We temper each other.
Perceived wisdom — practiced vanity
We choose to unhinge, dissolve all
membranes — shut mouth against
pursed lips and tongue bit
iron iron iron
the boulder. It sits on precarious edge
lowbush blueberries twirling noon-blanched bones
entreats mountain to send no more than birds
half-hatched, pink skin unfeathered.
Gather the stones, swallow them whole.
Make a cauldron to stew
roil crack sprout
on this surface
a new rupture —
hold the edges close
though every law pulls them apart.
Every gust of breeze, prying.
Feet stay firm, dream of uprooting.
Spine straightens, unfurls its wings.
Feathers shed on snowy ground.
Swords still and whistling after battle. A crust
of speckled shit and white; an unburnt pyre pokes through
eye haze sun’s corona
a dance of unfathomable distance.
Reading and video by Mac Vogt, who collaborated with Atsushi Ikeda on “Does it look like a void to you.” Music by Neils Frahm.
Stage 1: Pretend the tree outside your window grows into foundation
of your neighbor’s house, then you are in the circle
of your neighbor’s rug, the immediate
circle where you do not stay apart
two metres, do not count
the circles to see
that it’s a sapling,
so much time is
Stage 2: Boil twenty volumes of sap over open fire, reduce
the time to walk a dog, stand in line, checkout
in separate rooms for sleeping; morning
without pancakes melts into days without
a shoulder for crying out loud; we want
to elbow onto rush-hour trains instead
of bumping elbows, get caught
in traffic, not inside ourselves.
We are up in arms
but can’t be
Stage 3: If only we can go to the beach today tomorrow we’ll form a human
chain against the riptide. We’ll give you toilet paper, wine for St. Sebastian,
ripples in the maple tree, if only for the timbre
of a stranger’s voice, unwavering. Our bedsheet
tents hover, like childhood half-remembered.
We’ll be good if only
we can go outside
Stage 4: When the clock stops, let it stay; don’t move your hands to touch
the face. The tree is waving from your window. Your body is a wave
plunging into pounds of rice. Your body is a wave spilling into
unwashed laundry. Sap spews out
from the kitchen sink. Your body
is part of a wave collapsing,
contained in six hundred
square feet of unswept
Stage 5: When nothing is left
tap roots, your toes dancing
in your kitchen.
Reading by Síle Englert and Kevin Heslop. Video and music (“Green Coat,” from the album Pale Moon Kid) by Jenny Berkel. Síle, Jenny, and Kevin collaborated on “All the Wrong Ghosts Live Here.”
A generation has died.
— The Guardian
our grand pa rents
the waiting a ruin,
grandparents, heeded strictly,
from which ordinary
shall I have counted
the cathedral in ruins, weeds
first, taste, then breath, a test
i am sick, therefore i am possible
guilty silence, i hum to hear
“i am” is an impossible side of peace
bound by the body, whose
ends are always somebody else’s trouble
scatter the ashes of all my best recipes
can’t you hear rats scratching to get inside?
that chapel of our holy everything
cold, it’s god down here!
in a moment, it will be the same
clearly you’ve forgotten just whose flag it is you’re burning
dreams confined the color of lightning
i defy that suffering is anything but blame by another name
lay your hands on the scythe between us
i can chant with the best of them
call their ages like a lottery
have we been here before?
i make what i lack
it’s hard to cover your tracks when you can’t move
i take the chance once given
how many spaces
to park a tsunami
standing on curb
visions of horsemen
back to life
with a tidal wave
breaking in transit
scraped of cells, wait—
i want to not leave
myself— but what can i trust
if not hands, sloughing
me circular, fresh if
kept gentle, new— i can molt,
i can gather as dusk does—
but didn’t i learn to pick skin
in the morning, rub dreams
from the corners that
morning my my, you weren’t
asleep, just cupping
the slivers you ought
be letting— a function
of love to drop years
in the sink— didn’t your
mother tell, spiralling,
can water bond a— we soak,
you resurface, i— blame me
before i can breathe
It’s like matter sits side by side through these screens. The mean window, our mixed conjectures. Puzzled ink like a finger tracing cold glass, cheek hit grating, weak to the suction and I am krill.
The paints mix. Days remembered when their distinction riddled us. A windowpane each. The cautious wondering of who else? could quietly receive a glance? this rain? The shared stutter of senses that made the pained blink telepathy.
Never a pure understanding. Knew what it’s like not to be you, and fuss around the edges ‘til. Some semblance repairs us, maybe a hole in the sweater, and here it comes: whose fingers combing the fabric, this cozy reality enrobed in? It was the fear of nakedness in a crowd.
Blinded us. The famed loneliness of, yes, even “I”. When the, I think, tender teleology of having nothing to lose meant you clamped nightly. Useless teeth. All those dry faces sobbed hard for simple answers. Looking out is not enough, never.
It is this fear that pilots you . . . in the densely fraying dream that separates us at the seam that shed for each flash of life scoffed in the water, the thrashing fish. This vacuum is the thrumming sea. Do you see what I see? The distance fallen into? Each lonely thought gasping against the mesh.
Each hour widens the burgeoning net.
On one of his last evenings as himself, my brother
leads me through the fairgrounds: the older sibling’s
job is to explain the fear of falling. He’s seventeen,
we’re both oblivious. It’s always autumn in the dream
and months from now we’ll find him vomiting tarantulas
into an empty bucket in his lap until he falls asleep.
It’s autumn and the carnival is brambles, weedy pavement,
lustrous sky, the creak of white carousel horses cracking
in October sun; a finger of warmth inside the scratches
left behind. Bumper cars like ampersands guided by chance
and circumstance in a threadbare ballet. He holds
a strip of tickets like the keys to all salvation
and lurches towards a rusted, low-slung moon.
Across the empty thoroughfare, no barker summons
but his shadow burned in pinstripes on the ground
speaks for him, daring us to try our luck,
spin the wheel. Singing our future, the ghost of music
calls out a canticle in bells — the clink and jangle
clockwork of clanking gears. Sour piano strings stir still.
Somewhere tetrapods form and warp between mirrors
in the funhouse. All the wrong ghosts live here:
two tucked safe behind steel in the ferris wheel’s cart
as the whinging round begins. Below, our world
grows microscopic; the sky pulls us up and away.
This gravity won’t break us when we fall. My brother,
ecstatic, watches my face fracture in the pulsing
lights. In the dream it’s always autumn and how
could we have known that everything would turn?
Artwork for Is It Less Lonely Like This by Angie Quick: The honour of thieves (the gangbang) (11″x15″, acrylic and oil pastel on paper, 2020), cocksure and riding in the clearing of my heart (the gangbang) (59″x78″, oil pastel and acrylic on canvas, 2020), for love of a conman (the gangbang) (59″x78″, oil pastel and acrylic on canvas, 2020), my injuries for today; all sport and luxury (the gangbang) (59″x78″, oil pastel and acrylic on canvas, 2020), and The honour of thieves ii (the gangbang) (11″x15″, acrylic and oil pastel on paper, 2020).
“Towers” — VII is seven voices fused into one exquisite corpse: Manahil Bandukwala, Ellen Chang-Richardson, Conyer Clayton, nina jane drystek, Chris Johnson, Margo LaPierre, and Helen Robertson. Based on the belief that seven minds are better than one and that many ideas make joyous chorus, we say: We are I and I is VII. Formed in March 2020, VII is based in Ottawa, Ontario, the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg.
“Collective Stages of Grief” — Paola Ferrante’s collection, What to Wear When Surviving A Lion Attack, was published in 2019 by Mansfield Press. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in PRISM International, The /temz/ Review, Grain, CV2, and elsewhere. She won The New Quarterly’s 2019 Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Award and Room’s 2018 Fiction contest and was longlisted for the 2020 Pacific Spirit Poetry Prize. She is the Poetry Editor at Minola Review and resides in Toronto. Kate Finegan is the author of the chapbook The Size of Texas (Penrose Press, 2018). Her work has appeared in PRISM International, The Puritan, The Fiddlehead, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere. She is editor-in-chief of Longleaf Review and lives in Toronto.
“03/26/2020” — Shelly Harder hails from rural Ontario with a first chapbook, remnants (Baseline Press, 2018). Kevin Heslop is the author of the forthcoming full-length collection the correct fury of your why is a mountain (Gordon Hill, 2021).
“six feet” — Lindsay Crudele writes fiction, poetry, and more and lives in Boston, tending to many creatures. Her most recent story, “The Spy Who…,” appeared in Queen Mob’s Teahouse this March. nate greenslit is a teacher, writer and musician.
“Waiting” — Ryan Gibbs is an English professor who lives in London, Ontario. His short stories have appeared in anthologies by Cranberry Tree Press and Lighthouse Publications 2002, and his poems have appeared in Illumen, Tower Poetry, and The Windsor Review. His children’s poetry has been included in the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness. Rhonda Melanson is a poet living in Sarnia, Ontario, and has been published in many online and print journals, including The Boxcar Poetry Review, Quill’s, Lummox, Philadelphia Poet, and The Windsor Review. She has published a chapbook called gracenotes (Beret Days Press).
“the weight of cleanliness” — Conyer Clayton and Emilie Kneifel are new friends. Their work has appeared in Arc, Canthius, The Fiddlehead, Vallum, and elsewhere. Em’s web show, PLAYD8s, airs every Wednesday at 8 p.m. until April 22. Conyer’s debut full-length, We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite, is forthcoming from Guernica Editions in May, 2020.
“Does it look like a void to you” — Atsushi Ikeda is based in Montreal. Mac Vogt is based in Toronto.
“All the Wrong Ghosts Live Here” — Jenny Berkel is a singer-songwriter and poet from rural Ontario. Between playing concerts across the globe, she writes, teaches English, and works at the library. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Hart House Review, The Maynard, The Literary Review of Canada, long con magazine, and elsewhere. Síle Englert is a poet, fiction writer, and multi-disciplinary artist. She is the author of Threadbare (Baseline Press, 2019) and a forthcoming chapbook from Anstruther Press in spring, 2020. Her writing has appeared in journals such as The Fiddlehead, CV2, Room Magazine, Canthius, The /temz/ Review, Crannóg Magazine (Ireland), Freefall Magazine, and The Minola Review. Kevin Heslop is the author of the forthcoming full-length collection the correct fury of your why is a mountain (Gordon Hill, 2021).
Is It Less Lonely Like This: isolation collaborations was edited by Jason Dickson & Andy Verboom, titled by Angie Quick, and published by Collusion Books (in collaboration with 845 Press and its e-book March 2020: A COVID-19 Anthology). Collusion Books, an imprint of long con magazine, operates in K’jipuktuk, Mi’kmak’i, the traditional, unceded, and unsold territory of the Mi’kmaq. We are all Treaty People.
Is It Less Lonely Like This: isolation collaborations is copyright © 2020 by Collusion Books. All rights reserved by the named contributors.