Vallum Poem of the Week: “wasted” by Julia Teeluck

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wasted

 

memory slips through crooked fingers,
reaching for seventeen and its promises

we were skinny things
cocaine eyes and cracked lips
sharing cherry gloss between classes

“Thinner is the winner”
we sipped Diet Coke at lunch

a sky-blue cafeteria melting grease and thick laughter
plates of poutine and pizza
a game: how long to eat a pepperoni?
nibble the edge
taste salt on your tongue
salivating
ignore the wolf gnawing in your belly

“Thinner is the winner”
we chewed cinnamon gum at night

a bedroom plastered with DiCaprio posters
praying the pangs away
a hundred leg lifts
gets you there
gets you closer to God

 


image1Julia Teeluck is a Canadian writer of mixed Guyanese heritage. Her poetry has recently appeared in Feels zine’s Anxiety issue and her story “42” about a girl’s longing to fit in at school and escape
responsibilities at home, received first prize in Canvas magazine’s short story contest (Ryerson University,
2014). 

She explores themes of  identity, belonging, jealousy, and aims to bridge the mystical and real worlds in her
creative works. She also seeks to understand the shadow self and delves into darker matters such as eating
disorders, suicide, depression and addiction in her poetry and prose. 

Julia is a former reader at PRISM international and a recent graduate of UBC’s Creative Writing MFA Program. 


18_1coverThis poem was originally published in Vallum issue 18:1 Invisibility.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.

“Linger Factor” by Josh Feit, Honourable Mention Winner of Vallum’s Annual Poetry Award 2020

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Linger Factor

The Department of Transportation sidewalk study ranked my neighborhood

15 points above average. A 24% linger factor.

My neighborhood would score even higher

if the DOT surveyed at night

when youth appear in clinamen lines.

The study found this: People who linger are

       talking to other people,  or buying         sandwiches,

                                                                                  

 using electronics,

                   browsing heirloom tomatoes,  playing cello,

              waiting for the bus,   watching an opera

singer,    giving directions to other people,   exercising,

  brushing someone’s hair out of their eyes,

stretching in the warm 21st century weather,    
 

showing signs of intoxication such as slurred speech or unfocused eyes,

        doing street upkeep like                          gardening or sweeping,

asking               for money or food,

            stopping, to take a cellphone picture of jets descending.

If you believe the local columnist, neighborhoods like mine,                         

where there’s evidence of Dvorak’s cello harmonics,

ruin everything.

39% of people who linger are reclining,

sitting on benches, for example, or leaning against a wall.

That’s what we were doing.

11% of people lingering are reclining on infrastructure not intended for reclining, which

indicates need for more infrastructure.

I was leaning on a wall talking to you. Waiting for the bus. Eyes unfocused.

Brushing your hair away from your face.

The linger factor was high.


joshfeitJosh Feit’s poems have been published in SpillwayCircleShowBee House, and The Halcyone Literary Review, among other journals. Feit was a finalist for the 2019 Lily Poetry Prize. He is the speechwriter for the Puget Sound’s regional transit agency.


This poem was published in Vallum issue 18:1, Invisibility. Available to purchase through our website.

annualaward2021TheVallum Award for Poetry 2021 is now open for submissions! Check out the entry requirements on our website and submit your work to be one of our next winners!

“we lost ahmaud” by Esther Johnson, Honourable Mention Winner of Vallum’s Annual Poetry Award 2020

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we lost ahmaud

 

we lost ahmaud
i cried to my momma the night we lost ahmaud
it’s unfair unjust uncivil
it’s a modern day genocide
the victims are my people
why can’t we run in peace? 

we lost juice
i cried to my daddy the night we lost juice
when they made us feel lesser than since birth,
how can a black man live a life they filled with pain
instead he’s filled with codeine, addys and percs
why can’t we die in peace?

we lost breonna 
i cried to my sister the night we lost breonna
they raided the wrong home
an accident they said
“we promise we don’t condone
why can’t we live in peace?

we lost x
i cried to my brother the night we lost x
he was gonna be a dad
he spoke words of wisdom to black youth
but was assassinated young over a LV bag
why can’t we drive in peace?

we lost pop 
i cried to my cousin the night we lost pop 
we’re all we got left, but we don’t got trust
black crime they call it
so they can finally blame us
why can’t we sleep in peace? 

we lost george floyd 
i cried to my friend  last night about george floyd
4 cops, one with a knee on his nick
we protest retweet retaliate
somehow we can’t keep this system in check
why can’t we exist in peace?

we lost houdini
tonight is the night we lost houdini 
and i can’t sleep
where’s the peace?

 


essiejohnsonEsther Johnson is a Nigerian-Canadian student studying nursing at Howard University in Washington, DC. Esther graduated from secondary school with various academic and athletic awards and is currently a Howard University Freshman Scholar. Esther has a passion for social justice, a field in which she pulls most of her inspiration when writing poetry. Her goal is to become a nurse anesthetist and contribute to the work done to improve the experiences of black people in healthcare.


This poem was published in the digital edition of Vallum issue 18:1, Invisibility. Available to purchase through our website.

annualaward2021The Vallum Award for Poetry 2021 is now open for submissions! Check out the entry requirements on our website and submit your work to be one of our next winners!

 

Vallum Poem of the Week: “Ah” by Émilie Kneifel

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ah

 

red lips
red buttons
eyelash well-trimmed.

google myself
once a blue afternoon.

the cannon call
foot to ball
a black flock instead.

woodpecker.
nail.
an eyelash shell.
blue.

14 is the night version.
you and me, bent.

what do
they call it,
parsimony?

the harmony,
parsing?

the harm in me,
parsing?

the harm in me,

the harm in me?

 


kneifel headshotem/ilie kneifel is a sick slick, poet/critic, editor at The Puritan/Theta Wave, creator of CATCH/PLAYD8s, heartworms/blueberries, and also a list. find ’em at emiliekneifel.com, @emiliekneifel, and in Tiohtiá:ke, hopping and hoping.









16_2 Fear CoverThis poem was originally published in Vallum issue 16:2 Fear.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.

Vallum Poem of the Week: “Petite Sphinxes Ermite” by Roxanna Bennett

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Petite Sphinxes Ermite

 

…. At the Tate, (Modern not Britain), Leonor
Fini’s Petite sphinx ermite answers all
…. my unborn riddles: broken eggshells,

bird’s skull, “a pretty pink” human lung
…. swings “at the entrance of its dilapidated
lair” as though through years she viewed

…. me, remotely, lying here stillborn, slugging
masticated slurry through a silicone straw.
…. One of “her extraordinary hybrids” painted,

a skeleton study of stock neglect.
…. Tender creature, Shelley’s infant, who learned
the only monsters are people. “I find

…. all these feminists grotesque,” Fini said,
donning a Guerrilla Girl mask, “all artists
…. have an ambiguous side.” Dark, &

the waters, Sappho, smooth our raw edges.
…. Love erodes as much as time. My love is
the ocean, soaks my mummy bandages,

…. unwraps the old dusty lamina, exposes
thick scabs to sun & salt. Trapped on an
…. island of my own conditioning, clinging

to concepts of sickness, seawater cleanses,
…. its gentle erosion slowly coaxes
my coccyx to the threshold & holds,

…. hold, sit, still, stay. “ —a solitary figure
with a child’s head, female breasts—” I’ve spurned
…. bras since Christmas, burn the infernal

cages, these dugs too shrunken to matter,
…. “—& the paws of a lion—” The posh breast cancer
clinic is pretty pink decorated, our tax dollars

…. for tits limitless, Sick Kid’s isn’t rich like this,
gilded portraits, irises in thin vases, current issues
…. of Fashion & Flare. Cancer not the worst

but saying so is. Cancer envy. Jealous
…. of the waiting room, sympathy, jealous
of the holy status of survivor,

…. not of the lonely roller coaster
but of the protocols & answers, of being
…. called a warrior, not a malingerer,

my body is a paradigm shift
…. but they keep devising fictive Iron Maidens,
insist on dissection not integration.

…. I’m a reflection, not a stone
cast at a tin-can tower, a ruin made in
…. irony’s defence. Jealous of wanting

to be tit-free, put down the burden
…. of gender. Masculine/feminine,
either/or, black & white, left & right,

…. neither/nor. Is the cat in the box,
Schrödinger, what can it matter, rocks
…. & a bent net caught, rotting, toxic

run-off— How to be seen without being
…. dissected. I don’t care what you call me,
I am. Wave & particle, paradox surfing

…. the liminal. Leonor Fini’s tumours
hatch, catch air, “carry within them
…. a world of sensations & intuitions”

outside the frame. Matter-of-factual
…. dayworkers drain vital humours, call
abnormal the natural human pull

…. of blood to sea. See, me, not with your eyes,
those gelatinous liars, or your mind
…. (cacophonous like mine), but as I.

I am, & you, too, are, though apart, I
…. breathe what you breathe, I part-you, I
feel what you feel, you part-me, I

…. hum your grief song, carry your hurt heart
tenderly. I breathe you, in your dilapidated
…. lairs, you matter, millions of little hermit

…. sphinxes, we are a part, together.


RoxannaBennettThe disabled poem-making entity known as Roxanna Bennett gratefully resides on aboriginal land. As a settler, they thank the many generations of Indigenous people who have taken care of this land from beginningless time. They are the author of the award-winning poetry collection Unmeaningable, (Gordon Hill Press, 2019), unseen garden (chapbook, knife | fork | book, 2018), and The Uncertainty Principle (Tightrope Books, 2014).



 


18_1coverThis poem was originally published in Vallum issue 18:1 Invisibility.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.

 

 

Vallum Poem of the Week: “This is an Emergency: I Only Remember the Girl” by Poonam Dhir

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This is an Emergency: I Only Remember the Girl

 

as close to me as skin
laughs uncomfortably
what does that mean
just stuff about what happened on that street

she was there sleeping

we had a house full of rugs
we had everything
what a stupid decision

patience is in the living room, an explanation
through the hole of a blouse
like a window raising expectations

why can’t you ask her to leave

running out of basements
turning on the lights
time moves through

—to give blessings
when there are more bodies than rooms

“The idea of a good father was created, like, 30 years ago”*

when you slip under
the cover reveals unwashed hands


*Line of dialogue spoken in the film: Marriage Story

P_DHIRPoonam Dhir (she/they) is a poet and storyteller currently based in Tiohtiá:ke/ Montreal on the traditional territory of the Kanien’kehá:ka. Poonam’s work explores themes of identity, trauma, memory and the relationship between belief and belonging.





18_1coverThis poem was originally published in the digital edition of Vallum issue 18:1 Invisibility.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details. 

Vallum Poem of the Week: “Dream Journal and Interpretation From a Sober, Hungry Addict” by Spenser Smith

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Dream Journal and Interpretation from a Sober, Hungry Addict 

1.
The golden arches fall. A barred owl lays eggs inside the “o” in “McDonalds.”

I ate Big Macs so I can stop using drugs. I used drugs because I could not stomach shame.

2.
My Facebook feed, free of fast-food ads, teaches me to make Grandma’s cabbage rolls.

As a kid, I watched Grandma shake salt on everything.

As a kid, I stripped the rolls of their cabbage and ate only the rice, beef, and pork.

3.
Restaurant debit machines ask, “how are you?” before asking for a tip.

I tip extra when the too-short legs of my table are left napkinless and free to wobble.

I tip extra when the waiter acknowledges I am dining alone.

I tip extra when my fortune cookie predicts the past.

4.

Fries

An upgrade from a diet of aluminum foil and smoke.

Everything Breakfast

Because I consumed meals with the speed and teeth of a garburator, my nickname in treatment was “Garby.”

Triple King Burger

2018: Alan and Sam die from fentanyl.
2014: Sober, we stroll Commercial Street. Don’t spend a cent. Don’t eat a thing.

Poutine

An upgrade from a diet of peanut butter.

House Salad

I will not touch a slug, even if its path leads to splat and I’m the only one who can save it.
I will not touch a house salad, even if its path leads to less trans-fat and it’s the only food that can save me.

Brownie Delight

Sweetness is (and always will be) my tongue’s preferred currency.

5.

My continued sobriety rests on a skill testing question: “Is Pepsi okay?”

Coke versus Pepsi.
Heroin versus coke.

6.

I shed my belly and develop cheese grater abs. Not to flex at the beach or in the bedroom. No, just to grate cheese.

If my stomach is a tool, my body is an overflowing toolshed.


7.

I become a barred owl
and swallow one hundred squirrels.


spenserSpenser Smith is a Regina-born poet and essayist who lives in Vancouver. His work appears in The Malahat Review, Prairie Fire, Contemporary Verse 2, The Capilano Review, Poetry Is Dead, and The Puritan.


18_1coverThis poem was originally published in the digital edition of Vallum issue 18:1 Invisibility.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details. 

Vallum Poem of the Week: “In Singapore I Was Serbian” by Shazia Hafiz Ramji

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In Singapore I was Serbian 

— for Marcel

 

Clearly my face changes when I leave this country.
In Singapore my hair is matted to my head. A white man
asks if I am Serbian. I am out in the open, unaware
of air-conditioned tunnels below the city, chugging
water at every crosswalk, I see a brown woman like me
and say hi, wanting the familiar. Later with canapes
she says I have the sharp face of an invader. By the time
I get to my hotel, I have bought an ancestry test. I call
my mother who prays and my father who says it’s okay
we’re from somewhere else first and then somewhere else
again and again. On the flight home I am glad
we are all the same. Economy class forks and knives
wrapped in plastic pockets of air. I still wonder how
I could have passed for Serbian. And how I have also
passed for French three times in my life. I remember
my disbelief that day after the rave, when a man
asked to come over—earlier, someone had thought
we were brother and sister. In my bed he tells me
he is French. No, I say. He slips a passport into my palm.
Place of Birth: Toulouse, France. He looks at me the same way
I look at myself in the mirror, waiting for something to happen.


Shazia Hafiz Ramji_photo by Julian McCarthy_340x330pxShazia Hafiz Ramji’s writing has been shortlisted for the 2020 Bridport Prize for International Creative Writing and nominated for the 2020 Pushcart Prizes. It has appeared in EventBest Canadian Poetry 2019MaisonneuveGutter: the magazine of new Scottish and international writing, and is forthcoming in ARC Poetry Magazine. She is the author of Port of Being, a finalist for the 2019 Vancouver Book Award, BC Book Prizes, Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and winner of the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. Shazia’s fiction has recently appeared in the short film, Colour Study, available on CBC Gem. She is at work on a novel.


18_1coverThis poem was originally published in Vallum issue 18:1 Invisibility.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.

Vallum Poem of the Week: “The Untouchables” by Moni Brar

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The Untouchables 

they’re at the outskirts
that smudged edge of our village
life tethered to a shanty
of flies, filth and folksong
lives and huts near collapse
for generations, they bloom
beside the lotus pond

my father doesn’t see them
his eyes no longer register
their shapes, their bodies
he steps around them
sometimes over them
maybe once on them?
he doesn’t notice the lack, the want
for food shelter clothing everything

my mother sees them when she needs
the courtyard swept
the cow dung gathered
the garden tended to
she gives them a glass of water
places it on the ground at her feet
and steps back
tells them to leave it on the shelf outside
so she doesn’t have to touch
something that has touched them

easier to avoid caste contamination
to erase their presence
to unsee what we don’t want to see



Moni Brar PhotoMoni Brar is an uninvited settler on unsurrendered territories of the Treaty 7 region and the Syilx Nation. She is a Punjabi Sikh Canadian writer exploring diasporan guilt, identity, and intergenerational trauma. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in PRISM, Prairie Fire, Hart House Review, Existere, untethered, and various anthologies.




18_1coverThis poem was originally published in Vallum issue 18:1 Invisibility.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details. 

Vallum Poem of the Week: “Keeping Quiet While Crossing Borders” by Simon Peter Eggertsen

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Keeping Quiet While Crossing Borders 

I could give all to Time except—except
What I myself have held. But why declare
The things forbidden that while Customs slept
I have crossed to Safety with? For I am There
And what I would not part with I have kept.
……………………………….— Robert Frost, “I Could Give All to Time”

The border I knew best as a child was halfway over the swinging
bridge in Provo Canyon, between Wildwood and the Sundance road,
just opposite Dr. Weight’s place. Beneath it, white-cold waters from
the diminishing glacial edges of Mt. Timpanogos fell, jumbled along
the North Fork, then moved on to mark other boundaries further
downstream. Still do. I hopped across that bridge at least once most
days in summer. Never tried to stop and guess its measure. Never
thought about who put it there for us or what we were supposed to
learn midstream, midair. Rather, I lived each crossing in adventurous
leap toward some kind of nervy limbo, rising, as the unsteady bridge
pushed back, lofted me up, away, whenever another child jumped on
the tread I was walking on—like riding the ruffle in a sheet tossed
to fit a bed. I swear I stood on air then. Imagined I was taken across
borders to parts of the world unknown to me, some nowhere, seeking
things to remember far from that small canyon’s walls. Where was I
then? I was whole there, but felt an unseen line divide me, send my
strong half forward, out and away, curious, to the twisting browncobbled
lanes, the spice sense, the sliding afternoon shadows of
Gizenga Street in Old Stone Town, Zanzibar, or the shredding and
crushing, the angry ripping apart, the ten Chinese words for death
scribbled in the night air, tracer arcs spat from rifles in Tiananmen
Square, or the medieval chalk figures, the peace of green, in the
beech-covered hills at Wandlebury near Cambridge. My other half
was held, timid, nearer home, family, savouring the firecrackers we’d
buy after we’d visited the frog pond, or the mid-day sun softening,
then melting a drop at a time, the five-cent Popsicles we bought from
Mrs. Offret at her rustic country store on Highway 189, or the moist
warmth of our breath as we sat close together, three at a time, in the
caboose of the Little Red Wing Train at Wildwood, rueing the day we
would grow too big to ride there. I have always tried to live this way,
passed over borders resolutely, though looking back over my shoulder,
then forward again, nurturing each time two views from the same
place, trying to keep quiet about the memories I carried with me as I
crossed back to safety even if someone asked where I had been, what
I had brought, even if what I remembered was thought
to be contraband, forbidden.


image1Simon Peter Eggertsen was born in Kansas, raised in Utah, schooled in Virginia and England, has degrees in literature, language and law (BYU, Virginia, Cambridge).  He recently retired from a career of teaching and work in international public health and now lives in Montreal.  He came late to poetry.  His verses have been published in Nimrod, Spoon River Poetry Review, Vallum (Canada), Atlanta Review, Ekphrasis, FreeFall (Canada), New Millennium Writings, The Antigonish Review (Canada), Weber: The Contemporary West, Dialogue and elsewhere. 

A set of four of his poems won the Irreantum Prize for Poetry (2012).  Others have either been shortlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize (Ireland, 2013, 2014, 2018), Poem of the Year (ARC, Canada, 2013), the FreeFall Poetry Prize (Canada, 2019) and the Bridport Prize (UK, 2019) or named as finalists for the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry (Nimrod, 2009), the Far Horizon Poetry Prize (Malahat, Canada, 2014), the Open Season Poetry Prize (Malahat, 2017), and the Great Blue Heron Poetry Prize (The Antigonish Review, Canada, 2018). 


10_2 coverThis poem was originally published in Vallum issue 10:2 Reflections.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.