Winter 2020-21, Volume 41, No. 4
Our winter issue features the essay “Out of the Shadows” by Marilyn Bowering, as well as a tribute to the late Laurie Block by Bruce Sarbit! As well, new work by Margaret Sweatman, Gillian Sze, Roger Nash, Tawahum Bige & more!
Cover Image: “Marilyn Bowering” by Xan Shian
Table of Contents
Marilyn Bowering—Out of the Shadows
Louise Carson—Kindly burn
Anthony Purdy—Two Poems
J.H. Halpert—The Boiler
Małgosia Halliop—Two Poems
Bruce Sarbit—“Learning to Close with Love”
Laurie Block: An Appreciation
Margaret Sweatman—The Exclusion Principle
Frances Boyle—The whole tall world
Andy Weaver—Two Poems
Beth Goobie—Three Poems
Sarah Gilbert—Green Eyes
Jann Everard—Glimpses of Happiness
Gabriela Halas—god songs
Gillian Sze—Sitting Inside the Moon
Michael Goodfellow—Two Poems
Angela Rebrec—Moulting into New Feathers
Tawahum Bige—Three Poems
By Anji Samarasekera
Jacqueline Fuentes seeps around the door to Bree’s apartment, a poultice of tabla, sitar and soprano Gagan thought was the exclusive right of bad Indian restaurants. Light flickers with the shadow of waving scarves as Bree’s voice mounts the sitar, rides it like a dolphin. Gagan pushes open the apartment door and is unsurprised to find Bree in the middle of a pre-birthing ritual with two of her clients. A shirtless, top knotted man flosses a pregnant woman’s hips with a fringed rebozo as Bree beats the air around them, a burning smudge in one hand, the scarf she usually winds around her dreadlock beehive in the other. Gagan slides past to the kitchen where Bree has replaced a bank of cupboards with a walk-in freezer. She lowers the bag to the floor, pulls on the handles and slides the bag into the darkness, shutting the doors behind her. Bree’s main gig is midwife but last year, with Gagan’s help, she launched a website selling placenta pills. Demand has gone through the roof.
Gagan unties the garbage bag, letting the fresh placentas breathe as Bree has instructed her to do. Iron-rich blood plus an in-between-the-legs musk she associates with the bowling alley bathroom on Ladies Night. Youssou N’Dour has replaced Jacqueline Fuentes on Bree’s stereo and Gagan closes her eyes, knowing without having to open the freezer doors that Bree’s hands are on the woman’s hips, tracing mandalas in the smudge smoke. The woman groans and Gagan creeps her own fingers down her back, wishing they were warmer and that they belonged to someone other than herself.
Inner City Owl
By Tawahum Bige
Talons deep in gnarled branch of new growth over concrete
causeways, this bird don’t give a hoot. BMWs, Ford F-350s and
ugly Porsche Cayennes rush underclaw. Inner city Owl marks them
all, beware. Hoot, hoot. She unlatches branch, opens wings, and as
true as moonlight still shines despite light pollution—this owl does
defecate on the most boujee cars. Wide-eyed, she twists her neck
for a chittering squirrel, a relic of that pristine mountainscape her
ancestors used to hunt through.
Sitting Inside the Moom
By Gillian Sze
There are no words in that incalculable period of time when a woman’s body decides to set free the small life that was harboured intimately within her own. Just as the newborn does not immediately penetrate the barrier of speech, a woman reverts to a similar state of infancy where there are no words accessible, meaningful, accurate or explicit enough. Words, as most have or will experience, always fall short in moments of tremendous love, grief and pain—but in labour there is a speechlessness that transforms the mouth into pure animal drive. My mouth, usually a vehicle for coherent expression, was humbled; I suddenly found my body taking precedence, and where it went in those hours there were no words.
When the contractions come, don’t resist. Don’t fight it. Invite them in. Let your body do the work. Let go. These phrases, despite the videos I was shown and the conversations I had with other mothers, floated in the air and never caught onto anything resembling comprehension. They were words that told me nothing until after the fact, when I realized that to let go was to let go of words and whatever life those words contained. It was, in a way, to let go of my own life and any control I had over it. To surrender is to give up, to deliver over. I knew that to surrender my body was to give it over to the surges of intensity, discomfort and unknowable pressures that were part of giving myself over to another human. I disappeared. What the body does in the emergence of new life is a process that cannot be measured sensibly by time or language. Between my water breaking and my son being placed on my chest, eight hours had passed. And yet there is nothing that I can recall that had the pace or venture of a typical nine-to-five day.