“The Pink Sea” by Jo-Ann Zhou

James Gilleard_4

For three days we have stared at the sea.

For three days we have watched its changing moods and colours, from turbulent grey to blue-green, to this ephemeral pink at sunset.

Tonight the pink is particularly brilliant, the calm lapping sounds like small reassurances of “everything is going to be all right.”

Having observed the sea, I know these reassurances are fickle. Poseidon is tempestuous, and the pinks could turn to angry storms of steel grey just as easily as they could fade to sunset’s late indigo.

We are, in fact, waiting for the sea to turn black. Not just twilight blue, or the deep navy in the hours after the lingering sun fades. We wait for blackest black, when no lights save for the moon and stars shine upon its still surface. We can only hope to encounter no searchlights, no vessels that claim to help but are really meant to keep us from reaching our objective.

When the pinks complete their inky transformation, we will enter the darkness. We pray that when we greet the sea at last, it will be more cool smooth onyx than roiling tar soup. We know there is a chance that we too could become one with the sea, could become part of its spectacular colours, like many of our brothers and sisters before us. 

Despite this risk, we wait for darkness, watching the colours of this great obstacle to what we can only hope is our new home. As we wish away the sparkling pinks for dull blackness, we hope to one day look back at this sea with no fears and see nothing but calm pink water.

these words by Jo-Ann Zhou were inspired by the work of James Gilleard

“Considering.”: New Prose by Tristen Sutherland


Once upon a time, there was a man on a ledge. Well, not a ledge. A balcony. Every day at dusk, like clockwork, the man stood on the balcony, staring out into the blue hazy expanse. Sometimes, he looked down, considering the 20-story drop. Sometimes, he considered jumping. The man had everything he’d ever wanted. His apartment was beautiful. His job was prestigious. His car was automated. And, yet, he considered the 20-story drop from his apartment balcony.

 Once upon a time, there was young girl who would watch the man on the balcony, like clockwork. She would watch him standing there as he considered the urban twinkle of lights. She had frizzy hair and no freckles. She never understood why. All the people she knew had freckles and wore their hair in long ponytails. The girl’s mother had given up on combing through the girl’s hair years ago. Now, it sticks up in all directions, with a bow neatly placed by her ear as if to say, “Truly, we tried.” Once, the girl gathered the courage to ask her parents why she had frizzy hair and no freckles and they didn’t. Her mothers just glanced at each other, considering.

 Once upon a time, on a particularly blue day, the man stood on his balcony, considering. The girl watched him. She noticed that his hair had gotten wilder and his dark eyes seemed more… Determined? Anxious? Afraid? The man looked across the horizon. It looked like the ocean, shades of Prussian blue, cerulean and hints of ochre swirling in and out of each other like a Van Gogh painting. His achievements would never change how people felt about him, the man finalized. Cursed with no freckles, frizzy hair and chestnut skin, he was hopeless. He considered. The girl watched attentively. The moon was full and its white light competed with the industrial glow of the city. The man tried to convince himself that the drop would be like jumping into the ocean. Quick. Easy. Painless. He considered. The girl began to worry. She thought of the man as a friend, her only friend with frizzy hair, no freckles and dark skin, like her. But the man was finished with considering. He took a deep breath and scanned his surroundings. This would be the last time he’d look at the horizon this would be the— He noticed a girl with frizzy hair and no freckles standing on a balcony next to his peering back at him.

 Once upon a time, there was a man about to jump off a balcony. But he couldn’t. Not that night. Because a girl with frizzy hair and no freckles on a balcony next to his reminded him too much of himself. Instead, the man and the girl stood on their balconies, looking off into the Van Gogh sky. The girl was too nervous to speak. The man didn’t know what to say. So, there they stood, calm in each other’s presence. Calm. Of course, it wouldn’t last. The girl would go back inside to loving parents, who would never understand why the girl wanted freckles. The man would go back to his apartment, knowing that his skin would always hold him back. But in that moment, they were both calm. A unique unspoken solidarity was shared. So, there they stood. Considering.


 these words by Tristen Sutherland were inspired by the work of Marcin Wolski


On Looking and Being Seen: “For Young Girls,” by Eileen Mary Holowka


Content Warning: Depression and creepy insect stories

Maggie used to write stories in the attic. That was back when she was a child, when she wasn’t allowed to leave the house and instead spent family gatherings curled up in strangers’ jackets on her parents’ bed. She would rub her face into them and try to find a home in each of the different scents: winter smokers, damp lavender, a flooded basement. She would rifle through the pockets, stroking keys to guess where they belonged and reading crumpled receipts.

These days she had trouble writing. There were too many parties to attend and they always took days to get over. She still rubbed up against strangers’ jackets but it never gave her the same joy. These days, the smells were too familiar and all new possibilities seemed to end with every touch.

Sometimes Maggie went home with the jackets. She liked the homes and the jackets more than the people inside them, but they were her only excuse in. Most of the time they would have sex and some of the time she would bleed after. It was a symptom of some condition she hadn’t been able to diagnose. It became a kind of performance art piece, bleeding onto other people’s beds. They were never appreciative of her art.

Maggie built sets. Mock kitchens with only three walls and trees with trapdoors. It was a dream job on the way to what she hoped could one day be economically sustainable. She moved around theatres invisibly, in all-black outfits that doubled as formal wear, and spent rehearsal breaks hiding in the wings watching the actors bicker like they were in a play.

The best part about casual sex was locking herself in the strangers’ bathrooms, before she had let them down with her leaking uterus, to go through their cupboards. She loved the belongings and rituals of others, finding out where they kept their extra toilet paper or whether they Q-tipped their ears. She never took anything or moved it out of place, just looked. She figured it would make her a better artist, or make her like that particular stranger better. She tried to imagine what a future in their home would look like, but it was always better the less she knew.

The doctors kept telling her there was nothing wrong, but they scheduled her an ultrasound anyways. The technician pressed down on Maggie’s full bladder while they both watched the screen. Maggie eagerly looked for something, a cyst or a tumour, as if it were a fetus. But there was nothing there, not even a child, to explain her problems. She walked out of the hospital past husbands and their swelling wives and felt more infertile than she’d ever felt in her life.

Her journey home was slow and heavy, despite or because of her emptiness. Even the trees were barren, she noticed. Autumn made her want to call her ex. She touched her phone, but it turned off as soon as she tapped his name. She had no idea where the bus stop was without Google and it took her an hour to walk home. It was dark and damp, and she looked into the lit-up windows of other people’s houses with longing. She called him later that week, several times until she got past his voicemail. When he heard her voice, he paused, and hung up.

The printed ultrasound results came the same day. Everything was fine, but sounded deadly. She read the paper aloud to Anne over Skype. Apparently there is fluid in my cul-de-sac. Did you know you had a cul-de-sac in your uterus?

That explains your pain, Anne replied. Cars keep getting stuck.

Imagine the tiny little houses.

Little moms and dads.

God, even my diseases are domestic.

Maggie liked her parents and visited them often. They would cook her more food than she could eat and fill her full of enough tea to make her bus ride home unbearable. They tried to get her to clean her toys out of the attic, but instead she just hid in the back and watched spiders build webs around her Barbies. She didn’t have the heart to throw them out, nor the desire to clean them, so she just watched instead.

The attic was full of garbage treasures: VHS tapes of dance recitals and episodes of I Love Lucy; Mom’s broken mint green typewriter; her grandmother’s wedding photos. Maggie’s dollhouse sat in the corner near the window, covered in mud from where the roofers had gone wild. She used to imagine herself as the prettiest doll and would dress and undress her mock self for hours. Doll Maggie had always been intelligent and composed. She went to parties, her face always painted into a smile.

Maggie was scared to touch her doll self, even to save her from the wreckage of shingle bits. She had never intended to stop playing, but eventually everyone else did and the lonely, imaginative Saturdays became guilty pleasures, with an emphasis on the guilt. She knew that when she grew up she would call herself Margaret. She just didn’t know when that growing up would come.

As a child, she was good at being seen and not heard. She could never keep up with her family’s political conversations and figured she must not have any opinions. She told her father her theory and he laughed her down. She decided to drop that opinion as well.

Maggie brought a man home to her parents once. He was tall and professional and liked to put her down. She could see the confusion in her mother’s eyes, as she placed the plate in front of the man like some kind of offering. She could tell her mother would rather throw it in his face, but was trying to treat her daughter like a woman. Maggie would have preferred to be chastised like a child and she felt like one as she made eye contact with her mother and shrugged.

His name was Douglas. He always told her she was a good listener, but mostly he was just a good talker. He was a writer and told Maggie she should be a writer too and that he could edit her work if she liked, because it could use some editing. He called her Margaret, said it was a good writer’s name. It sounded so good in his mouth that she felt obligated to keep kissing him. She adored him and he adored her, except when he didn’t.

So I just googled it, Maggie texted Anne, and it says the cul-de-sac is also called “Pouch of Douglas” cuz of some guy named Douglas who “discovered” it I guess.


Even my insides belong to dudes.

Dudes named Douglas. Had to be a Douglas.

It’s always a Douglas.

The last time Maggie and Anne Skyped, the internet began cutting out in the middle of their chat about depression. Anne’s comforting words fractured into alien xylophone fragments and Maggie broke down laughing.

She hadn’t always been so sad. She read that birth control could be making her this way, but the doctor said that was just part of the deal. So she stayed on the meds and took selfies instead. Except they never looked beautiful or poetic enough, like Anne’s. Instead they were unnerving, lacking the adequate amount of performance for the camera.

Early in her career, Maggie had tried acting. She was excellent when she had to play a quiet school girl, but unconvincing when she tried the role of a confident lesbian. She realized she was only good at performing herself, her own intimacy, and went back to facilitating the public intimacy of others instead.

During her long distance relationships, Maggie always watched herself on the screen, instead of her lover. Her own tiny image was too distracting. Her long-distance self was cold and hard and contained behind glass. These days, she was somewhat softer. At least, she leaked.

She rarely brought men home but, after watching an episode of Sex and the City, the idea of having sex next to the open window appealed to her. It wasn’t the lovemaking that made it so enticing, but the idea that the neighbours might be watching, thinking of her as some sort of Samantha sex-goddess and wishing for her life.

As a teenager, Maggie had worked in her father’s office building where she’d spend the morning filing papers and the afternoons staring into the windows of the apartment building across the street. She’d map out the tenants’ rituals: the old lady’s lunchtime smoke, the child’s after-school milk and cookies, the perfectly trimmed bachelor’s quick change into evening clothes. She always hoped she might catch them looking back her way, but the window was likely reflective.

On one of her dates, she took a guy to an art gallery, but ended up coming down with diarrhea. He gave up on her after she spent too long in the washroom, and sent her some sort of inflammatory text about her thighs, or ass or something. It was her gut saving her, she realized, because after she recovered she stumbled into a Nan Goldin exhibit she knew he would have ruined. She spent two hours in the room, gazing at other people’s wounds, and crying. She went home knowing she should write down her thoughts, but ended up in bed instead, with an old recording of Judy Garland covering Singing in the Rain playing in the background on her parents’ passed-down wedding gift television set.

The next date was even more hopeless. She spent hours preparing, trimming her pubic hair into the toilet with safety scissors and wondering if other girls had better methods. However, as soon as she met him, she knew it was over. His profile picture beard was gone and he kept calling her Meg. She smiled and pushed through it, walking 16 km across the city with him until she finally came up with an excuse to leave. She went home and watched Rear Window on loop until she fell asleep.

Most nights before bed, she would scroll through Facebook, Twitter, /r/Relationships, and YouTube to watch the lives of others. Sometimes she would comment, but normally she just acted as a witness, eager to see a glimmer of emotion, something beyond herself. In the mornings she scrolled through Instagram, pretending that what she saw were just static portraits, but inevitably identifying with and reading into every one.

One night, an ant crawled into her ear while she was sleeping. At first she thought the crunchy popping sound was some kind of air bubble, but she was unable to pop it. She fished around for awhile before deciding to look in the mirror. Its tiny black legs were just visible as they reached around for a way out. She stared in icy panic, suddenly wishing for her mother or a roommate who could pull it out of her. The responsibility of the task ran over her like spilled milk, mundane but devastating, as she forced her trembling fingers towards his tiny body, burning her eyes open so she wouldn’t lose him.

Afterward, he crawled around her fingers and she watched with a kind of respect, understanding now that he had wanted to be there even less than she’d wanted him to. She put the ant on the windowsill and crawled back into her bed. Her room was yellows, blues, and beige and smelled of her home. On the walls hung postcards and letters from her friends. It was kind of lovely, she realized, this place entirely her own.

The next day, the subway was stalled due to a suicide. She took out a notebook and began sketching the man sitting across from her. She sketched his pale face and sunken features, shaping them into a story. He looked on the verge of breakdown, as though he had just suffered some great loss. She ripped out the page and passed it to him, a gesture of friendship, empathy, or just mutual boredom.

He took the picture from her and squinted at it, shaking his head.

What’s this? he asked.

A drawing I did of you, just now, Maggie answered, smiling.

This isn’t me, he said, and the subway started again.


these words by Eileen Mary Holowka were inspired by the art of Marcin Wolski

New Prose: “January 20” by Ajay Mehra


The knurled cloth handles of Nicos’ hamper cut into his right hand.  The straps are connected all the way to the base of the bag and the weight of the laundry keeps pushing them apart.  They’re too short, now that the laundry is folded and holding the bag to its shape.  You switch hands but there isn’t enough time to rub the indentations out of the left hand before the pain in the right hand is impossible.

Nicos puts the hamper down on a bench facing the front window of a coffee shop.  People sit looking out onto the street—at the sidewalk and the bench and the parked cars and the road and the storefronts across the road that you can’t make out what they are from here.   You have to rub your hands with each other and look out as well.  How does anyone sit on this bench with the coffee shop staring them in the face.  You’d have to seem surprised all the time that you’d caught someone sipping or biting or reading.

You can’t sit next to your laundry on a bench.  It looks like you’re waiting for someone to come help you, because people can’t tell it’s done.  Is it still laundry when it’s done, and folded.  It’s laundry when it’s dirty, and while it’s getting clean, and while you fold it.  It’s clothes when you put it away.  You can sit next to clothes.  Clothes are like shopping.

Nicos had sat next to half his laundry at the laundromat.  Only because all the machines were full.  You can sit next to your laundry in the laundromat, if the machines are full and you have enough for a good-size load.  And if it’s a clean laundromat.  How do laundromats get dirty.  Car washes get dirty and the dirty ones have the strongest sprayers so you go to the dirtiest ones.  Luckily the closest car wash is filthy.

You don’t care about how a hamper carries when the machines are in the building.  Or when the laundromat at the corner is clean.  Who sends you to a dirty laundromat.  There isn’t another laundromat between here and home, so you have to buy another new hamper.  The store that sells hampers isn’t on the way either.

these words by Ajay Mehra were inspired by
the art of Pasha Bumazhniy

Flash fiction: “Circadian”



            [Kyoto, Japan. Mid-Fall, 2007. Leather jacket, jeans, black t-shirt. Dusk, that time of day when there’s enough sunset left to appreciate, but not so much as to dissuade folk from turning on their lanterns.]

            I’m lying by the river when somewhere, far off and faint, a violin begins to play. It takes me longer than it should to realize it’s an old Ella Fitzgerald tune, but my brain gets there when the progression gets to the D minor [the one right before the chorus]. It’s an odd thing, the chemical reaction that occurs when a well-arpeggiated minor chord rings out against the harshly crisp air that always seems to accompany autumn; something about minor thirds and fallen leaves, I suppose.

            I’ve been counting sheep and counting shots, tallying up missed hours of sleep and ingested cubic millilitres of saki. It’s little wonder why life feels more manageable from a horizontal position; Japanese businessmen can put them away, and jet lag is a bitch. Chords warble along the breeze, A-flat into F minor into G7.  Dream a Little Dream of Me, that’s the song. She sings it with Louis Armstrong, Ella does. The violinist has finished now, and he/she has either packed it up or wandered off, since there’s no more music to be had. In its place there’s only the gentle hum of the city and the delicate chatter of the two young travellers splayed out on a picnic blanket to my right, just within earshot. She’s talking about a band she likes; yeah, but they’re no Zeppelin, he says.

            The houses, set on stilts, glow brightly in the evening fog, and with so much texture to the air it’s as though you could reach out and touch the part of the universe where the neon lights rub up against the dark. The lanterns that hang from the eaves of the buildings are pleasantly old-fashioned, and something in their flickering helps with my sense of calm.

            The grass beneath me is wet between my fingers, and I try and think of the last time it rained. Kyoto is beautiful in the rain, on those days when the damp and the chill slow the normally mad city down just enough to remind you how ancient it really is. Some dream of history, others drink it in. Me, I just want to fall into the heartbeat of the place, let the old circadian cadence put to rest most all of the unsavory distractions that pester the soul on the daily.

            The violin begins again, but this time I don’t recognize the melody. 

words, “Circadian,” by Josh Elyea

colour, “Blue Sheep,” by Mi Ju

Meet our new editor!


Meet our new editor, Leah Mol!

“I’m so excited to be taking over for Liam as an editor at Word and Colour. He’s done great things in the position, and I’ll take that as inspiration to work hard and keep publishing art that speaks to social issues and helps fight against oppression.

I’ve been working as a writer and editor for almost ten years, across a variety of platforms, and have always found that creative work speaks to people about social issues in a way that literally speaking to them doesn’t. Reading literary fiction improves empathy, making it easier for people to connect to one another. Communicating empathy is something I’ve always strived for in my own writing, and I’m so excited that I’ll be editing on a platform that encourages this kind of work. Fiction is priceless when it comes to developing a social conscience.

Over the past few years, Word and Colour has published amazing art alongside thought-provoking, beautifully written fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and I’m looking forward to continuing that tradition.”

Read Leah’s past prose at the journal

on park access in Calgary: “Green-Space”


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1.5 million pounds of soil raised

to the 4th floor of Calgary’s CORE

shopping complex supports an inner-

city oasis. The Devonian Gardens

are open publically during mall hours.

Oil executives employed nearby

visit the green-space on lunchbreaks,

eluding the paupers of Stephen Ave.

in +15s returning to work.


As children we attended summer camp

at Lindsay Park Sports Centre,

belayed each other up its rock walls

shouted chicken on the high dive.

Kids today learn to play water polo

in a pool named by Talisman Energy.

Since 2002 the City of Calgary has

sold naming rights to the company,

20 years for 10 million dollars.


Fish Creek Provincial Park is the largest

urban park in Canada, abutting the

Tsuu T’ina reserve in the southwest.

Roughly 12% of the city is stewarded

by Parks Calgary, the highest ratio of

green-space per capita in Canada.

Rumors of a horse found dead

in Sikome Lake are merely rumors,

but a person did drown in its weeds.


Within the cemented waterways of

Century Gardens a man offers me

beans from an unlabeled can. He was

bitten on the leg by an unleashed dog

and chased into the park by police.

Concealed behind a bench and a

juniper bush, each donated by the

Devonian Group, we leave him sitting

in darkness atop the Brutalist landscape.


Later that year a decentralized dance-

party develops in Century Gardens,

culminating down the road under the

spotlights of Millennium Skate Park.

Despite the armed chaperones, shouts

emanate from a parking lot around

the corner at Mewatta Armoury. I try

to tell a girl she doesn’t have to go with

the guy gripping her by the shoulders.


Public gardens in Calgary are closed

from 11 pm until 5 in the morning.

When cops caught us hallucinating

after midnight in South Glenmore Park

(you in my driver’s seat, our drugs

on the passenger floor), they left

us with grins and a warning.

We were two blocks from where

I taught you how to drive a stick-shift.


After ditching my red Ford Ranger in

the grafittied enclosure for road debris,

we climb the dam on Elbow River. A

glassy reservoir reflects streetlamps

to the West as the artificial cliffs arc

down in the East. The capacity of these

sloping concrete channels have been

exceeded but twice, causing damage

to the riverfront properties.


All the black squirrels in Prince’s Island Park

will follow you along a path at dawn.

It must be a cold summer’s day

before cyclists and yoga seminars

arrive to claim the green-space.

Watch deer and geese retreat downriver

from a window of the Route 3 bus,

I’ll greet you soon in Votier’s Flats

with a cold 6-pack of beer.


these words by Kyle Flemmer were inspired by the art of Allison Gildersleeve 

Love, left

badiu 6

Missed connections. Failed romances. Lost loved ones.

I’ve known too many people who’ve left.

Too many people who have been reduced to nothing but incoherent memories.

I have loved—deeply, intensely, purely;

these loves are now strangers.

the many faces we wear

these words by Fiona Williams were inspired by the colour of Teodoru Badiu

Kidd & loish: “She had a horrible boss”


She had a horrible boss. He had, always, a harvest of spittle at the corners of his mouth, and it seemed to her that every particularly horrible man that she’d met in her life had coffee breath and this same sea foam at the edges of his lips. In addition to this chronic hygienic condition, this boss had ghost hands, which was worse even than the spittle. All day, she could feel his ghost hands on the back of her neck and the small of her back and, when she unthinkingly left them untucked from her desk, her kneecaps. As he caressed her invisibly, the boss would sit, legs spread, on the corner of her desk, instructing her condescendingly on how she could advance her career to reach the status that he had achieved, or else telling her about the many gifts he bought his wife. “Swarovski crystals,” he would say, as he ran his disembodied digits over her skin. “Tiffany bracelets. Trips to Hawaii, without the kids.”

She didn’t shudder and she didn’t say anything because she didn’t think HR would know how to deal with her boss projecting his phantom hands into her clothing.

On the day she quit her job, she got dressed and went to work as usual. The boss had fire in his eyes that day, because he’d heard a rumour that one of his rivals was going to be promoted. On her first fifteen minute break of the day, she went out and bought a scone with cream and strawberries on top, which she ate on the way back to her desk.

Going back to her daily tasks, she felt that one of the strawberries had fallen down her shirt and was sitting between her breasts, wet and heavy. She tried to look down her collar to see it, but her shirt was tightly buttoned and she couldn’t see anything at all. She continued to feel it, grainy and soft, as she went about her work. She plotted to go to the washroom as soon as she could. But when she got up to go, the boss blocked her way. He stood in her path, fat hands on wide hips, and started to say, “In business, keep your friends closer and your enemies closer,” and stopped, his spit spilling out, gurgling. She could see, in the soft cavity of his mouth, that his tongue was missing. She stopped and gasped as the strawberry in her bra worked its way down to her belly button.

“I think you have something of mine, sweetheart,” the boss said as he took a step closer, and she gagged as if it were her tongue that had gone wandering, and then the boss thundered, “my pen, where’s my pen,” and she ran out of the office, which she was never to see or hear from again save for a last cheque unceremoniously deposited in her account a week later. On the way home, she shook from relief at the feeling of having nothing but her own body in her shirt.

these words by Charlotte Joyce Kidd were inspired by the colour of loish

We asked for flowers and they gave us flying cars.


word by Josh Elyea 

colour by Garry Tugwell Smith

    Untether yourself from the Earth, they’d said. Man was born to fly.

                When I was a little kid, I’d run through the meadow behind our house with my arms waist-high. I’d convince myself that the gentle touch of the high grass against my fingers was exactly what a cloud might feel like, if you could reach out and grab it. I still think about that meadow as I run my hands through the greasy droplets of moisture that cloud the air as I drive to work. Clouds aren’t quite as majestic as my formative self liked to believe.

                It’s easy to look at a flying car and be impressed. It’s easy to look at it and think, we’re going in the right direction.

                Now, we look to the things that grow for sanctuary. We look for the things that hold fast to the Earth, that dig their roots deep and growl at the bastards who’d dare to try and dig those roots out, to inspire us, just as we once looked to our superheroes as they streaked across the sky. Now, we see heroism in every tree that dares to grow, in every flower that dares to bloom. We recognize the bravery in their determination, in their resolve. How hard it must be to be green in a grey world.

                To my left, a massive building hovers in the fog, beyond definition. Concrete but fluid, the building lurks as lights signal to oncoming traffic which sections of the sky to avoid. Strange to think that the sky, once so spectacular in its refusal to be defined, has now been mapped, separated into imaginary but all-too-real geometric spaces given a name and correlating number based on their geographic location (and in this process, had the entirety of its mystery stripped away, like a bad movie that foreshadows too heavily its own ending).

                The lights on the building pulse in the morning haze, and as the faint sun begins  to strike the windows of the tower, it seems for a moment to resemble a large flower unfolding as the day breaks. Is it possible that skyscrapers too have roots, dug deep into the concrete that has increasingly replaced the Earth?

 read more words by Josh Elyea 

see more colour by Garry Tugwell Smith