LULU LEBOWITZ is a photographer at McGill pursuing a degree in History and Latin American Studies. She is also interested in geography and theories of landscape which have greatly influenced her photographic practice. When not getting lacerated by an icy Montreal wind, Lulu spends her time in Northern California where the sunshine and general greenery are true collaborators in her photo taking process.
ALL MY FALLING WOMEN*
(For my mother, and for John Swanson)
I. How to descend narrow stairs
You prepare by
angling the body—
and thus the feet—
to the right. Then…
You find a hand grip,
You place your feet on the stair treads
with the toes pointing
You do not allow
your purchase to lessen
by permitting the toes (or more)
to point forward, projecting out
over the edge of a narrow
You descend slowly
(but not too slowly), and
II. To me it all seemed a bit much, then
As a seven-year-old, I thought my mother’s
cautious way of descending the stairs
in our little house
did seem a bit
III. The birth of mio incubo ricorrente
As a nine-year-old
I once saw a friend’s mother fall.
She was rushing about, frantically—tidying
newspapers and toys before Melvin’s seething,
always-angry dad got home from
She caught her toe on the edge of the carpet
and fell down
Though I couldn’t really
understand why, on my way home I
This became my recurring
night terror, mio
My mother’s precautions,
I then realized,
weren’t a bit much
IV. Strangers are not strangers (not really)
As a thirty-five-year-old
I once noticed an older woman
walking on a sidewalk. She was
wearing a red scarf. I saw her
while I was driving home from
She was making her way along
the north side of West 12th Avenue,
passing a park, a few blocks west of
This woman was
unknown to me—a
I saw her catch her toe on something
and fall down
I stopped the car and
I tried to calm her,
to stop the blood flowing
from her face and scalp
with a sleeve torn from my
I asked a pedestrian
to run to a nearby house
and get someone to
please call an
“She’ll be fine,”
the paramedic told me later
as I cradled her head.
“You can go
Once I was back in my car, I
V. Cautious ways are rewarded
My mother never had a serious
Not, at least, until 1998 when—
at the appointed age for all the matriarchs
in her family dating back generations (75)—
she fell from this earth,
…more sensed than seen,
swept up through the window,
out and skyward into an
inky darkness worthy of
VI. Il mio incubo riemerge nell’esperienza vissuta
Today I am sixty-
While L and I were out
walking together this afternoon,
she caught the toe of her shoe on
(Was it the edge of a sidewalk panel
forced up by tree roots? I don’t
She fell down
I didn’t see it
And I couldn’t stop it
It was a “lucky fall”—
no broken bones, no sprains—
but there were scrapes
and shock. Broken glasses.
And she felt nausea and
“Still,” she said, “I am
very lucky. I’ll be
cleaning up the scrapes
with alcohol swabs
and placing bandages
carefully on knee and wrist—
once I was alone
in the bathroom, I
VII. L’incubo si ripete ancora e ancora
The bad dream,
the recurring night terror,
l’incubo, is never far
In it, the women I love,
and some I don’t know
(strangers who aren’t strangers)
VIII. I am a bit much myself
My grandson (“Mr. O”) watches me closely
as, carefully but confidently,
I descend the narrow stairs
from my study (where many boring
books without pictures live, he knows,
but also, the
I’m sure that this little performance
by his Nonno seems, to him,
“It’s okay, Mr. O,”
I tell him. “You can go on
ahead. But, be
IX. An unspoken lesson learned
And so it
(And so, indeed, it has gone
since I was
I learned by my mother’s example
and I learned
I prepare for every descent
(except the big one into oblivion)
by angling my body—
and thus my feet—
to the right.
(The opposite of my
I find a grip,
I place my feet on the stair treads
with my toes pointing
I do not allow
my purchase on them to lessen
by permitting my toes (or more)
to project forward, out over
the edge of a
I descend slowly, but not too slowly, and
confidently. (Success is not
guaranteed, but risk is
And yet, when it comes
to the big question of falling,
I am far from out of the
X. All my falling women
Still, I must not let myself forget that
when I awaken in a clammy sweat
(as I did this morning), I more
and more quickly remember now that it was a dream,
that no one has really fallen—and that, well,
once my pounding heart has again regained its grip,
this latest night terror, too, will
And once it has lifted, I will lean over
(as I always do) and kiss L’s sleeping
I will say a prayer for my
I will say a prayer for L,
and for Melvin’s mom whose toe
caught the edge of the carpet,
and for that woman
who tripped on the sidewalk
on West 12th Avenue,
not far past Arbutus,
and for all the other nameless and
numberless women who, in my sleep,
I am powerless to
as one of us heads down our narrow stairs
tomorrow to make the morning espresso—
there is momentary inattention, a misstep,
I know that my mother’s example
(her almost hand) will guide us:
Angle right, feet right. No guarantees,
Her almost hand—beckoning, guiding—
will steady our every descending footfall.
But not, alas, the dreamsteps of all my falling
Not even her
*Some text fragments in this poem have been borrowed from John Swanson’s collection of poetry and photography an almost hand, beckoning (San Francisco: Blurb Books, 2019).
P.W. BRIDGMAN’s most recent book—a selection of poems entitled A Lamb—was published by Ekstasis Editions in 2018. His poetry and fiction have appeared in, among other publications, Antigonish Review, Grain, Moth Magazine, Glasgow Review of Books, Honest Ulsterman, Galway Review, Litro UK, Litro NY and The High Window.
Learn more at www.pwbridgman.ca.
The first years of my life were exhausting. On August 11, 1998, I was placed in my mother’s loving arms, blue faced and cone-headed, after a 36-hour labour, forceps, and many stitches. Sleeplessness began before I had even made my appearance in the world.
Being my parent’s first child, they had no idea what to do with me. I am often reminded of the story of my homecoming: my parents placing my car seat on the coffee table, sharing a look, and my father asking, “What do we do now?”
Little did they know, the rest of my infanthood would be enshrouded by a blanket of colic.
Every evening, around dinner time, the wailing would begin. My mother would sit me in my highchair, beside her and my father at the dinner table, and they would try to talk over my loud screaming. It would continue long into the night. As most people turned off their lights and cuddled up in bed, my parents were awake trying to soothe their sad baby.
They desperately tried to shut me up: I was swaddled, massaged, bathed and nurtured, but I would not relent. Eventually, after many months of little sleep, they discovered I had two weaknesses: an endless desire for food and a love of Shania Twain.
In March of 1999, Twain’s Man! I Feel Like a Woman was released on North American country radio stations. This came seven months after my birth and about when my parents realized they were losing their minds.
I am not sure how my mother made the discovery, but to my parent surprise and extreme relief, they found that if I was bounced up and down, in an excruciatingly consistent manner, while listening to Shania Twain celebrate the prerogative of women everywhere, I would fall asleep.
I could not tell you why I loved Shania Twain so dearly. Maybe as a baby I was already identifying with my strong feminist values, or maybe I just loved Canadian country stars. Either way, now every time Man! I Feel Like a Woman comes on at my local country bar, I can be counted on to belt out the lyrics.
After the discovery that saved their sanity, my parents played me all different genres of music. I took my first steps with the waltz of the Blue Danube, spoke my first word alongside the croon of Leonard Cohen, and was ushered off to kindergarten to the tune of David Bowie.
Unfortunately, as a preschooler, I still had trouble sleeping. I was too big to be bounced, so either my dad would lay in bed with me until we both inevitably drifted off (a habit that has ruined his sleep schedule to this day) or my mom would sit on the edge of my bed rubbing my back and singing until I fell asleep.
I made requests. At night I liked folk: James Taylor, Peter Paul and Mary, and Gordon Lightfoot were regulars. My mom has a beautiful voice. She would sing me hit songs, hidden gems, and her own creations. I was particularly fond of The Water is Wide, which, accompanied by my mother’s soft hand on my back, would never fail to row me delicately to sleep.
I went through an 80s pop phase in grade school. After dinner, my mom, brother, and I would hold dance parties in in our dining room. We pushed the big table to the wall and took over the hardwood floor. We grooved to Take On Me, shimmied to Tarzan Boy, and head banged to Come on Eileen. Then, my favourite was Girls Just Want to Have Fun, an ode to my roots as a fan of female power ballads.
Middle school came with a love for teenage rebellion rock. An interesting time in my music history. My angst-filled years were fueled by My Chemical Romance and my own evil insecurities. I try not to think of this time: it was painfully sad, as most middle school experiences are.
There was a light at the end of the puberty-induced tunnel, and it came in the form of five glorious teenage boys. One Direction. I often credit my sexual awakening to this group and sincerely appreciate their ability to pull me out of the depressed hole I had fallen into.
My mother got to experience the true power of One Direction at their second concert in Ottawa. Their two shows in my city were held on the first days of my last year in high school. My infatuation had considerably diminished by this point. I was older, and I had a real boyfriend, but I still dragged my poor mom into the ruthless pit of teenage obsession. (She said she had fun.) These concerts would be the end of my “Directioner” phase. They would close the door on boy bands and high school and open the door to adulthood and university.
Unshackled from the world of top pop hits, I was loose and wandering, genre-less. Slowly, I found my way back to the music that started it all, the music of my parents.
It began with Bob Dylan, my dad’s all-time favorite. I downloaded his entire discography one night and listened to his top hits, Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, Like a Rolling Stone, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. Dylan lead me into a whole new world of 60s and 70s rock. The Eagles. Joni Mitchell. The Band. Simon and Garfunkel. Fleetwood Mac. All artists my parents grew up listening to and played for me as a kid.
Listening to this music is my most addictive nostalgia. I listen to the songs from my childhood and am reminded of vacations, dance parties, and sleepless nights. The same thing happens when I listen to music from middle school or find a playlist from a high school party. I can relive these moments over and over again.
My taste has evolved in recent years. I am not a stickler about genre or artist as much as I was, I will listen to anything as long as it sounds good. My current obsessions are Lizzo – a rapper, The Lumineers – a folk band, and Joan Jett – a 70s rocker.
But I will always have a love for the classics.
This summer, my parents, brothers, and I took a day trip to Montreal to drop one of my brothers off at McGill for his first year. I was in charge of music for the drive. My playlist started off with a classic, Super Tramp, Goodbye Stranger. It got a “nice one” and a nod from my mom. Paul Simon followed. Kodachrome. She started tapping the steering wheel.
The noise of the car took over. My youngest brother fell asleep, the other turned to his phone. My parents and I silently enjoyed the tunes. The next song was for them.
Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under. Shania Twain.
This one got a loud, “Whoa!” from the front seat. My mom gasped, taken back in time 21 years. I started singing along. My dad turned around with a big smile, fingers pointed at me in pride, bopping his head.
“Oh god,” my mom sighed and shook her head. “You were an exhausting baby.”
JESSICA MUNDIE (she/her) is a creative writer and journalist from Ottawa, ON. She is a graduate of Carleton University where she studied journalism, English, and drama studies. When she is not writing, she can usually be found baking or walking her dog. In January, she will begin her master’s degree at Columbia Journalism School in New York City.
Swallow’s wing dismembered
mud-slick among the rushes
I pick you up
limp rag of feathers blue-black flattened vanes
bound to broken forelimbs
arm fused wrist hand three fingers
hollow origami bones
weight one ounce
you passerine long distant migrant
hugging the coast to South America
back in May
I bury your wing in the dark cello nest of earth
Afternoon in winter
Raw umber no other colour
you lay it on the white paper
with a fine brush
and it streams down slowly
staining the white
the white is of snow
that day by the river
the umber is of reeds locked in ice
no wind even
you must capture this
how you felt standing by the river
in the winter
how you crouched among the stalks
how the reeds towered
how their frayed dried heads bowed
and bent in the cold
and how the sky was grey
in the white snow under the reeds
you lay your body down
as on a bed
and cried for beauty
VICTORIA LEBLANC is a writer, artist, and curator. Contributor to over 40 publications on Canadian artists. In 2019, she published her first collection of poetry, Hold. Forthcoming: Mudlark.As a visual artist, she has participated in solo and group exhibitions across Canada. Former Director of the Visual Arts Centre and McClure Gallery (1996-2017). Curator of City of Westmount Gallery since 1998.
Roger was seven when he died.
He was seven but he barely acted his age, always running around the neighborhood as if he’d just shot out of his mother like a cannon five minutes’ prior. He lived next-door to us and you could tell from the precision his Dad cut their lawn with that their family was more well off: shinier cars in the driveway, neater rows of thick bush in the backyard. And the food they cooked Roger for dinner; the aroma that would romance my senses when I peered through open windows nose-first, the magic in his bowl that could awake the kings of the jungle. It was enough to convince us we weren’t just a bunch of animals in cohabitation.
But since Roger died, those things didn’t seem to matter.
I heard Roger’s parents talking about him the night after he died. I couldn’t make out the words but I sat next to their kitchen window and listened. I knew I shouldn’t have; I knew it was intrusive, but what were they gonna do? Roger’s dad hated me. The old man would shoo me away like I was some rabid dog, even when I was sitting on the curb waiting for the wind to blow and for my parents to come home.
I watched Mrs. Sherman pick up the toys Roger left behind, and she’d shake them violently, the jewelry on her wrists making sounds like Christmas, and she’d wail and bark at her husband. Mr. Sherman seemed indifferent. I wanted to comfort Mrs. Sherman. I wanted her to pretend I was theirs for a night, that Roger’s things were my things and that they wouldn’t have to be painful for her. I wouldn’t be painful. I ran back home where my family had already eaten dinner and my own cold feast was waiting for me, ready to nourish but not to romance.
Two months later I began to throw up. Carol took me to the doctor in one of her I’m-too-busy-for-this-Steve moods. Her and Riley weren’t my real parents. They took me in years back, when no one could find my actual parents but sometimes they acted like I was as much of a nuisance as unclaimed dog feces left on the curb. The doctor tried to burn my eyeballs with a bright light at the end of a stick. I swatted at it and the next thing I knew Carol was clamping my limbs to the table, and I looked at her as if to say, “Same team, Carol!” and she looked back at me as if to say, “I’m too busy for this, Steve!”
The doctor gave me tablets to swallow, but they didn’t last long inside me and I threw them up when we were stuck in traffic on the way home. It was probably the first thing I’d eaten in days. I don’t know if it was Roger’s death, or the changes in these teenage years, or the traffic, but I felt irritated and wanted to jump out the window.
The next morning, Carol and Riley’s going-away bags were at the front door. The last time they were at the front door I didn’t see Carol or Riley for three moons and four suns. More going-away bags than usual lined the door that day, so I guessed they would be gone longer. I didn’t care much; I wanted space. I went into the backyard and took shade under a row of thick and soft and bright green bush, the type of bush that a desert mirage would envy. Sure, it was a weird place to lie, but no person or animal could make me care.
I lay there and wondered about Roger. I wondered whether he felt much pain when he died.
Cars drive along our street too fast usually. I know they drive too fast because Riley always yells at ‘morons’ and ‘ya goddamn idiots’ to slow down and informs them there are kids in the neighborhood. There are animals in the neighborhood too, but Riley never mentions them to either the ‘morons’ or ‘ya goddamn idiots’.
The car that hit Roger was a big, black and loud one and it didn’t stop or turn its noise down until about four houses after Roger found his way under the car’s steel belly. Poor Roger laid lifeless and stiff, like he was just sleeping under this very row of thick bush. There was no blood. He just lay there, peacefully. Maybe that’s a good way to go. The neighbors were all horrified, and the driver cupped his hands to his mouth after he’d stopped and realized what he’d hit. The grey-haired woman across the street was the first one to attend to Roger until Mrs. Sherman ran out onto the road, still in her fleecy gown and without any paint on her face. I’d never seen her care for Roger that way, as he lay lifeless and stiff in her arms, her face wet and shiny with fresh tears.
I heard our front door open and figured Riley was grunting at one of the bags he was carrying out of the house. At the same time Eric from across the road walked into our backyard. He was a bit of a dick and he roared at me to leave, even though it was my own goddamn backyard. I hated Eric, but fear outweighed the hatred, so I didn’t stick around. I ran to the front door, where I could see Carol and Riley getting into a yellow car on the street. They took off quickly and without a goodbye. I knew I’d miss them, but I also wanted to be alone. I wondered if I’d still be around when they got back. I knew things were changing and I felt that change right there and then as I threw up on the doormat.
I was still around when they got back, five moons later. I’d had to put up with Mrs. Nightingale’s sickening perfume and underuse of top buttons, having visited me several times and showing the two largest teats these vertical pupils had ever seen as she’d bent down to massage my neck. Her cold hands prickled my hairs. After the second moon, she looked at my food, untouched from the previous day, and called Carol to tell her about it. I couldn’t work out why it was such big news; I just wanted her to leave and let me sleep.
As soon as she was home, Carol took me back to the doctor. She didn’t seem frustrated or busy this time. She carried me carefully inside the bright white room, and when I tried to swat the doctor’s eye-burning fire stick she just stroked my head and calmly held my limbs. After we got back in the car, Carol’s face was wet and shiny with the same fresh tears Mrs. Sherman had when Roger died.
We got home and Carol carried me inside. It hurt, and my body was weak with the hurt, and I felt like I was a plate of jelly about to spill through her arms. I’d been told for years I always landed on my feet but in that moment, I felt like I’d land face-first.
An hour later, Riley entered the house like he had something important to do and to my surprise he stopped in front of Carol and me. For fifteen minutes he stroked my head, which was hanging from Carol’s arm like a newspaper hangs out of a letterbox on a rainy day. Riley stroked my head the same way they did when I first arrived all those years back. I wanted to run away from both of them. I loved them, dearly I loved them, but I just wanted to be by myself. To be by myself under the row of thick bush. That was where I wanted to be, that was heaven for me. Heaven awaited and I did not want to keep it.
That night, dinner was not cold, nor pragmatic. It was warm, it was flesh, and it filled the air like it was boasting its beauty to any nose that would have it. I ate, and it was as if I could still feel the explosive pulse of the animal on my tongue. Two mouthfuls were enough.
Later, I was wedged between Riley and Carol on the couch, their couch, the couch usually out of bounds for me. Riley’s hand stroked my head and Carol’s patted my back, as if she was feeling the quality of an Egyptian rug. I knew whose hand was whose because my head was pushed down like a dashboard bobble-head on a bumpy drive. That was Riley’s way of showing affection. Something I’d missed. It was lovely and all, but what I really wanted was that row of thick bush. I wanted that row of bush to hang like clouds above me.
The next morning, I pulled myself from the couch. I was exhausted. Each step to the front door was like trudging through thick mud. The door was closed, and I realized it was too early to be let out of it. I saw an opening in the window but was far too tired to jump up there. Riley appeared in his gown. He sat on the floor with me, gently caressing my head and offering to hold me once more with a tap on his chest. I loved Riley, dearly I loved him, but today I sought heaven. I wanted to lay under that row of thick bush. He opened the door for me and I could’ve sworn he had a wet and shiny face, just like Mrs. Sherman’s when Roger died all those suns ago and just like Carol’s when she drove me home from the doctor.
I hurried around the side of the house as fast as my aching paws would let me, and I found my nirvana. I curled myself into a ball in the soil, like I was about to sink into it and provide the earth with nourishment, something my body had refused for days. The sun trickled through the leaves above me, and the wind made a singing noise with the branches, trying to put me to sleep one last time. I closed my eyes. I thought again about whether Roger felt anything when he died. I began drifting off. I curled my tail over my paws, and my paws over my whiskers, and thought it was time this old tabby discovered for himself.
DAVID SONNTAG is a freelance writer, content marketer, and singer-songwriter. Originally from Western Australia, he’s a sucker for the ocean, strumming in front of a crowd, and reading under the sun. Dave wrote his first short story in 2017, after ditching his banking career. With Tim Winton and Haruki Murakami as his creative inspirations, Dave writes about family, human behaviour, and overcoming fears – often with a twist.
I never cared for hockey. Sure, as a Canadian (truthfully, more of a Québécoise), I was aware of hockey but failed to appreciate its beauty and never quite understood its meaning. I would continue to be oblivious about it for far too many years.
Ironically, hockey shaped some of my earliest memories. Fragments of it can be found in recollections of my grandfather, Léonce, watching Les Nordiques in the living room, or listening to overly excited commentators announcing the scores over the radio on long car rides. I watched my brother play street hockey with his friend on cold Canadian winter afternoons. I witnessed my otherwise shy uncle rave about vintage hockey cards. Not to be forgotten was my introduction to the beloved short story, “The Hockey Sweater” by Roch Carrier, which was the first time I read English Canadian literature, beginning a lifelong love of short stories. So, hockey was, in a way, always part of my life.
In those years where I was uninterested in the game, fond memories unknowingly formed around watching my brother and sister play. I was so proud of my sister whose talent stood out in this male-dominated sport. I was yet to appreciate their games, which felt tediously long as a little girl. I can still feel the cold on my hands from the arena and the unique smell of the ice, which would often be overtaken by the pungent smell of vinegar and fries that spectators ravenously snacked on. But nothing compares to the excitement I felt between long periods of boredom when one of my siblings’ teams would score. I timidly felt overjoyed and could not avoid the irresistible urge to join the loud cheering of the crowd, filled with proud moms, dads, and other bored siblings.
I still affectionately remember many charming characters from the arena. The hockey moms and dads who disproportionately cheered for their child and did not shy away from trash talking the young opposing team. The nice boy in the back row with oversized orthodontic headgear, who somehow always seemed to catch the puck when it flew into the crowd. The well-meaning elderly man who sold lottery tickets for charity and allowed me to purchase some unlawfully (I won a tooney twice!). And then there was ambitious Andy, who smugly held the responsibilities of self-appointed executive chief water boy, concession stand vendor, and raffle ticket salesman. He was also the unofficial mascot, the replacement Zamboni driver, and I am almost certain he also sharpened the skates. Andy’s multiple roles were comical, but through them he contributed to town spirit in a way I failed to appreciate at a young age. Andy was not a hockey player, a hockey fan, nor did he know anyone at the hockey matches. He was proudly part of the figure skating club. No one really knows why he hung out at the arena during hockey games.
The even finer details are still fresh. The weight of my siblings’ hockey bags filled with their gear, which were most likely taller and heavier than me. The sound of the skates when breaking quickly on the ice. The terrible smell of the hockey gear post games and practices that no amount of Febreze (purchased in high quantities from Costco by my mother) could improve. The satisfying sight of the Zamboni machine cleaning the ice as the driver (sometimes Andy) waved to the crowd. The long wait for my siblings to get changed after games and practices to finally go home!
As a teenager still finding my feet, I remember my father speaking highly of the women’s Olympic hockey team win of 2002. I never watched that historic match, but I heard so much of it that I get excited just thinking about it. The extraordinary leadership of Danièle Sauvageau, the unfair refereeing, the near loss but how they won with grace and dignity.
My father gave me a speech inspired by that win about time, hard work and practice: “We all have 24 hours in a day, that’s the only fair thing in this world, how will you use your time?”.
I think of those words regularly and I think of that winning match, which I have never watched, when in need of motivation.
In 2010, when I finished my university semester, I found myself living in Montréal with my brother in our parents’ townhouse. I was working as a bank teller during the weekdays, and my brother had his usual high-tech computer job that I will not attempt to explain. We would eagerly meet in the evenings where he would usually treat me to delicious meals out on the town, comedy shows, and movies at the cinema. City life was so exciting.
To connect with my brother, I half-heartedly decided to watch hockey with him and support the Habs. If anything, hockey-viewing snacks seemed so tasty! Slowly but truly, I was drawn in without realising.
He used to say things like, “It’s just like a story, it’s good to know about their backgrounds and follow them through their success”.
My favourite players (and the only ones whose names I knew) were Subban and Halak, and, slowly I became invested. I can still hear myself say with blind faith, “It’s impossible for them to lose, we have Halak and nothing gets passed him!” or, “We are so lucky to have Subban on our side, we can’t lose with him!”.
Aside from learning the players’ names and enough of the hockey rules (that I no longer recall) to get by, I was, more importantly, starting to learn about a nation’s and my province’s pride and true love. My brother also helped me appreciate Québécois hockey. It is undeniable that French Canadian hockey brings its own charm and excitement. I still giggle when I remember commentators saying “des bons gars avec des bons coeurs” when the team would do well or “ils n’ont pas de coeurs” when they would play poorly. Québécois are passionate about hockey, which is half the fun.
But what I remember most and know I will carry with me for life, is how beautifully connected I felt with the community when I watched hockey. The best part was seeing people in their matching jerseys rush out of the office early to catch the game. Attempting to find a place with a good seat and a large screen in central Montréal, I would brave the overcrowded metro as people excitedly hurried to their hockey viewing parties. I still recall the infectious happiness that would explode when the Habs scored, reminiscent of the cheers I experienced in the arena as a child. The next day, hearing everyone at work talking about the game made me feel connected to something I had never related to before. What would once have been an eye roll turned into an, “I know, right!”.
I wish I could say that I kept up with watching hockey, but I did not. In fact, I didn’t even finish the season as I returned to Ottawa early for university. I might have gone to the sports bar once or twice with friends to watch more games, but it was not the same. Was it because my brother was missing, the fact that the games were in English, or maybe I was just over it? I do not really know. I am ashamed to say I do not even know if the Habs won or how far they made it that season. My short-lived hockey fever was gone.
However, that is not to say that the game disappeared completely from my life. Hockey continued to find ways to reach me in many forms. For example, when “playing” floor hockey to support my roommate (I never once touched the puck and was always the first to enthusiastically volunteer to be benched). Flash forward many years, taking my British husband to a Remparts game in Québec City where I witnessed his confusion about Canada’s beloved sport.
“It goes so quickly!” he remarked.
To add to the confusion, the dedicated weirdo fan behind us was holding a squeaky rubber chicken and the hockey coach passionately threw his water bottle on the ice rink in a last ditch attempt to persuade the referee to side with him, which only added to my husband’s uncertainty about the game.
My young nephew joining a local small-town hockey team also brings back many fond memories. I hope he learns the same lessons from hockey as I have, and that his siblings have as much pride watching him as I did with mine.
What surprises me the most is how much those matches I watched long ago had unknowingly inspired me. I have often looked back on them for guidance when facing struggles. What was once a meaningless game became meaningful and still is to this day.
I do not know what my hockey future looks like. I might get into another season and bond with other hockey fans. I cannot imagine myself even casually playing the game, but stranger things have happened! I hope to take my prospective children to play on outdoor ice rinks, even on afternoons that are far too cold. If life throws me an unmanageable hurdle, I can always look back on those games for inspiration. The dedication I observed in those games gone by was my main take away. Many future hockey-based moments surely await me.
What I do know is that I still think of the ice rink where my siblings played hockey, I still think of my father’s unsolicited coaching strategies and I will forever remember the lessons that hockey taught me. For me, the meaning of hockey is not being a player, or watching the games regularly, or even having a great understanding of them. It is not about keeping scores or wins. It never was and never will be about trophies. The meaning of hockey is about the memories of happy gatherings, believing in something that is greater than me, and connecting to my roots.
MARIE-EVE BERNIER is a Québécoise currently living in New Zealand. She loves playing outdoors and reading books. She works in the early years and considers babies her best friends. She has many hobbies but watching hockey isn’t one of them.
As I step out of the rusted station wagon, the unforgettable scents of Vancouver Island strike me — lilac, gravel, and salt. This place plays tempting tricks on visiting city dwellers, prompting us to question why we have chosen to exist anywhere else. I enter the foyer of the house and breathe in the smell of old wood coated in fresh paint. The panels below my feet let out an earnest squeak with every step I take, and I imagine the house blushing at its inability to hide its age. I head towards the staircase, lifting my bag as not to scrape its wheels on the delicate frames of the steps. The foyer at the top of the stairs presents a crossroad — there are five separate doors, four of which are closed, the other leading to a room on which Laura has already laid claim. There will be four of us staying here this summer—last-minute “girls retreat,” as my friends have been calling it. Since the beginning of university, we have been coming here every spring break. This year feels unique. Graduation is approaching quickly, and we all know that this will likely be our last visit here. I think that most of the girls will be happy to move on with their lives by the time school ends — I’ll be happy as well —but I can’t help feeling as though I still have things left to do. Time rarely leaves warnings for the young. Instead, it teases you with the illusion of endless expanse, offering no apology when you realize you have discovered its deception.
I take a left and push open the door directly across from Laura’s room, and decide to leave my bag in this one. It’s small, consisting of only a twin bed and a vanity, but there is one panelled wall adorned with tall windows that fill each corner with natural light. I stand in place for a moment, taking in my surroundings, letting my brain catch up with my body. I am truly, finally, here.
I unzip my bag and start to unpack my makeup and perfume onto the vanity, opening the window so I can make acquaintance with the sounds of the neighbourhood. Cars whizz by on the street outside, a few of the girls laugh about something while smoking in the driveway and from down the hall, I can hear Laura humming along to a Johnny Cash song. Sitting down at the vanity, I take a proper look at myself, which I haven’t done in days. Despite my transition into adulthood, I am still the same Ellery—though my hair has lightened from the sun, and my freckles threaten to expose themselves once again. Those freckles make me think of my grandmother, who used to call them “beauty spots.” Every summer, she would remind me that their patterns were formed by the universe uniquely for my body. A solar system, fitting itself faultlessly on the bridge of my nose. I’ve always thought they make me look childish.
As I lean forward to give my skin a closer look, I realize that I can see Laura in her room across the hall from the left panel of my mirror. I turn my eyes away, not wanting to invade her privacy, but I find it almost impossible not to look back. I feel a lack of control over where I place my gaze, aware of my inappropriate voyeurism. She isn’t doing anything particularly interesting, just unfolding clothes from her bag and transferring them into the nearby wardrobe. Still, her movements catch my interest. She carries herself with such mirthful energy, even when she thinks no one is watching. I place my chin on my hand, steadying myself in place so I don’t lose the precise angle that allows me to watch her from my seat. She continues humming to herself and shaking out the clothes from her bag for a few more moments. Then, abruptly, she begins rummaging through her belongings with new vigour, searching for something. She unzips the front pocket of her suitcase, triumphant. Reaching inside, she pulls out a creme-coloured dress, shaking it aggressively to loosen the wrinkles. She lays the garment down on her bed and begins to undress. My heart is beating faster now. I know I should look away, but I can’t bring myself to just yet. She removes her T-shirt first, pulling it over her head to reveal a wireless lace bra underneath. She then pulls down her skirt, leaving it to lay on the floor. My feet are restless, rhythmically pattering on the ground. Guilt makes my stomach churn. My actions are tasteless and invasive.
Laura raises the dress above her shoulders and slides it on over her head, turning to the mirror to see her figure fully. She leans closer towards the glass to get a closer look, just as I had done moments before, and a rush of panic runs through me when I realize that through the reflection her gaze has met mine. For a lingering moment, we both freeze, and a weighty wash of shame mixed with embarrassment strikes me. To my surprise, Laura’s lips draw themselves into a wanton half-smile, and she winks at me. She turns away to continue with her unpacking as if nothing at all had happened. I stand from my seat to do the same, revelling in the familiar sensation of promiscuity that overwhelms me. But—like a child, whose hands have been burned before by the coils of a hot stove—I know to keep my distance from things that make me feel this way. My body still sears, blistered from the last time I thought it was safe to share this part of myself.
Soon, I think to myself; you will be far from here. Soon, you can walk along a different beach, one far away, fingers intertwined with those of a girl who doesn’t fear her love for you. One who won’t abandon her courage come fall or hide behind mirrored reflections to meet her eyes with yours.
The events of this trip will remain, forever, within the confines of this tattered home, as they always do. Buried beneath lilac, gravel, and salt.
KELBY MACKENZIE is a twenty-two-year-old writer, who currently resides in Victoria, BC.
all begin mid-sentence with a cool edge
tumbling inward to a vermillion core
they possess images they make images
& many of them are quite striking
due to disavowal of standard punctuation
with the exception of instances of extreme
emphasis or necessity.
your grandmother’s pain lives inside
them along her mahogany shelves
next to a framed photograph of a dead soldier
& the window is open because the poem must
have a question but in place of an answer
there is the wind you hear
angry fathers in the lines
& see vast expanses of ice on january lakes
off the backroads leading to a city of great joy
& a love which someone you know has left
buried beneath the big oak in the park
all the poems you like feature a sunflower
all the poems you like are flapping
like maple leaves and in them your old pets
have come back to life & so has miles davis
please don’t forget the burnished sun
& the russet fields
that steamy vermillion core
please don’t forget that all the poems you like
this & this
MIKE BOVE‘s poems have appeared recently in Rattle, The Cafe Review, and others. His first book, Big Little City, was published by Moon Pie Press in 2018. He lives in Portland, Maine with his family and teaches in the English Department at Southern Maine Community College.
Bonnie’s parents had said they would be back in five minutes. It had been almost fifteen according to the waterproof watch she received for her birthday, and Bonnie suspected they would be a while yet. Not that she minded, really. She was too hot and drowsy to be annoyed. ‘Languid’ she thought, remembering her last vocabulary test. How far away it all seemed: classes, homework, gold stars. Her parents had taken her out of school a month before the end of the year to go on a family vacation to the Grand Canyon. ‘We are going to have such a good time’ her mother had assured her as she’d packed their bags.
They had been driving around the desert for days now, stopping at motels and roadside restaurants, her parents uncharacteristically vague about their itinerary. At this point, Bonnie started to feel they might never make it to the Grand Canyon at all.
Her parents had spent the past hour arguing about directions, her mother insisting they had missed an exit and should be turning back, and her father adamant they just had to carry on a while longer. With the sun rapidly setting over the horizon and no town in sight, Bonnie had felt the undercurrent of tension in the front of the car build like a rumbling summer storm. The appearance of this squat strip of stores seemingly out of nowhere along the endless desert road had given pause to her parents’ silent dialogue of glares and shrugs. ‘Stay in the car, sweetie,’ her mother had said as they’d pulled into the parking lot. ‘Back in five, champ. Keep the doors locked,’ her father added with a stretch and a yawn.
Now, with her parents presumably stocking up on snacks and directions, Bonnie was alone for the first time since they had left home. Her mind was too sluggish and uncooperative for her to read or even think properly to pass the time. Lying on the back seat of the rental car, staring up through the open sun roof and slowly melting into the leather upholstery, all she could focus on was the dry and relentless Arizona heat. It had a weight to it, an almost physical form: a large cat curled up on her chest perhaps, or the thick woolen blanket her mother pulled out of the closet only on the bitterest nights of January. If Bonnie held her breath, she could imagine sitting at the bottom of the swimming pool on a summer afternoon, the world as still and heavy here as it was underwater.
The minutes ticked by, the setting sun slanting in liquid beams through the windshield, illuminating specks of dust floating in the air above her. She glanced at her feet pressed up flat against the window, her toes painted a new watermelon pink she had found in her mother’s makeup bag. Her mother had never liked pink. She had never liked the heat either. Or car trips. Bonnie frowned, and propped herself up on her elbows to look outside. Still no sign of her parents. Getting to her knees, she reached into the front seat and grabbed her mother’s discarded sweater, tying the arms in a knot around her waist. Then, before she could change her mind, she used the headrests to shimmy up through the sun roof, emerging into the last golden minutes of the day with the world awash in the deep orange of overripe clementines. From her perch, Bonnie swung her legs and slowly unpicked the French braid her mother had woven her into that morning.
Still no one, just the silence and the emptiness of the parking lot at the end of the day. None of it felt quite real; the rented car, the expanse of asphalt around it, the squat beige stores she could just see out of the corner of her eye, and the desert stretching away from her in its vast, merciless beauty.
Sometimes, when she was swimming, Bonnie looked up through the water at the surface and imagined that if she waited just long enough, and emerged in just the right way, she would find herself in a different world. She never did, no matter how many times she tried. As she sat in the hallowed quiet of the evening, it dawned on her that perhaps, just perhaps, this was the place. The place she had been looking for in swimming pools and wardrobes and potting sheds. The place where time stood still and the fabric of the universe wore to a translucence.
She could stay, she thought. She could wait for her parents to finally come out of the store, their arms laden with treats they would never normally buy at home and their smiles wide like they had not spent the past half hour arguing where she couldn’t hear them. About mom’s new nail polish, and all the late nights dad had been putting in at work lately, and the hundred other reasons they had felt this vacation was so urgent it couldn’t wait until she graduated from the sixth grade with her friends. She could stay, and of course Bonnie knew she would.
Yet, as the sun set and the desert sky bloomed to a bruised purple twilight, a small part of her whispered, ‘you could go if you wanted to’. She could slide down the side of the car, sandaled feet meeting the asphalt with a slap, and start walking. She could take one step, then another, and then another, across the parking lot, across both lanes of the highway, and into the desert. She could walk with her eyes closed and her hands outstretched, feeling for the edges, the secret liminal spaces between this world and the next. She could keep walking, shedding a part of herself with every step in a puff of desert dust until she walked out of existence completely, leaving nothing behind. Not a footstep, not an echo.
CHARLOTTE MAERTENS lives and works in Montreal.
At night, Misha dreamt of being a witch – a witch with hair so long, it never ended, but would spread out, its trails spiralling throughout the forest; in cobwebs and birches, into abandoned wells and rivers, under mounds of dry leaves and soil. It sunk deep beneath the roots, through the thickening layers of decay, past hordes of bones and fossils. Sometimes, it would even reach as far down as the molten belly of the earth; so that when she moved, and pulled at her strands, everything twisted and churned around her.
During the day, he thought of love. He had love, but he wished that he cared, that he really cared. Her name was Andrea. Beautiful and smart, he thought, but could own it more. Principled, even if words trip her up. Most importantly, she was passionate about her work, and he respected that. She was a schoolteacher. He tried. He was present, he would cook at his apartment and clean at hers, and they’d both think of fun things to do together. They’d go on drives, or kayaking, they ate out and snuck into the movies. They had a treasure trove of nicknames and inside jokes. She was Stitch, and he Abu.
One spring evening, they’d driven out to the river, for a picnic. They brought sandwiches and watermelon. The sunset reflected off the rippling waves.
“Look at the fish,” he said, “jumping out the water. It’s cause they wanna take a look at you.”
He kissed her neck, and bit into a melon slice. She stared on ahead.
“You ever think of moving?”
He blinked. “What, like move in together?”
“No,” she said, “I mean leaving Montreal, going someplace else. If you could, where would you wanna go?”
He gave it a moment. “I don’t know. Nice here, isn’t it?”
“That’s just it, though,” she sighed. “We’re too comfortable.”
“You think so?” He sat up, and mulled it over a bit more. “I wouldn’t mind visiting Machu Pichu, save up.”
Andrea shook her head. “It’s different for you. You came over from Alberta, but not me. I’ve been here my whole life. What I want is not to visit. I want to move, to change everything. I’ve been talking about it with Mom.”
She brushed bits of dirt from her jeans.
“Change everything, huh. Don’t you like what we’ve made so far?”
“No baby,” she touched his face, “I do. You come with me. Nothing too crazy. Maybe the west coast, or the US. Not so far that we wouldn’t know what the people are like.”
“What about the kids,” he said, “at your school?”
“Oh, they’re fine. It’s not like we’d up and leave in the middle of the year. And you could bartend anywhere.”
He nodded. “So, it would be next year?”
“Actually, I was thinking sooner than that.”
“What,” he whispered, “this summer?”
“Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“The idea’s stirred up in me just recently. We have a few months left. If I talked to administration in the next couple weeks, they’d find someone by September, and I’d at least substitute somewhere else.”
He snorted. “So you’re dead serious?”
“I know it’s a lot,” she said.
They went over the specifics – the timeline of the move, friends and family, their apartments and furniture, where they might go, whether they preferred city or town, town or country. They talked into the night, and through the mists of the city, the stars shone dimly above them. Misha suddenly felt hungry and, remembering they had half a melon left, he devoured two pieces.
She had some too. “Anyway, give it some thought,” she said.
They slept at Andrea’s, that night. But before that, he stepped out for groceries. He wanted to walk and think. He meditated on their relationship, and questioned himself about whether his intentions were genuine. And if he wasn’t sure, wouldn’t it be wrong to go with her?
He sat down at a park swing, dropped his head in his hands. He thought it was unexpected of her to suggest this change, and he liked that she’d done it. Weren’t emotions made up, anyways? What did it matter if he loved or not, if she was everything he could want, if she surprised him, and if he put in the work, in turn? Wouldn’t the feeling realize itself, as a result of the action? But then, he also wondered grimly, whether he risked hurting her, and derailing her life over something that wasn’t yet real.
The streetlight flickered over the park. He got up and wiped his eyes.
BOHDAN ENKO is a student, idler, and dog mom in Tio’tià:ke. He has no prior publications. Connect with him on instagram @forumanarchiste.