certain images from Wikimedia Commons archives
certain images from Wikimedia Commons archives
Nothing Will Suffice
by Andre Narbonne
The Facebook notice follows the funeral in short order. Joan has just lost her husband, Bryce, and now the children she grew up with in a Northern Ontario mining town in the days before computers are back and posting pictures.
Is this my Joannie Crebb? My name is Marie Benoit. If you’re the right Joannie you’ll remember me as Marie Boutin. I’ve married into a new B. LOL. The kids from Balmerville have formed a group and we’d like you to join – if this is the right Joannie. Can you be the first hit on Google? We’re all so hard to find except Geoffrey. LOL. Always in jail.
She accepts the invitation: clicks “Join Group” and scrolls through their lives.
The pictures are curiously similar. The girls she ran with the last time she ran for the sheer pleasure of it have grown into chubbier versions of themselves. In the seventies they came across as daring but the daring didn’t take. They housewife – or trailer-wife, depending on the northerness of the mining town into which they’ve gravitated. They proud parent twenty-year-old children or they adoringly grandparent toddlers. Their Facebook walls are the record of a generation enamoured of fantasy to the point of being prosaic. They have little interest in current events but post daily on the afterlife. Aphorisms substitute for self-evaluation, conspiracies for politics.
Right of Way
by Kate Sheckler
Two wrongs don’t make a right. Words her mother repeated so often that Holly cannot think of them without hearing her mother’s tone, the inflection of superior wisdom shaping each rounded vowel and clipping the T at the end with decision and a sure knowledge of the meaning of those two words – wrong/right. For Holly, it’s a distinction that is never obvious, one that hides behind details each of which changes the picture suggesting options and alternative views, details that remind Holly of all the reasons things have turned out the way they have – so it is with indecision that she stands at this counter covered with melamine, cool, chipped, and engrained with grime. She considers the embedded pattern of grunge as if it holds an encoded message, some decisive statement that offers an opinion on this thing she is about to do. But the grub gray lines, set permanently in the textured surface, offer nothing, and she turns her attention to the papers waiting for a signature. Her signature. Holly Baxter nee Holly Meredith. The forms sit, flat and unobtrusive, yet still Holly can feel their pressure and bites her lip, wincing as the cut opens again with an additional tearing of the delicate skin. The salt metallic of blood on the tip of her tongue, she considers the papers once more. Black and white, they offer no middle ground.
by Jill Talbot
I have a heart murmur—they say
I’ve had it since birth, not to worry.
I’m afraid I have the same
off beat arrhythmia as you—
a beat no one can dance to—
I tried to rid of your
but instead forgot
how to smile.
I tried to use reason
to put this off-beat-heartache-out—
I failed, again.
And again and again.
I didn’t even try to dance.
I don’t want to miss you
but it’s the only way to not
lose you completely.
Born with a murmur at St. Paul’s,
a pink beaded bracelet.
And that was the end of the beginning—
until I got on my knees
and begged to have it back.
Again and again.
I missed you
I missed you until
I could face a mirror,
I needed you.
MEETING THE ONE
by John Grey
So loneliness is an airless, colorless, dungeon
and nowhere drearier than in the heart,
with, as a food source, the worms at the base of the well,
slithered up by kiss-less lips.
And the joining up is what they will remember,
when they feel gratitude from all directions,
these young men marching hi full light,
chests swelled, arms reaching out.
Each one may have been a martyr to his ditch of darkness,
in the depths of a crevasse, in the shadows of the blind.
It could have been be a black hole maybe twenty miles deep,
with only the rats who occupy their minds.
And then there’s the one –
and that’s the last they’ll see of all that darkness.
For dungeons and wells, ditches and crevasses –
only the pit of a heart resembles these.
But press it soft against the breast of a lover
and shoot and explode, destroy and sabotage all dark places.
So here they all are, happier for being proudly selfish.
It’s a great day. It apologizes for the days not like this.
by Kerri McCourt
Late at night, I am up devouring various adoption blogs. A woman posts a video of herself as she receives the first peek of her soon-to-be daughter. I watch, voyeuristically, as the woman views the photo on her computer screen, and simultaneously talks with her social worker via speaker phone.
Seeing the photo, the woman’s eyes light up. She places a hand over her heart, staring at the photograph. She narrows her eyes, tilts forward. She peers closer, and suddenly gasps.
“Are those penguins?”
Around the photograph is a decorative border of distinctive black and white birds.
“Yes, I think so,” comes the voice of the social worker.
“You don’t know what this means! Oh my goodness!” She turns, gesturing to a shelf behind her that holds numerous ornaments. “I’ve gathered penguins my whole life.”
Earlier in her blog entry, this woman had pondered: upon seeing this child chosen for her, would she know, feel it in her heart that the baby was hers? Penguins confirmed the verdict with a resounding yes.
I close the lap top and pick up my latest cross stitching project. Stitching centers me, passes time in a meditative way. Over the years, I stitched many designs: birds, flowers, landscapes. Many Christmases ago, I finished a stocking for my baby-to-be. It sits, unused, on a shelf in a closet filled with never worn clothes, waiting. Now I work on a ballerina, the most intricate of the pieces I’ve done. The kit contains many colors and hues, including metallic threads that catch the light, sparkle in the sunlight when it pours in the windows. In the stillness of the night, I thread the needle.
Little Light of Mine
by Kerri McCourt
I am visiting my brother at his house. Tired, hurting, Jon rests in bed. Rain splatters against the bedroom window like messy tears. Mom’s here too. She sits on the edge of his bed. Absentmindedly, she picks at a cold crust of tuna melt left over on Jon’s plate, and pops a piece of cheese covered bread into her mouth.
“Look at me. I shouldn’t be eating this. I’m not hungry. Nibbling isn’t going to help me lose weight.” Light conversation is a facade, a cling to normalcy.
“You’re about to lose a hundred and sixty five pounds,” Jon says.
Snapshots of a shared childhood come into focus. Trips to the lake, games of hide and seek. Now, a brutal nightmare finds us. There’s nowhere to hide.
I am dedicated to Jon’s health; to loving, supporting, and spending precious time with him. Devotion is a burning torch. Simultaneously, it ignites an additional, deeply personal commitment. A long held desire flickers, illuminating more brightly than ever before. A leap of faith, an invitation to believe. To believe in the power of dreams, miracles, and hope. To believe in a future that holds all that and more.
Tomorrow is a smug assumption; there are people to embrace, dreams to fulfill. Here. Now. Priorities shift, instantly. The essential and important is seen anew, with sudden clarity.
A seed dropped into soil, takes root.
LISTENING TO THE DIVINE SHOUT BEFORE DRIVING AROUND THE FROGS THAT LEAVE THE LOAM
by Brian Michael Barbeito
I went to the place where the urban meets the rural and walked down sandy pathways to see ponds. The dusk was going to announce itself there. I had been trying to escape the day because the day had been a lurid artifact- too bright, too angled, and in point of fact, too new. I just needed to see the tree lines where the difficult storms had grown vexatious taken the leaves and branches ragged across tornado –like skies fluttering like a bat can seem to flutter. At the bottom of summits I watched the rocks grand and small. There was a great stillness, a preternatural quietude and so I, in turn, to honor such a natural silence, remained quiet. It wasn’t difficult as I was alone. I had the queer idea that some metaphysical presence might make itself known. Not a deva or sprite, no, nothing like that. And not a guardian angel or whispered message from the large Bur Oaks, Pines, or feral shrubs. Then what? To tell the truth, I did not and do not know. I just thought something might happen there. It did and it did not. I didn’t hear or see anything, and cannot tell a lie. But there was something in the silence. Maybe it is something they speak about in the perennial philosophy, if the perennial philosophy speaks anywhere of a silence that seems to shout the divine. It was. It was. It was. It was a grace that rang out from the quiet dusk pond by the crescive and verdant meandering path walls, from the thunder miles and miles away that did lightly erupt into the air across pregnant and warning cumulus, and from the dense thicket making a perimeter around the outside of the back of the water that sat still and stoically as a rooftop for the water spiders. I was grateful. I had not seen God A Person or a burning bush, but I had received through the agency of nature some calmness. That is how I felt after hearing the sum of the sound of the forest and water. Afterwards, it started to rain. I had to use my high beams or ‘Brights’ as some people used to call them. I noticed that the rain disturbs the frogs and they begin to come out to the roads, the one-lane highways I had to traverse. I tried to maneuver around them so as not to hurt even one. Difficult. I managed well enough. I was glad, even a bit heart-swept to arrive home.
Jonah, or My Whale
by Sheryl Halpern
I used to think that
I could tell the whale
Where to go
That, joggled in damp
I was still prophet, brain
Heart of the problem
Now I know
The whale goes
where it wants to go
Up, down grey ocean wide
And takes me blind
My up is the whale’s up,
My dizzy down is the whale’s dive deep
My steady rocking its stilled sleep
Its long whistling songs
What I hear most
I cannot see, just feel
Despair on my fingers
I could be near shore
Or on far sea mountains
Who knows but whale
Who needs no prophet
Who heeds no call
From me, within
Its mucky ribbed walls
Of fleshy, warty well
Black black black
The bible goes on
And I’m not even cited,
buried alive in sea paragraphs
I cannot speak here
Or be heard out
over low moaning
I am whale, no
I am in whale and
Whale is all
Godot Asks For Directions
by Steven Mayoff
a confusion of arrows pointing to bliss, damnation,
childhood, fortune, remorse…
he unfolds his map reads between
the creases fraying into nonexistence and stares
out at the world through a tear in the fabric of cartographic
nightmares where beyond the edges be
dragons guarding our most treasured
islands: an archipel-ego of biblical distortions and revisitations…
in a rare flash of insight he realizes he is naked and pushes
his head through a torn crease wearing
the map like a poncho smoothing down
the edges to keep them from flapping against the hot winded
changes of sameness… we are here as
they are there as he is everywhere in the lostness of not now
and it keeps getting later according to the pocket watch chained
around his neck being in servitude to
his own reclusive nature scribbled
in the margins of an appointment book taped to his inner thigh…
excuse me would you be so kind he practices in his not right
mind as those equally faceless as he
walk briskly by at the busy intersection of smart street and drive-by
boulevard… wetting a finger to the wind
he circles once like a dog and settles on
an oblique north easterly direction straight into a cul-de-sacreligious
signpost warning of his imminent arrival… pardon me would you be
so good he inquires of the neighbouring
hoodlums who strip him of watch, map,
appointment book and all notions of a redeemer who liveth in the
bloody heart bombs lobbed in migratory fashion toward a bloodred
sunset… sorry to bother but could
you direct he asks the operator before
the disconnected line hums through his circulatory estimations
of how long…
Breaking the Surface
by Harry Rajchgot
I forgot to shave today
As if I do things for you
That do things for me
Held to you by thoughts
Lost musings buried in dissociation
Thinking what is there
Beneath a transparent broken surface
Not aware of you perhaps
In your subtlest touches
Until you are gone
They break through
Like whales sounding
IT’S A DOG’S WORLD
by John Grey
Why shouldn’t I jump from the roof?
coffee spills, bills, talk radio, canned food, clichés.
As for the last of these,
I’m always either dog-tired or sick as a dog.
Not forgetting the dog-eat-dog world
and the sleeping dogs within me
that I tease too much,
and have no one else to blame
when they snarl and bite.
As Hank Williams once sang,
“I’m in the dog-house now.”
And yes, my face never varies from
“you look like somebody just shot your dog.”
Forget the coffee spills, the bills, the talk radio, the canned food
I’m a trembling mess of canine clichés.
So why shouldn’t I jump from the roof?
Ok, so it makes more sense to chase my tail.
Or sniff somebody’s butt.
Or drink out of the toilet
Or tree squirrels. Or bark at strangers.
But I’ve done all that. None of it helps.
Besides, it’s a very low roof on a very low one story home.
I can easily land on all fours.
It’s just a show after all.
And if that’s what the pretty bitch next door wants…
by John Grey
I despise habit,
these patterns that won’t let up; my body keeps doing everything
my brain warns it against;
I’m combining cough syrup with cheap vodka;
I’m floating like a butterfly
where butterflies don’t belong;
I’m having sex
with the kitchen floor
and my body is molasses sticky –
let’s not quibble –
it’s really molasses sex;
and now I’m drifting above myself,
looking down at ordinary life,
a superior being
on a Wednesday afternoon
and there goes my brain again,
repeating over and over,
it really is up to me;
but my body is oblivious –
for all the addition my mind invokes,
I’m down with the subtraction.
I don’t know your situation.
Are you too busy with someone else,
too happy in your solitude,
too long alone to see me here?
To hear what I have to say? Your words fall tangled
from your mouth,
crushing any meaning.
Hear me now.
Know that I speak the truth from
If my dreams are not yours, they are still mine. I love
them and me, then you.
￼ A Death at the Hands of
by Meghan Rose Allen
“I don’t deserve this,” she might have said. “Do I?”
They shot her in the head and buried her on the beach where the dunes meet the sand. Wrapped and weighted. I wasn’t there when they dug her up. Someone must have been. Someone must have found her. The Garda in Ireland or the army or a man walking a dog, a big dog as hairy as a Shetland pony, digging in the brown sand until it found something. A piece of plastic. A hand. I don’t know. I wasn’t there.
Mary goes on the news.
“I don’t care,” she tells the newscaster, her accent muddled about from all those years in London and then Sydney and then Montreal. “They can retaliate all they want to. I saw who came to the door that night. Three of them had masks, but two didn’t. I saw and so did half the people on the estate. No one’s been willing to speak up for forty years. Fine then. I will. I’m only back here for one more week. Let them try.”
Mary says she will talk to the police, if they ask.
“No one in power wants to rehash all that, especially for some poor washerwoman from West Belfast,” Mary says. “Derailing all the good work that’s been done since then. I do understand. But in another way, they killed my mother. Why shouldn’t someone answer to that?”
Mary calls my mobile from the cab driving her back from the studio.
“They’re going to shoot you too,” I say. “You know that.”
“It’s all a bluff,” Mary says. My phone crackles and I lose the connection. I never remember to the plug the damn thing in. I only have one because Mary insists. For emergencies.
A Series of Disjointed Images
I’m not sure how to say this.
My life consisted of a little green bundle
Of memories all rolled up into
One nicely packed joint.
And then I smoked it.
Through the dull haze I
Remember that it happened in chunks.
The time I lived in Nova Scotia, dancing
The lead in The Nutcracker and thinking
That it couldn’t get any better than this.
Realizing shortly after that perhaps I was right.
The time I lived in Toronto, knowing
What I wanted to do but not how
To do it. I trudged forward through the slush
Being heaped onto me
Accepting the wet socks for what they were.
When I feel control slipping
Away I crawl into bed, sheets
Pulled up over my face. As
I lie there I look at my life backwards,
Examining every moment that led to
Each moment. What I did and
What I could have done.
But when I can no longer feel the words fall into order,
I rely on images that can barely express what
I am trying to say.
The cards can be stacked in
All the right places, and the
Unforeseen wind can still
Knock them over.
Through this muddled mess of
Cards I rebuild myself time and time
Again. Each time being careful to close
The window. To shut out the obtrusive breeze
That no number of bolts can hold
And will always find its way back in.
I search for the light though,
In hope that one day I will
Get it right. I know I
Have all the cards, even
Counted all fifty two, making sure.
The problem is in finding
That precarious balance
That I need. I crave.
When the frustration becomes too
Great, and at the end of the day
I am still left with a pile of
Mixed up numbers and faces
At my feet, I look for other
Ways to relieve the pressure.
A place where It’s okay to
Feel out of control.
Where I can allow myself to coast to the top,
And in that moment of suspension
Accept the fate that I caused,
Sometimes arms raised in elation.
Sometimes gripping the bar
White knuckled with fear.
Like that time I just said yes,
Rather than sitting there debating.
Instead, I packed my bags and was
On a plane the next morning,
Off to the island destination of
Rotan, Honduras, where I spent
A week with my feet in the sand.
But I digress.
While on these rides I can’t
Always control who is
Going to assume the seat
Next to me. These chance
Encounterings have the power to
Inflict change, start a watershed to
Whisk me into the next scene of my play.
It has been my experience
That these actors, without permission,
Simply write themselves in. Sometimes
(Rather always) they lack the Same sense
Of poetics that I myself prefer to
Weave, yet it provides a nice break
For the audience, just as the play
Starts to drag on.
And just when I think I’ve adjusted
To this change, and my writing has adapted
To their offbeat syntax, they quit.
Not even giving the customary
Two weeks notice.
And yet they were still there
No matter how brief.
So in my program
These extras take their
The childhood sweetheart I’ll never see again.
The pot head I never could change.
The bad boy I never wanted to change.
The music man on top of that mountain.
The European who literally found me when I was lost.
The German whom I was forced to regret.
The jock I hate to love.
The Cabana boy under the stars.
The American boy under those same stars.
The friend who was there for it all.
They are only a small part of the
Stanza that make up my pieces.
Ink is expensive, after all.
And even when the theatre empties
The ballet continues.
I met a man last week
A faceless smudge from
Across the bar somehow
Standing out from the rest.
It starts with a point
That I’ve always needed to prove.
The competition I compete in
So, High on the liquid cocaines
Pulsating steadily through me, I
Perform my well-oiled routine:
Starts with the eyes peeking out
From under long lashes.
Knees accidentally brush,
Lingering for the perfect
Amount of too long.
Head remains cocked
Quizzically, feigning Interest.
One suggestive bite
Of the lip later and
They are ready for
The grand finale.
But this time it didn’t work
The way it usually does.
This time it wasn’t feigned interest.
He had something to say.
Now I’m the one stuck.
He won. I lost.
Then one day he will be gone
Just like the rest of them.
And at that time
I’ll take a single moment
Erasing him from
My pages even though the grain
Of wood has already left
It’s print but I will continue
To scrub until the lead is
Only a phantom trace
And easy to ignore.
And then move on.
It’s usually for the best anyways,
I enjoy it while it lasts.
Besides, there is always another one
More than willing to take his place.
I say this not to brag,
But to set in ink the girl
That I am today
Because I do not know
Where she is going to be
In a year, or if I’ll miss her
When she’s gone.
For now, I suppose, I will continue
On my way,
Noting that the faster I walk
The more important the
Thing I have to do becomes.
That’s what it’s all about
Seeing how much stuff
I can get done
In this short amount
Of time that doesn’t
Feel all that short.
So until that time I will fill my
Rhyme with senseless boys and
I’ll float from job
To job, traverse the
Waters, allow myself
To be seized by the
Maybe start a family simply
Out of unadulterated boredom.
Worse comes to worse,
Maybe I did miscount
And will be
Forced to improvise.
Forced to handcraft
New cards just so I can finish
Move into my castle, and then
Promptly move away.
I’m pretty handy like
But back to the socks:
Socks which are wet defeat the purpose
Of wearing socks in the first place. Yet
At least they have a set purpose,
A predetermined point.
I never liked socks much anyways.
Photo by Harry Rajchgot, Museum of Modern Art, NYC, 2005