“a conversation unfolds” by Sasha at her desk

Sunday, December 2, 2018
5 minutes
Conversation Across Languages
Derick Mattern

When I call
the conversation between us
unfolds open
reaches break

Oh the grief is heavy
on my tongue
stretching down
to my throat
to my belly
to my feet

Oh this grief meets
the very core and
I hold you over long distance
airways over the Prairies
I hold you like you did me
when most of what I was
was daughter

“all-day softness” by Sasha at her kitchen table

Monday September 14, 2015
5 minutes
from a tube of hand cream

When Willa’s mother calls, she considers not answering. It would only be the second time. Bill says, “If you need to get it, don’t worry. It’s okay…” She steps out onto the porch and slides her finger across the screen.

“Hi Mom.”
“Yes – ”
“They’ve come to take me and I refuse to go!”
“Mom, where are you?”
“In my chair!”
“Who is there?”
“Those men in the hockey equipment!”
“Mom, what are you – ”
“I’m scared, Willa. Please come pick me up?”
“I can’t right now. I’m busy.”
“What would you have done that time you had the chicken pox and you were visiting the Petting Zoo? What would you have done if I didn’t come to pick you up?”
“I was five.”
“Did you call Roberta?”
“Who is that?”
“Your nurse.”
“No. I don’t know anyone by that name.”
“She’s been coming every day for the past six years, Mom.”

“give oneself up to” by Sasha on her bed

Friday March 28, 2014
5 minutes
The Pocket Oxford Dictionary

It’s complicated. To talk about. It’s complicated because nothing worth anything isn’t. But, it’s simple, really, because everything is simple. Everything. I said, “Mom, let’s go to the pond. Let’s take a dip,” and she shook her head and then, a few minutes later, nodded. Like usual. She’s slow to open. She’s not a “yes”. She’s a “maybe”. And we go. In the station wagon. And I play her the songs I’m crushing on. And she bobs her head. She doesn’t say much. She does say, “I like this one,” and “You need a haircut”. We get to the pond and there’s no one else there. i’m happy. She knows what this means. “No bathing suits, mama!” I shout, stripping off my clothes and flinging them in the trunk. I dive into the water and wait to hear her splash a moment later. She doesn’t. “Mama?” I call, surfacing. She’s holding her cellphone. “What’re you doing?” I tread water. She looks confused. She’s pushing buttons. “I’m trying to take a damn picture,” she says and I laugh.

“Don’t stare at The Nude.” by Sasha her kitchen table

Wednesday January 29, 2014
5 minutes
God Loves Hair
Vivek Shraya

“What are you doing?” I ask, poking my head into her room. She’s just turned thirteen and would much rather me leave her alone. I can tell this from the way she’ll barely look me in the eye, from the way she paints black nail-polish across the batik of her name on her door, from the way she prefers earbuds tucked in than my voice telling her stories. “I’m writing a letter.” She barely looks up. I leave it at that.

We wash dishes, side-by-side. She washes and I dry. Sometimes our forearms brush up against eachother and she apologizes. “For what?” I ask. She’s turned on the radio and it’s set to the Jazz station. She doesn’t change it. I think about how her father loves Jazz and wonder if he plays it for her when she goes to see him in the Yukon every July. “Mom,” she says, draining the sink and dumping the leftover bits of broccoli and rice in the compost, just like I’ve taught her to do. “I’m writing to a guy in Texas…” I take a deep breath. “Oh?” I say, trying to be the open-hearted woman that she usually forgets I am these days. “He’s in prison… He’s…” “What?” “He’s lonely…” She looks at me and I see my own eyes, ripe and full and I sit down at the round table and she sits down too.

“at own risk” by Sasha at her desk

Saturday, September 28, 2013
5 minutes
Alligator Party Rental form

“You’re a very lucky girl, Rachel,” he says, “I don’t think you know how lucky you are.” And she does… But she doesn’t. She does in her candy floss brain. She doesn’t in her crumpled newspaper heart. Rachel made a sculpture out of clay of a woman on her back, legs lifted high. “What is that?” her mother asked. “A woman,” said Rachel. “What in God’s name is she doing?” her mother squeaked. “She’s getting ready to give her daughter an airplane ride,” Rachel sighed, looking out the window of the station wagon and thinking how she so wished Mrs. Rosa was her mother. Mrs. Rosa wore pink lipstick and plaid pants. Mrs. Rosa’s first name was… Annette. Rachel had never heard such a beautiful name. Mrs. Rosa knew how to make meringues and how to shoot a three-point-shot on the basketball court. “Rachel!” her mother hooted, “are you even listening to me?” Rachel imagined rolling her mother into a ball of plasticine and throwing her across the corn field.

“the suffering they have known” by Sasha at Moncton Rd.

Monday, July 15, 2013
5 minutes
A Brief For The Defense
Jack Gilbert

At the beginning of the trail, I was underwhelmed. I had imagined a sprawling landscape, massive hills, cliffs like in those postcards, and either a rising or setting sun. I got none of these. What I did get was a sprinkle of rain, seventeen mosquito bites and a run-in with a mountain lion. I had come to the mountains to reconnect with my mother. She loved this place. She was a hiker, always planning her next adventure to somewhere exotic and steep. I hated her for that. She’d dump me at my second stepdad’s and say, “I’ll send postcards!” And she did. She was true to her word. She’d send a few a week. I kept them all in a Payless Shoe Store box until I moved to go to university. I wish I hadn’t recycled them. I wish I had those small scrawlings of her dignity and her heart.