“Taste of Leaving” – Jess Glavina

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The off-whites of your apartment
The buzz of your kitchen lamp
The halo it casts around your red hair as we wait for your friend

The fewer days you have to leave, the slower it feels

The essentials:
The two people you must say goodbye to.
The books to return. The one to get back.
The borrowed transit card. The money you owe.

I leave like I came
Moving alone through the city
A zigzag
Promises spoken lightly
turning to finishing nails in my pocket

these words by Jess Glavina were inspired by the work of Evelyn Bencicova

click here for the live audio of our Cagibi reading!

Audio of the first leg of Word and Colour’s Summer Reading Series at Cagibi on June 24th, MC’d by Dena Coffman!


Readers, in order of appearance:

Nailah King, a member of the Room editorial collective. She is also a writer, avid reader, and blogger. A UBC alumnae, she is currently working on completing a thus far untitled manuscript in prose fiction. Read King’s recent word and colour prose, “Diaspora Blues,” inspired by the art of Shanna Strauss

Taisha Cayard, a Social Services student at Dawson College who has recently found interest in writing poetry. She loves to sing and to socialize. Read Cayard’s recent wandc collaboration, “But What Can I Learn From You,” in dialogue with the poetry of Audre Lorde

Lily Chang, who writes, edits, and pays rent and hydro in Montreal. She is a recent graduate of Concordia University’s MA program in Creative Writing. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Headlight Anthology, Word and Colour, Voices Visible, and Frog Hollow Press’s City Series. Read Chang’s poetry, “White is Not My Colour,” inspired by the art of Tran Nguyen
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Oumy Dembele, a Professional Theater student from France. A scriptwriting graduate, her writing is mostly focused on fiction and scenes. She recently challenged herself to write prose in English. Her work, “Meiosis,” is forthcoming at Word and Colour.
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Tristen Sutherland, who studies English Literature and Political Science at McGill. When she’s not writing, she’s performing improv comedy or debating whether it’s safe to eat raw cookie dough. Read her recent Word and Colour piece, “Mango,” inspired by the art of Angela Pilgrim.

 

See more photos of the reading via @wordandcolour

 

“Foxglove” – Keah Hansen

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Foxglove
Rough hands
The open ended
Tending
For life
In this chalked over
Bite
Of soil
Worms and cat
Piss
Be damned
Ignored
Amidst
Packets of seeds
Dry
Expectant
In the barren
Echo chambers
Stained with
Small blight
Residue of last years
Failed perennials
Soils that seem
To collect rocks
Like rainwater
Save the draining.

Foxglove
I tend
To pull
This dirt up
In sparkles
And turn the stones
To mica
Splashed between
The sun and
Shadows
Looking damp
As if to quench
Though offering
Hope in
The cast-off shapes
Of stalks I
Pulled out
Piece by piece
Last year with my
Arms all crossed
To stop the flint
Caged inside
My ribs
From being sodden
By the storms
Some plant life
Seems to
Carry.

This year
Foxglove,
Is no different
My chin
A spade
I’m making
Place for you
By shaking my head yes
Or no
Learning how
To till the soils best
Most oxygenated
And minerals peopled
In healthy
Numbers
I’m counting
The hours
Until the bells
Ring
In your blooms
I think
They’d sound
Like milk drops
The dew
I taste
In new growth
Your petals
Cupped in joy
Like feet flexed
Dancing
With root systems
Made proverbs
Answering
My questions
In anachronisms.

The wind returned
Fibrous,
Vegetal
And familiar.

 

these words by Keah Hansen were inspired by the work of Olaf Hajek

“Breakfast” – Kate Shaw

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The views expressed in the texts do not necessarily represent the views of the artist.

 

She sipped her coffee soundlessly. It had always struck me, how little noise she could make over breakfast these days if left unprovoked. Her fork never plunged all the way through a waffle to clink! the plate, her knife never scraped or dinged! the fork. She drank her coffee, and the mug didn’t make a sound when placed back on the cork coaster.

“What time will you be home from work tonight?”

A guffaw during silent worship is more acceptable than words over breakfast with her. Startled eyes flashed at mine from over the orange juice. A silent sip. A hiss of a word, “Eight.”

I nodded, castigated. She deposited her dishes in the sink with a clank! that resounded as she exited the kitchen. There was shuffling in the den as she gathered her things, and soon the door closed behind her.

“Yes, this is Amadeo’s? I’ve got a reservation for tonight under Polowski. P-O-L…Exactly. I need to cancel.”

 

these words by Kate Shaw were inspired by the work of Kevin Calixte

“Star gazer” – Alex Leslie

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The views expressed in the texts do not necessarily represent the views of the artist.

 

In night, your strained vocal chords form a glowing band around the moon. You do not know what you are asking for this time. Shapes assemble at the perimeter and call themselves fingertips, cheeks, inkblot torsos. They have been here before. People you love are recycling names the way the world recycles seasons. Bees with frequency, voices turn on spokes, slow in the days, adrenal dive through the green substrata, decade roulette, but what is the true indicator of new life. The future sits across from you in the greasy spoon diner, saws into pancakes with ketchup on top, wields a steak knife, lectures you about making better choices, the long hall of unintended consequences. And if you can. If you looked harder it would come to you; if you could just focus for once, this wouldn’t be so hard. Clavicle and tracery of eyes would make themselves present, no diagnostic mist, this time. Shutters tumble around your fingers, rising in the darkness. You understand something about tone, about how to lie down in a throat and fall asleep like you own the place. You have always excelled at Rorschach tests, can read suggestion in the shift of shoulders, some air seeping from a mouth at a specific tilt, a thread you can grab and twist. A mimic fish spreading over eyes, cheeks, collarbones. Every face, a display plate on a simple white stand. Star gazer. When you were small, a big kid taught you to cut a slit down the luminous belly of a green blade of grass, break it open with your breath, and make music, and it was the first weapon you ever made. You aimed it at the sky, blasted an escape hatch. But now there is a shift, a settling. It’s dark. Portrait game. Voices turn on spokes, more slowly now. The faces carousel around the small hot triangle of your hands. Milky light seeps through the seams in commuter traffic. When you narrow your eyes, your fatigue blurs into the tactile future. Haloes, overexposures cast into the deep pools of other minds. Butterflies pressed behind eyelids. Drape all the mirrors. Learn how to pray.

 

these words by Alex Leslie were inspired by the work of Kevin Calixte

“On How to Say No” – Annie Rubin

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The views expressed in the texts do not necessarily represent the views of the artist.

 

It was unsettling to be back there alone. An impulsive decision spurred by the phone call—or lack thereof—and now she was sitting in the square by her old apartment on a bench in the dark. She checked her phone—it was ten. Still no messages.

She’d taken a seat between the trees that shook gently in the wind, and a rain repeatedly sprinkled and let up as if on a loop. She figured it would be better to be out of the house if he did decide to ring. Public spaces always felt more manageable, controlled: don’t make a scene, Ma used to say; Dad followed her words like they were law.

He slammed the door when he left, causing the dishes to rattle on their shelves. She feared for the porcelain set of four plates and bowls—hand-painted from Sorrento—they’d bought together on holiday. One of them had chipped once and she’d read somewhere you were supposed to throw it away after that but she never did.

She was walking now, in circles up and down the block that smelled like home. Tomorrow she would change the locks. There was no guidebook on how to say no. Only repeated frustration, feigning forgiveness until she overflowed, erupting with all that was never said.

It came out as glitter, bursting into his crevices, filling him with remorse, and an anger as uncontrollable as the thundering laugh she was once able to evoke from him by singing his name. He used to call her his.

Now she wanted to be her own. Didn’t quite know how to do that either. She stared at the ground, hovering before the doorstep of their building. She ached to know what it takes to rebuild.

 

these words by Annie Rubin were inspired by the work of Kevin Calixte

“f e t u s” – Jo-Ann Zhou

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The views expressed in the texts do not necessarily represent the views of the artist.

The pounding was growing louder and louder, like the thump thump thump of an insipid beat on a dancefloor. It was closing in around her, pressing on her back, her temples, her chest. Breathing became difficult as the air around her thinned. Her body ached from exhaustion, as the walls—thick with red grime—loomed closer and closer.

“You’ll never make your way out.” The taunt seemed to come from all sides, echoing inside the dark sickly warm space.

“FIGHT BACK!” the voice inside her insisted.

“You won’t amount to anything substantial. You don’t have what it takes to make it out there.” The call reverberated, cutting through the hot dense air, ringing in her ears. It filled her heart with dread, punctuated by that incessant thump thump thump that echoed deep in her chest.

Maybe her captor was right, she thought. Maybe she was in safer in here, in these familiar red walls.

“NO! FIGHT BACK!”

She took a breath of precious, scarce air and reached out with her fists, hoping to face her tormentor, but her hands were met by thick red clots punctuated by a sweet metallic smell that was engulfing her nostrils.

“You clearly aren’t trying hard enough. You could do so much better than this. What is wrong with you?”

The little voice inside her head considered this. Was this true? Was she not trying hard enough?

“No,” she thought. She needed to get to the other side of the walls that were closing in around her; she needed to see her tormentor. “I will find a way out.”

Blindly, struggling through the darkness and the tightening space, she reached up above her, thrusting through the red mucous to grab hold of the wet spongy walls. The thumping continued to crescendo, reaching a feverish pitch that vibrated through her core as she hoisted herself up. The walls contracted, forcing her back, but she pushed upwards again, and the sheer effort of the movement was taxing with so little oxygen. Finally, her head pierced the pulpy membrane, bursting forward into a rush of cold fresh air.

As her shoulders, then arms emerged from the hole, she opened her eyes and looked out, ready to face her captor. It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the light, and when they focused she saw her at last—an anxious gaunt face covered in blood glancing at her through a single pane of reflective glass.

 

these words by Jo-Ann Zhou were inspired by the work of Kevin Calixte

“Cut From the Same Cloth” – Tristen Sutherland

Heart_Of_Darkness

Mrs. Anita Thomas loved her rocking chair. For hours, she would sit, rocking back and forth, humming to herself, blanket tucked neatly in her lap. Sometimes, I would watch her from across the street, as I toted my schoolbag home. She was a creature of habit. Always in the same spot. Staring at her blanket, like a statue.

On a day when I was feeling particularly brave, I crossed the street to get a closer look at Mrs. Anita Thomas. I peeked at her porch from behind one of her neighbour’s bushes, when she spotted me and called me over. Sheepishly, I approached, eyes downcast. Her face was hard and her brows were furrowed. I prepared myself for the reprimanding, keeping eyes on my scuffed shoes. Then, there was laughter? I looked up at Mrs. Anita Thomas, who was wiping a tear from her eye. Her face was soft, her smile seemed to disappear into a sea of welcoming wrinkles. I smiled weakly, not understanding the joke.

“I’m sorry,” she said, composing herself a little. “I couldn’t help myself. What’s your name, little girl?”

I told her and the next thing I knew, I was sitting alongside her nibbling an almond biscuit. It was strange to see her up close. She wasn’t a statue at all. As she spoke, she gesticulated, her chair rocking more severely when she was impassioned. I watched her as she spoke, transfixed by her whole demeanour. That was the day I became a part of Mrs. Anita Thomas’s routine.

Every day after school the scene would be the same: Me, sitting next to Mrs. Anita Thomas, her in her rocker and me on my chair, her weaving together a tale. Every story began the same way. I would take a bite of my biscuit, and Mrs. Anita Thomas would point a dark root-like finger towards the green and red blanket on her lap. Each day, her knobby finger would point to a new section of the blanket. Once settled, she would begin: “This is a story of our ancestors, and it begins with this piece of cloth…” Every time she said this, I would marvel at her use of our. It implied that we were one in the same, cut from the same cloth somehow. That was always my favourite part.

I remember asking my mum where we were from and her responding, without looking up from the newspaper, “Halifax, sweetie.” But that was not the answer I was searching for.

Mrs. Anita Thomas’s stories were always about our ancestors. She spoke of complicated plots involving star-crossed lovers, with mahogany skin and dueling families and traditions that I never heard of. When I pressed my mother further about our family’s origins, citing Mrs. Anita Thomas’s stories, she would assure me that those were just stories. As far as my mother knew, our family was from Halifax. We were Canadian through and through.

Despite my mum’s insistence on our Canadianness, I believed in Mrs. Anita Thomas’s blanket. I imagined our ancestors weaving together the cloth, infusing it with their stories. Knowing the stories of our ancestors made me feel strong. There was an our.

Mrs. Anita Thomas passed and left her blanket to me. I was 12 at the time, still clinging to my childhood, still clinging to her stories. I was shattered when I discovered the “Made in China” tag on the underside of the blanket. In that moment, I accepted my Canadianness like a bitter pill. There was no our.

When my daughter walks in, to see me in tears holding an old red-and-green blanket, I don’t know what to say. She stands in the doorway, peering at me, eyebrows implying an air of concern. After a moment, I spread the blanket on the floor and invite my young daughter to sit on my lap. I take a breath and point to a section of the blanket. I begin: “This is a story of our ancestors, and it begins with this piece of cloth…”

 

these words by Tristen Sutherland were inspired by the work of Nick Liefhebber

“A Guide to Bringing Me Back” – Nahomi Amberber

Tuscan_Hills
when i tell you that i can’t get out of bed today
i want you to whisper to me
in the greens and blues
of the backyard of my childhood.
i want you to speak to me of safety,
of rolling down a hill
that will always catch you at the bottom.
tell me how the leaves will come out again in march
and fall in september
and the sun will never be more than a few hours away.
please just
lie to me—
and say that i can be that happy
again.
these words by Nahomi Amberber were inspired by the work of Nick Liefhebber