Cut to her Saturday afternoon sequence of duMaurier extra lights amid the half-capacity shopping mall parking lot. As usual, Alberta arrives half an hour early, aware that her pre-teen will be fifteen minutes tardy, reveling in her new wealth of shopping detritus and gossip. Until her daughter appears, this is the single stretch of time that Alberta allows herself to breathe; the only moment she isn’t mid-task, or rushing between points or appointments. The only time, too, she allows herself to stoop to such youthful folly: a pack of cigarettes secreted beneath the driver’s seat, set alongside an increasing guilt. Weekly, for nearly an hour, she sits silent on the hood of their Ford Taurus and waits. She inhales. She follows the paths of parking lot seagulls, each one paintbrush smooth, the lacunae of blue summer backdrops. On this particular afternoon she ponders rock climbing, hospital waiting rooms and swimming pools. She ponders her lost prairie, and the anonymity of suburban parking lots. She thinks back to the summer she witnessed a neighbour succumb to throat cancer, and now, as her husband emerges from chemotherapy, stoic and withered and weather-worn. She exhales, attempting to expel all of her fears and concerns along with the four thousand chemicals that make up cigarette smoke: nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide. In the soft August heat, Alberta treats asphalt as midden, newly littered with spent filters. Material remains. If everything were to end now, she wonders, if she were to disappear, might they ever find me. The small assemblage of abandoned butts the only evidence she’d been there at all.
Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of nearly thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, the Council for the Arts in Ottawa Mid-Career Award in 2014, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012. In March 2016, he was inducted into the VERSe Ottawa Hall of Honour. His most recent titles include notes and dispatches: essays (Insomniac press, 2014), The Uncertainty Principle: stories, (Chaudiere Books, 2014) and the poetry collection If suppose we are a fragment (BuschekBooks, 2014). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books, The Garneau Review (ottawater.com/garneaureview), seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (ottawater.com/seventeenseconds), Touch the Donkey (touchthedonkey.blogspot.com) and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater (ottawater.com). In fall 2015, he was named “Interviews Editor” at Queen Mob’s Teahouse, and he is a regular columnist for Open Book: Ontario and the Drunken Boat blog. He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com