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Letter from the Editor. WordCity’s non-fiction editor, Olga Stein
Our War on War
War isn’t a place anyone would want to visit. Even this statement borders on the inane and insensitive, given the scale of destruction, death, and suffering we’ve been shown by journalists who’re forced to shield consumers of news from the real devastation taking place on the ground. Let’s keep in mind that we’ve been given a mere glimpse of what has been unfolding in the towns and cities in Ukraine — the ones bombarded, occupied, and, increasingly, those that have been liberated by Ukrainian forces.
Generally, what we get is the sanitized version of the war in Ukraine: it’s a fraction of a fraction of the picture of a military conflict, which happens to be the gravest and territory-wise the largest since WWII. Even the wars in the Balkans (from 1993 to 2001) do not compare, since Ukraine is more than twice the size of the postwar Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. What does call for comparison is the genocidal cruelty towards civilians. In 2001, Slobodan Milošević became the first head of state to be charged with war crimes in connection with ethnic cleansing. At Vladimir Putin’s behest, Russian forces are currently engaged in similar systematic murder and/or removal of native Ukrainians from cities and towns they’ve occupied. They’re aided by soldiers of the “Kadyrovtsy” (Chechens sent to the front by sinister Putin ally, Ramzan Kadyrov), and members of the murky Wagner Group, a private militia or mercenary army for hire.
Despite the strange mix of ethnicities among the would-be invaders, their military and political aims are unmistakable. In an article, “Vladimir Putin’s Ukrainian genocide is proceeding in plain view,” which appeared on June 29, 2022, on the Atlantic Council website, author Taras Kuzio wrote: “The sheer destructiveness of Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine invasion has stunned international audiences. Many have been particularly perplexed by the methodical annihilation of predominantly Russian-speaking Ukrainian towns and cities such as Mariupol which have been reduced to rubble despite deep historic, cultural and family ties to Russia. Any lingering sense of shock is misplaced and reflects a failure to fully grasp the genocidal objectives driving the Russian invasion.…Moscow aims to extinguish Ukrainian statehood and eradicate all traces of Ukrainian identity while incorporating much of the country into Russia itself.”
Visual Art. Curated by Darcie Friesen Hossack
Michele Rule. Media Explosion
Fiction. Edited by Sylvia Petter
This issue has a variety of stories, for disasters come in different forms.
In Faye Brinsmead’s story, “Fires near me”, we see how near such fires can be.
Wayne Burke’s story, “Cut as if by Knife” begins as a sort of boys’ adventure tale but then turns serious.
Dana Neacşu’s “In the Beginning There Was Sound” takes place in 1970s Romania and is part of a collection of stories from that era.
Fires Near Me
We went to bed with the sliding doors open, but smoke woke us at 4. Uncanny, how fast the sleeping brain reacts to fire. The slightest whiff, and bam! You sprang up and closed the doors.
Thanks. I stroked the back of your neck, C1 and C2, where you tense up. Aircon? you asked, not turning. Guess so. It clunked to life, covering everything we weren’t saying with its idling truck roar.
Essential travel only, the public safety announcements had said. But the roads were still open, and we wanted our holiday. Okay, I wanted it.
It’s all booked. No one says we can’t. The nearest fires are miles away.
Wayne F. Burke
CUT AS IF BY KNIFE
JOHNNY GARIBALDI trudged up the soft clover-covered hillside. A black strand of hair, fallen from his pompadour, lay curled on his forehead. Johnny’s shoulders were broad and he had egg-shaped biceps from working-out with the Charles Atlas Expander bar (3 easy payments 9.95 each). Donny Baguette walked beside Johnny: thin, long-legged Donny wore glasses and was pale skinned, even in the summertime.
Johnny stopped at the crest of the hill, leaned his arm against the split and lightening-blackened trunk of an oak tree.
“Come on, you guys,” he called. “Move it!”
Eddie Kelly, Jimmy Garibaldi, and Charlie Baguette tramped side by side up the hill. “We are sergeants,” Charlie said to the other two. “And they—“ he glanced downhill at Weed Garibaldi and Butch Kelly—“are privates.” Charlie snickered.
“I am a scout,” Eddie said, thinking of Kit Carson, subject of a book he had recently taken out of the library and read.
The hill top stood above an inclined stony white road that lay at the base of a rocky hillside. On a plateau above the hillside sat a group of disused rusted tin buildings.
In the Beginning There Was Sound
In the beginning the sound incorporated the meaning of silence, too. Humming remembrance of the past. Of what happened, was imagined, or profoundly desired. Like an unventilated waiting room in a train station buzzing with flies. The door opens without a creak and the click-clack of heels announces an intriguing presence. Those high heels neither elongate nor hide her healthy short frame. They propel her. A well-tailored gabardine suit flatters her waist and her eye’s shade of green. Its skirt is cut above her knees – a sign she follows the new fashion. Individual freedom of expression trails the 1960s as they pierce through the Iron Curtain and take over the mind of Romanian women up to Romeşti, a Subcarpathian village along the Argeş river counting a few hundred as residents. Her black shoes – one less dusty than the other – match the small purse hanging over her shoulder.
She paces up and down the wooden floor as if challenging the time to move faster. The wall clock adorning the room remains unimpressed, moving its minute hand at the same speed it did before she came in. Now and then she shakes off a fly lost in her brushed up hair. It lands on a child half-asleep on a large piece of broken luggage showing its content: turnips to be sold on the city market.
From the clutch she retrieves a small round mirror and checks the room and her makeup. Impeccably smooth on her ripen peach face. Especially the red lipstick. Pretending to play some beautifying role on her slightly open lips divulging a string of perfectly sized, white teeth. The only flaw on this face of Titian’s penitent Magdalene is her nose, evidence of a past tense.
Non-Fiction. Edited by Olga Stein
Good for You
Dear Fellow-Writer in the West,
I see the uncomfortable expression on your face in the face of the ongoing protests in Iran. I see you cannot wrap your head around the fact that the citizens of a Muslim-majority country are demanding an end to an “Islamic” regime. I acknowledge that this is a very complicated concept for you. I see living in safety and privilege here in the West has robbed you of perspective. I see you!
Here are a few facts: The Islamic Republic of Iran has a “supreme leader,” a high-ranking Muslim cleric, an ayatollah, who is also the commander-in-chief. This means all the military, police, revolutionary guards, Basij militia, and plainclothes forces opening fire on unarmed citizens in Iran are under his direct command. It means he’s responsible for this new round of bloodshed (and countless others before).
The first protest against the compulsory hijab in the Islamic Republic dates back to March 8, 1979, immediately after the revolution that brought it into being. It came in response to Ayatollah Khomeini’s decree coercing women to cover up. In a larger historical context, Iranian women have been fighting against compulsory hijab imposed on them by custom and sharia law for more than a century.
In recent months, the regime has been using increasingly brutal methods to arrest, torture, beat, and kill women who defy the hijab mandate. In these protests, you see women burning their headscarves and appearing unveiled in public. The protests against compulsory hijab have also occurred in the most religious cities: Mashad and Qom, bastions of Shiite orthodoxy, and home to saints and seminaries.
Honestly, I have been trying to understand why so many of you bend backwards to justify the Iranian regime’s atrocity in the name of cultural relativism. “Every country has its custom and laws,” you say. You’re always quick to compare the human rights abuses in other parts of the world with the flaws of “Western democracies,” as if all regimes are equally unjust and brutal. But I am sure you know the difference, as you do not plan to immigrate to Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, or the Islamic Republic of Iran, even if you go hungry and jobless here. On the other hand, millions of people learn a foreign language, invest money, and risk their lives to escape Islamic regimes, knowing full well that they will face racism and xenophobia in the West.
Eve and her Descendants
(Note to readers: This is the second part of the essay titled, “Religious Revanchism in the USA and that Old Antipathy for Women,” which appeared in the September 2022 issue of WordCity.)
Who is Eve and what does she stand for? It has become an important question of late, especially in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade and now, as nationwide protests in Iran over women’s right not to wear a hijab enter their second month. There’s a connection between religious revanchism in the USA and religious fundamentalism in Iran. Central to both is the question of women’s rights — in essence, nothing less than women’s sexual and reproductive autonomy. In Iran, this translates into whether and how women get to display their bodies and hair. Fundamentalists, and even conservative religionists, insist that women’s bodies and head hair are an eternal temptation to men. Without being concealed, they argue (sadly, not only in Iran), all girls and women are an unbidden provocation to men.
Eve as Unflattering Archetype
As a child of Jewish parents, I only ever knew Eve as the mate of Adam. She was made of his rib, and was therefore his natural partner. Additionally, Eve was partly responsible for the couple’s expulsion from Eden, since it was she who handed Adam the apple from the tree of knowledge. Both Adam and Eve were forced out of G-d’s garden, both had to endure the hardships of life from thereon, and Eve was given the additional punishment of experiencing the pangs of childbirth. Nothing more was added to this story or its symbolism, from what I recall.
There is early rabbinic literature, as I discovered, that describes Eve as inferior to Adam in every sense, but the general presentation on the subject turns her into a minor figure, whatever her character flaws may have been; the same literature renders her inconsequential in terms of her impact on later humanity. Eve was naive, even childlike, and, well, merely human. Besides, Genesis quickly yields a string of laudable matriarchs — Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel — which supersede Eve in Judaism’s thought and imaginary.
Origin stories and their narratives tend to have a powerful hold over the collective imagination. Still, as an adult, I continue to be amazed by the number and types of meanings Eve, the first woman, has been assigned — especially in some prominent Catholic and orthodox Christian camps. Eve is a slut, a fornicator, a lier, a snake, the devil’s companion, the cause of the Fall of mankind, the source of all misery, and like some noxious odour that fouls up a place, she refuses to dissipate. She’s everywhere, even when buried under piles of religious platitudes or explanations. What’s worse, she’s every woman temping men to sin, or at least that’s what we’re told early Christian thinkers argued — for example, Paul, Matthew, Augustine, Pelagius (though not, it’s worth noting, Julian of Eclanum, nor the theologian-philosopher Thomas Aquinas).
So many of today’s Christian teachings stem from exegetical interpretations of the “words of Christ” — that is, interpretations of his interpreters. What’s more, so much of the emphasis on Eve’s sin comes from Christian “fundamentalists.” It doesn’t seem to matter that they’re more than 1900 years removed from the Apostles’ social surroundings (largely pagan), and some 1600 years removed from the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers.
Literary Spotlight. Keeping it Fresh for Posterity.
Helen Eastman in Conversation with Sue Burge
I’m delighted to have been able to pin down the human dynamo that is Helen Eastman for this wide-ranging and generous interview. Helen has so many roles, she’s a true creative, and someone who is more than prepared to give back to her community in so many ways.
Helen, so lovely to be able to discover more about you! Could you tell us a little about your background and how that motivated you to start Live Canon? How would you define Live Canon in its early days and how has it grown since then?
My first degree was in Classics and English (and I’ve got a doctorate in Classics), but vocationally, I trained as a theatre director, at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA).
For the first few years of my career I was working as a freelance theatre director, with new writing and political theatre, but then I ended up doing a lot more work with physical theatre, opera, and even circus. In about 2006/7, I suddenly realised it had been a long time since I’d directed any text (and a very long time since I’d worked with verse text).
Around the same time, I had a chat with the artistic director of Greenwich Theatre, James Haddrell, about how brilliant it was that spoken word had exploded as a genre, but how that meant that a lot of new work was experienced in performance while older work was read on the page; that can make it harder to experience both together. I had this idea of performing some of the ‘back canon’ as though it was fresh new work. James liked the idea and set aside some time in the theatre for a series of performances, which we called the ‘live canon’. I pulled together an ensemble of actors who were up for learning a lot of poetry and we got on with it. Some of our early performances featured Shakespeare, Keats, Shelley, Vita Sackville West, Virginia and Leonard Woolf, the War Poets and the Metaphysicals (Donne, Herbert etc). The series was really popular and other theatres asked us to tour it, and then various museums, festivals and other venues got in touch too. And that’s how ‘Live Canon’ was born. Five years on, we’d also added the publishing house, started to run courses, conducted outreach in schools and libraries and become a slightly sprawling poetry organisation that had sprung out of the liminal space between poetry and theatre.
I love that idea of the liminal space! How do you keep all the different aspects of Live Canon going? Do you have a team? What have been the challenges? Any memorable highlights/events?
Books and Reviews. Edited by Geraldine Sinyuy
Book Basking in Autumn
Dirtbag, Massachusetts, Isaac Fitzgerald (Bloomsbury 2022)
All Of This, Rebecca Woolf (Harper One 2022)
Elizabeth Finch, Julian Barnes (Random House 2022)
The Razor’s Edge, Karl Jirgens (The Porcupine’s Quill 2022)
A Minor Chorus, Billy-Ray Belcourt (Hamish Hamilton 2022)
We Are Still Here, Nahid Shahalimi, ed. (Penguin 2021)
Until Further Notice, Amy Kaler (U. of Alberta Press 2022)
Intimations, Zadie Smith (Hamish Hamilton, 2020)
The Most Charming Creatures, Gary Barwin (ECW 2022)
Tras-os-Montes, Jose-Flore Tappy (Mad Hat Press 2021)
Who could resist the title Dirtbag, Massachusetts? Or the notion that the book was a confessional and not just another memoir? Or the breezy chapter titles like “When Your Barber Assumes You’re Racist Too? “ Not I, sir, not I. While comparisons to the likes of Kerouac seem a tad overblown, the author does provide a guided tour through the seamier sides of life that your average page turner, pausing for a breather between one dull duty and another, might not be so thoroughly acquainted with.
Of course, we are not unfamiliar with the wounds that troubled, abusive families come armed with. Many are the memoirs that tout such souls construct their redemptions from after many decades of denial, avoidance, petty criminality, casual sex and more boozing and doping than you can shake a stick at. Fitzgerald manages to outpace the usual braggadocio of the abused child on several fronts, not the least of which is his claim to having a 17-year-old girlfriend when he was 12. As a matter of fact, who wouldn’t choose to do that as a means of escaping in stolen cars from the abusive, poverty-stricken, alcoholic and suicidal household to which he was condemned from the age of four?
Intriguing departures from the abuse shocker norm include a scholarship funded escape to a fancy boarding school where the wealthy kids, bucking the trend, treated him with an almost magical kindness, indulging the orphan in weekend trips to parent-provided pleasures of yachts and private aeroplanes, and indeed aeroplanes that take you to where those very yachts are moored, a six month traverse through San Francisco’s porn film industry, where he not only observed but acted, and an extended sojourn with a nominally Christian NGO surreptitiously providing material and medical aid to cruelly oppressed minorities in the remote jungles of Myanmar.
Churchill at Munich by Michael Carin.
a review by Darcie Friesen Hossack
Everything that can possibly go wrong with a novel can and will be laid bare, then magnified in a novel that is written in letters. This is such an enduring truth that most authors should reconsider any thought of it. And yet. And yet! Michael Carin uses the form as a master weaver would use a loom.
Beginning in the first days of 1936, Carin’s Churchill at Munich presents itself as a historical document: a trove of letters written by Joffrey Pearson—a low-level German translator working at the British Foreign Office—to a woman not-his-wife living in the United States.
As Joff writes, we learn of the threat rising in Germany. Adolf Hitler tramples the Treaty of Versailles, while Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain plays his part as appeaser-in-chief. It is history as we know it, expertly, thrillingly, threaded with the letter writer’s own life.
One thread, richly coloured, is Joff’s marriage to his wife (a policewoman). Another, glinting off the page, is his daughter (nine, precocious, and a gifted historian). There are Joff’s work and colleagues at the FO. And Joff’s best friend since childhood, Damon Chadwich, a noted artist who has recently, alarmingly, become enamored with Berlin.
It’s with these threads that the vibrancy and pattern of history unfold. Until a singular event changes everything and Winston Churchill takes up residence at Downing Street. From there, Joff Pearson, whose name has been on the rise, is drawn into an alternate history that, on the page, feels as visceral and real as anything that’s ever happened.
“People have a weakness for messiah’s, sir. In the case of Germany, the weakness has become a contagion. A whole nation has found what it think is a deliverer,” Joff says to Churchill at a moment when every single thread of the novel starts to pull taut.
Churchill at Munich by Michael Carin: Excerpt
The novel Churchill At Munich is a work of alternate history. It orchestrates events such that Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister a couple of years before he actually did. The lion-hearted man of legend then attends the pivotal Munich Conference in place of the deluded and spineless Neville Chamberlain. In this passage, the exceptional events that take Churchill to Downing Street have not yet occurred. It is April, 1937. He is still just an M.P., not even a member of the Cabinet. In fact, he is widely disliked and distrusted within his own party, and regarded by many in the general population as a warmonger. Since the advent of Adolf Hitler four years earlier, Churchill has been warning of the Nazi threat and urging massive British re-armament. In this excerpt, the narrator of the novel is attending a Churchill lecture with his wife Mary, a fierce admirer of Churchill. With them is their precocious nine year-old daughter, Vicky.
Churchill At Munich
Back safe and sound from the wilds of Hackney. Not a single savage beast was sighted, and the humans appeared evolved. Mr. Churchill too came away in one piece, though not unscathed. As things turned out, our darling Vicky … well, let me tell you things in proper order.
Mary bullied us to the event early and we snared seats in the second row. Mr. Churchill is looking good for a relic in his sixties. The notorious pale blue eyes are still prominent, even youthful. When you think about it the man embodies the last forty years of our history, and here he is kicking and snorting as if in his prime. We should give the old steed credit for his unflagging energy.
The audience numbered in the hundreds and included a group of Fleet Streeters scribbling into their notepads. I was disappointed when Mr. Churchill started his lecture with painful understatement. He seemed distracted, almost subdued. He stood with shoulders hunched, hands gripping the lapels of his coat. In a low drone he paid homage to the volunteer spirit and splendid works of the Hackney Women’s Institute and sister organisations throughout the Empire. Oh my god, I thought, is he off his game? Are we in for a protracted bore? The spindly fold-up chair was punishing my gluteus maximus, and Vicky’s fidgeting started the moment we sat down. The rain beating against the windows was a consolation. At least the afternoon we had travelled halfway across London to destroy wasn’t fine.
“Giv’ it ‘em, Winnie!”
The shout came from a cockney sailor in a bush jacket. He was egging Winnie on, because so far Winnie certainly wasn’t givin’ it ‘em.
Mr. Churchill unbuttoned his suitcoat and hooked his thumbs into the armholes of his waistcoat. An inscrutable smile shivered on his lips. Maybe he was about to share a tease. He looked up at the ceiling, playfully, roguishly. Then his expression turned icy – the incorrigible ham. He could have been on a war footing in the Commons ready to inveigh against his usual foes. His tone remained low, measured, sombre.
“Good citizens of Hackney, I have been invited into your midst to discuss developments in Europe. I shall do so with the aid of vivid facts. Be warned, the details of current reality paint a dire picture. The signals from the continent grow more ominous. They augur little but crisis for our island.” His next words came in a sudden growl. “Yet in the face of approaching storm, we are being led by brittle and timid men!”
A scattering of applause triggered a catcall from the back of the room. Mr. Churchill smothered the interruption with an engulfing roar: “THE BRITISH PEOPLE MUST BE TOLD THE TRUTH.”
Poetry. Edited by Clara Burghelea
Iran needs us, we need Iranian women
To Masha Amini and all women martyrs of the fight for freedom
“Women’s rights are human rights!” she gasps before
everything goes blue. “A dream I’m finally dreaming,” she thinks.
Blue girls and women walk, dance, whirl on the streets of Tehran,
throw their hijabs into the air,
their long blue hair raining down fire and burning sulfur
onto the walls of Evin prison, the Persian Bastille collapses,
their liberated laughter turning godless women’s guardians and state enforcers
into pillars of salt,
whirling mothers, daughters, wives, and sisters refract joy,
female love to God’s love, life to life, freedom to freedom.
Shell Outside the motor field: sallow colour And greasiness of the skin. Dead earth through pavement A gas station becoming prairie again. Left instructions: cash price 1 All American dollar echoing Of the face; rouge and mottled Low pulse rate, shallow pressure. The long shutting-off, Emotionally cool outlook Tower, and dark hills talk A broadcast of dead radios. Fixed ideas; states of violent Excitement, the artists’ flow Wrought by process.
Mansour Noorbakhsh. WCLJ Poet in Residence
Iranian Youth For Mahsa Amini, Nika Shah Karami, Sarina Esmaeilzadeh and all martyrs of freedom I am a generation that my days have never tolerated with me. I see you kill but verbalize the justice. I see you steal but lament because of oppression. I see it's foul only what you make in the name of morality. I find no name for you except bandits except tyrants. Which crypt have you come from that have no tolerance for sunshine? Where do you prostrate that doesn’t make a bit of truth in your existence? I am a generation that cannot tolerate the intolerance though I have nothing but my burning heart that has raised with anger and pain against the hypocrisy that loots our moments.
From the trenches They tossed you to the depths and left you to sink or swim; though they were more convinced that you would end up a victim. But they're wrong! Look at you! how you're still hearty and hale; How you delve into the trenches only to emerge like a whale... With fishes and pure pearls in plentitude in your palms, Which you now freely toss to them— like beggars receiving your alms!
Crossing Lines I am a transperson, and thus, for some have crossed a line, become an unwanted, disruptive element crashing the party of their comfortable psyches. It was not always thus, so long as my male avatar soldiered on, so long as my female truth remained bound and gagged, they were not disturbed. But this is not a whim or a whimsical choice, not some neurotic obsession, rather, beyond psychology or sociology, deeper than marrow, this is our very soul, my very soul, so eventually and inevitably, while chanting To thine own self be true a flaming sword sundered her bonds and out she strode, only to be deemed a line-violator, and, for its guardians, morph into a respect-free other, worthy only of glares or maybe a malicious shout of “Tranny!”
Eva Petropoulou Lianou
Peace, So expensive We buy so many weapons To maintain it If we pray more If we were kind to each other We could say We have Peace of mind Poetic heart Call for meditation Inside our heart Peace, We say a lot We make nothing Peace, Such as a woman We adore her But few can approach Peace, A value with no cost If the humans could understand that word... I wish one day....
Dr. Rubeena Anjum
Climate Change a convoy continues in smog, time ends the bright world around us no more exists and high-rise cities thatched in thick soot mists blind hostage sun―brown auburn storm descends its climate change, fire till the end extends when scrolls from scriptures sync with scientists then death is man's act; rogue syndrome assists red venoms pass through epochs; dusk transcends
Lori D. Roadhouse
Revelations Creator wipes clean Her slate shale igneous, shakes down Her Etch-A-Sketch Earth and starts over, admits (to no one left) that She wasn’t perfect. Oceans strip evidence from the surface, mountains fall to cover the mess we leave as our sins souls selves are erased. Creator’s shame and mistake - Her failure - Gone.
Our Sisters in Iran
Why zip when you can zoom, beep when you can boom, rant when roaring is an option? Why bend when you can blare, or tiptoe around, or try to put out rage with quiet words instead of taking action? A moldering edifice needs bringing down. It won’t suffice to frown, or honk instead of howl, when lives are crumbling, and cruelty and lawless might are thrown in people’s faces.
Why turn a cheek? Speak, shout, kick! Don’t simmer, boil! Brawl, don’t bleat. Do everything that hurt and outrage call for. Don’t whimper, be that gust of wind. Knock power off its feet, and force it to rescind its life-denying formulations. Don’t yield. Defy intimidation. Don’t blindly follow dictates or bow to commination uttered by self-appointed surrogates of Argos.
Don’t Use I Some days hurt consumes you Latches on, paralyzes, numbs, refuses release You sit for minutes that feel like hours Staring at the wall You are whisked into the past Stuck now Feel like the future doesn’t exist Talking to yourself to calm you down You realize they are trying to settle now those boys you slept with when you were 16 those boys who most likely never left 16 They text you now They call You block them Because you’ve blocked yourself away from the hurt
Sweet Caporal A seagull stands poised on one webbed foot. Its clawed toes grip the granite hump in the nautical dawn light. Preoccupied with breakfast, if not survival, the gull is indifferent to me as I walk out onto the fishing rock. Several other gulls gather to stamp their feet—as if in anger—on the mossy ground down by the little bay. Nightcrawlers mistake the gull stomps for the sound of rain and slither out of the dirt. Sneaky buggers, them gulls.
Dr Ashok Kumar
Something that binds us Near or far, on the earth or in the space Known or unknown feelings of courage Remove negative people from valuable life Toxic they are, bring stress and strife Sweet soft soul chosen each other for one goal Something binds us to play our role
Josie Di Sciascio-Andrews
Earwig You hatched from your mottled egg Glossy black, like a coffee bean. Dexterous and slim, you unhinged A crooked quickness from calamity Into the fissures of furniture And ill-fitting floor trim. Once, in horror, I watched you slide From the plastic holes Of a 60’s telephone receiver. Pincers mongering old wives’ tales. Insinuating dread into ear canals, Membrane and sinew. Entering The sacristy of brain tissue To clip away at reason. Bleeding me.
Open Wounds In the seemingly endless centuries Of conflict and connived resolution Where races strived mightily To eliminate whatever Other Seemed to stand in their way, The wounded heart of humanity Bled and never healed. Tribes, Sometimes tricked, sometimes swallowed, Trickled into nations, only to discover A more devious destiny daily unfolding.
Jottings On a Winter Morning It’s sad to be a normal girl in a room with a yellow wallpaper. Yet I am one who is lonely like shit, an uninhabited house crawling all over with sun-glazed orbwebs…I would be one spreadeagled in DH Lawrence’s sun, & raise my belly to the furthest arc of my breath, before melting in a grimace. & yet when first I saw the curtains lighting menacingly up, I clutched the pillow like my baby. & when I woke up, I stared at the beaten crescent dimming across the foggy waste of stars… Through the window, I watch so many in a hurry, so many brawl-revived, hands dipped in wafer packs, so damn many ask, & receive what I should have as well, for I did ask! I lifted my face when the echelon was passing overhead. & yet what of it! Evening chooses its own incense, the streetlamps their own moths, the dog-shat lane its own choice quartz. I see a people shaking candy floss at each other, scratching tacks against each other’s skin, tumbling into each other’s cologned tees, raising invisible lanterns, sharing cigarettes, grazing the dust to mark out their acres. Years ago, creeping behind their tipsy Gibsons, my barbed-wire skin wrapped about me, I’d go correcting the unnoticed blunders of time. If I spied a rent, I taped it with grass; if I stumbled, I rubbed my feet in glass. Our way was one; –I went mine. & look how I make up for all this, anointing my cracked skin, forgiving myself, if reminiscing were forgiving…or I am noble enough to tuck my hair behind my ears & ask the world to forgive me as if I ever did deserve its wrath. I crease the light like paper, I last only the falling mayfly, to love I merely have the courage, to live, from choice to chores & back, the unfortunate strength.
“Women in Outdoor Prison” Image by Darcie Friesen Hossack. Created with Midjourney AI