On Reclaiming Space: “Incense”

SW 3

Content Warning: Assault

My childhood cabin was built on an island that was built into a peninsula. At the top of that peninsula is another island, connected by an inconstant sandbar. No matter how many times I have crossed that sandbar, I have never made it past the tip of the island. Sometimes, I like to imagine that this sequence of islands never ends, that on the other side of the island is just another sandbar, although a search on Google maps suggests I’m wrong.

Crossing the sandbar is the closest I can come to walking on water. Between islands, the lake stretches out of view. Like the ocean. Like how I used to imagine the ocean.

Sometimes it is too windy, or rainy, or icy, or deep, or cold, or hot to cross. On those days I sit across the lake from the island and write about what might be on the other side. Sand fills my shoes, my shorts, gets under my nails.

Sometimes there are animal tracks on the sandbar and I wonder, if I ever do make it past the peak, whether I might be devoured by a cougar. Sometimes I can imagine myself as a deer. Not Bambi, but wild and afraid, at constant risk of being hunted or running in front of a truck.

I have a photo of the lake cast in ice: frozen waves caught in motion. What makes the shot so beautiful is that I almost died taking it, almost froze myself into the landscape.

The shore is sinking into the lake now, but I still recognize this spot. This is where he held me to a rock and put his hand down my pants. I remember that all I could think about were the bugs, how the mosquito bites would keep me up that night. I remember that as the moment I realized the difference between romance and romanticizing.

A frog rustled the leaves next to us. That was the summer of frogs – they were everywhere. You couldn’t drive down the street without crushing them. That was the summer of death, the air sick with hundreds of tiny dead bodies, and none of them princes.

Under sheets of snow, it has been hard not to long for summer. But what I hope for is not always what I get. I used to imagine a lot of things. Now I mostly get them wrong. My wrongness sees the flaws in what is right.

It snowed again in the city and a stranger grabbed my arm in the station. I looked at his smile and didn’t know what to say.

I escaped to a bookstore. I noticed the shop smelled like my cabin and I told this to the cashier. “It’s the incense,” she told me, “to cover up the smell of rot.”


these words by Eileen Mary Holowka were inspired by the colour of Sarah Williams

I’m the center of the galaxy


I am the center of the galaxy:People and buses and buildings and cafés curl around me, the main character of the city, planets orbiting the sun. (The fan slices air toward the radiator, fighting a -37C draft from this old window.) Being the center of the galaxy requires that you are in the right universe, the right city- otherwise, you might agree with that saying about how it doesn’t matter where you are, but who you’re with… The universe is more important than the stars. (You can’t help but blame your ancestors for having moved to such a frozen place: Who stumbles upon this death cold climate, where birds are flying away from, and says Hey, honey: I think we really found the place!) Control from the center means that everything happens to you, or that you are making things happen to others: All phenomena is because of you and your actions, at the center of the story: You receive the most praise or have the worst luck, stand in the longest lines, behind the worst drivers, in the hardest jobs: You confess in an intergalactic reality show booth, sharing your life with a camera for planets who want more of you, you, the star. (You can’t imagine how it could be colder, how things could be worse, with cold toes, your blanket only going so far, even if, sure, Mars whispered that, hey, -37C is warm to me, no offense, you know that they’re just trying to sound tough like Canadians who laugh at emergency closures when snow stays on the ground in the states, or Toronto.) What does it matter if the planets have problems- You’re a galaxy: Things happen to you for a reason, and, whether or not Mars is colder than your room, people rely on you- your life is unimaginably complex, different, and more challenging than these planets. (Planets couldn’t understand the troubles of a galaxy if they sent trillion dollar space equipment, whether manned by Einsteins or monkeys.) Spring is just around the corner.

colour by Nina Geometrieva 
words by Liam Lachance