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 PRISM international
Winter 2010
Margaret Atwood
Jorge Luis Borges
Italo Calvino
Raymond Carver
Seamus Heaney
Ted Hughes
Irving Layton
Michael Ondaatje
P.K. Page
Carol Shields
and more...
Contemporary Writing from Canada and Around the World  PRISM international
Retrospective  PRISM international
Fiction Editor
Rachel Knudsen
Poetry Editor
Elizabeth Ross
Executive Editors
Nadia Pestrak
Dan Schwartz
Advisory Editors
Steven Galloway
Rhea Tregebov
Production Manager
Jennifer Herbison
Research Assistants
Brianna Brash-Nyberg
Ria Voros 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 © 2010 PRISM international for the authors.
Cover Art: PRISM'S Birthday by Julie Morstad.
Subscription Rates: One-year individual $28.00; two-year individual $46;
library and institution one-year $35; two-year $55. Sample copy by mail is $11.
U.S. and international subscribers, please pay in U.S. dollars. Please
note that U.S. POSTAL money orders are not accepted. Make cheques payable
to: PRISM international. All prices include GST and shipping and handling.
Submission Guidelines: PRISM international purchases First North
American Serial Rights for $40.00 per page for poetry and $20.00 per page
for other genres. Contributors receive a one-year subscription. PRISM also
purchases limited digital rights for selected work, for which it pays an
additional $10.00 per page. All manuscripts should be sent to the editors
at the above address. Manuscripts should be accompanied by an email
address. If you wish to receive your response by regular mail, please include
a self-addressed envelope with Canadian stamps or International Reply
Coupons. Translations should be accompanied by a copy of the work(s) in
the original language. The advisory editor is not responsible for individual
selections, but for the magazine's overall mandate including continuity,
quality and budgetary obligations.
For details on how to place an advertisement in PRISM international, please
contact our executive editors. PRISM occasionally exchanges subscriber lists
with other literary magazines; please contact us if you wish to be excluded
from such exchanges.
Our gratitude to Dean Nancy Gallini and the Dean of Arts Office at the
University of British Columbia. We gratefully acknowledge the financial
support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the British Columbia Arts
Winter 2010. ISSN 0032.8790
BRITISH COLUMBIA     WW     Canada Council    Conseil des Arts
ARTS COUNCIL <±>   for the Arts du Canada Contents
Volume 48, Number 2
Winter 2010
Editors' Note / 8
Italo Calvino
Moon and GNAC / 12
translated from the Italian by Helen Barolini
Carol Shields
Family Secrets / 22
Bill Gaston
Comedian Tire / 35
Leon Rooke
Addressing the Assassins / 48
Thomas King
Trap Lines / 55
Mark Anthony Jarman
The Second Little Pig Discusses Finances With His Wife / 68
Lisa Moore
Various Degrees Of Nakedness / 11
Jorge Luis Borges
Tales of the Fantastic / Poetry
Robert Kroetsch
Birthday / 9
Ted Hughes
Skin /  10
Anna Akhmatova
Bury Me, Bury Me, Wind! /  11
translated from the Russian by Judith Hemschemeyer
Wislawa Szymborska
Experiment / 17
translated from the Polish by Andrzej Busza & Bodan Czaykowski
Margaret Atwood
The Explorers /  18
Bronwen Wallace
You Just Can't Get Them Out of Your Head / 20
Michael Ondaatje
The Time Around Scars / 31
Kim Maltman
Ice Fishing Cessford Lake / 33
Ken Babstock
What We Didn't Tell the Medic / 34
Alden Nowlan
For Helen and Martha Knox
Hainesville, New Brunswick
Missionaries to Kenya, 1910-1940 / 42
On Seeing a Bear Tied to a Fender / 43
Don McKay
Abandoned Cable / 44
Hiking With My Shadow / 45
Matt Rader
Falling / 46 Stephanie Bolster
North America's Favourite Zoo Animal / 47
Raymond Carver
Cheers / 51
Roo Borson
The Wind and the Rain / 52
Lorna Crozier
Al's House / 53
Seamus Heaney
Wedding Day / 54
Li Bai
Thoughts on a Quiet Night / 65
translated from the Chinese by Ouyang Yu
Patrick Lane
Too Spare, Too Fierce / 66
Sue Sinclair
American Windows / 67
Erin Moure
Wearing the Map of Africa / 72
George McWhirter
Siesta / 74
Irving Layton
At the Iglesia de Sacromonte / 76
Jan Zwicky
Study: Disciplines /  84
P.K. Page
Conversation / 85
Al Purdy
The Dead Poet / 86
How do you throw a party for a good friend? This special edition
celebrates PRISM international's fifty-year relationship with new
and established writers from Canada and around the world.
Founded by Earle Birney, PRISM international has been publishing the
best new national and international writing since 1959. With its simple
mandate of printing excellent writing and translation, PRISMhas stood
the test of time.
It's not every day that a literary journal reaches the big five-o, so we
here at PRISM have been hard at work planning the festivities—an extended retrospective edition that showcases some of our finest literary
moments. For the past four years, editors and researchers have been
combing through our archives in search of the best of the best.
The original shortlist was extensive, spanning from a beautiful short
story by Margaret Laurence published in the very first edition of PRISM,
to poetry by Don McKay published at the turn of this century. All of
Canada's greats were on the list—Irving Layton, Carol Shields, Al
Purdy, Eden Robinson, to name a few. The list of international writers
was staggering—Italo Calvino, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tennessee Williams, Joyce Carol Oates, to name a few again. Once the shortlist was
complete, we had the difficult task of sourcing permissions to reprint the
pieces. We tracked down writers, searched for publishers, and pleaded
and cajoled for rights. All the while, we tried to ensure that the content
represented a balance of decades and continents.
It was worth the effort. The 50lh Anniversary Edition of PRISM international features some of the world's finest writing. Pieces by Margaret
Atwood, Raymond Carver, Seamus Heaney,Jorge Luis Borges, Michael
Ondaatje—many of whom were unknown when they first appeared in
PRISM—are included in this extended retrospective.
Here in Vancouver, we're pouring wine and toasting to PRISM international. Wherever you are in the world, raise your glass with us. Here's
to fifty years of great writing and to fifty more. Let the celebration begin!
—Rachel Knudsen & Elizabeth Ross
8     PRISM 48:2 Robert Kroetsch n-.i (Fail W69)
Winter is
not the crow's
season, is
not the sun's
:I heard
a crow in the frost
hard dawn, I saw
a crow riding the
slant sun.     9 Ted Hughes 15:2&3 (Summer &Fall 1976)
Made out of the company of grass.
Grass pricked it
In its language
Smelling fellow earth, but somehow nervous.
Skin tightened
Suppressing its reflex
Shudder of dawn—
Thinking, it is beginning, just fingerings
At my knots,
Then will come rippings, and drenchings of
And my naked joy
Will be lifted out with shouts of joy—
And if that is the end of me
Let it be the end of me.
10     PRISM 48:2 Anna Akhmatova 79.3 (spring 7977)
translated from the Russian by Judith Hemschemeyer
Bury Me, Bury Me, Wind!
Bury me, bury me, wind!
My relatives have not come.
Over me is the wandering evening
And the earth's quiet breathing.
Like you I was free,
But I wanted too much to live.
Here is my cold corpse, wind, do you see?
And no one to fold my arms.
Cut out for this black wound
A shroud of evening gloom
And command the blue mist
To read psalms over me.
Make it easy for me, all alone,
To embark on my final dream,
Make the tall sedge roar
That spring, my spring, is here.     11 Itdlo CalviUO 79:2 (Winter 7980)
translated from the Italian by Helen Barolini
Moon and GNAC
The night lasted twenty seconds; and twenty seconds the
GNAC. For twenty seconds you could see blue sky laced with
black clouds, the golden crescent of a waxing moon made
even more evident by a misty halo, and then stars which thickened in
their pin-prick brilliance the more you looked at them, all the way
to the great dust-cloud of the Milky Way—all this seen in a quick
glance since pausing over a detail meant missing the whole because
the sky's allotted twenty seconds were soon gone and GNAC went
GNAC was part of the ad for SPAAK-COGNAC on the rooftop
across the way that lit up for twenty seconds and went off for another
twenty, and when it was on there was nothing else: the moon faded,
the sky became uniformly black and flat, the stars lost their shine,
and cats which ten seconds before had been meowing amorously
and moving languidly towards each other along roof peaks and gutters, suddenly, with GNAC, crouched down on the tiles, their fur
standing on end in the glaring neon light.
GNAC faced the garret flat where Marcovaldo and his family
lived. As each one of the family peered out into the night, he or she
was rent by conflicting thoughts. When the night sky prevailed, the
almost grown-up Isolina was moved by the moonlight, her heart
seemed to burst, and even the faintest croak of radio which reached
her from the lower floors was like the strains of some serenade; then
on came GNAC and the radio seemed to give out another, more
jazz-like rhythm which Isolina wriggled to, stretching within her
skimpy dress and thinking of dance balls, all lit up and filled, while
she, poor thing, was left behind up there.
Pietruccio and Michelina peered out wide-eyed into the night
and conjured up the enveloping, warm fear of being surrounded by
forests full of brigands; then GNAC! and they thrust their fingers,
thumbs high, towards each other crying, "Hands up! I'm Nembo
Kid!" Their mother Domitilla, at each stretch of night would think,
"I should get these kids away, this air could be bad for them...and
12     PRISM 48:2 that Isolina there at the window at this time of night—it's not right!"
But then everything turned bright and electric again, inside and out,
and Domitilla would feel transported, a visitor to some fine home.
As for Marcovaldo's super-developed fifteen-year-old son, each
time GNAC went out Fiorello was able to see through the loop of its
letter G into the dimly lit window of the flat across the way, where
the moon-coloured, neon-colored, night-lighted face of a girl was
discernible—her still childish mouth, as he smiled at her, barely
opened and seemed just about to smile back, when suddenly from
the darkness that pitiless G of the GNAC flashed on again and the
contours of the girl's face were lost, transformed into a faint light
shadow so that Fiorello never knew if that child-like mouth had answered his smile or not.
In the midst of this tempest of passion, Marcovaldo tried to teach
his children the position of the celestial bodies.
"That's the Big two three four stars and there's the
handle; that's the Little Dipper, and there's Polaris which shows us
the north."
"And what about that other thing—what does that show us?"
"That's a C, and it doesn't have anything to do with the stars. It's
the last letter of the word Cognac. The stars mark out the Cardinal
points: North, South, East, West. The crescent moon is to the West.
Crescent to the West means a waxing moon; crescent to the east, a
waning moon."
"Papa, then Cognac is on the wane? The C's curve is to the east!"
"What does that have to do with anything—that's writing put
there by the Spaak Company."
"And what company put the moon there?"
"No company put the moon there. It's a satellite and it's always
been there. "
"If it's always there why does it change?"
"Those are the quarters. We only see a piece of it."
"We only see a piece of the Cognac, too."
"That's because the roof of the building in front of us is higher."
"Higher than the moon?"
And so, every time GNAC lit up, Marcovaldo's stars were submerged by the world's business, and Isolina's sigh changed to a
hummed mambo, and the girl in the attic disappeared behind the
cold, glaring ring hiding her answer to the kiss that Fiorello had
finally gotten up the courage to send her on his fingertips, and Pietruccio and Michelino played at aerial machine-gunning with their
fists in front of their faces: "Ra..ta..ta..ta.." and aimed at the neon lettering which promptly went out when its twenty seconds were up.     13 "Ra..ta..ta.. See that, Papa, did you see me put it out with a single
round? asked Pietruccio. But as soon as the lighting went out so did
his warrior's bravado and his eyes filled with sleep.
"Don't I wish it!" his father let slip. "If only it would break to
pieces! Then I'd show you the other constellations...Leo the Lion.
Gemini the Twins..."
"The Lion!" Michelino got excited. "Wait a second!" He had gotten an idea. He took his sling, loaded it with the pebbles from the
supply he always kept in his pocket, and shot them off with all his
might towards the GNAC.
They could hear the hail of falling glass scatter on the roof tiles
and gutters across from them, then the tinkle of it against a window,
then the clink of a stone striking the casing of a headlight and a voice
from the street calling up. "It's raining stones! Hey, you guys up
But at the moment of Michelino's shot the neon lettering had just
gone off after the usual twenty seconds. So everyone in the garret
started counting to themselves: one two three...ten eleven...right
up to twenty. At nineteen they held their breath, counted twenty,
twenty-one, twenty-two for fear of having counted too fast, but no,
nothing happened, GNAC didn't go on again; it was left a barely visible black curlique entwined on its framework support like a vine on
an arbor. "Aaaah!" they all shouted and the mantle of heaven spread
starry and infinite above them.
Marcovaldo, hand raised about to swat Michelino, felt himself
thrust into space. The darkness that now reigned over the rooftops
made a shadowy buffer shutting out the lower world of whirling red,
yellow, green lettering, blinking traffic lights, the bright circling paths
cut by empty trolleys, and the cone of light spearheaded from the
lights of invisible autos. Only a diffused sheen, filmy as smoke, managed to climb upward from this world. Raising his now unblinking
gaze upward, a huge prospect of space opened before Marcovaldo,
the constellations spread into deep abysses, the firmament wheeled
all over the place like an all-containing sphere with no limits, and
only one loosened strand in the tapestry, like a rent, opened onto
Venus, where she stood alone above the earth's rim, her stilled burst
of exploded light concentrated in one point.
Hanging in this sky, the new moon no longer appeared concentrated into a sickle but revealed its true nature of opaque sphere
fully illuminated by the slanting rays of a sun lost to the earth but
still (as can be observed only on certain early summer nights) retaining its warm colour in the moon itself. And Marcovaldo, observing
that narrow slice of moon cut there between shadow and light felt a
14     PRISM 48:2 pang of nostalgia similar to the sighting of a beach that had mysteriously remained sunlit in the night. Thus they stood, looking out, the
children frightened by the immense consequences of what they had
done, Isolina rapt, as if in ecstasy, Fiorello the only one among them
to make out the faintly lit window across the way and, in it, finally,
the moonlit smile of the girl.
It was Domitilla who finally came to: "Get along, it's late, what are
you all doing looking out? You'll catch something in all this moon-
Michelino pointed his sling upwards. "I'll turn off the moon!" But
he was snatched up and put to bed.
And so for the rest of that night and all the night after, the neon
sign on the roof out front said only SPAAK-CO and from Marcovaldo's garret you could see the universe. Fiorello and the moonlit
girl sent each other kisses on their fingertips and perhaps by mute
language they might have even managed to fix a meeting.
But on the morning of the second day the slight figures of two
electricians in overalls, testing tubes and wires, could be made out
among the framework of the neon sign on the opposite roof. With
the air of those oldsters who forecast weather, Marcovaldo stuck
his nose outside and said, "Tonight's going to be a GNAC night
Somebody knocked at the garret door and they opened it to a
man with eyeglasses who said, "I beg your pardon. May I take a look
from your window? Thank you." And he introduced himself: "Dr.
Godifredo, representative of outdoor advertising."
"We're ruined! They'll want us to pay damages." Marcovaldo was
thinking to himself, his astronomical raptures a thing of the past, as
he chewed out the children with his eyes. "Once he looks out the
window he'll realize the stones could have been thrown from here."
He tried to fend off disaster. "Well, you know, boys will be boys,
they were aiming at some sparrows in the air and I don't know how
that Spaak sign got hit. But I've punished them, you know. And how
I've punished them! You can be sure they won't do it anymore."
An alert look came over Dr. Godifredo's face. "Actually, I work
for Tomawak Cognac, not Spaak. I came to consider the possibility
of putting a neon sign on this roof. But go ahead with what you were
saying—I'm interested."
That's how, a half hour later, Marcovaldo concluded a deal with
Tomawak Cognac, Spaak's chief rival. The children were to use
their slingshots against the GNAC each time the lettering was reactivated.
"That should be the final blow," said Dr. Godifredo. And he wasn't     15 wrong: already on the verge of bankruptcy because of heavy advertising expenses, Spaak saw the constant ruin of its best neon sign as a
bad omen. The lettering that first said COGAC, then CONAC, then
CONC helped spread the idea of Spaak's financial difficulty among
its creditors; after a certain point the advertising agency refused to
make further repairs until the back bills were met; the unlit sign confirmed the creditors' alarm: Spaak had gone under.
In Marcovaldo's heavens the full moon rounded itself off in all its
It was in its last quarter when the electricians returned to climb up
to the facing roof. And that night, in firey letters twice as high and as
thick as those before, you could read COGNAC TOMAWAK and
there was no longer moon, nor firmament, nor heavens, nor night;
TOMAWAK flashing on and off every two seconds.
The most stricken of all was Fiorello: the moon-girl's flat had disappeared behind an enormous, impenetrable W.
16     PRISM 48:2 Wislawa Szymborska ii-a (Summer 7980)
translated from the Polish by Andrzej Busza &Bodan Czaykowski
In addition to the main movie,
in which the actors did all they could
to move me and even make me laugh,
they featured an interesting experiment
with a head.
A moment ago this head belonged—
now it had been severed;
everyone could see
that it didn't have a body.
Tubes hanging from its neck
connected it to an apparatus
thanks to which the blood
continued to circulate.
The head was doing well.
Its eyes followed a moving light
without sign of pain or even surprise.
It pricked up its ears when the bell rang.
With its moist nose it could tell the difference
between the smell of bacon and odourless nothing;
and licking its lips with obvious relish
it salivated in honour of physiology.
Nice-doggie head,
faithful-doggie head,
when it was stroked, it half-closed its eyes,
believing that it was still part of the whole
that bends its back under a caress
and wags its tail.
I thought of happiness and grew afraid.
For if only that mattered in life,
the head
was happy.     17 Margaret Atwood 5.7 (Fail 7963)
The Explorers
The explorers will come
in several minutes
and find this island.
(It is a stunted island,
rocky, with room
for only a few trees, a thin
layer of soil; hardly
bigger than a bed.
That is how
they've missed it
until now)
Already their boats draw near,
their flags flutter,
their oars push at the water.
They will be jubilant
and shout, at finding
that there was something
they had not found before,
although this island will afford
not much more than a foothold:
little to explore;
but they will be surprised
(we can't see them yet;
we know they must be
coming, because they always come
several minutes too late)
18     PRISM 48:2 (they won't be able
to tell how long
we were cast away, or why,
or, from these
gnawed bones,
which was the survivor)
at the two skeletons.    19 Bronwen Wallace 79:3 (Spring 7977)
You Just Can't Get Them
Out of Your Head
Early evening    there's a
late model car in a driveway
two men standing beside it    one
has his hands still on a lawn mower
and as you pass the other says
"you just can't get them out of your head"
he could be talking about anything
women    the words to a song
but it's the way his voice sounds
in the half-light and now you're thinking
accident    on the way home from work perhaps
the ambulance pulled up to the side of the freeway
and in that blurred instant of the side window
a heap of something on the curb
covered with a sheet
so that now it's ominous
the way tricycles and wagons lie abandoned
on front lawns the edges of sidewalks
20     PRISM 48:2 like those mornings when
you've sent the kids off to school
poured yourself another coffee    opened
The Globe and Mail and on the back page
there's a tiny article
about an unemployed machinist who
drove the family car off a bridge
killing everyone and an even tinier one
about a school teacher
castrated by a hitchhiker
and as you sit there in the kitchen the squeak
of a clothesline being pushed into the sun next door
is suddenly fragile and important
like that clipped end-of-the-day edge
on the voices you hear now from still
opened windows the voices of women
calling children to baths and pyjamas
behind you somewhere two men stand
in shirt sleeves talking of    what
nightmare voices
but when you turn
they're gone
the lawnmower leans neatly
at the side of the garage
and the houses are
hesitant the way houses are at dusk
as if uncertain of limits
what to hold in or keep out
though even as you turn
lights are coming on
and the houses square
around windows    grow
darker    more
sure of themselves    21 Carol Shields 24:3 (Spring 7986)
Family Secrets
Acres of corn, wheat fields and oats led right up to the town
of DeKalb, Illinois where there was a State Normal School
which prepared farm girls to go out and become schoolteachers, one of them being my young mother. This was not long
after the First World War. She was sent first to teach in a four-room
school in a place called Cortland where she stayed for two years.
Why only two years?—I must have asked her this at one time or else
my brother Barclay did. "I got sick," she said, "and had to go home
for a while."
Where did she go? She went back to the forty-acre farm near
Lemond where her mother and father lived, and after a year she got
a job teaching on the west side of Chicago where she soon met our
father and got married and began her real life.
I've thought lately about that time of sickness; what kind of sickness is it that makes a young woman leave a job and go home to her
parents for a whole year? The last time I saw Barclay I said to him,
"I think Mom must have got pregnant that year she had to quit her
first job."
It took him a minute to figure out what I was talking about. For a
man so intelligent he has a poor memory for the details of our childhood. Once I tested him on the colour of the garage doors we had
at home in Maywood. "Blue," he said. "No," I shot back, "brown."
I had to remind him about Mom leaving the school in Cortland. I
had to trot out the whole story, and then he leaned back and smiled
his off-focus smile and said, oh yes, now he remembered.
"Well," I said, "what's your honest opinion? Do you think she got
herself in trouble? As they used to say in those days?"
He shook his moony face. "I doubt it."
"A year's a long time to be sick." I made my voice curl up at the
end, pointed it accusingly at the memory of our dead mother.
"Girls didn't then" Barclay said in a deceptively prim way he has.
"Oh no? What about Mary Organ?"
His face squeezed into a wide smile. He remembered Mary Organ all right, one of the old schoolteacher friends our mother used
to talk about—Mary Organ who was unmarried and Catholic and
22     PRISM 48:2 who got pregnant and jumped one night off the top of a player
piano in an attempt to bring about a miscarriage. For us the story
of Mary Organ's desperate leap has the sheen of legend about it,
and shares space with my mother's other girlhood legends—brave
little crippled Grace, for instance, who went to DeKalb Normal in
a wheelchair, and another friend, someone called Lily who had the
habit of signing her letters, "Lovingly, Lily," one word swimming
coyly beneath the other (an example is preserved in my mother's
"memory book," floating loose between pressed gardenias and locks
of hair).
Barclay and I were having this conversation about Mom and
Mary Organ and Grace and Lily in a downtown bar that serves
good roast pork sandwiches. Barclay works as a systems engineer
in Houston, and normally when he comes to Chicago I invite him
out to the house for a family dinner. I wondered if he thought it was
funny that I'd suggested we meet down in the Loop like this instead
and that I hadn't even mentioned Ray and the children. Maybe he
thought I was being evasive. Probably not; he has a calm, incurious
nature. He'd put on weight, I saw. Even his fingers curving around
the wine glass looked puffy. What do you do for love? is the question I would like to have asked him. I imagined the words leaving
my mouth and entering his soft body. No, impossible. We talked
instead about our mother's friend Mary Organ whom neither of us
had ever met. "Do you suppose it worked?" Barclay said. He meant,
did she have a miscarriage, and the question surprised me. "Why, I
don't know," I said with amazement.
Why didn't I know? This was an old story, after all, and I'd heard
it from our mother countless times. The picture was vivid: a carved
oak piano draped with some sort of fringed scarf; a woman in a
flapper dress with flushed Catholic cheeks is climbing first up onto
the keyboard and then onto the top of the piano itself; she crouches, then springs, and there—frozen in mid-air—she has remained.
Rings of surprise surround her spread-eagled body which is weightless in flight, but determined, righteous, and stiff with terror.
"Either it worked or it didn't work," said Barclay in his committee voice. Then he said, "Maybe she died."
I said no, I didn't think so, we would have remembered that.
Neither of us could believe that our mother had told us only half
the story. We agreed that we must have blocked out the ending, the
moment of actual impact. "Maybe it was a nervous breakdown,"
Barclay said, getting back to the subject of our mother's year of illness.
This was a good possibility and one that had also occurred to me.     23 Our mother had been a nervous woman. Insomnia, hives, headaches, fits of harsh weeping, all the usual symptoms. "Mom's in the
sadhouse again," our father would tell us from time to time. But
that sad self was her later self, the self that came into being after the
betrayal of her veins and the stringy deterioration of her hands. As a
young woman in her sunny Cortland schoolroom I see her as cool-
skinned and calm, rather like Barclay in the matter of personality.
Barclay said, "Maybe it was one of those mysterious girlish fevers
women used to get. Or—what do you call it?—wasting disease?"
"No one's had wasting disease since the eighteenth century," I
told him.
"How about TB?"
"Impossible. She'd have gone to the San."
"Mono?" he flung out. We tried to think if people had mono in
those days—it sounds so much a disease of our own generation. But
no, it's an old illness; we remembered that it was once called glandular fever.
"That's a real possibility." I drummed my fingers on the dark
wet table, pleased. Barclay—what a good man he was—sensed my
pleasure and poured me more wine from the bubbly-sided carafe.
Glandular fever. People who had glandular fever had to go to bed
and stay there—perhaps as long as a year.
"Why don't you ask Auntie Ingrid?" Barclay suggested.
"I suppose I could."
"You still write to her, don't you?"
"Twice a year. Christmas and her birthday. I think she'd go
through the floor if I just 'wrote to her out of the blue and asked her
a thing like that."
"Well, if you really want to know..." He let his voice trail off
mildly, but managed to suggest I'd been wasting his time with my
"Maybe I will," I decided. "But that's not to say I'm going to find
anything out. You know how secretive our family is."
"Oh, I know that," Barclay said.
In my mother's family there were two amputations, Aunt Ingrid's
finger and Uncle Harvey's leg. Even in a family with eight children
this seems to me unusual.
Aunt Ingrid is my mother's twin sister—they were identical twins,
the Lofgren girls from Lemond, Illinois, who looked so much alike
that one of them once took a Latin test for the other without their
teacher catching on. Later they liked to fool their boyfriends, my
mother Anna going to the door when Ingrid's beau arrived and
24     PRISM 48:2 saying in her sly teasing voice, "I'm all ready if you are." They believed, as many twins do, that they were joined by a bond closer
than mere sisterhood. In later years, Aunt Ingrid, married by then
to Uncle Eugene and the mother of four children, would write from
Napoleon, Indiana where she moved and tell my mother that she
had a new perm, and it would turn out to have been on the very day
my mother in Maywood gave herself a Toni. Or they would find
they had had colds at the same time or bought new spring coats in
the same colour or tossed and turned throughout the same restless
night. More often than not their letters crossed, and this more than
anything provided proof of their joined natures.
As girls they were each other's best friends. When they were
seventeen they enrolled in the teacher training course at DeKalb,
travelling back and forth each day on the Interurban which ran for
miles past the town limits, into the rolling countryside and stopping
not far from the side road where they lived. One afternoon, arriving
at their stop, my mother jumped gaily off the car, followed by her
sister Ingrid. But Ingrid was wearing a ring on her finger, a cheap
ring of imitation gold, and the ring caught in the mechanism of
the door. My mother remembered a strip of brown skin unwinding
like a peeling from an apple. There was surprisingly little blood but
considerable confusion and shouting, and someone on the streetcar
said loudly, "The poor girl, she's going to lose that finger."
The driver of the Interurban took Aunt Ingrid straight back to
the DeKalb hospital where she did indeed lose her finger, the fourth
finger on the left, that very night.
It fell to my mother to go home and tell her parents that there
had been an accident. But she did not tell them. She could not, she
later said; her mother could not have borne it. Instead, she told
them that Ingrid had gone to a friend's house in DeKalb to spend
the night, and then she lay awake all night with her teeth chattering,
the longest night she was ever to endure. In the morning a doctor
from DeKalb drove his Model T into the farmyard, knocked at the
kitchen door and informed the astonished parents that their daughter's finger had been amputated.
"It was lucky it was on the left hand," Aunt Ingrid said. "It was
lucky I lost it when I was young." She graduated and became a
teacher; later she married Uncle Eugene and moved to Napoleon
and became a prize-winning knitter. When she wore gloves she
tucked the extra finger to the inside so that nothing showed but
a neat little seam. Barclay and I as children used to ask to see her
tiny knobbed stump which was pinker and harder than the rest of
her hand. Did it hurt? we asked. Not a bit, she told us, not in the    25 slightest. Now she's eighty years old and lives in a retirement centre
in southern California, and last year she wrote that she has begun
to experience a twinge of arthritis in her stump, just a twinge, nothing serious, she says—but a reminder that a finger had once been
Uncle Harvey, my mother's oldest brother, lost his leg in the war in
1916. There are no firm facts about how this loss occurred—whether
it was a bullet or a bomb or what—the leg was just "lost in the war,"
mysteriously swallowed up in the smoking distances of Europe. He came
home wounded, a man with a wooden leg and two canes to help him get
around. After a few weeks of hobbling about on the farm, he took the
train into Chicago and got a job as a machinery operator, and he worked
at that for the rest of his life, a life that was long and alcoholic and which
had a quality of deep distress about it. Whether it was the wooden leg
that caused his distress I don't know, but I do know that his mother, our
grandmother, was never told that her son had, in fact, lost his leg. He
was lame, that was all she knew. She lived until the fall of 1942, this poor
deluded woman, and then she succumbed to double pneumonia, still not
knowing why.
My husband Ray, who comes from a more forthright family,
could never understand how this could have happened. Was this
grandmother, this short, fat-faced woman—we have only the photographs to inform us—kept in a state of innocence because of her
status as Mother, the being most closely tied to the one-legged man?
Or was she a woman -with a singular sensitivity to life's darker offerings? Would she have screamed if she'd been told? Might she
have fallen into a faint or slashed her wrists or sunk into years of
melancholy? Or might she have shrugged—did anyone consider
this?—and said, well, that's a shame but other boys have lost their
legs and some are a lot worse off than Harvey. On one occasion the
truth was almost discovered. Uncle Harvey, home for a Thanksgiving dinner, was sitting at the table lifting a turkey wing to his mouth.
His mother, who was setting down a bowl of peas, put her hand on
his shoulder and felt through his shirt the heavy leather strap that
held the artificial leg in place. "What's this?" she said in a sharp
There was a moment's awful silence. Then Uncle Harvey said,
"It's for a hernia, Ma. Nothing serious."
My grandmother set down the peas and went back to the stove
for the potatoes; nothing more was said. Perhaps she didn't know
what a hernia was; perhaps she thought it was too delicate a subject
to pursue; maybe she had her suspicions but resisted them—this,
26     PRISM 48:2 after all, was a woman who could not be told about her daughter's
mutilated finger. How was she expected to bear the news of a son's
lost leg? What if the secret had become a part of her, like a small
benign tumor under the skin which had long since been accommodated. Turning to the stove, serving out potatoes, keeping her back
turned, she may have been saying: I don't want to know, I don't
want to know.
Whew, the aunts and uncles must have said afterwards; whew,
that was a close call. I can imagine that they made adult faces at each
other over the table, mock expressions of shock and guilty amusement as though they had brushed close to something unspeakable
and also foolish, something they were deeply ashamed of, but could
do nothing about.
In 1925 my mother recovered from her mysterious year of illness and
came to Chicago to teach school. She and Aunt Ingrid and Mary Organ
and another girl called Gladys Heinz found an apartment on the third
floor of a house in Oak Park. The house was on Kenilworth Avenue, just
north of Lake Street.
And the strange part of this is that the house belonged to the
Hemingway family, the parents of Ernest Hemingway.
No one, for that matter, had really heard of him. All she knew
was that the family had a son who was living in Paris, France. He
was married, and his family spoke about him with a certain coolness. My mother, in her simple way, assumed that the family disapproved of their son living abroad or else they didn't like the girl he
had married. She had no idea that he was a writer.
Dr. and Mrs. Hemingway interviewed the four young women on
a hot, late summer day. My mother and Aunt Ingrid and Mary and
Gladys Heinz all wore hats and gloves and stockings, and they sat
uneasily in the airless front room—the living room, as Mrs. Hemingway called it. The Hemingways explained that they didn't normally rent out their third floor, but that their daughter Sonny was in
college and that college was expensive. This statement was allowed
to float for a moment on the still air, and then Mrs. Hemingway
explained a few household rules: the rent was payable at the beginning of each month. She herself was a light sleeper and could not
tolerate noise after ten o'clock. The gas bill would be shared and so
would the bill for water. Baths were to be limited to two inches in
the tub, which was all she ever required herself. She said that she
and her husband had considered carefully the kind of people they
preferred as tenants and they both thought that young women in the
teaching profession represented all that was ideal. They regretted     27 that their son Ernest had not considered a career in education. They
regretted it deeply.
The third floor apartment contained two bedrooms and a sitting
room with a shuttered-off kitchen at one end. The ceiling sloped
sharply in the kitchen part of the room, and standing at the sink
they had to duck their heads, especially Mary Organ who was taller
than the others.
They took turns cooking. My mother's specialty was cheese rarebit, a soggy dish that she occasionally made for us when we were
children. Aunt Ingrid made chicken a la king in toast cups. Gladys
Heinz made a good nutritious meat loaf, and Mary Organ—hopeless when it came to cooking—washed dishes night after night with
her long neck bent against the ceiling.
On one occasion they were invited downstairs for Sunday dinner. There was a standing rib roast, mashed turnips, canned peas
and tapioca pudding. The four of them were astonished to learn that
Dr. Hemingway had done all the cooking himself. Speechless, they
turned their eyes to Mrs. Hemingway who pronounced in a deep
voice, "I have never taken an interest in cooking." After dessert the
Hemingways talked about their children. There had been a recent
letter from Sonny, but it was some time since they had heard from
their son in Paris.
"Is he an artist?" Aunt Ingrid asked.
"He's a time waster," Dr. Hemingway said in a stern, settled
After a brief silence my mother, anxious to prove she was not a
time waster, said, "Can we help with the dishes?"
"That would be useful," Mrs. Hemingway said.
Later they told each other it was all they could do to choke back their
laughter. That stiff autocratic phrase of Mrs. Hemingway's—that would
be useful—became their private invitation to hysteria. They inverted its
icy finality—after all, they were very young—and made of it the signal
for hilarity. If Aunt Ingrid offered to give Gladys a manicure, for instance—as she often did—Gladys would say, "That would be useful." If
Mary Organ said she was thinking of strolling down to the public library,
they would all call out after her, "That would be useful." When a man
named Eugene Propper proposed to Aunt Ingrid, she swore she came
close to giggling out, "Why, that would be very useful."
A year later Ernest Hemingway published The Sun Also Rises and
became famous, but by that time my mother and Ingrid and Mary
and Gladys had moved to an apartment on the west side.
This has always seemed to me to be a tragedy of timing. "Why
28     PRISM 48:2 did you move after only one year?" I used to badger my mother
with that question, and her answer was always the same: "That
house was so cold, we couldn't stand it another winter. We complained and complained about the heat, but they never did a single
thing about it."
My mother never read Hemingway; his reputation intimidated
her, I think. I started early, at fourteen, reading him with eager pleasure, but also out of a compulsion to fulfill a side of a family contract which I felt had been allowed to lapse. It seemed to me I had
been willed the sharp perspective of privilege. For instance, I would
look up from certain passages in Green Hills of Africa and suddenly
think: this is the voice of a man who grew up in an insufficiently
heated house. The drafty stairs, the icy bedrooms, the two inches of
bath water—all these things tore brokenly into the smoothness of his
sentence parts, or so I thought, and I wanted to reach through the
pages and warn him that he was in mortal danger of exposing himself. Didn't he realize what those soft places in the prose revealed?
Couldn't he see what was so clearly apparent to the most casual
observer, what his pathetic evasions revealed?
Lately, since I've had lots of time, I've reread his earlier books. A
man I know—a man I thought I was in love with—teased me about
being on a Hemingway trip, but it's really an inverse journey. I see
these books differently now; what I thought were unconscious evasions, I now see as skillfully told lies, lies that have given me a new
respect for Hemingway and the way he coped with a difficult life. I
even started to think that perhaps I could cope with my own.
Then Aunt Ingrid's letter arrived, not a Christmas letter, not a
birthday letter, but a letter that arrived in April in reply to my own
unseasonable note. First she told me about the weather in San Diego which is always superlative, and then about the complete lack
of cooked vegetables at the Centre. She expressed surprise at hearing from me and regretted that I hadn't sent news about Ray and
the children—she assumed though that they were all fit and fine.
On the second page she explained she had very little recollection about my mother's year of illness. She vaguely remembered a
sickness of some kind, but was sure it was of a shorter duration—six
weeks at the most. She suggested influenza and then, as an afterthought, eye strain. She went on to say, "I can't for the life of me see
why you want to delve into all this ancient history."
The tone was rough, cross; she meant to put me in my place and
she did. I couldn't really blame her. Lies, secrets, casual misrepresentations and small failures of memory—all these things are useful
in their way. History gobbles everything up willy-nilly; it doesn't    29 care a fig for distinctions; it was all the same—my mother's illness
has the same weight as a missing finger or a wooden leg or a fizzled-
out love affair. Eventually everything gets stuck between a pair of
parentheses or buried in the bottom of a trunk.
I was thinking about this when the phone rang. It was my husband Ray suggesting we have dinner together. Why not? I said. We
met at a place on Rush Street known for its good authentic Basque
food, and afterwards we sat talking for an hour or two.
He told me that the saddest thing that had ever happened to
him was going to the movie Easy Rider and then coming home and
climbing into a pair of striped pyjamas and going to bed. I asked
him why he'd never told me this before, and he said he didn't know.
I accused him of being secretive, and he smiled and said he'd probably learned it from me.
I started to tell him that the saddest thing in my life was the bundle of worthless secrets I carry around in my head, but then I smiled
back at him and said that I loved my secrets, that I would be lost
without them, that they were the only things in the world I could
call my own.
30     PRISM 48:2 Michael Ondaatje
6:7 (Fall 7964)
The Time Around Scars
A girl whom I've not spoken to
or shared coffee with for several years
writes of an old scar.
On her wrist it sleeps, smooth and white,
the size of a leech.
I gave it to her
brandishing a new Italian penknife.
Look, I said turning,
and blood spat onto her shirt.
My wife has scars like spread raindrops
on knees and ankles,
she talks of broken greenhouse panes
and yet, apart from imagining red feet
(a nymph out of Chagall)
I bring little to that scene.
We remember the time around scars,
they freeze irrelevant emotions
and divide us from our present friends.
I remember this girl's face,
the widening rise of surprise.
And would she
moving with lover or husband
conceal or flaunt it,
or keep it at her wrist
a mysterious watch.
And this scar I then remember
is medallion of no emotion.
I would meet you now
and I would wish this scar
to have been given with
all the love
that never occurred between us.    31 Kim Maltman 79.-7 (Fail 7977)
Ice Fishing Cessford Lake
Often there is that deep blue light that comes
before dawn. Over your face you pull the scarf
and step out from the cramped warmth
of the station wagon, from the stifling scents of bodies, coffee
laced with rum, out onto the lake.
The surface powders as you
tramp across it. Tufts of snow whirl up sporadically.
You find an old hole, frozen over,
and begin to chip, the steady heft of the ice hammer
wrenching at the layer of mitts and gloves. After a while
you scoop out all the loose bits, then begin again.
The ice re-formed inside the hole is no more than a day old,
yet you're down a foot at least before it gives out
and the weight of the hammer
yanks your hand down after it into the frigid blue-green water.
You put a dry glove on and drop the lines in.
Standing motionless you feel the wind swirl in from all directions,
and there is no shelter.
32     PRISM 48:2 The fish pile up without a fight, small
barren perch the colour of wet leaves matted under trees in spring.
Along their backs the sharp spines
poke out from the fins. They take the hook deep,
so you have to bare both hands to free them, one
sliding back from the head, pressing
the spines down to avoid the poison on them,
squeezing till the mouth opens. Strange,
in summer you can fish for days
and hardly catch a thing but now they just keep
coming. Soon your hands are numb, you start to catch
a few spines, but it's all so easy, you keep wanting
more, a few more. And it's
cold, you feel it working up your legs.
Along the shore the rushes
poke up stiffly through the ice.
An hour past dawn,
a faint glow straddling the skyline.     33 Ken Babstock 36:7 (Fail 7997)
What We Didn't Tell the Medic
When the bike dropped it jammed
a foot-peg into asphalt. Blue
sparks spat off chrome, a dead-stop
catapult sent it clear up and
we slid right under,
holding each other.
Time stalled. I stared
at the Honda hovering there—
mid-air—could have sketched
the scraped tank, the locked
sprocket and axle, forks skewy-bent,
wracked wheel-rims, and lolling
headlight eye. It was an ill-framed
Guernica horse strung
up in the sky.
It felt good though, holding
my friend as we spilled onto tarmac.
I wanted to pull his helmeted
head back and kiss him—
for passing those semis,
for muttering God as we fell,
for being there with me, ripping south
on the 401 in a stink of coat-leather
burning, arms apart, like he could
wrestle the back bumper
of the Datsun ahead, and that sky,
that ovoid of impenetrable blue,
pressing in, pressing down, the way
sea-swells can pinch a whole ship, just crack
it in two. My eyes flickered, then calmed;
like a deckhand's last glimpse
of the Grand Banks, they caressed
that porthole 'til it sank.
34     PRISM 48:2 Bill GaStOn 39:2 (Winter 2007)
Comedian Tire
Buddhism says there's no beginning nor end to suffering, so in that
sense there's no beginning nor end to this story—which is also
about how humour lives in the very heart of suffering, and pops
up like a neon clown from its big black box.
The background to the story involves my brother Ron, who a year
ago at age fifty had a stroke. He survived with huge holes in his memory,
dragging a foot, slurring, and utterly pissed off. Apparently strokes at his
age aren't so rare. But, though he's ten years older than I am, in the ugly
stew of emotions his illness brewed for me, one of the worst was a sense
of my own mortality. And then my guilt at that. Watching him limp
around in terminal despair, how could I possibly think about myself?
But he looks like me. At the root of myself I could trade places.
A month ago it got worse. Ron had a series of heavier strokes, was
now truly demolished, dying—could die at any time from a next stroke—
and was placed in extended care with elderly people who are similarly
bedridden and waiting for death. Ron can no longer walk, talk, control
his bowels, eat on his own. I can see he recognizes me, but my arrivals
lift his spirits not one bit. Waiting for the final oblivion, he stares at game
shows with the other, older residents, unable to ask someone to please
turn off this pap and stick in a decent movie. Or whatever. I don't know
if he could follow a movie, or if he wants one, but from his eyes I know
that he hates what he's watching, the canned laughter blasting the room
and its dying, demented, warehoused bodies.
With Ron in Vancouver, and me on the Island, my monthly planning involves working out when next I can steal two days to ferry over
and visit. Kyle's soccer tournaments, our baby daughter Lily, my wife
Leslie's work schedule, not to mention my own; plus dentists, doctors,
barbeques. All fight my attempts to get over and see Ron, who I don't
really want to see, and who maybe doesn't want to see me either. Add to
this mix my car—an '89 minivan—which lately had been stalling at intersections. My wife Leslie has demanded a tune-up for some time now,
using the words "dangerous" and "Lily" in the same sentence. In my list
of things to do, double underlined was the note, Fix van, visit Ron.
I'm within walking distance of one of those red and white retail establishments with the red garage bays, and I took it there for that reason. I'd     35 heard general warnings about the place, but in other cities I'd gone there
for basic servicing and nothing bad had come of it, aside from being
dinged the expected unexpected extras. Lots of cars sat out front waiting
to get in, a good sign. The van needed a tune-up is all, and anybody with
dirty fingernails can do a tune-up. I asked the man behind the counter
for an oil change, and tune, and to call me if they found anything big.
Maybe I could catch the ferry that night, visit Ron in the morning, then
stop by his apartment and load up. That was part of the reason I was
avoiding this next visit: Ron would not be going home again and his
apartment needed cleaning out. He would no longer in life be needing
his clothes, furniture, CDs. My parents were pressing me. Either I come
pick up his stuff or they'd "just have to put it out in the street." I didn't
want to go and sort through his stuff because then I would have to think
about Ron. My connection to Ron.
Ron, you see, is a hard-assed guy. A racist right-winger. We've never
agreed on much. We've used our age difference as an easy excuse not to
talk. But to put Ron in a nutshell: when I was nine, and he was nineteen,
Ron went to the States and enlisted to fight in Vietnam. (Over a thousand
Canadians actually did that.) I vaguely recall him talking about "gooks,"
and remember thinking the whole idea was pretty cool as I marched
off with my crooked stick to shoot at shadows in the woods behind the
house. Though he didn't see action he returned as gook-hating as ever,
despite the peace movement in particular and the Age of Aquarius in
In the years we both lived at home, I never did get to know him
well. I remember closed doors, lots of being ignored, a few bored shoves
when I got too close. Years later, smirking, he bought me and my friends
our first case of beer. In fairness I'll add that he was never unkind to my
mother, and he had the sense to keep quiet about my father's summer in
Kelowna. Ron and I communicated with severe, silent eye-contact over
that one, and I believe that's as intimate as we ever got.
It's been hard to admit to myself that I'm in no hurry to see him again,
my own brother. The last time I visited extended care it was excruciating
to watch him being lifted out of bed for his bath. His eyes were sunken
and he'd lost his muscle. They use this wheeled crane that hoists a body
up in a canvas sling. An attendant on each arm. Slowly airborne, Ron
began to panic, or maybe it was pain—eyes bugging, he whimpered and
slobbered and both hands clawed and convulsed minutely. He looked
pleadingly to me and all I could do was avoid his eyes and smile a smile
so hollow it said that all was fine because now he was going to have his
nice bath. Half the horror came out of questions coming at me over the
hum of the crane-motor: How do I feel for this man who is my brother?
What is carried in genes and what does the word "brother" mean? Here
36     PRISM 48:2 is a man I'd avoid if I weren't related to him. He is suffering in ways I
can't comprehend and might be better off dead. Do I want him dead?
For what reasons, exactly?
The garage place called me late that afternoon, saying they'd indeed
found serious problems. As a matter of course they'd conducted their
"21-point inspection" and found the van lacking rear brakes, the emergency cable was frozen, and the horn didn't work. The total cost would
be $700.
"The stalling," I said. "Did you find the reason for the stalling?" The
brakes had been feeling okay to me, and I'd known about the emergency
cable, rusted in place by New Brunswick road salt some six years ago. I
guess I never used the horn.
"It's stalling?"
"I brought it in because it's stalling. When you stop at a light it idles
"That's your basic tune-up," he said.
"Okay. I just want the tune-up. And an oil change please."
"I really, really, wouldn't advise you driving it off the lot with no rear
brakes." He paused, during which time I closed my eyes. "I couldn't
help noticing your baby-seat? It's not my business to say, but—"
"Okay. Forget the horn, forget the emergency cable. Go ahead on the
rear brakes."
"Go ahead then?"
He said it would be ready by noon.
That night I was telling Leslie how odd it was, Ron's present situation.
At his age so feeble, and him a man who'd always valued, and assumed,
his physical strength. He'd worked mainly in heavy equipment (pretending he was driving a tank, I joked to myself), for the last decade building
local wharves with a pile-driving outfit. He often had his shirt off, and
grease on his considerable chest muscles—he was one of those guys you
see yelling to other guys over the roar of machinery, their shoulders
glowing bigger than their hardhats.
But what I was describing to Leslie was that virtually all the attendants
in extended care were Asian. Here was a man who'd never seen fit to
distinguish between Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, whomever. They
were small, sly, and in his country for no good reason. I'd not heard the
word for awhile but: gooks. And now, bedridden, unable to move or
speak, Ron was being tended to by gooks.
I described the scene to Leslie. Ron, already pissed off at his traitorous body, and here's this stream of Asian caregivers—most were Phili-    37 pino actually—dressing him, sponging his private parts, feeding him his
baby food, and keeping up a gay, accented banter: Okay, Ron! How you
do today! Boy, you big! You getting bigger I think! Talking to him like
a child as they stripped or sponged or fed. I found I couldn't begrudge
them their lack of sincerity. A job like that, it was amazing that they managed to feign cheer.
But the look in Ron's eyes. As if he were assessing a persistent and
violently bad dream. I tried to describe it to Leslie. She used the word
"karma." I pictured one of Dante's poetic hells.
Ron's situation—his being tended by cheerful, fast-moving Asians—
is something I would have liked to ask him about. I tell myself there's
lots about Ron I would like to learn, but I wonder if that's because now
it's impossible. Another thing I've wanted to ask: did he know what he
was doing when he was pretending to shoot gooks? He would fire his
air machine gun and make a sound that was exactly "Buddha-Buddha-
At noon the next day my van sat out on the lot, ready. I entered and
announced myself. A long and detailed receipt chugged its way out of
the computer. A fellow with "Kyle" on his chest, but no grease under his
nails, cheerfully told me I owed $950.
Leslie says I don't stand up for myself. It's true: while not exactly a
wimp, I do turn the other cheek. Without going into too much detail
here—it's the kind of garage-hell everyone has experienced, after all—
I'll just say I did myself proud. First I calmly stated the obvious logic, that
since I'd told them to do less work than the $700 quote would have paid
for, the amount I now owed could not possibly be more. Kyle cheerfully
said he'd add up the figures again, and did.
"Nope, it's $950," Kyle chirped. He showed me, jabbing his finger on
the receipt, how they'd replaced my emergency cable, did my brakes,
the horn, lots of labour involved. At the head of the list was the 21-point
inspection, for which I was being charged a cute $21.
"I told the guy on the phone to change the oil, tune it, and the rear
brakes. That's it. Not the other stuff."
"Well, no sir, you were talking to me, and you said, 'Go ahead.'"
"No I—Well, yeah, go ahead on the rear brakes." I jabbed my own
finger onto the sheet. "I'm not paying for that inspection because I didn't
even want an inspection, I wanted a tune up." By now a trap door in my
gut was swinging open, and I was well into that icy sweat of futility.
"Not what I heard, sir. You said—"
"Even if you did all that stuff, it still can't be more than $700. That was
the quote. It can't possibly be—"
"It was an estimate, sir."
38     PRISM 48:2 And so on. In the end I loudly threatened (a first for me) to tell my
friends about this; I had a lot of friends (a lie) and they all drove shitty
cars like mine and used places like this frequently but would no longer.
I almost said that I was a writer and that I'll write about this place. I did
say I would pay no more than the quoted $700. I would drive my van
away (though my key hung from a hook on his wall behind the counter)
and they could call the police if they wished. In fact, please do.
Two other customers watched me, perhaps entertained. Kyle wore a
practiced poker face, not a tiny muscle of which had yet twitched. We
stared at each other. I sensed victory. He said he'd "go through the numbers and see what he could do." After five minutes of crossing out and
typing, and a new bill chugging out, he told me he'd been able to get it
down to $750. I stomped out clutching my key, feeling utterly defeated
in victory, having paid $750 for a tune-up. Well, I had new rear brakes
and an emergency cable I might one day use. Maybe I'd honk at someone.
My van was surrounded by other cars, shining in the sun. The garage
bays were empty. It struck me that all these parking-lot cars were decoys,
brightly-painted mallards floating on this cement suburban pond, luring
in foolish ducks like myself. Driving the two blocks home, I felt I was
riding in a fragile creature, a victim of unwanted transplants.
That evening I phoned my parents, who worried when I hadn't shown
up. Again they murmured disapproval of my "letting all Ron's things go
to waste," though there were still two days before the end of the month
when his apartment had to be cleared out. It struck me how the elderly
hate chaos, what they call "leaving things to the last minute." Maybe the
notion of "the last minute" takes on fatal implications. I didn't explain
my hesitations about weeding through Ron's private stuff. Since his second wife left he'd been living alone for almost ten years. I didn't tell
them that poking through my brother's things would feel like climbing
right up into his angry armpit. I said I'd leave tomorrow morning and be
there in the afternoon.
"Good," said my mother. "Ron really wants to see you."
In the morning when I started the van, stepped on the brake and put it
in reverse to commence backing out, the brake pedal went smish, right
to the floor. I smished it a few times in disbelief. I turned it off, got out,
saw the thin stream of brake fluid running the length of the driveway to
the reddish pool on the street.
This was good, this was comedy—$750 to have my brakes broken.
What if I'd driven right out into traffic? I stomped inside, swearing and
laughing. Leslie shook her head yelling, "You're kidding!" and little Lily     39 started to cry. I phoned the garage. It wasn't Kyle, but in about twenty
words I got my message across and the fellow, blandly apologetic, said
a tow truck would be there soon. Lily was loud now and I could hardly
hear myself demanding that the car be driven back to my house when
it was fixed, and I wanted this done by lunch because I had a ferry to
catch. I was all-business, macho, a new me. I'd never considered Ron
a role model, and didn't now. Him looming up behind me, a smirking
spectre, likely had to do with how much he'd occupied my thoughts
lately. What would Ron have done? Well, he wouldn't have taken it
there in the first place. And he wouldn't have given them a fucking dime.
In fact, he would've just tuned 'er up himself.
Two that afternoon I called the garage asking where my car was. (I had
to restrain Leslie from taking the phone and yelling at someone. She
can do that sort of thing with ease.) The man checked and said it was
just coming into the bay. I said I was promised noon, I said I needed to
catch a ferry. I almost said something about needing to go see a dying
The van was delivered at five. The driver, a kid, and oblivious to the
history of injustice, was no one to yell at. He seemed to expect thanks for
this special service so I thanked him. He said, "Your right drum coupling
wasn't on right, so out she came." He looked at me as if I should have
known that.
I phoned my parents, tried to explain but ended up apologizing. Tomorrow, I promised. My mother got in that Ron had really wanted to
see me today.
In the morning I repacked my day bag, and was throwing some rope
into the van (I figured to bring back a chair or dresser of Ron's, if only
for show) when Leslie hurried out with Lily in her arms. Lily had thrown
up, had a high fever, and Leslie had arranged a quick visit with the doctor. She'd be back in an hour. I nodded and kissed Lily's hot little head.
Leslie smiled sadly for me, knowing well my dealings with Ron and my
parents, having heard about it so much. She looked big-eyed and feverish herself.
I went back inside to make myself breakfast. The phone rang as I
was flipping eggs. It was my mother. Her voice sounded oddly full of
"He's had another. We're at his hospital. They think this is it this time.
It's affecting the swallowing and the breathing."
"Is it— I should—"
"You should be here right now."
I said I was on my way, and I hung up. Staring at the clock, my heart
40     PRISM 48:2 beating, I calculated doctors' waiting rooms, traffic, ferries. Behind these
calculations, something was weighing my desire: did I want to see Ron
die, or did I want to miss it?
But the comedy that had begun a few days ago was accelerating. Like
deus ex machina, the phone rang again. It was Leslie and she was hysterical.
"We almost— The car—almost killed us— These bastards—"
"What's wrong? How's Lily? What happened?"
"It was hardly running, and I was passing, right by, so I turned in— It
stalled— A truck had to screech to— We almost—"
I got from her that they were at the red garage. I ran the five blocks.
The van was parked haphazardly, at a diagonal, blocking two garage
bays, the driver's door still open. I was huffing and dizzy as I pushed in
the door. What I walked into instantly cleared my head.
My wife held Lily, who was red and mouth-breathing. Confronting
the young man behind the counter, my wife was red too and breathing
heavily herself. She had been yelling. The young man, a comedian wearing the overalls of someone named "Lisa," was smiling defensively.
"No, no. I worked on that van," he told her. "You're saying you want
a tune-up?"
Spontaneously, my wife vomited. Angrily, her eyes on him. I don't
know if her joining the comedy was deliberate. It's the kind of thing
Leslie could probably do if she wished. But here in the aftermath stood
"Lisa," and Leslie, and Lily, and me.
I think we'd all stopped breathing. In that second before anyone could
move, the world was clarified for me.
Everyone has known a pface that, for a moment, stands vastly, maybe
religiously, crystal. Mine, my alter, was a garage waiting-room. I could
feel the blood-pounding squeeze of shoes on my feet. Could register the
three-headed candy machine with its glass offerings of cashews, sour
fruits, and jelly beans. I understood that my van's engine had been built
in Asia. Could feel my complex hurry to see my dying brother, but
would never know if he was worth hurrying to. Or if he had a sense of
humour for bodies and cars breaking down, for the junk that lives do become. Here was feverish little Lily, my feelings for whom were unthinking. Here was my wife, who likely had the flu herself but was possibly
enjoying herself in ways I couldn't know. Here was this guy, "Lisa," who
lacked training in what had just happened, and in what was happening
That is, clarity with no meaning to it at all. Lisa in control. This red
garage.    41 Alden Nowlan t-a (Winter 7960)
For Helen and Martha Knox
Hainesville, New Brunswick
Missionaries to Kenya
The sisters Knox were thirty years in Kenya—
Christ in a cedar chest brought out to smother
bare-naked men, bull gods, eccentric weather,
demented vegetation, the hyena.
Wesleyan gentlewomen having ices,
humming and hemming in a manse rose garden.
Hush, dung-flanked Africa—no servant jargon!
God has His merciful, if daft, devices.
42     PRISM 48:2 On Seeing a Bear Tied to a
Things die. If I were God perhaps I'd change it.
What's hateful here's not death but disrespect—
as if the bear were beaten
at golf or won at poker. I don't expect
sorrow or poetry. No. Something closer
to what the black, quick, graceless beast
might have experienced,
given a chance and winning. I imagine
him ceremonious, exultant, roaring.     43 Don McKay 42A (Summer 2004)
Abandoned Cable
Tangles of it by these overgrown
former bushroads, stiff constrictors
left to rust mid-writhe, the unfurled
unshriven entrails of the industrial
revolution. No point
preaching that all must rot, that everything
becomes ecology. This is the snarl
that strangled Laocoon, yarded
megatons of timber and erased
the forest that once was.
This is how the will
will manage its retirement: angry, kinked,
still waiting for its old buddy donkey-puncher to show up,
to step, pot-bellied and profane,
from the salmonberry bramble, build
a head of steam out of brag and booze
and show these soft-hearted
po-mo cappuccinos
something about work.
44     PRISM 48:2 Hiking With My Shadow
Though it has to be bushwack
while I take the trail, it keeps pace
perfectly, folding over boulders,
skimming the stumps and alder scrub, bulging
then flattening, sometimes as a puddle,
sometimes as a hunchback or a baby grand,
always as nothing, nothing
that loves me and that dogs my tracks
better than a dog.
Patient companion, little
ink lake, when I pause
you heel and wait like a suitcase
while I squander my attention on a wren.
Just barely do I sense that faint
tug on my foot like someone
fumbling for a valve.
As though you know that one day
I'll be yours, and flow
into that deflated body bag to be
its third dimension.
And our real life will begin.    45 Matt Rader 42A (Summer 2005)
Clipped my skull on the lip of the bridge
as I plunged feet-first into the anxious river.
My teeth jawed together, all Castanet
or clam-shell, crunched my tongue to pulp.
I couldn't talk, or scream, or lift a finger.
Couldn't remember why I was there or where
amongst all the falling my body had gone.
Rivulets of red ribboned my head like an insect-
painter's quick study of the wingless human—
The Faller—a gesture-drawing in blood and air.
Here's how I picture it: limbs all stutter and wheel
in the rioting wind, all seizure of sign-language
and panic-dance, eyes scrolled back, calculating
velocity by distance, the time left to swallow
or spit before impact. Never mind the fear
or embarrassment, I pissed my pants just for
the warmth in my crotch, that one last sloppy kiss.
Falling and falling is lonely business.
46     PRISM 48:2 Stephanie Bolster 42:2 (winter 2004)
North America's Favourite
Zoo Animal
Votla, in our backyard,
the polar bear enclosure. It's hard
to make him out against the snow
this time of year but look
for flecks of black that blink.
He sleeps a lot. He'd like to lean for days
over a hole until a ripple drew him in
to gorge. He's paced these borders,
gulped squirrels, and once,
when the neighbour's boy waved his mitt
across the fence, lunged with a silence
that made the ice down on the lake
shudder. He knows you're sorry
for him. See, he's smiling a picture-
book smile. The kid? Downed whole,
but he was fine. When he came back
he couldn't get enough of sky,
of everything open.     47 Leon Rooke 78:2 (Fail 7979)
Addressing the Assassins
Look at your watch. What time is it? Well, it's too late, much too
late, I can't be bothered to go into the matter now. Come back
later. Forget it. Go on with what you were doing.
All right, I have six minutes, no more, this will have to be fast. I'll
stick to the subject, tell you all I know, all anyone knows. But keep this
in mind: I'm getting this off your chest, not mine, it serves your interests,
I'm not concerned one way or another, the affair has nothing to do with
me. It happened I was in the vicinity, that's all.
Fine, you say, okay, good, why are we talking about it?
Look, I've got my worries too. I'm coming up in the world, I'm going
down, no one can keep pace with me. Up, down, up, down, try it sometime. This is what I've learned, this: even if I get nothing, so long as I've
got it I'm happy, try it sometime. You don't think I mean it? Try looking
me in the eye, you'll see! I'm alert, there are people who have looked and
never been the same. It doesn't matter to me that I lose, I always lose,
I've become accustomed to that, listen, I like losing, I recommend it.
So what is my information worth, how much would you give?
To put it another way, how much money do you have?
Good, I'll take it all, I'm tired of being poor boy off the farm, I'm fed
up with holding up this zoo, I'm after blood now.
How's the family, you ask. Wait, stop the trolley, I'm getting off here.
Don't pry. Are we here to talk turkey or are we just killing the breeze?
My family is fine, how's yours?
So it's only conversation you want, well, naturally, I expected as
much. Try looking at it from my point of view, have a heart, I'm not the
same person I was then.
Yes, yes, I'm familiar with your situation, I know it as well as my own.
You hesitate, so do I, you're at sea, so am I, when was this not ever so?
Did you think word wouldn't get around? Don't try kidding me, there
are no balloons tied to this nose.
Look, the kid wanted a dog and finally got one, that's all there is to it,
the dog died, run over by a car while the kid was in a shop buying bread
to go with dinner, end of story.
The kid stood out in the street, ruined, the dog in his arms, stopping
traffic, stopping pedestrians who were properly horrified: "Little boy,
48     PRISM 48:2 don't you know?...Little boy, you...Little boy, you'll get run over yourself, blood all over your clothes, oh little boy" but why go on, you know
the type.
In the meantime, well, it's always in the meantime, every minute you
breathe—in the meantime the dog's guts have spilled over the boy's
arms, blood flows down his jeans, and the boy—stricken!—what could
he do except cry NO NO NO NO NO you can't take him, this dog is mine!
Sure. Finally someone shows some sense, we are not total morons after all, someone says, "This boy is in a state, can't you see he is, this
boy needs looking after!" Others have roughly the same idea, they say,
"Little boy, what's your name, where do you live, we must get in touch
with your parents!" and so on but of course the boy is dim with grief, he's
perplexed, though he still intends to fulfill his purpose here, he's holding
the loaf of bread tight, it's mixing with dog to the extent that who can say
which is which, mustn't disappoint Mom. Well, I was there, I know.
Although the dog is dead it takes three people to pry the animal from
his arms and three more to hold the boy as he fights to get the dead burden back, so that can be done, that's the question going around and ours
is not a total idiocy, we have feelings, finally it occurs to someone to let
him have the dead beast back.
You should have heard the kid screaming MY DOG MY DOG MY
All right, don't get sore, no need to beat your head against the wall,
this was a long time ago. Finally the boy's mother is telephoned, she
comes running, finds no one, nothing going on, everything quiet, only
this puddle of blood on the stones, she goes running back to her own
house. She comes running through the door, sees a bunch of people
she's never seen before, and hears one of them saying "Dead, he's dead."
He's dead, and naturally she believes it's her own son they are talking
about and promptly loses whatever part of her mind she had not lost
long before. Rushes forward screaming, beating her breast, shoving everyone aside—and calms down in an instant when she catches sight of the
boy in a wing chair with the dead dog dripping in his arms.
Okay, stop the clock, one two three, count to twenty-five, when you're
ready I'll go on. I'm not in this business to tug your heartstrings. I've told
you frankly and will again: this has nothing to do with me.
She rushes to the boy, shakes him, slaps him, all the time yelling, "I
told you I told you I told you didn 't I tell you didn 't I mark my words you will
never have another dog again I knew this would happen knew It!" She tears the
dog free, she kicks it over the carpet, shoves the boy into the bathroom,
rips off his clothes, slaps wet towels all over him.
Okay, to hell with it, you get the idea.    49 Afterwards, the next day, that very night perhaps, the boy is out in
the backyard burying his dog, out there with a flashlight and refusing all
help, swinging his shovel at anyone who comes near, going at the earth
with grunts, throwing up the dark soil, deep, going down deep, throwing
it up hard. "MY DOG! MY DOG! MY DOG! MY DOG! MY DOG!"
Et cetera.
Listen, I'm not concerned. I'm only telling you. Meanwhile, she's at
the back door screaming, "I told you what would happen, told you not to get
a dog, warned you, no you had to have a dog, don't blame me!"
All right, sure thing, that's all there is to it, I'm almost finished, you're
not paying me enough to keep me around here, keep your shirt on.
He buries the dog, let another kid try to walk over the grave and he'll
get a stick across his head.
So, look, he's a grown man now, you've seen him around. You won't
find him owning a dog or any other animal. Hasn't married either. Hates
kids. Sure, he loves his mother, no grudges held, what else is new, did I
say he didn't? That changes nothing, I look at it this way: he's still guarding holy ground, fending off enemies, rebuilding from that single old
violation. Does it make sense, does he know what he's doing? Don't ask
Listen, hold my hand, show a little warmth, life goes on.
Listen to me. An attempt has been made on my life. You can dance
around it any way you like, but that's the fact of the matter: an attempt
has been made on my life. More than once.
Who would want to kill me, you ask. Who indeed? You, them, everyone, I can't be any more specific than that. Proof, I have proof. I have all
the proof I need, I was there, it happened to me. What would you have
me do, stay at home, lock myself in the cellar, never come out again?
Sounds easy, but I'm not so simple-minded as that, I'm like you, I have
needs. I take my chances. I don't expect much.
Oh I have suspects, quite a few, I have names. I'm checking the matter out. It's an emergency, the situation is grave, but it isn't irreconcilable, it isn't irreversible, not by a long shot. I can still negotiate. I know
where I stand.
And I might get them first, there's always that.
Anyway why worry about it, where's the bad news, I can't say I'm
much concerned.
Even so, I'm watching you. Don't think you can put anything over on
me. One false move and I'll be at your throat before you can blink, this
is My life My life My life My life!
50     PRISM 48:2 Raymond Carver 27-2 (winter 7982)
Vodka chased with coffee. Each morning
I hang the sign on the door:
but no one pays attention; my friends
look at the sign and
sometimes leave little notes,
or else they call—Come out and play,
Once my son, that bastard,
slipped in and left me with a coloured egg
and walking stick.
I think he drank some of my vodka.
And last week my wife dropped by
with a can of beef soup
and a carton of tears.
She drank some of my vodka, too, I think,
then left hurriedly in a strange car
with a man I'd never seen before.
They don't understand; I'm fine,
just fine where I am, for any day now
I shall be, I shall be, I shall be...
I intend to take all the time in this world,
consider everything, even miracles,
yet remain on guard, ever
more careful, more watchful,
against those who would sin against me,
against those who would steal vodka,
against those who would do me harm.    51 ROO BorSOn 29:2 (Winter 7997)
The Wind and the Rain
The room is a musty Long Island room we arrived in only yesterday,
having crept through the eye of the needle which is the Lincoln Tunnel to
what we imagine must be the city of self-loathing though it goes also by
other names. Scrap of paper improvising a slow poised ballet at the base
of a sign saying The Taxpayers Pay for Uttering, the The crossed out
and replaced by Us, which nobody reads. My father won't be coming back
again, nobody does. Eventually his atoms will suffuse the universe—on
camelback, police car, fern—travelling to all the places he only read
about Somewhere in the middle of any argument the engine breaks down, no point
continuing. The wind and the rain. I sleep beside a fellow for whom sleep
and snoring are one: he growls gently like a hunting cat but wakes
without remembrance. Nothing to report beyond the rare condition of
togetherness, this side-by-sideness, part figment, part fruition. A room in
Long Island, the wind and the rain, America, where everyone's on a first-name
basis. My father won't be coming back again.
52     PRISM 48:2 Lorna Crozier 24:3 (spring 7986)
APs House
Sometimes late at night, the rum bottle
empty, he pushes his chair from the table
and thinks he should go home,
but he's there. He can find his way
up the stairs in the dark, tell you
where Rufus's feet tapped the floor
as he played the fiddle,
where the dog slept, the dog now gone.
He won't speak of the fire
and what it destroyed:
his manuscripts, his marriage,
pictures of his daughters
before they knew
the meaning of absence, of loss.
Before his wife left, they built
the new house around the old.
Still standing, the original frame
prodded the boards into place,
hung the windows where they used to be.
His house, without a doubt, but a dream of it.
Nothing broken or shabby, no signs
of the wearing down of a life.
Fall in Cornerbrook. The maples on the hill
strike their own small flames. While he sits
alone, drinking in the night, moths drift
from the trees, gather on the siding
until the whole house has eyes and wings
ready to take flight,
the old one underneath, still burning.    53 Seamus Heaney 72A (Summer 7972)
Wedding Day
I am afraid.
Sound has stopped in the day
And the images reel over
And over. Why all those tears,
The wild grief on his face
Outside the taxi? The sap
Of mourning rises
In our waving guests.
You sing behind the tall cake
Like a deserted bride
Who persists, demented,
And goes through the ritual.
When I went to the gents
There was a skewered heart
And a legend of love. Let me
Sleep on your breast to the airport.
54     PRISM 48:2 ThomaS King 28:4 (Summer 7990)
Trap Lines
When I was twelve, thirteen at the most, and we were still living on the reserve, I asked my grandmother and she told me
my father sat in the bathroom in the dark because it was the
only place he could go to get away from us kids. What does he do in
the bathroom, I wanted to know. Sits, said my grandmother. That's it?
Thinks, she said, he thinks. I asked her if he went to the bathroom, too,
and she said that was adult conversation, and I would have to ask him.
It seemed strange at the time, my father sitting in the dark, thinking, but
rather than run the risk of asking him, I was willing to believe my grandmother's explanation.
At forty-six, I am sure it was true, though I have had some trouble
convincing my son that sitting in the bathroom with the lights out is normal. He has, at eighteen, come upon language, much as a puppy comes
upon a slipper. Unlike other teenagers his age who slouch in closets and
basements, mute and desolate, Christopher likes to chew on conversation, toss it in the air, bang it off the walls. I was always shy around language. Christopher is fearless.
"Why do you sit in the bathroom, Dad?"
"My father used to sit in the bathroom."
"How many bathrooms did you have in the olden days?"
"We lived on the reserve then. We only had the one."
"I thought you guys lived in a teepee or something. Where was the
"That was your great-grandfather. We lived in a house."
"It's a good thing we got two bathrooms," he told me.
The house on the reserve had been a government house, small and
poorly made. When we left and came to the city, my father took a picture of it with me and my sisters standing in front. I have the picture in a
box somewhere. I want to show it to Christopher, so he can see just how
small the house was.
"You're always bragging about that shack."
"It wasn't a shack."
"The one with all the broken windows?"
"Some of them had cracks."
"And it was cold, right?"    55 "In the winter it was cold."
"And you didn't have television."
"That's right."
"Jerry says that every house built has cable built in. It's a law or something."
"We didn't have cable or television."
"Is that why you left?"
"My father got a job here. I've got a picture of the house. You want to
see it?"
"No big deal."
"I can probably find it."
"No big deal."
Some of these conversations were easy. Others were hard. My conversations with my father were generally about the weather or trapping
or about fishing. That was it.
"Jerry says his father has to sit in the bathroom, too."
"Shower curtain was bundled up again. You have to spread it out so
it can dry."
"You want to know why?"
"Be nice if you cleaned up the water you leave on the floor."
'Jerry says it's because his father's constipated."
"Lawn has to be mowed. It's getting high."
"He says it's because his father eats too much junk food."
"Be nice if you cleaned the bottom of the mower this time. It's packed
with grass."
"But that doesn't make any sense, does it? Jerry and I eat junk food all
the time, and we're not constipated."
"Your mother wants me to fix the railing on the porch. I'm going to
need your help with that."
"Are you constipated?"
Alberta wasn't much help. I could see her smiling to herself whenever
Christopher starting chewing. "It's because we're in the city," she said.
"If we had stayed on the reserve, Christopher would be out on a trapline
with his mouth shut and you wouldn't be constipated."
"Nobody runs a trapline anymore."
"My grandfather said the outdoors was good for you."
"We could have lived on the reserve, but you didn't want to."
"And he was never constipated."
"My father ran a trapline. We didn't leave the reserve until I was sixteen. Your folks have always lived in the city."
"Your father was a mechanic."
"He ran a trapline, just like his father."
"Your grandfather was a mechanic."
56     PRISM 48:2 "Not in the winter."
My father never remarried. After my mother died, he just looked after
the four of us. He seldom talked about himself, and, slowly, as my sisters
and I got older, he became a mystery. He remained a mystery until his
"You hardly ever knew my father," I said. "He died two years after we
were married."
Alberta nodded her head and stroked her hair behind her ears. "Your
grandmother told me."
"She died before he did."
"My mother told me. She knew your grandmother."
"So, what did your mother tell you?"
"She told me not to marry you."
"She told me I was a damn good catch. Those were her exact words
'damn good.'"
"She said that just to please you. She said you had a smart mouth. She
wanted me to marry Sid."
"So, why didn't you marry Sid?"
"I didn't love Sid."
"What else did she say?"
"She said that constipation ran in your family."
After Christopher graduated from high school, he pulled up in front
of the television and sat there for almost a month.
"You planning on going to university?" I asked him.
"I guess."
"You going to do it right away or you going to get a job?"
"I'm going to rest first."
"Seems to me, you got to make some decisions."
"Maybe I'll go in the bathroom later on and think about it."
"You can't just watch television."
"I know."
"You're an adult now."
"I know."
Alberta called these conversations father and son talks, and you could
tell the way she sharpened her tongue on "father and son" that she didn't
think much of them.
"You ever talk to him about important things?"
"Like what?"
"You know."
"Okay, what do you tell him?"
"I tell him what he needs to know."
"My mother talked to my sisters and me all the time. About every-     57 thing."
"We have good conversations."
"Did he tell you he isn't going to college?"
"He just wants some time to think."
"Not what he told me."
I was in a bookstore looking for the new Audrey Thomas novel. The
Ts were on the third shelf down and I had to bend over and cock my
head to one side in order to read the titles. As I stood there, bent over
and twisted, I felt my face start to slide. It was a strange sensation. Everything that wasn't anchored to bone just slipped off the top half of my
head, slopped into the lower half, and hung there like a bag of Jell-O.
When I arrived home, I got myself into the same position in front of the
bathroom mirror. That evening, I went downstairs and sat on the couch
with Christopher and waited for a commercial.
"How about turning off the sound?"
"We going to have another talk?"
"I thought we could talk about the things that you're good at doing."
"I'm not good at anything."
"That's not true. You're good at computers."
"I like the games."
"You're good at talking to people. You could be a teacher."
"Teaching looks boring. Most of my teachers were boring."
"Times are tougher now," I said. "When your grandfather was a boy,
he worked on a trapline up north. It was hard work, but you didn't need
a university degree. Now you have to have one. Times are tougher."
"Mr. Johnson was the boringest of all."
"University is the key. Lot of kids go there not knowing what they
want to do, and, after two or three years, they figure it out. Have you
applied to any universities yet?"
"Commercial's over."
"No money in watching television."
"Commercial's over."
Alberta caught me bent over in front of the mirror. "You lose something?"
"Mirror's got a defect in it. You can see it just there."
"At least you're not going bald."
"I talked to Christopher about university."
"My father never looked a day over forty." Alberta grinned at herself
in the mirror so she could see her teeth. "You know," she said, "When
you stand like that, your face hangs funny."
I don't remember my father growing old. He was fifty-six when he died.
We never had long talks about life or careers. When I was a kid—I forget
58     PRISM 48:2 how old—we drove into Medicine River to watch the astronauts land on
the moon. We sat in the American Hotel and watched it on the old black
and white that Morris Rough Dog kept in the lobby. Morris told my father that they were checking the moon to see if it had any timber, water,
valuable minerals, or game, and, if it didn't, they planned to turn it into a
reserve and move all the Cree up there. Hey, he said to my father, what's
that boy of yours going to be when he grows up? Beats me, said my father. Well, said Morris, there's damn little money in the hotel business
and sure as hell nothing but scratch and splinters in being an Indian.
For weeks after, my father told Morris' story about the moon and the
astronauts. My father laughed when he told the story. Morris had told it
"What do you really do in the bathroom, Dad?"
"I think."
"That all?"
"Just thinking."
"Didn't know thinking smelled so bad."
My father liked the idea of fishing. There were always fishing magazines
around the house, and he would call me and my sisters over to show us
a picture of a rainbow trout breaking water, or a northern pike rolled on
its side or a tarpon sailing out of the blue sea like a silver missile. At the
back of the magazines were advertisements for fishing tackle that my
father would cut out and stick on the refrigerator door. When they got
yellow and curled up, he would take them down and put up fresh ones.
I was in the downstairs bathroom. Christopher and Jerry were in Christopher's room. I could hear them playing video games and talking.
"My father wants me to go into business with him," said Jerry.
"Can you see it? Me, selling cars the rest of my life?"
"Good money?"
"Sure, but what a toady job. I'd rather go to university and see what
comes up."
"I'm thinking about that, too."
"What's your dad want you to do," said Jerry.
It was dark in the bathroom and cool, and I sat there trying not to
"Take a guess."
"Doctor?" said Jerry. "Lawyer?"
"An accountant? My dad almost became an accountant."
"You'll never guess. You could live to be a million years old and    59 you'd never guess."
"Sounds stupid."
"A trapper. He wants me to work a trapline."
"You got to be kidding."
"God's truth. Just like my grandfather."
"Your dad is really weird."
"You ought to live with him."
We only went fishing once. It was just before my mother died. We all
got in the car and drove up to a lake just off the reserve. My dad rented
a boat and took us kids out in pairs. My mother stayed on the docks and
lay in the sun.
Towards the end of the day, my sisters stayed on the dock with my
mother, and my father and I went out in the boat alone. He had a new
green tackle box he had bought at the hardware store on Saturday. Inside was an assortment of hooks and spinners and lures and a couple of
red things with long trailing red and white skirts. He snorted and showed
me a clipping that had come with the box for a lure that could actually
call the fish.
Used to be beaver all around here, he told me, but they've been
trapped out. Do you know why the beavers were so easy to catch, he
asked me. It's because they always do the same thing. You can count
on beavers to be regular. They're not stupid. They're just predictable, so
you always set the trap in the same place and you always use the same
bait, and pretty soon, they're gone.
Trapping was good money when your grandfather was here, but not
now. No money in being a mechanic either. Better think of something
else to do. Maybe I'll be an astronaut, I said. Have more luck trying to
get pregnant, he said. Maybe I'll be a fisherman. No sir, he said. All the
money's in making junk like this, and he squeezed the advertisement
into a bail and set it afloat on the lake.
Christopher was in front of the television when I got home from work
on Friday. There was a dirty plate under the coffee table and a box of
crackers sitting on the cushions.
"What do you say we get out of the house this weekend and do something?"
"Like what?"
"I don't know. What would you like to do?"
"We could go to that new movie."
"I meant outdoors."
"What's to do outdoors besides work?"
"We could go fishing."
60     PRISM 48:2 "Fishing?"
"Sure, I used to go fishing with my father all the time."
"This one of those father, son things?"
"We could go to the lake and rent a boat."
"I may have a job."
"Great. Where?"
"Let you know later."
"What's the secret?"
"No secret. I'll just tell you later."
"What about the fishing trip?"
"Better stick around the house in case someone calls."
Christopher slumped back into the cushions and turned up the sound
on the television.
"What about the dirty plate?"
"It's not going anywhere."
"That box is going to spill if you leave it like that."
"It's empty."
My father caught four fish that day. I caught two. He sat in the stern with
the motor. I sat in the bow with the anchor. When the sun dropped into
the trees he closed his tackle box and gave the starter rope a pull. The
motor sputtered and died. He pulled it again. Nothing. He moved his
tackle box out of the way, stood up, and put one foot on the motor and
gave the rope a hard yank. It broke in his hand and he tumbled over
backwards, the boat tipping and slopping back and forth. Damn, he said,
and he pulled himself back up on the seat. Well, son, he said, I've got a
job for you, and he set the oars in the locks and leaned against the motor.
He looked around the lake at the trees and the mountains and the sky.
And he looked at me. Try not to get me wet, he said.
Alberta was in the kitchen peeling a piece of pizza away from the
"Christopher got a job at that new fast food place. Did he tell you?"
"No. He doesn't tell me those things."
"You should talk with him more."
"I talk with him all the time."
"He needs to know you love him."
"He knows that."
"He just wants to be like you."
Once my sister and I were fighting, my father broke us up and sent us
out in the woods to get four sticks apiece about as round as a finger. So
we did. And when we brought them back, he took each one and broke
it over his knee. Then he sent us out to get some more.    61 "Why don't you take him fishing?"
"I tried. He didn't want to go."
"What did you and your father do?"
"We didn't do much of anything."
"Okay, start there."
When we came home with the sticks, my father wrapped them all together with some cord. Try to break these, he said. We jumped on the
sticks and we kicked them. We put the bundle between two rocks and
hit it with a board. But the sticks didn't break. Finally, my father took
the sticks and tried to break them across his knee. You kids get the idea,
he said. After my father went back into the house, my youngest sister
kicked the sticks around the yard some more and said it was okay but
she'd rather have a ball.
Christopher's job at the fast food place lasted three weeks. After that he
resumed his place in front of the television.
"What happened with the job?"
"It was boring."
"Lots of jobs are boring."
"Don't worry, I'll get another."
"I'm not worried," I said, and told him about the sticks. "A stick by
itself is easy to break, but it's impossible to break them when they stand
together. You see what I mean?"
"Chainsaw," said my son.
"Use a chainsaw."
I began rowing for the docks, and my father began to sing. Then he
stopped and leaned forward as though he wanted to tell me something.
Son he said, I've been thinking... And just then a gust of wind blew his
hat off, and I had to swing the boat around so we could get it before it
sank. The hat was waterlogged. My father wrung it out as best he could,
and then he settled in against the motor again and started singing.
My best memory of my father was that day on the lake. He lived
alone, and, after his funeral, my sisters and I went back to his apartment
and began packing and dividing the things as we went. I found his tackle
box in the closet at the back.
"Christopher got accepted to university."
"When did that happen?"
"Last week. He said he was going to tell you."
62     PRISM 48:2 "Good."
"He and Jerry both got accepted. Jerry's father gave Jerry a car and
they're going to drive over to Vancouver and see about getting jobs before school starts."
"Vancouver, huh?"
"Not many more chances."
"For talking to your son."
Jerry came by on a Saturday, and Alberta and I helped Christopher
pack his things in the station wagon.
"Nice car," said Alberta.
"It's a pig," said Jerry. "My father couldn't sell it because of the colour.
But it'll get us there."
"Bet your father and mother are going to miss you."
"My father wanted me to stick around and help with the business.
Gave me this big speech about traditions."
"Nothing wrong with traditions," Alberta said.
"Yeah, I guess. Look at this." Jerry held up a red metal tool box. "It's
my grandfather's first tool box. My father gave it to me. You know, father to son and all that."
"That's nice," said Alberta.
"I guess."
"Come on," said Christopher. "Couple more things and we can get
Alberta put her arm around my waist and she began to poke me. Not
so you could see. Just a sharp, annoying poke. "For Christ's sake," she
whispered, "say something."
Christopher came out of the house carrying his boots and a green
metal box. "All set," he said.
"Where'd you get the box?" I asked.
"It's an old fishing tackle box."
"I know."
"It's been sitting in the closet for years. Nobody uses it."
"It was my father's box."
"Yeah. It's got some really weird stuff in it. Jerry says that there's good
fishing in B.C."
"That's right," said Jerry. "You should see some of those salmon."
"You don't fish."
"You never took me."
"My father gave me that box. It was his father's."
"You never use it."
"No, it's okay. I was going to give it to you anyway."
"No big deal. I can leave it here."     63 "No, it's yours."
"I'll take care of it."
"Maybe after you get settled out there, we can come out. Maybe you
and I can do some fishing."
"Love you, honey," said Alberta and she put her arms around Christopher and held him. "I'm going to miss you. Call us if you need anything. And watch what you eat so you don't wind up like your father."
Alberta and I stood in the yard for a while after the boys drove off.
"You could have told him you loved him," she said.
"I did. In my own way."
"Oh, he's supposed to figure that out because you gave him that old
fishing box."
"That's the way my father did it."
"I thought you told me you found the box when you and your sisters
were cleaning out his place."
After supper, Alberta went grocery shopping. I sat in the bathroom
and imagined what my father had been going to say just before the wind
took his hat, something important I guessed, something I could have
shared with my son.
64     PRISM 48:2 Li Bai
translated from the Chinese by Ouyang Yu
42:7 (Fall2003)
Thoughts on a Quiet Night
bright moonlight in my bed
like frost on the floor
i raise my head to look at the moon
and, lowering my head, i miss my home    65 Patrick Lane 32A (Summer 7994)
Too Spare, Too Fierce
When the dawn is large enough
you will go out into that stiff blue and find a cat's paw
in the bird bath, a gift from the crow to morning.
There was a moment last night when you started walking
the iron rail in your bare feet on the bridge above the river
and you believed you wouldn't fall. Now, this morning,
you shake so badly you can't hold the glass,
lowering your face to it, your tongue
a thick grey muscle trying to drown.
Outside, mosquito larvae dance
among the claws and the little red cords
where the birds come to bathe. Old crow,
I will come as soon as I can.
66     PRISM 48:2 Sue Sinclair 39:3 (spring 2007)
American Windows
(stained glass by Chagall)
Blue multiplied by itself. A world
that doesn't exist
but that we recognize: gravity
capsized, faces floating like candles
on water, birds, a violin—
what we could say if we lost
our voices. A blue so dark
in places it's almost forgotten
about us, leaves us behind
as we have left so much,
windows, doorways, an alley,
a street we knew well:
it all comes back to you
in this place where the sky
falls apart, pieces
itself back together    67 Mark Anthony Jarman 39.-7 (Fail 2000)
The Second Little Pig
Discusses Finances With
His Wife
I run up the stairs into the tiny deco kitchen where we kiss and kiss in
the soft light bent in old glass, on the red cupboard bread slices and
apple butter.
What do you think of wood for the house?
Wood is a sensible compromise.
I think so.
Brick we'd simply bake in the summers.
And brick is very expensive.
Money we save could get away for a week in the winter.
Somewhere close but really warm.
Maybe Cuba, the citadel, the finca.
And all this wolf nonsense is blown out of proportion.
What are the chances?
Location location location!
Get out of this little apartment.
We've had good sex in this apartment though.
And it's close to everything.
Wolves have been running about here more. You see their graffiti.
And some people call it art!
They don't stay in the forest where they belong.
They run in gangs now, stealing cars, shooting guns, killing innocent
We never did that.
Knives were good enough for us.
I guess it's not that bad here. That nice cafe opened up.
I won't live ruled by fear.
Like worrying about RSPs.
The banks profit from getting people worried.
She pauses, says, We should get more RSPs.
She says, Someone did break in at your brother's house.
68     PRISM 48:2 All that damage, it was amazing.
Who else could have been responsible? It had to be wolves.
My brother does have a history.
He's not exactly Simon pure.
No he's not.
In high school he smoked dope a lot more than you did.
And I did a fair bit.
Does he still play flute?
At the office we never see him.
Supposedly that wolf had an alibi.
He said he was in Vegas on a junket.
As if.
More than one wolf though.
They all look the same to me—beady eyes, slouching and spitting and
scratching themselves.
How can you tell them apart?
All on welfare too.
Money just goes to drink, drugs.
Our taxes. Our money!
Those long snouts they have.
I think you like them, I tease.
The right wing parties do like scare tactics for the election.
They want to sound tough on crime.
Wolves under every bed.
I say, Speaking of bed.
I slip my hand in her waistband, cool private flesh, touch, cooler and
warmer both.
Loose running pants. I met her jogging alone by the seawall, mist rising
white from the water, white chains dripping from their painted posts. We
were so young.
Moving my hand around on her skin.
Mmm, she says.
We could use old parts of a barn for that rustic look.
Notice how north of the river they say 'bairn'?
With wood I can burn all the bits left from construction. Our little fireplace blazing away.
You and your free firewood, she laughs.
I like wood, especially free wood.
You're so cheap.
Not cheap—sensible.
I saw your new billboard by the Superstore: Pig Bros. Brothers by chance,    69 partners by choice.
Did it look okay?
Didn't you have a client who wouldn't sign unless she could sleep with
all three of you?
She was a wild one!
Wood is reliable.
Wood is sensible.
Woody. Look.
Framing goes up much faster than brick, we could be moved in before
Our little love shack.
I adore those tiny fishscale shingles, she says, a widow's walk in black
You're so much better than, cuter than that Martha Stewart.
I've noticed you mentally undressing her, she says.
What would sex with Martha Stewart be like?
In the middle she'd be saying, You can make a dandy coffee table decoration out of vaseline and pillow hair and smegma and down feathers.
I can't imagine her letting go, really getting wild and messy.
Those straw bales your brother is so keen on, they are warm and safe for
building, but it's all too hippie-ish somehow.
Like my brother.
I saw some darling house plans in the Daily Gleaner.
My hand on her seamless skin, a series of orbs, the sky roses and apples,
window light tinted, her bread and butter.
We should try Ecstasy sometime; it was in the paper.
Her pants pulled partway down.
Is the door locked?
Adults, we can do what we want now. When did that happen?
Sunday we could look at model homes in Starlite Village.
We could.
We can do anything. Even this.
Moving my hand.
Could we live somewhere that spells it Starlite?
Her track suit, elastic, hand all the way down and under her on smooth
bits with no name on the map, on the globes, feels nice down there, to
explore around the world.
Do you hear anything? The door's locked, right?
So easy to slip cotton down over plump but taut hips, biting her.
Hey tiger, watch that. I want to go out dancing later.
We can dance.
Sometimes I feel we're being watched.
70     PRISM 48:2 Her hair down there shaped into a little Hitler mustache.
This excites me just thinking about it during the day, her quiet attention
to detail.
Was it for him, or for someone else, or just for her swimsuit?
Would you shave all of it clean? I ask. I like that idea.
That's because you must want a little girl, she says.
I hope that's not true.
I move my hands in slow circles.
Ok, she says, but just a quickie, I have work to do.
Me too.
Yo La Tengo on the black stereo.
I don't want to get all discombobulated, she says.
Look at it, she says, up at attention.
My long snout.
Hmm, don't eat me up, Mister big bad wolf.
You wish. I could eat you, mm yes, I could eat you all up.
Don't bite so hard, easy.
We fall on the thick duvet.
Ok, bite.
Mmm that feels nice.
Do you want me to turn over?
Turn over.
Mmmm I want it now.
Well now you don't get it. Or maybe just the tip, really slowly.
If we had a nice little wooden house maybe we could start a family, she
says as I tie her to the four bedposts.
Wood is good.
I take off my belt, lightly brush the inside of her legs with my belt.
Just a long quickie, she mumbles, head hidden under the pillow's edge.
The door locked, the front door, the back door, the forest waiting.
Do you hear anything? What's out there?
In my mind I see the charming wooden house standing, horizontal clinker planks painted lightest yellow, dawn sky alive with fever and ferns,
a white stone path to an ornate carved door, something colonial, sun in
the French panes.
Live there til you have liver spots, your Urdu face in the hardwood hall.
Move the belt lightly on the inside of her naked legs, delaying, ripeness
is all waiting on the duvet, not speaking, waiting for my wolfish ways and
I say, Yes, say, I have a good feeling about this.    71 Erin Moure 24:i (Fail 7985)
Wearing the Map of Africa
The hurt mouth full of dust, trying to dream.
I take you in my arms like oranges or diamonds or wine.
On television the South African riots are processions
for the rioted dead; policemen
with peaked caps & rifles who look like the army
not the police
fire into the crowd.
These funerals have to stop, say the ruling party,
they've gone past mourning the dead.
Singing freedom songs, the black marchers dancing
in the road kick the tear gas bombs farther away,
or back at the armed men.
The government is trying to restore calm, the voice says;
calm, what is this word with its four deaf ciphers
& small beak
The National network bringing this film clip to you,
the white cameraman, of course, benefiting from
exactly what he portrays
He is so invisible we can see outward from his beak
Oh how white he is
The day has many colours
This poem is white too
Oh how white I am
Does the word restore mean anything?
The word calm?
The tear gas canister & the dancing man lifting his arms
up, his jacket lifting, the map of Africa
on his t-shirt, & behind him
a woman, the map of Africa on her t-shirt,
& behind her, another man, the map of Africa on
his t-shirt, & behind, another, the map of Africa on her
t-shirt, wearing the map of Africa,
the shape of Africa
72     PRISM 48:2 The word calm means suppressed anger.
The word calm means implode.
The word restore means suppress anger.
The word means where does anger go when its beak is
shut, forcibly
Where does the anger go to it doesn't go anywhere
We are still dancing
We are still dancing
the word is angry, angry
It has gone beyond mourning the dead.
It is honouring the living.
It is honouring the mouth, hurt,
trying to dream.
My arms are oranges, soft juice bitter sweet & that beautiful colour.
Orange is indescribable apart from that sweetness.
My beak is shut. It is the colour of sweetness
I am trying to dream     73 George McWhirter 8:2 (winter 7966)
The siesta, the people drinking at the fountain,
The steps—are necessary to measure by.
The door closes. Darkness lasts long after the sun.
The bed (another measure) holds him to the air;
With ice in his throat
To the hot exhaust of the sun.
On her marriage bed the Senora lies,
Linen sheets her mother gave,
Draped over empty mounds.
Vails, his eyeballs laid in silt,
Tears dried to sulphur in their ducts,
Walks the flats of the riverbed.
The hollow beat of an ass's hoof
Measures the time.
Eduardo prepares.
Like senseless flies
Words clutter his tongue.
In the room where Dolores lies
The belly of a candle flame
Undulates before an ikon of the virgin.
Here the axe has cut the womb from the earth.
Vails saw it often from the Madrid road
El Rio Jalon pours by, liquid porcelain
That hardens in the bowels
Like Gorgon's milk.
A widowed land!
74     PRISM 48:2 Upon the marriage bed—
Dolores Vails—
The cracked earth drained of stubborn immortality-
Mountains of Aragon.
Nothing breaks the cruelty of their line
Against the sky.
Mountains of asses' hair; maggot mountains;
Mountains of powder cement and oxide blood.
Vails exposed to the dazed sky—
From Sarria to the wave-break at the harbour
Barcelona is straddled with light.
Eduardo approaches the door.
Delicately, he places the key
In the metal gland.
Across the room
The flame scatters at his breath.
In the dark
He can barely sense
The bed where they slept.    75 Irving Layton 4:7 (Fail 7962)
At the Iglesia de Sacromonte
A death's head
from which falls away
a black soutane,
he conducts me
and the three withered nuns
from Pamplona
through his catacomb of horrors.
Complete with hairy lip
and decaying stumps of tooth,
the three withered nuns
from Pamplona
kiss relic and bloodstained bars
asking for intercession.
As they kneel and mumble
I hear reverberate
in cave and cell
the running bulls of Pamplona.
76     PRISM 48:2 Lisa Moore
37:2 (Winter 7993)
Various Degrees of Nakedness
The top half of Joan's house caught fire and burned while she slept
downstairs. The microwave and television melted. They were as
smooth and shiny as beach rocks. She woke up to make herself
a cup of tea in the morning and when she got upstairs everything was
black. The furniture was in cinders. The windows were blackened with
soot. She walked into the centre of the living room and looked around
her. The footsteps behind her exposed the green and gold shag carpet
beneath the soot. It occurred to her she must still be asleep.
She went back downstairs and sat on the edge of her bed. Then she
went upstairs again. She picked up the phone but it was dead. Her greenish gold footsteps were the only colour in the room. It reminded her of
Dorothy on her way to the Emerald City.
The fire chief said it was a miracle she was still alive. The temperature
had risen to three thousand degrees. There were large double-paned
patio windows. The inside panes broke but the fire ran out of oxygen
before the outside panes broke. The fire chief said if the second pane had
broken or if she had gotten up in the middle of the night and opened the
back door, the house would have exploded. Joan said she felt as if she
had been stripped.
She and her twelve-year-old son, Wiley, moved in with us. Wiley had
been at his grandmother's the night of the fire. Joan says she keeps having the same nightmare. Her hand on the brass doorknob of the back
porch. Everything in sharp focus, like before a storm. Wiley is standing
outside the door in the forest. In the dream, Wiley is a baby. She knows
she can't open the door; he's toddling through the woods to the highway.
He waves to her the way he first learned to wave, with both hands, the
fingers pointed toward himself. Her palm is sweaty, and she turns the
knob. The house blows up. In the dream, she sees two-by-fours twirling
into the sky like batons.
One night during the dream she reached for the glass of water by the
bed and threw it over herself. She woke because she smacked the bridge
of her nose with the glass, and water was running down her nightdress,
between her breasts, down her spine. She had a little half-moon bruise
on the bridge of her nose.
I have become interested in nakedness. All the different kinds. Es-    77 pecially since my sister-in-law moved in. It's as if she can't keep herself
covered, things always seem to slip away from her. I walked in on her in
the bath once. Her skin was tanned in the shape of her bathing suit. The
skin of her torso seemed very white, the colour of a tree when you strip
off the bark.
Before supper, my husband Mike shoves Joan out the front door and
locks it. There's a small square window in the front door. Joan has her
face pressed against it. She's giggling, and saying, "Come on now, Mike,
let me in."
There are seven neighborhood boys armed with water balloons standing in a semi-circle around her, arms raised.
Mike puts his face to the window so he can meet Joan's eyes and
quietly lifts the mail slot, sticks a pistol through and squirts, hitting the
crotch of her jeans. It takes her a moment to realize what's happening.
Then Wiley, who has gone to the third floor, opens the window over the
front door and drops a wobbling balloon on her head. She shrieks. The
boys open fire. The balloons splat against her. The breeze changes direction. At the end of the street eight girls are lined up from one sidewalk
to the other. They seem to be advancing to the music of the sea cadets'
band in the Star of the Sea Hall at the end of the street. Each one has a
swollen balloon that she holds like a baby. The boys are still for a second, then one of them yells "Run!" and they tear down the street, their
sneakers slapping on the pavement. Mike lets Joan inside.
I've persuaded Joan to go to the only strip joint in town with me tomorrow night. I just want to see what it's like. A woman can't get in without a male escort, and since Joan's hair is very short she's going to dress
like a man. The newspaper ad says formal wear required. The woman
on the phone said that they mean no construction boots or torn shirts. I
dig out the tuxedo Mike wore to our wedding for Joan to wear.
I've gotten into the habit of telling the woman who sells the coffee and
muffins in the cafeteria where I work the most intimate things about myself. I'm not usually one for telling strangers things. Early in the morning
the ugly cafeteria is huge and empty; my footsteps echo as in a cathedral.
Usually it's just the two of us at that hour. She wears a brown polyester
suit with two seams down the front and a gold bull horn on a chain
around her neck. Sometimes when I fall asleep I can see that horn and
the skin of her neck. The exact location of her mole, the tiny gold horn
jiggling while she wipes the counter. When I give her a twenty she looks
at me as if I should know better. She says, with her eyebrow arched,
"Are you trying to break me?"
Sometimes just as I'm dropping off to sleep I see her arched eyebrow,
exaggerated, and a disconnected voice, "Are you trying to break me?"
I have told her, for instance, that my sister-in-law has moved in be-
78     PRISM 48:2 cause her house burned down, that she hates her ex-husband. That we
have no idea when she will move out. That my husband had a daughter
with another woman, before he met me. Sometimes we have the child
over for supper. I have told the cafeteria woman I believejoan got drunk
and set fire to the house on purpose. Often I find myself saying to her
"Strange old world, isn't it?" and shaking my head like an old man. She
wears a plastic name tag that says 'Cathy.' Once I said "Good morning
Cathy" and she said "That's not my real name." She didn't tell me what
her real name is.
Joan's last boyfriend broke up with her two or three nights before the
fire. She says he was a real sweetie. She slapped a newspaper at his chest
outside a restaurant and it bounced off and fell between a mail box and
a newspaper vending box. It's still there. We walk past it on the way to
the supermarket. It's waterlogged and you can see she twisted it in her
fists before she flung it at him.
Later that night, when Wiley is in bed, Mike and I fight. I throw my
cup of coffee across the room as hard as I can. The cup hits the wall behind his head and leaves a mark in the gyprock like a frown. There are
no curtains on the front window. It's dark outside and the living room is
lit like a fish tank. A woman in a cotton skirt with a black palm leaf print
is standing on the opposite sidewalk under a streetlamp, arms crossed
over her breasts. She is watching the fight as if it were a movie. Then
on our side of the street two heads pass under the window, a man and
a woman. They wave, surprised to see us. Mike's face is still stiff with
anger, but both of us wave back, uncertainly. They knock on the door. It
turns out they were neighbours of ours two years ago. We hardly spoke
to them then and haven't seen them since. But they seem delighted to
see us. Mike and I stand in the doorway, forced to talk to them. I can
feel the snarl on my face thaw. The breeze is warm and it rushes through
the trees on the traffic island as if it can't make up its mind which way to
The guy is tanned and is carrying a tennis racket. He mimes taking
swings as he talks. He says, "Yeah, I was away studying giant clams, they
weigh as much as fifty kilos. The shells don't really shut all the way, you
can stick your whole arm in there, it's real fleshy. Isn't it honey?" he says
to his girlfriend. "They just suck your whole arm, for hours if you let
'em. The islanders say if you eat that flesh it's an aphrodisiac, makes the
adolescent penis grow or something. You know, they're a small people
down there, aren't they, honey? They used to joke about how big I was,
they said Barb must be a happy woman."
Barb smiles up at him, and her mouth glitters unexpectedly with braces. "Oh, they thought Tony was real big."
When Mike shuts the door, he says, "That cup could have killed me."     79 I say, "Are you trying to break me?"
Then he gets a cloth from the kitchen and wipes the splattered coffee off the wall. Joan walks in at that moment, sees the broken cup and
When Mike and I make love a blush comes into his cheeks and the
tips of his ears. That's my private colour for him, almost plum. The first
time we were together we were behind the row housing under crisscrossing clotheslines, white shirts laughing with their bellies. We were drunk
and his tongue in my ear sounded like a pot of mussels boiling, the shells
opening, the salty shells clicking off one another. The whole thing was a
riot of tiny noises. I got the flu. He made a pot of tea: cinnamon, cloves,
apple and orange chunks. The next day we made love in his new house,
empty of furniture, except for a couch covered with satiny parakeets,
belonging to the former owners. Streetlight poured in, a plastic bag of
chicken breasts glowing on the floor where I dropped it. I had been
swimming in a hotel pool that day where they sold paper bathing suits.
I made him close his eyes, and I put on the damp suit, which smelled of
chlorine and was indestructible.
Once Mike did a tour of a glass blowing factory. They chose him out
of the tour group to do the blowing. When we first met he gave me an
irregular perfume bottle with his breath caught in it, caught in bubbles.
I've worn lilac since I was thirteen. When he took the stopper off it surprised me to smell myself. Lilac on the sanded wand he rubbed down
my neck, sticky and warm. It was as if he trapped all my years in a bottle,
then he trickled them down my neck. Now he wants to leave for a year,
to work. I don't want him to go. I need him here. I'm afraid of him leaving. It looks as though Joan and I will share an apartment if he leaves.
Today around five the doorbell buzzes and it's Jill, a little girl who
plays with Wiley. The street is full of squad cars, the police are putting
on bulletproof vests. They take rifles and guns out of the trunks of the
cars and load them with bullets. A cop comes to the door and pushing
Jill from behind says, "Can she stay in there, she can't go around the
I ask what's going on, my voice shrill. The cop looks as if he's going
to answer me but then he turns and trots down the street with the gun.
A CBC van arrives. Some guy coming up the street says there's a man
in one of the houses around the corner with a gun. Princess Anne had
been on George Street earlier in the day. I'd taken Wiley and a bunch of
neighbourhood kids to see her. I think it must be a sniper who has run
up from George Street. Wiley is on the concrete step of the house across
the street, eating a supper of Jigg's dinner the next door neighbour has
given him. The cop cars glitter between us and I say, "Get over here."
"What about my supper?"
80     PRISM 48:2 "Just get over here." He comes over with the plate. I phone Jill's
mother, Maureen, to tell her Jill is with us. A cop answers the phone.
"Sergeant Peddle," she says.
I say, "Oh can I talk to Maureen?"
She says, "I wish you could, but I can't get her down. What do you
I say I just wanted to tell her her daughter's at my house, I'm a neighbour.
"Okay the daughter's at your house." Sergeant Peddle hangs up. I
whisper to Mike, "The man with the gun is in Maureen's house."
We met Maureen through Wiley. Maureen's a lesbian. We've never
seen much of her partner, who's a surgeon. They keep pretty much to
themselves but since Joan has moved in she and Maureen call each other
every now and then to ask if the other would mind babysitting for half an
After twenty minutes the cops pull away but the CBC is still there
with the cameras. Jill wants to go home. I phone Maureen. The phone
rings for some time before she picks it up. I hear nothing but long sobs.
I keep saying, "Maureen?" but she just sobs into the phone, no words. I
tell her I'm Joan's sister-in-law and I say, "I have your daughter here."
She doesn't say anything. I say, "Do you want me to come down?"
The large glass window in the front door is smashed in. Broken glass
covers the concrete steps. Inside, the plush carpet crunches with every
step. I call out to her. In the hall, two framed paintings have been torn
off the wall, the frames cracked in half. Maureen is in the kitchen with
her head in her arms on the table. The window beside her is smashed.
The contents of the fridge lie all over the floor, and the glass shelves have
been torn out of it. Some kind of orange drink was spilled on the floor
so as I walk across to the table my sneakers make a sound like ripping
cotton. I put my arms around her and put one hand over hers, I rub the
back of her thumb with mine. I say, "Who was it? Who did this? Was
there a man with a gun in here?" She shakes her head. "Was it your ex-
husband?" She shakes her head.
I let go of her and turn on the kettle. I realize I don't know her at all.
There are three giant yellow tubs of margarine laying on their sides. It
seems like an incredible amount of margarine. I can't believe how much
damage there is. I think about the kind of rage it would take to sustain this much damage. I think about the damage the fire had caused in
Joan's house. I feel very tired. It seems utterly still. I say, "Where's your
partner? Can I call her for you? Does your partner know this has happened?" The phone book is open beside her. "Let me call your partner
for you."     81 Maureen raises her head. Her eyes are sunken and bloodshot from
crying or alcohol. "This was my partner," she says.
I sit down. "This was your partner," I repeat. "She did this. How did
the cops get here?" I am afraid. The kettle whistles. "Where are the tea-
bags?" She points.
"She's caused over 2,500 dollars worth of damage in the last three
months. I've had to replace every window more than once. She doesn't
let me out. She doesn't let me see anyone. She'll be back, she'll kill me
tonight, I can't get away from her. If she was a man I would have done
something, I wouldn't have put up with it. But it's taken my mother so
long to understand, how could I tell them this now?"
The breeze blows gently through the window. It is the sunniest day
we've had in a long time. You can hear some of the music from the
Canada Day celebrations. I ask about the cops.
"I was sitting on the front step and the glass just showered down on
top of me and I said by Jesus that's the last time she'll break a window
in my house and when Tom from next door came through the door I
was in the process, I was proceeding to kill her. I said, Tom call the cops
please. They came in and arrested her."
Somebody knocks on the door. Maureen crumples. "Please don't let
anyone in, please."
I walk out over the glass. A man is standing outside. He says, "I'm
with the CBC, can you tell us what happened here, we heard someone
was arrested. "
I say, "Well, it's pretty insensitive to come around here right now,
isn't it?"
He says, "We didn't know what happened, that's all."
I say, "Well nobody here's going to tell you." It strikes me how absurd
it is to speak to him through the broken window without opening the
door. Down the street a man is pointing a camera at us.
Then Maureen and I drink the tea. We sit in silence until the phone
rings. It's Mike. He asks if everything is okay. He says he is going to order the kids a pizza. I say that sounds good. I tell Maureen Jill can sleep
at our house. We get a broom and start to clean up. Maureen gets out a
big sheet of plastic she has for sealing broken windows.
When I get home Joan is dressed in Mike's tuxedo. She hasn't heard
anything about the incident on the street and is dressed to go to the strip
joint. I expect the dancers to be ugly in some way. But they have beautiful bodies. They dance on a raised stage and the bottom of it is covered
with mirrors. I have never been in this bar before. They have ultra-violet
lighting that seems to erase everything in the room except whiteness.
The women wear white G-strings so their crotches glow as if they are
free-floating. There's a man in a dark suit and tie sitting at the table in
82     PRISM 48:2 front of me. I glance up and see him in the mirrors around the bottom of
the stage. The mirrors reflect him from the neck down; his head is above
stage level. His white collar is glowing, sharply cut. It looks at first glance
like a headless body. I watch his hand in the mirror lift his scotch and
aim it at the empty neck of his shirt.
Joan and I are loaded, walking home past the Anglican cathedral. She
starts to cry. I never hug people. I'm not a very physical person in that
way. But I hug her very suddenly. I draw her body into mine and I grab
her hair in my fingers. It shocks me when I realize I have a fistful of her
hair in my hand. It is the exact texture of my husband's. She's wearing
my husband's jacket over the tuxedo. The jacket is gold silk. It looks like
a wedding band on him. It has started to rain on our way home while she
is crying. The rain falls in giant splotches on the quilted jacket, making it
heavy and tarnished.     83 Jan Zwicky 47:2 (Winter 2003)
Study: Disciplines
For instance, logic—which would overwhelm him
sometimes, like a sickness
or the impulse to remove the chair,
to let the floor
strike out unhindered, pure stretch of lino
three feet wide right to the baseboard.
Or politics, the racket of collapse
like steering with a flat, mind
veering constantly toward abstraction,
useless, unable
to rescue anything, because forgetting
how to praise:
the mouldings, their made-from-woodness
in the winter light.
84     PRISM 48:2 P.K. Page
26:2 (Winter 7988)
"We were set in the green enamel of Brazil.
You—monumental—an old-testament prophet caught
mid-stride and speaking in utterances:
'Thou shalt. Thou shalt not.'"
"But—we were laughing. Have you forgotten?
I was high—higher than Corcovado on the light,
the colour, the sharp smell of turps,
and the little jewel of a canvas we had made—
insects, of all things, winged and crawling, bright
irridescent bodies, hexagonal eyes
and the absolute stamp of air
in the gauze of their wings.
No'shalt'. No'shalt not.'"
"/was laughing—true. Not up to utterances.
Able only to slosh and slosh my brush
in the paint your old-testament hand had mixed
with such assurance. Additive colour. Paint like light.
When under its sudden weight my hand collapsed.
Each cell grew heavy. My arm fell.
"It was then you put the fire in the canvas,
flame in the wings. Made little phoenixes of the simple flies.
Spun on the ball of your foot."     85 Al Purdy 79:2 (Winter 7980)
The Dead Poet
I was altered in the placenta
by the dead brother before me
who built a place in the womb
knowing I was coming:
he wrote words on the walls of flesh
painting a woman inside a woman
whispering a faint lullaby
that sings in my blind heart still
The others were lumberjacks
backwoods wrestlers and farmers
their women were meek and mild
nothing of them survives
but an image inside an image
of a cookstove and the kettle boiling
—how else explain myself to myself
where does the song come from?
Now on my wanderings:
at the Alhambra's lyric dazzle
where the Moors built stone poems
a wan white face peering out
—and the shadow in Plato's cave
remembers the small dead one
—at Samarkand in pale blue light
the words came slowly from him
—I recall the music of blood
on the Street of the Silversmiths
86     PRISM 48:2 Sleep softly spirit of earth
as the days and nights join hands
when everything becomes one thing
wait softly brother
but do not expect it to happen
that great whoop announcing resurrection
expect only a small whisper
of birds nesting and green things growing
and a brief saying of them
and know where the words came from    87 Jorge LuiS BorgeS 8:7 (Summer 7968)
Tales of the Fantastic
A few years ago I compiled a brief encyclopedia of monsters. Now,
monsters are a blending or linking together of different species.
For example, the Minotaur is a man with a bull's head, or, as
Dante saw it, a bull with a man's head; a centaur is man and horse; the
mermaid is a maiden with a fish's tail, and the permutations of the species are almost endless. I thought that I might be able to unearth a very
large number of monsters. Then, after a close study of Pliny, of the last
pages of Flaubert's Tentatlon de Salnte-Antolne, of Sir Thomas Browne
and so on, I discovered that the number of monsters was quite a small
one, and more or less the same thing happened to me in the case of tales
of the fantastic.
One might think that realism, which treats everyday as humdrum
reality, would cover but a small section of literature if you compare it to
tales of the fantastic, and yet I spent my whole lifetime reading tales of
the fantastic and I found that they can be reduced to a few types. You
may call them archetypes to dignify them, and it is my purpose to review
some of them.
Now, first we have the idea of the interweaving of dreams and real-
ity, and there my first example comes from Coleridge. This is merely a
jotting of Coleridge's. I found it in Potter's book on him. It covers but
a few lines and runs thus: "If a man dreamt that he was carried up into
Heaven, and in Heaven they gave him a flower as a proof that he had
been there, and if on waking up he should find that flower in his hand,
what then?" Is he sure? I suppose it is sufficient, and we shall see later on,
how from this very brief jotting of Coleridge's came a very fine novel,
one of the finest nightmares of H. G. Wells.
But let us go back to the subject of the dream and of reality. There
comes into my mind a different tale, a tale that came long before
Coleridge. It is to be found in one of the delectable volumes of that very
extended dream called The Arabian Nights, or as Captain Burton has it,
The Book of the Thousand and One Nights. The story is quite a short one. It
runs more or less thus: A man in Cairo dreams. In his dream he hears a
voice, and the voice tells him that if he goes to Persia he will find there
a treasure. When the man awakens, he remembers his dream; he is obedient to his dream and he sets out on long travels through a perilous
88     PRISM 48:2 geography of wastes, of seas, of deserts, of heathens, and, after a journey of many years, he duly arrives in Persia. The dream has mentioned
the city of Ispahan. Well, he arrives there at Ispahan, he is very weary
and he goes to sleep in the courtyard of a mosque. Robbers break in,
the soldiers arrest everybody and he is taken with the others before the
cadi, before the judge. Then he has to explain his presence there and he
says, "I'm an Egyptian, I had a dream in Cairo that if I came to Ispahan
a treasure might be given to me." And when he says those words, the
cadi laughs and says, "O foolish Egyptian, I have had a dream like that
many times over and I have never believed in it. I've had a dream of a
garden in Cairo and in that garden, a sundial, and behind the sundial,
a fig tree, and under the fig tree, a buried treasure, and yet I have never
thought of going to Egypt." Then he orders the unfortunate—or perhaps
the fortunate—Egyptian to be flogged. The Egyptian receives a flogging
and well-contented he goes back to Egypt, and there the cadi had described, of course, his own garden—the garden of his house—and there
is the sundial, there is the fig tree and there is the treasure awaiting him.
Now, had the Divine Voice been more economical he might have
said there is a treasure lying quite near you. But of course, the man had
to take the trouble, he had to take the journey. So he was rewarded and
the cadi, of course, lost the treasure. Now, here in this story, even as in
Coleridge's vision, we have those two elements blended. We have the
idea of a dream and of reality.
And now, we will try another common source of fantastic tales. We
will take the idea of an omen, and the first tale that comes to my mind,
the first story, is that ancient Greek fable of the tyrant, the fortunate tyrant, who thought that things were going too well with him: Polycrates
was his name. Well, he was a successful tyrant; he had alliances with the
neighbouring kings; he was fortunate in all his ventures. And then he
thought: I am too happy, this cannot go on, I must bribe the gods, or I
must bribe fate somehow. And so he bethought himself of his many possessions and said to himself: "Of all my possessions, the one I prize most
is this gold ring, so I will sacrifice it, I will give it to the gods." Then he
dropped the ring into the sea and he felt quite happy. He thought he had
bribed destiny. But a fortnight afterwards, a large fish was served at the
royal table. The fish was carved, and then the king fainted because he
saw a glimpse of gold. The ring was there, and he knew that the gods, or
fate, had refused his gift, and when it was known that the ring had come
back to him, the neighbouring kings felt they could no longer be his allies and his people rebelled against him and he was killed.
Well, here you have, another common subject. We have the idea of
an omen, we have the idea of a kind of secret language, the idea of small
things—the ring coming back for example—being a secret mirror of om-    89 inous events yet to happen, the idea of events casting a shadow before
they come. This also is common for tales of the fantastic. There is another idea akin to this: the idea of causes and effects not being somehow
different. For example, if a man does something apparently meaningless,
and if that thing, that quite unimportant thing, causes other events, this is
of course allied to an omen, but is not exactly, at least from the point of
view of logic, like it.
And now there comes to me another tale, and this time the tale comes
from the Welsh mountains and it is to be found in that very strange collection of tales called the Mablnogton, turned into English during the 19th
century by Lady Charlotte Guest. The tale is tucked away in another tale,
and no special significance is given to it. It runs thus: We have a battle,
we have two streams of men. These men are wounding and killing each
other at the foot of a mountain, and on the top of the mountain there
are two kings. The kings are the leaders of the armies, but they seem to
be quite unaware of that whirlpool of men fighting each other. They are
intent on a game of chess. The game begins at dawn and goes on till the
evening. Then, at the last moment—the battle has been raging all the
time—the kings are pondering over the chessboard and at the moment
the sun is setting one of the kings moves one of the chessmen and says,
"Checkmate." The other acknowledges that he has been defeated, and
just then a horseman comes riding up the hill and says that that king has
been defeated. And so we see that the armies were the thoughts of the
kings, that the battle was the game of chess, but that the fate of the men,
of the living men who were fighting, depended on the game of chess.
I spoke of dreams, and I regret that some are forgotten, but one of the
finest stories about dreams that I can remember comes from a Chinese
novel called Monkey that was turned into English by Arthur Whalley,
and it runs thus: We begin with a Chinese Emperor, and this Chinese
Emperor is sleepless. So, finding that sleep is beyond him, he gets up
and walks in the garden, in the dark garden. He feels that something is
clinging to him, something huge and at the same time something that's
worried, pathetic. And this thing that he cannot see clings to him, and a
voice comes to him, and the voice says, "I am a dragon. I had a dream
that tomorrow your Chief Minister is going to kill me and I invoke your
help." Then the Emperor gives him his word that he will be protected,
and the moment he says those words he wakes up and he is not in his
garden, he's in bed. And he remembers what has happened and remembers that he has pledged his word and he thinks, "Well, if an Emperor
pledges his word even in a dream, he must keep it—even if the word be
pledged to a dragon and not a human being." Then he calls his Chief
Minister and he tells him—(here we have chess: there seems to be a
linking together of chess and magic, which is as it should be)—he says
90     PRISM 48:2 to his Minister: "I would like to play chess with you." And the Minister
says that of course he has been hungering and thirsting for chess, and
as they sit before all the Court, they play. The Emperor knows that the
Minister is about to kill the dragon and so he has to keep him from doing it. They play together. The long day passes by and at the end, in the
evening, the Minister dozes off, the Emperor wins the game. The Minister has dutifully lost all his chessmen. We may think that he was a better
player than the Emperor but, of course, no Emperor should be allowed
to lose. Suddenly a great crash, a great noise is heard in the hall, and a
few minutes afterwards two captains come, and they carry a huge head.
And that huge head is bloodstained. It is the head of a dragon. One captain says that this head has just fallen from high Heaven. And then the
Minister, awakened when he hears the crashing of the head on the floor,
rubs his eyes and says: "How strange, I had a dream that I was killing a
dragon with a face exactly like that." And so we see how very finely this
was done: we have a dream within a dream. The dragon had a dream of
the Minister, and then the Minister killed the dragon in a dream. But of
course, he killed it in reality, because in this story we have the vision and
the dream all together.
There are, of course, many stories of ghosts, or stories of gods—stories
that speak to us of the possibility of having near at hand dreams that are
quite different from us. And I recall at this moment a story that comes to
us from the North. It comes from Norway. It is a story of Olaf Tryggva-
son who brought, I think, the worship of the White Christ to the lands
of the Norse. This Olaf Tryggvason was assailed and was killed in a sea
battle. I wonder if you remember a ballad that Longfellow wrote about
that battle? He took the story from the Helm Skrtngla. The king is on the
deck of a ship. He is fighting his enemy, and behind him there stands Ei-
nar Tamberskelver, the finest bowman, the finest archer in Norway, and
they are both fighting and the king hears something breaking behind
him. It is the string of Einar's bow that has been broken by an arrow.
Without looking back he asks: "Einar, has something been broken?" and
the archer replies: "Yes, Norway, King, under my hand," or, as Longfellow has it:
Einar then, the arrow taking
From the loosened string,
Answered, "that was Norway breaking
From thy hand, O King!"
But now we may go back to the story. The king is in his court. He is
surrounded by his noblemen. An old man comes in, and this old man is
a weary old man, he looks tired, he looks as if he has been travelling a    91 long way and he is wrapped in a shabby blue coat. He has a grey beard,
his hat is over his eyes. He sits down, and after supper the harp goes
round, and when it comes to the old man he takes the harp and begins
singing in a very tired voice. He sings to the music of a very old tune and
his words sound somehow different, as if they came from the past, and
he tells the story of the birth of Odin (the Woden of the Saxons, the god
who gave his name to the day Wednesday) and how Odin was born. He
tells how the Three Fates came and of how one of them had not been
invited. The first two Fates shower splendid gifts on the god, but the last
Fate is an ugly Fate and she merely takes a candlestick and lights it and
says: "The life of Odin shall last no more than the life of this candle."
And then the Three Fates vanish, and the father of Odin puts out the light
in order that Odin should go on living. When the old man has finished
singing this song, people stare at him in amazement. They laugh at him
as if he were a child, and they say that of course those things might have
been believed in the past but nowadays it is a mere children's tale. For
now the White Christ is worshipped all over the lands of the Norse and
nobody thinks of the old gods. The old man appears not to understand
what they say. He gets up, he feels very tired and he takes a candlestick
from his cloak, even as the first Norn, the first Fate, Neutra, had done
centuries and centuries ago, and he says: "Yes, but my story's closed and
here is the candle." Then he lays it on the table, and once it is on the
table, he proceeds to light it, and the king and his noblemen stare at it.
They feel a kind of fascination for the light of the candle, and, when the
candle has gone out they look around them and Odin has disappeared.
The king tells his people to go outside and they find the god dead in the
snow by the side of his good horse. Here we have found a motif that
comes, and will come, in tales of the fantastic. But now I should like to
dwell upon the idea of a man changing his form.
You remember, of course, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You remember
Jekyll drinking the potion and becoming Hyde, but I wonder if you remember that this scene, the central scene in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was
given by a dream to Stevenson. Stevenson wrote a book called A Chapter
of Dreams. He thought of his dreams as Brownies, as brown Scottish elves,
and he says (he speaks of the writer, but he means himself, of course) that
he had to train his Brownies to help him and that these Brownies brought
him stories. Once they brought him that central scene from Dr. Jekyll and
Mr. Hyde, that scene wherein Jekyll drinks a potion and becomes Hyde.
They also gave him another story, or rather a central scene in a story,
and he saw a courtyard—there was something Spanish-looking about
it—and there a young man was biting the hand of a girl. Then he awoke
and he felt there might be a tale in that scene, and he wrote a story called
"Olalla," and he says of it: "The story is not, I am afraid, a very good
92     PRISM 48:2 one; the only effective scene is where the brother bites the hand of his
sister, and, as to the rest of it, I must apologize, because that was not
given by the dream, that I had to invent by myself and, of course, I cannot cope with my bogies, they are far beyond inspiration."
And now we come to a different pattern of tales of the fantastic, and
this pattern is quite common in our time; in fact, it is a commonplace:
the idea of playing with time. Of course this idea is not new. We have,
for example, that old medieval story of a monk. A monk went out from
his monastery. He walked into the garden and heard a nightingale singing, and he was entranced by the music of the nightingale. He listened
to it and lo, when the nightingale had ended its song, he walked back
and found that 300 years had elapsed. He had been carried away by
the music. We get more or less the same plot in the story of "The Seven
Sleepers of Ephesus." (I am quite a good plagiarist as you may happen to
know. There is a story of mine called "The Secret Miracle," and there I
have used the same idea. I do not think that there are many ideas available, so, of course, "Je prends mon bten ouje le trouve.")
Now, if we may come back to that fine jotting of Coleridge's: the idea
of a man who had been carried into Heaven and had a flower given him.
We might suppose that Wells read that jotting, because he wrote a story
wherein an incident rather like the incident of Coleridge's is found. I am
thinking of that very fine nightmare of Wells' called The Time Machine.
Wells invented that story in the last decade of the nineteenth century
and at that time people were really aware of magic. They wanted to
believe in the supernatural but they could no longer believe in magic
rings, in magic lamps, in talismans and so on, so Wells invented, all by
himself, what is now called science fiction. He thought people would
take in a more kindly way to machines, and so he wrote The Time Machine. In The Time Machine we have at the beginning, a chapter on the
fourth dimension, the nature of time and so on. (This was divulged by
Dunne in his book on experiments with time later on.) Then we come
to the story, the story of a man, a man who has made a machine, a machine made to travel through time (of course we are travelling through
time all our life long, but in this case, the machine could take off very
rapidly through time) and the Time Traveller rides towards the future,
towards the very remote future, and when he arrives at the future, mankind has split asunder. Mankind has split into two different species. We
have the Morlocks. The Morlocks are the proletariat, or the defenders of
the proletariat, and they live in underground caverns where they work
rusty and quite useless machines. They go on working them for they
cannot break away from a habit that is centuries and centuries old. And
the Morlocks are blind because they have lived hundreds of years in the
dark. On the surface of the planet are large gardens and in those gardens    93 live the Eloi. The Eloi are the degenerate aristocracy. They live on fruits,
they make love. Now and then, at regular intervals, the Morlocks come
out of their underground hiding places and they devour the Eloi. Now,
the Time Traveller falls in love with a woman who is a girl of the Eloi,
and he is pursued by the Morlocks and escapes in his time machine, but
he bears with him a flower and this flower has been given to him by one
of the Eloi. He goes back to reality, he goes back to his own nineteenth-
century London, and the only thing he has retrieved from his venture in
the future is a flower, a flower that has not yet bloomed, a flower that will
bloom after thousands and thousands of years (and the flower of course,
decays and falls to dust) and we think of Coleridge and of the flower that
was brought back, not from the future of time, but from Heaven.
Now, Wells was a friend of Henry James. Henry James read that story
and in the year 1916 he, James, said to himself, I will rewrite that story,
I will write another story more or less like it, and the officials won't
like it, of course. Now, James, of course, had no use for machines. He
would not bring himself to believe in machines anymore than he would
bring himself to believe in dreams or lamps or talismans. So he said,
Well, I will take something more modest. I will take the case of a man
who lives in the twentieth century, who is my contemporary, who feels
that the world is hard to judge and that really he should be living in
the eighteenth century. And so he thinks of a young American, because
one of the themes of Henry James is the theme of banishment, really of
exile—the idea, for example, of Americans in Europe, and so on—and
this time he has as his hero a young American. This American lives in
London. He lives in a house that belonged to his forefathers, and in that
house there is a picture, and this picture somehow fascinates the young
American, because it dates from the eighteenth century. The man in it
is dressed after the manner of the eighteenth century and it is an unfinished picture. It is a picture of...himself. The young American is carried
away by the picture. He thinks, maybe this is a picture of myself, not of
one of my forefathers who may have been like me, and then he thinks
of working himself back into the eighteenth century, not through magic,
but in a psychological way. First he breaks away from his friends. He sits
all day in that eighteenth-century house in Berkeley Square. He sits there
turning over the pages of Johnson, of Hume, of Boswell, Pope, Voltaire
and so on, and then he says to his friends, I'm going back to the eighteenth century, but nobody believes him, and he hardly believes what
he is saying himself, but he goes on reading despondently and finally a
night comes when he is in his darkened room. He has stopped reading.
The room next to his should be in darkness also. Suddenly, he feels he
hears human voices but he is not too surprised. He walks into the drawing room, next door to his study, and he finds that he is dressed after
94     PRISM 48:2 the fashion of the eighteenth century. He is surrounded by a crowd of
people and they are all eighteenth-century people, and he finds out from
the conversation that he is a young man, a relative who has come from
the Colonies. He feels very happy, of course, because he says to himself,
I have been yearning, I have been hungering and thirsting for the eighteenth century and now here I find my true home, here I find the time I
have always wished to be living in. He meets a girl. Obviously enough,
he falls in love with her, and then he meets a painter, a great eighteenth-
century painter. The painter looks at him and says, There is something
in your face that attracts me. I do not know what it is, but I would like
to paint your picture. Now the young man knows all about the picture.
He knows the picture will be left unfinished, and he says to him, Well,
you can try your hand at painting my picture but I don't think you will
be able to finish it, and then the painter says, Of course I can finish any
picture I begin. And then the painter begins, sits down at his work and
after three or four sessions he throws down his brushes and says, No, I'm
afraid you are right, I cannot paint your picture. The young man understands. The painter can not paint his picture because, after all, his face
is the face of a man of the twentieth century, and no eighteenth-century
painter would be able to reproduce it, and he feels very sad because he
had always felt that he was living in banishment in the twentieth century
and now he finds out that his lot, his destiny, is nowhere because when
he lived in the twentieth century he yearned for the eighteenth century
and now, in the eighteenth century, a painter has somehow detected that
he is an outsider and has no right to be living in the eighteenth century.
And so he speaks with the girl who is in love with him—they both love
each other—and he tells her, Tonight perhaps, I shall be going back to
America. Of course, America is a metaphor, but she understands that
what he says is final. They kiss each other, he walks back to a darkened
room, he sits down, he is alone and he is back in the twentieth century.
Stephen Spender has written of this story and he has made a very subtle
remark about it. He has remarked that we have that relation of cause
and effect which is very paradoxical in this story, because we have this
strange fact: the young man goes back to the eighteenth century because
his picture has been painted in the eighteenth century, but his picture
has been painted in the eighteenth century because he has gone back to
the eighteenth century and so on and so on forever.
Now here, perhaps, we are stuck when we try to consider what has
gone before this. Of course, there are other quite common elements in
the tales of the fantastic that I have not spoken about; for example, the
idea of mirrors, the idea of a double, or in the Highlands of Scotland, a
fetch. We find this for example, in Poe's "William Wilson," in German
tales of the Doppelganger, in Scottish tales of the fetch. From that very     95 fine film, Psycho, I always remember the story of the young man who
murders his mother and then somehow becomes his mother and his
mother betrays him, without knowing that she is the man she is betraying. Well...but we find that tales of the fantastic can be traced back to
quite a small number of patterns. I mean, if we look at tales of the fantastic from all over the world, we should find the same thing occurring
over and over again. The idea, for example, of ghosts, the idea of juggling with time, the idea of omens, the idea of dreams being interwoven
with reality, and so on. Now, how can we explain this? Of course, our
first temptation would be to say that the human imagination is poor, that
the human imagination cannot evolve many plots. But I think that this
is quite wrong. I think the real explanation must lie somewhere else. I
think the real explanation is that the tales of the fantastic are not literary.
I think they are symbols, and so those symbols are symbols of emotion.
They are essential symbols. Let us have a look at the tales I have been
telling. We have, for example, the idea of cause and effect—the idea that
something which to us is trivial may mean something somewhere else.
And this is not a false idea; in fact we find the same idea in the very first
chapter of the Bible. You remember—who can forget?—you remember, of course, Adam in the Garden. He is happy, he is immortal, he is
wrapped in everlasting bliss, and he is forbidden one small trifle. He is
forbidden to eat of the fruit of one small tree, and then he eats that fruit
and is lost, mankind is lost and we are lost with him. That is to say, we
never know the consequences of an act. From the very trifling may come
disaster and this, of course, is woven into the idea of small causes and
great effects.
Then we have that other major field of dreams and visions and waking life, and this also has a meaning, since, as you know, there is a school
of philosophy called idealism and in that school we are taught that man's
life is but a dream, that there is an essential kinship between living and
dreaming, and this is something felt by all men. I don't suppose that
Shakespeare studied much philosophy, but life brought him to this conclusion when he wrote:
We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
He must have felt that.
And then we have the idea of a man changing. We have the idea of
monstrous transformation. We have that common idea of the werewolf,
the lycanthrope. And this, of course, is true, because life is changing us
all the time. When I think of my childhood, when I think that once I was
96     PRISM 48:2 a little child and now I am a man and at any moment I shall be, we shall
be, dust and ashes, then we are made to think that the idea of a transformation is somehow a symbol of something real. We remember that
story "Die Verwandlung," "The Transformation," by Franz Kafka, and I
think he explains that he had written that story as a kind of metaphor, as
a kind of parable of sickness, because a man wakes up one morning and
finds himself sick and then he is changed into another being. He cannot
move away from his bed, he is really a monster to himself, and to this
very common human experience Kafka gave a shape in his story. So I
think that the tales of the fantastic have a higher dignity than one usually
allows them. That is to say, they are not haphazard combinations. They
have a meaning, they make us feel that we are living in a strange world.
And so, in a sense, tales of the fantastic are more real than realistic stories, because realistic stories are but an echo of what is going on, what we
see every day. We do not need them. While, if we read a story by Edgar
Allan Poe or by Kafka or by Arthur Machen or by any other author you
may choose, then somehow we are being told through the form of a symbol that we live in a very strange and alarming world. And this of course
brings us to another question. I have been speaking of tales of the fantastic, and I remember that if we compare the fantasies of Poe or Kafka
to those other loftier fantasies called Theology and Philosophy, then the
dreams of the writer dwindle to nothingness, for after all, men think of
only the Minotaur or of a bogey or of a ghost and that is nothing if you
compare it to the high fantasy of thinking of an omniscient, all-powerful
spirit called God, and living not in time, but in the everlasting. That is
taught to the youngest. Whereas, if we think of our life as a dream, if we
think as the solipsists do, that there is but one being in the world, and
that one being is every one of us, or rather, I am the only being, and for
you, each of you is the only being, and there is no reality beyond this
dream, what we call reality is but a part of the dream. I mean, the whole
vastness of geography, the whole depths of past or future time, these are
but figments of hypotheses of a dream, and while at this moment you are
dreaming that I am speaking, I am dreaming that you are hearing me,
and this of course is far more wonderful than the weird fantasies of the
literary mind.
And so we come to this question, and I am putting it very seriously:
if we speak of literary genres, if we speak of realism and of the fantastic,
can any man tell us, can we tell ourselves, whether our lives or the universe, for this present moment, belong to realism or to fantasy? I do not
know.    97 Contributors
Margaret Atwood is one of the world's pre-eminent writers—winner of
the Booker Prize, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and the Governor General's
Literary Award, among many other honours. She is the bestselling author
of more than thirty-five books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. She is a
Vice President of PEN International.
"The Explorers" from The Circle Game by Margaret Atwood copyright ©
1966, 1998. Reprinted with permission from House of Anansi Press.
Ken Babstock's poems have appeared in several Canadian journals
and anthologies, including The Malahat Review, The Fiddlehead, PRISM
International, and Canadian Literature, and won gold at the 1997 National
Magazine Awards. He won the Milton Acorn People's Poetry Prize and
the Atlantic Poetry Prize for his collection Mean. He worked as Poetry
Faculty at the Banff Centre for the Arts and currently lives in Toronto.
"What We Didn't Tell the Medic" from Mean by Ken Babstock copyright
© 1999. Reprinted with permission from House of Anansi Press.
Helen Barolini is an award-winning author, both in the United States
and in Italy, where in 2008 her novel Umbertina received the Premio
Acerbi. She has translated Italian authors and is herself the author of
twelve books, her most recent being Hudson River Haiku.
Stephanie Bolster has published three collections of poetry, edited The
Ishtar Gate: Last and Selected Poems by Diana Brebner and The Best Canadian
Poetry In English 2008, and co-edited the recent anthology Penned: Zoo
Poems. A graduate of the University of British Columbia's MFA program,
she teaches creative writing at Concordia University.
Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) was an Argentine writer and essayist,
whose work was published widely throughout the world. His most
popular works include The Garden with Paths that Fork, Fictions, The Aleph
and Other Stories, and Death and the Compass.
98     PRISM 48:2 Roo Borson is a poet and essayist living in Toronto. Her last book of
poetry, Short Journey Uprlver Toward Oishtda, was awarded the Griffin
Poetry Prize, the Governor General's Award, and the Pat Lowther
Award. Her book of essays, Personal History, was published in 2008. In
addition, Roo Borson and Kim Maltman write together under the pen
name Baziju.
"The Wind and the Rain" from Water Memory by Roo Borson © 1996.
Published by McClelland & Stewart Ltd. Used with permission of the
Andrzej Busza came to Canada in 1965, where he taught at the University
of British Columbia in the Department of English and the Programme in
Comparative Literature. He is the author of a monograph on Conrad's
Polish literary background and of numerous essays, mainly on Conrad's
life and writings; he co-edited with John H. Stape Conrad's The Rover
and assisted him in his edition of Conrad's Notes on Life and Letters. Busza
has published six volumes of poetry and two books of Polish poetry in
English translations (in collaboration with Bogdan Czaykowski). Since
the 1980s he has been writing poetry mainly in English. His work is
increasingly receiving critical attention in Poland.
Italo Calvino (1923-1985) was an Italian journalist and writer of short
stories and novels. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy,
the Cosmtcomtcs collection of short stories, and the novels Invisible Cities
and If on a Winter's Night a Traveler.
During Raymond Carver's literary career, he was nominated for the
Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, and inducted into the American
Academy of Arts and Letters. He is one of the twentieth-century's
foremost storytellers and poets.
Lorna Crozier has published fourteen books of poetry. Her memoir,
Small Beneath the Sky, was published by Greystone Press in 2009. She
lives with Patrick Lane and two cats on Vancouver Island where she is a
Distinguished Professor at the University of Victoria. Bodan Czaykowski (1932-2007) came to Canada in 1962 and taught
at the University of British Columbia in the Department of Slavonic
Studies. In 1996 he was awarded the Killam Prize for Excellence in
Teaching. Poet, critic, historian, and translator, he published nine
volumes of poetry, numerous essays and articles, two books of Polish
poetry in English translations (in collaboration with Andrzej Busza); he
edited the Polish issue of Modern Poetry In Translation (London) as well as
an important anthology of Polish poetry written abroad 1939-1999. He is
considered one of the most gifted Polish poets writing outside of Poland
after the Second World War.
Bill Gaston's most recent books are the collections Mount Appetite and
Gargoyles, and the novels Solntula and The Order of Good Cheer. His work
has been nominated for Giller, Governor Generals and Ethel Wilson
Prizes, and he was awarded the inaugural Timothy Findley Award for a
body of work.
Seamus Heaney's poetry, criticism and translations, including Beowulf
(1999), have established him as one of the leading poets now at work.
In 1995 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. District and Circle
(2006), his eleventh collection, was awarded the T. S. Eliot Prize. Stepping
Stones, a book of interviews conducted by Dennis O'Driscoll, appeared
in 2008. In 2009 he received the David Cohen Prize for Literature.
"Wedding Day" from Wintering Out by Seamus Heaney copyright ©
1972. Used with permission by Faber & Faber.
Judith Hemschemeyer won the 1986 Associated Writing Programs
(AWP) Poetry Prize for her collection, The Ride Home. Her two previous
collections are I Remember the Room Was Filled with Light (1973) and Very
Close and Very Slow (1975). Her translations of Akhmatova have appeared
in The Hudson Review, Ploughshares, Calyx, Stand and Northwest Review.
Ted Hughes (1930-1998) published many volumes of poetry and prose
for adults and children. He received the Whitbread Book of the Year
for two consecutive years for his last published collections of poetry,
Tales from Ovid (1997) and Birthday Letters (1998). He was Poet Laureate
from 1984 until his death, and in 1998 he was appointed to the Order
of Merit.
"Skin" from CollectedPoemsby Ted Hughes copyright © 2003. Used with
permission by Faber & Faber.
100     PRISM 48:2 Mark Anthony Jarman is the author of 79 Knives, New Orleans Is
Sinking, Dancing Nightly In the Tavern, My White Planet and the travel book
Ireland's Eye. He has been short-listed for the O. Henry Prize and Best
American Essays, has won a Gold National Magazine Award in non-
fiction, has twice won the Maclean-Hunter Endowment Award, won
the Jack Hodgins Fiction Prize, and has been included in The Journey
Prize Anthology and Best Canadian Stories. He is a graduate of The Iowa
Writers' Workshop, a Yaddo fellow, now teaches at the University of
New Brunswick, where he is fiction editor of The Fiddlehead.
Thomas King is a novelist, short story writer, scriptwriter and
photographer. His works include Medicine River, Green Grass, Running
Water and A Short History of Indians In Canada. He is the creator/writer
and performer of the CBC radio show The Dead Dog Cafe Comedy Hour.
Robert Kroetsch, poet and novelist, remembers being a graduate
student in Iowa and reading with excitement a new Canadian journal
to be called PRISM International. Robert, writing his first poems, was
befriended by the generous and caring editor.
Patrick Lane has been writing poetry, fiction, and non-fiction for fifty
years. His work has been translated into many languages and he has
read, lectured, and performed his work around the world. He presently
lives with Lorna Crozier in North Saanich on Vancouver Island, working
on another novel and pulling together a new Selected Poems and a
Selected Stories.
"Too Spare, Too Fierce" from Selected Poems: 7977- 7997 by Patrick Lane
© Harbour Publishing, 1997.
Irving Layton was one of Canada's most powerful, groundbreaking
voices, and an important and influential writer whose distinguished
career spanned almost forty-five years. He was the recipient of numerous
awards for his poetry and for his contribution to Canadian literature, and
he was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Irving Layton
died in Montreal in January 2006.
"At the Iglesia de Sacromonte" from The Collected Poems of Irving Layton
copyright © 1971. Published by McClelland & Stewart Ltd. Used with
permission of the publisher.     101 Kim Maltman is a poet and theoretical particle physicist who lives
in Toronto and whose most recent books of poetry are Technologies/
Installations (solo) and Introduction to the Introduction to Wang Wet (as part
of the collaborative poetry group Pain Not Bread). In addition Kim
Maltman writes with Roo Borson under the pen name Baziju.
Don McKay is a two-time winner of the Governor General's Award
for Poetry (1991, 2000). In 2007, Don was awarded the Griffin Prize for
Poetry for his book of poems Strike / Slip (McClelland & Stewart, 2006).
"Abandoned Cable" and "Hiking with My Shadow"from Strike/Slip by
Don McKay copyright © 2006. Published by McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
Used with permission of the publisher.
George McWhirter was Vancouver's first Poet Laureate, 2007-2009.
His Verse Map of Vancouver (Anvil Press with photographs by Derek von
Essen) came out in April 2009. His translation of Homero Aridjis' Poemas
solares/Solar Poems will be released by City Lights, March 2010. The latest
books of his own verse are The Anachrontcles (Ronsdale Press, 2008) and
The Incorrectton (Oolichan Books, 2007).
Lisa Moore has written two short story collections, Degrees of Nakedness
and Open and two novels, Alligator and February. She has edited The Penguin
Book of Canadian Women's Short Stories and co-edited with Dede Crane a
collection of essays called Great Expectations: Twenty-four True Stories about
Birth by Canadian Writers. Lisa lives in St. John's, Newfoundland.
"Various Degrees of Nakedness" from Degrees of Nakedness by Lisa Moore
copyright © 1995. Reprinted with permission from House of Anansi
Erin Moure is one of Canada's most eminent and respected poets and
translators. Winner of the Governor General's Award for Furious, the Pat
Lowther Memorial Award for Domestic Fuel, and the AM Klein Poetry
Prize for Little Theatres, Moure has published twelve books of poetry,
and five books of poetry in translation, including Sheep's Vigil by a Fervent
Person by Fernando Pessoa, shortlisted for the 2002 Griffin Poetry Prize
and the 2002 City of Toronto Book Prize. Moure lives in Montreal.
"Wearing the Map of Africa" from Furious by Erin Moure copyright ©
1988. Reprinted with permission from House of Anansi Press.
102     PRISM 48:2 Alden Nowlan was a prolific Canadian playwright, novelist, journalist,
and poet whose work received wide acclaim. Born into poverty in
Nova Scotia and largely self-educated, Nowlan was the recipient of the
Guggenheim fellowship and the Governor General's Award. He was
Writer In-Residence at the University of New Brunswick from 1968 up
until his death in 1983.
Michael Ondaatje is the author of four previous novels, a memoir,
a non-fiction book on film, and several books of poetry. The English
Patient won the Booker Prize and was an Academy Award-winning film;
Anil's Ghost won the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, the Giller
Prize, and the Prix Medicis. Born in Sri Lanka, Ondaatje now lives in
P.K. Page's most recent works are Coal and Roses, a collection of glosas,
and You are Here—some riffs on identity. Forthcoming, Cullen, five poems
and The Sky Tree, a trilogy of fairy tales. P.K. lives in Victoria, B.C.
"Conversations" from The Hidden Room (in two volumes) by P.K. Page
copyright © 1997. Reprinted with permission from The Porcupine's
Al Purdy (1918-2000) was a high school dropout and itinerant labourer
who didn't publish his first mature book until he was 44 but went on
to become one of Canada's greatest poets. By the time his long and
brilliant career came to a close, he had published over 40 books and won
virtually every major distinction and award open to a Canadian writer
including two Governor General's Awards and the Order of Canada, but
his writing remained firmly rooted in the vernacular speech of ordinary
"The Dead Poet" from Beyond Remembering: The Collected Poems of Al Purdy
by Al Purdy copyright © 2000. Reprinted with permission from Harbour
Matt Rader is the author of two collections of poetry, Miraculous Hours,
and Living Things. His poems, stories, and criticism have appeared in print
around the world. He teaches creative writing at Kwantlen Polytechnic
"Falling" from Miraculous Hours by Matt Rader copyright © 2005.
Reprinted with permission from Nightwood Editions.     103 Leon Rooke's latest book of fifteen short story collections is The Last
Shot. He is the author of seven novels, as well as poetry and plays. He
also paints professionally.
Carol Shields (1935-2003) is the author of many acclaimed works,
including The Stone Diaries, which won the Pulitzer Prize as well as the
Governor General's Award. She was the recipient of a Canada Council
Major Award, two National Magazine Awards, and was appointed as an
officer of the Order of Canada in 1998.
"Family Secrets" from The OrangeFtshby Carol Shields copyright ©1989.
Reprinted with permission from Random House of Canada.
Sue Sinclair's poem "Cherry Trees" won PRISM's Earle Birney Prize in
2009. Sue's latest collection of poems is Breaker, from Brick Books. She is
currently studying philosophy at the University of Toronto.
Bronwen Wallace (1945-1989) was a dedicated community activist
and feminist who began writing seriously in the mid-seventies. Her
poems and short stories have been anthologized and have appeared in
periodicals across the country. She won a National Magazine Award, the
Pat Lowther Award, the Du Maurier Award for Poetry, and in 1989 she
was named regional winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in the
U.K. Five volumes of her poetry have been published as well as a book
of essays.
Ouyang Yu originally came from China and is now based in Melbourne,
Australia. He has so far published 52 titles in the field of fiction, non-
fiction, poetry, literary translation and criticism in both English and
Chinese, his most recently published collection of English poetry being
The Kingsbury Tales, a novel, with two more novels coming out soon:
Loose: A Wild History and The English Class.
Jan Zwicky has published seven collections of poetry, most recently
Thirty-Seven Small Songs and Thirteen Silences. Her books of philosophy
include Wisdom & Metaphor and Lyric Philosophy, which will be reissued
by Gaspereau Press in 2010. Plato as Artist was released by Gaspereau in
the fall of 2009.
104     PRISM 48:2 The Creative Writing Program at U.B.G.
The University of British Columbia offers both
a Bachelor of Pine Arts degree and a Master
of Pine Arts degree in Creative Writing. The
M.F.A. degree may also be taken by distance
education. See our website for more details.
Students work in multiple genres, including:
Poetry, Novel/Novella, Short Fiction, Stage
Play, Screen & TV Play, Radio Play, Writing for
Children, Non-fiction, Translation, and Song
Lyrics 8e Libretto.
Meryn Cade-
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,
Maggie deVries, Zsuzsi Gartner,
Terry Glavin, Wayne Grady, Sara Graefe,
Stephen Hunt, Susan Juby, Peter Levitt,
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