Editor Feature: Allison Iriye

Good Morning! Monday’s snippet was late enough to enjoy at the end of your day, so today’s Editor Feature is early enough to enjoy before work or school (and if you’re already at work or school you can take a break–you deserve it). Allison Iriye is a contributing editor for our team and studies crime and monkeys (not crime committed by monkeys). Take a read of her poem (it’s short and sweet)!

NOT WHAT WE WERE PROMISED

What if the earth’s creator

is the Devil, not god.

What if we all go

to Hell when we die.

What if it’s more like

the heaven we were promised.

What if when we get there,

the Devil takes us into

a comforting, warming embrace and

apologizes.

“I am so sorry you lived through that.”

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“Her Red Shirt in Stormy Weather” Ian Chua

Good evening! Instead of interrupting your busy Monday with our weekly snippet we’ve decided to give you a bit of a longer read–one you can enjoy with a glass or wine or mug of tea after dinner (unless you eat really late, then before dinner? Who eats dinner around nine on a Monday? Don’t you have to get some sleep? We should all get some sleep, but first, let’s read this snippet).

Her Red Shirt in Stormy Weather

He leans on his desk, both his hands supporting his weight. He’s dressed formally like a therapist would, but his face is hidden behind a fox mask. The mask radiates with various colors, but its eyeholes were starkly black. I see and therefore know about the dark of his eyes, but I haven’t the slightest clue of its depths. I don’t know what it is that’s looking back at me. I don’t know how much it sees.

“Sit,” he says—and I (eventually) do.

I’ve gone through several therapists already, each of them being essentially similar in how they charge so much, even if all they do is ask you how you feel about something. I can pay a homeless man five cents and have him ask me the same questions. He might do a backflip as a bonus. Therapists won’t even give me a complimentary high five.

“Why am I here?” I say. It’s a rhetorical question because I know exactly why I’m sitting in this cramped office, facing the world’s worst therapist with his dumb mask. That’s what they call him: the world’s worst therapist.

If you were to ask how he got that name, you’d get different answers from different people.

Some may say it’s because of his snarky attitude. Perhaps some would say that it’s because no one knows anything about him. These two things eventually led to his global fame. I know some people say he’s an enigma of sorts in that no one knows how he ticks or if he really does at all. Others—including me—might simply say that it’s due to how much he charges per session.

My mother paid a thousand dollars for today’s session. My gaze was on her tattered shoes when I told her I wasn’t worth the money. I never looked at her, but I bet her response was the same quiet smile she always gave me.

“That’s a good question,” says my therapist. His raspy voice is filtered through his mask, but his words are so surprisingly clear that I have no trouble understanding him. “Simple question,” he continues. “It’s so simple, in fact, that I’m sure you already know the answer. You’re just asking me to spite me. But let me answer your simple question with another simple question; do you think you need help?”

I bite my tongue. This costly session came at my mother’s expense. I think I should at least try to be nice.

Still, I don’t need help, and, in fact, I never thought I did.

My alcoholic father abused both my sister and me when we were children. On most days, he used his hands or maybe a belt, or sometimes my mother’s torn slippers. On Fridays, he used a monkey wrench, which either hit or pinched our flesh. He marked us with bruises that stacked weekly, none of which any amount of mother’s makeup could cover. So I lived my life in long sleeves and pants, masking my body, as well as my reluctance to sit down because it hurt to. When I was twelve, my selfish sister ran away from home and disappeared from our lives forever. She took with her none of the family pictures. Instead of memories, she took non-perishables and her clothes. She did leave one piece of clothing. She left her red t-shirt that still hung, by one clothespin, on the clothesline the night she left. She left her red t-shirt that still smells like her.

My father had to cope with abusing only me after she ran away. I was okay with it, honestly. I just would’ve preferred it if she didn’t leave traces of herself in the house. It was as if she had left her ghost, and each time I saw that red shirt wave in the wind, it was her flaunting her absence in front of the prisoners.

As I grew older, my father began to hit me less. We were both aging, but as I grew stronger, he grew weaker. I bet he was scared that I’d fight back. Since then, he grew a little tamer. He was still a pathetic drunkard, though.

On his drunkest nights, he would proclaim: “Alcohol is love, alcohol is love.” And maybe at first we laughed at how ridiculous he sounded—and looked, saying it—but one night my mother told him that the joke was getting old.

And he looked at her with his alcoholic eyes and said, “Alcohol is love. Once you start, it’s hard to stop. It even gets to the point where you lose yourself. But see, chances are you’ll wake up in the morning and say—shit.

“But you know what? We drink it anyway. It’s addicting.”

“I don’t need help,” I say.

My therapist just stands there, looking at me through the eyeholes of his mask. After a short moment of sheer silence, he pushes himself off his desk and walks to a nearby table. There, he pours a glass of red wine.

He holds the half full, half empty glass in front of me, and all I do is sit motionless.

“Doesn’t this glass look anything like you?” he asks.

I leer at him.

He then turns the glass upside down, pouring the liquid close enough to wet my shoes.

Now does it look like you?” he asks. “Colorless. Empty. You wouldn’t even bleed anymore if we were to break you.”

He smashes the glass at my feet, and I flinch. “Because you’re already broken,” he says.

“Let me ask you another question. It’s a simple question, really.

“Do you want help?”

Stop messing with me. I can’t answer you. Who gives you the right to change my normal?

I’ve never been outside the city, so all I really want is to travel. My grandfather was a sailor, and I respected him until he disappeared like my sister. There was this phrase he said when he came back from the seas, and my mother complained about the lack of presents.

He said, half laughing and half grumbling, “Seven untameable seas and a billion times

more insatiable souls.”

I wanted to sail the seas with him. Even if people didn’t like me, I’m sure the sea could.

Maybe one ride could’ve prevented my sister from running away. Maybe it would’ve rid the smell of iron. Maybe it could’ve washed the red off her shirt that hung on that stupid clothesline. Storm winds are strong, so someone take that shirt down before the wind claims it. One clothespin isn’t enough to keep it in place. Even if it’s my mother’s.

“We’re done here,” my therapist says. “Get out.”

I stand and turn. I open the door neither slowly nor quickly.

My eyes meet my mother’s, who had been waiting outside the whole time.

We walk, in silence, as the door behind me closes on its own.

Editor Feature: Allie McFarland

Hello hello! We know we did an Editor Feature last Thursday, but it’s just that time of the semester and the week ran away from us before we could do our regularly scheduled interview. If you were really looking forward to the interview, we’re sorry, and we’ll get our ducks in a row for the next interview week. (You weren’t really waiting for an interview, were you? Shouldn’t you be writing an essay or something? We know that’s what we’re busy doing). Anyway, here’s a poem from Allie, our managing editor (it’s short enough that you can take a break from your essay to read).

Home

The world’s gotten too thick.

Our horizon stutters

shingled carmine, coquelicot.

Spun ink stains, tendrils

That accentuate, perpetuate, pervade.

A sense of cinnamon, cardamom,

crushed poppy petals

And just a dash of cloves.

Cirrus strands as spiders webs

stretch thin between buildings.

Strands of hair stick

to lips cracked into crevasses up cheekbones.

And then the clouds shift.

Pillars to mark an edge.

“Lyra I” and “Lyra II” Tasnuva Hayden

If you’re a student, you’re probably drowning in essays or mid-terms right about now (we know we are!) so we recommend taking a three minute break to read this week’s snippet. Here’s your weekly dose of Issue 20 by Tasnuva Hayden, a Calgary-based writer!

Lyra I

binary stars collapse eclipses

vibration strings discrepancy in Mercury’s orbit—

flawed Newton’s gravitation

Arctic mechanics and quantum winds

codify meta-energy mathematics

dead-tissue harmonics permeate every life form—

with the exception of Ginko Biloba

evolved from the Archeon of the Precambrian

four thousand million years past

a fractioned second past north, orchid petals gravitate

coughs up scant bearings

spins the compass needle to post-modern mass extinction

narwhals logarithmic-spiral towards the ocean floor

jaws heavy with decaying flesh

above the pressure of the frozen meniscus

radiant dragon tears evaporate past Vega

Lyra II

Lyra II.png

Editor Feature: Kirsten Cordingley

Hello! Just a quick reminder that tomorrow is the deadline for all submissions for Issue 21! Okay, now that that’s out of the way we can move on to our Editor Feature! This week we’re featuring Kirsten Cordingley, our Copy Editor. She is currently working on her BA in English (so not surprisingly, reading a good book is one of her favourite pastimes). Here are two poems by Kirsten!

Library

A decrepit spine

of aging paper,

filled with lines

of squirming eels

along white skin

and yellow curves,

eating hors d’oeuvres

of flowery words.

Towering bark

holds their cases

and orders them by

their names and faces,

so reaching fingers

and curious eyes

can find their insight in

quotes and rhymes.

 

 

Café

Little mugs with coffee and wasted crumbs,

Slow lilt of music and the echoing hum

Of soliloquies aimed outwards

Into the spicy space of caffeine fumes,

And burning toast with little room

To move our legs or fingertips,

But closely knit and brightly lit,

We spend our days with coffee cakes,

Creating symposiums in the air,

And we decorate with enticing stares,

Despite the bitterness on our tongues,

We stay to hide amongst the sugar lumps,

And sweet honey drops that stick to our elbows

That keep us there amidst the constant hellos.

“On Returning” Michael Klenda

Once again we find ourselves at the beginning of a new week, which means we have a snippet from Issue 20 to help get you through your day! Also, a quick reminder that the deadline for submissions for Issue 21 is this Friday, March 17 (so if you want to see your work in our print magazine or featured on our blog– like Michael Klenda–you should probably send it to us).

On Returning

The city is as you left it:

as you fly above it, and then

drive through it, your suitcase

unpacks itself along the streets,

beside the river, down alleyways

between cafes and backyards.

What if today was that day long ago

when we gathered out in the grass

and drank iced champagne straight

from the bottle? This is the same sun,

the same songs repeated

from the trees; the children

might be your children now,

or maybe you’ve just been born.

Interview With Ore A!

Hello! For our second interview Allie got together with Oreoluwa Arowobusoye (Ore A), a contributor in Issue 20 and undergraduate student at the University of Calgary where she studies Computer Science.

Allie: So Comp Sci? That’s an unexpected choice for a writer.

Ore A: Yeah, I think I might’ve been stockholmed into it. Actually, not really—I hated the first year, but it’s alright now. And my whole family is pretty science-y—my Mom is a nurse and my Dad is an engineer.

Allie: Does your degree bleed into your writing at all? Do you write science fiction?

Ore A: Not really. I wrote one story about a boy who thinks the new girl in school is an alien princess from Neptune, but she could also just be a foster child trying to invent a new world for herself. But other than that, my writing is usually more magic realist—a world where magic happens and everyone takes it in stride.

Allie: So, what are you working on now?

Ore A: It’s for my long manuscript class and it’s magic realist, and set in Quebec, but not real Quebec. In this world gyres appear randomly and can suck up whole houses and that’s just part of normal life. The story follows some girls who attend a Catholic school and the school is in the process of being sucked into a gyre. I planned for one of the girls to fall into it, but I’m eighty pages in and that hasn’t happened yet, so we’ll see.

Allie: That sounds interesting—but quite different from the piece that appeared in Issue 20.

Ore A: Yeah, it is. I have a confession—the story from Issue 20 is old. I wrote it in my first creative writing class, ENGL 366, two years ago, and my professor at the time said “no genre fiction.” I was new and scared—what counts as genre fiction? Isn’t everything in some genre? I think what she meant was no clichés—we were supposed to write a story we hadn’t read before, not a horror story that hits every plot point for tension or a fantasy novel with the kid who goes to save the world. And that makes sense—I’m trying to write stories that are new, that make people say “that’s weird, but interesting.” But when I wrote this story I was a little scared to write magic realism for the class because of the genre rule.

Allie: What do you read that makes you say “that’s weird, but interesting?”

Ore A: Neil Gaiman is one of my favorites—I love American Gods. But he’s one of the most mainstream authors I like. Some of my favorite writing comes from short story anthologies, like Bone Swans by C. S. E. Cooney and Meet me in the Moon Room by Ray Vukcevich.

Allie: What draws you to short stories?

Ore A: They’re a good length. They can have a nice and ambiguous ending and they tell the story. I have so many stories in my head, it’s like the whole thing just pops into my head ready to go and the problem is having the time to write them down. I don’t get writer’s block—there’s always a story. It’ll be nice to get back to my short stories after this long manuscript class is done.

Allie: Do you incorporate any theory into your stories?

Ore A: Well, as I’ve never taken a theory class I don’t have the background for explicit theory, but once in a while I’ll reread one of my stories and think “I guess that’s theory..?” For me the work is more about itself—but sometimes the characters in my stories are pieces of people I know—and not even intentionally! I was telling my friend about my piano teacher, and she’s read my recent work and she says “your piano teacher sounds a lot like Madame,” the French teacher at the Catholic school. I didn’t even realise until she pointed it out, but there it was.

Allie: Last question. What’s one story or character you want to write?

Ore A: I have so many stories I want to write! I jot down my ideas for them—one time I had probably 15 stories outlined but then I lost the journal. I’m a disorganised person. But I guess, thinking about the characters that are like people I know, I want to write about my family. Like my Mom—she’s a Pilates and headband wearing Mom. And my sister—we’re really close, but she’d probably be mad if I wrote her.

Allie: Thanks for talking to us here at Nōd Magazine!

Ore A: Thank you!

“Birthmarks” Gordon Brown

Hello! Once again, we wish you a happy Monday and hope your week has started with a bang (a good bang, nothing too stressful or unexpected). And because we don’t want you to suffer anything unexpected, here is our regular Monday snippet of Issue 20! “Birthmarks” by Gordon Brown closed off our issue. We hope you enjoy 🙂

Birthmarks

Mama drank poison on a black, moonless night. She had forgot to turn the stove off before she died, and the kitchen curtains had caught on fire. The noise and the light woke up the rooster, and he crowed three or four times before the smoke choked him dead. Papa cried when they put Mama in the ground. He always cried after he hit Mama, but now he only cried.

But this had happened before I was born.

I remember it only because Mama remembers it. I was in Mama’s belly when she drank poison. I saw only the things that Mama could see. Watched them through her eyes. I could hear Papa crying from the other side of the coffin lid. Could hear the dirt falling down on us.

And afterwards – for a long time – we couldn’t hear anything.

For a long, long time.

The box wood was cheap planking. It only kept the beetles out for six days, maybe seven. They started with Mama’s eyes, but it was alright, because there was nothing to see anyway. Before long, there was no more box and no more dirt. The beetles had gotten to Mama’s heart. To her old heart. The one made out of meat that went thump-th-thump. They chewed it away, and so now there was nothing to weigh Mama down. And then there was no more box and more dirt. There was only the road.

And we were on the road for a long time too.

There was the forest on this side and the forest on that side, but it was all so wide and empty. Mama walked down the road for a long time. She saw people sometimes, far ahead. She called after them, but they didn’t hear her or they did not wait. Mama ran to catch up to them, but whenever she did, they were far away again.

By now, Mama’s belly was swollen up large. When it was time, she found a banana tree by the road and brought me out. I had not seen through any eyes except Mama’s, and I was so scared. I cried and cried and cried for the first few hours. And for a whole year, I held on to Mama and wouldn’t let go.

I rode on Mama’s back in a sling she made from her shirt. All year, I stayed small. Mama said I would be a baby forever, and she sang me songs as she walked along. From Mama’s songs, I learned how to talk. Mama told me what I liked, and what I did not. That I liked all the things she had liked when she was just a little girl. Bananas were good, and so was bubblegum. And gin tasted good, but only after three glasses. And that I was frightened of thunder and of large dogs, but that I was never afraid of the water. But I should never fall in love with a fisherman, even if he had cream-colored shoes and his own canoe and bright and perfect teeth.

This, I was told, was the only way I was different from Mama.

I learned to walk while Mama slept.

In the early mornings, I would slip out of her embrace and crawl away from the place by the road where we slept. It was always the same place, beneath the same banana tree where I was born. No matter how far Mama walked, she always rested here, telling me how fortunate it was that we had found another place to stop.

I pushed myself up to my feet, swaying as I stumbled over the rich, red earth and up onto the empty road. On the other side, I could see the red flowers on the Tamarind trees, and tall, sweet-smelling grass that grew up by the river. And there was a bird there. Immense and white. And he walked like me, stumbling through the water lilies on his long sun-colored legs.

Mama would wake and find me missing. She would sweep me up in her arms and hold me tight to her, and ask how I managed to get away. Did I not know how worried she was? How angry she was? How relieved she was?

I must promise, she explained to me. I must promise that I will never wander away from her like that. I must promise that I will respect her and obey her. I must promise that I will always be her baby.

And so I lied.

Mama walked far in the days that followed. Further than she ever had before, continuing long after the sun had fallen behind the tamarind trees and the road was unlit. And exhausted, she would collapse beneath the same banana tree that she had the day before.

She slept a long time that day, and I got away again.

Up, and over the road. Tumbling down through the slick grass on the far side, caking red mud onto the soles of my feet, the palms of my hands. I pushed my way through the reeds, letting the water rise up to my ankles, my knees, my waist, my neck. And when I thought that I would slip away, the great, white bird came striding through the water, scooping me up from the sling that Mama had carried me in, that I wore now as my clothes.

The great, white bird flapped his wings hard, sending ripples across the still water. He kept the sling clenched tight in his long, straight beak, and as we crested the trees, I looked down and saw Mama, still sleeping under the trees.

We climbed higher and higher, and I could see the road below – a great circle in the center of a forest that stretched on and on in every direction. And even that tumbled away as we climbed higher and higher, up into the darkness.

We climbed for days, for weeks, for months. We flew so long that I forgot how to talk, how to walk. I forgot the name that Mama had given to me. And there was light again.

When I was born alive, my mother was not Mama. She had hair the same color as the bird’s beak, and my father was not the man who had hit Mama. And I was not the same me.

When I learned to talk again, I told Mother about the big, white bird and about Mama by the road. My mother said that my story hurt her, and asked me where I had heard it, or who would have told me to say such a thing. She said that she was my mother, and that I had come from her, and that I was hers and hers alone.

But I had red stains on my feet. Blotches from where the red road dirt and red river mud had caked and dried.

Mother says that they are only birthmarks.

Lots of people have them.

Editor Feature: Genista Kippin!

Genista Kippin is one of our contributing editors and is currently pursuing her undergraduate degree in English. She recently wrote this feature as a response to reading Annie Dillard’s personal essay “Living Like Weasels,” with a particular consideration for human distance from nature.

A rabbit is jumpy: who knows what he thinks. He flits around our campus like it is his, although, I suppose, it actually is his and we simply placed our campus atop it. I, the frightened and slightly shrieking woman, am occupying his space, which is a far greater infringement onto him than his hoping on the campus grass could ever truly be to me. I, along with my blocky buildings and my cold concrete slabs and my asphalt pathways eerily cleared of any debris, have infiltrated and taken over his rightful space, and I am continuing to do so. No wonder the rabbit is jumpy.

Once, I was speaking to a friend that I bumped into along a particular path that crosses a large enough green space to be called nature, if of course you are not used to nature being the way nature naturally is. A rabbit began to hop, hop, hop across that grassy greenness towards where we were stopped talking. In that moment, standing there while he hopped at me, I felt stuck. He should have felt stuck, hopping as he was in the measly green space comprising all that was left of where the rabbits used to reign, between towering cement blocks and glistening glass walls. Yet, it was I who stopped listening to the friend across from me, explaining something, likely something mundane, about his day, once I’d focused upon the jumpy rabbit approaching with my heart beating at the same rate as his hopping. It was I who perceived the rabbit as a predator, when the rabbit himself had every business perceiving an approaching wolf or coyote or, in fact, me.

Suddenly I wasn’t so stuck. My legs, almost on their own, sprung into action, and propelled me down the path beside the green space and towards my building. When I got inside, my heart was thumping with the sense of a near miss, although I am not sure what I feared that rabbit would do to me. I turned and looked across the green space, through a small window in the door, and saw the place where the path, the path I has just thundered down, curved gently around to the one side, and where both my friend and the rabbit stood frozen staring back at me, both looking rather confused. With the door securely latched, I pulled out my cell phone and typed: Sorry, had to run! A rabbit is jumpy… who knows what he thinks!