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51:1 /FALL 2012
I  ■  ■
'""  PRISM internationa
PRISM internationalis proud to announce the 2012 Earle Birney Prize
for Poetry. This prize is presented annually to one outstanding poet
selected from our outgoing Poetry Editor's volume. This year's winner is
Lesley Battler for her piece "Doing Business With Poets," which first
appeared in PRISM 50.1.
Earle Birney established UBC's MFA program in Creative Writing in
1965—the first university writing program in Canada. The Earle Birney
prize, awarded annually and worth $500, is PRISMs only in-house
prize. Special thanks to Mme. Justice Wailan Low for her generous
ongoing support. PRISM
Anna Ling Kaye
Leah Horlick
Sierra Skye Gemma
Jen Neale
Rhea Tregebov
andrea bennett
Cara Cole
Jane Campbell
Rosemary Anderson
Alison Cobra
Hanako Masutani
Michelle Turner 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 Ktaus Reprint Corporation, New York, NY. The magazine is listed by the
Canadian Literary Periodicals Index.
Website: Email:
Contents Copyright © 2012 PRISM international for the authors.
Cover illustration: "Landscapes IV" by Levi van Veluw, courtesy of Ron Mandos
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Submission Guidelines: PRISM international purchases First North American Serial
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Our gratitude to Dean Gage Averill and the Dean of Aits Office at the Univetsity
of British Columbia. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the
Canada Council for the Arts and the British Columbia Arts Council.
October 2012. ISSN 0032.8790
BRITISH COLUMBIA *§§§     Canada Council     Conseil des Arts
ARI'S COUNCIL <3d>   A* the Art* du Canada CONTENTS
Gerald Fleming
Man of New Skin
Dennis McFadden
Rebecca Rosenblum
The House That Modem Art Built
Sherry Wong
Kirby Wright
Melanie Taylor Herrera
Stories Adrift
Translation by
Christina Vega-WesthofF
Kathryn Dillard
Come By Here
Michael Quilty
Concussion 1
Concussion 22
Post Concussion 3318
Elizabeth Hoover
Photographing the Tanager Bar
Inquiry: Colour
Matt McLean
out here
Good Morning
Julie Paul
Mr. Johnson's Son
Coastal Romance
Esther Mazakian
Slug Populations
Gestational Stock
Ben Ladouceur
I Am In Love With Your Brother
Middle Names
Gran Vals
78 Kathryn Dillard
But just as you feel uncertain
of solitude, it keeps you solid.
You grip. You grip too fast.
Let go of the oar. Let go of the oar.
It is not yours to fondle. Feathers?
Yes he was feathers and feathets
and crystal chimes when the water
hit his shoulders, your boat as still
as a mirror waiting its turn
to be seen until the sun chipped its sides.
But I see you've taken to driving
with the windows down to be
in the midst of my voice, a voice
softly spun in lightning bolts
as you rumble on the dark country road,
still besides his wine in your sockets.
His sleep is only seeking its own level,
and a man who is full of himself
will never know the weight
of a woman pressing into his folds.
And so you watch for hinges, and see
his smoke flutter from all angles.
You start a little fire out of one
fine afternoon at yout gtandmother's
when you ate so many cherries
you were almost sick with gtief and just as the juniper bushes
whispered your quills erupted flowers
as if he was caught on the cremated
stems ofiogic left singing in your arms.
There there now we can't be
in flux like this, stuck on mothers
and muses when the dirt must be
more particular in its cadence.
If this was your sailboat, it would not be
the colours of his feminine rainbow
but the wave you become when I
sing you to sleep at the kitchen table.
That lyte is not an instrument
but a way of beating around the house,
tinkering with colours you know will burn
when mixed with the thinner edges of his totso.
I hear you like the glistening fur of his torso,
every swatch sinking you furthet into pastures,
and I hear you go out for a slouch at his room,
this flannel toughened pretty boy on tap
like the bright music tapering out his window.
He made beastly lines on you with his fur
and somehow you must taper to a glistening
that becomes you but you are a red ribbon
fluttering on the fence post with a suit
of moles that keep the thundethead coming.
And you turn to the mirror after the fucker
took you under his pallid bust as if to check
if he dismembeted you but this pose no matter
how classical is like looking at the sun
to witness the eatth flying through your legs.
But the ditt between your toes after the run.
You slipped the rope off the post
and out I came in feathered skin and you asked me if I was hot
before you offered me your wet fingers
and all I did was simply shake a little
and make crystal sounds until you made
a Ferris wheel out of the flower in your hand
and you tumbled off the wooden edges
as if I was the stem and it was improper to blow
me off into a field one little fire of an afternoon.
PRISM  51:1 Gerald Fleming
A man of granite was composing a letter to a friend and paused a moment,
staring, seeking just the right word, and found it, chiseled it, and when he
looked down again he was inside a room in a third-floor city apartment, and he
was covered with skin. It was all over him: his toes were skin, his feet, all the way
up his belly and chest, arms, hands, head, everywhere.
For a minute he was afraid: he'd heard of skin, heard it described, heard
that when a certain word was carved something like this might happen, but
he certainly didn't know the word, and anyway this was an old Sedimentarian
legend, and he was an Ignean, didn't believe it. His life so far had been no fairy
story, that's for sure.
The man put his chisel down. He touched his left arm with his right hand.
Smooth! Gliding right over it! And this hand, he thought—look how it can
bend! The fingets flex! And the colour so pretty—a kind of tan like sand, not at
all like me.
He stood up, went to the big mirror. He shimmied a little, and his skin
shimmied, too. He chuckled. Then he touched his body slowly, from top to toe.
This feels so good, he thought, and remembered how hard he'd had to knock his
chest to get any feeling at all when he was stone.
Then he was afraid that if he'd turned to skin so quickly, he might just as
quickly turn back to stone.
I'd better learn what it's like to have skin while I have it, he thought, and he
hurried to the window and looked out. Everything looked different. He saw two
blue signs below; they both statted with the word Rue. They must be street signs,
he figured, but in the land of stone, streets like this wete called Fissure.
But he was only confused for a moment. It was attractive out there—trees
and a wide flat place to walk and other skin-people walking in the way that his
body could move now, so much more quickly, more quietly than in the land of
But down there they had most of their skin covered with something, only
their heads and hands not covered. Odd thing, he thought: have skin, cover it.
He saw that the sun was shining and wanted to feel its heat—he loved that
when he was granite—and he bounded down the stairs—soundlessly, it seemed
to him, and out into the street, where he joined the skin-people walking.
In sun he could see tiny haits, very thin, all over his skin, and when he walked
he felt the wind buffeting his ears, breaking around his face. It was thrilling. He
couldn't stop smiling. As he walked he loved the feeling of the rounded stones
under his feet. One would get undet his toes, then anothef undet his heel. He
liked that feeling very much, for stone hardly feels stone where he came from. "Isn't this exciting?" he said to a man he was passing, but the man looked
He came to a crowded street now, giggling as his feet felt the grates of a
subway, as its blast of hot air blew his hair, laughing as he turned a corner and
found anothet wind.
He looked down at his body and saw that his penis was bouncing up and
down as he walked—that never happened in stone—and he thought it funny,
and again began laughing, walking faster to watch it jiggle faster, and he just had
to shate his joy with somebody, so he looked over to his fellow wind-walkers and
said, "My penis is jiggling!" But for some reason they stopped walking, none of
them joining in his laughter—a few, though, smiling, turning, continuing on
their way. What a grouchy place, he thought.
When he got to the corner, two kind men wearing cloth of the same colour
blue talked to him. He was grateful for conversation. "We have to take you
somewhere, Sir—please come with us."
One man took his arm and led him to a cat. "Your hand feels so good on
my arm," said the man of new skin, but, to his disappointment, the man in blue
cloth let go.
What happened then was confusing. He was in a new place where kind
people wore white cloths instead of blue, and he had the sense that he'd better
not talk too much, because in their kindness people might want to talk in return,
and all he really wanted was to get back into that sun, that wind.
They put him on a table and touched him in many places, and he liked that
and said, "No, of course that doesn't hurt, it feels great," and they asked him
many why's, and he kept saying, "I just wanted to feel the sun and wind on my
skin," and they said he had no "record," that he was not considered "dangerous"
("dangerous" was an important word in the land of stone, "record" he'd never
heard). They gave him some cloth, helped him put it on, told him he had to keep
wearing it, and let him go.
"We don't want to see you here again," they said as he left, and he wondered
why they'd suddenly become so unfriendly. Even in the land of stone it was
traditional to say "Drop by any time" to a person leaving.
On the way home it began to rain: a warm, almost invisible rain that at first
only wet his face, and he felt the rain must be a kind of gift; the hairs on his head
dripped, droplets of water wet his face, found their way into his mouth. Then it
rained harder, and he saw that his fellow walkers shielded themselves from the
tain: sttange half-domes of coloured cloth bursting upwatd everywhere.
He was agitated—felt outside their world.
If I only took oft my top cloth I could feel the rain on my chest, he thought,
and did so, and people didn't stop this time—they looked at him and looked
away, and that was OK with the man. Soon the dtops wete coming too fast to
count, but they were counted somewhere by his skin, he was sure, as if a reservoir
of happiness was being filled.
When he got home, the man of new skin stood in front of a mirror and
looked. Droplets of water all over his body, all over his face. He felt he'd been to
10 PRISM   51:1 a feast where no one but he was eating. Lie was tired, and went to bed.
The next day was bright, and hot, and he walked, fully covered with cloth,
feeling great to be alive and in skin, but somehow deprived.
He loved touching his own skin so much that he wanted to see what other
skin felt like, so at a stoplight he saw a man with big naked arms and went up to
him and put both hands around the big part of the man's arms and said, "Nice
"Thanks," the man said. "Want to come up to my place?" "Oh, no," said the
man of new skin, "I just wanted to touch yout arm."
At another stoplight there was a woman with a long wrap of cloth that
started at the very top of her legs; even in cloth, he liked the round shape of
her from behind, and he was sure she wouldn't mind if he stood next to het
and just tan his hand down that shape to learn about the skin in there. So he
did, and she gave him a most unpleasant look, and stepped away from him, and
when the light turned green she walked quickly away. Though he was hurt by
her unfriendliness, still, he thought, this is a bettet day than yestetday. That day
started out fun, but got confusing.
He came to a man sitting on the walkway and holding out his hand. The
man had a huge nose, and the man of new skin touched the man's nose, and
the sitting man didn't seem to mind at all. It was like stone, really—pocked and
chipped and blue-veined—but warm, and the man of new skin liked the way the
tips of his fingers could know the difference between the in of those pores and
the out.
As he walked on he noticed that he liked to watch the women's breasts. Some
moved in quick circles as the women walked, circles independent of one another,
and it appeared that some breasts under their cloths were harder, some softer.
This was never true in the land of stone. All the women's bteasts were hard in
the land of stone, and when women walked not much really moved, especially
in the Igneans. Every once in a while some Sedimentarians came into town, and
if you looked very closely, you could notice a shift in their parts as they moved.
Even in the land of stone the man liked this very much, but here in the land of
skin it was glorious.
So in the middle of the walkway the man saw a woman coming toward him,
and he said, "Stop, please," and put his left hand on her left breast and said,
"Thank you, that was instructive, that felr very nice."
But this was not at all the same as when he felt the man's arm at the corner.
The woman hit the man of new skin very hard on his face. The whole side of his
face felt hot.
"That certainly wasn't called for," said the man of new skin, but there was
shouting all atound and again men in blue cloth came, different men this time,
these not as kind, and they took his arm roughly and led him away.
For days, then, everything was confusing. They put him in a room made of
square stones, people came and talked to him about what he did, put him on
"trial," said cruel things about him, and put him in anothet stone room alone for
thirty days.
At last he was freed: delighted again to be walking in wind, headed home. 11 But again things got confusing. As he passed a comer near his home a pretty
woman wrapped in a very short cloth was leaning against a building. She asked
him something—something he had to ask her to repeat, something that seemed
to be about an offer of employment in the service of wind. Seeing that she was
not like the other women on the street—so unfriendly in this warm land of
skin—he of course said yes, he'd like that very much, and that he was ready to be
"No," she said. "Not here. Come up to my room in that hotel over there."
And so they went to the room and the woman showed that indeed she was a
woman of skin, and without at all referring to the promised employment she
touched his body in many ways until he felt confused, cloudlike, until he felt
that he was snowing onto his own stone, as if he himself were the first snow of
the new year in his old world.
"Stay with me," he said, but she stood and put on her cloth and asked for
money. "I didn't know you wanted money for this," he said, "I'm unprepared.
Perhaps I'll have it after that employment you spoke about," he said.
Soon there was a man in the room with big arms like the man on the corner,
but nowhere near as friendly. The man struck him, right there on the bed—did
not even allow him to stand, to ask the questions he still had.
There is no pain like that of a man of stone who has become a man of skin
and is beaten, and he wept deeply, not knowing how to defend himself against
the blows, their increase.
These people, too, sent him home.
When he got home all his skin pulsed with pain, and he turned on the light
and saw himself in the mirror. Many new colours, stone-like colouts, but much
red, too.
He wanted to go stone again, to go gtanite, to be with his hard-fired,
consistent people.
But all his brittle wishes did nothing. He went to the window and looked at
the pavement in envy. There was nothing he could do. He did nor cause himself
to leave the land of stone, and he could not cause himself to go back. He stayed
in the land of skin.
He is among us. I know him. And I can tell you that every once in a while, late
at night, the man of new skin climbs to the roof of his building, strips oft his
cloth, and stands in the rain. Then he puts on the cloth again and goes back in.
12 PRISM  51:1 Michael Quilly
So long ago
I couldn't name stars.
So forgotten
it was unthinkable.
On the other team,
there was always
a farm boy
growing more than anyone else.
On our bench,
a well-drummed coach
tapping helmets, calling,
Get the fuck back out there! 13 CONCUSSION 22
Melon like a soft volleyball
dubbed Wilson in the movie,
kicked from island to island
across nights of rough dreams.
If only a net or sharp-finned
cetacean would caress and inflate
me—I'd be a coconut again.
Dreams give currency to the soul. Repair
is depth—a chosen childhood friend. In school
we vetted the centre of town, sold packages
behind the vacuum shop. Alleyways
are flame-retatdant animals,
and photos of dead babies
come to life when they want to defeat us.
Smokey illustrated a war zone,
but he smiles now and says, I didn't
really knoiv. How do you not pick sides?
The football navels end
over end. Smokey is fast and mischievous,
yet he and the ball always land separately.
Why is Dhaka so busy
at 3 am? This cough floods, wakes up.
We see each other sweeping the deck,
entertaining disparate parties. Can you make a meal
on watered grass? Rodent!! The stadium is full
of strange acquaintances.
We are wax. Odours do not sleep, blank sheets
roll and roll rattling arms and flexible moustache.
We've forgotten where we are,
what candle made us lighten. 15 Sherry Wong
JL have seen his type. Bold, very bold indeed. The moment he speaks, I know
that he is Russian. While we are having our first dance, just after we exchange our
names, he asks, with a silly grin, "Are you looking for some kind of relationship?"
How can he be so bold? But of course, he is an immigrant. The locals are not so
bold. They would not ask you this question so soon aftef meeting you. I tell him,
"I am here just to dance."
Once in a while, I come to this ballroom dance studio in the Canadian city
where I live, just to dance. I like the music, the oil paintings of beautiful men
and women dancing, the big mirrors on the east and west walls, and the shining
hardwood floor. Most of the dancers are middle-aged like me. Sometimes I chat,
but more often I dance or watch others dance. Years ago, I wanted to cry when
I saw married couples dancing beautifully togethet in such grace and harmony.
I could see the tenderness in their eyes.
How is it that I, an honour student in China, a perfectly preserved virgin
until married at age twenty-eight, an abused wife who had never cheated on
her husband, a woman who spent thousands of dollats on in vitro fertilization
treatments using donor sperms, ends up alone in a ballroom studio? The way
to make a heart tougher is to do the things that hurt you over and over, like
working out. That is what I have been doing. I've gone dancing alone so many
times that my heart turns to rubber, tough and dull.
Then this Russian, like a beat, finds his prey. I know his type, because I was
hunted once before, by Dancing Fox. I called him Dancing Fox because he was
a dancer and he was cunning. The moment Dancing Fox laid eyes on me, he
turned on his charm, and pursued me. I was actually a little scared. I had never
dated an Iranian, had never known one, and had not even looked closely at
one. Okay, they might not all be wife-beaters, but for sure they don't give their
women a lot of rights. They put them in the kitchen. That was what scared me.
Call me quick to stereotype. At least 1 have guts to admit it.
Dancing Fox was very average-looking. About five feet ten, medium build,
black haif, bushy eyebrows, wearing glasses and clean-shaven. My dance with
the Fox began with the thought it wouldn't hurt just to dance with him. So we
danced. Then, it wouldn't hurt to chat with him after the dance, so we chatted, in
the moonlight, beside a lilac tree. The warmth of the Canadian summer air and
the fragrance of the flowers reminded me of my childhood in my home town,
a northern Chinese city. Then, it wouldn't hurt to answer his calls. Finally, when
Dancing Fox invited me for dinner, I decided it was too much.
"How about my husband and my five children?" I asked in a serious tone.
He had invited me to dinner without bothering to ask if I was single or not.
This is why I say new immigrants are very bold. If they weren't, they wouldn't be
16 PRISM  51:1 in Canada. Once upon a time, I was bold too, but not any more, not after living
here for twenty years.
Dancing Fox had the cheekiness to say, "Your husband can come, but I am
not sure about your five children."
So, on a chilly October evening, he came to my door, picked me up, and
drove me to a restaurant. We had a long conversation. He promptly paid for
the dinner, and drove me home. At least he did not expect me to go Dutch, like
many Canadians do. Back in China, dating or not, men always pay. If a group of
people dine out, men fight for the bill. If a group of women go out, every woman
fights fot the bill.
After Dancing Fox parked his car on my driveway, he surprised me by taking
out a bouquet of flowets, with no leaves, from his car trunk. I asked him why he
had left the flowers in the cat, where they might freeze.
"I was afraid you are married," he said. "I didn't want to get a black eye by
showing up at your doorstep with flowers."
So he was worried. That was cute.
And now this Russian Bear is even bolder. He doesn't bother to go through
the motions of dinner, the movies, and flowers. He simply charges straight
toward me, and wants to know right away if I am available. We're meeting in
a dance studio, I think, not in a bar, or at a speed-dating event. Anyway, my
answer is no. I have somebody, an online relationship with a wonderful man
who writes beautiful poems and lives a few thousand miles away. That will do
for me. I can survive on hope for a very long time.
So we just dance.
Like a fox, Dancing Fox always placed his feet carefully in the right places.
He seldom made mistakes. When I danced with him, I didn't have to wotry
about unexpected dfamatic effects or creative variations. Russian Beaf, on the
other hand, can easily lift me up, or dip and catch me with that silly grin on his
face. He doesn't pay too much attention to patterns and steps, or how he looks in
the eyes of others. I can sense his confidence and carefree spirit. I have to admit,
dancing with him is exhilarating.
At the end of the evening, when Russian Bear walks me to my car, I give
him my business card. I like his grey eyes and wavy blond hair, but what attracts
me most are his eyeglasses. Men wearing glasses look intelligent to me. Also, I
enjoyed dancing with him. I liked the envious glances that others gave us.
Russian Bear calls the next day. We go dancing, just dancing. After that,
he calls again and again. His call is always brief, asking me to go dancing. Now
that I am intrigued, I find it is impossible to have a conversation with this guy.
I have only learned a few simple facts about him, such as when he came to
Canada, how many children he has with his ex-wife and how old they are, his
profession, and about his family in Russia. That's it. He hardly asks me any
questions. Eventually, I decide to go to one last dance with him. Russian Beat
picks me up, drives me to the studio, and pays the admission fee.
On this night, Russian Bear turns out to be quite chatming. Like Dancing
Fox, he brings me drinks, follow me around like a puppy, and grins all the time.
The good thing about dancing is that you don't need to talk a lot. But I can't 17 afford to dance with him week after week just to find out his ttue intention. I
don't have the time. No point in beating around the bush. I ask Russian Bear
what he is looking for: a relationship, intimacy, or just a dance partner? I have
never been so blunt before. My face must have turned red because all of a sudden
it feels very hot.
Russian Bear tells me quite frankly that he is not looking for either a
relationship or just a dance partner. That leaves intimacy.
"That's great. I am not looking fot a relationship either" I am actually
relieved. After all, my Internet friend, the Poet, is the man I want to build a
relationship with.
This is the first time in my life I have made such a statement. The moment I
say it, I feel empowered. This is the way of not getting hurt. Detachment is the secret
What went wrong with Dancing Fox? It must be attachment. Feelings are like
dandelions: they don't need too much to survive, to grow, to spread. All they
need is a little bit of dirt. Before you know it, they are everywhere: on your
lawn, under a rock; in the ctack of a sidewalk. Dandelions are tough, persistent,
and hard to get rid of. When you think about it, though, dandelions are quite
harmless, just like feelings and attachment. But for some reason, everybody
is annoyed by them. Or maybe only adults are. That is why we try hard to
remove them, just like we try hard to remove natural human feelings, to become
detached. On the other hand, children love dandelions. When I was little, I
believed that when I blew the fuzzy ball of a dandelion, they would carry my
dreams to a far place.
The scary Iranian turned out to be rather charming. He was not a wife-
beater. He believed in equality between men and women. He grew up in a city
and did not know how to ride a horse. I had thought all Itanians would know
how to ride a horse. Now I saw how wrong I was to make these assumptions.
Dancing Fox was actually a petroleum engineer. We were both immigrants
and had experienced the tight control of our government, hardships, and the loss
of our loved ones. We left our families on the other side of the Pacific Ocean to
pursue a good life in Canada. Now we were both alone, far from our family and
our friends, like kites with their sttings cut, forever lost in the Canadian sky. The
long talks, the frequent meetings, and the hundreds of emails did not help with
detachment. When Dancing Fox told me one day that he had not been able to
bear leaving his mother alone in his country, so he waited until she passed away
before coming to Canada, I decided he was a good son. A good son has to be a
good man.
Eventually, spending the night with Dancing Fox seemed only natural. His
tenderness, his endless caresses, the touch of his fingers running through my
long hair, and the talk, of coutse, all helped to set the entanglement. By the time
he told me a woman he met two years ago in South Korea while on a business
trip was coming to Canada to visit him, I was dumbfounded.
"I didn't know it would come to this," he said. "We only spent a total of fout
hours touring the city when I was there and I never really expected she would
18 PRISM  51:1 accept my invitation to visit Canada." Stunned with his success and having two
women at hand, Dancing Fox had to make a decision.
He chose her.
Once again, I was dumbfounded. According to him, her English was poor.
They didn't communicate well or often. She was shorter and rounder than I was.
I saw her picture. I had the proof. She did not know a thing about ballroom
dancing. She had one degree, I had two. Although she was three years younger
than I was, Dancing Fox insisted this was not the reason.
"I must do this. It is in my blood," he told me.
I did not understand this until much later. When he said he must, he meant
that he must conquer I was the first one he conquered, and she would be the
Before she showed up, Dancing Fox begged me to take him back as a friend.
He was in tears when he said, "Regardless of what our future holds, I will always
be your friend. Whenever you need me, just call and I will be at your side."
"Even at two in the morning?"
"Even at two in the morning."
"Even when you are married?"
"Even when I am married."
"What will you say to your wife then?"
"I will make up any excuses and come to your aid."
I asked myself later many times, how an intelligent woman could be so
stupid? Then I realized intelligence has nothing to do with wisdom.
Not long before Christmas of that year, I had a riding accident and broke
my tailbone. I could not sit down ot bend over. I could neithet drive nor tie my
shoelaces. I desperately needed help, so I took Dancing Fox back. Not once, but
three times. As a result, I got hurt three rimes deeper. The day before the othet
woman atrived, Dancing Fox helped me with grocery shopping to make sure
I wouldn't starve. Then he said, "I prefer that you not call me during the next
couple of weeks. If you do, I won't answer the phone."
Had I known this would happen, I would rather have died of starvation than
accept his help.
So now am I doing the same thing to Russian Bear that Dancing Fox once
did to me? I am cottesponding with the Poet through the internet, aren't I? But
Russian Bear is doing everything he can to prevent me from getting attached to
him. For example, he never says I love you, or I miss you, or I like you. He never
even uses the words ive, us, or our. The Poet will not get hurt, eithet, because
we have not even met. When and if we meet one day and fall in love, I will
dump Russian Bear, just as Dancing Fox dumped me: with no guilt, hesitation
or remorse.
So this is how Russian Bear and I statt the sort of relationship that I have
despised ever since learning of its existence. It is referred to as "friends with
benefits". The sex with Russian Beat is pretty good. I am sutprised by his
gentleness, by his eagerness to please. I once read in a book that men who ate
eager to please are not trying to satisfy the woman, but to satisfy their own ego.
I am not a deep thinker I like being pleased, so it counts.
19 Other little things count too: like the music CDs and dance DVDs that
Russian Bear makes for me, the computer upgrades he does for me, the new hard
drive and monitor he buys for me, and the fact that he doesn't wait for Christmas
or my birthday to give me these things. I wondet if he knows the consequence
of these random acts of kindness, a consequence that we both should fear:
What do you do after love-making? Some people fall asleep. That is what I
expect when I am with Russian Bear. To my surprise, we talk. It is with less depth
than the correspondence between the Poet and me, nevertheless, we talk. When
that happens, secrets emerge. I gradually learn that Russian Beat had an affair
with anothet woman for thirteen years, just two yeats shortet than his marriage.
He even impregnated het, twice, and she had two abortions.
"Why do you always tell me the truth?" I ask.
"Okay, I will lie to you then," he says.
The next time I ask him the same question, he says, "Because I know the truth
will always come out eventually."
I feel sorry for Russian Bear's ex-wife. But I feel sorrier for him and for his
lover who had to give up her babies, theit babies. Even though what Russian
Beat did is against my moral standards and my upbringing, I feel closer to
him. Unlike Dancing Fox, he chooses to tell me the truth, his deep dark secret.
Perhaps it is because he wants me to know the real him, so I will not hold out
any hope for this relationship.
Ironically, when Russian Bear and his mistress finally were free, and he
chased her halfway across the planet to Canada, she dumped him. "She became a
totally different person," he says. "She found a Christian man and was converted
by him."
God is mighty, I want to say. But instead I say, "You must have been hurt
This kind of talk always happens in bed. He is facing away from me this
time. I hesitate a little, then wrap my arms around his waist and gently press a
kiss on his back. He stirs, and put his hands on top of mine.
"Ya, it was a lot of fun. You see, I didn't see it coming."
A lot of fun, a typical Canadian way of downplay one's suffering and
heartache. Of course things still go wrong. It is all because of dandelions.
It starts with a visit from Russian Bear's twenty-year-old daughter. I learn
about their plan to go dancing and manage to get his petmission to give his
daughtet a pair of dancing shoes. When I see Princess at the dance studio for the
very first time, I am surprised by her beauty. Het entire body glows with enetgy
and youth. Her long nicely shaped legs are flawless, like the legs you see on the
cover page of those glossy magazines. After we exchange our names, Princess
asks, "You have shoes for me?"
I am startled by her directness. Russian Bear seems taken aback too, and does
not know what to say. After all, she is still a child. But Russian Bear was married
at twenty, het age. And that was when I was studying hard in university, reading
books, learning English, mountain climbing, traveling whenever I could, taking
beautiful photographs around the country, writing poetry, and dreaming of
20 PRISM  51:1 becoming a great writer one day, and marrying a brilliant artist. Now, in front
of Russian Bear and his beautiful daughter, I feel like a failure. I have nothing to
show, not even a child.
Stop the self-pity, I tell myself, and switch my attention to the daughter
When she sees the sparkling golden shoes, her eyes light up. She takes off her
shoes, and tries on the new ones. They fit perfectly. Then, father and daughtet go
off dancing. I try to imagine what it feels like to hold a daughter like this. God, if
Russian Bear sees me cry, he will dump me right then and there. In today's dating
world, if you carry emotional baggage, you are regarded as a suicide bomber and
people run away, screaming.
The fact that Russian Bear let me give Princess a gift has encouraged me, and
I begin to daydream. When I get home after the dance, I dig out my collection of
dance costumes from the last thirteen years and put them one by one on bed, to
see which ones would look good on her. Many of the costumes have been worn
only once or twice at dance competitions and a few are still brand new. I pick
out a dozen of the most beautiful costumes, lay them aside, and send an email
to Russian Beat. Oddly, he doesn't reply. Not the next day or the day after. He
doesn't call or e-mail me in the entire week. When I finally call him, he sounds
a little surprised and a little cold. I am too slow to catch it. I mention the dance
costumes once again.
He says, "That's okay, she has enough clothes."
Suddenly, I get the hint. Russian Bear has smelled the danget, smelled my
fantasy of taking his daughtet out shopping, talking with her about school,
music, perhaps even her mom. I realize I have become an embarrassment,
something to be coveted up and hidden away.
There is a Chinese saying: for each day that two people live like a couple, the
love will last for one hundred days. We don't say for each day two people talk,
the love will last for one hundred days. It seems the Chinese believe physical
intimacy generates love, not the words. Yet if this were truly the case, there
would not be any divorce. I wonder when I gave up on love to settle for lust.
When in my life and in this free country Aid free to love become a distant fantasy?
Maybe I don't want to end up like my mother, my sister, and my cousin.
None of them had a man after their husbands passed away. My cousin was only
in her late thirties when her husband was killed by a train. When I asked her why
she had remained single all those years, she said, "I didn't want to be an old man's
That means only old men wanted het. At least Russian Beat is not an old
Russian Bear is reading a book called Ethical Slut. According to the two
female authors, as long as nobody gets hurt, one can be an Ethical Slut. He tries
to get me to read it but I refuse, though I know that the moment I took him as
a lover, I became one of them. I am deeply ashamed.
Two weeks latet, Princess leaves, and Russian Bear calls to apologize. "She is
very jealous and wants Daddy all for herself."
If this was true, why hasn't Russian Bear's other affair put the slightest dent
on his relationship with his daughter? How could he be so lucky? However, 21 his apology is more important then his explanation. Compared to my other
wounds, this is a small cut. After it is bandaged up, I take him back.
It is Saturday again. When we come back from dancing, we make passionate
love. And for the very first time, he says, "I missed you."
Aftef a brief hesitation, I admit, "I missed you too." Then, I start to cty.
"Don't cry, baby." Russian Bear puts his powerful arms around my soft,
naked body and kisses each fresh tear away. Outside my window as we fall asleep,
it begins to rain.
In the morning, the sun shines again. I step out of my front door, and there
they are, on my lawn: a few bright yellow dandelions with wet faces, blooming
stubbornly toward the sky.
22 PRISM   51:1 Elizabeth Hoover
Insofar as I am trying to solve a problem, the problem consists of iron, lace and
As the problem consists of lace, the lace is suggested by the service entrance
making lattice on a man's shirt as he leans over the bar.
As the problem consists of iron, the iron is in absentia.
Insofar as the iron is in absentia, one could consider it present, but only in the
sense that a lacemaker's hands are present in the window of an antique
shop after dusk as a wedding dress turns the colour of wheat.
As the problem consists of green, the green can be said to be unknowable—
thin as a beachside watercolour—as it seeps in with the light patches
quilting up the lattice on the white shirt that is turning the colouf of iron.
As the man's shirt turns the colour of iron these variables are apt to change as
they are of this particular light and therefore fleeting—apt to dissolve as
the light dissolves when dusk slips from the window of an antique shop
with its meticulous fingers.
As the man is a variable and therefore fleeting, he makes a triangle with his
shoulders and the copper taps, thus referring to millennia of monumental
compositions from the inverted angle of bronze Herekles pulling his bow
or the wedge of lemon sun in Bruegel's Icarus.
As the man stopping in for a bourbon is both fleeting and monumental, he
poses an additional problem.
Insofar as he poses an additional problem, the solution is not to be found with
iron, lace or green, but with the long feather he set on the stool next to
him, striped: brown and white. 23 INQUIRY: COLOUR
Are you colour?
Are you cast?
Are you cast, blush, colourant, colouration, complexion, dye or hue?
Are you glow?
Are you intensity?
Intensity of paint ot of pigmentation, of shade or of show, of show front
or guise, mask or plea, semblance or snow?
Are you crimson? Crimson or blonde, canary or periwinkle, scarlet or
copper? Or the copper light off the ice block as the ice man saws a
chunk free?
Are you the promise of sugar if I hurried home, the ice held away from my
body to keep it from melting? Are you the brown paper unwrapping
from the sugar before it dusts the ice?
Or luminosity?
Do you lumen?
Do you lumen or daub, embellish or emblazon, enamel or enliven, flush
or fresco?
Or lay bare?
Do you lay bare
Do you lay bare this blue?
This blue and this red?
Do you lay bare this man?
Do you lay bare this man remembering the light on the ice and is
remembering a kind of love, a kind that stutters like a stuck shuttei?
Do you lay bare this yellow and this green?
And if you lay bare this lavender, this lilac, this linen, this magenta, and if
you lay bate—
PRISM  51:1 A:    And if you, before colour
saw a woman walking,
old pelts clinging to her shoulder,
joined jaw to tail, frail,
face like the face of an iceberg,
and if you saw her in a dark crowd,
and the sun was bright
you'd know to bum in the sky. 25 Kirby Wright
HOUDINI (based on a true story)
DADDY, a part Hawaiian man (hapa haole) in a V-neck undershirt, khaki
shorts, and leather slippers. He has thin lips and a ruddy complexion. He wears
horn-rimmed glasses like battle gear and has trouble smiling.
MUMMY, a green-eyed blond, wears a muumuu, clip-on earrings, and bright
red lipstick.
BARRY, a tall, lanky thirteen-year-old with MUMMY s green eyes and blond
hair. He wears jeans and a t-shirt.
KIRBY, a short, husky eleven-year-old ivith DADDY'j' dark complexion. He
wears swim trunks with a Hawaiian print and a tank top.
ADULT KIRBY, a husky man in his forties ivith sad eyes. He wears a leisure
suit and moves slowly. The cadence of his voice is slow and reflective.
DOCTOR, a thin man in a white coat wearing a stethoscope.
A tract house in Honolulu.
What's required is a living room and a backyard separated by a glass partition.
For the glass partition, a simple cardboard frame would be fine. The living room
needs a couch, a TV, an end table, and a lamp. A patch of Astroturfiis all that's
required for the lawn. The other items needed are tapes of the theme songs for
A Summer Place and Mission Impossible, a hi-fi, a sheet, a game of checkers,
and a steel flashlight.
BARRY and KIRBY sit in the backyard lawn playing a game of checkers.
Coils of nylon cord are stacked beside the checkerboard. KIRBY_/«»ZjM three of
BARRY's pieces.
26 PRISM  51:1 KIRBY: Yahoo! King me, Barry.
BARRY: King yourself.
KIRBY kings his own piece.
KIRBY: {teasing/singsong) I'm gonna beat you.
BARRY: You sound like a homo on Hotel Street.
KIRBY: Do not.
BARRY: Do too. You're a prize homo.
KIRBY: {lowers voice) I'm gonna beat you.
BARRY: Now you sound like you-know-who.
ADULT KIRBY walks through the living room and out to the backyard.
BARRY and KIRBY are unaware of his presence. ADULT KIRBY has the
freedom to roam the stage as he observes the action. BARRY and KIRBY play
in silence.
ADULT KIRBY: It was 1967. Out house in Honolulu was one of a thousand
tract homes built on leasehold land east of Diamond Head. Our front
door faced the rising sun and the master bedroom had a great view of the
volcano. We lived in a shingled Mecca for a haole and Asian middle class,
with lots of vets and their families. My hapa haole father was one of those
vets. As a young lieutenant in Army Intelligence, he'd witnessed the brutal
campaigns on Tarawa Atoll and Guadalcanal. He'd nearly died on Kwajalein
after being stabbed by a Japanese soldier. During the war, my father had
losr his University of Hawaii sweetheart to an Air Force fly boy on R & R
in Honolulu. After the war, he took advantage of the GI Bill and attended
graduate school on the mainland. He'd returned to Honolulu armed with
a law degree from Harvard and an Irish wife from Boston. His only regret
was that his grandmother, a woman who'd danced on the court of Queen
Emma and King Kamehameha the Fourth, had died during his final exams.
BARRY flips the board and the checkers go flying.
BARRY: What a kukae game.
KIRBY: Poor loser. 27 BARRY: Fatso.
KIRBY: Where am I fat? Show me where I'm fat.
BARRY: You're fat, Kirby.
KIRBY: Oh, yeah?
BARRY: Yeah. You're fat all over, including the brain. Now tie me.
BARRY turns over on his belly. He places his hands behind his back and presses
one side of his face to the grass. KIRBY kneels down beside him and begins
winding nylon cord aroundBARRY j- wrists.
ADULT KIRBY: Ninth grade marked the end of my big brothel's interest in
board games. Every day after school, Barry asked me to tie him up so he
could practice his Houdini act. He'd been inspired by a Tony Curtis movie
and wanted to become Honolulu's first escape artist. Barry loved it when I
tied him up with nylon cord out in the backyard.
BARRY: Tighter.
KIRBY: This might cut your circulation.
BARRY:Will not.
KIRBY ties a knot and tries squeezing a finger between the cord and BARRY s
KIRBY: It's like a tourniquet.
BARRY: Can't you tie anything besides a square knot?
KIRBY: How 'bout a fisherman's knot?
BARRY: Only if you make it tight.
KIRBY finishes with BARRY s wrists and starts binding his ankles. When he
finishes, KIRBY stands and watches BARRY twist and squirm on the grass
trying to get free.
KIRBY: This time I've got you.
BARRY: Time will tell.
KIRBY: Time will tell you're no Houdini.
BARRY: Shut your momona mouth.
KIRBY: I'm not fat. I'm not fat. I'm not fat.
28 PRISM   51:1 BARRY: Are you kidding? You're a pig ready for the imu.
ADULT KIRBY: Barry would twist and squirm on the grass for hours trying to
get free. He always refused my offer to untie him. I studied The Boy Scout's
Handbook and got so good at knots that it was typical for Barry to rub his
skin raw. But somehow, he always managed to get free.
BARRY reaches back and loosens the cord binding his wrists.
ADULT KIRBY: He was tall and lanky and I figured this helped him escape.
Even if it took houts he'd get loose. He was more interested in escaping
knots than doing homework.
BARRY sits up and undoes the knot binding his ankles. He stands up and tosses
KIRBY the cord.
BARRY: Better luck next time, sucker.
DADDY and MUMMY enter the living room drinking highballs. DADDY
turns on the hi-fi and plays the theme song for "A Summer Place. " DADDY
and MUMMY dance while holding their drinks. They dance around the glass
partition out to the edge of the lawn. A Summer Place' ends aBa'DADDY and
MUMMY stop dancing.
DADDY: What's going on out here?
KIRBY: The Great Escape.
DADDY: Have you boys finished your homework?
BARRY: Did mine on the bus.
KIRBY: I still have some Geography.
DADDY Well, get at it, Kirby. You'll never get into a good college if you don't
MUMMY: {to DADDY) Barry's like Houdini, dear.
DADDY gulps his highball and starts chewing on ice.
DADDY: Oh, he is, is he?
KIRBY: Better than Houdini.
DADDY: Think you can get away from me, Barry? 29 BARRY: {tiuirling end of cord) Sure.
DADDY: I've had plenny of practice tying people up.
MUMMY: Practice makes perfect!
MUMMY starts tap-dancing.
BARRY: Do the big kick, Mummy!
MUMMY kicks one foot over her head, revealing her slip and panties.
MUMMY: Is that high enough?
BARRY: {applauding) Mummy's ready for Broadway!
BARRYi encouragement makes MUMMY tap-dance faster. DADDY hands
MUMMY his empty highball glass and she stops dancing.
KIRBY: Who'd you tie up, Daddy?
DADDY: The Japs, duting the war.
BARRY: I'm no Jap.
KIRBY: Yeah, and the war's long over.
DADDY: Gimme the rope.
BARRY: {hands over cord) Bet I can get away.
DADDY: Get on your guts.
BARRY drops to his hands and knees and flips over on his belly. MUMMY
and KIRBY ivatch DADDY roll up BARRY s jeans and loops cord around his
ankles. DADDY uses a second piece to bind BARRY s wrists. He uses a slipknot
to tie BARRY s hands and feet together behind his back.
DADDY: This is how we handled prisoners-of-war.
KIRBY: Did any get away?
DADDY: Not a one.
BARRY: There's always a first time.
MUMMY: That looks uncomfortable.
DADDY: He asked for it.
30 PRISM   51:1 MUMMY: Does it hurt, Barry?
BARRY: It kinda tickles.
KIRBY: I'll bet.
DADDY finishes tying BARRY and gets up. He stands over BARRY the way
a hunter stands over his kill.
DADDY: I'll be watching Mission Impossible. I'll untie you aftef the show.
BARRY: Be free by then.
DADDY: We'll see.
DADDY leaves the backyard and enters the living room. He switches on the
lamp and the TV and hunkers down on the couch.
MUMMY: Good luck, Batry.
KIRBY: Boy, he'll need it.
MUMMY leaves the backyard and sits next to DADDY on the couch. She
places the highball glasses on the end table and starts massaging his neck. KIRBY
kneels down and watches BARRY struggle on the grass. BARRY arches his back
and slumps back down. He arches again and rolls onto his side.
KIRBY: You're rolling around like Ripper Collins on 50th State Wrestling.
BARRY: Shut up.
KIRBY: What's wrong with talking?
BARRY: I'm trying to concentrate.
KIRBY: You're Daddy's prisoner-of-war.
BARRY: If you don't shut up.
ADULT KIRBY: Through the glass door, I could see my father on the couch
watching television with my mother. I knew Barry desperately wanted his
piaise for something, anything. He'd been cut from junior varsity football
and was getting Ds in most of his subjects. The cord was something tangible
Barry could defeat. Every time I'd tied him up after school was practice for
this very night.
KIRBY: Think you can do it? 31 BARRY: Don't know.
KIRBY: Should I loosen that stupid slipknot?
BARRY: That'd be cheating.
KIRBY: Daddy won't know.
BARRY: Yeah, but I will.
MUMMY^pS off the couch and returns to the lawn.
MUMMY: How's it going?
KIRBY: Pray for Barry, Mummy.
MUMMY looks skyward. She holds out her hands to the sky.
MUMMY: Our Father, who art in Heaven.
KIRBY: Go, Barry, go. God's on your side.
MUMMY pantomimes her prayer.
ADULT KIRBY: My mother was an optimist and a staunch Roman Catholic.
She believed her perfect attendance at Star of the Sea Church, combined
with her weekly tithing, guaranteed her a place in Heaven. She liked
consulting Hawaiian psychics known as "kahunas" at the International
Market Place. The kahunas all told her rhat fate would step in soon and
help her land a role on Broadway. That was her dream. She finished her
"Our Father" and we started cheering for Barry. We cheered so hard that it
felt like Monday Night Football.
KIRBY and MUMMY pantomi me their excitement as they cheer for BARRY.
DADDY gets off the couch and watches through the glass partition.
ADULT KIRBY: Aftef fifteen minutes of frantic contortions, Batry loosened
the cord binding his wrists. Then he reached for the slipknot. He arched his
long back and, in a matter of seconds, he was free.
BARRY stands. KIRBY and MUMMY pantomime their jubilation as they
dance around BARRY. BARRY raises his arms in victory. DADDY returns
to the couch.
32 PRISM  51:1 ADULT KIRBY: I have never seen my big brother more pleased with himself
than that night he escaped before Mission Impossible ended.
BARRY, accompanied by MUMMY and KIRBY, marches into the living
room and presents DADDY with the cord.
DADDY: {laughing) Cheesus, you should be on this show.
ADULT KIRBY: It seemed like my father was happy. But there was a tone of
defeat in his voice and his praise sounded phony.
KIRBY jumps up and down while MUMMY tap-dances.
BARRY: Do the big kick, Mummy! Do the big kick!
MUMMY does the big kick.
MUMMY: Is that high enough?
BARRY applauds, encouraging MUMMY to dance faster.
The Mission Impossible' theme song plays. BARRY intertwines the fingers of his
hands as if praying, then sticks out index fingers and thumbs to make a gun. He
aims his gun at MUMMY and then at KIRBY. MUMMY and KIRBY make
guns too. Tkie three ofithem circle the room, pantomiming a trio of spies aiming
guns at one another.
KIRBY: {aiming at BARRY) Barry did it!
BARRY: Thank-you, thank-you.
MUMMY: {aiming at BARRY) Take a bow, Batry!
BARRY bows.
KIRBY:  {aiming at DADDY) Yahoo!
DADDY: All right, that's enough. 33 The themesongfor 'Mission Impossible ends. MUMMY, KIRBY, andBARRY
quit their pantomime.
MUMMY: Don't you think your son's pretty terrific?
DADDY: Keep your big voice down, Mary. All the neighbors'U hear you.
MUMMY: But Barry's the best!
KIRBY: Better than Houdini.
BARRY: {nodding) I can escape anything.
DADDY pops off the couch.
DADDY: Look, you lil' sonuvabitch, want me to really show you how we tied
up the Japs?
BARRY: Sure.
DADDY: Then let's go outside, big mouth.
BARRY: Lead the way.
MUMMY: This is getting silly.
KIRBY: Yeah, that'd be cheating! Barry already got away.
DADDY: Shut your yaps.
MUMMY and KIRBY follow DADDY and BARRY back to the lawn.
BARRY gets on his belly and DADDY jams his knee between BARRYJ
shoulder blades and loops cord around his wrists. DADDY threads the cord
between BARRY's wrists and secures it with a knot.
DADDY: I'll fix your wagon.
BARRY: Owie!
KIRBY: That's too tight!
DADDY: {to BARRY) You made your bed, big mouth, now sleep in it.
DADDY finishes tying BARRY's wrists together and starts in on his ankles.
MUMMY: Isn't that enough for one night?
DADDY: He won't escape now.
34 PRISM  51:1 MUMMY: Is this really necessary, dear?
DADDY: Goddamn it, Mary, remember what that psychologist said?
MUMMY: No. What did he say?
DADDY: To stay the hell away when I'm disciplining them.
MUMMY looks at KIRBY and shakes her head. She leaves the lawn and
returns to the living room. She watches through the glass partition.
DADDY: (to BARRY) Bend at the knees.
DADDY connects BARRY s roped ankles and wrists with a third piece of cord.
When he pulls the nylon tight, BARRY screams.
DADDY: Now this is the real McCoy.
DADDY musses up BARRY s blond hair.
DADDY: Have fun, big mouth.
DADDY returns to the living room with MUMMY, where they pantomime
an argument. KIRBY sits beside BARRY and pantomimes his instructions.
ADULT KIRBY: I sat beside Barry and tried coaching him to freedom. His
hands and feet touched behind his back. I told him the position of a timbet
hitch knot connecting his wrists to his ankles—it was the kind of knot
lumberjacks use. I told him that there was a surgeon's knot between his
wtists that got smaller and smaller every time he reached for it.
KIRBY: Tell me when to free you.
BARRY: Sure.
KIRBY: Want some juice?
DADDY rfWMUMMY exit the living room and disappear. The stage darkens.
Hie only light comes from the lamp in the living room. 35 ADULT KIRBY: My father got my mother to go to bed early that night. When
my father threatened to turn the lights off, I...
KIRBY runs from the lawn to the living room and pulls a flashlight out of the
drawer in the end table. He turns the flashlight on and returns to the lawn.
ADULT KIRBY: .. .got a flashlight and returned to the lawn.
KIRBY shines the flashlight at BARRY. BARRY squirms and arches his back
trying to get free.
ADULT KIRBY: Barry looked like a pretzel with his knees bent and his arms
stretched behind him. He arched his back trying to reach the timber hitch.
The more he struggled, the tighter the cord got.
KIRBY shines the light on BARRY sfitce.
ADULT KIRBY: I shined the light on his face—one side rested on the grass and
the other was covered with blue fertilizer pebbles.
KIRBY: He's got you.
BARRY: I know.
KIRBY: Let me untie you.
BARRY: Okay, but don't tell Daddy.
KIRBY: I won't.
KIRBY places the flashlight on the lawn and faces the light toward BARRY.
The beam lights his face and shoulders. DADDY, wearing pajamas, enters the
room. He studies the lawn through the glass partition. He ivalks around
Partition and stands at the edge of the lawn. KIRBY aims the flashlight and
lights up DADDY in his Pfs.
DADDY: {shielding eyes) You're next, Kirby! Is that what you want?
DADDY: Then get to bed.
KIRBY: This isn't World War Two!
36 PRISM  51:1 DADDY: You've got ten seconds. One, two...
BARRY: It's okay, Kirby. I'm almost free.
KIRBY: Really?
DADDY: Three, four.
BARRY: Really. Go to sleep.
KIRBY: I'll be right in the living room.
DADDY: Five. Six.
KIRBY using the flashlight to guide him, follows DADDY back inside.
DADDY turns off the lamp in the living room. The stage is in darkness, except
for KIRBY"s flashlight. KIRBY enters the living room and strips down to his
underpants. He flops on the couch and turns the flashlight off. The stage is pitch
ADULT KIRBY: I listened for Barry. I waited for him to walk into the living
room and show me the cord. I waited and waited. I fell asleep waiting.
A sheet in the living room is held up—the flashlight turns it into a screen.
The silhouettes of DADDY, MUMMY, and a DOCTOR pantomime the
following dream sequence:
ADULT KIRBY: I dreamt Barry had to go to the hospital to have his hands
and feet removed. My father told the doctor that the opetation was way
too expensive and that he could perform the surgery at home if my mother
acted as his nurse. My mother pulled a dinner napkin out of her purse,
folded it into a nurse's cap, and stuck the cap on her head.
The flashlight goes off and the living room returns to darkness. The stage lightens
and there's the sound of garbage trucks. KIRBY wakes up on the couch. BARRY
is still out on the lawn.
ADULT KIRBY: The garbage trucks woke me up.
KIRBY leaps off the couch and runs out to the lawn. He kneels beside BARRY.
ADULT KIRBY: I ran outside in my underpants and found Batry on his side
with his eyes closed. His hands and feet were still touching. The cord around
his wrists was red with blood. 37 KIRBY tugs at the cord.
KIRBY: Jesus!
DADDY, wearing a dark suit and tie, walks out to the edge of the lawn ho,
a steak knife.
DADDY: How's the big mouth this morning?
KIRBY: Barry's bleeding!
DADDY: He asked for it.
KIRBY yanks at the timber hitch knot and BARRY cries. DADDY han
KIRBY the knife.
DADDY: Cut Houdini free and get ready for school.
DADDY returns to the house and disappears.
ADULT KIRBY: I sawed at the timber hitch knot and the nylon gave way, one
strand at a time.
KIRBY straightens out BARRY s legs and starts in on his wrists.
ADULT KIRBY: I straightened out his legs and cut the bloody surgeon's knot
binding his wrists. Barry remained on his side. The skin around his wrists
looked like raw meat.
KIRBY cuts the last strand of cord.
KIRBY: It's over.
BARRY keeps his arms behind him and one ear to the ground. KIRBY rubs
BARRY s back. BARRY flinches.
38 PRISM  51:1 KIRBY: Barry? What's wrong, Barry? Come on. You can tell me.
ADULT KIRBY: He didn't answer. Barry's arms were still behind him, as if
the surgeon's knot hadn't been cut. His eyes wateted and he kept an ear to
the ground. Blue fertilizer pebbles were embedded in his blond hair and
eyebrows. I was surprised my mother hadn't come out to comfort him.
When Barry had gashed open his foot on a sprinkler head she pressed a
towel against the wound to slow down the bleeding, and she gave me a
tummy rub whenever I felt like barfing. But this was different. This time
my fathet was involved.
DADDY WMUMMY enter the living room. They stand side-by-side at the
glass partition and study their sons.
ADULT KIRBY: The dream came back to me. I remembered my parents hadn't
thought twice about maiming their son. I stood up and...
KIRBY stands.
ADULT KIRBY: ...something moved in the living room. I looked over at the
glass doot and there they stood, watching. There was something in my
father's face that said the battle had just begun.
DADDY drops an arm over MUMMY s shoulder and she leans into him. A
Summer Place'plays. Fade to Black.
[END] 39 Matt McLean
out here
the heater fever, the wooden chairs,
through the broken window: pine trees
and more pine trees.
the piano, what's left of you.
the legs chewed by dogs.
out here, the devil quill
of winter trees, the gentle hills,
the wandering, the dream i had,
there was my father, and a pond knife.
the axe comes down as i lend shape to air.
i give it unwilling,
my speech viscous like spitting
words off a road sign.
the winter takes.
i'm sorry for madness, it's not my fault.
there is weather then there is me. you have the love
and misunderstanding of a small town church.
i have nothing.
i am the shed
that's been taken down.
The ocean might have froze over,
didn't notice, didn't care.
I found a hole in Montreal
I really think you'd like. We could
go there in the new wintet, I want
to have the daughters
from Gainsborough's painting
with you. I saw
my fathet unfold
over the bloody horizon
again, just now.
I put on the coffee,
though you're cities away.
The cars through the window.
People heading towards you. 41 Dennis McFadden
W hen Patty was little, the best thing she ever did with her father—better
than dancing on his toes, better than reading the funny pages—was uppies. He
would toss her up and catch her, and she loved the feeling of weightlessness, of
being lighter than air. Her mother's face would twist in concern—"Oh John, be
careful!"—but her mother didn't know; how could she? Her mother was glued
to the ground.
One day walking home from the store with her mother, she spotted him
mowing their little square lawn on South Manning Boulevard. She flew into his
arms, demanding an uppy—and another and another. "One more uppy, daddy!"
"Oh honey, daddy's tired." She saw the sheen of sweat on his face, the blood
vessels traversing his temples like railroad tracks.
"Again, daddy. Pleeease."
"Patty, sweetie, you're getting too heavy."
Clearly het father was mistaken. That was her first impression, and it never
really changed as she grew older, no matter how often she subjected it to logic.
The idea of being heavy was incomprehensible; boulders were heavy, cars were
heavy. Her tummy was full of the glory of flying, yet her appetite had only been
whetted. "No, daddy, I can't be heavy, I'm your little Patty Cake!" she said,
hopping miserably in the fresh-mown grass.
Thirteen years later she stood in the same spot, glued to the ground, watching
them carry her father away. His face sunken and gray, he was dying. His eye
opened beside the oxygen mask and looked not at her mother, but at Patty. He
winked, she thought, though it might have been a flinch. He was only fifty-two,
and Patty knew that it was his genes, his sedentary lifestyle, that had caused his
heart to quit, all the hours he'd spent down on the corner at Ziggy's—he would
feed her dimes for the juke box while he drank with his friends, cigar ashes
falling down the front of his white shirt, as she played songs and twirled in the
middle of the room for him. Yet a comer of her mind—also immune to logic—
blamed the uppies.
Two years later she experienced the same feeling of flying. Without evet leaving
the ground, the same sensation filled her stomach—the light and airy feeling
of weightlessness—when Petet Boyle touched her hand during a test drive
of the 1961 Impala he was trying to sell her. She'd thought her anxiety had
been caused by the prospect of purchasing her first car—using her mother's
was impossible now that she'd begun waitressing at the Red Coach Grill, as
well as attending accounting classes at St. Rose. But she realized now, when he
accidentally touched het hand as they both reached fot the radio knob, that it
had been caused by the prospect of Peter Boyle. He was handsome in a studious
42 PRISM  51:1 way, thinning sandy hair combed neatly in a no-nonsense fashion, thick glasses,
agreeable features, but his sincerity seemed more genuine than a mere sales pitch.
His brown eyes, enlarged by the lenses, probed beneath the pleasantries so that
when he asked her how many miles she anticipated driving in the next year, he
was proposing a future together.
Patty mentioned the curious sensation to her mother Her mother was
having an afternoon cup of coffee with her crossword puzzle at the kitchen table
by the window overlooking the back yard, the spot where her father had always
sat. The swing set, abandoned and fusty, still stood in the far corner of the yard
by the pear tree. Her mother had taken over most of her father's spots—the
recliner in front of the television, the side of the bed nearest the bathroom—as
though filling in the ranks, taking her place next in line.
She looked up from the puzzle on the table to the one on Patty's face. "The
wings of love," she said with a sigh.
When Peter Boyle carried her across the threshold, Patty was weightless again.
Theif first apartment was in a duplex on Sparrowbush Lane, further from
St. Rose, but closer to the Red Coach, and not far from Eludson Motors on
Central Avenue where Petef worked. Patty had found it. "It's like a little doll's
house," she'd told him excitedly. Peter was working mornings and evenings with
afternoons off, and her Red Coach shift didn't start until five. Sometimes when
she came in from morning classes she would catch him napping, and jump up
and down on the bed beside him to wake him up, bouncing like a little girl,
giggles and all.
Once when he tried to grab her, she lost hef balance and clocked him on the
eye with her elbow. "Ouch! Jesus!"
"Oh," Patty said, "are you all right?"
"Sure. I've still got one good eye."
"Poot baby." She kissed it to make it better. "There, there."
"What'll I tell my customets?"
"Tell them the truth. Tell them your wife beat you up."
This led to tickling, which led to rough-housing. She liked the hint of
savagery in their sex, especially in broad daylight, her favorite time. The only
other boys she'd made love with had been timid, handling her in the dark as
though she might break. In the summers she and Peter let the breeze from the
fan at the foot of the bed wash over their naked bodies.
One afternoon laying limp and damp and cooling, Peter lifted his arms towafd
the ceiling, turning them lazily. "Do you think I should start working out?"
"Afraid I'll beat you up again?" Patty said. "Can't handle me anymore?"
"You are putting on a few pounds."
"I am?" Clearly, her husband was mistaken.
"If you're not careful, you're going to end up looking like your mother."
Without his glasses, his eyes looked sharper, more dangerous.
"What's the matter with the way my mother looks?"
"Nothing, if you don't mind plump." 43 "Do you mind plump?"
"I didn't marry plump," Peter said.
It seemed a logical response to Patty, and if the implied threat registered at
all, she paid it little heed, like a tornado warning in Texas. She was not, after all,
She was part Irish, though exactly which part nobody knew. Or cared. Her
maiden name was Larson, and the only time Irishness had ever arisen had been
St. Patrick's Day, when her father would take her downtown to see the Albany
patade. She remembered sitting shivering on his shoulders, watching the bands
and the bagpipes and the fat men marching. But mostly she remembered her
father in a silly hat drinking green beer down at Ziggy's.
Peter's grandparents had come from Ireland but had died before Patty had
met them; he'd never seemed particularly interested in his Irish heritage. So it
came as a surprise in 1971, after they'd been married four years, when Peter
proposed opening an Irish pub with one of his older brothers, Frank.
"An Irish pub?" she said. They were eating pizza at their kitchen table on
Sparrowbush, listening to the young couple next door, in the othei half of the
duplex, making love. Loudly. The Rizzos had moved in at the beginning of the
year, nearly three months before, and Patty and Peter were growing accustomed
to the noises by now.
"I'm sick of selling cars," he said. Patty doubted that. What he was sick of
was the aftermath, when the transmission went, or the radiator sprang a leak.
Petef needed to be adored.
"Why Irish?"
"You need something to make ir stand out." Peter tapped his beer bottle to
his chest. "We're Irish. Do you have any idea how many Irish there are around
here? Thousands."
"Oh really?"
''O'Reilly" Peter said with a self-congratulatory grin.
"Oh brother," Patty said. They listened as the staccato hammering—the
headboard against the wall?—was joined by female moans, in the same rhythm,
growing louder with each bang. "There she goes again."
"Sounds like they're using industtial implements," Peter said.
"Are you going to eat that crust?"
Peter dangled the crust, teasing, making her grab for it. They listened to
the moaning intensify. "What the heck is that?" Patty asked. A second banging
noise, an echo, had joined the hammering-moaning. Standing, Peter wiped his
hands on a napkin, reaching across the table to grasp Patty's breasts, one per
hand. "If you can't lick 'em, join em."
"Oh, you can lick em," Patty said.
The Rizzos had inspired them before, though usually more subtly. But
spontaneity was in the air, a sense of adventure, an Irish pub, life itself to be
grabbed by the balls. Patty couldn't take the time to fetch her diaphragm. On
top of a crushed pizza box, they banged the kitchen table against their neighbor's
wall, banged it long and loud. When their son was born nine months latef, she
44 PRISM  51:1 toyed with the idea of naming him Domino, but nevef suggested it. Peter had
his heart set on Peter, Jr.
Peter, Jr. was born about the same time as the pub. The place had last been a
sports bar, and the location on Fuller Road was a curse, bars and restaurants
having sprouted there and withered by the score. Peter and Frank were banking
on the Irish angle. They painted it green, stocked the kitchen with corned beef,
the bar with Guinness Stout, the jukebox with Clancy Brothers, and opened the
doors. They called it The Shamrock Inn.
Business was good on day one, and grew. It helped that the Troubles in
Ireland had broken out anew, and were often in the news. Peter and Frank had
done their homework; there were thousands of Irish and Irish Americans living
near the capital of New York State. Where better to celebrate their Irishness than
at a place called The Shamrock Inn?
Patty found it difficult to lose the weight she'd gained during her pregnancy.
No longer could she dance on Peter's toes. She'd retired from waitressing to stay
home with the baby.
Among the first customers were an older couple from Belfast, Molly and
Seamus Rossiter, with whom Peter established an immediate fapport. He listened
for hours to their tales of English murder and mayhem in their homeland. The
Rossiters were charter members of the Friends of Irish Liberty—FOIL—a group
that raised money for the families of jailed IRA men, although many claimed
the money actually went to more nefarious IRA purposes. Peter was enthusiastic
about his new sense of Irishness, sharing it liberally with Patty and Frank and
anyone else who would listen.
They bought a house on Sand Creek Road, a plain ranch. Peter spent more
and more time at the pub. Theit sex life grew perfunctory, and they seldom
wrestled anymore, never with Sparrowbush gusto. When their second son
was born two years after Peter, Jr., Petef named him Sean. His daughter was
christened Siobhan two years later. By then, Peter had joined FOIL, and the
Wolfe Tones were bumping the Clancies from the jukebox.
By then, Patty was thirty pounds overweight and holding.
She mentioned it to her mother one afternoon over coffee. Siobhan was asleep
in her car seat by the kitchen table while they watched Pete and Sean playing on
the rusty old swing set. "Does it bother you, mom?"
"Me?" Her mother looked surprised. "I'll love you no matter how fat you
"Not me. Does it bother you being overweight?"
"I'm overweight?" Her mothef smiled.
"A little."
"I never give it a thought. I'm just me."
"Peter never gains an ounce. He works out."
"Yout fathet was always heavier than me—maybe that made a difference, I
don't know. I guess it's not important unless you're the kind of person who wants
to save the world." 45 "Not the whole world. Just Ireland."
"Ireland, the whales, whatever. Have a cookie."
Patty was always hungry. She'd never finished her degree at St. Rose, had never
worked, except waitressing, feeling that raising a family would be work and
reward enough. She spent many hours after the kids were in bed, but before
Petef came home, trying not to snack; often she turned to masturbation as a
comfort nearly as satisfying, but with far fewer calories. Often she pondered the
ancient conundtum: Which came first, the hunger or the weight? Sometimes she
pondered Peter's words, words that had been gone for years, but which suddenly
returned unbidden one night as she reached for a handful of peanuts: I didn't
marry plump.
Patty joined the Healthy Weigh Program for the same reason she'd begun taking
the kids to church again: to see if the rituals, the repetition, the routine, the
devotion of the other worshippers might really convince her of something she
was inclined to doubt.
The meetings were held in an empty storefront in a little strip mall on Hoosick
Street in Troy. Here she met Sheila Egan. Patty wondered why Sheila was there:
Sheila was slim and pretty. So slim and pretty in fact that Patty detected traces of
hostility in the glances from the seven heavy ladies in the group, as they watched
Sheila sitting in the front taking copious notes on the lecture about cholesterol,
triglycerides and lipoproteins. Patty, however, harboured no hostility; she sensed
a comrade. Patty wondered why she herself was there.
After the meeting, Patty visited the ladies' room in the disco lounge next
door. In the mirror, she assessed the results of the weigh-in. She looked much
as her mother always had, as long as Patty could remember: dark and clean,
still sexy, a bit heavy. True, Patty missed being light; in the mirror she saw the
weightless person floating to the surface, quite visible to her there beneath the
surface of her pale blue eyes, like someone trapped beneath the ice. Lightness
was like flying, like life; heaviness was mortal, gravity sucking you into the grave.
But wasn't hunger like life as well?
Sheila Egan came in. They exchanged nods and perfunctory smiles, then
went about the business of ignoring each other, fiddling with earrings in the
Patty heard Sheila sigh; what could this woman possibly have to sigh about
in a mitror? She watched her fumble an earring, drop it into the sink, retrieve it
"God help me, I'm so hungry" Sheila murmured.
The six words were Patty's mantra.
"It's all this talk about food," Patty said, smiling towatd Sheila in the mirror.
"I had an uncle once who swore his AA meetings made him thitsty."
"I think about food, I gain weight," said Sheila, patting het tummy.
"Oh God, that's obvious. I bet you need suspenders to hold up yout girdle."
"What's a 'gitdle'?"
They laughed together Patty liked this woman. It was the mantta. It was her
46 PRISM  51:1 eyes: gorgeous and black to be sure, like her hair, but also full of flashing life. The
flickers, somewhere between evanescent and imaginary, seemed a coded message
to whoever could detect them, like glints from a far-off wreck. Like an SOS.
Peter told Patty one of the Rossiters' stories: When she was twelve, Molly was
walking with a friend on Easter Sunday to a Belfast cemetery to honor Ireland's
dead when a gang of Loyalist thugs tried to seize the paper Easter Lily she wore,
the symbol of Irish resistance to Britain. Rather than surrender her Lily, Molly
ate it.
"When she was twelve?" Patty said. "It's been going on that long?" Outside,
the November sky had darkened, the year's first snow flurries scattering in the
"It's been going on for eight hundted years," Peter said. And it was getting
worse; there was talk about Irish prisoners going on hunger strike. The Friends of
Irish Liberty were planning demonstrations in support—would she like to come
to the next meeting?
Patty said no. She was already away from the kids one night a week with her
Healthy Weigh meetings, and babysitters were expensive. The fact that Frank's
oldest daughter, Jean, would watch the kids for nothing, Peter neglected to
mention. The fact that Knots Landing was on the same night as FOIL meetings,
Patty neglected to mention.
Patty and Sheila began stopping for coffee after Healthy Weigh meetings. Patty
learned that Sheila was ten yeats younger than her, about a yeat for every pound
Sheila perceived herself to be ovetweight. She lived alone with a cat named
Bosco, worked for Citibank, and had moved to Albany from Staten Island six
months ago after a messy divorce which had left her with precious little positive
to say about the male of the species, including her current beau, a man from
the bank named William. Her ex-husband had liked kinky sex, she told Patty.
Patty had feigned understanding, letting the topic slide, unwilling to show her
ignorance, dying all the while to know every detail.
Leaving the coffee shop one evening, Patty glanced at the small television by
the cash register, showing a tease for the upcoming news. "Peter!" she exclaimed.
"Your husband?" Sheila said. He wore glasses and a frown, speaking gravely
into a microphone as picketers paraded behind him.
"Yes." A burning building replaced her husband.
"Must be that FOIL thing?"
"Yeah, he's the chairman. I wonder if he knew they were going to be on
television—what channel is that?"
"Thirteen," the cashier said.
"I have to get home in time to see it," Patty said. "Peter needs his applause."
"Don't they all," Sheila said.
Peter had the VCR set to record. "Channel 13 was there."
"1 know," said Patty, taking off her coat.
"Should I get the kids up?"
"Why?" 47 "How often is their dad on TV?"
"They can see it tomotrow. Want me to call my mom?"
"I already did."
Five minutes into the news, the picketets appeared, circling on the sidewalk
in front of the Watervliet Arsenal. There were Molly and Seamus Rossiter, "Shh,"
Peter said, though Patty hadn't uttered a word. The camera closed in on one sign,
Brendan Hughes Must Not Die, before focusing on Peter Boyle, Chairman, Friends
Of Irish Liberty.
Patty cheered. "Shhh," Peter said.
"We're trying to make Americans aware of what's really going on over there,"
he told the camera. "Seven Irishmen are dying an agonizing death on hunger
strike, and all they'te hungering for are the basic liberties we take for granted,
liberties denied them by an oppressive British government."
Patty applauded as the anchor reappeared. Peter took off his glasses to give
them a frown. "I gotta get contacts," he said. "I looked like a disco ball."
"You did great."
"I didn't know I was so bald."
"You looked great."
"I guess it wasn't too bad. But my voice kind of cracked."
"You sounded great. Of course I don't know how many people will know
what you're talking about."
"This is the only way they're going to find out." Petef jabbed a fingef toward
the television. "We have to get a lot more of this."
"Sheila was impressed."
"Oh yeah?"
"I was on TV once. Me and my dad. They showed him lifting me up so I
could see over the ctowd at the St. Patrick's Day parade." She recalled the sight of
herself in his hands, high above the others, smiling and waving, her hair pinned
with a pretty ribbon behind her big ears—she always wore her hair over her ears
now—frozen in her memory like a wedding picture. But she couldn't remember
anything else, whether or not her father could be seen too. All she remembered
was smiling in the sky.
"What did Sheila say?" said Peter.
After a Healthy Weigh meeting in early December, Patty asked Sheila if she liked
to shop.
"Does the Pope like to preach?" Sheila's red, red lips surrounded her smile.
Patty took her to Stuyvesant Plaza; they could Christmas shop, as well as
avoid the temptation of the chocolate cream pie at the coffee shop. The Plaza was
aglitter with Christmas lights, a tentative flux of snowflakes in the ait. Sheila, a
mall girl, found the old-fashioned, shopping-centre-charm delightful, each shop
more enchanting than the last. She was especially eager to explore the Plaza Book
Shop, where she picked up a papetback called Ireland For Beginners. She wanted
to find out what this hunger strike thing was all about.
Three doors down from the book store, they stopped short. "Oh my God,"
Patty said.
48 PRISM   51:1 "I think I might genuflect," Sheila said.
"I think I might have an orgasm," said Patty.
They stood before Mrs. London's Bake Shop. Crusty breads, tall cakes, pies,
and lush pastries filled the window, which was sweating from the heat of it all.
Their faces turned slowly from the window to each other's, eyes engorged.
Patty shook her head. Sheila nodded hers.
"No," said Patty, but Sheila took her hand. "We can't!'
"Watch us." Sheila led her to the door.
The heat and aromas were intoxicating. The surrender was sweet and
complete: warm cherry tarts melted in their mouths. Sheila said, "A hunger
strike—can you imagine for one minute not eating?"
"No," Patty said. "Peter wanted to fast on Thanksgiving."
"You're kidding? You mean not eat?"
"I guess a lot of them didn't. They were fasting out of sympathy for the
hunger strikers. They sent out a press release and everything."
"But you ate?"
"Of coutse. I told Peter he could starve himself if he wanted to, but he wasn't
going to starve my kids. Or me."
"So you and Petef don't exactly see eye to eye on this Irish stuff?"
"Usually we do. It's just a matter of degree."
"That's always the matter," Sheila said mysteriously, dabbing at the crumbs
on her doily. A faraway look came into her eyes scanning the pastry case.
"Oh no," Patty said.
Sheila excused herself, returning a moment later with an eclair and a
napoleon, on separate saucers. "Which one do you want?"
"What the hell," said Patty.
"Take this—I have to have this eclair."
Sheila could barely ease her lips around the long fat pastry. With the fiist
bite, her eyes rolled heavenward. Patty gently sank her teeth into the napoleon.
Lips were licked, forks forgotten. "Oh God," they sighed in unison.
"Want to taste mine?" Sheila asked.
Then they laughed. I didn't marry plump, thought Patty. She couldn't stop
laughing; neither could Sheila. Mouths filled with pleasure, custaid overflowing
their lips, they laughed.
Her father tossed her in the air, giddy and floating free, up to the puffy clouds
and down again, the clean blue air blowing away all her troubles like chaff from
wheat. She landed lightly in his strong hands, a weightless golden kernel.
"Again, daddy."
"Oh honey, daddy's tired."
"One more uppy, daddy. Pleeease."
With a mighty gtunt, he tossed her high; she peaked above the clouds and
plummeted down, soaring toward her father, fastet, fastet, gathering speed,
gfowing larger, hurtling towaid his frightened face.
She awoke with a jolt on the bed beside Peter. Holding her breath, she feared
the clamour of her heart would surely wake him, if the bounce at the end of 49 her dream hadn't; Peter was a light sleeper. From down the hallway, she heard
Siobhan giggle and murmur in her sleep, asking a question in unfathomable
Patty had nearly drifted off again when a car horn sounded somewhere down
Sand Creek Road. She sank again towards sleep, surprised by the dampness
cooling her eyelids. I lost two pounds this week, she announced in her dream and
Peter looked at her, said nothing, then looked back to the television camera.
They hadn't had sex in two weeks.
God help me, I'm so hungry. Patty's hand slid down her stomach. She
intentionally jiggled the bed a little, hoping to wake Petef; when he "caught" her
masturbating, he was always turned on. But on he slept, and Patty came alone.
Afterwards, drifting back towafd sleep, the hollowness inside her suddenly
filled with warmth, and Sheila's laughing face was there, custard on the corner
of her mouth. Patty knew dozens of women: old school mates, family friends,
wives in FOIL, little league moms from the long afternoons in the bleachets
watching het boys, feis moms from Siobhan's endless hours of Irish dancing. But
with none of them had she experienced the spontaneous combustion she seemed
to share with Sheila. Was it magic, or was it something in their chemistries that
ignited when they met, bursting into a blaze of happiness? Or was it even more
complex, such as the sharing of some secret, unknowable thing?
"How's that hunger strike thing going?" Sheila asked one cold January evening
as they warmed themselves over coffee and one piece of hot apple pie, two forks.
Sheila was on Healthy Weigh maintenance, having reached her goal easily;
Patty still weighed in weekly, usually in vain. The shopping excursions didn't
help, often ending with a failure to resist some tasty temptation ot other, a
betrayal more easily accommodated by Sheila's body, apparently possessed of a
mystical metabolism.
"Oh, that's all over with," Patty said.
"Oh really?"
"O'Reilly. Yeah, sometime in December. Apparently there was some deal
with the English, and they got what they wanted."
"What did they want?"
"Beats me. I haven't been keeping up with it."
In February, Patty took Sheila to a FOIL meeting at the Albany Hibernian
Hall, off Central Avenue in an area dark and depressed. They clutched their
purses and dashed to the locked door, where they waited nervously for the buzz
to admit them. Patty was secretly amused by the juxtaposition of her high-
heeled, well-dressed friend, sleek and chic, standing beside a frozen puddle of
puke. This would probably be not only het fitst FOIL meeting, but het last.
They were greeted by a grim tide of faces. They'd intettupted Peter's briefing
on the possibility of another hunger strike, Britain having reneged once again on
its Irish promises.
Patty recognized maybe half the two dozen faces, nodding to Molly Rossiter.
The room was cloudy with cigarette smoke, but btight fot a Hibernian barroom,
lights up for the meeting, dart board idle. She'd seen Peter's meeting face before,
50 PRISM  51:1 but never quite so grave. As he went on about the hunger strike, Patty glanced at
Sheila. Sheila was staring at Molly Rossiter.
Finally, Sheila leaned close, whispering, "That's Molly Rossiter?" Patty
When Sheila leaned close to whisper again moments later, several faces
glanced over; Patty felt as if she were in kindergarten. "She's the one you were
worried about?"
Patty frowned, leaning closer. "Worried?"
Sheila waited a moment before leaning again. "I got the impression you were
worried. You know—about het and Petet."
"No," whispered Patty with a frown.
"I would hope not. She's old enough to be your grandmother, for God's
They gave in to a giggle, albeit a quiet one. Now Molly glared as well. Her
lips were a brighter red than Sheila's, her face deeply creased, her once red hair
now coloured dirty orange.
Sheila waited till all faces had turned back to Peter, who'd continued with
a frown toward his wife and her friend. Then she leaned again to whisper:
"Shouldn't her hair be i
The meeting went unmentioned until Sunday. She'd seen very little of Peter,
between his pub schedule and her kids schedule. She insisted they have Sunday
dinner together, the only family meal of the week now. It was early, four o'clock,
so Peter could get back to the pub.
"So what are you saying?" Patty said. "You don't want me to go to any more
"Pete's got more peas than me," Sean said.
"I do not," said Peter, Jr.
"No, I'm not saying that at all," Peter said.
Sean said, "He got forty-seven—I only got thirty-eight!"
"Keep your finger out of my peas!" Pete said.
"Take some of Siobhan's," Patty said to Sean.
Siobhan was sulking. "He can't have any of mine!"
"That's what it sounds like you're saying," Patty said to Petet.
"What I said was don't bother coming if you're going to waltz in, spend ten
minutes giggling with your girlfriend, then waltz out again. They're not social
events. We're not playing games. People are dying over there."
"There," Pete said. "Now I got less than you do."
"That's because you ate them!" Sean said.
"Kids!" Patty said.
"That's not fait," Sean said. "He ate some of them!"
"Sean, just stop it," Patty said.
Peter stood, lifting the bowl of peas. Leaning across the table, he slammed
three large spoonfuls to Sean's plate, an explosion of peas. "Therel" he shouted.
Sean slid back, cringing low. "You better eat every goddam one ofithemP
Late one night in early March Patty was awakened by Peter coming home. 51 He stood at the foot of the bed in the red glow, swaying. Finally, he took off his
glasses, put them on the nightstand and undressed, dropping his clothes on the
rocker. Patty was quiet. He climbed into bed and put his arm across her. They
seldom cuddled anymore. His hand found her breast, cupping it comfortably.
Her stomach growled. She turned imperceptibly toward him, as he whispered,
"It's on again, the hunget strike. Some guy, Bobby Sands. They think...."
But she never learned what they thought. Petet was asleep. Patty's hand slid
down her stomach.
When she told Sheila about the resumption of the hunger strike at Healthy
Weigh, Sheila already knew. "I was at the last FOIL meeting."
"You were?"
"Yeah. Spur of the moment, or I would have called you. At first, I thought
Bobby Sands was some teen idol from the fifties."
"See, there. You learned something already."
"The whole idea of this hunget strike thing I don't really get, though. Seems
to me it's like holding your breath till you turn blue. Till you get what you want."
Patty was surprised, disappointed. She should have guessed that Sheila didn't
know hunger, the truth of it, as well as she, but she thought that she had more
imagination, more empathy. The lecture was starting: Changing your 'Weighs.'
The seven heavy ladies pulled out their pens and note pads, settling in. Hunger
was elemental, a primal force; it could eithet kill you or empower you, Patty
knew. Sheila scribbled copiously—changing her weighs. Patty didn't hear a
word; she was thinking about corned beef and green beer and Ziggy's, and how
she'd danced and danced for her father.
The Shamrock Inn was full. The St. Patrick's seasonal spike to business had come
early, elevated to windfall proportions by the hunger strike. Peter in fact was
eyeing a Volvo, a long-time dream.
Patty felt invisible. Sheila sat beside Molly Rossiter across the bar from
Peter, the three at the eye of the storm. Talk was loud, competing with Irish
ballads blaring from the jukebox, and the rowdy singalong din. The hunger
strike was a prime topic, and FOIL strategy, the Irish war in general, English
evil in particular. Frank and the othet bartenders buzzing around him, Peter
preached, making point after point, enlightened by the wry anecdotes of Molly
and prompted by question after question from Sheila, among others. He chewed
up the arguments and spit them out.
Patty had underestimated her weariness, her age; had overestimated her
capacity for drink, her ability to keep up with Sheila. She'd been flung to the
periphery by centrifugal force, now leaning in the coiner where bar met wall,
swaying in smoky obscutity. Her seat beside Sheila had been usurped by Seamus
Rossiter when she'd gone to the ladies' room to be sick, and no one had noticed
het return. She was invisible.
Every voice in the place joined the chorus from the jukebox,
God save Ireland, say the heroes,
God save Ireland, say we all—
52 PRISM   51:1 Whether on the scaffold high, or the battlefield we die,
Oh what matter when for Ireland dear we fall!
Every voice but one. Patty didn't know the words. She watched Molly Rossiter
dab at her eyes with a cocktail napkin, saw Peter use the back of his sleeve. Even
Sheila was apparently crying at the sentiment of the song.
Patty watched the money flow over the bar in a blur, hearing the constant
whir of the cash registers putting bread on her table. She watched Peter, her
husband, pontificate, the center of attention, his broad shoulders and strong
arms that used to wrestle her, hammering home his points with charm and
charisma, perfecting the pitch, the used car salesman loved at last. She could
only watch, sinking, her head drifting closer and closer to the bar, dragged down
by the weight of her eyelids. God help me, I'm so hungry. She watched Sheila
watching Peter, the glints in Sheila's eyes melding to a steady, smoldering flame.
In late April, Patty drove down the Troy-Schenectady Road past the abandoned
Red Coach Grill near the Northway. Waist-high weeds now populated the
parking lot. Her window was down for the hint of summer in the air, and she
refused to raise it against the chill. When she patked on Sparrowbush Lane, the
chill melted in the warm sweet evening, and she saw the blooming forsythia, a
bouquet of yellow sunshine tethered to the ground, much bigger now than when
she and Peter had lived there, fifteen years and thirty pounds ago.
Her head was spinning; the kids had been quarreling, the washer was
broken, and she couldn't shake the nagging feeling of having left the iron on.
She longed to stop time for a moment. The buds on the maples in the back
yard were plump, and the duplex looked much the same as when they'd lived
there: a different shade of trim, bigger bushes, taller trees skimming the last of
the sunlight from the sky. Did the young couple living there now—did a young
couple live there now?—have the fan at the foot of the bed? Patty's sex life with
Peter had taken an odd and sudden turn for the better about a month ago, about
the same time the intensifying hunger strike turned Peter's hours at the pub and
at FOIL even more erratic than ever. But after a week or two of pretending—
pretending she was still thin and agile as she'd once been, pretending there was
still love in Peter's lust—the ride was winding down.
Once she'd smuggled home prime rib bones from the Red Coach and she
and Peter, nearly starving between sparse checks, had gnawed them clean in the
middle of the living room floor by the light of a single candle. They'd snarled
and growled and giggled, ripping loose every morsel of meat with their teeth,
pretending the room was theit cave. Then spreading the grease making loud,
sweaty love—as close as they'd ever come to kinky. Qr was it all something she'd
seen on TV?
Yesterday Patty had tried to call Sheila, who hadn't been to a Healthy Weigh
meeting in a month, but Sheila hadn't been at work. On an impulse, Patty'd asked
for William, Sheila's purported boyfriend, but hadn't gotten far, not knowing his
last name. A young man in a torn sweatshirt came to Patty's old front door,
watching her. In Patty's car mirror she saw only her eyes, pale blue eyes in soft
flesh, the weightless person escaping from beneath the ice that was melting down 53 her cheeks. Only the hollowness in her chest was actual. The paradox of heavy
and hollow; the paradox of appetite: the more you eat, the more it takes to satisfy
the hunger.
The kids were in bed when she got home. Peter was reading. "How was the
"I didn't go," said Patty.
"How come?"
"Just didn't feel like it."
Peter frowned away an unspoken thought. "Sheila called. Said to say hello."
"She called j/OM?"
"She wanted to know where the next meeting is. The next FOIL meeting."
"Aren't they always at the Albany Hall?"
"No." Peter looked at her as if the question had been asked in Martian. "We
alternate between Albany, Schenectady and Troy."
"Oh, right."
"I guess she's taking some course or something at Hudson Valley so she hasn't
been to your weight-watchers meetings."
"Healthy Weigh." Patty wondered why Sheila hadn't called her.
It seemed oddly quiet with the television off. Patty made a cup of tea and sat
with her Redbook magazine across from Peter reclining with his newspaper.
"Did you read this?" Peter asked, holding up the tabloid. "In this week's
Echo. It's called 'How a Hunger Striker Dies.'"
Petet went back to the article. "Amazing. Did you know ovet a hundred men
volunteered to go on hunger strike with Sands?"
"I didn't know there were that many in jail."
"There's over eight hundred." He read on. "The bastards. The Brits. They
keep bringing them food, keep it in theif cells twenty-four hours a day, breakfast,
lunch, dinner—and the hunger strikers have to keep ignoring it. It says, 'To
the famished men, the portions seem enormous, the smells incredibly clear and
delicious.' God."
"They probably figure they'll eat if they get hungry enough."
"'Aftet three weeks, they're taken to the prison hospital to die,' it says. I gotta
make copies of this for the meeting."
"They don't die do they?"
The Martian look again. "Of course they do."
"They didn't last winter."
"They thought they'd won last winter. They've died before." Patty didn't like
the impatience with which he shook his paper to resume reading. She went back
to her article.
"They get weighed daily," Peter said a moment later. "They lose a pound a
day. Can you imagine that? 'Skin becomes so parched that bones break through.
Throats become ulcetated. Hearing and vision begin to fail. The body first digests
all its own fat and protein, then, when that's gone, turns to the muscles, literally
dissolving them away'"
54 PRISM  51:1 "I don't really want to hear this."
"You don't?" asked Peter.
"I'm trying to read an article."
"On what? 'How to make successful cupcakes'?"
Eyes burning, Patty returned to her magazine.
Peter read: "'After six weeks, a loss of muscular control occurs due to vitamin
deficiency. Eyes gyrate wildly, causing constant vomiting and dizziness. Speech
becomes sluired and the men quit speaking because of the echoes of their voices
in their heads. They become moving skeletons. Inevitably, blindness comes
before death.'"
Patty closed het magazine. "Do we have any ice cream left?" she said, heading
toward the kitchen.
When Bobby Sands died, Peter called her from the pub with the news. A
beautiful day in early May, the kids were home from school. Patty could heat
squeals and laughter from the yard where they played. After he told her Sands-
had died, she didn't know what to say, so she listened, to her children, to the
birds, to the long, dead silence on the phone.
"Sixty-six days," Peter said.
"Sixty-six days?"
"That's how long he lasted. Frankie Hughes is next. He can't last much
"That's a shame."
"We're going to demonstrate on the Capitol steps. We're calling everybody.
You want to come down?"
"How can I? The kids just got home."
Sands and the local demonstration were the lead stories on the evening news.
They showed a close-up of Molly Rossiter weeping, and other faces, other tears.
There was Sheila. Patty saw a sign, Hungering For fustice. There were a hundred
or more marchers, far more than the nighr she and Sheila had first seen Peter
on television in November. When they interviewed him, Peter did well, his eyes
sharp and dangerous through his new contacts; he seemed gaunt, as though he
himself had been on hunger strike.
Patty felt a floating sensation. I didn't marry gaunt.
Sean called from the yard: "Mom! What's fot supper?" Patty caught het
breath, as though startled awake. The kitchen was cold. She'd forgotten about
dinner. For the first time in memoty, she didn't feel hungry. Pete and Sean
shouted in mutual joy, and Siobhan came scrambling into the house, launching
hetself onto Patty for a flurry of kisses and hugs. On the television Sheila stood
by Petet with a lean and hungry look. 55 Julie Paul
The day that Ronnie licked my arm and told me his father had taught him
how to use his tongue on the ladies, I turned mute as a mushroom in the
forest behind the elementary school. I was frozen, shocked to the spot. There
was nowhere to run to that Ronnie wouldn't get to fitst. I knew Ronnie from
preschool, all the way back to when we chewed candles togethet and exchanged
Snoopy Valentines, right up through the ten years between, years that vanished
the day he stood beside me, all his new-found knowledge eating me alive.
Wild, they were wild strawberries, and we picked them
on a tiny island we could only reach when the tide was out.
He smelled like moss and lichen and his hair was matted from the wind.
He christened me with a private name, a growl in his throat.
On the day he phoned me, saying he was sick, and could I
make him feel bettet, I found long eattings on his window sill.
This was before he lived in a tree, in Majestic Vale, before he came to my
window at three a.m., climbed in off the patio, trailing burrs.
I didn't notice the earrings until after I gave him what he wanted, until—he
only shrugged when I asked him. He turned to the wall and fell asleep.
Still, these twenty years later, I dream of him, wake up hungry and bewildered,
inhaling the scent of my husband's clean hair.
I walk the low tide line, searching for wild strawberries: for fragraria chiloensis;
for Frasier sauvage; for idziaze, Chipewyn for little heart. 57 ADVICE
Make the daughter slap the mother. Make the plates break. Make the
tablecloths fly and the crumbs turn back into cake. Make the love turn into
something solid and entirely impermanent, like ice. Make that day on the
island in Lake Ontario, when she crossed the frozen water along a path marked
by Christmas trees, central to your predicament. Make someone look into the
jade depths as if it were an oracle. Make all the hair in the world fall out. Make
everyone obsolete. Make French Fries healthy and Swiss chard not. Make all
the holes whole and the halves holes. Make a story true by not including aliens.
Make a story real by alienating everyone. Make shit up. Make it and make
them take it. Open their mouths: make them sing.
58 PRISM   51:1 Melanie Taylor filer rent
Translated by Christina Vega -Westhoff
It was seven at night and Julian was enraged. His day had statted at seven in
the morning when he picked up a professor heading to Albrook. She smelled
good but said little. Julian tried making conversation but only fished out a few
monosyllabic responses. He turned on the radio and the red and green of the
traffic lights bluffed with the swing of Quitate ttipa'ponermeyo's reggae beats, his
pineapple cat air freshener, the Divine Child hanging from his rearview window,
the tinted glass of the rear windshield, and the itchiness on his right testicle. He
scratched it and checked out his passenger's legs through the reafview mirror
as she looked distractedly out the window. Julian dropped her at a school. He
counted the money and watched her weave into the sea of square-patterned
skirts and white socks. Fifteen minutes latef a man in a suit heading to the
Transfstmica Social Security offices got in the car. The man smelled like cheap
cologne and kept clearing his throat. They talked of soccer and politics. About
soccer they agreed, about politics they didn't. Julian suspected the man was an
Arnulfist and that his comments against the ptesident bothered the man. Julian
decided to change the subject. He wasn't, after all, political and why create
an enemy at 8:20 in the morning? "Are you getting some tests done at Social
Security?" "Nooo man, this lady there owes me money and she hasn't paid me
for the last three pay periods. Yestetday she got paid and I won't let her drag it on
any longer." Julian agreed. Lending money was always bad business.
At a quarter to nine he stopped at a stand to get a coffee. He drank down
the black liquid. A bachata spat out from a radio and made him move his foot
without realizing it. Back in the taxi, that song Quitate tu pa'ponerme yo again
made him forget a few red lights. He slowed all of a sudden on a street in El
Cangiejo so he could mote comfortably observe a Sedal-dyed redhead wearing
hip-huggers and flirty heels, with a raised butt and a tattoo on her coccyx. The
redhead had stopped to talk on her cell phone, and Julian stopped by her side,
honking the horn in desperation. A line of exasperated drivers formed behind
him, also honking their horns. Glancing at him from the corner of her eye,
she twisted het mouth and turned her back on him to continue talking. He
made the motor roar as he pulled out, and so only heard the last syllable of the
sonofiabitch dedicated to him at full lung from the cat behind. It made him want
to pee and he stopped neat a mango tree in an empty lot. As he relieved himself,
a suspicious man walked by much too closely and even turned to look at Julian
as he passed. Julian screamed "faggot!" at him and stuck out his finger, yes, the
middle one.
He got back in the taxi and pulled out, this time heading towards
Transistmica. He gave various short rides to banks and offices.
6" 59 At noon, a couple stopped him and directed him to Ancon. Screwing around
at this hour—Julian thought—with this heat, this traffic. I'm sure it's an affair.
The man spoke in the woman's ear, but she kept a straight face and touched her
sunglasses nervously. "Hey, brother, do you think you could look for us in an
hour?" the man said. Julian exhaled and nodded with little enthusiasm. He left
Ancon and parked in the Gran Estacion. He used the hour to call a possible lover
on the payphone since his cell phone didn't have minutes left, he drank a juice,
ate a beef empanada that left his fingers greasy and his mouth full of crumbs,
spoke to anothef taxi driver wheel-to-wheel, and revved his engine exactly at
one. He picked up the couple and they lay lethargic in the back seat, she with
her head hanging back, he with his eyes half-closed. Julian left them at the
Department of Health on Avenida Perti. He thought about his woman, Marta;
and his little giflfriend, Yasubel; and of his lover, Zabdis; of his kids, Julian
Alberto and Alberto Julian, identical twins; and of his daughter Zaribeth from a
previous relationship. Julian decided to concentrate on Zabdis because she was
the newest, and he mentally replayed their last encounter in a motel just like the
one he had just left. With all his strength he wished for the money to call her
and go get het after her boyfriend left the house. He got so excited he pushed the
accelerator to the floor, nearly causing a triple collision. Mother-insults smashed
against the glass and the windshield launched them into the wind.
At exactly rwo-thirry, the sun breaking bricks and the heat breaking guts,
in front of the department store Machetazo in Calidonia, Julian stopped. A
woman of flaccid and abundant flesh got in, her legs marked by varicose veins
and her arms lined with wild black down that had never seen a razor. She had
a budding mustache and she wore het white hait short. She carried bags from
the supermarket. Julian opened the trunk and the woman deposited the load.
As she stepped in the car she said in a worn-out singsong voice, "To Villa Rica."
Julian felt a kick to the stomach and hit the brakes. "I'm not going there," he said
pounding the steering wheel. He moved his head about in an obstinate way, his
hair still gelled stiff from the morning. "This is a disgrace, young man. I'm going
to call the police. Taxis are a public service." "Call whoever you want. I'm not
leaving!" The taxi froze for five whole minutes. Julian moved his porcupine head
in an emphatic no and the lady gesticulated, waved her hands about, moaned,
and almost cried, but the brake handle did not move. With no police in sight
and only busybodies within reach, tired and hurt, she got out of the taxi. He left
her standing in a cloud of white smoke, surrounded by packages.
By three in the afternoon Julian was in a bad mood. El palo encebao made
him feel a bit better. He picked up some students leaving the Professional School
and headed to the Albrook Bus Terminal. They were like bottles of soda, pure
effervescence. Their laughter, their flirtation, the way they sang El palo encebao,
the contrast between their white socks and cinnamon legs, the way their blue
skirts rose above their ankles, the suggestion of bias undet theit white shirts, the
shine on their lips that made their smiles happier, the mascara that shone from
their batting eyelashes. Julian too was happy and he told them daring things. He
asked them if they had boyfriends, if they had cell phones—that he was going
to invite the three of them out so he could teach them something. After he left
60 PRISM  51:1 them at the Terminal he carried his happiness with him like some children carry
their lunch boxes. He was so happy that he didn't notice when the bus from Don
Bosco lightly kissed his back bumper. The sound of grinding tin woke him from
his happy moment and the jolt almost made him lose control. Julian got out of
the car in a fury, shouting all of the curse words he knew and all the permutations
of those words. After seeing Julian leave the taxi, the bus driver decided not to
get out of the bus; he locked the door and prepared to wait for a police officer.
He was a small man, short and fat with little desire for complications. Julian
kicked the door of the bus, and when he saw the details of the damage done, he
hit his own car, snorted, and finally he threw himself in his seat exhausted. The
police, the bus driver, the witnesses, and the testifiers left at six that night. He
watched them leave, aware he would never receive a cent from the bastard who
had run into him.
He started up the engine to the cacophony of hanging tin and an internal
punching percussion that was unlocatable. It was seven at night. Julian wanted
to attive at the house to sleep and to know nothing more of the day. He prayed
that Marta wouldn't fuck with his patience with jealousy or complaints, that
there would be food ready, that the twins wouldn't be crying or screaming, that
Yasubel wouldn't...the cell phone rang. It was her. She wanted to see him as
soon as possible. She whispered, "papi, baby, come, come." Julian didn't have
any argumenrs left in him; he was so tired he turned off the phone, and threw
it into the back seat. I'm fucked, he thought. It was like having all the desire in
the world, but being bound by invisible ties. He had to get to the house and lie
down immediately. His whole body hurt.
He had steered onto Ascanio Villalaz, now dark and scarcely frequented.
A shape shot in front of him. He braked and sat back, astonished. A woman
with burnt-orange hair, a short purple dress, and black boots gasped in front of
his headlights. He didn't think anything, he didn't yell anything, he didn't feel
anything. He jusr looked at her like a person looking at a poster, a film preview,
a picture from a newspaper. She couldn't be real, or was she?
The woman, who crushed a pile of papers in her right hand, staggered to
the back door, and got in the car. She was sweating, her white skin blotching
red at the cheeks, the tip of her nose and on her neck. Tears wet her entire face.
Finally, after much panting, she let out a "cono" from the depths of het soul, and
Julian accelerated. He continued until Franquipani, then he took a right at the
Social Security building. The woman began to talk. "He's a son of a bitch, yes,
an authentic one, through and through. Ay, now his woman's returned and I, tell
me, IIIIIIIIL" The "I" sounded like a wolf-woman's howl. It made the hair on
Julian's back curl, but he kept quiet and drove. "They were fighting, evetything
was already over. To do this to meeeeeeee..." The "me" was like a soprano's cry
rounding a never-ending staircase. The woman threw the pages out the window
and into the wind. "You see this? His great production, his last stories, they took
him a yeat and six months to write, one year and six months in which IIIIII
acted as employee, secretary, cook, nurse, accountant, editot, friend, lover..."
She wasn't able to continue. She just let the pages escape from her fingers. Tears
formed in Julian's eyes. They were on Calle 50. "Srop." The woman got out in 61 front of the strip club Elite. She threw him two crumpled dollars and closed the
door. Julian drove until his house in Tocumen without even turning his head.
He grabbed the money thrown on the seat and a solitary page, the only one left
of those stories gone adrift. He read.
It was seven at night andfulian was enraged. His day had started at seven in the
A painful laugh took hold of Julian, forcing him into contortions against the
seat. Just as quickly he stopped laughing, crumpled the paper, and threw it into
his neighbour's yard. He entered his house, locked the door, and fell onto the
couch like a dead tree, his mind a complete blank. Soon his snoring harmonized
with the silence of a fantastic night.
62 PRISM  51:1 Esther Mazakian
Not realizing it yet amidst errant sheets of rain needling the pines
but recognizing the absotbing absutdity of
capturing water in a veil—
secretly in love and secretly in Scatborough. We stood
marks, viscid feelers,
peace signs
outside my parents' condo and you were smoking (also a secret). Metal clouds
gunning catfish-bellies of
pithy brine overhead; later I'd find you were gay. Blackened
and a season of slop crusted the walkway,
but despite the weight of February, the old lawn was
tising, like this war, this passing self-sufficiency—neuter, tight-lipped, sullen
undet a rolled-up awning new
on our glutinous heads. 63 CLINCH
Emetic voicemails smarting, tipping the skin like tape off his fists, cold cracks
the instant he caught on to what he feared was going on without him.
Sit. I know what's happening. His whitish eyes vibrant for once.
He'd stood up for her in that beeping room and clasped her to him, her damp
hair in his mourh, his cutman down. Pier father nowhere to be heard. Girl of
his dreams.
A squall lashed the hospital windows, an arena crowd whooping as the blows
sunk her in.
She made a mild, blind, febrile motion toward her forehead,
palming it for some foothold. What boxes of trouble. Whooshes of inertia.
She'd lived alone once and never clashed.
Every seed was sacred. Sketching idea outlines through
a cascade of scrutiny that deluged her. It was the year her vanity doubledowned
and she huddled in the bathroom corner, blotto-bereaved
between the blue
toilet bowl and the unpainted gypsum
A slapdash hurried wall of paper, mesh, dirt and screws, a backdrop
for a sneakpeek:
she went out of her mind.
Inside her pen, nowhere to turn, no shower but a sprig of
water from the old tub like a lab rat's watering tube. Bubbling purple sheets of
phoney plastic ceramic.
Then a galvanic whirring from afar, buzzing, scratching lurid chain-
in her brain splattering evidence that no one saw: her standing
still a human gravity with no choice
but to exist. No
way out.
She was inbred in here
to be such a pretty girl, yes yes she was, a rim-wiped-clean ordered dish. 65 Rebecca Rosenbh
_L he actual house was never going to be beautiful, but that wasn't the point—I
was hired to do a job and I was going to make sure my work was flawless even
if it was going to get swallowed up by the larger shittiness. Like you can see this
ugly-ass bitch and you look at her and think, she's got perfect posture, so her
bones are really beautiful.
That's what I was thinking in the back of Edwin's van at 7:57. We were
only going to get a few hours of work in before the sun was so hot the hammer
would skid out of your hand. That's the way August is here: disgusting. But the
subdivision was half-built with people living in it, and had some rule that we
couldn't be loud before eight, so we lost most of the cool in the morning. I don't
think anyone could've heard us working with most of the walls up. I also think
if you are still sleeping that late you are your own problem, but there it was.
The lots were tiny frontages, and the houses were enormous, so they looked
like fat people in bus seats. But I was doing the kitchen, which was decent and
once you're in you don't see the outside. I guess that's what the morons buying
them thought too.
We had a list of custom specs from the particular moron that had bought
this place, including crown molding which I thought was basically assfuckery in
a design like this one, but the customer is always right. I liked working for Edwin
because of the ride out from town in his van, and also the gorgeous mitre saw he
had. I'd been using it for the windows and now for the mouldings. I didn't love
my job, but to point the laser line and then slide the blade arm through the pine
like air—it was satisfying.
The second I started to do any kind of work, or even move steadily, I was
sweating. The goggles were sealing a line of sweat to my face and I couldn't be
drinking much when I was working indoors because I had my massive Thermos
cooler, which sloshed all over the place. We were getting to that stage in the
build, where if you left something messed up or sticky or whatever, you might
get called out by Edwin, or even by the owners if they showed up for a surprise
look-see. I hated owners, hated wottying about a spill like a little kid, hated
goddamn Edwin, but I loved those saws.
The thing was, assfuckery ot not, the wotk of damn crown mouldings was
nice—even in a stupid room, if you did a good job you felt good looking at it.
The house had 47 neighbouts just like it, slick white suburban boxes with no
need for crown anything—but I liked cutting the simple angled lines, fitting the
joins, smoothing the edges. My girlfriend, Julianna, was a poet, all staring out
windows and imagining shit, but I liked real things, like the wood that framed
the window. Things you could touch and feel proud of, instead of a bunch of
scribbles on a page.
66 PRISM  51: When Edwin came in from helping the other guys pouring concrete in the
garage, he was not as happy with the work as I would've thought.
"Speed it along, please," he said. "Stop with the perfectionism. This guy, he
wants crown moulding so as he can say he got crown moulding. It don't need to
be fit for a king."
Now that pissed me right off. What I said about making beautiful bones
even if no one will see obviously did not apply in Edwin's cost breakdown.
"You want me to stop and let Caleb or Joey do it?"
"Fuck no. Those losers? Just make up time in the dining rooms, and wherever
else. This ain't fucking modern art, all right?" Edwin didn't smoke, but he always
talked like he had a cigar jammed in the comer of his mouth.
I kept my mouth shut and hustled it through the dining room without
barely looking—I couldn't stand to look—and the day got hotter.
When I got home I was pissed off because Edwin kept us waiting in the hot van
fot 10 minutes while he shot the shit with the guy who installed the window-
glass. Then he kept a tenner off my pay because he said I'd busted a blade off the
jig saw and what he thought I would've been doing with a jig saw out there I just
don't fucking know.
Julianna was getting dressed to go to work, which was sort of the problem
with her job. She was a waitress at an Olive Garden because she never got paid
anything for her poems—not that that stopped her writing. That meant she was
always out in the evening without me. She kept saying that she wasn't "out" if
she was at work. But fact remained, she was with all these douchey pasta-eating
guys, who would pat her ass, of course, because she had a sweet little curve back
there, and she wore these fucking shorts that you could not believe were part
of a uniform at a family restaurant—a saintly white blouse and these tiny black
shorts like a Hooters whore. One time she'd been leaving when Edwin dropped
me off, and he was practically hanging out the driver's window watching her
walk down the sidewalk. I'm sure it was like that her whole way to the restaurant.
On the other hand, at least she was hot, so the tips were good. I always told her
to just scrape off the sauce and eat that, not the noodles, because carbohydrates
were bad for her ass. I don't know if she listened to me—I bet she didn't—but
she still looked damn good. It was a blessing and a curse, that ass.
I dumped my lunch stuff and the Thetmos cooler and my shirt—Edwin
don't allow the guys to be shirtless on the site because he says it's unprofessional,
but in the van we all strip off fast.
"Hey?" Julianna was twisting her blouse over her stomach. "Danny?" Then
she just stood there blocking the bathroom door while I was just sweating and
dying for the John, like she didn't know she had said anything.
"What, Julianna? What?"
"I think Archie's feeling sick today. Could you keep an eye on him?"
"Archie?" She was watching me with her big dumb eyes, making me feel like
I was the dumb one. Finally, I got it—"The cat? Oh, he's fine. Cats are animals;
they take care of themselves." I only got a step forward before she grabbed my
arm. Her hands were like ice, and I remembered why I liked her again. 67 "I'm going. Jusr if—if he seems really bad, you'll call me at work, won't you?"
I shook her hand off and took another step. "No, I will not call so you can
skip off for some orange rodent and lose the only job you could get."
"I won't—I just wanted—"
"Go to wotk, or it'll be you and that cat both feeling sick." I shut the
bathroom door before she could start up again. Her goddamn poetry notebooks
were all over the bathroom counter. I don't know what that was about.
"They want to eat gravy but pay dry," said Edwin—some fucking metaphor. He
was worse than Julianna that way, because Julianna never even had a point to
start with, but Edwin was actually talking about the house owner refusing to pay
proper labour costs, and it would've been nice to understand that earlier in the
This was the next night: he ranted all the drive to my place and then he
wanted to come in. I knew he was hoping she'd be there. But what can you say
when your boss drives you home and goes, "Got any beer?"
At least she wasn't there, though actually that pissed me off too—she
should've scheduled het shifts so we were home at the same time occasionally.
And the cat was there, running apeshit circles around our ankles, getting orange
fuzz all over the bottoms of my jeans. Edwin was looking at the bottle of 50 I
handed him as if I'd fished it out of the sea. He was reading the label for a full
minute—there were about four words on there. I oughta've shown him one of
Julianna's endless poems—it would've taken him out of commission fot a week.
Finally he took a swig, swallowed and looked down at the orange mess
swirling around his feet. "Your cat?"
"It's Julianna's."
"Seriously?" He bent down and gave it a testing kind of pat, as if you could
tell by the fur who it belonged to.
"Seriously. You know a guy with a cat?"
Edwin set his fat ass in a chair. "I've known just about everything in my
"I bet." We drank in silence for a moment. Edwin wasn't a bad boss. He got
the job done, and he didn't put up with shit unless he was putting it out himself.
I could've almost liked the guy if he didn't have a hatd-on for my girlfriend.
"What's she up to these days, Julianna?"
"Workin'. She's working. Olive Garden."
He leered like he was going to say something filthy and I clenched up. "Oh
man, I love them garlic sticks. You eat free there?"
"Naw, I gotta pay unless she btings leftovers home after work."
He leaned back. "She a waitress? How long till the end of her shift?"
"Long. They don't close until ten, and then there's the cleanup, reset,
"Etcetera. Yeah. I bet if you come in there though, she'll treat you right,
right? Extra sauce, the good wine instead of the shitty house stuff?"
God, he was so hot for her, even the food she served was sexy to him.
"Dunno. I never tried that."
68 PRISM   51:1 "Oh yeah?" He set the bottle on the table, and stood, hitching his belt. "You
tell Juli I might be stopping in some suppertime. You never know til you try."
I thought about clocking him one but I needed the job, and I was so hot and
tired, and I'd drunk that beer so fast, I didn't know if I'd heard what I thought I'd
heard. When I closed the door behind him, the goddamn spooky-eyed cat was
staring at me. I can't take that shit. I knocked him with my foot just a bit as I
went back down the hall—just to remind him to show a little respect. He sounds
just like her when he wails.
This house job was going straight to shit. The owner started coming by once
a day, sometimes twice. He thought we were too slow, that we were somehow
lollygagging on all these fancy extras he wanted. He walked around with his
hands in his pockets looking at stuff he didn't understand. I'm not even sure he-
knew what crown moulding was when he asked for it, maybe he just thought
anything with the word crown in it had to be good. He sure did stare at it for a
long time, sort of squinting, like he was trying to make it out.
One super-hot day, he just stood at the other end of the living room, fiddling
with a tape measure like a little kid—pulling it out to watch it snap back. So
fucking annoying. I was sanding up the ends before up started the window
frames. I didn't like to work when he was there, but you gotta get something
done sometime, especially when he was pushing for faster work. Of course he
came over and looked at what I was doing and asked what I was sanding the end
bits for. "It need that?"
I'd've dearly loved to not answer. But it was pretty clear I heard. "Yeah, it
needs that. If you want a tight join."
Fie pushed off the wall then, and went out. I noticed he took the tape
I got home late and there was nothing to eat—a bunch of old books on the
counter, for some reason. I read a poem about ice on a lake—it wasn't bad, and
I would've told Julianna so if she'd been there to hear it. I went and picked up
shrimp pad thai, came back, ate it while watching a movie where a dog plays
basketball. The cat went up on the table while I was in the can and he stole a
shrimp. I locked him in the pantry, tossed the cat-saliva contaminated food,
opened a beer, watched the rest of the movie, then Leno. Nearly midnight and
Julianna still wasn't home. I shotgunned anothet beet in the kitchen so I'd sleep.
In bed I felt like I'd stay awake, but then it was morning and Julianna was cutled
beside me in a white linen ball, so I must've fallen asleep.
Work continued to be bullshit—still hot, still dull, still the fucking owner
begging us to cut corners and Edwin agreeing. All the time I spent on them
cupboards, then they put on the plastic door pulls. Like zits on a petfect vanilla
ass. 69 "You can't be telling the client what he needs. It's the client who tells us."
Edwin was unloading boards from the truck—I didn't even know what they
were for. There was something else now?
I tried to stay on topic. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but generally, don't the
client tell us at the beginning what he wants, and then leave things be? Correct
me if I'm wrong, but the client is not usually in the house while we're doing the
"It is what it fucking is, Danny. I pay you the same per hour whether he tells
you the job a thousand times. This ain't modem art, I toldja. So eatn yout money
and quit bugging me, ok?" He shoved the ends of the some 12-foot 2x4s at me.
I grabbed the wood and breathed deep. I needed all the oxygen I could get.
We plonked the boards on the lawn. As I turned to go, he said, "I was
right—your Juli does help a guy out with a few extra breadsticks and the good
I stopped with my back to him, just because that's where I was when I
stopped, but it was good because I needed to work out what he was saying,
if it was another fucking metaphor: Did he actually just go eat in Julianna's
restaurant, or did he lay her?
"So you went to the Garden, didja?" I said it like it was a code, which is all
metaphot is. "What'dya get?" I finally turned, but looking at his face didn't help;
he was just smiling like an idiot, squinting into the sun.
"Them lasagna rolls, man—those are the bomb."
"What time didja go? To the restaurant?"
"Late...lateish. I figured if it was the rush they wouldn't like her chatting
with a friend—" Edwin was not Julianna's friend "—so I went just afore close,
"You're a lucky man, Danny, and don't forget it. She let me stay whiles they
was closing up and we had a little chat. Sweetheart, that one. Sweetheart."
"Well, I'm glad you and Julianna had such a lovely evening." He didn't seem
to be getting my tone, but that was an act. To get that tone out of me was the
whole point of the conversation.
"You two ever step out on the town? I know a place, a couple young
sweethearts of my acquaintance introduced me. Dancing, good beers on tap,
good-looking people..."
I opened my mouth and he just about thrusts a hand in. "Not a pickup
joint—classy. You could take your lady for a night on the town."
"You oughta think about it. These gills that I'm taking out tonight, they're
all right, but they'll go with who pays for drinks, y'know. Would be nice to have
you and Juli there too, for real conversation, y'know?"
I shook my head, nudged the narrow boards with my foot.
"You just think about it. We won't be waitin' on you, like—" that wink
again, my god, I oughta've stove his face in when he did that. "I'll give you the
70 PRISM   51:1 At home, the place was just piles of dishes and books and crap, and Julianna on
the floor, playing with the fucking cat. "What're you doing?"
"What? How was your day?" She scrambled up to big-girl level, but she still
had this piece of purple ribbon trailing from her hand, so the cat was hopping
up and down beside her.
"Bar none disaster. The owner of the house is totally dicking us."
She patted my arm with her hand flat, not curved around it. "That's too bad,
Danny. I got some veal for dinner, if you want."
I tried to look at her and see if she looked dirty, like a liar. When I met her
she was a virgin, or that's what she said. Actually she wrote a poem about it, how
I was the only one, ever. I wasn't sure. She was hot, Julianna—I knew that even
though when you've fucked someone a lot of times, it's hard to see their hotness.
But Julianna was just borderline of magazine quality; short and with a bit of an
ass, but that's what I liked anyways. That's what Edwin liked, too.
"It was on sale. Frozen stuff." I guess she thought me looking her over so
hard-eyed was because she bought expensive fucking veal. Her giant blue cow
eyes didn't tell me anything—I didn't know if I trusted her and I didn't know
what I would do if I realized I didn't trust her. Walk out? How fucking crazy
would that be?
"What's modern art?" I said it because I suddenly knew she'd know. She'd
gone to university, though she dropped out when I got the job out here.
"What?" She dropped the ribbon. The cat grabbed it in his teeth and shook,
like he was breaking its neck. "What do you mean?"
"You know, modem art. The expression, the thing people say."
"What, like Clement Greenberg? Or like Ezra Pound?"
"No, not like history. I mean Edwin's always going, 'It's not modern art,'
when I want something I'm working on to be bettet and he doesn't. Like he
doesn't want me to do too good a job."
"Oh, that's an expression. Like, it's not that important."
It was like a punch in the gut. It was good to know that's what she thought
of my work. Good to know she was so knowledgeable about Edwin's expressions.
Just fucking great. I went into the kitchen to get away from her. As soon as the
door shut I slammed my fist into the wall beside the fridge so hard plaster dust
waterfalled onto the tile and the motherfucking cat who had followed me in here
for some goddamned reason when I just needed a moment to think.
Of course Julianna came running when she heard the crunch. I couldn't
even tell if she was pretending to care when she touched my busted up bleeding
knuckles. Or was she cooing over me when she was wet fot fucking Edwin? I
shoved her back and she skitteted into the counter where the slushy meat was
thawing. The cat trotted up to her and sank his teeth into het calf like it was a
tibbon. She squawked, her ponytail disintegrating around her face.
It felt like there was no choice. I had to see for myself. "C'mon, brush your
hair; we're going out."
I watched her very, very carefully. When we first saw Edwin, she nodded and
grinned and let him kiss her cheek. We sat at the bar with these two awful 71 females of the sort you'd expect in a place playing Shania Twain followed by
Aerosmith. Super-young, not pretty but with boobs that seem to be resting on
shelves inside their bras, and thick dark eyeliner.
It was an awful night, because everybody had some sort of plan or agenda,
in addition to the usual one of just getting pissed drunk. Julianna was trying to
get me to not be mad but in that idiot way she had of pretending not to know
why I was mad in the first place, so she wouldn't have to stop what she was doing
or apologize at all. She just rubbed up against me the whole night, all big- eyed.
Those sad girls Edwin brought just wanted to get bought drinks and patted on
the bum every once in a while, so they could bicker with each othet about who
Edwin really liked. Edwin was happy to buy their rum and Diet Cokes and pat
whatever was available, but he was obviously after Julianna. He wasn't subtle
about reaching around her to flag the waitress, clapping his hand down on her
thigh every time he laughed. She didn't even blink. He was so familiar with
her it seemed pretty obvious that they'd slept together, calling her Juli as if he'd
known her forever, grabbing a sip of her drink when she looked away—then,
when she caught him, just giving a little wink and licking his lips—as if he was
remembering how she tasted.
The worst thing was, I felt like Edwin was mainly doing it to get at me; she
was hot, but the two bits sitting on the other side of him weren't that bad, and
they weren't playing hatd to get like she was. Not that hard, though—Julianna
laughed when she saw him licking her beer foam off his lip, a wet chitp that
sounded way too into it for me to believe all the surprised looks she gave to his
wandering hands. I was a rock, though, just staring at the hockey on the screen
over the bar, minding my business, peeling labels off my empties, waiting out the
Finally, finally, it was last fucking call and we could let the evening die. We'd
taken the bus over, but Edwin offered us a drive in his van, and Julianna goes,
"No way, you're plastered," like she was his wife or something. And he just hands
her the keys, same way, like they were the couple and I was just some asshole
getting a free ride home.
So she lit out across the parking lot—just like that. Edwin jogged up to her
elbow with the two girls trailing behind. That long blond hair glowed a kind
of grey-silver in the streetlamps' glare, and it swung just a few inches above her
round little rump. In the end, it wasn't Edwin's fault, although of course he was a
fucker. Just, it was natural for a man to covet a beautiful lady, and anyway, Edwin
never promised me he wouldn't. It was Julianna that had made me promises,
written me little post-it bathroom-mirror poems about true forever, all that shit,
and it was her I held responsible now.
Edwin goes, "Well, Danny, your woman has secured the front seat for you.
Guess I'll make myself at home on the hump." He and the girls laughed so hard
you could see the backs of their throats. He climbed into the middle of them,
and off we went.
I was ignoring Julianna, and I couldn't talk much to them in the back seat.
Edwin had somehow sweet-talked both of the girls into his lap. Julianna was
all prissy, "Is that really safe?" The girls just laughed like hyenas, and started
72 PRISM  51:1 yammering on about who liked Edwin more. "No me," "No me," just barely
even words, but they sure could go on. Then one of them shifted sideways over
his knee so that I, turning from the front seat, could see right till Sunday in the
flash from oncoming cars as we pulled onto the highway back to town. I kinda
got hypnotized.
That's why it took a moment for me to realize the car was skewing onto the
soft shoulder. I looked over at Julianna and her face was wet. "What?"
She just kept up crying and braking and didn't take her eyes off the road.
"No, what's this? I say something to you? I didn't say no goddamn thing to
"A ca-at.. .there was—uh, uh—a cat!"
We'd come to a still-stop by that point. Them in the back were wasted, but
they still could recognize we weren't moving. "What the fuck?"
"Just calm down, Juli, honey." Edwin actually leaned forward between his
two blitzed beauties and put his hand on Julianna's shaking shoulder. She didn't
even notice, as if he'd done it a thousand times.
"That.. .that.. .1 gotta get the cat."
I guess if I'd been sober I would've worked out that she'd meant in the road
there was a cat, but I wasn't and now we were fully stopped in the goddamn datk
and Julianna was both sobbing like a maniac and trying to get out of the fucking
car in the pitch-dark with cats whipping by at a thousand miles per hour. So I
grabbed her by her skinny arm and yanked her back in the car. "We're gonna
drive home, and then we'll get the cat. The cat is at home, you dumb bitch."
"The cat, I hit it, there's a cat on the road that's hit and I've got to help it.
There's a cat!"
Finally I got what she was saying through the beer fog. I brought my voice
down so the others wouldn't hear—not that they gave a fuck. Edwin had lost
interest and was necking with the blonder one; the one more like Julianna.
"Yeah, well, don't add yourself to the graveyard. You can't go running around on
the highway in the middle of the night."
"I can see what's coming." And she pulled herself towards the door again but
I got my fingers dug into her arm. "Danny, I've got to help that cat."
"Well, maybe you should've not hit it in the first place. C'mon, everybody's
tired and drunk. Let's go home."
She twisted and managed to get free, I don't know how. That girl was an eel.
She had the door open and was out before I realized I'd lost her. But I got out
pretty fast, too.
She was plastered to the driver's side door when I got to her—a semi had
just gone by and the car was wobbling in the gravel. "Get in the car, Julianna. I
fucking mean it."
"I c-c-c-ouldn't stop, Jessie and Jayle don't got seatbelts and they would've
g-g-g-one thtough the windshield." She was talking like het teeth wete chattering.
"Well, good you didn't kill no one over a fucking rodent, Juli."
"Cats aren't rodents," she scteamed at me, het mouth wide and spit flying.
She started to lunge at some white streak a hundred metres back in the right-
hand lane—even I could see there were headlights coming. It was starting to 73 seem like she'd had something more to drink when I hadn't been looking.
I grabbed her arm again and the other one too, flipped her round and
slammed her hard against the car. "You can't fucking run in the street, Julianna.
You need to take responsibility fot murdering that cat, so take it and buck up."
She was crying so much it was like her face was melting. "I-I-I-I—"
I smacked her a good one across the mouth, came away with a hand coated
in snot and tears and spit. "Get it together. Now you gonna drive or am I? You're
the one that wanted to be the designated driver, and a fucking mess you've made
of it. So maybe me driving wasted is better than you sober, what do you think?"
She was trying to drop down out of my hands now, to curl up on the ground.
Thank god she didn't weigh very much.
The nexr semi flattened me against her, but not hatdly in a sexy way, not with
her in that state. When it was gone I shoved my hand behind her back, opened
the door, and crammed her in with the other two bitches.
"Edwin, take shotgun. I'm driving now."
I got us home just fine, though I did take out Edwin's mailbox. Served him
right, specially since the next day he told me he didn't think there'd be all that
much carpentry work for me the rest of summer. Fuckin' liar. Also the next day,
Julianna showed me the bruises on her arms and her swollen lip, but I told her
what the fuck else was I supposed to do? She didn't have an answer to that—she
never does, once she calms down and sees sense.
74 PRISM  51:1 Ben Ladouceur
Richie made me promise not to relate any stories of
embattassment or crime, but Richie, on
this, the evening of your nuptials, I must tell them about
our long day in Truro, I just must, the fallacy then
was a dark twin of tonight's fallacy, we
and the dogs — who are thought to be clairvoyant
on these matters — anticipated storms
that never came, and here we are now, beneath
a tarpaulin, on an evening they reported
would be clear and ideal for regattas.
As Truro woke, as birds of Truro wailed
morning song, Richie came across my notebook, open
to its core, where read these simple wotds:
The first line, I insisted, of a song I'd been arranging
to be played on the Wurlitzer, though now I
come clean, Richie, while your soul is at its smoothest
and most forgiving, I did love him, the crimson acne
flecked across his neck, he was like a man
a guillotine had made an attempt at and failed.
We rolled that whole notebook into joints, didn't we
Richie, then drove into the boonies to shove ammo
into rifles folk left by their porch
doors. That summer, your brother's motorboat
slipped into the Itish Sea, his mannequin body
demolished, and I'll bet he is here now, and is
glad, I will bet, I am sure of this. Caroline, Richie
is one hell of a guy. You would do best to keep
his body firmly in yours, how seas contain boats, how
trees contain birds, for he is only stories to me now. 75 MIDDLE NAMES
Whar illnesses we have
we have in common. Your body sublets mine
as, without, both the front and the back lawn
radiate, so it must have rained
while we, in a dark room, got embossed, got
prosperous, my mouth
could not find words or water.
Middle names are clumsy
with their beauty: they are the wisdom teeth
of out identities. Learning yours
was like watching a monarch butterfly
die, over time, between two window panes.
Text message from Daniel:
I don't know where you are but if you can see the point on the horizon where the
sun is about to set, it's beautiful. The clouds look (1/2)
And the second part never came.
That week the sky was always violet at dinnertime, and some ducks always
resided in its bottom right-hand corner, punctuation marks, to render the
gotgeousness legible.
I left my windowless office and made for the waterside, the locks.
Violet and matte like a belly smeared in lube because the bottle cracked—how
hard, that one night, did we laugh!
Something arrives and grants you fastet access to those dtiest, smallest zones.
Now I understand. I have been a problem. I have been ameliorated.
The clouds look what, Daniel?
—[The clouds look] like the ghosts of men who died while procuring oil from the
sea before you were born, before even I was born. (2/2)
—[The clouds look] like a type of candyfloss they don't make anymore. (2/2)
—[The clouds look] so weary, from what, who could say. (2/2)
—[The clouds look] at me and I look at them and there is nowhere I cannot go,
Ben, I have all the materials I need. (2/2) 77 CONTRIBUTORS
Kathryn Dillard received her MA in English at The University of California-
Davis in June 2012. She currently resides in central California and plans to pursue
a PhD in Creative Writing in Fall 2013. Her manuscript, Diptych, explores how
poems, when composed as dyadic structures, mirror social relations.
Gerald Fleming's most recent book, Night of Pure Breathing, was nominated
for a National Book Award. He taught in the San Francisco public schools for
thirty-seven years, and has published three books for teachers. "Man of New
Skin" is from a new collection, The Choreographer, forthcoming next spring.
Melanie Taylor Herrera is a Panamanian writer and musician. She is the author
of numerous collections of fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared in The
Barcelona Review and Letralia, as well as in the anthologies Mkroantologia del
Microrrelato III and CuentAutismo. Additional translations are forthcoming in
Ezra and Metamorphoses.
Elizabeth Hoover is a poet, critic, and journalist based in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania. Her poetry has appeared in Plainsongs, Poetry Nortlnvest,
Massachusetts Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, and Folio, among othets. She is
currently working on a biography of Robert Hayden and you can see mote of
her work at
Ben Ladouceur is a recent graduate of Carleton University's Canadian Studies
Masters program. His poems have been previously featured in The Malahat
Review, CV2, and in chapbooks by above/ground press, Apt. 9 Press, and
AngelHousePress. His website is
Esther Mazakian's first book, All the Lifters, was shortlisted for a ReLit Award.
Her work has appeared in The Malahat Review, ARC, and Arsenal Pulp Press'
2009 anthology Fist of the Spider Woman.
Dennis McFadden's collection of stories, Hart's Grove, was published in June
2010 by the Colgate University Press; his fiction has appeared in dozens of
publications, including Best American Mystery Stories 2011, TJje Missouri Review,
New England Review, The Massachusetts Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Fiction,
The South Carolina Review and Crazyhorse.
Matt McLean lives and works in Victoria, BC.
Julie Paul's poems have appeared in Event, TJje Malahat Review, Vallum and
Qwerty. Her book of short fiction, The Jealousy Bone, was published in 2008. She
lives in Victoria, BC.
78 PRISM   51:1 Michael Quilty lives near the shore of Georgian Bay. His poetry has appeared
in several North American journals, most recently 77^ Fiddlehead (No. 251,
Contest "Honourable Mention") and Vallum 7:2. The three poems included
here are somewhat self-inflicted and taken from a new collection titled Portrait of
a Head Shot. His previous collection, Harbouring, remains quiet and publishable.
Rebecca Rosenblum's Once won the Metcalf-Rooke Award and was one of Quill
and Quire's 15 Books That Mattered in 2008. Her chapbook, Road Trips, was
published by Frogs Hollow Press in 2010. Her second full-length collection, The
Big Dream, was released in 2011 and was long-listed for the Frank O'Connor
International Short Story Prize. Her blog is
Levi van Veluw's photo series are self-portraits, drawn and photographed by
himself: a one-man process. His works constitute elemental transfers; modifying
the face as object; combining it with other stylistic elements to create a third
visual object of great visual impact. Since having graduated from the Artez Art
School in Arnhem, the Netherlands, Levi van Veluw has enjoyed a remarkable
amount of success in a short period of time, with his work being showcased in
several different locations across Europe and the States, earning him a number
of prestigious awards that include the Photographer of the Year Award at the IPA
International Photo Awards in the USA.
Christina Vega-Westhoff is a poet, translator, teacher, and aerialist living in
Tucson. Her poetry appears in Fieralingue and Spiral Orb and is forthcoming in
1913: A Journal of Forms and The Lumberyard Magazine. Additional translations
of Melanie Taylor Herrera's work are forthcoming in Ezra and Metamorphoses.
Sherry Wong was born and raised in China. She started to tell stories when she
was a child and wrote her firsr play at age eleven. In 1988 she immigrated to
Canada, where she is now a financial advisor by day and passionate writer by
night. She is working on her first novel: My Great Escape. "Dandelion" is her first
literary publication in English.
Kirby Wright was a Visiting Fellow at the 2009 International Writers Conference
in Hong Kong, a Visiting Writer at the 2010 Martha's Vineyard Residency, and
2011 Artist-in-Residence at Milkwood International, Czech Republic. Lie is the
authot of the companion novels Punahou Blues and Molokdi Island, Child of the
Great Sea Goddess Hina, both set in the islands. 79 rs
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