lorrie pointed to where new rock face had come to the surface.
The first day was a leisurely paddle following the shoreline. Katie and
Lorrie shared a double kayak floating dangerously low in the water.
Wendy paddled close by, sipping coffee from a thermos. Lorrie could
hear Katie behind her, habitually reaching into the Smarties trail mix
baggie on her spraydeck.
They passed hanging valleys carved out by glaciers, mountaintops
rounded by migrating icebergs. There were the beginnings of moss,
wildflowers, yellow, white and pink, a lonely spruce tree springing out of    15 grey rock. Succession forests, Wendy called them. Like they had come
to the end of the earth to see the beginning.
On day two, Wendy pointed in the direction of Northwestern Glacier. "That's where we're going today. Four hours paddling."
They passed Anchor Glacier and Ogive, topped with blue, the only
colour of the spectrum able to escape the dense crystal. Ogive tiered
with striations of grey rock like a souffle after it's fallen.
Northwestern Lagoon was a bowl surrounded by mountainous glaciers. Lorrie felt the temperature drop suddenly. Their tiny kayaks, red
and yellow tinder on silt-green water. The regular sound of thunder like
a storm moving in. Every time Lorrie heard it she paddled faster, wanting to get to the source.
"This is close enough," Lorrie heard from the back of the kayak. Had
Katie said it to herself? Or to her?
Lorrie kept paddling. Ice chunks all around, a floating sculpture garden. A flock of misshapen forms heading somewhere, in no apparent
"Wendy, can you tell us where to paddle so we don't hit these?" Katie
called out.
"Look. That's like a cormorant" Lorrie said. They banged into one, a
half-trout complete in its reflection.
"Can you just tell me where to steer? I can't see what's up ahead."
"It doesn't matter if we hit the small ones, Katie." Lorrie kept paddling forward.
"Wendy," Katie called out.
"Just follow my path," Wendy said.
"Why go closer? They won't look any different"
They hit another piece of ice. Lorrie shifted a little so she could pick it
up and put it on the spray skirt. She'd heard the Japanese imported it for
their drinks. She sucked the pointy end. The instant freezing of her lips,
wet pouring down her chin, taking her back to the ice cube diet but this
was too solid to bite into.
"I'm really not enjoying this." Katie's paddle cuffed the hull. "Just
drop me off on a beach somewhere with my lunch. Pick me up on the
way back."
Don't be absurd, Lorrie wanted to say. "A beach somewhere" was at
least three hours away. Wendy was ahead of them. The boat teetered
with each erratic knock of Katie's pole against fibreglass, but Lorrie
didn't turn around. She listened to what she thought were sighs, then
realized they were quick breaths. Katie stopped paddling and Lorrie suddenly felt the weight in the rear of the kayak, and her own heaviness
how vulnerably low they sat in the water.
"Can't you tolerate it a little longer?" Lorrie said. Her paddle gentle
16     PRISM 48:1 in the water. A few more strokes, she knew that was all she had. Wendy
kayaked back to them.
"You gals okay with this?"
"No," said Katie.
Lorrie longed to axe the boat in two, paddle away.
They sat watching the glaciers calve for an hour. Chunks the size of
apartment buildings fell. They were so far away the waves didn't even
reach them. As close as they would ever be. When the sound hit seconds
after, Lorrie cheered. Wendy clapped.
"What's the big deal?" Katie said quietly.
On the way back, the floating ice chunks seemed to have multiplied.
The sculptures spun from their own weight forward and back, like gymnasts in warm-up. Crackling like bubblewrap. Wendy stayed close. Lorrie tried her best to call out "Left," or, "Big one on the right."
Wendy pointed to otters diving for their dinner. "Not an ounce of
fat" she said. "A high metabolism and insulated under-fur keeps them
warm." The mammals floated in the sun, snacked on fish tucked under
their stubby limbs, then placed their paws together as if in prayer.
Katie began to match Lome's rhythm as they cut into clearer water,
back toward the campsite. Past Ogive and Anchor glaciers, old faces that
had softened in the late daylight
While Wendy cooked dinner, Katie and Lorrie donned their mos-
quito hats, perched on camping stools, exhausted. Katie explained that it
had all seemed too big. The height of the glaciers, the sound of thunder,
the depth of the fjord, the frigid water. The space in the kayak had gotten
tighter. "I almost had a full-blown panic attack. I just focused on things
in front of me: the water bottle, my camera, the paddle."
"You did great" Lorrie quiedy searched the beach, hoping to bring
back a piece of Alaska. She had a new sense of calm. The afternoon's
chaos had rippled from kayak to ocean to glacier, right down to the
tectonic plates, see-sawing both her and Katie onto land. Onto shifting
stones that now felt solid. She held up a big rock to show Katie. A ball of
granite, with streaks red, white and grey. A perfect sample.
"Do you think I can get this through customs?" she laughed.
"I think I'd prefer smoked salmon or chocolate bear scat from the
duty-free," Katie said.
They sat on the grass by the kayak shop waiting for the airport van. Katie
ate the last of Lome's trail mix, the Smarties long gone. Lorrie looked out
at Resurrection Bay. Her pants definitely felt looser. The place where the
waistband usually cut a fold in her belly had shifted. A group of children
spilled into the daycare yard next to them. Two supervisors organized
a game of Frisbee. Some kids played patty cake under the trees, dug in     17 the dirt, maneuvered tiny trucks on the grass. Two boys with freshly-cut
hair took turns concealing a neon orange soccer ball in the yard. Under
a bench, behind the garbage can, by the tree. As one walked close to it
the other called, "Warm, warmer, warmer, hot!"
Lorrie closed her eyes, too, while one hid the ball before calling,
"Okay!" She opened her eyes. Unlike the boy, she saw it immediately.
Like an Alaskan sun pulsing in the short grass. The persistent sun Lorrie
missed already. Slipping behind the glacier right now without them.
When the kids ran out of hiding places, they tucked it in the same
spots again, pretending not to notice it right away. Then they pointed to
the long grass near the kayak trailer, even though the supervisor had told
them not to go off-property.
The boys walked closer, exploring, then stopped when they saw Lorrie and Katie.
"You're fat." The boy was looking at Katie but he could have been
talking to Lorrie. His own layer of baby fat could go either way.
Katie stood up, in full bluff-charge. It took her a few strides. She
snatched the ball and called out "Hot burning hot!" She held it against
her belly for what felt like an excruciatingly long time. Lorrie saw the
boys' faces recoil, the strength in their cheeks and jaws recede. She
watched them get younger. And she knew if Katie held on much longer,
they would crack. Babies in one thundering cry.
Katie cast the ball onto the tarmac and the boys chased after it.
No matter how old we get Lorrie thought No matter where we go.
18     PRISM 48:1 matt robinson
Citadel Hill
Citadel Hill National Historic Site, Halifax, NS
the elephant you
might say, in the room. or, that hulking, hillocky
older kid—clad all in the kitschy, just
just past-style
hand-me-down trappings of a brother who's long since left
home, this town. and how he stands
there, here in the eye of the storm, with recess
hub-bubbing each and every which way around him; and him,
slope stolid, seeming oblivious. a languid
precursor of force; a loose laundry pile—all folds
and tumbles and grass-stain—of slow-twitch muscle,
a mountain of gaze. how, like clockwork,
he'll shuffle and spit hock thunderous,
how he never forgets.
in the end, though, it's how he looks.        looks:
down, and over, and out.    19 Inland, From The Ocean
VIA Rail Station; The Ocean Line—Halifax, NS to Montreal, QC.
leaving. the afternoon
is hot is thick with it—this smutch of breath.
gather, a paned condensation by departure
gates, by windows. bags rasp, clasp-cough against the tile
floor, its subtle ruts. as our time
approaches, tide-like,
an order develops, redevelops; wears the once-crisp edges of this
leaving; leaving us dulled and sullen.
later, in motion, the window
is a charcoal or pencil sketch, smudged; a concrete newsprint
stuttered all along with a ragged stitch
of power pole T's: repetitive, unsteady—
a grade one printing exercise. somewhere
before bathurst we are a drive-by theatre; we are a travelling
circus, midway. an old man, a buick,
a mother, two kids: soda pop sticky with summer, people
stare and wave themselves away, after
coffee, the drummondville morning
is workmanlike; a grass stain on faded denim. on approach,
montreal is a spilt pallet:
so many cardboard boxes, bleaching in the sun.
20     PRISM 48:1 Leanne Averbach
A Thing Past
may be plucked of a sudden from the well, its memory
cavity. No query is necessary, nor forwarding address.
It can arrive dull, meaningless, slathered in vague clutter
like numbers on a grocery receipt or rise pristine to quake us, better
than ever from nowhere. It will peel us raw
in a flash—that muted ransom. It repeats, no will to resist
harnessing us to the bed. It has a keen sense
of smell and fashion. It remembers a friend
of a friend who knew all about the incident It is a witness
who doesn't show up as you make the case, again, again the indefinite
verdict an urge to call someone. Hello?Am I okay?'Ruby cascades
of elixir in your glass help alternately to hold it send it back into the well, create
new files in which to keep it. That awkward taste of the half-
learned, the feel of being tattooed inside, an extra set of organs
for recalling. Out the window Canada Geese point elsewhere,
passports in their brains. They take one last look at themselves
in the lagoon before slipping off the radar as gulls scratch
the air, bragging wmter-worthiness
through rubbery feathersuits and I drift
beneath the shadowy flim-flam of love.    21 Interpretation
So much has been written about this dream,
we don't know what it means anymore.
Though we do remember the dream
had babies and high heel shoes and cocktails
that levitated. The men in the dream
were talking about cisterns, they didn't know
what else to talk about while upstairs the women
uncorked botties of pink, effervescent wine.
And then we were at a summer house on a lake.
There was a lot of work to do, sweeping
and scrubbing. Goddamn maggots.
We remembered the dream had a bar,
fancy drinks. We kept sneaking little sips!
The floors so slippery the old dog slid
on its belly all the way to the burned-out wharf.
A rat turned into a Victorian poet wearing
a buckskin jacket. He was destitute,
needed cash bad. Some said the dream
meant creativity, others that freedom was nigh.
No one could agree. It was a mess. It was
pretty straightforward. And then my mother
showed up in a golf cart and cleared the desk
of papers and books. Beware, she said,
of tiny fig trees taking root in your lungs.
22     PRISM 48:1 Taboo-Girl
...the tendency of the female to sexual intercourse during menstruation...
has everywhere been overlaid by the ideas of a culture which has insisted on
regarding menstruation as a supernatural phenomenon which, for the protection
of everybody, must be strictly tabooed.
—Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex
Old women beat the bushes with sticks,
mad at the reptile that made me bleed.
Do I look scared? Ha! I am Taboo, last
hurrah priestess, girl with an angelic roar.
Milk sours. Wine turns to vinegar.
Sugar blackens. Meat rots. Father says,
Now look what you've done. Mother says,
Get back in your cage. See my neck
covered in bites? Don't come near me,
sand fleas will sting your ankles. And yet
the sight of my breasts calms the sea.
Lightning, cowed by my nakedness,
is so pure that Holy Dove flies in my face.
Once I was half-boy. That was before
Lizard-God cut us down the middle.
Now I'm married to Snake, I yank his tail
out of my mouth. Serpent's my lover.
When I walk into the world, vermin
fall from ears of corn, caterpillars drop
from curled leaves. Father says, Don't
touch the ground, don't look at the sun.
Mother says, Cut your hair, burn your soiled
clothes. What does it mean, this theatre
of fire and blood? Electricity jumps
from my fingertips. When no one's looking
I get down on my haunches. Uh-nuh
uh-nuh uh-nuh. Out slips Salamander-Baby,
all slimy mucus. I roll her in dust down
the road and into the lime kiln.
All night Baby bakes like clay.     23 Dance?
Dancing is a perpendicular expression for a horizontal desire.
—George Bernard Shaw
I would like to dance the rickety-dance across
the narrow bridge with you, dance
the coastal trail when the fog
has lifted: whiff of salt tug and pull
of tides. Where the forest meets the sea
and scrubby pines cling to cliffs
like ravaged ballerinas, I would like to
tap-a-toe, eat-a-beat, flick-a-wrist
And if the dance goes AWOL, I would
call it mealberry, draw you like a green
shoot through the pupil of my eye.
For the sake of the root-dance,
I would rotate my pelvis, lash kinnikinnick
shoots to my ankles, rarely stray from
the dance in which your legs like a happy
accident entwine with mine. Once,
I danced alone on an untrammelled fist
of land but now my buttock-dance
ties your tongue in knots, my heart and thigh
muscles grow strong. So slap your feet
scuff your heels, look the groin-thrust in the eye.
24     PRISM 48:1 Warren Heiti
Metamorphoses, Book 10
When Agriope plays piano, the shades
listen, the poplar and the willow are still
with listening, a single hawk
nails itself against the wind.
The light staggers three times
through the house of Pisces,
the geology of Hades' city
dances in a rigid grid. She is
stiff-fingered, her grief
is small as a salamander's
hand, her hair is long
as the rain's.
Every tree in the grove,
an interval of silence.
The ivory gate,
open. Echoing.    25 Sadiqa de Meijer
Where The Sky Is
A girl was missing.
Rosie had seen the poster when she went downstairs to get the
mail. The errand was still new for her, and she performed it with
a sense of gravity, the space between her eyebrows pinched as Oma
handed her the coin purse with its ring of keys. Closing the apartment
door, Rosie would sprint down the corridor and into the lobby, press
the down button, and listen for the elevator rising from the depths of the
building with a high-pitched whine.
The wait took courage. Three doors converged in the lobby from different wings, so that no matter how Rosie turned, one was always at her
back. Sometimes footsteps or the swell of voices reverberated through
the walls. The carpet was a hostile pink, the plastic plants too sparsely
leafed to form a hiding place. Still as a statue, Rosie would soundlessly
recite the city's bus routes: 7 Walling, 2 Valentine, 3 Barter's Bay. She knew
them all from 7 to 16.
But then there was the poster. A grainy photo of a laughing girl with
curly hair. MISSING since Tuesday, Rosie read. Melissa. Last seen in a blue
sweater, jeans and purple and white running shoes. Rosie felt her insides somersault as if she had looked down the narrow gap that formed between
the floor of the lobby and the open elevator doors and seen the mess
of cables, the depth of the shaft. Where did MISSING people go? She
thought of hibernating snakes, how they waited in a hidden burrow,
their heartbeats slowed.
The mailbox was full. Two supermarket flyers, a newspaper and an
envelope with thin, slanted writing addressed to Mrs. L. Plank That was
Oma's name.
They shared no obvious resemblance. Oma was soft and broad, and tapered down to sturdy, high-heeled shoes, her silhouette matching those
of her claw foot chairs. Rosie, knock-kneed and slight played shipwreck
in the width of the seats. Her grandmother moved languidly, unrushed,
while Rosie hurried from here to there. Rosie spoke quietly and Oma
near shouted. One common attribute, a quirk of inheritance, was their
fascination with the city buses.
Rosie loved those heaving vehicles. She loved the yellow cord that lit
26     PRISM 48:1 the Stop Requested sign, the perforated tickets and the vinyl seats, the hiss
of the opening doors. Whenever she stayed at Oma's, she loved watching over the buses from the apartment windows. Sighting an unusual
formation or an unforeseen sign change could halt the most pressing of
activities. Rosie would shout Four in a row! pushing aside her sketchbook and coloured pencils, and Oma would come with her knitting to
stare out the window, lowering her glasses and letting them rest on their
pearl chain. Or Oma would call out Special Express! in the middle of a
phone call, and Rosie would come running, holding a half-folded specimen of the paper planes that she often launched from the balcony.
Rosie stayed with Oma on the weekends. Her mother cleaned offices, and when Rosie was younger she used to go with her on Saturdays
and Sundays and play among the cubicles and swivel chairs while her
mother sprayed and mopped and rinsed. They brought a play pen for
her brother, and meals in microwave trays. When the shifts were late
ones, Rosie and her brother would sleep on the staff room couch until
their mother woke them to go home. Once in a while, an office worker
stopped in. Rosie's mother would greet the person as if they were all supposed to be there, but Rosie could hear the strain in her voice. "When
you're older," her mother would say afterwards, "you'll have sleepovers
at Oma's house."
Oma lived in a high-rise. The view from her windows was vast. In
the distance loomed the factories and smokestacks, blowing soot that
settled on windshields and streetlights and coats. Closer were the blocks
of small houses, aligned in duplicate rows. Only geraniums, tough as
barbed wire, bloomed in the rniniature yards. Gulls dove and rose, airplanes left streamers of smoke, and clouds passed over in unrepeatable
Oma and Rosie never dwelled on those sights. They watched the
roads for the solid bodies of the buses crawling dependably from stop
to stop. The terminal was across the road from Oma's building. Each
bus had its designated shelter there, pausing while their drivers read the
newspaper or smoked a cigarette. Rosie could read the route numbers
unassisted, though she sometimes used binoculars to monitor the streets.
She relayed the significant findings to Oma, who recorded them in the
pages of a notebook where they also glued their collected transfers and
When Rosie returned to the apartment she heard the shuffle of Oma's
heels on linoleum and rushed into the kitchen. She told Oma about the
posters, and the downstairs lobby with the scowling man and the woman
holding an enormous purse.
The man had looked at Rosie, then at the notice board that held three    27 posters of the girl, then back at her. "They're looking for you," he said.
Rosie had felt her face flush. "No, that isn't me."
The woman, leaning in towards her, brought her face close enough
that Rosie could smell her fruity breath. "Her eyes are different" the
woman said. "I'm almost sure."
"I'm not missing," Rosie told them, "I'm here. My Oma lives on fifteen." She gestured upwards with the mail. The man and the woman
continued to stare until Rosie lowered her eyes and counted the stripes
on her shoes.
"Is that right?" Oma frowned, stirring sugar into her coffee, the spoon
Rosie took the cup of hot milk from her and asked, "When nobody
knows where you are, are you still visible?"
"Sure. And you can still find your way home."
"What if you're lost?"
"Look at me," Oma said, "leaving breakfast crumbs on my bosom."
She wiped her hand across the merged shelf at the front of her dress.
"Those are your breasts," Rosie said.
It was a regular day. They played board games. Oma read the newspapers in her reclining chair, emitting clucks and Dear, oh dearsfrom behind
the newsprint screen. They went out to mail a letter. In the lobby, Oma
scrutinized the poster, shaking her head and hugging Rosie in a sort of
vice-grip. "I shouldn't have let you go downstairs. We'll do it together
from now on." While Oma cooked spaghetti, Rosie cut paper snowflakes
and practised handstands on the soft living room rug.
But she could not forget the girl. She had always been afraid of the
city children, who seemed tougher and more vocal than the ones in her
own town. At the end of every week, Rosie and her mother and brother
bought a few groceries and took them to Oma's apartment Sometimes,
they all walked to a park, where Rosie's mother might point out the riotous kids on the climbers and say Go ask them to play, and Rosie would
cower, preferring to sit on a bench. Now one of those city kids was MISSING, and Rosie felt disoriented. Could anything happen to anyone? Melissa, with the right kind of runners and a gap between her front teeth.
Melissa, who could be sleeping in a sand box and eating crabapples to
When Rosie was in bed, Mrs. Corin came by for tea. Rosie was having
trouble sleeping. She missed the sound of her brother's breathing, and
the blurred blue of his nightlight by the door of their room. Oma's blankets felt abrasive against her skin, and she could hear the conversation
in the living room, although its subjects felt remote. Her attention only
28     PRISM 48:1 rallied when she heard her name.
"Rosie," Mrs. Corin said, "she's shy as a mouse."
"Sometimes," said Oma, "but not with me."
"They call it streetproof," said Mrs. Corin. "You wouldn't want the
Rosie stayed awake after Mrs. Corin left. She heard the inscrutable
clunks and rinses of her grandmother moving about the bathroom, and
then the distant door of the bedroom clicking shut. She crept from her
bed and snuck down the hall, opening Oma's door just far enough to
look inside. She had meant to ask about streetproof, but the sight of her
grandmother lodged that question in her throat. There she was, past the
edge of the door, without an undershirt or bra, a drooping, wrinkled
breast on one side of her chest and the flat gash of a scar on the other.
She was putting her teeth in a glass, and her expression was more forlorn
than Rosie had ever witnessed before. Rosie walked backwards, waiting
to let out her breath.
The living room looked different in the moonlight as if the furniture
and the plates on the shelves and the heavy green tablecloth had grown
sentient watching every move that Rosie made. She had decided what
to do. She pulled out her sketchbook and tore out one page, and then
another, and another. She took a red marker, kneeled on the floor and
wrote MELISSA! on each sheet of paper. Then the number 1509. That
was Oma's apartment If Melissa found her way upstairs, Rosie would
give her a glass of milk and warm a bowl of leftover spaghetti. She would
even let her sleep on the pull-out bed in her room. She folded each page
into her best model of paper plane, opened the balcony door to a gush of
cold air, and released the planes towards the city lights below, watching
them drift and plunge until they disappeared.
Every so often, Oma and Rosie chose one bus to ride from the terminal
all the way back. The nest morning, they took the 12 Hollis Park It was
one of their favourite routes because it left the city for a few minutes and
passed through the marshes. There were no stops on the marsh road.
The waving grasses and expanses of water seemed part of an untouchable world. Rosie was good at spotting the shapes of herons and turtles
among the reeds. The only other bus that went outside the city was the
16Eastlakeiha.t ran to Rosie's town. Oma would take Rosie home on the
earliest one the next day.
They took a thermos of hot chocolate. When the bus turned into the
marsh, Rosie scanned the green for signs of Melissa.
"You look on that side," she said to Oma, "for footprints or a hut. Or
maybe smoke."
But there was nothing remarkable to see, and soon enough the bus    29 f
was back in the city, where Rosie knew that everyone was already looking. Or so she assumed—some people, like the woman checking her
watch at a stop and waving the Hollis Park past or the butcher standing
outside his store, did not seem unusually alert.
After they returned to the apartment, they made lunch and played
crazy eights, and Rosie watched a television show about the Great Barrier Reef.
Just as they finished eating dinner, the doorbell rang. Rosie recognized Mrs. Corin's shape through the textured glass of the door. She
opened it.
Mrs. Corin sang down her "Hello" as if Rosie was still small. She
leaned intently on her cane and her breath came in rasps. "Is Oma
Rosie moved into the closet to make room for her grandmother,
pressing herself into the perfumed winter coats.
"There's a rumour," Mrs. Corin said, "that they found the young girl's
sweater." Then her voice lowered to a whisper, and Rosie had to strain
to hear, "I only hope she wasn't raped."
After Oma closed the door, Rosie asked her what raped meant.
"You're too young. I can't tell you that" Oma said, her mouth closing
But Rosie pestered her. She asked as she helped clear the table, and
she asked as she dried their plates and cutlery, and pleaded while they
warmed a pot of milk, until Oma finally said grimly: "It's something awful that a man can do to a woman, when they're naked."
That was enough for Rosie to contemplate.
She opened her sketchbook to a blank page and began a new drawing, starting with the sky. Rosie was proud of her skies. Her brother still
drew them as if they were a bar of blue along the upper edge of the paper, but Rosie knew they reached down to the ground, that there was sky
touching the tree branches, separating people's fingers, caught between
bicycle spokes. She paused her drawing just in time to say, "They're
turning in!"
That was a predictable, peaceful thing the buses did on Sunday evenings, all of them.
"Yes," Oma said, "I'm coming."
Then Rosie noticed the white cars with red lights, police cars, that
were parking in front of the building. Three of them blocked the driveway. Another one pulled up to the laundry room exit. "Look at that" she
Oma clucked her worried sound. "I hope it's not a burglary."
Rosie and Oma stood close to the window, in the carpeted haven of
the apartment the glow of the globe-shaped lamp. Rosie sharpened a
30     PRISM 48:1 pencil, slow and thoughtful, and Oma knitted so quickly that the needles
ticked. They watched as the white cars waited in a line. Gulls streaked
past and smokestacks fumed, and the buses pulled in one by one, a herd
of sleepy, benevolent creatures, their lights going out.    31 E.A. Carpentier
The Dumb Supper
Tonight we use what's left of the family
china, French and rimmed with an old kind of green
and gold, a frivolous curlicue of a "C" right there
in the centre of the plates like a meal.
There are only two of us but we've set many places,
counting back all the dead we can remember
and name; tonight we light
black and white candles, for absence and remembrance.
I pull gauze from the closet and
linen, frayed and stained,
more the colour of old tea. I want us
to pretend, dress up, to be other than ourselves
and you refuse as you do
every year; you won't entertain
the thought of parties, crass
celebrations that don't in truth, bear any known relation to the dead.
So here we are instead with our silent meal,
our empty table full of food—
pumpkins, rice, whisky—
sotto voce, we attempt articulation,
speak of love and the missing, mix longing with dark wine.
32     PRISM 48:1 Ronnie R. Brown
For almost a year now
she has been facinated
by the way razor blades
glide through the surface
of skin. Scars
on every inch of her
attest to this facination.
Her father recalls
her perfection, how
when she was born
he couldn't believe
skin could be
so soft. Now he tries
to comprehend the fact
that something is very,
very wrong.
Later, after she sneaks out
in the middle of the night,
purchases starter fluid,
sets a portion of her arm
on fire, he will note
how burning flesh smells
remarkably like pot roast—
he will say this
with the kind of incredulity
you might use if,
on entering your daughter's room,
you found her
floating high above
her bed, or perhaps,
spun into a cocoon
awaiting metamorphosis.     33 Lauren Carter
The Double
Let loose in my twenties, she is
still at the bar,
staring into some mirror—
draped with lights
made of plastic chili-peppers
or miniature
disco balls—looking for
a lover.
I cannot help what she does. She
is at least writing
it all down. I read the script
at night as
she sleeps, as we sleep together,
both in a blur
of a dream brought on by
I know, I know, neither of us
should be drinking
but I let her do what she wants.
Follow the watery
trail of the moon down
an alley lined
by garage doors, face to face
with startled
cats, with a surprised man who tugs
up her skirt and
pushes her against the crumbling
brick wall when
34     PRISM 48:1 she asks him to. I am out of breath
just trying to keep
up with her, my own life
a blank plain
untouched by much colour other
than the blue lines
that run evenly across
the page. I
love her, even though she starves
herself, forgets
to shower, believes in the
darkness that
builds fortress after fortress in
her brain. She lies
beside me, pressed against
my belly
and my breasts, and I sing to her,
a lullaby
I have almost forgotten,
but in a voice
deepened by cigarette
smoke, she fills
in the missing words.     35 Lucretia Smith
Pop Star Sparkling
Andy Gibb wants to marry me. His song "Shadow Dancing" has
been Number One for seven weeks. On the back of the album
cover, he is wearing platinum satin pants and an unbuttoned silvery silky shirt. I can see the hair on his chest I can't believe the way
he looks on that album cover. His legs are open, and I am slowly understanding what is between them, under gleaming fabric.
He takes me out to dinner where I can eat everything I want He has
his guitar. The restaurant is fancy. Champagne dances in pale cups that
are upturned half-bells. The napkins are cloth, too. I wear black chiffon,
the gold threaded in my semi-sheer black dress a disco glint, just like the
top I saw at the mall. Only better. I am in Junior High but with Andy
it doesn't matter. I am mature for my age. I bloomed early. His smile
is sweet as he orders for me: Fettuccini Alfredo and Tab on ice. Then
we go swimming and he holds me in his arms. We splash around. The
sun is setting, and everything is orange and pink, even our skin. I wear a
gold swimsuit His is sea-green. He sings one of his songs for me as the
water moves like music around us. We are sea creatures. Coming up for
air is fun, sputtering water looks like diamonds scattering. I tell him if he
wants to visit me at school to ask for me over the intercom.
We walk barefoot on the sand. We have dessert under the stars. Baked
Alaska, or maybe cherries jubilee. He holds my hand. I count his freckles. He calls them sun kisses. He has so many of them, I could connect
them like dots with the tips of my fingers, or the tip of my tongue. I am
too shy to tell him this, or to do this. We both wish on a shooting star, but
do not tell each other what we wish. It's bad luck to say what you wish
out loud. I have a career so I have to get up early. Andy drives me home
with the top down, my hair drying in the wind. There are a thousand
stars in the sky.
I see the same stars out my open bedroom window. I watch the night's
luminous blue deepen into black. My skin is clean and smells like the
beach. I fall asleep in a plump pink bed that smells freshly laundered,
like flowers, or as if the ocean wind dried the linens.
36     PRISM 48:1 Instead of going to school the next day, I go to work. I'm a real career
girl. My black pencil skirt is tight pinstripe, and has a matching vest. I
button the vest and wear it as a top, with nothing on underneath. I have
nail polish on my fingernails. It's on my toenails, too, but it's a gleaming
red secret beneath my scrunchy boots. I look like my favorite model in
the comic Millie the Model or in the magazine Cosmopolitan. All day long
I make up names for lipsticks. Fire and Ice. Cotton Candy Pink. Melba
Toast. The day passes quickly. Lots of people want to talk to me. Andy
sends me a bouquet of flowers and everyone sees them. Daffodils, or
daisies. They smell earthy. He also sends me a heart-shaped box with an
assortment of chocolates. I like the ones with cream. I really like the ones
with nuts but cream is sexier.
The year before I loved Andy, I loved the band Kiss. They played hard
rock. They wore costumes, and make-up, and they had their own comic
book. I read they put their own blood in the comic book's ink. On the
way home from my career I see them walking down the street The
whole band! The band on my turntable, the band shouting out loud in
my headset the band painted in black, silver, and white with just a little
bit of red on my mirror at home. They all follow me. We look like shiny
sequins in motion on rich velvet
Paul, the one with the star on his eye and the red kiss lips, waits until I
unlock my door then he walks fast up to me and slams the door behind
us. Somehow, my front room feels like an outdoor garden. There are
huge potted plants, the smell of a thousand tiny white flowers, the sound
of a miniature waterfall. What are you doing, I ask, but he grabs me
and kisses me. It feels good, but scary, like when I listen to his music—I
am never sure what will happen next and so I keep listening. I run my
hands through his long dark hair. I really like your skirt, he whispers as
he lifts it and kisses me some more. His hands—those long, strong guitar-
playing fingers—on my bare thighs. His red-lipsticked mouth opens. His
tongue is pink and soft, and tastes that way too, like candy. I remember
Andy and push Paul away. Let's just go for a walk, he says, so we walk
to a stream by my house. We hold hands, swinging them back and forth,
and now I am wearing a long white skirt with three tiers in it and a white
top with off-the-shoulder sleeves made of lace. The skirt flows even when
I stand still. Paul kisses my exposed shoulder. His makeup is bright in the
starlight. My feet are bare and wet or maybe I am wearing those gold
sandals that have shiny ribbons winding up my calves. He pushes down
my shirt some more and keeps kissing my throat and it tingles and then
he starts to kneel me down sort of backward as he hugs me to him, and     37 he's looking so good doing that. I have to have you, he whispers in my
ear. His voice is low and husky. He's a real man. I feel tendons pulsing.
When he says the word "come" it is just like in the song, the star on his
eye, stars in mine, just like the bits of glitter in my mirror at home. But
then I hear boots splashing, and I look over Paul's shoulder, and it's
Andy! Just when Paul is unzipping his tight white jeans under my triple-
tiered cotton skirt.
Andy hits Paul over the head with his guitar. Paul falls to his knees. See
what happens when you leave your guitar at home? My clothes are wet
and see-through, and both men are looking at me. A love song plays in
my head, the one Andy sings about words and music, raindrops and
snow, so I walk off with Andy under the whiteness of the big full moon.
Andy gets down on one knee. Will you marry me? At our wedding, my
tiara will be simple but elegant. I will carry white roses. The wedding
cake will look like a turntable, or a mirrored disco ball. There is a tiny
black velvet box in his open palm, a heart-shaped diamond like starlight
inside. Come with me, he says. That sweet smile, just like on the cover of
his album. The emerald green leaves wave in the evening sky. We both
turn into glitter and sparkle away.
38     PRISM 48:1 Aaron Giovannone
You Will Sit Here Until You
Aren't Embarrassed to Look
at These Photos
There's someone pretty sitting on a wall in San Gimignano
in big sunglasses, looking perfect above the Tuscan landscape.
She's shaking a pebble from her boot like her memory of me.
Here are all of us in an impromptu drunkenness
clutching plastic cups of glii win in a piazza, at Christmas.
I still had the bomber jacket with the fur-trimmed collar
in a club where we bobbed to the boom-chick of eurodance.
She closed her eyes, pursed her lips, leaned closer
and I
turned to the table for a drink.
My jacket was gone
and my odd gait speed-walking home
with my hands in my pockets
said idiot.    39 Smoke Machine
Smoke pours from the smoke machine,
hisses out spills upside down into the air
where we're at a party. Ta da.
I don't know you
but we're talking.
It's a miracle of drunkenness
not reproducible under sober conditions.
Whatever's said dissolves in the machine's hum,
whatever's seen in time's fumes.
It smells like a wedding reception in 1987.
Apparently we dance
and having forgotten this I feel
even farther from you.
40     PRISM 48:1 A Constellation of Inattention
was throbbing on the windowsill:
a cactus pointing everywhere.
Some days I noticed it
and some days I didn't
and that's how I'll describe my summer there.
The sun scorched my nose
but I was always catching raffreddori
which felt colder than colds
blasting through the open car window.
I whipped around the mountain curves
staring at the olive groves that stitched up the valley
when a cyclist swerved from the rock face.
Slamming on the brakes you
left yourself behind.    41 Grand Opening at a Winery
In Niagara-on-the-Lake, they have one "piazza"
and according to the brochure, it's under this patio.
The pinot grigio is pretty generic
but the chardonnay snaps back like a half-cracked walnut.
These tenderloin slices feel like lips on my lips,
the liquid surface of my being being rilled
and when I drained that last pinot noir
the pressure in my head dropped.
The lovely sommelier (sommeliere?)
fills her mother's glass before mine
getting my mom drunk, she laughs.
42     PRISM 48:1 Ben Hart
It's burlesque—the way he undoes
his top button, strays into a tune
about a faldero like himself, un hombre
who loves todas las mujeres.
Seems unfair. Him stuck on stage
while they're on the floor.
Everyone overdone and spinning.
Red skirts, moustaches,
black silk shirts. But not him.
The faldero is shadows and thinning
hair. Loose skin. His clothes
threadbare. Tango show accordion player—
that handle used to carry some weight Now, he carries
weight Fat hanging like a sack of flour
from his waist. When he sang songs
about getting women, he got women.
Now, when he sings, it's about forgetting
women—songs about all the women
who've forgotten him.     43 Flaneur
-after Flaneur, Granville by Fred Herzog
In that photo from the sixties, he's in a fedora
and an overcoat propped up against a stone facade
thrown in marquee glow, doing his best Baudelaire,
fingering a hand-rolled and blowing smoke.
You don't get much of his face. The camera angled
over his shoulder so you see him as he sees
what he sees. Ask what
he's doing, he'll tell you what he's doing
is not doing a goddamn thing.
To be an observer, he'll say,
you have to observe
this distance. He'll let you know
it's all for his benefit—
girls snooting around in leather boots.
Dudes shooting up in the alley. Kids cruising
on motorized scooters. Old kooks
in zoot suits. Summertime
parades. Chinatown. Honey-glazed
heaps of noodle, doughy bits.
But shit man, he'll say, it's hard work
bearing witness to all this. And, sometimes,
it seems a waste—standing out front,
watching folks file in, but never bothering
to buy yourself a ticket for the show.
44     PRISM 48:1 Mary B. Valencia
When you went into rehab I developed an addiction to home
renovation shows. In fleece pajamas, slouched in the worn
green wing back, I surfed between HGTV and W, Colour Confidential and Property Virgins.
Contractors tore up stained shag carpets with X-Acto knives, pulled
and peeled them to unearth pine-knotted floors. Piaster walls crumbled
to studs. Hutches and sideboards were hauled out for open concept
kitchens. Flip This House said to uproot garden grape trellises for new
buyers. Property values rose $100,000 in eight breezy months.
The hours evaporated. Under the weight of my feet recently stripped
hardwood bounced because of the rotting sub floor. I peeled away green
painter's tape from around the fight socket and flicked the switch. Too
awake, I popped your valerian and set the kettle for chamomile tea.
The tip of my nose was cold. Since you left, the heat sat at sixty to save
money. You wanted to help with the mortgage but I said to save for first
and last You would need that nest egg when you returned to the city.
Upstairs, I slept on the bare mattress with a duvet on top. I hadn't
cleaned the sheets. They smelled too much of you—smoke and alcohol
strained through sweaty skin. Besides, the dryer had broken and I didn't
know where to hang them. When you fell in the bathroom the wire dry
rack from Walmart bent under your weight
"I'm better now, I understand everything," you promised on the phone.
At Clear Heaven, you cross-country skied in the afternoons, following
wolf tracks down to the creek. In the evenings, you completed fill-in-the-
blank cognitive behaviour therapy homework and practiced "Let it Be"
on your acoustic.
You told me about the guy from North Battleford who snored on the
top bunk and laughed too hard at dinner. How you felt sorry for him,
because someone had masturbated in his Mind Over Mood textbook.
"I'm a model student" you said.
We went paddling last August with Donna and Miguel in Algonquin.    45 Each pair of us in a canoe. You liked their matching red bandanas tied
around their necks. At a river bend, a blue heron lifted up above the
You cocked your head up. "That's a sign."
I wanted to crawl over the rocking floor of the canoe and kiss your
face, that lovely ginger five o'clock shadow. You dipped your paddle,
pushing us along the river bed. We floated forward. Grey antlers blended in with reeds.
"A moose," I whispered.
You nodded, balancing the oar on your lap. Under magic hour light,
the pines were velvet-tipped marker green.
" Uno, dos, tres," Miguel shouted.
We raced each other to the campsite at Proulx Lake.
"I'm tired," you said, and slowed down, catching your breath with
each stroke.
Donna and Miguel were half a canoe ahead of us.
"Cuatro," I said, pushing you. "So am I. Let's keep up. CincoV
You steered sloppily, holding us back, but I kept counting.
I woke up choking, forgetting how to swallow. There was so much plaster dust. It collected and piled up like thick grey cotton under the night
table. It stuck to the unfinished oak floor and the plywood counter tops.
It covered the Peace Lily, waning her waxy leaves. I hadn't washed the
furnace filter. It was too big for the laundry room sink.
We were the only ones on Pont des Arts that icy January night. It was
dinner time and Orsay sparkled above the Seine. Your hands cupped
my ears, warming them.
"I love you." Steam puffed between your syllables. I had just yelled
at a security guard for shoving us past Yves Klein's Blue Monochrome. We
had been savouring Klein's stillness—a six-foot high blue rectangle, the
only piece in a white room. It was a pure, perfectly concocted ultramarine that soaked into our skin.
"Excuse me," I pointed to the hanging clock, "there are still twenty
minutes to closing."
"Time to move along," the guard said. He blocked the painting, arms
"This is bullshit" I swore. "Une histoire de con." I spun around and
walked out of the museum, afraid to look at you.
Outside you told me again, "I love you. You know you did something
wrong and you won't do it again." You smiled. "It's okay."
46     PRISM 48:1 I reached up and rubbed my cheek against your beard. I wanted you
to be my dad then. I wished you had always been with me. That's why
I hung onto you us for so long, because of that moment when you loved
me so perfectly. You kissed my hand and we walked arm in arm to the
Latin Quarter. You bought me a Nutella crepe.
When we bought the house, you paced back and forth in the realty office. Your hands were clasped behind your back like my grandfather
used to do. You were a man with an important decision weighing in
on him, focused, reeling in all the lines that were to tie you down. That
made me happy. I loved your pacing. Your pressed pants and handshakes with the agent connected you to my daily deadlines, 6:30 a.m.
alarms and bimonthly paycheques. On Saturdays we would sip morning
coffee together, then tear out the faux wood kitchen cabinets or rip up
the mauve linoleum in the foyer.
The first night we moved in, you cabled the television outside and
hung a navy tarp to protect us from the rain. We watched the Habs beat
the Leafs. It was end of April, chilly, and we tugged on our windbreak-
ers to keep warm. The pear tree had blossomed white petals and the
branches scratched the top of my head. The earth smelled like green
I tried to wash away your wiry red hairs with the hand-held shower head.
Congealed with shampoo, they stuck to the tub no matter how hard I
scrubbed. I traded in the baking soda and vinegar for Ajax. I crawled in
the bath and lay on my back, drizzling hot water on my belly. My skin
turned blotchy from the heat. Outside the window, snowflakes spat on
the slate-sloped rooftops between bits of blue sky. You weren't there
sleeping off a hangover in the next room, pushing the day away. It was
quiet The emptiness was there, but now it was only mine to navigate.
I dried off and walked downstairs without any clothes on. I never did
that. I didn't care that the back window had no curtain, that there were
nails and sawdust on the floor, that a snake's den of cable hugged the
On Tuesday I rolled the recycling bin to the curb and lifted the blue
lid. Empties. I picked out a crumpled cider can, Tennent's Extra-Strong
Lager and a Srnirnoff forty ouncer.
"Dad." Down the street a little boy looked up to his father, one step
ahead, in a grey parka. "Is that a star?" The boy pointed to the night-orange    47 I
Toronto sky. A plane flew overhead—its light bright and singular.
I carried the bottles back through the house. Yellow beer drops dotted the kitchen floor. I swung the back door open and flung the bottles
clear across the yard. The Tennent's smashed against the cinder block
garage wall. The others landed safely on a blanket of snow.
I didn't understand the consequences of owning a row house. Love It or
List It said that it would limit the appreciation value.
"Make sure it's well insulated," the agent repeated, and sped off in
his green MG. We made the most of the shared wall. Their bathroom
was our headboard, and I listened to them brushing their teeth at night
We used to laugh at their horking. I wondered if they heard the morning alarm, our heated penetrating breaths, our grunting, or crying, then
arguing. Did they hear me the time I ran up the stairs and threw your
bottle of vodka against the wall? Did they hear you vow, "I'll just go buy
You hated the chain link fence until I pointed out the visual depth. We
weren't constricted by six-foot high wooden fences. We sat under the
vine trellis, swollen grape bunches heavy. Our garden was framed by
the fence line. The border was defined by the holes. Right through the
holes, the neighbour's prairie grasses, lavender and Rose of Sharon.
Green reached all the way through the chain links to the other yards.
If you stood at the base of our pear tree, you could see an entire row of
fruit trees—cherry, peach, apple—a stretched oudine, a secret orchard
in the city.
I stared at our closet before pulling out your clothes. It was narrow,
so the coat hangers hung sideways. Candice Olsen from Divine Design
would have suggested we deepen it borrowing from the hall linen closet
adding Ikea Pax built-ins.
On the closet floor was a cardboard box. Inside were your journals—
a collection of Hilroy spirals and Moleskines. The latter a gift from me,
dedicated in my own handwriting: You are in my hair, my mouth and
my spine. Underneath the journals were more bottles.
I ran my hand along the top closet shelf, over rolled sweaters. I pulled
out two empty cans of Guinness and a very good Napa Valley Cabernet
Sauvignon. I searched my office and the cold storage. I searched under
the front porch.
48     PRISM 48:1 Sunday night at eight o'clock the phone rang unknown name, unknown
number but I knew it was you. You called from the pay phone in the
television lounge. Your bunk mates reclined in brown La-Z-Boys with
Bart Simpson blaring in the background. You told me how healthy you
were and that you'd be able to drink moderately when you got out even
though my counselor said that guaranteed a relapse.
"What about three months sober with me, for us." It sounded like I
was begging.
"Because I don't want to," you said.
"Because I'm in control now."
"You're not the exception!" I slammed the phone down.
Do you remember walking through the open house, just for a look? Your
hand rubbed the small of my back as we looked at the garden. We would
turn the double garage into your music studio. The agent punched numbers into his calculator and suggested we rent out the basement to lower
payments. He said to picture the living room without the bulky furniture
or porcelain statues.
Downstairs, the owners made red wine—oak barrels filled the cold
storage cantina. It smelt of malt and mold.
"We can brew beer down here," you said and lifted up one of the
fermenting tubes.
"S-ure. Whatever brings us self-sufficiency."
I found more bottles behind the washing machine, under the Nova Scotia pine hutch, in the coffee table storage, and in-between the box spring
and the mattress in the guest room. You certainly were industrious.
I dumped the empties out the back door. I let them roll down the
steps, get kicked around by the wind. I crawled back on the couch and
pulled Nan's red afghan up to my ears. I watched Mike Holmes from
Holmes on Homes. Teary-eyed women reached out to him after he'd sealed
foundations, retiled cracked entrance ways and added radiant flooring as
a surprise.
After the show, I pulled a Winston's from your leftover pack. I smoked
it on the front porch. A neighbour had let his husky loose on the soccer
field across the street. It zigzagged between the goal posts. Behind the
field, the beer store sign poked up.
"It's like we live in Quebec," you said to me once with a twelve-pack
propped on your shoulder.     49 I leaned on the front railing and let my weight fall. The cigarette tip
was pointy from the wind. I dropped it and slowly smushed the filter
with the heel of my rubber boot
I walked up the street to the liquor store. The man in line behind me
set three tall beer cans and a mickey of Canadian Iceberg Vodka on the
counter. He flipped his long hair behind his red ears.
"I love the LCBO," I said extra loudly, passing my credit card to the
cashier. "It's good to monitor distribution."
"Yes?" he asked. He reached for my Henry of Pelham.
"Alcohol's the only thing that'll kill you when in withdrawal," I said.
"Not even heroin can do that."
The cashier flattened his maroon tie and handed me the receipt
"Thanks for the tip." He scanned the man's vodka bottle.
It had been a long while since I poured a glass of wine, re-corked the bottle and let it sit on the kitchen counter. I made a box of Annie's Mac and
Cheese, chewed loudly and slurped big gulps of wine while I watched
Garden by the Yard An excavation technician dug deeper trenches in a
city garden for increased vegetable yields.
"It's always about the soil, reverence for this living organism," the
grey-haired host squinted at the camera.
When the credits rolled I went out back. The February sun had kick-
started the sap. New brown branches sprouted from vines. The snow
had melted along the garden cement path. I could see, between a chocolate bar wrapper and a brick, the garage door opener. You had lost it
before Christmas.
The air was still. I blew perfect smoke rings. They floated up to the
blue evening sky—Yves Klein blue. What was the yard like before these
brick houses, garages and alleys? On the edge of this great lake, was
there still a forest of tree roots under my feet?
In the garden patch, the snow was rough, granulated like sugar. This
was where our heirloom tomatoes, green peppers and eggplants grew
last summer. I picked up your empty bottles. I planted rows of blue
Lowenbrau, green Harps and mini-keg Heinekens. In between, cigarette
butts lined up like budding orange Styrofoam seedlings. In the last row,
arranged in degrading order, were the Smirnoffs—forty ounce, twenty-
six ounce, mickey, half-mickey. At the very end of the row, a clear little
Ativan bottle you stole, prescribed for my air travel. I left the bottles
there. They're waiting for you to claim them.
50     PRISM 48:1 Jane Munro
What if a name
bestowed character? Became itself—
as does an iris taking on
hazel or grey or green or brown
precipitated from a newborn's navy blue-
by hauling in a mysterious anchor,
stowing in the namesake's locker
wet coils connected to other sea bottoms,
to flanges cutting under anemones,
cast shells, tilted rock?
What if a name
carried, encoded in its voicing,
a link to other speakers
who spoke it—scathingly, urgently—
calling it out in woods and hearing it
shoulder through leaves,
hurrying, hurrying to the one
within hailing distance?
Or the murmur
when a lover turned his head, lips
no longer on her lips,
sighing her name?
Subde signature-
a mitochondria of usage—is this how
a word knows so much?    51 For see how the jasmine
releases and lets fall its
withered flowers
The clutter and clatter
of what I drag
along behind me—a dilapidated cart
rocking on its wooden wheels
over roots
and rubble on a track
through second-growth alder, wind-bent spruce,
past trail-side mounds of sharp-edged grass
habituated to salt air,
splay of knotted ropes
pulling chairs, bedsteads, tables, hutches,
even an overflowing Turkish han—market and caravansarylike a tottering museum piece, oozing smoke, spilling
tears and grain and silk-wrapped books, stinking
of saddles and piss-pots in its corners
and, trailing after this rattletrap,
the silent child
with her kites of longing, their shard-coated cords
slicing each other, paper fishes
drifting off to clouds—no wonder
it takes such energy
to get going:
can I not
emerge from the past's brown days, leave them
dropped here, to decay
with toppled trees and fallen branches, overtaken
by salal and coated with moss, and walk
quiefly and freely on my way?
52     PRISM 48:1 Here, the air is visible
each particle carries
a mirror of water
spruce needles
ferret out beads of moisture,
collect a delicate rain
for their dry roots
elsewhere, the sky is clear,
the day warm—
bees keep busy, cats loll in the sun-
but this fog
is not moved: it holds its seat
the air gathers more lumen-
its mirrors coated with mother-of-pearl:
breath's lustre—
as if the usually transparent atmosphere
sat brooding
on its acumen, hour after hour
determined to see itself
to memorize
its features so that when it gets up,
stretches, and begins to act
it will not forget itself     53 The inner eye
while practicing asanas,
turning out hip sockets
like the white linings of trouser pockets,
emptying the walking sticks of femurs into its palms
and rotating their noggins (as if thighs
could walk away from knees, quit sharing messy desks
criss-crossed with phone lines and ligaments)—
that little eye on its fine tube
trained in pranayama
to probe the airways: lung's tennis court
jammed with pup tents—note taut rows
neatly inflated, scouts running about
trading hats and badges—then saggy, sleepy rows—
even the abandoned bundles in the cubbies
under the collar bones—that little working eye recording
findings, reel after reel of documentation—
the utile everyday eye following the breath,
watching as troops head out on many trails—turning up
for a rescue: scrambling onto the edge of pain, watching
breath throw out a line, haul the injured one up to a stretcher,
tuck her under a blanket give sips of tea from a thermos—
the little eye by her side, taking her hand—
54     PRISM 48:1 yes, the little eye
on long holdings withdrawn
to the map room, to the charts it can unroll
across the navigator's table to pinpoint a channel
sounded one rainy afternoon—the eye sketching a route,
persuaded by a visiting yogi that there's a fine blue passage
rurming from inner ear to lower brain, down through
vertebrae (five, six, seven), branching
out to an iris on the shoulder blade, down arm,
across elbow, out thumb—a thread like an embroidery yarn,
each stitch visible in the body and marked on his chart—
an eye willing to see blue lines and red lines
like wiring inside the skin, an eye
like a hydro electrician bent on lighting up a plant—
and at rest
the closing eye's drooping gaze
sliding down the nose like ghee, a fat drop at its tip,
falling into the soup, watching while not watching
the pot as tiny bubbles creep up the side
and something circulates, perhaps a chunk of carrot—
feeling the gaze spread wider, glaze over
until things extend into their reflections
and fight dissolves all density—
the eye out of sight
and sense
still clarifying
the body while it simmers^the eye
dropped like a strand of egg white
into stock, turning over,
tumbling into threads—blindly collecting what's opaque,
withdrawing it—at work even when
at rest: yes, that eye
clarifying    55 & Kennedy Sobol
End-Effectors of Series A
1. Tammy
Tammy sat in the cube next to me at work. Every year when she
planned her vacation, she called ahead to the zoo in the city where
she'd be staying to find out if there would be any animal babies
on display at that time. You could say that I was in love with her.
2. Plans
My very first robot was a sweeper. It had rubber wheels and a dustpan
chin. A long arm like a windshield wiper extended out in front with a
brush attached along the bottom so that it could pull dust and hair and
bits of things towards itself. The idea came to me when I lost my job in
the accounting department. Before I left the building. Before I left the
room even. As I sat there listening to Johnson, my supervisor, my eyes
couldn't keep their focus. The outline of his thin white dress shirt blurred
in and out of the foreground. He got so agitated as he explained why
they were letting me go that by the end of it he was on his feet pacing
back and forth.
"We're trying to maintain a certain environment here," he said. I pictured the office as some kind of pristine biodome, an oversized terrarium
whose carefully cultivated plant life and moisture levels I had contaminated.
Behind him, on a lacquered, dust-covered credenza, was a paper plate
and a Dixie cup left over from the previous week's party. Tammy was
in charge of those types of things (the birthday fund, pizza Fridays, the
office picnic), and as I stared at a plastic fork resting close to the plate's
edge, it became clear that this world was now closed off to me forever.
In the next instant I had it all planned out: not just the sweeper robot but an entire series of small, household robots for every imaginable
domestic task. Robots for dusting and folding and painting and mending, robots for opening jars, turning mattresses and pouring drinks. A
grasping robot for retrieving things from hard-to-reach places, and one
to feed the family pets. As Johnson spoke I swivelled back and forth in
my seat knees and feet twisting from side to side, my mind perfecdy still
56     PRISM 48:1 and calm. I was no longer an accountant Without leaving that maroon-
coloured chair, I had become a maker of robots.
Johnson had stopped talking and was just watching me, like I was a
shipment that had arrived defective, but my heart was jubilant. Nothing
could mar the sense of purpose I felt. I stood up, shook his hand, and
3. The Mailman
The mailman leaves elastic bands at the end of the driveway. He takes
them off bundles of flyers and envelopes and chucks them there. When
the snow melted, a loose pile of them had collected in a rut between the
lawn and the asphalt: brown, green, faded rubber ball-red. I wanted to
take them all and hurl them across the windshield of his van. But I didn't
have the nerve, and now that he stops by every Tuesday morning to
check in on me and my robots, I have given up on that plan.
I started small, with robotic insects built from pre-made kits. A beetle
that changes direction when you clap, a grasshopper with light-sensitive
antennae. I subscribed to Everyday Practical Electronics and Robot Magazine.
The mailman, seeing this, offered up a trove of old electronics textbooks
that he had inherited. Inside the front cover of each one was inscribed
the name Hart McCarty, sometimes over and over again in a single column.
"My father,'' said the mailman, whose name was Hart McCarty too.
"He liked repetition."
Now I've got him hooked on All My Children as well. It airs around the
time that he comes by, and he sometimes takes a coffee break with me.
It's Tammy's favourite soap opera, so if I ever run into her again, we'll
have something in common that we can discuss. Recendy the daughter
Susan Lucci put up for adoption tracked her down. Her name is Kendall
and now she is falling for Anton, the romantic Hungarian son of the
romantic Hungarian Dmitri. They are royalty in some way, and have a
fortune, and an estate called Wildwind, with horses. Probably that was a
thing that would appeal to Tammy most the horses.
4. Neighbours
"Shame about your apple tree."
I keep tugging at the weeds. I had successfully ignored my neighbour
for half an hour, making sure to always have my back to him as he
shuffled around uselessly between his garage and his front step, picking
up planters, rearranging them, coiling and uncoiling garden hoses. Now
he has wandered across the street and is standing over me, casting a    57 shadow across the earwigs scattering from under the flat rock I have just
"Oh yeah, how's that?" I say without looking up.
"Well," he says, at a loss and gesturing toward all the apples that have
fallen off the tree in my front yard. They have begun to form mashed
orange patches of rot all over the grass. I stare at him. He continues
"I mean, don't you make apple pies or apple...tarts?"
I keep staring. He nods his head a little, rhythmically, as though he's
running through a list of recipes in his head, trying to come up with another use for apples before I can say anything.
"What is the matter with you?" My voice is loud. It surprises me. Besides Hart, I haven't talked to anyone in almost two months. "Can't you
see that this tree has a blight?" I yell. "They're no good!"
He backs away, but he knows I'm right. It's not my fault I can't keep
up with these fucked-up scarred and gnarly apples—the tree is overproducing them. Each branch is heavy with a cluster of fruit three times
fuller than normal; where one or two apples should be, there are five
hanging off the same heroic twig, misshapen and growing into one another, none of them round, all covered in indents from the pressure of
other apples growing against their sides.
5. Highlights
Tammy had highlights done once every six weeks, and unlike all the
other admins, who wore their hair short and feathered back at the sides,
hers was long and perfectiy straight. She would always look up at you
when you walked past—eyes coal-bright like a rabbit or a bird—with a
smile like she was just seeing you for the first time in years.
6. The Robot Laboratory
I don't miss my office at all. Everything that's important to me now is in
the basement in the robot laboratory. I built the lab myself, in one weekend. I went to an auction and bought the entire contents of an old dentist's office. All-metal cabinets, pale green and seamless, with a stainless
steel work surface. I thought at first that I would line them all up against
one wall, but when I got them home I discovered that it was possible to
arrange the sections at right angles so that they formed three walls where
they stood in the centre of the basement, a separate room. I keep my
plans and schematics tacked to a large piece of corkboard at the back of
one counter, and my tools arranged neatly below it. In the middle of the
lab is a long metal table, and this is where I do my best work. When a
58     PRISM 48:1 robot is finished I test it out here for a while, then if I'm satisfied with the
results, I move it upstairs.
7. Haunted House
I dream that I've built a haunted house. It isn't really a house, just a
single room containing a family of small robots. There are two kids, a
mother, and a father who carries a briefcase like he is going off to work,
though he never leaves the room. At night they stop moving and a ghost
robot begins to hover smoothly around the dark cube, glowing soft and
translucent like a jellyfish moving through a band of light
8. Tad Martin
I see Tammy at the Dairy Queen. It's a total coincidence, but then I
follow her in my Pinto to the Giant Tiger, or the GT Boutique as it is
known, and then to her house. She walks up her driveway with a large
plastic bag knocking against her legs, the face of a yellow cat beaming
out from it She gets momentarily tangled up in the bag, and stumbles
forward a little. I can't see her face but I picture her smiling to herself
and biting her bottom lip. One time, I tried to say something nice about
her freckles, but it backfired. / hate them, she said, actually angry, not at
me but at the freckles somehow, and I was so surprised by this side of
her that all I could tliink to say was no. No. She bit her lip for a second,
then laughed as though nothing at all had happened.
I imagine that I am Thaddeus Martin, who is kind of a private investigator on All My Children. If that was the case, I mean if I was Tad and she
was Dixie, say, I wouldn't be out here crouched down in my car, parked
behind the drooping branches of a massive Scotch Pine. We would be
the loves of each others lives, and when I made a joke her eyes would
sparkle. Instead I am watching her through a narrow channel where the
hallway overlaps the entryway to her kitchen, with my Blizzard all but
melted in a wax cup on the floor of the passenger side.
9. Mail Order
The box of parts for my big project finally arrives. I am going to build
a family of ducks, mother and ducklings, and use a remote control to
send them across the road single file, with instructions to tear up Asshole McAppleton's lawn with their bills. As soon as Hart leaves I rip
the cardboard open, cutting my fingers on the reinforced tape that is
holding the box together. There are circuit boards and a bag of assorted
resistors like little striped bugs in their multicoloured plastic casings, and    59 a special pen that lets you draw conductive silver traces on any surface.
I pile everything onto the floor and close my eyes, imagining the feeling
of accomplishment I will have when this is all done. From the other side
of the room I hear a scuffing sound. The sweeper robot is stuck in the
corner, bumping into the fireplace bricks over and over again with its
sweeper arm caught on a lint-covered sock.
10. Double-Entry System
I built a robot that records what you say in your sleep, then repeats the
phrases back to you over the course of the day. In the early evening it
prints up a report, in case you happened to be out of hearing range while
it was playing. I couldn't wait for that first report, to see if my words
matched my dreams or if somehow, while sleeping, I knew all the right
things to say. But the printout revealed only gaps and fuzzy connections.
There was a dream in which I was made to go back and repeat an exam
from fifteen years ago, yet I spoke cheerfully of holidays and hotel reservations. In another my house was a pastry shop, and my yard a giraffe
conservation area. I had rigged up a special feeder that funnelled food
and water through a tubing system from the kitchen into little pouches
suspended in the tree outside. As I poured pellets of almond meringue
into the tubes I remember thinking how happy I was, but I awoke in a
cold sweat. On the recording the sounds I made were indecipherable,
sped up beyond all understanding.
Near the morning, while dreaming of calm lakes and fireflies, I called
out three times for help.
11. Zookeeper
Tammy was part of a company-wide network of administrative ladies
who called each other on the telephone all day long, arranging to meet
for smoke breaks and telling each other when a new email full of cute
photos (kittens hanging from branches, ducks and puppies in love with
each other) had been sent or received. Her cubicle was covered in posters and calendars featuring animal babies of all kinds: gorillas and orangutans, lambs and foals. Fawns with spots were her favourite. She even
had a small corner of her desk devoted to what she called the "ugly-cute"
type of animal baby, which included goslings and warthogs, baby pelicans and crocodiles. The warthogs were captured in a panoramic scene,
bounding single file across a stream behind their mother. Tammy didn't
have any children but often sold chocolate bars on behalf of her nieces
and nephews, to raise money for their elementary schools. She would
leave them in a box on top of the water filter, with "Please pay Tammy
60     PRISM 48:1 $4 per" handwritten on one of the cardboard flaps.
At the Christmas party, which had been pushed further and further
away from Christmas to the point where it was almost Valentine's Day,
I finally got up the nerve to say something to her. I thought it would be
a good time, since she seemed to have drank quite a bit so if she didn't
like what she heard there was a good chance she wouldn't remember it.
But it didn't go right.
She was rummaging around underneath the tree (she had put up and
decorated an artificial tree, even though it was February). She wanted
to make sure none of the gifts for the children of employees had been
missed. There was no Santa, just Johnson dressed up in a Hawaiian shirt
and a Santa hat. She stood and moved behind the tree, and I thought of
that scene in White Christmas, where Bing Crosby and Rosemary Cloo-
ney are finally reconciled after a big misunderstanding.
I don't even know for sure anymore exactly what it was that I said. I
wanted to compare her to the angel on the tree, let her know she was as
beautiful as that freckles and all, but what came out was more like: you'd
make a great angel.
"What?" she said.
A glass ornament near our faces started spinning wildly when I
knocked a branch, and she grabbed at it and made it still.
There was more, too much more. I tried to tell her that I understood
about the animals. That people could not be relied upon, and that she
and I were the same. Tammy didn't say anything but when I stopped
talking I could tell from the look on her face that everything was the
opposite of what I had imagined. Her eyes were wide, and stayed that
way, like she had been startled and couldn't become un-startled. I came
in on Monday morning like normal, and that was when Johnson called
me into his office.
12. A Miscalculation
Many of the robots use a tank track-style mechanism to move around.
Some run on wheels and some are stationary, but singularity of purpose
is common to all. Hart suggested that the whole initiative was a little
cold, and actually he was right. The trick, I have since discovered, is to
anthropomorphize each robot in some way. It makes them sympathetic.
For example, there's a vacuuming aardvark with a miniature fedora attached to his head, and I have plans for a parrot who dusts with one wing
and holds a cigar between two feathers at the tip of the other. I made a
robot sentry with arms like a gorilla, just a bit longer than his legs and
body combined. He has a little red t-shirt and propels himself by rotating
his arms over his head, and when his flat hands hit the ground his body     61 raises off the floor and swings forward. He is weighted at the bottom but
I made an error when I calculated its size, so his head and torso rock
gently back and forth between his shoulders each time.
13. Do-Nothing Machine
All my robots have a purpose. Each one can perform a certain task,
even if that task is to entertain. No matter how small or trivial, it can do
something. This should be obvious to anyone.
"What about a do-nothing machine," Hart says to me as I hand him a
coffee. "You know, it could be like an art project."
I have run out of space for my plans downstairs and am taping them
up in the breakfast nook. Series A is almost complete, and then I will
move on to Series B. Already almost an entire wall is covered in sketches
and diagrams.
"Or maybe, you know, you could just take a break," he says. "Step
back a bit"
He runs his thumb along the inside of his waistband, where his shirt
is tucked into his shorts. He is still wearing his summer uniform, even
though it is almost October. It dawns on me that I haven't been outside
in months. I think of the mass quantity of elastics that must have accumulated by now at the bottom of the driveway.
"No Hart, no do-nothing machines," I say. I keep my voice steady.
"Well I just thought it would be kind of neat You know, work on
something a little less serious for a while."
"I think you better leave," I say.
Two minutes later the doorbell rings.
"What do you want?" I say as I swing the door open, thinking he is
back. There is a woman on the front step with buck teeth and smelling of
mothballs, clipboard in hand. She asks if I would be willing to contribute
ten dollars to the community association.
"I just gave you ten dollars last week, what the hell was that for?"
"Oh no, that wasn't the Community Association, that was the Neighbourhood Association. The ten dollars was to put your name in the directory."
"What directory? What's wrong with the fucking phone book?"
The woman gapes.
"Tell them I don't want my name in the fucking directory!"
"I'm afraid you'll have to contact them yourself, Sir," she says. "We're
not really affiliated."
I think very seriously about pushing her backwards off the step, into
the rotten apples that are drying in the thatched grass.
62     PRISM 48:1 14. The Possibilities
Some nights I can't sleep, my mind pulsing with the possibilities, a list
streaming like an endless ticker tape: a god robot a gatherer robot an
owl-shaped robot with a tablet face upon which one can register columns
of sums. A robot that draws, replicating the sketches of famous artists,
and one that stays clamped to the end of the bed, by your feet and tucks
in blankets when they become untucked.
15. A Misunderstanding
The fair is the biggest one in the region, but even still I have a feeling
I will see her there. Because of the animals. I head straight for the agricultural hall to see the livestock competing for this year's prizes. Sure
enough, there is Tammy over by the piglets. A group of judges moves
up and down the rows, and I use them to keep myself out of her line of
A little kid is hanging off the gate of the piglets' stall. He asks Tammy
if she knows that pigs will eat meat. She says yes.
"Oh you did know that" he says. "But what most people don't know
is, a pig ate my brother's goat."
"Oh my gooshness!" says Tammy. She thinks that gosh and goodness
both sound too much like God, so she combines them. She's wearing a
dress I've never seen before, pale blue with little pink rosebuds all over
it and I realize with a vague disinterest that this whole time, day after
day, everything at the office has been going on without me.
"Yeah. And something else most people don't know is, a pig ate my
mother's brother."
The kid jumps off the gate and runs away. The hall is made of corrugated steel and Tammy's laugh spirals along the metal ridges towards
me, but now the judges are blocking my way and I lose sight of her.
Beyond the wide doors at the far end, the fairgrounds open up like a
small universe, a black canopy with constellations hung low across the
horizon. Nestled in the haze and the smell of sweet grease is the midway,
with its Ferris wheel outlined in electric blue lights like a ladder joined
end-to-end and spinning. The smaller rides dot the field, red, yellow and
white like a collection of prize chrysanthemums.
I decide to ride the Hurricane. While I wait in line, "Back in Black"
blasts from small cone-shaped speakers positioned on posts all over the
grounds. Beside me the Octopus spins in a dizzying tangle of slick black
pods and tentacles, with bolts and grommets like rusted suction cups.
Finally it is my turn on the Hurricane and I get a car all to myself. I sit
and feel the hydraulic pulse of the rigid arms as they shoot upward and     63 the whole thing spins, the music growing louder during the descent then
fading with the upswing. The town spreads out below, with the city blurring in the distance. The space in-between holds the place where I once
worked in a tall building at the edge of a vast parking lot Where I was
once an accountant.
I see her again by the duck pond game. They've changed tapes and
now it seems the Hurricane will never end, nor the suddenly woozy
strains of "TNT" stop their cyclical swelling and receding. Finally, the
ride stops. My legs are wobbly as I make my way across the worn grass
to a stretch of hard-packed dirt that divides the concessions and the
games, strewn with black spots of flattened chewing gum. The plastic
ducks bob green, yellow and pink along an oval-shaped track of black
water. The man running the booth is telling someone that they can't lose,
every duck is a winner. Tammy plucks one up by its head so that it just
dangles there between her fingertips, and then she puts it in the palm of
her other hand. The man in the booth flips it over and declares, seventy-
one! He gives her a multi-stranded clutch of purple feathers attached to
a roach clip and, winking, reaches under the counter and gives her, in
addition, an oversized plastic comb.
I know that she sees me. She turns and walks away, first down concession alley and then darting between two of the tents. Still, I follow her.
"Tammy," I say. Behind her, in the gap between the tents, I can see
the midway's electric skeleton in reverse, and behind it, the light from
the agricultural hall, a half-circle rising out of the ground like the sun.
She turns from me and as she starts she trips over one of the thick metal
pegs that hold the tents in place. I grab for her arm, to reassure her. Her
wrist is damp with grey duck pond water.
"Hi Tammy," I say. "I would like to tell you about my new profession."
16. Octobot
In the basement at night I'm wrapped in the sheen of the metal cabinets,
the reflected light from the pendant I've installed overhead. All the other
lamps are off, so the rest of the basement is obscured in darkness, the lab
green and luminous like a lush island. So many of my plans have been
turned into prototypes, occupying my house like roommates, chugging
around fully functional, and still I consider them intangible assets because their worth, I think, is all in their potential.
The fair gave me a good idea. As I watched the Octopus and its whirling arms I felt sick and agitated at first because so much seemed to be
happening at once. The whirring and the people and the noise seemed
to signify the inversion of something essential. But the tangled-ness was
64     PRISM 48:1 an illusion; the interspersing of limbs organized and without danger. As
a maker of robots I know that no problem exists for which there isn't a
mechanical solution. I feel sorry now for those that that have been made
redundant in my household, but what can I tell you? The Octobot is a
real multi-tasker.
17. The End?
They are going to point the finger at me, but I have learned something.
On soap operas, if there's no body, they're not dead, so I can go on
imagining, forever. When I close my eyes at night I see the lab below me
in the basement glowing with promise. Tammy is there, and she floats
ghostly through the room, her blue dress and her body of equal transparency, palms open at her sides as if in invitation, queen of my robot
menagerie. Her face is the same, but her expression has changed, from
one of cloudless welcome to something mute and impermeable, a dumb
pool of nothingness. Is she thinking about me now? It's a question I ask
myself all the time.     65 Contributors
Leanne Averbach is a Canadian poet and filmmaker. She has been
published and has performed with musicians across Canada, the U.S.
and Italy. Her first book Fever (Mansfield Press, Toronto) was shordisted
for the national Gerald Lampert Memorial first poetry book prize in
2006. Her companion CD Fever is a fusion of her spoken words and the
blues/jazz accompaniment of the Vancouver group Indigo. Averbach's
second short film based on her poetry, Teacups &Mink, has garnered numerous awards. For more information go to
Julie Booker's writing has appeared in an anthology published by Coach
House Press, as well as in The New Quarterly, Descant, The Windsor Review,
and upcoming issues of Prairie Fire and Exile. She won First Prize in The
Writer's Union of Canada 2009 Short Prose Competition for Developing
Writers. Her short story collection, Silver Hearts, was shordisted for the
Metcalf-Rooke Award in 2005.
Ronnie R. Brown's work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Arc, Vallum, The Fiddlehead and Event The author of
five books of poetry, her fourth, States of Matter (Black Moss, 2005), was
the winner of the Acorn-Plantos People's Poetry Award. A sixth collection, Rocking on the Edge, is scheduled for publication in 2010.
E. A. Carpentier lives on the Sunshine Coast in B.C. She is currentiy
working on a poetry manuscript and a non-fiction project relating to
her years in the environmental movement. In autumn 2009, she will be
launching a small letterpress studio, Selkie Press.
Lauren Carter's poetry, fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Grain,
Prairie Fire, National Geographic Traveler and several other publications.
Lichen Bright, her first collection of poetry, was published by Sudbury,
Ontario's Your Scrivener Press in 2005. She is currentiy working on a
novel at her home in Orillia, Ontario.
Sadiqa de Meijer's writing has appeared in The Malahat Review, Briar-
patch, Geist and the inaugural Best of Canadian Poetry in English, The story
"Where The Sky Is" was shortlisted for the 2008 CBC Literary Awards
66     PRISM 48:1 Nashira Dernesch studied Creative Writing at York University where
she co-edited the literary journal Existere for three years. In 2006 she won
the Art Bar Poetry Series' Annual Discovery Night. Her first chapbook,
It's No Secret You'llFeel Better (believe your own press), sold out within two
days of publication and is now in its second printing. This Snowing Under
(The Emergency Response Unit), her newest chapbook, is also going
into its second printing. She lives in Toronto and is currently at work on
a full-length collection of poetry.
Aaron Giovannone's poetry has appeared in a number of magazines
and literary journals, including Canadian Literature, Descant, Event and
The Fiddlehead He has won grants from the Canada Council for the Arts
as well as the International Council for Canadian Studies, and he recently spent a year at the University of Siena researching Italian poetry
and translation. In the fall, he will begin doctoral studies in literature at
the University of Calgary.
Ben Hart is working on a novel about waterslides, the circus and flying
pizza pies. His chapbook, Dough Rolled Perfect, was published by Frog
Hollow Press.
Warren Heiri is studying philosophy at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Some of his work was anthologized in Breathing Fire 2:
Canada's New Poets (Nightwood Editions, 2004).
Shuxin Liang is originally from Southern China. Having studied in Edinburgh, she now lives in Melbourne as a freelance artist. With a BA and
Masters Degree in Graphic Design, Shuxin likes to use visual communication as the most direct way to express herself. She uses her art work
to show her love of all things sonic, as well as her fascination with the
natural and human-built world.
Anna Mioduchowska's poems, translations, stories, essays and book reviews have appeared in anthologies, journals, newspapers and on buses.
In-Between Season, a poetry collection, was published by Rowan Books.
Some Flowers Do Well in Flowerpots was published by em-press. Eyeing the
Magpie, a collection of poetry and art, was published in collaboration
with four fellow poets.    67 Jordan Mounteer is currently finishing his fourth year at the University
of Victoria in the Creative Writing Department. Most of the material
for his poetry derives from the Slocan Valley, a place he returns to for
inspiration. His friends and the creative tutelage of Lorna Crozier, Tim
Lilburn and Steven Price also fuel his poetry.
Jane Munro's fourth poetry collection, Point No Point, was published in
2006 by McClelland & Stewart. Her previous books include Grief Notes
& Animal Dreams and Daughters, a finalist for the Pat Lowther Award. She
is the winner of the 2007 Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award.
matt robinson works as a Residence Life Manager with Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS. A new chapbook, Against the Hard Angle, is forthcoming from Greenboathouse Press in Fall 2009. Previous collections
include no cage contains a stare that well and A Ruckus of Awkward Stacking.
Lucretia Smith's award-winning writng has appeared in The Los Angeles
Review, RE/Search! and Flyway Literary Review. Her films and art have
been exhibited nationally and are held in private collections. She has a
BFA in filmmaking from New York University, and an MFA in critical
studies from California Institute of the Arts.
S. Kennedy Sobol lives in Toronto. Her story "Some Light Down" appeared in PRISM Issue 46:1 and was nominated for the Journey Prize
in 2008.
Jeff Steudel has written for The Republic of East Vancouver. In 2008, he
was shortlisted for the Arc Poem of the Year Contest. In 2006, he received an honorable mention in the Vancouver International Writers
Festival Poetry Contest. He lives in Vancouver with his wife, his two
boys and two cats.
Mary B. Valencia is a graduate of the Masters in Media and Creative
Writing program at the University of Wales, Swansea. Her writing has
appeared in Descant, the Globe and Mail and the New Welsh Review, among
other publications. She lives in Toronto where she is working on her
short fiction manuscript One Block from the Prison, Two Blocks from the Sea.
Patricia Young has published nine books of poetry and one of fiction.
In 2010, Sono Nis Press will publish a new collection of poetry. She lives
in Victoria, B.C.
68     PRISM 48:1 :erary Awards
Prix litteraires Radio-Canada
> Short story > Creative nonffftion > Poetry
2009 % m
$6000 first prize and $4000 second prize
in each category.
Deadline: November 1" 2009 a wards /prixlitteraires
1 877 888-6788
CBC •$§* Radio-Canada ^
Canada Council      Consetl des Arts
for the Arts du Canada
AIR CANADA i Good Reads
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Contemporary Writing from Canada and Around the World
Send us  your words!
Literary Non-Fiction Contest - 1st Prize $1,500
Entry fee: $25 for 1 story, plus $7 for each additional piece
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Entry fee: $25 for 1 story, plus $7 for each additional piece
Poetry Contest - 1* Prize $1,000
2 Runner up Prizes of $300 and $200
Entry fee: $25 for 5 poems, plus $7 for each additional poem
All entrants receive a one-year subscription to PRISM international. All first-place
winners will be published in PRISM international. Please visit our website for contest
entry guidelines.
www.prismmagazine. ca :fl^l
The Creative Writing Program at U.B.C.
The University of British Columbia offers both
a Bachelor of Pine Arts degree and a Master
of Pine Arts degree in Creative Writing. The
M.F.A. degree may also be taken by distance
education. See our website for more details.
Students work in multiple genres, including:
Poetry, Novel/Novella, Short Fiction, Stage
Play, Screen & TV Play, Radio Play, Writing for
Children, Non-fiction, Translation, and Song
Lyrics & Libretto.
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Rhea Tregebov
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Online Faculty (M.P.A.):
Luanne Armstrong, Gail Anderson-
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Glavin, Wayne Grady, Sara Graefe,
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& Susan Musgrave Place
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Subscribe to PRISM international and save!
□ Two-year subscription (8 issues): $46.00 (GST included).
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Signature:	  PRISM is Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Translation & Creative Non-fiction
Leanne Aver bach
Julie Booker
Ronnie R. Brown
E. A. Carpentier
Lauren Carter
Sadiqa de Meijer
Nashira Dernesch
Aaron Giovannone
Ben Hart
Warren Heiti
Shuxin Liang
Anna Mioduchowska
Jordan Mounteer
Jane Munro
matt robinson
Lucretia Smith
S. Kennedy Sobol
Jeff Steudel
Mary B. Valencia
Patricia Young
Cover Art:
Garden Bird No. 1
by Shuxin Liang
7    25274 " 86361' 7


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