Posts Tagged ‘CanLit’


Posted: December 27, 2019 in becky blake
Tags: , , , ,

The line of people waiting to pay at the pharmacy is so long we have snaked up the aisle, all the way to the water filtration pitchers and the giant chocolate Santas marked at half off. Far ahead, I can see the pre-cashier area with its more appropriately-sized impulse purchases: Tic Tacs, small bags of chips and magazines. There is so much distance between me and the person currently paying that he seems foreshortened – a tiny man positioned at the vanishing point of this hellish Saturday morning snapshot.

How many people do there need to be before another cashier is called? I wonder this as we inch forward, one angry person-sized click at a time. I am extra grumpy today and try to flip into stasis, a mode where useless time like this can be skipped. In stasis mode, I am not simply somewhere else in my imagination; I am actually nowhere. Sometimes, I wonder if these pauses might eventually serve to extend my life. Will this nowhere-time accumulate and add an extra month or two to my final days? I think about this quite a lot lately.

Finally, I reach the outskirts of the cash register area, then the fringe, then the penultimate position. I am so close. I can almost feel the outside air on my face, followed by the relief of sinking back into my couch with the drugs I need to override my PMS.

When the woman in front of me asks to check her lottery tickets, I lift my chin and look to the ceiling; I am a heron gulping down the wriggling fish of a sob. Soon. Soon. Soon. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. One, two – 

On three, it’s me! I’m here! This is almost over.

I unload my basket onto the counter, then toss a package of M&Ms onto the top of the pile.

“Need bags?” asks the cashier.

“Yes, please.”

“Points card?”


“Are you a senior?” she asks, and everything stops. I should never have come out of stasis for this interaction; I should have paid like an automaton.

“Excuse me?”

“It’s senior discount day. Are you a senior?”

I turn with a wide-eyed look to the woman behind me. I need a colleague in my incredulity, a fan of my outrage, but her face is a blank page, rather than a mirror. I turn back to the cashier. “I’m thirty-nine,” I say. “So no. I am not a senior.” Have I ever used this tone of voice before? It is scalding hot, and the cashier feels its heat, pulling back from me a step. She is sixteen maybe. Eighteen maybe.

“I’m sorry,” she says, defensive, “but I have to ask.”

No, you don’t! I want to shout. This is not the LCBO! It is not illegal for people under the age of 65 to buy dish soap and Midol and –

I consider pointing to the box of tampons she’s recently packed in my bag and asking her what she thinks they’re for. Instead, I tap my card to pay and she hands me the bag, cautious like she’s feeding a potentially dangerous animal – one of those biting llamas maybe.

“Thank you,” I say, my words a pointy stick; a stick that’s pointing to her mistake, then pointing again to make sure she sees it.

The automatic doors sigh open and I step out into the world feeling scuffed up like a price sticker on the bottom of someone’s shoe. Any bonus time I had accumulated to extend the end of my life feels like it’s just been spent. I look at my reflection in the window. Forty. Fifty. Sixty. Soon I will be there.


A two-time winner of the CBC Literary Prize (for non-fiction in 2017 and short fiction in 2013), Becky Blake’s stories and essays have appeared in publications across Canada. Her first novel, Proof I Was Here, was published by Wolsak & Wynn’s Buckrider Books imprint in May 2019.

Becky teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Education, and holds an MFA from the University of Guelph. She is currently working on a second novel and a memoir-in-essays.

She can be found at





Up Next:

“Gutter to ocean…”


Posted: December 3, 2019 in maureen hynes
Tags: , , , ,


she tells me
get some Mela-
tonin at London
Drugs  16 different
brands & dosages on
the shelves  empty sold-
out spots among them  she
needs Extended Release 10 mg

o god   an epidemic of sleeplessness
in our small neighbourhood  our
neighbours’  brains  & their
underactive pineal glands
blue & green screenlight
tricking their mentality
awake  a lot of SAD-
ness  afflicting us

mela from the Greek for
dark or black    for our daily
calamities  an industry gleans
the chemical bed of crystals over
which flows the inky river of night-
sleep   a machine powders its sand into
10 mg capsules   counts them into gleam-
ing white plastic bottles  &  seals them shut


Maureen Hynes’s work has twice been included in Best Canadian Poems and longlisted for the CBC Canada Reads poetry award. Her book, Rough Skin (Wolsak and Wynn), won the League of Canadian Poets’ Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry by a Canadian, and her fourth collection, The Poison Colour (Pedlar Press) was a finalist for the Raymond Souster and Pat Lowther Awards. She launched her most recent collection, Sotto Voce from Brick Books, in October 2019.



Up Next:

“I am extra grumpy today and try to flip into stasis, a mode where useless time like this can be skipped.”





Nobody knew back then that feeding bread to ducks was bad for them, that so many wholesome weekend tableaus ended with the equivalent of filling a baby bottle with Pepsi as families tossed torn white bread into seemingly happy, floating gullets.

Auntie Jane always brought bread with her when we went to the duck pond, loose in a crumpled A&P plastic bag. She wasn’t really my aunt, but my mother’s friend. That was how they said it, friend, singular, like you only got one. Neither of them ever seemed to need more. Sometimes Jane would bring her boyfriends with her to the Galleries, which was the somewhat aspirational name of the park where the duck pond was. It sat on a sliver of rocky beach, about a fifteen-minute walk from our apartment, with the pond set in from the shore, and in between was a never-open building that that was supposedly some kind of art gallery.

I don’t know how many of the boyfriends I remember, because I’ve forgotten the ones I forgot. But my favourite without a doubt was Rick. He wasn’t handsome in any way a little girl would have cared about, not Disney prince pretty, but he had a way of combing back his hair, comb in one hand, his other hand following, smoothing over the already smoothed shiny blackness, that was somehow endearing. It was like a tic – I don’t think he even noticed himself doing it. It might have seemed like an affectation in another man, but in Rick there was a softness to it, as if he was politely rearranging chairs to make room so everyone could sit, as if he was raking the neighbour’s leaves without being asked.

He’d come to the pond a few times before but the last time he came he and Jane were late, not badly late but long enough that Mom and I had walked around the Galleries twice. It wasn’t a big park and by the time they arrived, Mom had me occupied skipping stones on the water. She had a perfect flick to her wrist when she did it and could bounce a good stone six, seven times. I was up to three, but even then I had to be picky about the stones I chose.

When they found us there, Jane’s face had a hard, faraway look and my mother’s face went soft and close in response without either of them saying anything.

“Sorry we’re late,” said Jane. Her voice was like a good rock, flat and thin. “We brought bread.”

Rick smiled at us. It was a winter sunlight smile, weak and watery, but he seemed to mean it. He rocked back on his heels and said “Skipping rocks eh?” He took out his comb and ran it through his hair and, quick as a snake, Jane snatched it out of his hand and snapped it in half.

“You’re always combing your goddamn hair,” she said. “It’s fine, damn it, it’s perfectly fine.” She threw the pieces into the rocky beach. One landed with its teeth straight up, like a tiny plastic bear trap, while the other just lay amongst the rocks.

Mom said, “You brought bread?” like nothing had happened and the bread hadn’t already been announced.

“You know I get all fidgety now, without my smokes,” said Rick.

“Why don’t you guys go feed the ducks?” said my mother, and she pushed me towards Rick and the bread. Jane was already turning away from him, towards Mom, her face seeming to get smaller somehow, and I knew she was going to cry.

I trotted towards the pond and Rick lopped along behind me, saying, “Wait up, kiddo.”

At the edge, he opened the bag, which was tied in a few knots, and reached in.

“I wonder if this is really good for them,” he said. “It doesn’t really seem natural, I dunno what ducks are supposed to eat, but bread doesn’t seem right somehow.”

“They love it,” I said, boldly snaking my hand into the bag he held and tossing a morsel out. The ducks, already gathered, went to war for it, shaking their feathers and poking their bills at each other in sharp jabbing motions.

“That isn’t enough,” he said, and then, as if correcting himself, “That doesn’t make it right.” Then he patted his pocket unconsciously and stiffened, remembering the comb was gone.

I thought of Rick when I read that you shouldn’t give bread to ducks. I thought about the things I’ve wanted that weren’t good for me, and how often I’d dove for them, swallowed them down. I thought of my mother’s wrist, flicking perfectly, and the good stones skipping and skipping, almost to the horizon.



Grace O’Connell is the author of Magnified World (Random House Canada 2012), a national bestseller, and Be Ready for the Lightning (Random House Canada 2017), which was named a Top Ten book of 2017 by The Toronto Star. Her fiction and essays have appeared publications including in The Globe and Mail, The Walrus, The Toronto Star, FASHION, Elle Canada, and The Journey Prize Stories. Grace was the recipient of the 2014 Canadian Authors Association Emerging Writer Award and teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto.

She can be found at




Up Next:

“blue & green screenlight 
tricking their mentality
awake  a lot of SAD-
ness  afflicting us”


Do Not Eat Too Much
Do Not Enter Into Relations With More Than
Do Not Enhance Your
Do Not Envision Your
Do Not Eat Too Little
Do Not Earn More Than
Do Not Elevate Yourself Above
Do Not Engulf Your Children
Do Not End Up Alone
Do Not End Up Old
Do Not Enlarge Yourself
Do Not Embody Your Own
Do Not Enjoy Your Own
Do Not Enslave Yourself
Do Not Erase Yourself
Do Not Emasculate
Do Not Embarrass
Do Not Encourage
Do Not Entice
Do Not Even Imagine



Deborah Willis’ first book, Vanishing and Other Stories, was shortlisted for a Governor
General’s Award for fiction, named one of The Globe and Mail’s top 100 books of the year, and
recommended by NPR as one of the best books of 2010. Her second book, The Dark and Other
Love Stories, was longlisted for the 2017 Giller Prize, won the Georges Bugnet Award for
best work of fiction published in Alberta, and was named one of the best books of the year
by The Globe and Mail, the CBC, and Chatelaine Magazine. Her fiction and non-fiction has
appeared in The Walrus, The Virginia Quarterly, The Iowa Review, Lucky Peach, The Wall
Street Journal, and Zoetrope. She lives in Calgary and works as an editor for Freehand Books.

She can be found at



Up Next:

“It might have seemed like an affectation in another man, but in Rick there was a softness to it, as if he was politely rearranging chairs to make room so everyone could sit, as if he was raking the neighbour’s leaves without being asked.”



whatever happened to?

whatever happened happened.
whatever happened happened
in no time

no time to dab
& re


mouth whatever
hands whatever
fingers busy
doing other



Chantal Gibson ( is an artist-educator living in Vancouver. Her debut book of poetry How She Read (Caitlin 2019) is a decolonizing effort that confronts historic representations of Black womanhood and Otherness in the Canadian cultural imagination. An award-winning instructor, she teaches writing and visual communication in the School of Interactive Arts & Technology at Simon Fraser University.



Up Next:

“Do not erase yourself”




Kindling for the brush fire,
plastic packaging browns
in the embers and curls.

The smell of burnt hair,

the branches blanched,
a release of furans into
the atmosphere. Smoke
clings to our clothing

like dioxins to the lungs.
In this hottest summer
on record in a succession
of broken records, forest
fires rise around us as
we reach into corners
of multi-layered laminate
to satisfy a craving

that can’t be contained.



Cassidy McFadzean was born in Regina, graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and currently lives in Toronto. She is the author of two poetry collections: Hacker Packer (McClelland & Stewart 2015), which won two Saskatchewan Book Awards, and Drolleries (M&S 2019). She can be found at



Up Next:

“whatever happened happened”


Cotton swab, queue tip, dirty lilac. Lilacs grow in spikes called panicles. In Vancouver this morning, I kissed a panicle, not on purpose. The scent powered me over, pulled me off the sidewalk, twisted my nose down deep into its parts. When it was over, I clocked the evidence left behind: lip prints, purple smut against pure white petals.

In springtime in Nova Scotia, my mother twisted cotton swabs into my ears until I felt the buzzing all the way down in my toes. A nonsexual and acceptable physical affection between a parent and their child. I do it now for myself, cotton swabs in my ears, and yes, it works, of course it works, that buzzing. A bit of my mother’s hands still inside my hands, too.

As though my hands were hollowed like lilac stems and my mother’s hands, the pith. This tree, another tree named for another petrified nymph. In ancient times, I have also turned myself to wood. The first batch brought by the Jesuits, the second planted by slaves. So who cares about these flowers, anyway? There certainly has been the devil to pay.

I care. I care, I care, I care, I care. All day I replay the kiss. Night falls and I slip clippers into a vase and drive to the tree. Seize my lip-printed panicle and snip it free, then another, and another and another and another. Beside me, a bicycle with a boy on top rides by and I don’t stop cutting. I will admit in the light what I do in the dark, or else.

Now, everywhere in my apartment is the scent of lilacs. And it’s the same scent that comes in Nova Scotia but closer to summer, prom. In my dress, I stood by the blossoms while my mother snapped photographs. Then, she pushed white panicles of cotton into my ears, cleaning the canals of wax, strumming my body into a hum in time for the dance.



Chelsea Rooney is a writer living in Vancouver. Her first novel Pedal, published in 2014 by Caitlin Press, was nominated for the Amazon First Novel Award and the ReLit Award for Fiction. Her words have appeared in Quill and Quire, The Capilano Review, Room Magazine, SubTerrain, and elsewhere. She is currently working on her second novel. She can be found at and on instagram at @cperooney

Up Next:

“In this hottest summer
on record in a succession
of broken records…”