Notes on Hesitation


The birds in my neighbourhood are having an existential crisis. They’re hesitating on their branches, resting for a moment longer than they should. Even when I scream and stomp my feet at the foot of the tree, they stand there, thinking about whether or not to fly away, wondering if it even matters.

              I learned the term “existential crisis” from my English teacher because we’re reading The Stranger by Albert Camus. I’m in this advanced class where everything is so deep. I love it. Anyway, the birds, right? I think I noticed it before I learned the word—is that possible? Can you notice something subtle like that and then learn the word for it, or is it kind of invisible until you can name it? I guess it doesn’t matter—the point is I’ve learned it and I can’t unlearn it.

              It’s weird because I was pretty sure flying was autonomic. That’s another word I learned recently—it means things you do without thinking. The fight or flight instinct, for example. You feel it in your body and you’re off. Thinking is a problem. It interrupts the things you need to do to survive. Like, imagine if you had to decide to take every breath—you’d die.

              I kind of know how the birds feel. Lately, when things get confusing, I slow down and get stuck in my thoughts. I can’t even choose between flavours of ice cream anymore—I just stand there at the 7-11 with the cooler door open, breathing in Freon-tasting air. When my mom yells, I used to go hide right away. Now, I just sit there thinking about what to do. Half the time, I end up doing nothing at all, and that just makes her angrier.

              The other day, she was yelling because I’d forgotten to let the cat in before we all went to bed. She said she thought the cat was probably dead. She asked me for the millionth time why I was so stupid. I snapped and yelled at her to fuck off. I’d never done that before—it just bubbled up from inside. I guess that’s the fight part of fight or flight, huh?

              But the problem with things that you just do without thinking is that you don’t know what’s going to happen next. I think she was as surprised as I was when she slapped me across the face. Her eyes got really big, and we just stared at each other. We’re the same height now, I realized. Then she was gone, up the stairs to her room. I guess it was her turn to hide. Once you’ve learned something you can’t unlearn it, especially about yourself. My poor mom. Maybe that’s when I started slowing down like the birds, sinking into my thoughts all tangled like yarn. I worry for the birds. I think someday something terrible will happen to them.

 these words by Erika Thorkelson were inspired by the colour of Juan Travieso

New prose by Josh Elyea, “Pulp Influence”


            I keep having this dream where I’m two-dimensional. This dream isn’t a nightmare, but I still wake up feeling as though I’ve lost something.  Like I’m lacking in substance, as it were. Dimensionally challenged.

            Paper cranes fall slowly from the sky, and I can taste cherry blossoms (and verbs) on my tongue. I wander through this paper forest, aimless, wondering if there’s any other type of wandering. There are characters scrawled across the trunks of the trees, messages left in languages I don’t understand. Trumpets sound as I see words I recognize, hc svnt dracones. That’s not foreboding, not one bit.

            What little light the moon emits slinks down through the treetops, leaving deep pools of shadow that shift when I look up or down. When you’re made of paper, there is no side to side. Impossible to keep a sharp eye for the monsters that undoubtedly permeate these pre-mulched maples.

            I get more and more lost as I ponder the potential for dragons. It’d be easy to lose oneself in the black of the forest. It’ll eat you up, noir. Between the paper and the concentrated instances of darkness, there’s a real pulp influence here, I say, maybe out loud (maybe not). What I’m noticing though, now that I’m paying attention, is the ways in which the darkness is growing, expanding, in spite of the moonlight. Tendrils of black extend outward as my person begins to shake, and at that moment it’s almost as though I’d prefer the monsters. There’s something tangible about a mummy or a hellhound, and it’s a well-known if little thought of caveat of life that damages to the corporeal are far preferable to those of a more ethereal nature. That’s what so devious about the dark; it doesn’t really harm you at all.

            And it’s a silly thing to fear the dark, really. But we all do it anyways.

this prose by Josh Elyea

this prose by Josh Elyea, “Pulp Influence,”

was inspired by Juan Travieso‘s “Nightmare in a Dream”

“The monument,” new poetry by Jessica Goldson


cling to past images,
edges recite falsehoods
with mixed emotions.

Fractured by efforts to complement the landscape.


this poem by Jessica Goldson was inspired by Juan Travieso’s “The Monument”

“White Paper,” by Keah Hansen

Endangered Bird #131.jpg

Brother Bird alights on the silver birch, branches siphoned off from the moons with the frazzle of leaves. Golden leaves that lace the night, and the crinkly coins of the newcomers seem mawkish compared to these yellow hands coursing with veins and sugars. They wave incomprehensible at the new hands, which are different, all white and papery, pockmarked and brine-stained after a journey in a strained wooden frame. These hands are weaving into the woods uncouth and unwanted, gesticulating with the urgency of papers that make crisp noises as they fall into neat stacks on a knotted wood desk. They are dizzying themselves amongst these leaves that are falling from the birch. They are blanketing the grounds in smooth white words all flat and stark. The leaves are browning and returning to the earth. Winter is setting in.

Brother Bird thinks the spindly limbs of the trees seem ethereal from way up in the vapour. The white sheets with marks blackened by some unfortunate quill feather read like an ambiguous pattern. And the voices, which nest among the trees, seem strangely silent. Brother Bird thinks he sees tracts of smoke creeping westward from the shores, though the gales of wind are moistening his eyes and humming auspicious in his ears. The season of snow is bound to pass, says Brother Bird, giddily to himself. The air is brusque and flapping papers up, loose from their death grip on the grounds. They dissolve within the frail wisps of sunlight hitting Brother Bird’s head.

Centuries passed and the smithy whiteness blew through the trees, prying the bark back with all the soft power of snowflakes. Sap soldered with this milky presence, which poured all its white ink into etching the soft underbelly of the trees. There are new names now and the first peoples are dogs that bark. Or stoic like the trees, so the papers say. Then a white paper descends from some federal courier and is acclaimed for its difference. This paper ought to be peopled with leaves from when the first storm blew through. Pulling the pressed leaves out of dusty yellowed spines of books and planting seeds in the margins. But the paper that is published offends like blots of lead, or clammy hands in a handshake. White hot rage settles and Brother Bird swallows another bitter seed.


this short story, “White Paper, was written by Keah Hansen 

and inspired by Juan Travieso’s “Endangered Bird #131”  

from the author: “I wrote this piece about the White Paper Act of the Trudeau government of 1969. I was inspired by different modalities of expression, represented in the layering of the artwork. The layering of the artwork also made me think of erasure and censorship, which occurs when cultural worlds clash, and the irony in a paper literally titled the ‘White Paper’ that was intended to give representation to Indigenous peoples.”