July 2021 Call for Poetry and Non-Fiction

For the next issue of WordCity Literary Journal, while we will not be dedicating all of our space to a theme, we would like to invite poetry and non-fiction (our fiction portfolio is already full) that includes writing on women’s rights in the workplace, in high tech, medicine, research, etc. Writing by men and women on marriage as partnerships is also welcome, along with changing attitudes towards sexuality, marriage and gender of bread winners.

Submissions must include a short bio and author photo (jpeg). See our Submission Guidelines for further notes.

Please send non-fiction to Darcie Friesen Hossack dfh.editor.wordcity@gmail.com

and poetry to Clara Burghelea fay_witty@yahoo.com

WordCity Literary Journal. (M)othering

Table of Contents

Letters from the Editors:
Darcie Friesen Hossack
with guest editors Anne Sorbie and Heidi Grogan

darcie friesen hossack

Dear Readers,

This month is special for a number of reasons.

Spring has finally arrived in the Northern Rockies climate I call home. It is also the month of Mothering, or Mother’s Day, in certain parts of the world. And now, we at WordCity Literary Journal are also celebrating two more things: our new, dedicated website, and this month’s collaboration with the editors of (M)othering Anthology (Inanna Publications, Spring 2022), Anne Sorbie and Heidi Grogan.

“Wonder, wildness and kindness, beauty and grief inform the witty, the raw and the real in the work of 56 writers and artists who explore how mothering transforms and others us.

The (M)othering Anthology is a collection of writing and art that reflects the universality of our most human characteristic, one that applies to and identifies all of us.

The pages of this book embrace the work of Governor General’s Award winners, recipients of the Order of Canada, locally and internationally renowned visual artists; poet laureates, award winning journalists, translators, essayists, playwrights, and spoken word artists, who are not all or always mothers. They’ve won Alberta Book Awards and Pushcart Prizes, IPPY’s, and been recognized in Commonwealth, national, and regional magazine competitions.

These writers and artists inhabit mothering as becoming.

Their work expresses and illuminates the kind of body, mind, and soul search that only the mothering myth can evoke.”

This issue of WordCity Literary Journal comes alongside the anthology, honouring its theme, its editors, publisher and its writers and poets.

From here, I’m going to give space to the voices of these two amazing women, themselves gifted poets and writers, and thank you all for joining us here to celebrate the diversity of ideas and experiences you’ll find as you read.

Sincerely,

Darcie Friesen Hossack, Managing Editor, WordCity Literary Journal

Welcome to the May issue of Word City Literary Journal!  

As the editors of the upcoming book, The (M)othering Anthology, (Inanna Publications, Spring 2022) we were thrilled to be asked by Darcie Friesen Hossack to consider collaborating with her and the WCLJ editorial team on the topic of mothering.

And! Together, our hopes of featuring poetry and prose and visual art from around the world, from as many perspectives as possible have been surpassed.

The issue encompasses a broad spectrum of the human experience as it relates to mothering or being mothered.

Thirty-six writers and artists have considered the act of mothering literally, figuratively, and metaphorically. Their work provokes thought about how mothering shapes and transforms our identity, how it makes and grows us. Each written and visual contribution shows us where mothering has taken its creator: to joy, to dark places, to ache, to freedom and its opposites, to confusion, to wonder, to grief, to hope.

The submissions are real, wild, and beautiful.  One after the other they are heartbreaking, devastating, and vulnerable. Together, the contributors’ work illuminates a variety of beliefs and backgrounds, genders, sexual orientation(s), identities, cultures and peoples, origins and birthplaces

These poems, fiction, non-fiction, visual art and book reviews demonstrate a universal collaboration, a coming together. And we, along with the editors of this journal have joined the contributors; all of us uniting in action, at a time when the people in our world need the compassion and understanding of each other.

The creative act is a political act, a call to action, one that supports those who are willing to stand in their truth. For in doing so, they carry out at the deepest of levels, the act of what we know and recognize as mothering. Conceiving and carrying. Birthing a bloody mess. Nurturing, protecting, giving, staying, letting go and holding on.

What follows, is exquisitely beautiful, funny, painful even disturbing. Our contributors inhabit mothering as becoming, as knowing, as expression, as trans-generational.

These individuals speak to the practise of what it means to create, to love, to be devastated, and to share truths about who they / we are. They stand in the belly of her/their/his/story.

They are where they come from, what they’ve experienced, what they’ve created.

Their work expresses and illuminates the kind of body, mind, and soul search that only the mothering myth can evoke. ~ Anne Sorbie and Heidi Grogan

Inanna Publications  on Facebook,  and Twitter and Instagram @InannaPub

Podcast by Jane SpokenWord

In this month’s podcast we introduce you to Trudy SilVER, and our (M)othering theme takes us to Yemen and a call for President Biden to end the blockade that is starving a generation of children.

An American jazz pianist, performer, composer, teacher in the NYC school system, poet, activist and peace/social justice worker. Whether she’s performing at benefits to raise social awareness, or demonstrating in solidarity, her commitment to personal liberties and fair privilege opportunities is unwavering.

TrudySilver

Trudy SilVer in Conversation with Jane Spokenword

An American peace/and social justice worker, jazz pianist, performer, composer, retired music teacher in NYC Public Schools, Ms. Trudy Silver was born and raised into a progressive, politically active family in New Britain CT, where she was exposed to labor and civil rights causes at an early age. 

Continue to more on Trudy SilVER and Jane Spokenword

Fiction. Edited by Sylvia Petter

Fiction Prelude – May issue

Our (M)othering pieces are long, short, and diverse. But they all have an important element : hope.

William Kotzwinkle, author of Swimmer in the Secret Sea says: “Irena Karafilly has written a beautiful and moving addition to the literature of loss and grief.”  She has indeed, yet “Still Life” also ends with an unexpected glimmer of hope.

Kelly Kaur´s story, “Mother”, about a recently widowed young mother of eight describes grief and ends in resolve, while Sheila Tucker´s “Image of Her” is testament to the loss that the absence of one´s mother can imply.

Mansour Noorbakhsh’s flash fiction piece, “Transplanted” is about a Persian nut tree finding a home.

My own account, “Matthew”, is one of my first web-published stories when webzines were born back in the early noughties. It is a story about how fathers, too, can mother well, and is based on my own experience with our daughter now in her thirties.

Irena Karafilly

author's pic 4

STILL LIFE

The obstetrician looked menacing. He looked like a shark, with his small eyes and wide mouth, and all those teeth when he opened his mouth to speak. He had given up trying to breathe life into her child, and was now leaning over her under the blinding lights. For a moment, nothing came out of his mouth but a puff of stale breath. And when at last he told her, muttering a word she didn’t understand, Lydia’s own lips felt stiff, as if numbed by novocaine. She had become aware of silence, abrupt and furtive, and a sudden scuttling through the haze surrounding the delivery table.

Dr. Minnaar had left the room, followed by his colleagues. Except for a very young nurse, the room was suddenly empty, like a deserted theater following a bomb threat. The nurse approached, and, her mouth twitching, asked whether she wished to hold her baby. Lydia was still grappling for coherence. Only a short while earlier, gazing at herself in the overhead mirror, she — a theatrical agent — had the feeling of participating in some odd stage production: elaborate costumes and scenery, herself at center stage, supine, obedient to the director, while a part of her kept struggling to wrest itself free of her possessive flesh.

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Kelly Kaur

Mother

Gurbir thrashed her torso in grief on the lime green sofa, the one covered in thick, shiny plastic to keep it permanently clean. Her muffled sobs added to the unlikely squeak of friction of her bright pink silk suit against the sticky plastic. She beat her forehead with both her palms. Her twenty-four heavy, shiny gold bangles, twelve on each arm, jangled. Unable to contain her emotions anymore, the sounds of anguish punctuated the humid afternoon air. Suddenly, Gurbir paused in mid-grief and stared at the messenger of bad news. Her brother tried to touch her shoulder, to encompass the grief, but it only made her start another bout of convulsion. “Dead?” she uttered, over and again. Gurcharan nodded. “Heart attack. Gone. Just like that.” A shard of pain shot through her own thirty-year-old heart. Her husband was forty. How could he die? Leave her with eight children? How to survive? Disjointed thoughts flooded her head. That’s all she knew. Ma. Mummy. Ma-ji. She only knew how to reproduce. Give birth. Nurture. Feed. Bathe. Cook. Comfort. Scold. Discipline. Love. Endless cycle of children since she was thirteen. A girl child was only taught to marry. Not to survive. She recoiled as she remembered women ancestors long ago who were expected to walk into their dead husband’s funeral pyre.

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Sheila E. Tucker

ST at QL

Image of her

I have this fleeting memory of her sitting on her bed, still and silent, as dawn’s soft sun fingered its way through the sheers. She was unaware that I stood in the doorway, for she was far away, staring out of the window and—what?—remembering him? planning an escape? asking herself why?

     This image of her is all I have left of my mother: her straight back, the shiny brown bob cut to the nape of her neck, straps of an olive satin nightdress hanging from her bony shoulders.

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Mansour Noorbakhsh

Transplanted

Agitated, my wife came to the bedroom and called me behind the curtain. “She came again”, my wife said. “She said it makes more gardening work for her. What gardening work might it cause for her?”

My wife was talking about a Persian Walnut tree that a friend brought us from Niagara Falls some years ago. Four or five years ago on a spring afternoon, a wet and rainy day, he came to our backyard, laughing happily. He was coming back from Niagara Falls with two tiny branches in his car.

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Sylvia Petter

CrankySylvia

Matthew

I didn’t know my son was born until the day after. I didn’t know if I’d even wake up. It was three days before I dared go up to his room. From the first day, Jack had gone to the room our baby shared with ten others like him in the intensive care section of the maternity ward, but I couldn’t do it straight away

‘It’s over 30 degrees,’ the nurse said. ‘We can take them out for a bit. It’s warmer in here than in the incubators.’

It was clammy in the August heat as I watched through the paned door. I didn’t know which baby was mine. I couldn’t hear any of them crying. But the one closest to where I was standing scrunched its closed eyes, stretched out its froglike legs and opened its tiny mouth in a soundless wail. My breasts wept.

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Non-Fiction. Edited by Olga Stein

Heidi Grogan

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Where is the M in (M)other?

My children’s birth mothers inform my “othering” every day.  As an adoptive mother, I am always and all the time looking for the (M) … under beds where mismatched socks wait to be found, in wet laundry gone stank because I forgot, in report cards needing to be signed. In kisses at night when they are asleep.

I find the (M) in pictures my husband takes of us, in their smiles when they shine, and I connect the smiles to a signing up for football or riding lessons. I find the (M) in choices, in what has been given / up. In their shining, I understand the significance of holding and offering choices, and I step into the (M)….

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Heather Birrell

Heather_Birrell_42A1057

Fairy Tale

The light was harsh and clear, and the sea was near, but desert plants
grew outside my window. At night, I played Scrabble with the other
residents, then copied the words we had placed on the board into
my notebook. Crowing roosters and circling, stray dogs woke me

every morning. For breakfast, I ate fresh, fatty yogurt from the milk
of the goats that lived on a nearby patch of scrubby land, sweetened
with honey from a local hive. It was like nothing I had ever tasted
before or have ever tasted since. Why am I telling you all this? Because

last night, and most nights when I wake to my own heart’s desolate
cries, I make myself a snack of plain yogurt with honey, swirling
the spoon fervently around the inner circumference of the bowl
while I worry for my children’s present and future.

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Nina Kossman

fbt

DOLL

            “Mama,” said Jemina. “Look, Mama.”

            “What is it, Baby?”

            “The doll, Mama.”

            “The doll? What happened to the doll? Ah, its head. You’ve broken off the doll’s head.”

            “Mama, I didn’t. It fell off by itself. I picked it up and it was like this already.”

            “It’s okay, Baby. I’m not blaming you.”

            “But you said that I…”

            “That was just a way of speaking, Baby. When I saw that the doll’s head was broken, I commented on it to myself. It doesn’t matter who broke it, or whether it just happened by itself.”

            “But Mama—”

            “What we have to think about, Baby, is how to fix it. Do you think we can fix it?”

Continue Reading Doll and Mother’s Love

Marion Collin

Marion Collin-1

A WEDDING AND A FUNERAL, TRUTH FOR CAM CANADA 

That day, October 7, 2018, was warm and sunny. It was Thanksgiving: turkey cooked, guests arriving, and we were dining a day early, on Sunday, instead of Monday. This made it easier for travel. Our adult daughter and family called to say they would arrive late. Little did we know that the reason for the delay would change our lives.

We served up the meal, gave thanks, and enjoyed the turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing with our neighbours. Gary, our youngest son, joined us. Our oldest, Cameron, wasn’t at our dinner because he had flown on October 4 to attend the wedding of a friend with whom he had roomed at Montana Tech. We were about to eat the strawberry rhubarb pie with ice cream when daughter Julia arrived with her family.

“Cameron is missing in Montana!”

Julia received the distressing phone call just as she was about to head out. She wanted to tell us in person. Cameron had been missing since October 4.

The nightmare had begun.

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Teresa Callihoo

How to Mother a Woman

My daughter became a woman on a Thursday. I was just finishing my first semester teaching at a local college, busy giving last lectures and frantically marking student papers. Many of my students, overly vocal about their marks, were emailing me several times a day before their grades were finalized. Everything felt urgent.

For several years I had imagined this day. I thought that somehow, from my own inner resources, I would spearhead this transition. I envisioned an eclectic mix of red tent and tradition. I imagined friends and family offering their wisdom and perspective. I imagined women gathering. But when my daughter let me know it was time, my first thoughts were how inconvenient. I knew we were supposed to pause for ceremony for four days, and frankly, I didn’t have the time or inclination to do so.

Did I mention she became a woman during a pandemic?

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Olga Stein

OLGA STEIN89

Shtisel’s Heart

Shtisel is primarily about a quirky Orthodox family that resides in Geula, a Hasidic neighbourhood in Jerusalem. The series’ main focus, therefore, are familial relations—at times stressed and strained—between wives and husbands, parents and grown children. These may sound like conventional storylines, and some are. Still, the fine writing that made Season 3 possible must be given a great deal of credit for its brilliant treatment of love: here love is rendered as an objet d’art that is turned and turned until made visible from every angle. This is literally the case with the bereaved Akiva Shtisel. A brilliant painter who is devastated after the loss of his beloved wife, Akiva obsessively paints portraits of Libbi in various guises (as a bride, wife, mother to a newborn—always the beguiling subject of his enamoured eye). When an art dealer stages an exhibition for these portraits in his gallery we see all the portraits displayed—each a unique and stunning testament to Libbi’s multifaceted beauty and Akiva’s abiding love.

Numerous variations are spun on the central and animating theme of love’s figurative and literal connections to the heart. Some depict the effects of love’s absence. An anxious Shulem, the widowed patriarch of the Shtisel family, makes an emergency appointment for himself with a cardiologist, who tells him that he should have a girlfriend or a close companion at the very least because loneliness “is the number one cause of heart attacks.”

Read full essay

Misty Hawes

Misty

Women Circle

                I sit in the viewing area, not really paying attention. I fidget on the uncomfortable benches. They are hard and backless, and I have other things to do. But my daughter, out on the floor, likes to see me when she glances over. So here I sit. As I watch her practice a tumbling pass, I overhear a conversation in the row in front of me. I try to tune it out. Try not to comprehend. “…tried to help…little girl…” It’s enough to turn my skin clammy and force my fingers to clamp around the edge of the bench — my knuckles white.

            I want to get up and walk away. Shout or sing to drown out the words. I can’t. I’m rooted. I cling to the bench, the only solid thing I can reach, desperately willing myself not to slide away on the wave of horror that rolls over me.

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Sandy Bezanson

Version 2

(M)othering on an empty stomach

I have recently become a supporter of Fake News.

Fake news, fake facts, fake time, days, seasons—I am now an ardent supporter of all of these and more. As I walk with my dear mother down the final path of her life, I will support anything that makes her travelling lighter and more meaningful.

Certain common realities no longer hold sway. What does it matter that it is “Tuesday” not Sunday; that she ate the last piece of carrot cake not I; or that she talked to Uncle Jack “only yesterday”—which would make him 129 years old? What does matter is that the 96-year-old skeletal frailty who is my mother can be comfortable, nourished, and know that she is well loved.

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Sally Krusing

SallyKrusing3

Let’s Pretend it never Happened

I know that I got pregnant in February, 1965. I recall the Knight of Nights dance—our high school prom. I wore a long home-made dress made of burgundy velvet, in the empire style. A pink ribbon encircled my body below the bodice, and a wrist corsage of red and pink carnations completed the ensemble. David wore a rented tuxedo.

            We attended Robinson High School in Tampa, Florida, and our mascot was The Knights of the Realm. Before the dance ended we snuck out to David’s car, a Nash Rambler with front seats that folded down flat. We had started dating at the beginning of our senior year, and had sex several times to satisfy our raging hormones. David always insisted on not wearing a condom; he called it a prophylactic and said it didn’t feel good. He promised to withdraw so there wouldn’t be a problem. I trusted him. Today I can’t believe we never discussed the risks of pregnancy or its consequences.

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Literary Spotlight with Sue Burge

Raine Geoghegan

KEEPING TRADITION ALIVE

This month I’m delighted to catch up with a fellow writer with Hedgehog Poetry Press, Raine Geoghan.  Raine is a fascinating writer from a rich tradition of storytellers and makars.  She is very conscious of her Romani heritage and in the current climate it feels more important than ever to keep all the roots which nourish us alive and voiced.

Raine, I notice that poems from both your collections, Apple Water: Povel Panni and They Lit Fires: Lenti Hatch O Yog, are going to be featured in an exhibition at the Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum in rural Norfolk (UK).  I always think of you as a poet who is very concerned with tradition and the countryside.  Could you tell us a little about the background of your collections and how your Romani background informs your work?

Thank you Sue, for inviting me to talk about my work. I am thrilled that three of my poems will be hung in an exhibition at the Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum. It really is satisfying to know that people will see and read them, that the poems will reach a wider audience. Let’s go back to 2017, after I finished the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. It was then that I began working with a mentor, the poet and tutor James Simpson. I mentioned one day that I was of Romany heritage and he asked me why I wasn’t writing about it. I told him that I had written a radio play many years ago but pushed it aside with the intention of returning to it one day. Well that didn’t happen, but I suddenly found that the time was right to set to work on writing about my Romany family.

I was born in South Wales, in the valleys, but my father died when I was nineteen months old and my mother, who was pregnant at the time, moved back to Hanworth in Middlesex. We lived with my Romany Grandparents in their council house. I remember it vividly, the colour, the music, the stories, the Romani jib (language), the wildness, all of it. The poems, prose and songs in my first pamphlet ‘Apple Water: Povel Panni’ are all based on my family who among other things picked fruit, vegetables and hops in both Herefordshire and Kent.

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Writing Advice with Sue Burge

Jenny Pagdin

This month I invited poet Jenny Pagdin to give advice to writers on how to protect their wellbeing when writing about trauma.  I was bowled over by Jenny’s words in this sensitive, generous and searingly honest article.

In the snow globe of trauma

When my son was newborn, I was hit between the eyes by a serious mental illness, postpartum psychosis, which broke my ties with reality just at the time of adjusting to new motherhood. This was eight years ago, and I have gone on to write both a pamphlet (Caldbeck), and the manuscript for a full collection (In the Snow Globe), about my experiences then and since.

While not a teacher or psychologist, I can share a few tips about writing trauma from my own experiences.

  • Self-care

My first advice would be to practice general self-care: watch that your internal monologue is gentle and compassionate, and meditate/run/nap/phone friends/do whatever you normally do to take care of yourself, and do it even more than usual. Especially if you have no time. Especially if you have small dependents.

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Book Reviews. Edited by Geraldine Sinyuy

Daughters of Smoke and Fire. Review by Patrick Woodcock

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  • The rage I’d kept bottled up inside of me boiled over, made me brave. I screamed at the guard who told me to fuck off. “International interventions will soon put a stop to your brutality!”

We can trace this rage to Leila’s relationship with her mother.  It is the most complex relationship in the novel.  Her “Mama” is an extremely complex woman trying to navigate an imploding marriage where her husband sleeps alone in the attic and drinks too much while working and caring for the children he is no longer capable of supporting. Given the unstable and repressive familial and cultural climate she is wading within, it is no surprise when she tells Leila:  Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning, pulled down by weights, (p.36)

Read full review

Prayers for Aisha Lulu. by Darcie Friesen Hossack

Rokiah - prednjica ZA TISAK

Prayers for Aisha Lulu

As I write, tensions and violence are once again escalating between Israel and Gaza. People are dying. Hatred is rising. And caught in the middle are the children.

This conflict, for all the years and decades of its existence, is the reason for Prayers for Aisha Lulu, an anthology of peace poems, dedicated to one young girl, and by extension, all of the children lost to mistrust of others, to hatred, to war.

And yet, in the words of Carin Makuz, one of my favourite bloggers, “This Is Not a Review.” Not exactly. It is also not a political essay or opinion piece.

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Visual Art. Selected by Anne Sorbie, Heidi Grogan

Shannon Mackinnon

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Shahid Mirza

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Poetry. Edited by Clara Burghelea and Nancy Ndeke

Anne Sorbie

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The Day After the Day of Mother Love


Your knife digs in 
to the bleat of cheese
I add to the morning bread

Soft as a prayer
revering love 
the day after the day 
of mother love

The ceramic jug 
you filled with milk
I use for water
and your name sings
on my daughter’s lips
when she sees it

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Sage Tyrtle

sage_tyrtle_photo

Swimming for Safety


pregnant, I watched this tv show on Wednesdays
in the opening credits this crying toddler would run
into his mother's arms like people swim for lifeboats

and I knew that would be us

but I am the crying toddler chasing after the cat
the cat who is you, who loathes hugs
who yowls when I hold you like a baby

sometimes when you are asleep I perch
gingerly petting your back, smelling your hair
reminding myself you like me, just not hugs

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Ileana Gherghina

Ileana Gherghina

Children know

Children know everything
They have eyes everywhere
On Jupiter,
On Mars,
On the Milky Way,
Back Home,
In the top of the tree,
In the back of my life,
In the hen house,
In the cell,
In my heart,
In my memories,
In the plum stone,
In your flesh,
In my smile,
In my hand,
In your sight.
But the language
We adults teach them
Can’t express
The vastness they know.
And we adults
Remain
Unlearned.

Continue to 2 more poems

Kate Rogers

KateRogers

Baba Yaga's Child

I

Baba Yaga gathers tiny corpses
of broken birds beneath her windows. 
She hangs eaves and pine limbs with home-made
bone wind chimes, strings bush lout bone-anchors, 
threads the basket rib cage of a pied biter,
weaves in cuckoo wings for lift. At the top
of the strand, hummingbird beaks, needles 
to stitch the breeze with nectar. Outside,
sweet mist meets my cheeks. On quiet days 
tiny clavicles, mandibles, femurs clatter.

My cup is a crow skull. 
Baba Yaga’s potion 
leaks from eye sockets
when I tip it to my lips. 
I run, caw, trill, warble, 
wail looney. Northern diver throws 
his voice across the lake, 
like a ventriloquist. Loon 
teases, echoes till the wolf 
and I reply.

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Monica Manolachi

Monica Manolachi

Bitter Cherries

It took her a month to buy a salt shaker.
One day she had a last eclair with her daughters in town. 
She left her soul at home on the hallstand
and slowly climbed the airstairs
to the country of sighing where immigrants go. 
A walking dead as she was, she had no tears. 
Her life had stopped. Lunches every other day.
She remained a mother on the phone only.
When cooking for others, she thought of her family.

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Narayan Bhattarai

Narayan Bhattarai

My Mom’s Secret

My mom bears the chronicle of Nepali women 
in her rough hands hardened by time and 
in the wrinkles of her jittery countenance
She is a history never to be written
because nothing big happened in her life
When she had to get a toy to play with
she got a bridal veil and the in-law’s house 
where rules were made only for her.
There, she learned to listen and endure: 
Commands, slaps, humiliation, torture 
A good woman was a silent woman
A good woman begets lots of kids 
My mom was successful
 
My mom always nods her head in agreement 
because she has never disagreed in her life
She agreed to be bride when she was seven

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Dolly Dennis

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BALTIC BREAD – (for my mama)

autumn.
unraked lawns,
yarns of lilac twigs garnish gardens, now ignored.
a new school year. i comb neglected leaves, 
meditate, salivate, remember black bread and sour cream—
after class, a run to the bakery.
such a hunger for a six year old. i start to nibble, 
nosh like Alice down the rabbit hole, 
reach home, the heel of the bread gone. 
a scolding. no super supper tonight,
no sauerkraut, no Baltic bread.
just sour cream on nothing.
			∞
your last words to me from your hospital bed,
i love you, love you, love you.
a profusion, a confusion of phone dates followed—

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Rachel J. Fenton

Miscarriage

A German Shepherd has his head
and front paws in your hutch,
lifted off the lid
to climb in and almost had you.

I had woken from a dream; 
thought I’d heard someone
knocking the fence in.
Outside the bedroom window, 

the dog stares when I scream
‘Oh,’ as if I’ve discovered my baby
dead in my uterus. Gormless,
until I add, ‘Out, out, out,’

Continue Reading and to 2 more poems

Nancy Ndeke

ndeke800

WHEN OTHER ORDERS A MOTHER’S  HEART

The soil,dirty,darkly brown, often damp,
The liquid gold of wombic nurture and stature,
The goddess with nimble fingers and tender breasts,
Teaching lullabies in a preachers trembling tunes upon a fevered wake,
A father’s gift for a name after his father’s and further down the lineage, 
The place of worship in needs met and wants explained, 
What’s motherhood but divine soft shine of pain in beautiful gain,

Continue Reading and to another poem

Mbizo Chirasha

a1mbizo-chirasha-diasporian

A Dedication To My (M)other

As I dangled on your struggle - hardened back

I carved poetry from your sweet lullabies

and grieving hymns

became a griot before teething

…

You remain my Goddess of all time

On the day of my birthing

the moon was torn into two halves

wind raged           a storm ensued

thunder clapped the red earth

lightning bolts cracked in synchrony with gunshots

The rat-a-tat of pelting raindrops

witnessed your labour

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Lynn Tait

LynnTaitsmallcrop

A Life of Envy           
in memory of Stephen 1983-2012

I would rather 
someone to call sister, brother, father
rather than my family tree rootless, without leaves;
a life-path with fewer side streets,
instead of twists and turns— 
crossroads leading to dead ends.
I would rather 
hear the hum and drawl—calling for Mom again, 

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Josephine LoRe

in.ception 

     Scientists have captured the flash of light
that sparks when a sperm meets an egg

I knew    

    I walked from the bed to the bathroom and knew 

                                       a life inside my life a spark

                                             within my spark a flash 

                         infinitesimal then the size of flaxseed 

                     waving blue in summer breeze hazelnut 

                                         in shatterproof shell apricot 

           fuzz-covered flesh yielding to touch grapefruit 

                                         sunshine bursting into scent 

Continue Reading

Mary Pecaut

Mary Pecaut-photo bw

Invitation to Mom

(After Mirna Stone)

If I can bring you back again
it would be on a day like this when the sky
opens wide to the water         
pelicans perch on fishing boats
and lego-like container ships navigate 
the Panama Canal

And I would bring you to my rooftop
and tell you THIS 
is what I love, this view, this horizon
you've never seen
this papaye sunrise
this breeze that nudges me
corrals the clouds

Continue Reading

Angela Costi (Aggeliki Kosti)

Angela-Costi-012 (1)

Mothers

A.
I can lose myself  
between bed and mirror
cot and door 
lamp and window
I can merge with the suckling at my chest
the train snoring at my side
the call of the lonely magpie,
still I drain into the miracle.

The dark, the shadows, the moon 
my mind 
his growing mind
evoke koonia bella, swing my baby hither, koonia bella
my voice quivers in rhythm with the window panes 
while they recall it’s raining, it’s snowing, God waters the statues
other nursery rhymes fight for the match, 
one lights the wick to melt the candle that fills the room
with the smell of my one dolly
I thought I had lost.
We used to play balamakia, let’s clap our hands, clap, clap, clap
daddy will come and bring us sweets, kooloorakia for our biscuit tin

Continue Reading

Andrea Holland

andrea holland

Mine
                                 -	For C.


There were times 	I left my tools at the top. 
There were times I pitched against the rock 
against my will     against you    sedimentary, fixed

to everything around me. 	Therein a song 
of the dark lit a little by shine off the walls. 
I thought I made you 		but you were there

all along; the body’s way 	of working itself
into the future. I thought tools were
enough to bring you out 	they were not.

Continue Reading and to another poem

© This journal and its contents are subject to copyright

DSC_0142

Table of Contents. Mothering Issue. May 2021

Main Journal

Letters from the Editors: Darcie Friesen Hossack with guest editors Anne Sorbie and Heidi Grogan

Podcast. Produced by Jane Spokenword

Trudy SilVER

Fiction. Edited by Sylvia Petter

Still Life. By Irena Karafilly

Mother. By Kelly Kaur

Image of Her. By Sheila E. Tucker

Transplanted. By Mansour Noorbakhsh

Matthew. By Sylvia Petter

Non-Fiction. Edited by Olga Stein

WHERE IS THE (M) in Mother? By Heidi Grogan

Fairy Tale. By Heather Birrell

Doll. Mother’s Love. By Nina Kossman

A Wedding and a Funeral, Truth for cam Canada. by Marion Collin and Yvonne Trainer

How to Mother a Woman. By Teresa Callihoo

Shtisel’s Heart. By Olga Stein

Woman Circle. By Misty Hawes

(M)othering on an empty stomach. By Sandy Bezanson

Let’s Pretend it never Happened. By Sally Krusing

Literary Spotlight with Sue Burge

Raine Geoghegan

Writing Advice with Sue Burge

Jenny Pagdin

Book Reviews. Edited by Geraldine Sinyuy

Daughters of Smoke and Fire. Review by Patrick Woodcock

Prayers for Aisha Lulu. Review by Darcie Friesen Hossack

Visual Art. Selected by Anne Sorbie, Heidi Grogan

Hands. Vessel. By Shannon Mackinnon

4 images. By Shahid Mirza

 

Poetry. Edited by Clara Burghelea and Nancy Ndeke

The Day After the Day of Mother Love. By Anne Sorbie

Swimming for Safety. By Sage Tyrtle

3 poems. By Ileana Gherghina

Baba Yaga’s Child. By Kate Rogers

Bitter Cherries. By Monica Manolachi

My Mom’s Secret. By Narayan Bhattarai

Baltic Bread. By Dolly Dennis

2 Poems. By Rachel J. Fenton

2 Poems. By Nancy Ndeke

A Dedication To My (M)other. By Mbizo Chirasha

A Life of Envy. By Lynn Tait

in.ception. By Josephine LoRe

Invitation to Mom. By Mary Pecaut

Mothers. By Angela Costi (Aggeliki Kosti)

Mine. By Andrea Holland

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

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Women Circle. Memoir by Misty Hawes

Misty

  

Women Circle

                I sit in the viewing area, not really paying attention. I fidget on the uncomfortable benches. They are hard and backless, and I have other things to do. But my daughter, out on the floor, likes to see me when she glances over. So here I sit. As I watch her practice a tumbling pass, I overhear a conversation in the row in front of me. I try to tune it out. Try not to comprehend. “…tried to help…little girl…” It’s enough to turn my skin clammy and force my fingers to clamp around the edge of the bench — my knuckles white.

            I want to get up and walk away. Shout or sing to drown out the words. I can’t. I’m rooted. I cling to the bench, the only solid thing I can reach, desperately willing myself not to slide away on the wave of horror that rolls over me.

            “Oh Shit”

            I know I’ve said it out loud. I see my feet hit the floor running. The realization that has been waiting there in the back of my mind, kind of a floaty unrecognized thing, is suddenly very terribly real.

            I choke on air. My stomach churns. I gulp back the bile that burns at the back of my throat.

            I stand pressing both of my hands flat against the brick wall at the back of the gym.  It’s cold on my forehead, a solid and unmoving touchstone while my reality spins. 

            I force myself to breath in, breath out.

            I keep eyes tight shut because I know if I open them the floor will slip away in a dizzying slide.

            I know this conversation, this story. It was mine a few short months ago. The strangers’ whispered account of the accident they witnessed. I know this family — the unspoken names. Deep down in my gut I know without hearing — the way a heart knows.

            I straighten up. My fingernails dig into the palms of my hands.I speak to the coach, then turn and walk toward the knowledge of the pain.

            Along the way I stop to buy a teddy bear because I cannot arrive at this occasion with empty hands and my broken heart spilling out of me in jagged little pieces. Besides, it gives me something to hold on to. It is solid enough to stop my body from shaking when I wrap my arms around it, but not so solid it will break me if I fall into it.

            My heart knows even as my brain screams and begs and prays for it to be wrong. 

            “Please God let me be wrong. Please, Please…”

            The voice in my head gets fainter and fainter as I walk up the sidewalk. 

            The grief here is a physical presence. This is a house in mourning with its shades pulled down and its cars lining the block. Its silence settles dead weight on my shoulders and drags at my feet. My heart knows, and now my head knows that my heart is right. My hand hesitates, motionless in mid-air. I have to force myself to knock (I knock because a doorbell would be artificial and jarring and terrible). Knocking breaks the silence, but it is tolerable somehow because it is organic and authentic (this is a weird thing that I know about grief only because I have been there myself).

            I don’t recognize the woman who opens the door, but she is familiar in grief and in soul memory and in the scent of our childhood home. It is the scent of damp moss and hot cedar trees on the banks of a river in the place where we both grew up —childhood friends of the momma I have come to see.

            She has come, the way that women do, to circle the wounded, to help hold the pieces and memories and hearts when the owners of the hearts are too broken to do the holding themselves. It’s why I have come too, she knows.

            I hold out the teddy bear in a mute plea, unable to speak. “Oh,” she says. “I think maybe she’s waiting for you.”

            She is — my friend — waiting for me. I find her there at the top of the stairs, standing but almost not, holding on with all of her will. I know this holding on, and how sometimes it is all you can do. Sometimes it takes more than all you have. I wrap my arms around her. Somehow we will hold on together.

Misty Hawes is a British Columbian who currently resides in Calgary, Alberta. Earth is her element and her soul is most at home adventuring, barefoot, in moss covered forests. She is a fiercely okay mother of two – 24 and forever four.  A believer in angels, in fairies and magic, and in the power of women who circle.  A seeker of truth; she writes unsweetened honesty.  Triggers may happen.

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Where is the (M) in Mother? Memoir by Heidi Grogan

Photo by Julia Marsh

Where is the M in (M)other?

My children’s birth mothers inform my “othering” every day.  As an adoptive mother, I am always and all the time looking for the (M) … under beds where mismatched socks wait to be found, in wet laundry gone stank because I forgot, in report cards needing to be signed. In kisses at night when they are asleep.

I find the (M) in pictures my husband takes of us, in their smiles when they shine, and I connect the smiles to a signing up for football or riding lessons. I find the (M) in choices, in what has been given / up. In their shining, I understand the significance of holding and offering choices, and I step into the (M)….

My children’s birth mothers are beautiful. They are (M); I am ‘O’: other. But I bet if I asked them, they could tell stories about othering.

Their grief, their choice, defines and embodies what I know to be love. And so, because of their love, I cannot always find my feet. I stumble around, looking for the (M) I promised them I’d step into.

For most of my career, I have worked with women leaving the sex trade. “I did not give my child up,” one woman told me. “Lose the give up. Give. I gave my child.” I stumbled in reverence.

In my writing-work, I teach that we are transformed by the words we put on the page, even words conceived in grace and intention, words birthed in a bloody mess and cleaned up and offered as gifts to the world. Mothering is bloody and messy; to me mothering is being present to the risk inherent in creating, in the birthing moment. And staying regardless.

Who is mother? Does it matter?

My daughter’s birth mother swam in the mornings after my husband and I took her baby home, leaking breast milk into chlorine so no one would see her cry. My son’s birth mother and I pushed his carriage over snow ruts to a bookstore where the owner attended to us as if we were a couple, and the two of us loved her for that. These women gave and relinquished.

Relinquishing is an unexpected and devastating aspect of mothering. For both biological and adoptive mothers. For our children to shine we must relinquish. I glimpse the (M) in this experience: I have learned loving even when it is messy is a choice that changes everything. A costly, life-giving choice. Relinquishing and loving results in an othering that is entirely transformative.

I am still working it out: (M) othering.

I am lifted by my choices and those of my children’s birth mothers.

Heidi Grogan:

My writing and work meet at the intersection of trauma, social justice and spirituality. In 2022, The (M)othering Anthology will be published (Inanna Press). I have published in Room magazine, Weavings and the Boobs Anthology (Caitlin Press). My writing has been twice recognized as a finalist for the Brenda Strathern Award.   For 15 years, I taught creative writing to women exiting the sex trade. In other programs, I have attended to the link between literacy and literary fluency for adults healing from trauma. In support of emerging writers, I teach creative writing through Continuing Education at the University of Calgary.

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Image of her. A flash fiction by Sheila E. Tucker

ST at QL

Image of her

I have this fleeting memory of her sitting on her bed, still and silent, as dawn’s soft sun fingered its way through the sheers. She was unaware that I stood in the doorway, for she was far away, staring out of the window and—what?—remembering him? planning an escape? asking herself why?

     This image of her is all I have left of my mother: her straight back, the shiny brown bob cut to the nape of her neck, straps of an olive satin nightdress hanging from her bony shoulders.

     I quietly tiptoed downstairs, put on my shoes and headed to school. By the time I returned, the house was empty and so was her closet.

     I wonder even now, if she ever recalls that last morning in the house, if she sometimes thinks of me, if she is even still alive.

Sheila E. Tucker is editor-in-chief of an upcoming anthology for Toronto’s Heliconian Club for Women in the Arts and Letters. She’s a member of The Writers’ Union of Canada and The Ontario Poetry Society. Previously, she was an editor and graphic designer for an international company. Born in England, the backdrop of her memoir Rag Dolls and Rage, Sheila travelled the world for 12 years, working casual jobs on an Israeli kibbutz, the Spanish coast, a Belgian town and the Greek capital, among other places. She thrived on adventure. Sheila now lives in Oakville with her husband. http://www.ragdollsandrage.com   www.facebook.com/OakvilleSheilaTucker

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(M)othering on an Empty Stomach. Memoir by Sandy Bezanson

Version 2

(M)othering on an empty stomach

I have recently become a supporter of Fake News.

Fake news, fake facts, fake time, days, seasons—I am now an ardent supporter of all of these and more. As I walk with my dear mother down the final path of her life, I will support anything that makes her travelling lighter and more meaningful.

Certain common realities no longer hold sway. What does it matter that it is “Tuesday” not Sunday; that she ate the last piece of carrot cake not I; or that she talked to Uncle Jack “only yesterday”—which would make him 129 years old? What does matter is that the 96-year-old skeletal frailty who is my mother can be comfortable, nourished, and know that she is well loved.

I pray to deities that I am no longer sure I believe in for patience and humility. And although I could make a great and fine case about what an honour it is to take care of my mother, as both a mother and a daughter, I tell you it is hard, very hard. Bony hands gripping yours as she pants in terror, “I am not going to make it,” and implores you “don’t leave me,” though you have not been out of her sight for 27 consecutive hours. Or to hear her confide after many confused awakenings that she thought she was dead. This tells only part of the story. The pallor, the tottering steps, the sharp hunger assuaged with such little food, and the inability to eat again for prolonged periods, the confusion, and yes, the temper and sharp words—these are now the realities.

The comfort of intermittent laughter is more real, honest, profound and consequential to me now than the entirety of the world’s news, real and fake.

It has come to me that (M)othering is not just about the beginning and middle of life. The ending of life, though we may dread it as a tragedy or welcome it as a mercy, is also an integral part of (M)othering. Indeed, how could it be otherwise? Perhaps more so than tending to a baby or advising a young adult, caring for an ill or aging parent requires tenacity and humour, adaptability and patience, as well as a very great deal of graceful acceptance of the inevitable. Yet the joy of new life and the challenges of young life don’t prepare you for (M)othering your own parent.

I have never really liked sandwiches, and I am now the living embodiment of one, spread very thin between my mother and her concerned grandchildren. Of course family and friends help, but being the point person and always on call is a different thing, though doable. It is the great ephemeral unknowns of existence that patter through my head on sleepless nights, that steal energy, nerve and direction as they leave their footprints and me questioning my own mortality. Caring for your parents puts you next in line to the brink of eternity in a visceral way that cannot be denied. It is too soon for me to don the matriarchal crown I tell myself at 3am, as though the decision was in any way in my hands.

When I think of my mother, I think of her in her youth as a child of the Depression, a vital worker during WWII, and then a young wife and mother in the late 1950s. As soon as awareness came to me, my mum was all, everything—constant, secure, and selfless in her caring for my sisters and me.

My mother, born second last in a brood of nine, was a complete tomboy. Any activity, be it skating, curling, baseball, driving, or shooting, was in her blood from her early days growing up rough and tumble in a small Saskatchewan town. Although we called her Mrs. Clean for her extraordinary housekeeping, I think she was a somewhat reluctant homemaker in the traditional sense. She was not fond of decorating or fancy cooking, though until recently her apple pies would knock your socks off. She planted flowers in any small patch of earth. Mum was naturally musical and could play the mouthorgan, guitar, and organ by ear. She loved a laugh, and wouldn’t suffer fools when playing cards.

She was a devoted grandmother and a rock for us all when we lost my Dad suddenly one night. At 70 years of age she sold the house and moved 2000 miles to be closer to her children, fearlessly setting up a whole new life for herself. With the loss of our wonderful larger than life father (and that is saying a lot as he was six and a half feet tall or two meters in decimal speak), Mum came into her own in ways I had not anticipated. Her (M)othering knowledge and wisdom deepened and poured in and around her children and descendants like golden honey drizzled over freshly baked bread, for the sweet beauty and energy of it—for the very joy of life.

I realize that I have just written the above paragraphs in the past tense. I cannot keep this feeling of ‘passage’ from seeping into everything now.

Someone once said, It is not the darkness I fear, but the dimming of the light. The dimming of everything, the turning of the wheel, the cycle of life, none of those things scare me as they did in my youth. We all must accept death, and after a wonderful life of 96 years there is no cause for complaint. But the diminishing is still difficult to bear witness to.

I have just returned from a hospital visit where I thought my Mum was taking her final tortured breaths. The feel of the rough, bruised skin of her hand is imprinted on mine, and the sounds, looks, smells of the bedside are replaying in my mind. Munch-like in their distressed distortions. And still she survived. Only the touch of family skin to skin, heartbeat to heartbeat linked life to this world. The crest of oblivion winked at us today—not a terrifying spectre, but awesome in its latent profundity.

During all of the frenetic activity going on around us—the giving of blood, adjustment of meds, monitoring of oxygen, taking of blood pressure and counting of pulse—there was only Mum and I holding hands. We were the calm at the center of the hurricane. Through all of the momentum of the building storm, there was the rightness of just Mum and I, holding our hearts together through our hands.

My hand trembles now as I lift her favourite mug to my lips. I blatantly pilfered it for the comfort it affords me. Is it pity I swallow with my tea? Or is it relief, joy, or selfishness that is mixed with the Earl Grey? I cannot tell. Nor does it really matter because many hours after the crisis she was able to mumble my name, and then after a prolonged pause, one other word…love.

Love.

Because love is the essential nature of (M)othering.

In retrospect, my teens seemed to have flown by, and then, and as is the way of all (M)othering, it became time for her to let go of me, as I let go of my child, as it will be time soon again for another type of letting go. I must make the best of my sandwich, though I sometimes have little appetite for it—even when “the final news” comes.

Because that too is the essential nature of (M)othering.

{I have not said a word about Covid yet, which has stolen so much from so many.  I grieve for those families who were not able to comfort their loved ones in person. Thank you to all level of workers who help with the sick and aging; angels all, in a very trying time!}

 

After earning a degree at Queen’s University, Sandy Bezanson lived overseas for a number of years. This allowed her to actively pursue her love of art, history, peoples and places. Living in various locations, sometimes as a visible minority who didn’t speak the language, gave her the opportunity to experience life from a different perspective. She feels this aided her subsequent teaching career, as did being a mother (not to mention being a sister, wife, daughter, friend and occasional wine drinker)!

Sandy returned to North America with a desire to write. She has contributed to Pages of Stories and the forthcoming (M)othering Anthology due to be published in Spring 2022.

You are cordially invited to explore her current project, an historical novel called The Guernsey Diplomat, available later this year.

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A Wedding and a Funeral, Truth for Cam Canada. By Marion Collin and Yvonne Trainer

Marion Collin-1

A WEDDING AND A FUNERAL, TRUTH FOR CAM CANADA 

That day, October 7, 2018, was warm and sunny. It was Thanksgiving: turkey cooked, guests arriving, and we were dining a day early, on Sunday, instead of Monday. This made it easier for travel. Our adult daughter and family called to say they would arrive late. Little did we know that the reason for the delay would change our lives.

We served up the meal, gave thanks, and enjoyed the turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing with our neighbours. Gary, our youngest son, joined us. Our oldest, Cameron, wasn’t at our dinner because he had flown on October 4 to attend the wedding of a friend with whom he had roomed at Montana Tech. We were about to eat the strawberry rhubarb pie with ice cream when daughter Julia arrived with her family.

“Cameron is missing in Montana!”

Julia received the distressing phone call just as she was about to head out. She wanted to tell us in person. Cameron had been missing since October 4.

The nightmare had begun.

Unsure of what to do or say, I launched into phone calls to Billings. The woman who had reported Cameron missing was a sister of the bride. She had searched online and found Julia’s number. Later, I learned from one of Cameron’s messages that he had snuck into our house late on October 3rd to get his dress pants. How I regret not hearing him come in! We texted each other next morning. He wrote, “Save some turkey and cranberries for me.” (Marion)

Later, Marion, Cam’s mother, pieced together Cam’s e-mails and messages to discern his itinerary for October 4, 2018. The taxi arrived to pick up Cam at 4 A.M. and drove him to the Calgary airport. From there he flew to Denver, Colorado. There was a brief stopover. He ate a steak lunch, met some other wedding attendees, and flew from Denver to Billings, Montana. Sometime on the night of October 4, he went missing. The wedding party knew he was missing; nonetheless, they made various excuses as to why they didn’t search for him.

Cameron’s mom explained: “If only the bachelor party and wedding party participants had reported Cameron missing that first day, things might have turned out differently.”

Cameron had been invited by written invitation. He was not a trespasser. He was their responsibility, on their property, in their home. Instead of reporting Cameron missing, they set up the chairs and tables for the wedding banquet, brought in the food, and arranged the chairs for the wedding service. The bride-to-be and her brides’ maids travelled into Billings to have their fingernails painted, pick up flowers, the alcohol, and the other refreshments. (Marion)

What else had they picked up, Marion wondered. There was no call to the sheriff’s office to report Cameron missing, even though he was nowhere on the property. Would Cameron still be alive if the host and property owner had called the sheriff within eight hours of him going missing, as required for an adult by Montana legislation?

Later, thinking back to October 6, 2018, Cameron’s mother recalled the bride’s conversation. Over the phone, the bride claimed she handn’t realized Cameron was missing until she was walking down the aisle and didn’t see him sitting there.

Marion was looking with disdain at a photo of the wedding, one of the few posted on an FB page. She noted how strange it was that the wedding party posted so few public pictures of the wedding, as up until that point a lot of the attendees were exchanging messages and pictures on FB. The father of the groom was leaning forward, elbows on knees, staring at the ground. The guests looked more somber than befits a happy occasion. One of the bridesmaids was looking away from the bride and groom altogether. Maybe she and others already knew the truth about Cameron. Marion’s sense was that Cameron would be alive today if the host had called and the search had commenced earlier.

The wedding took place on Saturday, October 6. Cameron had travelled two days early to attend the groom’s bachelor party on Thursday and a concert on Friday with friends. He went missing Thursday night. No one reported him missing to family or the sheriff’s office until three days later. Again, from phone calls and e-mails from members of the wedding party, Cam’s mother was able to piece together events of October 7. The wedding guests went fishing in the creek, just in case Cameron had ended up in it. Finally, the sister of the bride and her husband called the sheriff to report Cameron missing from the 40-acre property near Billings.

The responses that the bride’s sister gave to my questions were a blur and did not make sense. They thought he had left with other friends, maybe met a girl, was sleeping it off somewhere, and didn’t bother to check with the hotel where he had made a reservation. Three days later… (Marion)

Testimony provided to the sheriff states that Cameron was last seen passed out on the floor beside a lawn chair in the shop where the bachelor party was held. This statement was later changed to say he was in the chair—that maybe he had thrown up. So many questions went unanswered. Was he in medical distress when the bachelor party left to go to a strip club in Billings? If in medical stress, why didn’t they take him to a hospital, or at least to his reserved hotel room in Billings? Why leave him, Marion wondered, and not tell anyone else on the property. Why did the wedding party, who claimed to return an hour later, not check on him? What if it were all an enormous, gigantic lie? What if the last time Cameron was near the shop was 7:45 PM on October 4? What if something strange happened? Did they arrange to have the body moved somewhere, or returned to move it themselves? What if the GPS proves this? What if the three days before reporting Cameron missing were used to hide evidence. There were reports of fighting and hard drugs at the party. It would give them time to clear away all paraphernalia and allow the drugs to leave their systems and his, leaving no evidence of illegal activity. After three days, Meth and heroine would likely not show up on a work-related drug test. It would have given them time to create an alibi. It appeared that not everyone from the wedding party got the story straight. According to one recorded testimony, Cameron was last seen standing outside the shop talking with three men.

Given such distressing circumstances, what does one do?

“We made the decision that Julia and Cameron’s dad, Glen, would head to Montana. Cameron’s brother and I would stay in Canada and work with the police, plus handle communications and travel arrangements. Glen got busy packing. They would stay over at Julia’s, which was en route.” (Marion)

There were many questions: What to take? How long would they be away? Passports, travel insurance, and a US Visa would be required. Where to stay? Whom to tell? Glen decided to take the truck and camper equipped with gear, flashlights, and rubber boots. The Visa was in my name. It was a shared account with Cameron for when he went to college in Butte, Montana (2008-2011). My motto: Keep busy. Things needed to be done: write a letter giving permission for Glen to use my visa in the US. Keep a copy of the visa for myself. As the Chev Silverado drove down the lane and into the distance, Maggie, our border collie, howled in the garage. She never howls.

I cried, “No, Maggie, you are wrong. Stop it, he is okay. Dad will find him. No, No!” Looking back, Maggie knew. She knew something was terribly wrong.

Glen needed travel insurance before he crossed the border. Insurance could not be bought after. It was the long weekend; our insurance agent’s office was closed. I phoned the 800 number and started the process. Glen had to sign. I signed for him and e-mailed the agent.

My eldest brother, my nephew, Glen’s sister, were all deeply concerned. My sister was bewildered and in tears when they heard from me by phone.

On the morning of October 8, after a sleepless night, I was worried and distressed not only about Cameron; I was also anxious about Glen and Julia driving. I felt a bit of relief when the e-mail arrived saying that their insurance was in place ahead of their crossing the border. What reason did they give the border guards for travel: “Searching for their missing son and brother?” Julia took her turn driving the big truck under Dad’s watchful eye. He finally nodded off. They had made the decision to travel as far as they could that day, and find a hotel instead of staying in the camper. They figured they would make it to Great Falls, Montana, the first day, and arrive in Billings early next morning. Which hotel? They decided to find one closest to I15 from Canada, but also close to I90, which headed to Billings. Marion booked Western, and when asked for the reason for travel, she told the truth: they were searching for their son. Western provided a family tragedy discount. All set. She decided to book in Billings too, but where to call, where to book? Shouldn’t it be somewhere close to the main drag that Glen and Julia would be arriving on, and on north side, near the wedding party property.

The Yellowstone County sheriff’s office called. The detective needed Cameron’s cellphone provider account information. Airtime, messages. We have a joint family account. Cameron wasn’t in Canada a lot, so it made sense to have a group account, and share data. There were lots of messages on Cam’s FB and Linked-in sites, many concerned friends in Canada. “Cam, where are you? Your mom is worried.” A detective was asking: Could you print this. Could you find that for us. I gave him the account user ID and password. Later, this proved to have been a mistake.

I contacted Samsung: “Find your phone.” I found the phone, and serial number, but no IP address. I explained situation: my son was missing in Montana. I worked my way over to a technician, who asked if Cameron had used one of our computers in the house. If Cameron had not closed out, the Google data could still be there. I dashed downstairs, checked the top corner, clicked the square box. There it was! Google Account, email, all of it.

I opened the Samsung website, and the technician walked me through changing the Samsung password by emailing a request to Google Gmail, and confirming the personal data. Done! We were in!  Okay, fine, now what? I didn’t know where to look, what to search. Tired. People were phoning, friends texting, e-mails. Heather, Cameron’s veterinary friend, called: “I have a phone technician friend. Would you like her to try to find Cameron’s phone?”

God is good! “Yes, yes!” I gave Megan the user id’s, passwords Samsung Account, Google, everything. Megan knew what she was doing. I didn’t.

On October 9, Glen and Julia decided to bypass the sheriff’s office and go to the property where the party had taken place. They pulled into the yard and stepped out of the truck. Suddenly, several people, pulling on coats, piled out of the ranch house. Everyone talked at once; it was overwhelming. There were conflicting stories: “He was in the shop.” And, “No, he wasn’t.”

Several reporters had been contacted by the family. By October 10, the sheriff’s office also reported to the local papers that search and rescue teams, along with friends and residents in the area, had searched without luck. The sheriff asked residents who live near Pryor Creek to check their property for signs of Cameron. They were going over some ground previously searched.

Two days later, the local papers again reported that “Collin’s father and sister had been leading the search in Montana with many of Cameron’s friends. Cam’s father, in exasperation, exhaustion, and shock, drove to a hardware store in Billings and purchased two poles to fit with hooks to aid in the search. The area had also been swept by helicopter and planes.

On October 13, 2018, Julia explained to a reporter that someone believed they saw Cameron walking toward Billings on the Old Highway 87. The validity of this sighting was increased because his cell phone tracking showed activity in this area. Nonetheless, no further signs emerged. Julia told the reporter this: “We haven’t really gotten a good ping off his phone or anything like that. The phone seems to be dead and there’s been absolutely no activity on his bank card or credit card.”

On October 14, The Star Calgary reported Julia as saying: “On top of what the sheriff is doing, we’ve been doing our own searches.…My dad and I have been going through the ditches and climbing hills.…I’ve been climbing under trees and bush and everything, just calling out his name, hoping we find him.”

Julia spoke to Global News on October 14, 2020: “We’re getting scared now, at this point, and worried. I have a frantic mother at home whom we’re trying to reassure. We’re trying to remain strong and keep looking.”

At various points, friends and acquaintances from Canada arrived to help with the search, looking in or climbing into every culvert in the area. It was an organized but frantic search.

Two days later, Julia again spoke to a reporter at Global News: “There are many theories as to what happened to him that night. Did he start walking to town, get picked up? Did he fall in the creek? We are wanting a confirmed sighting of his whereabouts that night and everyday since.”

By October 23, Julia had returned home to Canada with her dad, and then returned with a friend to Billings. At this point, various professionals entered the search: divers’ search and rescue teams; an all-women man-tracking team from Wyoming brought their knowledge to the search; a K-9 handler from Billings returned to the area for a second time.

Upon return to the Pryor Creek area, Julia spoke to Montana News: “He always said he’d do anything, he’d travel across the world for me. So, I am trying to do the same for him. It has taken over my life. I am overwhelmed.”

Yet, Julia and the family did not lose hope: “I’m confident that he’s out there and that we will find him, and I’m hoping that America will help me do that.”

The family agreed that the tip about a male on the Old Highway offered a bit of hope. The person spotted was “wearing dark clothes. My brother was wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt and jeans and cowboy boots.” Julia said, “He always wears his cowboy boots.” Interestingly, these boots were never returned to the family. Instead, they sent size 11 boots thought to belong to someone who was in jail. DNA evidence, obtained by the family through a professional forensic company in Canada, proved this. How many more mistakes were made by a sheriff’s office that did not even return the correct clothing, the family wondered? Where in Montana are Cam’s size 13 boots?

The Wedding Minus Cameron

Although members of the wedding party knew Cameron was missing, the wedding commenced, and it wasn’t until October 7 that the family was informed by the bride’s sister, also sister to a woman whom Cameron once dated for six months, that he had not shown up for the wedding or at his hotel, and that they had been searching for him.

The sheriff’s office took statements from the sister and bride. The police search began.

On October 22, the sheriff provided an update. The email went to approximately 20 people who came together to search along with a dive rescue team. A K-9 unit in another city arrived and they had gone out to the site on this night. Another member of the K-9 unit was to return at 7:30 A.M. to Pryor Creek where they thought Cameron might be located. Two other searchers would head to the area early in the morning and bring “the Raft.” Two detectives, a search coordinator from the Sheriff’s office, and another person who would assist him were to arrive. Yet another member of the sheriff’s team would do some follow-up and then come to the scene. Another K-9 member was to arrive at 9:00 in the morning. Professional border patrol and trained sign cutters were on hand as well.

On October 27, the sheriff still searching the area, sent an e-mail to approximately thirty people working on the case. The search would continue the next day, Sunday. They were to start at a bridge off Highway 87, where the creek crosses just south of the road. “We will have at least one dog and the plan is to continue with the dog in the raft down the creek as long as we can. We will use ground crews to check sites downstream for log jams exit points….” The search continued despite inclement weather.

The sheriff sent a further update to Cameron’s sister: They had covered 10 miles of the Creek on the past Sunday, but “obviously nothing of interest” was noted. He said that they would continue the search “as time, weather and manpower allows.” There had been no other leads. He also assured her that one of the detectives in his office was checking technical cell phone data, and he gave her access to contact his detectives.

Meanwhile, the family kept the search alive by means of newspaper interviews, plus online videos. By now, the family was afraid the search for Cameron would wind down entirely if they did not receive more media attention. They hired a well-known investigator, Mike Txxx, to help with the search. Private investigator Mike Txxx explained his role to the Calgary Eyeopener:

There are a couple reasons why the family hired me. One is to help interpret the sheriff’s office and deal with law enforcement and kind of be the go-between for them….Also, to follow up on leads the family gets that the sheriff’s office is maybe not that interested in.

Private Investigator Txxx summarized the various theories.

We’ve had a wide range. We’ve had psychics reach out ….Members tell us stuff and friends tell

us stuff.

One of these people was Dr. Yvonne Trainer. The synchronicity of her talk with Cam’s mother at the time of Cameron being found remains a mystery, and perhaps only God knows the why of it.

In late October, Yvonne Trainer, an internationally recognized poet and writer, was living in Lethbridge, Alberta, to escape the high costs of apartments in the larger cities and to lead a quiet writing life. She often went to Tim Hortons on the south side of the city for a coffee and to write in her journal. She happened to be there on the evening when an extremely tall young man came through the door. That’s why she noticed him. He had to duck to get in under the doorway. He was with another man about 5 ft 3 in height. Both seemed road weary. Interestingly, it struck Yvonne that the young man looked exactly like the photo of a missing man from Airdrie, Alberta. Photos of Cameron had been in major newspapers, on the news, and online. This man’s height, age, hair colour, eyes, and gentle personality fit the picture of Cam 100%. He was wearing a blue T-shirt with a checkered shirt unbuttoned over it, faded jeans that were too short, and running shoes too small for his feet. He had large hands.

It was an odd evening at Tim Hortons to begin with. The sky was a purplish colour, as if a bruise had spread across it. A woman sat at a corner table weeping. The shorter guy went to purchase coffees. The taller one didn’t appear to have money on him.

The tall fellow went over to try and comfort the woman. He sat beside her and asked If she was ok. He said that he too had certainly been through difficult times. He seemed to genuinely care about the woman. Then the other fellow appeared with two large coffees and the woman said, “I guess since you two are strangers, I shouldn’t talk to you.” The tall man wished her well and they went and sat at another table.

Marion Collin is the mother of three adult children. She lives in rural Alberta with her artist husband. Since 2018, Marion has devoted her time to searching for the truth in her oldest son’s death after he was discovered, after a month-long search, deceased in Pryor Creek, Montana, where he had gone missing while attending a  friend’s wedding.

Yvonne Trainer is a poet and writer living in Lethbridge Alberta. Marion and Yvonne have collaborated in writing a memoir about those grueling days between Oct. 4 to Nov. 3, 2018 and after, and the devastation this tragedy has wreaked on the Collin family’s life.

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Mine. Rubric. 2 poems by Andrea Holland

andrea holland

Mine
                                -	For C.


There were times 	I left my tools at the top. 
There were times I pitched against the rock 
against my will     against you    sedimentary, fixed

to everything around me. 	Therein a song 
of the dark lit a little by shine off the walls. 
I thought I made you 		but you were there

all along; the body’s way 	of working itself
into the future. I thought tools were
enough to bring you out 	they were not.

I did not know 	your own necessary
seismicity; that you would force me back
to the surface 		and the only substance left 

the only thing substantial 	is the words i give you
to go along with the toil (the words come back to me now)
(your words you form 	out of your own dark toil)

The heavy work 	of digging you out of the cleft 
of the seam is nothing against the work of letting you go, 
placing you in the truck 	heading for the surface 

where the air is not always light 	and blessed. 
And (at this moment) 	to know the truck
that takes you. 	To know the truck takes you, 

but not know where           or if there is burning at the end.






Rubric
				— for A.


For a second, I see a sort of Pieta in reverse
as you ease my sneaker onto my right foot
and then the left, with a glance of tender 
knowledge, as if your eyes were not
made for tears.

When you were born I fought nature. I lay
on the bed for weeks after, floating in the Red
Sea; I wanted to take you back to the midwife,
but I pretended to be your boat without holes.
I mimed songs, smiles, and at night I raged
uselessly against the tide of your cries;
sleepless and hungry us both.

And then one day I almost sang the shanty 
of love, and when I held you it was like
tilting a chalice of wine to my lips, on my knees.
Then I meant it when I buttoned your tiny coat
against cold. I meant it when I eased small socks,
slight as wafers, over cool toes. I meant to be
your mother. You know I was meant to be
your mother, as you ease my shoes on with
the reciprocal gaze of the blessed.

Andreea Holland’s publications include Broadcasting (Gatehouse Press) which won the Norfolk Commission for Poetry and Borrowed (Smith/Doorstop) as well as individual poems in journals and anthologies in the UK and USA, including The Rialto, andotherpoems.com and The World Speaking Back – poems for Denise Riley. I teach Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and sit on the Board of the European Association of Creative Writing Programs and also on the NAWE Higher Ed. committee. I’ve published articles on poetry, creative writing pedagogy and collaborative practice, including for The Portable Poetry Workshop (Palgrave/Macmillan) and I live in Norwich with my sons and a Romanian rescue dog.

 

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3 poems by Angela Costi (Aggeliki Kosti)

Angela-Costi-012 (1)

Mothers

A.
I can lose myself  
between bed and mirror
cot and door 
lamp and window
I can merge with the suckling at my chest
the train snoring at my side
the call of the lonely magpie,
still I drain into the miracle.

The dark, the shadows, the moon 
my mind 
his growing mind
evoke koonia bella, swing my baby hither, koonia bella
my voice quivers in rhythm with the window panes 
while they recall it’s raining, it’s snowing, God waters the statues
other nursery rhymes fight for the match, 
one lights the wick to melt the candle that fills the room
with the smell of my one dolly
I thought I had lost.
We used to play balamakia, let’s clap our hands, clap, clap, clap
daddy will come and bring us sweets, kooloorakia for our biscuit tin

Lyrics come stomping up and down the hallway
knocking at the door, waiting for no reply
they barge in to slap away sleep
to open the mountains and oceans of pages 
found on the shelves of children’s libraries.
On page 53, the room is a country.
Is it the lion or the witch 
seducing the wardrobe’s clothes?
On 203, an expanse of history.
Swords and shields march the walls, 
the baby’s cry heralds the battle,
running fast over pages to escape death
we rest with the parable of the lion
retold by my grandfather.

He who listens to the mouse 
knows pain is the best teacher.  
The roar will be restored
once the rope is nibbled and frayed
and the wounded nipple 
will become our well, 
our fountain.
 
B.
One fontanelle may cradle my heart’s tremor
but I count hundreds of swaddled bees, eyes filmy blue
stalking the nipple’s shadow    still I feed
and I am fed
become stronger
carry my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother
and all mothers before her 
drained of our stories 
as one.

C.
The tug and surge 
the squeeze and gush
as liquid love fills baby two
and I fall into serene. 

My hair gently stroked 
by mother multitudes. 

We eat to keep ourselves plump 
tidy the bedroom of dropped clothes, toys, nappies… 
read the local paper.

And come night 
breasts 
bared.






Yiayia is Swimming in my KeepCup 

“… none of us leaves our personal stuff at the door, that we are always seeking to replicate structures from our childhood … we can each do our work but not expect the organization to solve the wounds of our childhood.”
							Jerry Colonna, Podcast 
					Can you really bring your whole self to work?

From my spinal cord the spirited child 
swings up through my lungs
and leaps from my mouth 
with words like unruly curls,
despite my hair stretched into submission, 
and pale blue, buttoned-up shirt
defying my grandmother’s colours of roar and bleed.

The child is listening to Yiayia				Γιαγιά: Grandmother 	
as the data morphs into ένα δύο τρία				ena dyo tria: one two three 
as the fluorescent light holds a firm, old hand
resting on my shoulder 
reminding me to eat my lunch.  

Ee glossa tis miteras				Η γλώσσα της μητέρας: the mother tongue
wafts from my moussaka 
disturbing those lunch packs 
with food of calm and order, 
my language of birth 
with values to live 
and reasons to die 
sits hunched 
as if tending to an open fire, as if
retrieving water from a smelly well,
my legs fated to walk uphill
even in stockings and heels.

At branch meetings 
all staff are grafted
to their family’s tree,
their words drop like fruit
from the lips of the dead, 
their ideas no more than 
leaves of retired ancestors.

She travels the length of my report
using pen to mark her birth tongue,
scolds with her dead father’s voice,
“Critical deficiencies in negotiation,” 
he enjoys squeezing her soul.






After Dinner 

7.50 pm, 3 August 2020, Coburg, Victoria 

Her name is Filomena, I call her Fil,
strangers and reporters call her Pyjama Mama 

one night, after rinsing and stacking the dishes,
she sprayed Lemon Myrtle throughout the house

fear continued to permeate the living room 
as the news spread its grime all over her couch 

that night, she didn’t sync her iphone into doom-scroll,
she failed to perform her part in the family’s chorus 

she didn’t sneak nor march towards the front door,
it was as casual as going to the shop for bread 

at first, the silence was gun fire— startling, 
there were no cars charging the street like a red flag

the ambulance siren was a sweet whistle of care, 
the night sky was an empty casket of dreams 

and she walked in the middle of her street 
with spotted zebras nibbling night’s air. 



8.05 pm, 8 September 2020, Coburg, Victoria 

She keeps walking in her pink bunny slippers
passes the red post-box, turns into Lever Street 

as if pulled by a thought, another follows her 
with lip-stick poodles pattering the breeze 

flannel carves their bodies into canvasses 
of cotton creatures rippling with joy 

another middle-aged mother, another woman 
with a computer fighting with laundry-time 

they become the neighbourhood’s lullaby,
an unrehearsed choreography of comfort

pink tigers, red pandas, stripes and swirls
follow the poodles, following the zebras

through a grid of carved bitumen and grass, 
their slippers silence the day’s crescendo. 


8.35 pm, 30 September 2020, Coburg, Victoria 

The wind slaps our faces, twists our hair,
dogs lunge at us through ravaged fences

the moon cowers as a tree grows arms, 
even then, we are like posties or soldiers

we are the mothers feeding the night 
with our milk curing sores and aches 

our walk is an allegory before bedtime,
a sip of chamomile with port or whisky 

unlike our day made of survival’s tenets,
there is no talk to drill rules into hearts

Fil is our quiet, useful bookmark 
turning each street into a page 

as we pass, some windows offer
clues to once-upon-a-time. 

8.45 pm, 16 October 2020, Coburg, Victoria 

the boundary road is never crossed,
it’s our river Lethe, our warning 

a semi-trailer blares its horn of stress,
we recall a key used to ignite speed

we circle back carrying our animals
as dreams designed to coax sleep.

Angela Costi is known as Aggeliki Kosti among the Cypriot-Greek diaspora of her heritage. She is the author of five poetry collections including, An Embroidery of Old Maps and New (Spinifex, 2021). In 1995, she received an award from the Australian National Languages and Literacy Board to study Ancient Drama in Greece. In 2009, she travelled to Japan with support from the Australian Council to work on an international collaboration with the Stringraphy Ensemble. In 2020-21, she received two arts grants from the City of Melbourne to creatively document existence during lockdown due to pandemic. Her poetry, essays and video poems are widely published, including Rochford Street Review, Cordite Poetry Review, Hecate and The Blue Nib. She works in the social justice and human rights sectors.

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