Short Story “Wrong Side of Heaven” from Things Don’t Break


If you revisit the scenes of your happiness, your heart must burst of its agony.—Dorothy Parker

Dear Earth,

You’re 384, 403 kilometres away, but it still seems like I could reach out and grab you. Since I’m in rotation around you, you’re always visible up there in the sky. You wobble a little but never actually set, so I can look up and see you whenever I want.

How are you feeling? You’re looking good. You’re looking pretty.

Shine a light out your window at night, and it takes about a second and a half to reach me here. Our exploration vehicle took four days. It will take that same 1.5-ish seconds for this message to reach you when I press send. I don’t know exactly when I’m coming back. I’m not totally sure that I am coming back.

Because our station is atop the rim of this crater at the north pole—since that’s where the water is—it’s permanent daytime here. The sky’s always black because there’s no atmosphere, but the station lives in a peak of eternal light. We have to sleep in rooms without windows. Or at least I do.

Where I’m sitting writing this, I like to call it the garden. That drives the actual astronauts crazy because it’s more like a farm or a greenhouse, and a couple of them just call it by its module number (one zero zero one). But they’re engineers and scientists. Technical types. Even the people who work here in the garden are botanists and entomologists. I’m the only liberal arts grad in the whole place. How about that: December Tenth, MFA—first civilian woman on the moon. Anyway, it reminds me of the garden behind Jamie Oakener’s mum’s house, with the kale and the tomatoes and the turnips and everything . . . and the bees, always with the bees. So I call it the garden, even though really it isn’t.

What Jamie’s mum’s garden didn’t have that this one does is the continual vacuum cleaner sound of the atmosphere generators and the endless grey expanse of completely desolate wasteland just on the other side of the fence.

Just like at Jamie’s mum’s, I like to sit here and drink coffee and write. Not the good coffee that Jamie would make us in the morning. Terrible coffee, thin, instant coffee, but coffee. Here I am, sitting, drinking coffee on the moon. That still gets me. I miss orange juice—the powdered crap that passes for orange juice around here tastes more like coffee than the coffee does—but the orange grove won’t be harvestable for years yet.

An acute, whispery voice comes from behind me saying, “Don’t move. Don’t freak out, but there’s a bee on you.”

Always with the bees.

With a complaisant wave, Dr. Keats shoos away the bee from my shoulder. It alights and lands again on a nearby cucumber vine. Smiling, I turn to Dr. Keats as he stands beside me at the edge of the garden, the transparent barrier that encloses the station just inches in front of us.

I say, “Thanks, Jon.”

The “there’s a bee on you” thing is somewhere between an inside joke and a religious ritual at this point. Since I spend so much time in the garden, and since Dr. Keats is the head apiologist on the station, we see each other fairly often, and there is usually a bee on at least one of us. The fat, fuzzy bumblebees used here for pollination in the garden are really chill and non-aggressive, but you still need to take an allergy test before leaving Earth to make sure you won’t die of anaphylactic shock, just in case you do something stupid and get yourself stung.

“Good morning, December,” Dr. Keats says. “How are you doing?”

“Pretty good,” I say. “Working on my post to send back to Earth.” I gesture toward the blue globe in the black sky, as if I’m concerned he won’t know what planet I mean.

“Cool,” Dr. Keats says.

He’s a small, grey, friendly man from California. Most of the station’s occupants are American. Some are Canadian, like me, and there’s also a handful of Russians. Some people from India, some from England. Ireland, Israel. Everyone gets along except during the World Cup.

He says, “Well, don’t let me disturb you.”

“Please,” I say, grabbing the cuff of his white button-down—some people here wear their filmy aluminum-cotton space suits at practically all times, but Dr. Keats, like me, prefers casual dress even when he’s on duty. I say, “Disturb me.” I pull him down, and he sits beside me on the bench that’s like a metal grate bent into a pair of right angles. Does that image even make sense?

“Having trouble writing?” Dr. Keats asks me.

I nod. “I don’t think it’s going to turn out very well. What am I doing here, Jon? I’m just some girl with a creative writing degree and one shitty novel. What was I thinking?”

Dr. Keats hasn’t shaved for a few days; white coruscations of hair sit in the pores of his cheeks. “You’re thirty years old,” he says, smiling. “You’re hardly a girl. And I’m certain that you wouldn’t have been selected if you weren’t up to the task.”

He’s too kind to me.

“What was I thinking?” I say again.

“I don’t know,” says Dr. Keats. “What were you thinking?”


Dear Earth,

What I was thinking was this: I was about to finish school with the most nugatory degree I could conceive of. I had a not-as-good-as-I’d-hoped short novel coming out with an indie press that was one step up from the Xerox machine at the 7-11 down the street. I was unemployed and probably unemployable. I was single and probably un-de-singleable, and going to the moon was the one thing I’d wanted most since looking up at the sky at night as a child and seeing it there, resting matte gold on the horizon or suspended burnished silver at its zenith

So what do you do when the big news is that they’re looking for professional writers to live on the new lunar station and file regular reports, to chronicle the majestic adventure of humanity’s first permanent space colony, to write a record to live for the ages? You polish your CV, one-inch your margins, and you apply for that motherfucker.

You don’t actually expect to be chosen. You don’t expect to . . . to have to leave everything behind.

Jamie Oakener was the only person to show up at my first reading, and even that was just a coincidence.

The two-by-five foot foamcore reproduction of my book’s cover—its title, The Thermodynamics of Love (holy Lord, what was I thinking?), in round, red sans serifs over a picture of some girl much prettier than me looking all heartbroken—is 100 percent of the publisher’s marketing budget for the season, and it leans against the front of the little table where I sit, hiding my Levi’s legs and the fifty copies of my book that I brought with me from home, and it’s the first time in my life that I feel like I might have been too optimistic.

Around two dozen chairs stare me down in the bookstore with a collective ass population of precisely zero. It’s twenty minutes past when I’m supposed to start reading, but I’ll be damned if I read to no one. Instead I brandish my best passive-aggressive smile at the customers who walk past while avoiding my eyes, a better advertisement for my dentist than for my publisher or myself probably.

this girl—all skinny arms and legs, hair a cascade of dark coffee curls, in a blue dress with white polka dots, a string of imitation pearls around her neck—appears, comes straight toward me, and sits down in the front row. Looking just like she walked out of a speakeasy circa 1922. Looking just like she’s there on purpose.

And Dear Earth, is she ever pretty.

And I say hi and she says hi. And I say, “Do you want to get a cup of coffee?” And she says, “Aren’t you going to read?” And I give the empty-but-for-her chairs a declarative look and I say, “It doesn’t seem like it.”

“Did you actually come here to hear me read?”

And she says, all bashful, “No. You just looked so sad and cute.”

So my sad, cute heart does a flip in her direction, and I say again, “Let’s get some coffee.”

We have the first conversation I have with everybody, which is about my name: how my parents’ surname was Tenth, so when I was born on the tenth of December, they thought they’d be all clever and call me December Tenth. I tell this story a lot.

But she does something unexpected. She says, “I have a weird name too!”

“Jamie Oakener?” She’s already told me. “What’s so weird about that?”

She smiles like a conspiracy.

“Jamie comes from Jameson’s, which is what my parents were drinking when I was conceived.”

I laugh. “Gross!”

“It gets better. I have middle names. My mum’s maiden name was Parker, right, and my dad’s grandmother’s name was Dorothy. Making me—”

“Jamie Dorothy Parker Oakener!” I shout, delighted, informing the whole café, but I don’t even care.

“December Tenth,” she giggles. “Use your indoor voice!”

            The first time I come over it’s raining, and in the morning we sit in the garden drinking coffee and reading the brand new IKEA catalogue to each other and gently waving away the bees that try to land on us because we’re so bright and sweet together they mistake us for flowers.


Dear Earth,

            The station’s electricity is generated in two ways. The first is solar. Because there’s no atmosphere beyond our metal-and-plexiglass enclosure, there’s nothing to dilute the sun’s energy as it reaches the craggy grey surface, so the solar collectors work at almost 100 percent efficiency.

The other way is hydrogen fuel, which we get from mining the ice. Every day a dozen robots roll down into the polar crater below us and come back a few hours later hauling big pyramids of dirty ice. From the area above the vehicle storage unit—the garage, where I am now—you can see them. Robots like a baby elephant crawled inside R2-D2 and had a baby with a Zamboni. Robots crawling up the side of the crater like Sisyphus.

This is how we get our oxygen, too. By a process of electrolysis, the water-ice is split into hydrogen and oxygen: the hydrogen goes into the fuel cells, and the oxygen goes to the generators to produce breathable air. The sighs of the station’s 108 personnel make their way to the garden for the plants. The rest of the water is treated and mineralized and fluorinated and made potable for us and for the plants, and our waste water is recycled.

The gravity . . . I haven’t got even the fuzziest idea about how the gravity works.

In the station, Captain Wallace is in charge. Captain Wallace looks just like an astronaut from a 1950s science-fiction movie: a crew-cut black like oil, eyes blue as Earth and always looking into the distance at something you can’t see, like cats do. He’s thirty centimetres bigger than me in every direction, and he wears his US Air Force uniform every day, with the silver double-bars of his rank pinned to his lapel. Anytime he’s not talking to you, he absently worries the wide gold band around the hairy knuckle of his left ring finger. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t realize that he does this. But it makes him seem human to the rest of the crew, rather than like the intimidating, unrelatable archetype he’d otherwise be.

Okay, he is still kind of intimidating.

I say, “Good afternoon, Captain.” You have to call him Captain. You do not call him Dave. You especially don’t do your best HAL 9000 impression when he’s around.

“Good afternoon, Ms. Tenth,” he says, and even though I’ve just walked up out of nowhere, he does not startle, and he doesn’t turn to look at me, just continues watching, through the window of the garage, the barren crater as the robots return with our water and power and air for the next week. He says, “I read your last transmission to Earth.”

Of course he did. Part of his job is reading everything I write and approving or rejecting each post before dispatching it. This is still a military mission, technically, and we can’t have me giving away any secrets. Captain Wallace knows all about embedded journalists and their loose lips; he was in the war.

“Did you like it?” I ask.

“It was very . . . ” His Bruce Campbell chin rises up almost imperceptibly. “Personal.”

“Is that bad?”

“No,” he says. “No.” Out there, the little robots drag their frozen cargo back home, dutiful as ants. Out there, the robots don’t remember. Out there, the robots don’t dream.

For most of my life on Earth, I felt safe. Safe like a prison is safe. Earth has everything you need to be alive: air, water, food. It’s all just there. But the same gravity that keeps the atmosphere from floating away also keeps you rooted to the spot. You look up at the sky at night and what you see is possibility. What you see is freedom. What you see is everything else. I always thought that if I went to the moon, I would feel what I never felt down on the planet where I was born. And wouldn’t you know it, Earth—I was right.

Here I do feel free. Free, and constantly afraid. This place is hostile. If you want to eat, if you want to breathe, you have to come prepared with the products of thousands of years of human civilization strapped to your back. The moon is a blank white page on which we’re still scrawling the very first sentences, and we can write anything we can imagine On Earth you could always get hit by a bus or eaten by a crocodile—there’s never any guarantees, but on the moon you might wake up with a chest full of emptiness and die of suffocation one morning because some asteroid looked at your bedroom the wrong way.

Point being, you think you have to choose. You think it’s either safety and confinement, or freedom and fear. You think it can only ever be one way or the other.

Dear Earth, let me count the ways.

The way we have the same arms. The way her socks never match. The way she calls people by their full name. The way the sound of hers, her name, liquefies my heart still. The way she shakes her hair. The way she draws dinosaurs. The way her red nail polish is always perfectly chipped. The way that she’s better than me at everything, and the way that makes me feel not envious but proud. The way she’ll smile kindly and call you a doofus only when she’s really, really mad at you.

Captain Wallace’s arms fall back down to his sides, then his hands join behind his back. He looks like he’s seen things you people wouldn’t believe, like he’s thinking deep thoughts, like he’s about to say something profound. He kind of always looks like that.

What he says is “Ms. Tenth.” What he says is “Being apart from someone, even being half a million miles away, shouldn’t make you feel so all alone. It should make you feel blessed to live in a universe so kind that it contains a person so special, a person worth missing like that.”

Out there, the north stretches across empty space. Out there, the Earth hangs suspended on nothing. Out there in the sky, looking so small and so close that I could reach out and grab it, is everywhere I have ever been.

Standing just behind him, I look at Captain Wallace’s hands, holding each other behind his back. He never looks at me, but he unclasps his hands, takes the gold ring on his left hand between two fingers on his right, and turns it round and round like the orbit of the moon.


Dear Earth,

Jamie Oakener came with me to Florida, where the space ships depart, to see me off. It was hot in Orlando. Or it might have been the coldest day in a century, I don’t really remember. I think it was raining, though, or snowing maybe, because I do recall that our faces were wet.

We stood close, and she said, “Don’t go.”

And I said, “Come with me.”

Don’t go.

Come with me.”

I looked into her eyes, but I couldn’t see a fucking thing.

And she looked into my eyes, and she smiled so kindly, and she said, “You doofus.”

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ISBN: 9781926639543
Pub date: 2014

In this compelling anthology of hospital-and medical-industry themed writing, essays explore various topical subjects, including health care, the aged, families, doctors, mortality, fatality, and the growing concern for safety, service, and well-being. Featuring contributors from a wide range of connections to medical drama—patients, loved ones, and providers being the most prominent—this collection will appeal to those in the medical profession as well as patients and their family members.

In the anthology’s foreword, Tabatha Southey writes, “These are travelogues to a land we seldom plan on touring, a land we skirt, but that we must visit and which is in fact extraordinary.” Serious, sad, light, funny, and sometimes all of these at once, the wisdom of these stories will find resonance with practitioners, students, and anyone interacting with the healthcare system.

“With Mess, Devaney and Molenhuis have shone a spotlight where many of us still fear to tread, doing patients an enormous service in illuminating their experiences with the potential of changing our healthcare system for the better, and also creating an emotional and most compelling read.”—Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This

“This book is a rare gem of contemporary scholarship…whether patient, family member or professional, whether scholar or member of the general public: Read this book.”–Kathryn Church, Director of Disability Studies at Ryerson University

Julie Devaney is the author of My Leaky Body. She was named one of the Women Health Heroes by Best Health Magazine in 2011, has received national media attention on CBC’s White Coat Black Art’s “Talking Back” episode, and has been profiled in Abilities Magazine, Chatelaine, and The Toronto Star. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Dave Molenhuis is a journalist and the national chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

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Excerpt from Animal Bridegroom, “The Burning Woman”

The Burning Woman

You can hear her pale voice
from within the conflagration.
It always speaks truth.
It always lies.
She cackles like marrow-bone
when she walks.
Her eyes and mouth are open
and burn like magnesium.
She is a contrary Gorgon;
everything she looks at
is forced into frenzied life.
If you are very lucky
and can run after her
until she catches you,
you can put her in a canning jar
to hold in the air:

ablaze of fireflies
to light the darkness.

For more information about The Animal Bridegroom or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt from Best Canadian Poetry 2008, “Introduction”


As I read 2007’s possible contenders – each on several occasions, to increase a poem’s chances of striking me in a receptive moment – what was I looking for? First: good writing. Awkward or rote syntax; familiar expressions, images and locutions; or random lineation, ruled a poem out. A meaningfully rebellions and distinctive syntax or deliberately dissonant music often riled it in. Second: depth and challenge, be that emotional or intellectual. If additional readings failed to yield new insights and appreciations, but rather, dulled the flash I’d sensed the first time around, the poem lost its Post-it note. Finally, and inseparable from the first two criteria: an interesting, even strange, sensibility or imagination. (As an undergrad, I fumed when one of my instructors remarked that my poems failed to startle. I didn’t want to startle; surely the startle factor was overrated. Only later dud I realize that what I did want to do – to please – doomed my poems to mediocrity.) “Startling” need not imply clatter and flash. I sought poems that excited and surprised me, that felt (boldly or quietly) necessary, often urgent. I sought poems serious and poems frivolous (though seriously frivolous). Those poems that played it safe, that failed to follow through on the risks they initiated, or that took risks apparently for their own sake, without integrity to form content, did not make it into the anthology, though some distinguished themselves enough to appear on the long list. I was without doubt a tougher critic than if I’d been reading fewer poems, but asking myself whether I could confidently put my name behind a particular choice forced me to be discerning.

For more information about The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2008 or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt After the Fires, “Memory Lapse at the Waterfront”

Memory Lapse at the Waterfront

Dear Jolene,
I am sitting under the tree writing to you. How are you? Well I hope. Over here things are usual. The paper shortage is getting worse and worse, which is why I am writing to you on Saran Wrap. Finding an envelope should be real interesting but I guess it doesn’t really matter, as you will never get this letter any way. I don’t even know whether you are still alive. I don’t know whether California is still there, or whether it finally dropped off into the sea like everyone always said it would. Sometimes I feel like going down to the waterfront, finding a boat and rowing to California, if that’s what it takes. Except of course there aren’t any boats. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a boat.

I like to think of you when I’m sitting here under this tree. We sure had some wild times together, didn’t we kiddo?

Last week the rodents tried to cut the tree down. Of course we didn’t let them. We threw garbage and they left; it never fails. They said they wanted to make it into paper. I don’t know what they’d do with paper anyway, except maybe wipe their butts. Bunch of illiterates. It’s funny about the memory. I can’t remember how long it’s been this way. Sometimes I forget altogether that there ever was a Before.

For more information about After the Fires or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt from Be Good, “Prologue”

Prologue: Morgan

Encoding refers to the initial perception and registration of information. Storage is the retention of encoded information over time. Retrieval refers to the processes involved in using stored information.

My mother (always tactless and almost always drunk) says in a long distance call from Toronto to Montreal, “Write it down, honey.”

A pack a day smoker, a functional alcoholic, a broken woman, her insides riddled with disease, her left breast and her uterus removed, always telling me to write it down, as if a script has some grand importance and validity, capable of overshadowing reality.
My reality. Her reality.

“Write it down, honey.”

And I remember they (whoever they are) always said, “Let your reader know where you are coming from and where you are going. Let them know where the end is. Be succinct. Clarify.”

They told me there had to be a beginning, a middle and an end to things, even if you are (as I am) speaking from far beyond and far before the end. When you are naïve and apt to believe, you truly depend on the notion that there is a clear beginning, middle and end.

That there is a truth and a progression among all these recollections.

Perhaps I am not so apt to believe in that kind of truth. I believe that things are much better when broken into pieces, because the whole is deceptive at best.

My past is a carefully linked chain of lies and my present is nothing more than the sparkle of swept dust.

For more information about Be Good or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt from Best Canadian Essays 2009, “Introduction”


When Ezra Pound recommended that “poetry should be at least as well-written as prose” he confirmed what every journalist, book reviewer, literary critic, and magazine writer already knew: prose is hard work. It can be as economical, sensuous, and bracing as poetry, but, unlike poetry, prose has specific rules and provides specific guarantees. That’s because prose is what you turn to when you want to say something about something. One really can’t afford to be at a loss for words. It is an information conductor: no matter how stylish your sentences, your syntax must serve up clarity not ambiguity.

Prose is also the freelancer’s medium. Written for payment, prose is a product that, in turn, is sold to consumers who inhabit a marketplace filled with distractions. The writing, therefore, needs to be lively and incisive. It needs to act swiftly on the reader. What’s more, people who write prose are people who hustle after assignments. They tend to have a habit of taking on too much, which means they live a life oppressed by deadlines. There’s no time, therefore, to become self-conscious or rhetorical. When such writers get in trouble, they need solutions that work on the fly. But if they’re good, their instinct for expediency shares space with an appetite for artistry. They try to find new ways to build rhythm into their paragraphs. They try to find new ways to construct crisp, well-shaped sentences. The end result is a kind of belletristic grace: writing that wants us to take pleasure in the experience of reading it, but also has an overwhelming interest in making itself understood. This twofold challenge—to hold the reader’s attention, while giving them news they need—is why prose plays such a vital role in building up a viable public culture.

We looked high and low for essays that displayed this kind of prose, from literary periodicals to web journals to general-interest magazines. We were spoiled for choice. “An essay,” said Ian Hamilton, “can be an extended book review, a piece of reportage, a travelogue, a revamped lecture, an amplified diary-jotting, a refurbished sermon. In other words, an essay can be just about anything it wants to be, anything its author chooses to ‘essay.’ ” Hamilton here reminds us that the term is drawn from the French verb essayer: to try on, attempt, put to the test. No surprise, then, that so many of the essays we found revel in the opportunities the form offers as a vehicle for exploration. No navel-gazing, either. Writers delivered their stories from the front lines of human experience. They addressed themselves directly, and fearlessly, to serious subjects. They worked hard to produce original approaches to important, much-covered topics suffering breezy neglect by a bored media. What this book helps prove is that, along with our talent for short stories, Canadians excel at the essay form. We have a knack for open-mindedness, feel uneasy around oversimplifications, try to square any starkly opposed positions. Growing up somewhere between American gusto and British reserve, we are perhaps well-positioned to make balanced, nuanced, valuable observations. We have a built-in appreciation of diversity and culture. We are also, by nature, generalists: we like to know many things about lots of subjects. All of which gives Canadian prose a three-dimensional credibility.

For more information about The Best Canadian Essays 2009 or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt from Best Canadian Poems 2009, “Introduction: Canadian Poetry Today”

Introduction: Canadian Poetry Today
The Feeling for Being: Canadian Poetry in a Landscape

Today’s Canadian poetry is an adventure undertaken with brio. Its clarity and surge are evident equally whether its mood is dark or light, its pace meditative or militant. Great human hopes and debates are engaged with an openness that bespeaks humility, but with the confidence that leads an artist to firm outline, to vivid colour and movement. These qualities are evident on every page of The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2009. Let me choose these lines from Dave Margoshes’ poem “Becoming a Writer”:

What could be easier than learning to write?
Novels, poems, fables with and without morals,
they’re all within you, in the heart, the head,
the bowel, the tip of the pen a diviner’s rod.
Reach inside and there they are…

For more information about The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2009 or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt from Bone Dream, “The Haptic Sensibility”

The Haptic Sensibility

A dream site where a heart beats
Beneath the rattle of parched leaves.

After Cupid, Psyche begins to grind
the left-over mice bones of her dreams:
from chip to dust, from done to undone
a small pyramid of gray loam forming
heavier than a moor fog, finer than shaved nutmeg.
Her fingertips meld tears and dust into a small basin:

…while Aphrodite, her none too happy
mother-in-law, readies herself for cocktails…

That night, Psyche empties herself of regret.
The basin’s clear as the Aegean.
She drapes the skeletal sapling of her boy-soul
over the sea, securing him with strands
of her strawberry hair to create a bridge
his battered sternum the platform from which she dives
God’s crushing ache in creating paradise.

For more information about Bone Dream or to purchase a copy, please click here.

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Excerpt from Contents of a Mermaid’s Purse, “The Magician’s Wife”

The Magician’s Wife

When I’m with you I am not myself:
you call me Bella
then all words are consumed
by our kissing.

It’s not that you don’t like to talk.
From beneath a dark-brimmed hat
you hide behind other men’s
philosophies, conjure
the mythologies of stars
on a cloudy night.

Your smile’s contagious
yet I only know the expressions
of your face by touch,
the fluid transformations
of your chameleon skin
each time I draw nearer than sight.

You take me in under
your hunter’s cloak and I
vanish, leave no trace of timed
existence except the memory
of white-gloved fingerprints.

I know better than to ask,
When are we going home?

Not in any room built of our bodies
have I found the arcane fire
you alluded to in dream.

When sky shuts its medusa-eyes
I watch you sleeping
as if the innocence of each
shallow breath could return
the wisdom I’ve sacrificed to be beautiful.

For more information about Contents from a Mermaid’s Purse or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt from Eating Fruit Out of Season, “Cottage Road”

Cottage Road

Up near the August cottage, fences separate
the farms, keep livestock from wandering.

I sometimes drive these dirt roads,
the lake disappearing from view,

parents on porches drinking lemonade.
I remember the feeling of drifting home

after witnessing a barn float away
on the mirage of grass, the sky swallowing birds,

and the excitement of a child who wanted
to follow every road to it’s conclusion.

These dirt roads criss-cross every once in a while,
and I notice childhood on clotheslines,

the smell of dirt and rock stirred up,
and the black and white of cows.

For more information about Eating Fruit Out of Season or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt from Fortune Cookie, “January”

Friday, January 20, 1989
St. Agnes’s Eve – a night when young women dream of future happenings …

In the dying days of the Year of the Dragon, Washington inaugurates a new President. He speaks of “a thousand points of light,” of “a kinder nation,” of “free markets” and of “free men.” He doesn’t mention free women, but commends women who are about to have children they do not want. Dan Quayle becomes Vice President—“the Robin to Bush’s Batman.” Continue reading

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Excerpt from George Fetherling and His Work, “Introduction”

The witness, an Introduction

George Fetherling is what Robin Skelton used to call a “scribbler”: someone such as himself whose compulsive writing is faster than sound. Sound is a problem. Fetherling, the poet/novelist/artist/cultural journalist who has mastered the silent word, switching genres with a click of his many-coloured pen, was born with a speech handicap. He has, in the jargon of the differently abled, compensated, the way stutterers are known to sing or recite poetry fluently even though speech is difficult. In book after book of articulate prose and poetry, Fetherling (the last name is an anglicized spelling of an old Dutch word for scribe or scrivener) sings like a bird with a thorn in its chest. Like children born with learning disabilities who often develop prodigious oral and artistic skills, he proves the adaptability of human beings.

For more information about George Fetherling and His Work or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt from I.V. Lounge Nights, “The End of the World”

The End of The World

The persistent cough, the routine procedure,
the congenital defect, the faulty wiring,
the fire in the starboard engine, the force majeure,
the mistress in the city, the last spirited thrust,
the little breeze off the coast of Africa,
the apples torn from the trees,
the unopened mail, the paperboy ringing the bell,
the atmospheric anomaly, the snow on the TV,
the hot wind with its tincture of rotten fish,
the wasps-nest of tumors, the drug-resistant strain,
the feeding tube, the shunt, the morphine drip,
the fatigue and general malaise,
the night inventory of the medicine cabinet,
the sleeping pills, the razor blades,
the reversals suffered as a child,
the bend in the road, the patch of black ice,
the telephone pole advancing in the high beams,
the statistical improbability, the cougar attack,
the stray piece of cosmic debris, the locals celebrating
the wedding of the loveliest girl in the village
by firing their guns into the air.

For more information about I.V. Lounge Nights or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt from Iron-on Constellations, “What I Learned Growing Up in Parkdale”

What I learned growing up in Parkdale

Cars never stop for pedestrians
Kids should buy cigarettes in ones, it’s cheaper
Lake Ontario was once clean enough to swim in
Cadillacs invariably carry pimps
You can’t find parking on Sundays Continue reading

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Excerpt from Manual for Emigrants, “Faces”


You have a new face.

Living a life needs familiar faces, the faces of your family, of your friends.

I don’t recognize your face.

Or your family. Or your friends.

Somewhere down the line you chose the wrong mask.

Turn you face to the wall; show us the blank back of the head.

Blankness is something we recognize.

For more information about Manual for Emigrants or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt from Open Slowly, “She Seeks Beauty”

She Seeks Beauty

She seeks beauty everywhere
foraging for flowers in fog
as the metallic din of machinery bordering
the park clangs and disturbs—she dislikes
comments we make about the weight of bulbs
all they have to do is sit, look pretty, and breathe
in truth, they’re fibrous, sturdy, necessary for life.

She’s culpable as any, flesh covers bone
like a clenched fist
taut in sections, ample in others
the weight of water and salt,
breath noxious

she tells us flowers deceive like a woman
warns us to watch out for the men hiding behind them

they cast shadows on sun
etch their place
on earth, bodies pyramids
of accomplishment.

While we sit pretty and still, necessary.

For more information about Open Slowly or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt from She’s Shameless, “Introduction: This Is Not An After School Special”

Introduction: This is Not an After-School Special
Stacey May Fowles and Megan Griffith-Greene

“There are things in my life I regret, things I hope I can fix, things I still hope to accomplish, but I believe that shame is worthless. Let other people hold those scales. I have my hands full.”
-Amy Saxon Bosworth, I Don’t Wear Cloaks

This is not an after-school special. The pages of this book do not contain cautionary tales about the dangers of peer pressure, how doing drugs will ruin your life, how you should save yourself until marriage, and how you should stay in school.

In fact, it’s always really bothered us the way that people talk about, and to, youth. The world never gives young people all that much credit—teens are too young to make their own decisions; they are apathetic and shallow, reckless and thoughtless. That sort of thinking is a caricature: stupid, offensive, and, more often than not, hypocritical.

So we set out to create an anthology to combat that condescension, where women told the truth about their lives as teenagers—no bullshit.

For more information about She’s Shameless or to purchase, please click here.

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Excerpt from Somewhere to Run From, “Objects of My Affection”

Objects of My Affection

Your girlfriend’s rib cage cracks, bone against headboard, when you fuck her in my bed. In every poem she hits her head. Her small body breaks uncontrollably under your hot hand. A broken girl cannot cry. I am left here.

A tree house. Three new vines. Expired birthday balloons. Raw cane sugar. Remnants are just that: reminders. My hand is stamped with a stallion, the paper store, tiny icons remind me of you. Everything else small I Anna.

Your mouth on her makes you forget lyrics, the song you chose your name from. Makes you think about girls marked with black ink tattoos, thousands of miles down the coast. The song the radio played (the day you thought your life might be important) led to a crush on a deadly-wrong girl.

Your heart faltered over a dead dog.

When the song I loop tells me every little thing she does is magic, I think about older men and awards shows. We have an amicable conversation about pop songs and the girls who cover this one. It is stark, naked and maimed. It is also Anna. The girlfriend who still wears your bruises after three and a half years. You stole her youth, though you are the same age.

I want Anna’s health insurance, to get me through the night. Her warm whisky offerings. A prescription to cure me of her cold.

For more information about Somewhere to Run From or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt from The Stone Skippers, “The Stone Skippers”

The Stone Skippers

Beyond anywhere you might be now-beyond
the debris of all those elsewheres and whereabouts you
promised yourself you would inhabit if you had the time and
money (as if you could will it … as if you knew the direction),
children open their wide morning eyes and wade chest high into
stone skipping days, into neck deep light, into constant
conversations that bleed the mornings amber. Continue reading

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Excerpt from Tell Your Sister

Tell Your Sister

His dark hair still wet from the shower, Aaron Fenn ran through the buoyant have of a deep blue autumn morning. In a town of inclines and subtly divisions, Millward Secondary stood in the north end amidst curving streets of split level-homes. The bell for first period sounded as Aaron turned the last corner before the school, books and binders swinging at his side. He hasn’t even had time to come up with a fresh excuse for why he was late again.

Outside the main entrance students took last drags in their cigarettes. The school served both the town and all the Castlereagh country, and the lobby into which he stepped smelled in equal parts of Polo and pig shit. Aaron nodded to a girlfriend of his sister, then slipped into the boisterous stream of kids flowing along the main hallway.

The door to his first class, English with Miss Hirst, was already closed, Once inside, Aaron looked for Susan Higham’s hazel eyes and help them with his own. Too busy to call from the Bowladrome the night before, he now counted himself lucky to receive a quick smile from her.

For more information about Tell Your Sister or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt from A Thousand Profane Pieces, “One-Word Answers”

One-Word Answers

Kevin. Percussionist. Paris.
And one-word questions:
You? Drink? Later?
When responses come he’s

smoke rings trailing pianissimo,
eyeing his options as women
hover. He drinks too fast,
his eyes are agate blue

She’s a ripe pomegranate,
straining against the pith.
Her irises open to let him in.

For more information about A Thousand Profane Pieces or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt from Your Love is Murder, “Shark”


A boy was playing hide-and-seek in the backyard with his sister and her friend. The boy, in an attempt to be impossible to find, went round to the driveway and hod under his father’s spirt utility vehicle. After a few minutes the boy ran back to the backyard, running right into his sister. She fell and bit her lower lip. Bleeding and crying she went inside.

A few minutes later, their mom came out and asked him to be more careful and the game was over. The two girls played inside because it was getting too hot, while the boy wandered around the backyard looking for interesting insects. Eventually he made his way back to the front of the house and opened the door to the truck. He climbed in behind the wheel and closed the door. He passed his hands over the steering wheel in dramatic fashion. He pressed a few buttons on the side arm console and was rewarded with a thunk. The boy took his hand off the console and stared at it, unable to tell what button he had pressed or what he had done.

For more information about Your Love is Murder or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt from Little Venus, “House”


Ranch style homes squat
along Rural Route 4,
their view of the horizon broken
by a ten-year-old girl, not wanting to go home.
Every seven steps white line repeats
then breaks off to grey.
Plush waves of rye wheat
undulate beneath an orange sky,
pressing her down.

This is her house
once a muddy hole in the ground
holding the family’s amazement
as it sprang, Beam upon Beam
into a place to sleep and eat.
Scent of sawdust and new carpet
when they moved in.

In a few moments, she’ll
discover her mother’s body
rolling from couch to floor
as Bob Dylan sings on the stereo.
The girl’s pulse pumps her through
screen door to bring back help.
Her mother will be carried away,
hands waving, in a haze
of valium and vodka, lying
on an ambulance bed. Life saved.

For more information about Little Venus or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt from GULCH, “Poemagogy”

Poemagogy ::::: Adebe D.A.

Traffic sweat drips
flashing whiz children with red lips
neon age, yellow hallways
no decor
just wind: the age of reason.

I tried to reason with a lamppost
whatcha burning for? so many dead stars
like you dizzying up the streets, hardly any room
unlike a galaxy

but it wasn’t really a lamppost
and I wasn’t reasoning;

it was the simple act of pressing
palm to palm to
grape white saintliness,
the point at which a light
is formed and carries you forever

when it does not take off
with the wind
but remains like a question

the psychodynamic arc
of city life, trapping and liberation

where we speak as though
destroyed, where we only desire
to become something new.

Constant toil in the life of art!
the assemblage
slaveships deathtrains clubs
our reality (swallow)
too much, these bells
summon what enabled us to clash

first into the night
like palms
when we are strong
with the
not yet,
with the beauty of now

when we lift high
the banner of reason
to run across lines of flight,
of light, singing
how every life shall be a song
or certainly some sense of mattering

of being indivisible – that is the only desire
there is, to be enabled with passing
words that foam
like seas deep with dark

to reducible neither to the One
nor the multiple,
to become not you
or two, three four five
nor to add you to myself

for we have all
always been in motion:
our dimension is the same,
lovers are
just interlocutors in general,
radical disturbances

like subway trains, a kiss, a missed stop:
the shock of the encounter
when beauty exceeds
the limits of the rational

the unscripted sublimity
of the earth, this place
we inhabit on loan.

The dead poets keep telling me
anonymity is a lie, this city just another point
of departure

that desire is just sympathy, not filiation; that we are angels,
alloys, the wind

that our roots are rhizomes,
our lives creatio ex amore,
multiplicity is what has borne the city
is what has borne us, we are still being
birthed again, and up, and away.

For more information about GULCH or to purchase the book, please click here.

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