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Here at the Black Bear Review, not only do we believe that everyone has a story to tell, but we also believe that the finest form of story-telling is through our art. Art grants us all an escape into a whole new reality, and gives us an opportunity to share our stories in a way that is both beautiful and unique. Whether it be paint on a canvas, words on a page, the perfect camera angle, or the notes in a song…the possibilities are endless, and entirely up to you.

We are officially in gear for another year of the Black Bear Review, and we want to share your stories. We accept a wide variety of art, including poetry, fiction, non-ficton, visual art, and other forms of media such as film and audio works. You can submit right here on our website, or email us your submissions at blackbearreview@gmail.com

The possibilities are endless…What’s your story

Birds, Bongs, and Briefs by Veronique Darwin

Part One: Arrival

Birdy trailed a teabag through lukewarm water. Her granddaughter Missy, recently back from nursing school, held up a large cell phone: on it, a skeleton of a human, its joints lit up like jellyfish.

“Osteoarthritis,” Missy said solemnly. “Damage in the place where two bones come together.”

Birdy looked out the window at the bird feeder. “It’s them I worry about. The birds haven’t been fed for some time now. I used to make my own suet, and now—”

“Sweat?” asked Missy. They stared at each other, two distanced generations weighing the intelligence of the other. “You do need regular exercise.”

Birdy folded her hands in her lap. Missy with her purple hair and too-short shorts seemed to imagine Birdy was looking for something and not finding it; like a princess waiting for the second shoe, Birdy’s granddaughter walked around barefoot, unkempt, paint in her hair and always a different boyfriend. Birdy wanted to tell her that she knew what adventure was too, and she had gone and done it, hadn’t she? She’d married Noel, had their gaggle of children, and now the flight of grandchildren. She had taken watercolour courses and nurtured her plants to their full expression. What else did they want from her? What else could they expect?

“Who do you talk to?” asked Missy. Then, pointing at the tremors: “Grandma, you need someone here.”

Birdy turned abruptly to the window. All these things she was supposed to need! She had enough going on with the songbirds’ impending return, the water birds nesting in the sand by the river, the raid of geese that flew in alphabetic formation and the sentries of crows that stood watch on the power lines. She had always been a birder and after Noel’s death, she was content to live a life of observation from inside her home.

“You don’t eat. You can’t get out. You need someone here.” Missy smiled in the compassionate way she had been taught and poked at the screen of her phone. “I have a friend who’s a great cook and needs a place to live. You’ll like him, Grandma. He’s a good listener.”

#

The knock at the front door came on April 1st. The plants in the solarium shook with its force. Birdy assessed the route to the front door: the slope of the staircase seemed to have inclined over the years so that each step was now a precipice.

“Come in!” she called, voice ragged. When was the last time she’d had to shout? Had she always walked this way, elbows extended? Is that why they’d called her Birdy?

The young man was so tall he needed to bend his head to enter. He wore work boots and torn jeans hanging low beneath a bright green waistband—his briefs? His hair was long and a blonde beard covered his face so that his features seemed small and delicate. She outstretched her bony, shaking hand and he held it firmly in his, settling it.

“I won’t bother you,” Blake said quietly, “but I’d love a spot in the garden.”

“Take it all. My husband was the gardener.”

Blake nodded. “I’m sorry. My gran passed recently too.”

Not knowing what else to do, her empathy stretched thin as the skin on her cheeks, Birdy showed the young man around the kitchen—he might use this cupboard for his non-perishables, and this was where she kept the tea, crackers and dry bird feed.

“They should be showing up any day now.”

“Who?” he asked.

“The songbirds.”

Part Two: Settling

It was now late spring and the birds played a tactful game for her attention. Their drama took up so much space in her that she could no longer give time to the watercolours, to the plants. She was stiffened, wrapped up in something beyond her, a tension that played out between her rigid body and the hovering world. The eagles hung far off in the hills across the river. The songbirds were up early and stayed out late, and even though she grew weary of their incessant calls, she appreciated their energy, their forwardness, their enterprise.

Blake had reawakened the house, giving it new smells and sensibilities. He played records late into the night. They were styles of music she’d never heard before, beats she hadn’t known could fit together. He made exotically-spiced meals and labelled leftovers with dates on green tape. Once, she took a small bite of something in a yellow wrapper and the sour taste lingered for hours. Like Missy, he walked around without shoes. She tried this, pretending she’d forgotten slippers after the shower. The tile, the plush carpet, then the thin rug, and the bed sheets tickling her feet!

At the doctor’s office, a similar slide to the one Missy had shown her was silhouetted in the window. On the street corner Birdy leaned for a long time against the traffic post, listening to the chirping birds indicating the north-south crosswalk, then the caws of the east-west. Missy’s car pulled up and—in Birdy’s haste to escape the city, where experts told her what she could and could not do, where birds were trapped inside of traffic lights—she missed the curb’s step and fell to the concrete.

Missy came by more often after this. She and Blake moved around at high speeds, tidying, shifting, washing, giggling, kissing. Birdy was but a prop in their romance, and chose to stay put in the solarium, where she could close herself off from a world that had spilled into her own house. Through the window she watched Blake build the greenhouse up piece by piece. She wanted to know what he would grow, wanted him to tell her about the garden the way Noel used to, but since Missy took it all, he had nothing left to share with Birdy when they sat down for their silent meals. That is, until the day he entered her sunroom for the first time.

“Where would you like these?” He held the mail in his hand, a pile as thick as his beard.

At once the glass room felt too small, like a dream she’d been having. She caught him looking at the easel, the still rocking chair, and shooed him out, following behind.

“Have you seen my reading glasses?” she asked, though there were none; she hadn’t read for years.

They almost got to the kitchen before she needed to sit. He did too, in Noel’s armchair. No family member would have done this, but as she was about to tell him as much, he peeled open the first envelope and began to read. It was nothing important, the mail of an old woman—pension cheques, probing from various agencies to see whether she was still alive, scams she often felt like falling for just to have something to do—but he read each out loud like they might contain a golden ticket or an invitation to the ball.

“This one offers you a 75% discount on a pretty rad magazine,” he said brightly. “Have you ever heard of meal subscriptions? I could show you how to make a curry. Do you want me to phone the bank to activate your new card?”

For a moment he had become Noel.

“You know, we can visit sometime,” she interrupted. “But I expect you to bring me some of what you’re planting out there.”

A smile washed over Blake’s face. “I actually have some right here.” He pulled a bag from his pocket and brought a few leaves up to her nose. Manure-like, fruity. “You smoke it,” he said, “or you can use something like this.”

He pulled from his pocket a glass pipe swirling with greens and purples. It shone in the light like a kaleidoscope. Before she completely understood what was happening, she accepted the glass to her lips, not able to remember the last time she was offered anything but tea.

Slowly she became absorbed by the couch’s frayed patterns and textures, the absurdity of the wall-hangings they’d chosen thirty years ago, the tenderness of the grey hairs on her arms. Her body no longer trapped but coated her, quieting her nagging limbs and tendons. The shifting awareness of her body reminded her that she was still in this world.

In the days that followed, her joint pain began to dissipate. She became ravenous with hunger, and her body, like the house, filled with smoke, food and conversation.

“Gran used to make way too much and then eat none of it.”

“You young people are the same.”
“Missy doesn’t eat in public!” he cried out. “And that makes me wonder about living life together, you know? What if we want to have people over? What if I want to grow a garden?”

Birdy whispered it. “Maybe she’s not yours.”
When Blake travelled to see his family, Missy hung around the house, largely prone on the couch, her phone dangling over her face. It occurred to Birdy that Missy did not know the care, conversations or substance that she and Blake had been consuming. She felt sad then, for Missy, for Blake, for the lack that existed between them. She reflected at last on the unity that she and Noel had shared, and for the first time since his parting, she no longer saw herself as a remainder; instead, she was multiplying.

“They don’t see me,” Blake said upon his return from his family.

“Let them be,” she told him. “They’re circling you but they’ll never land.”

And rather than the birds, she watched time unfold in the movement of sunlight on his premature bald spot, a clearing in the woods of his long, stringy hair. He kissed her once, unexpectedly, on the cheek. She hadn’t forgotten the birds; she was at last ready to say goodbye to them.

Part Three: Adventure

Blake’s birthday was approaching, and though Birdy wanted to knit him something as his gran would have done, she knew her fingers could no longer move the way they used to. She phoned Missy.

“I was wondering,” said Birdy, “what Blake might like for his birthday?”

She watched him from the window as Missy explained the premise of various video games. His jeans were again riding below the strap of his flashy pink briefs. The songbirds worked and played in the tree next to him.

Birdy was surprised to find herself at the department store. She walked through it with the ease of her younger self, passing the counters where she used to vend scarves and perfume. How fashion had changed! Birdy realized she couldn’t tell if she was in a section for women or girls. She rode the elevator up to the men’s section and headed straight to the half models with buttocks made of two firm lumps. Furtively she glanced around, but people were only interested in their own shopping. She felt a rush as she chose a pair of purple briefs with a yellow elastic waistband. She fingered them, bringing them carefully up to her nose to smell: the perfume they were bathed in was masculine, both primitive and proper. As she descended the escalator, she glanced at a pair of shopkeepers. Their heads were in close, and the sound of their intimacy and laughter echoed off the low-tiled ceiling and down the marble aisles. She thought of Noel for the first time in days, then promptly, as the automatic doors opened, thought of something else. Life was moving forward.

#

“I can’t sit this afternoon,” he called out from the kitchen on his birthday. “I have to work. Not all of us get pension cheques!”

But Birdy saw Missy’s car waiting, watched him get in, witnessed the embrace. She paced around the house, able to move through every room with an ease that should have pleased her. Instead, she felt alone. The birds were busy with their own things, and she did not know where Blake kept the cannabis. She was faced with something she hadn’t encountered for a longtime: the possibility of herself.

Missy and Blake returned late in the evening. From her bedroom she listened to them work their way through the house. High-pitched notes, then lower tones of pleading, a threat in response, a long silence, then compromise. She knew the song well, but it had been a long time since she’d heard it inside her house. She closed her eyes and let it wash over her.

#

Birdy and Blake passed the bong back and forth. A sad record rotated softly. They had not seen Birdy’s granddaughter for weeks.

“Missy,” she said finally, “wasn’t a good fit for you.” Birdy took a puff from the pipe, feeling the smoke fill her mouth, her throat, and then released it, slowly, her eyes on him. “Life is too short to let others tell you how to live.”

He looked at her from under his beard, his eyes glistening. Then his face hardened and he stood up.

“You’re not my gran to give me advice.”

He left the room and then, with a bang, the house.

She set herself down shakily in her rocking chair. How many times in her life had she hesitated, not said the thing she’d meant to say? She wasn’t a mouse anymore, not a birdy—she was now someone who was listened to, whose mind spoken was heeded and could offend. She hadn’t meant to replace another’s gran; she had only been trying to be the care she’d thought he needed.

A loud caw came suddenly from outside, then a terrible crash into the window pane. Startled with the unusually loud sound, she leapt forward, catching her breath on her knees. Her head was dizzy from smoking and she took a moment to collect herself before standing with a sudden realization. It wasn’t the birds playing with her this time. That wasn’t a bird at all.

“You ever thought about flying?” Blake shouted from outside the window.

She looked at him curiously. Then all of a sudden, stretching out his arms, Blake let out a series of sharp, fricative cries. She watched him as he ran around the garden in the fading light, his elbows wings, calling to the other birds. Shocked at first, she then began to laugh, first an odd choking noise, then a clearer pitch of longing she couldn’t control. Blake stopped, cocked his head and looked in at her. Their laughter, against and through the glass panes of the sunroom, was birdsong.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :
Véronique Darwin is a writer and teacher living in Rossland, BC. She was published in Geist and Existere magazines and made The Fiddlehead’s 2018 Short Fiction longlist. She recently wrote and directed a musical about her ski town.

Judgement Day by Bethany Pardoe (Grade Twelve Writing Competition Winner)

The judge

Jam smeared and restless, the judge banged his gavel. 

“Order! Order in the court!” 

The agitated spectators filling the pews on either side of the aisle fell quiet. A few more bangs of the gavel because the judge liked the sharp noise. Time to bring out the accused.

The courtroom was brilliant white. The walls and ceiling were the white of ivory chess pieces and gossamer angel wings. But the white of the judges glorious high chair was dirtied, tagged with sticky strawberry residue, cookie crumbles, and streaks of crayon. He pawed with pudgy fingers through a container of cheerios. He wanted every eye in the room to be on him. Wanted the air to be so fraught with anticipation they would all get headaches from the strain of it. He crammed too many cheerios into his mouth and some fell  into his bib, lodged in the fleshy crevices of his skin, or stuck to the coagulated jam on his arms.

When the quiet reached its most absolute he said, “Bring in the bad guys,” and the blue uniformed police at the back of the room opened the great white doors. The audience welcomed the accused with a howling stomping cacophony that splintered the silence. The police led three cuffed figures down the gauntlet to a tumultuous soundscape that burgeoned with each step. Even the judge joined in with a screech of his own, forgetting his composure in the excitement. 

When the three stood on the platform before the high chair at last, the noise ebbed to a dull roar and the judge settled back to contemplate the three. He looked each up and down with that wide eyed stare. He wanted milk but his sippy cup was empty. 

The first of the accused was a young girl perhaps six or seven. The judge thought she was beautiful with skin almost as pale as the spotless courtroom walls and wide eyes red from crying. 

The second was ugly. No breed of man that he knew but an animal with chains on its neck and ankles as well as hands. It was a dark smudge against the white backdrop.

“What’s a donkey doing here?” 

He giggled and the people tittered. 

The third was a blond officer, straight backed in his blue uniform with the gun and holster. The handcuffs looked out of place on him, like he had been put on the platform by mistake and really belonged beside the judge with the police. He nodded at them with familiar greetings. Hey Marty and, long time no see Jeff.

Judgement began with the girl. The judge turned to her and the weight of the crowd’s attention descended upon her. He asked the question. 

“What did you do?” 

She sniffled and sobbed for a few moments and then, “I was seducing men.” 

But that’s all she could get out between hiccups. The judge looked to one of the police by his side for translation. Seducing was a big word. 

“She was being a whore,” he explained. “Tempting men.”

“I really didn’t mean to,” she said. “I only wanted to wear my brand new dress and I didn’t know it was a crime.” 

The words were thin and fragile. The judge wished she would stop crying. Soon the tears and snot would smudge her beauty. 

“I’m so sorry,” she said.

“Slut,” someone yelled. And that started a barrage of similar angry projectiles.

The judge banged his gavel until they settled.

“I’ve decided” He said. The spectators leaned forward, eager for the first sentence of the day.

“She said sorry so I won’t punish her.”

There was a smattering of boos.

“So instead, she’ll be mine.” 

The crowd considered this.

“She’ll be my wife.”

They settled on a reaction and there was a collective awww as the crying bride to be was relinquished from her cuffs and brought to stand by the judge. Everyone was happy.

“Now, for the donkey,” he said.

The Spectator

The spectator had liked the show. Especially the beginning when the mighty voices of the people swept him up and filled him with adrenaline. But once the judging began, he felt isolated, exempt from what seemed to be the unanimous opinions of the audience. The judge was a child and so inflated from the crowds worship his head was in danger of bursting.

It was time for the second man to be judged but someone had placed felt donkey ears onto his head and drawn fur on his face with black. Every time he tried to speak or remove the donkey ears a policeman swatted him with a stick making a soft farp sound. The crowd had a lot to say about him and and the spectator contributed a few of his own jeers so as to not stand out but he had an odd queasy feeling.

A policeman told the judge, “as he is an animal, I will be speaking for him.”

The man with the donkey ears seemed on the brink of protesting but the stick farped against his ankle. 

“He stole a book”

There were mutters of disgust all around the spectator. 

“Animal,” someone spit. “Savage ,” hissed another. Through the sound the spectator heard the man dressed as a donkey say, “I didn’t steal anything. Please. Why am I here?”

“In my opinion stealing is a terrible offense,” the policeman continued. “The thing should be put down.”

The crowd loved this. They surged forward stepping over benches, reaching as if to pull the man from the platform to be swallowed by the crush of bodies. He went pale beneath the makeup, the girl beside the judge cried even louder, and the cuffed officer on the platform  said, “That is too kind a sentence for something so vile, am I right Jeff?” and winked at the police. 

The spectator felt the anger of the crowd and found himself chanting, “Kill the beast,” quieted only by the gavel.

The judge said, “Hang him.”

The spectator swallowed his unease and cheered along.

The guilty

The donkey seemed to shrink on the platform beside the blond officer. The blond officer thought they should have removed the eyesore and brought back the pretty little girl but he didn’t let any of the cruel revulsion show in his face. It was time for the judge to look upon him. The judge eyed him, chewing on his collar and drooling a bit.

“Let me first say,” began the blond officer, “I am disappointed to be put beside such extreme examples of human declination. A whore and a creature. You all know me.” 

He smiled at the police. Some smiled back. The judge seemed captivated. Here was a man who made sense. A reasonable man. In the whiteness of the room he seemed in his element. 

“I am no abomination. I wouldn’t hurt a soul.”

  No one called him names or threw things.

“I am here because I have been wrongfully accused of murder.” 

A few onlookers laughed at the ludicrousy. 

“Three police say they saw me shoot a husband and his wife.”

The blond officer looked at his feet to show his deepest regrets.

He was remembering the man and wife though. The dirty animal and its bitch. After he shot, the males body thudded, and the bitch screamed in anguish before he shot her too.

“Of course, these officers were misguided, and the tragic death of these two individuals was an accident. Their breed shouldn’t be allowed things like guns. They’re bound to shoot themselves by mistake.” 

The police shook their heads apologetically. They felt silly for putting the cuffs on him. 

The people were uncharacteristically subdued. Sighing in sympathy or nodding in agreement with the blond officer’s story. The judge wiggled his toes and swung his legs, not particularly fazed by the weight of a decision. After a beat, he shrugged.

“Take off his cuffs. He’s free.”

There was thunderous applause. A policeman removed his cuffs but a keening cut through the celebration.

The donkey fell to his knees with his bound hands extended towards the now free officer as if in prayer. “Free me too. Don’t let me die. I don’t deserve to die. Please.” 

 The blond officer flinched in revulsion. All the officer heard was the grating bray of a donkey. 

“Don’t touch me.”

The donkey reached again but this time the officer pulled out his gun. He aimed at the donkey’s head, stay back, and pulled the trigger. 

At the last moment, the donkey knocked the gun, the shot missed, and the bullet went straight into the heart of the little girl.

Chaos erupted. The spectators flooded the platform, clawing the donkey and each other. With a crash, the high chair toppled and the judge began to wail. The officer shot again into the crowd. The spectator let the mess unfold in a daze. 

Only the little girl was still. Red against white. On the heavenly white walls and floors was sprayed, all her blood and organs.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I have lived in Nelson, BC since I was six years old. I enjoy being creative and this place has given me inspiration for my creativity. I love writing, drawing, and painting. When I create, whether that be through storytelling or visual art, I explore problems that intrigue me. Mostly, I am interested in people’s internal struggles and how society contributes to these struggles. I hope to meld writing and visual art together some day.

Inbetween by Kaden Johnon (Grade Ten Writing Competition Winner)

Shadows of deep crimson enveloped the landscape, like a blanket of thin fog. All was mostly visible, but the only thing that one could truly see was the neon and faint aura of a single lonely building. A sign flickered just off of the russet-coloured road on which he stood, which simply read “DINER” in glowing yellow-orange letters. How he had gotten here, he did not remember, but off in the distance on each end of the road rested a low mountain, in which a dark tunnel’s mouth opened, leading to places unknown. There was no traffic. No vehicles of any kind. There was no parking lot around the diner either, merely an empty road, not newly paved, but there was no wear either–simply in an awkward state of inbetween. The sky around grows ever darker as he looks towards its mahogany peak directly above, starting at a faint glowing red on the horizon. The diner seemed increasingly more alluring each second, and gradually he began to amble nearer, the drone of the lights growing ever louder.

The moment he touched the door handle the entire atmosphere changed. A low jazzy tune emanated from the 1940’s jukebox, and there were small sounds of somebody unseen behind the counter at work. The clatter of the occasional coffee cup against the square wooden tables, shining with an even coat of varnish, echoed in the background. There were solid black shadowy figures sprinkled around the room, some occupying barstools, others holding a booth next to the windows. Occasionally one of the figures would get up and wander towards the back of the room, around the corner of the counter that of which he could not see past owing to a bland, yellow, vertical support beam, and would not return. Nobody seemed to be remotely fazed about possibly appearing out of nowhere, and he assumed that maybe they had come on their own accord. Peculiarly, he didn’t find himself remotely shocked either. He was filled with a comfortable indifference and felt as though he could remain here forever. He took a seat in the low, red leather booth beside him and gazed out the window at the lonely claret void.

Time seemed obsolete, as nothing noticeably changed. Occasionally a figure would disappear down the hall behind him, but another would always arrive and take their place. He had not bothered to investigate further into where these ‘people’ were going, as he felt no need to. They captured little ongoing curiosity from him, aside from that each new figure moved differently, their bodies seemed to tell stories. One would jerk onwards silently, as though something else had taken control, and others would totter fluidly, unnaturally relaxed and unfocused. Few would stop and show any recognition, most would amble determinedly to the back, never to be seen again, but their stories were enough for his mild curiosity to be sated. For the most part, the figures would be clearly “human”, but occasionally there would be exceptions. Abnormally large or small figures were not exempt from the trickle of shadows, and on occasion there would be a figure barely describable as humanoid. The figures ranged greatly, some likely to never have been able to exist anywhere else without panic, but here they were all met with equal indifference. These figures had somewhere to go. Somewhere that they needed to be so much that seldom would one stop and exist within the diner, so it was mildly intriguing to find that one of them had made their way into his booth.

They sat in silent companionship, as by merely occupying a table together they already shared more of a bond than any of the other passersby. While no eyes could be seen on the void-figure in front of him, he could sense their fleeting attention. The figure periodically shifted its focus to the back of the room, of which they faced. It was as though they were a moth being silently coerced from the comforts of the night towards whatever beacon lay in the back of the sleepy diner.  This “person’s” demeanor told a story of aggression. Wide shoulders, but a hunched yet forward facing head, which would have been intimidating in any other pit-stop diner outside of wherever this somnolent place rested. The two sat in uninterested silence for some time before the figure finally succumbed to the call of the unknown. Afterwards he retrogressed back to the window gazing, a slight glow emanating from the back reflecting on the glass. The aura stealing his focus from time to time.

The glow of the back wall was becoming more prevalent, and an ebbing curiosity was just beginning to get a foothold on his subconscious. The quiet drowsy atmosphere of the diner was gradually receding like a tide towards the sunset, revealing new sands of curiosity. He could feel his body anticipating the motion of turning, and his focus began to shift abvect. Head turning, his vision glided across the sunset yellow walls and the white glossy countertops towards the fluid orange light. The checkerboard flooring and cardinal coloured leather benches framed an open doorway, its depth seemed endless, yet a swirling inferno filled the space like how water fills a glass, occupied, but maintaining visible depth. It was as though he had been grappled by the limbs of heatless fire, pulling his form towards the peculiar threshold. He arose precipitously and joined the trickle towards the gateway. The closer he got, the more he remembered, and the more he realised this was a mistake. Memories of unjust acts and the people he would sacrifice flooded into his head. Funny how he could face the raging flames with courage, but could never look somebody in the face. He pondered this, and regretted his life of cowardice. He tried to resist, but alas, the call of the unknown was far too endearing to resist, and he ambled onwards behind a large figure. Curious, he finally thought as he hit the threshold, he never expected the one he would follow into hell would be a centaur.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kaden is currently an active high school student in Nelson, B.C. Having, since early childhood, been fascinated by the imaginative power of text, Kaden began to read avidly right from the time he could first decipher written word. With such a passion, came an interest in the art of creating short stories, or narratives, that found themselves ranging from tales of great adventures, to simple descriptions of bits of life. Having shown a fervent curiosity towards literature since, Kaden has continued to write throughout his life, and he continues to do so to this day, whether it be in his favourite English classes, or as a personal hobby. Kaden plans to carry this passion into the future, and to continue creating pieces as a hobby, or one day, a career.

Sunday Morning by Lilli J. Matern

Outside my window
the wind is murmuring.
The diaphanous curtain
floats in the breeze.

The curtain is ethereal
in its movements
Accompanied by the
dulcet tones of a violin

The sweet fragrance
of pancakes
drifts through
the air

I burrow deeper
into my bed,
not yet ready
to start the day

 

 

About The Author

Lilli J. Matern is a writer and occasional poet. Lilli lives in Canada with her family and their senile pet parrot. She spends much of her time either writing or reading. When not writing or reading, Lilli likes to knit and drink tea.

DIANA MORITA COLE INTERVIEW – The Practices, Affirmations and Courage of a Misfit

Introduction: I was extremely fortunate to have met with Diana Morita Cole, Author of Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit in the fall of 2019 to discuss everything from her book and writing practices to life experiences and philosophies. It goes without any shadow of a doubt that Diana’s words of self-care practices, of overcoming doubts and obstacles, and of meeting expectations allowed me to reflect on who I am as a young writer, and I firmly believe that her words will do the same for many more. Hence, it may come as a great surprise that after our interview was over, Diana told me “when I go home, I’ll think of something else that I should have told you”.

Diana, thank you for your time, words, your great influence, and most of all, your courage.

Love, Samantha Smith
Managing Editor
Black Bear Review

 

Interview:

How would you define success?

I’m very happy when my readers identify with my characters and their struggles. That transference allows me to take my readers on a journey that, hopefully, will conclude with a change taking place in their consciousness—a greater insight, more empathy, and perhaps a greater appreciation for life itself. When a listener cries or laughs at one of my readings or when members of the audience remains glued to their seats at the end of my presentation, that is an accomplishment.

So, when keeping in mind the importance of the emotional value you receive from your audience, what do you think triggers that for you when you’re wearing your reader hat?

When I read, I believe the story has to engage me in a significant way. I especially enjoy humour, but the value of a story can also be found in the characters or the plot, or sometimes, if the quality of the writing is just so exceptional, I’ll find myself analysing the structure of the sentences to see what else the writer is going to do structurally. But generally speaking, I think all of these elements have to come into play in an effective way—of course this is all according to my taste. With this being said, I’ve noticed that I have become more critical about what I’m willing to spend my time reading after having become a writer myself.

Do you have any routines/rituals related to your writing?

When I was writing Sideways, I got up every morning at 4 am to make myself a cup of hot chocolate laced with coffee and almond milk. I’d then plunk myself down in front of my computer to write or edit my story. I’d routinely show my work to my husband who is my best critic and editor. I’d present my newest chapter to my writing group and make edits to my writing based on their suggestions.

These days, I spend a great deal of time physically adjusting my physical position in front of the computer, by raising my writing table in order to stand, moving away from the desk, doing tai chi, going for walks, or realigning my chair in order to keep my spine from seizing up. The infirmities of old age are not fun.

What is tai chi exactly? What does it do for you?

Tai chi comes out of Chinese Taoism, which is based on the belief of the ying and yang forces and the constant interplay between them. Tai chi utilizes these forces in its movements to increase the “chi” or good energy within the practitioner. Tai chi makes me feel grounded and aligned with the universal forces, and it has taught me a very purposeful way of walking. I am not by any means an expert, but I can recognize the calming effect that it has, and how it teaches me to let everything else go and concentrate.

Do you think this kind of structure or habit for writers is important? Why?

I certainly think it is important for myself. Keeping my focus is a big part of the battle because I am easily discouraged by comments made by people whose intentions may be well-intended, but whose criticisms and comments make me feel discouraged about my writing. Some writers may brush off comments like these, not so for me. It can take me weeks, sometimes months, to let them go as I am the sort of person that takes what people say to heart.

The benefit of purposefulness is that it teaches one to persevere regardless of one’s mood. The routine becomes automatic. Out of habit you plunk yourself in front the computer every day at 4:30 am. Regardless of whether you sit there very long or not, you are making an effort to succeed—giving yourself a chance. There’s nothing simpler than sitting and doing the hard work. Believing in yourself is tremendously important.

What exactly do you do to help you in those moments of self-doubt?

I think it is always important to remember your affirmations – those short and easy sentences like, “you can do it” or “my story will be interesting to someone out there”. But most of all, I think that we need courage. We don’t talk about courage nearly enough in our society today. We may spend hours trying to dissect a psychological problem as though it were part of a much larger mental health condition but forget to acknowledge the courage it takes to get us through difficult times. When it comes to writing, one has to be courageous enough to put pen to paper and just keep writing. And always keep in mind, emptiness and unknowingness provide the space for the most beautiful insights to emerge.

5. What is the significance of the title of Sideways?

Sideways refers to the position I temporarily assumed in my mother’s womb as she raked dead grass in front of our barrack in Minidoka. Mama’s womb was a very roomy place, having held 8 occupants before me. The title also refers to my awkwardness, my inability to fit into my family or to ever be fully accepted into American society, having been stigmatized by racism and war. The metaphor also refers to my interior frame of mind, which is has always been at odds with the values of the dominant culture that oppressed me and my community.

When writing Sideways, you focused on some heavy personal details that could be
emotionally draining to explain, how did you motivate/get yourself in a mood to
accomplish this?

The will to meaning is a powerful motivator for learning. You are able to withstand a great deal of discomfort in pursuit of it.

I wrote Sideways in a state of physical and psychic pain. My physical discomfort was centered near my liver. According to Chinese medicine, the liver is the seat of anger. Since completing Sideways, I have been released from the ache of not knowing what turned me into such a consummate misfit. In the end, writing can turn out to be the most liberating pathway to psychological and spiritual health.

Sympathetic readers can help the writer maintain momentum, especially if one is lucky to find one’s self in the company of empathetic writers as I did in Nelson. Working towards a deadline for the next writers’ workshop was also very helpful. Writers need an audience, no matter how much of a loner you may think yourself to be.

You need to allow the demons in your consciousness to drive you to the cliff. Anger over injustice and the compulsion to communicate motivate me to write.

My suggestion to beginning writers like myself is to learn from your emotional states and exploit them to their fullest.

I did give myself, and therefore the reader, the opportunity to retreat from the conflicts and tensions in my story. The narrative structure needs to breathe in order to reflect the variety of experiences one has enjoyed. No one’s life is lived in a constant state of pain and turmoil. There are moments of tranquility, humour, and kindness that a writer can exploit to refresh the spirit.

What is your best advice for young writers?

The best advice I’ve ever received, came to me by way of my mentor, William Minoru Hohri. He was the author of four books and an important Nikkei activist, who challenged the constitutionality of the incarceration of the Japanese Americans in the courts. He said in response to my complaints about my family: “The important thing is to think well of yourself.”

In other words, believe in yourself and your story. You have an important contribution to make to the Canadian narrative by being who you are.

Why write?

Words have power to change the world, and writing is the way to self-discovery. By creating stories, I have learned who I am, what I think, and what I value. In the process, I hope to have educated my readers.

What I have found in publishing my work is that people in North America have the ability to relate to the difficulties of growing up disenfranchised, unloved, and unappreciated. My book has given me a platform to tell new stories about my family and to discuss political problems that afflict many people throughout the world—the homeless and the refugee. Also, my writing experience has made it possible for me to become a storyteller.

Writing Sideways has been the most rewarding experience of my life, and I have Canada and the Nelson arts community to thank for it.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :

Diana Morita Cole is the winner of the  2017 Richard Carver Award for Emerging Writers sponsored by the Nelson & District Arts Council and the Kootenay Literary Society. One of the jurors noted, “Diana’s a very engaged writer, presenter, teacher, storyteller, educator and organizer… I especially liked the way she has engaged with and encouraged young writers.”

Diana’s first chapter of Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit was published in The New Orphic Review and shortlisted in the Open-Season Competition of The Malahat Review creative non-fiction category for 2013. It was also nominated or the Pushcart Prize Anthology for 2015. “Mama’s Belly” and “Outside The Bath” are included in the reading list of the creative writing classes at Selkirk College.

Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit has been added to the collection of the National Diet Library upon request of the Japanese government. Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit has been selected by Professor Dennis M. Ogawa for inclusion in The Japanese American Experience lecture series at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Diana was a guest speaker at the University of Hawaii and gave a reading at the Japanese Cultural Centre of Hawaii.

Another of Diana’s creative nonfiction stories, “Two Human Rights Complaints,” is required reading for the San Francisco State University graduate social work course, Ethnic and Cultural Concepts and Principles I. Diana’s reports, chronicling her battle against the spraying of Agent Orange in Nova Scotia forests, have been cited by Dr. Mark Richard Leeming in his 2013 Dalhousie University doctoral thesis, in Defense of Home Places: Environmental Activism in Nova Scotia, 1970-1985. Diana has lobbied Parliament, advocating the banning of Agent Orange, and the US Congress, advocating against landmines.

Cole initiated projects to diminish racism and foster justice, peace, and environmental awareness. She was a co-founder of the Seventh World, an association of biracial couples that created a writing contest for London Ontario K-12 children to promote racial harmony. This program has since been implemented in several other communities throughout southwestern Ontario. This project and her work to eliminate landmines was referenced in her special feature article, “Peacetime,” written for the holiday issue of the Pacific Citizen, the national newspaper published by the Japanese American Citizens League.

Diana was awarded a grant by the Columbia Basin Trust and the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance for the publication of Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit. A recipient of the JACL and Pullman scholarships, she holds degrees in Music and English Literature.

Cole resides in Nelson, British Columbia where she has organized forums in support of residential school survivors. Her articles about her return to her birthplace were published in the Pacific Citizen, the Nelson Star, and Discover Nikkei website. She is a member of the Uphill Writing Group and the Nelson Storytelling Guild. She has told the story of the Japanese Latin Americans at the 2015 Kootenay Storytelling Festival. She is a feature writer for the Pacific Citizen, the national newspaper of the Japanese American Citizens League.  She has written extensively about the atrocities committed by the Canadian government against the Japanese Canadians during WWII and has spoken at the Historic Kogawa House in Vancouver

Diana is the founder and organizer of the Asian Heritage Celebration in Nelson.OIP

Same Skeleton by Phoebe Hannah

(Poem and Illustrations by Phoebe Hannah)

 

Two hundred and six bones
that one owns1
hear my moans
for every soul that seeks solid ground can land their twenty six dancing
can feel her footsteps prancing
my no apology passion
for my skeletal recital ranting

This is my system
This is my voice of reason
This is the subject that holds my focus
when the world’s so riddled with consequences
SCREAMING
from my stomach, up to my throat and out of my mouth
red lights, red bikes, cars crashing, saliva kissing, social pleasing, public peeing, food touching, high heels, disasters unfolding uncontrollably
These fragile bones are wrapped in a skin so sensitive
and a mind that is
Neurodivergent

Breathe
Breathe in and breathe out
Repeat
Round the corner, three steps, round the corner
My feet

Two hundred and six bones
scared of unknowns
thoughts in cyclones
The gravity pushes down on us equally, in our need for connection
longing for closeness in relation
It’s just I’m different
It takes patience and willingness for translation to help me find salvation

Ribcage
Expand out and contract in
Find the rhythm
Every thread of fabric moves against my skin
as I shift the wind from outside to within

Hands flapping, body rocking, clock watching, routine seeking, social pleasing, worlds spinning
footprints round in circles
Heart racing like a humming bird
Uh…seems so absurd

Oh how high heels mistreat
the fifty two bones in both feet
Three sets of three steps to complete
Moving forward takes courage and technique
Find your own way, embrace your mystique
Cherish your feet for they walk you through a life so unique

Two hundred and six bones assigned
in every one of us, a mind
A mind designed for growth and combined
with others, family and friends we become entwined
in comfort and community defined
for the endless possibilities of
the humankind.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Phoebe is a writer in the dark, silent scribbles into her journals as she dives into reflections. She has a curiosity to understand people’s interior landscapes who experience the world in different ways, through working with people with diverse abilities she has become an advocate for broadening our perspectives and relationships through attunement, compassion, humour, and mindfulness.

How to Write a New Years Resolution : Five steps to making “smart” goals in 2020

Here we go again… Those 6 glory days between Christmas and New Years day have officially passed, which means that it’s time to put down the gingersnaps and pick up the slack. By the drop of a hat yet another year has passed, and many of us are facing those daunting “New Year, new me!” thoughts, while all at the same time it feels like it was only yesterday that we were welcoming in 2019. Don’t worry, here at the Black Bear Review, we get you, and we are fully aware of how truly anxiety provoking the New Year can be. That is why we have taken the time to make a list for you to follow along to help all of your big goals for this year seem a little more achievable.

Here’s the thing: Goal setting is an art, and setting a good goal does not come as easily as saying “I want to write a book this year”, or “I want to paint a masterpiece”. The truth is, even Di Vinci had a plan to achieve his success with the Mona Lisa. Achieving success with your goals takes preparing for success, and poor preparation ultimately leads to failure and disappointment. So with that out of the way, let’s get on with our 5 Step “smart” goal setting list.

Since we are a literary magazine, lets use the goal of “I want to be published” as an example, but keep in mind this list can be used for accomplishing any goal, big or small.
1 – S is for Specific :
In order to create a more thorough goal you need to be meticulous on specifying the parameters. Goals should be clear and be stated with intent of accomplishment. Sure, it’s great that you may understand where your final destination is, but you need to know which turns to take. You see, saying “I want to be published” is far too vague. Instead, your mission statement should sound something like this: “I want to have one piece of fiction published to the Black Bear Review”. Once you have the specifics of your goal figured out, you can move on to step two of five.

2 – M is for Measurable :
Measurable means there needs to be a tangible system for tracking and achieving your goal. To elaborate, measurable goals allow for the setter to keep tabs on their progress in regards to their end point. In doing so, you can provoke self esteem and motivation within your goal. For an author with a goal to be published, this could look something like writing a couple hundred words every morning, or putting aside an hour per day that is completely dedicated to writing.

3 – A is for Attainable :
More often than not, individuals will fail their goals simply due to the fact that they have bitten off more than they could chew. People can become overzealous when it comes to goal setting, and this often leads to failure. The best advice when it comes to attainability in goals is really quite simple – start small. In other words, instead of trying to publish four short stories, start by putting all of your energy into having one really good story publish. Absolutely ensure that your goal is in your power, and there is no reason why you could not conquer it.

4 – R is for Realistic :
Being realistic is similar to choosing an attainable goal, but it is more personal. This is where self reflection comes into play: Is the goal that you are choosing synonymous to your character? What obstacles will you have to overcome? Are you willing to prioritize your goal over other distractions and desires? It is important to have a clear understanding of how you will account for every little detail. Being realistic plans for the potential pit falls that may arise by strategizing before they appear.

5 –  T is for Timely :
The real world is chalk full of deadlines, which means that there is no room for procrastination. Your best work will be produced when you give yourself ample time to create it, not when you cram the night before it is due. You must create a tangible schedule for compiling and accomplishing the steps that will lead up to your goal. With that being said, a timeline should be flexible to account for any spontaneous setbacks that may occur. All in all, a timely goal should keep you accountable and on progress without overwhelming and intruding on the rest of your life.

Now with the use of all of these steps, we have successfully changed our initial goal from “I want to be published” to the following :
“I am going to have one of my short stories published to the Black Bear Review on January 17th by writing for one hour everyday at a flexible time to meet the needs of my current schedule” See how much better that sounds?

There you have it, five “smart” steps to ensure your success in whatever it is that you hope to do to make 2020 your best year yet. From all of us at the Black Bear Review, we truly hope that this year you achieve anything you put your heart to.

Love,
Black Bear

 

Son of Democracy by David Anabalón

My family has been very influenced by all of the recent history of my country. Our dinners were always full of commentaries about politics and social justice and although my parents had very little formal education, they (unconsciously or not) raised my siblings and I in an environment where it was pretty common to have our own opinions. I grew up listening to stories about our past, about how much it hurt and how much damage and violence powerful people can have against regular people, poor people and anyone who is not them.

On September 11th, 1973, Chile was violently introduced to a dictatorship that would last for about 17 years. It feels like I’ve always known that, even before starting school and history classes full of dates, numbers and economic indicators. I’ve listened my mother say that she was 12 years old when this whole thing happened. She lived in my hometown, Chillán, and was from a very poor family that could barely feed her and her 3 siblings.

Sometimes, when my uncle visited us, he would talk about the past and how involved he was in politics, feeling the need to fight for his beliefs and social justice. He was young, brave and smart; you could tell by the way he spoke about it, but that also meant he would involve himself in very dangerous situations that would lead to other stories, usually forbidden for little kids like myself to hear.

Everyone seemed to know the basics of the story: my uncle was a communist leader who fought against the Pinochet dictatorship and ended up being tortured. The details were the difficult part to know and I don’t think I’ve ever listened to him talking explicitly about it more than twice, sheltered by the long nights of conversations with my big brother and I overhearing from my bedroom in a house where the hardboard was too thin to keep those secrets.

The military electrocuted him and left permanent aftermaths, at least that’s what I’ve heard my mother said to my aunt one time, but I’ve had to reconstruct the whole story throughout the years and sometimes details are fuzzy from overhearing those conversations, pretending I’m asleep in the living room or trying to decode words from far away.

He survived thanks to many lucky events of finding soldiers that he knew from his childhood and hiding in who knows what places that my mother never knew, although that never stopped the military from entering my grandparent’s house, pointing big guns to two old kneeled down figures while a scared 12 years old girl was looking frozen death in the backyard, a freeze that you still can see if you’re lucky enough to hear that story from her mouth.

More slowly than it should have, my country transitioned to a democracy again with a plebiscite and two sides: the yes and the no, which basically meant that if you voted yes, you wanted Pinochet to keep his position as president and if you voted no, it was the end of the dictatorship. Sounds more easy and peaceful than it really was.

All this happened before I was born, and that’s why older people call our generation the “Sons of Democracy” because we had to learn all of this between school and the stories from our families. We had to learn what they had to survive.

When people around my age or younger have an opinion regarding the dictatorship (especially if it’s against), these broken and frightened adults would say that we don’t have to talk about it, we haven’t earned the right to do it because we didn’t experience it, which to me just sounds like an excuse to not listen what we have to say.

I’m a son of democracy because I’ve seen how people can vote for the president, although the options weren’t the best ones. I’m a son of democracy because I haven’t seen the military in the streets killing people, although I’ve seen many people dead because of a health system that as long as you have money is going to be somewhat good and where public funds have been taken just to put our lives in private hands waiting for us to get sick. A system that makes people almost want death to release them from all of their debts.

Sometimes I feel I must be adopted then, we all must be, or maybe kidnapped. We were kidnapped by some vicious power that had this whole situation planned just to take advantage of us, to raise us in a fake stability that hides all of the rotten floor in our little long houses where we grew.

In my history class, I learned that the dictatorship had over 28,250 victims of prison and torture and over 3,000 dead or missing. I didn’t remember those numbers to be honest, I had to look them up, because it is easy to forget, it’s easy to see it almost as some sort of legend that happened a long time ago, with heroes and evil, death and war.

Today I remember because my country is writing a new story with blood for us, the “Sons of Democracy,” the ones who had it all but now are being shot dead in the streets again by the military, by probably the sons of those who tortured my uncle, those who traumatized my mom and made me grow listening to these stories.

A week ago my mom called me saying that my uncle is in a hospital bed, dying due to the aftermaths of the dictatorship that had him with dialysis for more than 15 years, fighting for his life while the people outside are fighting for justice again, screaming in the streets that people who unite will never be defeated.

To be honest, I’ve never been that close to him. I can probably count with my hands the times that we were in the same place. Maybe I was always too little to really understand what was going on, but I’m trying to imagine how it must feel to hear what’s happening now.

I say to myself, and it comes almost as a whisper: it must feel like 47 years of fighting for justice, 47 years trapped in this system, trying to survive, fighting for a breath. It must feel like an endless battle that honestly, I hope he can finally finish.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Anabalón is a 22 years old Chilean Business student that was born in the city of Chillán.
After finishing high school, David decided to study sociology in Concepción for two years and get very involved in politics, to then try to pursue a singing\songwriter career in Santiago.
After 1 year in the capital, he decides to go back to study business and marketing as a tool for his development, along with self-taught photography and filmmaking.
He then decides to apply for an exchange program and a scholarship to travel to Canada, which has him now perfecting his writing skills in English so he can then fuse all of the knowledge into a more complete art form.

Denoument by Tim James

Mrs. Baker had never before thought of silence nor detected the subtle melodies that emanate from it. She’d never noticed its whisper and burble, its tranquil rush and swell, nor been able to feel the texture and fluidity of the millions of motes of sound that compose it. She’d never perceived how it sweeps and surges and folds in upon itself, like a murmuration of starlings, now undulating and collapsing, now twisting and exploding. Yet it was only here, at this advanced moment of life, that she could see silence for what it was: the swirling undercurrent of existence, as audible and beautiful as a symphony, yet with a secret sound all its own, varied and infinite. The hum of life itself. Never again could she return to her former indifference. Never again would she feel the pull of diversion. Each moment had become infinitely interesting. She couldn’t help but smile at the irony she would not live to enjoy this.

                                                                   ___________

She had always thought of her life as quiet and from the outside anyone would have guessed it so. She had kept mostly to herself. Her demeanor, though not unfriendly, had always suggested a preference for distance. Others sensed this, and it was a testament to her native warmth that she’d accomplished so high a degree of solitude without ever seeming standoffish. Yet she was far from reclusive. There had always been people in her life—a small handful for whom she’d cared deeply and with whom she’d maintained warm, intimate relationships. She’d loved and been loved in return. That was enough. She had no longing to cast her net further. What remained of her time was hers alone and she treasured her unperturbed seclusion.

Yet now, looking back from this place of heightened stillness, she could see that underneath the sheen of tranquility her days had been anything but quiet.  Indeed, she’d feasted on the pageant of life, decorated each passing moment with an outpouring of thought and feeling. It had all been so delightful, so entertaining. She had absorbed life’s content and it, in turn, had absorbed her. She had merged with the river of quotidian existence, and it had been anything but tranquil. That she’d never before heard the timid song of quietude should not have come as a surprise for she’d never truly been still. She’d never sat quietly by the forest pool and waited for shyer creatures to emerge haltingly from the underbrush.

Here in the silence of her passage from life, she began to understand just how much she’d missed. A world of nuance and subtlety had been there for the taking, yet she hadn’t noticed. Hadn’t thought to look. There was no shame in it, but it was a shame all the same.

Isn’t that life? she thought.

                                                                ___________

It had been perfectly clear to her that she was going to die. The speed of the car that hit her was alone sufficient to preclude survival. Yet had it just been that, she could still have imagined recovering. She could still have imagined long months in traction, longer months in rehabilitation, and perhaps one day, with sufficient grit and determination, being able to walk again, albeit with great pain and difficulty. Whether or not any of that was actually possible was beside the point. She could have imagined it.

What she could not imagine was surviving the sound. It wasn’t the hiss of the car as it accelerated toward her on wet pavement, nor the smack of her body against steel and glass. Those things she didn’t hear, or at least couldn’t remember. Only one sound possessed sufficient force to rise from the pool of muffled calamity and enter her memory: that of her bones as they cracked and split like shore ice under a blanket of snow. It was that sound that assured her she was going to die. And although her life had been noisy up until that point, the awareness that her time was rapidly coming to a close had been infinitely louder.

Death was no longer some faceless habitant of a faraway place. It had now taken up residence just across the street and the knowledge of its proximity tormented her. Had she possessed sufficient courage, she might have pulled the curtain gently aside and watched unobserved as this unsettling new neighbor proceeded to settle in. If she had, she might have been comforted. She might have seen the serenity in death’s movement. She might have recognized its sad, friendly smile. She might have come to understand its ancient and noble place in the natural history of the universe and felt the safety and benevolence of its presence. But she hadn’t. Instead, she’d pulled the curtains tight and recoiled in terror. She’d let the blind fear of death’s presence render her immobile while ice water filled her bones.

The penultimate act in this noisy opera of her life began as a simple melody of lament but steadily escalated as voice upon voice of dread and resistance competed to stand out from the movement’s gathering chorus. Its panicked crescendo swarmed and stung like hornets. How long she remained in such torment she could not say. What she did know was how quickly it all melted away once death walked across the street and let itself in.

                                                                ___________

Now she was dying. Actually dying. And she found herself astonished by the serenity of that heretofore unwelcomed state. She could, for the first time, see the emotional bulwarks she’d surrounded herself with during her life. She marveled at their ingenuity, their complexity. There was an earnest and naïve beauty to the citadel she’d constructed and she watched fascinated as it crumbled to dust before her.

She stood now alone. Vulnerable. Completely exposed. No safeguards remained. Nothing left to hide behind or cling to. Yet she felt completely safe for the first time in her life.

And so it was that she found this final act of her life bathed in a calm she’d never known, a silence she’d never heard. Never expected. Everything had fallen away. No trouble permeated. No longing arose. She required nothing of life, nor to it owed anything. Fear vacated her heart and took with it the pain in her body. She knew she would not hurt again.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim James is not the New York Times bestselling author of 5 novels of literary fiction. He was not shortlisted for the National Book Award in 2005 and did not win the 2014 Man Booker Prize for his seminal novel, Mrs. Baker’s Funeral. His work has not been praised by authors from Toni Morrison to Arundhati Roy and has not been translated into over 20 languages. James does not split his time between homes in British Columbia and Hawaii, nor does he live with a golden retriever named Esther.

Talking To Lions by Bruce McRae

If the lion could speak,
said Wittgenstein,
we wouldn’t understand him.

His pleas for fairness.
His questions concerning
the state of the Earth,
on the perils and upshots
of the human condition.

Nor would we comprehend
leonine philosophy, their take
on the gods, on the stars
and their fiery origins.

Most likely we’d be so terrified
we wouldn’t hear a word
or wonder on the marvel
of a carnivore explaining to its prey
the terrible necessity of hunger.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :

Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician currently residing on Salt Spring
Island BC, is a multiple Pushcart nominee with over 1,500 poems
published internationally in magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and the
North American Review. His books are ‘The So-Called Sonnets
(Silenced Press); ‘An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy; (Cawing Crow Press)
and ‘Like As If” (Pski’s Porch), Hearsay (The Poet’s Haven).