Sunflower Skins

September 1, 2010

Sketches, Experiment 15: Tipping

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , , — Sunflower Skins @ 10:33 pm


She tipped over, like a glass at a party—see the drink splash—watch it fall—shatter. Like a curl in the air, her breath extinguishing the candles, she tipped the glass, and the remains of the wine dripped over her toes.

She looked down at the kitchen floor and sighed. It hadn’t appeared that he was coming home anyway, so she needn’t worry about the mess. Yet something lingered—a feeling of moisture on her skin, a cool sweetness on her lips—the result of her picnic lay broken on the floor, unnoticed by anyone except herself.

Summer was slipping away, like an ice cube dissolving in your hand, and she had tried to contain a small part of it, tried to represent it, or re-envision it, in—in, what? A backyard picnic as one last hurrah? A quiet evening under the stars, hoping the heat isn’t too much to bear—did she really think he was going to drink up the notion that this would work itself out? Even she knew that night had dawn and that dawn didn’t always bring light or relief. It would be impossible to recreate in one night their seven years of loyalty and love; it had slowly crumbled and this summer had seen the last of it. Now that summer was going, so was he.

She slid down to the floor, tucking up her knees and kicking off her heels. Liquid on the linoleum, swirling colours. She tipped her head down and thought, “It’s going to be alright, it’s going to be ok.”

As the colours run, the still waters of your heart break open.

August 10, 2010

Sketches, Experiment 14: The Leech Man

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , , — Sunflower Skins @ 10:12 pm


He hunched across my vision, leering his disfigured, distorted body and turning the sky uncanny. Already it had become a sickening shade of orange, a Creamsicle in the freezer too long, gone gooey and gross, and I stood on the sidewalk gaping at the sight in the heavens above me. This being of supreme and magnificent evil. His humpback I recognized like the monster who lived under my bed when I was a child; his nose reaching like tentacles, squiggly squid lips feeling for any life-form or bacteria/eggs to suck up and destroy.

Destroy me with his proboscis. Exterminate the leech babies.

The day had been weird all along, sky half-awake and shadows passing like everything was gonna fall down at any second—everything just come down and the world end. Sometimes I get these feelings. And when I went outside at about 4:30, I tripped on the porch stoop like I used to when I was really little, before our house became familiar. Tripping—familiar—used to the gap. Looked up from the sidewalk—askew—tilted—I felt nauseated, my stomach bloated.

They sometimes said bizarre things about me, things I couldn’t understand. Gossipy groups discussing what will come after. I think I get what it means now, but I don’t like to talk about it. I just pat my belly and hope everything will be okay.

Even if I know it won’t be.

They said I would be the first one to see it, that I’d be the eye of the future. And that it would come in the form of a monster, of a hunchbacked man in the orange sky, reaching toward me, reaching out to me—

Upon insemination there would be a choice; at the end of the world there will be a choice, one made by the frail girl on the cool concrete. Sweat forms in droplets on her skin. Time comes together. And if she is the future, she is either the future or nothingness, and she must choose. The leech man who sucks your bloodlife away—or you destroy the seed of darkness within you and create a world better than this—

less angry than this, less disappointed and ashamed. Melt away the clouds.

I went outside and saw the leech man and he was coming for my heart. God damn him to hell if he dared reach for me.

I went back inside and ignored the omen.

Risk everything and create anew.

July 30, 2010

Experiment 16: Octopussy

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , , , , — Sunflower Skins @ 1:26 am

Of course the seas eventually revolted—but the revelation began with the octopus. Creeping up her leg, a twisting, tangled blend of colour and form—oozing its juices, smelling hers; surely this looks extraordinarily unusual—perhaps even kinky in your vocabulary. Let me assure you of one thing: it is fantastic in every sense of the word: a wildness within, a thrill of my senses, heated pheromones distinctly indicative of their desire: —

Can we not explain it somehow? Through art or pornography or whatever you choose to call it? Of course the seas revolted—they probably would have regardless of the home or the health or the heartbreaking—but perhaps, for some of the stranger of us, the turn of tide began somewhere with an octopus—on a girl—in a pen&ink sketch—in a screaming/exhausting novel? Maybe. Weird fantasies, atypical thoughts: wherever it started, arrest the perverts and plagiarists for planting the seed. Call them to trial, lay out eight lines of text and ask them to eat their own words.

They will, I can tell you.

We are hungry with desire—but we are not ashamed to stuff our mouths (or our cunts) with the strange and beautiful books that offend or concern, or with the art that so initiates, discovers, and eventually sustains this new life form.

The octopus curls—claim it—around my leg, and I am still getting used to the pleasure. But it is somehow familiar. Sucking, throbbing, rubbing—I remember what this feels like: text—ink—tattoos—tongues—

Touch me, touch my octopus.

July 29, 2010

Experiment 15: Means of Survival

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , , — Sunflower Skins @ 3:09 am

Incidentally, cork sales were up due to deuterium figures sliding, which meant that May’s cork-and-pipecleaner-reindeer keepsakes weren’t as abundant this year, nor as affordable. The rest of the Christmas stock remained the same, as it always did, Yes, I always tried to keep my prices reasonable, but now one of her most prized items, the one all the neighbourhood kids bought each year for their parents and grandparents alike, was not as available as it had been in the past; O they’re still just a beautiful—so cute! and lively! May shakes her head a bit, amends Lifelike! Their spindly legs and googly eyes—they sometimes look as though they’re about to leap off the table, Flying Santa’s sleigh! And then there’s the accompanying mini-sleighs, made with heavy paper and wire, dotted with glitter, ribbon for reins—May’s so proud of this, as she is with every season’s best seller: Spring’s handmade robin’s nest with tiny, bright eggs, and a hand-painted bird house for the pompom-and-pipecleaner Mother Robin; Summer’s sunhats, decorated with ribbons of all colours and false flowers; Fall’s dried-leaf, ironed tissue-paper placemats in orange, brown, and green. Often her seasonal stock was different each year—she’d been here a lot of years—but these four items were a constant. My customers depend on me! May worries a lot. Especially after Anthony, creepy that he is, told her that something about hydrogen levels drying up cork the way the sponges we paint with dry up if we don’t use them—I haven’t painted with sponges in a while, haven’t I? Or with potato shapes either.

May! What are you doing? You’re off in space again, y’old grandma, worrying about getting enough cork to make enough reindeer to please enough of the neighbourhood urchin. Doesn’t that seem a little, I dunno, stupid to you?”

Nurse Morrison leads away Anthony, and she turns her head around to smile blandly at May—who, startled and taken aback, twists some red pipecleaner around her finger and wonders if it’s possible to rehydrate cork.

July 27, 2010

Experiment 14: Mister Drunken Ramblings Again

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , — Sunflower Skins @ 12:01 am

Fuck you, I’ll piss wherever I want, Mister Lawn. You could stand a little watering anyway.  Nobody kissing in the shadows, at least. ’Member that time ’bout couple weeks ago, got my pecker out ’n then there’s these two kids, high school maybe, staring at me like I’m the perv. She’d even missed a button on her blouse in all her scuffle-cuffuffle. Nope, nobody here. Ahh. Time to move on. I don’t mind these walks so much anymore, these late-night walks. It’s quiet and peaceful, and if I’m quiet too, no one’ll bother me. I can stumble down these streets like a ghost. Like the ghost who’s with me. At first I couldn’t even go on these walks, though I wanted to so bad. Wanted Miriam with me, like always. I just stayed at home without any thought of the future—of how I would continue my daily life, pay bills, buy groceries—basically function. And I heard her everywhere, god I heard her all the fucking time. She begged me to join her, to follow her outside—into the wild depths of our old dreams and memories, into the bliss of regressing. I could no longer do it alone; not without her, not without some kinda help. Outside, I began walking our familiar ways, winding among the streets, searching for her—hidden in any tree or bush, under any car or porch. The retail district was no better, for she appeared as every mannequin and postergirl. Downtown led me to the best place Miriam’s ghost could offer: a place to sit—and laugh—and enjoy memories rather than cry over them—to drink with others than to drink alone. I haven’t got close connections with hardly any of them, but they let me in on their games—me, the wise old timer, the one who can’t take a shower without a railing to grasp onto but who can still flip a switchblade dead centre with a pint of rum under his belt. Goddammit, don’t you think I know it, I’m pathetic? There’s the part that stumbles home, that drags the bad leg and sees all the ghosts—that tries to dance—stumbles—and there’s the part that staggers home ’shamed, also seeing all the ghosts—trying to ignore them, trying to drown them. But where can I go if I must leave my empty, lonely home? Amongst these grim and gloomy streets, where once we walked—happy? Happiness. O yes, I remember that. But fuck it tonight. I’ve swallowed more liquid happiness than emotion can sustain—and so I am numb. I stagger homeward—without you, my love. Tomorrow night I’ll walk the walk again, hoping to find you and the old way. That I miss so very much. Fuck, it’s cold out here.

July 26, 2010

Experiment 13: The Remnants of my Recipes, #1

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , — Sunflower Skins @ 12:27 am

If you squish his brains, the head cooks slower, but you can collect the juices without tapping into it. The skull, I mean. If that sort of thing interests you. I’m not really one for the runoff, I must say; sloppy food isn’t really my ideal. Thanksgiving fatties who pile on three cups of gravy, let it drip its way to their mouths. They go around tucking each other’s napkins into their shirt collars and then burping with a hearty sigh. Expanding waistbands.

The interesting thing about my method of cooking is that I know how to enrich the body’s natural, low-fat and tasty nutrients. My technique is stellar, though I must be a bit modest.

And there is the added bonus of settling. Not many chefs realize that the brain juices—the bloody, mineral-rich, fluid which seeps throughout the cranium—will coagulate, or jellify, when put under extremely acute heat whilst still in the skull. Like a bowl, the skull will be the hole-in-one, homemade casserole dish, into which one inserts a blow torch tip; the juices gather, the brains cook, and the outside flesh remains untouched so that the final product can be created without chance of burning. The juices gathered upon the cooked grey matter should also be bubbly without boiling dry. After we finish torching the meat, allow twenty minutes for cooling. And this should ensure a good sauce.

After cooling, add the rest of your spices to the gelatinized layer and stir into the brain. This is probably when you want to scrap the sides of the skull for any stuck-on bits, as the second heat application often makes the thin, extra pieces of meat too tough to chew through, let alone scrape off. Cover mixture with a layer of cheese, some fresh parsley, and ground pepper, then cover the entire head with aluminium foil and put in a pre-heated oven at 350° for 45 minutes.

What, you say you can’t make something like this? That you don’t have the flair or the stamina? That’s mere proof of your dedication.

Let me see your FDA stamp of approval.

And in the meantime, please try a bite of this brainstew. I’m pretty sure you’ll like it.

July 18, 2010

Experiment 12: The Sickly Smile

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , — Sunflower Skins @ 7:01 pm

I laugh [staged and practiced], I smile [perfectly]. I shoot witty one-liners [stolen from obscure movies and lyrics (but no one here will know that)]. A specially crafted monster of attention. What’s bred in bone [what has been taught] and [what is obeyed]. I am such a good girl. I tell the right stories with all the important, heavy pauses [dramatic exaggeration reels in the audience and pulls on their precious heart-strings (barf)]. Sometimes the lights make me sick and I’m led offset to rest up [I am such a diva and have learned to take advantage of hypochondriac and psychosomatic indulgences] meaning: [impressions and pressures, inside my head and all around me (infecting everyone else, but I think I might be the only one who realizes it)]. I lie on the couch with my head in my mother’s lap [her hand holding a cool cloth to my forehead]. My knees are arched up [and anybody who walked by could see up my dress (heavy, poofy, flowery dress), see my white tights with the little hearts stitched in them (hot and unnecessary)]. I don’t care, cannot care, about anything right now. The lights are everywhere [so bright], their glare is what I will remember most. For some reason my father walks into the greenroom and starts taking pictures of us on the couch [flashes of light], emphasizing the pounding [put a little girl in a box and play her a recording of a jack hammer (at deafening volumes)]. My mother shoos him away [with a hiss and a glare], asks what she can do for me [always asking what she can do]. I have another four or five hours to go. I must put on my face again. Stand up straight and ask sweet questions instead of complaining [I do complain a lot, I’ll admit (but I get away with it)], I even convince myself [so dramatic]. I go to the sink and I wash my face [cold water against hot skin]. My mother brushes my hair a bit [long, blonde, done up in braids and bows (triggers)]. We return to the set, the lights on me [the miraculous] and my mother [the brave]. The audience is on the edge of their seats [bleachers] because that’s the cue [look excited]. We tell the story [again], play the video [again], broadcast my history [bodily, emotionally, unconsciously (unintentionally wounding / creating a monster)]. And smile [perfectly] through all of it [even all these years later].

July 14, 2010

Sketches, Experiment 13: Dramatics & Secrets Over Tea


My o my, am I exhausted! From dawn til five o’clock shadow I’ve cleaned this house—our cozy, two-storey house, so quaint and yet so sophisticated, with old toys and new robots mingling amongst each other—I’ve cleaned this house and paid the bills and gotten the kids safely to and from school. Phew!

I throw myself down on the antique sofa to rest. Actually, we’re not supposed to sit on it; I move aside the doll collection when my husband isn’t home. I should tell you about my husband! We’ve been married eight years in October—I just love fall weddings—and he has given me the two most adorable children. They’re in kindergarten and first grade, my oldest being considered for the gifted program! He looks just like my husband, I tell you—the eyes are the same. Our youngest looks like me, but the older one is just a spitting image of his father.

We didn’t imagine we’d have both children quite so close in age; in fact, we hadn’t actually planned to have both at all. After several years of being newlyweds, my husband and I tried to have children, but my uterus wasn’t receptive—though I’m not really supposed to discuss matters of that kind. Anyway, we finally agreed to allow my husband’s wiring to be replicated for familial purposes.

The DNA sat for months and we were told that if the reproductive process hadn’t began by now, there was little chance that the cells would ever divide and create a new being. So my husband and I returned to our daily lives without hope of children. Perhaps we’d adopt? We weren’t sure.

About a year later, my unpredicted, miraculous pregnancy was predicated by an even bigger surprise: there was also a mutation from my husband’s cells, already into the second trimester! Somehow, by some trick of fate, our baby in the womb was younger than the baby in the tank, but it didn’t matter; my husband and I were thrilled.

Ooh, what lovely children we have!—so bright and clean and inquisitive. I tell them it’s good to ask questions, it’s good to know where you came from, but to mind whom you ask and when. My husband and I may disagree on some issues, but we always encourage our children’s obedience in this world. I mustn’t tell you this, but my husband nearly lost his job because of an offhand comment to a co-worker at the factory; you never can be too careful. After the close call, I wanted to relocate, for the threat of unemployment was unfair when his very creation was conditional upon being put to use—but my husband just closed his mouth and shook his head.

He told me to keep my lips sealed, and here I am, yammering on like a mad woman! Perhaps my husband is right, that he and our oldest will survive the extermination because of their encoding—because they’re encoded, because they are not human—but I just can’t imagine not having this sweet little life! If I just curl up here—on this old sofa, centuries and centuries preserved by a local company specializing in antiques before the 3000’s. They have the most interesting things. For instance, the other day I went into the store and saw a bed with tall iron posts at each corner; the salesman called it a canopy­-style—but I was too embarrassed to ask what that meant. Sometimes I feel so much more unlearned than the rest of the community. I know there are other female human beings in my neighborhood, but I doubt they get quite so much pleasure from their housewifery as I do. I simply love the old way of things, the manual way to clean a floor or to dust the bookshelf.

Imagine: If I just stay here a little longer, on this island from long ago, will I remember the old times? Beside woven ragdolls and knitted blankets, will I connect with where I believe I came from? Or am I eternally in this present—the glossy, automated makings of a dream.

I am: one of many sent through to this world from what you call your present. Maybe it would be mine—if I were not in this particular pink and green-polka-dotted dress, with this specific checkered apron—but those circumstances differ only slightly. Maybe that’s why I’m so chatty today, feeling like an old neighbour dropped by for tea.

Imagine, if that’s what we were—so close in time, our neighbouring selves—from my future-present to your past-present, one moment comprised of us in all places.

July 12, 2010

Experiment 11: My Dear, Deaf Country: Wake the Fuck Up

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , , — Sunflower Skins @ 1:20 am

I don’t understand why people use dubious disclaimers. When I say something mean it’s because it is mean and I am a cunt—or maybe I’m just being honest: I want a fucking revolution and it’s going to start regardless of your ignorance; I’m not going to sugar-coat it for anyone, especially you. Just because you’re blood doesn’t mean I have to like you; just because you’re police chief doesn’t mean I have to agree with you; just because I’m an English major doesn’t mean I have to be a teacher—or a giver—or am somehow more capable of explaining our circumstances to you. I tried for a philosophy minor. It didn’t work.

Because I am a writer, I make my life from what I say to you, but I cannot do it in the way you may like (read: understand). Sometimes we have to make our voices heard through t-shirts and signs, buttons, posters, and handbills—sometimes we use loud-speakers or megaphones—or I might write my own protest, my own way, even if I know that you usually can’t read my fragmented, pornographic texts. You don’t know how to read them—I cannot speak your language: your self-righteous, ass-kissing, finger-pointing dialogue.

Sometimes people protest. Sometimes people protest when I say, “I think there should be more funding for the Arts rather than for the construction of another Ivey building.” Sometimes people protest when over 1,000 arrests were made, many of which were unnecessary and unexplained, violent and violating—when age and race and gender were exploited for the amusement of some power-tripping pigs—when a group of journalists and protestors and bystanders were walled in by grim police officers and made to stand in the pouring rain for several hours—simply because they didn’t believe that one billion dollars was necessary for a world-summit that should not even have occurred in downtown Toronto—because they were asking questions about their country, talking about civil liberties and exercising their right to free speech when officers disregarded them—because they were singing songs and anthems, doing cartwheels and taking photographs.

You have not sugar-coated it for me: I hear exactly what you are saying: You don’t live in a democracy anymore. Go back to sleep. You have masked your words for others; submissive, lazy people, ready to accept whatever excuse offered, so prepared to believe in a government which has manipulated its conservative agenda so much that its own ignorance truly is bliss. You believe yourself when you say that your police did an excellent job—even the ones who kicked senior citizens and punched unarmed, unthreatening civilians—even the ones weren’t wearing visible identification. You believe yourself.

But I don’t. And I know there are others. We share a common lack of faith in the current political system’s security of peace, management of money, chain of authority, and preservation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I am a writer, just as Strayer and Trudeau, just as those who drafted our rights—not privileges. People may read the same words, but if you’re actually aware of your place in this country—actually aware—then you may read something different.

And it isn’t sweet. It’s just how we feel.

July 11, 2010

Experiment 10: googoo gagod

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , — Sunflower Skins @ 12:04 am

Slithering around our legs were dozens of limbs—no, tentacles. Up along the binary ridges were strange hanging vines which oozed purple. When I finally gazed across the sludgy horizon Karen spoke, Where’s god now? But it was I who spoke—I am the speaker. The seer. There’s nothing slithering around our eggs. We have none, no meals to eat, as our own arms turn a sensuous shade of green and begin to ooze thick, bubbly jelly. The sun feeds my addiction and I turn my face toward its rays, stretch and press my face against glass, warm. In that sky, there’s nothing but heat and extreme cold, there’s nothing but. When Karen or I muttered all of a sudden a moment ago, I looked up and saw the entire endless sky, gargantuan and void. Look back the void stares long enough. I’ll deliver the wisdom here, if my mouth doesn’t get swallowed up in violet liquid first. We’re being drowned by our own fluids, uncontrollably pouring out more and more goooo. As it rises around us, Karen tries to swim upward, making useless motions with her tentacle-arms—no, not useless—she pulls me along through the river we create. She’ll pay my toll. Keep your head above the gurgling, googling stream, keep your face turned upward—keep searching the skies…

For what? What do you think you’ll see that will change the order of the universe, recreating our society as the first with true knowledge—scientifically, theologically, and philosophically—not to mention send loads of new meaning into your personal, individual life?

I don’t think so.

There isn’t a universal truth.

So either find your own and keep your head above the gooey, viscous, swirling liquid that engulfs your body—drain your apartment of the mysterious blood seeping from your addicted arms and your hungry mouth and your lusting—reset the pretences and comb back Karen’s hair—or realize it’s your own creation and you’re bound by it, fatally. You bleed art—and you don’t drown either.

July 10, 2010

Experiment 9: Nostalgia

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , — Sunflower Skins @ 2:38 am

I am no longer sure if I dream about you because you are a relic in my past, no longer tangible but a one-dimensional, static memory, or because I miss you and wish you were here sometimes. Sitting beside me on the sofa, the television casting a blue light on our cheekbones—standing beside me in the kitchen, chopping up a multicoloured stir-fry—walking with me, down our street, with our handsome watchdog and our bright, happy children.

They say that the death a child is the hardest loss to endure, even more so than a spouse. Whoever they are, they’re wrong.

I birthed another being—two, actually—and yet I feel that my bones extend into yours—that you finish where I end off.

That is not to say that I don’t love my children—how could I not? How could I possible overlook the tender life I have created, these two broken bodies producing whole, human babies without a scar or a lie. Children, perfect innocence? That I cannot believe—but they haven’t a responsibility to the pain or destruction of this world, not yet at least. That comes with the baptism—with the birthday—with the graduation from high school and the advance into adulthood—I mean:

You and I created, body to body, two beings. These we set upon the world our own created way—but our love was created first. The first two beings were us. And that is what I miss—through the flood of memories, the insomnia, the years since you have died.

Sometimes I sit up at my kitchen table, the bills piled on one counter behind me, the stove with the busted pilot light next to me—my company for the long night? Appliances. Two by two, each set divorced itself; parents separating, children coming of age. Sometimes I sit up at my kitchen table and envy my children, they who do not know the pain of sitting here alone, without you.

July 7, 2010

Experiment 7: Metamorphosis

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , , , , — Sunflower Skins @ 8:20 pm

Outside: stars blinked through shifting pockets of clear sky, clouds pushed around by early autumn winds. At times the moon interrupted the swirling darkness below—the serene, celestial divided by the horizon from the embittered, landed. And that space between our world and the infinite unknown, from my words to your ear.

Little changes take place every day. You either realize and acknowledge them or you don’t, but life continues more or less the same as before: the same as yesterday—or two hours ago—or the last moment that passed. Moment to moment. Larger changes, the less frequent occurrences: they are also either acknowledged or not—but far more intensely, either extremely embraced and personally treasured or equally denied, rejected, and distinctly ignored.

You step around a flaw in the system—in the marriage—but that one change was going to happen one way or another, whichever way you pushed the energy—whichever way you shouted, “Move.” The sky seethes with an eternity of choices, but you must choose and be bound by one only. You step around the manner and refuse to acknowledge its relevance, or you accept it and step forward.

No time to think of consequences.

Inside there is turmoil brewing, twisting your heart & your gut into true recognition of your place in this world. Because we only live in this world. We only have this chance. The transfiguration won’t be gradual this time—it will shake your entire life and perhaps those of a few others—but it will not affect the outside.

This system was built for metamorphosis. Your desperate decision, or your petty obliviousness, comes down to the physics of space—space and spots of light—the inner spark between us—the humanity either blazing or extinguished in your eyes.

July 6, 2010

Experiment 6: Mother

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , — Sunflower Skins @ 12:36 am

She was the Cake of all Cakes.

My mother, the most beautiful, well-spoken, and intelligent of any of the Susie Homemakers. Truly, she was exceptional in every way—and exhibited this through her exquisite desserts. Lemon Tart, Peach Pie, Blueberry Cheesecake—and of course—her famous Marmorkuchen. The desserts were only icing to the grandest Wedding Cake in the bakery.

Memories I have are few, however I retain a fairly constant sense of her presence. I remember: learning to bake my first Chocolate Chip Cookies. I was about 2 ½. Mother, glowing as usual, had me cracking Eggs in her soft hands and getting Flour on my cheeks. She instructed me carefully—but not at all in a condescending, parental tone—she sounded like an angel. A light and fluffy, sweet and good-looking angel from the great bakery beyond this world.

The Cookies turned out perfectly, as expected. Soft and golden brown, chewy with great gobs of Chocolate.

We made Brownies next.

And continued to make desserts all morning, eventually filling up the glass display case  behind the counter. All together they looked radiant—so colourful and appetizing.

Of course, I don’t remember the entire day. But I remember the Chocolate Chip Cookies; the smell of my mother—a mixture of baby powder and baking powder; and my father saying, “Cheese!” There is a photograph of my mother and me, mixing bowl and wooden spoons in hand, gleefully posing for the camera. It once hung in the restaurant; now it hangs in my kitchen.

My memories, I keep them as close as her.

July 4, 2010

Sketches, Experiment 11: Picking Off Thugs

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , , — Sunflower Skins @ 2:18 am


This isn’t what they look like anymore.

They wear black and have shields and nightsticks. They come at you like a wall. They aren’t protecting you; you are the enemy.

Gauge my distance. He is in the open street—the old wooden tabletop—and has his back to the prisoner. The protestor. She is far away, hazy. We’ll get to her in a few minutes. Systematic terror first. I could take him down in a single shot, rubber bullets flying. He looks armed, but he isn’t. Even though he stands there, green and innocent—chanting, singing, smiling at pedestrians—I could take away every right he has. Within reason, of course. But this is without reason at all.

A senseless act repeated over and over throughout the days, a continual stamping of the foot, insisting, “There is no problem here. There is no reason for an inquiry.”

But I’ve got you in the eye of my lens, I’ve got you pinned. You have nowhere to go but where I tell you, and I’m not going to tell you anything. Just move. Stumble back across the tarmac, keep your gun or your camera or your cell phone steady, disbelieving the scene you are seeing. The place is the intersection—the park—the table. The space is closing in. Cries go unanswered, seemingly unheard as stone faces march forward. Their adrenaline is too high. They must love this. They won’t hear you.

If people are asking for an inquiry, that itself is a query and should remind you of the service you swore to uphold. There is something seriously wrong with picking off civilians as thugs. If you accept this, get out of our office.

Experiment 4: Dysfunction

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: — Sunflower Skins @ 2:07 am

And the shake didn’t discourage or subdue the monster.

Dysfunction was immediate, but it maintained its infantile howling throughout the prolonged build-up and inevitable, unimpressive death.


She had felt the pains during sixth period and asked to be excused, dragging her weary body to the lavatory. The halls were empty and quiet as usual, and her feet made the familiar flap-flap on the tiles. At the end of the hall she waved her pass under the monitor light.

Inside the stall, completely alone and without the threat of cameras, she sank to the floor.


She knew that something awful was turning inside her, heaving in her womb. Sweating against the cool porcelain of the toilet, she climbed onto it just in time for big globs of blood and mucus to fall into the water. Less than a moment later the dead foetus dropped into the bowl in two spasms of the girl’s uterus.

Collapsed over herself, underwear still around her ankles, she slowly braced her body with straight arms on shaky knees. She didn’t want to see or be around it any longer than necessary. Her panting gradually subsided, and once her head gained its rightful orientation, she stood up from the toilet, gripping the walls. She pulled up her underwear and began to straighten her dress, but stopped as she heard a low groan emit from the toilet bowl.

She looked at the baby in absolute horror.

It was not a baby.

The veiny blue and purple creature was covered in a thick layer of pale yellow slime, somewhat like corn syrup, which was spattered with pieces of the placenta. It stretched its many arms toward her and opened its mouth, letting out a wail that gargled with saliva and snot.

The girl’s first instinct was to run, but the creature sounded so pathetic and sick that she remained frozen, unable to look away from the warped, underdeveloped tentacles reaching for her face. The cry grew louder and she began to worry about somebody overhearing. Up til now she had been as silent as possible in hopes of rejoining class. She could have cleaned up her dress. Nobody would have noticed.

But now the creature would not stop. She was sure someone would hear. She didn’t know what to do, didn’t want to touch it. As her panic began to set in, the creature leapt out of the toilet, landing on the girl’s face. It hugged its arms around her, and the momentum threw her against the stall door.

She couldn’t be its mother, not in this kind of world.

Summoning all the strength she had left, she yanked the sobbing monster away from herself and shook it as hard as she could, heaving her weak frame against the walls and eventually slamming the thing in the corner behind the toilet.

There was a pause in the hideous noise, as it lay still on the floor. It lifted a tentacle and blindly grabbed at the air. The girl looked down at what had come out of her body. Was this her creation or theirs?

Then she noticed a tiny board of controls mounted to the back of its head, hidden beneath a chunk of stringy black hair. It had already killed itself before it had even left her womb, but now it required a second death. Holding the monster down with one hand, she pressed the abort button, and as its wiring finally gave out she listened to one last alien wail.

It had already killed itself before it even left her body

July 3, 2010

Experiment 3: The Temporal City and the Timeless Idea

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , , — Sunflower Skins @ 2:19 am

It began. And people came to the imagined city, the one created by so many. It was a great dream of collective minds, all frustrated by the country’s current social and economic state, desirous of change for themselves, for the world. But these people arrived in a city they didn’t know was in disguise. Even in the safest places, there was now danger; by the end of the weekend, the imagined city had been beaten and arrested and intimidated, truth only revealed later through emerging digital documents.

The They had deemed the city temporal and therefore subject to numerous infractions: hours didn’t matter to strip-searched, dehydrated kids in detention centres;  hours spent in confusion and fear, antagonized by a black bloc, were worth nothing; hours were lost to sitting in the rain, surrounded by an army of police. The timeframe has been dissected. We are learning what happened in the days governed by non-existent law. Floating on its own in space, that city was two: the one imagined by the people and the one created by The They. And the latter stomped its heavy, ugly foot on the former, allowing chaos to take place while money and force was used in unreasonable, unnecessary places.

The singing and v-signs continued long into the nights, echoing long after hundreds of arrests had been made.

Now that it’s over, the city we imagined still remains: one free of vandalism and unjust search and seizure, one without a dark and destructive underground or a violent and threatening security enforcement. Cut art’s funding and then detain the thug who protests it? Fix the economy by targeting minorities and arresting the peaceful? No way! The imagined city is not like that. The one we imagined we’d have, the one we believed possible last week is still achievable. I think I can see it if I close my eyes.

Basic human rights is not a new idea. Freedom is the oldest word, but only after repression. Keep talking about what happened at the Toronto G20, free speech and civil liberties from the cage.

And know your rights. The imagined city will uphold them.

June 29, 2010

Experiment 1 Continued, by Thom Roland

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: — Sunflower Skins @ 1:14 am

When I was a child I called headstones “sailboats.” Imagine a thousand lifeless bodies bobbing in the cemetery, clutching to their stone masts. It unnerved my mother, and so imagination was hushed.

When I was a teenager I was out of the house every chance I got. Sometimes, when things were really bad, I’d “run away.” My mother knew all my favourite places and it wouldn’t be more than a few hours before she found me and hauled me back home.

But one time—I was fifteen and it was early summer—I found a sanctuary. Sam mentioned the cemetery in passing one day and it almost didn’t register with me. It was perfect: the one place my mother would never look or even think of. Even if she did suspect, she wouldn’t ask anybody to check. Forget the police, she wouldn’t survive the humiliation of having an insane daughter. “‘An idle mind,’ they’d say. ‘Mmhm…a failure as a mother. The poor thing,’ they’d say,” she said.

And so things got worse. And I spent more time at the cemetery.

I spent entire days there several times; just sitting, or walking, or looking at the headstones or the sky. Sam knows my mother very well, but my mother doesn’t know her at all (mom doesn’t know people). Sam saw when the storm was building far better than I ever could and she’d encourage me to get out before it exploded. I didn’t listen the first time—I did every time after.


The owners of the most legible stones are usually at peace—usually; the most faded headstones carry the most restless spirits: they are forgetting who they are, or were. Too many are still in agony or consumed by hatred. Once they forget themselves, they also forget the object of their hatred and can break free of whatever kept them bound.


Sam didn’t know any more about the spirits than I did, but Mike did. He never explained how he knew what he knew and the most he’d say about that was an uncomfortable and unreadable laugh. That was late fall of grade 10. He knew about the headstones, the masts, and he knew how to see them. I learned after a while and only after too many failed attempts. The worst ended with my right arm being burned all the way down from just below my shoulder. I told everyone I knocked over a pot of boiling water for pasta, but most people just assumed my mom did it.


I think I’ve found one that I can trap. I have to be careful: I don’t want it to suspect anything. It is stronger than I thought, but it’s too late to stop now.


Mike is helping with it. Too much for me and maybe him too. Sam wants to try on Saturday. I’m so weak, I can’t wait that long. Drained.


The horror on her face was almost more than I could stand; it was beyond anything I could imagine …eternity floating on a river of worms… I made it say to her. She screamed. Her eyes didn’t leave mine the whole time it struck her over and over with its bones; not until it pushed a thumb into each of her sockets. A doctor told me she died from strangulation, not the beating (it has a strong, bony grip like the devil’s). A doctor asked me if the spirit returned to the ground; I said yes. I don’t trust him.

I miss Sam; I wish she was here.

June 28, 2010

Experiment 1: The New Space

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: — Sunflower Skins @ 1:13 am

Night 1 of switching opening lines and personalities. This is the result. More to follow.

He sat there, staring. He couldn’t help feeling that he was looking into another galaxy, another dimension. To his eyes they took a form similar to lizards: alien blobs with tentacles and slobbering mouths. Similar—but not at all. The watery, slippery skins appeared to be melting off the misshapen surface. If it was surface. If he reached out his hand, would he fall right through? Or would the slime cling to his fingers, somehow reflecting his image right back into himself?

This was weird.

He crawled a little closer, recalling stories of old thermometers, ones that still used mercury. Could that be what this was? All over his walls, globbed, rolling, effervescent in some clusters. This was mercury, of course.

Then why was it green?—or, greenish.

Last night had been no ordinary one, of gazing at the stars from a distance, measuring galaxies through space and structure and language and emotion. Physics doesn’t mean a grain of salt anymore, but last night, he didn’t know he would lose all comprehension of the universe.

That’s absurd. But it happened.

Suddenly things stopped working the way they had before. And it was entirely unpredicted, unimagined—merely on a desperate whim of the universe. Religious or spiritual implications are irrelevant—though wouldn’t you think that an infinity of space would finally, in a single moment, conceive of and summon inner forces enough to throw itself from all scientific comprehension.

No, he hadn’t thought of that.

He couldn’t pretend it was mercury.

Maybe it was what physicists called wormholes. Or the 4th dimension. Looking into it, gazing into the abyss in his bedroom, he wondered if invisible numbers were no longer imagined. Just try to visualize the world now.

But the entire world was shifting, shifting—and he had sat there, vulnerable, for too long. Those blobs were shifting too, coming closer and gathering, balling up. Their tongues began to unfurl, slowly dividing and stretching closer and closer. Surrender? Be eaten? Instantly he knew, jump into it, become one with the new space—

He turned away from the mirror.

June 25, 2010

Sketches, Experiment 10: Eating Wisdom

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , , , — Sunflower Skins @ 12:50 am


At the ripe age of thirteen, full of spunk and fever, I once pronounced a curse of death upon my grandmother for making me come home early from a party. She didn’t approve of “the young people drinking.” That seems so many years ago, but I can remember her expression exactly, her no-nonsense, I-can-dish-it-right-back remark:

“Honey, you’re dying as soon as you’re born. Get used to it.”

What strikes me now is not the idea that life is a struggle or that our journeys are ending as soon as they’re beginning or whatever. It’s her attitude in the last part. Become familiar with your mortality—and your chance for error and injury and dishonesty. Get to know and understand your transgressions. Accept them.

In my first high school science class that fall I learned that adaptability is one of the nine characteristics of living things. To adapt despite the weather, to turn wherever there’s sunlight.

Purple bruised wound. Accept the ability to adapt to this shitty world? Why would I want to live through this?

My grandmother’s curse has come true: she’s dead and underground by now. I am standing here in my kitchen, looking at a vase of flowers. There were a lot of people at the funeral, but the church still seemed empty. My cat jumps onto the table and sniffs at the irises and baby’s breath, debating the possibility of eating some.

You try so many ways to get around the chaos, but you keep coming back to the same realization, that once upon a time, the chaos that balanced you.

Eat your words, baby girl. Tell yourself it will be alright and continually adapt to the infinite changes. Never stop changing. And in that, be constant.

June 24, 2010

Sketches, Experiment 9: Violet

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , , — Sunflower Skins @ 1:37 am


An impromptu thunderstorm; I didn’t think it would come until tomorrow. The day, so humid and sticky, bellyaching. Threats all afternoon. The air, heavy, my eyelids lowered.

Rain in patterns, on and off; bright and dark, back and forth like my mood.

Smoky eyes. My body languid, smooth. I’ve come down to the basement to take refuge from the heat. Lightening strikes somewhere, but the thunder, it’s still far off. I have yet to feel the heart of it.

My evening out, hair frizzed and untamed. Cannot conquer. But enticing nonetheless. I sit down on the cool floor. Amongst boxes of wonderful, forgotten nights when I had some company with whom to share this hot, hot heat.

I listen to the rain and study the shape of my leg, the curve of the shoe; all colours reflected in empty bottles of vodka. A flash of light and my body rumbles. Already my dress is wet with sweat, stuck to my skin. Imagine the lightening striking my skin. What colours it would make. Sounds I hear like shifting glass, and water on the streets, pounding, pounding.

What difference would it make if I were sober?

The crack of lightening and thunder and gold glitter in my eyes, feel violent, feel like a million fucking bulbs have blown apart the sky and at last brought peace to the swaying, happy house.

June 18, 2010

Sketches, Experiment 8: I’m Sorry, But I Just Can’t Eat It

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , , — Sunflower Skins @ 1:20 am


The cake looks delicious, it’s true. One of those homemade, surprisingly well put-together jobs by the family “chef.” I have taken a few bites to be polite. There’s too much sugar in the frosting—too sweet, it will overpower the raspberries and ruin the aftertaste if one chooses to eat the decoration. Which I don’t. Seeds in the teeth.

I take a look at the form.

The cake, moist, whipped well, icing dripping—so enticing—each slice cut to a perfect isosceles triangle, topped with large, fresh raspberries—and served on… drum roll… dollar store paper plates. Nice presentation, folks.

Only a monster could look at this and not want to eat anything. Then I am a monster. But I have good taste.

I look around the party: the birthday girl, just turned four, wearing a Dora the Explorer sweatshirt—I fucking hate Dora; the girl’s brother, older, on his third slice of cake already—and he’s engaged with his cousin in an eating contest; a dozen senile residents slobbering over themselves and the children; the totally inattentive, self-absorbed mother, whose own mother—Marilyn Brooks—the one responsible for this idiotic display of affection. I roll my eyes at my father, but he just gives me that What-do-I-know-Look. After all, I suppose I agreed to visit on this particular afternoon. I knew what loathsome humanity I’d come across.

Yet I come across it everywhere.

In every restaurant I see it, in every mall food court. Amongst concession stands at the ball parks and amid church bake sales. You people disgust me. Look at how you consume culture! Ooh, lookie! Hotdog stand flavoured chips.

The stench of the home has overwhelmed me. Must. get. fresh. air. So what if I’m being a little dramatic today? Being around children, even extraordinarily outgoing ones, makes me feel silly myself. Even though my childhood wasn’t silly. But I don’t want to play with other children right now—I’m cutting short my visit with father because I want to play with knives.

I remember reading: If there’s one thing that I despise, it’s the sound of steak sobbing—and smiling a little smile to myself. Perhaps I’m not alone in my playful thoughts.

June 16, 2010

Sketches, Experiment 7: A Typical Caulfield Conversation

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , , , — Sunflower Skins @ 4:22 pm


The opposite direction of the mummies, the left instead of right in the lobby, are the skeletons. You come into this massive circular room and there are these giant skeletons hanging from the ceiling. I guess when I was little I didn’t like to come in here a lot, like the birds or alligator bones scared me or some kind of crap like that, but I don’t remember that at all; I like them a lot, if you want to know, but that’s the kind of lousy stuff my parents would say if you asked about my childhood. Never anything normal, like how I’m doing well in school or that my birthday is coming up, but these really goddam personal things, I swear. It annoys me more than anything because it’s not true, like I said. Most kids like those kinds of things and get all gruesomely excited, while others turn peevish and whine over anything creepy, but I wasn’t one of the latter, for god’s sake.

I sometimes come here before going to see the mummies. Around the entire perimeter of the room are glass cases of smaller bones, animals like toads and snakes and fish. There’re a couple horses, an elephant. I’ve seen all of these and am not really interested in any of them right now. There’s this monkey skeleton on the other side of the big room, though, that always kills me. He’s on a branch, posed, leering at whoever looks in on him. The thing is, he looks like he’s laughing at you.

The only guy I know who’s crummy enough—cocky enough—to suppose himself among the likes of Salinger is Briton Self. Then I remember, suddenly, that he has and still does, most recently in his “statement regarding his new novel.” How could we live in a world phoney enough to presuppose itself every way, stealing from others and traversing, transgressing, transforming—making satirical, material, an empire for the senseless—? And sometimes—even currently—not even well! How could we call this art? A photograph of nature, of something somebody else already made—a block of plagiarized text, inverted from the original meaning? Shameless.

Send in your love/hate mail for Britain’s own leering monkey:

June 15, 2010

Sketches, Experiment 6: Power Lines

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , , — Sunflower Skins @ 7:37 pm


When I was little I used to believe that aliens were watching over the people of Earth, protecting us. I thought they took the form of UFOs, Northern Lights, miracles (specifically in the form of speaking in tongues and other related religious phenomena), but mostly, I believed in the power lines, a stoic army standing guard.

Now, flick away my cigarette, shove hands in pockets.

The grids across America have produced such cultural phenomena as strip malls, fast food restaurants, subway systems, and used car dealerships. Mass amounts of electricity, sent at high voltages to minimize the energy lost in long distance transmissions, now beyond any nightmare I had as a boy.

I wasn’t much beyond acquiring language at the time of the oil spill, but I was perfect for producing the next generation of Thalidomide babies, war amps, PTSD patients. AIDS. Bubonic plague. Unknown outbreaks, particularly in the northeast. New York City, or what remains.

Spare some change?

Cynic, someone sneers.

I have been watching, been part of it, all along. Part of the machine, just like you. When I was little, even, I believed in something constricting. I was born into a tyrannical world—a choked, ruthless, conservative world.

Crimes against humanity?

Yeah, right. What remains.

Do I have the energy to tell this story? My exhaustion seeps like sweat and smoke from my skin. Pockmarked. Slight jaundice. There’s little vegetation readily available. If I can find something to revive me, maybe find a place to spend the night before returning to Toronto. Tomorrow.

Tomorrow I go home again. Back to my own city, where no one has missed me—but I can’t afford to be caught across the border, and urban sprawl ensures watchmen, so I must keep going. Keep walking, stumble through the alleys. Beware of strangers, dizziness, and air planes.

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June 14, 2010

Sketches, Experiment 5: Dante on the Stairs

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , , — Sunflower Skins @ 5:27 pm


A staircase made of grating, a downward descent. Katabasis for the soul.

Flash, instant, my guide’s role reversed: my Dante, taking me through hell and upward to the light.

Separate what I know from what I see before me; try to imagine it differently, see this through naïve eyes. Richer from knowledge? In some ways, yes. Multiple perspectives and multiple genders, traversing different lives and letting what happened, happen. But only once; I no longer live in that moment.

This moment, on the stairs. About the jump into my lap, beside me, on the step above me. Doesn’t matter, he’s here.

Looking through my own eyes, hair and dust, glass. Reframe it. Review. Reword.

I’m sitting on the soft plush of the staircase, about two thirds up. Dante, soft and petite, his every bone I know—Dante, alert, vigilant, lying on my chest—this cat is watching my every move. He knows my vices. He doesn’t mind.

I can’t capture everything in this picture: the sound of matches and videogames, the heat from the bed, the intense comfort of my first home—but you see this space with a little bit of what I love. Finally: my Dante, myself, my art, and space: space filled and to be filled. Empty space and possibility.

June 4, 2010

Sketches, Experiment 2: Fireworks No. 1

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , , , — Sunflower Skins @ 6:00 pm


And so Narcissus gazed, and loved, and in that love desired the image that was but an image of himself. And he cried, “Oh, would that I were able to secede from my own body, depart from what I love!” Wasted by his passion and consumed by grief,

strike across the pool, my hideous reflection.

Narcissus sees what he has done, sees the black water with the fire burning and the grotesque figure hiding in its shadows. There is a moment

pierced by Cupid’s arrows yet no mark appears on this once-perfect flesh.

of pure recognition, of acknowledgment and farewell, acceptance. Dissolve now, become now. And they mourn you, Narcissus. Yet the fire was pure; you were burnt by love, and though it destroyed you, it purified you.

there is no I anymore, but a flower remains.

June 2, 2010

Sketches, Experiment 1: 29/07/1976

Filed under: experiments, prose — Tags: , — Sunflower Skins @ 3:49 pm


I approach the swing set carefully, listening sharply for any indication that I’m caught. Past dark. This summer was supposed to be different, the 13th summer, longer curfew, but not a chance. There’s a rabid dog loose in the neighbourhood, a wild animal rampaging through our flower beds and vegetable gardens. He prowls across the patio, hiding in the shadow cast by the hammock.

I creep toward the swing set cautiously, my heart loud in my chest. Feels like I’m thundering something awful inside. And my shadow, ghastly. Dew on the grass. Crickets. The communal park, between our houses and pools, is less a park than a slide and a swing. Deserted because of danger, because of the humidity; heat lightning in the west.

I wipe my sweaty hands on the seat of my shorts. If Neil Haggarty doesn’t show, I’ll kill him. Mom and dad would bust a hernia if they knew. But can’t control this wild animal.

Where is he?

The neighbouring lights are beginning to brighten, windows lit up with dancing silhouettes; or, behind a curtain, emptiness grim beyond all expectations, despite all precautions and investments. The lights burn, burn inside me, see a glow arise from Neil’s house, just behind the first ring of the courtyard. The heaviness of the night – July lethargy, sweetness smells, my new perfume – only enhance the feeling that what I wait for is worth the while. He will come to me.

I smack a mosquito on my thigh. Blood. Thunder rumbles. Sleepiness and entirely alert, nerves on end, my body poised. The dog’s golden eyes, mad, stare me down, and I hear my mother’s weary, frustrated voice calling my name. I return the rabid glare, leaning against the slide the whole time.

Then I turn my back on the dog, to better shelter elsewhere. Trotting away, I lick the foam from my lips.

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