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 PRISM international
2011 Nonfiction Contest Winners! Plus new work from
Elizabeth Bachinsky, Lakshmi Gill, and Lorna Crozier
Contemporary Writing from Canada and Around the World  PRISM international
PRISM international
Literary Nonfiction Contest
Grand Prize-$1,500
David J. Lawless
"My Father /My Husband"
1st Runner-up
Ayelet T^abari
"Missing in Action"
2nd Runner-up
Elizabeth Haynes
"Leaving Lares"
Judge
Brian Brett
Contest Manager
Melissa Sawatsky
Readers
Kaitlin Fontana
Michelle Kaeser
Wade Kinley
Kari Lund-Teigen
Erika Thorkelson
Emily Walker  PRISM international
Fiction Editor
Jeff Stautz
Poetry Editor
andrea bennett
Executive Editors
Ben Rawluk
Chris Urquhart
Assistant Editors
Jordan Abel
Erin Flegg
Elizabeth Hand
Cara Woodruff
Advisory Editor
Rhea Tregebov
Production Manager
Jennifer Herbison
Editorial Board
Emily Davidson
Kaitlin Fontana
Jordan Hall
Anna Maxymiw
Alexis Pooley
Bill Radford
Sigal Samuel
Melissa Sawatsky
Kevin Spenst
Natalie Thompson
Erika Thorkelson
Emily Urness PRISM international, a magazine of contemporary writing, is published four
times a year by the Creative Writing Program at the University of British
Columbia, Buchanan E-462, 1866 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1. Microfilm editions are available from University Microfilms Inc., Ann Arbor,
MI, and reprints from the Kraus Reprint Corporation, New York, NY. The
magazine is listed by the Canadian Literary Periodicals Index.
Email: prism@interchange.ubc.ca   / Website: www.prismmagazine.ca
Contents Copyright ® 2011 PRISM international for the authors.
Cover Illustration: "Emily Carr" by Ian John Turner.
Subscription Rates: One-year individual $28; two-year individual $46; library and institution one-year $35; two-year $55. Sample copy by mail is $11.
US and international subscribers, please pay in US dollars. Please note
that US POSTAL money orders are not accepted. Make cheques payable to:
PRISM international. All prices include HST and shipping and handling.
Submission Guidelines: PRISM international purchases First North American Serial Rights at $40 per page for poetry and $20 per page for other genres.
Contributors receive a one-year subscription. PRISM also purchases limited
digital rights for selected work, for which it pays an additional $10 per page.
All manuscripts should be sent to the editors at the above address. Manuscripts should be accompanied by an email address. If you wish to receive
your response by regular mail, please include a self-addressed envelope with
Canadian stamps or International Reply Coupons. Translations should
be accompanied by a copy of the work(s) in the original language. The advisory editor is not responsible for individual selections, but for the magazine's
overall mandate including continuity, quality and budgetary obligations.
For details on how to place an advertisement in PRISM international, please
contact our executive editors. PRISM occasionally exchanges subscriber lists
with other literary magazines; please contact us if you wish to be excluded
from such exchanges.
Our gratitude to Dean Averill and the Dean of Arts Office at the University
of British Columbia. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the
Canada Council for the Arts and the British Columbia Arts Council.
April 2011. ISSN 0032.8790
A
BRITISH COLUMBIA     988    Canada Council    Conseil des Arts
ARTS COUNCIL <±>   for the Arts du Canada Contents
Volume 49, Number 3
Spring 2011
PRISM international
Literary Nonfiction Contest
Brian Brett
Judge's Essay / 7
Winning Entry
David J. Lawless
My Father / My Husband / 9
1st Runner Up
Ayelet Tsabari
Missing in Action / 21
2nd Runner Up
Elizabeth Haynes
Leaving Lares / 34
Fiction
Julie Woods Karnes
I Can Tell You're Good People / 53 Poetry
Elizabeth Bachinsky
At Moishe's, St. Laurent, Montreal / 41
Debauchee's Trivia as Villanelle / 42
Debaucher's Villanelle for Muses / 43
Neighbours / 44
Michael Meagher
linkgaetz / 46
Michael Chaulk
Know Thy Ballast / 49
Lakshmi Gill
from Wyrd England / 50
Jordan Mounteer
Reasons not to say I love you / 52
Lorna Crozier
Bicycle / 68
Duet / 69
Coffee Pot / 70
Renee Sarojini Saklikar
three character portraits in search of Gertrude Stein /  71
Stephanie McKenzie
The Unveiling of the Emily Carr Statue,
Victoria, BC, (October 13 2010) / 74
Allison LaSorda
How to Lubricate a City / 76
Blair Trewartha
Matachika / 78
Brian Swann
A Goose / 79
Jean McNeil
Endurance / 80
Claire Caldwell
November / 81
Contributors / 82 PRISM LITERARY NONFICTION CONTEST
Judge's Essay
It took me many years to recognize all life is story. We are story creatures and we can only think in terms of narrative. The stories might
be as subtle as an emotion flickering behind the eyes or as sturdy and
simple as the quest for the Holy Grail or a good dinner. But we begin
telling our stories the moment we wake and tell them all day until we
fall asleep, and then, even there, in our dreams, the mind re-imagines
our stories.
All living things, including animals and insects, tell themselves stories.
Only their stories are alien and too complex for us to fully understand.
But I'm sure the narrative of a fence post is epic and wondrous for a
dog, filled with alternate universes, multiple forms of narrative odours,
the elasticity of time, heroes, and villains. Yet whether it's a fencepost
or Sense and Sensibility, it's all story, and since story is so flexible our opportunities are endless, which is why we can hang so many different stories on the same basic structures. Consider how James Joyce converted
Homer's Odyssey into the equally epic Dublin pub crawl of Ulysses.
So it still surprises me how many writers of nonfiction often forget the
story they tell. The facts get in the way, and yet because it is nonfiction it
must rely on fact. And if the facts are wrong, the writer is in real trouble
with the reader.
This is especially crucial in this new era of "creative nonfiction," an
execrable term, but the best we've got so far, though sometimes, in my
mischievous moments, I say writers have a choice between fiction and
faction (or if they really want to confuse the issue, they write poetry,
which can be both simultaneously). Not long ago, the writer Katherine
Ashenburg coined perhaps the best replacement for the term so far—
facta.
Whatever you want to call it, if you're writing nonfiction it's your duty
to keep to the facts, though talented writers like Ryszard Kapuscinski
or Farley Mowat have famously merged and melded and manipulated
their facts and still managed to remain admired. While some nonfiction
writers are fanatical about sticking to the facts, there's more than a few
who bend them. The difficulty in twisting the truth is that if the errors or
fictionalizing are revealed, it can forever ruin the dream state that great
stories strive to reach.
prismmagazine.ca One of the greatest joys of the facta being written today is the variety
of forms the narratives can take. While the final ten stories in the shortlist
for this competition were amazingly diverse, I was surprised that two
semi-finalists were travel stories, each telling the story of a woman lost in
an exotic place, each so similar and yet so different.
What also impressed me most about the finalists was the range of
their approaches to story, and while I occasionally found myself suspicious of the facts, I thought the accuracy of the narratives overwhelmed
any qualms I might have had.
"Missing In Action" is a dazy druggy classic tale of getting lost in
Goa, reverberating, replaying, echoing, chronicling a cleansing of old
memories in the exoticism of India. It's brave not only in subject matter
but also in its loose style.
"Leaving Lares," on the other hand, is a much tighter, almost uptight,
simple tale that bravely toys with sentimentalism, yet its candour and
straightforward narrative gives it a real punch, and illustrate once again
the power of simplicity.
"My Father / My Husband," is altogether different. After Alice Mun-
ro's classic "The Bear Came Over The Mountain," I never thought I'd
be so enthusiastic about a narrative on Alzheimer's, let alone a nonfiction one, but I found the story cleverly crafted, original, and tender.
It was also courageous in its use of dialogue and repetition, as well as
the stripping away of all extraneous detail. While, once again, I wondered how accurate the quoting of the dialogues were, recognizing they
were "recreated," I didn't doubt the words. What struck me as especially
skilled about "My Father / My Husband" is that the author doesn't intrude. Instead, the dialogue is confidently used to not only make clear
the extreme state of the woman's dementia, but her confused, sweet love
—magnified and echoed by the kindness, patience, and love of the man.
And those are the real facts of the story.
Altogether, the shortlist illustrated not only that nonfiction is alive and
kicking, but that a new generation of powerful writers is on the way, and
fearless when it comes to the facts.
—Brian Brett
8     PRISM 49:3 David J. Lawless
My Father / My Husband
He is preparing the evening meal. Fried pork chops, rice, carrots
from the garden, and a salad. A couple of rolls from the supermarket.
"Is my father coming for dinner?" she asks.
"No."
"Why not?"
"Because your father died forty-six years ago." He has given this answer several times a day for the past two or three years. He can't remember exactly how many times today, but he knows it is becoming more
frequent.
"I know. I don't mean that father. I mean my other father."
"You, like anyone else, can have only one father. Your father died."
He always answers her questions quietly.
"I mean my father-in-law."
"Your father-in-law is my father, and he died twenty-three years ago."
"Don't be stupid!" she says. "I mean the man who runs this house.
That's my father! Where is he?"
"I run this house and I am not your father. I am your husband," he
says calmly.
"My husband! You fool! I don't have a husband."
"I am your husband. You are my wife," he continues without looking
up from the cooking. "We've been married for more than fifty years."
"Ha! You wish! I've never been married. And I certainly wouldn't
marry an old man like you. Look at you. Grey hair. Big belly. Who
would marry you?"
"Come and sit down and have something to eat," he says.
"I'm not going to eat with you. You pig!"
"Then I'll bring it over to you and you can eat while you watch TV."
"I'm not going to eat this garbage!"
"Then at least take your pills. I'll bring a glass of water. You can eat
later or I'll save the supper till morning."
"I've already had my pills. You're trying to poison me. Do you know
how many pills I've taken today?"
"Yes. And you have to take these and a couple more before you go to
bed."
prismmagazine.ca    9 She requires medication on a regular daily schedule for a number of
disabilities.
She accepts them, under protest.
"Come up to bed," she calls from the top of the stairs.
"No. It's too early for me," he calls back. "It's only ten after eight. You
go to bed. I'll catch up with you later." He continues to read news and
articles on the Internet.
A few minutes later she comes out again. "I can't sleep by myself. I
need you with me. I can't sleep alone. Come up."
"No. Not yet. Try to go to sleep. I'll come up in a while."
"I can't sleep."
"Then just rest."
Ten minutes pass.
Zzzzz The sound of the chair lift coming downstairs.
She comes into his den. "Come up to bed."
"Not yet. It's too early."
She sits next to him, holding his arm with both hands and leaning on
his shoulder. "What are you watching on the TV?"
"This is not TV. I'm reading things. Here, I'll get you ABC Espafia."
He clicks on ABC and a headline comes up about Zapatero. He
scrolls down to an article about Princess Letizia, which she reads. Then
to some photos about the Duchesa de Alba, whom she despises.
"Let's go up to bed," she says. "I'm very tired."
"Not yet. It's early. I want to watch the news. Here. It's time to take
the nitro patch off your shoulder."
"I already took it off."
"When?"
"Before supper."
"It's not supposed to come off till eight o'clock. It's supposed to be on
for twelve hours. From eight in the morning till eight at night. It controls
your irregular heartbeat."
"It was itchy," she says.
She clings to him throughout the night. Her fingers and feet are always
cold. It is the effect of metoprolol, a medication she takes for heart failure
that draws the blood from her extremities. He is always warm, sometimes sweaty. They have to arrange the bedclothes to suit each of them
and he has to leave his feet sticking out because of the heavy blankets
and duvet.
She wakes him at 4:30 in the morning.
"Are we in Spain?"
"No. Canada," he says.
10     PRISM 49:3 "Is this Madrid?"
"No, Calgary. Go to sleep."
"Why are we in Calgary?"
"Because we live here."
"Why?"
"Because I came here for a job."
"Are we going to stay here?"
"Yes. Go to sleep."
"Why don't we live in Spain?"
"We have pensions here. We have medical insurance here. Because
taxes are lower here. Because our children live here. Because we have a
house here. Now go to sleep."
"Is this our house?"
"Yes. We own it. We had it built for us thirteen years ago."
"I don't remember. Are we married?"
"Yes. We married over fifty years ago. Now go to sleep."
"I don't remember. Where did we marry?"
"In Victoria."
"Why in Victoria? Why not in Madrid?"
"Because in those days we couldn't afford to travel to Madrid from
Vancouver to marry in your parish church so we went to Victoria to
marry in my parish church. Do you remember?"
"Sort of."
Pause.
"Do we have children?"
"Yes. Six children."
"Six! That's a lot. What are their names?"
He lists their names and the cities in which they live, their wives and
husbands and children. It is almost a nightly ritual, a middle of the night
ritual. "Now go to sleep."
She pulls close to him in the bed and holds him tight.
He makes her a cup of coffee in the morning, passes her the morning
newspaper, gives her an iron pill, and puts the nitro patch onto her
shoulder.
"Can you give me the telephone number of my father? I can't find my
telephone book."
He has hidden all telephone directories and phone lists because she
has phoned so many people, numbers, and directories all over the world
in the past year or so, asking for the telephone number of her father. It
became too expensive and her sisters in Spain grew exasperated at receiving phone calls in the middle of the night.
"No. I can't. Your father died forty-five years ago."
prismmagazine.ca     11 "Then give me the number of the store. I'll phone the store."
"There is no store. Your father sold the store before he died."
"He died?"
"Yes. In 1964. Do you remember? You went to visit him in Madrid a
few months before he died. He had this growth on his neck, remember?"
He draws a line down the side of his neck. "It was cancer. He died a few
months later."
"Yes, I remember. My poor father! Who looks after the store?"
"Your father sold the store before he died."
"Who has the store now?"
"I don't know."
"I have to go there. I have to open the store."
"No. There is no store. We live in Canada. There is no store in Madrid."
She goes to the front door, opens it and looks out, then comes to the
kitchen where he is preparing the evening meal. This is another ritual.
She goes to open the front door several times a day to check whether her
father or husband is coming.
"Is my father coming for dinner?"
"No."
"Why not?"
"Because your father died in 1964."
"I know that. I meant my father-in-law."
"Your father-in-law was my father. He died in 1985."
"No. No. I meant my other father."
"A person can have only one father. Your father was Emilio. My
father was John. They both died a long time ago." He has made this
statement so many times over the past few years that the entire dialogue
has become automatic and predictable.
"I know that. I mean the man who looks after this house."
"I am the man who looks after this house. I am your husband."
"My husband? You wish! I never married you!"
"Yes you did. We married more than fifty years ago."
"I never married anyone."
He goes to the mantel and takes down a silver-framed photo from
their wedding. "Here. This is a photo of our wedding. Here we are. Just
married. Do you remember?"
"That's not you. That's my husband. Give it to me! Don't touch it!"
She snatches it from him.
He points to the photo. "That's you... with me... in the church... in
1958."
"That's not you, fool! That's my husband."
12     PRISM 49:3 "Well, I must admit that I've changed over the past fifty years. But
that's me."
"That's my husband. Wait till he comes home. He'll throw you out."
He is making her a cup of Nescafe as she settles into the sofa early in the
morning to watch TV.
"Where is your husband?" she asks.
"I don't have a husband," he says. This is fairly routine in the morning. "Men don't have husbands. Men have wives. You are my wife."
"Don't be stupid! Where is your husband? Did he go to open the
store?"
"There is no store."
"Don't be stupid, I said. Did my father go to open the store?"
"There is no store. Your father sold the store before he died. Many
years ago."
"My father died?"
"More than forty-five years ago."
"He died?" she says. "Why didn't anyone tell me?" She begins to
weep.
" You told me. It was a long time ago."
"I don't remember."
He hugs her. "I'm sorry. It was a long time ago."
"I don't remember. I don't know what's wrong. I don't remember
things." A tear runs down her cheek. She clings to him.
"I know. Don't worry."
"I'm losing my memory."
"Don't worry." He gives her a kiss.
He wakes in the middle of the night. A few years ago he put in a night-
light so that she could get up to go to the toilet without having to stumble
or run into things. The bed moves and he can feel her sitting up. He can
see the shadows cast on the wall by the night-light. She comes around to
his side of the bed. She runs her hand gentiy around his head and face.
"Who are you?" she asks.
"Your husband."
"You're not my husband. Are you my father?"
"No. Your husband."
"You're not my husband. I don't have a husband. What are you doing
in my bed?"
"This is my bed. Our bed," he says. "Come back to bed. Come back
to sleep."
She turns on the main lights, picks up her walking cane, and starts to
beat him.
prismmagazine.ca    13 "Get out! Get out of here!"
"Stop that! Stop it!" He wrenches the cane from her hands. "Now just
settle down and come back to bed."
She leaves the room.
Zzzzz. He hears the chair lift going down stairs.
She'll settle down in a while and come back to bed in an hour or so,
he thinks. She usually does. He drifts off to a fitful sleep.
"Excuse me, sir."
He wakes up. There is a police officer standing over his bed. He sits
up, startled.
"What is it? What happened?"
"We had a call about an intruder."
"What?" He rubs his eyes. "An intruder? My wife called?"
"Yes, sir. She says you are an intruder."
"Aaaagh!" He gets out of bed and puts on his slippers. "I'm sorry.
My wife is sick. She has Alzheimer's and dementia. She gets over it in a
few hours. I have medication for her but it is impossible to give it to her
when she is like this. Maybe I can get you to give it to her. She won't take
it from me when she's in this state."
"Sorry, sir, we can't do that. I'm going to have to ask you for identification."
"Okay, okay, okay. Let's go downstairs. It's in my office."
They pass the living room where his wife is sitting and talking with the
second police officer.
"Are you alright?" he asks her as they look up.
"Yes," she says. "I phoned them to come." She had phoned the operator, who had put her through to 911.
"Come with me," he says to the first officer, leading him to his den.
"Please come inside. I want to close the door."
The officer hesitates.
"I have to close the door. I can't let her see where I conceal the papers."
Reluctantly, the officer enters and allows the door to be closed.
"Now, what papers would you like to see? I have to keep them under
lock and key or she will take them, hide them, destroy them. I keep
everything locked up. My wallet, my money, my glasses, my watch,
my driver's license, passports, marriage certificate, birth certificates, the
whole works. What would you like to see?"
"Passports would be fine."
He takes the key from its secret place, opens the filing cabinet, and
produces the passports.
The officer takes the passports to the living room.
"Is this you?" he asks.
14     PRISM 49:3 She looks closely. "Yes."
"Is this your husband?"
She looks closely again, hesitates, and eventually answers, "Yes."
"Good," her husband says. "Now can we finally get to bed and let
these people go back to their work?"
"I'm sorry," she says, tears forming in her eyes.
He leans over to kiss her and she clings to him.
He returns from his daily five kilometre walk, sweating slightly, and
takes off his shoes.
She comes into the hallway. "Did she leave?"
"Did who leave?" he asks.
"That woman. That fat, ugly woman?"
"There was no one in the house today other than you and me."
"There was a woman. She was here this morning."
"No woman. No one. No one has been here. Just you and me."
"She came in while you were out for your walk. She said she was the
cleaning woman. She said you hired her. You asked her to come. She
had the key."
"No. No cleaning woman. No one was in the house."
"I told her to leave. She went upstairs. My pearls are missing. I can't
find them anywhere. She went into the kitchen and made a sandwich
and a cup of tea. I told her to get out. I told her I would call the police."
"I think it was a dream."
"No. She was here. She was impertinent. Where are my pearls? I
think she took one of my handbags."
"I'll look for your pearls and your handbag," he says. He has been
through this little scenario before in a number of variations.
"She took them! That bitch!"
"Don't worry. I'll find them. I'll get them back."
"You can't go out like that and leave me alone."
"I was gone less than an hour and you were lying down when I went
out."
"You can't leave me alone."
A search turns up the missing handbag. The pearls are inside, wrapped
in Kleenex.
"Are we in Madrid?"
It is four-thirteen in the morning, according to his bedside clock.
"No. This is Calgary. In Canada."
"Why are my paintings on the wall? This is Madrid. I bought these
paintings in Madrid."
"This is Calgary. Those are prints you and I bought at The Prado. We
prismmagazine.ca     15 had them framed and brought them to Canada."
"I bought this furniture in Madrid."
"No. We bought it at Thomasville when we came to Calgary in 1996."
"I bought this chandelier on the Gran Via. It was a good price."
In fact, he had bought it at an antique auction in Winnipeg in 1968.
"Okay. Go to sleep now."
"This is my mirror. These are my paintings. This is my chandelier.
This is my chair. This is my lamp. I bought them in Madrid."
"Okay. Let's go to sleep." It is all nonsense, of course. She often inventories the furniture, the china, the silver, and other household items,
claiming that they are hers and stating that she bought them in Madrid.
Most of it they bought in Canada, but he wants to go to sleep.
"I need to go to my sister's house in the morning. You can drive me,
can't you?"
"No. I can't. Sorry. Tere lives in Madrid. We live in Calgary."
"I'll take a taxi. You have to give me the money. I don't have any
money."
"You can't take a taxi to Madrid. It's thousands of miles away and
across the ocean."
"Where are we now?"
"In Calgary. In Canada."
"Why are we here?"
"We live here."
"Why?"
"Because I came here for a job."
"Are we going to stay here?"
"Yes."
"For how long?"
"For the rest."
"Why don't we go to Madrid?"
"We have a house here. We don't have a house in Madrid. We would
have to sell our house here and all our furniture and buy a house and
furniture in Madrid. It would cost us a fortune."
"We could live with my parents. They have a big house on Claudio
Coello in the Barrio de Salamanca."
"Your parents died many years ago. They left the house on Claudio
Coello in 1959, soon after we were married. Go back to sleep."
She remains sitting up for a long time staring into the shadows at the
wall hangings and the chandelier.
It is five o'clock in the evening. She is watching TV in the family room.
"Here are your pills for your heart and your blood. And here is a glass
of water."
16     PRISM 49:3 "I've already taken them," she says.
"No. Not these ones. You have to take them at five o'clock."
"Who says so? You are not my doctor."
"All your doctors say that you have to take them."
"I've taken enough pills today. I'm not going to take any more."
"Sorry. You have to."
She takes them reluctantiy.
Later she goes to open the front door and looks out for a few minutes,
leaning on her cane, then comes to the kitchen where he is preparing the
evening meal.
"Is my father coming for dinner?"
"No."
"Why not?"
"Because your father died many years ago."
"What? My father was here this morning. What are you talking about?
You fool!"
"Sorry. Your father died."
"He died? My father died?" She breaks into tears. "Why didn't anyone tell me? I loved him. He was such a wonderful man. So clever. So
educated. He had a doctorate. He taught at the university."
He feels humbled and honoured. He knows she is talking of him. Her
father had never gone to university. He holds her gently.
"Where is my mother?"
"Your mother died a long time ago."
"You mean both my parents are dead?"
"Yes. I'm sorry."
"Then who are you?"
"I'm your husband."
"My husband? I never had a husband! I was never married. Who are
you? What are you doing in my house?"
"Like it or not, I've been your husband and you've been my wife for
more than fifty years."
"You fool! I've never been married. Never."
"Come to bed," she calls from upstairs.
"No. It's too early for me. It's only twenty past seven. Go to sleep. I'll
catch up with you later."
Zzzzz, She comes down on the chair lift.
"Come up to bed. I don't like to be alone."
"It's too early. Then you'll wake me up at 4:30 in the morning and ask
all kinds of questions."
"Come up. I've made the bed. You can sleep with me in the big bed."
"I sleep with you in that bed every night. We've slept together in the
prismmagazine.ca     17 same bed for more than fifty years."
"Really? In the same bed? That's not possible."
"Yes it is. We've been married for more than fifty years, and other
than a few business trips and visits to your family, we've slept together
every night."
"Are you my husband?" She sits beside him.
"I certainly am. Are you my wife?" He asks playfully.
"I don't know. Are we married?" She folds her hands around his arm
and smiles.
"Yes, we are. For a long time."
"Do we have children?"
"Yes. Six."
"I don't remember. Tell me." She puts her head on his shoulder and
closes her eyes.
He rhymes off the names, cities of residence, spouses, and grandchil-
drens' names.
"Yes. Now I remember."
They go up to bed. He gives her her night-time pills.
At 3:30 am he hears her get up to go to the toilet. She comes back in
the semi-darkness and runs her hand across his face.
"Are you my father?" she asks.
"No. Your husband."
"Are you sure?"
"Quite sure. Come back to bed."
"I thought you were my father."
"You don't sleep with your father. You sleep with your husband.
Come back to bed."
She crawls into the bed and clings to him. "I'm losing my memory."
"I know. That's alright."
"Don't leave me. Don't ever leave me."
"I won't."
"Promise?"
"Promise. Now go to sleep."
She pulls as close as she can and kisses him.
He is in the home office, his den, when she comes in from the family
room.
"What are you doing here?" she asks.
"Checking a few things on the net."
"This is my father's office. You have no right to be here."
"This is my office."
"You liar! This is my father's TV."
"This is not a TV. This is a computer screen."
18     PRISM 49:3 "My father bought this."
"Computers like this didn't exist when your father died."
"I bought this table for my father." She is talking loudly and aggressively.
"You and I bought this table in Madrid fifteen years after your father
died and we brought it to Canada," he says.
"I bought this chair for my father."
"You bought this chair for me, for Christmas, two years ago."
"These are my paintings. I bought them in Madrid," she insists.
"Your sister bought them for us as a gift when we were in Madrid in
1971."
"This is my bookcase. I bought it for my father."
"We bought it at an auction in Winnipeg, long after your father died."
"You liar! This is my cabinet."
"This was our daughter's cabinet. She left it with us when she moved
to Ontario."
"You lie! You lie! Why are you wearing my father's slippers? That is
my father's shirt! I bought it for him. You have no right to wear it. What
do you think you are doing here? Get out of my house!"
She storms out of the room and returns quickly holding a framed
photo of him sitting beside Mother Theresa. "This is my father!" she
proclaims triumphantly.
"That's a photo of me. Your father was never in Calcutta. He never
met Mother Theresa."
"You're a liar!"
He remains silent as she continues the outburst. Eventually she goes
to the family room to pick up the phone. She forgets what she was going
to do or say, puts down the phone and turns on the TV.
They lie in bed for an afternoon nap.
"My hands are very cold," she says.
"It's the medication. Bring them here. Put them under my shirt. Under my arms."
He unbuttons his shirt and brings her hands in. Her fingers are yellow
and her hands are like ice. It takes a few minutes before they come back
to normal.
She has congestive heart failure and takes a large number of medications to control it.
"Don't ever leave me," she says.
"I won't."
"Did we ever marry?"
"More than fifty years ago."
"I don't remember. Do we have children?"
prismmagazine.ca     19 "Yes. Six."
"Tell me their names."
He rhymes off their names, their spouses, their cities of residence, the
names of the grandchildren.
He prepares a coffee for her in the morning and sets out her medication.
"Where is my father? Did he go to open the store?"
"Your father died forty-five years ago. He sold the store before he
died. There is no store."
"He died?"
"Yes. You remember the growth he had on his neck? It was cancerous."
"My poor father! I loved him. He was a beautiful man. Very educated. He was the president of a university. He was very intelligent."
He feels humbled.
"Is my mother coming?"
"No. Your mother died in 1986. In La Granja. Heart."
"Oh, yes. I remember. She had a bad heart. Then I am an orphan."
"Yes. Sorry about that. So am I."
"Your father and mother died?"
"Yes."
"Were they very old?"
"Ninety-four and ninety-three."
"Where is my husband?"
"I am your husband. Here, give me a kiss."
"You are not my husband. I never had a husband."
"Yes, I am." He taps his cheek and leans towards her.
She kisses his cheek and they both smile.
20     PRISM 49:3 Ayelet Tsabari
Missing in Action
The night I meet Sophie I'm sitting on a rock in the jungle, grinding
my teeth and clutching a water bottle.
"You have rolling papers?" she says. Her voice is raspy, her Italian accent as thick as mango juice. And she's beautiful; her hair, skin,
and eyes are matching shades of gold and sand. I reach for my bag, fish
out a pack of rollies.
She grabs a couple of papers, turns as if she's about to leave, but then
stops and looks at me. "You comfortable on this rock?"
"Very," I say. "Try it. But I warn you. You might never leave."
She climbs up and sits next to me, shifts her bottom until she finds an
accommodating crevice. "You are right." She laughs.
"And it's higher up so you have the best view from here," I say. "You
can see the whole tree."
The rock is a few steps up the trail from an ancient Banyan tree in
the middle of the jungle in Goa. Under the canopy of the tree, people
from everywhere recline on bamboo mats, spread over a wide flat area
created by aerial roots. They smoke joints, pass chillums, play didgeri-
doos and drums. Some of these people live here, sleep in hammocks and
shower in the spring. Others, like me, come to visit from rooms rented
on the nearby beach. Beside the trunk somebody has set up a temple to
Shiva, and visitors place coconuts and incense as gifts to the sacred tree.
Thick roots hang off the branches like beaded curtains, separating us
from the surrounding jungle.
Pauli, the Wizard, sits cross-legged in the centre, swaying to the drum
beat. When he showed up after midnight, someone yelled, "It's a party
now!" Pauli is a Roma-Austrian man in his late fifties, tall and skinny,
with pliable limbs, a scarred face, and twitchy eyes. He told me stories
about the time he spent in prison, about his battle with drug addiction,
about escaping from juvenile detention to the jungles of India at the age
of thirteen with the help of his gangster father. People say he takes fifty
drops of LSD at a time. Pauli concocts his own liquid LSD and shares
it free of charge. We stand in a line and open our mouths as if we are
kids in an impoverished country and he's giving us malaria pills. When
he drops them in, he counts loudly to ensure that we get the dosage we
asked for. This time I took two drops. I've been sitting on this rock ever
prismmagazine.ca    21 since. Grinding my teeth and trying to breathe away the panic; drinking
gallons of water that go through me, my body an empty, hollow tube.
"I see you before." Sophie licks the adhesive strip on the paper, looking at me sideways. Strands of her blonde hair fall on her face and she
tucks them behind her ear. "Always you sit at the restaurant and write.
What do you write?"
'Just stuff." I flick my lighter on and off.
"In... how you say... ebreo?"
"Hebrew. Yes."
"This is your work in Israel? Writing?"
I hesitate. "I freelance. I'm also a waitress." I find it strange to talk
about work. I hope she doesn't ask about my time in the Israeli army.
Everyone in Goa knows that Israelis party the hardest because they've
just completed their mandatory service. Most travellers I meet are fascinated by this topic. I hated everything about the army, spent two years in
a dull office, following orders from an officer I despised. I haven't worn
khaki since. Why would I want to talk about it here?
"You travel alone?" Sophie lights the joint and blows out smoke.
I nod. "You?"
"With my friends." She points at two long-haired girls in tie-dye dresses who are sitting on the mats. "First time to India?"
"Third."
She beams. "Me too."
Sophie tells me that this time she's staying in Goa. "No travel. Vacation." I arrived in Goa a couple of weeks ago. I tell her about the house
I rented in the Himalayas in the fall, the month I spent with street kids
in Pushkar, the crazy British drunks I lived with on the roof of a hotel in
Diu who downed Ecstasy with their beer in the middle of the day.
I hand her the joint and jump off the rock. "All I do is drink and
pee," I say. "It's crazy." I walk down the trail into the jungle and squat.
Above me the branches sway and morph, making out. The light of the
full moon blinks in and out of vision, a broken fluorescent, painting everything an eerie blue. I linger, listening to the jungle. I can hear a beetle
walking across a leaf. This is so much better than the toilet I use at the
beach, an elevated wooden structure mounted over a pigsty with a chute
in the floor. As soon as you crouch over it the pigs rush and stick their
little snouts up the hole. You can tell that somebody is new to the beach
when they leave the toilet with an expression of horror and disgust.
Back at the rock Sophie is already heating another piece of hash under the flame of the lighter, crumbling it into her palm. "Here." I reach
into my bikini top, pull a small chunk of charas wrapped in saran wrap
and covered in a film of sweat. "Mix some of mine. I brought it from the
mountains."
22     PRISM 49:3 The Israeli guy I made out with earlier walks over to us and hands
me a chillum pipe filled with charas. It's considered an honour to offer
someone a chillum to light. He smiles at me. I blush into my lap. I lock
my hands over the smaller opening of the chillum to create a prism and
press my lips around it, suddenly aware of how phallic this must look. I
lean my head towards him, and he sparks a match and lights the mixture
on the other end. I suck slowly, until the mix is fully lit, and then take
a long steady drag, blowing out a mushroom of thick smoke. I pass the
chillum to Sophie.
After he leaves Sophie follows him with her gaze. "You like him?"
"Who? This guy? No."
"Sure?"
"It's not like that." I sip water. "Okay. I made out with him."
"When?"
"Earlier. At the spring."
Sophie throws her head back in deep, rasping laughter.
I bury my face in my hands. The image of our make-out session flashes in my head, turning my face hot. "The thing is: I have a boyfriend."
Sophie studies me for a moment. "He's in Israel? Your boyfriend?"
"Canada. We met in Diu three months ago." I light a cigarette. "Now
that I think about it, I told him I won't be sleeping with guys. So I'm fine,
right?"
She laughs again.
A couple hours later Fabrizio comes to visit, offering bananas. I've
seen him on the beach before; he's a part of an older crowd that's been
coming to this beach every year. Fabrizio is a wiry, small man in his
forties with matted hair tied in a stubby ponytail. His features are close
together, his body muscular and darkly tanned like a true Southern Italian. By then Sophie and I are best friends, we sit close, arms brushing,
lean our heads on each other's shoulders when we laugh.
"Fabrizio!" Sophie says. They kiss on both cheeks. "Welcome to our
home." She spreads her arm in a sweeping gesture. "We have not moved
in hours."
"Except to pee," I say. "I pee a lot."
He hops on. "Comfy." He looks around. "What if you need something?"
"Everything you wish comes to you," Sophie says. "People bring food
and chai and chillums."
"Cigarettes," I add.
"Kit Kats," Sophie says.
We sit on the rock until morning, laughing and smoking. The people
on the tree call us the Three Monkeys. At dawn, the jungle wakes up all
at once; birds start singing in unison, monkeys skip between trees. The
prismmagazine.ca    23 morning overflows like a pot of boiled chai. We finally leave the rock,
the tree, the jungle. Back to the beach.
The next day Fabrizio and Sophie come to my room to pick me up on
Fabrizio's Yamaha 100. My room is a small shed, steps from the water,
with an exhausted ceiling fan. I jump off my hammock, drop my notebook in its sagging belly.
We eat breakfast, and then smoke a few chillums before Fabrizio pulls
out a strip of acid and breaks it into three pieces. We hop on the bike; I
sit on the back and Sophie in the middle. Sophie tells me that Fabrizio
has been coming to Goa for twenty years. He knows all the secret spots.
We drive inland, away from the beach. Everything is spray-painted
a blurry green, broken by fragments of blue and tips of whitewashed
churches. The sweet smell of cashew blossoms is almost overkill, like
a beautiful woman doused in too much perfume. I lean my head on
Sophie's back. Her skin is warm and checkered with gold shimmers of sand.
We're driving past state lines, into Maharashtra, to a lake surrounded
by crystals and dense trees. The lake is a yawning crack in the earth,
shaped like a blue eye. I position my camera on a rock to take a picture
of us, naked, smoking a chillum in the water. Fabrizio and Sophie collect
crystals while I swim from one end to another. The water feels heavy
and swimming takes effort. On the way home, sunset surprises me. Has
it been another day? We stop by a deserted beach to watch the sun, a fat
tangerine sinking into the Arabian Sea, leaving streaks of juice over the
sky. I take another photo. All three of us are wearing orange and yellow,
our faces flushed red by the sunset. We're smiling widely. Famlgiia.
From that day on, the three of us are inseparable. In the mornings we sit
at the Moonrise, our regular breakfast place on the beach. On the table:
empty plates with hardened streaks of egg yolk, smiley peels of orange
and pineapple, coffee mugs, juice glasses, ashtrays overflowing with cigarette butts and roaches. We smoke joints and chillums, then take acid
and drive somewhere on Fabrizio's Yamaha 100. When we swim Sophie
yells "Metre please!" and I take a deep breath and sink underwater with
my arm stretched above my head so she can see how deep we are. I keep
my eyes open, watch her long legs kicking, treading water. Below the
surface, her skin is a pale seashell green.
"What day do you think it is?" I ask Sophie one morning at the Moon-
rise. We've been high ever since the day we met. I haven't slept in two
days and haven't showered in four but I swam in the ocean and dipped
in the lake which must count for something. My sarong stinks of coconut
oil, sweat, and fire.
24     PRISM 49:3 Sophie looks up at the thatched roof. "Well, it's not Wednesday."
The beach is peppered with sarongs, crowded with backpackers, jugglers and guitar players. Local vendors stroll between them, their arms
heavy with tie-dye shirts and sandalwood necklaces. On Wednesdays,
Goa's weekly flea market day, we have the beach all to ourselves. The
backpackers and vendors all head to Anjuna, a ferry ride away, for a day
of shopping and socializing. In the beginning we used to go too. Now
that we've been here for a while, the novelty has worn off. We also have
no money left to spend.
"It's definitely not Sunday," she says. On Sundays we wake up to the
horrifying shrieks of the unfortunate pig that has been chosen for Sunday
dinner's pork vindaloo.
I dig my feet deep into the sand, where it's cool and damp. "I think
it's Tuesday."
"The real question—" Sophie smirks, "is what date."
I laugh. "What month?"
I pull my chillum pipe out of its velvet case and stuff it with the mix
of hash and tobacco. Sophie rips a square piece of fabric from the sarong
she's wearing around her hips, pours a bit of water on it, wrings it and
wraps it neatly over the mouth of the chillum. Both our sarongs are now
ragged at the edges, and hers is starting to resemble a miniskirt. I hand
the chillum to her and she cups her hands around it, lifts them to her
forehead. I strike a match and Sophie puffs in and out slowly, sucks in
a stream of dense smoke, holds, and releases. We pass it back and forth
until it's finished.
We sit and stare at the sea for a while. The world has slowed down
a notch. The noise from the beach is muffled, as if we're watching it
through a glass wall. A family walks on the edge of the water, a cut-out
silhouette against a shimmering silver background.
We decide it's laundry day. Sophie pulls two acid stamps from her
wallet and hands me one. We put them on our tongues and head to the
well with piles of tie-dye shirts and worn-out sarongs. Sophie lowers the
bucket into the well and it hits the bottom with a splash. Her lean, tanned
arms swell as she retrieves the bucket, reeling in the rope. I squat next
to her, dip my clothes in the bucket and begin to scrub my tank tops
with a bar of soap and a round stone. Sophie walks over and hugs me,
her cheek cool on my shoulder blade; her small nipples poke my back
through her shirt.
We trudge barefoot in the hot sand with our washed clothes, leaving
a wet trail behind us. I eye the coconuts on the trees. Twice I'd seen one
fall near me with a dull heavy thump, leaving a dent in the earth before
rolling away. Some nights, I run through the grove, heart racing, to make
it to my room. In the moonlight the coconuts are metallic green. It's like
prismmagazine.ca     25 walking through a minefield.
We hang the clothes on a string between the posts, framing my porch
with tie-dye curtains. We swing on the hammock together with our feet
hanging off and our thighs sticking like Velcro. Sophie points out parts
of her face and I repeat la bocca, ll naso, I'orecchto, la llnguetta... I've been
learning quickly, especially the bad stuff: Porco dto, porca Madonna, bas-
tardo, vaffanculo.
The afternoon sun filters through the clothes, casting bright colours
on our faces and hands, rainbows on skin. Sophie extends her limp arm,
trying to reach the bottle on the ground. I kick the ledge to make the
hammock swing and she knocks the bottle over. It rolls away from her.
We laugh. aPlstoltna." Sophie nudges me. "You get it." It means a silly
teenager, a young one, because I'm only twenty-two. I like it when she
says that, even though she's only three years older than me.
One Wednesday we go visit an old friend of Fabrizio's who lives in the
flea market. During the rest of the week, the flea market is just a large,
thinly planted coconut grove with a few houses scattered in between.
Now it's packed with travellers, rows of vendors with their merchandise
spread out on blankets, juice and fruit stands, craftsmen and tattoo artists, Rajasthani women selling mirror-studded skirts and silver jewellery.
Fabrizio's friend, an Italian man with a long grey beard and a white
turban, doesn't speak much English. He offers us a second hit of acid.
While the three of them sit in the yard and chat in Italian, I walk through
his house; it's sparsely decorated, with pillows and mats on the floor. I
see a woman out of the corner my eye and turn quickly, almost expecting her to vanish. It's me, or at least someone related to me. Full-length
mirrors are a rare luxury in India, so I haven't seen my body in six
months. I look different, thinner, and I've never been so tanned. My
curls are starting to dread. I twirl in front of the mirror, toss my hair.
Outside I grab Sophie's hand and together we run from one end of
the fence to the other and back, catch our breath and burst out laughing.
We look over the bamboo fence at the flea market dying at sunset. Loud
techno music booms from the bar, and my foot taps involuntarily against
the fence.
"Check it out," Sophie whispers, pointing at a shower tucked into the
corner of the yard, flanked by bamboo walls. A real shower. We've been
bathing with a bucket for weeks now.
"We should take a shower," Sophie says.
"Totally." We stare at each other and drop our gazes to our feet.
My cheeks tingle. "You go first," I say without looking at her.
"No, you."
I hesitate but eventually go in. When I peel off my sarong and bikini
26     PRISM 49:3 I think of Sophie and my face flushes. I turn the water on and gasp,
paralyzed by the cold, marvelling at the sparkly threads cascading down
from the showerhead. A square of cloudless sky stands in lieu of a roof,
made of the finest shade of blue. I close my eyes, give in to the sensation
of water beating on my skin, running down my body, draping over me
like a silk shawl.
At night, a party on the beach. Nothing like the huge trance parties that
take place on other, more populated beaches. Our beach is small and remote and our parties are intimate affairs. Everyone knows everyone. We
like it that way. Patti from Germany takes off her clothes and dances naked in the shallow water. Pauli is making out with twenty-year-old Lina
from Italy, his face buried in her locks. Orli from Israel is sprawled over
the speakers, covered in fluorescent body paint. Fabrizio hops around,
flapping his hands and baring his teeth like a monkey. I stand at the
edge of the makeshift dance floor and watch them. Laughter bursts out
of me like vomit. Once I start laughing I can't think of any reason to
stop. I can't see why I don't do it all the time. The more I think about
it, the more I laugh. I'm the laugh track of a sitcom. I'm cars zooming
by on a highway. I bend over, tears streaming down my cheeks. Then I
look to my right and see five local men pointing and laughing. At me. I
freeze, get in touch with the part that's afraid, that says no. Maybe this
isn't funny after all.
I wake up gasping for air and realize that I fell asleep in the Moonrise.
It's a black moon night but I can see the water licking the sand, the
shapes of the trees, the deadly glint of coconuts. How did I fall asleep
here? Why did they shut down the restaurant without waking me up? I
get up from the table I slept on and rush to the entrance of the restaurant,
but then my eyes get used to the darkness and I make out a door. The
restaurant doesn't have doors. I open it and see the hammock hanging
on my porch, the sea peeking silver between the palm trees. I'm in my
room. I have no memory of when and how I got here.
In the mornings, before I smoke, the day is blinding white, the sounds
abrasive and loud, everything has sharp, prickly angles. I recognize this
feeling from somewhere, and I don't like it. It reminds me of the time I
saw two girls from high school in a party in Manali while I was on ecstasy and they looked like they were scared of me. I take a swig of water
to rinse out the toothpaste and spit into the bushes. I look into the small
mirror I hung on the porch: my eyes are tired, my jaw tight, my skin
khaki-grey. I have to look away. It all changes as soon as I smoke my
first chillum. It baby-proofs the edges, tucks me in a warm fuzzy blanket.
prismmagazine.ca    27 Sophie's girlfriends leave, but she stays. "Can I stay with you?" she asks.
"I can't afford my own room." I'm getting pretty broke myself so I say
sure, flattered that she chose to stay, pleased to share a room with her.
That night we talk until morning, smoking chillums on my bed, back
and forth, back and forth, until there's nothing left to say. Sophie's hand
searches for mine, touches my face, tracing my curves. I turn towards
her, our legs interlace. Her lips are soft, her breath heavy and sweet:
charas and pineapple.
"Tell me about your boyfriend," Sophie says later. She turns to her
side, propped on her elbow. "What is he like?"
I light a Gold Flake and inhale. What is he like? It's been two months
since I last saw him. Our time apart is now longer than our time together.
It's been difficult to get in touch with him: there's no phone line on the
beach and he's been treeplanting in Northern BC. Sometimes I forget I
have a boyfriend. I find it difficult to visualize his face; his features appear smudged, a reflection floating on a dirty window. It all seems so
distant: our time together, our plans for the future, how in love we were.
I cried when he left, spent the following weeks feeling morose and heartbroken. Was any of that real? My letters became shorter. How are you?
I'm having a blast, love you. And then I stopped writing.
The days blend together, stuck like pages of a book left in the rain.
Sometimes it feels as though it's all been one long day, and other times I
think it's been years. People could be looking for me; maybe they think
I'm dead. Maybe I'm one of those Israeli travelers whose parents call
the embassy to report them; one of these posters on telephone poles in
New Delhi, a photocopied picture of me in my mother's home, laughing,
smoking a cigarette, under MISSING.
I haven't spoken to my mother in a month. I imagine her coming here
to rescue me from the drug pit, and it kills my buzz instantly. The last
time I called, I laughed on the phone and she said, "Why are you laughing? Are you high?" It was as if she could see me.
"I have to go," I said.
"Don't do drugs," she said. "Remember what happened to Sagit?"
My mother has friends whose daughter went mad in Goa. She used
to take off her clothes and strike a pose on the beach and not move for
hours. She became known as Sagit Psalim, sculptures. Some people still
remember her. Now she's back in Israel. She found God.
I hear from other Israeli backpackers that a major newspaper in Israel
ran a feature about Israelis going to Goa after the army to blow off steam
and then coming back crazy. One guy thought he was a dolphin. On the
flight back he needed to be wetted repeatedly. He thought if they didn't
wet him he'd die.
28     PRISM 49:3 I should probably call.
I sit at the Moonrise and watch the crazy guy down at the beach. He
walks along the shore, turns and walks back, stops to speak to an imaginary person, or to converse with a coconut tree. He picks up a shell from
the sand and laughs at it. He has long hair, a pot belly, a blue Bermuda swimsuit. He's not young. Nobody's sure where he's from. Fabrizio
thinks he's Swiss. Others say he's from Belgium.
"Do you think he was always crazy, or did he become crazy here?" I
ask Sophie.
She looks up and squints at him. "Must be here. How else did he get
on a plane?"
The crazy guy faces the water, raising his arms slowly.
Sophie grabs the chillum from the table.
"Did I ever tell you about the Italian guy I met in Pushkar?" I ask.
Sophie shakes her head no.
"He'd gone crazy in Goa. He thought he was a monkey. Then somebody called the Italian embassy and they came to grab him off the tree.
Literally, off the tree. He climbed trees and behaved like a monkey."
"What happened to him?"
"He tried to fight them off. They sedated him."
"What that means?"
"They gave him drugs."
"More drugs?" She passes me the chillum. "Crazy."
That night, at a house party on the other side of Goa, I say no, I don't
want LSD. I smoked too much charas and I feel heavy and stoned. Pauli
seems surprised. I pass out on a couch outside and when I wake up
I go look for Pauli who's dancing in the living room. I knock on his
back.
"Two drops, please."
"One, two... three." Pauli winks at me.
"Pauli!" I punch him in the arm and he laughs. I never take three.
Oh well. It's done. By the time I peak most people are coming down.
It's intense, as if I'm standing next to the bass speaker in a rock concert.
Everything vibrates. Out on the patio lit cigarettes swim in the dark like
a rescue team in the jungle. I spend what seems like hours bent over my
diary, writing madly. A guy sits next to me on the couch; he's covered
in so much glitter he looks like a spaceman. He says his name is Normal
and I laugh. "Not normal," he says, irritated. "Normal! With an N!" I
laugh too hard to answer.
Sophie comes to visit, all sparkles, as if she collided with a truckload
of stars. I can't stop looking at her. She's so beautiful, an Italian movie
prismmagazine.ca    29 star. In the mirror in the washroom, I contemplate the possibility that
I'm Greek. I look sort of Greek. Lately, people have been speaking to
me in Italian. Sophie calls me Italiana. Yesterday after swallowing sea
water, I said, "Me bebendo agua del mare." "Oh my God! You make sentence!" Sophie kissed me on the lips and people were watching.
I should probably stop staring into the mirror. The bathroom reflected in it doesn't match the one I'm in. It's a different colour, for one, a
highlighter blue, and small animals keep disappearing into the corners
whenever I try to focus. Outside everything is bright orange, screaming
pink, and ultraviolet.
I spend the rest of the party dancing as if my life depends on it. More
dancing, less thinking, this is the answer. But then the music stops like
a heart attack. Everywhere I look people are leaking onto cushions and
couches, seeping into each other. They look old, wasted, their makeup
smeared, their colours faded. The party is over. For some reason I catch
a ride back to the beach with some German guy I don't know. On the
way I see kids in school uniforms walking on the side of the road. Girls
in pigtails tied in red ribbons, boys in little ties. I can't decide if it's morning and they're heading to school or if it's noon and they're on their way
back home. I watch them march in single file, like little soldiers in their
uniforms, and my eyes fill with tears. I close my eyes, make the thought
go away. I lean my face on the red, warm back of the German and sniff
him. He smells familiar.
The hot season has started. The beach is emptying out. Everybody's
leaving, heading north. Even Pauli and his drops are gone, off to Japan.
The fan in our room breaks down one night and we wake up, bodies
glowing, swathed in wet sheets. I find a newspaper rolling on the ground
in town and when I pick it up I see Israeli warplanes on the front page.
I turn to the horoscope. It says that I should be less impulsive. I think I
should stop chewing my nails. And my teeth, I've been grinding them so
much I'm afraid they're going to fall off.
I'm so tired.
Sophie and I both run out of money around the same time. It's time to
go home but the buses are on strike and we're stuck. The beach is finally
empty of tourists and vendors. It's just us, the locals, the core community of aging hippies and the heat. Some mornings we are the only table
at the Moonrise; other restaurants shut down, preparing for monsoons.
"Maybe we should just stay, maybe it's a sign," I tell Sophie and she
laughs.
Eventually we find a ride to Pune with an older Portuguese guy. Fabrizio gives us gifts when we leave: a porcupine's quill, a mixing bowl for
30     PRISM 49:3 charas he carved from a coconut shell. We promise to write, come visit
him in Sardinia. "I love you, little monkeys," he says. The three of us
hug, standing together in a sweaty, teary clump. On the way to Pune, the
car swimming in pitch black, Sophie feels me up under the blanket.
We spend a few days in Pune, with old friends of Sophie's: Aurelia and
the two Marcos. They rent an apartment near the ashram, and we all
sleep in one big bed, a few mattresses thrown in a row. Aurelia is a
dreadlocked hippie who loves to walk around butt naked, her pubic hair
red and curly. "Mz che cazzo voi?" Sophie says to her and even I understand, it translates as "What the fuck do you want?" but literally means,
"What cock do you want?" We all laugh.
The trains to Delhi are full for at least a month and now I'm stuck in
Pune, broke and overwhelmed. Life is different here, full of errands and
itineraries and mosquitoes and the sound of trains. The mornings are too
bright, the traffic too shrill. It's a little bit like home.
As a last resort, I go to the station and fill an Emergency Quota Form.
I flaunt my journalist visa to India and make up something about a conference I must attend in Delhi. I've been getting journalist visas for my
trips as a security measure, never with the intention of writing anything.
Now I wait.
In the mornings, after they all head out to the ashram, Sophie and I
are woken up by the heat, bodies tangled up; her skin, her lips are slippery against mine. Outside, it's scorching hot, with no breeze to offer
relief.
One afternoon, after smoking chillums all morning, I nearly faint in
a convenience store. I lean on the doorframe and lower myself to the
dusty floor, blink to get my vision back. A clean-shaven American guy
in a white T-shirt and khaki Bermudas hands me a bottle of water. "Take
care of yourself this afternoon," he says, gazing at me intently. When I
get back to the apartment I can't find my wallet. It had 200 rupees and a
piece of hash. I go back to the store later with Sophie but it's not there.
"You stop smiling since we got here." Sophie stands behind me and
wraps her arms around my chest. "Please smile. For me."
In the shower one night the electricity goes out. It's a windowless room
shared by all the apartments in the building. The room falls into total
darkness, and then it's lit psychedelic pink; a few rectangles in brilliant
colours chase themselves in circles like a merry-go-round. I follow them,
transfixed, and then get disoriented. I stand still, my heart taps against
the inside of my chest. I reach for the door and stumble. It's not there;
there's more space than I thought. The walls have collapsed and I'm
locked in a black and pink desert. The tapping in my heart goes into
prismmagazine.ca    31 double time. A flashback. I haven't done acid in four days. The door is
there, I tell myself. You're in the room. This isn't real. Then the electricity clicks back, shining fluorescent light over the cream tiles and my skin,
covered in goosebumps and beads of water and sweat.
I come back from the train station with a ticket. They bought my story.
The day before we go our separate ways—Sophie on a plane to Rome
and me on the train to Delhi to fly home to Tel Aviv—I help Sophie and
Aurelia wrap pieces of hash in Saran Wrap they're going to swallow and
smuggle back to Italy.
At night Sophie whispers into my nape, "Why do I love you so
much?" We fall asleep hugging, two question marks. When we wake up
our heads are touching, our bodies face each other in a heart shape.
The twenty-hour train to Delhi ends up taking days. There's been an accident. I smoke my last joint at a deserted train station in Maharashtra:
infinite plains of yellow and no life in sight. We've stopped here for a
few hours while they're trying to figure out a new route. We end up de-
touring through Bhopal. For three days I go to sleep and wake up in the
train. This train, this compartment, becomes my world, my buffer zone
between Goa and Israel. Sometimes I wish it would keep going, that I
would never get there.
At dinnertime the passengers pull out tin containers from their bags
and dip fingers and rotis into them. The compartment fills with the comforting smell of homemade cooking. I stare outside the window. Since
I finished my charas, I've lost my appetite. I'm also down to my last
few rupees. I subsist on fruit and nuts that I buy along the way. The
mother of the family that shares my compartment stares at me with narrowed eyes. For the rest of the journey she insists I share their meals,
offering pakoras, samosas, ladus. In the afternoons, I play cards with the
grandmother, a beautiful woman with a silver braid and a white sari. She
makes me think of my family, my mother's kitchen, the smell of freshly-
laundered clothes.
I smoke my Gold Flakes sitting on the steps of the train, listening to
Janisjoplin on my Discman. The door is wide open and the countryside rushes past in front of me: fields of blood-red chillies, rice paddies,
groves of coconut and date trees. Barefoot kids run alongside the train,
waving and shouting. Pieces of saris caught between the bars flap as the
train snakes across the Gujarat plains. I write in my journal, make lists
of things to do when I get home, plan cleanses, meditation, an exercise
routine. But my list-making brain has difficulties restarting; it feels sluggish and heavy, like a car that's been parked for too long.
On the last night, I sit on the steps after everyone falls asleep. I hear
32     PRISM 49:3 the snores of passengers, catch the pungent smell of a Bidi cigarette
smoked from an open window. I miss Sophie. I lean my head on the
doorframe and stare at the black cellophane night. The train chugs away,
its rhythm as soothing as the crashing of waves that I fell asleep to in
Goa. My foot starts tapping to the bassline. Then I see luminous green
stars dangling off the trees, flickering off and on like a chain of Christmas
lights, a psychedelic connect-the-dot. For a moment my heart stops. I
close my eyes and open them, willing the green lights to go away. They
disengage from the tree and disperse as if someone blew into them, skip
between the tree branches, swoop and swerve alongside the train. Fireflies. Not a flashback. This is the real thing. One firefly lands on my arm
and breathes light into it. I hold my breath. I don't want to scare it away.
I want this moment to last.
prismmagazine.ca     33 Elizabeth Haynes
Leaving Lares
5 am. In silence, my sister and I shiver into layers of polypro and
fleece, then carry our packs down the red-carpeted steps of the
Posada del Corregidor. Lorenzo, our guide, waits in a taxi. We
glide down the dawn streets of Cuzco, Peru, past the dark Catedral, past
a Quechua woman setting up her blankets and sweaters on the sidewalk,
past narrow calles bounded by massive Inca walls.
The bus to Calca is crowded. Windows slide open as we squeal around
corners. The passengers sit silent, the men huddled in their ponchos and
chu'llu toques, the women draped in boldly striped blankets. My sister
and I huddle together in the cold, in this unheated bus. We pore over
The Conquest of the Incas. When one of us wants the page to be turned, she
nods and the other paws the book with mittened hands. We read five
hundred years into the past, about the last stand of Manco II, King of the
Inca. He fought and almost beat the Spanish, was captured and escaped
to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley which we are hurtling toward
though it is not our destination.
At Calca, Lorenzo finds us a ride in a pickup truck going to Lares. The
narrow gravel road switchbacks as it climbs, each turn revealing more
snow-covered peaks. We slide off the bags of potatoes we're seated on
and land on wriggling gunny-sacks of guinea pigs.
On the main street of Lares, beneath looming mountains and an overcast sky, children have gathered to perform a dance: boys in brilliant
red- and pink-fringed ponchos and ch'ullus; girls with knee-length skirts
and shawls, their hats like upturned cloth bowls. We weren't expecting
a welcoming committee, I joke. Lorenzo laughs and tells us the dance is
for education officials who are on a school inspection tour. We join the
ring of onlookers. Beside me, a teenage girl tenderly braids a little one's
hair. The little one is still as the older girl combs and winds. Sisters?
We watch the dancing and then we leave Lares. Lorenzo walks us
along a bumpy road that becomes a small dirt track through the forest.
Leslie rockets ahead; Lorenzo and I follow.
"She is very strong," Lorenzo says in Spanish.
"Yes," I say. "She pushes her husband, Randy, in his wheelchair."
"Was he in an accident?"
"No. He has a disease. A degenerative neurological condition."
34     PRISM 49:3 Lorenzo nods slowly.
We hired Lorenzo for his kindness. He'd been our guide the previous
week on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and he'd waited for each person in our group of twelve, where Leslie and I were known as "the sisters." He'd gone back and forth along the trail, encouraging Les, whose
ankle, weakened from an old basketball injury, had collapsed on the
steep Inca steps down to Huinay Hayna; leading an acrophobic trekker
down a gully; and coming back to check on me, the oldest in our group,
"Sefiorita Isobel" of the bad knees.
Lorenzo was born in Huayllabamba, the pueblo where we spent our
first night en route to Machu Picchu. He grew up speaking Quechua.
At eighteen, he left his village for Cuzco, where he worked as a servant
and learned Spanish. He became a trekking porter, a cook, then a guide.
He earns about twenty dollars for four days' work guiding gringos to
Machu Picchu, making sure we don't sit on the Inca walls or stray down
the wrong valley, that we are kept fed and watered and healthy and
warm. He lives with his ninety-five-year-old father and supports a large
extended family.
"Sefiorita Isobel, Mepuedopreguntarte algo?" he'd asked me as I dragged
my carcass up Dead Woman's pass, the highest point of the Inca Trail.
"Si, como no?" I'd answered in Spanish. Ask me anything.
"Where is your husband?"
"Good question."
"He ran away?"
"No, no. I'm single."
"You live with your parents?"
"No."
"You live with Leslie?"
"No."
"You live alone?"
"Yes."
I watch my sister's turquoise jacket and purple pack disappear around a
green eucalyptus bend and think about her suggestion that we each rent
our own tent.
The day before Les arrived in Cuzco, I moved out of my cramped,
one-star hotel and found us a big room in a comfy hotel on the Plaza de
Armas. I was eager to show her what I'd seen, tell her what I knew. I was
looking forward to being with her after four months of travelling through
South and Central America alone.
But she arrived exhausted. She'd been working fourteen-hour days,
trying to cope with the demands of a stressful job and her husband's
prismmagazine.ca    35 disease. She'd flown in from sea level, and the altitude was making her
sick.
I convinced her that one tent was better—less weight and less expense. I didn't say that her idea made me sad.
Several kilometres beyond Lares, we come to an Inca hot springs. Stone
columns surround the square pool. Water flows down into it from spigots in the columns and steam rises from the muddy water. A rickety
wooden change house sits off to the side. It has two stalls, half-doors, and
a concrete floor, just like the change house behind the house where we
grew up in Kamloops: me, the oldest of four girls, Les, the baby, seven
years younger. Let me rephrase that: where /grew up. When I was nineteen and Leslie was twelve, my family moved to the States. Les grew the
rest of the way up in Alabama; I stayed behind to finish university.
In Kamloops, I called her "baby" and "brat." She found cigarettes
and pot in my bottom drawer, listened to my phone conversations about
boyfriends and drunken parties, threatened to tell Mom. She had nightmares. Often she'd appear at my door in the middle of the night, wanting to sleep with me. "No stealing the covers," I'd tell her. But the kid
was always burning hot, and I ended up pushing all of the blankets onto
her.
Leslie jumps into the hot pool, yelling, "Come in, it's beautiful."
I ease gooseflesh into steaming water.
"Lorenzo, te puedes tomar unafoto?" I ask.
Les and I put our arms around each other. Water streams down the
stone irrigation channels at our backs.
"Cheese," Lorenzo says.
"Quesol" we yell.
We follow a dirt path upwards, grey sky and green hills above us. A boy
herding sheep offers a shy, "Buenas tardes." At Tamboallaua, we talk to
some men who are roasting the potatoes they have been harvesting. The
men offer us the small nuggets and chicha, corn liquor. I take the chicha
but Leslie declines. Why? She takes the grassy coca tea Lorenzo offers
for altitude sickness. Maybe she is worried the chicha will make her sick
and she can't afford to get sick. She has to be strong for Ran.
Passing cows and sheep, I climb alone into a cold fog. See my first llama.
I take out my camera and creep closer, but when I am about ten feet
away, he bolts, only to stop again a few feet ahead, looking back at me
with enormous, lashed eyes. I follow him up to the village of Concani.
Near the stone schoolhouse, the teacher waylays Lorenzo, asking that
we camp in the schoolyard, telling him it will be safer and the money
36     PRISM 49:3 we pay will help the school. Lorenzo refuses, telling us later the money
will only get as far as the teacher's pocket. We will stay at the home of
Santiago, our porter.
Santiago's home is one narrow room built of stone. At one end is a
fireplace where several children, from toddlers to adolescents, sit on a
stone bench. Santiago's wife crouches over the fireplace, preparing dinner. Les and I sit at the other end on benches covered with llama skins,
shivering despite our multiple layers, drinking coca tea. Smoke from the
fire has blackened the walls. Guinea pigs run past our feet. Les and I exchange glances. "Cuy," says Lorenzo. I look at the furry brown and white
animals skittering back and forth across the stones. "Very good, muy
sabroso," he says when a little boy shyly offers us their legs on a platter. I
think to tell Lorenzo that in Canada we keep them as pets, but don't. He
may already know this. He probably thinks it's crazy.
Santiago, Lorenzo tells us, is "muy fuerte." Very strong. At forty-six,
Santiago has eight children, the youngest just walking, the oldest married. The smaller children huddle together, sending us shy glances.
"His wife gets up at two o'clock en la madrugada," Lorenzo says. She
prepares Santiago's breakfast so he can be out tending his animals—
sheep and llamas—by four.
According to my Spanish-English dictionary, "a quten madruga, Dios le
ayuda," means "the early bird captures the worm," but the literal translation from the Spanish is, "God helps those who rise early." I would like
to believe this is true, but then I think of the small malnourished children, their thin clothes and rubber sandals, their black or missing teeth.
I think of my brother-in-law, whose legs shake when he tries to stand,
whose spasticity robs him of sleep.
The next day Les and I go ahead while Lorenzo stays behind to pack.
Santiago's son leads the way. I follow Les who follows the boy up a wandering path, past waterfalls and blue lakes dotted across a rocky meadow. We trudge up to a cold, windy pass 4,200 metres above sea level,
behind this twelve-year-old boy who has the strength of a man, then we
head down and up another small pass.
"How's your ankle?" I ask Les, when I finally catch up.
"Fine," she says, though I can see that she is limping.
I try to keep her in sight as we follow Santiago's son down the pass.
Then Lorenzo is with us and the boy is gone.
Passing a pueblo with three stone houses, Lorenzo says he wishes that
the parents wouldn't have so many children, that all the children could
go to school. He speaks in Spanish, and I translate for Les.
"You don't need to translate," she says. "I can understand a lot. I'll ask
you when I don't."
But she won't. In our family, we don't ask for help.
prismmagazine.ca    37 When I was fifteen and Les was eight, I almost killed her. We were
skiing at Tod Mountain and I took her down an advanced mogul run. I
was annoyed to be skiing with my little sister instead of my friends, so I
zoomed ahead, not stopping until the bottom. She came barreling down
toward the lift line, knocked over some skiers, disappeared over a ledge
and crashed into a tree.
"Why were you going so fast?" I asked her later, after she'd been
evacuated down the mountain, examined and found to be unbroken.
After I'd stopped shaking.
"I was trying to catch up," she said.
That evening on the trek, Les and I set up our silver tent in a circular
stone compound filled with hay. After dinner, we put on all our clothes
against the cold, climb into our sleeping bags, and take turns reading
aloud from The Conquest of the Incas. Reading is something we have in
common. We will read by flashlight, by candlelight, by firelight, by
moonlight. We will try to read when there is barely any light at all.
"Night, sweetie," she says at the end of the chapter.
Her black toque peeks out of the top of her sleeping bag before sliding
inside. I scoot my sleeping-bagged body towards hers. I can feel the heat
coming from her; she's still as hot as the seven-year-old who crawled into
my bed after a bad dream.
I wake in the madrugada to pee, pull on frozen boots and walk through
mist past a stone enclosure where frosted sheep huddle together. A llama
looms out of the dark, stops, sniffs, and moves on. Light diffuses, a peak
appears—the sacred snow mountain of Pitusiray.
We begin our final climb up a faint path on the side of a grey scree
slope. The rocky trail winds above two lakes the colour of green olives.
One of the lakes swallowed a boy who came too close with his llamas,
Lorenzo says. I walk slowly, drawing in great gulps of thinning air, resting frequently. Les is ahead, chewing coca leaves and moving quickly in
spite of her altitude sickness. Maybe the leaves are helping. Lorenzo tells
me all the things he has learned that gringas like to know: the distance
travelled, the distance left to go.
I still don't understand what happened at the top of that final pass where
we looked upon the sacred snow mountain of Pitusiray. I remember we
were jubilant, thrilled at having climbed to the highest pass on the trek,
awed by the panorama of snowy peaks. I remember that Lorenzo knelt
before the distant, cone-shaped mountain, offered green coca leaves and
a prayer to the Apus. That Leslie sat on a rock away from us and cried.
For Randy, who would only be able to see this place in photos? For the
38     PRISM 49:3 wild beauty of this sacred place? For this journey that is ending? For the
space between us?
Lorenzo gave her some leaves, told her to pray to the Apus for help.
I watched her stare into the mountain's icy face, searching for some kind
of solace, some kind of hope.
The trail winds down, down, knee-jarringly down. The temperature
warms with every hundred-foot loss of elevation, and soon we're shedding fleece and toques and Gore-Tex. The waters from Pitusiray follow
us downhill in Inca irrigation canals. We come to the lush greenery of
the eucalyptus forest, to the clear Cancha Cancha river, then follow the
white rapids of the swift-flowing river to Huaran and the highway. Lorenzo flags down a bus. Les and I huddle together to avoid the swaying
of a drunken man who stands in the aisle beside us, losing his balance,
falling onto my shoulders and threatening to land in our laps. I sigh,
shrug him off. He falls forwards, backwards and I notice that Les and
I are the only ones annoyed. The women with baskets of potatoes, the
men in their bright orange and red shawls, guide him back to his feet,
murmur words of encouragement. Call him Papa.
There are stories here to be learned. About a way of caring for each
other that we have lost. On the Inca Trail, Lorenzo told us a rambling
tale about two sisters he was guiding. The younger disappeared, the older frantically searched for her. Found her in a tent with another trekker.
Shivering in a stone hut at 3,000 metres, we waited politely while Lorenzo's story circled around and around, his English, or the way a story
is told in Quechua affecting the retelling. We wanted to leave for the
warmth of our down sleeping bags and our book. But we didn't want to
be rude.
I am searching, I think, for a sister who doesn't want to be found.
One I haven't lived with for twenty years. One I've made up. One who
doesn't exist.
Back in Cuzco, we invite Lorenzo to a tourist restaurant for dinner. There
are candles, white linen tablecloths, an Inca boy with a flute playing a
mournful quena. Lorenzo seems ill at ease. He casts furtive glances at the
other diners and eats quickly. We urge him to order dessert. He does,
but when the chocolate cake arrives, he carefully wraps it in a napkin to
take home to his family.
Outside the restaurant, it is dusk, the sky a spreading bruise. Lorenzo
hugs us, then walks away from us, turns a corner, is gone. Silently, we
walk past children peddling postcards of Machu Picchu; women selling
treks; tourists fingering Alpaca sweaters, holding up fingers and shouting, "Best price! Five dollars?" at silent women who sit on the cold side-
prismmagazine.ca    39 walk knitting more. We return to the hotel of the conquistadors, climb
the red-carpeted stairs, and get ready for bed. We lie in our separate
beds piled high with wool blankets, writing in our diaries. I take The
Conquest from the night stand, and then, in the faint light, I read my little
sister to sleep.
40     PRISM 49:3 Elizabeth Bachinsky
At Moishe's, St. Laurent,
Montreal
for David McGlmpsey
What do I love to say? I love to say
We always do this. We always walk through
Mile End on a weeknight before supper and then you
And I go for steaks on St. Laurent and they,
(The servers) leave loaves of dark rye bread
And a dish of cold kosher pickles on a table
Covered with white linen. I visit when I am able.
I say whatever comes into my head.
I say Hove this place. Love the families
Who come in wearing fancy suits and dresses.
There's a gold one. A gold dress. His
Suit is good, I think. I can't tell if he's
Rich. But tonight you've got money and so do I.
We always drink the wine and eat the rye.
prismmagazine.ca    41 Debaucher's Trivia as
Villanelle
"What does It matter what you say about people?
What's the last word In A Touch of Evil ?"
-Jason Camlot, The Debaucher
What does it matter what you say about people?
If I'm up after hours, which bars should I know?
What's the last line in A Touch ofEviP.
The biggest church? The tallest steeple?
When's the last time Kilimanjaro saw snow?
What does it matter what you say about people?
What tool do you use to jimmy a keyhole—
And once we're inside, where does Ann keep her blow?
What's the last line in A Touch ofEvlli
What is a handshake a Mason might teach you?
Where is Dirty Dick's? What is Sloppy Joe's?
What does it matter what you say about people?
What to do with your hands when you peer through a peephole?
How much should I charge when Lou asks for a show?
What's the last line in A Touch ofEvltt
In case of Emergency, where can I reach you?
Tear off or unbutton? How slow should I go?
What does it matter what you say about people?
What's the last line in A Touch of Evil?
42     PRISM 49:3 Debaucher's Villanelle for
Muses
"Missed the dead things at the museum.
Had to go see about a carpe diem."
-^Jason Camlot, The Debaucher
Missed the dead things at the museum,
The skin of a lion, the bones of an auk.
Had to go see about a carpe diem.
I went to take pictures, but just couldn't see them.
Couldn't focus my lens, hear the curator talk.
Missed the dead things at the museum,
Some convincing display, Clovis man and his woman
Crouched nude with their weapons in a distant epoch.
Had to go see about a carpe diem—
That feeling which blooms in the perineum,
That Neverland place at the base of one's luck.
Missed the dead things at the museum.
The stuffed and the painted and fixed, had to flee them.
My lover and I got the bathroom to lock—
Had to go see about a carpe diem.
Below, the dust stirred in that mausoleum;
While upstairs young William offered his cock.
Missed the dead things at the museum.
Had to go see about a carpe diem.
prismmagazine.ca    43 Neighbours
I like 4pm
when my neighbours come
home from their jobs as
high school teachers and
listen to their loud
piano music
in their office—which
I assume is their
office because it
is the room below
my office, and this
building was built in
nineteen twenty-eight
identically from
one floor to the next.
This is how the sounds
of concertos rise
through the hardwood floor
of apartment three-
oh-four, West Sixteenth
to arrive at my
desk where I write this.
The first neighbourly
sound I have ever
enjoyed—but for the
sounds of Danish jazz
musicians playing
in the cabin-filled
forests of Banff where,
once, a cougar ate
a ballerina.
44     PRISM 49:3 These concertos are
not drum solos, are
not the rock & roll
of the tattooed man
with whom I shared a
wall in East Van, not
the drum and bass of
Chicago Tonight!—
That nightclub attached
To the unmaintained
Barristers' Quarters,
originally
built in nineteen e-
leven on Begbie
Street before the Sky
Train came, which I kept
for only a month
after I moved to
escape a couple
who fought, bitterly,
late each night near
the Fraser River
in New Westminster:
You never listen
to me, she cried and
cried. Oh, yes I do,
I thought, then I moved.
I do not know my
neighbours, but I hear
they have lived here eight-
teen years. Eighteen years
of these concertos
rising through this floor
at 4pm and,
even then, for just
an hour at the most.
Hope they don't retire.
prismmagazine.ca    45 Michael Meagher
link gaetz
showed up at the draft
back in '88
thought i might get snatched up
in the later rounds
when all the crowds
were gone.
and of course
modano was called up
in the first
and i swiftly followed,
as his bodyguard,
with two black eyes
after a night on the town.
it was in a nowhere town, anyways
that i shot out the pane
of stained glass—
i was aiming for the bell.
i did get kicked outta practice
which the police report said
is why i threw the tv
outta the fourth-floor window
of that hotel
but that goddamn door
it was that motherfucking door
that wouldn't open.
46     PRISM 49:3 after picking up a $900 debtfiom a man's house
and so, yeah
i said to the cop
yeah, i took his tv
and i took a shit
on his bed, too,
like you said
but your little report
forgot to mention
that i pissed all over
his couch, too.
ntckfotlu, an ex-nhl brawler who coached link In '94 when with the nashvtlle
knights down In the minors:
so link had been out all night drinking when i got a phone call and
went over to a house where he was holding the entire team hostage—
without a weapon    and he answered the door with a beer in his hand
and i said c'mon, link, let's go, grabbing the beer out of his hand
'cause i could control him when i was around    and he lost it    and
so we went toe-to-toe, into the kitchen, over the couches, over tables
'til the cops showed up    and at five in the morning link comes by my
house wanting to fight and i say no     and at eight he comes by again
wanting to go for breakfast.
prismmagazine.ca    47 addiction's asterisk—unfinished viaduct
devil's derelict—eden's error
bluebacked beefhead—coach's cancer
rotd-sauced tabloid—forest of formaldehyde
gestapo'sgorilla—Insolent ibex
juggling juggernaut—knock-kneed knuckler
lover's lobotomy—he-man's hyde
owner of oedtpalprick—
x-man,
yielding zilch—
a few catch ups
i wanna get away from
now that i got a wife
and a little girl—
who woulda thought.
48     PRISM 49:3 Michael Chaulk
Know Thy Ballast
Someone once said "Dogs are megalomaniacs of their own excitement."
Know that was me.
Find a cloakroom and curl
fur-lined
know your animal. Hear
the fellow opera sap
and nap yourself off. Press your lymph
nodes: feel for war you're capable.
Gather so-far hours' verbs
but weigh your pockets before
and after. My density is 1.002
tonnage unnoticed.
Think sinews, think cross-section,
think skull.
Know thy ballast!
Know thy hull!
prismmagazine.ca    49 Lakshmi Gill
from Wyrd England
I stood in London and saw a new century
blast the watery wall. Albion ascending.
Trident to the fore piercing the fog.
The loom of her land a bold beacon.
Europe shipwrecked on her shores,
salvaged. Beached here the world
from white Dover to raw Bristol, sleepy
Penzance to hoary John O'Groats, all ports open,
deluged with the flood of humanity.
In this island ark I heard the voices
of earth's commons, godless and godfilled,
honeyed and horrid, sad and saved,
and all, believing. A song of praise,
an alleluia, thanks be to True Home,
when, expatriated, the soldier, sailor,
merchant, governor, idler, adventurer,
sat in some forsaken hole and drank swill
groaning, "Oh, to be there!" Lord, help us.
The colonials bemoaned their existence,
the heat, the dust, the bloodied soil. God
help us. Oh, to be there with April rose
bloom, the winter chills shook off, the sun
gentle in a cloudless sky. There'll be a breeze
breathing through trees: beloved elm, yew,
ash, oak, beeches in the garden.
And in the air, slight scent of hyacinths.
50     PRISM 49:3 Soft, soft England. Wooly.
Shepherded. Chosen. If Eden had been,
here Eden now. I stood in London
and saw the parting of the sea, the coming
of the people. Sinful, they came for salvation.
Hungry, they came to be fed. Prodigal,
they came to be housed again and safely.
Home, they are, to stay. Lord, help us.
Lord, help us. All to be forgiven.
prismmagazine.ca    51 Jordan Mounteer
Reasons not to say I love you
Because ten years later we're nestled
in the green upturned canoe in her back lawn,
the moon eclipsing supra-red with sky
pollution, citylight. And I ask if she remembers.
Because we were children with cramped Mobius lips,
pink and twisted like rubber bands, the elastic
worn out so long ago they couldn't snap.
Because in Latin Infant is unable to speak.
Because we were used to saying nothing;
the politics of family,
her father's cracked left knuckle on her chin.
Because one night we snuck onto the bridge,
climbed up the orange ladder, and crouched above
the lake and headlights of traffic; once, she stole
my journal and returned it, taped on the bottom
of each page—it must have taken hours—
a single strand of hair.
Back in the canoe we shiver, the moon finishes
its routine, returns its colour. We prowl inside;
the night fills with feet stepping on leaves,
crack of new frost on the grass, popping the dark.
Because this is it, because there is no certain sound
or image.
52     PRISM 49:3 Julie Woods Karnes
I Can Tell You're Good People
Our ad is simple. "Loving, Financially Stable Couple In Their
Thirties Want To Give Their Hearts And Lives to a Baby.
Please call Lauren and Jared." The phone doesn't ring for
months, then two calls in one weekend. The first comes from Teresa,
in her early twenties, due in June. This is January. Her older children,
an eight-year-old and six-year-old, live in Florida with their father. She's
trying to get them back, but had some trouble with drugs, and now she's
in Indiana with a new man who's forty-one, married and has seven kids
of his own. He wants to divorce his wife and marry Teresa, but doesn't
have the money.
"How can he not have money for a divorce?" I ask Jared later.
Jared shrugs. "He's got seven kids."
I take notes on everything Teresa says. She wants me to know they're
struggling, "but good people." Good, fertile people. Her man's ex-wife,
now there's a real asshole, Teresa says, and paying her child support is
killing them. And the man's current wife, also an asshole, won't give him
a divorce even though he doesn't love her. Maybe her man turns wives
into assholes, I want to say. He works construction, and things have
started looking up since he found work in Indiana. He told her, though,
no more babies. For a while he said if it's a boy he might want to keep
it, but he changed his mind. Really, no more babies. Things are too tight
right now, plus with his travel out of state for work, she's by herself with
the four kids most days.
"Wait, I'm sorry," I say. "I'm confused. Whose kids are these?"
"Three of them are his, but the baby's ours."
"You two have a baby?"
"Five-month-old." Her voice tightens, and I worry she might cry.
"It's hard, but we'll make it. We've been through worse in our eighteen
months together."
Worse? The worst thing Jared and I went through in our first eighteen months was attending colleges in different states. I think we fought
once.
"I don't mean to pry, but why is he paying child support if the kids
live with you guys?"
"The others are with their mothers."
prismmagazine.ca     53 "Oh."
Teresa says I might be interested to know her man has some Indian
in him, and she's sixty percent Hispanic, forty percent Irish. She's back
on course, her voice strong, stating the facts. Also, she tells me her man
has MS, but none of the kids have it.
"That's good," I agree, knowing nothing about MS. Seven kids. It
must not be hereditary. But then again, MS doesn't show up until you're
older, right? Maybe the new baby would have it. Would we still want it?
It's the way I've begun to think. I rank races and diseases now. Biracial?
Down's Syndrome? Cocaine? What are we willing to take?
Teresa and I talk for over two hours. It's easier than I imagined. I tell
her we've been married ten years. I tell her Jared's done well, the youngest head football coach in Division 1-A. I tell her we live in a house a
couple blocks off the lake. "Forty kids live on our block." I don't mention we don't know any of them. I watch pretty mothers push strollers
back and forth to one another's houses for play dates. They make it look
easy, shrugging off their PhDs and PR careers to raise their broods. It's in
the water here, flowing down the street, except at our house the pipes are
blocked. Infertility of unexplained origin, that's what the doctors said. I
tell Teresa we live a short walk from the school our children would go
to. And an ice cream shop. An ice cream shop!
Near the end of the second hour, Teresa says she likes me. She can
tell I'm a good person. And that we would be a good family for her baby.
When I tell her I'm a chef, it turns out that she's wanted to be one "her
whole life." She took a semester at a community college, but that was a
while ago. She wants to go back once this is all over. Can I help? Can I
talk to her about restaurants and jobs?
"Of course." I slide out of my chair onto the floor. Who is this, I
wonder of myself. This agreeing person? Yes, women who want child
support are assholes. Yes, MS is okay. Yes, I'll help you get a job. Yes.
Yes. Yes.
"Would you like to read our birthmother letter?" I ask. This is where
the adoption agency has instructed me to take the call. "It's a little book
about Jared and me. With pictures. So you can see what we look like."
I don't tell her the pictures strategically show us holding our nieces
and nephews. We look comfortable, with big smiles on our faces. At least,
that's what I hope. I don't tell her our picture on the front was taken at
a cafe in Paris, either. Too much affluence can scare a birthmother, our
agency advised us. They don't want to feel like they're selling a baby.
Well, that's good, because we don't want to feel like we're buying one.
Teresa would like to see the letter. "Absolutely," she says. She is un-
nervingly confident. I picture her small, with Latin eyes, black hair,
enormous belly. Young and strong, with a mouth on her, but that's okay,
54     PRISM 49:3 right? We can't all have gone to boarding school. I get her address and
tell her I'll FedEx it today. Call me when you get it, I say. Or I can call
you. Wishy-washy me. Maybe Jared would be better at this. But I've
established the next point of contact. That's what the agency said to do.
Lynette calls the next afternoon. She's due in March, and at thirty-three,
has a higher risk for Down's, her doctors say. Because I'm old, she adds.
I don't tell her I'm a year older. She has a fifteen-year-old, Tracey, and
they live in a trailer with Lynette's mother and aunt. She wants me to
know right off that she's just completed a work-release program. She
served eight months in prison for calling a doctor on the weekend to get
Vicodin.
"I'm sorry," I say, meaning it. I draw a question mark on my note pad.
Neither she nor the crime makes sense, but I don't press for clarification.
I've never questioned anyone about their prison time before; I'm not
clear on the etiquette.
She says the judge threw the book at her, to scare her, and it worked.
She's never pulling that shit again. Now in a drug-counselling program,
she's clean, she swears. The only thing she's taken since prison is codeine, and she quit that as soon as she found out she was pregnant.
Really, she's a good person. The birthfather is, too. They met in work
release. He's twenty.
"When did they have sex?" I ask Jared later. "They were picking up
trash on the side of a highway."
"Remember twenty?" he says, trying to pinch my rear. Jared got the
best of the remaining Shawnee blood left in his family line—the cheekbones, the black hair, the long, lean body. He was All-American in college, then head coach at thirty-one. He thrives on combat, the beating of
someone else. It's the reason he's done so well. If it weren't for decency,
he'd rip through the world this way—no pretenses, just the brutal honesty of loss and win.
Lynette tells me the birthfather, engaged to someone else, has two
kids. His mother keeps them. But he's a good daddy, she wants me to
know. He doesn't care what she does with this baby. In fact, he's all
for adoption. Lynette wants him to have a paternity test, though. We're
the first ad she's called. She hasn't called anybody, she says, and she's
having an ultrasound next week, then she's going to make her decision.
Another question mark on my pad: why does paternity matter if she's
giving up the baby?
"I don't want to do this. If there were any other way," her voice trails
off. "But I just got out of prison, and the doctors won't let me work."
I write it all down. The agency hasn't prepared me for this. She tells
me her daughter is confused. I want to say I am, too. Instead, I tell her
prismmagazine.ca     55 Jared and I believe in open adoption. Jared and I want our child to know
his or her birthparents from day one. Adoption is the most unselfish
thing a mother can do for her child, I tell her.
"That makes me feel a whole lot better."
"Let me send you our birthmother letter. I'll call you in a couple of
days to make sure you got it." Good, I think. I've done better with this
woman. I like her better than Teresa. Who needs Teresa, with all the asshole ex-wives? But then greed pops up. Maybe we could get both babies.
Things to do while you wait for the phone to ring: buy groceries, go to
the movies, keep your doctor's appointments. My Ob/Gyn works in an
office on the first floor of the Playboy Building downtown. It's an elegant
high-rise, some of the most expensive real estate in the city, but still I
grin every time I walk through its revolving doors. A turn to the right,
I'll drop my panties and spread my legs for a doctor; an elevator ride to
the top, maybe I could do it for a photographer. After the fourth in-vitro
didn't take, my mother said at least I wouldn't ruin my figure like she
did. I'd always be able to wear a bikini. "I don't understand how she
can't understand," I say to Jared later.
"How could she? She's got kids."
Two days later I try Teresa, but her number is busy. Lynette answers on
the first ring.
"I got your book." Lynette's voice labours over the gravel in her
throat. I picture her smoking cigarettes in a dirty T-shirt and sweatpants
on the steps of her mother's trailer. "I'm gonna make up my mind after
the ultrasound tomorrow. If I give it up, I'm gonna give it to you. I can
tell you're good people."
"Oh God, Lynette. I don't know what to say."
"I want to do the right thing for once. I've had a hard life, but I feel
better talking to you. And Tracey liked the fact we could see the baby,
get pictures."
"She'll always know you, Lynette. We wouldn't have it any other
way." Jared and I will be the enlightened, progressive, baby-stealing
kind of parents.
"I'm just so swollen. The doctors won't let me work, so my boss fired
me."
"Isn't that illegal?" I ask.
"I don't know. Probably. I just... look, I hate to ask, but is there any
way I can borrow fifty dollars to buy toilet paper? I'll pay you back by
Friday. I don't mean to put you on the spot, but we're desperate."
"I... sure," I stall. We've been warned about this. Women who milk
you for rent and groceries who aren't pregnant, or worse, the ones who
56     PRISM 49:3 are and have no intention of placing their baby. "I just need to talk to
our agency. There are legalities about this stuff, and I don't know exactly
what we can and can't do. But if we can, we'd love to."
"I'll pay you back Friday. Another agency helped with some money
a while ago."
"Don't worry about it. Let me see what we can do." I draw another
question mark. Another agency? But she's only asked for fifty. Surely
she's not taking us for a ride.
The adoption agency we work with is run by bulldogs—fierce, aggressive women who've adopted or placed babies themselves. The head of
the agency, Tania, has two adopted children; she knows what she's doing. Instead of cash, she advises us to send a gift card to Target or Wal-
Mart. Especially if drugs are a concern, she adds. She's also going to
have a birthmother advocate call Lynette to feel her out. If Lynette's
serious, she can sign a release for the doctor to confirm pregnancy. Once
we have that, we're clear to meet her. After we hang up, I realize I've forgotten to tell Tania about the other agency. I've also forgotten to tell her
the other birthfather has MS. Too many details to keep straight. On the
internet, MS looks like it rarely passes from one generation to the next.
Did I tell Jared about it? I call Lynette about the gift card. Wal-Mart is
better, she says. "I can buy gas there, too." I had no idea you could buy
gas at Wal-Mart. We make plans to talk tomorrow. I call Teresa, but the
line's still busy.
"It's a girl," Lynette tells me the next day. "She's really healthy. Good
size."
I get a little shaky. Now the baby's real. A girl.
"And I'm not due in March. I'm due the twenty-first of February."
"Oh God. That's a month away." How could she be so off on her due
date? And how could she get pregnant in prison? Is she really clean?
"Lynette, forgive me, I'm confused. When did you meet the birthfather?"
"In work release."
"But you just got out of jail in October. How could you be due next
month? I'm sorry—if this is too personal, please say so. I'm just trying
to understand the timing." It's the nicest way I can think to ask if she's
really pregnant.
"It's fine. I was in work release in June. I didn't go into prison until
>iy."
"Oh," I say, as if it's all clear now. Who knew work release came before
prison? "What was he in jail for? I'm sorry. If this is too much, tell me."
"You're fine, honey. He went in for selling weed when he was seventeen.
prismmagazine.ca    57 But he's getting his life together now."
"Oh." It Is too much. A drug addict and a drug dealer. These are the
birthparents we're getting. I had hoped for two college kids, a spring
break slip-up sort of thing.
"I talked to the agency. I got a doctor's appointment tomorrow. I'm
gonna ask them to release the records to you."
"That's great, Lynette. Thank you. You know, if you're up for it, I
think the next logical step is to meet. We could drive down this weekend
and take you to lunch."
"No, no. You two come here."
"Okay, thank you. Does Saturday work?"
"No, I got family in town. How about next weekend?"
"Sure, sure, no problem." I try to sound spontaneous, "You know,
Jared has Monday off for Martin Luther King. Could you meet then?"
"No, I said I got family here."
"Okay, next weekend then." Jared and I hang by a hair. A push too
hard and the whole thing blows away. When we hang up, I call Teresa.
Her number is still busy. I call the operator. Yes, there's trouble with the
line.
I stay busy. I write a recipe for cranberry scones with orange zest for a
restaurant opening downtown. I return a couple of Christmas presents,
buy a Madonna CD I end up not liking. I don't call Lynette. Jared and
I see a play. I try to park the car but miss the spot. I back up, roll the
windows down and miss again. It's the easiest fucking things I can't do.
I make it five days before calling. Lynette sounds bad when she answers
the phone. She's been up all night, sick. The doctor told her she's got the
high blood pressure, to stay off her feet. A television plays in the background, a game show. When she breathes, I can hear the air chafe her
throat. There's a wheeze in her lungs, and I think she's having an asthma
attack before I realize she's crying. "My daddy's in prison."
"Oh, Lynette."
"We've had it bad. He molested her."
"Who?"
"Tracey. She's in counseling. She's doing okay, great actually. Straight
As almost. She's going to college if it's the last thing I do."
"That's great, Lynette."
She gives a half laugh. "Yeah, I got no job. No house. My own mother
sued me for child support, but the judge threw it out 'cause I can't work.
Things are just bad."
"Oh, Lynette." Outside, children walk home from school with their
coats wide open, no hats, no gloves. I don't want to push, but with the
58     PRISM 49:3 due date so close, we need to meet as soon as possible. "Do you still want
to get together Saturday?"
"Yes, honey. You two come on down."
"How," I try to keep the terrible, gushing relief out of my voice, "how
do we get there?"
"I can give you directions Saturday."
I don't tell her I've already programmed her address into our car's
GPS, or that her house is exactly four hours and eighteen minutes from
ours.
"I talked to the daddy yesterday," Lynette says. "He's all for the adoption."
"That's great." I am the master of understatement.
"I'm still gonna make him take a paternity test, though."
"Why, Lynette? I'm sorry, I don't mean to pry, but I don't understand. If you're placing the baby for adoption..." The kids stop in front
of our house. I resist the urge to go out and tell them to button their
damn coats.
"Cause he thinks I was with another guy. I was, but we didn't do anything. You know what I mean?"
I have no idea what she means. I have no idea why we still don't have
proof of pregnancy, which has somehow gotten lost in the country of
chaos, despair, and bad decisions that is Lynette. I'm speaking to a convicted drug something. North is no longer north. I don't need directions
to her house. I need directions to her.
Later I tell Jared everything she says, word for word.
"I believe her," he says. "Nobody in their right mind makes up a story
like that."
The plan is to drive to Indianapolis Saturday and stay in a hotel so we'll
be fresh in the morning. Every advantage we can give ourselves, we do.
During the drive, we play the baby name game, kicking around old family names. We've talked like this for years, long ago settling on a name,
but haven't told a soul. We don't want to jinx ourselves. Jared slows
down to pay a toll and tells me his sister said Lynette must be good looking if she's having sex with a twenty-year-old. I hadn't considered this.
It makes me ridiculously happy. Halle Berry was adopted! My friend
Diane was adopted, too! Diane's gorgeous, an executive chef in LA. One
thing we haven't told our families about is the drugs. We also won't tell
them Lynette was in prison. Turns out there are a few secrets in our
open adoption after all. I take out my phone and hit redial. Teresa lives
in Indiana, too. Maybe we could meet her after we meet Lynette. I feel
slippery, greedy, but I don't care. The number is still busy.
prismmagazine.ca    59 At lunch, we make fun of our over-carbonated waitress. It's mean, but
we're giddy with possibility. She's young, blonde, annoyingly perky.
Everything is extra big and good here! And free refills, too! I would
never make food like this, much less eat it, but I'm starving. The waitress
checks on us again. "I wasn't kidding! Isn't the steak enormous?"
"Mmm, enormous," I slip my foot out of my boot and put it onjared's
crotch as she skips away. 'Just enormous."
Interested, he slides down in the booth a little, pressing himself against
my foot. "How enormous?"
"Gargantuan." I say breathlessly. My cell phone rings. It's the agency;
Teresa has called. Teresa? She wants us to call her back right away, as
fast as we can. I take my foot back. "My God, we could get both babies!
We'll put one in the blue bedroom, the other in the green. Or no. No!
They'd go in the same room. We'd get matching cribs!"
Jared gives me his "slow down" look, but sits up and throws his napkin over the plate. He wants me to call right away, too.
"Should I tell her we're in Indiana?" I ask. "Should we try to meet
today? Or you think it'd freak her out?"
"Why don't you mention it casually? See where it goes."
"It's good to talk to you," I tell Teresa after she answers. "I've tried to call."
"We've had some trouble with our phone bill, but we're good now."
"How are you? Did you get our birthmother letter?"
"You guys look nice. Really nice. You have a beautiful house and it
looks like you're good with kids, but..." A small whine starts up in my
head, like the first few seconds of steam being released from a radiator,
"...we've decided to keep the baby."
I cough, trying to clear a passage for air to get through.
"I'm sorry. I thought you should know. I wanted you to know."
"Thank you. Thank you for telling us. Good luck to you," I say and
lay the phone down beside my plate. All that remains is a rib-eye bone in
a pool of greasy blood. I'd thought she was immoral, illiterate, damaged.
I'd thought so many wrong things I could puke.
Jared reaches for my hand, not speaking. We sit there in awful silence
until the waitress bounces back over, her blond ponytail swishing behind
her. "So, you two leave room for a big dessert?"
"No," Jared tells her. He stands to move over to my side of the booth.
"We just got some bad news." He hands her his credit card. "But you're
going to make it better by settling the damn check and getting us out of
here as quickly as you can."
The waitress steps back, her smile fading. "No problem, sir." There's
confusion in her voice; blessedly it compels her to turn and walk away.
Everybody lies. Birthmothers lie about smoking during pregnancy, fer-
60     PRISM 49:3 tility doctors lie about your chances of getting pregnant, agencies lie
about how easy it is to get a baby. I call Lynette Sunday morning and lie
about needing directions. I lie to make it casual, to keep her from knowing how desperate we are. We've already been in the car ten minutes.
We have coffee for the drive and flowers for her. She lies and tells me
she's been up sick all night. Or maybe it's only a half-lie.
"Things are just so bad. My mother's an alcoholic, my daddy's in jail.
Tracey's doing all right, but he messed her up, you know?"
"I'm sorry," I say, thinking we should adopt Tracey, too.
"Tell her we don't have to meet today. We can come back next weekend."
Lynette's heard him over my phone. "Would you hate me if I said
yes?" She sounds sheepish.
"Of course not."
"But I can't meet next weekend."
This is it, I think. "Okay."
"The weekend after. You come down Saturday, and we'll meet here."
'Jared has a charity race to the top of the Sears Tower. We could
come down after that."
"Tell her I might be a bit sweaty, but we'll be there." He's grinning.
"I'd just tell him to get in here and take a shower. We're gonna be
family, right?"
No. You'll be the birthmother, and we'll be the parents, and we'll
always know one another, but that's not a family. I don't know what it is,
but it's no family.
"Or we don't have to meet if she'd rather not. Tell her she can meet
with the agency first if she'd prefer," Jared says.
"About that, I done decided. Bring them papers when you come. I'll
sign them."
I want a baby desperately, but not like this. Adoption should be borne
of love, wisdom, selflessness, but this has all the warmth of a prostitute
on a street corner. As long as we have the money, it doesn't matter who
we are. A bitter, metallic bile fills my mouth. It is the taste of revulsion, but I have to keep her on the line. Jared slows the car slightly and
mouths, "What's wrong?"
"What?" I ask her.
"I been over and over it. There's just no other way."
"Don't you want to meet first? I think you should meet us, get to know us."
"No, it's okay. You bring them papers and I'll sign 'em." She says it
with zero emotion. I could be talking to a dead woman right now.
"Look, I'm not trying to talk you out of adoption. I don't want you to
think we don't want your baby, we do, but we should really meet first.
Maybe you can talk to another birthmother advocate. A lot of them have
prismmagazine.ca    61 been in your shoes. I can call the agency if you like."
"Okay, hon, if that's what you want. I'd appreciate it." Her voice lightens. Have I really helped? Or is she just glad to get me off the phone?
"I don't think I could've have handled that any worse." I say, hanging up.
"Nope." Jared's already gotten off an exit and onto the other side of
the highway, heading north to go home.
"Excuse me?"
"Maybe I should've spoken with her. Let's face it, if she's got addiction issues, I'd know how to talk to her." Jared's mother, the raging
alcoholic. Looking at him, you'd never guess how many nights he spent
at the Salvation Army as a boy. "Or maybe she responds differently to
men."
"I'm sure."
"I would've told her she'll make the right decision. Whatever it is,
even if it's not adoption, we'll respect it. And if she never wants to meet
us, that's okay, too."
"Well, hell, you should talk to her next time."
"Lauren."
"She doesn't want to talk to you. You're a man, and in case you
haven't noticed, a man's what put her here in the first place."
Jared nods slowly and mile markers pass. "We need to prepare ourselves that this might not happen," he says. "Since we didn't meet her."
"That was your idea! She would've met us if you hadn't given her the
out!"
"We had to. She was sick," Jared says.
"Eight hours. We'll be in this car eight hours this weekend because of
her."
"She's scared."
I open the sunroof and let in some air. "So this is how people get babies?"
Jared doesn't take his eyes off the road. "For you and me, it is."
It's my birthday. Jared and I go to a restaurant that I created recipes for
a few years ago. It's my chocolate cake we eat. One waiter sings, and
even that's too much. I ask Jared if he thinks Teresa really decided not
to place her baby. Or if perhaps she picked somebody else. Jared shrugs
and says there could be a million reasons. Really? Only a million?
"Who's this?" the woman on the phone asks.
I've waited over a week to call, but still I hesitate before giving my
name. The woman sounds like Lynette, but older, her voice fried to an
even crispier point. I don't want to betray confidences, but surely this
must be her aunt or mother. They all live together. She must know who
62     PRISM 49:3 I am. "My name is Lauren. I've been speaking with Lynette about her
baby."
"I thought that was you. I'm her aunt, Jean."
"HiJean," I bubble over with relief; Lynette's been talking about us.
"How's Lynette?"
"She's fine, honey. She had the baby a few days ago. They're both
doing okay, but the baby's gonna to be in the hospital for six weeks."
The kitchen spins, or maybe it's me dislodging from time and space,
I turn so fast. In the living room, Jared watches TV, but not for long, not
after I come in.
"She went into labour early. The baby's not breathing on her own or
taking a bottle yet, but the doctors think she's gonna be fine," Jean says.
"Oh my God." I cover the mouthpiece and whisper to Jared to get
me a pad and a pen. "I don't know what to say. When did she have the
baby?"
Lynette's aunt keeps talking. "A couple of days ago. Five pounds,
three ounces. Cute as a button. Has a head full of brown hair."
"Really?" I'd pictured Lynette as a dirty blonde. "How's Lynette?"
"She's still pretty sick. It was a rough labour."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
Eyes wide with questions or fear, Jared hands me a pad of paper, but
no pen.
"But they're both healthy? That's the important thing," I say.
"They're gonna be fine, sweetie."
"Do you think she'd want to hear from me? I don't want to intrude..."
"Give her a call. She's at St. Mary's. In room 3810. It was nice talking
to you. Good luck," she says and hangs up.
"Her aunt acts like Lynette still wants to go through with it," I say as
Jared calls information on his cell phone. I'm pleading with fate I know,
but I can't help it.
"It doesn't matter. We don't know anything until you talk to her."
"I can't believe she didn't call us."
"The first call." Jared hands me his phone. The line to the hospital is
ringing. "That's the only time she ever called us."
When the operator tells me they have no record of her, I speak slowly,
trying not to scream Lynette's name. Or that she has a premature baby
somewhere in the hospital. I know the operator can hear it in my voice,
the unhinging, but she does nothing to pacify me. I insist, and begrudg-
ingly she puts me through to neonatal. The nurse identifies Lynette as a
boarder mother. Really? A mother on the edge? A mother undecided?
No, a mother who's been discharged but has a baby in neonatal. They
have special boarding rooms in the hospital. Lynette's is 3226. But border
prismmagazine.ca    63 mother makes so much more sense.
For the next two and a half hours, we try the line. It's busy. Once our
phone rings, a telemarketer. I pour myself a coffee mug of wine.
"What are you doing?" Jared asks. "If this is our baby, we're going
down tonight."
I haven't considered this. If she's ours, then she's down there alone.
Alone, with them. I call again. A half hour before the hospital turns the
phones off, someone picks up. This is yet another Lynette, her mother.
"Yes," Arlene rattles in the family whisky voice, "the baby is doing
really well. She wasn't eating before, but Lynette got her to take a bottle
this morning."
"Really?" I try to sound like this is wonderful news.
"Yeah, she's just the sweetest little thing. Tracey's fallen completely in
love with her. They're down there with her right now, feeding her."
"Can you tell me exactly when the baby was born?"
"Two days ago. January 30th. Lynette had just gone to the doctors;
she'd been so sick. And the doctor told her to go home, and stay off her
feet, but you know Lynette, she don't listen to nobody. That girl came
home and started cleaning house. One minute she was mopping the
floor, the next, she was in labour. She barely made it to the hospital."
"She was born on my birthday."
"Well, how about that?" She says it like we're friends, like she's pulling for me.
"We need to know, Arlene. We need to know what Lynette's think-
ing."
"Of course you do. I want you to know I think adoption is wonderful.
I have a cousin who gave a baby up. It was hard, but she knew it was
the right thing. And do you know, that child just got in touch with her
last week. She's eighteen now. The father's a heart surgeon. It made my
cousin feel so good knowing what a wonderful life she's had."
"That's great."Jared's not a heart surgeon. We're not as good as that.
"I think it's wonderful you'd let us have an open adoption. We know
we can't just pop into the car and come see you whenever we want, but
knowing that we could talk to her on the phone and see her every now
and then, that helps."
"We wouldn't want it any other way."
"You have a calming effect on Lynette. She's had a really hard life,
you know? And Tracey. That poor girl. I don't know how much Lynette
told you."
I don't know either. "She mentioned some counselling."
Arlene sighs. "Nobody here's in any position to help. I'm on disability. Lynette's trying to get her life back on track, and poor Tracey. But
whatever Lynette decides to do, we'll stand behind her. I won't stand in
64     PRISM 49:3 her way."
This is the woman suing Lynette for child support? "Will Lynette be
back in the room before they turn the phones off?" I ask.
"Yes, honey. They should be back any minute."
'Just in case, could you please have her call us? The nurse said Lynette could call out after hours. She can call our eight hundred number.
It doesn't matter what time."
"Okay, honey. I'll have her call. I promise. It's been good talking to
you."
Our clocks are slow, or their clocks are fast. Either way, there's a monumental mistake of seconds; when I try Lynette's number for the last time,
the operator tells me that they're no longer putting calls through for the
night.
At three-thirty in the morning, Jared rolls over, his face inches from
mine. "That's it. I'm calling in the morning. If she's keeping her baby,
I'm going to wish her well. But if she's placing her with us, we need to
know, so we can get down there and be with our little girl." He rubs his
hand hard across his eyes. "If it weren't so over the top, I'd say let's just
drive down and go in."
"We can't do that."
"She's weak. She's a weak person. It's no wonder her life is the way it
is."
"You don't know that."
"Yes, I do." He rolls away from me. "I know everything about her
now."
At ten-thirty the next morning, Jared calls. He's calm as he tells me he
had to phone the nurses' station to get Lynette. I can hear a couple of
other coaches talking in the background. He says the nurse complained
about Lynette keeping her phone off the hook. She actually went to Lynette's room and put the phone back on the receiver. If not for her, he
wouldn't have gotten Lynette. He tells me she didn't say a word, that he
did all the talking, that she'll have her decision by four. He'll come home
so we can make the call together. Then he hangs up. I can't believe it.
I tell him everything. Every pause, every word, every terrible thing. And
he tells me nothing.
Of course, the line is busy at four o'clock.
"What'd you expect?" I snap, throwing myself out of the chair, but
Jared's fast. He grabs my wrist and pulls me back.
"I'm sorry I couldn't talk to you longer today, but she didn't say anything.
prismmagazine.ca    65 She just said okay a couple of times. I couldn't even tell you what her
voice sounds like."
It's hard to stay mad when he's contrite, but we've been married a
long time, and I know what I'm doing. "Maybe it was a mistake," I say.
"You calling her."
Jared lets go of my hand. "Don't do that. Don't second-guess."
"I'm not. It's just maybe she doesn't deal well with men. She lives in
a house full of women. Her mother said I have a calming effect on her."
"That train has left the station, okay? So please, let's not fight each
other." He looks almost small, sitting in the chair, looking up at me.
Kids, no kids, either way would've been fine for him, but now, thanks to
me and my need, we're teetering on this impossible edge, and in his eyes
there's a panic I've never seen before. How do you hold onto something
that's not yours? That's what he's trying to figure out.
"I talked to Tania. She said whenever a baby is sick or born prematurely, it's harder for the birthmother to place the baby. She said we
should start preparing for a no."
"I just keep thinking if she'd met us, things would be different," Jared
says.
"If she tells us no, I'll be disappointed, but I'll understand, you know?
But if she tells us yes, I'm gonna be angry. I'm gonna be so angry because she's deliberately kept us from that baby, and I don't think I can
forgive her for that." I sit back down.
Jared's not looking at me. He's looking past me at some other mystery
in the room. "I just want an answer," he says. "Either way."
A little after six, Lynette answers the phone. Jared gets on the line, but
doesn't speak. She tells me how sick she still is, how the preeclampsia
made her go into labor early, how she thought she'd feel better after the
baby was born, but she's still really sick.
"I'm sorry," I hear myself saying, but I don't care any more. She'll talk
to me all night about everything except the reason she's there. "How's
the baby, Lynette?"
She pauses. I hear her ragged breath.
"Lynette?"
"Good. She's lost three ounces, but she started eating yesterday."
"That's normal, isn't it? For babies to lose a little weight?"
"Yeah, the doctors said so. They think she'll be in here for another
four or five weeks. She's got to start eating and wetting and all that stuff
on her own."
"Look, I don't mean to pressure you, but we need to know. One way
or another. You don't owe us anything, and we won't be mad if you decide to keep her. If it's yes, we'll be down there tonight, but if it's no, we
66     PRISM 49:3 need to know that, too."
She takes a jagged breath. "Call me back at nine. I'll have a decision
then."
Jared quietly puts the phone back in its cradle. "She said more to you
in five minutes than she did to me in twenty." He looks sick. "I bullied
her. I pushed her around like she was nothing."
"She was probably never going to give us the baby anyway."
"It wasn't to get the baby, I swear. Just an answer. Just a fucking yes
or a no."
The room has grown dark around us. I should turn on some lamps,
but the houses across the street are lit, and I can see people making dinner, watching the news, playing with their children. Right there, across
the street and next door. 'Jesus," I say.
"What?"
"We never even asked her the baby's name."
prismmagazine.ca    67 Lorna Crozier
Bicycle
Both afterword and foreword, the bicycle leaning against the fence, waits
for you to write the in-between on the wide pathways of the afternoon.
Like your grandmother's treadle Singer, it needs your feet and the
muscles of your legs to stitch your body to the wind. Schooled in Tao,
for the bicycle all distances are near, hills are level, your knees are no
different from an antelope's. Thank god it's discreet; what it's closest to
is your buttocks, each side in its separate shapeliness, the glutei maximi
below the sacrum and the swell of flesh that makes the hard seat tolerable
the long ride home. Horses lift their heads as you fly by. My Pegasus,
my long-boned mare! The spokes find their model for delicacy and
toughness in the spider's web and in the strings of a cello that journeys
miles on the wheels of its own music. The bicycle acts as an anodyne for
the tentative and timid, the too long out-of-use. Don't worry, whether the
fear comes from finding a voice after years of silence; from diving off a
dock into the cold as you did as a child; or from falling, as an old man,
afraid of the heart's steep cliffs, in love, it's like riding a bicycle. You
never forget how to do it.
68     PRISM 49:3 Duet
1.
Two things that need each other: the mouth and the ear, the left foot
and the right, the wind and the listing hawk, the doorknob and the hand.
Yet the doorknob dreads the human touch. It has a phobia for germs,
especially the knobs made of glass common in the 1940s after the war, a
touch of class in small stuccoed houses with big radios and ottomans of
fake leather. To respect the fears of doorknobs, you should always wear a
glove or, with a chamois, rub away the invisible bacilli you leave behind.
Who has time for that? Anyway you'd be pushed aside by others in a
rush. You'd be mocked and laughed at. Best not to think about it. There
are whales, after all, and disappearing salmon. Disappearing doorknobs?
That's a laugh. Like rats, they've adapted. In fact their population's gone
berserk. Think of every new skyscraper, every condo development
eating up the fields and marshes at the edges of the cities. Think of the
multitude of doors. Think of all the dread each building holds.
2.
All doorknobs are twins, joined at the centre by a bolt narrow as a
pencil, inflexible, un-vertebraed. Though they move as one, they never
get to see each other. They are like brothers separated at birth by war,
by a wall of stone and broken glass. Neither speaks of this. One turns;
the other turns. One is outside the room; the other, in. If the door is the
entrance to the house, one shimmers with the rain; the other is dull and
dry. One is often cold or hot; the other basks in the temperate climate
of the thermostat. Does anything pass between them? Does a rumour,
a memory, a snatch of song run through the metal spine like an electric
shock when the door is opened? Perhaps they desire different things and
loathe each other. Each knob wanting, above all else, not to turn in the
same direction as its double on the opposite side of the door.
prismmagazine.ca    69 Coffee Pot
Perfect weapon in a fight. Once at a literary festival in Vancouver a
famous Scottish poet cracked a coffee pot on her husband's head. Thank
god the coffee wasn't hot. Nevertheless, he flew home to Glasgow the
next day, four stitches spidering widow's peak to eyebrow. In their case,
the coffee pot didn't cause the argument. It was simply close at hand.
Most would agree, however, on its appropriateness. No other object in
the kitchen is so capable of evoking outrage. Who left that last burned
inch in the bottom and didn't bother making another pot?! You'd rather
scoop out a litter box with bare hands than empty the filter one more
time and rinse it clean. This makes no sense but that's the way of it. The
person who poured the last cup and walked away destroyed a marriage,
brought down a convent, and drove the ancients from their household
shrines, leaving the kitchen godless and unblessed.
70     PRISM 49:3 Renee Sarojini Saklikar
Three Character Portraits In
Search of Gertrude Stein
VIVIAN
The days are drudgery and the nights are long and the life is tedious.
Breasts are something and they are full. There is provocation that is
not interaction. Breasts are pigeons and there is cooing. She is walking.
So much breathing has not the same effect when she is stationary. So
much pouting has not the same effect when she is glossing. That is
not the same as her mother work-horsing in other people's houses. So
much breathing is her mother, backside upended, skirts bedraggled on
the floor. There is the washing and scrubbing. So much breathing is her
mother and her father at night, fighting. There must not be so much
fighting. There can be the three of them. There is her uncle. The unit
is not broken. He is not working. He is staring. Her fullness is a fact.
Any time is the quarter of all the breathing in their house. The house is
the mother and father and uncle. Lower Town is not excitement. There
is no joking. There is vodka and whiskey. The absence of alcohol is
not English. Arguments are brewing and there is not storm but there
is atmosphere. There is no meaning. There is fullness. Hips. Breasts.
Lips. She is application and lip-gloss. She is tight jeans. Her cloth flares.
So much straining is also bisection. There are her thighs. As her legs
are moving, there is a V shape. It is forming. There is her uncle. He is
staring.
prismmagazine.ca    71 SALLY
The days are busy and the nights are soothing and the life is full of
things. Any time is family time and is half the noise of the
neighbours. An argument does not happen. Everyone is happy and
serene and round-cheeked and there are so many things. There comes
the Father and he is happy. There cooks the Mother and she is happy.
The family is sweetmeats and puddings and custard and pasties. So
much chattering has not the same purpose when there is that much
clutter. So much talking is dusting and drapes. The house is not lonely.
She is nightgowns and candyfloss and breathless. Homework is not
chattering. She is telephone calls and there is cuteness. Her hair is her
habit. She is blunt cut or spirals. Socks and shoes are matching. There
does not happen to be a dislike for things. She is pertness. Her body
is matching. She is candy-striped and pug-nosed. As the family is all
settled the dining room is boisterous without the smells of other homes.
There does not happen to be a dislike for each other. There can be
laughter. She is the centre. All the attention is when she is talking.
There is the Father. There is the Mother. She is the centre. Fast and
strong and bouncy. She is bouncing. She is closets and sneakers and
jumpers and plaid and sweaters. She will meet him later. She does not
tell them anything.
72     PRISM 49:3 NIALL
The days are moneyed and the nights are land and the life is acquiring.
There is ancestry. He is voiced and sure and his teeth are always
hunting. Women are useful, seeking, snaring. He will not be snared.
So much pushing is also grasping. He is bent on materials. He will
inherit. The Preserve is that property and there is not that giving. There
is accumulation. He is unerring. There cannot be failure. More land is
something. There can be different ways of doing business. There are
costs and benefits. Abandon the garden, and the house is better. The
house will prevail. The land can be sold. He will see things. He will get
things done. Women are pliant and soft. He will bite into everything.
He will eat at a good table. There will be gold and crystal and platinum
and Everything Will Be Well Designed. He will see to everything.
His hands are reins, his hands are fork-holds, and there are ploughs.
There is the river. There are the trees. There is potential. He knows
the value. Everything can be purchased. There are the subsidiaries and
minerals and logs. Not to be undersold. The absence of haggling is not
expenditure. He will bear no trifling. He will not be out-foxed. He will
not be mancevred. He is restless. He is careful and smiling. He is not
forced. He is relaxed. It is all relaxing. The town and the land and the
river. He is a Gilley. He knows the price of things.
prismmagazine.ca    73 Stephanie McKenzie
The Unveiling of the Emily
Carr Statue, Victoria, BC
(October 13,2010)
The day your statue is unveiled, I take an old friend to the James Bay
Tea Room. British monarchs of all ages are stuck on walls. Prince
Charles and Diana in their newly wedded bliss, Prince Charles and Camilla
older and together at last, Prince William and Harry sweating it out
on the rugby field. Queens. Kings. Dukes.
Dear Millie, no wonder you grew tired of tea and talk. This city's caught
in crowns of years gone by.
When The Reynolds High School Band kicks off the first
few bars of "God Save the Queen," I want to run under the canvas
hiding your likeness, to hold you
for one more moment before you're given over to patriots.
But the song is no more than a mistake or joke—the tune
shifts swiftly to a few fleeting notes of "Oh Canada."
Chiefs of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations speak, and everywhere
there's the truest of intentions. The crowd has grown, threatens
to overtake the street. They're here to see you in your newly
crowned glory at the corner of Victoria's busiest roads:
the Empress behind you, the museum hovering in your wings,
the sparkling harbour glistening at your side.
313 kilograms of bronze! After a lifetime of watching your weight
you are larger than life, sit plunked on the crossroads,
monkey Woo on your shoulder, griffon beside you.
74     PRISM 49:3 The crowd breaks into proud singing. This time it's the
anthem in whole and I am caught up with it, belting it out,
claiming my birthright to this nation—
God save Emily! Mammoth and taking up the largest corner
downtown, no monarch to be found.
prismmagazine.ca    75 Allison LaSorda
How to Lubricate a City
They gather, save, tuck phlegm
into cheeks. Paper, tongued till pulp
again—pliable and warm. Fingers sink
into a preformed mass,
smoothing the hardening
child-figure totems.
Amid the delicate shells of metro-grid,
moulded beings come to shape
with moisture. In twitching cytoplasm,
nourished fibres fuse, hold corpora together
with coat hanger bone frames.
Glass dishes are vehicles to propagate
and baste; citizens fumble with glue and flour-water,
pulling chunks out from finger webbing
in a race against coagulation.
So what of movement
weighed down by bodily fluids?
Wetness doesn't quench, and yet
all attentions turn to salty secretions,
to seedling ooze and saliva. —Or
to glassy eyes, the patterns
of upper-lip sweat on summer days.
Cities lubricate their children
with fire hydrants and garden hoses,
animal-themed slip 'n' slides. They allay
heat that wriggles up from asphalt:
the horizon unsteady with steam.
76     PRISM 49:3 After showers, the streets throb
to the rhythmic tide of runoff
slicking into storm drains.
There's a lack of human-spun webs,
nests, and functions—
so heads brim
with imaginings and drownings,
unseen tenses in nervous water.
To build something better than papier mache:
to strain for consistency in liquid
when there is nothing to do but coast.
prismmagazine.ca    77 Blair Trewartha
Matachika
Money drops with palm leaves,
flutters through the lobby
like a damaged bird.
Matachika. An island
that launders culture,
caters to husbands barking
over lost cabana keys,
locals chasing wind-swept
chairs. Spanish sputters
through walkie talkies—
tourists drop their drinks,
ignore the woman scraping
glass with her hands.
Later, clouds curl,
double over with surf
blowing from behind,
the credit machine
gleaming—
and our leashed retriever
flails, flesh folding over leather,
body flopping in sand,
as he tries to sprint
towards the shore.
78     PRISM 49:3 Brian Swann
A Goose
It felt as if there should be a long drop over
a cliff like the one Edgar painted, but it was
only the house about to fall a few inches
into the sea, wavelets clear as the Caribbean
lapping at the porch where a forest had stretched
a short while ago. I thought: It's all gone, or
will be once I leave, everything, though all
I could recall inside was my painting, size of
a quarto sheet, which the sun had bleached
on the white wall itself about to go under, a
winter scene all thin cross-hatchings, white-
out and magic marker, so faded you could
almost see through. If the forest was anything
to go by, it would simply disappear, and
no one would know or remember it had ever
been there, not even me. It would not be like
leaves in coal or a stone circle remnant of a hut
off the Isle of Wight or under the Dogger Bank.
I mean nothing, like the shadow of a solitary
goose that just fell across me, going upward
at a steep angle.
prismmagazine.ca    79 Jean McNeil
Endurance
We call the ship that has come to pluck us out
our big red taxi Its real name is the Endurance
a namesake of Shackleton's
broken vessel.
It is April. Leaving Antarctica in winter
is like slouching away from a doomed village:
tidepools now clogged with ice,
a gorged sky. Time passes like saints
watching their backs.
The horizon is a blue strip of light
between ice and sea, cloud and mountain.
Silver milk salt rubbed raw—
we live like liar peasants.
The air only hooks. Struck dumb to find
we are enemies of ourselves
in an obsessive present.
We used to know so many things.
Now we are strung on
one thin rule:
not far now
until the darkness.
80     PRISM 49:3 Claire Caldwell
November
for Wallace Stevens
The difficulty of the cold morning, of rising with the sun
barely clinging to the branches and the rabbits still in their holes.
There were the night rabbits, a suggestion of fur
on the pillow. The soft thumping receded and woke you.
The room shrugs off its night coat, assumes its familiar nakedness.
White shelf, red quilt, brown chair.
You have everything to think of: the cat's milk, the stove
and the oatmeal, the bathwater. You stretch into the four corners
of bed and the day spreads out like grass blades, frost-tipped.
So much to explain even before the rabbits stir,
before the floorboards sap the warmth from your soles.
Your shins bristle. Your sweater and your grey socks
wait for you to fill them. The blankets are piled high,
piled up, and there you are.
prismmagazine.ca    81 Contributors
Elizabeth Bachinsky is the author of three collections of poetry, Curio
(BookThug, 2005), Home of Sudden Service (Nightwood Editions, 2006),
and God of Missed Connections (Nightwood Editions, 2009). Her work has
been nominated for awards including the Pat Lowther Award and the
Governor General's Award for Poetry and has appeared in literary journals, anthologies, and on film around the world. She lives in Vancouver
where she is an instructor of creative writing and the Editor of EVENT
magazine.
Brian Brett, poet, fiction writer, critic, journalist, is the author of eleven
books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, including The Colour Of Bones In
A Stream, Coyote, Uproar's Your Only Music (A Globe and Mail Book of the
Year), and the CD of his "Talking Songs," Night Directions For The Lost.
His most recent book, the prize-winning best seller, Trauma Farm, is a
meditation on his life on a small farm on Salt Spring Island. He is about
to publish a collection of prose and poems about an arctic watershed,
entitled The Wind River Variations. He is currently writing a biography of
the legendary parrot, Tuco.
Claire Caldwell lives in Toronto, where she is pursuing her MFA in
creative writing through the University of Guelph. Her poetry has appeared in the Scrivener Creative Review and is forthcoming in Misunderstandings Magazine. She is the 2010 recipient of the Lionel Shapiro Award
for Creative Writing from McGill University.
Michael Chaulk is a licensed Canadian seaman, but also a mostly-unpublished writer living in Montreal above heavy street traffic. He is the
Associate Poetry Editor for The Incongruous Quarterly and the Poetry Editor at The Void Magazine at Concordia University.
Lorna Crozier's lastest books are the poetry collection Small Mechanics
and the memoir Small Beneath the Sky. A Distinguished Professor at the
University of Victoria, she is the recipient of several awards for poetry,
including the Governor General's, and two honorary doctorates for her
contributions to Canadian literature. She lives with poet Patrick Lane
and two fine cats.
Lakshmi Gill was born in the Philippines of a Punjabi father and a
82     PRISM 49:3 Spanish mother. She attended UBC (MA, Earle Birney, advisor) and
UNB, Fredericton (PhD studies). She and Dorothy Livesay were the first
women original members of the League of Canadian Poets in 1966.
Elizabeth Haynes's writing has appeared in magazines including Alberta Views, Room, The Capilano Review, andThe Malahat Review as well as
in anthologies, most recently Walk Myself Home: an anthology to end violence against women (Caitlin Press, 2010). She's won the Western Magazine
Award for fiction, the American Heart Association Award for fiction,
and the Banff Centre Memorial Essay Competition. Her short fiction
collection, Speak Mandarin Not Dialect (Thistledown Press) was a finalist
for the Alberta Book Awards.
Julie Woods Karnes' fiction is forthcoming in Confrontation and The Logan Square Literary Review. Her work has received honorable mention
in The Atlantic's Student Writing Contest. She holds a BA in journalism
from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MFA from
The School of the Art Institute.
Allison LaSorda is currently completing her MA in English and Creative Writing at the University of New Brunswick. She is also looking for
a new city to live in.
David J. Lawless is President Emeritus, St. Mary's University College, Calgary. He is the former President of St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, NS. He also served as Vice-President (Academic) at
the University of Manitoba, and as Rector at St. Paul's College, Winnipeg. Maria-Pilar Lawless died suddenly at home, in Calgary, 2010,
of a massive heart attack. She rests at peace in her family's mausoleum
in Madrid.
Stephanie McKenzie's first collection of poetry, Cutting My Mother's
Hair, was published by Salmon Poetry (Cliffs of Moher, Ireland) in 2006
and her second, Grace Must Wander, in 2009 (Salmon). She is currently
working on her third collection, Saviours In This Little Space for Now: Poems for Emily Carr and Vincent van Gogh.
Jean McNeil is from Nova Scotia but has lived in the UK since 1991.
She is the author of five books of fiction: Hunting Down Home, Nights in
a Foreign Country, Private View, (shortlisted for the Governor General's
Award, 2003), The Interpreter of Silences and The Ice Lovers. In 2005-2006
she spent four months in Antarctica as writer-in-residence with the British Antarctic Survey.
prismmagazine.ca     83 Michael Meagher, after more than twenty years in Ottawa, moved to
British Columbia for a few years. He currently lives in Halifax, where he
landscapes and writes. His poetry has appeared in Qwerty, Misunderstandings Magazine, Bywords, and Kootenay Carnival. He has a BA in English
from Carleton University.
Jordan Mounteer graduated from the Creative Writing Department at
UVic and now divides his time between treeplanting, studying Spanish
and Japanese, reading about ancient mythologies, and travelling. And
drinking lots of very black coffee.
Renee Sarojini Saklikar writes thecanadaproject—about life from India to Canada's West Coast, and places in between. Her poetry and essays can be found online and in literary journals. Renee is a member of
the False Creek Writers Guild and the Federation of BC Writers.
Brian Swann has published many books. His most recent is Born in the
Blood: On the Translation of Native American Literature (University of Nebraska Press, 2011). He lives in New York City.
Blair Trewartha is a Toronto-based poet whose work has appeared
in CV2, Carousel, FreeFall, Extstere, The Toronto Quarterly, and ditch. He
recently received funding from The Toronto Arts Council for his upcoming full-length collection, titled Ltmtnal. He is co-poetry editor of
Misunderstandings Magazine, and co-host of The Vagabond Trust Reading
Series.
Ayelet Tsabari was raised in Israel and lives in Toronto. She's a two-
time winner of EVENTs Creative Non-Fiction Contest and her writing
appeared in Grain and Room. A graduate of SFU's Writer Studio, she's
currently working on a collection of short fiction for her MFA in Creative Writing at Guelph.
Ian John Turner is an illustrator and artist who was born in Ontario in
the autumn. His work often deals with the idea of place, and tries to approach everything with equal measures of love and cheek. Find him at
www.ianturner.ca.
84     PRISM 49:3 The Creative Writing Program at U.B.G.
f
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 Fiction, Stage
Play, Screen 8e TV Play, Radio Play, Writing for
Children, Non-fiction, Translation, and Song
Lyrics &? Libretto.
Meryn Cadell
Steven Galloway
Keith Maillard
FaCUltV ^    Maureen Medved
Andreas Schroeder
Linda Svendsen
Peggy Thompson
Rhea Tregebov
Online Faculty (M.F.A.):
Luanne Armstrong, Gall Anderson-
Dargatz, Brian Brett, Sioux Browning,
Maggie deVries, Zsuzsi Gartner,
Terry Glavln, Wayne Grady, Sara Graefe,
Stephen Hunt, Peter Levitt,
Susan Musgrave &? Karen Solie
www.creativewriting.ubc.ca Good Reads
Book Club
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of their value
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Includes books in-store
and online.
Join at
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or at any in-store cashier.
(604) 822-2665
UBC BOOKSTORE
www.bookstore. ubc.ca
Pt. Grey Campus
6200 University Blvd.
Vancouver, B.C.
Robson Square
800 Robson St.
Vancouver, B.C. valkm) award for poetry
2011
Test your limits.
1st Prize $500
2nd Prize $250
+ honourable mention
and publication in Vallum
Enter Vallum's annual poetry contest
on any theme or subject
Submit a maximum of 3 poems
of up to 25 lines per poem.
Entry fee - $20 per submission
(includes a 1 -yr subscription to Vallum)
Deadline - June 30, 2011
Mail to: Vallum Poetry Contest
PO Box S98, Victoria Station
Montreal. QC H3Z2Y6
Canada
editors@vallummag.com (queries only)
www.vallummag.com  Subscribe to PRISM international and save!
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not accepted. Please make cheques payable to: PRISM international.
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PRISM international
Creative Writing Program, UBC
Buch. E462-1866 Main Mall
Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1
Canada  PR
49
SM is Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Translation & Creative Nonfiction
PRISM international
Literary Nonfiction Contest
Judge's Essay: Brian Brett
Winning Entry: David J. Lawless
Elizabeth Bachinsky
Claire Caldwell
Michael Chaulk
Lorna Crozier
Lakshmi Gill
Elizabeth Haynes
Julie Karnes
Allison LaSorda
Stephanie McKenzie
Jean McNeil
Michael Meagher
Jordan Mounteer
Renee Sarojini Saklikar
Brian Swann
Blair Trewartha
Ayelet Tsabari
GENUINE
CANADIAN
Jk
Cover Illustration: Emily Carr
by Ian John Turner
prismmagazine.ca
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