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 PRISM international
Fall 2007
Contemporary Writing from Canada and Around the World  PRISM international
2007 Earle Birney Prize for Poetry
$500 was awarded to
Joan E. Bauer
for her poem
which appeared in PRISM 45:3
Special thanks to Wailan Low whose generous support keeps this PRISM poetry prize available.  PRISM internat
Fiction Editor
Claire Tacon
Poetry Editor
Sheryda Warrener
Executive Editors
Jamella Hagen
Kellee Ngan
Advisory Editor
Rhea Tregebov
Production Manager
Jennifer Herbison
Editorial Board
Emilie Allen
Brianna Brash-Nyberg
Mike Christie
Dave Deveau
Laura K. Fee
Ria Voros
Meghan Waitt
Michael John Wheeler
Brandy Lien Worrall 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:   / Website:
Contents Copyright ° 2007 PRISM international for the authors.
Cover Art: Sailor, Yokosuka, Japan (with beer bottle), 1976 by Greg Girard.
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Our gratitude to Dean Nancy Gallini and the Dean of Arts Office at the University of British Columbia. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support
of the Canada Council for the Arts, the British Columbia Arts Council, and
the Government of Canada, through the Publications Assistance Program
(PAP), toward our mailing costs.
PAP Registration No. 8867. September 2007. ISSN 0032.8790
BRITISH COLUMBIA     &&    Canada Council    Conseil des Arts
ARTS POT TNPn Clt>   for the Arts du Canada
f*\ 11*1
Canada Contents
Volume 46, Number 1
Fall 2007
Justin Varava
When It Comes /  7
James Riseborough
Jessie and Marlene / 17
S. Kennedy Sobol
Some Light Down / 49
Eleonore Schonmaier
Migrations /  12
Jan Conn
January Dreams with Tamayo / 13
Lip-Reading Jean Cocteau /  14
Cafe Poem
Chris Hutchinson /  15
Golda Fried
you are tall / 29
Kim Goldberg
Math Rebel / 32
Matt Rader
National Research Council Time Signal / 33
The Great Leap Forward / 35
John Barton
Aviator / 37 Claire Battershill
Unwritten Postcard / 39
Vanessa Moeller
Linguistic Obituary / 40
Tbmasz Rozycki
Tropical Hurricane / 41
translated from the Polish by Mira Rosenthal
Luis Chaves
Flash Forward / 42
translated from the Spanish by Elizabeth Zuba
Warren Heiti
Rain Sutra / 43
Derk Wynand
Tristesse Tropique / 67
Margaret Avison
Hag-Ridden /  68
Contributors / 70 Justin Varava
When It Comes
In a deserted area behind a bisected khaki-brown vista called "The
African Steppe" there is a single dilapidated pen with a faded wooden
sign that reads simply, "The Captain." In the far corner of the pen,
heaped in a massive grey bundle of skin and nestled against a crooked
post strung with barbed wire, sleeps a gigantic pig.
The top of the Captain's back has thick black hairs coiling out in a V
pattern. He breathes in erratic intervals as hundreds of horseflies dive-
bomb scattered piles of his mealy-green shit. There is a dry, brown leaf
caked in mud that sticks to the end of his snout and flutters while the air
whistles in and out.
Years of sunlight and exposure have drained the pigment from the
Captain's slow, sad eyes and bleached them to a dull, cloudy grey. The
loss of colour is something I have always associated with old age. My
own father's chest hair turned brittle and bone-white almost immediately after his sixtieth birthday. His lips, too, eventually faded to match
the colour of the rest of his face, creating the awkward illusion that they
had vanished completely. I suspect the Captain's insides have similarly
degenerated over the years from red and healthy pink to watery grey
and I figure that with the proper means—a fork or a straightened clothes
hanger—I might be able to poke through his thick skin and confirm
my suspicions. As the Captain grunts and digs his face into his muddy
trough, I lean against his planked enclosure and picture his insides running out of him in a rivulet of mercury, turning the floor of his pen wet
and dark grey around him.
Lunch is overpriced and light—a soft pretzel and a lime Italian ice—
and afterwards I stop in front of an outdoor aquarium and watch as two
leopard sharks swim in restless circles while, above them, a zoo handler
prepares to dump a bucket of anxious, flopping chub mackerel. I turn
away just as he tips the side, and listen to the subsequent screams from
three delighted, highly decorated boy scouts.
Two tanks down, seven manatees bob and rotate much less eventfully,
like buoys, sliding slug-like down cement sides and undulating in slow,
exaggerated waves. Occasionally, one bumps the finger-smudged Plexi-
glas and this is enough to elicit gasps and polite, thankful applause from
the modest smattering of spectators. All seven of the manatees move similarly, turning and swimming at the same speed, all governed by a set
of instincts specific to their species. Still, with each air bubble that slips
past the whiskered lips and escapes frenetically to the surface, I can't
help hearing the familiar sound of the Captain's raspy grunt. In each lazy
thrust of fleshy rudders and each ripple of manatee hide, I see only the
slow movement of a swine.
Fourteen years earlier, I asked for a pot-bellied pig for Christmas. I had
read magazine articles about this—a new fad made popular by a number of eccentric East Coast widows who had suddenly and collectively
found the ownership of cats and dogs to be unsatisfying and blase. That
December was unseasonably warm. I assembled our tree by myself in
the living room, while my father sat splayed on a nearby couch, passing
in and out of an apneic dream. I was ten years old.
"Dad," I said, picking assorted aluminum branches from an old cardboard box. My father's eyes were closed and his breaths came out tight
and strained.
"Are you sleeping?" I asked.
"Yes," he said without looking up. His eyelids fluttered and his tongue
flicked the corner of his mouth.
"I know what I want for Christmas," I said.
"I'm sleeping, Eugene."
"I want a pig."
My father opened his eyes finally, ran a hand over his thick, whiskered neck, and looked at me as though examining me. After a considerable silence, he nodded slowly and sadly—in a way that had become
typical of him—and pretended I hadn't said anything at all.
My father had once been a very wealthy and incisive man. His fortune, accrued via a series of shrewd investments made in the early eighties, had been a point of great pride ever since my mother left home when
I was just a baby. Growing up, at least five different foreign luxury cars
lined our driveway on a monthly basis in parade-like fashion. There
was a Kentucky-shaped swimming pool next to our tennis court, and
a constant influx of festooned marble birdbaths that found permanent
homes in our well-manicured and progressively more congested front
lawn. Out back, there was a glass greenhouse built specifically for the
incubation of Singapore orchids, which were the preferred flower of my
estranged mother and the only tangible reminder of her that my father
would allow.
It wasn't until my Uncle George died that my father's priorities and
demeanor shifted so drastically. Uncle George was my father's youngest
and only brother. He hadn't been in Kuwait a week when the news arrived at our house in the form of a scratchy phone call from a man whom my father would later describe as sounding somewhere underwater. To
my knowledge my father never cried. The thoughtful silence that overcame him on that day would become his most defining characteristic in
the years to follow and carried with him throughout the remainder of his
After the funeral, my father never again attempted to augment his
amassed fortune. He gained a great deal of weight, most noticeably
around the waistline and neck. His beard, once allowed to grow freely,
came out thick and white. He had an ever-present crust of dried saliva
around the corners of his lips that he refused to scratch off. One by
one, he fired our landscapers and then our gardener. Only Gilda, our
housekeeper, was kept on payroll, not because my father valued a clean
house, but because he empathized with the plight of the single parent.
My father's cars were left in the driveway to rust and gather a layer of
seasonal silt so thick that their makes and models became indistinguishable. The swimming pool turned sickly yellow with brown foam slurping
at the mouth of the filter and rotten leaves clumping at its surface. Coarse
weeds pushed cracks through the tennis court and grew twice as tall as
the frayed, sagging net. My father spoke very little from that point on,
to me or to anyone else, and he rarely left the house except very late at
night in order to tend to the orchids that continued to bloom year-round
behind filmy, fractured greenhouse glass.
"What do you want a pig for?" my father asked when I broached the
subject again later that mild December night.
"For a pet," I said. I had only been tall enough to build the bottom
half of the Christmas tree. Four additional feet of bare pipe remained,
out of my reach, and a half-full box of synthetic branches that would go
unused that year.
My father paused for a moment, staring off, a tinsel thread glinting at
the shoulder of his red sweater. "You don't know what it takes to care for
a living thing, Eugene."
"It takes food and water and responsibility," I replied with confidence.
I had researched the subject in my free time at the school library.
"A living thing is hard work," my father said. "It's serious business."
"I know that," I said, angry that he doubted me.
"So why get involved?" he asked, pressing his eyes with his thumbs
before finally fixing them on me. "Why bring it upon yourself? Life will
come soon enough, peeking through your blinds. Knocking down your
door. When it finally does, maybe then you'll wish you hadn't been in
such a hurry."
There had always been those things in my father's past to which he
had alluded but never explained. I never asked about the death of his
brother or his separation from my mother, not because I didn't care, but because the thought of my father having a life before the one that I knew
or running parallel to the one that included me seemed unfathomable.
To think there were those things about him that I might never know or
understand was an idea I could not bear considering. It was the last time
I forced the issue about the pig.
That Christmas I awoke to a cannon crack of thunder that ripped the
sky above our house and rattled the Jr. Yachtsman trophies along my
shelves. Seconds later, the rain came streaking down my bedroom window in thick grey veins.
I hurried downstairs in my pajamas, padding the cold marble floors
with my bare feet. In the far corner of our living room, tied with silver
ribbon and wedged between two identically wrapped boxes, there was a
stuffed pig doll with my name on it. My father, watching from the threshold as I took her in my arms, seemed content with the compromise.
I remember she was peculiarly dressed in a black leotard and a pair
of leg warmers bunched at her ankles. Her feet were pink felt, thick and
barely contained by her plastic tennis shoes. She was not a real pig but
in certain ways that doll seemed better than the real thing. She was more
human than an actual pig. She stood erect, on two feet. She had hands in
the place of hooves, and her fingers, though insufficient in number, were
fingers nonetheless.
That afternoon, as the rain abated, I took my pig outside amid the
unkempt grass and the marble birdbaths. Once wet, the doll's fabric
stretched and her cheap seams soaked and loosened. Later that evening,
her arm ripped off completely and grey staffing erupted out her shoulder and littered the carpets up and down our hallways. Gilda followed
closely after me on her hands and knees muttering things in Portuguese
over the cheap electric din of the Dustbuster.
It's nearly sunset when a voice comes over some unseen speakers and
announces that the zoo is closing. "Serengeti Avenue" is empty as I
make my way past a panther cage and a pushcart advertising miniature
corndogs under the guise of "Monkey Fingers." When I arrive at the
Captain's pen for the last time I see two zoo employees, in navy blue
jumpsuits and safari hats, tugging on his front hooves and dragging his
limp body across the abandoned barnyard in laboured fits and starts. He
looks the same as he did earlier in the day, except that his sides no longer
rise in bursts and that whistling leaf has fallen still at the edge of his nostril. The employees convene briefly, wiping their foreheads with leather
gloves and discussing strategy. One of them moves to the Captain's back
end where he pushes his chest squarely against the tail while the other
employee continues to pull from the front, a giant hoof in each hand.
The effect is a rocking motion, less than an inch of progress at a time.
10 Horseflies swarm in halos above the employees' tan hats.
There is a branch that presses the side of the Captain's stomach as
he is pushed and pulled. After one particularly violent yank, the branch
punctures the Captain's surface. Its tip disappears into the black bristles.
Suddenly, from that spot, I can see his insides. They are leaving him, running out in a crooked line, and they are fast and red when they come.
11 Eleonore Schonmaier
The police squint
into the glare on the water looking
for small boats. On a clear day
the lightkeeper sees all the way
to Algeria. Over his sofa
hangs a tapestry woven
by his grandmother from red
human hair. Only the birds
travel without papers.
Though often now
their tiny legs
when they perch
on the lighthouse railings
are colour banded.
12 Jan Conn
January Dreams with
Red horse, ribs showing, escapes a barn
dashes headlong into a bleak landscape.
Perhaps it's early spring in alpine meadows—
Charles Wright opens his cabin door in Montana
or Wyoming, but here the horse bares its teeth, eyes bloodshot,
fleeing a fire or its own mad story.
Twins approach in horizontal striped skirts and bare breasts,
holding high above their heads a basket of fruit for the world
—their arms stiffen—as one they gently lower the basket
onto the blistered grass and weep.
I become the dude
in a baseball cap with harmonica in hand, astride a bar stool.
Air is a symphony of small red diamonds:
my shirt strikes a high note and holds—
13 Lip-Readingjean Cocteau
I paint four horses, each a different colour.
I'm the one in the tree.
Hyenas in particular attract me.
Let me crawl out the window and into the graveyard.
Wear nothing but a sheet to the couturier's party
and drop it at some strategic moment.
Women dwell below ground, as pupae, as seventeen-year-old cicadas,
with bats, with strange night birds.
The topiary garden goes on forever.
She dangles two cigarettes, reads
Jean Cocteau.
With one pencil, one sheet of paper,
we commence tomorrow.
In the conservatory dwells the red-haired giantess.
She's in a night shift and so are you.
Fierce are the animals, with bright teeth.
They stand in enigmatic poses: here a shadow,
there a ripple on the nursery wall.
My fingers go inching around the room, measuring
everything in squares. Watch out! The hyena
will devour the chambermaid! I intend
to disturb identity. I serve a cannibal banquet: the skeleton
of a chicken sits upright on a platter, batting false eyelashes.
My father has a green head, green eyes; my mother
14 is red. Yes, I'll sup on goat flambe and live white mice.
He clowns around for the photographer,
riding on her rocking horse.
I'm his lantern, I glow blue-green
in an icy scene. But my horse is frozen, my pointed
fitted boots don't grip. His hands are too smooth.
He's becoming a oiseau. My reflection vanishes in the mirror.
I arrive at Santander with my white horse.
We tred softly. I'm no match
for the woman in ram's head, corset, orange tights.
Nobody here has mouths; just beaks and stubs of wings,
like ripped-off flower buds. They're hairy and furry.
My horse is a crime. They wear white masks.
Who owns the secrets of the insane?
When we reach Madrid, I will eliminate Hitler.
My father is Saturn; I am Moon.
I'm the bride of wind.
In radiography, a villainous room, I have two heads,
a birdcage where I abide.
The gates are sealed. Clang. Clang.
Only the egg has come to dine.
15 Chris Hutchinson
Cafe Poem
From the north-east corner of the room
came the slant, circumspect glances of enemies
disguised as friends. This city is a forest of the mind,
said our barista in passing, her voice glittery
as a freshly polished spoon. How I wished
I could light her cigarette in Cinemascope,
outside in the noir of fog and heady violins—
But those days are over, said the coffee
to the cream. You know, I said, I'm often here,
happily bathing in a stream of disinterestedness,
when some owl-eyed child appears, miraculously
tying and untying the knots of his fingers whilst
whistiing the tune of a rusted hinge—Such disbelief
is my body suspended, the kid will invariably say,
cheekily pointing the arrows of his cheekbones
towards my treacherous friends, their smiles
all lit up like knives beneath
the fluorescents.
16 James Riseborough
Jessie and Marlene
Auntjessie says, "I'm not getting married again. No way. I wouldn't
care if he had gold balls." She propels a line of cigarette smoke
towards the ceiling of our living room as my mother snorts, adjusts her glasses. "Ellen, you're my witness. Write down what I just said,
in French, so that goddam nosy Marlene doesn't know what we're talking about."
Aunt Marlene, who's three years older than Auntjessie, is, at the moment, in our downstairs bathroom running taps and flushing the toilet
every ten seconds to drown out the farting noises.
"Ellen, go pound on the door and enquire as to whether your Aunt
Marlene fell down the blasted hole?"
"Don't you dare!" my mother says. 'Jessie, leave Marlene alone, for
heaven's sake. Let's have a nice day."
Aunt Jessie wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, stares out
the picture window for a few seconds. "The day I planted Harry in the
ground last year, I said to myself—Jessie, it's just you now. How do you
feel about that? I concluded that that was just fine with me." She glances at
me as if to say, "How do you like them apples!"—an expression she often
uses. "I stared at your Uncle Harry, layin' there dead as a doornail with
his reading glasses on. I had to wonder what I ever saw in him."
My mother does not seem surprised by Aunt Jessie's comments as she
splays out the fingers of her right hand, examining the cuticles.
Aunt Marlene emerges from the bathroom.
"Christ, Marlene, we thought you'd fallen in and drowned!"
Aunt Marlene snaps a hand at her sister to shut her trap.
"Let's get this show on the road," Auntjessie says, draining the last of
her beer.
Aunt Marlene is very tall, with broad shoulders like a competitive
swimmer, a helmet of hair the colour of powdered cocoa with a wing of
white at each temple, as if she'd been struck by lightning or witnessed
a poltergeist. She's always immaculate, today in an embroidered dress,
her manicured nails with clear polish like the inside of a sea shell. One
of her legs is shorter than the other so she limps when she walks. This
and a stammer that only surfaces now when she's angry have plagued
her her whole life. She's a widow, but unlike Auntjessie, she has two
17 children—a boy named Winslow who's some kind of dope addict living
on a commune outside Vancouver, and a daughter, Patsy, who at thirty-
five is generally considered to be eccentric. Aunt Marlene never talks
about Winslow. She and Patsy are almost inseparable, the way a hound
and its fleas are, Auntjessie says.
Patsy didn't come with her mother today because we're going to visit
Auntjessie and Aunt Marlene's one mutual friend, Lilah Bean. Patsy
doesn't like Lilah, Auntjessie says, because she once overheard Lilah
describing her as being skittish as a cat. Lilah's a writer. Her most famous
book is about the life of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, up until the time
he won the Nobel Peace Prize. I offered to come along because I thought
I'd get a chance to drive our new Monte Carlo. I just got my licence two
weeks ago, two months after my sixteenth birthday. Auntjessie brags to
people that my knowledge is very deep for my age because I skipped
grades three and seven.
"Can I drive?"
"I don't think so, Ellen," my mother says, as she gets up from the Lay-
Z-Boy and gathers up her coffee cup and Aunt Jessie's beer bottle. "The
401 can be pretty busy on the weekend."
"Oh hell, Mary Francis, let'er drive," Auntjessie says, "it's probably
safer than driving in town."
The 401 isn't busy at all and I feel exhilarated and powerful and in
complete control. In the back seat Aunt Jessie's wearing a white, short-
sleeved sweater and navy-blue slacks. Her hair is salt and pepper grey in
a tightly-curled perm. She's smoking with the window down at Marlene's
Auntjessie says, "So, tell me, Marlene, what's Patsy up to these days.
Taken up birdwatching I suppose?" Auntjessie can't help herself and she
starts to cackle. My mother glances at me sideways, rolls her eyes.
Aunt Marlene says in a restrained, dry voice, "Patsy's just fine. Thank
you for asking." This is an inside joke. It seems that Patsy had developed a crush—actually, it was spookier, more like an obsession—on a
man named Mike Orton whose convenience store is three blocks away
from Patsy and Aunt Marlene's second-floor apartment on the banks of
the Thames River in Harwood, Ontario. Patsy is a shade over five feet
with a body like a twelve year old boy, small, rodent-like eyes, pencilled
eyebrows, very thin and stringy auburn hair. She's painfully shy, even
with us, which is so uncomfortable for everyone. Anyway, it seems she
took to going into this unfortunate man's store, where she stood behind
the counter stacked with Twinkies and Wagon Wheels, and just stared at
him. This went on for some time, apparently, until one day he couldn't
take it anymore and called the police. Patsy panicked when the police
arrived, hid her face in her hands and sobbed and sobbed. They took
18 her to Emergency at Grace Hospital. They gave her some Valium and
called Aunt Marlene to come and get her. Auntjessie happened to drop
by that evening and Aunt Marlene broke down and told her the whole
Auntjessie said, "That girl's going to end up in the loony bin if she
isn't careful." Jessie marched down the hall to Patsy's bedroom to find
her standing on a chair, naked, looking out her window through binoculars at her beloved's store.
"I presumed it was the store she was spying on," Auntjessie said,
trying to contain her laughter, the next time she was over at our house.
"Who knows, maybe she's got a pen pal in the building next door."
We've just turned into a subdivision called Norton Estates on the southern side of London, Ontario. Auntjessie is the only one who's been over
to Lilah's house before, so she's navigating. I'm surprised and disappointed that Lilah would live in the same kind of neighbourhood as my
parents. I'd expected some gothic touches—a willow-lined driveway, an
ancient farmhouse with lace curtains on the windows, a burly English
"This is it. Birchwood Drive." As I turn the corner Auntjessie says,
"Now it's on this side of the street and it's a two-storey.. .this is it. Turn in
here, Ellen."
"Doesn't look like she's home,Jessie," Aunt Marlene says, as she leans
forward to peer out of Jessie's window.
"She said she might have to pop out and get some groceries. She said
she'd leave the door unlocked if she had to go out."
The house is a two-storey, grey brick. There are no mature trees on the
street—the only noticeable landscaping consists of the odd dwarf pine,
splashes of tulips, marigolds, zinnias. All the wiring is underground, Aunt
Jessie told us in the car, and the police patrol twice a day. My mother and
Aunt Marlene seem impressed with these facts.
We all trail Auntjessie to the front door. She rings the bell, waits,
rings it again and then tries the screen door. It's open and so is the white
wooden door, which has a brass knocker shaped like a horseshoe.
"Lilah, yoo hoo! Hide the silver, your company's here!" Auntjessie
shouts as she steps inside with the rest of us following in single file. Lilah
is obviously not home and all three ladies decide to settle themselves in
the living room to wait for her return. It's a spacious room with brocade
drapes, plush ivory carpet.
"What a pretty room," my mother says, her hands underneath her
"Mmm," Aunt Marlene agrees, as she begins to file her nails.
"It sure is hot in here," Auntjessie says, while fanning herself with
19 a magazine. As she heads for the hallway, she lifts the lid on the old-
fashioned mahogany stereo unit and flicks the radio on. Willie Nelson is
singing Always On My Mind. We hear Auntjessie go into the kitchen and
shout, "Anybody else want a beer?"
"Sure, I'll have one," my mother says, raising her voice.
"How about you, Ellen?"
"Stop trying to corrupt my child, Jessie," my mother says even louder.
"Oh, hell, I'm sure it wouldn't be the first time," Auntjessie says,
between the poof of bottle caps being popped off.
My mother looks at me.
"I think I'll make some tea. Aunt Marlene, would you like some
"Yes, dear, that would be lovely."
As I enter the kitchen, the first thing I see is Aunt Jessie's big behind
as she forages inside the fridge. The two open beers are sitting on the
kitchen counter. There are white sheer curtains, a white arborite table
and chairs and the floor is white and black tiles, shiny as fresh ice.
"Anything interesting?" I ask, as I fill the electric kettle with water and
then plug it in the socket on the stove. Auntjessie is scooping out some
fruit salad Jell-O from an aluminum mould.
'Jell-O isn't quite set," she says, as she returns the mould to the
fridge—now with an obvious sinkhole. She pulls out a lemon meringue
pie. "Now this is more like it. You want a piece?" Auntjessie says, her
mouth full of meringue, her lips glistening with a sugary film.
"No thanks. Where does Lilah keep her tea pot and cups?"
"Try over the stove." Auntjessie gestures with a fork full of pie and a
glob flies off and lands on one of the sheer curtains over the sink.
"Oh shit!" she says. Auntjessie lays her fork and the pie on the counter. She turns on the hot water tap, wets the red-checked dishcloth, grabs
hold of the soiled curtain with one hand and begins to scrub with the
other. She pulls too hard and a screw plops into the sink with a tinny
"ping.. ping.. .pong." The curtain rod flops down and a curtain bunches
up in the sink, soaking up water from the running tap like a sponge.
"Christ," Auntjessie says, as she picks up the screw and puts it on the
counter by the taps. She lifts the curtain out of the sink, wrings it out and
then drapes it on the counter.
"Now, Ellen, I told you to stay out of that pie. If you'd just do what
your Auntie Jessie tells you, you wouldn't get into so much trouble."
"Me!" I say loudly, banging Auntjessie with my hip. Aunt Marlene
has been watching from the doorway and sighs like we're exasperating
"Jessie, you shouldn't be helping yourself to this pie. How do you
know it's for us?" she says.
20 "Lilah said for us to make ourselves at home." Auntjessie stops scrubbing. "Just let the curtain rod lie, Ellen. We'll tell Lilah that Marlene did
it." Aunt Marlene ignores this remark as Auntjessie turns her attention
back to the fridge and this time pulls out two packages of cold meat and
a loaf of Wonderbread.
"Mary Francis, you want a sandwich?" she says to my mother, who is
standing at the entrance to the kitchen as she tugs down the sleeve of her
yellow cotton blouse.
"I am kind of hungry. Do you think Lilah would mind?"
"Hell, no. She doesn't worry about crap like that. Oooh, smoked oysters," Auntjessie coos, as she pulls a tin of them out along with jars of
mayonnaise and French's Mustard.
Think of a coffee tin filled with congealed bacon grease sitting beside a
can of bug spray in a grimy cupboard beneath a kitchen sink. And then
think of being close to starvation and the only nourishment available
to keep you out of the bone-yard is that can of grease. This is how I
would describe Aunt Marlene's marriage based on what I've observed
and some recent, rather startling information. For twenty-six years, she
choked down whatever her husband dished out, one slimy spoonful at
a time.
Aunt Marlene and Patsy moved to Harwood from Windsor a year
ago, after Uncle Carter died. He made his living repairing shoes. They
lived in a brown brick duplex one block up from the Detroit River, right
underneath the Ambassador Bridge. Uncle Carter's shop was on one side
and they lived in the other unit. Their front lawn was cement-customer
parking. The shop was called "Heavenly Soles." With a name like that
you'd expect to find a proprietor with a light-hearted laugh and a playful
nature, not someone in a frayed sweater, his pot belly spilling over his
belt like a sack of feed, his nose and cheeks covered with burst capillaries, his expression as sour as his booze-breath that always smelled like
cooked beets.
It was clear to all of us that the contempt Aunt Marlene and Patsy
endured, that they stepped around daily, like piles of shit, was part and
parcel of whatever dismal bargain Aunt Marlene had struck with Carter
those many years ago. When he died Aunt Marlene thought she was
destitute because there was only twelve hundred dollars in the bank.
At Aunt Marlene's request, Auntjessie accompanied her sister on visits
to the lawyer and the bank. She found a neighbourhood kid to wash
and vacuum out the old Impala and then advertised it for sale. Neither Aunt Marlene nor Patsy had been allowed to learn how to drive.
When Jessie and Marlene started going through Carter's things, they
found over one hundred and fifty thousand dollars in hundred dollar
21 bills stashed in magazines and newspapers decades old under his bed.
Aunt Marlene was furious, Auntjessie said, when she thought about her
shabby wardrobe and house, the tyranny she endured weekly when her
husband demanded an explanation for frivolous purchases like honey
for her tea, Vaseline Intensive Care for Patsy's dry skin.
"If Harry ever tried to control me the way Carter controls Marlene, I'd
kick him square in the you-know-what!" Auntjessie once said. "D'you
know he gives Marlene fifty dollars a week for household money, including groceries. Fifty dollars! By the time she buys her groceries, she
doesn't have enough left over to buy a cork for her ass!" My father, Arthur, an elementary school principal and Jessie and Marlene's beloved
younger brother, sometimes gets annoyed by Aunt Jessie's vulgarity, especially when I'm present, but on this topic he was always silent.
All the floors in Aunt Marlene's house were stained linoleum. The
heat was never above sixty-five degrees in the severest of winters. Patsy
always had a cold. All she ever ate as a child was peanut butter sandwiches. Ten days after she turned twelve her eyebrows fell out.
About two years ago, Patsy had lost another job—this one as a meter-
maid—because she couldn't deal with it when confronted by the owner
of a vehicle she'd been ticketing. Auntjessie had been over to Detroit
Christmas shopping at Hudson's department store and she stopped at
Aunt Marlene's on her way home to Yale.
"Carter was always half-lit by that time of the day," Auntjessie told
us. Carter called Patsy a "pathetic simp" which made her tear up. She
put down her fork, stared down at the table top, motionless.
"Better a simp than a sadistic drunkard like you!" Auntjessie told
him as she bunched up her napkin and dumped it on her plate. "You
shouldn't let him talk to you and Patsy like this!"
Carter jumped to his feet and pounded his fist on the table. "Get out
of my house you meddling bitch," he screamed. "Get your fat ass away
from my table!"
Jessie got up and walked over to the cabinet by the sink where he
kept his liquor. She brought an unopened Canadian Club to the table
and poured half the bottle in a Skippy peanut butter jar. "There, drink it
down, asshole, kill yourself. Do the world a favour."
'Je...Jessie, please," Aunt Marlene said, her hands shaking by this
"Je...Je..Je...Jessie,," Uncle Carter mimicked, his
hands all fluttery like butterfly wings.
Auntjessie stood there and stared him down. "You ignoramus," she
said, "you aren't fit for human company."
Aunt Jessie's late husband Uncle Harry was a long-distance trucker for
22 Overland Express. He loved high-stakes poker, his beer, fishing for smelt
in September on Lake Erie, the harness races year-round in Windsor, especially when he got wind of a fixed race from one of his cronies at the
stables. The day of Patsy's encounter with the police, Auntjessie woke to
the sounds of Uncle Harry snoring out on the back porch. He'd played
poker the night before and came home late, as usual, long after Aunt
Jessie had fallen asleep. There was a knock on the front door as Aunt
Jessie was heading to the back porch to check on her husband's condition. She stopped and opened the door as she did up the buttons on her
housecoat. Her neighbour, Marvel-Anne Doppler, ajehovah's Witness,
stood there all shiny and cordial in a navy dress and matching pumps. I
was on the couch in my pajamas, having stayed overnight to help Aunt
Jessie can peaches.
"Good morning, Jessie," she said in a quiet voice.
"Oh, hello," Auntjessie said, barely civil.
"I guess Harry had some trouble," Marvel-Anne said, turning towards
her yard. Auntjessie poked her head out the door to see the front end of
their new Pontiac sitting at a cross angle on Marvel-Anne's newly-seeded
lawn, now with a curving six-foot-long canal six inches deep, courtesy of
Uncle Harry.
"That son-of-a-bitch is going to kill himself one day!" Auntjessie
closed the door on Marvel-Anne. Then she headed for the back porch
where she found Uncle Harry in a deep sleep, the wool coverlet with
the diamond pattern my grandmother had knitted for Auntjessie when
she was newly married crumpled on the floor, an acrid odour of vomit
emanating from it.
We left the peaches and Uncle Harry—now sober and wet from the
pan of ice-cold water Aunt Jessie poured on him—and drove to Harwood in relative silence, the easy listening channel on the radio turned
down low at Aunt Jessie's request. I had never witnessed this side of her
before—this caution, this closing down deep inside herself. It unnerved
I'd always thought of Auntjessie as the stones tumbling down Aunt
Marlene's tin roof. I'd never thought of them as being linked together in
any genuine manner, that there was a core of real emotion there, pulsing
with life. This changed when I was thirteen and went with my mother to
visit Auntjessie in the hospital in Yale when she had her hysterectomy.
My father had a parent-teacher meeting that evening and couldn't come.
Tears were streaming down Aunt Jessie's cheeks when we entered her
room right at the beginning of visiting hours. We were surprised to find
Aunt Marlene already there, that she'd been there for two hours by the
time we'd arrived. She'd taken a special early morning bus from Har-
23 wood instead of waiting to ride with us. Auntjessie was telling a young
nurse that Aunt Marlene ran the biggest cathouse east of Detroit. The
nurse, who couldn't have been more than twenty, blushed as she asked
us to wait outside while she checked Aunt Jessie's dressing.
"Marlene buys all her clothes at Holt Renfrew," we heard Auntjessie say from the hallway. "She has to keep up appearances for all those
clients of hers, those judges and company presidents. She still ends up
looking like a whore going to a wedding."
Aunt Marlene clutched her black leather purse to her bosom and said
to the tiled wall in front of her, "Shut your stupid mouth, old woman."
The nurse told us as she was leaving that people coming out of a general anaesthetic will often release any emotions they've repressed such
as sadness or anger, and that we shouldn't be alarmed at an extended
period of tears. I figured part of the reason was because Uncle Harry had
gone to the horse races in Windsor instead of visiting his wife the night
she'd just had major surgery. Aunt Marlene had clearly anticipated the
possibility of this happening.
My mother and Aunt Marlene sat by Aunt Jessie's bed, Aunt Marlene knitting, my mother reading a Harlequin romance novel that was
on the side table. Auntjessie drifted in and out of sleep and those tears
kept coming. It was such a startling sight that we kept looking to each
other for direction, some phrase or change of subject, familiar small talk
and long stares out the window, so predictable but comforting, a pattern
Aunt Marlene and my mother slide into whenever they're together without Auntjessie looming in the background like some fulminating storm
cloud. But here was Aunt Marlene ensconced like a stubborn beast of
burden by Aunt Jessie's side, suffering her jokey abuse, silently shepherding her through this initial stage of recovery until it was clear that
everything was going to be fine. She made that bus trip the next morning
as well, until Uncle Harry's conscience kicked in.
About two months ago, Auntjessie was lying on the couch, congested
and weak with a serious kind of flu. I was in the dining room checking
out the Royal Doulton china that she keeps in this beautiful mahogany
buffet she had custom-made by some Mennonites.
"What else could I do?" I heard Auntjessie say. "She moved in, lock
stock and barrel. She slept on the pull-out couch in the living room."
"What was the matter, Jessie," my mother said, her voice like cotton.
People trust her, tell her things. "What made her do it?"
"Marlene hadn't been home for several months." Aunt Jessie's voice
was hoarse from weakness. "They pumped out her stomach. Sleeping
pills. Mandrex."
The mood in the living room was charged, I could tell, like a grave-
24 yard after dark. I felt its pull and I went in and quietly sat in a wing chair
beside my mother.
"So I took her to Windsor. Got her that receptionist's job at Chrysler. I didn't like the idea of her working there with me but it turned out
all right in the end. Marlene's smart. And then, six months later, she
met Carter. Harry and I were engaged by that time. That damn limp of
hers and the stammer. It was so much worse when she was young. The
older she got the more she didn't want to go anywhere." She was silent,
as if considering what she should devulge. "I was embarrassed by her.
You know how kids are about stuff like that. She didn't really have any
friends in high school. Always went home for lunch. Stayed in that room
of hers and read all the time. Until finally she quit school, took a job in
the office at Emco in London. Then switched to ajob on the line because
she could make more money. After a few weeks in the plant she met this
creep from the foundry."
"What happened, Jessie? Rape, do you mean?" My mother's voice
was modulated.
"Did you ever meet him, Auntjessie?" I interrupted.
"No one did." More silence.
"They were intimate briefly." I knew by "intimate" she meant sex.
Auntjessie isn't comfortable talking about sex. She yawned loudly.
"The psychiatrist I talked to at Victoria Hospital in London said Marlene was severely, clinically depressed, that she was full of rage and that's
why she took the pills.
"I've always felt there was a hole in Marlene," my mother said, as she
hunkered down. Deep lines appeared in her forehead. "Arthur's never
said a word about any of this. What happened, Jessie? What did this man
The creep from the foundry was married. He made a big fuss over
Aunt Marlene when she came on the job because she stood out from
the other women on the line with her always-cleaned-and-pressed work
clothes, her genteel way of speaking, her ivory skin, her tender shyness,
her slight stammer that she was learning to control. A damaged but elegant figurine set among a bevy of garish lawn ornaments. This guy
was good looking in an oily, lounge-lizard way, apparently. The other
women resented Aunt Marlene's "airs" and this man's attention. "Thinks
she's the Qua.. .Qua.. .Queen of Rumania," they'd say, just loud enough
so Aunt Marlene would hear.
"Fish-wives," Auntjessie called them, "low-life bitches." I have seen
women like she described at the Bowl-O-Rama. Breasts slung low, Lucy
Ricardo hairdos with crayon rinses, chain smokers in stretch pants. Loud,
flipping taunters the "fuck-you" finger.
Anyway, he waged his campaign during lunch at a separate table in
25 the staff lunch room, as he played on Marlene's sympathy (his tragic marriage), her stifled vanity, her desperate need. They finally went away one
weekend and soon after a nude photograph of a sleeping Aunt Marlene appeared in the staff lunch room. Arrows were drawn to various body parts
with obscene comments made, a savage critique of her entire body, it's
distortions and imperfections. The authors were all women, co-workers
on the line.
After this creep dumped her, Aunt Marlene had been eating her lunch
outside by the parking lot, where she sat unnoticed amid the noxious
fumes of some overturned oil drums. But then she summoned all her
courage, one day, and walked into that lunch room, her heart thumping, and she came face to face with that heartless picture on the bulletin
board, all eyes watching her every move and gesture as she read what
was written.
Aunt Marlene did not remember walking the six miles home in the
rain, coatless, her purse still in her locker. Her super let her into the
building, into her apartment. The super was the one who called the ambulance when she checked on Marlene four hours later that afternoon.
The queer thing is she'd changed out of her overalls and put on her best
sweater set and nylons, full makeup, and a whiff of Chanel No. 5. It
wasn't clear if she'd planned on going out somewhere and changed her
mind—decided she couldn't face the outside world, at least not alone—
or if she'd ornamented herself like the ancient Egyptians for her own
death. Aunt Marlene woke up in the hospital wondering why she felt so
tired, why her throat felt so raw. And why Auntjessie was there, her feet
resting on a side table, reading the Saturday Evening Post magazine, a
bored but concerned eighteen-year-old.
I went out to the kitchen to make some tea. I returned carrying the
Blue Mountain teapot, sugar and cream bowls and three mugs on a tray.
I set it down on the glass coffee table in front of the couch. I poured
a mug for my mother and one for Auntjessie who pulled her blanket
tighter under her knees.
"You know why they adopted Winslow and Patsy, don't you?"
"I assumed it was because Marlene couldn't have children," my
mother said.
Auntjessie shook her head. "Carter was impotent."
"What!" My mother placed her mug of tea on the coffee table. She
leaned forward, rested her forearms on her knees. Her voice was the
velvety purr that emerges when her sympathy's been aroused. "You
mean right from the beginning?" Auntjessie nodded as she looked at
my mother like she was a target on a tree she was aiming at.
"Something happened to Carter in Korea," Auntjessie said as she
tucked her blouse in. "I've got some Scottish shortbreads in the pantry,
26 Mary Francis. Would you like some with your tea?" My mother was still
deep in thought and she hesitated a moment before she looked at Aunt
Jessie and shook her head.
On the way home in the car that day, I thought about how things
were for women when Aunt Marlene was young, that if they didn't find
a husband they'd have been considered a failure in some fundamental
way. I had to wonder if maybe Uncle Carter's evident pain, his abundant
misery, made Aunt Marlene feel safe because it was so familiar. That her
naivete and generosity led her to believe that he would come to cherish
her for taking him on. She would bombard him with love like radiation
attacking a cancerous cell and he would heal and so, in the end, would
she and they would be a real family. But it was all a lie.
Aunt Marlene emerges from the downstairs bathroom, her face as pink
as a pig's snout. She's just finished the second installment of what she
started at our house—a rather virulent case of the runs—and the stench
is wafting into the kitchen. "The toilet won't flush," Aunt Marlene says to
me, in a fierce whisper, her face darkening even more.
'Jesus, Marlene, it smells like something crawled up you and died!
What do you mean it won't flush?" Auntjessie says in the hallway. Aunt
Marlene turns away from her sister, waves her hand almost violently as
Auntjessie goes into the bathroom.
"It's broken all right," Auntjessie says. "Damn window won't open
either." She comes into the hall, opens the back screen door and moves
the washer-thing along the rod to keep it open. "Have mercy!" Auntjessie says, as she motions with both hands as if trying to shovel the foul air
out the door.
Aunt Marlene can't tolerate this anymore and heads for the living
"Marlene, check the bathroom upstairs for a can of air freshener,"
Auntjessie says. Aunt Marlene stops, but does not look back as she
changes course and begins to climb the stairs. I step into the hall from
the kitchen on my way to turn the volume down on the stereo. Auntjessie catches my hand and starts to waltz me to the front door. She's laughing and I close my nostrils against the beer and cigarette breath. I start to
protest when Auntjessie stumbles and falls against the screen door with
a tinny crash that brings my mother into the hall. A shadow falls across
my face. I look up to see a cop standing straight and massive as a cement
column with his hands on his hips. His partner is to the side tilting his hat
back on his head and there are two people, an older man and woman,
standing behind him. Auntjessie gets to her feet by grabbing the door
frame. Mary Francis has turned the stereo down and is standing behind
me now. Aunt Marlene steps down on the last step of the staircase, a
27 can of Glade Summer Breeze air freshener in hand. She slowly hides it
behind her back.
"Afternoon, officer?" Auntjessie says, looking straight into the cop's
eyes, her hands on her hips, her breasts thrust forward like two loaded
revolvers. He's in his late twenties, gorgeous. His partner, who's kind of
baby-faced with a neck as thick as my thigh, opens the door to our car,
starts poking around inside.
"Afternoon, ladies," the cop says, touching his cap. "Could I ask all
of you to step outside for a moment, please." Auntjessie locks eyes with
him for a couple more seconds and then we follow her lead and stumble
through the doorway like awkward toddlers. The elderly couple edge
their way behind my mother with their faces turned away from us. They
go inside accompanied by the nerdy cop. I can hear their footsteps in the
kitchen and then a gasp from the elderly woman like she's been gently
A white Tercel with no back bumper pulls into the driveway across
the street. The driver emerges and closes the car door, a bag of groceries
riding her hip.
"Jesus Christ, it's Lilah," Auntjessie says. Lilah turns towards us while
fiddling with her keys.
Auntjessie looks at my mother. "We're in the wrong house."
My mother stares at Auntjessie like she's a TV monitor with a rather
cryptic message scrolling across the screen. Aunt Marlene widens her
eyes, raises a closed fist to her chest, as if sheltering it there. The hunky
cop is all business, takes a small lined pad and a Bic from his shirt pocket.
"Je...Jessie, you're a da...damn fool!" Aunt Marlene hisses. Her
swarming anger stings everyone, including Auntjessie, who stares in
disbelief at this unfamiliar, red-faced combatant. Aunt Jessie's frown
deepens as she turns to see Lilah hurrying across the street towards us,
holding the bag of groceries like a bundled-up child.
'Jessie," Lilah says, as she steps onto her neighbour's lawn, "What's
going on?"
The cop looks up from what he's writing to see that this ramshackle
old woman has decided to ignore the situation completely and is about to
walk across the street, arm in arm with her bewildered friend. "Ma'am,"
the cop says firmly to Aunt Jessie's retreating back as she breaks out
"Jessie," Aunt Marlene barks, which stops her younger sister dead in
her tracks.
28 Golda Fried
you are tall
you are tall
you have a fuzzy face
a fuzzy dog
a younger sister
you are always kind
always mumbling
one time I wanted to protect you
from my boyfriend's bad mood
you treat me like I'm special
giving me huge discounts
at the cash
and there was this potluck once
at a girl's house
where you brought an
aluminum foil covered dish
and girls poked you in the stomach
you shift your weight from
leg to leg when
you talk to me
you tell me you
took a banana an apple and
a newspaper to Jaycee Park
and when you tossed the apple core
in a bush
a squirrel attacked it
and the whole bush shook
29 I am amazed that you read
on your day off
enjoy nature
eat healthy
and have just told me a
personal squirrel story
once it was all about Joe
the songwriter
and you were sitting next to him
at Starbucks
five years ago
before all the discounts
before you were fuzzy
and I handed you and Joe each a
February edition stamp
and said please use it well
now you let me come to you
with my embarrassments
and I put my hands over them and say
please don't judge me
oh it would kill me
if you still had that
love stamp in your wallet
from five years ago
I drag in Jane
she thinks you are cute
she says you will
never ask me out
I said you were
the tall one
30 I don't know your sign
your talents
how you date
I have never seen you sad
and I guess that makes me suspicious
one time
you were wearing a clown shirt
and the clowns were crying
something fierce
and I said
what's up with that shirt man?
and you said my father
gave me this shirt because
he thinks I'm quirky
31 Kim Goldberg
Math Rebel
Take your horizontal axis and shove it
shouts the insubordinate coordinate as she mounts the
stratospheric shaft of the Y axis, clambering
fist-first like a south seas pirate
ascending his mizzenmast for a gander
round. You can keep
your lousy significant clusters dry-humping
time along your puny X axis down
under. A datum can only take so many sweaty
truffle-hunting ham hocks
rooting through the same sheet-strewn
quadratic equation. All that grunting grinds the sheen
off my fourth-degree mind. I was meant
for higher places.
32 Matt Rader
National Research Council
Time Signal
Ten seconds of silence—God has gone
back into the laboratory: The ash outside
the office window is at work on new heraldry
and the Clippers have a three games to one lead
in a best-of-seven series. A cure for cancer
has been chewed in the gum of the yew,
but few will ever taste it. Eight hundred
gallons of water is all it takes to make one
hamburger and that shirt sloganeering Green
on Main Street holds twenty-five bathtubs
in its molecular history. Chances are we've
taken a bite of each other, literally, at some
point in our lives. Great codes are sojourning
in our DNA, to paraphrase a young doctor
I read the other day. Even birds understand
grammar. Which is to say, we are not alone
any longer. Everything is larger. The sun
won concessions from the stratosphere,
meaning a cabal of hydrocarbons and UV
lighting now controls the picture. Easier
to engineer a new face than look yourself
33 in the mirror. Cryptozoology or the Ark-
of-the-Disappeared: it appears the average
London cabbie has a pumped hippocampus
on par with those creatures who use sonar
to navigate troubled waters. I'm sure you've
heard the saying recently, bombing for peace
is like fucking for war, but research revealed it
to be true in the cloning of stars. This has been
a test. The beginning of the long dash—
34 The Great Leap Forward
and none and none and none and none and un
zip, a light before light, quickening, like children
of early enzymes feasting, each of each, protean
seas gone glacier, gathering footprints, thread, skin
for collection at the Exhibit of Humans, a mountain
casting a mould from a city of walls and curs, women
at wash with basins of ashen water and no reflection
to recognize their own husbands in a crowded pavilion
of charlatans, quack doctors, snake-oil salesmen
shilling goat glands for impotence, a foolproof gin,
horse semen brandy, and on the buckboard, a Christian
with hurdy-gurdy accompaniment hawking salvation
35 in the antebellum lands, where black winds separate kin
from kin, and the people of the plains hear the coming din
of cattle crossing the continent forty days before it even
begins, and leaded tins of fruits and vegetables poison
Franklin and his men, leaving them delirious and rotten
in the head, composed of thoughts and faith in a northern
passage from ocean to ocean that consumes them like vermin
in the clutch of an owl, picked to pieces, or else frozen
in the mind like that line from Keats we failed to learn,
heard melodies are sweet, unheard sweeter, so play on
into the cool afternoon of touching under tables, linen
hung on the line, saxifrage, stonecrop, phlox and gentian,
common-touch-me-not, the meadow beyond our garden
gate opening into bittersweet, death-camas, fool's onion,
and again farewell-to-spring arrives in the parched season
of brittle grass, titian leaves, auburn and tawny crimson
infecting the edge of things, as dusk draws from dawn
to envelop us in dark arms like hope or lust, wintergreen,
the flowering weeds we kneel in without naming one
or all or none, for that is a kind of love we call possession
and have abandoned, Dominus vobiscum, a woman, a man
36 John Barton
Paul Cadmus (1909- 7999), egg tempera
on pressed wood board, 1941
Take this young man, after several
Attempts you place him: bare
Foot on a beach in blue pants rolled
Above the knee, blue shirt
Undone and blowing, a box-kite
Raised over his head, the breeze
Wrinkled panels of silk deepening
Shades of dusk as the sun damasks
The cloud, chest so marble-rose
And smooth in retrospect
Now chilled and heavy, the rib
Cage beneath his skin the spread
Span of an albatross buffeted off
Course, torso so colossal it blocks
The sky behind him, a New Jersey
Ozymandias, the horizon
Flush with his ankles, the board
You paint him onto not
A flag, placard, or telegram
Edged in black, just a frame
Caught in time imperfectly, too
Small and mean to hold
37 Him—once young and beautiful—
His body now anything but
Immortal, not as you behold him
But strafed in a raid over Egypt
As he drove dying and broken
Bodies to makeshift
Beds behind lines, a boy you have
Lost to the desert, the blinding
Perspectives of sand blowing across
Oceans and continents, gritty
And elusive and through the precise
Hatchings of your brush
Even the stained-glass colours of
Tempera, you admit, appear
Temporary—the box-kite you gave
Him to hold up unknowingly
High against the sun-smeared cirrus
Lacerating the kicked-up sand of New
England, it could never lift him
Above danger, its frame not wind
Worthy enough, its frets missing
Strings and controls.
38 Claire Battershill
Unwritten Postcard
Because you've never seen it, here is the view:
a single crysthanthemum in a vase. White. New petals
curled in the fist of bud. Oak table. My hand, palm up.
Whatever hour I wake, the sound of street lights.
Electric, still, my restive eyes jacked-up
and city-clean. Tell me where to find you.
Late, and the cherry trees lose their blossom.
Petals curtsy to cracked earth that opens to receive them,
dry as the grasses that sing the prairies through.
Because you've never seen it, here is the card:
sandstone. Magnolia petals: furled, foetal,
anaemic as porcelain. Cups to catch the wind.
39 Vanessa Moeller
Linguistic Obituary
There are nine different words in Maya for the colour blue but just three Spanish
translations, leaving six butterflies that can be seen only by the Maya.
—Earl Shorris
For this eulogy I write dictionaries to fill the lacunae
where words gathered meaning
like empty gourds collect rainwater.
A word in Kaskean expressed
the texture of butterfly wings pressed between lips;
another discerned the smell of a woman
still slick with sex, described as feral,
woodsy, slightly metallic.
In Palaic, names for
the crease where a horse's ear meets neck,
the soreness of a pressed bruise,
the tang of an old person's bedridden body,
and two words that, when placed together,
gestured toward the moment of realization
when foot's arch encounters sharp beach rock.
How the Kalapuya people could speak of the sound
of apiaries on fire, of the ululation of nocturnal
predators searching for lost young. Now
there is no chocolate-melt to describe the colour of the ocean
in the February of Mahican. No saccharine tones of Dororo
left to tell how regret
erodes the back of the eyes until you no longer see
the world, or yourself, in the same way.
40 Tomasz Rozycki
translated from the Polish by Mira Rosenthal
Tropical Hurricane
Of all the philosophers, I most like the one
who said that waves arise through the hesitation
of the gods—is the world that we know good,
or is it bad, and has the moment arrived for the sea
to flood it. And every day love saves us
from extinction. The gods hesitate and stroll about
and skip stones across the tops of the waves,
and the sun enters the sea out there, at the horizon.
When I walk down the street, those who wash the sick
are with me, and those who are willing to kill
are with me. Every night a beast emerges
to look for children in the middle of the bad city.
And in me there is also darkness, a drop of light.
And on white surfaces I leave my blackened footprints.
41 Luis Chaves
translated from the Spanish by Elizabeth Zuba
Flash Forward
In one end of the house
a child learns that Genie wax
doesn't taste the way it smells.
Off the patio, his older brother
fills a bottle with water and flowers
and buries it, so that over the years
it will turn into perfume.
Later will come the longest
winter in history,
an aerial view of the city at night.
Also Christmases, burials
and scars that will wander
over their skin at a mollusk pace.
The first child will grow up
to speak a different
language from the second,
to discover that things
don't get better with time.
42 Warren Heiti
Rain Sutra
The rain is Art Blakey
with the arms of Indra,
ten thousand facts
banging down on the shingles.
In the morning, the flowering crab
is fragile and indigent
and black, limbs strict
as lightning.
The spider's pattern is
irreparable. And yet, an arpeggio
on your piano, the sutra of water
suggesting the web.
43 The Texas sky is starless:
your piano, silent. This
is the song he sings
to you and you
are singing it. The tune
is a circumference
of light, and your voice
the difference between you
and the nickel-strung
darkness. The desert sand
lays down a bass-line, pulsed
with your footprints,
bleached like a text
by Georgia O'Keeffe.
The stone in your hand,
black as a semitone
set in the key of evening.
44 The wind is finger-picking
the first bars in the grass;
listening, you let the scarf
of your voice follow its lead.
Against the bronze and yellow
field, indigo, drifting;
listening, you let fall
three glass beads, three
syllables in the nightingale's
name. Almost night, not
raining, all the meanings
of rain.
45 I want to be
in Texas, asleep
in the passenger seat of your
nineteen seventy-one sky-blue
Cadillac, the windscreen hypnotised
with horizon, the rear-view
with your eyes, their roan-brown
focus, the careless
freckles on your cheeks,
the breeze sight-reading
a scarred bass-clef,
your left hand in your curls,
your bare foot on the gas,
your skin resonant
with fading light, Nina Simone
on the radio and the rain
starting warm on my arm, the way
you play piano, scattering
a handful of dice
on a wood surface,
every note, one side
of five silences.
46 You wake in white
sheets in a New York
morning, the descending snow
elegant as a Duke Ellington
solo, the sun auditing
each note exactly. You
extend your hand, the beige
cadence of your arm, find
the warmth where his body
was. From the kitchen,
that familiar metal resonance,
tap-water striking the tea-kettle.
47 Pennies, flat and effaced, sparks
thrown off by the sun,
hot copper ellipses cooling
as night rises, now,
from the hood of your car.
A couple of fireflies, the sporadic
ticking of the rad.
Your voice, an evening
in late June, ice losing
its edges in the jar of tea,
your loved one coming,
like a slow,
slow rain,
48 S. Kennedy Sobol
Some Light Down
Len Creighton killed Mandy Stevens in 1978, the same year that
sugar maples all over the county produced so much sap that its
coursing through the lines was audible. In 1981, Meredith Owens
disappeared while pine cones and acorns dropped heavy to the ground.
Casey Brady was gone three years after that, and when she didn't come
back they planted a single locust tree at her elementary school, by the
senior doors, where its curled seedpods now collect in the eaves like a
tangle of question marks. The year my friend Anna disappeared, we
watched tent caterpillars writhing black in their gauzy nests, and blowtorch flames glowing blue-white at dusk as the nests fell away from the
trees in clumps, all up and down the street.
Ours was the last in a row of houses on a ridge overlooking the highway. I fell asleep each night with the sound of cars going by below my
window, in a room full of brightly coloured objects, which from May to
November were covered in a thin layer of dust—a yellow table, a lamp
in the corner with an orange paper shade, aquamarine curtains. Even the
house's red siding appeared pink under the cloudy haze that clung to it,
in spite of the wind that whipped across the open road. The year I turned
sixteen, the apple trees held their blossoms stubbornly, until I woke one
morning in early June and the petals had fallen, papering the ground
with white. I went downstairs and sat in the kitchen with my father and
my younger sister Felice. There was an extra plate in the centre of the
table, holding a single fried egg heaped with a mound of salt. My sister
had fallen prey to our father's favourite joke—the loosened cap on the
salt shaker.
"You two waste more eggs," our mother said.
"This was my dream," said Felice. "A boa constrictor was hidden in
the walls of the house. It was turning itself inside out in there, so you and
mom and I were trying to find it and get it out."
"Where was Cookie?" my dad said.
"She was packing everything we have into boxes. She wanted us to
move and leave the house forever, with the snake still in it."
My mother listened as she swept, along the base of the counters, and
under the table where we sat. She batted gently at the tops of our feet
with the broom, the way she did when Felice and I were little and made
49 forts out of the tables and chairs on snow days.
"Where are my girls?" she would say to the room as she poked around,
pretending not to hear us giggling. "I swear, if I don't find them soon I'll
cry and cry. I'll be inconsolable. They'll have to fish me out from the
depths of the river."
Felice told me once that this last line always made her picture our
mother not drowned or drowning, but hiding—huddled in a ball underwater, legs tucked up to her chest and toes gripping some seaweed to
keep from floating to the top.
"It's not dark down there," Felice said. "Everything is glowing. The
seaweed is swirling all around her. It tickles her and she's laughing a
little, with bubbles curling up over her cheeks. It's just a trick she's playing, hiding from us the way we hid from her."
In the kitchen, the phone rang and my father lifted both his hands,
showing fingertips stuck all over with butter and toast crumbs, absolving
himself of any phone-answering responsibilities. Mom answered and as
she listened, her face changed. She turned away from me, and I knew.
"Cookie," she said to me after hanging up. "They found her."
I knew that she meant her body, but for a few seconds I pictured Anna
in the scene I made up four years earlier, when she disappeared—far
away and actually alive, sitting with a happy family at the kitchen table
in the morning. In this picture there are palm trees swaying outside the
window. From where Anna sits you can even see the ocean.
Suddenly the curtains above our kitchen sink unruffled and were
sucked back flat against the screen. The sun shone through the thin yellow panels and then they billowed out again, revealing the highway and
the car lot on the other side, tucked into the corner of the field where
Anna and I met every morning before school. Shallow ditches stretched
fully across its width, the mounds between them evenly spaced, like an
enormous patch of corduroy. It seemed as though the dust had lifted and
I couldn't breathe.
A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter
You always hear people say it—they lived next door, down the street.
We never imagined. All this time. There was Len, and there was his
wife, Linda. What did she know? As I have learned, the clues were scant.
When you gather them up, pencil smudges on scraps of paper, you have
something, nothing. It was all interference and static, messages never
received. Trails covered with fallen branches and dry leaves.
50 The Mystery Machine
Underneath the open window on the second floor, the view from Felice's
bed was almost wholly blocked by the maple tree, full of bright green
leaves and hung with bell-like clusters of tender yellow maple keys. I
leaned against the sill, picking at the white paint where it was peeling
away from the wood in dusty curls.
"You've lost something," she said. "Now you have to retrace your
Felice is an expert at mysteries. When she started kindergarten she
was in the afternoon class until she realised that she was missing Spider-
Man, and made Mom switch her into the morning class. She still watches
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?'every day after school, finding patterns in the
plots and mapping them out against the more famous and complicated
mysteries they might be lifted from.
"You know when you're typing," she said, "and you accidentally hit
the letters to one side of each of those you meant to? There's a word
in there like a secret you're keeping from yourself. Just start from the
Anna and I were twelve when she disappeared, the same age Felice
was the year they found Anna. We had been getting ready for Confirmation. Anna and I had our saint names picked out from the time we
were in grade six, when we used to make up stories featuring our saints
as competing heroes. Anna's was Catherine of Alexandria, suggested to
her by her mother in the hopes that she would not choose a husband
wrongly. I chose Saint Zita, patron saint of bakers and servants for whom
angels had baked loaves of bread while she was in fits of rapture. Angels
had also helped Catherine of Alexandria, carrying her body to the top
of Mt. Sinai, so in Anna's stories she was always lifted away from danger
at the last moment, up and out of the scene, though in Anna's stories the
saint always remained alive.
One Saturday I went to meet Anna in the field, and waited there for
half an hour before deciding to go to the Dominion, where her mom
worked on weekends. Cardboard boxes were piled high behind the windows and birds were skipping in and out among the shopping carts that
lined the front wall. Anna's mom was at the convenience counter, filling
up the container of courtesy matches beside the cash register.
"She damn well better be there," she said, flipping over every second matchbook so that they alternated, top to bottom, bottom to top.
"Her Aunt Sharon's coming over this afternoon to measure her for her
A customer waiting for cigarettes started drumming his fingers on the
counter so I turned to go. Over my shoulder I heard her shout out my
51 name but I pretended to be interested in a display of Easter Cream Eggs.
I heard her swearing under her breath, so I turned and walked quickly
towards the exit. By the doors there was a pen dispenser in with the
gum machines, full of plastic pens the same colours as rainbow Chiclets:
lime peel, magenta, and yellow, arranged in a circle like the thing they
brought out sometimes in church, with gold and silver tines streaming
out from it like the rays of the sun. I put in a quarter and got a pen that
was dark lilac. I tore a corner off one of the cardboard boxes and tried to
write a note, but the ink wore thin almost right away and I had to make
letters by poking holes with the pen, so when it was done you could only
read what I had written by connecting the dots.
I ran back to Anna's place. She lived in a red brick building above
some shops on the main street. To get there you had to go up the back
stairs and across the gravel-covered first floor roof. The tenants had divided it up using clotheslines and makeshift fences to form yards. There
was no answer at the door so I went to Anna's window, pressing my
forehead against the glass. I opened the window and climbed in.
We had started leaving notes under each other's pillows around the
same time we developed our superstition about the tooth fairy. It was
Anna's idea that if you gave your teeth away, the rest of you may follow
(and worse, with no one mourning your absence, as though you had
agreed to some kind of deal). So it wasn't worth the nickel or whatever
you would get. Instead we traded our baby teeth with each other. When
one of us lost a tooth it was the other's turn to come up with one to
exchange. One time at school we discovered that I had a grey tooth. I
was already one tooth ahead of Anna so I sat in class all day pushing up
with my tongue to keep it in place. I kept her teeth beside my bed in a
container I had made out of DAS modelling clay and she kept mine in
a little blue tin that she had painted with a pattern of dragons, tails and
necks intertwining.
I'd heard the story of the flood so many times, with so many variations,
that there were details I was no longer certain were real. Every year Ed
from the post office came to our school and gave a talk, followed by film
footage taken on the day it happened in 1954. We saw people running
through ankle-deep water and later, the fiberglass figures from the Nativity scene, left out too long and floating past the Dairy Bar without a
sound—kings and an angel and donkeys and lambs, all out of proportion
to one another. Ed described the volunteer fire fighters piling sandbags
outside the Feed 'N' Seed, and the rowboat he used to make his way
52 across town. Once he told us about Ellie Creighton, the woman who
died, trapped in her cellar as the waters pressed in. I went to the post
office, to see if he could tell me more. He knew everything about this
place, so I secretly hoped that he could tell me something about Anna
as well.
"Come on around back," Ed called over his shoulder. He had a soft
and reassuring voice that reminded me of the cool tiles on classroom
floors. I lifted up the hinged section of the counter and he pointed me
towards a folding chair, then disappeared around the corner. The chair
faced the back of the post office boxes—a wall of cells gleaming like a
giant silver honeycomb. Small doors opened from the other side and the
faint voices of two women carried across the narrow tunnels.
"Well, this is it."
"Mind you, they say he was quite a drinker when he was a young lad."
Ed came back around the corner. "Something here for you."
He dropped a brown envelope on the table. Ministry of Transportation.
"Oh," I said. "My driver's licence." Now I could go anywhere.
The women were still talking.
'Just teeth," one was saying, and in my mind I could see them, lined
up in the crease at the bottom of an evidence bag: yellow, ivory and
grey. I knew them. Held up to the light they would look like little beads,
glossy and of uneven thickness.
The dumbwaiter
It wasn't a secret. There were others, and all of us knew it. Three girls
we didn't know, missing from three towns we hardly ever went to. Their
absence was like the speed of the river in spring or the darker spots that
marred its frozen surface in winter. It fell into that kind of category. A
dangerous and thrilling backdrop that we never took as seriously as we
could have.
In my room I opened the envelope that contained my driver's licence
and slid it into my wallet. From the drawer of my bedside table I took a
pen, a small tape recorder, and a notebook left over from my Harriet the
Spy days. I flipped through it to see if there were enough blank pages.
It was half empty and the last entry was in Anna's handwriting. Jason
O'Donnell is a rat fink, it said, and underneath she had drawn a picture
of him in a striped T-shirt and high-tops, with a halo of hearts spinning
wildly away from his head. I turned the page. On the other side the ink
was showing through, and I tucked my pen in against the spine.
53 Casey Brady, 1984
I found someone who knew Casey Brady, the third girl to disappear.
We sat in her living room, in a cream-coloured bungalow on Franktown
Road. I pulled the tape recorder from my bag and pressed record.
So that year there were boys. And no frog catching contests, obviously. There was dancing later, and tinny music on
a grey plastic ghetto blaster. On one side of Casey's house
was the river, and on the other a three-way intersection that
marked the south edge of town. The house next door to hers
had a small guard rail on the front lawn because so many cars
had crashed through their porch and into their living room in
the middle of the night.
The year before we had all been there together, at what
would be the last all-girl birthday party. Casey's mother organised a frog catching contest. We scattered. One of the girls
came back carrying a giant water-logged rat in a wooden salad bowl. There was a huge commotion as Casey's mother
despaired that the bowl was ruined and had to be thrown
Now things were different. Casey's parents were divorced
and phoning it in. Not all of us got along the same way we
once did. Or, we did, but things changed faster, with people
constantly grouping and regrouping, abandoning plans. I
paid less attention than I used to. The water was high and
we assembled on a large stretch of flat rock between the grass
and the river. Casey walked down the bank towards us with
arms full of marshmallows. Gold earrings dangled from her
freckled earlobes and her curly orange hair was bright against
the woods behind her, where the space between the elms was
We poured twenty-sixers and two-litre pops into a large
plastic vat indiscriminately, scooping it up with clear plastic
cups that kept breaking. We drank until we were like blind
animals. In the night we lost track and spread out across the
lot. Joanne walked straight into a tree. I wandered off and
found Corey Conley with his hand in his shorts, lying on his
back in the moss. Then I was on my hands and knees throwing up bright pink between two skinny tree trunks when
someone started rubbing my back. I batted their arm away
because it was making me sicker.
When we woke up in the morning Casey was gone. We
54 tore around everywhere, through the cattails and prickly ash.
We cried, we called her older brother and waited. We thought
that she had drowned.
Silver teeth, fox
Anna's family moved to town in the middle of fourth grade, plunking
her down among us in a January of heavy snow and blinding light. The
sidewalk between our school and the arena had not been shovelled in
weeks, so we walked along the road. The wind was so strong that icicles
froze at slight angles, and we lost our footing on patches of compressed
snow that glared silver in the bright sun.
At the rink I sat struggling to tighten my stiff leather skates under a
wide window that faced out onto the ice. Anna walked past, balancing
on her picks and making a grinding sound as she moved across the concrete, arms held away from her sides for balance. She was wearing pink
from head to toe—pink skirt and tights and sweater set, with matching
pink Fun Fur mittens and earmuffs, all the same colour as the soft downy
tissue of a rabbit's ear. Once on the ice I edged forward by moving my
feet laterally, trying to lift my blades as little as possible. Anna sped by
me several times, her momentum causing me to teeter backwards in her
wake, waving my arms at my sides in an attempt to remain upright. Even
in borrowed skates she finished her laps before anyone else in grade
When the buses came at the end of the day an announcement was
made. There was a rabid fox in town, so all town kids had to be picked
up. As I packed my book bag Ms. Clark steered Anna towards me.
"Your parents aren't home, Cookie," said Ms. Clark. "So you'll be going to Anna's farm until they can come get you."
"You have a farm?" I said to Anna.
"My grandfather's," she said.
"Where is your place?"
"We all live there," she said. "We're getting back on our feet." I pictured a family of turtles, weebling upside down in their shells, small legs
swimming helplessly in the air.
Anna's grandfather drove slowly, and Anna said that when we got
there, we could play Don't Cook Your Goose. From somewhere inside her
grey wool coat she produced a pink flannel bag full of Lik-M-Aid and
Kraft caramels, Bazooka gum and Pixy Stix. I pressed the heel of my
hand against the window of the pickup truck, melting away a section of
frost and revealing the fields beyond. The fox was out there, all alone,
fur faded and skinny, mad. I breathed into the space cleared by my palm
55 and the glass slowly filled with spiralling triangles of ice, thin as paper.
Mandy Stevens, 1978
A newspaper article from that year led me to Tyler McLean, who worked
with Mandy Stevens the summer after grade twelve.
I was scooping dead frogs out of the pool filter when my
older sister told me that Mandy was gone. There were four
frogs in the pile already, flat and rotting.
"Pretty funny she should disappear on her way to meet
someone likely going to kill her one of these days anyway,"
she said. My sister had her husband run off on her three
weeks before, and her with the two kids, so she was pretty
much unsympathetic.
"Yeah," I said. "Real funny."
The frog pile was moving. There was one near the bottom
that was still alive and trying to pull itself out from under the
rest of them. I thought about it, then left it there.
Mandy was superstitious, always counting things. Our first
day out she asked me if I remembered graph paper.
"Yeah I remember it," I said, but if she thought it was a
stupid question she didn't let on.
Our job was to survey cottagers for the Conservation Authority, measure the distances between their well and septic
and the shoreline. We spent the summer touring the back
roads, working in the morning then fucking off for the afternoons because it was the only way to make the work stretch
over the length of the contract. My father had a kind of tree
collection, birch trees and poplars and red maples. Sometimes we would go sit on his screened-in porch and all you
could see was the leaves, closing us in.
One morning we were driving and there was a snapping
sound under the truck. She looked up at me with those wide
eyes. I pulled over and got out, trying to swear quietly enough
that she couldn't hear me. We had torn a hole in the oil pan,
and it was emptying out fast.
She toed the ground where the oil was clumping in the
As we walked towards the highway her arm kept brushing
up against mine, and she asked me if there were bears. I told
her a black bear would only run away from us. We finally
56 made it to a garage, got towed and while we waited I got her
a yellow plastic fawn from a vending machine. For the rest of
the summer she kept it on a green vinyl string and twirled it
constantly around her finger.
I only saw her once after that summer. She was shrieking
and carrying on in the middle of the pool hall in town. As I
wondered what was happening, Randy Connell abandoned
his pinball machine with an upward sweeping motion against
its sides and crossed over to her, pressing his cigarette into
the soft inside part of her elbow and she took it so casual I
thought I was the only one in there who saw. A second later I
wondered if I'd seen it at all. Then she was hysterical, laughing and walking towards the pay phone. I stepped in front of
"What?" she said. "Get out of my road."
"What are you doing with that guy?" I said. "He's a fucking loser."
Her face went blank for a second and then she started
laughing again and I got confused and I forget what I said
after that but when I stopped talking, she stopped laughing.
And she squinted at me, like she thought I knew what she was
thinking and wasn't letting on. She looked over my shoulder,
then, like she saw a ghost, and we were both quiet.
My father was repairing the fence at the back of our yard, facing the
"I was on the road a lot," he said. He grasped a piece of thick wire in a
pair of pliers and twisted it back and forth until it snapped. He wouldn't
turn his attention away from the fence.
"I mostly remember you being home," I said, and I hoped that this
would console him. The traffic on the highway was light for a few moments, and in the distance you could hear the faint hum and click of
the drive-through intercoms at the fast food restaurants. Every one of
them has at least one frequency pairing—a customer number and a clerk
number that you can use to listen to people placing and receiving orders.
Tim Hortons is 30.5800/154.4900, Burger King is 30.8400/154.5700 and
Dairy Queen is 457.5750/467.8000. My father used to haul freight, and
if he was home on Friday nights after Dallas he would pile Felice and I
into the cab of the truck in the driveway, blankets and all. We listened to
people's orders, switching back and forth between the Dairy Queen and
57 the Burger King and trying to guess who the voices belonged to. Once
as I drifted off I heard a rush of crackling sounds, like a river of static
tumbling over rocks, then one last order, a man asking for kids' meals.
Five of them. One with each type of prize, if possible.
Meredith Owens, 1981
Meredith Owens' family had kind of lost touch with her in the months
before she went missing. She went to an alternative high school and got
student welfare. They lived in the same town, but barely spoke to each
other. A mural she painted is still visible on the side of a local chip wagon
there, illustrating a pair of chipmunks eating a picnic lunch on a tree
stump, under a faded rainbow. She had a cousin, who is now a doctor.
The fingerprints on Meredith's thumb and index finger
were cracked and distorted from the time when she was
three and stuck a pair of tweezers in an electrical outlet. She
had ashy blond hair and loved orange, and often gave her
belongings away. She had a charm bracelet that she always
wore, and whenever anyone said they liked it she would take
a charm right off and give it to them.
The last time I saw her she showed me her arm. She had
just been to the allergist's and it was marked with a grid of
tiny red flecks, where miniscule triangles of skin had been
torn away using a small metal pick, and concentrated allergens applied with an eye dropper. Swollen weals dotted the
rows, ragged-edged blotches of pink and flatfish puffs the colour of her skin, like mosquito bites. She pointed at each of
them saying, this is mould, this is cut grass, this is another
type of mould. There was one near her wrist that she couldn't
stop scratching. This was three days before.
We each had our favourite parts of Ed's school visits. Felice's was the part
of the story when the flood waters calmed, and they sat on their roofs for
hours, watching fish swimming underfoot, darting along the eaves and
poking their tiny round mouths out just above the surface of the water.
Mine was the section of the film that showed the houses submerged. I
would picture the rooms full to their ceilings with water, like aquariums,
curtains swaying like seaweed in the current. Anna's favourite part was
58 the end, when Ed rewound the film with the projector light still on, and
we watched the water recede, the clouds darken and fade, birds light on
the tips of tree branches, black against the white sky.
Vesica piscis
My mother was in the living room, wiping the dust from the mantle,
the turntable. I asked her if she remembered the time she thought we
were gone. Felice was six, writing lemon juice messages on old sheets
of foolscap, then holding them over a candle to reveal the words. We
were in the basement, and I watched as she left a piece of paper over
the flame too long, and it caught. It was winter and she started running
with the paper up the stairs. At the top she flung open the side door and
thrust her arm out far enough that the fire, when released, would not fly
back into the house. The flames were swallowed by a snow bank, leaving
only a small piece of the page on which writing was visible. Melted snow
seeped through the paper, muddying the lines, making the ink swell and
overflow the banks of each letter, filling every loop and curl.
As we crouched on the step watching the secret words darken and
blur, we heard yelling from a few houses down, and Felice put one finger to her lips. We went back into the house for our boots and coats,
slunk to the far edge of our yard, then along the neighbour's rear fence
to listen, hidden. In the clear, cold day their voices sounded like they
were wrapped in glass, each with a different sound, like a chime or a
xylophone key.
Ten minutes later we were back in the house, filling a cup with juice
from a plastic lemon, when my mother ran in from outside. The door
slammed. She was out of breath and we could see that she was scared.
"Where were you?" she screamed.
I asked her if she had known about Len.
"No," she said and then she told me. As she dusted, I asked her about
a fourth missing girl.
In December of 1975, two weeks before I was born, forty-three children stood dressed as birds at the front of the church, in costumes made
of garbage bags. They had cut feathers out of coloured tissue paper and
taped them on in rows, and pinned yellow construction paper beaks
to their toques and hoods. Standing in tiers on the steps around the
altar they waited for their cue to begin, creating a soft rustle as they
My mother and father sat perched in the balcony. They had never
had a child before and in those days watched their surroundings with
fear and excitement, as though the world itself were a prologue to an
59 entirely new one that was about to be revealed, forming out of everything around them. The lights went down and my father squeezed my
mother's hand.
A spotlight appeared on a group of snow buntings, who introduced
the story with a four-line song. Then the whole stage was lit, revealing
blue jays and cardinals, tanagers and swallows and warblers of all kinds,
each with markings rendered in layered sections of translucent paper
around their arms and throats. The smallest children were dressed as
chickadees with black toques on their round heads, and once their part
was over they sat directly on the floor beneath them, some falling asleep
on the red carpet. Periodically one of them would get up abruptly and
run down the aisle, returning to their parents as though released from a
As the finale began, Ms. Clark indicated with one upraised arm that
the audience should stand and join in. The lights were lowered again
and the children, singing, made their way through the dark to the back
of the church, some with flashlights, the older ones with candles that kept
going out in the draft. The buntings and swallows criss-crossed through
the procession, arms outstretched, knocking into each other until finally
the aisle was empty, the song ended, and the lights were turned back on.
Everyone milled towards the back, parents assembling with ski jackets
held open like nets with which they could recapture their children.
As my parents descended the staircase my father kept twisting around
to make sure that my mother's feet landed squarely on each and every
step. They heard scuffling below, then several voices that grew louder
and louder. A child's name was repeated over and over again—at first it
was a question mark, then an exclamation point, then a question mark
again. There was an interval of silence before everyone realized that
something was wrong. As they searched for the girl, a set of tarnished
gold fans spun overhead and her name was called over and over again,
across a bright shifting sea of tissue paper feathers.
A row of houses
"For you," Felice said, handing me a note written on pink and mauve
dollar store stationery. There was an illustration of a basket of flowers on
the top and a ribbon along the border, woven under and over the lines
on the page.
"It was in the mailbox," she said. "Note the circles used to dot the 'i's."
I looked out the window, across the highway. Linda was in the car lot,
polishing an old Hertz van with a huge band of black covering the name
on the side.
60 One night a couple of years before, Linda had come to our door. It
was January and in some places the snowdrifts swept over the tops of
fences, soft deep waves of blue under the dome of light that spread from
the highway and the town behind it. She stood there in her parka and a
felt skirt, with clumps of snow spilling into the tops of her boots, melting
against her nylons. All of her clothes looked like she made them herself—matching two-piece sets in a stiff fabric that was constantly shifting
around her body, with puffed-out seams as though the front and back
panels were pasted together and hung over her shoulders, like she was a
paper doll.
She asked if our phone was working and Felice told me to go check,
never letting her eyes off Linda and not moving at all to allow her in. She
was in a phase where she did this to everyone, mentally committing their
facial features to memory like she was taking down the licence plate of
a suspicious car. I came back with the cordless phone and squeezed between Felice and the door, opening it wider to let Linda through. Felice
shrugged her shoulders and we all sat at the kitchen table while Linda
made her phone call. When she was done she told us that she was alone
over there.
"Len goes to Florida every year," she said. Felice asked why she didn't
go with him.
"Oh you know," she said. "I'm not one for the sun. And someone has
to run the lot."
She cleared her throat.
"I used to watch you two tobogganing," she said. "'Those kids,' I used
to say to Len. 'It's lucky for them the fence is there, lest they find themselves flying right out into the road.'"
A week iater we saw that Len was back, his skin all tanned and leathery, and there was a thank-you note in our mailbox written in round
bubbly letters, with a star above the 'i' in Linda.
A week after they found Anna, I met Linda at the Dairy Queen, where
she swamped me with an endless supply of Len-always-saids.
"'Odometers can be turned back' he would say. 'If you don't know
that, I don't feel sorry for you.' I didn't really like that," Linda said.
Linda fidgeted while everything around her was still, and her mouth
in particular seemed never to stop moving. She kept jumping up in the
middle of sentences to go to the counter. I focused on the sound of the
Blizzard machine. The table was littered with glassine paper wrappers,
square pouches with patches of red and yellow diamonds on the front.
61 "You got my note," she said, but we had already been talking for ten
We sat in a booth, and she bought me a Dilly bar, and a chili dog. I
didn't want either of them, or at least I wished that she had got the chili
dog first instead of the other way around. Also I wished that I wasn't
there talking to her at all. The more she spoke the more I felt the past
rearranging itself, and retroactive panic as she filled in the gaps. She slid
a paper cup full of water back and forth across the table, saying that she
had already told everything to the police, but that she thought someone
should talk to me directly before it all got out.
It was Linda who led police to Len's childhood home, which was not
a home at all but a bump in the ground, an oak tree and sections of an
old fence. The cellar door stuck only a little, and Linda stumbled a bit on
the steps, but then they saw. Narrow shelves floor to ceiling, made of two
by sixes that seemed to be embedded in the dirt walls, holding row upon
row of old mason jars. She walked closer, tracing her fingers over raised
glass letters, peering inside and seeing: a yellow plastic fawn, some gold
earrings, a white paper feather. There was a blue tin with dragons painted on it, a charm bracelet, and among a hundred other trinkets glowing
bright, five jars that held nothing but ashes.
Frog catching
We went frog catching in the park. Really I did all of the catching, Anna
couldn't pick them up. The instant she felt their hearts and lungs pulsing against her cupped hands they would spring open, sending the frog
soaring with one leg dangling behind as it scrambled in the air. Once we
found a dead frog with a white and bloated tongue stretched far ahead
of his deflated body.
"It looks like someone shoved a piece of macaroni down his throat,"
Anna said, and started crying.
"Hey," I said, "he was a macaroni of the 18th century." It was a line in
a book we had read. She started laughing. Then I started laughing, then
crying, both of us bent forward with our hands on our knees to steady
Vanishing Point
Once I thought of leaving this place. Dad had been out on the road
for two weeks. He called one night in July and Mom talked to him as
the three of us sat at the kitchen table. She listened, smiling sweetly as
62 though he were right there in front of her, and then tilted the receiver
away from her mouth.
"He says Abbott and Costello are on satellite at the motel."
Felice laughed. When we were small, our father told us each a new
bedtime story every single night.
"Choose three things," he would say, and then assemble the story
around them. The stories were always different, even though the ingredients were often the same. For the longest time Felice almost always
chose a hollow log, a bag of marbles and a talking rabbit or lynx. Then
one Saturday we watched Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and from
that time on all her stories included a house with a hidden room, behind
a secret revolving door.
"Come home in one piece," my mother said into the phone.
"How else," said Felice, and she pulled apart a Lego man she'd been
working on."What have you got here?" she said to me, pulling from behind my ear our favourite piece—the translucent trapezoid. "Wouldn't
he look nice with a windshield for a head?"
The next morning I got up early and crossed the highway. A wire
fence ran perpendicular to the highway and birds sat gently bobbing all
along it, some clutching their feet to the rectangular cells for just a moment before passing through. After an hour of waiting and holding my
thumb out I began to picture myself from a distance—on the horizon,
not moving but shimmering, shimmering until I disappeared.
I heard footsteps behind me, and turned around.
"You want to take a look at the car?" said Len. "The one you and your
friend like so much?"
"That's my sister," I said. My head felt heavy from the heat of the
There was a month when I was ten during which Felice and I came
to look at the car whenever we could, our favourite because there were
clear orange dice atop the lock pulls. Sometimes Len would come out
of his office and tell us not to touch it, other times he would describe its
features to us as though we were real customers.
Suddenly I was dizzy, and felt myself stumbling down one side of the
ditch and up the other. Len took a big step forward and caught my arm.
Just as he did, a car whipped by on the highway.
"There goes your chance," he said.
"Whatever," I said, staring down the length of the highway as the car
receded from view.
"You better sit down in the shade for a minute," he said, opening the
door of a copper-coloured Reliant.
It was cool inside on the burgundy velour seats. There were ashes all
over the dash and it smelled like the pink fluoride they make you line
63 up for at school. The car faced the road and I could see my mother in
our backyard, kneeling in the garden, framed by the windshield. On the
floor there was a muddy map and a 1976 guide to Eastern Ontario. We
had one just like it at home, and I'd read it over and over again, trying
and failing to find a mention of our town.
"Do you know my wife Linda?" Len was holding a picture in front of
my face, blocking out the scene of my mother in the garden.
"Yes," I said, but this picture was not of the Linda I knew. It was
old—square with a white border. There was a woman wearing a bright
pink suit jacket and miniskirt, the top of one stocking showing. She was
standing in front of what looked like the back of a closet, with wood-
veneer panelling. A paint-by-number picture of a sad-eyed dog hung
from a coat-hook over her shoulder.
"I like to paint," Len said. "I bet you didn't know that."
I thought about how the lot must look from the other side of the road.
From my sister's window, for example, it would waver silver in the heat.
I'd be invisible in this picture, hidden behind a reflection of the sky.
My elbow was on the vinyl arm rest that was pulled down between
the two seats. I felt it tugging at the skin on my arm, my palms were
sweaty, then his hand was on my leg and he wasn't taking the picture
away. Suddenly I was in motion, my right shoulder pressing against the
door as I pulled the handle towards me. I ran across the highway without
looking, something I'd been warned all my life not to do. As I neared
my house the smell of fried zucchini coming from next door made my
stomach fold in on itself, and my mother, fussing over green tomatoes
that were camouflaged among their own leaves, leaned back and looked
at me.
"What have you been doing?" she said.
In the space between my foot and one of the rocks that bordered the
vegetable garden there were shiny black crickets moving along with their
funny horizontal hops, legs sweeping together like tiny barbed scissors.
"Okay," she said.
I opened the side door and stood at the top of the stairs that led down
to the cool basement. My sister was sitting on the bottom step, practising
magic tricks. "Hold out your hand," she said.
That day at the post office, Ed said that I hadn't imagined the part about
the lady who died. He had told us about it just once, the year we were in
grade six, but seeing our distress decided never to mention it again.
64 "When they found Ellie Creighton," he said, "her son Len was there.
The cellar doors burst open and everything in the basement spilled
out—Ellie and a broken chair and everything in her pantry. I remember
she had a brooch on her sweater. I think he kept it."
I tried to picture it, cans and mason jars and bloated boxes of pancake mix spread all over the water-logged yard, and Len, unfastening
the brooch from her sweater, bits of dirt and rust falling down the sides
of a mason jar as he unscrewed the lid, dropping the brooch inside. And
I knew, because I had seen it, that where there once was a house, now
there is nothing. Just a mound of sod that half-conceals a cellar door, and
an oak tree that has grown around a page wire fence, with thin metal
tangles curling back towards the trunk and its many strands of bark tapering into a few just above it, like a dart in a mitten.
After all the evidence was processed, a funeral was finally held for Anna.
At the church hall afterward we ate pieces of coconut cream pie off flimsy
paper plates. In the kitchen the Women's League ladies and their daughters were chirping around a huge table that took up most of the room,
covered in heavy glass bowls full of green Jell-O with peas, redJell-O
with shredded carrot. Plastic bowls with white pleated lids concealed
coleslaw, three-bean salad, devilled eggs. These things were always the
same. Wedding, funeral, baptism, confirmation: the same people and
the same midday light from the window refracting through the bowls of
Jell-O like stained glass.
Felice tugged on my sleeve.
"Mom and Dad said that you could drive me home," she said. "And
we could go to the Dairy Queen."
We took the back way, through the parking lot of the box factory,
driving around in circles while we ate our ice cream.
Felice turned to me. "Do you think you have all the pieces?"
I wasn't sure. I thought of the art project we did once in Ms. Clark's
class. A huge landscape painting that she'd found at a garage sale was cut
up into three-by-three inch squares, and each of us was given pieces of it.
We were to paint new squares, imitating the originals, then reassemble
the painting. One of Anna's pieces was a section of sky with part of a
bird wing in it, and most of mine were from the river, just water from
edge to edge. When the paint dried we taped the squares to the wall, following a numbered diagram. In the end it was the same painting, but it
wasn't. Every square was painted in a different style, with slightly different colours, creating grid lines that made it difficult to absorb the whole
65 scene at once. There was a tree stand near the horizon line, for example,
that seemed to be in both the background and foreground at once, because no one had used the same shades of black and green to paint the
shadows among the leaves.
Felice leaned forward, towards the windshield.
"Look," she said. "It's snowing."
Flakes of grey and white were falling from the sky—ashes fluttering
from the factory smokestack, filling the circles left by my tires. We saw
some light down on the glass, then drift gently aside as the car moved
66 Derk Wynand
Tristesse Tropique
Did I mention the blue butterfly?
Blue—did I mention that
it shone blue? Yes, shone.
Such a blue.
The butterfly—did I say just
how blue it was? Impossible
to pin down or even imagine
such a shade.
The blue wings of the butterfly—
did I mention I saw them? Saw
the wings and the blue as if
through your eyes?
How blue they were.
Did I mention that? I saw them.
The blue wings. Imagine.
The body. The eyes.
67 Margaret Avison
A plague of locusts is
a reminder that the
focus on knees and thighs
in stringy and gangling
insects can inspire invidious
Nimble in
chain-armour (below) with an
upsidedown carapace (shellacked)
these tiny
obstreporousnesses model
adoptable fashion trends.
The elderly, too,
are scant in underpinnings, and
angular. But,
unlike the locusts, these
swarm very seldom. Each may
go with a stick; a plague, perhaps first to
themselves. Yet, their
undemanding pleasure in the
world out under such a
mysterious (some days dazzling) sky
may be a to-be-
desired infection.
68 In Memory of Margaret Avison
We were saddened to hear of Margaret Avison's death in early August.
For over forty years she added greatly to Canadian poetry, forging new
rhythms and using language in stunning and unpredictable ways. We
are honoured to have published one of her last poems.
The Editors,
PRISM international
69 Contributors
Margaret Avison was born in Gait, Ontario. After graduating from the
University of Toronto, in order to free up evenings for her writing, she
worked by day as an editor, office clerk, ghost writer, lecturer, translator
and mission worker. Over the course of her writing life, she was awarded
two Governor General's Awards, three honorary doctorates, an Order
of Canada and a Griffin Prize. Her first six volumes of poetry were collected as Always Now (2003), and a seventh, Momentary Dark, appeared
in 2006.
John Barton has published eight award-winning collections of poetry
and five chapbooks. West of Darkness: Emily Can, a self-portrait, his third
book, was republished in a bilingual edition by BuschekBooks in 2006.
Co-editor of Seminal: The Anthology of Canada's Gay Male Poets (Arsenal
Pulp, 2007), he lives in Victoria, where he edits The Malahat Review.
Claire Battershill has been living in England for the past three years
and is about to move back to Canada to start her PhD in English and
Book History at the University of Toronto. She has had poems published
in several magazines in Canada and the UK, most recently in The Malahat Review and The New Quarterly.
Luis Chaves is a Costa Rican poet. He published his first book of poetry, El Anonimo, in 1996 with Guayacan Press. His second book, Los animates que imaginamos (Conaculta, Mexico), won the 1997 Sor. Juana Ines
de la Cruz prize for poetry. His most recent book, Chan Marshall (Visor,
Spain), won the 2005 Fray Luis de Leon prize. He is also the co-editor of
the poetry magazine Los Amigos de lo Ajeno.
Jan Conn's sixth book of poetry, Jaguar Rain, was published by Brick
Books in 2006. She studies the ecology and evolution of mosquitoes that
transmit human pathogens, especially in Latin America. She won the
Malahat Review P.K. Page Founders' Award for Poetry in 2006.
Golda Fried, originally from Toronto, went to university in Montreal.
Her collection of stories, Darkness Then A Blown Kiss (1998), was selected
as the sixth best book of the year by Now. In spring 2005, her Governor-
General's Award-nominated first novel, Nellcott is My Darling, was pub-
70 lished by Coach House. She recently co-wrote Summer Ink, an illustrated
collection of letters with Vesna Mostovac published by Kiss Machine.
Greg Girard, a Canadian photographer, has spent much of his life in
Asia, most recently Shanghai. His work documents the physical and social transformations taking place in China and across Asia. He divides
his time between photographing on assignment for publications such as
National Geographic, Time and Newsweek, and pursuing personal work.
During his time abroad he has published two books: City of Darkness, a
document of the final years of the Kowloon Walled City, and Phantom
Shanghai, published in 2007 by the Magenta Foundation.
Kim Goldberg's once-firm grasp on Newtonian reality has given way to
poetry ever since she awoke from a T'ai Chi coma. Her literary outbursts
have appeared or are forthcoming in The Dalhousie Review, Tesseracts Eleven, Rampike, Front, filling Station and previously in PRISM international.
Her fifth book, Ride Backwards On Dragon (a poet's journey through Liuheba-
fa) will be released this fall from Leaf Press. She lives in Nanaimo, BC.
Warren Heiti is studying philosophy at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Some of his poems were anthologized in Breathing Fire
2: Canada's New Poets (Nightwood Editions, 2004).
Chris Hutchinson is a Vancouver poet temporarily relocated to Tempe,
Arizona, where he teaches creative writing and English composition at
Arizona State University. He is the author of Unfamiliar Weather (Muses'
Company, 2005), and lives with a Chihuahua named Basho.
Vanessa Moeller received her MA in Creative Writing from the University of New Brunswick in 2007 and has had work appear in The Fiddle-
head and The Pottersfield Portfolio. She is an unapologetic polymath whose
addictions aside from writing include running, filmmaking, photography, collage and bookbinding.
Matt Rader's second collection, Living Things, is forthcoming from
Nightwood Editions. This September he will appear at the Queensland
Poetry Festival in Brisbane, Australia. He lives in Eugene, Oregon.
James Riseborough has recently returned to Vancouver, the city in
which he feels most naturally at home. His stories have appeared in
numerous publications in Canada and the United States, including the
Journey Prize Anthology.
71 Mira Rosenthal is a poet, translator and editor of Lyric Poetry Review.
Her poems have appeared recently in Ploughshares, The American Poetry
Review, Seneca Review and elsewhere. Her translations have appeared in
various journals, and she recently published a full-length collection with
Zephyr Press, The Forgotten Keys: Selected Poems ofTomasz Rozycki (2007).
Her awards include a Fulbright Fellowship and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and the Banff International Translation Centre.
Tomasz Rozycki is a Polish poet of the middle generation. He is the
author of five books of poetry, most recently The Colonies, and the book-
length poem Twelve Stations, winner of the Koscielski Prize. His work has
appeared in English translation in Poetry Wales, Lyric Poetry Review and
elsewhere. He has received the Krzysztof Kamiel Baczyiiski Prize, the
Joseph Brodski Prize from Zeszyty Literackie and has been nominated
for the Nike Prize, Poland's most important literary award. He lives in
his native city Opole with his wife and two children.
Eleonore Schonmaier's poetry collection Treading Fast Rivers (McGill-
Queen's University Press) was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for best first book of poetry by a Canadian. Most recently
her poetry has been published in Event, The Fiddlehead, Arc, Canadian
Literature and To Find Us: Words and Images of Halifax. Eleonore currently
divides her time between the south shore of Nova Scotia and coastal
S. Kennedy Sobol grew up in the Ottawa Valley, and currently lives in
Toronto, Ontario. "Some Light Down" is her first published story.
Justin Varava was born and raised in Illinois. He has since moved to
California in reckless westerly bounds.
Derk Wynand's most recent books are Dead Man's Float (Brick Books,
2002) and Midsummer Cut/Mittsommerschnitt, translated from the German
of Dorothea Griinzweig (a bilingual edition published by Buschek Books
in 2002).
Elizabeth Zuba, poet, artist and translator, resides in Brooklyn. She is
Associate Editor of Swerve, a magazine of contemporary art and poetry, Her poetry, reviews and essays have been occasionally sighted in unsuspecting print.
72 ■my , .        k*     "
"/ .-fi ' '■' i   -h   ' '      " ': ■■■■' ■   ■    ''■■    '■;.-.
i«, '.     wis-   : *:    *» ' ' '" ..-■•%■      ■;.;:■'■
_.     „   ,    ,  *-*> .    *   \ •• I "        \     •
The Creative Writing Program at U.B.C.
The University of British Columbia offers
both a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and
a Master of Pine Arts degree in Creative
Writing. The M.F.A. degree may also be
taken by distance education. See our
website for more details.
Students work in multiple genres,
including: Poetry, Novel/Novella, Short
Fiction, Stage Play, Screen & TV Play,
Radio Play, Writing for Children, Non-
fiction, Translation, and Song Lyrics &
Meryn Cadell
Keith Maillard
Maureen Medved
Andreas Schroeder
Linda Svendsen
Peggy Thompson
Rhea Tregebov
Bryan Wade
Online Faculty (M.F.A.):
Luanne Armstrong, Gail Anderson-Dargatz,
Brian Brett, Sioux Browning, Catherine
Bush, Zsuzsi Gartner, Gary Geddes,
Terry Glavin, Wayne Grady, Sara Graefe,
Stephen Hunt, Glen Huser, Peter Levitt &?
Susan Musgrave For contest details, go to
or call 1-877-888-6788
$6f000 first prize
$4,000 second prize
courtesy of the Canada Council for the Arts.
CBC will offer visibility, to the winners and their
winning works, which will also be published
in Air Canada's enRoute magazine;
CBC •<•»> Radio-Canada
Conseil des Arts
du Canada
enRoute Only Love Can
Break Your Heart
But it's always done pretty well at the box
office, and all three of Oberon's new fiction
titles are trying to figure out why.
First up is Goody Bledsoe, a novel from
the Maritimes by Heather Doherty, about
the love between a dying mother and the
daughter she is forced to give away, and how
the daughter spends her life trying to
replace and repay it. Here's what David
Adams Richards, who knows something
about both writing and love, says about this
book: "Heather Doherty has written an
exceptionally moving and brilliant first
novel, a novel that must be read." Then
there's The Ratcatcher by Abraham
Boyarsky, about a middle-aged exterminator who turns an abandoned hotel into a
homeless shelter, finding love in the process
first with a Cree breast-cancer victim, and
then with the wife of a Pequiste politician.
"The Ratcatcher opens brilliantly with a
fascinating idea.. .a sensually evoked setting,
and striking imagery"—Montreal Review of
Books. And finally there's Dance of the
Suitors by J.M. Villaverde, a sequence of
stories that turns into a witty and unapolo-
getic debate about the meaning of love.
What is love? Each of the characters is
certain he knows the answer to this question posed by almost every popular song,
but events surprise them all. Prairie Fire
says: "In Dance of the Suitors readers are
transported into territory more outre than
E. Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain."
Goody Bledsoe, The Ratcatcher, Dance
of the Suitors: three books that may raise
as many questions as answers, but then
questions are what love's all about. Or are
Oberon Press
205-145 Spruce St Ottawa Kir6pi
613 238-32J5 Fiddlehead
$1,000 Ralph Gustafson Prize for Poetry
and $500 Each for Two Honourable Mentions
$1,000 for Best Story
and $500 Each for Two Honourable Mentions
$4,000 Total Prize Money!!!
General No simultaneous submissions and no previously published (or
accepted for publication) submissions. Do not include a SASE. Manuscripts
will not be returned. The contest results will be published in the Spring
2008 issue of The Fiddlehead (No. 235) and on our web site.
One Fiction Entry is one story of up to 25 pages
One Poetry Entry is up to 3 poems with no more than 100 lines per
Entry Fee $30 (CAD) for Canadian entries and $36 (US) for U.S. and
overseas entries. The entry fee includes a one year subscription to The
Fiddlehead. Multiple submissions are allowed but only your first entry
in each category will be eligible for a subscription.
Deadline December 15, 2007
For Further Information visit our web site web site: or e-mail us at:
Send Entries to:
The Fiddlehead • Campus House • 11 Garland Court • UNB
PO Box 4400 • Fredericton, N.B. • E3B 5A3 Palimpsest Press — New Poetry Collections
Andrea MacPherson's Natural Disasters: Poems
explores memory and history, asking if it is possible to
inherit the past and generational complexities. From
the dry land of the interior of British Columbia to the
rugged beauty of the west coast shoreline, these
settings affect not only language and mood, but
tangible links to the past.
Diane Tucker's Bright Scarves of Hours explores common
domestic landscapes — car-pooling with children, walking
the dog, vacation snapshots and recipes. Wrought with the
burdens and triumphs of familiar love, the language seeks
to connect us while celebrating the sometimes contrary
desires and hidden grace found in the everyday. Rules:
• Maximum entry length is 100 lines, typed, double-spaced;
• The writer should not be identified of the entry: include a separate cover sheet with name, address,
• email & phone number, and the title of the submitted poem;
• Previously published material, or material accepted elsewhere for publication, cannot be considered;
• Include a S.A.S.E. (with appropriate Canadian postage/ IRCs/ US $1);
• Descant employees are not eligible to enter
Entry Fee:
• $29: includes GST + a one-year subscription; make cheque or international money order payable to: Descant
• Multiple entries are allowed: however, each entry must be accompanied by its own entry fee;
• Note that current subscribers will receive a one-year extension to their subscription period M.Ml£ HERE.
From Literature to Business, all written from a refreshingly Canadian
viewpoint you won't find anywhere else. Just look for the Genuine
Canadian Magazine icon at your favourite newsstand, or visit to find what interests you.  PRISM is Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Translation & Creative Nonfiction
Margaret Avison
John Barton
Claire Battershill
Luis Chaves
Jan Conn
Golda Fried
Kim Goldberg
Warren Heiti
Chris Hutchinson
Vanessa Moeller
Matt Rader
James Riseborough
Mira Rosenthal
Tomasz Rozycki
Eleonore Schonmaier
S. Kennedy Sobol
Justin Varava
Derk Wynand
Elizabeth Zuba
Cover Art:
Sailor, Yokosuka, Japan (with beer bottle), 1976
by Greg Girard
'72D0b "flt,3tl


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