The Epistemology of Balloons

Steve McOrmond


The boy trudging with his mother
along the windy street is little
and the bouquet of helium balloons
he’s sea-anchored to is very large
and cumbersome. Fine motor skills
are a work in progress. So far, most things
have wanted to stay put or else
to crash down with a satisfying thud, but these
bright orange balloons have minds
of their own; they twist and tug at his grip
on their strings – any moment they might
lift him into the air. The thought
produces a muddle of pleasure and terror
he’ll wait years to put a name to.
Anyone can guess what happens next, but
to the boy, it comes as a big surprise: The sky
took my balloons! Away they go, over the roofs
toward a blue gap between high-rises
and building cranes that angle
like giant pinball paddles. If they don’t
snag and go pop, they just might make it
all the way across the lake, coming down
in Buffalo or Rochester, but you wouldn’t
wish that on anyone or anything, not even
a balloon. Were the mother to speak,
her words would come out strange. Hold on
tight is a rule of thumb, but sometimes
a lighter touch is required. The boy’s
exaggerated gasp as good a response as any.
Once in a while (don’t count on it),
what has been taken is returned
to us. They’re huge! The snowflakes
that have just now begun lazily to fall.












Adam Dickinson


……………Catenibacterium mitsuokai

The tongue map
is wrong.
There are buds down

to the commonwealth.
What was the bliss
point of African blood

in the table sugars
of Europe?
Every year,

spinach produces
a sugar
in its leaves

to the world’s
annual output

of iron ore.
Without hurting
the taste, a young child

can stand
to keep a hand
in cold water

with a sweet mouth.
The faster starch

converts to Christianity,
the quicker each outreach
over police radios.

O my sweet tooth,
my oatmeal raisin,
my poisoned tipped

candy apple cart.
Pleasure from food
is the air waving goodbye

in heat,
like an inherited empire.

In this way,
we are closest
to people who touch

what we eat.
Captives of loneliness
stare into icing.

I know enough
about the cherry on top
to lick around the sides.




“Mouthfeel” responds to microbial changes caused by the Western diet. High sugar and high fat have resulted in gut microbiomes commonly dominated by the phyla Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. This poem concerns sugar specifically. While its precise effect on the Western diet remains unclear, there is research that suggests the ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes is influenced by sugar intake. In particular, the abundance of Catenibacterium mitsuokai and Bacteroides appear to be affected. I found these microbes inside my body after analysing my microbiome.











Gary Barwin


stars originate from
the same place as bells
what should I be thinking about?
apparently May 6th
is World Naked Gardening Day

if a school were a uterus
someone writes
the politicians would protect
the children inside

a cupped hand
a mouthful of water
snowball the shape of a hand


after 9/11 I remember writing
something sarcastic
intended to be Zen
a poem about not being able to find a sock
I pissed off the poet
George Murray

but I realize it’s true
anytime I’ve lost a sock
someone’s being shot
even when I haven’t lost one


once my son went with my in-laws and the rabbi
to the lake
Tashlich: dropping bread into water
casting off sins

why am I doing this
my son said don’t believe in it
what about making the world better?
the rabbi asked
yes my son said yes

my son and I
late autumn
walking under the golden leaves

on my desk
a stapler, paperclips, some books
laptop open to American news












Robin Richardson


First build fires negotiate idiosyncrasies
….his micro her PTSD her desire for religion
his grids his symmetry his body which
….is crushing her varied reactions to this
sometimes roused sometimes dampened
….mostly bloodlust Kali is her space
meaning uninhibited meaning violence
….meaning creation beyond adjudication
next is nutrients placing the snake
….in the mouth placing the rat in the mouth
placing all bodies in the fire then mouth
….making traps making myths making
an agreement to share in some or other
….formal way so all the mouths touch
all the animals so all the myths make
….room for all the awkward inner skirmishes
next the sky resembles a mirror to the mirror
….goes desire also all the things she doesn’t say
next is a way to blame the mirror to make
….the mirror contain their uncontainables
so she gets charming gets quiet lets mirror
….be God lets God grow next a baby
postpartum fitfulness of God knows
….what should have been a lovely day
next negotiate language his energy increasing
….his pronouns her BDD the smallness
of her hands his pronouns pressed in stone
….then moveably in China then Gutenberg
the book of hours where her marginalia
….reveals Kali again or Gaia or Bea is burned
a building then a magistrate a record label
….her body resculpted her affable humility
his presidency her aptitude for hosting projections
….his sheer enjoyment until again she’s burned
or overdoes it with the bottles in a bed
….of his will her next carnation will be angry
her next body will be big and black and she will
….buy the record label will bury the ceiling then slay












Stephen Brockwell


To be shat upon from the stratosphere
is no small miracle of gravity
and trade winds, but to be shoulder-splattered
with an eye, the carob-centered white dot
of soaring sea bird stool, is to be granted
the voice of the bard for a few seconds
to tap the Saxon spring for expletives.
Frank Ebanks tells me—in different words—
the frigatebird is no Canada goose;
it plies the up-and-down draughts with the grace
of a Martha Graham gossamer dance—
breathtaking. But it’s air-bound; one wet feather
and say goodbye to soaring with the clouds.
An exercise in breeding: the frigate class
never get their feathers wet. If they did,
they wouldn’t breed or wouldn’t feed the brood
they leave on shore. One takes the privilege
of effortless flight to an extreme, cleans
its feathers, preens while hanging with the clouds
—no, not like an open mic poet washing
stains from her shirt as she reads an ecstatic
ode to gods who have yet to believe in us—
but like a ten-million-dollar southpaw
driving his Telsa to the mound, sliding
out the gull-wing doors to throw a slider,
nicking the strike box at the bottom left
while polishing his alligator wallet.
I was going to say, “Who wouldn’t love to be
that bird, not the crane in a Basho haiga,
but the poet painting word and image
with a single stroke while slicing finest
maguro from the belly of bluefin?”
Such effortless excellence is a joke.
If the geese waddle on the muddy shore
and wade near riverbanks to feed on sedge,
cattails, and snails among algae-plagued reeds,
or make a way-point of cattle corn fields
to graze on abandoned cobs, when they fly,
they shit on us with artless abundance.












Ayelet Tsabari


I should have told you in that synagogue
in Montreal during our brother’s wedding
to a girl from Hampstead.
Our entire family had flown over
from Israel, unabashed and un-Canadian,
me from Vancouver; you, from your
once-in-a-lifetime backpacking trip to India.

While the rabbi spoke of faith and matrimony
one of our sisters-in-law leaned
over and whispered, jerking her chin
toward you in the other row: Her ex-boyfriend.
A motorcycle accident. But don’t tell her.
She’s travelling. She’s having fun.
Don’t tell her. And so, oddly obedient, I didn’t.

I didn’t at the reception, you: luminous
in your green dress, bought in a market
in Jaipur, sparkling silk speckled
with mirrors like a Bollywood disco ball.
I didn’t in my Vancouver basement
apartment, where you came to stay,
backpack and all, woke up one morning

from the bed we shared and said, “I dreamt
about him. He lived on Dead Street.
What does it mean?” And still I didn’t
on Wreck Beach our skin sand-studded
and sprinkled with salt our black hair blazing
tar and strung with gold, and when we swam
naked, gasping and squealing,

our Mediterranean bodies stunned then stung
by the Pacific waters. I didn’t when you broke
your toe from dancing barefoot on the sand,
or when you weaved funny plotlines for patients
at the ER, elaborate love triangles for the doctors
and staff, and we were stupid stoned—for the pain!
I almost told you many times, but didn’t;

because our father died when you were 17,
because two years later your first love
shot himself with an Uzi, and because we were
having the sunshiny, shimmery summer
of our dreams. “I just found out my ex died,”
you wrote in an email from India.
You flew back there at the end of summer,

leaving me alone in my subterranean suite,
with cool tiles that stabbed my feet,
and slivers of grey, mucky skies wedged
in small windows. And then, a moment
later: “I’m so stupid.
………………………..You must have known
all this time.” My heart dropped like an elevator

with a snapped rope, and I wished
for the weeks to unfurl backwards,
for time to unfold back upon itself,
for my words to unlodge themselves
from my throat, unsilenced,
the way as a child I pled with our father
…………………………………… undie.













Artful Dodger

Jennifer Pederson


silk was thin as i could get without being naked
and i let the wind push it slick to my skin
birds skimming the water crying ah, ah
like the eyes of men who tried to hide their looking

dodger expected nothing anymore
guitar strung backward
everything upside down

he smiled
and wanted to sing for me
so i followed him further
and let his rough high voice
roll over me
let his sad eyes
touch me
until i said i had to go

i wanted to tell him about my two-dollar shoes
i gave him cigarettes

when they held the hotel doors for me
their deference sat hard on my tongue
like a precious, poisoned stone











Congratulations on Tenure, Dear Robert

Micheline Maylor


……….I listen to money singing. It’s like looking down
……….From long French windows at a provincial town,
……….The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad
……….In the evening sun. It is intensely sad.
………………………………….– Philip Larkin.

Dear Robert, I’m glad you feel satisfied with your work. Since
graduating I’ve held five jobs, at once, of course you know that.
No reason you shouldn’t be happy with your tenure promotion.
I know I’ve made you feel uncomfortable with my whinging
about working 80 hours a week for little pay and no health coverage.
My life has changed very little since we started. When I look back,
I still make the same wage as an undergrad. I’m fifty years old
and not eligible for a mortgage, but I suppose that’s nothing much.
Just one less slave to the machine. One less servant to the man.
I listen to the money singing. It’s like looking down a hall

of closed doors. A door! An office! That’s some reward, Robert!
That should be enough, shouldn’t it? Never-mind the fancy presse
coffee machine in the staff lounge! I fucked this up myself, you know.
I could have gone to law school. But it was such a bore, those logic
puzzles and insufficient arguments billed in six minute increments.
I should have accepted the invitation to the University of Las Vegas.
I should have been less self-conscious. I was not enough impressed
with myself, you see. I’m shocked the whole plan didn’t work out.
Have you ever lived with that sort of disappointment, Robert?
It’s like looking up at the long French windows from a provincial town.

It makes me angry. Everything about this institution infuriates! Indignities
planned by budget makers, unkind, and certain to release themselves
from financial entrapment, loading up class sizes. Damn humanity
and civility, damn the students. More sessionals clamour this way,
a new batch just graduated with hopeful resumes, replacements for
the burnt out. So let cynicism burn, dear Robert. I don’t blame you,
your turned back at the Christmas party. Say hello to your (ex-student,
yes?) wife. I have forgotten her name. This is my first poem, too much
infused with sorrow. I light no lamps with my youth, or my dreams
fallen in the slums, the canal, and the churches, ornate and mad.

When I come to work to mark papers on wet Sunday afternoons,
my worries find perspective. It is all encompassing and vulnerable,
my age, and place in this institution. I’m aware of my own transience,
of my own simple, bottom-line worth. If I stay undervalued here for thirty
years. . . But, you will not have to feel this tightness in your chest, Robert.
I, too, prefer cake to that sort of uncomfortable inequity. Let me eat.
I’m still at my desk this evening. Don’t take me to dinner. Don’t worry
about my health. Things might take a turn. I’m very happy and content
teaching this seasonal course yet again. It has a Sisyphean rhythm.
This semester is rolling, Robert, up to the evening sun. It is intensely sad.











I Chose This Moment To Transmogrify And I’m Beginning To Regret It

Alanna Schiffer


O, cardinal in a birch: lookin’ good, man.
I think I want to wrap my hand around
the soft meringue weight of your body.
All your plush feathers densely packed

like a forty-dollar makeup brush,
and they glow the hot, medicinal red
of a secret flashlight through my skin.
Look at you. Bleeding in the chapped

and peeling branches of the hipster trees.
I just — God damn. You are magnificent.
Folks, this is a quality cardinal.
I am getting my money’s worth

with this cardinal right now.
I gotta do this shit more often.
Just one question: why
is my upper lip tingling?

I go to scratch and there’s a full-on
wiry mustache living there. It takes
a moment, but then I understand:
I am becoming Don McKay.

The next thirty minutes are a blur
and some of it, I don’t even want to
discuss. Things appear, jockey for
position, and lock magnetically into

place: the glasses, cargo vest,
softened leather field journal,
binoculars-as-stethoscope for wingbeats,
weathered complexion from nights

spent tinkering with my own perception
of time. And now I’m imbued
with an overwhelming urge to carve
something out of wood:

I could carve you, Cardinal. Do I still
have Cabernet Varathane in the shed?
No. I don’t have a shed—you know that.
I have loose ends, abandoned online

shopping baskets, dreams of a capsule
wardrobe. I have kids, Cardinal.
Who will pack their bento boxes
in the morning? You tilt your weird head

as I take off through the snow, zigzag
to lose him, haul open the living
room’s sliding glass door and clomp in
wheezing, my boots like facts on the ground.

In the distance, you call out, but of course,
I mistake it for a car alarm. A Tilley hat
descends by stage wire. By the time
I move to dodge it, it’s already on my head.











Matthew Hollett


We twist white petals onto its bud,
step back, and watch the blossom blur
and buzz, whisking the air around itself

into dandelion-fluff. A puff of breath
and it shucks off the earth, then suddenly
dies – shrivelling up, up, up

into its stem, until there’s nothing left
but a speck on the cloudbank we planted it in
and an ache in the back of our necks.