Honourable Mentions

Fissures

 

By Carlinda D’Alimonte

 

Beyond the dawn view out the kitchen window

that changes only with seasons, or the same

two girls at the bus stop each morning,

or the sound of the 6:00 a.m. train,

or the sun rising over the eastern field

or leaves sprouting from maples

we’ve known all our lives,

 

there are distant cracks approaching, threatening

to tear apart this tract of land: red, red, tomatoes,

lush basil, plump corn growing in backyards, thick ivy

we planted last year, the white birch promising

to complete our landscape, foundations of the home

we believe is our right – the one we imagine

we will leave to our children.

 

 

chelsea on facebook and off

 

by Laurie Smith

 

i)

everybody’s crazy, really,

not just chelsea

who signs all her posts with smiley faces and hugs,

lots of exclamation marks

 

invites thirty people to her party friday night

by private message, drops names of attendees like bait

the place to be

we’ll all have such a great time,

 

so you go and find a parking spot four doors down

brought your own wine

but the place is quiet,

a mutual acquaintance comes to the door and lets you in

chelsea has a headache

she’s resting

help yourself there’s a bowl of dip and nachos on the table

 

six strangers try to interact, whisper,

chelsea’s meds do this, you know, sometimes

 

she makes an appearance half an hour later

in her pajamas, a bit off, drowsy,

thanks everyone for coming, enjoy the wine,

she heads back to her quiet room, calls it a migraine,

but do stay.

i’m home by 9:30

 

she’s offline for 3 weeks, no one hears from her

somebody checks the hospitals

 

then suddenly smiling responds to everyone’s posts,

two or three times, with

lots more exclamations points, and of course tiny red hearts

 

she contributes to conversations

with strangers she could not possibly know,

you wonder how she has 2000 friends,

notice an overlap, at least 30 from your private contact list;

the girl is more than creepy

 

we’re supposed to be sympathetic,

we’re supposed to say,

chelsea, did you remember to take your meds today?

 

  1. ii)

i’ve known chelsea since kindergarten

mousy little thing with ridiculous cat-eye glasses

hands folded on her lap, ankles crossed

like all the girls in the front row.

she’s saying cheese for the photographer,

her brown bangs cut fresh, though a bit slanted.

 

i’m at the end of the row, assuming the same pose,

but i never smile. you might call it a smirk.

we’re five.

 

iii)

maybe i was a star,

maybe i was a public school snob

but she was just kind of there in all the pictures.

on the playground.

at morning roll call. chelsea. present.

i guess so.

 

  1. iv)

here we are the helpful elves

helping others not ourselves.

she did insist on being a fairy, because

her older sister was a fairy

before she flew up to guides.

chelsea got a lot of brownie badges.

maybe she was a gnome.

 

  1. v)

there was a big 7th birthday party

for one of the girls in the class.

november. everyone was invited.

i assume she must have been there, too.

 

  1. vi)

fade out.

fade in,

fifty years later.

 

vii)

handshakes-hugs-how-are-yous

it all seems so innocent

an atmosphere of adolescent tension

blended with a lot of beer and

amnesiac forgiveness.

one big happy alumni.

pretty much everyone wore a nametag and

huge grin.

 

viii)

then she starts to show up everywhere

or she doesn’t show up

and you’re running late waiting for her

not answering the phone

you go ahead without her

 

three days later she calls to ask

when you’re coming

or do you want her to drive?

 

ix)

i’m glad i declined the group visit to the dia

heard it was a nightmare of lateness and

getting lost on cass corridor, smoke filled car, windows up

 

still on cass, having only circled three blocks of

one-way streets, hungry, have to pee

gps not working, pedestrians not forthcoming

or completely ignored

but you can see the bridge from here.

 

had she held me hostage in her back seat

i might have called for mutiny.

 

  1. x)

she sends me cheery invites

to her fantastic soirees, or

little get-togethers, depending on

her mood.

it seems i’m always busy lately.

 

  1. xi)

there was a death in our group.

we are all reeling from it, the shock,

the circumstances. choice. we try to talk

openly about depression and mental illness,

we try to be progressive and benevolent

 

make arrangements to drive up to london.

chelsea scrambles for a ride;

did she even know him that well?

fifteen minutes late. we leave without her.

 

xii)

i could name names.

so many of us are struggling, yes,

that’s the word bandied about,

struggling with demons, another euphemism for

our fucked up perfect childhoods,

righteous wonderland suburbia

before the streets were named

dysfunction and emotional abuse

before the fad for unburdening, sharing,

 

back when all that mattered was family pride

a stiff upper lip,

smile for the camera and keep up with the progeny of

doctors and judges who lived on boulevards with

fancy english streetlights

or on the drive and hosted parties friday nights

when their parents were in myrtle beach for the weekend

 

but these parties we only heard about on monday

mornings; girls like me

and chelsea weren’t invited.

 

xiii)

we thought he was one of the cool guys

who got to go, was the one caught

smoking dope in sharon’s bedroom,

sharon sprawled, passed out…only

rumours.

 

 

xiv)

now nobody acknowledges being there

we all confide we sat home weekends

listening to cklw, mooning over posters of

donny osmond or fantasizing about our science partners

if we didn’t have a part time job at the mall

or have to babysit.

nobody was cool.

 

  1. xv)

i’ll admit, it’s confusing.

class clowns hanging in bedroom closets,

slashing their wrists

or slipping away in their self-induced comas,

 

gentle yellow smiles on view, endearing us

to their melancholy; this is all just

bad lighting.

 

we learn our compassion has limitations

there may be a class system

associated with empathy, we

want our heroes to be believable.

 

we don’t want to hear them cry

wolf.

 

it’s best they take us by surprise, but

for the next few weeks, we

check on the musicians and artists

among us, make sure they’re doing okay.

 

xvi)

she was always a scrawny little thing

horn-rimmed glasses, bad haircuts,

but grinning so broadly she must be seeing

what i missed. this is not charitable,

but it could be worse.

 

xvii)

we wonder if there was some sort of

contagion that infiltrated the drinking water

in those public school fountains,

the puddles we splashed in during the flood of

66, the brackish muck of pollywog pond.

 

now we come clean,

admit we were only middle class,

admit our parents beat us,

admit we were painfully shy and lonely

and all the snark and bravado was a ruse,

any attention at all was a token of popularity.

 

xviii)

another friend request.

 

Maps

 

By Marcela Croitoru

 

 

Eyes search city on the map,

a dot with a name underneath

in her mind,

she walks the interlaced streets

of her hometown

she sees herself stroll down

the narrow lane

with a crack in the asphalt

shaped like a bald man’s head.

 

Home is where you know

how the wind sounds

when it blows through

the neighbourhood chimes

how it smells of linden trees

in full bloom.

 

That scar just below her left knee

she got speeding down

the chestnut tree-lined street on her bike,

a local piece of geography now marked

on her skin with just a dot,

name in her heart.