Vallum Poem of the Week: “The Year Slavoj Zizek Farted” by Babar Khan

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The Year Slavoj Zizek Farted

The bride was displayed in her seven dresses — and one more — to the women, who could not take their eyes off her. At last the bridegroom was summoned to the chamber where she sat enthroned. He rose slowly and with dignity from his divan; but in so doing, for he was over full of meat and drink, he let fly a great and terrible fart.
–“The Year That Abul Hasan Farted”, The Thousand and One Nights (trans. Richard F. Burton)

They say that they date the changes that occurred
from the year that Slavoj Žižek farted.

They say that people started spending more time
staring at vortexes of different kinds
such as washing machines and sinks.

They say that foldout travel brochures
began to exert
a disproportionate influence
on the politico-cultural fabric of society:
one even became an advisor
to the government committee
on media convergence.

While riding in an elevator
to the upper floors
of an international chain hotel,
a well known political commentator
was suddenly startled
by his own appearance in the mirror
and began to gesticulate wildly.

The act of buying flowers for a friend
a lover, a relative,
became fraught with a complicated
web of consequences.

Several species of flowers
would refuse to grow to their full height
and would droop prematurely.

Vacuum cleaners developed
self-projective capabilities,
many of them becoming fascinated
with space exploration
and attempting to launch themselves
into distant intergalactic reaches.

It was discovered that they could cross
the event horizons of black holes
and remain integral—
they would emerge from the other side,
with the black hole often following behind amorously.

Food became talkative, particularly sushi:
the little fish flap on top of the rice
especially the part that overextended from the rice
would begin to gossip
sometimes incessantly
so that it was difficult
to put the sushi piece in one’s mouth
without choking.

Disembodied flat-screen TVs took to rape,
and were implicated in several high profile cases.

Re-assembled frames would talk about theory,
meeting in fashionable neo-structuralist cafés.

Some animals,
not just the ones laid out on dissection plates
or exhibited in paleoanthropological displays,
started to say “Shit!”, but nothing else—
teams of zoologists, speech therapists
and cognitive neuroscientists
would try to get them to talk in full sentences,
but to no avail.

There were people who interpreted
these events literally,
the so-called Afflato-Ontologists of the Real:
they believed that Slavoj Žižek
had in fact farted a year into being—
to be perfectly clear,
it wasn’t the year during which Slavoj Žižek farted,
but the year that Slavoj Žižek farted.

Purportedly emerging thus
from Slavoj Žižek’s nether parts,
the year had acquired
a particular dimensionality
within the Phenomenologico-Marvelous confines of which
these events supposedly occurred.

Meanwhile,
a quasar located somewhere
near the Andromeda Galaxy
was slowly developing
political consciousness.


Babar Khan is a poet, writer, and art photographer who has grown up in Paris and Toronto. He has been previously published in 
Contemporary Verse 2Rampike, and Vallum. His photos have been exhibited at Month of Photography L.A. and on Lensculture.

To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website.

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!

Download the FREE APP and FREE SAMPLE EDITION for your tablet, kindle or smartphone through PocketMags OR iTunes.

 

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Vallum Poem of the Week: “Cord” by Elana Wolff

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Cord

First the forces: gases, heat and radiation;
stars. We are stardust
sing the physicist and bard.

We are quartz and bats and roses,
we are poetry: Rimbaud, Blake, Baudelaire, Bidart.

We’re fugue of Bach and Glass; Celan.
World gets into us every breath.
Yes to every sentence.

I held to the imbecile cord — till it ripped.

When the diagnosis arrived,
we flew to a city of history and art,
visited galleries, stood before works

that made a life seem timeless.
The paintings I looked at longest were the Turner
waterscapes: ships and mists, conflating waves–

wild violets and yellows, flaming greys.
Creaturely chaos. Suns, the seas.
And in my mouth: the froth.

 

Elana Wolff is a Toronto-based writer of poetry and creative non-fiction, editor, translator, and designer and facilitator of social art courses. Her most recent collection of poems, Everything Reminds You of Something Else, was published with Guernica Editions in 2017.

 

To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website.

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!

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Vallum Poem of the Week: “The Confessions of Eulene” by Carolyne Wright

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The Confessions of Eulene

I eat too many Twinkies.
I ask God to make me virtuous, but just not yet.
I pick Tater Tots off other people’s plates.
I order 40 large pizzas for the house where my old boyfriend
………………………..lives with that new babe of his, and
I use his credit card number.
I go through my new boyfriend’s wallet
……………………….looking for photos of his old girlfriends.
I get most of my ideas off the internet.
I steal the rest of my ideas from the renegade saints
………………………with names like Augustine and Aloysius and Simon Stylites
………………………who spent years standing on pillars in the deserts of Iraq.
I stock my bathroom with toilet tissue swiped from fast-food restaurant
…………dispensers.
I swear on Epimenides’ perplex–whatever that is.
I take naps anytime, especially when stuck in rush-hour traffic.
I’m a Capricorn with kundalini rising.
I make videos of myself on YouTube
……………………..dressed entirely in marshmallow paste and little pink
……………………..squiggles of birthday cake icing.
In high school, I snuck out with all the punk poets in my home room
……………………..and flamingoed the vice principal’s front yard.
Now, I’m casing the lawn of the college president’s McMansion.
I raise my grade-point average like a hot-air balloon.
I tell only lies in my confessions.

Carolyne Wright’s new book is This Dream the World: New & Selected Poems (Lost Horse Press, 2017), whose title poem received a Pushcart Prize and was included in The Best American Poetry 2009.  Her co-edited anthology, Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace (Lost Horse Press, 2015), received ten Pushcart Prize nominations and was a finalist in the Foreword Review’s Book of the Year Awards. She has nine earlier poetry volumes, five books of poetry in translation from Spanish and Bengali, and a collection of essays; and has received NEA, Fulbright, and Seattle Arts Commission fellowships, among others. She teaches for Richard Hugo House, Seattle’s community literary center; for the Antioch University Los Angeles low-residency MFA Program; and for national and international literary conferences and festivals. Wright lived in Chile and traveled in Brazil on a Fulbright Grant during the presidency of Salvador Allende; and has been regaining fluency in Brazilian Portuguese in preparation for a return visit to Bahia on an Instituto Sacatar residency fellowship in 2018.

To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website.

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!

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Vallum Poem of the Week: “The World Without” by Jessica Bebenek

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The World Without

We cut ourselves on this regret like glass. Turn
when there is no turning to be had—the small threat

of our hands naked and shivering into the floating globes
of our air. Shriveled grey of the salt-faced sidewalk

to guide us—This is our own fault, own paws coy and dipping
too deep. Where you find depth, we find dregs—the leaves.

Our Future. We can be anything we want
now. We have emerged from a vat of thick grey ropes,

orchid-scented, sweet-pea-tasting. You will never have us back.
Not even with your tears. Not even with your laugh.

Each love, every short life—a fulgent mansion on an island.
At the end of each trial, soaked, off-screen, we die enchantingly.

 

Jessica Bebenek is a writer & transdisciplinary artist currently completing an MA at Concordia University in Montreal. Her third poetry chapbook Fourth Walk was published by Desert Pets Press, Spring ‘17. In Fall ‘17, she performed “The Waste Land” at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, knitting poetry for twelve hours straight. She will be releasing an accompanying chapbook of knitting patterns for poems, k2tog, through Berlin’s Broken Dimanche Press this Spring. @notyrmuse IG; www.jessicabebenek.art

 

To view other poems published in this issue, please visit Vallum’s website.

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!

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Vallum Poem of the Week: “I am afraid of change” by Ryan Fitzpatrick

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I am afraid of change

Protecting what little I can verify as true, I
put on a brave face. Our kids are in a good
school system. I often watch the stock ticker.
I am so timid, like a brave face in the clouds.

We’ve lived in the same house 17 years. The
future has clarity, but I can’t see it. But to adapt,
I know the Bible says a mirror of the last few
hours. The rain crammed with worthless people.

See the thread, it makes a straight line. Not the
surface literally, but the roads don’t run fast
enough. To an amazing degree, I mitigate this
and carefully design risk. I am always satisfied.

Ryan Fitzpatrick lives in Vancouver and lived in Calgary. He is the author of two books of poetry: Fortified Castles (Talonbooks, 2014) and Fake Math (Snare, 2007). With Jonathan Ball, he co-edited Why Poetry Sucks: An Anthology of Humorous Experimental Canadian Poetry. With Deanna Fong and Janey Dodd, he worked on the Fred Wah Digital Archive (fredwah.ca).

 

To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website.

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!

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Vallum Poem of the Week: “Ode to Joy” by Greg Santos

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Ode to Joy

Something in the way you say papoose makes me smile.
A nail file can come in handy in a jail cell in Mexico.

Row boats are particularly romantic during foggy weather.
Has anyone ever told you peacock feathers look fetching on you before?

For the record, crazy glue much prefers to be called “eccentric” glue.
Don’t worry, the scream coming from behind the closed door is from a
….spirited tickle-fight.

Might I interest you in some cocktail nuts, friend?
No need to get fidgety, our flight is scheduled to last for only just a few
….more hours.

 

Greg Santos is the author of Rabbit Punch! (DC Books, 2014) and The Emperor’s Sofa (DC Books, 2010). He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School in New York City. His writing has appeared in The Walrus, GeistThe Feathertale ReviewMatrix, and more. He regularly works with at-risk communities and teaches writing and literature at the Thomas More Institute. He is the poetry editor of carte blanche and lives in Montreal. His new book, Blackbirds, is forthcoming with Eyewear Publishing based out of London, UK in Spring 2018.

To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website.

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!

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Featured Review: “The Tide” by Jake Byrne. Review by Melanie Power.

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Jake Byrne’s The Tide. (Vancouver, BC: Rahlia’s Ghost Press, 2017, $10, 38 pages). Review by Melanie Power.

The Tide, Jake Byrne’s debut chapbook, is at once both hilarious and tragic. As readers, we are left mostly at the tide’s mercy, carried in its ebb and flow, alternating between the poem’s dance between decline and regrowth. We are guided through the poem in a string of controlled, dynamic movements which manifest in a series of declarative, often detached statements. These statements sweep us up with their jocular sharpness and then leave us to our bleakness. The long poem’s conceit is particularly fitting; the tide is both friend and enemy in the midst of the speaker’s personal breakdown of sorts— a breakdown presented to us in endearing spells that are, astonishingly, as heartbreaking as they are humourous.

The opening lines of The Tide announce: “This is as personal as it is eschatological”—that is, its superficial focus is perhaps located in one narrative, but the course of that narrative concerns us all, in a contemporary moment that feels by turns apocalyptic and dystopian. Destruction surrounds us; with honeybees and bumblebees “added to the endangered list,” we, too, recognize “It was the end of the world and it felt personal.”

The Tide defies simple categorization. It oscillates deftly between various tonal registers. A
t points, the speaker is despondent, broken open—at other points, wryly sarcastic or playful. “We fueled our cities on renewable resources. / Just kidding!” Byrne writes. But then later, the speaker turns to the apostrophic mode as he addresses, in a bittersweet fever, his absent lover: “You were the honorific of exotic object.” As these examples illustrate, the speaker’s focus is at once selfless and selfish— the poem tracks the arc of a failed romantic relationship, and we are made sadists by eagerly hunting the rich, poignant details of its unraveling. 

At times, The Tide reads like an epic, or even an anti-epic: “If reports are true then we’re all going to die,” the speaker flatly prophesies. Later, the tone becomes personal and pleading, combined with details that are intimate and revealing: “You sent me home wearing only / A ripped pair of Calvin Klein briefs.” We cannot predict the shapes the water will take for the anti-hero of this smart anti-epic.

“You were suspicious / Ultimately of the wrong institutions,” Byrne writes. Here, it feels clearest that The Tide toys with a crisis of faith— in what and in whom can the speaker put their trust after such considerable personal and worldly loss? The speaker wades into dense, hushed moments of lived betrayal, rejection, and abuse, never simplifying the complexity of accountability.

Finally, at the poem’s close, we stall. Byrne writes: “You have chosen to live in hell. / But— / you have chosen to live.” This line, like so many others in The Tide, strikes us in its poignant, comic starkness— in a moment that feels as doomed as it does celebratory.


Melanie Power
 is a poet based in Montreal, Quebec. She is currently completing an M.A. in English Literature & Creative Writing at Concordia University. Her poetry has been published in Prairie Fire and Southword Journal, among other places. She works as an intern at Vallum: Contemporary Poetry magazine.

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!

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Vallum Poem of the Week: “Blue Dresses” by Evelyn Lau

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Blue Dresses

Later, you won’t remember the rage.
Only that the sea was full
of purple flowers that night.

*

That you were the woman on the top floor
of the Art Deco hotel, chin in hand.
Palms and surf and linen sky
seen through a mesh screen,
each tiny square a section
of Santa Monica.

*

Fireworks in the distance, over Malibu.

*

You’ll remember the view from Arthur
and Judy’s house on top of a canyon,
terraced gardens and teal ocean,
miles of cool vanilla tile underfoot.
This Hollywood home, meant to be yours.

*

But the maid will erase every trace of you.
That you were here, finally,
in the middle of your life.
Living on antidepressants and soy milk,
codeine and steamed kale.

*

The hunger that flits in and out, alights.

*

Where to? he says, and of course
you don’t know, though you’re the passenger,
the one who has to navigate the way.
Ribbons of tar road, six lanes
of candy-coloured metal traffic
and the plunge of ocean off Big Sur.

*

Everything’s drought-tolerant here.
The plants dusty blue
and spiked like maces.
You buy two blue dresses –
one floaty and sleeveless, butterfly blue;
the other heavy cotton, deep navy,
winter weight. He couldn’t tell them apart.

*

One day, in the mid-afternoon UV blaze,
you walk hand-in-hand to Venice Beach,
past volleyball players and weightlifters,
skateboarders and joggers, sand sifting
across your sandals from the beach.

*

The dull tick-tock of a headache
in the right hemisphere of your brain.
A day later, and you would be mowed down
by the driver who sped along Dudley Ave.
and plowed through the boardwalk,
scattering tourists and T-shirt vendors,

*

pot-smokers and guitar-players,
killing an Italian woman on her honeymoon.
Setting out in the sunshine, shaded
and sunscreened, California at last.

 

Evelyn Lau is the Vancouver author of twelve books, including seven volumes of poetry.  Her poetry has received the Milton Acorn Award, the Pat Lowther Award and a National Magazine Award, as well as nominations for the BC Book Prize and the Governor-General’s Award.  In 2011-2014, Evelyn served as Vancouver’s Poet Laureate.  Her most recent collection is Tumour (Oolichan, 2016).

To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website.

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!

Download the FREE APP and FREE SAMPLE EDITION for your tablet, kindle or smartphone through PocketMags OR iTunes.

Vallum Poem of the Week: “Threshold Failure” by John Kinsella

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Threshold Failure 

Our behaviour no doubt affected
by oil fumes from a leaky system,
a decentralisation of heating that makes
détournement with our bodies,
all thresholds fail. Fumes permeate
and will break through concrete in time,
the oil sitting and working its way down
and out. Fossils emerging from fuel
to hunt you down. They are still hungry.

Outside, wind blows hard off the Atlantic.
Our families came from here to escape starvation.
Mass graves everywhere, whole towns reduced
to memories, like the wolves of Mount Gabriel.
All angels, wolves and humans and formless
spirits we stop at thresholds—what will
happen now the thresholds have fallen?

Outside on the green, wet ground, gathered
in the gridwork of hedges, members of the crow
family crisscross and divvy up territory.
On the wooden crossbeams of the fence
a dozen jackdaws, swinging in and out
of hedges, greenspace and gables.

In trees losing leaves, maybe two dozen
rooks, maybe establishing a new rookery
in the face of jackdaw business. And ravens
on the chimneys call down and sound ‘spooky,’
distantly incarcerated voices we could draw
analogies and paradigms from. A deathly laugh
like a carnival ghost-ride. Collapsing thresholds.

And crows from home in memory.
They rule the dry and dusty places,
the zones of most intense fire risk. When
flames come, they fly slower than they could,
dragging thresholds of sparks across the tinder.

I am dizzy and less focused than I should be.
The fumes are weirdly strongest in the vestibule.
Through the front door into the chamber.
False threshold. For another door to negotiate
before passing into the house proper. The fumes
follow but are already inside to greet you.
You can see crow species through open windows
which want the fumes out, you can hear their crosstalk.

 

John Kinsella‘s most recent volumes of poetry are On the Outskirts (UQP, 2017) Firebreaks (WW Norton, 2016), Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems 1980-2015 (Picador, 2016) and the three volume edition of his Graphology Poems 1995-2015 (Five Islands Press, 2016). His volumes of stories include In the Shade of the Shady Tree  (Ohio University Press, 2012), Crow’s Breath (Transit Lounge, 2015) and Old Growth (Transit Lounge, 2017).  His volumes of criticism include Activist Poetics: Anarchy in the Avon Valley (Liverpool University Press, 2010) and the just released Polysituatedness (Manchester University Press, 2017). He is Professor of Literature and Environment at Curtin University and a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University. With Tracy Ryan he is the co-editor of The Fremantle Press Anthology of The Western Australian Poetry (2017).

To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website.

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!

Download the FREE APP and FREE SAMPLE EDITION for your tablet, kindle or smartphone through PocketMags OR iTunes.

Featured Review: Aisha Sasha John’s I Have to Live. Review by Domenica Martinello.

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Aisha Sasha Johns I Have to Live (Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart, 2017, $16.95, 160 pages). Review by Domenica Martinello.

In a culture that takes pride in leisure and unrelenting productivity with an equally obsessive rigor, multidisciplinary artist Aisha Sasha John’s third collection of poetry I have to live stakes its claim outright. “I have to live” is a declaration made not so much from the heart or mind but from the stomach: full of blood, hunger, and life force. As the refrain modulates from universal, to idiosyncratic, to even withholding, I have to live churns butter from the pleasures of a fully unapologetic personhood. It turns the common fact of living into its own artist’s statement.

Here’s a sampling of John’s ‘formal’ artist’s statement from her website: “I love activity very much, I love to do things. Thus, it is very important that what I spend my time doing is good for me. My artistic vision is to be relaxed and all the activities I do are in this service.” I have to live abides by this vision right down to the watercolor wash of purple and pink on its cover page. John operates with a relaxed confidence, the way loose brushstrokes require an artist’s faith. In other words, I delight in how John’s chill artist’s statement spits in the face an economy that celebrates—as a recent headline for The New Yorker puts it—working yourself to death.

With the boundaries of work and leisure more blurred than ever before, even living is a commodity. Think of lifestyle gurus, YouTube stars, and other “creative influencers” who hang a decorative tapestry over late capitalism and post it on Instagram. John recognizes the specificity of the consumerist moment she both inhabits and rejects:

When I am dead this time
Will be an object
And I
Will be an object
Too

That’s okay.
Right now I am alive
And
I like it.

There’s also a clear divide between work and everything that isn’t work. I have to live acknowledges labour but certainly doesn’t glorify it. Take all three lines of “I can’t believe I agreed to go to work today”: “That was so dumb of me. / I hate money. / And I hate sitting down.” Another poem outlines the way work gets in the way of the body being a body:

The first time I came here I was late, I was scolded
I was bleeding.
I barely even cared
Fuck, look:
When I start to bleed
I have to eat.

The speaker relishes in the subversive act of being “lazy,” of “hardly [knowing] what’s going on,” and of continuing to attend to her “heart” and “pussy.” The speaker must live in accordance with the rhythm of her desires lest she feel the remorse of having “left prime sweetness / Between the tight teeth / Of some hurried days.”

The prime sweetness of John’s micro-poems is often a morsel of evocative, idiosyncratic thought. Evocative of what I’m not always sure, but as John puts it later in the collection, they seem to enact a “performance called DON’T YOU WANNA KNOW WHAT I’M DOING EVERY DAY!” In short, yes. I am somehow riveted as John ruminates “if it’s even sanitary / To leave the ketchup outside all the time. / At night, even. / And also the hot sauce.” In “I like it when we give the world it itself,” one of my favourite poems in the collection, I don’t necessarily need to know about the origins of the mysterious photograph to love the lines “Hi, God. // I said in the photo’s caption. / It’s Aisha. // I volunteer.”

The collection does move into a place that is intentionally withholding, however. An unusually descriptive poem set in Zagora, Morocco ends with the speaker toying with the audience’s access, concluding: “I get / What I come for. // Do I tell you?” Reading like a letter, “For you and all your siblings and friends and husbands or boyfriends” signs off “Daddy // Page 2 of 2.” Readers don’t get first page of the epistle, though its existence haunts the poem. These instances of intentional obfuscation are a risk because they cast other moments in a different light. Poems that seem guilelessly idiosyncratic and without context are suddenly a little more—what is it—glib?

Yes, we’re being teased. If you’re a reader who is willing to yield your sense of authority, you’ll love it. If you go into books thinking their authors owe you anything, you might not. If you need to exert your intellectual control, though, John is more than willing to cede the steering wheel with a wink, as in “I defer to you”: “It’s great. / I’m tired of always knowing everything.”

Ultimately I have to live is a collection rife with life lessons ranging from how to be funny (the answer is to “never joke”), how to have “the most pleasure,” how to prioritize food over all else, how to relax and “draw something ugly by accident.” You know, the basics. It’s also a reminder to stop taking ourselves so seriously. Take a moment to forget the hustle, forget the grind, forget networking, forget working all together and take a cue from John in “Today I could aspire but I want to nap.”

Some people are interested in exploring the ways
Something is negotiated
In light of something else.
God bless them.
I have to fucking live.

Domenica Martinello, from Montréal, was a finalist for the 2017 Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers. She is completing an MFA in poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and her debut collection of poetry, All Day I Dream About Sirens, is forthcoming.

This review was published in issue 14:2 Lies and Duplicity.” To see more from this issue, please visit Vallum’s website.

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!

Download the FREE APP and FREE SAMPLE EDITION for your tablet, kindle or smartphone through PocketMags OR iTunes