On Colonialism in Edmonton: “Here”


On First Life: “Here”

Look Here.  At the house in the sunlight

The light that is rising or falling on the house

The house that is the First Space

We imagine being in.  Look Here at the light that

Sets everything on fire in making and unmaking You

Visible.  Is it making You

Unforgettable or unimaginable?  Where is Here?


Here is a place

Of imagining pain, of forgetting pain

Of weapons that look like light

Light that conceals by throwing shadows on the snow

Light that lets Us pretend We don’t know

What Here is, where Here is, who was Here.


You were Here.  You are Here.

Here being Yours, We come always

Like light

Spreading silently.  Here being

Where We learn how to hear or not hear

The dying You.  Here being

In Our imaginations.  Our imaginations being

Where You are always drunk, always obscene, always

Too much and too many to be seen.  Here being

Where Your space and voice and people sink into shadows.  


Look Here.  The house.  The First Space.  The Vastness.  

What are We if We are Here

Where You continue to make noise

Where We cannot hear You without knowing

That We have been murderous

That We continue to be murderous

That We are infected with murderous light

Light that hates to see

Light that divides the First Space, the First Life

Light that is diseased with difference and destroys


Light that runs knives along the earth’s splayed bodies

Light that makes and unmakes Here.  


Where is Here? Here is

Where My light continues to rise and fall on

You.  Here is

Where the edges of the living

Find the edges of the dying.  

these words by Charles Gonsalves were inspired by the colour of Sarah Williams

From the author: “I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta.  One thing life in Edmonton exposes is the still-very-much-alive hatred and violence enacted upon First Peoples in Canada.  The degree to which this behaviour is normalized in the everyday gazes, thoughts, and speech of Edmontonians is disturbing—and something that I, as a youth and young adult, have been implicated in.

Unlearning—unmaking the weapons with which we so easily, so automatically harm people—is part of our responsibility as settlers and a process that is necessarily uncomfortable, difficult, and destructive.  This poem reflects on the sustained presence of systemic colonial hatred and violence in Canada and takes a few premises about place and pain for granted.*  

-To have pain is to have certainty.  To witness pain is to have doubt.  To doubt or ignore someone’s pain amplifies their suffering.

-To inflict pain on a body is to destroy that body’s world, voice, and self.  To inflict pain on many bodies (a people) is to destroy that people.  

-The distance between the person(s) in pain and the person(s) observing or inflicting the pain is impossibly vast, and can only be occupied by the imagination.

-Home is the First Space.  Home is where we learn to imagine.

-The First Space is sacred.  

-We are destroying everything that is sacred.  Our homes occupy the imaginary space between the bodies in pain and the weapons.

* I owe these ideas to Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain and Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space.  

On Running Away: “Jack-o’-lantern”

SW 4

        Big city at last. Buildings, cement, a few trees. Some birds tweeting the fall of dusk. I’d hitched in. Now what? I must have had a lost look on my face because a van pulled up and drove alongside me, matching my pace.

         “Hello there!” called the driver.

         “Hi,” I said.

          He stopped the car and got out. Introduced himself as Norbert.

         “What’s your take on the problems of this country?” he said.

         “I don’t know,” I said.

         “Feel like talking about it?” he said.


         “Feel like having a free dinner?” he said.

         “Alright,” I said. He opened the back of the van. There was a young woman in there.

         “That’s Sarah,” Norbert said. I got in. Norbert shut the doors and the van took off. 

        I talked with Sarah. Another runaway picked up off the street. Where the hell were we going? Can’t be any worse than where we came from, we both laughed. She took my hand in hers as we bumped along.

         The van came to a stop. Norbert opened the back. I heard cicadas.

        “Come on, you two,” said. Sarah pulled up her tights and we followed him onto some sprawling estate and into a red brick country home. The cooking aromas were scintillating. I had not eaten all day.

        “Help yourselves,” he said. “After that we’ll have a little presentation.”

        The food was laid out buffet style in the dining area. Stacks of clean plates, plastic cups, a pitcher of water with lemon slices in it. There were six or seven dishes to choose from. Some other young people joined us. They were all quiet and respectful. The food was vegetarian, cooked to perfection, completely satisfying.

      “We’ll begin the presentation whenever you’re ready,” said Norbert. There were about ten cheap plastic chairs unfolded in the salon, but only Sarah and I sat. It was a slideshow. Norbert used a pointer as he clicked from slide to slide. The world was in crisis, he said. It was up to us to fix it.

        I raised my hand. “Is this a cult?” I said. Not that I really minded if it was.

        Norbert laughed. “We are called a cult by the mainstream. But we think the mainstream is a cult.”

       In my mind’s eye I saw a generic house, some generic suburbs. The home I’d bolted from. The home my father came to at dusk, exhausted, complaining. Ugly mood. Hating his job, his colleagues, his family. Yet, judging the fools who did not live their lives as he did.

       Good Riddance, he’d have said Mom. The only way we let her back is if she cries and begs and apologizes. Otherwise she does not set foot in this house again. Is that clear? 

         Mom would nod, her head down, hands folded, like a statue.

       He’d sleep. She would not. The light would be on all night. The house like a Jack-o’-lantern. My mother at the kitchen table, begging me to call, to let her talk to me one last time, so she could beg me to grovel before the old man like she did.

these words by Alden Chorush were inspired by the colour of Sarah Williams

these words by Alden Chorush were inspired by the colour of Sarah Williams


On Child Abuse: “The Intentions of Wolves”


this piece of art, “breathe,” was created by loish

6. TIN ROOFS SPLIT THE SKY LIKE MOUNTAINS. The spring of a summer door would creak when stretched, as rust spreads when left unchecked. The gap in the wire fence was never discussed

5. Questions from visitors regarding the fence deflated conversations. Topics were then rerouted by the parent, such as an investigation on whose boots had sunk in the mud behind the pines, near a canister of roaches. The children were tense during these reroutes as though a house of cards was shivering with laughter.

4. Others addressed it with polite warning, as when a police officer flashes their lights. The parent would return from these talks to nod at children on staircases, as though the neighbouring guests of the same hotel.

Or, they were picked up.

“I love you, you know that?

3. Morning silences balanced these night enthusiasms. The children were well-aware of the emotional see-saw and did their best to avoid existing as the balance. Gaps in the fence were large enough that you could fit if you got down on your knees or if you were dragged through on your back. Of course visitors with gaps in their fences shared great laughs in our house.

2. Sometimes, deer would approach the back windows that faced the woods. You’d turn from the TV, and there would be two, three deer, spotted white, watching you. They would approach me in the yard. There we’d stand, looking at the other. There was tension in the lines of their muscled haunches. Then the door might creak open and my dog might run them back toward the pines. Their white tails would flip over the field’s weeds, never tripping over objects that were entombed in the grass, close but never caught by the dog.

1. You’d see them on the side of roads, too, with their necks twisted: bodies toward the road, eyes to the trees. In the winter, their blood spattered over snow-covered roads. In the summer, the warm liquid poured out to fill in creases of the cement.


1. I lived in this house for ten years. There wasn’t a fence, but the driveway was made of gravel. As many people know, surviving one of these houses often means leaving. The borders of a driveway give promise to understand who one is or can become without the dynamic of the abused and the abuser. Crossing the border at the end of the lane is often complicated by the fact the attacked is told to be lying, where the abusive parent may discount the uncomfortable truths being shared through threats, a defensiveness which underlines their guilt and shock at the inconvenient possibilities of your voice.

2. Yes, the deer would actually come up to our windows. Half of our house faced a forest, and they’d cross the long weeds to stand on our stone patio and look inside our living room.

3. I wonder if a deer’s ears are like a dog’s ears, and if they could hear through the windows.

4. When I’d see one strung up in a friend’s garage, leaking blood into a bucket, I was perhaps more affected, as though I’d lost a witness who could testify in a case I never wanted to attend.

5. Abusers are insulated by the glorification of keeping family secrets and a culture of stoicism in Ontario. My masculinity amplified this silence and abusive power relies on a special status treatment of silence. If attacked on the street, most people would call the police partially to prevent others from being attacked.*

4. I cannot speak for other members of my family. 

3. It is often this inability to share and process trauma with strangers or friends that will prompt people to become violent later on to cope with feelings of vulnerability. The saying goes, “although not all children who were abused grow up to become abusers, the vast majority of those who abuse were abused as children.”My ability to move from that tendency involves a lot of work and privileges.

4. It is the responsibility of the violent to adopt methods of coping with stress or trauma that do not require the destruction of the minds and bodies of those around them. 

3. Processes of accountability with violent parents require the parent to acknowledge that violence occurred. As acknowledging abuse is acknowledging ‘imperfection,’ tactful rearrangements of memory are often made to lighten the case. (See: ‘it wasn’t my intention’ defenses of racism.) 

2. No person should be shamed for choosing to start such a process with someone who has been violent to them. 

1. No person whose survival is in spite of the attempts of a parent should be blamed for walking away from that person. Shaming this individual should be taken as seriously as shaming someone who avoids snakes because they have been bitten by snakes. 

2. No person exists to be the emotional or physical punching bag for another person to deal with their issues, whatever the complex histories of that person.

1. Those who rush to support the ‘loving’ defense of abuse (“but they love them!”) often reveal the blades in their own hands.

2. There is no ‘complete’ escape from the house that influenced so much of who I am and how I’m writing to you today. 

2. You don’t arrive at zero during a process of rewiring. It’s instead some hybrid form which works to pivot from a new set of values. Gravel is not asphalt and even asphalt splits depending on the heat. Delaying the desire for change and accountability makes sense if it is antagonistic to one’s mental health. Neurologist Gabor Maté convincingly argues that rewiring processes can begin at any age, contrary to the whole old dogs saying.

1. Our bedrooms were on the top floor of the log house. Sleeping under a tin roof meant that you could hear every drop of the rain. The thousands of sounds felt like blankets at night, reminding you how close you were to being outside.

The intentions of wolves

From the author:

“The choice to share my story was influenced by a recent reading by poet Jessica Bebenek, as well as a November reading by Kalale Dalton-Lutale.

The piece of art, “breathe,” was created by loish.

*What the criminal justice system chooses to do with violent offenders is certainly in need of radical change, however the existence of the impulse to prevent violence through accountability is significant.

Further reading: Maté, Gabor. In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts.

This home will be home again

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word by Boris But 

colour by Alex Andreev

The obsidian titan looms from

Below, a weary vision bestowed

On the fallow dreamer dreary-

Minded by the sea.

st-petersburg montreal

Your quiet eyes pace through

My possessions: strangling rope,

Brine-soaked pages, symbols of the

Lost hope of an exiled meanderer.

st-petersburg montreal

Dear stranger, learn of home

And sing of it. When us strangers

Gather on stranger seas, we

Recall a home we never see.

st-petersburg montreal

Tale by tale you regale of the forgotten,

The sea-tossed bottle lost in tribal

Misunderstanding, a tongue

Lashing at hollow space,

st-petersburg montreal

Our anguish laid bare in mutual

Vulnerability, pyrobabble in place

Of a strange silence. Your eyes

Glimmer beneath a buried quaver,

st-petersburg montreal

A ripple pulsing from an unknown

Provenance ripping apart

In a fear or pain

Lost to a generation unto me.

st-petersburg montreal

My adrifted mind scrambles for some

Consolation of storied survivors or

A measure of a distinguished nature, blessed

By the godliness of constellations above,

st-petersburg montreal

The mortal shipwrecked sands below.

But let me rot here with you

Borne in eternal entropy,

Born to be forever forgotten.

st-petersburg montreal

Do dead men cry? Do words die?

Who swims and who sinks in your currents?

This home will be home again. Welcome,

Old friend, and dare not stay silent.

st-petersburg montreal

word by Boris But 

“What stranger does not first appear to be alien? Inspired by Alex Andreev’s masterful piece and anguished by the refugee crises and the oft-overlooked diaspora of vagrants everywhere, I crafted a poem about two strangers, perhaps parallel images, making a common home. What estranges people is the failure to recognize humanity in what we find unfamiliar. Stories imbue us with a transcendental magic, building homes where nothing should be.”

colour by Alex Andreev

“Alex Andreev lives in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation.
He’s been drawing, painting and doing graphic design over last 20 years.
He works as art-director in advertising agency and as senior concept artist for movie and game production. Born in 1972, Russia”

Finding Who You Aren’t At The Party

word by Sam Fresco 
colour by Burkhard Müller

Chet looked down at the bushy red fox. The fox looked back.
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You have to get home, Chet – you don’t belong here, said the fox.
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Chet stumbled back: his head was spinning. He ducked out of the crowd, standing over him. He ran past the counter and into the lift. 
burkhard müller 
The doors closed. No buttons. It started going up – the lights above the doors showing it near the roof. 39, 40, 41, 42. 
burkhard müller 
As he came out on the roof, a man in an ill-fitting brown suit was panting, hands on knees. 
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Celeste, where the hell have you been?
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Why do people keep calling me that, he thought. 
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Here now. 
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The small man lit a cigarette and offered one out. Chet hesitated because he didn’t smoke.
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Johnny, come on, what’s the matter?
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And Johnny now? 
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He took a cigarette although he felt he had never smoked before.
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OK, so we got your little shit. Now you just, y’know, you beat him around a little and we’re all down here. OK?
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He looked down to the short and balding man. No: a teenager
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A man held red gloves to Chet. He took them. The teenager spat out a tooth with a clump of blood. He couldn’t help feeling that he himself looked a lot like the teenager.*
word by Sam Fresco 
colour by Burkhard Müller

On Family: “No applause for a hero”

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“Teach your children well, their father’s hell did slowly go by,

And feed them on your dreams, the one they fix, the one you’ll know by.

Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,

So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.”

“Teach Your Children,” by Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young


‘What a fucking spread!’

‘Who woulda thought?’  Frances agreed.

‘Bagels, lox, whitefish, coffee, salami, bologna, provolone, macaroni—”

‘Chicken salad!’

Several parents crowded the cream cheese station at the back of the auditorium.  Henry admired his wife’s breasts as she crouched to pick up a tomato.  37.5% of the couples there were gay.  Mr. Hall, the middle school coordinator, wore a pesto green suit.  The hunchback look worked for him.  Everyone there paid $2.75 to ride the train to P.S. 463 if they didn’t hop the turnstile.  But by the looks of it, there were a few who might’ve jumped.

‘Hey!’  Caleb, 4’6”, rushed over and hugged his parents.  ‘Thanks for coming!’

‘Our pleasure!’

The chatter inconspicuously petered out when Mr. Hall tapped the microphone.  ‘Family, friends, distinguished guests: thank you for coming to P.S. 463’s annual Role Model Day!  In humanities this year, the students considered adolescence.  In lieu of their studies, they reflected on their role model’s unique qualities that they hope to emulate as rising middle schoolers.  Today, you will hear some of their thoughts.’

A little girl climbed on stage.  Mr. Hall adjusted the microphone stand appropriately. She looked down at her notecard: ‘Hi.’

After a pause, the audience realized it was being invited to exchange greetings.  ‘Hi!’

She continued, ‘My name is June Langley and my role model is Hermione.  Most of all, Hermione is a genius.  One day, I want to be a genius.  Hermione also helps Harry beat Voldemort again and again and again.  I want to defeat evil, too!’  June bowed, and the crowd cheered.  An ‘I love you sweetie!’ and, ‘You are a genius, babe!’ were made out from the clamor.  Surely it was June’s parents.

Another girl stepped on stage.  Her name was Anne Carney.  She had no index card.  Her role model was Serena Williams.  Serena, she informed the crowd, always wins and hates to lose.  Anne does, too, she tells the full house.  When she grows up she wants to be successful, like Serena!  The sound level meter for June’s speech reached a higher altitude.

Now Caleb hurried up the steps.  He took a piece of crumbled paper out of his pocket and unwrinkled it.  This had BOY written all over it.  Not once did he lift his eyes.  ‘My name is Caleb Monroe and my role models are my mom and dad.  Mom wakes up everyday at 5:00 and packs my lunch.  She fills the fridge with my favorite snacks.  Dad fought in court for my autistic brother Fred to go to a good school.  He drops me at basketball practice after school and always wants to play.  They are exhausted from work and then come home and cook.  If there is no food, they go shopping.  And tomorrow they’ll do it all again. They do not get paid for this job, and never ask for anyone to clap for their demanding work.  Being a parent is so heroic.  There’s no applause for a hero.’

The audience has no idea how to respond.


word by Jacob Goldberg

“After I learned that “La Practique Du Calcul” roughly translated to “basic calculus,” I wanted to write about how difficult calculus was for me but easy for others.  With that in mind, I hoped to sketch a story about something that I feel is at once important, simple, and uniquely hard: showing appreciation and love for those that really matter to us.”

colour by Julien Coquentin

High School Visionaries


Rebecca Platt is and continues to be a member of an unrecognized but nonetheless elite club: Senior Superlative Actualization.  Rebecca Platt’s Willstown High School Class of ‘12 voted her Most Likely to Find The Meaning of Life.  As senior superlatives go, Ms. Platt’s was considered one of the more unachievable ones, along with Most Likely to Steal the Statue of Liberty, which Damon Quinn has still had no luck with.

The Class of ’12 had no good reason to believe that Rebecca was going to Find The Meaning of Life.  This is because Ms. Platt is as dumb as a doornail.  For example, she is known around Willstown High as the girl who infamously commented, ‘Is this Pennsylvania?’ on Hank Wiley’s photo in front of the Eiffel Tower.  She has regrettable tattoos.  E.g., a trail of generic lips runs down her oblique and beneath them reads, “Christ Was Here.”  Her fridge is empty because she spent her $300 monthly allowance on a Sun Conure, which she named JFK.  And with no additional money for a cage, JFK has been shitting everywhere.

It’s a boring story of how Rebecca Platt came upon The Meaning of Life.  She didn’t have a vision; there was no beam of light.  What it was was a series of mundane events that gave her some insight into the way the world is.  It happened on her 22nd birthday.

Rebbeca Platt was on the subway to work.  She sat across from a woman whose triceps were loose flaps of fat.  The man next her said, ‘Happy Birthday, Beth.’  ‘What?’ Beth said, leaning closer; she couldn’t hear him.  Beth was a mirror for Ms. Platt that day.  Fifty or some odd years separated them.  Beth’s arms were in some metaphorical sense a signpost of what Rebecca had to look forward to.   Ms. Platt imagined herself with her own flaps of fat, her own hearing aids, and sensed that she was deteriorating, nearing the end of her visit here.  Everyone has a Beth, and Rebecca observed that she could either neglect her eventual decay or accept it.  So she decided to bow to her mortality instead of avoiding it.

The subway stopped.  ‘Someone on the train needs medical attention.  We appreciate your patience.’  Work started in ten minutes and if Ms. Platt were late again she’d be fired.  Surprisingly, she didn’t get irritated.  Other people on the train are probably in similar or worse conditions than I am, she thought.  Rebecca didn’t know what to call it, but what she understood there on the stalled train was the importance of compassion.

Ms. Platt then learned about forgiveness.  ‘I’m sorry I always said that your brother was the smarter one,’ Rebecca Platt’s mom said through a teary happy-birthday call.  For most of her childhood, Rebecca was blue.  But daughter forgives mother, and by waiving her inner rage toward her mom, Rebecca relieved herself of a lot of psychic pain, and grew steady.

When Rebecca Platt got home from work later that day, though, she was unemployed and hungry, and still had to clean up all of JFK’s shit.

word by Jacob Goldberg

“If there is a meaning to life, I think it has to do with the stuff in the story.  And if you were to come across it, I imagine that a palette of colors might merge as they do in the artwork, and people would realize that deep down we can blend, too.  It’s important to always keep in mind that even if you think someone is stupid, they might in fact be worlds smarter and more capable than you think they are.  People are mirrors, and we shouldn’t miss out on opportunities to see ourselves in them.”

taking control of the layers


Dissension oozed thick, coloured with every shade of emotion; everyone could see that she was loosing form. The angles and contours of her performance were obscured – all precision to the approach had been abandoned. All that was left was a covering-over of that which was covered-over. Her sharp words now muffled and barely audible over the noise of what could be clearly seen as an implosion come undone.

I closed my eyes and put my fingers to my temples and awaited the barrier of silence I had built in my mind to be shattered by the sound of her cries. As her father I had become accustomed to reading the signs and positioning myself to be at the ready should she need me. I primped and prepped and practiced alongside her, but once she stepped out on that stage she was entirely on her own. And here she was, melting into a puddle of pastel-coloured mess, centre-stage, harsh lights ablaze. I sensed amusement on the lips of those around me, and full-bellied brawling laughter was just moments away. I sensed the horror on the faces of the four perfectly coiffed has-beens who spent their every weekend judging the misguided proclivities of young girls whose burgeoning self-worth would be inextricably tied to their looks.

I prepared myself for the unwonted stares, pitiful glances and murmurs of judgment but instead as I made my way towards the stage I found an impressive showing of ingenuity. In what appeared to be the beginning stages of a meltdown, profuse dissension had resolved itself into abundant honesty, a truth so pure that it lacked its typical bite.

Inside the dingy low-budget hotel conference room, in front of pageant parents, child contestants and jaded judges, Noelle begun to confidently rip long pieces of fabric off her dress, and stick them into the spaces between her still first set of teeth. She took the heels of her palms and expertly smeared eye make-up down her face. She ripped her tights, undid her hair and ran around the stage fully committed to portraying the mythical creature in her favourite bedtime tale. In one beautiful act of childhood defiance, Noelle played and pretended, sang and cooed, delivering gibberish prose with Shakespearian gravitas. Laughter escaped the tightly pursed and botoxed lips of the former beauty queen judges and childhood chatter echoed off the walls and lurid drapes.

I was once beyond resentful of spending my every other weekend with the insipid pageant folks, practicing routines and applying fake lashes, but that was all that I could get, so I took it. And Noelle was a wonder on that stage, consistently low-scoring but persistent. And after years of attempted conformity an apparent meltdown unleashed a cacophony of colour and sound, my beautiful girl.

word by Cora-Lee Conway

colour by Zutto

From the author: “A thick, sweet, melt like a human ice cream cone; I kept thinking about the upside to a meltdown… Perhaps also inspired by my location as I write this sitting on the beach in Cuba, melting in the best way.”



sounds from the future


Jimmy was a prick for bringing me here. I don’t frequent these sorts of places, at least not since the end of the 21st century when jazz made a big comeback with the space-faring folk. Something about trumpets and saxophones helps when you’re staring out into all that black. It ain’t for me though, jazz- cramped venues that reek of cigar. Charlie Parker aside, whose work any semi-intelligent individual should be intimately familiar with, I hate jazz.

Jimmy kept going on and on about this woman, a jazz singer, and I had to see her.

       That’s what they’ve got holographics for, my man, I said. Wear a pin, stream me in.

       No way, he says. It’s gotta be live.

Left me drinking Jameson at the bar, listening to jazz, and it ain’t all that bad. The band’s minimal, a real stripped back affair. Ivory and vocals. The singer’s got this retro style that reminds me of the post-postmodern infusion of underground Japanese disco into the Can-American consciousness. Lollipop chic. Real big circa 2025, before I left the Rock. It’s the hair, I think: styled, but not overly so. It’s got that outside-the-asteroid belt attitude – think glam-rock meets two months on a space freighter. Works for her.

Wearing one hell of a dress too, a swanky number that looks like it’s patterned after those pre-revolution flapper girls you see on OWC (the Old World Channel). It all adds up to a spectacular sort of woman, one who projects this sultry voice right into my whiskey-soaked skull. Real stellar eyes too… all sorts of devastating, like second-hand smoke, purple, and heavy, and deadly to breathe in. Stardust on her eyelids… listening to her sing, maybe space isn’t a wasteland. Don’t make ’em like this back on the Rock, you know?

I’m staring – she notices.

I hear her speak, a voice smouldering like the sun outside the tinted window.

What’re you looking at, Earthling?

word by Josh Elyea

colour by Zutto

From the author: “”When I was writing this piece, I couldn’t move past the eyes. They’re captivating, and I imagine I could’ve spent the entire piece talking about them…what you’re left with is a vignette about a man in space who finds himself head over heels for a jazz singer from Jupiter.”

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