gagliese

Welcome to our little cul-de-sac. Your family’ll be happy here. It’s quiet, and most folks are friendly. You’ll learn soon enough who isn’t.

Well, since you ask, just between us, number 103, right across the street.

Happened last night, about midnight, my wife fast asleep. The guy who lives there starts shouting. He’s this big bear of a guy, radio-announcer voice.

No, don’t worry, they can’t see us; their curtains are drawn. Besides, likely still in bed. Mrs. Saunders, her backyard abuts theirs, says they aren’t what you’d call morning people. But he’s been ill, so—

No, don’t know exactly. Lots wrong with him, apparently. Regardless, last night, he was in fine form. I hear his booming voice. Angry, vile words. I step out onto my porch, just in case.

No, there’s never been trouble before, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be. Anyway, I’m out there in my robe and so is he, bigger than ever. His wife’s cowering in the doorway.

No, he didn’t see me. So, he’s holding this basket, throwing slippers from it. My wife thinks it’s probably the one they keep for company. Not that they ever have company, not even my wife anymore, not since he called her a nosy hen. So, he’s throwing slippers, bellowing. He stops, says something I can’t hear, and she, no kidding, she kneels in front of him and takes his slippers off his feet.

No, I tell you, I saw it plain as day. The porch light was on. Those are his slippers there – grey flip-flop and brown loafer. Mismatched because they say he’s got one foot that’s hot and one that’s cold. Flip-flop cools, loafer warms.

No, no clue what causes that. Doesn’t matter. As I was saying, she hands him the flip-flop. He throws it. The loafer, same thing. Then she yanks off her own slippers, the red booties right there, and he throws those, too. By now, I’m about ready to call the police. Seems to me, he’ll go after her next, and she’s nothing but a slip of a girl. At least a foot shorter and two hundred pounds lighter than him. But I’m wrong. In an instant, I swear, he seems to deflate, this giant. I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s crying, wailing, sobbing. A man that size.

Great question. Well, my wife or yours would be packing. But not her. She’s been his nurse too long for that, my wife explained this morning. Sainted, she said, never a thought for herself. Instead of giving him what for, she wipes his tears, or so it looks from a distance. She caresses his face, anyway, and he leans into her, arm around her shoulders, his weight on her. They stand there like that for a bit, bare-footed mind you, and then she guides him indoors. Soon, all the lights are out. Show’s over.

I assume she’ll be out to gather them up. But you have a point. In this neighbourhood, we do leave unwanted stuff by the curb for anyone to take. On second thought, go ahead. Help yourself, take a pair, take two. Good as new after a wash.

In fact, my wife might like these moose slippers.

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Lucia Gagliese’s stories have appeared in Best Canadian Stories–2021, The New Quarterly, This Will Only Take a Minute (Guernica), The Healing Muse, and others. She is a clinical psychologist and professor at York University in Toronto.

Photo credit: Alice Zorn

 

How this site works is that I send a photo of a piece of litter to a writer somewhere in Canada and they respond in any form.

Those are the instructions: you may respond in any form.

Most often it’s poetry or short fiction or personal essay. On a few occasions the response is another image. Debbie Ridpath Ohi and Kevin Sylvester come to mind. In the case of Marthe Jocelyn, she asked if I could send, not a picture but an ACTUAL PIECE OF LITTER so that her response could be something (litter-ally) made from the object. I tried to find something that a) wasn’t overly disgusting, and b) easy to mail.

The litter gods were kind.

This is what I found.

I popped it in the mail, not beginning to imagine what it would become.

may 3-2

This is what happened next.

litter - jocelyn

“Visual Literacy is an earlier & more intuitive skill than reading; kids recognize faces, objects, pictures, and logos, long before they can understand text. Visual literacy inspires the same interpretive skills that reading eventually will — to find meaning (and humour) in what you see.” ~ Marthe Jocelyn

Marthe Jocelyn has written — and sometimes illustrated— fifty books for young readers. Her pictures are collages made of paper, fabric, and found bits & bobs. She has lived mostly in New York City and Stratford, Ontario. 

Website: marthejocelynbooks.com

Instagram: @scissorhouse

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torn

Posted: April 8, 2022 in kim fahner
Tags: , , , ,

fahner

Use your teeth. No need for scissors. Grab a hold of it, by the corner maybe. Bite down. Tear. Don’t be precious about it. Or, instead, use scissors on the top, and then let the dog rip at the bottom. What you want and can’t have, so now want it more. Love. Peace. Fill in your own blank as needed.

The bottom’s fallen out, or it’s been ripped out. Is it just the bag, your life, or maybe the whole world?

Upended, so that everything falls out all at once.  

On the news, images cluster: the shell of a school, burnt out, in Kharkiv; an old man feeding four cats from one can of stew, spooning it onto the pavement with care; children in the Krakow train station being given balloon animals to comfort them after long journeys; women weaving a camouflage net onto a chicken wire frame; a wedding in a war zone, bride and groom both khaki clad—holding roses in their hands, so hopeful.

Here, somewhere in Canada, a bag with the bottom ripped out. Left behind.

Here, and there, the world ripped open, so torn apart.

Scatter rose petals. Try hard.

Then, try harder.  

Cultivate peace through protests and poems.

Imagine the scent of rosewater, distilled from the essence of Ukrainian wedding flowers.

Then, think of hope, and of how peace blooms much too slowly in the spring of yet another pandemic year. These patterns, how you wish they could be broken. Not to be repeated.

Kim Fahner writes and lives in Sudbury, Ontario. Her most recent book of poems is These Wings (Pedlar Press, 2019) and her new book of poems, Emptying the Ocean, will be published by Frontenac House in Fall 2022. Kim is a member of the League of Canadian Poets, the Ontario Representative of The Writers’ Union of Canada, and a supporting member of The Playwrights Guild of Canada. She may be reached via her website at www.kimfahner.com

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regehr

Steal her toothbrush because it tastes like her sweet minty mouth. Steal her roll-on her fruity shampoo duo body wash face cream liquid liner perfect peach lipstick steal the air out of her whole morning routine. Slip off her pillowcase pj boxers stashed inside swipe the pair of freckled frogs off her alarm clock steal all her bras because we wear the same size—her silk on my skin lace on my skin threadbare polyester on my skin. Steal her love-worn scarf her felt fedora with its sweat-stained inner rim steal Mary-Janes buckle the buckles kiss the soles steal hairbrush from nightstand choked with brown curls pocket the train flattened lucky penny from her ring dish wanting the same dark luck. Think about wet roads high-heeled think about frozen cheesecake grocery store bouquet think about human-body-as-rag-doll flung think about tulip art on asphalt tires rolling over buds—mentally collect each bruised and torn petal each crushed stem. Wander around touching everything with shaking hands touching everything eat the sushi leftovers think about her parents touching everything boxing the apartment every side-of-the-road saucer every mismatched wine glass—not knowing me from a neighbour. Steal her lip-printed coffee cup sort the sleeve of Sharpied mix-cds burned by an old lover press play on our songs cry over Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay even though it’s not our song cry over all the songs that are not our songs then steal the CD. Steal the sofa blanket watch half a box of sodden Kleenex scatter kneel to collect my tears steal the wilting fern from the windowsill her namesake. Pack-n-stack it all neatly in a tote snatch her black cherry room spray good for cannabis cover-up—watch in slow motion as the lid flips off and Scent-Bombs the lot.

BIO:

Kyeren Regehr is the author of Cult Life (Pedlar Press, 2020), shortlisted for the ReLit Awards, and Disassembling A Dancer (winner of the Raven Chapbook contest, 2021). She spent several years on the poetry board of The Malahat Review, and presently works as a freelance creative editor and mentor. She has thrice been longlisted for the CBC Poetry Award and her work has been published in anthologies and periodicals in Canada, Australia, and the U.S.A. kyerenregehr.ca

Author of Cult Life, Pedlar Press, 2020

https://www.kyerenregehr.ca

Disassembling A Dancer, Raven Chapbooks, June 2021

pare (2)

No rabbit is born singular
all rabbits are soft all rabbits are tough
no rabbit is safe
this is a fact
of life in a wild warren fluffle
or in a drove or in a husk if a rabbit is
in fact a hare
or alone on a heap no rabbit is safe alone on a heap
even wearing a jumpsuit of pale chenille

with sufficient blow any cloud could become camel or dove
with sufficient threat any woman might be made fearful
with sufficient thread
any rabbit can be made to wear clothes
abracadabra a form of elision
far from the original litter
some rabbits become raddled
if clothed if stuffed if a form of plush toy
no life is safe from transition
if left out in the rain some nights in row
if stitched up and made to wear
a threaded fixed smile

 

Arleen Paré is a Salish Sea writer with seven collections of poetry and a new chapbook being released this year. She has been short-listed for the BC Dorothy Livesay BC Award for Poetry, and has won a Golden Crown Award for Lesbian Poetry, Victoria Butler Book Prize, a CBC Bookie Award, and a Governor Generals’ Award for Poetry. She lives in Victoria with her wife, Chris Fox.

Photo Credit: Christine Higdon

zarankin

The Rice Krispies disappeared from my life shortly after we met Norma. I’d been diagnosed with asthma when I was 10, and when the inhaler my doctor prescribed made me a little too giddy for my parents’ taste, they resorted to alternative medicine. This was the mid-80s, and my parents had already embraced bee pollen, bran and wheat germ, but were just making their foray into the world of health gurus who did house calls. And in walked Norma, a robust woman whose physique resembled Gertrude Stein’s and who traveled in the company of her lithe, long-haired companion, who rarely uttered a word. In her long formless robe and sporting a toothless grin, Norma looked like she’d emerged from a different dimension. But she called herself a healer—a nutritionist and psychic rolled into one—and promised she would cure me of my asthma. Her chief diagnostic tool consisted of a grey plastic bath plug on a long chain that she swung in a concentric motion above my abdomen, and she did this with her eyes closed, exhaling deeply through her mouth. After lying under the rotating axis of a bath plug for five minutes, I received an encouraging diagnosis: she proclaimed I could easily be treated with lobelia extract, with a new diet excluding wheat, dairy and sugar.

My asthma attacks decreased in frequency and after a couple years, we stopped seeing Norma altogether. To this day, I have no idea whether it was the magic of her bath plug, the lobelia extract, the diet, or just body changes that come with puberty. But she’d exiled Rice Krispies from our pantry definitively and I missed them.

I still think of Rice Krispies wistfully, even 35 years later. Not for their taste, which barely registers above insipid on the flavour barometer, but because I ate the cereal every morning for five years—until Norma confiscated them. A bowl of Rice Krispies and half a grapefruit was my father’s breakfast culinary masterpiece. He peeled the grapefruit like an orange, which I couldn’t stand, but he believed eating it with a serrated spoon smacked of bourgeoisie and wasted the precious fruit. The reward for grapefruit consumption was an overflowing bowl of Rice Krispies. We ate them in our first Canadian apartment, in Edmonton, furnished with castoffs from our relatives. The same apartment where I learned English, sang along to Sharon, Lois and Bram, fell asleep to the sound of my parents teaching piano. 

I don’t remember the address of that Rice Krispies apartment. But I remember that across the street lived my auntie Frida who washed my hair with special Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo that didn’t sting my eyes; and next door to her lived my auntie Rose who introduced me to love and rage by seating me in front of her TV for a daily dose of the Young and the Restless; and several blocks away lived Luba, who let me sprinkle my hair and face in baby powder, and prance around her apartment in her high heeled shoes, hoping life would be like this for ever.  

Julia Zarankin is the author of the bestselling memoir Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder.  Her writing has appeared in Audubon, En Route, The Globe and Mail, Canadian Geographic, The Walrus, PRISM, The New Quarterly, ON Nature, and Maisonneuve. She was recently a finalist for the CBC Short Story prize and has been awarded residencies at MacDowell, the Banff Centre, and Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts. Julia can be found at www.juliazarankin.com.

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necakov

It has been weeks since the storm
river-mouth agape
what it has seen
and cannot un-see
shipwrecked sunstones
squabbling through the wreckage
light bending past the margin
naked and glorious
bone-sliver reeds
whoosh whooshing
shallow now
a small shoe
wound in the shore’s
belly a glass
eye
communion
ancient rune
shallow now
under the cloudless veil
of skin.

 

Lillian Nećakov is the author of six books of poetry, numerous chapbooks, broadsides and leaflets. Her new book il virus was published in April 2021 by Anvil Press (A Feed Dog Book). In 2016, her chapbook The Lake Contains an Emergency Room was shortlisted for bpNichol chapbook award. During the 1980s she ran a micro press called “The Surrealist Poets Gardening Association” and sold her books on Toronto’s Yonge Street. She ran the Boneshaker Reading series from 2010-2020. She lives in Toronto and just might be working on a new book.

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Flashing a peace sign only to get crushed? Of course, that lemon in your hand had to be crushed to brew your “Peace Tea” in the first place. How far out ironic and Age of Aquarius groovy is that? This old tea drinker, born in 1955, remembers my own teenage Summer of Love. Half a century later, nothing about this moment in which I write these words that might be a poem about peace both brewed and crushed, is either loving or peaceful. The pandemic is the biggest “make war not love” lemon my generation has ever been handed. There is no slow retirement sipping, no lemony silver lining. The change my generation hoped for in our youth has not aged well. Far from crushing the capitalist lemon, the pandemic has made the rich richer. Infused new grief, inequity and loss. No one should ignore that steeping. No one should ever try to make crowd calming tea out of mass death. Not while the pandemic keeps pouring people out into the trash: seniors, disabled people, health care workers, marginalized racialized delivery workers, the unhoused and unloved. Not while the pandemic tells all of us peaceful old folk tea drinkers shuffling along on walkers and canes that we are the most useless of sub-human garbage. Nothing we do or say to defend ourselves changes abled minds. Abled people don’t want to hear any old-fashioned boomer lectures about social responsibility. Don’t want to compare themselves to how we old hippies have practiced it. Like so many in my at risk communities, I’ve been sheltering at home, alone in my tiny apartment since March 8, 2020. No family, no friendly visits, no drop offs, no take-out, no sending or accepting mail, no gifts, and absolutely no internet shopping. I open my door only to groceries and my medical needs. It’s not fear, it’s well-brewed responsibility. Peace is important to this old hippy. It’s not enough to survive unless I can also say I haven’t killed anyone else, or their mother, or their grandmother. Being a peace prioritizing old tea-drinker means you make a sober, conscious, moral decision to help everyone stay home. It means you refuse to ask anyone else to go into the streets to take the risk of dying for you. I’ve done that for a full year, while abled people read my tea leaves for me, laughing at the very idea I deserve a future: “Who cares? It’s just seniors and disabled people who are going to die.” That first spring, my life was worth less than a March Break trip to Florida. At Halloween, it was just fine if I died, as long as kids got candy. Come Christmas, my life was worth less than a stocking stuffer. This winter, hospital protocols tell me, as did the Nazis, that I am “life unworthy of life.” Today, guzzling the sugary drink of vaccination, no longer in silence or in secret, abled people are energized and empowered. Secure in your personal survival, you crush my spirit and my frail body down. Seeing my life as the last dregs in a useless can, you throw me under the eugenics bus. Discarded on the green spring grass, will I even see summer, or will you simply shrug and put me under the ground?

Dorothy Ellen Palmer is a disabled senior writer, retired English/Drama teacher, improv coach and union activist. Her adoption-disability memoir, Falling for Myself, (Wolsak and Wynn, 2019), was acclaimed by The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, and Quill & Quire. Longlisted for the ReLit Award, her novel, When Fenelon Falls, (Coach House, 2010), features a disabled teen in the Woodstock-Moonwalk summer of 1969. Her fiction and nonfiction appear in Reader’s Digest, This Magazine, Canthius, Wordgathering and Nothing Without Us. She won the 2020 Helen Henderson Award for disability journalism, serves on FOLD’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, and has appeared at FOLD, GritLit, WOTS, The Next Chapter, The Eh List, and CBC Radio.

 

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I believe there is a laundry legacy in each of our lives. Mine is a snapshot of my five foot mother bent double like a clothespin over the rim of the wringer washer while piles of sorted clothes dotted the kitchen floor like stocks of wheat in a farmer’s field. Every Monday she hauled steaming buckets of water, sun up to sundown, from the water tank on the back of the Kemac stove. As the day grew longer her patience grew shorter and if the clothesline sagged and broke as she pinned her last towel to it, she surrendered her soul to the steps of the stoop and cried.

My 14 year old hanging-onto-hope-that-one-day-I’d-be-a-hippie self, dismissed her single-minded path to pristine white soles on our socks as a waste of time. “Who cares”, I said and she replied with a bar of sunlight soap in her hands — “I do”.

Even as we both grew older she would call me at my first apartment to remind me to bring home my white uniforms, grey from the dryer of the laundromat, so she could return them to their former white glory by letting them drip and dry for several days in frigid temperatures, giving them back a life that I thought was gone forever and I let her. I let her. Youth has a lot to answer for.

I never thought much more about the price you pay for doing the laundry until this happened and now I own it too.

I bought my mother an automatic washing machine as soon as I was able.

“Once as a child, I rose to find my mother, tears streaming down her face clutching the rim of the kitchen sink… the faucet running wide open, water splashing everywhere. Her best friend. The one that knew all her secrets and had giggled with her behind the backs of red headed farm boys, had died that morning… on the floor, beside the stove she had attempted to light with a splash of kerosene so she could heat water for the wash.” ~ ‘Maids of the Morn’, (from Wandering Spirits and Restless Hearts, by Sheree Gillcrist)

Sheree Gillcrist is a writer, freelance journalist, music reviewer, Artistic Director of NeelyG Entertainment, and Music Promoter at R10Venue. She is also a Nurse Specialist of early and late onset Alzheimer’s and collector of the lyrics of life that we hang our laundry on. As a daughterless mother the first song explains me very well. I live my life between the lines of Leonard Cohen Songs. I believe in the word. I offer the second song in the interest of what is a beautiful about mothers and fathers and all of us travelling on life’s road.

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ick

Posted: February 9, 2021 in donna besel
Tags: , , , ,

photo credit: eaton hamilton

 

When I was a student, Manitoba Parks Branch offered me a job in my hometown, West Hawk Lake, beside the Ontario border. Permanent population is around two hundred. In summer, cottage owners, campers, and day visitors flock there by the thousands. And they create tons of garbage.

At first, I was a gate attendant, a job usually performed by women. At the end of June, I asked to transfer to campground janitor. This meant a bump in pay. The head ranger agreed; females could be cleaners. His belief in women’s intrinsic hygiene struck me as ironic.

As kids, my nine siblings and I often worked in our family’s construction business, but we didn’t do much housework. When I was fourteen, our mother died. After that, no one noticed if the toilet was clean or dirty.

A stern campground attendant taught me to mop and scrub. The next two summers were a blur of shit and vomit and drunken nakedness. Every day, I walked kilometres between washrooms and retrieved articles stuffed into flooding toilets — diapers, beer bottles, towels, condoms.

The following summer, I asked to work on the garbage truck. The ranger reluctantly agreed — no woman had ever done it. On my second day, as I was hanging off the back of the truck, the ranger and his assistant drove up behind us. After we reached the beach roadway, three metres above the sand, they stopped tailing us. They had seen me tossing full bins up to my co-worker, a slim city boy, who reached over the railing to catch them.

For the next three summers, I worked with this same guy. We met tons of bears and other wildlife. Children marched behind our truck, entranced by the “garbage girl” novelty. We decorated the hopper with old teddy bears and plastic flowers, and collected beer bottles to finance parties. During trips to the dump, we slept off the consequence.

I even got to fight forest fires, another job no woman had ever done. And I got paid more than all the other female students.

Now I come to the “ICK” memory.

Spread throughout the park, fish cleaning tables had holes in the centre and garbage cans underneath. In busy times, our visits could be three days apart. Fish rot made us retch more than any other garbage. Hot sun converted skins and guts into heaving masses of maggots, the colour of dirty boiled rice.

Or gravel embedded in cement.

A surface ranging from dark to light, just like the above ‘litter prompt’ picture I was sent.

Donna Besel loves writing of all kinds and leads workshops for all ages. Her work has won several national contests and been long listed for the CBC Literary Prize. Her collection of short stories, Lessons from a Nude Man (Radiant Press, 2015), placed fourth on McNally Robinson’s bestsellers list, and was nominated for two Manitoba Book Awards. A memoir, published by University of Regina Press, will be available in fall of 2021.

If you’d like to listen to a podcast segment that tells a story about Donna Besel’s garbage partner, check out CBC’s Love Me: Lost and Found, Episode 6.

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Up Next:

“…her single minded path to pristine white soles on our socks”