New poem, “Bystander,” by Jeff Blackman

Tell her not to ask what I can do.
Tell her I wish someone else would help.
Tell her I’m not joining the defense.
Tell her something she already knew.

Tell her I read but I did not share her story.
Tell her I checked in & checked away from there.
Tell her she’s not in my thoughts or prayers.
Tell her, from here, I don’t see her territory.

Tell her, here, the fall has been so long.
Tell her, here, we had the Friday off.
Tell her, today, we took a thousand photographs.
We’re working through them. Tell her it’s a slog.


this poem by Jeff Blackman was inspired by the art of Dominique Normand

Blowing Smoke


word by Grant McLaughlin

colour by Michael Ward

Every time I see that sign, I can’t help but wonder what was the conversation behind that choice.

Could they honestly not come up with something better?  In all their brainstorming sessions, was that really the best in show?  No one involved thought for even a moment that maybe they should go with something more eye-catching?

‘Cause I’m not gonna lie.  I can rattle of all kinds of better ideas.  It feels like every time I’m there I come away having thought of yet another superior choice.

Is there honestly someone out there who grew up dreaming of the day they would be the proud proprietor of this: a tiny island of a shop amidst an ocean of parking lot swept up on the side of the latest superhighway.  A forgettable piece of detritus that they could finally call their own.

Wouldn’t want to ruin that with a memorable moniker.

The lack of creativity is extremely galling.  We already know that all we’ll find inside are shoddy sunglasses, miniature American flags, and a shit ton of cheapo cigarettes.  That Family Feud list of things that no one needs.

The least they could do is dress it up with a better sign out front.  A façade on the façade, if you will.

Are they describing the activity?  What you’ll be buying?  Just in case their patrons are so slack-jawed as to need the extra hint.

It could be a command.  An imperative order to any who find themselves wondering what they should be doing with their lives.

Or maybe it’s simply old school arrogance.  A belief that through their very existence they will be patronized.

“In my mind, it’s always been a concession.  They know the tides of history have come out against them, the studies are damning, the fix is in.”

It’s a white flag.  A desperate plea.

We don’t have a good reason to convince you, but we’re hoping you’ll do it anyways.

A discount name to match our discount product for you discount people and your discount dreams.

As rallying cries go, it isn’t terribly inspiring.

But I keep coming back, so I guess it doesn’t have to be.



rocky mountain blues


I wanted to live in the mountains.  I even got a John Muir tattoo to prove it: Scrawled right across my heart, complete with an open road and clip-art-skyline. It says the mountains are calling, and I must go. It felt less cliché when I was 22, in the city.

As I shovel snow off my front porch, staring out at the very real skyline of the Canadian Rockies, all I feel is cliché.

My Buddy Holly glasses are fogged as I venture inside – can’t see a damn thing without my glasses. I rub them clean. The fire, stacked high, burns bright in the corner. The familiar sound of roasting logs is as comforting to my neurosis as the heat is to my hands. I’ve always wondered why fire calms me down. Maybe it’s an imprint, I think, a long-lost instinct from our past that tells us a crackling fire will keep the dangers of the night at bay. I place another log on the fire.

Fumble sits by the fireside, staring out at me from between a toque and scarf. I named the dog Fumble as a joke, really: I played football growing up. The little bastard was more trouble than he was worth, but I couldn’t very well get rid of him now… my only company on this God-forsaken mountain. The woman who’d bought him had long since gone, vanished into the cold, cold night, the only kind of night I can remember now.

I’ve been on this mountain too long, I think, with six months left on a two year contract.

Six more months and I might start talking to myself, I say.

Whoever said Hell was hot was lying: Hell is a cold mountain with a pug for company. I pour a glass of scotch and look into the fire.

Then again, it’s my hell, I say.

And it’s not so bad, really. I’ve got whiskey, weed and White Stripes records. I’ve got Howlin’ Wolf on vinyl. I’ve even got some B.B. King to warm me up when I’ve got the Rocky Mountain blues.

Were things really any warmer down there, before, with everyone else?

word by Josh Elyea

colour by The Black Dynasty