Two Poems

Release the Drones


It is in loving memory and with deep regret that we request the honour of your presence. (Please note that even stateside jurisdictions must deploy the anglicized “honour” because of its formal “feel.” This decision, being executive, is not negotiable. We appreciate your slavish cooperation.)

→  That’s the kind of day it was.

We regret to inform you it’s our pleasure to announce the music might stand in the way. Motor expired when the temperature peaked? No worries, valued customer: hitch your wrists to our new delivery drone.

→  And now, this.

The fact in dispute is not that her trepidation preceded her, sending ripples into the room, detected even by the least intuitive but rather, as shown in subsection 12 and also in the carbon copy, the horses’ breath hovered like levitating gauze.

→  Which drew from the crowd a smattering of mmms.

It’s not so much the Word as wielder’s whip; it’s more a distaste for the sound of skull on marble floor when legs and neck have given out. Doesn’t will do wonders for the latticework of muscles? Is the body not a fact?

→  But first, a warning: some of the images in this item are graphic in nature.

Okay, so I spoke like a funeral home. And then I said the music might stand in the way, and recommended more “sophisticated” transport. Then we were buffeted contrarily by legalese and something flowery. Lastly I said some shit on bodily fact and will.

→  The bits between, we may assume, were snark.

Hell, bro, you might think, so much for straight goods. You’re right. It’s not my scene. I feel a little lost here, friends, I’m sort of straining at the neck, and round my brow I’ve got this strap for tugging someone else’s load. Your fear is not naive: an artery could pop.

But my breath, when I stop to exhale, floats around me in shimmering layers, the bandages of Lazarus, perhaps, unravelling in the cold... 

→  I hope my surgeon, when the time comes, knows full well

      the facts of which a body is composed.

Exterminator (Poem Resorted by Alphabet, #3)

All I wanted to tell you is they found a growth But why must you always bring up my failure Carrying secrets that would scandalize the pure Each insect rustling in the drywall Every atom of your house is toxic In the hollow under my one good eye In thirty days you will be free of pests Takes its little portion of the poison That one damn time to “Like” your stupid post That ought to satisfy you That shouldn’t be there, germinating The chemicals have done their trick


Peter Norman has published one novel (Emberton) and four poetry collections, most recently Some of Us and Most of You Are Dead (Buckrider Books, 2018); you can learn more about his stuff at peternorman.ca.

Gri Kurt

Gray pup, eager for the schoolchildren—the ones who leave clouds of hot breath on the glass, and not the sticky hands which pound for her attention. She chases them along the barrier, practicing her squeak of a howl, before noticing their smirks. They expect her to act this way; the sign fails to mention she was born here, too. She never saw Turkey, but finds its presence in her father’s sulk, his endless slumber in a pretend cave. She mimics him, rolling around on imported grass which reeks of elsewhere. The children bore her now, but there is a man with silver hair, who bends a knee to look at her through the glass. He laughs as her claws scratch for his pink fingers, dancing on the other side; he does not know that they bleed at night, that licking the wounds is the only way to heal them.


Özten Paul is a two-spirit writer from Winnipeg (Treaty 1), with obvious daddy issues.

Two Stories

The Sophomore Philosophy Club

It was supposed to be role-play night for the Sophomore Philosophy Club, but it went south very quickly. Schopenhauer had gotten the whole thing off to a bad start by asking Heidegger for twenty dollars, which Heidegger obliged because it suited his theory of linguistic interrogation, thinking that, at last, the old question of Schopenhauer’s coin on the tavern table would be put to rest because he’d have to pay up. But Schopenhauer shoved the bill in his mouth, and Hume argued that Schopenhauer didn’t know where the bill had been, or who had handled it, and the whole business was uncertain, if not questionable ad extremis. Besides, shoving money in one’s mouth was disgusting.

Spinoza who had been watching everything through a large magnifying glass he’d brought with him as a useless prop for the evening said: “Well, that’s the last you’re going to see of that twenty.” 

And then turned to Schopenhauer and said: “You’re an idiot, you should have asked for a brownie or a sunburn,” meaning, according to Berkeley who hastened to explain that a sunburn was a fifty and a brownie was a hundred, that all the money in the world was actually inside him and he just had to find it for himself. 

But Heidegger didn’t get the connection between the slang term for large denomination Canadian bills and thought that Spinoza was telling him to eat shit, and that’s when the fight began.

Heidegger lunged at Hume, but Hume stepped out of the way because he understood the fundamentals of human nature and saw the anger coming, but in doing so tripped over Plato and spilled Nietzsche’s beer. Nietzsche, Hume was certain, threw the first punch, but it was Russell who took it on the chin as Plato tried to dodge the fray and fell backwards into Anselm. Anselm knew there might be trouble as he’d had an a priori premonition that philosophy could get out of hand, even at the undergraduate level, and pulled a hammer out of his backpack, screamed “God!” at the top of his lungs, whirled around, and caught Nietzsche in the side of the head which made him cross-eyed for a second, just like the real Nietzsche who appears on page 365 in Understanding Philosophy by Hunter and Hoote. At this point, Nietzsche, covered in blood and beer, staggered forward with his fists flailing and took out Plato who fell squarely into Socrates who was sitting there asking: “What the fuck’s going on?”

The two Greeks fell to the floor – Aristotle had known enough to retreat to a safe corner in the room where he could get a better definition of what was happening. Socrates fell on Nietzsche’s glass and opened up a huge wound in his hand. He stood up, looking at the blood, and said: “Why am I bleeding?” Hume and I (I’m Leibniz) looked at him and said: “Know thyself.” To which Hume added: “The unexamined hand is not worth shaking.” And we decided to get the hell out of there. Nietzsche was heard hollering at Aristotle: “I’m going to make a tragedy out of you,” as we headed down the hall on our get-away.

A little guy, who was supposed to be Machiavelli but who was late for the real-politick of the evening, met us on the stairs. He was lugging a two-four, and I said: “This is the best of all possible worlds.” And Hume said: “That’s cheating, you’re parodying yourself.” 

And I said: “Well, hell, why not? There’s more beer there than we can put back in an hour.” So the three of us headed off to the park down the street from the dorm.

Machiavelli, Hume and I were joined under a large maple tree by Aquinas who had gotten out via the fire escape. “You know,” Thom said philosophically, “I can’t make any order out of what’s going on in there.”

Hume took a long chug of beer. “It is human nature,” he said. “Just human nature.”

“No, I beg to differ. I think it is perfect. It is the expression of the monads that govern the universe, the beauty that makes each leaf on every tree a work of mathematical perfection. Beer is also mathematical perfection.” We clinked our bottles.

We sat for the next several hours beneath that maple tree. A soft breeze was blowing under the leaves and rustling them in the night. The campus police were busy breaking up the Sophomore Philosophy Club in the dorm … the entire fourth floor had become engaged, engineers battling with psychologists, battling with historians, and so on.

After a long silence, Thom said with a sigh: “You know, that’s what’s fucked up the Western mind. There’s no fucking arguing with the world but that’s what all this philosophy bullshit is about. I’m switching my major next term to literature. At least by the time I get to the last page of a novel I’ll know how it ends, and there’s always that blank page after the final one. That scares the shit out of me, but it makes a pretty profound statement. I always draw a sunset on it, and a cowboy with his back to me, just to ease my anxieties.”

And as he said that, I pictured cowboys riding off into the postcard perfect sunset with silhouettes of mesas rising around them in the afterglow like the last scene in the Magnificent Seven, and considered how we might have saved the village if we’d given it some thought.

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LAY IT LIKE IT IS

This is the ballad of a broken heart. 

Your voice is frozen in time and you’ve been singing the wrong note for a dozen years. 

Where does the anxiety of losing what you can never have come from? You think you have fallen. But you cannot tell if your heart is really singing, or just drowning in nostalgia. 

You can’t control the shape in which the objects of the moments imprinted upon your unconscious are distilled.

***

His mouth. You think of earlier, when you were sitting across one another in the sushi restaurant he’s obsessed with. You wonder if he’ll ever get sick of it. He takes your hand in his on noticing the hard mounds of flesh on your ring and middle finger. Callouses. The time sways slowly. What was it again that Leonard said? There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. Of course you don’t think he’s perfectly pure. Nothing is. Nothing is exactly anything. But can’t we pretend? He tells you to dismantle the binaries; pure-impure, perfect-imperfect, virtuous-wicked. You feel something inside of you shudder. That old familiar feeling of being told how to be because what you are isn’t good enough. You feel like shattering the glass in your hand on the floor, taking one of the shards and drawing blood to show him right then and there that you have a heart and it’s already breaking. 

***

Now when you walk up the street in the direction of home you smell smoke from the wood burning oven at La Palma. The smoke embalms the street with a scent that brings to mind a place quite unlike it, with the limbs of its trees decapitated, grappling for something its crooked arms cannot contract around. Your mind wanders. The smoke continues to burn, unable to be seen. You feel a spasm in your left shoulder and think about the woman that was on your bus earlier, how she started talking to herself and shrugging her shoulder up to her ear over and over.

***

Did you know that our planet is one of billions within the galaxy? Did you know that our solar system is part of an even greater system, located in a very particular point of the Milky Way, so that life on Earth subsists as this amalgamation of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and whatever else? Did you know that right now we’re floating in space amongst so many other round balls of rock and gas and slush, but it doesn’t seem that way because of how thick the atmosphere is, and because at the core of the Earth is a special substance which protects it from solar showers and dangerous pellets of fire. When you look up at the sky you are only seeing fragments of something that will never cease to expand.

***

We all want to come undone at some point, but only when we’re good and ready. Sometimes a lifetime isn’t long enough. Sometimes we grow impatient. You have been so recklessly impatient. Where might you be otherwise?

***

On the precipice of a memory somewhere is a dimension that is neither here nor there, neither then nor now. No man’s land. And what belongs in this patch of timelessness? Discarded thoughts. Moments where you know the what but not the when. Brown eyes. Clouds shaped like frogs. Green lilac parks. A bunch of parts with nothing to belong to because you forgot. 


Juliann Garisto studies English at the University of Toronto; she is currently reading collections of poetry by Jim Morrison and memorizing the international phonetic alphabet.

language is a prison

they entombed god in paper, in the books of men who hated the world, hated the dripping honey of the thigh and all shapeless things and who, in exhaustion, netted it all in excessive reason.

man stood before man, divided by a screen of words like frosted glass.

the pedants saw this and adored it, and so they continued to assault the world with their words, mummifying it until words were all that were left, pallid and inadequate, an empty blossom of paper, beneath which persists mute breath and drinks and smoke that shreds this ever-regenerating origami, laughing in the tatters.


Adam Zivo is a conglomerate of anxiety and faux self-abandonment.

167 Unique Instances of Having Lived Together II

As soon as I saw you, I knew we had known each other for ten thousand years. I quickly scribbled down Greek letters, Arabic numerals, and Latin presuppositions, and calculated that we had lived 167 lives together, some of them minutes long, others a lifetime. As I spend time with you more and more flash into my mind in no order - I have begun writing them down in hopes it will tell me more about the 168th life I am in now, to make this the longest and sweetest of them all.

7. Collecting amber on Koenigsberg shores, my bones begged me to get out of that icy water, and my eyes cheated me. You caught me before my head fell under and told me to sleep; when I woke up I was in a warmer place with your hands in my hair. The amber bought us the time and the carriages we’d need to leave that sea behind and find warmer shores.

19. On a local train cutting through rock and rivers, we sat across to each other as strangers and barely said a word. On the layover in Naples I saw you sitting at my favourite spot on the pier and sat next to you, and we spoke about the varieties of exile. You told me you were getting off at Florence; I threw my transfer pass to Bolzano out of the train window that night.

25. Every day at 4 in the afternoon, you would buy four lemons at the fruit stand I ran since my father died. For the first time in that life I suddenly thought of running a fruit stand as a great career choice and wondered how long it would take to build a lemonade stand, and how to ask you if you’d like to run it next to mine.

34. I ran out of the bar at the same time you ran out of the cafe. Even through the rain, we both knew what had happened to the other. I ran across the traffic and down to you in a coat that nearly swallowed me up to tell you my name, but just ended up saying “I want to tell you everything”. You told me I could, and we walked through the rain and the snow to your favourite bookstore.

51. We both ran out of money and decided to work in the alps over the winter as funicular operators. You ran the car opposite to mine and I could only steal your glance for seconds every half-hour. Stuck on that miserable mountain during snowstorms, we planned and planned and decided to jam the cars parallel to one another to hold hands across the drop.

91. Resting under shade from walnut trees, we compared notes from the workshop on caring for small-scale farms; it took only 10 minutes before you fell asleep on my shoulder. I did not want to wake you after the long day, so I spent my time counting birds until the sky turned purple and carried you home, thinking about tomorrow and about the ladders we’d have to build.

118. Labouring under the weight of heavy shadows and gnarled roots, we started our days with black tea, and heard the artillery batteries’ din echo in the valley. A small radio told us where the front was, and every inch it staggered away from us, the weight lifted and we could breathe again. You wondered if anyone would be back to work on the farms that had been left behind.


Jon Babi is happy to see you again.

In the Morning

The tooth fairy collects my wisdom teeth during a drug-induced sleep. Now I am only allowed to eat pureed beets with a rubber spoon. I vomit in red and eat through the walls of my bedroom. Break my teeth on my down duvet. Catch up on swim club anime Mid-race Haruka makes me cry, Oxycodone type of high. my ceiling breathes with me, through one nostril, the other is plugged with pus, and mucus, fills my cheekbone, behind my eye My mouth sticks dry, tongue tastes my own blood In the graves where my teeth once stood.


Mahaila Smith found a piece of horse mandible, teeth included: they were much bigger than her own.

Wholesale Baggage

I wanted to give you the full package. I had so much to offer. But all you wanted was a quick taste. I was worth nothing more. Just a fleeting experience. And then you were gone. As quick as you came.

I should have known. I thought this time would be different. I hoped you were different.

Talking to me. Pretending to act interested. Pretending to care.

But it wasn’t different. It was more of the same.

Now, you just move along. And I’m left waiting here. Amongst the refuse you leave behind. A constant reminder. Waiting for it to all happen again.

It is hard. It is my life. I am the Costco Free Sample Employee.


Fredrick Martyn is a medical student, humour writer and poet originally from Toronto.

SHELTER

Your first thought was probably, How do homeless people use an app?

Or you wanted to blurt out, How does a homeless person afford a smartphone?

Ha ha. You know, we get that question every time we pitch investors. And the truth is, folks, housing costs have been rising exponentially. Especially since the sea took so much real estate. New York flooded. Boston is gone. Vancouver had that big quake. They’re still excavating where some of those buildings fell. Here in Toronto we don’t see as many refugees from the California fires, but out west that certainly injects adrenalin into the market. Boy.

I personally asked one of our users, Earflap Jack. He’s been sleeping out longer than Pom-pom Jack and No-hat Jack, but not as long as Ball-cap Jack. Before our app he was sleeping in a lean-to built from stones and tarps, under the bridge where the Queensway crosses the Humber. You’ll like this. Earflap Jack told me, “I didn’t plan on being homeless.”

You can see him in this little video we cut to illustrate how the app works. Those two guys plinking up the emergency stairwell at Avenue and Bloor. He’s the shorter one. Looks like they found a unit unoccupied for the night. See the relief on their faces, like water on parched soil. Before using the app, Ball-cap Jack told us he hasn’t felt safe one night since they stopped making cars in Oshawa and he lost the house. We asked Earflap Jack, but he just shook his head. “Never,” he said. “I never felt safe.” Not in any of the foster homes. Not in the low basement bachelor he shared with the trumpet player when he first got to the city. We can only guarantee single nights, but if there’s more data, SQUAT offers users the probability of a unit being available a few nights in a row. If we know the owners are in Ibiza, or Rio.

This next clip is one of our Cindys. In Ultra HD you could see that’s Denim Jacket Cindy; I apologize for this hazy little screen. In user interviews we spoke to Duffel Coat Cindy, Leather Jacket Cindy, Peacoat Cindy, and Cardigan Cindy. You may be thinking, Doesn’t Cardigan Cindy also wear a Denim Jacket? She hasn’t been doing sex work as long. Duffel Coat Cindy also teaches grade six at Charles III Public School: you must know how hard it is to justify wage increases for something that brings no return for investors.

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