Bellow into the wind all weakness rooted in the fears of an overbearing society,
the one that robs you of your femininity, a country that drains you of your fierceness.
Let the current take with it the burden of your ancestors,
a toll taxed with the memory of a nation struggling to accept that which is sown into the land,
into the cane, into the coffee, into the cotton, into the sweat dripping down the forehead
of your great-grandfather who tried to love a woman in the hopes that he might outrun his queer transgressions.
Feel the air lift you pass the disquiet of your aunty, the one who would visit Trinidad to indulge in her female friend,
the companion who never earned a name, a face, her body bursting with affection of the flesh
for your aunty who preferred tank tops, and cargo shorts and flip flops paired with alluring red lip stick and a full face of make-up,
aunty’s own tiny rebellion against the unsympathetic consciousness of a region denying her embeddedness.
You are in the sky now between the earth and the stars,
free to write your own history of desire, able to make love to your partner in all three spaces;
below the earth, above the sky, between the stars as they ravage you,
as you delight in him, as all five bodies devour each other.
We unmute history with every touch, every sigh, every tear, paying homage to our decadent ancestry.
LINZEY CORRIDON is a Southern-Caribbean guy who drifted North. His creative and academic research remains rooted in the experiences of queer Caribbean and diaspora peoples. Linzey’s writing can be found in publications such as The Puritan, Insight Journal, and Emotional Magazine. He is a PhD student in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University.
Origamied inside her Vuitton bag—bought at the Marché aux Puces—for the time being. A Legend doesn’t walk a rollcall in the showpiece of the night.
Especially not at the Olympus Ball.
It’s the biggest event of the year.
The moment everyone’s been waiting for. Prepared and spent for.
So worth it.
For a glimpse into another life. One where heartache isn’t.
For a bleep of an instant.
Who you are, where you are, what is or isn’t.
Circumstances disappear and make way for the dream to live, for being.
And she walks the runway.
Serves on the runway.
Brings it to the runway.
Just poses. Poses. Poses…
For them. But mostly for her.
It’s all about attitude. Resilience. Spitting in the face of adversity and all the bullies.
While strutting in six-inch heels.
All eyes on her.
Hoping to get tens across the board. Anything but getting read for filth by the judges, and that only happens if the category isn’t met. It’s not a beauty contest…except for Face; that category is all about cheekbones and finding your light.
Legends like her rarely get read though.
Comes with the territory.
All the great Houses are attending tonight: Ebony, Mizrahi-Mugler, La Durée, and the Legendary House of Mermaid, her clan, to name a few.
Paris is literally burning tonight, lit with glamour.
Too much is just right.
Especially at the Olympus Ball.
A-game is the only game to bring at this kiki.
Eva flips her hair back and forth as she twirls one last time for the crowd. Beyoncé wishes.
Having 32” extensions is one thing; knowing how to work them is entirely another. Her cousin does the best weaves, and Eva is the Queen of hair-ography. Fan, or not.
She runs backstage.
Mother Mermaid is holding court in the dressing room when she sees her:
“Bonsoir Eva! Come here, baby!”
Her signature scent embraces before her motherly hug does.
Opium by Yves St-Laurent.
Most people do one, but she does three: sprays…then, the traditional delay and walk-away.
Mother assembles her favorite butch queens to get Eva runway ready.
A steamer is rolled in to get the dress back to perfection.
Cassandra, the Mermaid’s make-up artist, beats her face for the Gods. Eva’s high cheekbones blended for days. Visage contoured. 301 lashes on.
Her Vitiligo proudly showcased in the make-up creation.
Red Velvet lipstick coats her voluptuous lips.
She strips-down to her nude colored G-string, then Randy – the newest starlet of the clan – applies matching pasties to her nipples.
The gold marvel is being brought to her by one of the butch queens.
Un-origamied into its spectacular self.
Eva sowed it herself with the help of her real-life mom. She’s so supportive, and for all of Eva’s endeavors.
Silk caresses her skin as the dress is slipped on.
Randy zips her up:
“Gurl, you look hot as hell!”
Eva spins. Randy chirps:
“Werk bitch!! Weeeerk!!!”
Finger snaps. Tongue pop.
The vaporous sheer silk shimmers, anxiously awaiting the stage’s spotlight to shine gloriously.
Her roommate and best friend, Nadine, lent her a pair of scintillating thigh-high boots to complete her look. They are like liquid gold.
Mother Mermaid acquiesces silently by batting her lashes thrice. She dry-cries because of the Botox, but you can hear it in her tone:
“Magnifique! Look at the proud woman you’re becoming. I have seen you go from caterpillar to this beautiful butterfly. Now, go spread your wings and fly, baby, fly!”
Eva can feel electricity in her spine as she approaches the stairs to the runway. She’s accompanied by Cassandra and Randy for finale touches, as the rest of the Mermaid clan invades the crowd to cheer her on.
She feels alive.
Goose-bumped from head-to-toe.
The deep bassline hits her right in the hips.
DJ White Boyie is lit AF tonight.– spinning songs together like the very fabric of life, weaving them together as if they had always been meant to, and bringing pure joy to everyone within reach of his dirty beat.
MC High Top is announcing the winner of the Butch Queen category:
Ritchie is their biggest rival, and Randy gave up competing tonight to get Eva ready. She knows how they feel, so she whispers in their ear:
“You’re fiercer than him any day of the week! And, thank you for being here for me…”
She kisses their cheek, leaving a Red Velvet signature on it.
They reciprocate, leaving a trace of tinted lip balm…which Cassandra brushes off with a loud:
DJ White Boyie slows the beat down and transitions to runway music.
MC High Top:
“A’ right, a’ right, a’ right!”
Chopping the words down to match the rhythm.
“Get ready for the Runway Divas. Run-way. Divas. Run-way, DIVAS… DJ!! Drop the beat.”
Eva is ecstatic, she can’t help but sway her hips. Sound is the only thing picked up by more than one of the five senses. The groove is something felt as much as it is heard.
And tonight, it is everything.
She lets the other Houses go first; no one would want to walk the runway after her. Not with what she’s got “up her sleeve” on her back.
It had taken a lot of ingenuity to make it work. But Eva and her mom had made it: work.
Sparks of adrenaline electrify her body.
She abandons herself to the groove, haloed by black 32” extensions, when she suddenly stops mid-dance:
Randy turns, sounding worried:
“What is it, gurl?”
“My ball came un-tucked!” Her voice is a hush.
She can’t have a mooseknuckle showing through the sheer gold fabric of her dress. Randy pulls, she pushes…and the misbehaving ball pops back-up in place.
“Thank you,” she sighs, “one more week before I’m complete. Mom is taking me to Dr. Aubry’s next Thursday…”
Her voice breaks.
Randy looks at her teary eyed.
She can’t think of that. Not now, it would ruin Cassandra’s beautiful make-up.
One last runway as a Trans person. The next one, she will walk as a fully realized woman. She will have reverted to her original self, to who should have been from the start.
It’s her turn to finally be.
It’s also her time to walk, now. And serve. And pose. And Vogue.
To teach the children how to hold their heads up high. To not bow to bullies. To spit in the face of adversity, of the nay-sayers, of the haters…of those who should walk in them stilettos before judging.
Eva is ready. Cinched, pulled, and tucked.
Cassandra applies one last touch-up of Red Velvet.
DJ White Boyie switches to her favorite song. They’ve been dating for the past few months. They empower each other. He looks at her with such passion, especially now.
His cheerful gaze helps her focus. He winks.
She smiles at him before climbing the four steps leading to the runway.
“Run-Way. Diva!! Y’all make some noise for the Legendary Ms. Eva Mermaid!!” MC High Top is screaming in the mic from excitement so much that it reverbs.
DJ White Boyie scratches the vinyl record and drops the fat beat.
Eva stomps to the middle of the runway. Naomi could never…
Strikes a pose.
The crowd cheers.
She can hear her clan chanting:
“MER-MAID, YOU HEAR US, PREY? MER-MAID, JUST WATCH US SLAY!”
They are stomping each word as though wanting to shake the earth to its core.
She murders the runway, firmly planting her stiletto in its spine with every step. Asserting herself. Strutting all over the leprotic glances she usually gets from people.
And poses and serves.
Working every inch of the vaporous fabric.
Presenting with pride.
And then, she reaches the end of the runway.
Pulling two strings, in the lower part of the corset, deploys the cape into wings attached to her shoulders.
Lustrous gold, looking ready to take flight.
And the crowd goes wild at the sight of her majesty:
“OVAH, YOU ARE OVAH!!”
Eva flips her head back and poses. Her hair moving in slow-motion almost, suspended just as time seems to have stopped.
For an instant of pure glory.
Her spirit soaring high above the crowd.
Adulation and bliss.
Galvanised, she spins one last time to the roars of the children and her family.
How she wishes this flash of a moment could last forever.
Later that night, after winning the Runway category by a landslide, after all the children and Mother Mermaid had left, Eva applies her everyday mask, the one to blend in, to not get killed in.
A darkening foundation to camouflage her Vitiligo, for starters.
Her long hair gathered in a ponytail and hidden under an oversized hoodie.
She grabs DJ White Boyie’s hand and they walk out of the community center into the Parisian night.
And so begins life’s everyday ball…
Some turn looks, but drag performer FERRAL LILITH K. chose to write books. Non-binary creature, they write stories exploring the great in-between of female and male energies.
Nathan doesn’t tell the secrets of his whereabouts nor the reason for his smile. Nathan knows he was never like other boys. Nathan knows he is not like the men we have come to know in movies. Nathan once wore a dress and danced in the moonlight leaking in his room, his face a half shadow, a half lit up terrain of mystery. Nathan once charmed a whole city with his dimples he loves to take advantage of. They are craters of the moon, and no one can deny the enigma of their origins. Nathan once swore at an officer then graffitied a statue, cursing the governed traditions we are born into. Nathan’s curly brown hair, his jade eyes, the chain on his pants, the polish on his nails, he rides the bus and people stare. They wonder where he could be going and who he might be seeing. You tell him at the bus stop his shoelaces are untied. He displays his signature smile and tells you that’s the way he likes it.
For SLOAN PORTER, the art of poetry has been an all-consuming journey since a young age. As a born and raised Montreal writer, interdisciplinary artist and proud queer, she’s most interested in exploring a darker side, the questions that linger at night, and the intense passions that drive us, but she’s often distracted by her romanticist tendencies. Find her on Instagram @sloan.porter.poetry for shades of red and black.
The sky was hung with pink the day I sent everyone away. By six minutes past golden hour, every living being except for me had disappeared from the city. I dropped the tome onto my unwashed sheets as I walked towards the door of my balcony. Stepping out into the evening air, it was bliss. The closest thing to peace I ever heard. No kids shrieking, no smokers hacking, no dogs yapping, no lovers fighting. It had worked. And I had one week.
I clutched the cool metal of the railing and let it anchor me in the moment. The thing I’ve struggled most with my entire life is being part of it, not just letting the days fall through me. If there was ever a moment that deserved to breathe, it was this. Watching that sky pregnant with peach, I grinned to myself. That was new, that grin. Or maybe I do that constantly and have no idea. Probably not, though.
My hands looked scrawny and helpless on the railing, like I’d just emerged for the first time from a life behind barred doors. Which I guess I had. There was chipped black polish on my nails. They always chipped the day after painting them. Something about that look felt equal parts regal and trashy, and that felt fine. But I was always so worried about people seeing my nails like this. Looking at them wrapped around the weathered rail of the balcony though, it felt right. It felt me.
One week with no other living being in the city. I’d tell how I did it, but I barely know. My mind leading up to the week was a fog. I was feeling something. Then I had this book, this volume. Then I knew what to do, what I needed, how to do it. And then I did it. Now, breathing room beyond measure, and a chance to think. That’s all I wanted – to think. People take thinking for granted and having a place to do it. Maybe everyone else doesn’t need that. Maybe I’m just doing a really bad job at thinking and being a part of life. At least I’m good at making people disappear.
I wanted to hurry and get this venture started. I ran back inside, and grabbed my bag as well as a leather jacket that had been bought on a whim two years ago and never once worn in public. Pulling it on with the mad energy of a streaker in reverse, I clambered out my door full of giddy, ethereal, and hopeful excitement and immediately tripped on the stairs and started plummeting to my death.
Everything got slow, the way it gets only when you are teetering on the razor of life and disaster.
“At least nobody’s around to see this,” I thought with grave solemnity.
Except this was slower than chasing my soccer ball out in front of a speeding minivan or choking on a cruel chicken bone hidden in some vindaloo. It was slow enough that I got my wits back in time to open my eyes and see them filled with pink vapor. As soon as I had seen it, my eyes cleared, and I saw the sidewalk an inch away before I plopped down on it. I shook my head and scrambled around to see what had happened, and I met a pink cloud.
A pink cloud is not a normal thing to meet, so I stared for a moment. Part of me was thinking that this was a great opportunity to really be there for that moment, really take it in. The majority of me was thinking how fucked up this was and how I almost died falling down my steps like an idiot, and how there was a little pink cloud at the bottom of my steps. It looked picturesque, somewhere between a watercolour fluff and a cartoon set-piece, just bobbing gently above the sidewalk.
“Wow, um,” I started. “Thank you so much for that.”
The cloud bobbed in silence.
“Okay I had just wanted to say thank you in case you could talk but you’re just some cloud aren’t you?”
The cloud continued its bob.
“Right. Okay. Well, I’m going to go explore a bit. Um. I’m going to stop talking now.”
I gave a quick wave goodbye to the cotton candy cloud and an inward grimace at my own ineptitude, then slung my bag over my shoulder and walked as hurriedly as possible down the nearest alley. One week.
The alleys crisscrossed the world of my neighbourhood, flowing from every major street through every stretch of homes. I had always been terrified to move through them. To be fair, nobody made much use of them. But did anybody actually twist themselves up worrying about it? Probably not. I had disappeared a city of souls, why was my heart racing as I stepped through the worn wooden fences and untended hedges? I wondered for a moment if anybody had ever done what I did, had whatever specialness inside of them to make those things happen. I felt something when it happened, something familiar but unplaceable. Maybe other people had felt that before too. Could I ask people? Would they tell me? Or would I just seem insane?
My thoughts carried me along and I realized that I had wound up deep within the arteries of the side streets. In all of my pondering, I hadn’t noticed that I stopped walking. The trunk of a crooked oak was beside me. I let my gaze follow it up to see the old tree’s foliage dangling above me, but was soon taken aback. There was the little pink cloud, hanging just above my head, billowing innocently. My body tensed for a moment, then I closed my eyes and let the taut air out of me. I was in control here. I had one week.
“You don’t need to follow me, you know,” I called up to the bit of bizarre weather. “I’d actually prefer to be left alone. Just thinking some things out.”
The cloud just billowed there. It felt like it was mocking me with its stoicism. “Well, I’m just going to carry on. So please don’t follow me.” And I scampered off down a path.
I knew that nobody was around, but I couldn’t help but feel anxious. I checked over my shoulder and darted my eyes side to side as I passed each fire escape, each back door. There was this sense of dread looming in me. What was that cloud doing? Why was it here? Did I accidentally summon it? It saved my life, but now it felt like this nagging, cloying thought. The thought had this familiarity, this feeling of something at the back of my mind. Every now and then I would look back and catch a glimpse of its pink fluff and redirect my path. The positive was that I didn’t have to worry about anyone getting in my way, or hearing people nattering, or jumping out of the way of cars as they pulled out. There was a freedom, even in this chase.
Eventually, I found myself clumsily trekking down a shrubby hill. It levelled out into a parking lot behind some abandoned brick building. I could tell from the path I had run that I was just behind the main drag of my area, but I couldn’t place what building this was. I started to circle around the side. It was nice to be looking at things from a different perspective, without the context of the buzzing world. Even a worn-down old spot like this had a freshness to it. The lens of this week. One week.
When I came out on the other side of the building, it hit me. I saw the big, dilapidated water tower rising up to bludgeon the sky. The pinks had gone blue; I hadn’t realized that night had fully set in. Now all that greeted me from above was a cantankerous thrusting wreck and the promise of darkness. I felt weird about the water tower, I always had. When I was a kid, I had these fantasies about climbing up one of those to do something spectacular. Not like I knew what I would actually do, but it would be spectacular. As I got older and looked at those water towers some more, I realized how worn down they were. My mind had fooled me into thinking they were these paragons of cleanliness and importance. But they were thumbs. And this water tower, which I could just barely see from my bedroom window, was the sorest of reminders. I had never looked at it like this before.
As I stared at the decaying tower, the familiar fluff of the pink cloud slowly floated into my vision. I blinked hard and frowned at it while it made its a scent towards the top railings of the water. Right below where it hovered, a chipped metal ladder stretched to the ground. My heart quickened at the thought, and I quickly shoved it down. Too crazy. Too unnecessary. Turning away from the cloud and the water tower, I started to make my way back along the ramshackle path I took here. I’d get some sleep and get an early jump on tomorrow, maybe figure things out a little easier with a rested brain. I took one last look over my shoulder and noticed that the cloud wasn’t following.
As soon as I got in the door, I slumped into bed. One week. I slept in late. Extremely late. I even went to bed early and I slept clean through noon. Maybe disappearing an entire city of people takes a lot out of you. The moment I realized how much of the day I had already exhausted, I threw myself back down into the waiting depths of my pillows in anguish. Why was I wasting my day like I always do? I had gone through all the trouble of this plan and I wasn’t even doing anything differently.
Tossing and turning, I fell in and out of sleep throughout the rest of the day. My mind kept wrapping around one thing: the water tower. By the time I had gotten sick of tussling with my sheets, it was dusk. One day, gone. I sighed as I pulled on my hoodie and schlepped myself out the door and down my near-deadly stairs. My brain knew where it wanted to go. I didn’t want to. But I was going.
When I arrived at the base of the water tower, I noticed that the pink cloud was in the exact same spot as last night.
“I didn’t see you today. Was wondering where you were,” I hollered up to the cloud. It floated there with what felt like indifference.
“You know, it’s probably dangerous to be up there. I mean I guess you’re a cloud but…Well, people shouldn’t just be up on water towers, so…”
I stared as the little pink cloud buoyed in the air. Despite being on edge in its presence, it truly was something beautiful. Maybe I was so high-strung about it because I didn’t understand it, or at least didn’t understand what it wanted with me.
Then the cloud began to descend, floating parallel to the ladder and stopping right at the base. I stared long and hard at those first few rungs. I hated this. I breathed in a huge gust of evening air and grasped the ladder. Why was I letting a cloud peer pressure me? Either way, I was doing it. I took another breath and made my way up. I got to the top platform and sat down with my back against the water tower, laughing and shaking from exhilaration, and then stopped when I realized all I did was climb a ladder. Peering out through the spaces around the hand railings, I could see the lights of the city giving false life to the empty streets. Then I looked up and behind me at the bare, barrel face of the water tower. It was like a grimace of construction compared to the white and yellow dots extending out below them. But I felt for it. The pink cloud orbited around my head, and I felt my mind drift.
Being up on the water tower had this weirdly familiar feeling. I started to have visions of a night at my old friend Emerson’s house, the woods that spread behind the property, and this clearing I would go out to with them. There was a rocky sort of canyon near a highway. I held Emerson’s ankles while they shook up a can of pink spray paint and tagged the stony edifice with a big “FUCK IT”, and we laughed maniacally for hours after. Emerson was always so cool. So sure of themselves. Full of angst and full of care. We drifted apart after high school, and I haven’t seen them since I moved away from my hometown. I wonder whatever happened to them?
I woke with a start in the cold breeze of the night. I looked at my phone – 1:30 A.M. How the hell did I fall asleep at the top of a water tower? I started to panic as I looked around, expecting something horrible before remembering that nobody else was there. Nobody else was anywhere for miles. That put my mind at ease for a second, but I decided that it’s better safe than sorry. I scurried back down the ladder and ran home. The pink cloud maintained its orbit around the tower.
Over the next few days, I fell off track. All of my time was spent in my apartment, either wrestling with my bed dressings, skimming unfocused through the tome, or staring at my reflection in the black of the TV screen. I had one week. Now I had five days. Four days. Three days. Why was I so scared to go out now? I kept thinking about the water tower, about the cloud, and most surprisingly about Emerson. Why were they on my mind? I wanted to use this time to clear my head a bit and get a handle on my pre-existing thoughts – whatever those were – not to add more mess to my mind. But there they were, smirking with pride.
There was always something about Emerson that made me feel jealous. I never knew exactly what, and I definitely never mentioned it to them. Right now I wish I had. I’ve always had trouble understanding just what I’m feeling, and I could use any answers I could get. I never really thought I had an issue talking about what’s on my mind, but I guess getting rid of every living thing to be in solitude with my thoughts is evidence enough.
On the sixth day, I was so annoyed at myself that the second I woke up I jumped out of bed and headed out the door to the empty city streets. I had to do something. I was desperate, upset, and felt like a failure. By golden hour tomorrow, everything was going back to normal and I didn’t feel any different, any better. I wasted almost the entire week. There had to be something I could do to salvage this solitude. Why couldn’t I just know what I want? What was wrong with me?
My flurry of worry tensed my entire body up and I had to stop and catch my breath. Huffing, I looked at the shop window beside me. It was a home improvement shop. And there in the window was a line of spray paint cans, lined up in a rainbow. And something in my mind just clicked. My eyes were glassy and transfixed on the can’s simple glossy beauty. My whole body felt like it was reaching out towards them. I saw the pink cloud floating in the reflection of the glass beside me.
Ten more minutes with no other living being in the city. I sat on my bed, grinning. I’d tell you how I did it, but I barely know. My mind throughout the week was a mess, but I started to feel this strength, this clarity, this simplicity, and I just acted. I took a can of pink from the store display. I left cash on the counter. Then I was up on the water tower. That big, ugly, hopeful thumb, waiting to be what I used to believe it was. Waiting to be itself. At first, I didn’t know what I was going to tag. But then Emerson’s smirk filled my mind, and my arm just started moving. It was vibrant. It was simple. I liked it. At the bottom of the ladder, I had looked up to take it all in. The pink cloud had been holding close to me the whole time. But at that moment, with a thought, it hovered no more.
And as I sat on the edge of my bed, I felt something like peace. At the very least, something nice. I squashed all feelings that said I wasted seven days of solitude. Never in my life would I have dreamed of doing what I had done, and there is no way I could have wasted it. I was proud of myself. I closed my eyes and turned my head towards the window as the golden hour washed over my eyelids, preparing for the return. I let out a good sigh, opened my eyes, and beamed at the big, pink Q beaming back at me from the water tower.
BRANDON LORIMER is a writer, musician, and actor from Halifax currently residing in Montréal. He began his writing career with his play Noun, a post-apocalyptic tale of two men surviving and loving in a bleak wasteland. Since then he has worked with multiple playwriting units, including Playwright Workshop Montréal’s Young Creators Unit. He enjoys absurdity, staring at the ocean, and drink too much Arizona.
sturdy stems succumbed to the weight of dead petals.
Pollen streaked my fingers orange as I gathered
them limp and dripping from the glistening vase.
Their fragrance lingered in the winter apartment
for another three days, pungent as too many cloves
in honey, or the wet/dry after-sex that stains
my pillows and sheets. Sex? you ask. Yes, flowers
are what I caress—time is collapsing around me—
won’t live my life without them.
WILDERNESS WALK WITH TOAD, FOX, AND SNAKE
The tap tap tapping of happy feet. The pounding of sexual rain.
Our thoughts finding each other in the swirling embrace of storm clouds and wind. The toad in the pond by the waterfall,
its bulging gold eyes and silver-green warts. The snake in the labyrinth of tall dead grass, the sensual red stripe
down its slippery black back. The single blue egg
in the robin’s nest, transformed into a worm-gulping beast. Home, in bed, you ask me to please brush your hair
the way your grandmother did. It’s soft, I say,
unravelling ringlets of gold with my willing fingers. Flesh of you, flesh of us. Rabbit in jaw, nose
in the air, fox scampers back to the storm-cloud wood.
JIM NASON has published six poetry collections, including, Rooster, Dog, Crow which was short-listed for the 2019 Raymond Souster Poetry Award. He has also published a short story collection The Girl on the Escalator and his third novel, Spirit of a Hundred Thousand Dead Animals, was recently published by Signature Editions, Winnipeg.
His stories, essays and poems have been published in journals and anthologies across Canada and the U. S., including Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2008, 2010 and 2014.