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Pest

by Jakub Racek

“I wanted to throw my coffee in his face.”

His eyes don’t blink. He accepts the violence in her frustration.

“How could anyone say a thing like that? I was only following orders.”

The cat jumps out of her lap, its movement muted by its calloused paws.

“People are assholes.”

He rubs her back as they sit silently on the couch before he whispers into her ear. His words are too soft, inaudible from my position. A playful grin rises from the corner of her mouth—my best guess: a seductive proposition. He shows his support with the emotional intelligence of an animal in heat. Resolution in the bedroom is how it always ends. They’ll be waking the neighbours in no time.

She licks her bottom lip but continues her tirade.

“One more scene like this and I’m done. I can’t work for someone whose power trips disregard all sense of reason. It’s abusive.”

The kettle rattles on the stovetop before he can respond. As he stands, the parquet floor resonates beneath me like shifting tectonic plates. He enters the kitchen and opens the tin of loose-leaf tea. The revolting scent of citrus fills the room before he scoops the leaves into her favourite mug, boldface: NEVER HALF-EMPTY.

“How’s your novel coming along?”

He changes the subject as if the tea has persuasive properties.

“It’s ok. Sort of a narrative mess though. It’s like I have one mouth with two voices. One of them has to go.”

He pours the honey in. A drop falls to the retro-tiled floor but he doesn’t wipe it—lucky me.

“Just try to put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Step outside yourself.”

He hands her the mug and the steam makes her face sweat. Flashbacks tickle my mind. That perspired face—the one she wears on the treadmill. Running from her problems as her surroundings remain the same. She sips the scalding liquid calmly; her lips likely numb from distracting thoughts.

“My therapist says I’m simply manifesting my conflicts with identity.”

She reaches down her shirt and scratches between her shoulder blades where her cardinal tattoo lies. I saw it the other day. The big red bird drowning in the shower.

“Do you agree with her?”

He lays his head across her lap in place of the cat.

“I see where she’s coming from. My mind is a mess these days.”

She runs her fingers through his freshly cut hair. She cut it in the bathroom yesterday. The discarded remains are still littered on the floor.

“It’s pretty clear to me—you’re a brilliant writer.”

She lowers her head and kisses him.

“You’re sweet.”

He places his hand on the back of her neck and pulls her closer. Such intimacy. How I long for it. The barren floor’s inanimate tactility lacks the warmth I desire—a warmth only produced by the presence of another. Will I ever step off this wretched surface and fulfil my carnal appetite?

I make my move.

“Silverfish!”

The rubber sole of death rains down upon me. Its dark shadow marks my bitter end—[squish].

 

Jakub Racek is a Slovak-born writer and musician raised in Ottawa. He holds an M.A. in Psychology from Carleton University and suffers from a self-diagnosed fiction addiction. He also releases indie-rock music under the name Pocket Writer. His work has appeared in The Steel Chisel and he is currently writing his first novel.

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Wise

by Alicia Lawrence

I used to see Wise, the one exception who dismantled locks, slipped through knots. He was like frozen sky made glaciers in reverse, waiting cold in deliberate eyes, stare like chiseled stone picked clean polished smooth, made to marble. He left no known to distract me, my aim to mark at hairline crack, expose hollow behind a wall, pinpoint how his eyes might shatter into light. Wise was both a tower tumbling and the flawlessness of the fall.

Since then, every passing day must have meant a gyprock chip, a fragment crumbling – like a note forgotten reread/misread misunderstood.

Wise is melting into everything. A magnifying glass held to the sun is a sniper’s line on him. While his breath is all the world, and there is no end to where he begins. Truth, I would do almost anything for him.

 

Alicia Marie Lawrence has poetry included in WOO, In/Words Magazine, Island Writer, Umbrella Factory, and ditch, among others. Her poetry was nominated for The Pushcart Prize. She received a Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Humber College.

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The Centipede.

by Clarissa Fortin

We meet in the kitchen at 2am.

I’m in my toothpaste-stained dressing gown.

You’re sporting 15 pairs of hair-slim legs.

I stare down your faceted eyes wondering what I look like from all those receptors. Like the hideous spawn of a worm and a porcupine?

Because that’s what you look like. You look like the writhing child of Satan: a yellow-grey nightmare on dainty little feet.

I knew from the moment I saw you that it was my sanity or your
life.

Maybe if you hadn’t brushed against my hand when you galloped up out of the drain, maybe if it wasn’t 2am maybe if I could find it in my soul to rationalize that you are a harmless creature, a spider, wasp, cockroach and bed bug devourer, a uniquely fascinating nocturnal hunter that grooms and mates and survives alongside me as a co-habitor on this earth, maybe if the way you exist wasn’t so deeply offensively disturbing to me personally maybe things would end differently.

“Who sent you?” I ask.

It’s 2am and I think I’m Robert Frost talking to a white spider on a white heal-all, I think I’m being decisive against “darkness to appall” sent from a cruel God when I pursue your speeding body across the counter and triumphantly slam the Tupperware container down trapping you underneath.

I weight it down with books knowing how your respiratory system works, how it cannot abide dehydration.

And that is it.

I leave you there. Scuttle back to my room.

Lay in the dark air and think of you circling disgustingly until you suffocate.

I twist in my sheets and I twist in my mind troubled to find it a sometimes-hostile place: hard as an uncaring God and ugly as a harmless centipede.

 

Clarissa Fortin is a lover of poetry, a hater of centipedes, a hair-dye enthusiast, and a future dead person.

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On First Looking at Rodin’s “Christ and Magdalene”

by Sjef Frenken

With thanks to Eric Jensen, SJ for giving me the idea.

In all the Roman churches, above the altar
He hangs, in classic style or crude
In a pose that doesn’t go against the senses
His privates covered; a respectful nude

It would not do to have Him hang there
On two crossed beams beneath sardonic name;
Naked, without a modest loincloth:
Crucifixion a lesser punishment than shame.

Rodin was there, those last few moments,
And fixed it in that cold stone pose
Saw Magdalene for love, divine or earthly;
Saw her, disciple there, shed all her clothes

And press her flesh against the one she loved
To cover His nakedness with her own
Perhaps to show the crowd of gawkers
That in the end He was not alone.

With Him forsaken by His Father, and rabble at His feet
She made her mystic gesture and laid claim
To be His desperate robe and shield,
And more than that, to share His shame.

Nailed through His hands to a slab of marble
The figures smooth; the stone cross rough
It would seem Rodin has left his work unfinished
But no, he’s done; he’s said more than enough.

3 October 2015

 

Sjef Frenken is a relatively contented retired civil servant who has been toying with musical notes and the written word since his teenage years, a very long time ago.

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The trees are still in the game

by Marie-Andree Auclair

inspired by http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/60220/?
with elements borrowed from the FAQ replies

 

I check words
like I visit familiar trees
dig up roots, rummage through foliage.
My eyes read unsolicited translations
re-mix letters in bird-words fleeting in the trees.

I looked up Verdant
verdoyer, a green awhirl around branches
dancing through leaves to the tune of the breeze
a familiar green until I am told
all that green grass
can kill my frame rate
slow my game but
I won’t lose the trees.

Says I need set a decent rig
my eyes on maxi-grass
pampas grass, blue grass, switchgrass,
maiden-grass, fescue and liriope
says to pick a moderate density
for optimal verdancy effects.
Repeat.
Too much grass will kill my frame rate
but the trees will still be in the game.

My distant trees show purple at night
I need a plug-in to mod the forest
switch max grass to mini
immerse myself in textured weather
un-bleak the dynamic snow
Trees are still in the game, green.

(next stanza)

My enblocal, in-block-all, end-black hole
isn’t accurate. Lucky me
damage is negligible, I’m safe enough
to raise my inner grass size to 50.

On my way rooting around Verdant
I met an interactive forest,
enhancement a mere 25 dollars.

 

Marie-Andrée Auclair’s poems have appeared in In/Words Magazine—who released her chapbook Contrails in 2013—The Steel Chisel, Bywords, filling Station, and other publications, including for 2016 Structo and Contemporary Verse 2. She writes in Ottawa, gathering poems for her next chapbook.

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Word-of-Mouth

by Alicia Haniford

They say there’s a witch in the woods.

They say some people stumble across her by accident, and some set out to look for her, and others search for years without coming across her little white-washed cottage perched precariously on the edge of its cliff, with the pounding of waves echoing around the sloped ceilings of its cramped attic—she’s that good.

They say she has three cats. Of course. It’s in the job description. Not black, though; two golden tabbies and an enormous Maine Coon, the size of a small Labrador according to some who’ve seen it sleeping on her porch, huge paws twitching and damp nose snuffling as it dreams. Some claim she just tamed one of the wild beasts that roams through the trees at night. She can do that sort of thing. They say she’s a proper witch, with the overgrown garden and the strange things in jars and the skulls (lots of skulls, mice and muskrats and frogs, just little things, strung up from the ceiling with bits of old fishing line, and when the wind rattles in through the windows their delicate jaws start to chatter). But she doesn’t have warts, which is disconcerting. Some say, diplomatically, that she’s rather pretty, in her own way; most agree she’s plain, even a little mousy. But she’s young, they say, and they say young with lowered voices and knowing looks so that you find yourself nodding along, your brows folding into an instinctive frown as you condemn her audacity.

They say you can go to her to make someone fall in love, which is common, or out of love, which is less so—typical storybook stuff. Or you can go to her for luck: good for you, good for your friends, bad (perhaps morbidly so) for your enemies. She can give you directions—back to old mistakes, ahead to half-formed dreams, or simply out of the woods and home to your own front door. You can go to her for curing your baby’s colic, or arranging mysterious accidents, or making sure people’s eyes skip over the patch of earth (roughly six feet by three) freshly dug at the foot of your garden.

For dulling a craving.

For changing your face.

For filling the dark pit that yawns, threatening to engulf you, whenever you close your eyes, or for calming the way your gaze catches and lingers on the scuffed-up black handles in the knife-block, your fingers twitching, your skin itching as you walk past.

And so on. There are many reasons.

They say she’ll do it all—if you’re willing to pay the price. Sometimes it’s a trifle: the first thing you pull out of your left-hand pocket. A homemade loaf of rye bread, or the unbroken sanddollar you found on the beach when you were eight years old and on holiday in the Virgin Islands, the one you’ve been keeping on your chest-of-drawers ever since (she knows, they say). Sometimes it’s more. The memory of your first kiss; the ecstatic contentment of seeing the sun sink over a calm lake. That sort of thing, notable only in the ache of its absence once she’s bottled it up and hidden it
away.

Sometimes the price is too much, or it should be. Your eyes. Or ten, twenty years—of what, she won’t tell you. Or… a child (she’s not picky; it doesn’t have to be the firstborn. She’ll take any less loved than the rest. Or so they say). They say she keeps a jar of stones, smoothed and rounded as quail-eggs, on her kitchen table—stones that seem to shift uneasily, of their own accord. Watch out, they say. If she picks up a stone to roll around in her delicate, sun-freckled fingers, it means she’s trying to steal your soul.

They say—

Well.

And where, in the midst of all their curlicues and fearful poetry, their wide eyed story-weaving, the cotton-candy haze of their romantic reveries—where is that single shining grain? Where is the sliver of quartz in the clouds of dust, dust with the sweetness of icing sugar yet dust nonetheless? Where is the truth?

They say there was a boy in the woods, the carpenter’s son. He went looking for her, they say, not from desperation but curiosity, for the sake of the challenge. See—here he comes through the trees in his torn jeans, his father’s axe slung over his broad shoulders (headstrong does not mean foolhardy). Here he stops, staring up at the cottage’s peeling whitewash. He shifts the axe over his shoulder. He knocks at the door.

Here is the witch serving him tea from her big black kettle. The boy’s lips twitch involuntarily at the first sip, but milk and honey disguise its bitterness. His gaze slides over the skulls, over the strange things in jars. Across the knife-scarred table he meets her eyes: one a muddy, unremarkable brown, the other cobwebbed and blind.

Look, see the satisfaction on his freckled face. This is all that makes her the witch. He’s pinned her down like a butterfly, pierced through the thorax in a velvet box.

“What would you like?” she asks.

“To know,” he says. He sips from his teacup again, grinning his crooked grin, and she smiles. Under the table, the weight of a stone presses into her palm.

The forest’s shadows stretch towards the cottage, spindly branches clutching at the walls until they pull it into darkness. Eventually a dishwater grey dawn creeps in the windows, and the floorboards creak as the witch clears two cups of cold tea from the table. The axe she takes out to the woodshed.

They say (and it may be that their authority is more genuine, more trustworthy, than the truth) that you should visit her if you’re brave, or desperate, or just lost in the woods. But you should be careful, because they say I’ll steal your soul.

 

Alicia Haniford currently lives and studies in Ottawa. She has three cats at home in London with her parents, and is fostering two more with her roommates in Ottawa. This is really all you need to know about her because it is all she ever talks about.

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Under Your Influence

by Avery Oldford

I get addicted to people. The old woman at the ticket booth who
called me beautiful, the lady I saw at the supermarket rubbing her
pregnant belly and carting around a two year old, you. I am
addicted to the thought of people. That man walking down the
street carrying a bouquet of flowers, my best friend who loves me
but never says it, you and I growing old together.
I’m still married to my past. His hand on the back of my neck, the
way he said my name, the spiral I went into when he left just like
those before him. Withdrawal.
Present – your smile, your fingers tracing my spine, the way you
haven’t gotten scared yet. I become dependent on people and then
they leave. I’m terrified to care again. I don’t know how to be with
you, without being under your influence. I don’t know how to love
you without getting addicted.

 

Avery Oldford is a first year English student at Carleton. She aspires to pursue a career in writing because there is nothing that she loves more than words.

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Vibrator Sestina

by Clarissa Fortin

I tell my sister I want a vibrator
“Me too,” she whispers. We cackle. The line
crackles with the spark of our ambition.
As quiet Catholic girls we once hoped
To be chaste and pure ‘till blessed marriage
Now we plot together for a grand sin.

No one ever told us “pleasure is sin.”
No one ever said, “sin looks like a vibrator.”
We learned instinctively from a marriage
Of weird shame and weirder saints.

A long line of blue robed girls,
Mary’s daughters hoped
To reach that mythical ambition.
Now we hope for a vibrator.
Because we heard Saint Teresa’s line
We know something “made her moan,” without marriage.

My mind wasn’t meant to wait for marriage.
But I never could act on my ambition
A bored girl at church singing a nice hymn line
About Solomon, unaware of her sinful
imagination run rampant – a vibrator
in her mind: not quite what the saints had hoped.

“How will we get it?” a repeating line
“Where will we get it?” We both really hope
to be cool. To say as we wear our sleeves on our sin:
“One vibrator please!”, as sure as marriage
and brave in our battery powered ambition

 

Clarissa Fortin is a lover of poetry, a hater of centipedes, a hair-dye
enthusiast, and a future dead person.

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three poems for Rudi Brocade

by Amanda Earl

(1)

I want to write under a pseudonym
named Rudi Brocade

Rudi doesn’t share what’s in their pants
with strangers their genders their

business on any given day they
move from lace collared pjs to plaid

dungarees & what the fuck
does that have to do with

gender anyway I don’t want
to misrepresent Rudi they have

a voice of their own seriously
they do. so I’m gentle here

I try to listen Rudi talks to me or they
sing I’d like to rock them in my arms

& reassure them that they needn’t be
afraid but I can’t. what do I know

about anything really this isn’t about
me so I’ll shut up I want to let Rudi

talk but first I have to listen
Rudi could be my child or my lover

don’t be disturbed they are neither
so quietly at first I have to

strain to hear their voice.
sometimes they’re in the mood

for long blonde hair or
short black spikes dangly

earrings boxer briefs
vintage punk tees

their blue eyes so often
full of tears the envy of oceans

there is no one like Rudi
but so many like Rudi

themselves & no other
not boxed in to some

fucking binary category
doesn’t it make you feel

claustrophobic to be trapped
by language like that

I take their cold hands in mine
Rudi is never warm enough

(2)

so yeah Rudi is a badass how
best to convey their toughness

in the face of fucking torture
in high school ignorant sadistic

kids who beat the shit
out of anyone who wouldn’t

baa with the masses I was
there when Rudi cried you

have to know anybody would
have but they did it in private

they covered their black eye
with make-up they didn’t

say a word to their father
that prick who would have

added to their beating had already
done so many times I cry for Rudi

I can’t deny that they used
from time to worst time hot

knifing on the stovetop red
rings of the element glowing tin

foil crinkled up into a ball after
Rudi on their side on the floor

curled up in the corner

(3)

someone should write
a whole fucking opera
about Rudi Brocade
about all the Rudi Brocades
I know it’s not enough anyway
I’m not up to the task it’s
not my place I’m helpless

Note:
Europe’s Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) project systematically
monitors, collects and analyses reports of homicides of trans people
worldwide. According to the project, there were 1,731 cases of
reported killings of trans and gender-diverse people from January
1st, 2008 to December 31st,, 2014.
http://www.transrespect-transphobia.org/

I wrote these thinking about empathy & appropriation of voice.
Where do we draw the line? How can a writer not write about what
troubles them? Are we not all the same, all humans & all
individuals who can’t bear to see each other suffer, who want to
celebrate our differences not destroy one another for them? Read
the real stuff here: http://hellopoetry.com/tag/genderfluid/

 

Amanda Earl is the author of “Kiki” (Chaudiere Books, Ottawa, 2014), and “Coming Together Presents Amanda Earl (Coming Together, New York, 2014). Her most recent chapbook is “A Book of Saints (above/ground press, 2015). Earl is the managing editor of Bywords.ca and the fallen angel of AngelHousePress.
Site: AmandaEarl.com