In carte blanche fall 2017:

The Wheelbarrow Man

The sink grudgingly supports his weight as he presses his face closer to the mirror to see himself more clearly, though clarity’s not something he really expects anymore, no matter how close he gets to things. Every day the sagging sink’s connection to the wall weakens, but every day his steadily diminishing weight is less Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 5.45.42 AM.pngof a problem for it. What grows clearer daily is the evidence of his failing: the merging of neck and chin, the slack flesh hanging from cheekbones with an air of boredom, the sagging shadows under his eyes; these bags are partly from the drink, he knows, but they’re also a grim symptom, another tell-tale sign…can’t this thing at least have the decency to keep things between the two of them? Makes him mad. He’s had enough of having enough.

As evidence of this an idea comes, solicitous and beguiling, yet so obvious and so potent he wonders how long the beautiful siren’s been dancing in his periphery, just waiting to be taken up on her offer. Five minutes ago and now feel as different as the two halves of his half-shaven face. Enthralled, he flicks his razor back and forth in the frothy water, then drags the blade down the creamy hollow of his left cheek, and then again and again, varying the angle by degrees until he can catch nothing more. This shaving’s about anything but aesthetics. Somehow, it’s been one of the few things that makes him feel better, and his best guess is it’s something to do with God in there, hope that all your best guesses are wrong. Whatever the hell it is, what it isn’t is practical, and if he’s still around by winter he’ll let his beard out again, because God in there knows the cold on the neck and down the shirt’ll kill a man faster than any damn terminal disease a person might care to not take medication for.

He opens the medicine cabinet, the idea expanding in his mind, turning the world stirringly new and desolately old at the same time. He leaves the orange bottles of supposedly life-extending drugs untouched, but he takes the bottle of T4s in hand and closes the cabinet.

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In The New Quarterly winter 2017:

Here Today

Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 11.42.35 PM.pngMae watches the fall winds muscle through the branches of the birch and pine, tantalizing leaves with promises of freedom in return for a leap of faith. The most easily convinced zip madly along on the swirling currents, while others are hesitant, beguiled but suspicious, clinging. A few, green still and brazenly contented, stubbornly refuse to believe that anywhere could be better than home. The honest cold is still around the corner, but the winds work their way in and bite, and she’s grateful for the seclusion they afford.

She presses on along this deserted bike path edging the creek, awash in a flood of nostalgia and a delicious sense of restoration. It’s been four years—four years since she left this serenely complacent town pinched between a seemingly endless sea of trees and the head of the largest lake in the world; four years since she traded nature, tranquility and horizon for the seething city with its concrete-and-glass verticality and sideways sunset-and-rise; four years since she broke away seeking something, anything, else.

As the land she was shaped by pervades her thoughts, she feels herself wholly consumed, indistinct, particles inseparable from the surrounding ones. She blinks away the sting in her eyes. Is this the passion of those who kill and die for their soil? Despite trying, never has she been able to feel more than a hazy trace of this hackneyed sentiment, but now here it is in her head: bright, shining, and as clear as a window with no pane. Accompanying the insight is a stab of anger, but she’s thankful to taste perhaps some of the wisdom promised with age…

ORDER

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In Carousel spring 2015:

The Heavens

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“Can’t believe you can stand a basement apartment,” I say to Rob, growing damn tired of waiting for Scott to make his word. Rob just murmurs away to his iEyes, either not hearing me, or hearing me but ignoring me. No. I’m sorry. I’m misrepresenting. I guess I didn’t say it at speaking volume. I must have murmured it, out of habit, and that’s why my iEyes have picked it up as a command and want clarification. Rob obviously just didn’t hear me, so I say it again, this time at normal volume. Still no response. So I’ve officially said it to me, myself, I, and whatever cockroaches or spiders or, fucking, nematodes? crawl along the walls and warped wood floors and unwatered plants with nothing but air shoved in their ears.

At the kitchen counter I refill my wine glass and look out the squat spider-webby window at ground level. It fills me with memories of my childhood, subterranean memories that haven’t visited me in a godly long time. The window I could look out of only when I stood on my bed. A worm-level view of the fenced-in pitch of grass that formed my back yard world. The dampness. The smell of soil. The not just having to look up to the light, but the having to leave the room to find it. And I’m proud to say that I’ve pulled these recollections from the sludge of my own grey matter, no reliance on iEyes and The Heavens at all.

I re-join the Scrabble game just as Scott’s leaning back into his chair after finally placing his word. “XZ?” I exclaim, hating these goddamned two ten-point-letter ‘words’ that are not words in my dictionary.

Scott smiles and actually seems to lengthen his gaze to look through his iEyes all the way to me, but of course his iEyes are opaque and so for all anyone can tell he could be watching sports or porn or savouring the sight of my ex-girlfriend creeping up behind me to slit my throat. I look behind me and there’s nothing but Rob’s cat splayed out asleep on the floor, legs straight out, as if he died in the act of walking by and just tipped over.

By attaching the X to the Z of ZINE on the triple word for sixty points, Scott’s snatched the lead from Len. Not that that hairy bastard notices. Neither does fucking Rob. Both are absorbed in the space between their iEyes and their pupils, dutifully minding the gaps.

Scott takes his replacement letter and leans back into his chair, murmuring away, and I long for the days of iPhones and madly tapping fingers rather than this catatonic murmuring to iEyes connected to The ostensibly omniscient Heavens that none of us really are a part of. No. I’m sorry again. More accurate to say that none of us are a part of anything but, anymore…

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(The Heavens is an excerpt from The Deep See, a novel in progress)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Prairie Journal 2014:

Surface Tension

Through the monastery’s wrought iron gates, tense and misplaced, Marc walks. Inhaling deeply of the vast autumnal air, he meanders toward the pond at the foot of the threateningly crenulated western wall, and feels himself loosen. He watches the opaque water, the gentle wind at work scalloping lightly its surface, colluding in keeping its secrets, and when the stacked cumulus clouds split apart to launch arrows of sunlight, this glimmering shield deflects everything thrown at it. Marc squints in the brightness and sits himself down on an outcropping of rock jutting from the slope of grass bowing down to the water. He closes his eyes and feels anxiety ebb, space and solitude his saviour and solace.

It wasn’t that the monastery was crowded—the overgrown gardens and the stone innards of the buildings were quiet, peaceful even. But below the onion-domes muscling their way into the clouds and the flowers so vibrantly joyful, the few people there were really there. How can he not feel impious amongst the bent babushka-clad women weaving through the pillars and pews, the bearded black-robed monks condemning him with the very rigidity of their gait? He looks up again at the wall, reassured by its solidity. ‘Keep the religion in.’

A smattering of hoots, calls and laughs breaks the calm, and he turns to look at the boisterous wedding party clicking carefully down the drive on high heels and hard soles. He watches the stretched expressions caught up in the maelstrom of expectation, performance anxiety etched beneath made-up flesh. The man with the largest camera separates the newlyweds from the rest and sets them to work posing around a thick and scarred oak, grinning groom on one side and blushing bride on the other, making them reach around the bloated trunk toward one another, grasping—a pose they’d never in a million years make for a shot that will hang far into the future with pride-of-place above the fireplace.

He can’t remember when he’d first decided he had to see Russia: at the moment of the awed sigh that punctuated the completion of his first Russian literary tome? Grade ten history and his star-struck infatuation with the humanist siren call of communism, its seductive promise of panacea? Or maybe it was even younger—that movie ‘War Games’ and the concept of ‘mutually assured destruction’, that phrase that had haunted him until he’d accepted that all existences are assured to be destroyed anyway.

This morning he’d descended into the dim marble belly of Lenin’s tomb and stood before the surreal sight—historical flesh and bone laid out on black velvet in a jeweller’s glass case. Marc’s own transparent self reflected off the glass and his own disconcerted face looked out at him, as if he was the ghostly apparition. Walls torn down. Both sides at the same time. Lenin within him and him within Lenin.

He turns to watch a young boy in tight shorts and loose sweater busy cracking and splitting sheets of shale protruding from the grass. An older woman looks on, torn between amusement and concern, holding the boy back and setting him free. The boy alternately heaves the jagged scraps of ancient past into the pond and taunts the raucous pigeons, themselves torn between their cravings for the woman’s stale bread and the need to stay clear of the young dinner disturber.

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In Existere 2014:

(mind) GAME OVER

You couldn’t help yourself, could you? But from a rash act should a death sentence ensue? It need not. The CHOICE is yours. Contain your curiosity and read no further, for your own sake. You’re not ready for this. Hand this letter over to the authorities immediately and leave bad enough alone. Once you know a thing, you can never unknow it.

But I do know what you’re feeling. We train from childhood to perform astoundingly complex feats of intellect, from reading a book to splitting the atom, but CONTROL of our minds—though our lives depend on it—is all but ignored. It’s left to religion, but that has proven itself largely ineffective and easily corrupted. Were we all to have the requisite control of ourselves, as I now do, what an elegant, noble world this would be.

Perhaps I shouldn’t even have written this—for knowledge IS a weapon, one beyond our control—but the ramifications are profound and I believe academia needs to know, for nothing less than the benefit of humanity. I hope you’ll believe me when I say I deeply regret putting you through this. And much more importantly, I hope you’ll believe me that, though some will likely die, you needn’t be one of them.

I implore you, READ NO FURTHER.

*

*

*

Alas, you disobey. PLEASE. I do not need YOUR BLOOD ON MY HANDS as well. But I suppose I know enough to know that I’m asking perhaps the impossible. And yet I do it anyway.

<>

You watch movies and scream at the screen, incensed by the suspension of belief, yanked out of the imaginary by hack actors and writers incapable of creating a believable plot or character, a genuine façade, a kiss to build a dream on. The bubble bursts, the world is alight, the four horsemen arrive and you judge. “Hack! Tease! Waster of my woefully limited time!” These are the wet invectives that pounce from your mouth as you squeeze stop on the DVD player and rue the day the damn television was invented.

But please, you must believe this! Believe me! I don’t fall for anything. This is not some script for a TV drama or trash-novel-of-the-week. As inconceivable as it may be, this is the truth, my truth. Lies rarely fall from the lips of dead men.

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Well, do what you will. It’s all in the hands of God.

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*

To the authorities: Know that by reading the following, unless you’re of the soundest of minds, you’re likely sacrificing your own life. Stop now if unprepared to do so. But consider your duty. And remember, it’s not how LONG you live, but HOW you live. Further, it’s not WHEN you die, but with what face you meet death.

<>

I did have reason to live. My job at CRC was perfect for me, solitary as it was. Writing the code could be tedious at times, but it was meditative, and what more can a person ask for than 10 hours without awareness of physical pain or mental distress, without awareness at all? Outside my computer screen’s bubble there was some satisfaction to be had in knowing I was a God of sorts:

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