Launched December 2020
Elena Bentley and Stephanie McKechnie
It’s 2021. Who knew that in the year since our last issue found its way into your hands, we’d find ourselves still navigating daily life in a pandemic? We didn’t (or, we hoped we wouldn’t be). In these uncertain times, we often reach for the familiar. For things we already know. Things that help us quell, quiet, or cope with the sense of instability brought on by our changing world. Things that create a comfortable routine. But sometimes, a little variety really is “the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.”
This issue is a gift to you, our readers. For those who feel stuck, or trapped, running on the never-ending CoVid hamster wheel, we offer a break from your regular reading tastes. Perhaps you might find a piece to chew on that teases your literary palate in new and exciting ways. Issue 6.1 is all about variety, and our aim was to prepare a truly varied and flavourful reading experience.
So, what’s on the menu? Try the poetry, for example. No two poems are alike in shape or form. Maybe you’ve been wanting to try some microfiction. Or, maybe you want to indulge in longer fiction to satisfy your prose tastes. If it’s the artwork you’re after, Selina Wamsley’s wonderfully weird and highly affective images and stop-motion stills will definitely un/settle your body-mind.
On the topic of change, you may also have noticed some new names on the untethered masthead. We want to thank Molly Desson for contributing time and effort to the layout and design, as well as our dedicated first readers, copyeditors, and proofreaders. Untethered has grown, and continues to grow, beyond what our founders imagined the magazine could be. And our volunteer team is what makes it possible.
May you find yourself stuffed and satiated and newly energized by the variety of work in this issue.
Stephanie and Elena
Here is a lake you can swim all the way across. At its deepest seven feet, warm like bath water. Hold loonies in a sandwich bag aloft, sandy towel left on the man-made shore, doggy paddle to the snack bar. Halfway through, you’ll think, what if I don’t make it, but of course you will. This is what your life is like—the only option is to continue. Every step in any direction, any one-armed doggy paddle earns the tri-toned Rocket Pop in the end. Walk the circumference back, in the foamy pissy tide. The popsicle tastes like Red until it doesn’t. You’ll be thirteen in four months: what left will you have to covet then? Here they found a man dead last month. Rumours will say he couldn’t swim. Your sister insists she almost drowned one time because no one was watching. What you wouldn’t give to have nobody watching. She says, I went too far out. Her life is not like yours. Mom says it was a heart attack, too many Rocket Pops. It’s the first year you’ve got stretch marks, scars down your thighs like peeled-off Elmer’s glue. Mom buys you Bermuda shorts while your friends wear Daisy Dukes, says I thought it’s what you wanted, buys you a one-piece, racer-style Speedo like another word for shapewear. Shapewear another word for disappointment. When you’re twenty-one she’ll hand-me-down Spanx, say, you’ll look better in those fancy little dresses you buy. Maybe she covets your freedom, body- possibility, Rocket Pops. Let yourself burn in the heat, throw away the Rocket Pop half-eaten, just barely down to the white, float out on sun-tea water, drink undrinkable cayenne bloat-be-gone lemonade, so even your insides are hot. Cross legs to hide gluey scars, pretend no one is watching, slip beneath the water only seven feet deep.
The Rushes Dried
The skeleton forcing its way to the surface, skin slumped between gristle; the hardened roots of a mangrove tree exposed drained of black sap, as piss pooled in a mere, limp bag hung off the side of his bed: the last waters of the body are brackish and slow and nothing about that ebb and slack of his desiccation, his dying shocked me. I suppose this is gentler than any drought: he didn’t struggle to grasp at bats or suck to sand the mud as if behind his roseate oyster eyes he saw no other oasis to bother stumbling towards.
every appointment was a prayer the healing came / quick biweekly appointments in the Danforth from where I lay / on the bed it was hard / to say each time where this doctor’s hands had gone / to uncharted waters below the belly he told me loving was learning / how to float far from the shallows pelvis pitched above the water- / line I learned to float the way a marionette learns to submit to its / god I thought there would be an ease to loving with the body / laid flat the lips sliding open at the first consultation / doctor teaches me the body is a lung / some places still need to breathe the pelvis / hung midair the sting of strings spreading / the body halved at the groin the falling / and rising of the chest at his command / what is this body if the cunt can’t keep / me suspended she’s got one hand on my stomach one / at the pubic bone legs bare this doctor feels / around finds the tension at the slit says it’s about time / we give these muscles a name / to let go of the hand that’s got you strung up learn to breathe back to grounding
The Concept of Ownership
Chapter 1 Hubbard enters his house to find a thief rummaging through his fridge. Hubbard slams the front door. The thief is startled. He looks at Hubbard, a cold turkey leg halfway to his mouth. “What are you doing here?” asks the thief. “This is my house,” says Hubbard. “What are you doing here?” “You’re meant to be at work.” Hubbard suddenly realizes where all his crackers and cheese have been going. Chapter 2 “We may as well sit down and talk about this,” says Hubbard. “No need to call the cops if you’re willing to have a civilized discussion.” “Will I make us a cuppa tea?” says the thief. Hubbard considers. “Sure. I guess.” The thief takes a Ziploc of teabags from his jeans pocket. "Are those my teabags?” says Hubbard. “The concept of ownership is fraught,” says the thief. “, well did you take those teabags from my cupboard?” “Your cupboard?” says the thief. “I mean. Yeah. I suppose you could say that.” “Fair enough,” says Hubbard. The thief skips around the kitchen like a lamp-lighter. Gallops the kettle, lays out two mugs, a spoon, and the carton of soy milk like he’d been here a hundred times. “You know your way around my kitchen.” “My, my, my” says the thief. “You love that word.” Chapter 3 They’re sitting in the front room, mugs of hot tea in their hands. “And the peanut butter?” asks Hubbard. “Yeah, definitely me,” says the thief. “The soy milk?” “Loves it.” “You’ve been doubling my grocery bill.” “Listen, I’ve got to use the bathroom.” “Down the hall, to the—“ “I knows where it’s to.” "Oh, of course.” After minutes, Hubbard goes to check on the thief. “You alright in there?” Silence. He tries the knob. The door is unlocked. The window is open and the curtain is faffering in the wind, just like you’d see in the movies when someone has slipped out to escape a wedding. Or assassination. Hubbard looks at himself in the mirror. Leans in close. His nose is riddled with blackheads. He squeezes a few out between his fingers. He looks down at the counter. The three pack of Colgate he bought just yesterday at Wal-Mart—gone. A Post-It note stuck to the counter where it once lay: Ours. “Our toothpaste,” says Hubbard. “The bastard stole our toothpaste."
This issue includes new work by: Sacha Archer, Michelle Poirier Brown, Charmaine Cadeau, Katie Cameron, Conyer Clayton, Clay Everest, Jennifer Falkner, Hollay Ghadery, Tolmie Greaves, natalie hanna, Elizabeth Harrison, Sarah Hilton, Alyson Hoy, Hana Mason, A. A. Parr, Geoff Pevlin, Anna Ralph, Jessica Anne Robinson, Sinead Mary Ryan, Andrew J. Simpson, Allison Whittenberg, and Sara Wilson.
Artwork by Selina Wamsley.