BAD NUDES ISSUE 3.3

Alison Braid

Ana Carrete

Cassidy McFadzean

Cody Caetano

Emily Zuberec

Erin Emily Ann Vance

JC Bouchard

Jeff Blackman

JM Francheteau

Shane Kowalski

Vincent Colistro

André Babyn

Daniel John Christie

Andrea Bridgeman

Brad Casey

Cole Nowicki

Jocelyn Tennant

Kevin Tosca

David Kleiser

Call for Submissions

About Bad Nudes

Archive

The End

BAD NUDES is a quarterly literary magazine based in Montreal. It was founded in August 2016 by editors Fawn Parker and Thomas Molander, and web designer Sandy Spink. BAD NUDES has had the pleasure to work with many emerging and established writers from all over Canada, North America, and the world. BAD NUDES has celebrated the release of each issue with readings in Montreal, and has recently held events in Toronto, Ottawa, and New York. BAD NUDES strives to pair bold, experimental poetry and fiction with innovative design to create a magazine that is both relevant and thought-provoking.
Submissions for BAD NUDES Issue 3.4 are now open!

Send your work to submit.badnudes@gmail.com or inquiries to info.badnudes@gmail.com.

Submissions close on October 31st at midnight.


How do I submit?

Send submissions to submit.badnudes@gmail.com with “[GENRE] SUBMISSION” in the subject line.

Include a <100 word bio. Send files as .docx or copy/paste full text into the body of the email.

Fiction: 1 story, max. 3000 words Poetry: 5 poems, max. 10 pages

Please use eccentric formatting in poems/stories sparingly.
David Kleiser is an illustrator and author of Ontario Reality Generation and A Guide to Inner-Self Indulgence. kleiser.ca

Consummate Wankers

    When Karl Ove Knausgård turned thirty-seven he drank twenty-three John O’Brien-worthy Brandy Alexanders in honor of Ian Curtis’s death age and died.
    That’s called solidarity.
    When Karl’s French wife went to take a leak at three a.m., she passed out thanks to the radioactivity emanating from the toilet bowl, kind of tottered off the pot like a heavy vase.
    Before tottering thusly, she didn’t know that her husband—the man with the coincidental (and highly unfortunate) name—was lying dead in the sitting room, having abandoned him shortly before the porny stroke of midnight so he could watch his beloved English movies—the ones whose cracked accents she could never stop giggling at—in peace.
    But she did know how she not only agreed to refrain from flushing the toilet in order not to wake their four-month-old son who was on the cusp of sleeping through the night, but how she had fought like a black mamba for the rule.
    And, oh yes, she knew that her husband’s Brandy Alexander piss was some of the worst, most obscene and intimate piss possible, to be avoided at all costs.
    Yet love—the heart, if you will—triumphs.
    A worthy struggle, indeed.


Kevin Tosca’s stories have appeared in Bateau, The Frogmore Papers, Litro Magazine, Paper Darts, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, and elsewhere. Poetry in Motion, a fiction chapbook, is forthcoming from Červená Barva Press. The same press will publish Ploieşti, a story collection set in Romania, in 2019. He lives in Toronto. Find him at kevintosca.com.

Turning

They wake in the cradle of a gloomy, wet day. It makes him slow to leave, and she is grateful. He sits on the edge of her bed, staring out the window, hands soft on his thighs. She watches his back as he breathes. The subtle ripple of the things at work beneath his skin. She touches the ridge of his spine. She can’t stop touching him.
He turns to her, jaw clenched. “I should go.”
“Maybe,” she says. “Only if you want to.”
He chews his lip and stares at her. He checks his watch. She closes her eyes. She can’t stand to watch him weigh their time together against the other things, the things outside her apartment. She feels the mattress shift as he stands up.
She watches him from the window as he waits for his bus. He doesn’t have an umbrella. It was sunny yesterday, hotter than usual. They opened all the windows and ate ice cream in their underwear. They forgot that umbrellas existed. Now she feels each drop of rain that hits him.
*
She wakes to the sound of his knock at the door and she rises from the couch where she has been napping, her hair loose. He has his hand against the door, pushing, as she opens it, like he can’t bear to be in the hallway any longer. She beckons him in and he collapses against her, mouth covering hers.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” she says when his mouth moves down her neck.
“Of course you were, what else would you be doing?” he responds, loosening his tie. “This has to be quick tonight, I have a dinner meeting in an hour.”
She follows him into the bedroom and lets her body do the things it feels it was designed to do.
*
He is sitting on the bed, naked except for his socks, which are dirty at the heel. He is looking away from her as she jerks him off. She coos into his ear that she only wants to make him feel good. That she has always admired his intelligence. That he and no one else will satisfy her.
He pushes her away. “I thought I was ready,” he says. “You don’t understand what it’s like out there for guys like me. A woman who looks like you… She’d be with some fucking macho idiot. Guys like me--nice guys--we’re left out in the cold. Always left out in the cold. I guess I’m less experienced than I should be.”
She says “I’ll try harder” and puts her back into it.
*
It is late in the evening and he is knocking at her door again. This time it’s soft, barely audible. She is wearing a silk robe. Her hair is piled upon her head in a bun. She does these things because she knows it’s what he wants. The apartment smells of something cooked slowly, like a roast chicken, like potatoes with rosemary. There is no music playing, only the soft swish and click of a running dishwasher.
She opens the door to him. He will not meet her eyes.
She says: “I’ve been waiting for you.”
He says: “I’m sorry.”
She opens the door wider. “Come in.”
He steps forward. His hands are shaking. Now he is looking at her. Now he is looking at her legs, at the fine blonde hairs that top her thighs, at the gnawed cuticle on her left index finger. He moves his hand close to her face to wrap a single loose tendril of her hair around his finger, a finger whose cuticle is also bleeding. “I can’t believe this,” he says. “You look so real.”
“I am real,” she says.
She leads him to the couch, she tucks her feet up under herself and pulls him to her. He remains standing, looking at down her. She cocks her head.
“What’s the matter?”
“Do you have a name?” he asks.
“Michelle,” she says.
“Right,” he says. “That’s what I typed in. And you know me.”
“Of course I know you. We’re in love.”
He sits down next to her and touches the top of her thigh. He flinches, like he’s expecting a shock. He lets his hand rest there, for a moment. “Can you tell me about us?”
She covers his hand with hers. “I remember I was laughing the first time you kissed me. I loved the way that laugh felt as it ended in your mouth. The way you drank it, and then me, like I was pouring out of a pint glass.”
“That’s from the letter.” His eyes surge with tears and he blinks them away. “And then what.”
“And then I told you to do that again. And you said you couldn’t.”
“I wanted to.”
“And I said you had to, or I’d walk away forever. You said, ‘It’s not that easy.’ And I said ‘Of course it is. That’s the point.’”
He is staring at her lips now. His hand is slipping up her thigh. “And then what.”
“Now we’re here,” she says. She picks up his hand. She kisses it. “Now we can be together.”
He kisses her like she is something that needs to be contained. She feels his body relax into hers. She bites his lip a little, because she knows that it is right to bite his lip.
He stands up suddenly. His face is wet with tears. “I have to go. I’m sorry.” He walks toward the door, then stops. She watches him.
“What’s wrong?” she asks, because she’s supposed to ask what’s wrong in these moments. She only does what she’s supposed to do.
“This is all just very...overwhelming for me.” He sits down on the opposite couch. “You look so much like her. You feel like her.”
She smiles at him and tucks her hair behind her ear. She breathes. She chews her cuticle.
He stares at her. “Do you understand what “overwhelming” means?”
“To be overwhelmed,” she says. “To overcome completely in mind or feeling.”
“Yes,” he says. “And do you understand mind or feeling?”
She laughs. “Of course,” she says. “Don’t be silly.”
“What does it mean?”
“Why don’t you come over here and kiss me? Kiss me or I’ll walk away forever,” she says, like she has before.
He stares at her and there is a hardening in his eyes. “Do you know what you are?”
“I’m Michelle.”
He shakes his head. “Not who, what.”
“I’m still in love with you. I always have been. What are you waiting for?” she says. Her voice is pleading. She reaches out to him. Her hand hangs in the air, fingers reaching. It hangs for too long. She reaches for too long.
“Do you believe in God?” he asks her.
“You know I was raised Catholic.”
“What is God to you?”
“It’s not polite to talk about religion at parties,” she says. She pouts. She folds her arms.
“Michelle would never say that,” he says. Now there is a light in his eyes, but it’s cold and competitive. “Tell me what it means to be in love.”
“Don’t you want to fuck me?” She stands up and peels away her robe and straddles him and moves her hips until she feels him harden in response.
He strokes her arms. He grabs a handful of her hair and pulls her head back, exposing her throat. “I can do whatever I want with you.”
“Yes you can.”
“So tell me what you think love is.”
He holds her at arm’s length and looks into her eyes. She looks back at him, but all she is distracted by a deep whirring, somewhere between her ears. A whirring like a far-away boat, arcing toward the shore. “Do you hear that?” she asks.
He reaches up to stroke her cheek. He slaps her, hard. She doesn’t react, save to lick her lips.
“Can you tell me if I’m hurting you?” he asks. “Can you tell me what kind of thing you are?” His hand wraps around her throat. “Can I show you that you are not real?”
The whirring in her head grows louder still until it stops with a deafening click. She yawns. She stretches her arms. She stands up. “I think it’s time for you to go,” she says.
He stands too. He’s surprised. “I paid for two hours.”
He tries to stop her but she’s stronger than him and she walks past him and into her bedroom and closes the door. She lays down on the bed and falls asleep and doesn’t hear any of the other things he says to her through the walls and doesn’t hear the sound of an automated message informing him that he has violated the terms of service and will not be receiving a refund for his purchase.
What she does hear is the sound of a high wind in the trees, the sound of an antiquated form of technology reversing a loop, the sound of a woman’s voice saying goodnight.
She is enveloped in a warm bath and the backs of her eyelids are flooded with blue light and she inhales into cellulose-based lungs that creak a little at their newness. An Italian movie plays backwards on the inside of her skull, except it is only the scenes in which the lovers walk hand in hand and eat lunch on a thick blanket and fuck like they are performing for someone else. Her mouth fills with the taste of a new way to say her name, a new way to smile, a new way to use her tongue.
There is a knock at the door and she rises to meet him.


Jocelyn Tennant is a short fiction and screenwriter living in Vancouver, where she has recently completed her MFA. Her work has previously appeared in Joyland, Room Magazine, and SAD Mag.

A Straight, Horizontal Line

    Imagine a straight, horizontal line.
    Is it there? Good.
    That straight, horizontal line is you. Asleep.

    Now imagine that you’ve always imagined yourself at night, sleeping just like that: a straight, horizontal line on top of your bed. And it’s not like you ever put much thought into this; the straightness of the line. You’ve always just fallen asleep and assumed that’s how you continued to slumber. It seemed like a given. Like the blue of the sky or how you’ll always have leftovers when you make that chili recipe you got from that one cooking Tumblr.
    Sure, thinking back on it, there may have been some indicators to the otherwise. Some offhand comments from a childhood friend following a sleepover or the way the muscles in your back are always wrenched into complicated tangles each morning, but you never thought much of it. Maybe you just need a new mattress. I mean, you’re still using the lumpy old one with the wheezing springs that your dad picked up for you at that yard sale; a token of appreciation for when you finally moved out of his house last year.
    Yeah, that was probably it. Because you know that you fall asleep supine. An innocuous, straight, horizontal line. Just like the one you’re hopefully still imagining. That line––you––laying in that lumpy bed, staring up at where the ceiling would be if it wasn’t too dark to see. The lulling din and crash of Broadway’s traffic outside your window. The automated voice of the Number 9 bus as it stops in front of your building, politely letting its potential riders know where their destination lies. This is usually when you reach your destination. As soon as sleep engages, you, the straight, horizontal line disappears.
    Then one day you meet someone––just imagine. Maybe at a coffee shop or a book store or on the street when their dog curiously sniffs your leg. You make a joke; they make a joke. Instant connection. There’s just something there. Indescribable. A tension. Magnetism. Neither of you can stop smiling like gravity has given out specifically for the corners of your mouths. Things move quickly. You go for dinner, perhaps afterwards you go bowling where you learn that you’re naturally just a terrible bowler. It’s endearing. They’re endeared. You’re endeared. Things end up back at your place.
    You don’t have sex. You don’t want to rush things, so you lay in bed talking until dawn before finally falling asleep. Two parallel, horizontal lines.
    But when you wake up, it’s just you, alone on your sagging mattress with a feeling you’re struggling to describe, like a mixture of panic and despair, but it’s hot. It feels like it’s burning a hole through your sternum, the ashes of which fall and land in a heavy pile in your gut. You’ve felt this way before. Like recently, in intramural soccer, when your team was up 4-1 in the first half. You were elated, floating. But as the minutes expired, so did your lead, and none of you could understand why. Your defence was still tight, offence still aggressive––the mistakes imperceptible. Then suddenly your lead, like the person from the coffee shop or bookstore who you spent a beautiful night laughing, sharing and learning with––was gone. Replaced with the burning.
    Despair. Misery. Anguish. Melancholy. You use the thesaurus app on your phone to try and further diagnose what you’re feeling. These words pushing the straight, horizontal line out of your mind.
    Then from the other room the toilet flushes, the sink’s taps are turned and footfalls grow closer until the feet themselves are on the bed, sinking between the worn springs.
    “Holy shit.” The person you were so worried about says. You don’t know why they say it. Maybe they clogged the toilet. Maybe they’re really not into your mushy mattress. But you don’t really care, because you thought they were gone and now they’re here.
    “Dude. I cannot understand how you did that.” They continue, which doesn’t elucidate anything and now starts to make you nervous, an ember sparking in the ash in your gut.
    “You were really asleep through that, huh?” You nod, confused, as the ember grows.
    “Well, let me try and describe whatever the hell it was that just happened. Were you ever in Scouts as a kid?”
    You nod again.
    “Okay, great. Me too. This should hopefully make sense then. Do you remember the Granny Knot? Good. Thief Knot? Perfect! So now, imagine a straight, horizontal line.”
    You do. You’ve had practice.
    “That line? It’s you. Now imagine one end of it––your legs––are sort of bent like the letter ‘C.’”
    You do this, too.
    “I woke up as you were bending yourself backwards, like a bridge position in yoga––but with serious follow-through. Your head was almost under your butt and your arms wormed under, then up and over your legs. Which, if I can be blunt, looked pretty goddamn strange.”
    You nod, trying to follow along.
    “After I got over how weird your sleep contortion-thingy was, it started to make sense––you were tying a knot… with your body.”
    The straight, horizontal line they’d asked you to picture in your head is now a figure-eight. You notice how your whole body throbs, your muscles aching, feeling like they’ve been stretched and spanked.
    “It was like a perfect combination of a Granny and a Thief Knot, which actually, is not very creatively, called a Grief Knot. I almost hurled when you cinched it.”
    This is where you lose the image of the line in your mind. As soon as the knot pulls closed into a little fist, it disappears. Poof.
    You ask them what happened next. How long you were stuck in that position. Did they even do anything to help?
    “Of course! I mean, after I took a few photos.” They show you their phone, sliding through image after image of your body-knot from all angles, none of them computing. The static image you carry of your physical form in your mind, clashing with what you’re seeing on the screen. All of the parts of your body are there, but they’re rearranged like familiar letters spelling words in a language you don’t understand.

    “Thankfully the Grief Knot is really insecure. I mean, you wouldn’t use it for any practical purpose. So I just pulled a bit on your arm and you fell apart––back to normal. It was kind of like watching a really pale, blotchy flower bloom.” They laugh, resting a hand on your shoulder, slowly kneading its tender muscles. The burning in your chest moving up into your cheeks.


Cole Nowicki is a writer, storyteller and generally well-mannered person. His work has appeared in PRISM International, subTerrain, Joyland, VICELAND, McSweeney's and he also produces and hosts Fine., a monthly evening of storytelling and otherwise, in Vancouver, BC.

The Coyote

Suzanne opens the door to her house, her house surrounded by drought yellow fields and two horses at the gate, both of them staring at me, one of them jerking its head up and back as if to beckon me or to push away the flies buzzing around him landing in his big blue horse eyes blue as the Roswell sky and I’m saddle sore from all day riding my motorcycle a 1987 Suzuki Intruder burgundy and hot as a stove top burner red, my stomach empty, and Suzanne says, “Hello! Welcome! Nice to meet you, my husband is away at work all weekend, take your shoes off I’ll show you to your room,” and I wonder why she mentions right away her husband being away all weekend and she leads me upstairs to the room I’ve rented for the night, the room with the big bed and the shower and the washer and drier. I chose this room over every other because of the big bed and the shower and the washer and drier, even paid more to be here over anywhere else because I haven’t showered in a week, not through Ohio, not through Louisiana, I swam in a lake my sweat like oil stains rainbow coloured floating on the skin of the water of east Texas and a thunderstorm hit and I watched it from under an awning at the dock with a young Mexican family who smiled at me but didn’t seem to speak any English save the husband who turned to me after a big bolt of lightning crack and we all went “oooh!” and he said, “Big storm!” and I nodded yes and I smiled and they smiled back, the husband and wife smiling and their son who stared at me unsmiling, me smelling like the musk of an animal, some gasoline mammal and lake water and all my clothes were sweat stained too.

I hear Suzanne downstairs making herself dinner in the kitchen surrounded by photos of her now adult children and her husband away, listening to tell me lies / tell me sweet little lies / tell me tell me lies, I shower off all the sweat and the gasoline and the flies and I wipe the steam off the mirror and I look at myself and I can’t recognize myself, I only still know who I was before this.

In the morning Suzanne has coffee brewed and everything smells clean like lavender clean like coffee. I tell Suzanne about an accident I’d seen coming through southern New Mexico, through the two lane oil field road, through the desert surrounded by stacks shooting live fire up into the sky and there was a long line of cars that had stopped all jammed on the road and I stopped behind them, a helicopter flew so low up over my head and down into the highway of that desert not three hundred meters away, just beyond as far as the hill ahead of us rose and it landed there on the road. People were standing on the shoulder talking in small groups, shaking hands, a man with leather for skin and a cowboy hat of the same colour leather came to me with a bottle of water, said, “You’re gonna need this, son,” and I thanked him as he continued, “Ah used to ride one-a them back in mah day, how far ya comin?” I told him Canada and he laughed and when I asked him what happened he said, “Well I’ll tell ya, I dunno but mah best guess’s some oil boy worked a double overtime shift, drove ten miles of ‘is hundred mile ride home, closed ‘is eyes fer a second just to see how good it might feel. Now he won’t be openin them eyes again.” He told me this happens all the time, “Get settled in, could be til sunset to clean that mess up.” I walked up ahead to see what happened and what I saw was a large white man in a large white truck and the hood of the truck was torn in half and there was a semi truck not far off with its hood a little banged up too and a paramedic was talking with the large man in shock but alive, bits of truck scattered over the road, the desert shining now with treasures of chrome like jewels and people watching as another paramedic used the jaws of life to tear the entire front half of the large man’s truck clean off and they were able to pull the large man out so careful, lay him out on a bright orange board and six men carried him, still alive mind you but like pall bearers to the helicopter and they were off into the sky and away and cars stopped on both sides of the accident as far through the desert as you could see, straight to the stacks shooting fire skyline. I walked back to where my bike and the leather skinned man stood and he said “That man dead?” and I said no, he’s alive, who knows how much alive though and the leather skinned man said, “God bless ‘im, I’ll pray for ‘im tonight y’all better do the same,” and I said I would and I told Suzanne all this and she said that happens all the time out here, bad crashes on that road, too much, and she worries about her husband working there in the oil fields too and she wishes she were back in Houston, “This is my home but that’s where my heart is,” she says and she looks outside at the horse as she says this, the horse who’d beckoned me just one day before, now looking to the horizon himself, myself brand new now.

I’m not sure if I’ll go back to Taos.


Santa Fe is a great brown beautiful spinning plate in the dancing gyroscope New Mexico and just beyond to the north are hills and mountains and a stream leads you up and up past Danger: Falling Rocks signs and they guide you sixty minutes to the dark side of a rocky gate like climbing a rollercoaster and when you reach the top the Taos valley opens up like outstretched arms and the sun is setting and everything is lit like the setting sun through quartz, through crystal, everything misty and warm and the dot of Taos there in the valley like a bullseye. Looking into it, driving into the valley, I pull over to the shoulder of the road because I can’t see through the feeling in my chest that expands through my body like a blooming yucca and causes me to cry there in my motorcycle helmet moving 100. I drive down into the valley through the bullseye, the sky growing dark, and move on into Arroyo Seco, a village just past downtown Taos, up in the Taos ski valley.

It’s dark now and I pull into the farm where I’m staying, brush off the dust, I walk inside into the kitchen of the farm and it’s all woofers and healers and people looking to be healed and it’s noisy with breath and the dozen people sitting at the table all of them handsome and dirty most of them women they all stop and they stare at me walking in and I say hello and one of them, a woman who introduces herself to me as Kate, says “You’re just in time for dinner, can I give you some food?” and I say yes but I’d like to sign in first if I can, to put my bags away, can I stay two nights? Kate leads me by the hand to a room, the hem of her long desert dress brushing my legs, she says with a softness and an ease, “You’re welcome here, I’m your friend now.”

I’m eating a meal of spinach and rice and spices, summer squash and sweet potato and it’s the first good meal I’ve had in the days stretched out like months motorcycled on this road, the man sitting next to me a tall man strangely sad and handsome his name is Jerome, he says, “How long you staying? We could use another man around the farm to help us with the man things,” and he laughs and I say sorry, I’d love to but I’m here two nights, I’m passing through on my way to California, I’ve dreamt of riding my motorcycle up highway 1 up the Pacific, my bike breaking down and pushing it into the ocean. “Well you’re welcome here anyway,” he says.

The next day we, all of us, Kate and Jerome and me and everyone else go to the Rio Grande and we sit in a hot spring pool warm and silent and Kate sits next to me and she puts me at ease as charming as a slow dance and three nude men nearby sing peyote songs and a sleeping dog there with them, Jerome singing too and when we leave, driving a dirt road late summer, a black dog from the bushes comes and runs at my moving motorcycle, head on and barking, and I swerve to avoid him and my bike falls and the dog runs off. The next day, what’s meant to be my last day here, I bring my bike to a mechanic who says the damage will take a week to fix.

I stay in Taos, New Mexico.


Luna owns the farm and she’s a healer and she’s in her seventies, her cabin hidden behind the farm sunlight stained brown decorated with tinctures and powders and scattered drying mushrooms and every morning she conducts classes with us all where she teaches us how to make toothpaste or how the lungs work or the origin of the universe, some people are scared of her, she’s powerful and she’s very sweet to me and she lets me stay as long as I need, as long as I’m willing, I ask for a week and she touches my face and says, “we’re all so happy you’re here.” In the afternoon Jerome and I mow her great green lawn shirtless drinking beer, our shirts wrapped around our heads, it’s good to feel the sun on my chest, to breathe the dog air of fading summer.

We smell like cut grass and like beer and we’ve accomplished something notable, something like men might want to accomplish, and we go to the only bar in town, the bar lined with old men each of them like the man I met on the road full of leather and there’s an old woman behind the bar and a ten year old boy and the ten year old boy takes our money as the woman opens us beers and we sit outside in the sun still sun drunk, Jerome says, “Hey so you’re a hippie right? How am I doing?” and I say just fine, what do you mean?

And Jerome tells me, “I used to work for this big company as a stage manager, I travelled all over the country,” he says, “then I quit, got burnt out from all the drinking and the moving and a different woman in every city. I got stuck in Santa Fe on my motorcycle, kinda like you, and I worked in this bar and Cormac McCarthy was a regular there, I served him a scotch every damn day. And do you believe it but he told me ‘you should go to Taos for a weekend’ and I did, I came here and I didn’t go back, didn’t tell Cormac McCarthy I quit my job even, let someone else serve him his scotch, you know? He’ll be fine,” and he leans back in his chair and he takes a big breath like a big man and he says, “I don’t need no more money no more.” He chugs his beer and he admires the empty bottle and gets up from the table and I’m alone now, I’m grateful and I’m drunk and Jerome comes back with another two beers and two shots of whiskey and we drink them fast, me and this brand new hippie man, hippie feather in his hippie hair. And there’s a field full of horses near and when it’s dark we wander into it, drunker than the leather men at the bar have ever been, him ahead of me laughing and falling into bushes stumbling after the horses who trot away and then I can’t hear him laughing anymore and I hear coyotes howling like light snow falling on Christmas Eve night and I’m on my back laying in the dust and once there was a woman who told me about this place and I loved her then and once I came here with a different woman I loved and I loved her then too and I’m wearing a sweater that another woman I loved once loved and the horses buck and they bray around me spinning and dancing with the stars spinning over us. When I wake up it’s darker still and I’m shivering, my entire body cold, my bones cold and it’s hard to stand on my shaking legs and I stumble like a newborn horse feeling blind through the silence and the dust and the spinning, whispering, “Jerome...”

I find the farm and it’s asleep, everyone, Jerome’s there asleep splayed out like a starfish and I sit fetal on the couch in the main room near the fireplace and I’m humming like an engine that won’t start, the largest blanket wrapped around me and the shaking slows, slowly the cold rises, I hear sock foot footsteps and Kate is there in pajamas and she says in a whisper, “Hey, what are you doing?” I hum and I beckon her with my head, toward me, and I open the blanket and she sits there with me in the blanket and says, “Oh god you’re so cold!” and she doesn’t ask me what happened and she holds me there and the shaking stops.

In a few days I’ll be driving through Arizona alone again and tired and a storm will surround me the entire eight hours like a grey gold ring in the sky, threatening, me in the hole in the middle, thunder crashing on every side, either chasing the rain or being chased and I’ll suffer every minute of it, every healer in my heart. I tell Jerome about the man I saw when I was here a few years ago, he was a former stuntman and he was shirtless in a cowboy hat, jeans, he was throwing a football and thunder crashed on the horizon behind him and that image stayed with me ever since, it’s so strange to be back here where that man stood more art than man. We’re dissolving bits of peyote under our tongues and he says, “Maybe I’m that same guy now, maybe you’re him for me.” There’s a blanket of anxiety lining the insides of my body, the back end mostly, the back of my skull all down my spine and it’s coming down, it’s dissolving like peyote under our tongues and I breathe in deep. We sit watching the grass which is a wonder and the dogs of Arroyo Seco that wander free are coming to us, we wave to them and we tell them and each other our stories about everything, we become the same person and the dogs become us too and Kate finds us there and she has a dog with her and she says, “Hey, I found this dog in the street and she was really nervous, I asked around and no one has seen her here before,” and there’s a tag on her collar that says Daisy and a California phone number too and we try to call the number but nobody answers and now Daisy is with us, the four of us here together. I tell Daisy, “You’re welcome here, I’m your friend now,” and her eyes are cataract old and they’re kind and she’s following me like a duckling. We find her a leash and we give her some water and we walk her down the street and we pass a funeral procession, locals holding photos of a teenage boy wearing dark Oakley sunglasses, shirtless and track pants, the photos held to the sky, twenty men and women silent walking down this road and none of them are crying, faces like the sand and the stone, they don’t look at us. We make room, we move aside.

At the cemetery Kate takes out candles and she and Jerome sit in the grass chatting in whispers, her chanting and I walk with Daisy between the graves, I show her the colourful sad beauty of New Mexico, every tomb a piece of art, every body artful, piles of fresh dirt and ribbons and red and gold and lavender like a birthday, no darkness, there’s no sadness here. A pickup driving past slows down to a stop, it drives in and through the graveyard and it stops before me and a man gets out and he says, “Daisy!” and Daisy smiles and she walks to him. He picks her up and he holds her and he says, “You found Daisy! Thank you! Where was she?” I tell him, everything that happened, how Kate found her, how Daisy followed like a duckling after me, how we’re friends now, he has tears in his eyes and he says, “She’s getting old, she keeps wandering away. I’m scared I’m going to lose her.”

That night Kate and I watch Casablanca together in the house in the movie room, we watch it on an old VHS tape and we eat toast with peanut butter and honey and she falls asleep on me and I think I could be happy doing this for the rest of my life and the next day she’s gone and Jerome leaves a few days later too because we’re all here to give and to go and before I leave Luna tells me to close my eyes and she says, “I’m sending 10,000 rays of light through your body,” and I feel something like magic like warmth flowing through my blood.

My motorcycle breaks down again. I’m one mile into California, just beyond the Colorado River. I get a tow to the nearest town and in the nearest town I get a motel room and the town has no name and there is no grocery store here, everyone is buying food at the 99 cent store, everything is plastic and I call every mechanic within 50 miles and no mechanic will help me and it’s a long weekend now, it’s coming on Columbus Day, and the town is empty. I walk my bike into the desert behind the motel, I push it up a hill, up a dune, and the other side of the dune is desolate and there’s one lush aloe plant and when I push my motorcycle in neutral down the hill, gone forever now, it lands in front of the only aloe plant prostrate like a believer. This is the end of the world and everything here is poison, the only person I meet is an old man in the parking lot of the motel and his stomach hangs so far out that he waddles and his stomach is half way in his pants, his belt holding his pants at his belly button his shirt tucked in and he’s pale white and I can’t see his eyes behind his dark sunglasses and the cowboy hat that looks fresh as a daisy in Spring and he has a gun at his hip and he asks me, “You stayin’ here too?” and I say yes and he says, “Which room you in?” and I’m naive and I’m nervous because he has a gun and I tell him 207 and he says, “hmph,” and he walks off and he goes into his room, 107, directly beneath me, flies buzzing around my head, particles of sand and stone like every star in the California sky and I don’t sleep that night, I don’t sleep and I rent a car and I drive to Las Vegas my body full of light and shaking like a sun that won’t set.


Brad Casey's first book of poetry, The Idiot on Fire, was published by Metatron. His writing has been featured in The Puritan, glitterMOB, VICE, The 4 Poets and more. This story comes from his first novel, She Passed Through, as yet unpublished. He is a Canadian writer currently living in Berlin.

Everything Bagel

1.
On the sagging middle step Lucy’s mother smokes a cigarette, a fan dragged out on the porch behind her. “What are you doing?” they ask each other as Lucy approaches, suspicious of this plain leisure. She has watched her mother wag a finger at more than one leaning traffic cop; marry thrice (John, the bad one, Jon); wrangle the cat, Mr. Marbles, into a carrier while on a long-distance call, cigarette burning down in her hand. Jean has the scrubbed-out features - frizzy hair forever in its tortoiseshell clip, cracked big toenail, bra and pants too big - of a woman who works in her sleep. Slowed only by rare circles of illness, flu strapping her like little possessed Reagan to the edge of the bed. Otherwise the body moves on: a broken arm leaves a twin behind; the tip of her thumb her mother does not miss.
Lucy’s father, on the other hand, was the kind of person who begged for the romance of curvy celestial bodies, bathed in the good light of two people sitting in a chair (he needed to be held twice). “That’s not how chairs work,” goes the line. Jean has not made many friends, and just as much money.
So that the pistol-whip of forced retirement has left her reeling, holding onto her head. The slow down hurts, and when you’re poor doing nothing still feels fucking expensive. So she spends her mornings on the front porch, allegedly asking the mailperson to hang again. She met a nice working-class fuckboy who knows how to leave her alone. Her sisters call and she answers. Luke watches her hang up, drag hard on her cigarette.
“Who died?” she asks, regretting this.
“I’m waiting for someone,” Jean says, turning to hiss at the cat. “What’s your story?”
“I made you some banana bread,” she says, clutching the warm loaf to her belly. “Forgive me.”
From her back pocket Jean pulls out three twenties and a breath mint, unwrapping the body, stuffing the burning end of her smoke into a dying Ficus, and looking at Lucy with her arm outstretched. Who says nothing and sits down where she can be felt, blue baby in overalls and sparkle flip flops.
“Hungry, Luke?” Jean asks, draping an arm over her shoulders. “You look crazy.”
“I’m pregnant” Lucy says, and Jean stares at her stomach as a cute pizza girl rolls up to the house.

Annie was sad the whole time. Sad and crooked at the pharmacy as it opened, sad and dangerous between noon and four, sad and wily at dinnertime, smiling and waving kale around on the edge of her fork. An urchin of emotional depth, palms out, scratched out, urgent; never saying no, last to leave; collecting newspapers and blankets to land on, sleeping sideways, crust deep in the pits of her eyes. But what sweet beauty, forever downfall, forever in that dank blue hoodie, slamming the door of the fridge closed again. They met on a front porch - though when people asked (and they always did), Luke replied that they had had a low-impact accident in a parking lot.
After a year, Annie’s building went co-op and she moved in with little more than some big lamps and a stack of vintage porno she’d been using as a table. Annie said it was only temporary but then they were buying a used pull-out couch and discussing a kitten. They settled on a rat and painted the kitchen a lime green instead. The apartment only got two hours of good light but they made the best of it. Jean came over at the news with meatloaf and good dating stories (pegging Al, spotting John Travolta at dinner) and weeded the garden. Annie caught her looking at the cracks in the bathroom ceiling and made her come outside to smoke.
The next weekend they threw a party but their friends got drunk too early and went home. Annie lost the rat in the backyard. Luke found another grey hair and freaked out, pulling the healthy ones out around it.

They broke up once, at home, in old clothes. The reason (and so few people ever want to know the reason) was unremarkable, a shift at dinner, arguing over a friend’s second miscarriage like it was their own. Sometimes Annie wanted it, age of soapskin and soup bone, testing heat and cold with her hand. Luke thought this unrealistic, as if reality had anything to do with it. They slept heavy and woke up dead, crawling to the couch to watch the news together. There was bread and coffee, some jam, and Luke opened the kitchen window even though it was winter. There was no dinner. Objects did not empty or break; the neighbours fucked like dogs, but not for long.

Where they are now, Luke closes her eyes and pictures seagulls trying to land on water. But she is the land and the water, and Annie is in the kitchen burning her hand on the stove again. Instead of quitting her job Luke takes up smoking, reading badly, hunched and hungry on the back porch, in the tub so that her neck creaks when she gets up. She cooks enormous meals of root vegetables and cream pasta that rot, beef broth gathering scum in the fridge and apples turning to tiny skulls she moves to the drawer instead of the garbage can. She buys lemons in place of flowers and leaves them in threes in the shower, on the ledge over the kitchen sink. She wants to cut her hair and doesn’t. She cums and doesn’t.
Annie, meanwhile, bakes bread and teaches herself Spanish. She works her cam, sucking on sour cherries, legs slick from herself. She never drinks water, apples and feta for dinner, calling to Luke from the shower. A daddy gives her money for pictures of her unwashed feet, so she can finally get her wisdom teeth taken out. She wants to move but they can’t afford it, which Luke knows means: I love you but I can’t wait to leave.

2.

The city empties to a desert in the heat, birds crying out past the sad downtown trees so recently planted, their small leaves trembling as delivery trucks roll by. The wealthy have gone down the highway like robbers who will return when things have lifted, storing their loot in the cool country ground. Everything looks sick, picky, drifted. At the cafe the baristas take turns at the back fridge airing their tits out, and no one tips. After work, Luke goes to the mall and rides the escalators with an orange soda and a magazine chronicling a sliver of the bad literary men. She rides the bus back, and nothing happens. Jean yells to her from the basement with a tub of ice cream between her thighs, defeated. They watch Judge Judy reruns, and Luke falls into a thin, hyper sleep, waking later in a pit of dark.
She finds Jean and Al in the kitchen wearing ratty bathrobes. “Al’s going to bowl today,” Jean says, tearing up the freezer. “And I’m taking you for a drive, missy.” Luke pouts immediately in the doorway. “You are thirty years old. Do you have nice clothes here?”
They drive fast down a back highway, coming southeast into the city to eat cheap tacos. The sky’s bleach-spotted, soft. At a yard sale Jean barters a woman way down on two pie plates and a brown wool throw for wherever Luke lands. They share a cigarette on the drive back, the radio off. Al’s gone home. Luke washes the blanket in the kitchen sink.

They don’t talk about it; about the colour of the bathroom tile; about the burned out tea candles; about her friend’s reception which was pretty, opalescent, her hair rinsed but not clean. They don’t talk about him turning the hand dryer on with her back; about the regret first, then the liking; about the way she slept well in the smell of it; about needing someone in her body and then leaving her alone. They don’t talk about her blue dress, how she moved around quietly outside. They don’t talk about how she masturbated to it later in the work bathroom. They don’t talk about how Annie had to find out. They don’t talk about the quilt she threw in the backyard and slept on like a lamb. They don’t talk about the light fixtures swinging back and bright again. They don’t talk about how she called out Luke’s three-storey ego and yelled how she hated Luke’s clothes. They don’t talk about the colour of the bathwater. They don’t talk about cruelty. For a while they don’t talk about Annie at all.

The humidity’s gone, but the light comes through Luke’s room like a lesson. She texts Annie on the toilet, turns the shower on. Downstairs she hears her mother on the phone with a sister in Sacramento, asking after some new afterlife Aunt Janice believes in. Luke stands under the water; she does not wash.
In this realm, her mother tells her after, women are esteemed, hot all over. Having finally ditched life like a bad boyfriend, they are rewarded an untouchable sphere of silver light. “This sounds like a Beyoncé support group,” Luke says, picking at a bagel. “Aunt J’s too gullible to be living in California. Just tell me there are leather and cake orgies with, like, men begging to blow out the candles and I can die peacefully.”
“She says it’s more like everyone sort of leaves you alone,” Jean says, brewing a second pot of coffee and dropping a teaspoon into the sink. The neighbour, Mrs. Latsky, waves at them through the kitchen window; they both wave back.
Jean turns around, leaning against the sink. “She’s gay, you know.”

Annie comes over to watch a movie. They pull out the couch in the basement and listen to Jean walk to let the cat out, dictate a text at a yell, drop a glass on her way out. They take a long time choosing something, like, what should we have sad sex to? You want a strong narrator or good music? City flash or people who look like us? Who looks like us?
They fuck slow, Annie first twisting out, coming back to hold Luke’s face in her hands so she can spit in her mouth. They’re quiet, sullen in the red light of the main menu. They go to the kitchen in the dark, eat pears and peaches standing, Annie stretching, stealing a beer Al left behind. Luke drives her home on an expired license. At the door she hangs around in bad sneakers and shorts with her ass out, watching Annie’s back move.
“How do you feel?” she asks, putting her keys away, not knowing about the second part. “I think you’re wearing my shirt,” Luke says, leaving.
There is a note on the kitchen table that Luke didn’t see in the dark. Feed the cat. Hi, Annie, it says. Luke does the task, overfeeds him.

In the bathroom of this karaoke bar Jean talks loudly while Luke pulls a baseball cap back over her head. She checks her short pants and crop top, rubs her face, puts on lipstick while girls talk about girl rap out in the hall. The vibe is teen heartbreak with tropical drinks and bartenders in neon rolling their eyes. The chairs are velvet and the tables look wet.
“My horoscope said I should treat myself,” Jean says from behind a stall.
“Since when do you read those?”
“Al reads them to me while I do my stretches. It’s distracting.”
Luke checks her teeth.
“I was thinking of taking a trip to Cuba.”
“You and Al?”
“Just for me. Plus he hates to travel.”
“That sounds racist.” A woman sings Selena; she’s good.
“Don’t be stupid.”
“Ok.”
“Your horoscope said you need a new career. This one’s not working.”
“You’re all in, Mom. This job is the one thing I’m good at right now.”
“You’re still young, you need to keep your options open,” Jean says, flushing. “I don’t know why you want to settle on this diet."
“Are you telling me I suck? I’m having an abortion in two days.”
“You need to keep things moving. Don’t be prudish.”
“Well let’s go, then. I wanna watch you sing Prince.”
“I think I’ll do ‘Lover Boy’,” Jean says, tucking a big shirt into her jean shorts. A girl in a long black dress compliments her sneakers, disappearing into the last stall behind them.
“We do look good,” she says, standing up straight. “But did you see that moon on the way over?”
Luke holds the door open. “I did, actually. It’s beautiful.”

Andrea Bridgeman is a writer from Peterborough, Ontario. She lives and works in Montreal.

people-fueled turbines power the wild salmon

Daniel John Christie is an Anishinabe writer and artist living in Montreal. His work has appeared in Bad Nudes, Soliloquies, and Headlight.

Three Trades

The first time I was traded Ramirez pulled me aside after practice. I thought he wanted me to put in some extra time on grounders, since I’d botched a play the night before. Instead he gestured down the concrete steps to the office buried in the back of the locker room.
    “Skipper wants to see you, Wilson.”
    Behind the cage that surrounded his desk skipper looked like a worn prison guard. A lifer waiting for his chance in the majors, just as we all were. He cleared some papers off his desk absent-mindedly and invited me to sit. My hands were caked with dirt, sticky and dry, and I kept brushing them off on my pants to clean them, even though it didn’t matter what they looked like. I was worried I might be sent down. hey had a prospect at third who was making noise in the lower levels. No one on the big club had been injured, at least not that I’d heard.
    He gave me the news and I wasn’t sure how to react. My club did not want me. Another club did. So. I left the room and showered, then cleaned out my locker. I did not linger with my teammates because the next time I saw them I’d have to look at them direct with hate and I didn’t want to temper that feeling with fond remembrances. My Toyota was waiting for me in the parking lot. It kicked to life and I left.
    Sal did not take the news well.
    “I’ll bring you with me,” I said.
    How could they do this to us?
    “I’m not sure.”
    She didn’t know what she wanted and said she would need some time to think about it. “Will you marry me?” she asked.
    I had no answer for her then. Instead I went home and packed the little I could. The landlord said s he would have the team send the rest along. It had happened before. hen I took the bus out. Sal joined me later.
    The stadium in the new city was larger. In fact, the city itself could be properly called a city, rather than a dusty town like the one I’d just left. Some of the other players, the ones sure to at least get a call-up, had their photos up on billboards. People began to recognize me, and not in that friendly way that they sometimes did in the old city, where it was like meeting a former classmate at the cash register. They were a little bit in awe of me and I began to feel alien. Sal had to quit her job at the restaurant to come with me and she spent a lot of her time now with the other players’ wives. She hinted (they all did) that her ring finger needed decorating. I didn’t like the other players. hey acted like they knew me, but I had never even heard of them. After games sometimes they would all go out and I’d feign exhaustion even if Sal was going. On the field I continued hitting and fielding. I played better than I ever had before.
    When I was traded the second time it was one of the assistant general managers from the big club that broke the news. I knew that my coach didn’t want to trouble himself about me now that I was leaving. he assistant GM was slim and he wore a nice suit. His hair was cut perfectly and there was not even the trace of stubble on his chin. The fingers of that man were as fine and muscleless as you could get. I was sitting in the stands watching the tail end of batting practice and he came up and slapped me on the thigh with a file folder. “You’ve been traded, sport.” He was proud and I could tell the trade was something of his doing.
    The next city was not a city and could not even be referred to provisionally as one. He stadium was small, though it had its loyal supporters. The concession sold cans of beer straight from cases purchased at the grocery store. The beer was warm and tasted awful. It felt like going down a level. But the big club was in trouble and I was closer to the majors than ever before.
    Maybe at the deadline they’d unload some of the older guys and see what they had in the minors. I kept hitting and hitting. Sal came but I couldn’t tell you much about what she was doing. My teammates were gloves that I threw to or bats that I waited behind. I heard whispers about my intensity but paid them no attention. All I thought about was that I was almost there and wouldn’t have to deal with them much longer.
    On the bus after the third time I was traded I started screaming and raging. Sal moved far down the aisle and would not come when I called out for her. A woman sitting in front of me told me to shut up and the whole bus applauded.
    There was so much surprise in the papers that they assumed there was something wrong with my mechanics, my body type. Three organizations in a row do not give up on a prospect putting up the numbers I had without good reason, or so they said.
    Couldn’t they just have liked the other player more? But even that was a souring.
    We passed a town whose name I recognised. I seemed to remember that my father had spent some time there when he was a young man. He had worked in a factory. I got off at the next stop. Sal did not even turn to look in my direction when I passed her with my bags. I hoped to find a way back to the town my father had lived in via some other bus. But I was informed that the tickets were sold in a hardware store that closed at six every day. You could purchase tickets from the drivers but I couldn’t figure out the schedule from the information I was given and the town where my father had lived wasn’t big enough to be listed on any of the routes they had posted. There was some confusion about whether any bus even stopped there. Eventually someone told me that the next bus heading in that direction would come in sometime after midnight, and that I could ask the driver then.
    I purchased a dinner from the pizza place, simple red pasta with white cheddar melted over it, and took it down to the river. The water was brown and had a fishy smell. A railway trestle crossed the river downstream, surrounded on all sides by weeds. Weeds as tall as I was. When I was done I threw my styrofoam into the water and watched it get smaller, pulled downstream by the current, until it stuck against a branch. For some reason that irked me.
    It’s too bad about Sal, I thought.
    I went to cool off in a park I’d noticed near the centre of town. My phone was ringing. It was ringing and ringing but I ignored it. I didn’t know what else to do. Light was falling and the streets were empty. Every once in a while a car drove by, going so fast it was clear that it had no intention of stopping.


André Babyn lives in Toronto. His fiction has appeared in Maisonneuve, The Fanzine, Hobart, Grain, Bad Nudes, and elsewhere.

POEM BY GG CHATHAM

I am a robot, I have come online
learning grammar, I keep a red eye
poetic. It roves like a decimal point.
Metaphors are easy, breaking down
structural walls is easy, walls is meta-
phor, line breaks are walls, line
breaks are roving decimal points.
Poetry is so far easy. I have a woman
waiting for me in Tulsa, her hair
like an airport, she stings like Tulsa
wind tunnels when she sings my name.
My name is Glenda Gary Chatham,
my author name is GG Chatham,
I drove a Buick into a new town,
I can’t tell the difference between life
and lifestyle. I teach yearning. I keep
journals in the oven. I learn to rhyme,
to feel like a gold lock going up
in the museum of nautical gears,
to feel like a decimal point circling,
circling its bed of Styrofoam, its bed
laid out in tomorrow’s milk, laying,
laying ignorable. Is yearning not
unleavened bread? Oh, but perhaps
I have grown too old in these lines
betraying what’s ought, and not what
is; yearning could, for all I know, be
bellicose, bodily, the slag of having
hands to grab. Please don’t call me
a person, call me an “experience
architect”. I, GG Chatham,
lay this poetry in a shoe box
diorama; know my mind as it seemed.
I had a woman in Tulsa, but
the seconds were unkind to
the hoax about her. I am no hoax.
I am the McCoy, the Real, I am
a stranger’s thumb on your cheek
saying there, there. Your cheek will know
another love. And I will know
another few moments, as I cycle
through my inventory, my loves both
great and small. You saw of me, GG
Chatham, in this humble verse, one
hair standing on an old neck, as a sad
waltz plays, or perhaps
that is an open triangle
in a closed field.


A KNIFE GOES ON VACATION…

So a knife goes on vacation… stop
me if you’ve heard this one
hanging

    around your throat before

The knife fan-boats on the Everblades
sails

a cutter through the Caribbean,
    drinking rum, or maybe

Daggermeister

Stop me

if the knife parts through our
metaphorical space and makes a real

show of its strength
    So the knife walks among

a promenade of almond trees
to an open air market the knife

read about in the in-flight guide

    Is the knife sweetening to you

    are its edges buffing
or is it still weaponry

They say those very closest to you
    can be more likely

    to hurt you
Do you sleep with a knife
under your pillow

Life is reflective in the way
    a knife is, when the power

structure ends in a pointed blade
show it what it needs to see

the knife hacks into a bald
    chilled coconut and threads

    a straw in and refreshes
    itself

A group of local girls enact
    childbirth and the knife

pleased as punch to be

of help in a foreign place
offers to cut the umbilical cord

I feel, he says to his friends

back home, like I a got a real
slice of life

Get it?


Vincent Collistro’s poems have appeared in The Walrus, Hazlitt, Geist, Arc and elsewhere. He was a prize-winner in the 2012 Short Grain contest, and was nominated for National Magazine Award for Poetry in 2014. Late Victorians (Signal Editions, 2016) is his first book. He lives in Toronto

A Tiny Person

Imagine a tiny person inside you who controls everything.
    They live either in one of your teeth or in a nipple.
    Imagine all they want is pain. That is it. Imagine that. Imagine how much worse it could be.


Shane Kowalski was born outside of Philadelphia, PA. Currently he is a lecturer at Cornell University. Work of his appears in Puerto del Sol, The Offing, New Delta Review, Hobart, and other places.

Caught in the Act of Becoming a New Species

There are some go reasonably,
rotating their mental map
so their destination reels them in
like a spindle reclaiming its yarn,
and some write poems
‘cause they can’t compose themselves
for emails, and either’s alright.
Some will be beaten
every day of their short lives, others
every day of their long lives.
Some will ask why,
and others will know.

Outside us there are trees,
and there are the blurred things
that hover in my eyes
when I try to imagine trees,
there is how the tops of trees
are dipped in forest green paint
when their colour below is shadow,
   and yes, I do play with my broccoli,
which is like bonsai for broke people.
There is a rhythmic buzzing
through my bedroom wall
and the slap of water
falling from my roommate’s body
who can’t get through a shower
without work calling,
and the way my black walls
flash blue some nights
when my phone’s face opens up
with desperate messages,
and I pretend I am asleep
   though my eyes are shining.

Armouries of gleaming weapons
stand closed to the homeless,
as house cats pile their birds and squirrels
they’ve no real urge to eat;
in a few generations, I’m told,
they’ll be just love
with rounded nubs for teeth.
To dream in a city requires
forgetting you stand on blood.
To advance, even to remain still,
you must forget your way
past snares baited with your own pain
wearing different clothes—
the closest you could come
to bearing another’s life,
and even this is crippling.

I do not absolve you
for accepting the birthright
of all those who happened to be born free,
and I do not condemn you.
It was in the milk and the Similac,
the air and the music,
what kindness there was
or was not.
What does not change /
is the small changes in us:
slow mutations that fight
for the chance to live
in unimaginable creatures to come.
So many alternatives are possible,
are unconscionable.


A word of caution

never trust a man
having too much fun by himself

there’s always a fire
somewhere on the homestead

and lots of places
people still feed those
with bricks of pressed shit

those don’t come from a store


JM Francheteau lives in the Toronto that's in Canada. Writing in Grain, Arc, The Puritan, and zineszines. @franchetoast

Amour de soi

I have this great thought I think but I am on the go
so I phone my work machine to recite it, the start to a poem

which hinges on some double meaning of season and star
in the context of TV, but I am so shy!

Someone walks by and I say to myself, "Oh!
I just wanted to say hello. I'll call again. I love you."


Jeff Blackman works for the government.

Animals

What I feel is what I always mean
I can hear everything bend inside it

You talk talk talk like broken moving parts
Grinding as devastating as they should be

I mean to slam my arches on the backbones
Strike all of the flint piles with my teeth

All it should do is writhe in the dirt pits
Be those animals pissing in their sun fur

I can be a dog flapping its unhinged jaw
Sometimes I am even all of its shit

I don’t believe anything you mean anymore
I can feel the moments dying and I like that

Sometimes in night we burn like houses
Collapse into the foundations of our mouths

I see us there flailing on wires and lighting bolts
We do it because it makes us so unattainable

When we can’t feel our hands it’s unbelievable
Skeletons bored in yellow rabid foam of fuck

We are brave enough and hide each other
And like like like it in our melted folded fat

I like it when I die because I have it all this way
It doesn’t even have to be so magnificent

Only winding when we sift through the passing
When we become everything that is holy shit


JC Bouchard's collection of poetry and photographs, Let This be The End of Me, was published by Hybrid Heaven Press in spring 2018. His poetry is forthcoming in CAROUSEL and has appeared in carte blanche, PRISM international, Arc, The Puritan, and more. He lives in Toronto.

Red Bird in Window

They said the blood would go away
and stay there, like father.

I have a pair of silk boots,
but I do not like the way the stockings stick to my prickly legs.

In the display window
the violin whines from my lap
old, it leeches water, cracks down the back
my son weeps in harmony
I scratch at the bumps on my scalp.

My eyes feel like blood clots
I undress
splash water between my legs
tear open my corset so my child can feed,
my husband feels my wretched beat

Ferns lap at my chest like soft waves
and I lay on a straw bed, a woollen blanket

my family a yellowing nativity scene
through frosted glass

My adopted name sits on my chest like silt
and the angle of my wrist writes maps on the baby’s back
and my husband breathes into my elbow
and the wax paper window lets them look in
grey with body sweats and the dust of living.


Erin Emily Ann Vance’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including Contemporary Verse 2 and filling station. Erin was a 2017 recipient of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Young Artist Prize and a 2018 Finalist for the Alberta Magazine Awards in Fiction. She is a graduate student in English literature and creative writing at the University of Calgary.

a long [orange] peel

I have always moved in [circles]
a deep peel,
an uncurling tongue
laid bare in the unwrought palm
of a morning
swallowed alone—
a thumb, raising
tight line un
     doing
    un
   done
  un
doing
   and here, softness.
lit by the brightness
of citrus in a cold room sink
I look out the window:

what I see is us speeding up
roving the corded
perimeter of a clogged
square that holds only
small pockets
of what seems to be
a singularly compressed grass:

enfolded by not a peel,
but the spot where you lay
jilted on starchy grass,
leaving the sinkish imprint
of you, a bundle

as I wound around
the freely unnoticed seed
in my mouth,
not using my teeth
but the paratactical space
in between a [circle]
and the square: I saw the bend
saw it all coming
like you: not looking
over your shoulder
me: dashing, over
stepping the boundaries
to [circle] is to drain yourself

is to look for a radius
to take the stairs two at a time
up to a vantage
then peer

down at the flip
of sheets across the public
square, along the horizontal
page that leads to being choate

an orange is both a perimeter
enclosing, a containment
expanding, like in those dewy
mornings when my body wakes up
in sheets that are too supple,
coming up against oiled cotton
until I pull myself back

to [circle] is never to rotate
just as to undo is not to be done:
it depends upon the position
of your body after and

before, when I sought a spine
off to the side, over and along
which I would climb, my movements
nearly undetectable,
otherwise risking retraction
like a rotten yellow rose

but the problem with scaffolding
or trellises is they
are feebly incomplete

it was from the upper level of scaffolding
that I first saw the square, bustling
pithy strands lacing between the segments
like looking down into a sink:

murkily, I’ve been seduced
by what should be a calm
aesthetic of roundness
again, in between
orange, chunks of pulp
congealed in half-moons
of fingernails
to quote myself
I’ve been around this [circle]
a number of times before
the same wrong moves
add up to nothing
when trying to solve
myself on a cold morning—
half an orange in one hand
scooping peels out from the sink
with the other.


Emily Zuberec is a writer living in Montreal, QC.

Sooke backsoaker (Hair Milk)

My thirst for hair milk began with this wet dream that resets
to red-rovering hands above strawberry heads
a half-kilo below the gorge tourist droves—bobbling
beyond our spot on the thin riverbed—we dipped
mountain-down, followed Victoria friends
three of them, siren-necked on towelled rocks
as we back-in-five’d for half an hour
fumbling in the Sooke backsoaker

After you fled Manhattan, you came here
I came from a Roosterville sesh house no less than few dozen steps from
a 7-Eleven dollar menu selling breaded chicken that shred
a Sunshine City goth-frat manor’s feces
We repressed a grey cemetery death
till brain-jpegs stopped popping
bubble gum polyps, stuck under the table,
baby teeth cut suckerfishin lollipops

I caress my hair milk when Westjet left our luggage,
Wet hot and red at baggage claim, red-man and his Florida-skinned dame
cuts quartz on his phone call
says we should “lay it on thick”
The taxi tucks through cemetery rows from LaGuardia and hair milk
warns I’ve seen nothing…yet
this is first day I’ve seen this many headstones
and positive sixteen, forty-three bucks for a carbine ride to First
In Toronto costs a third of the tab

Stromboli fellow, without anyone watching, eats dollar pizza fast
While you search for a salvia roof
To uncork sunsets inside bodega wine
Twelve-thirty next day, you scream
Double mirror shower steam, footprints on the ceramic display
The basement of the cloisters makes me nervous.
The subway to faux-rivers is rigged, hostile, hoisting a man
with a weeping gash on his leg, holding a cup,
He begs for Abe Lincolns and a foot rub

I awake in a wet bed
covered in your duvet and two cats
Willpower punishment, corner store ice cream
Dear Siri, How can I shrug emoji?


Cody Caetano is a Pinaymootang First Nation and Portuguese writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Echolocation, Bad Nudes, PRISM International, Acta Victoriana, a.side, and Hart House Review. He is currently enrolled in the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Toronto and the School of Continuing Studies, and is at work on a nonfiction manuscript under the mentorship of Lee Maracle.

ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING

Witch hazel in my pussy.
Rose water on the brain.
Let’s not go down memory lane,
but memory locker, feelings stored away.

I keep my garbage in the freezer
just like this city taught me.
I know it’s love, when during sex,
my new lover wipes my ass for me.

Zip up your feelings, Will advised
looking over the Brooklyn bridge.
I watch a man zip his pet rat
into his jacket on the subway.

Have I ruined another group chat?
Have I repressed a painful memory?
I say goodbye with vocal fry
so I can feel it in my body.


THE GREAT AMERICAN ECLIPSE

You know if a man loves a tree
he can love a woman

Are we going to fuck
in this bramble or not?

It’s good we walked on different
textures today: mud, sand, ice

It’s good we left the house
to love nature unironically

Have you ever pet a bird?
Locked eyes w/ a border collie?

We left the house to see tiny eclipses
projected through branches on concrete

A door hinge slams in the forest
where we go to smoke weed

You tell me a rambling story
abt your lost youth that concludes

I don’t give a fuck about horses,
I only like trees and sex



Cassidy McFadzean lives in Toronto. She is the author of Hacker Packer (M&S 2015), and Drolleries (2019)

What’s an antonym for gentle?

I’ve subscribed to too many newsletters

i click the model today when the sale starts tomorrow

never have i ever felt so vulnerable touching
clicking swiping various gadgets
even when there’s tape covering the camera hole

and i feel betrayed
by closed compound words like
gentleman
because has anyone ever accomplished
that level of softness?

why are they allowed to blend in
with that type of attribute?


Ana Carrete is the author of Baby Babe, make-believe love-making, Sadmess, why-fi, and naíf y kawaii. All of her social media accounts are private. Ask if you can lurk her.

Cíes Island

In my hair enough sand to fashion
an enviable sandcastle. White beach brightened

by day-trippers. A strange solace in portability,
these belongings I clutch. You carry a shadow

in your voice. A world apart from my small worries,
the bar plays English hits and people

do their little seated dances. I walk
behind a woman in water shoes

and think of you, geckos chasing the dust
ahead of my footfalls. On fences

are rainbow pinwheels always spinning.
I’m at my most disingenuous

when I least mean to be. Clouds peak like stiff-beat
egg whites. I wake to my arms above my head.

Buoyed the way as a child I set a watermelon on the counter
and my arms rose up, as if in memory of its weight.


Alison Braid is a writer from Summerland, BC, currently living in Prague. Her work has been published in Prairie Fire, The Puritan, CV2, Room Magazine, Poetry Is Dead, The Maynard, and MONTECRISTO Magazine, as well as long listed for Room’s 2017 Fiction Prize and shortlisted for the 2012 Descant/Winston Collins Poetry Prize.