Published May 2018
Nicole Haldoupis & Stephanie McKechnie
We usually experience disruption (not to be confused with welcome distraction) as a derailment, an unsettling in our day to day. Disruption gets under our skin.
The pieces in this issue explore various types of disruption in many of their manifestations, including welcome disruption that jars us into thinking more deeply about things we take for granted.
“Quietly Unheard: A How-to Guide” disrupts our notions of birth and becoming a mother as a pure and beautiful experience, and reveals how animalistic and unforgiving it can be. “Magical Boy Manifesto” explores queerness and belonging through myth and gods, revealing different layers of meaning and understandings of identity. Anna Maxymiw’s poem, “Maleficium,” turns violence into pleasure, while Dave Margoshes’ poem disrupts our idea of “Valentine’s Day” as a day of love by revealing the kind of saint “Young Val” was.
Karen Mulhallen’s poem, “Pikangikum, Then and Now,” disturbs positive ideas of Canada and Ontario by spotlighting the injustice, violence, and racism that plagues our country.
“Communion” seems at first to be about a religious spiritual ceremony, but is actually about a different kind of loss of innocence. “Daughters” illustrates an interruption of childhood — how violence against women results in girls learning too early that this violence is our fault.
Let the pieces in this issue interfere with the way you interact with the subject matter, and let yourself dig in and question why it is they need a disturbance.
Every Good Boy (excerpt)
Once, at the peak of his fame, Felix received a letter from a fan including pictures of an elaborate shrine constructed in a laundry room.
“John Lennon was shot by a crazed fan,” she told him as they had breakfast. Clare ate a bowl of oatmeal while Felix took his Advil with a mug of hot water. The mug was white and chipped and read J’AIME MONTREAL in ugly, red block letters. It was his favorite mug and he often drank red wine from it on those rare nights when he wasn’t performing, even though they had a perfectly good set of wine glasses imported from France.
“You’re so macabre, Clare,” Felix said. He was shirtless at the kitchen table and his ribs stuck out in pale ridges. “It’s just another fucked-up fan trying to get attention.” He smiled into his mug as if the shrine in the laundry room was as endearing as the mobs of teenage girls who burst into tears when he stepped onstage.
Ever since his singing voice started deteriorating he had taken to making flat statements about Clare’s flaws, often in public. At the after party for a Quebec music festival, he called Clare “lifeless” in front of several prolific musicians and promoters. One of them, an older woman with a shaved head, gave Clare a sympathetic look, but the others smiled politely and looked elsewhere as if witnessing an affectionate exchange between two lovers.
Clare spends more time alone in their apartment. Felix is not often home, sometimes stumbles into the dark apartment at 7AM with a dusting of snow on his shoulders and a dusting of cocaine under his nose.
She asks, “Have you written any songs lately?”
He says, without looking at her: “We’re just playing the hits for now.”
Clare’s students want her to bring in Felix as a show-and-tell. Many of them are too young to listen to Felix’s music, nine- and ten-year-olds enamored with the idea of a famous person within reach. Clare tells the students that he is too busy. Really, she can’t bear to disappoint them, to shatter the illusion of Felix’s godliness by presenting them an unshaven, dead-eyed ghost whose voice no longer inspires an entire audience to fall reverently silent. Clare tells her students that if they practice their scales and learn their choir repertoires then maybe Felix will sing with them at the next school concert. She knows he will not come, but the children will sing wonderfully.
She conducts private lessons outside her job at the school, even though she and Felix don’t need the money. She is soothed by the innocence of these students, how shapeless and mysterious music is for them. She never gets tired of teaching the sweet little rhymes that help children remember the notes: All Cows Eat Grass. Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. They fumble for the right notes. They struggle to remember the simple rhymes.
“Every good boy deserves fudge,” she reminds them, patiently.
And some will ask, smiling, “Do I deserve it?”
Advice to a young poet
“Feelings are not poems… poems are not papers
delivered at conferences… picnics and paintings
are not poems”
– John Yau, “In the Kingdom of Poetry”
The rules are simple:
don’t write about the banal.
The quotidian is tempting
but what quotidian is not banal?
Don’t write about the miraculous
for that is the province of theology,
What then is left?
Everything that falls between the banal
and the miraculous
and that is everything.
Start with pain and wonder
and all their causes and consequences.
You may never have to go farther.
Rembrandt’s Etchings (excerpt)
Amsterdam in December is cold, but not cold like the Bruce Peninsula, the crooked finger of limestone between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, where I am from and where they are having a record snowfall. My mother posts pictures on Facebook: drifts mushroomed on car roofs, the buried backyard, and the top of my father’s toque, a barely visible brown crescent of wool behind a snow bank. In some of the pictures, she has been carried away by the event — “a once in a generation storm!!!” she writes in a caption — and she has allowed herself a rare artistic liberty. These aren’t practical shots of recognizable objects she can point to in the future and say, “See, the snow came up to the handle of the front door, to the eaves of the gazebo. It buried the shed.” These are abstract compositions of white and grey under ice-blue slabs of sky, shots of the undulating, half-recognizable geographies of winter, of lines of snow combed off the lips of drifts. In the images, the lines blur, curl and dissolve into frills and delicate arabesques of dust, but I remember how the wind cuts. I remember walking backwards into it, and my body remembers how it hunched protectively around its heat.
There, the cold is dry and hurts. Here, it is damp and numbing. Dishwater-grey clouds hang over the city; a low, drab ceiling during the day and a pale haze at night. Sometimes, they drop a fine rain that stays in the air and gives it texture and density. A layer of pinhead droplets collects on my clothes and dissolves into a clammy dampness. Other times, what falls is a heavy sleet. Flakes too soggy to be snow fill the streets with slush. The temperature hovers close to zero but never freezes, and, because it never freezes, everything is wet. Bricks are darkened with water, the cobblestones are slick, and my shoes are perpetually sodden. My pant legs wick water almost to my knees. My coat is saturated in the evening and still damp in the morning when I hang it to dry. Moisture penetrates and soaks through everything: it gets in and under and close to the skin.
I inherited bad circulation in my fingers from my mother and Amsterdam’s damp cold turns them a buttery white. I can move them, but I can’t feel them or what they are holding. In cafes, a coffee comes with an individual cookie in a wrapper. I order the coffee for the heat of the porcelain cup, and fumble with the plastic foil on the cookie. The city is like that; something I can pick up, but can’t feel.
~ after Lakeshore, Early Spring, 1987 by Ted Godwin, MacKenzie Art Gallery
The lure of the imagination calls, mythic
ripples of greens and blues. We wonder —
not which is real, the image or the reflection,
but which matters most,
the trance or the awakening? The dream world
or the stone-set shores of reason?
What we cannot see, magnified
by the artist’s hands, trees transforming
into an aquatic borealis,
lapis sliding seamlessly into jade.
The clarion of the feral, our inner wild
and our external, shimmer
like a dream we may not quite remember
but desperately wish to return to.
Small Bribes (excerpt)
In Jasmira’s dream, a current drags her along the ocean floor. Her skin rubs against sand and broken shells. She feels the curve of a glass bottle, the bones of a shark, the joint of a boat.
She wakes up and tries to brush salt from her skin. But Jasmira’s skin is smooth, and she is wound up in dry sheets. She looks at the low, white walls of the house she first saw yesterday morning, after 28 hours of flights and the slow border queues reserved for people with her kind of passport. In the room down the hallway she signed a one-page lease stipulating that she could not horde weapons and paid the landlord in cash, three months rent up front.
Early dawn lights the house; the last of the moon and the first of the sun. She can hear small waves through the window. Not like the Arabian Sea, not like the Pacific Ocean. The Mediterranean is calm and filled with new death. Why else would she be here?
The office is in a dry zone. The taxi driver tells her this, hesitating as he regards her in the rearview mirror. When she flagged him down he spoke in Arabic until she gave him directions in her old-fashioned French, cemented in the wrong era by the subtitled Truffaut films she had watched at university, hoping they would make her sophisticated.
Jasmira watches the road. People drive badly but she’s seen worse, worse as well than the children who walk around cars that stop at the lights, with baskets of jasmine for sale. These ones have four limbs each, two eyes and two ears. The driver watches her give her half-finished bottle of water to a boy who taps at the window.
‘You are from which land?’
‘No, India. I’m from Delhi.’
‘You are here with the Indian embassy?’
Her phone is beeping. It’s Harris; he wants to know if she’s nearby.
‘Excuse me, are we near?’ she asks the driver.
‘Insha’Allah ten minutes.’
10mins, she types. Her thumb slips on the glass screen and her own face appears in the camera. Despite the sleeping pill that knocked her out for nearly twelve hours, her eyes are swollen and dark, and her lips are pale. She wonders if it’s impolite to put lipstick on in a car in front of a strange man then remembers that all her make-up was confiscated in Doha, or Frankfurt. She can’t remember which.
‘India,’ says the driver. ‘You have rich people? Travel is…’ he rubs his fingers together.
‘We have a lot of people. Rich, poor, and in-between.’
‘I’m a lawyer.’
The man nods, slowly.
Jasmira leans back and turns away from the sun that pierces the window to her left. To her right, three men in a car catch her eye and shout something inaudible. One rises and rubs his penis against the glass while the other two laugh. The driver turns the radio up.
Headed for Tilt Cove, the Queen of Swansea
got caught in the breakers and smashed up on
the rocks of Gull Island.
The crew drew straws, and the lot fell to a girl
in the party, whose brother immediately
volunteered to take her place.
He was the lucky one, it turned out.
The others struck down slowly by thirst,
hunger, and exposure. They’d no wood for fire
so no choice but to eat the flesh raw.
Contributors in this issue: Danielle Altrogge, Alexander Castro, Meaghan Hackinen, dee Hobsbawn-Smith, Evan J, Hannah Leadley, Dave Margoshes, Anna Maxymiw, Karen Mulhallen, Kim Murray, mwpm, Alda Nazarko, Cira Nickel, Issie Patterson, Geoff Pevlin, Aaron Schneider, Marie Metaphor Specht, Joseph Andre Thomas, Priscila Uppal, Miriam Vaswani, Nicola Winstanley. Artwork by Nimra Bandukwala