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 PRISM international  PRISM international
2006 Earle Birney Prize for Poetry
$500 was awarded to
Sheri Benning
for her poem
"Descent from the Cross"
which appeared in PRISM 44:2  PRISM international
Fiction Editor
Ben Hart
Poetry Editor
Bren Simmers
Executive Editors
Carla Elm Clement
Regan Taylor
Advisory Editor
Rhea Tregebov
Production Manager
Jennifer Herbison
Editorial Board
Rob Weston
Ben Wood
Zoya Harris
Amber Dawn Upfold
Emily Southwood
Chelsea Bolan
Andrew Binks
Terry Dove
Amy Dennis
Carla Gillis 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,
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PAP Registration No. 8867. September 2006. ISSN 0032.8790
BRITISH COLUMBIA  8§§     Canada Council     Conseil des Arts
ARTS COUNCIL Ct>   ^ the Arts du Canada
Canada Contents
Volume 45, Number 1
Fall 2006
Sheree-Lee Olson
The Princess Diaspora / 7
Elise Moser
The Advanced Mates Tickle Trunk / 19
April Wilder
It's a Long Dang Life / 31
Jeff Kochan
Trude /  50
Jim Kennedy
Cheerleaders / 62
Mark Anthony Jarman
The RPM of Wolves / 68
Tanis MacDonald
Daylight: Saving /  16
Take Measure /  17
Kate Hall
Variation on a Theme by Lyn Hejinian /  18
Emilia Nielsen
Indifferent Season / 22
Brecken Rose Hancock
from Winter, Frontal Lobe / 28 Anna Swanson
Lullaby for Small / 45
The moment / 46
Tulip / 47
Mari-Lou Rowley
Quantum Leap / 48
Gravitational Waves / 49
Sue Sinclair
Big East Lake / 59
Rocco de Giacomo
Louis Kiel / 60
Nonetheless / 61
ken cathers
at coal harbour / 64
Josh Rathkamp
Tattoo /  66
John Barton
Him /  67
Erin Knight
Horse Latitudes of the Atlantic (Malinche travels home) / 70
Robert Colman
Save the Tiger / 72
Contributors / 73 Sheree-Lee Olson
The Princess Diaspora
Assigned by: Mr. K
Due date: Oct. 29
My son says to write about a diaspora you have to know where
they came from. I do not know where we came from. There
were the great-grandparents who left Boston under a cloud to
farm in Alberta. The cloud followed them and the crops failed. It's possible the cloud had attached to them on the voyage over from England, or
maybe it had followed them from the Hebridean island where they were
born into melancholy. Of course the Hebrides were settled by Norse
raiders too stupid to see that the weather was hardly better than at home,
so what does that say about my family?
I could call my mother, but it's been awhile. Three years, in fact—
since my father suggested there was nothing wrong with my son that a
little discipline couldn't fix. My mother just went along. It's what she was
raised to do.
That was when Kai was four. Luke says it's long enough. He says I
should call, even though Luke barely speaks to his own mother and she
just lives across town.
If I called it would go like this:
Hi Mom, yes it's me, no Kai's fine, no there's nothing wrong, look I
wanted to ask you, no really, I just wanted to ask this one question, no
don't get Dad, I'm not going to talk to Dad, can't you bloody listen?
Aside from the North Sea losers in my family, there's Luke's mother
in North Toronto.
Kai likes Grandma Margaret; she's one of the few adults who will listen to him for the two hours it takes to enumerate the details of his current
web sites. Luke says she's not actually listening. Margaret's a bit vague
these days, especially about Luke's father. Key details have changed in
the ten years I have been her daughter-in-law: once described as a financial whiz, Luke's father has become "that scam artist."
Anyway, Kai's supposed to be doing a modern diaspora. What he is
doing, at the moment, is lying under the table, meowing at the cat.
"Kai. Get up please."
"I wish I could do the cat diaspora," Kai says. "Did you know that housecats came from ancient Egypt? I bet Kevin's ancestors lived with
King Tut. I bet Kevin is a royal cat."
People are confused to learn that Kevin is the cat and Kai is the boy.
They ask if we traveled in Asia. I have never been to Asia, except in
books. The name came to me when my son was a hot wet hatchling
being pulled from my body. His first sound was like the cry of a bird, a
proud lonely seabird flying across the top of the world.
That was another sore point for my father. What kind of name is Kai?
It sounds foreign, he said. What about a good Scottish name, what about
Craig (Gaelic for a rocky outcropping), what about Gordon (a three-pointed hill)? It wasn't until later that I found the name in a book of Arthurian
legends: Kai was a mighty warrior who could hold his breath for nine
days underwater and needed no sleep for nine nights. He also had a
superlative fashion sense.
My son didn't seem surprised when I told him this. I never told my
Names are wishes. Kai named the cat after his new teacher, a Johnny Appleseed of a man who plants ideas like weeds on every scrubby
patch he encounters. Kevin's classroom reminds me of one of those little
boutiques in Yorkville—you go in there and see the hand of the artist.
Someday people will be willing to spend extra for an artisanal education
the way they are currently happy to pay for hand-embroidered linens or
raw-milk cheese. But right now there is only one class like Kevin's in the
entire public school board and only ten children lucky enough to be in
Of course it wasn't just luck. It's never just luck. I started calling our
trustee halfway through grade three. I called her so regularly she would
answer saying, Hello Kate. I reminded her as often as I could that I had
paid two thousand dollars to an educational psychologist who had assessed Kai as both gifted and in need of immediate intervention. I reminded her of the government's promises on education. I reminded her
of where I worked.
I used to wonder why I had gone into journalism instead of making
my parents happy and teaching high school English. Now I know.
"Kai. Don't hold Kevin's paws. You'll get scratched."
"Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow," says Kai, as the cat gallops past me, a tiny
snorting mustang. Kevin-the-cat was my friend Dianne's idea. She said
pets teach empathy. They also teach consequences.
I lean under the table but I can't reach him. "Kai, Sweetie, let me see.
Did Kevin scratch you? Let Mommy see."
Kai rolls in farther, retreating into a fugue of sensation. "Ow, ow, ow,
ow, ow, ow, ow," he chants. "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, OW,
Mommy, OW—" "Kai," I say, raising my voice over the din, "do you remember when
we read about Bast, the cat goddess? Did you know they used to mummify the cats along with their owners? The British dug up acres of cat
mummies and shipped them back to England."
The ows stop. Facts are like potato chips to my son, he can never get
"Are they in museums? The British put everything in museums. Even
"There are lots in museums. But the British used them for fertilizer.
They plowed them into the fields."
"Yuck, Mommy," says Kai, crawling out from under the table. His
cheeks are red and there's a large dust bunny in his hair. It looks jaunty,
like a little cap. He gives me a gap-toothed grin. "Yuck mummy. Get it?
M-u-m-m-y. Get it?"
I goggle my eyes and throw my apron over my head, shuffling toward
him stiff-limbed, like Boris Karloff. "Kai," I moan in a sepulchral voice.
"Doooo your homework."
Kai shrieks happily and rolls back under the table. "Help! Help! It's
the homework mummy! Summon the palace guards!"
This is what the homework thing has done to us; it's made us bad
comedians. We will try anything, but we have learned it can't be rushed.
My new friend Jen says it's like making risotto: it's about putting in the
hours. Jen is from Trinidad; her ex is from Northern Italy. Their daughter, Princess, is from Alpha Centauri.
Princess is the only girl in Kevin's primary gifted/behaviour class. The
slash means that, besides their high IQs, they all have a thing—something less socially acceptable, explosive episodes or toileting issues or a
habit of drooling on everything. In the case of Princess, it's "oppositional
Jen says our children can't help it. "They have geek blood," she said.
"They get it from us. We're geeks who married geeks."
That was two months ago, over a bottle of pinot grigio on the first day
of school. We were on the deck at SpaHa, a bar on the U of T campus.
I fell for Jen right away. She was the only parent with any fashion sense:
she was wearing an asymmetrical red leather skirt and pink tee shirt silk-
screened with images of Axl Rose. She was also the only one who talked
to me. She had an MA in library science, she told me, but supported
herself by running guerrilla knitting workshops.
But geeks?
"I never thought of myself as a geek," I said. "Luke, okay—he spends
most of his time on-line—"
"It's true, you don't look like one."   She pulled out her knitting; she was making a pink cell phone cozy for Princess to attach to her backpack. "But women are better with camouflage. Are you sure you don't
collect safety pins or alphabetize your makeup or something?"
"Well, there's the shoes."
"All women collect shoes."
"I also destroy them." I told her about my shoe disasters, the Miu
Mius I went swimming in the time Kai decided to stay at the bottom of
the pool, the Sigerson Morrison stilettos that were taken by the ocean on
my trip to South Carolina the previous spring. I didn't tell her what I was
doing on the beach in South Carolina. I hadn't told anyone except my
friend Dianne, and Dianne had said, That guy you met, David? He's not
going to call. Davids don't call, okay? Which is a good thing.
Dianne's the only one who knows I've been trying to have an affair.
She says, Been there, done that. She says, I can't tell you not to, but make
no mistake: it will end badly.
Jen was laughing at me. "You lost your Sigerson Morrisons? See,
you're a spaz. That's classic geek. Let's order another bottle."
It isn't often that I meet another woman who likes to drink in daylight.
"It's self-medication," Jen said. "It's wine or Zoloft, and Zoloft makes me
I raised my glass. "To self-medication."
"To geekdom," Jen said. "To all the geeks we know and love."
Jen pointed east, toward the main campus. "That's my old hangout,
the engineering building. They knew I wasn't studying engineering, I
just liked dating engineers. It was their pocket protectors. I think I dated
about ten engineers until I discovered I could just buy my own pocket
protector and walk around with all my coloured pens lined up perfect-
That was another reason I fell for Jen: she made me laugh. I was happy that day. September has always meant promise to me, the promise of
new friends and new shoes and new challenges. But that day was the first
in a long time I had felt hope for Kai.
Luke had had the best line, walking into Kevin's classroom that morning. "Oh my god," he'd said. "It's the Junior X-Men's hideout."
I'd elbowed him, but I couldn't restrain a snort of hilarity. Luke makes
me laugh too; it's what he does best. And I could see it right away, see
how everyone in the class was cursed with a different mutant power: the
tiny Asian boy playing an invisible piano, the furious pair hunched over
the chessboard, the kid spinning balletically on the computer chair, his
long hair skimming the floor. There were more boys glued to the bank
of computers, already being directed by a rotund brown kid whose parents hovered fearfully.
They were like a room full of human antennae, receiving signals we
10 don't get. But that seemed okay to me. They were trying to find the right
channel. They were trying to connect.
And then there was Kai, off in the corner, staring into the fish tank. He
wasn't alone. A baby goddess had appeared beside him, towering over
him by a good four inches, an unearthly beauty with platinum dreadlocks and caramel skin. She was dressed entirely in bubblegum pink.
That was Princess.
I elbowed Luke and we watched as she edged closer to Kai, curling
her back like a cat to come down to his level. He glanced over and a
look passed between them—a look I could not decipher—and they both
turned back to the glowing blue.
In the X-Men, Princess would be Storm, of course, breaker of hearts,
maker of bad weather.
But who was Kai?
Princess had named herself when she was five. She'd been baptized
Isabella, but Jen said Princess is a traditional name on the Trinidadian
side of the family and her child had been jealous of a cousin who had
been blessed with it. When they arrived back in Toronto from a visit to
the island, her daughter had assumed a new identity.
Jen wonders what we would call ourselves if we could just switch like
Princess. She also wonders what accident of genetics made her spit out
such a stunningly beautiful child, when she and her husband Gianni are
both "squat and peasanty" (not true of Jen, she's a beautifully proportioned five-foot-five).
Jen likes to keep up with the sciences. Her latest thing is the human
genome project. According to her, we are now in the post-genomic era:
the whole thing has been mapped.
"That's not to say there aren't decades of research ahead," she said last
week. "But what we do know is that most of us have a regular United
Nations in our chromosomes; no one is pure. Will that change our cultural paradigm? I'm not holding my breath." In Trinidad, Jen says, everyone has a little Spanish, a little African, a little South Asian. In Jen's
case there's more South Asian, but she has sisters who are paler than
I said, maybe it will all come down to aesthetics. You only have to ride
a Toronto streetcar to know the bottom-line truth about race: the most
beautiful people on the planet are the most obviously mixed; they are
the colour of maple sugar. They are the colour of Princess.
I tell the single girls at the newspaper that Jen is my new best mommy
friend. They're always shocked to hear how children reconfigure your
social life, how even personal relationships are brokered by the compat-
11 ibility of your offspring. What's the difference, I ask them, between that
and the way you bond with your fellow fashion scribes?
I think it's simply this: Women are natural conservationists and friendship is a resource; we do not waste opportunities.
There are three of them in Features: haughty Miranda, super-nice
Sarah, and potty-mouthed Skye, all princesses in one way or another,
born to money or just allergic to cheap things due to early overexposure.
They are streaked, willowy, golden, as if they come from the same laboratory or artist's pen—Arthur Rackham's Three Graces in Day-Glo.
Jen eats up my tales of the fashion tribe: how they can make a party
of any occasion—prosecco at the Four Seasons to celebrate their new
shoes, a glass of wine at the Holt's cafe to compare makeup purchases,
pad Thai at Tarot because, well, we had to come uptown for the Tiffany
thing and I need to eat something.
The fashion girls always need to eat something. They never do. I
think this is because they thrive on hunger. What is the business of fashion except unfulfilled desire? You will be beautiful if, when, next month,
next season. It's like the girl in the fairy tale: you must harvest thistles till
your fingers bleed in order to weave a perfect garment; you must never
touch the food in the ogre's castle lest you end up the ogre's wife.
The Fashion Girls never eat the food that circulates at the cinq a septs.
Crabcakes, god, why do they always serve seafood? Teeny potato pancakes? High glucose. And the cute little test tubes of consomme? It will
ruin my lipstick, sweetie.
Eating rarely looks good, and fashion girls must always look good. I
love them for this. I love the fact that they will take a cab the two blocks
to the next event because their new shoes are pinching—because their
shoes always pinch, and they're always new—and let's face it, hobbling
up to the red velvet rope is hardly the right kind of entrance.
I love that they make an entrance, even though they aren't anyone, the
way they emerge from a cab on a cloud of fragrance and laughter and
pixie dust, the way they work to spark up a crowd. They spread ideas the
way Storm spreads weather; they add oxygen to a room.
I love that they are all thirty-something and beautiful and unhappy in
love—and that they will always be unhappy in love, as long as they care
more about what looks good than what feels good. I love this because
it is both deluded and noble, and also because it leaves the other kind
of guy—and I have told them this, I don't make a secret of thinking
this—the guy who doesn't look good on paper, the guy willing to stay at
home and raise your child, tap-tapping on his daddy blog, it leaves him
available for women like me.
Oh, but do I still want him?
12 Luke has put me in charge of the diaspora project, ostensibly because
he and his partner Larry have a deadline for their software thing—they
claim someone actually wants a demo—but really because he has hit a
Every night, he tells me, it's the same: Kai needs to lie on the floor
and weep; he needs to complain of hunger, boredom and human rights
violations; he needs to chew erasers and snap the points off several pencils in the cracks between the floorboards. Two hours in the dining room,
and then he does it in ten minutes. It's not that the work is difficult. Apparently it's about discipline.
Luke despairs. "Did the fucking right-wingers think of this when they
brought in this fucking homework policy? I thought they wanted to keep
families together."
Princess doesn't do homework.
Jen is called in regularly by the principal and her story is always the
same: Princess doesn't do homework.
"How can I force her?" Jen tells them. "She's oppositional; she opposes
homework. It's her thing."
Kai's thing is more complicated. He opposes homework every bit
as fiercely as Princess, but he is fetishistic about rules. Every night his
warring halves thrash it out under the table. Every night, eventually, the
rules geek wins.
I take off the apron and pour myself a glass of wine. And then I fuck
it up. "I bet Mr. K wouldlet you do cats," I say. "Why don't I call him?"
"Why did you have to tell me that, Mom? How can you say that? The
assignment is people, Mom, people, family." He's back under the table.
I don't mean to fuck it up. It seems like a reasonable compromise, given that any diaspora project Kai does is going to be artificial, a construct
like the Canadian Room at his old school's open house. It had been in
early December and it had been called Winterfest, and every self-identified cultural group had been given a classroom. The Tibetan kids hung
prayer flags; the Jewish kids made dreidels; the Indian kids sold flower
necklaces for Diwali; the Ukrainian kids put on a dance.
The "Canadian" kids, the white trash kids from the rundown houses on Dundas, they had a tea. They did good business; the room was
packed with tired mothers in saris sipping Red Rose and eating "Squares
of Canada."
"Don't knock it," was Luke's comment. "The Nanaimo bars are awesome."
I want to cry but I call Jen. "I'm hung over. I can't deal. Kai says I'm
torturing him."
"What was the party last night?"
"Baume and Mercier dinner. You're knitting, aren't you?"
13 "I always knit on the phone. It's relaxing. What happened at the dinner?"
"I took my wine into the washroom and the glass fell into the toilet. It
broke. I thought I should flush."
Jen bursts out laughing and I start laughing too. "Don't tell me," she
says. "It overflowed, didn't it?"
"Yes. All over my new Pradas."
"No! Not your Pradas!"
"Yeah. And it was one of those unisex washrooms, so there were about
ten people lined up right outside the cubicle—" We are screaming now
with laughter and I realize my cheeks are wet. "—and I can hear them
saying someone must be in there doing a line or having sex, and I'm on
my fucking knees, mopping up wine-coloured water with toilet paper. I
think I used up two rolls."
"Oh Kate, Kate. You know I live through you."
The Baume thing was held at a new sushi place called Spine. The food
was served on and around two very attractive nude models, a man and
a woman, lying supine on large glass tables. The fashion girls weren't
"Yuck," Sarah said. "The food's two inches from her feet."
"She's stoned," Skye said. "Look at her pupils. It's how she stays so
I thought the naked sushi—the Japanese term is nyotaimori, adorned
body of a woman—was in poor taste, T & A by an older name. ("Culinary lap dancing" was Miranda's comment.) But I liked the restaurant
owner. We were smoking on the terrace when he told me the story behind one of his dishes, a roll featuring fat orange fish eggs that burst juicily in the mouth.
"It's a Toronto story," he said. "My father was very strict; he was an
engineer in Korea. We had a corner store and, naturally, I worked there
after school. I was in love with a Polish girl, and to woo her I would give
her Pop Rocks when my father wasn't looking. That's why I call this dish
Pop Rocks. It's about desire."
I thought of my own father, the stone. The one who cut me off when I
decided to study art because he wanted me to be a teacher like him and
my mother, the man whose only lesson was how to withhold things, the
sad man with the cold northern blood whose hearth fire had long ago
burned out.
The owner had moved closer. I wondered if I reminded him of his
Polish girl. "Did the Pop Rocks work?"
"No," he said. "My father caught me. I was never allowed to see her
again." He spread his hands in a gesture of kismet, and he kept them that
way, palms out, waiting. I placed my hands lightly on his, and then he
14 pulled me close and my head was full of Pop Rocks, exploding.
Jen's still on the phone. She wants to know what happened then.
"Nothing? That's too bad. He sounds like a poet. He sounds like someone I'd like to meet."
"What about Gianni?"
"Gianni doesn't have a poetic bone in his body. Thank God Princess
takes after me. You know what she told me yesterday?"
"She says Kai is her soul mate. She's seven years old."
"Kai's lucky. Oh, there he goes. Call you later."
My son's heels are beating a furious tattoo on the dining room floor.
He has a stainless steel saucepan lid in his right hand and he's crashing it
against the boards in time. His rhythm is good.
I wish that I could comfort him, warm up the cold part of him, seduce him with hope. I think of the man I kissed last night, kissed open
and deep and wet in the shadows of his terrace before I got so drunk I
trashed his washroom. There's something different about you, he said.
You're not like the others. And I said, yes, I'm a selky. A what? he said.
A mermaid. I don't belong on land. And then I kissed him again, and
ran my wet wet tongue over his teeth, thinking of raw fish and salt water
and wondering if that was my myth, the way the Polish girl was his.
I think of the frigid Scottish island my parents' parents sailed from and
the sultry West Indian one Jen's parents left behind—one abandoned to
the elements, the other overrun with drugs and crime.
I know that Princess will nevertheless grow up to mythologize that
island, to conjure tropical nights perfumed with bougainvillea, the ceaseless murmur of the Caribbean. In this she will be like all the members of
her tribe, the seekers of the golden apples, the believers in beauty and
expensive shoes, the princesses.
We are carriers of more than genes. We are carriers of beautiful ideas.
So what if we have to make it up? It's what humans do.
I fetch pillows and the faux fur comforter from my bed and carry
them downstairs and push them under the dining room table. Kai has
stopped his racket and I decide to risk an approach, sliding halfway in
with him.
It has grown dark under here and I imagine a peat fire in the hearth,
the roar of the North Sea outside. There's the toasty smell of baked bannock and shadows dancing on our stone walls.
"Kai, my love," I tell him, stroking his hair. "I'm going to tell you a
15 Tanis MacDonald
Daylight: Saving
Elongated winter into spring, frail
white months splinter into slivers
and then the scent of mud. Last year's
deaths march me into the sun. Too pale
by half: I'm nearly blue. The window
box ekes out tight mauve buds. Let me
weigh in on this one: photosynthesis
expects so much. Mid-month approaches
with its anniversary of birth, its killing
Ides. Out, damned spot, like a lion. A snap
in the synaptic weave. I grow older, that slow
virus, predictable as hunger or sleep,
rain or a deadline, words that will not
line up, mucks in a row. Once again.
Winter, sun, march, window, long, birth,
death. Finches in the cedar nest close to
the cat's mouth. Again. White spring, mud,
soapbox of grief, mourning's long and gritty
residence. Rattled sleep. Death, nest, mouth.
The virus in the mauve rain. Anniverse.
16 Take Measure
What spills out of us, what spills over
into the dragtown of gall. Catch it
in a cup. Measure the meniscus.
The trees too brown, every green withered.
Who let you out to do the wishing? Inmates
run the asylum; hear them praying
for snow. The lines that lead on, the highway
stuttering into the horizon. Days fake their own
death, stupid dissolution, hiding in a book
or behind the drama of despair. What foolish
pursuits. Hand me poison, that gift.
Hand me the road home. Bring me to the tuba, its
deep sad notes, the player's puffed cheeks, music
like soft shouting, a wise moan, a whale
in pain, an elephant kneeling in its graveyard.
The curve of the liquid at the lip of the cup.
17 Kate Hall
Variation on a Theme by
Lyn Hejinian
In the gap between what one wants to say (or what one perceives there is to say)
and what one can say (what is say able), words provide for a collaboration and
—Lyn Hejinian
Many blocks   You can go on saying but you can never recover the
of sentences     pattern of small roses not even in the pattern of small
make a nice     roses. That's the crack in the sidewalk you turned into
casue a shape. So drop it. The window needs to be fixed; it's
gaping. Neurath decided the body of knowledge is a raft
that floats free of any anchor. We have to stand somewhere. Repairs
must be made afloat. Feeling of impending disaster: he liked detective
novels and puzzles too. I scrabbled my name into your book. It
became my life. That's the beauty of it. Riddles are much heavier than
tea leaves because they make points of intersection: ask and answer.
We are not forgetting the patience of the mad, their love of detail. When you
say it like that I cannot know if I'm really knowing. There are socks in
the underwear drawer. Who can argue with that? Our mothers were
both in the kitchen clanging pots, standing back to back so I could
measure and see who was taller. Astigmatism makes me see double.
Disaster in the bathtub: contained waves, small splinters of wood drift
around you as you move. My life doesn't make sense. There are always
elaborate coffee grounds at the bottom. Because of this the poems in
the closet are on hangers but they no longer fit. I thought of that. Also
of liver, kidneys and lungs as drying fruit. My autobiography unravels
there. Only forty-five years. What happens at the end of the book?
Tomorrow I won't speak. I'll walk everywhere and barefoot. If I can't
walk, I'll swim. If I can't swim, I'll crouch pressing one hand into the
dirt to steady myself. With the other, I'll gather twigs.
18 Elise Moser
The Advanced Pilates Tickle
' m  7"ou've got some nice muscles in there," he said, as he rode her like
jf    a horse. She half-expected him to sweep an invisible ten-gallon
JL   hat off his head and whoop.
He was kneeling, and her knees were up and bent; he held her feet
against his chest like a pair of warm bricks. She rolled her head on the
pillow and looked around. The ceiling was uninteresting. No cracks in
the shape of the Yangtze River, say. Not that she'd recognize the Yangtze
River, or any other river for that matter. She was lousy at geography. But
anyway. No cracks.
She could hear herself making little mewling sounds and deduced that
she was enjoying herself. But the enjoyment seemed to be taking place
on some level of existence just slightly removed from her consciousness.
Overlapping, like a piece of paper that comes through the printer at an
angle and only gets part of the text.
She looked down; her stomach sat like a mass of white, over-risen
bread dough. She felt briefly sorry that it was there; as if she could have
removed it before having sex, but had forgotten. The thought made her
snort, a little laugh he didn't seem to hear. He wasn't paying her any notice; he was peering straight up at the point where the upper edge of the
wall met the ceiling. She watched his face for a few minutes before she
realized that he probably wasn't really seeing anything at all, his attention focused on his nether regions. Then he looked down, his jaw tight
with concentration, and noticed her looking at him. Their two pairs of
eyes slid across the same angle, and there was an almost audible click as
their gazes met. He let out a hiss of breath. She was startled by it. And
then even more startled when he twisted his mouth into a grimace of a
smile. It was a moment of awkwardness—she didn't know if she was expected to smile back. It was like meeting someone she'd insulted at one
time or another and not knowing whether to say hello or to set her face
and push past. She didn't have to decide though; he sucked in his breath
and raised his face again, as if preparing to resume contemplation of his
She couldn't decide whether she liked him. There were times she was
19 attracted to him, sometimes long enough to end up here—him plugging
away in his erratic rhythm like a toddler with a saucepan and a wooden
spoon. Other times she arrived in this position out of a kind of inertia—
one thing following another without any actual volition on her part, but
also without any resistance. They might have finished the evening sitting
in uncomfortable chairs and strained silence instead; that had certainly
happened before. She knew inertia was a bad way to come to sex, realized it was a lifeless substitute for passion, but at a certain point in the
evening she would begin to feel that expectations had risen. And there
was always the possibility that once they got started she would get carried away and actually enjoy it. Like, beginning to eat a meal only to find
she'd been hungry and not realized it. Or finding just enough pleasure in
the food to make the eating worthwhile. Then there were the meals she'd
left half eaten, the food indifferently prepared, her appetite unaroused.
What did he mean by nice muscles in there anyway? It gave her the unwelcome mental image of a toy chest, the lid opened to reveal a tangle of
rubbery straps. Good quality tangled rubbery straps. Some sort of physical fitness accessories. An Advanced Pilates Tickle Trunk. She snorted a
second time, and he looked down at her, searching her face, smiling tentatively again. She made a mental note not to snort any more. She didn't
want to draw attention to herself. Then, for a moment, she was irritated
with him for looking at her that way—bashfully inquiring, as if he were
a stranger on a crowded train, hoping the seat next to her was free. She
knew she was being unfair, but she couldn't help it. Then she felt guilty
and decided to make an effort to be a better sport. She closed her eyes
and tried to think a more rapt expression onto her face, imagining her
tickle trunk abundantly full of very delightfully stretchy and responsive
muscly toys. She contracted and he made that hissing sound again. She
made a mental note to do it again soon. She experimented with various liftings of the hips, tiltings of the pelvis, and more of the mewling
noise—none of which had any appreciable effect except to make her feel
she was participating more actively. It offered the same sort of satisfaction she got from picking up bits of litter on the sidewalk—the minor
thrill of good citizenship. After a bit more of the same, though, it seemed
a silly waste of effort. Not to mention insincere. So she went back to the
contraction option, timing them to coincide with his spoon-banging.
Her mind kept wandering, although never far enough. "Nice muscles
in there." She imagined him kneeling by the side of the tickle trunk, leaning in to do something or other, his arms buried up to the elbows in the
equipment. It was like watching a plumber at work, knowing he was feeling something at the end of his outstretched arm that she would never
feel. Palpating a dried-out washer or the gunky interior of a drainpipe.
She shook her head to clear away the mental picture. He responded by
20 moving faster inside her, and his breathing quickened. For a moment,
she was embarrassed that she had given him the impression of excitement when in fact she was just trying to refocus her errant attention, but
then she thought, hey, whatever works, and threw herself back into her
contractions for what appeared to be the home stretch.
She wasn't sure why his innocent comment about her muscles had
provoked such irritation. It was a compliment, really. It wasn't his fault
it made her feel like a toy chest full of exercise equipment. On the contrary, if only she could be more sincerely involved, more responsive,
more open to his diligent, friendly, even affectionate efforts there above
her, maybe she'd enjoy herself. He groaned and thrashed a bit, his head
thrown back, his hands pressing her feet against his chest, almost prayerfully. A moment later, he exhaled slowly, and disengaged. He sat back
on his heels, lowering her feet to the mattress on either side of him. She
arranged a smile on her face to greet him as he opened his eyes. He
smiled back at her, almost blankly—as if he'd forgotten who she was, but
might remember at any moment.
21 Emilia Nielsen
Indifferent Season
Down-at-heel, undone—
the weather, galvanized.
There ain't no cure for
the summertime blues.
Yellowjackets held within
their skin's slim black bars.
Migraine's fluorescent hum;
a cloudburst, a flash flood.
Jet lag: the corporeal present,
the heart four hours behind.
22 II
Fire, water, a stainless kettle. Pungent tea:
blessed thistle, passionflower, angelica.
Give me a moment to be Ophelia, to float—
summer's too much in love with its own heat.
Artemisia Gentileschi's Judith. Artemisia
Absinthium: aphrodisiac, bitter stimulant?
Extemporal: black-capped chickadee
tapping at the glass. Its beak, hard rain.
Kiss my collarbone, my someday tattoo:
blue water-lily. Offer me one breast.
23 Ill
Pray for a life without plot,
a day without narrative.
Born with my father's blue
eyes: he's since been blind.
This kick of gas-flame, weeping
willow, for taprooted melancholia!
Monotony, straight country gravel,
traffic jeering past fallow fields.
A millstone, a horse on the road:
Slow Down and Circle Wide.
24 IV
Cherries, black plum, blood orange:
my breakfast vividly carnivorous.
The turkey vulture's wings a scythe,
dihedral; its aerial circumambulation.
Wild carrot: umbel of white needlepoint
lace, tiny central flower, a red pinprick.
A mouthful of mad chickenpox berries,
tongue an itching curse—calamine, ice.
Morning glory, noxious bind-weed. Bell
flowers, bugles sounding at daybreak—
25 V
Rainbarrel drinking water
heady with yellow pollen.
The body's brash reflex:
antler flush; summer's rut.
Neither for me honey
nor the honey bee.
The oversexed smell
of daylilies, dog-rose.
My mouth, obtuse:
no spark of new love.
26 VI
The full moon: an
aster gone to seed.
Spent the hot morning
reinventing the wheel.
Curios: moon-dog, halo,
opal, howl, dog-star—
The garden plot chock-
a-block with dandelions.
Sunburnt, pink and turning,
I can keep myself up all night.
27 Brecken Rose Hancock
from Winter, Frontal Lobe
Moth-eremite hum of the refrigerator quiet. Old Lucycat, no mate,
twists between the table's legs. Stilted curlicue her half-tail; raspy bawl.
Midnight, dull skunk steals downstairs.
Accident #1: Fire! Starts in the popcorn maker when Mom and
Dad are out. Logan squelches the weird thing with baking soda.
We vent the eruption of smoke with Mom's best tea-towels swish
swish the open window. All the terrible glee.
Stripped bare, this kitchen would not resemble the despondent stool-
pigeon that it is, always revealing sadnesses. Disemboweled
amphibious cookie jar; frog himself grips guts in shame.
Accident #2: Digger-upper of dead deer limbs finds the apple pie.
Using the sly agility she honed shredding library books, Harmony
wolfs 60% of our dessert without spilling. Nearly sated, her poise
slips when Mom flips the switch. Traitor under a bright light and
the pie-plate coin-toss. Tails up the carpet loses.
Pretend this is the first farm kitchen, 1979. A tray of Pillsbury cinnamon
buns eaten in one sitting, all the rocks picked from the fields, and the
Irish Setter does not yet have mites. Ruckus of bees in the archaic green
grain-wagon. Good honey.
Accident #3: Promise ring from my boyfriend at 16. Mom wakes
up and gives a lecture about sex while I drink water over the sink
(luckyJames had gone; I was still a virgin). Desperate bulb cannot
support the room.
Dad rips up the carpet; goodbye stains.
28 Accident #4: 2L bottle of Pepsi from above-fridge pantry escapes
my grip, plummets. Kitchen-bomb; cats and dogs run. Mom
comes home and ends the Cold War. We'll meet again. The stain,
the stain, the stain.
Five open throats: Lucy circling, russet nest in duvet; Logan driving
the road with his band, guitar the syrup we pour on our pancakes; me
watching home-renovation shows, $1000 to fix a kitchen; Dad calling
from the airplane phone, wobbly spindled chair; Mom passing through
for cigarettes and toast [puffpuff no inhale).
Accident #5: Slow freezing of the caulifloric lobe. This disaster,
weasel of thwarted desire.
29 owned a She sold funerals. Before that she owned a daycare. Before
but hated that, was a farmer. Pigs she considered smart but hated the
all reflection damned vacuum in cows' eyes, all reflection. Learning to
clutch drive the tractor, she'd pop the clutch on purpose just to see
when he pumped    Dad lurch out of the stooker. But those days when he pumped
fumes that the pit, methane fumes that had once killed a sow and litter, she
worried lectured me about perilous stunts, vanishings. She worried. I
a toothy came to see him as hero, braving this pit that seemed a toothy
farm hypnotic maw. There were corners of that farm that plotted our
electric fence deaths. Bertha worms, the electric fence. Even the Siamese
anything cat was vicious, but Mom loved anything that would fight for a
lap at night living and curl up in her lap at night. Maybe that's why she
those stinking planted marigolds, those stinking flowers that lined her garden,
faces Their heavy orange and yellow faces gritted. Abrasive, vibrant.
30 April Wilder
It's a Long Dang Life
Laney leans on the butcher block and listens for the front door. In
her other ear, her daughter-in-law, Julia, carries on and on about
an eighty-year-old woman who was assaulted on top of her dryer.
"You need a real dog, Mom," Julia says. "No place is safe." Laney wonders if she's supposed to be that age already—saying a rosary and pulling
on clean underwear every time a repairman comes to the house.
Julia taps a hard-boiled egg against the bowl, devilling eggs no one
will eat. No one in the family likes devilled eggs, and even the children
sense that this slight gives their mother a dark satisfaction.
The front door whumps open. Odd ducks in and sets a Miller Genuine Draft fridge pack against the wall, then strikes into his Wild West
stance—his torso squaring off, hands hovering quick-draw over his front
"I'm here to shoot some kids!"
A delighted squeal from under the wing chair.
Odd's eyes dart after the sound. He's got those great thick froggy
eyelids that take so long to close, the bulge of the eyeballs moving underneath. He says, "I'll give you commie slime buckets two seconds to turn
yourselves in."
Oscar dashes out from behind the TV. He drops and worms his way
under the couch. Laney thinks these guys are out of their minds, or not
even in them yet. She loves everything they do.
"Lousy pinko bastards!" Odd pulls a cap gun from each pocket and
fires off two rounds, twirls the guns on his trigger fingers. "I'll tear your
eyeballs out, shoot your brains into brain stew!"
The door of the coat closet bumps twice from inside.
"This is your last chance, suckers!"
Odd waits a fiendish beat, then starts shooting, firing the guns in alternation. Pink strips scroll out of the barrels as cottony puffs open all
around him. A burnt sulfur smell.
Julia keeps right on talking over the commotion. Odd's been around
long enough now, thirteen years, that people tune him out as you would
a jackhammer when there's work being done in the basement. In the
beginning, the family wasn't clear. Was Laney dating this man? Was Paul
Odd her boyfriend?According to her youngest, Herb, what made it hard
31 to tell was the way Laney would enter a place some feet in advance of
Odd, as though he were some homeless man who'd followed her in off
the street.
"Man, I cannot wait to pop that first head off! You dug your graves,
The closet door springs open and ejects five-year-old Tucker, full
throttle. Tucker on those hormone-deficient stick legs high-steps up and
over the couch then lashes himself around Laney's calves. Tucker isn't
natural. He had to be injected into Julia's womb. Nearly three now, and
already he seems to sense he's different kind of breed with his pumpkin-
coloured hair that emits a vegetable odour when freshly cut.
Odd says, "Gutless, Charles. You think that cracker's gonna save
Laney scrabbles her fingers through Tucker's hair and hands down
her Diet Coke. "Have a sip of this, honey." Then she mouths across the
room, " Cool it, Odd."
"You hear that! The FO tells me cool it. I wonder what she'll think
when this place is...splattered with kid guts!"
Laney urges Odd, a bit louder, "I said cool it."
Oscar wriggles out from under the couch.
Odd noses his cap guns into his pockets and flicks his hair out of his
eyes. Still all that hair. Laney can picture him in college pumping down
the basketball court—his sweaty black ringlets and white satin shorts.
Daddy Long Legs they called him, or Daddy-0. He is a looker today. Long
and sexily slanted to one side, watching you as if from behind the wheel
of his 1957 Thunderbird. He'd drive two hundred miles in those days to
pick up rims or a door handle for that car. Laney'd go along for the ride,
dealing blackjack between them on the seat. He'd accuse her of palming
cards so he could pull over and frisk her, and she'd make sure there was
a card to find. Never trust a woman can find your fly faster than you can, he'd
Now sixty-five-year-old Odd stoops for his beer and then comes and
circles around behind Laney. He leans down and whispers, "Marry
Laney turns her head a little, nudges into his voice. "You've already
got a wife. Her name's Miller Genuine Draft."
"Why can't I marry you both?"
"We are jealous Gods," Laney says. She doesn't like to refuse Odd,
and does so with what spunk and colour she can muster.
He drops his head in behind her ear, takes a schoolboy's toke on her
perfume. "You'll marry me, Laney Jane. You wait."
He slips out the screen door without a sound. The next Laney sees
of Odd, he's chasing Tucker across the backyard. Tucker has the black
32 hood to the barbeque pulled over his head. Odd yelling, "I'm gonna rip
your arms and legs off!" Oscar follows last in the chain, clubbing Odd in
the back with a whiffle bat.
This marriage idea, this is new. Two weeks earlier, Laney awoke in
the middle of the night feeling watched, and there he was, propped on
a pillow with her reading glasses on. "We should get married," he said.
"Probably tonight." She looked at the clock and then rolled back to sleep,
but he's been proposing ten times a day ever since. When Laney pulls
back the shower curtain, he's standing in the tub, fully clothed. "Okay,"
he says, "I'll cut back. I need a few for the protein, but no more blacking
out." When Laney goes to adjust her rear-view mirror, there he is in the
back seat like a spy. "Swear me in, LBJ. Let the Oddman do for you."
Just yesterday, Odd recounted their whole history to the check-out
girl in Safeway who regarded him the way you might a talking ape.
"Now you tell me that's not a true Hollywood romance, and yet here she
is turning the Oddman down." The girl scanned through a twelve-pack and
a box of bran. "Do you think it's the Oddman's shoes?"
The girl said, "Can the Oddman please take his foot off the ledge."
But he left it up there, his scuffed tasseled loafer and no socks. "These
shoes weren't cheap, I can guarantee that."
Those feet are flatter than ground round, but when Odd padded down
to the draft board to cash them in, the Army took him anyway. Odd's
curls in a pile on the military barber shop floor. That strange erotic terror
when something irreversible is happening and you can't see it yet.
Seven months into his tour of duty, Odd stopped writing. His letters
had gotten more impersonal and piecemeal until the last one spiralled
into a tailspin about a Vietnamese boy from a nearby village.
... this guys goddamn gorgeous with brown eyes that see to the pit & this
guyd come and trade for C-Rats but last time he took my boots, that doesnt
make sense bee. the boots were on & so how did he get them off my feet? it
makes no sense but I have to laugh too bee. how did he get them off my feet?
thats what I cant get is how he...
On it went, round and round. Two months after the letters stopped,
Laney's Mother came in and sat at the foot of her bed. Laney braced
herself for word of Odd's death. While dicing onions or clipping her
toenails, she had imagined Odd in every posture of gore and mutilation
and asked her mother simply, Just tell me how. And her mother, who
hated Odd and wanted Laney to marry a carpet salesman who worked
for Laney's father, seized the moment in a godzillian stroke: Landmine.
It never occurred to Laney that anyone, even her mother, would lie
33 about a man dying in combat. Not even when her father's protege, Ed-
mond Edmondson, starting showing up soon and often for dinner. Edmonson was a noisy eater whose sense of humour should've predicted
future meanness, but to Laney there was only Odd and not-Odd. She
did crossword puzzles for fourteen months then married the guy. Two
kids into the deal, Edmondson started pushing her around. Pushing her
into the fridge when he was horny. Pushing her down the stairs when he
was hungry. One night, Laney took a pretty hairy spill, broke her leg in
three places, and with her boys looking on. When the painkillers ran out,
Laney hired the area lawn-man-slash-rental-goon to break Edmond's leg
in four places.
"What if instead I broke each leg in two pieces, six pieces total?" The
guy kind of an albino, kind of not.
"That's fine too. Whatever's easiest."
"Easiest is just to kill him. You get him on the run and splat, without
having to get methodist."
Here, Laney considered backing out, but then she got an itch deep in
her cast. "I need to know if you're able to do what we said and not kill
him. He's a father."
He picked something out of his teeth, examined it, and put it back in
his mouth. "I can try. For the pups' sake."
This conversation made more sense when, five days later, instead of
harming Edmondson—in fact, swerving around Edmondson—the man
ran over their beagle, Dunce.
In his tasseled loafers and cut-off jean shorts, Odd huddles in on Herb
at the barbeque. Clear across the patio, Laney hears Herb say, "I think
Mom just doesn't want to get married again. Period. To anyone."
Herb pulls back the barbeque lid and lowers in his baster. Herb with
his huge pink face and dragon nostrils. As boys, Laney's sons were darling, toothy and alert, but their features aged strangely. They look like
child actors grown up. Also, their arms stopped growing at some point.
The sight of them struggling on the monkey bars was a lot to take. Odd
said, once, "Those boys didn't have to look like that. If you'd just waited
on me."
Odd opens a fresh beer and studies the playhouse in the corner of
the yard. At one time, Herb had ventured into the custom playhouse
business, but he was too much of a perfectionist to make a go of it. Each
house took him a month or more to build, and with the bills piling up
and Julia and the kids, Herb gave in and joined his dad at Carpet Jungle!
This one playhouse remains: a two-story Victorian about the size of a
minivan, with fish scale shingles on the facade, a brass knocker and roll-
top garage door.
34 "That right there is something fine," Odd says, waving his beer towards the playhouse. "What that says to me is—you got to do that thing
right there or die." Herb shakes his head, doesn't want to talk about it.
"Forget the god-dang money. Whatever you got to do to do it, do it." Odd
crumples his beer. "It's a long life when it's the wrong life, man."
Just then, Oscar whizzes across the patio and starts circling Odd.
Each lap, he pokes Odd in the gut with an action figure he's gripping
like a hunting knife. Odd plays it cool—see nothing/feel nothing—then
swoops down and slings Oscar upside-down over his shoulder. Oscar
shrieks and kicks and starts slipping out of his swim trunks, oozing headfirst down Odd's back. Laney has asked Odd not to pick up these kids
when he's drinking which means don't pick up the kids, but, before there's
time to spit, Odd contorts himself forward and sets the boy on his feet.
"That's G.I.Joe!" Oscar says.
Odd takes the doll in his hand. "I'll tell you, man, he doesn't look like
any GI I've ever seen. They did it right, your little guy here'd come with
a little bag of weed. A coupla boom-boom girls—a couple of prostitutes,
you understand?" He pulls the tiny camouflage pants down, points at the
doll's smooth-surface privates. "He'd have a dose of the clap, maybe a
little Saigon Rose."
Laney reaches Odd and cups her hand over his mouth. "Slow it down,
Odd. Slow it down." She glances around for Julia, who tolerates Odd
only conditionally and kept the boys away for two months the previous
spring after Oscar raised his hand in class and asked if they could play
Hide the Salami (it turned out an older kid had put him up to it). When
Julia does come out of the kitchen, Oscar's doing a little dance, hula-
hooping his hips and chanting, "Boom-boom girl, boom boom boom."
Julia thinks this is cute and joins in the dance. She sings, "Boom boom
boom." Herb gets one look at this and starts laughing so hard he squeezes
the baster out on his shoes. He has always been a good son, but Laney's
not sure about the man as a husband or father. What puts her mind at
ease is, while she can take or leave Julia personally, she knows the girl
would've had an answer for Edmonson. She would've left him when the
boys were in diapers.
The turkey isn't cooking. It's five o'clock and it's still pink inside. In
the kitchen, Laney and Julia and Herb covertly debate a Domino's pizza
bail-out when Julia says, "Hold on a minute, Mom." Laney hates the girl
calling her Mom. Nothing personal. She's just squeamish with the word.
"Does it sound too quiet to anyone?"
They listen, wake up to this.
"Where are the children?" Julia says.
Next there's the sound of Dunce-2 trundling down the hall. He seems
35 to know something they don't, so they follow him outside and file in
along the edge of the patio. The dog raises one ear and barks a question
towards the playhouse.
Laney says, "Well would you look at that."
The playhouse is all eyes. Tucker and Oscar on their bellies looking
out the living room windows. Then there's Odd packed into the west
wing, both floors, like ajack-in-the-box—his eyes and nose framed in the
master bedroom window and each hairy knee in a dining room window
The garage door rolls back and Tucker charges into the sun with a red
wagon in tow. He high-steps across the lawn, his sherbet tongue lolling,
and curls the wagon to a stop some feet from the patio. "Okay," he pants.
"We got that house hostage. For our demands, we want a banana split
for each person. And Grammy has to say she'll marry Mister Odd. If we
don't get our demands in ten minutes, we'll starting zapping people."
Julia asks, "You'll what?"
"We'll start zapping."
Laney says, "Oh for crying out loud. Sweetie, you go and tell Odd
that he and I will discuss this in private." Odd glares through the master
bedroom window. "And while you're at it you might remind him about
our friend Miller."
Tucker scratches his crotch. "What's his friend's name?"
Truth be told, Laney could live with the material ugliness of drink—
the sour breath and bloat, Odd pissing on the neighbour's cat. But opening every one of those bottles is Odd's own unbottleable ferocity for
she-doesn't-know-what. He blows half a paycheque on tasselled loafers
when his teeth are dropping out of his head. Every phone call he takes
like there's some big shot on the line. Sometimes Laney thinks he's still
talking after the caller's hung up.
Tucker parks his wagon next to the ice chest and, with a wild look
back at Julia, crashes his hand into the icy slush. He drops a black and
gold can in the wagon and reaches in for another.
Julia starts over. "Tucker, if that man wants a soft drink you tell him—
put those—Tucker—put those back—" Tucker arches his back to dodge the
swipe of Julia's hand. "So help me Tuck, if you don't—" Tucker U-turns
and takes off, beer cans wheeling in the wagon bed.
Julia glowers at Herb. "I've warned you about this."
Herb says, "Come sit down."
"He's inappropriate around children. I'm sorry. He is."
"Come sit down."
Julia hangs a hand on her hip. "Now we have a situation."
"We don't have a situation."
36 Julia smiles. "No?"
"I see you trying to make a situation by calling it a situation."
Julia pulls her strawberry blonde hair back, holds it in a ponytail. She
has shampoo-commercial features and should be pretty, but she wasn't
born in any mood to energize her looks.
Laney sees Odd's hand poke through a second-storey window and
reach a beer across to the window where his mouth is. He unhitches the
tab with a pinky, angles the can in and drinks.
When Laney was a girl, she had an uncle like Odd. She knows the
exhilaration of being drop-caught. It is a sensation she has known only
once as an adult, when in a cafe in San Francisco she looked up from
her coffee and saw sitting at the bar—not fifteen feet away—the dead
love of her life. Paul Odd, not dead. Not anything like dead, but eating
shrimp cocktail. Under the table, her boys—then six and eight years
old—were driving matchbox cars up and down her shins. Odd looked
right at her. She poured cream all over the table. It'd been ten years since
the landmine. Only there had been no landmine because here Odd was,
his black curls grown back bushy and lusterless, like a wig on him now.
He was stoned. He held up a shrimp and made it wave with its tail, and
just then Herb climbed onto a chair and held his matchbox Le Car up in
answer to Odd's shrimp. And they waved like this. Shrimp and car. Car
and shrimp.
"I don't care about my children's safety?" Herb says.
"I didn't say that," Julia says. "I said you don't think ahead."
Laney says, "Those children are safe with Paul."
"Mom, we don't know that. He's had too much to drink."
Herb says, "Who's cooking that turkey if I don't think ahead? It's not
cooking itself!"
Laney looks over at the turkey which, snug on the grill, does in fact
appear to be cooking itself. Herb must notice this too because he kicks
his chair out and squirts the bird with lighter fluid. Ribbons of flame curl
off the bird's rear and Herb's face eases into an expression of awe. He
squirts the bird again, fastens the stream on its igniting body.
Julia says, "Real mature, Herb. We have five mouths to feed."
A series of cracks from the playhouse. Laney jumps. "When I get my
hands on those cap guns—"
This time, Oscar bursts from the garage door. "We warned you!" he
yells, tripping and heaving the red wagon across the lawn. "This is what
happens when you don't listen!" A limp freckled arm springs out sideways from the wagon bed. What looks like blood on the hand. Then
Oscar wheels over a sprinkler head and the wagon topples, dumping
37 Tucker onto the lawn, his body gelatinous, not moving, more a heap of
parts than a whole.
Julia gasps.
Herb's beating the turkey with a broom, one drumstick madly ablaze.
"What?" he says. "What?"
Dunce-2 reaches the body first. He noses the boy's crotch, takes a
drag on his armpit, then nudges the boy's head up and over. It takes
Laney a minute to make sense of her grandson's face. It looks like it's
been dragged a few miles on hot asphalt. His forehead and one cheek
are smattered in maroon-purple brain-looking matter. Dunce-2 snaps up
a chunk of it in his jaws.
"Get him off of him!" Julia screams. "Get that dog off—" She takes
hold of Dunce's collar and yanks him clear off his front legs.
Herb runs out with the broom and kneels beside his son. "Baby," he
says. "Can you hear me?" He bends in closer and sniffs his son's face.
Then he fingers the wound, sniffs it again, and then tastes it. He pauses,
lets Julia suffer a moment, then says, "It's hamburger meat. And ketchup."
Julia catches her breath in her hand. "That's terrifying."
Tucker giggles and rolls out from under Herb.
Oscar belts out from the second-floor window, "That's what happens
when you don't listen! People die!"
The curtains are drawn most of the way, but Laney knows Odd's
watching. He never stops watching, and everything he sees is real. Even
his hallucinations happen the way dreams really happen in your heart
and your head—as anyone who's ever woken up unaccountably heartbroken knows.
Julia picks a clump of hamburger off the grass, squeezes it in a way
that seems lonely. "Am I the only one who thinks there's something sick
going on here?"
After Laney ran into Odd in San Francisco, she bided her time. She
knew he'd call, would say, Come with me, Laney Jane. And he did call,
twenty-one years later. Laney was sitting at her kitchen table with a cup
of tea and a magic marker, blacking in the pages of her plaid Betty Crocker
(2 tablespoons butter or margarine becoming |
|). She was halfway through Sauces when the phone rang. Instead of
a voice, there was someone munching nuts on the other end of the line.
She knew it was him, recognized the timbre of his munch.
"So I thought I'd call and apologize about the other day," he said.
Laney heard herself laugh. "The other day, as in nineteen-seventy-
"Yeah, yeah, that's it." The sound of a smile in his voice. "That was a
38 great suit you had on you. What colour do you call that?"
He ate another nut. She could tell he was nodding.
"Hey, does your boy still have that little car?"
"He's twenty-seven years old." She knew the smart thing was to hang
up, but he already had her. And when he asked where in California he
was calling, Laney didn't even blush. "The same place, Odd. I never
Julia announces she's getting the boys and going home. She's halfway
to the playhouse when a whistle blows and the playhouse roof cracks up
and over like a lid on a tank. Oscar points at Julia and yells, "Fire!"
In unison, the boys let fly a raft of bright white soaring—what? Eggs,
is Laney's first guess, but they're too cushiony for eggs—pelting Julia
fwap fwap on the thighs, thoop in the breast, ptahh on the forehead. One
flies stray. Marshmallows. They're throwing marshmallows. They duck
to reload and, panicking they won't throw their share, fire off two, three,
a handful at once. Julia twists and turns in the blitz, a figure in strobe
lights. Julia pelted high and low but soldiering on.
Then someone throws a rock. It glances off Julia's knee in mid-bend.
Her leg snaps straight and she jerks, genuflects, goes down. She slings
both hands around her knee and starts rocking back and forth in the
Laney can still see Herb's face the night Edmondson bumped her
down the basement stairs. Ed—his boots eaving over the top stair, his
fork in his hand and a stab of butt steak on the tines—had ordered the
boys back to the table and then had watched five innings of a Giants
game before he checked on her and found she'd not gotten up. But before he did, Herb had snuck back to the landing and stood where his
father had stood. Laney had told him go back and eat before his father heard. He obeyed, but not immediately. He hesitated. And, though
Laney would always love her son, she would never forgive that second
of brute curiosity, Herb looking down from the top of the stairs while she
lay doing rag-doll splits at the bottom.
Julia wants to call the police. Herb's helped her into a chair and
plumped a cushion for her, now he's positioning an ice-bag on her knee.
"This is bad," he says, "I'm not saying it's not. But let's not get carried
away. If Tucker says it was an accident, that's what it was."
"Throwing rocks? How is throwing rocks an accident?"
"Rock. A rock."
Laney says, "Maybe a second rock came from over in that grassy
39 area.
"There was one rock," Julia says.
The turkey's burnt Herb's eyebrows off and large patches of his arm
"Herb, please bring me the phone. I'm calling the police."
"Call them on who, Jules? Our own kids?"
Julia comes forward in her chair, points at the playhouse. "On him!
He's doing this."
Herb considers this. "He looks like he's just sitting out there to me.
In the chinked curtain, Odd's stare is cold. It's getting to be the time
of day when Odd's eyes sink in rings of melting like ice cubes sitting out,
and you have to let him be, until tomorrow, when he'll wake up and try
his best for as long as he can.
Laney tells Herb, "I've told you I won't do this with you."
Laney says, "Those children are safe."
"You know what I just realized?" Julia looks from Laney to Herb with
that cynical savour you see on the blind when no one will help them
across the street. "You two think exactly the same thing I do. Bottom
line, you won't go out there because you don't want to excite him, because you think he's dangerous."
Herb says, "Maybe if you went and talked to him, Mom."
Laney says, "Those kids aren't under control."
Julia says, "It's Odd who's out of control. He's got my kids hostage out
Laney says to Herb, "Maybe first things first, you get your wife under
Not even the pizza, when it comes forty minutes later, smokes them
out of the playhouse, though Herb makes a show of it, popping the steaming pizza-box lid and peeling off the cheesiest piece. "Mmm-mmm, does
this look good!" He strolls around the yard eating off his hand, slurping
strings of mozzarella off his block chin.
Two minutes of this and Oscar cranks a window open. "We're not
stupid! Pizza's not what we want, and we're still in command!" He draws
back and launches a paper airplane into the dusk.
Julia says to Herb, "Don't you dare go and pick that up."
Herb looks out at the airplane. "But I want to."
"So help me God," Julia says.
'Just to see what he's thinking," Herb says.
"What he's what?"
Herb kicks the G.I.Joe—the doll's pants spin off and land by the dog
dish—then he picks the airplane off the lawn. He unfolds it and reads
40 while he walks. "He wants us to call a priest," he says. Long before she's
in range to take it, he holds the note out to Laney, as if in some larger
spirit of offering.
7. the pizzas bullshit, the grands wantsplitz—
2. marry me laney jane—call Father B—happily ever as long as we got—
Herb pulls a chair up next to Laney, unloads himself with a sigh. She
feels him study her profile then look away. "It's none of my business, but
have you thought of marrying Odd? Independent of all this?"
Laney blinks the playhouse in and out of sight. All the shades of green
in the yard have merged into a wilted-sandwich-lettuce green. Independent of all this. What could this possibly mean?
"It's getting late. What about calling Father B? Just to talk."
"To trick him, you mean?"
"Not trick him, Ma."
Laney folds the note back into an airplane, pricks her finger on its
nose. "You did a beautiful job on that house, Herb. You did superbly."
Herb crosses his arms, holds a finger to his lip. "You think?"
"I've always said so."
Julia talks around her leg like it's in traction. "For me," she says, "it's
the priest or it's the police, and I don't particularly care which."
Herb says, "I couldn't make a living at it." He smoothes the hair over
his ear like he's always done when he feels momentarily understood.
"I'd be stone broke. That's what I'm saying."
The neighbours on the other side of the fence switch a light on. Laney
loves the creep of evening, how long you resist pulling a lamp on when
you're sitting reading, and it's always someone else comes along and insists, and because of their itch to do it, you let them, and they're right and
the room lighting up makes you happy, so you thank them, and she bets
there's a word for this in German, a word like schadenfreude only darker.
"You need a certain amount of disappointment in life. It's something you
can rely on later on."
Herb stares, his eyelashes minuscule curls of ash. "I'm a disappointment to you?"
"Don't be dramatic, Sweetie. I'm talking about people." Laney glances at the uneaten pizzas. "Listen, I won't trick him. If you think calling a
priest is the answer, then call him."
Laney meets his eye. "You think he's a danger to your boys? Out in
that house right now? You think that?"
41 Julia says across the porch, "It's more like how can we be sure,
Herb says, "It's getting late. That's all I know."
Laney tightens her grip on the airplane. "You divide me, Herbert. You
split me in two."
While they're waiting on Father B, Tucker sprints from the playhouse,
tripping the motion-sensor floodlights and not breaking stride until he's
balled in Julia's lap. They breathe together awhile-^Julia molding down
around him so they are like a fist within a fist—then Tucker flies up to
give his report. "I had to wait to escape until Oscar went to sleep. And
Mister Odd is stuck out there, too. Oscar made him get in there, but he's
too big to get out."
Herb says, "Are you saying Mister Odd's trapped?"
"He's not Lassie, Herb. Let him talk."
Herb pushes Julia's shoulder, not hard, but her hair moves.
"Oh," Tucker's face broadens, "Mister Odd is stuck bad. He really is.
I think the house'll have to come apart to get him out. And Oscar put
him in there because he doesn't want chicken. And then Mommy gets
hit with a grenade. Oscar said it probably tore her legs off."
The doorbell rings. Julia picks Tucker up, shifts him onto the saddle
of her hip. "See," she says, kissing his forehead, "Mommy's legs are fine.
Good as new."
Father B steps out onto the patio, his smiling cheeks the size of a
baby's bottom with one dimple so deep Laney thinks it's a stab wound.
His foot turns funny and almost sends him over. He bends down and
picks up the naked G.I.Joe. "What do we have here?" He inspects the
small plastic buttocks.
Herb lashes an orange extension cord across the lawn and jogs out
with his drill. He crowbars the strips of molding off and starts working
his way clockwise from screw to screw—his arm recoiling and the drill
engine fluttering as each screw comes loose.
Father B says joyfully, "Seems a funny time of day to run a drill."
Just then Herb yells, "Here we go!" and scampers away from the playhouse. For a moment, nothing. Then the playhouse sort of looms forward. The facade peels apart from the building, creaks, then accelerates
into its fall, landing in the grass with a thunk.
Father says, "Well isn't that a picture."
Herb moves his flashlight beam over the rooms, open now to the
night like a sit-com set. "It looks like a suicide cult."
Oscar's curled up in a miniature wing chair. On the other side of
the wall, two-storey Odd slumps forward in a lawn chair, his hands and
knees and feet nuzzled in pairs.
42 Laney steps on a beer can in such a way it cleaves to her shoe. She
sets her palm to Odd's forehead. His chest takes in air in quick punches
and he's sweating, feverish. Laney lets go. Something so personal in that
heat. The inside-out look he gets when he's sleeping.
He wakes squinting into the floodlights, glancing left and down to
place himself. Then, grumpy, adorable, he finds Laney. "I'm tired, LBJ.
I wanna go home."
"We will."
"Lousy pinkos trapped me."
"I know."
"Lord love 'em." He smiles himself back to sleep and an entire dream
plays on his face. All in a span of seconds.
"Father's B's here," Laney says. "Like you asked."
He pulls Laney into his lap and belts his arms around her waist, locking his punch-flat knuckles and shifting her against him. Over her shoulder he says, "Father B, good to see you. How's God?" He says this every
time he sees Father B.
Every time Father B responds, "God is good."
Oscar crawls out and shuffles over, his shoulders in a penitent hang.
He climbs into Laney's lap who's in Odd's lap and she belts him in too,
holds a kiss to his cheek so long she has to breathe through her nose.
His skin smells like when you open an empty glass jar. "You hurt your
mother," she says. "You hurt her feelings."
He picks at her sleeve, watches his fingers. "I don't know why I did
Julia's on her way out now with Tucker riding piggyback, his arms
cranking like a symphony conductor over the podium of her head.
Odd's telling Father B that Laney's going marry him, but not tonight.
Not until she knows herself it's right.
"Of course not. I guess I'm just confused as to—"
"I'm saying it is a long dang life, Father, and look at these boys. A guy
like me can only take them so far. You understand what I'm saying?"
A few feet off, Herb sits in the grass reorganizing his drill bits.
Father B rests his chin on G.I.Joe. "You want me to bless them?"
"Give 'em all you got. Your full horsepower."
Laney is trying to remember how they go, the vows. It's hard to believe now she said them once. This close to it, she thinks it's not marriage
she resists so much as the words, the vow-taking itself. What she has
now is her life, how things happened, in what order, and it would hurt
too much to pretend all that had been taken could be restored, or that
Odd was a man without habits or demons or secrets, a man she could
trust with her babies and her babies' babies. But he will drink too much
again and he will play too hard, he will pick them up, the grands, hold
43 them screaming in mid air, and some day he'll play until he's not playing
anymore. And Laney won't stop him. She never will. If he asked her, if
it's what he needed to make it through the night, she would deliver them
to him in her own arms.
44 Anna Swanson
Lullaby for Small
What do I know of the world these days?
This room, the merciful windows
and whatever weather hits them. The world is
this: the eagles calling out into the sleepless night,
and me, small enough to fit in a coat pocket.
There is a box I keep on the table by my bed.
A box just large enough for all the doctors'
perfect remedies. The eagles call out into the night,
the falling notes of their cries like ripples around a pebble
which has disappeared into dark water.
At five, a peacock walks the ledge
outside my bedroom window. The light
begins so slowly. And me, curled in my bed,
small enough to fit in a coat pocket.
I have worn out my anger, and there is not much
of me left. I want the backseat
of our old orange Datsun. I want my father
to carry me in. I swore I'd never get too big.
Sleep, baby, sleep. All the old songs.
Thy father tend the sheep. I want
The falling notes like ripples. The pebble.
The dark water closing around it.
45 The moment
when the world says go. When everything
turns green: the neon signs, the on-ramps,
the sun rising like an oversized traffic light
across the highway. She's left the muffler
on the side of the road. She's cut off the roof.
She's speeding down sunburnt tarmac.
To have a body. To move
from inside the skin. She remembers now.
To pivot around a paddle into white water.
To somersault, to hipcheck, to handspring.
To nail a baseball into a glove. To reach
past safety and smack against joy.
She remembers. To jackknife
off the wharf into cold water.
To wake up. This body:
the green sap rising.
46 Tulip
The tulip starts out all knee socks, headbands,
good posture. There is an elegance that grows out of this,
flawless, youthful, expected. But not quite beautiful.
She marries her law-school boyfriend.
Her life is slender, smooth, punctuated.
Stand next to her and everything makes sense.
The house. Retirement plans. A boy and two girls.
She accents any room she stands in.
She is the perfect dinner-party acquaintance
you never really got to know after all these years.
Only in the last days does she open.
She stops brushing her hair and her dark eyes
have fire in them. The death that grows in her
is not a diminishing, more an unhinging;
the diver's body pausing in the high air,
arced and beautiful before it falls. Suddenly
you feel small before her, unbearably restricted,
as if she had saved a lifetime of abandon
for this one meeting. She takes death as a lover,
hangs out her satin sheets,
stains to the wind.
47 Mari-Lou Rowley
Quantum Leap
Try building a universe from scratch
quarks on up, it's true they travel in packs
of threes, red green blue, inseparable
as adolescents in coordinated fleece,
bound by gluons they eventually become one
proton or neutron with no colour at all. White
Madonna in need of a partner. Boys lined up
against the gym, buddies/anti-buddies growing
unstable, mesons that like to mess around
turn into electrons and nefarious particles, spin
girls on their heels, carry them off by force.
Attraction electromagnetic they orbit around her
make a quantum leap to the heart's core
emitting a whoop and a photon of light.
48 Gravitational Waves
We, briefly observable, a point in time, a curve
in space, two bodies pulled toward each other.
Now universes between us. And language,
our familiar and foreign utterances. Tell me about
your weather. The quantum effect of touch,
excited electrons, other acceleration phenomena.
It is blowing here. Squalling. Thugs of snow hug
the cabin. Threaten electrical disturbance, frozen locks,
disorientation. Perhaps the moon looks like this
on the shady side. Remember our walk on moonrock
the hot sun, my flimsy sandals, our quick gasps,
the cool Mediterranean, our contrasting skins.
Macroscopic memories for weightless words,
gravitons of longing riding wave after wave.
49 JeffKochan
I remember the day Wyatt first told me about Trude. It was some time
not long after New Year's. I'd been up at my sister's acreage for a
month or so and had just got home. I was out back shovelling snow
when he came over. He asked how the visit with my sister went and I
started telling him a bit about that but, I don't know, while he was listening he kept kicking at the snow and putting his hands into his pockets
and then taking them back out again. I guess I knew he must have had
something else on his mind so I put away the shovel and said, let's go
down to the river. That's where we usually go when we want to talk
about something. When Wyatt's mother died last summer we spent a lot
of time down there.
At the river, Wyatt told me about Trude. He was pretty excited about
the whole thing. Trude was a grad student over at the university where
he works as a welder. They'd met one day last November when Wyatt
was helping set up an exhibition in the art gallery. The two of them got to
talking and I guess they hit it off right away. Later, Trude invited him to
spend Christmas at her folks' place in a town a couple of hundred miles
northwest of the city. He'd had a real good time up there. He and Trude's
dad, Luc, had really hit it off. It was the happiest I'd ever seen him.
A few days later, I invited Wyatt to bring Trude around for dinner.
After dinner, they took care of the coffee while I started a fire. When I
had a good flame going we sat down with our coffee. Shelby came over
and jumped into Trude's lap. The three of us talked a bit while Trude
scratched Shelby's ears. I said to Shelby that it looked like she'd found
herself a new friend. Trude said she already knew Shelby pretty well
since Shelby spent a lot of time across the street at Wyatt's place. She
said Shelby sometimes sat on her lap while she worked on her dissertation and helped her out with the tricky parts. I asked Trude what she
studied and she said she was writing about Leo Tolstoy's green stick. I
knew who Tolstoy was because I'd read one of his books but I'd never
heard of his green stick. Trude said that when Tolstoy was a boy his older
brother had told him that he knew the secret for world peace and human happiness. The brother wrote that secret down on a green stick and
buried it in a forest near their home. Trude said that Tolstoy spent his
whole life looking for that stick. You could see that in the way he wrote
50 his books. She said that when he was an old man Tolstoy wanted to be
buried in the same forest as the green stick.
When Trude was finished, no one said anything for a while. Then I
said I thought it was a good story and that it was too bad Tolstoy never
found his stick. Wyatt said he figured one way or another everybody's
looking for a green stick. I guess that was a pretty serious conversation.
Afterwards, we just sat there for a long time looking into the fire and not
saying anything.
When the accident happened, I was at home drinking a cup of coffee
and reading a book. Wyatt and Trude had gone up to her folks' place
for Easter. They were supposed to be coming home that night. I remember how I kept looking out the window at Wyatt's house to see if they
were back but every time I looked the windows were still dark. Then the
phone rang. Somehow the RCMP figured out that I was the one they
should call. The mountie told me Wyatt was at the university hospital.
I asked if he was okay and she told me that he'd been hurt real bad. I
asked her how Trude was. She said Trude was dead. I don't know. After I
heard that, I just couldn't say anything. I hung up the phone, went back
to my desk and picked up my coffee cup and carried it into the kitchen.
I poured the coffee out in the sink, washed and dried the cup and put it
back into the cupboard. I wished Shelby were there. She usually comes
in to eat something around that time. I wanted to wait for her so that I
could make sure she was okay but I guess I knew I'd better get going.
I took my keys off their hook and went out to the car. It was about
fifteen minutes to the hospital. I didn't even know if Wyatt would still be
alive when I got there. I drove to the end of the alley. I sat there looking
out at the traffic, waiting for a space to open up and trying not to think
too much about what might happen.
When I got to the hospital, I went into emergency and told the woman at reception I was there to see Wyatt. She asked my name then she
called someone on the telephone and told them I was there. After a few
minutes, a man came by and asked for me. He introduced himself, told
me he was a social worker. I followed him down the hallway and into
a small room. I asked him how Wyatt was and he said he didn't know.
He said that Wyatt had a real bad head injury; he'd needed an operation and he was just coming out of surgery. He said the doctor would
come by in a few minutes to talk to me. He asked if I was a relative of
Wyatt's and I said, no, I was his neighbour. He asked if Wyatt had any
family and I said no. I told him Wyatt's mother had died not too long
ago. When he heard that the social worker put down the papers he was
holding and rubbed his eyes. Then he asked me if I'd known Trude. I
nodded and then said the RCMP had told me she was dead. The social
worker picked up his papers again and started looking through them. He
51 said he'd talked to the RCMP and the paramedics who had been at the
Trude's truck had gone off the road. Some people in another vehicle
had seen it happen but they didn't know what had caused it. No one
knows. The people said the truck had drifted onto the shoulder and then
suddenly jerked back, hard to the left. It went into a sideways skid on
the gravel and when it hit the ditch it started to roll. It hit a barbed-wire
fence and a post came in through the driver's window. That post killed
Trude. The social worker told me that even though Wyatt was wearing
a seat belt he'd still hit his head somehow, maybe on the doorframe.
Those folks in the other vehicle called the RCMP on their cell phone
and, since they were near a town, the police and paramedics got there
real quick. When the paramedics saw how bad Wyatt was they called
for a helicopter to airlift him. The RCMP took Trude's body into town,
found out her parents' number and called them.
When the social worker had finished telling me about the accident,
we just sat there for a while not saying anything. Then he stood up and
said he would go find out if the doctor was ready to talk to me. After he'd
left, I sat there not thinking too much about anything.
A few minutes later, the social worker came back into the room and
handed me a glass of water. He told me the doctor was right behind
him. The doctor walked into the room with two younger guys who I
guess were medical students. He introduced himself and shook my hand.
He asked me how I was. I said I guessed I was okay under the circumstances. Then the doctor told me that when Wyatt had arrived at the
hospital he'd been in critical condition and would have died without an
operation. He was bleeding inside his head and there was a large blood
clot pushing in on his brain. The doctor told me that he'd drilled a hole
through Wyatt's skull so he could get the clot out and stop the bleeding
and then he'd screwed a titanium plate over top of the hole. Then he
pointed to one of the students standing next to him and said that he'd
helped with the operation. The student smiled down at me.
I asked if Wyatt was going to be okay. The doctor said he was out of
immediate danger but that they'd have to keep him in the hospital for a
few days just in case the bleeding in his head started again. He said that
Wyatt's brain was probably okay but that it was still too soon to say if
he'd have any permanent problems or not. He told me we'd talk again
after Wyatt had woken up and he'd examined him. Then the doctor
shook my hand again and he and the two students left the room.
I told the social worker I wanted to see Wyatt. He told me which
room he'd be in but he said that he still wouldn't be there for a while. He
said maybe I should go get myself a cup of coffee.
I went over to the hospital's food court, got myself a coffee and car-
52 ried it over to one of the tables. I set the cup on the table and then sat
down and waited there until the coffee was cold. Then I got up and went
to find Wyatt.
When I got to his room, he was lying on the bed and, I don't know,
I guess he looked pretty bad. They had him hooked up to a couple of
different machines. He was strapped down with nylon straps across his
arms, legs and waist. He had a neck brace on. His face was pale, and was
scraped up in a few places and a bit swollen. They'd shaved off some
of the hair on the right side of his head and there was a cut in his scalp
about four inches long with some stitches holding it together. He had two
black eyes.
Wyatt was still unconscious. I stood there and looked down at him,
touched one of his hands and it felt warm. I said his name but he didn't
A nurse came into the room and I asked her why he was strapped to
the bed. She said he'd attacked a paramedic and an orderly before going
into surgery. They wanted to make sure he didn't hurt himself or anyone
else when he woke up. I don't know. Wyatt's the most gentle guy I know.
The nurse told me sometimes people act violently after a head injury
and that it probably wouldn't happen again. They'd take off the straps
after Wyatt woke up and they'd talked to him. She said he'd probably
sleep through the night and be up in the morning. She told me to go
home and get some sleep so that I wouldn't be too tired the next day.
When the nurse left the room, I sat down next to Wyatt's bed. I took
one of his hands and held it for a while. I was too afraid to touch his
head. I told him I'd see him in the morning and then got up and left. I
didn't mention Trude.
The next morning, I met that social worker in the hall outside Wyatt's
room. He told me that Wyatt had woken up a couple of hours ago. I
asked how he was. He said that Wyatt didn't remember anything about
the accident. As soon as he was awake, he wanted to know where Trude
was. He wanted them to take off the straps. The nurses had called another social worker. She came and told him that Trude was dead. He
didn't take it well. He was still pretty weak but he'd started shouting and
struggling against the straps and they were afraid he would hurt himself
so they gave him a sedative. The social worker said that if Wyatt didn't
take it real easy for a few more days he might end up having a seizure or
the bleeding in his head might start again. He told me to let the nurses
know as soon as Wyatt woke up again and then he left.
Wyatt woke up around lunchtime. I was sitting next to his bed reading a book when I heard him say my name. I looked up and he was staring right at me with those two black eyes. He told me Trude was dead. I
said I knew. He said he didn't remember anything and I told him what
53 the social worker had told me. He lay there not saying anything. After a
while, he fell asleep again. I went to tell the nurses and one of them came
and looked in on him.
Wyatt slept most of the time. When he was awake, we talked a little
bit but it was really hard for him. In the afternoon, a doctor came to examine him. She asked him a few questions and then removed the straps.
The doctor told him that he'd have trouble talking for a few days but that
he should slowly get better. I remember that she had a long curving scar
across one side of her forehead.
In the evening, an orderly brought Wyatt a tray of food. He was trying to eat a bit of it when a man walked into the room. It was Luc,
Trude's dad. He said he'd been to see Trude's body and to arrange for
her to be taken home. Then he'd come the rest of the way into the city
to see Wyatt. Wyatt introduced us and we shook hands over the bed. I
went for a walk so they could visit. When I came back, Wyatt was asleep.
I told Luc he could stay at my place for the night. He thanked me but
said he couldn't leave Trude's mom alone for too long so he was going
to drive home that night. He said that Trude's funeral was in four days
and I was welcome even though Wyatt wouldn't be able to come. I said
thanks but that I should stay with Wyatt. Luc nodded and said he'd sit
with Wyatt for another hour or so. He told me I should go home and get
some sleep.
Three days later, the doctor who put the metal plate into Wyatt's head
came and told him he could go home. He gave him a prescription for
painkillers and for some pills that would help stop him from having a
seizure. He told him to make an appointment to come back in ten days
to have the stitches removed from his head. He said to take it real easy
until then.
I brought Wyatt home and helped him to his back door. He was real
slow on his feet and not very stable. He said that if he moved his head
too quickly it made him feel sick. When we were on the back steps,
Shelby appeared. Wyatt managed to sit down for a minute and scratch
her ears. Then we went inside. He took a couple of pills and went to
In the evening, I woke Wyatt up and we ate a bit of soup and bread
for supper. Then Wyatt, me, and Shelby went for a walk to the end of
the block and back. After that, he went back to bed. I spent the night at
his place sleeping on the sofa.
The next morning, I got up and checked in on him. He was still sleeping so I went across to my place to take care of a few things and to get
some fruit and coffee to bring over for breakfast. When I was in my
kitchen, I heard a car stop in front of Wyatt's house and his front door
open and close. When I went to the front window, I saw Wyatt slowly
54 coming down his front steps and a taxi waiting in the street. I ran out
the front door and caught him before he got into the cab. I asked what
was happening. He said he was going to the station to catch a bus up to
Trude's funeral. I don't know. I really didn't think he was in good enough
shape to make the trip but I guess he still had a right to go. I told him I'd
take him there myself.
We ate some breakfast. Then I helped him out to the car. I put some
pillows and a blanket in the back seat so he could lie down. When I was
backing out of the drive, I saw Shelby sitting on Wyatt's back step watching us leave. Wyatt looked out the window at Shelby and raised his hand
to the glass and waved goodbye.
He slept for the whole trip. On the way, we passed the place on the
road where the accident had happened but, since we were going the
other way and that stretch is separated by a median with some trees, I
didn't see the exact place. I stopped about half way to fuel up and get a
cup of coffee and I remember how the guy working behind the counter
had a scar running down his forehead and along one side of his nose.
When we got to Trude's town, I woke Wyatt up and he told me how
to get to the church. As we walked in, Luc saw us. He looked angry and
came over to Wyatt and said what the hell was he doing here and isn't
one dead child enough. Then he put his arms around Wyatt and started
to cry. Trude's mom came over and gave Wyatt a hug too but she didn't
say anything. I helped Wyatt to the front of the church where Trude's
coffin was. The lid was closed. A framed picture of Trude lay on top.
Trude's mom came over and gave Wyatt a rose and he laid it on the coffin next to two others. Then we sat down for the service.
Six pallbearers carried Trude's coffin out of the church and put it into
the back of a hearse. Everybody got in their cars and followed the hearse
to the cemetery. We watched as Trude's coffin was lowered into the grave
and the priest said a few more words. Then one of the pallbearers came
up to Wyatt and Trude's parents and gave them the roses. They threw
them down into the grave. A few people came up to Wyatt to talk to him
but he didn't say too much. I don't know. He was starting to look pretty
pale and tired. I told him that maybe he should go lie down somewhere
for a while. He said he was ready to go home. He'd sleep in the car.
We said goodbye to Trude's parents and Luc helped Wyatt to the car.
Wyatt got into the back, laid down, and closed his eyes. After I'd shut
the door, Luc took my hand. He looked me in the eye and said thanks.
He said I should take care of Wyatt.
On the way back home, we passed by that place where the accident
had happened but this time it was coming up right there on our side of
the road. I don't know. I remember thinking maybe I should've gone a
different way just in case Wyatt couldn't handle seeing it but he looked
55 like he was sleeping pretty deep back there and, anyway, it was getting
dark and I thought maybe the sooner I got him back home the better.
When I saw that broken fence getting closer, I suddenly felt a bit
shaky. I took a few deep breaths and grabbed the wheel tight. I checked
the mirrors and the road ahead and I thought maybe we were going to
get through it okay. Then, I don't know, everything went kind of crazy.
Wyatt was suddenly sitting up and leaning over into the front of the car.
He was grabbing my jacket and pulling at it and yelling at me to stop the
car. It was pretty scary. I thought we might go off the road, so I slowed
down and pulled over onto the shoulder. Before we stopped, Wyatt was
already out the door and stumbling down across the ditch. I put the hazards on and got out.
By the time I got around the car, he was already through the hole in
the fence and running out into the field. I went after him but the earth
was cut up pretty bad from the accident and it was hard to see in the
twilight, so I had trouble staying on my feet. When I finally caught up,
he was down on his knees tearing at the ground with his hands like he
was looking for something. I knelt down beside him, put my hand on
his shoulder and tried to settle him down. I asked what he was doing.
He shook off my hand and kept digging. He said he was trying to find
Trude's green stick. I don't know. I guess it was pretty strange. I looked
at him digging in the ground and wondered for a second if maybe none
of this was really happening. I knew Wyatt was right there in front of
me but, somehow, in the twilight, I felt like he could disappear at any
moment. I leaned forward on my knees and touched his shoulder. Then
I grabbed hold of him and pulled him in towards me. I held him tight
in my arms and told him to stop acting crazy. I said it was time to go
home and that there was no such thing as a green stick. It was just a story.
Wyatt broke my grip and hit me. I don't know. Wyatt's pretty strong.
He knocked me backwards onto the ground and I kind of lost my senses
for a few seconds. When my vision cleared, I pushed myself up and saw
him crunched up on his side. He was shivering real bad and throwing
up onto the dirt. I crawled over to him and laid my hands on his back
and held them there until he calmed down. Then I tried to pull him up
onto his feet but he lost his balance and fell onto the ground and started
throwing up some more. When he was still again, I managed to pick him
up and carry him back to the car.
I laid him in the back seat, put the pillows in behind his back and
head and the blanket over top of him. I went to the trunk and took out
another blanket, a clean rag and a bottle of water. I cleaned the dirt from
the stitches in his head and the vomit from his face and I tucked the
second blanket in around him. Then I shut the door and leaned back
against the car. The night felt suddenly still. I looked at the deep blue sky
56 to the west and I saw Venus shining just above the trees. I touched my
cheek where Wyatt had hit me and could feel that it was starting to swell.
I took a few deep breaths and walked around the car a couple of times
to make sure I was still okay to drive. Then I got behind the wheel and
looked back at Wyatt. He was sleeping. I put my hand on his forehead,
held it there for a few seconds and listened to his breathing. It seemed
like he was going to be okay. I turned back around, started the car and
headed for home.
When we got back to the city and down into our neighbourhood,
I turned into Wyatt's back alley and parked behind his house. As the
headlights swept across the backyard, I caught sight of Shelby's eyes
shining out from under a chokecherry bush. She must have heard us
coming. I got out of the car and went around to the other side. I opened
the door and leaned in and woke Wyatt up. It was a cold night. He
started shivering so I took a blanket and put it around his shoulders and
then helped him through the yard and up the steps to the back door.
I stood in the kitchen while Wyatt used the bathroom. When he came
out, I gave him one of those pills against seizures and a bit of water and
then helped him into bed. He was still shivering so I laid the blanket
from the car on top of the bed covers. It didn't help much. He was pale
and, when I touched his forehead, his skin was cool. I went to the living
room, took an afghan from the sofa and brought it back to the bedroom
and threw it over the bed. Wyatt kept shivering. Finally, I took off my
jacket and got into the bed. I put my arm around him and held him
close. I lay there until he finally stopped shivering and fell asleep. I kept
laying there, looking out the window trying to figure things out. After a
while I guess I must have fallen asleep too.
When I woke up, the sky was just beginning to brighten. Wyatt was
still sleeping. Some colour had come back into his face. I touched his
forehead and his skin was warm.
I was standing at the kitchen window when I heard Shelby yeowl. I
went to the back door and out onto the steps. I don't know. Somehow, I
couldn't see anything very well out there. Everything was gray and hazy.
Then there was a bit of movement over alongside the shed and Shelby
suddenly stepped out from the bushes. She was coming straight towards
me through the haze. She had something in her mouth but I couldn't tell
what it was. She was staring straight into my eyes in a weird kind of way.
I don't know. I guess it made me nervous because I couldn't remember
her ever acting so strange before. I remember wondering, why can't
everything just go back to normal.
When Shelby reached the steps, she stopped and dropped the thing in
her mouth at my feet. It was a small gray bundle of some kind. I nudged
it with a toe and a little head rolled out and I saw that it was a small bird.
57 I didn't know what to think. I guess I was pretty mad at her but she was
just sitting there staring at me in that weird way and, somehow, I didn't
really feel like yelling at her or anything.
I picked up the bird and held it in my hands. I ran a finger along its
body, could feel the edges of its broken bones catching on the inside of
its skin. I don't know. I really think there's nothing harder than when
someone you love goes and gives you something you just can't handle.
Looking down at that bird I didn't know how I felt about anything anymore.
I carried the bird over to a corner of Wyatt's garden. I cleared the
weeds away from a patch of ground and pushed my hands down into the
soil and pulled out a damp clump of earth. I did that a couple more times
until I'd dug a small grave. Then I laid the bird down in the hole. Shelby
sat nearby, watching me while I worked. I pushed the earth in over the
broken body and pressed down on the soil with both of my hands. Then
I said to Shelby that I wished it were Wyatt who was buried under there.
I don't know why I said that. I felt ashamed and confused. I thought
maybe I was going crazy too. I tried to stand up but somehow my legs
just wouldn't hold me and I fell back onto my knees. My hands started
to shake and I jammed them hard against my face and held them there
tight. A pain shot through my head from the bruise on my cheek. There
was a roaring sound and a flash of light and the world suddenly froze
in around me in a single terrifying image. Then it was gone. Everything
started somehow to move again and I felt tears begin to force their way
out from between my fingers.
58 Sue Sinclair
Big East Lake
This is the world, impenetrable, the flat
black pupil that doesn't look at you.
This is when it's hardest to praise
the world. You want to be wooed by the mysterious
and to cherish it. Instead, you're bored:
beauty, beauty, beauty—what of it?
You feel yourself at the bottom of a well;
love of the landscape can't be roused.
Nature has shifted into your blind spot,
no longer a vision, no longer the ego
revealed to itself. The trees immersed
in growth, occupied by their own being.
The water slips off your paddle.
The shore slips into the water's darkness.
You shift uncomfortably in the bow,
haven't the heart for this.
The light travels a little slower here.
The trees quieter, sober.
If it weren't too late, you'd go back
on whatever promise brought you here.
59 Rocco de Giacomo
Louis Riel
Head east on Broadway.
- Make a right at the Safeway.
- Keep going until you get to the intersection with a Superlube.
Turn left.
■ This road turns into Highway 20. Keep right. Get off at the first exit.
- Follow onto Goldwheat. Then to River Road.
- House number 330. The red one.
- On the right. The wide driveway. The vegetable garden.
- The rope mattress. The part-time actor explaining
- everything. The enormous kitchen stove. The wooden cradle. Winter
■ hangs over each word like a millstone. Summer beckons like a faded serigraph
■ on the wall; the wildflowers on the table stunned with silence. Your hands
- remain there, poised over a piano key; this is the wake of someone
- you knew; or an office Halloween party: everyone smiling
- as if into a flurry, red-eared, endearing ourselves
- to our self-effacement: the soft eradication
- of one more dream into the details
- of waking.
60 Nonetheless
for Winnipeg
Every morning, it's the same thing: east
of where she wants to be.
She picks herself up from the road,
shakes the rust from her eyes, the old
tires and patio chairs from her hair,
and makes her way west again. She starts
off strong enough, like a rock pine
cutting through a stampede.
But by midday, her throat
is as parched as a storm canal
blazing with crickets, and the evening
shade, in the bones of all the rocking chairs,
aches within. Just the thought
of that first breeze through her
long prairie grass, brings on the shivers
of late afternoon. By nightfall,
curtains are flowing
from her bedroom windows, lighting
bathes her wooden balconies in white
and the rain and floodwaters
begin to gather in the potholes
along Maryland Street: little cups
offered to her lips
in consolation.
61 Jim Kennedy
It was a college campus set back in the woods. On a warm summer
Saturday, with a few clouds moving lazily across the sky, I biked
onto the main campus driveway, past acre after acre of pine, beech,
and oak. Off in the distance I heard some voices. Lots of voices. Enthusiastic voices. But they were muffled by the woods.
I turned a corner and came upon several large athletic fields full of
lively colors and movement. There were hundreds of girls, some as
young as ten or eleven, most fifteen or sixteen, in separate groups of a
dozen or so. They were all wearing brightly colored cheerleading uniforms. Bodies were being tossed in the air. Some groups were moving
in unison. One girl ran away from her group and then did a triple cartwheel.
Some of the younger groups seemed to be undergoing an initiation. I
could see some slight hesitation by one girl as she was about to be tossed
in the air. Was it for the first time? I watched as the same girl did not
pause when she stepped up again to be tossed.
Most of the groups were coached by young women. But some were
led by young men, wide shouldered and athletic. They all looked familiar. I had seen cheerleaders at high school and college basketball games.
But this was outside and the sun was shining, accentuating their bright
red, blue, green, and yellow uniforms. They numbered in the hundreds.
And their energy was fresh and uncompromising.
I wondered if I was breaking some rule, intruding upon this scene. I
expected glances, perhaps followed by a cheerleader camp administrator or security guard heading in my direction. But there was none of that.
I was outside of everyone's focus and nearly invisible. All attention was
on the instruction, especially on the demonstration of the next move.
I could have lain in the field and watched all day. And maybe I was
beginning to when one of the group leaders called over to me, shouting,
"Hey, we need you." She motioned with a swing of her arm for me to
head on over.
I was slow getting up. So she offered further explanation: "We need a
The tone of her request was friendly and I walked over.
"This is all you have to do: lie down. Hold your legs straight and rigid,
62 next to each other, like two steel poles that have been welded together."
"Um..." I heard myself mumble. She blew right by my hesitation.
"And your arms," she said, "hold like this."
I lay down and began following the instructions. My hesitation was
replaced with a concern not to miss anything.
I wondered if this was a well-rehearsed practical joke. Is this how they
dealt with intruders? I expected an enormous burst of laughter as two
groups of about a dozen girls each lined up, one on my left and one on
my right. At exactly that moment I remembered going to the circus as a
child and watching a man being loaded into a cannon, also holding his
body rigid.
The instructor signaled with her hand. The group on my left stepped
closer and wedged their arms under me and began lifting. Those on my
right stepped back, forming a tight line. They appeared to take a deep
breath in anticipation. I had no idea what was to happen next.
"Okay, toss him!"
Evidently these teenage girls of very modest individual strength were
discovering their group strength. I was one hundred and eighty pounds
but now light as a hollow hula-hoop in their arms.
I shut my eyes in fear as they tossed me spinning far up in the air, and
for a moment, I wondered if I had escaped gravity's clutch. Then my
direction reversed. I opened my eyes and saw a mass of arms stretched
out under me. Would I plunge through their arms onto the hard ground?
Fear became exhilaration when they caught me and gently rolled me
onto the ground.
Then they ran off.
A bell had rung and I could see all the groups funneling toward a
building adjacent to the fields. I said to myself, "They don't even know
my name." Then I remembered how the instructor had called over: "We
need a body." Body. My name was Body.
I was still holding my arms and legs rigidly. Meanwhile, I stared up at
the single cloud slowly moving across the sky. It was shaped like a body,
lumpy and disfigured, but with two arms, two legs, and a head. I forgot
where I was. And then I came to, rolling onto my side, tasting and smelling the grass, and recalling falling back to Earth.
63 ken cathers
at coal harbour
at coal harbour
the bodies of the whales
were dragged up
on the sloped concrete
for rendering
the huge carcasses
of blues, humpbacks, fins
lay limp, glistening
their flukes already tattered
by relentless sharks
thrashing half way up the ramp
where the men worked
with long knives
stripping back the fat
cubing blocks of flesh
for freezing
blood rivering back
to shallows...
& the stench
thick enough to wade through—
how one becomes numb to it
arms slick
with viscera
the mind wandering
elsewhere, beyond
the barrels of teeth, oil
piled against gutting sheds
64 opaque carvature
of bone
stacked up for export
& always
the war surplus
rusted scrap
of the whaling station
breaking down
scream of burnt bearings
bent couplings
echoing down the inlet
like the black smoke
of choked diesels
at least
that is what
he tells me
welding the broken details
of 40 years
back together
offering up
the delicate ear-bone
of a gray whale
like jewelry
he has polished
with his description.
65 Josh Rathkamp
When I turned sixteen and found my licence
read '74 not '79, Peanut drove for the twelve pack
we drank too quickly at the drainage creek,
throwing our empties at the robins in the trees,
which would take off, in panic, and return,
take off and return.
It was a game the birds knew. Soon we would leave,
soon the sky, like a rotting apple, would darken.
And when it did, we did.
We walked two blocks to the tattoo shop.
We flipped pages of anchors,
of anchors and waves, of big anchors splashing
like a whale's tail before a face appeared, a demon with a tongue
that curled. I thought I was living. A car, no curfew,
no black eye, and a buzz better than the first puff of smoke.
I wanted to be crazy, not end up like my father
or brothers or friends who have grown roots
too long in a town surrounded
by streams. Now, we're no different, him
and me. Our imperfections. There is a fiery face
on my leg I see before bed, a face on my leg
not mine. And I remember my father
placing his soft hand over it, pleading
how's it come off, how's it come off?
66 John Barton
after Ron Mueck's Dead Dad, mixed media, 1996-1997
there is no rhetoric in an open mouth, the lips caught
mid-breath, nothing left to expel, his last few rasps
etched in my ear, a moth against wind-rattled glass
as dusk grew silent, the perpetual thrum of traffic
unheeded, no pulse. He was a man who grew small
in my eyes, how else could I remain a nonbeliever
until his features petrified into a mask no one lifts off
chin canted downwards, eyes stoppered into unscanning
ellipses, his pajama redundant, an inscrutable shroud
—if this is love, I have learned it too late: little stays
private when hands are held with the dead, my life
leached out, evacuating queer ethers into his body
denying rot in the final moments of touch, my face
wiped of awareness while, in lamplight, his continues
as life-like, hair unbrushed, skin wanting soap, jaw
clenching, gaze thrown askance. His was another self
the stand-in I could not betray for men I have known
men secretive as he was about an invisible set course
gone nowhere now, time dumbstruck, a presence felt
pressures the body erases subsiding into bedclothes
67 Mark Anthony Jarman
The RPM of Wolves
Weird herd of mice drives out of the woods and devours our fall
fields, our food, our dogs snapping at a carpet of a thousand
grey creatures. The dogs drive into that herd, biting necks and
nerves of rodents, tossing them in the snarling air. Then that wagon of
severed pigs' heads—damn thing turns over, pig heads rolling the road.
The kid runs out, nabs himself a head.
His mother mutters in our bed, Leave me alone.
Make way for my itchy antlers, my spikes of rage, my affection for
the slippery slope. In the fall I shoot a buck, directions in my head. She
rides to the city, leaves the boy. In the winter the safe road on the ice is
marked with cut evergreens.
A giant owl attacks my dog, gashes its back. I hear his yelps, move
outside to help him, drive the owl away with a rake. Scabs later hard as
platters, but dogs forget their fights.
The deer are not yarded up; we see them moving on the ridges above
the mouth. It's easier for the deer when the snow is low and easier for me
to cut and haul trees out of the woods.
February sun leans with its lost purpose. Food short: our dalliance
with our teeth. March's pretty chain of lights in ice-water; the liquid
world occurs. A man's drowning lungs, weeks of coughing, soundly sick
of sound.
Weather warms, we've survived another fucking winter. But another
winter waits; should all slit our wrists, really. Tough people. They keep
going; I follow like a retarded child. Snow becomes muck, and immediately attacked by insects—cutting, digging, planting, going mad.
Female dog in heat, males excited. We're in the dooryard cutting
wood. The boy sneaks outside with his pig's head. We have our heads
down, bucking and sawing away.
What the hell?
The dog has a deer or something.
Oh Christ come quick! The dogs got the boy!
We run to racked snow: one dog with blood over its chest, mouth
68 bloody and it wants to play more. Torn clothing scattered, his little boots
and blue cap, my boy naked on his belly, on red snow. I can't look.
If I don't walk over, then it hasn't happened yet. I can't touch him.
He's bit up everywhere.
Levon turns my boy over—chewed up, throat open, vein ripped. Is
he even breathing?
We need a doctor. You go to town, you go upriver.
I put a quilt over him. I don't want to see him like that—remember
him like that.
Was there a pulse? Why'd you leave him in the yard? yells grand-
mere, her long hair flying.
We had to go get help.
(Would a woman have picked him up? Maybe a woman would have
picked him up.)
You murdered my grandson! Her face contorted. Are you a man? You
don't leave a child to die all alone.
I didn't know they was out! As far as I'm concerned Levon murdered
my son letting those dogs out.
Liver-coloured bitch in heat and black males excited.
That big male did it.
You don't leave a child and dogs alone.
You always did!
Not with all those dogs together, and one in heat.
I didn't know!
Cuz you're stupid trash. Kill them.
No point now.
Kill them.
That big male did it.
You damn coward.
Grandmere kills my best dog with a shovel, that devoted canine brain
bending like a coconut.
Stove flames reflect in the white door's paint, flapjacks taste of iron.
You think you live forever. A pulse waits in each son's throat and our
father can't move.
Wham! The shovel finds each dog, each eye still golden brown but
no depth, no light. Wind blows up, cyclones of black leaves tilting, biting
into our house.
Just dead leaves raking walls, I know this, but I have to peer out in
case someone is there, in case someone needs me.
69 Erin Knight
Horse Latitudes of the
Atlantic (Malinche travels
Days the greatest weakness
is the wind, and we can not
be light enough. We eat meat,
stilled muscle, pare the ship
to ribs. Morning is what we ask
our bodies to consume.
Belt of calms.
With a lens held to the sun,
I sear a pin of white gold
to my palm. Because reason
is meagre, boredom a cruel governor
of men. The moon changes shape
without falling from the horizon, myth
of proximity, the salt burn of lack
and sleep.
Stagnant astride the held breath
of the sea. They say, Marina,
what might you offer, for wind?
I could tell them it is easier
to drive in a gasp than force
its release.
70 IV.
My hand in the last earthcool
store of coffee beans. To dim
this migraine of heat. My hair shorn
(mats of salt, my swollen
tongue) and seven weeks
for a blood blister to heal.
To fill a sail: surrender. Exhale
the same morning as the rough
bundle of burlap disappears
underwater. The rust colt
I folded in canvas, his eyes the milk
blue of having never seen the sun.
71 Robert Colman
Save the Tiger
The way the eyes of that Caddy
opened into the night
as if stung by the smog;
Jack Lemmon in a lumbering slab
of metal, slow and cautious
even at high speed. Reminds me
speed is what I want to be—
getting somewhere, stripping
the road, its passive asphalt.
I like to think of myself that way
—more than sluggish, suburban.
But when a policeman pulled me over
tonight, asked me if I'd had anything
to drink, it was nice to say
no and have it be honest.
Not that I'm on the wagon,
but for a moment there's no argument,
no need for it inside.
I look at my face
in those damn TV screens
at the gas pumps, the shine
on my nose, how proud I am
to hit the station when it's cheap
as it'll get and think,
what am I saving?
What am I saving it for?
72 Contributors
John Barton has published eight volumes of poetry and five chapbooks;
a bilingual edition of West of Darkness: a self-portrait of Emily Can, his third
book, is forthcoming from BuschekBooks this summer. He is co-editor of
Seminal: The Anthology of Canada's Gay-Male Poets, due out next year. He
lives in Victoria, where he edits The Malahat Review.
Jennifer Brum is an American illustrator and muralist living in Pennsylvania with her husband, two daughters, and a menagerie of animals.
After attending college in New England, she spent five years in New
Orleans as a graphic designer. Now she is pleased to be doing what she
loves most, illustration.
ken cathers has a BA from the University of Victoria, a MA from York,
and has worked in a pulp mill for over thirty years. He's married with
two adult sons and two grandchildren. Over the years, he's been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies, as well as publishing
four books of poetry.
Robert Colman is a writer and editor based in Newmarket, Ontario.
His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Malahat Review, CV2,
Queen's Quarterly, and The Antigonish Review.
Rocco de Giacomo's poetry has appeared most recently in Lichen,
Quills, On Spec, and The Antigonish Review. His editorial debut, Looking
Back Looking Forward, is available from LyricalMyrical Press, and his latest collection of poetry, Leaning into the Mountain, will be launched this
fall by Fooliar Press. Rocco lives in Toronto, where he writes poetry, co-
manages the arts ezine, and plans his next escape.
Kate Hall is co-editor of Delirium Press. Her poems have appeared in
various Canadian journals and are forthcoming in jubilat, The Colorado
Review, The Denver Quarterly and The Boston Review. A graduate of the MA
program at Concordia University, she lives in Montreal.
Brecken Rose Hancock lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick where
she writes poetry while pursuing a PhD in English. She's interested in
things like science fiction and post-modern architecture. In December
2005, JackPine Press released Strung, her second chapbook. She has poems forthcoming in Grain.
73 Mark Anthony Jarman is the author of 19 Knives, New Orleans Is Sinking,
and the travel book Ireland's Eye. His hockey novel, Salvage King Ya!, is
on's list of 50 Essential Canadian Books. He has been shortlisted for the O. Henry Prize and Best American Essays. He won a Gold
National Magazine Award in nonfiction, has twice won the Maclean-
Hunter Endowment Award, and has been included in The Journey Prize
Anthology and Best Canadian Stories. He has taught at the University of
Victoria, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and now teaches at the University
of New Brunswick, where he is fiction editor of The Fiddlehead.
Jim Kennedy recently completed Holding Hands, a volume of short
prose and poems. "Cheerleaders" is his first professional publication. He
and his wife enjoy reading one another's work. He also enjoys rereading
the writings of Tolstoy, Chekhov, Joyce, Maugham, Cheever, Carver,
and Nasdijj. His younger son still laughs at his jokes.
Erin Knight's writing has appeared in journals including Event, The
Fiddlehead and The Malahat Review. She has also been published in the
anthologies Edmonton on Location (NeWest 2005) and Talk That Mountain
Down (littlefishcart 2005). She has recently moved from Fredericton to
St. Catharines, Ontario.
Jeff Kochan grew up in Edmonton, and has lived, for the last several
years, in Europe. His work has previously appeared in Zygote and England's May Anthologies, and will soon appear in filling Station. When not
writing, he forages in the Alps for wild mushrooms.
Tanis MacDonald is the author of two books of poetry, Fortune (Turnstone, 2003) and Holding Ground (Seraphim, 2000), and the editor of
Speaking of Power: The Poetry of Di Brandt (Wilfrid Laurier Univeristy
Press, 2006). After many years on Vancouver Island, Tanis now teaches
at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo.
Elise Moser has published short stories in anthologies and periodicals
such as Descant, Prairie Fire, Broken Pencil and Room of One's Own. She is
also the coeditor, with Claude Lalumiere, of Lust for Life: Tales of Sex and
Love. She lives in Montreal.
Emilia Nielsen is completing a MA in Creative Writing at the University of New Brunswick. Her poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming,
in Contemporary Verse 2, Descant, Event, Grain, Prairie Fire, The Antigonish
Review, and The Fiddlehead. She currently divides her time between Fredericton and Victoria.
74 Sheree-Lee Olson is the editor of the weekly "Style" section of The
Globe and Mail. She has published fiction and poetry in numerous Canadian literary magazines, including Descant, The Antigonish Review, and
Contemporary Verse 2. She lives in Toronto with her husband, two sons,
and two metrosexual cats. And she really loves Prada shoes.
Josh Rathkamp's first book of poetry, tentatively titled Missing Cities,
will be published by Ausable Press in the fall of 2007. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals including, Indiana Review,
Passages North, Puerto Del Sol, Sycamore Review, and Rosebud. He teaches at
Arizona State University.
Mari-Lou Rowley has published five collections of poetry, most recently Viral Suite (Anvil Press 2004) and Interference with the Hydrangea
(Thistledown 2003). She has performed her work across Canada and in
the US, from Harbourfront to Bumbershoot. In May 2005, Rowley was
one of two writers internationally to receive a full-stipend residency at
Can Serrat, Spain. She recently moved from Vancouver to Saskatoon,
where poets can afford to buy houses.
Sue Sinclair has published three books of poems, the most recent of
which is The Drunken Lovely Bird. She is currently studying philosophy at
the University of Toronto.
Anna Swanson lives in Vancouver and spends the summer in an Alberta fire tower. She studied writing at the University of Victoria and
the Banff Centre for the Arts, and received an honourable mention for
the 2004 Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award for Poetry. Her writing has
been published in various literary journals, most recently appearing in
Grain and The Antigonish Review.
April Wilder is a McCreight Fiction Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, where she is working on a novel and book of
short stories. Her hobbies include mindless Internet consumerism and
insulting strangers at parties. As always, many thanks to Delmario and
75 ;. '■■■ -™. .x" '"
The Creative Writing Program at U.B.C.
The University of British Columbia offers
both a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and
a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative
Writing. The M.F.A. degree may also be
taken by distance education. See our
website for more details.
Students work in multiple genres,
including: Poetry, Novel/Novella, Short
g Fiction, Stage Play, Screen & TV Play,.
Radio Play, Writing for Children, Non-
fiction, Translation, and Song Lyrics 8c
Meryn Cadell
Keith Maillard
Maureen Medved
Andreas Schroeder
Linda Svendsen
Peggy Thompson
Rhea Tregebov
Bryan Wade
Online Faculty (M.F.A.):
Gail Anderson-Dargatz, Brian Brett,
Catherine Bush, Zsuzsi Gartner,
Gary Geddes, Terry Glavin,
Wayne Grady, Sara Graefe,
Peter Levitt, and Susan Musgrave.
Please visit our website: Good Reads
Book Club
Buy 10 General
(non-course) Books
at the regular price and get
of their value
off your next purchase of
regular priced General Books.
No time limits.
No membership fee.
Includes books in-store
and online.
Join at
or at any in-store cashier.
(604) 822-2665
Pt. Grey Campus
6200 University Blvd.
Vancouver, B.C.
Robson Square
800 Robson St.
Vancouver, B.C. Still Crazy After All These Years
After 40 years and 625 titles, Oberon is still
kicking against the pricks, still discovering
and promoting new Canadian writing.
This year we're publishing three books of
new fiction. Savage Time by Murray
Pomerance is a collection of stories set in
Venice, Canada and the Caribbean about a
beautiful and corrupt lifestyle where
relationships are both frightening and
dangerous. Pomerance is a winner of the
O. Henry Prize. The Dirty Milkman is a
novel by Jerrod Edson about the love affair
between a hard-drinking milkman and a
young Saint John, New Brunswick
prostitute. David Richards says, "Read
Jerrod Edson. He is one of our best young
writers." Kissing the Damned, by
Ottawa political speechwriter Mark Foss,
is a collection of linked stories set in
Canada and Tanzania about a foreign-aid
worker who finds it easier to help others
than to help himself. Murray Pomerance,
Jerrod Edson, Mark Foss. Chances are
you've never heard of any of them. But
we're happy to run on our record. Books
like The Coming of Winter, the first novel by
David Adams Richards, now permanently
in print in the M&S New Canadian
Library. Or Dance Me Outside, the first
collection of stories by W.P Kinsella,
which has sold more than 60,000 copies.
Or The Story of Bobby O'Malley, the first
novel by Wayne Johnston, which just
went into its 27th edition. David Adams
Richards, W.P. Kinsella, Wayne Johnston.
No-one had heard of them either.
Oberon Press
205-145 Spruce St Ottawa Kir6pi
613 238-3275 are
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Fiction/Poetry/Drama/Translation/Creative Nonfiction
What spills out of us, what spills over
into the dragtown of gall. Catch it
in a cup. Measure the meniscus.
-from "Take Measure" by Tanis MacDonald, Page 17
John Barton
ken cathers
Robert Colman
Rocco de Giacomo
Kate Hall
Brecken Rose Hancock
Mark Anthony Jarman
Erin Knight
Jeff Kochan
Tanis MacDonald
Elise Moser
Emilia Nielsen
Sheree-Lee Olson
Josh Rathkamp
Mari-Lou Rowley
Sue Sinclair
Anna Swanson
April Wilder
Cover Art:
"Mardi Gras Angel"
by Jennifer Brum
■7SD0b "ab3bl


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