“The Pilgrim’s Yoke”

Bards and Sages Quarterly October 2018 cover

I’m back from attending Can-Con 2018 in Ottawa and figured I’d officially announce that I’ve made my first story sale. Hurrah!

“The Pilgrim’s Yoke” is the story of a pilgrim who seeks the waters of life and is refused. I wrote it as a sort of deconstruction of the hero’s journey, while building on my personal experience of pilgrimage, dissatisfaction, and the indescribable nature of the numinous.

The story appeared in Bards & Sages Quarterly this October.

You can buy it from the following retailers:

Amazon / Amazon Kindle

Kobo

Smashwords

If you liked “The Pilgrim’s Yoke,” you can vote for it in the 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards!

I’d love to hear what you thought of the story and how it made you feel. Reply to this post with your feedback and I’ll be sure to respond to any questions you might have.

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“In the Ruins of Shambhala”

My short story “In the Ruins of Shambhala” has appeared on 600 Second Saga, a flash fiction audiobook podcast. It’s my first publication outside of a student literary magazine and you can listen to it here! It is narrated by Mariah Avix.

I wrote a first draft of this story while at the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2016 and presented it at the Odyssey public reading at Barnes and Noble. The idea of the story came to me as a kind of sidetrack while working on my novel, which takes place in a similar, though not identical, milieu. A couple of characters from Michael Ondaatje novels crossed together in my imagination–specifically, the deminer Kirpal Singh from The English Patient and Ananda from Anil’s Ghost–and in my own consciousness, the composite of these two figures became inextricable from the plot of a Lost World story. The setting of my story is based loosely on the Hindu/Buddhist myth of Shambhala–to elevate the drama, I suppose.

I view this story as a commemoration of the men and women who work to preserve cultural heritage sites in dangerous places. A great example of individuals who do just that in real life are the archaeologists at Mes Aynak in Afghanistan, who place themselves at risk daily to preserve the past.

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I may not have posted for a while, but I wanted to share this success with as many of my readers and listeners as I can. I have had plans over the last few weeks to give this blog a new start and possibly a re-brand. I’ve had the idea of reviewing short stories as I read through fantasy/weird fiction anthologies, such as the massive volume known as The Weird by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer and the slimmer but no less rewarding The New Voices of Fantasy by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman. I hope that some of my present responsibilities will free up soon so I can dedicate time for these ambitious projects.

“Anticlimax”

My most recent poem to be published was printed in Read this Dammit!‘s January edition: “Janus: God of the Gateways.” You can pick up a copy on McGill campus in the news racks in the Leacock Building or at the MacLennan Library. I am quite happy that I was able to read it at the Paper’s Edge Coffee House at Burritoville last Friday. I was also able to read scene 1 of my novel,  in which I feel quite confident. For your reading pleasure, here it my poem. Sorry if it’s a bit of a let down. It should speak to everyone who has ever raised his or her hopes too far for nothing, whether for a material pleasure or a relationship.

Remember my previous poem “I See You Too?” This one takes a similar but different angle.

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Anticlimax”

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I feel

there should be greater

harmony in the spheres

now that I have you.

Or that my neurons would

have spilled endorphins

to swell me with pleasures

now inexplicable.

           But you sit there an object

           idle and gilt, shallow

           as a French courtier. Well.

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French courtier 2
A French courtier dressed in the latest Parisian fashion of his time. Can’t you just sense the depth of this guy’s soul? Probably goes about his deep as his pantyhose.

French courtier 1
Another eighteenth-century French courtier. Ta-daa! Cricket cricket.

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Picture Credits:

Courtier 1: http://www.art.com/products/p4091119739-sa-i4723321/french-courtier.htm

Courtier 2: http://blog.ut.ee/tartu-student-fashion-through-time/

“Ice Breaker”

Last Monday, the Fall edition of the McGill student literary journal STEPS was published, with my poem in it!

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It’s a reflection on arctic blizzards and hallucination–seeing things in randomness when there’s no one else around to contradict you.

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Bonus marks: Can you spot the allusions to Frankenstein and Don Quixote? If you can, are they really there? Don’t worry, I won’t gainsay you.

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Ice Breaker”

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         He was a man        broken

         by disasters

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seen running across

the crumbling arctic

tilting      at rotating illusions

as clouds of yesterday

fogged      his mind

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his dogs dead

          his body alone     with the Aurora

          where the compass does not settle

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                     what would a compass mean anyway

                     in this         expanse

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he sees spirits         floating

made of fallen snow

this far North, the world is how he sees it

no one will say         no

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warmth as

winter’s         caress

                     frees him

                       to die

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he gathers ice

a funeral pyre

wishes bright wings

Vegetables of the Romantic Period

Here are simply a few humorous pictures I drew last semester for The Veg magazine, a McGill student literary magazine (not actually vegetable-themed, but that’s kind of a running joke…) You will recognize that the vegetables are all based on Romantic poets. Worth a laugh, I think. Kinda fits too–weren’t the Romantics nature poets? Now they belong to nature completely. In fact, you can grow them in your garden.

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Vegetables of the Romantic Period 2
Charles YamParsley Bysshe ShelleySamuel Taylor Cabbage
Vegetables of the Romantic Period 1
Elizabeth Carrot BrowningGourd ByronJohn Beets

 

Bloody Caesar; or The Ides of March

Several years ago, I wrote an experimental short story: the assassination of Julius Caesar told from the perspective of his blood. I’m still quite proud of it, and I thought I’d share it with you here.  A nice short story that de-familiarizes the familiar, it was originally published online at the SPACE website, an arts-sciences program based at Dawson College in Montreal, Quebec. They have some pretty amazing arts-science fusion articles, poetry, and lab reports. It’s worth checking out.

“Bloody Caesar” was the name SPACE gave to this story, but my original title was “The Ides of March.” Call it what you will; I’m not great with titles. Call it by both, in fact, if you like the retro double-title thing.

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Bloody Caesar; or The Ides of March

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Rome’s flowing blood pulses through veins.

Into the heart, out of it, into the heart, out into the fingers.

Thud thud. Thud thud.

Haemoglobin captures oxygen from the lungs, oxygen of the spring air. Blood cells shoot back and forth, get sucked into heart valves and blown out again into an arm, into a leg, into the nose, into the foot. Cells carry carbon dioxide back from the extremities and into the lungs to be exhaled. The heart is relaxed and pushes the blood cells throughout the body, energizing the leg muscles that make the organism walk.

The legs move in a different way, pinching the veins in the calf and heel. Slowly the organism descends stairs and the blood pumps faster. Up into the throat now, and into the head. The blood grows hot. The tongue wags. The oxygen of the Senate’s air enters the blood afresh to cool it, yet the temperature rises. The blood cannot smell the Senate air, but the organism knows where it is: in the heart of an Empire at its height.

Suddenly, the glands emit a torrent of adrenaline as the eyes dart to the side. The heart accelerates, until the rhythm mimics that of galloping horse. Arms loosen and the legs run. Oxygen is blown into the muscles like a hurricane to incinerate glucose and produce energy. But the blood cells feed the muscles like water bearers attempting to fill a pond in the desert. A shadow hangs over the organism. The heart beats at its peak.

Thud thud thud thud.

Rippling sonic waves tear through the blood stream. Almost instantly, a full penetration as a pointed pugio slashes sinew. Hot blood pours from the neck and splashes on cold marble. Blood flows and the coagulation process begins, though there can be no hope to patch the wound.

A Roman pugio dagger.
A Roman pugio dagger.

The organism reels.

A thud in the back and marble stairs pinch the blood flow as the organism reclines. The arm moves forward to block the face as cells feed the gluttonous muscles. Another penetration. A stab. Blood snakes down from the arm and wrists. A ripple of waves ebbs the blood.

Further penetrations mutilate the chest, the shoulders, the abdomen. Blood flows from veins and arteries until it becomes a scarce resource. A few seconds reprieve the wounds, but hold no consolation for the organism.

Another sonic wave moves through the blood. Once again, the cells hear nothing, but the ears hear everything. Et tu, Brute?

A pugio slips through the ribcage and kills the heart as the organism bleeds its last.

Ides of march

Picture Credits:

http://annoyzview.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/real-story-of-julius-caesar%E2%80%99s-assassination/

http://space.dawsoncollege.qc.ca/content/text/the_ides_of_march

“What Walmart Smells Like”

walmart

Being forced through the automatic doors of a Walmart one evening last winter with my family, I decided to deconstruct the experience of the torture that is globalized shopping by paying close attention to the most potent, yet misunderstood of the five senses.

I hope you enjoy this post, as a break from my usual three- or four page-long ruminations on books and history. Sorry, if you find that the sterile colour scheme in the above photo clashes with my parchment paper background, which suggests the wonderful vanilla smell of old books … but I do this for the sake of poetry. After all, a few verses can help you notice things you’ve ignored before. All good art should renew one’s perspective of the mundane.

“What Walmart Smells Like” appeared in a McGill University campus journal The Veg last April. I am very proud of it, my first published poem.

I wrote most of the images, including others that did not make the cut, on a piece of packing cardboard I found lying in an aisle under a shelf at a Walmart store. I loved playing with the conflict inherent in trying to actually smell anything distinct in the vacuous space of the warehouse that Walmart really is. Vacuous in many senses, though here I focus on smell. Scents triggers memories and memories are our identity. What that could imply, I leave for you to figure out.


 

“What Walmart Smells Like”

 

Distant, watered-down.

Trouble.

 

A lonely coldness,

an empty chill.

 

Freezer coolant.

Your aunt’s strawberry scented candles. Your mom’s cookie dough.

Freezer coolant. Sweet bread, pastries, cinnamon buns

in the bakery, with carrot raisin

muffins,

 

croissants. McDonalds’ frying lipids cross

with carcinogenic smoke,

converging and stale

 

fructose;

Like when solid candies melt together,

or you spill a dead Sprite,

and one week later

your boots are still sticky

 

books, laminated,

smelling like bathrooms, baskets,

and cotton mats,

homely enough to carry some memory

beneath their fibre

 

optics. Electronics

out of bubble papered cardboard boxes.

Unwrapping acetate-cased silicon chips,

perfume of static

 

and cologne. Or dampness

under jackets, when they cross you

in the aisle.

Then a sharp soapy attack

in the cleansing section

 

sterilizes the senses

of the one who senses the sterilized.

 

 

Photo Credits:

Walmart: http://www.impowerable.com/protect-the-planet/how-mcdonalds-and-wal-mart-affect-your-food/

“I See You Too”

After years of trying, I have finally published a decent poem in one of the McGill campus literary journals! And, this is my first poem ever published, perfectly suited (by coincidence, actually) for the Valentine’s edition of Read this, Dammit!, the publication of the Paper’s Edge creative writing group. I really lucked out on this one!

The poem came to me when I conceived of a conceit that plays off Rene Descartes’ scepticism about whether or not the people around him are automatons. Through some non-linear thinking process, the thought, “What if a lover was afraid his beloved was an automaton?” announced itself. I also thought I’d try writing a poem inspired by John Donne’s conceits. Indeed, I allude to “The Ecstasy” in several of the stanzas. The Song of Solomon also provided inspiration.

Be aware of a pun in the title. Science nerds might get it.

Now, without any further ado:

 

“I See You Too”

 

Is this all our body,

             an illusion of love?

 

          In the pomegranate fields

                              of the eternal now,

                   by the banks of the swollen river,

                            our fingers intergraft,

         locking teeth.

 

          Are we two souls two gears,

closed systems

          touching hands?

Do fingers bend

          for integration of input?

Is your ankle, by my thigh,

          a rivet?

Are your legs plastic—or fiberglass—

          or your arm, a vise?

And this,

         is it just plumbing and pump,

        Tube A to Valve E?

 

Cords of synthetic sinew

          crisscross your face:

          do they pull together to please me,

or does a mind pull them, pleased?

 

CO2 is on your breath.

          Your body burning against mine:

a furnace grafting my carbon matter

           onto dancing atoms of       purity.

 

          O, O the illusion is truer!

Was he who created you clockmaker

          or lover?

 

Your eyes are two spheres:

          orbital intelligences

around the simulacrum

                  contained in your skin.

 

           I hear the symphonic magic.

          Focusing beyond you,

Both eyes form one,

become a clear window.

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