SIX - Ottawater



SIX - Ottawater
edited by rob mclennan : January 2010
design by tanya sprowl
ottawater: 6.0
Sylvia Adams
Phil Hall
Soraya Peerbaye
Priscila Uppal
Lily . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
four visual pieces . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Night in Meldrum Bay (1) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
A Referral . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
Night in Meldrum Bay (2) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
My Computer is Developing Autism and
John Barton
Marilyn Irwin
Dragonfly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Meldrum Bay (3) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
Richard Rathwell
OR WHY WE STOPPED BAREBACKING . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Robyn Jeffrey
Sara Cassidy
City Crow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
Cave Paintings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
On Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
The American Everyday Dictionary (1955). . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Other Disorders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79
Now That All My Friends Are Having Babies:
Bektashi Breakdown . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
A Thirties Lament . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
Picnic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82
Lobby . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
Peter Richardson
On Suffering . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84
Echo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64
Span of the Tay Bridge. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Anne Le Dressay
She Was His Angel of Palliative Care . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
Catriona Wright
Sparrows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Anxiety Dream . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
In a Belgrade Hotel Lift . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
MATURITY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
Third Day of Summer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Things to do in the pouring November rain . . . . . . . . . . . 39
Test-Flight of a Fast-Morphing Craft . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
RE: WORRIED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88
Aeroflot Service and Groom, Mirabel Airport, 1982 . . . . 68
POTENTIAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89
Waiter-Confidant Ken Considers Pam’s
CORE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90
The Engines of Beauty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Rob Manery
Michael Dennis
Antigone Variations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
Imaginary Shawl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
KATRINA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92
It’s Hard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Karen Massey
Janice Tokar
Andrew Faulkner
Light Focused Through Our Lens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
nine lines for L. Cohen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
Hit and run . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Drug . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
velvet twist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
Husha . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
Spencer Gordon
Paul Tyler
SHOPPING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Marcus McCann
Pigeon Feather . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
STYLE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Pale anonymous hetero, havoc comes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
Midge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
DINNER CONVERSATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Silverfish . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76
Heather McLeod
Gwendolyn Guth
The List of What Will Last . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77
matter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
How Armando Became a Ladies Man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
How Armando Learned to Read . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Christian McPherson
“Lavish, lavish promise” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Magic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
crow in the mountain ash . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
cover art by: Daniel Martelock
ottawater: 6.0 -
Sylvia Adams
A woman sets out to discover why ghosts wear clothes. They appear at her
bedside: bereft maidens in gauzy consumptive gowns, broad-hatted river boat
gamblers, Civil War veterans with their heads wrapped in bandages. Did their
clothes die too? Or did some spiritual adhesive render their robes indelible – like
red dye on a thief’s hands?
One sun-scoured day, while walking in April snow, she sees a plane crash in a
nearby field. Spirits rise in the smoking wreckage. Their breaths blow lilies on the
air. That night the woman dreams she is in a huge warehouse with walls of clouds
and a skylight that opens upward forever. Naked spirits are everywhere, wandering
around fingering silks, trying on cloaks, tunics, kaftans. Adorning wrists with
bracelets, feet with golden sandals. They chatter among themselves, ignoring her.
Some walk through her; all she senses is a chill, astringent swish. The voyeur
within her spins with earthbound guilt. She wakes shivering to find her bedroom
window open, shawls of mist enshrouding her, soft and chaste as a nun’s robe,
caressing and kind, clean as the world’s first lily.
ottawater: 6.0 -
ottawater: 6.0
John Barton
for Marcus McCann
These days, happily, I keep
myself under wraps, a filmy reserve
coating me in a cling-free glow
reflective of sun-struck apples
or salmon steaks beginning to thaw.
What allure under denim
with a shirt still fresh from the iron
any lingering urgency sealed coolly within.
At last call, it makes men who can’t leave want to
undo me, a hostess gift or an after-hours snack
but sitting back at your place with a default
beer not dumbing down foreplay, how can I
forget myself in your designer darkness
my clever little skin all a-crinkle
glittery as you strip me of everything but
an instinct to love and a few heady inhibitions?
Fear shrink-wraps desire, leaves nothing
to error, dispassion custom-fit to the age
your day-timer pulled from a bedside drawer
my comings and goings logged with a wristwatch.
Eased up and contained by me, you push inside
limits our modernity may stretch
taut for us. Not once do we kiss after
and skip breakfast: nothing gets out, nothing gets in.
Reid McLachlan
medium, oil on canvas
ottawater: 6.0 -
ottawater: 6.0
Sara Cassidy
Cave Paintings
The American Everyday Dictionary (1955).
Suppertime arrives, merciful exit wound.
All afternoon, time’s directive abandoned us,
the clock’s pendulum drumming side to side in its box,
an ineffectual wrecking ball.
In the stone house in Burgundy
- even in France it can happen!my father and I are at loose ends,
unable to get a hold
for no reason beyond the ordinary.
the dictionary\s gone wild
burst its seams
five hundred pages loosed
from a brittle spine
a stack rather than a book
A thunderhead of flies funnelled
through the doorways, landing
on sills and mantels, a tease of punctuation periods, quotation marks.
I killed a few, just in case,
for a spark that didn’t catch.
My father and I tried three times
to make conversation, put yeast into the air.
Really, we launched questions.
the book called to me
mute cacophony
from a battered table at a church bazaar
its ragged pages already edging
toward the effable
I collect
lowly objects
the near-forgotten helpless
chipped pitchers rheumatic eggbeaters
wool socks gasping
for a mend
I restore
it’s how I love
Finally, seated at supper, I report
on cave paintings, the sum
of an afternoon reading New Yorker back issues.
I’ve only visited undecorated caves,
but all caves go black when the flashlight’s dropped,
the sightlessness more pure than blindness.
Sacred iconography, teenagers’ doodles, maps
to hunting grounds - what I know now
is there’s no unifying theory.
but there’s been violence:
red ink penned by a hand that trembled
from despair or titillation
circles the word prostitute
no concern for the definition a beheading!
As we talk, my father, who by virtue of age
has had more seasons of despair than I,
opens the table’s single drawer for matches
and lights the oil lamp on its hook.
The firelight hovers over us, a yellow circle
chalked on stone. A parachute.
the preface (top of the heap) declares it
an instrument
by which exact understanding in language is achieved
I long
for such surgical clarity
but I am no one without longing
but in the esses
a long
single hair
with wave
stitch suturing the gash
ottawater: 6.0 -
ottawater: 6.0
Span of the Tay Bridge.
Memory’s a proven.
It isn’t picked up and put down like a
framed photograph on a dresser,
but live: synapses leap, ions charge from neuron
to neuron as the brain, and all its tugs on the heart, re-enact
the original layer.
So I break down in a British pub on the west coast of Canada,
a re-enactment itself: carpeted floors, pint glasses, a man on the fiddle and another
on the guitar and bod’hran - your instruments, I’m getting to you,
even though you aren’t listening –
all the comforts of that home I kept for a year and four months
when I was twenty-two, twenty-three.
There we are again, in the pub that was so small the door remained
in my peripheral vision. There: the tables we worked around
to play darts, your cheeks flushed from the long evening walk
across the bridge, both of us in battered surplus army boots,
wool socks. You study your feet when you walk across a bridge,
their bravado calls to you.
We’re Fife side of the Tay River, we’d been curious, we’d heard
that the people of Fife were different, gnomic, inspired.
So what.
What? I don’t remember the walk back.
It wasn’t the drinking, there was always drinking, liquid dreaming those years, I
for their glory now, took my vows, married sobriety, that dry river bed
filled with ghosts, rocks that once sighed against each other.
I’ve learned to believe in the power of suggestion as I nurse O’Doul’s, 0.5%.
I am working on a problem here, looking into my glass.
I’m not watery with nostalgia or trying to catch the fish of one’s biography.
I’m trying to divine what I’ve forgotten.
I force myself to step onto that bridge, as if to walk the plank.
And it comes to me.
On that walk back across the bridge
you told me you didn’t love me.
My heart turned to a sinking stone
and the bridge ossified into a skeleton of this world.
And you probably singing, just singing,
beautiful in your handmade scarf.
I loved you the first time light carried you to my eyes.
I am happy with the sparrows on the worn fence
beside my gravel driveway. They’ve been constant, keep
a modest distance. Only hunger brings them closer, or
my own slowness, reading, thinking: then they crowd
onto the lawn, pecking at, I imagine vaguely, seeds, hopping
in their light shoulder-shrunk way, right to the legs
of my chair: I freeze as if a statue on a postcard.
I know some people, their noses sharp, eyes closely
spaced, emotions so inscrutable as to be deniable as much as
assumed denied: talk always turns to the binoculars
around their necks, small, clever things, dark translators.
These people travel long distances to tick off birds
from a list.
A poet once told me to specify my birds,
shoot the arrows of their names, pin them down,
butterflies on a spreading board. He himself had flocks of poems
with red-necked warblers and black-headed I don’t know,
I don’t see them. Once, I was in some woods and saw what I guessed
was a blue jay.
A man with whom I planted trees would occasionally
kill a grouse with his shovel, then coat the bird
in mud and bake it in the evening fire. We lost our shyness
once it was cooked, as we pulled on itsmeat,
what meat! That man and I swam together naked under a full moon.
In British Columbia. or Alberta. Yukon? He was really a teenager,
always finding arrowheads as if they truly were
his birthright. I lost the one he gave me.
It is perhaps my biggest loss.
There are people who clip parrots’ wings; a dude
in my city rides his bicycle with such a parrot on his shoulder.
It opens its wings again and again, you wonder if it’s trying to fly or
just feeling the wind. That man doesn’t look like a bird at all.
More like a pirate, a little mean. I’ve dated men like him
but they’re jumpy, wary of self-awareness, the word love
in their mouths so much spit. My sparrows don’t suffer
from self-awareness. In fact, I can’t tell them apart.
They’re your sparrows too.
ottawater: 6.0 -
ottawater: 6.0
Third Day of Summer
Heather Munro
How quickly some women
shake their sun dresses free
of wrinkles and the darkness of the closet.
Within an hour of the sunshine spilling down
I saw three, the women - ghost-pale arms,
shoulder blades like naked wings devil-may-care.
I’ve freed our beds from their winter blankets,
now piled, a melting snowbank,
at the top of the basement steps.
My daughter complains the heap is in the way
but I explain: it’s summer.
I almost say that’s life,
but her limbs gallop where she stands;
I’ll measure them today, write the numbers
in indelible ink.
Last night, she called me to wave her top sheet
so the air would rush and cool her.
I almost said, you know, my mother did this for me, too,
but instead I chose the awe that assailed and silenced me:
her skin glowed with otherness not mine, as in my little girl,
and barely her own.
I witnessed the preternatural beauty
that possesses teenagers
then as I raised a breeze with the cottton sheet
the wail of ambulance wended sharp as a needle
through the open bedroom window,
threading through us the dark river
where that beauty bathes.
We haven’t heard sirens all winter -
it’s as though they slept while we slept,
but I know that’s a lie, our sleep
a muffling, suffocation rather than hibernation.
No wonder we raise the windows come what may,
throw open the doors, and those closets
with their bloom of summer dresses.
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ottawater: 6.0
The Engines of Beauty
A scrap of beach we found by a lake,
fly fishermen whirring fishing lines like lassoes,
writing and re-writing: abracadabra
as dragonflies mounted each other on air,
jewel-blue bodies redoubling the sunlight.
Those fishermen didn’t catch one fish.
You and I didn’t love each other yet.
Didn’t pretend
love was why we were lucky dragonflies landing on our knees.
A fall fair, a parachutist angling down
to a soccer field dotted with paper plates.
We were still new to each other;
nearby, couples in crisp fall jackets
rooted through each other’s pockets
for a five-dollar bill. At a table, someone
took the money for a good cause,
wrote the couple’s names on a plate before setting it
on the field, a tidy randomness.
We put our names in, too,
though the prize seemed impossible:
a week at a resort, white sand,
blank horizon.
The parachute neared the plates, the crowd hooted –
the woman in the harness: was she happy?
She landed exactly raised the plate from under her foot, waved it,
a silent tambourine as her parachute dissolved
behind her like an exhausted squid.
She read the winning name into a microphone.
I want to say we’ve never needed
that white sand, blank horizon.
I watched the parachutist fold her sail
with an engineer’s care, tie it finally
with canvas straps. As she headed to the parking lot,
I heard the bitter music of the keys
in her pocket, and admired her courage
to know the cheerless engines of beauty.
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For years, you floated as you slept,
hands dangling over the edges of the bed,
trailing the air.
I lived on the absence you made,
that unconscious where.
Sleep, for me, small meals delivered by an anxious waiter:
do you need a glass of water?
did you lock the doors?
have you studied for your exam?
What exam?
I’ve sought shelter against your sleeping,
edged close, let your heart’s surf
cover me. Thieved you, burdened you.
asked that marriage be a sharing
of deficiencies, too.
Tonight, you draw the same slow breaths
into the same body, sure. But it’s as though
over the years, gravity has collected in you
and you are falling, failing, beyond my imagining.
Heather Munro
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Michael Dennis
It’s Hard
Gail Bourgeois
Oil and graphite study 2
It’s hard to get your dreams
to work out on time
laying in your hospital bed
looking up at white tiles
and knowing
your knowing is done
you see the to and fro
of the active medical staff
watches as tube go in
others come out
you see your family frantically stoic
panic spastic in their eyes
you see them approach
and know
they are trying to impart
some final wisdom
some important thing
you need to know
but they are apparently
much further away then they seem
as they mime
their way into your eternity
you often wondered how it would end
who would gather at your bed
what regrets you might have
you are thinking exactly this
and then
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Andrew Faulkner
Hit and run
Swing a hefty wrench against a hollow pipe.
The resulting sound only sort of sounds
like “foul”. This sort of thought can occupy
a lifetime. It can also occupy hours while high.
Approximate Major League action everywhere!
Let the toilet run and swing away. Like dusk
in the corners of a room, higher minds
are unwilling to focus on anything in particular.
The fun I’ve had has robbed me blind.
Gail Bourgeois
Oil and graphite study 1
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Spencer Gordon
Shopping is always a treat. It is always a treat to receive. You have always
known this. The girl will wrap your gift so you do not have to. The bow,
the paper, the sheets. Free. Look into the mirror
and adjust your face. Listen to Phil Collins pardon you,
What’s a poetics? No, nevermind:
meander through fragments; be a style; uncover pockets of skin and trust
in your brilliant good looks. Be desired. Inside the museum
the art is properly illumined, not dusty. The painting
went well. There was natural light in every crevice of the attic.
We spoke of un-becoming things;
of breaking sense
into split atoms. We were glad scientists, watching
each other in prototype, as saps
swigging coffee. So nevermind.
your entirely normal face. Your face is entirely average.
The gloss in the glass, the brand new tooth
in the woman’s face. Cosmetic attendant. Retail assistant.
Sledgehammer smell of perfume in your skull. Breathe deep.
Breathe deep and know you’re not sleeping, this is real.
And when they go home with you, the women who wrap your gifts,
they will eat rotisserie chicken dinners in your living room, sucking their bones
on your couch. The grease between the ribs and the white, white bread.
You can mop it up. Waiting outside the bathroom, you can listen to her weep
to her father. Shopping is always a treat. I like glass and candy and meat
under my nails, she says, while you watch the sun come up in the morning
and you forget your name and your face and you receive and receive
Her hands had paint stains, red knuckles.
The sex was performative. Today
all she needs is restricted space, a line
against herself, these sharp
And words to be elastics,
tying up her hair, while the light was right in the window,
right there, touch it; on the nape of her neck
silver, moving, immaculate.
every hair
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ottawater: 6.0
You are often bored and unsaved,
walking amid light that insists on itself,
resisting talks of tomorrow, placing you helpless
in patinas of leaf and breeze and tedium.
Emerging into worlds above typical tunnels,
average ruins, bureaucratic wastes, Kafka hells,
and bells toiling interminable hours for
who? Me, you. Bored with the task before you, the dinner
party to host, the broom to sweep scraps,
the room made presentable for people
you sometimes talk to, see, tolerate.
Who will eat your food
like good people. The sunlight all now, all willing.
You are often bored and unsaved, thinking
of some maxim overheard,
some lyric or adage or claim
made to appreciate light
that insists on an oblique
version of yourself, accustomed to the climate
of air and light and smoke, patinas, conversation,
utensils, sloping suns. You’re disappointed so-and-so
didn’t come, but forget the next time you meet, in some
dream, which you take as easily as the afternoon light,
filled with weightless floating mites
of dust that say,
we are excited, dancing, happy, unsaved.
Stefan Thompson
Do What you...
(Beeswax crayon on recycled paper)
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Stefan Thompson
watching over
Stefan Thompson
created by: Tina Trineer (Hatworks) Stefan Thompson (Faceworks)
(mixed Media)
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Gwendolyn Guth
How Armando Became a Ladies Man
How Armando Learned to Read
He says, “I tell you story.”
Shrugs off grammar-clotted papers to make space
for memory and his hands’ motion. When he saw her
It’s raining outside, and from under the tile floor
a beach in Angola rises.
Armando’s face softens, ingenuous.
Who is breathing that air now, the air
he wooed with innocence,
a twenty year-old soldier on two weeks’ leave?
for the first time, he was wrist-high in blood. Gore.
The animal death of the shop
enticed her, meat for sale. He knew
how to move his knife. Her eyes flashed jet-dark,
defiant. In a few days, the shining counter dissolved
like an apprentice dream. He wiped his hands, turned from
carcasses to caress warm perfumed hocks, pink moons.
His young self fascinates him. Two years
living off the avails of a breathtaking hooker.
Imagine him then, pale ovo, thin asperagus,
dressing his body in expensive suits, his hair
in a pouffe. Afternoons sipping port,
his whore-lover having slept off
the night’s work. What kind of man, what kind
of life, pleaded his mother. Two years
of lacrimosa, invocations to the Madonna.
Two heavy years. Hands move swiftly
over his face to check an expression.
He says, “I had to think future.”
She was twice his age, meu Deus,
ivory-legged and asking for a light.
He looked up from sand, seduced by
the sun’s corona, her South African drawl.
She was bored with rank imperatives,
general husbands,
she was laughing over her shoulder
at his mimed attempt to say
he didn’t smoke in her language.
But what kind of story would end there,
transfixed by her perfume of copal and coffee?
The next day, she returns, bends,
swathed in turquoise, a wave
resting on his narrow towel. She writes in the sand
his first English words: Room 125. Hotel Tropico.
Seven days, the Paris of Africa. She buys him
leather sandals, shirts of watery silk. Her body
slips over his enslaved horizon. He murmurs
Luanda into her nameless ear. Monday morning
not all his sprinting, barefoot, to the airport
saves him. Not her image through the glass
partition, boarding for Johannesburg. Not
his pounded frantic shout, por favor! He is
twice his young self, sighing
in this vulnerable classroom,
roving, vagabond eyes.
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“Lavish, lavish promise”*
crow in the mountain ash
Your love is coughed up chocolate mousse
Russian medals from a hungry Estonian with no mitts
A Viking hat with horns you laughed at
Words that crawl under the sheets and itch
wasting my time
with your succulent greed
dessicated red heart sidewalk
Champagne on the sidewalk to celebrate absence
Cutlery dropped down the sewer grate
Birthdays emtombed on the Baltic sea
Mayday in Buchanwald, or any day
*from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Ode to Beauty”
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Phil Hall
four visual pieces
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Marilyn Irwin
high noon
on my back
third time around hand-me-downs
already ready for one more wash
if I ever take them off;
crimson sky
burns low
moss-covered fallen logs and boulders:
a jungle gym of fallen heroes;
sinking, slipping, sliding
the muddy mounds of ploughed fields;
lollygagging down
creek ridden sandy paths of
green and sepia scenes in
white sandals
strapped around socks;
nibbling white, pink and purple petals:
a flossy, afternoon snack;
another quick moment of curiosity quelled;
plucking Raspberries from fallopian branches
amid Milkweed and Monarchs,
birds chime in with the
whistles on time,
shimmying, reddening
nettle tickled calves;
freckles deepen, cluster
faithful dog and cake pan of berries,
pockets full of Quartz and Shale and Arrowhead
with an era,
and a dragonfly
at peace
with the darkening dusk.
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Robyn Jeffrey
City Crow
On Cleaning
Take it off! he yells
and I dim the lights, edge
slowly toward the window.
I’m in love with lemon polish, the knife-edge
gleam of a bathroom mirror, linens stacked
in uniform rows. I make a checklist every day
and put each thing in its proper place because every
Though it’s dark outside and I
can’t tell where this voice is
firing from, I know
this is the guy who taunted
me as I savoured a cigarette on
my balcony: Hey bitch! Suck on this.
And on Thursday night when
I couldn’t sleep and ventured out
to admire the moon I heard:
Show me your tits! But when I
peered across all I could see was
an iron screen of balcony rails.
Should I leave the curtains
closed? Give up smoking? Stop
staring at the sky?
I decide to turn into a crow,
soar through darkness, find out
where he lives
and as he opens his wide
rude mouth, stick my beak
in and rip his tongue out,
fly off and let it drop
under an ambulance, racing
through the city.
object has one: a coat has a hanger, not a chair
a glass has a cupboard, not a counter, and dishes
are never left to drown in a sink full of greasy water.
Although I tried once to ignore a stain—the one
we left on my carpet—I couldn’t resist scrubbing
it out right away. I’m relentless as I hunt for dust
that lurks in places where no one can see it, but I know
it’s there because I can feel it. This is why
I lift up furniture and clean with a vacuum so loud
it makes my one-room apartment shake: every cropped
picture rattles in its frame and threatens to jump
from the walls. Until I finally shut the vacuum off
and as the motor expels its final moan, I think: better this
than sit at my desk, with its coffee cup stains and broken
shelf, ailing lamp and piled-up mail, scattered books,
poutine-crusted forks and scraps of stunted poems.
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Marc Adornato
Marc Adornato
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Anne Le Dressay
Anxiety Dream
Things to do in the pouring November rain
It’s always about teaching,
even though teaching hasn’t been my focus
for ten years.
Contemplate the quality of water so cold
it is half a degree from ice.
How it slides over skin, leaving the thinnest coating
of itself. How it settles and seeps to the marrow.
Last night, I couldn’t find my notes.
I didn’t even know what course it was.
I had nothing to give.
Contemplate this from somewhere not in direct
contact with the rain: exercise memory.
I’d mislaid the anxiety too.
Instead, I was intent on finding the classroom,
taking nothing with me but the sense
that I owed them this much:
to show up, to stand before them
naked of any purpose
but to confess my poverty-just stand there, empty-handed,
pretending nothing.
Make sure it isn’t a work day.
Put off all errands that take you outside.
Light a fire in the fireplace (because of course
you have a fireplace). Choose the kind of armchair
that hugs you. Turn it so that you can watch
the play of flames and coals
and still see the rain glazing the outside of the window
with liquid ice.
Hug an afghan around you-some warm colour like a deep red or a chocolate brown.
Settle in that chair with your hands wrapped around
a mug of hot chocolate or aromatic tea or
coffee with brandy.
Savour the spread of warmth outward
from core to skin.
Consider the grayness of clouds and city
as an aesthetic experience.
Be glad.
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Rob Manery
Antigone Variations
such as
we aim
we aim
a clouded grasp
or an else
a shameful else
or else reasons
sometimes trouble anything
we aim
we aim without
anything less
perhaps less
lest we grasp
nothing else
if just
yet why not
disagree not
as rules grace
but as warning
any warning
any grace
for meaning
rejection amends
though hastily unwritten
sometimes I think
if meaning
lacks belief
or disobeys
or forgiveness
others understand
error sometimes
after each confused
each shuddered intent
oversteps nothing
borrows inarticulate
the unwritten trust
others crave
who nowhere
or near
and indeed
or aware
will aim
at least
upon each
each end
ends each
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Stefan Grambart
Stefan Grambart
Subterranean Arachno-motive
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Karen Massey
Light Focused Through Our Lens
Do you remember
when I came down from the sky
to live in you
tangle mix of sky of sea of earth:
my drug is a suave narcotic
more alluring than opiates
how there were bells calling faintly,
tingling like the jangle of moored boats at the wharf,
a faint sea air scent and taste
distilled by exertion,
breathe in that salt scent early musk
innocent knight sometimes brave beastly bruised doux
heat of barefoot boys young running over
summer grass struggling organic garden
and the pull of moonlight across waves
as though everything had been poured out there for me,
and I swooped down from the daylight dark daylight dark
and how I came down with my
memory of songs and stories
and how I sailed through starlight and darkness and strategy
and chose you, singing on the back porch
and there were years to cross and danger
before I found you and you breathed me in
I remember how the night arched, a body stretching long limbs,
shuddering, the tremendous exertion around me
and silence-we moved through that night in our quiet
and when I came through to this world,
wet and caressed by that primordial friction
do you remember the tune the stars were humming
as lunar winds stitched up the rent I left there-Let’s not forget how I shouldered through so quickly
and the midwives caught me and placed me before you
and how we looked and looked and looked into each other
in recognition and inquiry
wide eyed and pulsing
and silently looking
until you reached for me;
and how the midwives had never witnessed anything like it
and then I made that cry
that marked us all along the continuum--
sour-sweet heat under hats our
sons my sons
who race safe in summer’s arms
when mine are distant are spent
are not bending in the garden, but toil at the bench
dispensing legal doses
to kiss an infant’s head is pure touch,
smooth cranium caressed by motherpalm is good luck
but to breathe in that faint thrill
of summer changed to scent-fragrant, heady corona, halo of light-is to reach through fire
and draw back renewed
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Your father is terminal with a rare cancer and you
are thinking about dying
All around the kitchen, food in different stages-alfalfa and sunflower seeds sprout in jars
beside pears blsuhing on the window sill
An orange blurs to teal mould in the amber bowl
I’m sick of fruit, your father says, No more damn fruit-
Still, today,
you are thinking about dying;
listen while it lives invisibly in each of us
All day long
you are busy living, resonant somehow with thinking it
Rain pricks frozen barbs against the window quiet,
sends a staccato voice to its surface
versus you
of dying
The refrigerator hum, the cheap kitchen clock,
the ductwork creaking after the furnace shuts off
You can’t help thinking it, you’re an expert now
The world shifts its compass needle
The next season arrives,
now you’re busy packing; choosing a casket, the readings and songs,
taking care of things Still, you go forward, remembering the moribund
Days march on
Pinned to the lapels of your carrying on
are the soft white petals of your thinking this breath,
and always now, those
shadow world thoughts--
Pedro Isztin
Above Canada, 2008
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Marcus McCann
Pale anonymous hetero, havoc comes
I’ll be he, Mr. Member Renew, renew me.
Member renew. I’d Sly Tom him in
a washtub, in a hot chop testament to largess. Pale
anonymous hetero, havoc comes. I ache, I even spun
thunder. Oh we wet youth, aura, erections
woof. Cause a hit. Youth,
nude ace, abstinent twink who’d bug us to, I
jet mucus, woken hot
to daze them, camera sky
to daze them, camera sky
to daze them, camera sky,
boy’s lips.
Hothead pant, You earthmen, I hit a ___, I love our effigy.
Twitch tube ink, itchy lava, doesn’t my
condom, yawn, uhh, woo you? You’d woo you, eh? Oh woo woody, intrude, hook
Orally yo-yo, orally blush. He’s internet hunky. Raucous yahoo CIA
we’ll daze them camera to sky,
daze them camera to sky,
daze them camera to sky.
Use milk jet.
Pedro Isztin
Above Peru, 2009
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Heather McLeod
Christian McPherson
because memory is an act of re-creation
because the opposite of love is indifference
because failure is an option
because hurt isn’t always harm
because of the weight of it
because perception is everything
because the reward was worth the risk
because we all have scars
I chugged down
my last beer
really fast
turns out
there was a genie
in the bottle
I burped up a wish
when I went back
to the fridge
there was
a six pack
the expired
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Soraya Peerbaye
Night in Meldrum Bay (1)
We pitch our tents on the skewed
logic of a nature reserve, owned
by a stone quarrying company.
Crickets’ fitful auditory presence,
as though zipping and unzipping
their invisibility cloaks.
After dinner, we play the recorded
calls of owls on an old tape deck
at the edge of the woods –
great horned, saw-whet, screech.
The deck chews the ribbon, a warped
valentine. No owl answers.
A katydid enmeshed in the tent canopy
sends its strident chirp down, sparks
showering our sleep.
From below, the blast, rumble of rocks;
pause; the peevish beep, beep, beep
of the quarry trucks reversing.
Roar and murmur
like a snoring giant
with obstructive sleep apnea.
Reid McLachlan
Heaven and Earth
medium, oil on canvas
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Night in Meldrum Bay (2)
The amateur astronomer shows us the night sky through his telescope:
sight barrelling to the front of the line
like a kid with free movie passes.
Jupiter and its Galilean moons;
an old red star and a young blue star in the same view;
the night sky like an arrested game of marbles.
“Wanna see E.T.?” He turns the telescope
to a star cluster, and it does,
it really does look like E.T, arms outspread and eager
for your embrace.
I tell him about crossing over
from Cuba to the United States at night,
seeing the borderland from the air.
Light as a measure of wealth; the view of stars as a measure of poverty.
He tells me how he loves the sight of the city at night,
from the air, because it reminds him of stars;
how strange that,
his feet on the ground, he looks up and the city
obliterates its metaphor.
Coureur des Bois: Centre Flip
20x24 acrylic on canvas | |
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Meldrum Bay (3)
Great tablets of alvar beneath the blue-green glaze of lakewater
like Moroccan ceramic
the green tambourine shimmer of birch trees
At the Native gift shop, the owner tells us of his son’s wedding,
an Anishinabe and Thai ceremony –
describes moose stir-fry, venison with chili and sweet basil
All day, imagining that taste,
gamey, fragrance calling to other fragrances, clove, anise,
mouth watering
18x24 acrylic on canvas | |
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Richard Rathwell
Bektashi Breakdown
(If spoken, then in Gek with goat stomach pipes.)
Dies the exile contrapuntally, in a state of homelessness, possessing nothing of the
nation, holding the entire world through translation, without image to speak, in
poisonous astonishment discovering that wherever here as forever home by the
river, beliefs are possible that poetry exists to further one’s aspirations and is
limited to reflections of the shallowest community sensibilities. I live in too high a
register unreflected by those sparkling fragments.
I saw suffering with mute neutral stoicism exclaimed as passion. Recessive drunken
thought as penetrations. Lachrymose funereal honours paid by the smug refuters
of yesterday’s, today’s buried beggars. I saw that just when a wonder is seen, and
wanting to live forever, you discover your imminent mortality, you suffer some
banal pain, and you feel that instant inconveniently immortal. Immortality is
useless. That is exile.
For beauty is fattened by each generation of a world language. Sinking from the
decorative to the human, from the sublime to the ugly. Stars to the sea. While the
national word has no needs, as reality contrived by society. And it thins so in me.
You white frozen, social historic, divine twin, at home, entirely fictional. You
actual chameleon self trying to engage but intrusive realities get in the way. That
murder is one. You stay black with colours. No comfort knowing that at least in
language it is the flawed, incomplete and failed which is endless beauty.
I can not engage you viva voce as I have not your language any more. I am hoaxed
in terrorem. I write after. I thought there were soluble mysteries, murders, and
divine ones, loves and then mystery of what that beauty was for; but a head on a
stick is me; danced around by un ramassis de traitres ever elsewhere, never away,
washing me in strongly felt words of no meaning. Floating about in purple
logorrhoea. Whether by design or accident, language is seldom praised for the
right things here and loved. That is why Poetry has a bad name where I come
How many poets lost their jobs and were blanked from police at publishers?
Bloodied in the streets hawking? Just enough to discourage the others. This was
my country in a middle management technique not exclusive to poets but
extended to the truthful in general. And why “splintered heart and wolfish hands
were turned against the wolfish world” and Ishmael went to sea. And all that.
God forgive me, I wrote of the spiritual and moral dimensions of geometric optics
in translation, a poetry holed through, me at the mirror facing it, so when
withdrawn, reality was seen darkly and uncontrived. My bottega ridiculed me for
that. I know now why death is good for poets. We are praised for having died
recently but no one says what we were for in life. No one holds that mirror at the
Muse, t’estimo quan he begut! (I am forever as Catalan Xarnego and never quite
Hausa Xala. I am a translation here, un ouvroir de littérature potentielle
I have only valorisation of chaotic interiority and even that, with my constructed
self in parallel, is episodic and fragmentary, ducking and weaving to avoid this era’s
oppressive and reactionary concept, and it’s actualisation of personality. In a
vocabulary to kill me.
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I cannot now construct my character by association with shared canon, divinity or
myth. My country’s poetry is all social. I can only revile being what I wish to seem.
So I cannot manipulate illusion to contrive an idol of myself as advised. I am pretty fucking near situationally aspergers here, my love.
But to form a society when society is the reduction and reinvention of the world
in ever more confined circumstances reflected ever more darkly mixed of middle
class dreams and fake documentaries and this is your life in complicated syntax self
parody and fascination with unexpected thought because to a man without a penis
everything looks like a hole.
I know painfully through decapitation that individualities are fashioned from collectives gone through by ciphers and boiled in the stereotype so I can only want
the patterns of what falls without. I cannot live in representation. In those reflections of that mirror.
I would like to disable society of that false world contrived with decisive transgressive innovation to offset spiritual death. I know I will fail at that. I would like to
do this by acts of detached attention. I can’t, as I mourn. I should like in all this to
not be prey to the living; that would be good for me. And cure the never ending
hangover from sensibilities intoxicated from the cheap punch ups in drunken boats
going home.
Dichter not Schrifftsteller ! Bin ich ein Besserer, ein erzieher ? Nein, ich bin ein
You have neither of those there in your sad broken language. Your smug avocations of your own attitudes projected as promotion.
Who would have the role of a man in competition blood winning sustenance
when contrary shaping society, serving and suffering, could be so much better and
die avoiding the state of other female animals, those that have power to choose a
partner by plumage, and ever associated with inspiring art by Eros and Thanatos
in the egg, when there is an end to endless male forms evolving and being evolved
each more ugly and inconsequential than the last.
As at home in exile fear is transmitted culturally. Love. Sense and stupidity too.
Lion cubs do here to the spot where mother was shot, those new social architect
mommas who forget the gun next year. You refuse to develop into anything more
mature than your younger self in exile.
I know every notable book is collaboration with language. It is a negotiation of
image. From a person in need of improvement to a separate inhuman genius.
From rational characterisation and thought into complications mimicking the real.
Fusion of the incongruous. Anxious atmospheres of the moral. Cultural room and
space to imagine near infinite possibilities away from the stereotypes. Outbursts of
assimilation. Creative intolerance. Refusal of complicity in the banal .
Disembodiment of entrenched elites.
Have you written exile only of your pre occupations projected? Analysed that way?
Over whelmed with self awe? In sadistic playfulness? Has your excess of common
and playful intellect revealed too little understanding? Are you seeking bourgeois
Community breakdowns are simply regressive molecular social and psychological
conditions. They toss protons like me to live contrapuntally
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Danny Hussey
Bad Bad Saw Blade
Screen Print on Lorraine Gilbert Photo, 2009
Documentation: David Barbour
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Peter Richardson
For the second time this morning
a tow-truck sounds its warning alarm
and sparrows dart in the courtyard.
Somewhere my mother stands alone
and promises herself that as an adult
she will never again be made fool of.
A banker’s wife in a black silk dress
tips cigarette ash into an ice bucket.
You realize whose kitchen you’re in?
Thought you were just going to dust?
Fold a few towels? Iron some linen?
This isn’t a cruise down to Memphis.
You’re paid to keep a move on here
and mind you don’t spill the grease
when you set that roast on a platter.
I have come to understand junctures
where cars about to be towed away
coexist with spit-curled farm girls.
Montreal and Dubuque join hands.
Sparrows fly through their streets.
A two-noted alarm sounds again.
She Was His Angel of Palliative Care
ripping up newspaper into flammable ribbons,
plumping up pillows in rooms that had to be
emptied of draughts. He gave up little bits
of breath in an Ebenezer Scrooge voice,
claiming he’d never missed a day’s work
and now this: skidoos in the west pasture,
a caravan still roaring by after midnight,
headlights sweeping her side of the bed.
Let one of those hooligans veer an inch
from the easement they bucketed down
and he’d be out there, breathless or not–
“–with what?” she wondered, “That old
12-gauge shotgun with a busted stock?”
She vetoed worry, doling out bits of cash
to the god of warm rooms. Consoling him,
she shuttled between bedroom and kitchen,
closing latched doors, fussing with dampers,
stewing pots of prunes flavoured with lemons.
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In a Belgrade Hotel Lift
With thanks to the author of the first four lines,
who taped his directions to the elevator wall.
To move the cabin, push the button for the wishing floor.
If the cabin should enter more persons, each person
should press the number of wishing floor.
Driving is then going by national order.
If you are from Bulgaria you will be driving soon.
Leave complaining to the Americans.
They are far down the list after Rarotonga.
Anyway, entering people with cabin
requires additional control panels not available.
Foot traffic creaks in an adjacent stairway
accessible through the staff lounge.
Passes may be secured at the front desk.
Please give the phonetic equivalent
to the words Roman marsh in Estonian
written in non-Cyrillic letters behind the bar.
Distances will be called out in meters.
Weights and counterweights obey old gears.
Each may eventually attain his or her wishing floor.
Test-Flight of a Fast-Morphing Craft
I bought a lightweight glider on a whim
and wound the ten-pound rubber band
that strummed with unregulated torque
along its curtain-rod-reinforced length.
Did I say it was a glider? It had its own
propulsion in the pitted zinc propeller
which I ducked to one side of as it sped
on lawnmower wheels down our field.
But where to? Down our property line.
I dashed into Tenney’s parts pasture–
our neighbour’s pocked, lube-oil mug
glared at me from a scavenged Ford.
Before he could yell, the air ignited,
singeing the hair bunched in his ears
and strewing bits of prop and balsa
over his assemblage of wrecked cars.
Afraid it would torch his bony cows,
I raced past burning marigolds to find
Holsteins like gangling chorus girls,
teary-eyed with praise for all I’d done.
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Aeroflot Service and Groom, Mirabel Airport,
And you board the flight with garbage bags and roller mops
because you don’t have an adaptor tonight for the vacuum
which, in any case, bangs against each metal seat anchor
on days when you sled its bulk up the passenger stairs.
Provided you’ve wiped up the baby vomit in first class
and buffed the galley floor with a monogrammed towel,
who’s to say you’re not the deposed Prince of Carpathia
soon to re-establish his credentials with those who count?
Waiter-Confidant Ken Considers
Pam’s Imaginary Shawl
Good for her to have woven it from sand and loon calls,
to wear it draped around shoulders that bear up
under catch-as-catch-can hugs in a squeaky motel bed
that will fade now that she’s sewn this crown
of alder leaves into a backing of cedar and rock slope
as she scans the chalked menu in Al’s Pub,
pleased that a vixen is approaching through sumac
to drink at the inlet above her left wrist
where the cloth, Pam says, is napped with bits of bark
and she can put off having to decide whether
to end this most recent of baffling engagements,
or let the man she slept with end it himself.
I’ve heard it claimed by a chatterbox bartender,
Pam had an archetypal dream
where the shawl was lowered out of the air
onto her shoulders in a bet.
She couldn’t see who’d made the wager
or who’d accepted. Shadowy
figures stood bickering above a lake
and she was below them,
wading an inlet−their test candidate
for carrying woven shadow,
bird calls, marten tracks and moss
past drinking sceptics.
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Rebecca Mason
Blue Trees, 2009
34" x 12" Watercolour on paper
[email protected]
Rebecca Mason
Rock Power, 2009
23" x 22", Watercolour on paper
[email protected]
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Janice Tokar
nine lines for L. Cohen
velvet twist
peacock feathered sabotage
decoration’s hard weight
a second
glanced by your pen
a cadence of fragrance,
of seaweed and heat
measured our shots by fingers
in the end came up short
of excuses and breath
your off-menu entrée
undressed on the side
the pluck in your voice
rubs an ache wired to flare
what’s held back splits
the final check in two
a rain falls twice
without the pull of words
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Paul Tyler
Pigeon Feather
A twist of city air, a scoop of wind, fallen
in the parkade mud-dip, the asphalt
ecosystem of oiled-up tobacco pools.
Tip of bliss, preened from a grey-matter
roost, a deep-winter huddle in concrete
acoustics. Weak-footed, wide-eyed,
hydraulic-necked Pollocks. One feather
a single shot from a drum-kit clap
off high-rise rooftops, ovations too
easily given. Hillbilly peacocks, brokenbeaked with blues, twanging a singlestringed call of pain. Your little barbed
hand in my hand, a ragged tickle, an oar
to the universe, modest as a shy note
mummed from a sheet of hymns.
Placed in my book of books, it carries me.
Slim second of living
juice. Loose thread
of life. Pin puncture
in the air’s fabric,
which is joy. Succinct
buzz of all that is.
Indelible legs. Antenna
made of speck. Vibrant
throb of dust on my
wrist’s bristle, which is
the reverberated hum
of the beginning,
which is all that ever was.
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The List of What Will Last
A silver lick along the crevice
filth, exploits the tile’s wealth.
Vulgar lunge of tongue. Thin
peel of celestial refuse. A flat
note fallen off a sloppy angel’s
lute. Flute-bug. Staccato e e e
(up a sleeve) xylophoning bone.
Or a dangled gala jewel. Regal
worm. Such a bitty itch-fish, tubcrabbed in a drain. Embedded
peek-a-boo lining a grout-crack.
Scurried impropriety, gulped into
a squirm-hole. Co-evolved wiggler.
Dusty mirrored shimmer-shadow
in the house flesh, nibbling excess.
Nothing but a few hairs. And a pebble
you always kept in your coat pocket.
Your memory, changing, of love.
The green of woods at night, and
the gravel road that took you there.
Something about a ship in a song
you heard just once. A book
given to you by your grandfather
left unread in the rain. Thirst.
This will always matter. And pennies—
their irretrievable faces. The sand dollar
loose in your desk, unbroken,
despite all your leaving. The blink
of chance that brought us here
from tiny life in ocean pools.
The body, so frail, outliving the mind,
its million parts, reborn and reborn.
Gravediggers. Skulls of jesters and
hummingbirds. The patience of crows.
A glance from someone you love
who doesn’t love you. A photograph
thought incinerated in the Blitz.
But not the stars (you hopeless romantic).
Nothing locked, or floated in a bottle on the sea
(you are lost now, admit it).
Not your first memory or your last,
and certainly not the list, though
someone might recognize a colour,
a rhythm, a scent, and it will
continue a little longer before it stops.
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Priscila Uppal
A Referral
The dentist stole my teeth.
The optician burned my eyes.
The nutritionist emptied my fridge.
The gynecologist kidnapped my thighs.
The reflexologist misaligned my chakras.
The dermatologist boycotted my skin.
The psychologist sliced my childhood.
The oral surgeon punched my chin.
The oncologist gave me cancer.
The anaestitician misread my chart.
The frenologist shrunk my left brain.
The cardiologist attacked my heart.
Now I am but a case study.
My file is up for review.
Today we rearrange the suffering.
Tomorrow I’ll be healing you.
My Computer is Developing Autism and Other
Having spent too much time with humans,
unbalancing the decades-old relationship
between computer and human user,
my computer has started to exhibit symptoms
contrary to its physiological structures.
It no longer responds to physical contact—
becoming increasingly self-involved—has started
to disengage from elaborate networks, for hours
on end repeats the same commands.
Worse, it’s destroying its own memory,
refuses to sleep, and sputters unintelligible noise.
I have real trouble getting it to recognize
who I am.
An expert advised me to lobotomize the hard drive.
If it’s condition doesn’t improve, I’ll have no choice
but to send it to another home.
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Now That All My Friends Are Having Babies:
A Thirties Lament
I must, I suppose, resign myself to the fact that we will never again
be able to throw what used to be called “an adult party” (though, of course,
no one actually acted like adults). Now I must prepare
for diaper changes, breast feedings, time-outs in the middle of martini-making,
discussions of diaper changes, breast feedings, time-outs in the middle of dinner,
dessert, after-dinner liqueurs, and the only sex chat
each pregnant woman outdoing the other with how horny
being blown up like a balloon makes her feel, premature labour
always the result of taboo, non-recommended eight-month fucking. Now that all
my friends are having babies, I should be more connected, I would think,
to my own womanhood, and how amazing bodies are
that can hold, sustain, shoot out life right there, onto my floor
in all its strange handness and footness and foreheads red with sweat
mouths wide with yawn, glee, or being. I thought I might even return
to religion, apprehend some sense of a holy order, harmony, even hierarchy.
(I’m sure you can already tell this didn’t happen. So, what did?) Now that all
my friends are having babies, I am beset by a most curious fear
during the day, in the wee hours of morning, when I am brushing my teeth
or cleaning a CD. It can happen anywhere, I tell you, anywhere. My breath
stops, my ears tingle, the backs of my knees go cold as ice. I know now, more
that I am going to die—these children are going to kill, not only me, but
my friends, my colleagues, my neighbour with the glorious rows of gardenias
and impatiens, my GP, my beloved cats and their neutered siblings. We are nothing
to these babies, rolling on the floor making Play-Do pies or building forts out of
pushed around in strollers with ribboned hair or Velcro shoes, drinking juice from
sippy-cups and crying, kicking at the concrete, cat walling a daffodil, demanding a
tying a skipping rope to a chair, beating a piñata, or kissing my cheeks.
Holy, perhaps, but irreversibly deadly. And their lips know not what they will say.
And nobody cares that I am taking a stand and remaining childless—you couldn’t
pay me enough to take one on, not on this planet where we let our nonbiological
children die, and keep dying, as long as they die quietly. And they might be holy
And the clouds waltz by and keep coupling as if nothing has happened.
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At the picnic the ants ignored
the cucumber sandwiches & bumbleberry pie;
marched straight up your jean skirt
& into your halter top, stenciling
a _ around your heart.
The plants in the lobby are organizing
a revolt. For the last three months I’ve been
monitoring them—they don’t think I know, but
oh I do—how the beasts have been stashing
fertilizer and bottled water and packets
of NutraSweet.
Twiggy feet clung to your flesh.
You cried as red spittle dripped
from your bottom lip & I
continued to hold your hand.
‘I never wear badges,’ you said,
& for a moment the ants ceased their marching;
a few toppled over the tower of your breasts
& into the jug of lemonade.
Then they went back to work
with renewed vigour. By the time
the first clouds perched over our heads
half your heart had been smuggled
past the oak trees.
‘Next will be my brain,’ you said.
‘Then my cunt,’ & you smiled.
‘It’s better this way. Dying for an enemy.
Dying for a cause.’
‘Better a symbol than a body,’
you added. You were red now &
growing antennae. I packed everything
I could into tin can and Ziploc ruins,
and ran.
Other picnickers laughed. A boy
eating an entire watermelon tripped me.
Within minutes the ants formed an ▲
around my symbol.
I would never see you again.
Melinda’s Nicorette patches are missing.
Tearing through her drawers, she rants and raves
about abortions and double-parking and why the hell
won’t vending machines take nickels or dimes.
I swear the plants are smirking
in their tidy pots. Everything’s a game.
My uncle told me never to trust anyone—
only as far as you can throw them. He’d beat the shit
out of these vegetations, with their perfect camouflage.
He’d find their one-upmanship maddening.
I’m just a receptionist. I’m not cut out
for politics. No guerrilla soul here.
No dreams of coup d’etat.
I’m just a witness. Someone who knows
but remains at a distance. Content in the neutral
space of the lobby—alive and smug
and untrusting, just like the plants.
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On Suffering
Some days I sit on my suffering
slowly rolling it back and forth
as on an Exerball. My sides
tense and twitch. Sometimes I
maintain my balance, sometimes
I fall over.
Some nights I pack my suffering
into a pillowcase, then a large
luggage bag. I heave it into taxis,
ride shotgun with it on escalators,
until the destination tags I’ve attached
tear off.
Some seasons suffering is fashionable.
I wrap it around my shoulders—a long
scarf with matching gloves—
a plunging neckline and pumps.
Banquet halls and conference rooms
provide my runway.
Some years I bake my suffering
into holiday turkeys & hams;
pick it with satisfaction out of
my teeth though nine times out
of ten I nurse a bellyache. Suffering
digests poorly.
Some worlds have erased suffering
as a matter of progress and course. Others
build temples to it, brand it on skin.
I think eventually I will give birth
to mine in a faraway cave and teach it
to hunt.
Reid McLachlan
medium, oil on canvas
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Catriona Wright
These days the clown’s balloon
animals all resemble our exlovers. A fraught arousal
in the squeaks. We massage
our wonder, trying to keep
it supple. Bottles gulp
us down in tantrums, burp us
up in board meetings. Drowsy,
we analyze warping floorboards,
abrupt geysers of vermouth
and gin. Olives landing in wet
plops. Between our naps
and popsicle stick cabins, we grow
a taste for martinis with crunching
celery sticks, peanut butter. Painkillers
the only sweets in this grave womb.
Found Art
Packaging in Aubrey's Meat Market
photo by: Tanya Sprowl
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Dear so and so, I appreciated
your e-mail, but there’s no need
to worry. I’m fine. Regular
bowel movements, a soulful
ring tone. My face still looks young
in certain lights and delight
still flashes through me
when I receive kindness unexpected:
two chocolate bars falling
from one coin. Enough sleep
every night. Ten hours, more.
Sometimes more like twenty.
Some days I don’t get up.
My husband and I don’t fight
much anymore. Or I fight
and he laughs. Or I fight
and he shuts his office door.
More exercise than before.
I signed up for yoga, pilates, cardio
pole-dancing. I’ve taken up running
to the corner store, cramming my head
in the freezer. Getting advice from the cold.
But if you were so worried, why
didn’t you call? Drop by? Say anything
at all this morning while I poured hot coffee
down your back?
Methanol coarseness of cough
syrup hooked to tongue, still
diving. Frantic
to exit the unsteady
taste of a body between
sickness and health,
between tactic and
action. Becoming.
Last night confidence rolled
over me like children
down a mottled green hill.
I lowered baits into my
breath. Shiny pouts, a bare
shoulder. Lures to contradict
me when I said I don’t think
the knees are done yet. Kidneys
aren’t symmetrical as
couplets. Need to revise. Dull
blood type. All wrong.
Instead, you said potential:
bound body to chair, threw me
in the lake. Watch to see if
either will escape.
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Instead of going to work, I sit in a café
until the streetlights come on. The obscure chocolate
heart of a croissant, excised from its buttery flakes, lies
despondent in the middle of my outrageously white plate.
that could happen at any moment,
could blister the world, change
the way you falter
through it. But never arrives. The hurricane
There are twenty missed calls on my phone. Mailbox,
full. All from the office, but delivered in different genres: from battle
cry to elegy. My right
that comes close enough to twirl the oliveencumbered swizzle
stick in your martini, to blow out
the squat candles on your
daughter’s birthday
cake. Close enough to prod your wife’s
earrings awake as divining rods. Close
contact lens wobbles into the outer
corner of my eye. With a long pinky fingernail,
I rake it across the gelatinous
periphery onto green, then pupil. Blink
towards ragged vision. I need a new
prescription, a new
ambition. I have left all that behind today and feel
as though I have gotten to the core of it. The awful
molten core of it. The lonely
core of everything. The eruption
enough to say we run in the same circles,
same friends, same parties, same favourite
low-season vacation spots, but not
close enough to say disaster
and expect an answer, to say disaster
is a friend of mine,
disaster chose
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I must evacuate from the hurricane
who shares my name and throws
salt-garlanded limbs across swamp.
Yanks sequins from dresses, stillness
from air. Different spelling, same
root. A pale hand hauling dense
earth to bury itself calm. Love surges
restless over warm ocean currents. Last
girl at the party whirling layered lace
skirts, flayed skin. Grinding crawfish
husks between molars, spluttering
out glass and wind. Keening as I
button up my shirt, clink my keys.
Pivot for a last glance at the banshee
limp hair of live oaks rising
and curling between
dampening thighs.
Found Art
Tree stump on Dominion patio
photo by: Tanya Sprowl
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author biographies:
Sylvia Adams is a poet, novelist, book reviewer and writing instructor. Her
poetry collection, Sleeping on the Moon, was runner-up for the 2007 ScottLampman Award.
John Barton has published eight books of poetry and five chapbooks, including
West of Darkness: Emily Carr, a Self-Portrait (Penumbra 1987; republished by Beach
Holme, 1999, and BuschekBooks, 2006), Great Men (Quarry, 1990), Notes toward a
Family Tree (Quarry, 1993), Designs from the Interior (Anansi, 1994) Sweet Ellipsis
(ECW, 1998), and Hypothesis (Anansi, 2001). Born in Edmonton and raised in
Calgary, he has won a Patricia Hackett Prize (University of Western Australia),
three Archibald Lampman Awards, an Ottawa Book Award, a CBC Literary
Award, and a National Magazine Award. In 2008-2009, he was writer in residence
at the Saskatoon Public Library. He lives in Victoria, where he edits The Malahat
Review. Brick Books published Hymn, his ninth collection of poetry, in the fall of
Sara Cassidy was born at Ottawa General in 1968, a happening for which her
mother was given a fur coat by her father. Fond memories of growing up along
the canal, hiding in the trees above the heads of NCC groundskeepers. Returned
in her twenties, sleeping several nights in a tunnel under the Chateau Laurier.
Also had an excellent - memorable! - bowl of goulash at a Bank Street restaurant.
She’s had poems and fiction published in two chapbooks, Ultrasound of My Heart
(Reference West) and Sardines (greenboathouse press) and in various
publications, including Prairie Fire, The Malahat Review, Grain, The Fiddlehead, The
Antigonish Review, and Geist. She now lives in Victoria BC.
Michael Dennis is an Ottawa poet with several books to his credit, most recently
Coming Ashore On Fire from Burnt Wine Press.
Andrew Faulkner attended the University of Ottawa, where he co-founded
Ottawa Arts Review. He now lives with Leigh Nash in Toronto where they run
The Emergency Response Unit, a chapbook press. His most recent chapbook,
Useful Knots and How to Tie Them, was shortlisted for the 2009 bpNichol
Chapbook Award.
Spencer Gordon lives in Toronto. His writing has appeared (or will appear) in
publications like Joyland, echolocation, Broken Pencil, The Danforth Review, Bywords
Quarterly Journal, The Frequent and Vigorous Quarterly, zaum, The Puritan, The
Mansfield Revue, and in anthologies like Gulch: An Assemblage of Poetry and Prose
(Tightrope Books 2009), Departures (above/ground 2008), experiment-o
(AngelHousePress 2008), For Crying Out Loud: An Anthology of Poetry & Fiction
(Ferno House 2009), and Dinosaur Porn (Emergency Response Unit/Ferno House
2010). He is one of the editors/founders of the new and improved The Puritan
( and of the micro-press Ferno House (www.fernohouse.
com). He blogs at
Gwendolyn Guth is an Ottawa writer, academic, college English professor and
mother of three active sons. She has a Ph.D. from the University of Ottawa in
nineteenth-century Canadian women’s writing. Her poetry has been published as
broadsides by above/ground press and Rideau Review Press, and in Bywords,
ottawater and yawp; her chapbook, The Flash of Longing (2000), can be viewed at
Phil Hall was born in 1953 & raised on farms in the Kawarthas region of Ontario.
Among his titles are: Homes (1979), Old Enemy Juice (1988), The Unsaid (1992),
Hearthedral—A Folk-Hermetic (1996), An Oak Hunch (2005), & White Porcupine
(2007). Trouble Sleeping (2000) was nominated for the Governor General’s Award
for poetry, and An Oak Hunch was nominated for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2006.
In 2009, above/ground press produced his chapbook, Veralum. Over the years,
Hall has collected two full decks of random playing cards from the streets,
numerous albums of found photographs, & too many boxes of paper ephemera.
He calls all this junk “The Pedestrian Archives.” He is learning to play
clawhammer banjo.
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Marilyn Irwin wrote her first story when she was 6: “The Butyful Buterflys”. In
2007, Marilyn completed an on-line course with Algonquin College on the subject
of Creative Writing. She attempts to illustrate perspective through poetry, song
and, less feverishly, short fiction. A newish resident of Ottawa and appreciative
member of many audiences of the multi-faceted poetry scene there, she has yet to
see her own name in print..
A long-time Ottawa resident, Robyn Jeffrey now lives in Wakefield, Quebec. Her
work has been published or is forthcoming in The New Quarterly, Bywords and The
Dalhousie Review. Her poetry has also appeared on CBC Radio’s Bandwidth.
Anne Le Dressay has published two poetry collections, Old Winter (2007) and
Sleep Is a Country (1997). She lives in Ottawa.
In 1988, Louis Cabri and Rob Manery formed EWG and began organizing
readings, talks, and performances at Gallery 101, SAW Gallery and ArtsCourt. In
1990, they launched hole magazine, which they continued to publish until 1996.
Rob currently lives in Vancouver where he is pursuing a doctorate in education at
Simon Fraser University. He is the author of It’s Not As If It Hasn’t Been Said Before
(Tsunami Editions 2001).
Karen Massey’s poetry has appeared in various Canadian literary publications and
in anthologies including Shadowy Technicians: New Ottawa Poets (Broken Jaw Press,
2000), Decalogue: ten Ottawa poets (Chaudiere Books, 2006), and in her 2000 above/
ground press chapbook, Bullet. She received an MA in English Literature
(Creative Writing) from Concordia University and her work has won national and
local prizes including the Joker is Wild and Jane Jordan Poetry Competition. She and
her partner live in Ottawa, where they work as artisans while busily parenting
their two dynamic young sons, who were born at home on Thursdays, 21 months
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Marcus McCann is the author of Soft Where (Chaudiere Books, 2009) and seven
chapbooks. He’s a winner of the John Newlove Award, the Rubicon Midwinter
Chapbook contest and he was longlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for
Innovative Poetry. After eight years in Ottawa, Marcus now lives in Toronto.
Heather McLeod is an Ottawa writer who honed her craft in rob mclennan’s
workshops. She has been published in Bywords Quarterly Journal and other
chapbooks. She doesn’t get out much.
Christian McPherson is the author of Six Ways to Sunday (Nightwood 2007) and
Poems That Swim From My Brain Like Rats Leaving a Sinking Ship (Bayeux Arts
2008). He lives in Ottawa with his wife and two kids.
Soraya Peerbaye is a poet living in Toronto. Her first collection, Poems for the
Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names, was published by Goose Lane Editions.
Richard Rathwell was born in Ottawa and raised first in Innisville and then on
Hopewell Avenue. He schooled in Toronto and Vancouver. Richard’s day jobs
were: anarchist, Stalinist, teacher and then development worker for two decades
mainly in Africa. Richard presently lives most of the time in Southern France
where there are many exiles. He sneaks back to Ottawa from time to time. Richard
has been published in Ireland, the U.K., The U.S., Canada and Albania. He
usually writes imagist poetry but lately has disagreed with everything.
Peter Richardson was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, emmigrated to Canada in
1969, and for 25 years, ran around underneath airplanes at Mirabel and Trudeau
airports. His most recent book is Sympathy For the Couriers, Véhicule Press. He
lives in Gatineau.
Janice Tokar lives in Ottawa, and has been a guest reader at The A B Series,
Sasquatch, the Muses and, most recently, a reading hosted by above/ground press.
She has been published in the Peter F. Yacht Club, in the Bywords Quarterly Journal
and at
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Paul Tyler’s book A Short History of Forgetting will be appear in the Spring of
2010 with Gaspereau press. His poems recently appeared in Grain, Prism
International, The Fiddlehead and The Minnesota Review. He works as a library
reference assistant in Ottawa, and was on the editorial board of Arc Poetry
Magazine from 2004-2008.
Priscila Uppal is a Toronto poet, fiction and non-fiction writer, and academic
born in Ottawa in 1974. Among her publications are five collections of poetry:
How to Draw Blood From a Stone (1998), Confessions of a Fertility Expert (1999)
Pretending to Die (2001) Live Coverage (2003) and Ontological Necessities (2006); all
with Exile Editions; the critically-acclaimed novels The Divine Economy of Salvation
(2002) and To Whom It May Concern (2009); both with Doubleday Canada; and the
academic study, We Are What We Mourn: The Contemporary English-Canadian Elegy
(2009) with McGill-Queen’s University Press. Her work has been published
internationally and has been translated into Croatian, Dutch, Greek, Korean,
Latvian, and Italian. Ontological Necessities was short-listed for the prestigious
$50,000 Griffin Prize for Excellence in Poetry. She has an MA (University of
Toronto) and a PhD in English Literature (York University) and is a professor of
English at York University in Toronto. Forthcoming in 2009, as editor, are the
books The Exile Book of Poetry in Translation: Twenty Canadian Poets Take On the
World, and The Exile Book of Sports Stories. Forthcoming in 2010 are a selected
poetry collection, Successful Tragedies, from Bloodaxe Books (U.K.), and a new
poetry collection, Traumatology, from Exile Editions. She is an active participant in
several arts committees and organizations, and is on the Board of Directors at the
Toronto Arts Council. For more information please visit
Catriona Wright is a graduate student at the University of Toronto. Her work
has appeared in various publications, such as Contemporary Verse 2, echolocation and
The Ottawa Arts Review. She can be reached at [email protected]
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