Posts Tagged ‘frontier college’


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.


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.

Author of Cult Life, Pedlar Press, 2020

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


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


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no rabbit is safe alone on a heap even wearing a jumpsuit of pale chenille


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
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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“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.”

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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The Litter I See Project will be on hiatus until Summer.

Until then, may I offer you this picture of an un-littered slice of Spring.

courtesy of wikicommons

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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“I open my door only to groceries and my medical needs. It’s not fear, it’s well-brewed responsibility.”


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

davis, tanya

It’s hardly garbage
the clutter of scars of hearts hardened
detritus’s presence a new garden
to stutter and start in

from darkened margins
luck beckons
here, listen

we lean in
we are cynics but believe we could be different
on our knees, our ears to leaves,
we are here for visions
or chances
to change

wisdom whispers, knows our ache
knows features of fervour
(seek further, where green grows down
and brown goes grey)

it asks us to a masquerade
let’s dress like love
the bloom, the fade.

Tanya Davis is a writer and performer based in Epekwitk / Prince Edward Island. She works across disciplines, creating poetry, music, and stage shows and collaborates frequently with other artists, including filmmaker Andrea Dorfman on the recent animated short How to be at Home.

NEW! How to be at Home videopoem
How to be Alone Videopoem


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besel - Copy

photo credit: eaton hamilton

“I even got to fight forest fires, another job no woman had ever done”

Candy can be a reward and a curse for Indigenous children.

At a Pow Wow, there is a Candy Dance. 

Children dressed in regalia dance in a sacred circle to the beat of the drums, the heartbeat of Mother Earth. 

At the end of the dance, candies are flung into the circle for the children to gather.

I have been witness to this dance many times.

One year, the Pow Wow MC announced there would be no throwing candies for the children to collect at the end of the Candy Dance. 

Elders, survivors of residential schools, watching were re-traumatized.

The MC said that an Elder had approached him after a Dance.

The elder explained that their captors threw candies to lure indigenous children.

The children were snatched and captured. 

The residential schools gobbled up the children like a hungry wolf.

The black brick monster spit out their broken spirit, those who survived years of abuses and torture.

Many didn’t survive.

An Eagle is sacred to the Indigenous Peoples.

It climbs higher to the Creator than any living creature.

An Eagle circled and soared above the Pow Wow.

The sacred Eagle collected the trauma of the residential school survivors.

It soared higher and higher.

It disappeared out of sight. 

The story of the Candy Dance is locked in the marrow of my bones. 

The healing continues.

Stella Shepard’s work appears in anthologies, newspapers and magazines. Her novel, Ashes of My Dreams (Acorn Press, 2016), is a thinly disguised fiction of her own life, giving voice to unwed mothers who were once silenced and shamed, and has been used by the University of Prince Edward Island in an adult development course. She is a member of the Native Council of Prince Edward Island where she lives on an organic farm.



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“A mum who couldn’t get angry with me when we were skipping double Dutch in the dining room and I put my arm through a plate glass window because, after all, she was at one end turning the ropes.”

“You’ve wrinkled your new dress,” Daniel said, and Lizzy looked down at herself to find that he was right. She hadn’t been careful to arrange the pleats of her skirt so they’d lay neatly across her lap. Instead, when she’d climbed up into the passenger seat of her father’s truck, she’d plunked herself down and balled up two fistfuls of fabric in her hands.

            “I’ll be wearing a robe,” she said, trying to smooth out the creases. “It won’t matter.”

            Expecting silence to follow, Lizzy’s throat cinched up as though by purse strings, when her father took his hands off the steering wheel, flexed and clenched them a few times, and dropped them into his lap. He began to steer, instead, with his knee.

            “You don’t know how to take anything seriously, do you?” he said, but until he replaced one hand on the wheel, Lizzy was unable to speak.

            “I am. I am taking this seriously,” she said. “I took all the classes. I read the book.”

            The book, What Seventh-day Adventists Believe, was a heavy, hardcover, edition that itemized and explained each tenet of the Adventist faith. Any applicant for baptism was expected to read it, cover to cover, and be able to affirm they agreed with every principle, no matter how dryly written.

            “Tell me about the Investigative Judgment,” Daniel said.

            Lizzy, who had plunged in and out of sleep the night before, and whose mind felt as gritty as her eyes, flipped through the pages in her mind until she came to the one she was looking for.

            “The Investigative Judgement is the second part of Christ’s atonement,” she said, paraphrasing. “The first was His work on the cross. And then, on October 22, 1844, He moved from the first part of the heavenly sanctuary into the Holy of Holies, where He’s been going over the naughty and nice list ever since.”

            It was the wrong thing to say. Of course it was. Lizzy, however, was as bunched up on the inside as her dress was on the outside.

            “What do we know about the state of the dead?” Daniel said, bringing Lizzy’s mind back to the truck.

            Lizzy cleared her throat. She’d known all this before. Twelve years of religious classes at the academy had made sure of that.

            “The dead are asleep,” Lizzy said. “No one has gone to heaven yet, and immortality is conditional. There is no hell, and the wicked will be destroyed. We call this Annihilationism.” She brightened for a moment. “Annihilationism is an excellent word if you ask me. It’s not often you get to use seven syllables all at once. Unless you’re a scientist.” Which, Lizzy didn’t add, was what she intended to be.

            Annihilationism was also Lizzy’s favourite doctrine. It came from the books of Ecclesiastes and Thessalonians, and meant that if she was judged and found wanting when her name came up, she would simply cease to exist at the end of days, and her mother wouldn’t have to worry about her in hell, like she would if they were Mennonite.

            “Ellen G. White,” Daniel said next.

            “Is the spirit of prophesy. Her writings are authoritative as a source of truth. They provide us with guidance, correction and comfort. They are a lesser light shining towards the greater light of the Bible.” Lizzy paused and thought about swallowing her next words. “Which, if you ask me, doesn’t make any sense, because a larger light will eclipse a smaller one and you won’t even know the smaller one is on.

            “Also, the Archangel Michael and Jesus are the same,” Lizzy added, tacking on a bonus point. “Which, incidentally, is why Principal Borthwaithe said that the two Michaels in the academy should use their middle names.”

            And with that, the quiz was over.

Lizzy hadn’t been able to eat breakfast that morning, but now, with the church and her date with the baptismal tank getting closer, she pulled a nut bar, wrapped in waxed cotton, from one of the pockets she’d begged to have sewn into her baptism dress.

            Before she could eat, however, the church came into view and Daniel pulled into the parking lot. He shifted the truck into neutral, but didn’t turn off the ignition.

            “I have something for you,” Daniel said, but didn’t, at first, reach for whatever it might be. “It’s the copy someone gave me when I was about your age. It’s what led me to the church. Without it, I would’ve been as lost as your mother when I found her.”

            Lizzy’s gut went cold. She knew her mother’s secrets. She knew that Marie, when they’d still been in Kelowna, sometimes went to church on Sundays, in addition to Sabbaths. That she sometimes bought and ate ham and cheese sandwiches from the Zellers restaurant. That she drank real coffee when she could get it, and didn’t really believe that the Catholic Pope was the Beast from the book of Revelations.

            “Thank you,” Lizzy said, already certain what she’d find. “Should I open it?”

            “If you want to.”

            Unlike What Seventh-day Adventists Believe, Messages to Young People, written by Ellen G. White herself, wasn’t required reading before baptism.

            “While you remain in listless indifference, how can you tell what is the will of God concerning you? and how do you expect to be saved…” Lizzy quoted after she’d removed the wrapping paper and the book fell open to an underlined passage on a well-worn page. She closed the cover and felt every bit as listless as Ellen G. White had just accused her of being.

            In less than an hour, she’d be getting baptized. For now, though, she was still hungry, and while God’s word was supposed to be the bread of life, reading it had done nothing to fill her up.

            Looking around them, Lizzy counted the few other cars that were parked here and there around the lot.

            “There’s hardly anyone here yet,” Lizzy said, thinking how easy it would be to just drive away.

            “Don’t worry,” Daniel said, and patted Lizzy on the shoulder. “Soon it will be full.”

Darcie Friesen Hossack is the Commonwealth Prize-shortlisted, Danuta Gleed runner-up author of the short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance (Thistledown Press). The litter sent to her for this project inspired a chapter in her forthcoming novel, What Looks In. Darcie is the managing editor of WordCity Monthly, a global online journal for literary activism. 


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“At the end of the dance, candies are flung into the circle for the children to gather.”