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Excerpts from “Kayak”, by Jordan Hall

October 20, 2009

Excerpts from KAYAK, by Jordan Hall
KAYAK has received Canada Council support to attend Women’s Playwright’s International
(November 1-7, Mumbai, India) and will be presented as part of Tableau D’Hôte’s Series of
New Canadian Works this December in Montreal.
***
ANNIE IVERSEN, a tall woman with peroxide blonde hair, sits centre stage in a large kayak.
ANNIE: I don’t like kayaks. They’re unstable. One second you’re sitting there, the next you’re
upside down and underwater. This one used to belong to my son Peter. Peter’s not really
much of a kayaker either. Or- he wasn’t. He took it up because of Julie. Julie had this tiny
little kayak, barely longer than she was. She could roll that thing over as easily as you turn a
steering wheel. So fast you wonder how she’d have time to get wet. Not that it would matter
if Julie got wet, because Julie doesn’t wear make-up or believe in hair products. In case you’re
wondering, I don’t really like Julie much either.
I thought she was a phase Pete was going through. He’d had Susan (his goth phase), and Terri
(his actress phase)- Julie was just his politically correct phase. She’d left university to float
around the world spraying Japanese whaling boats with firehoses, planting trees and making
perfectly nice people uncomfortable at parties. She was supposed to be gone within a month-
and-a-half. She was going to Bolivia to dig a well, or chain herself to a tree or save some
endangered river or something. And Peter would head into another phase. Possibly some kind
of marry-a-nice-girl-with-a-job-that-didn’t-involve-the-Japanese-government-pressing-
charges phase. I didn’t even meet her before she left.
I began to suspect that Julie wasn’t going anywhere that Christmas. She’d been gone for three
months. Pete was home and I needed him to pick up the turkey from the butcher’s. He was on
his laptop, watching footage of this silly girl kayaking down some river as part of a protest
against developers diverting it. Paddling this tiny kayak down rapids so big you’d have
thought the little nitwit was suicidal. But Peter had that gleam in his eye. The same one he’d
had when he first saw the boys jumping off the ramps at the skateboard park, and you knew it
was going to take twelve bloody noses and a broken wrist before he’d listen to you about
what a bad idea this all was. So there was nothing to do but strain your eyes watching Julie
kayak down the Tuichi river and smile whenever Peter turned around to make sure you
thought Julie was just as amazing as he did.
Then he refused to pick up the turkey because it wasn’t certified free-range, organic and
cruelty-free. My son ate soy-protein at Christmas to protest the rest of us eating a perfectly
nice twenty-four pound butter-ball with chive stuffing. The Julie phase was becoming a
serious problem.
Annie’s watch beeps. She roots around in the kayak and pulls out a sleeve of graham
crackers, a crumpled up Hershey bar, and a marshmallow bag with one marshmallow in it.
She makes herself a S’more and tosses the empty marshmallow bag off into the water.
ANNIE: I know. I know. Littering. (She puts graham crackers and chocolate away.) I guess
that’s the last S’more.
She munches the S’more, and pulls out a mostly empty bottle of Evian. She washes the snack
down with a short swallow.
ANNIE: These are Peter’s favourite. And he always liked them with the Hershey’s milk
chocolate and the big marshmallow. Just like me.
PETER IVERSEN, a tall boy of twenty-four, enters and sits next to his mother in the kayak.
PETER: Mom. Before Julie gets here-
ANNIE: What, sweetie?
PETER: I’d appreciate it if you could try to be nice to her.
ANNIE: Why wouldn’t I be nice to her? I’m a very nice person Peter. Your father and I host
parties for the yacht club.
PETER: No. I know you’re pleasant. I meant: Could you just try to like Julie?
ANNIE: Why wouldn’t I like Julie? She’s a friend of yours and I’ll-
PETER: Mom. Stop dodging. I don’t mean pretend to like Julie because she’s my friend. I
mean try to like her for her because she’s-
ANNIE: She’s what?
PETER: She’s- good.
ANNIE: Good? Peter, of course she’s good. Everybody’s good.
PETER: No mom. They aren’t. And Julie is. Really. She’s unselfish and honest and she does
what she believes and everyone always tells me those are good things until they actually meet
Julie- and then- and then it’s like they can’t stand her because she’s good.
ANNIE: Peter, that doesn’t make any sense at all.
PETER: It doesn’t. But that’s what happens. And I want you to like her because I l-
JULIE: (Offstage) Peter!
JULIE DANIELS, a tiny girl in cargo pants and pig tails comes running up the other side of
the stage. The kayak separates her from Peter, but they kiss over its nose.
JULIE: I missed you. Surprising, but I missed you.
Peter laughs. Annie coughs uncomfortably. They separate.
JULIE: You should have come.
PETER: Did you hear yet?
JULIE: Shel texted while I was in Customs. It’s bad. They’re diverting everything but the
upper third.
PETER: I’m so sorry, sweetie.
JULIE: The whole ecosystem will go. And insult to injury, most of the water’s going to end
up in bottles.
ANNIE: Well. At least that’s something, then.
Peter and Julie both turn to her, Peter looks embarrassed, Julie horrified.
PETER: Uh. No, mom. That’s not good.
JULIE: Unless you prefer major corporations making people pay for access to a basic human
right.
ANNIE: Oh. I see. (She carefully slides her Evian bottle out of sight.)
PETER: Uh- well. Mom, this is Julie. Jules- this is my mom.
JULIE: Nice to meet you, Mrs. Iversen.
ANNIE: Oh. Call me Annie. And I just want to say that it is wonderful that you devote so
much of your time, especially when these things can be so discouraging.
A beat. Peter hangs his head.
JULIE: They’re only discouraging if you assume you can’t change anything, Mrs. Iversen.
ANNIE: (Awkward.) Of course.
Peter and Julie move upstage and begin pinning maps and diagrams to the back wall.
ANNIE: I definitely couldn’t stand her. Four-and-a-half years and she never stopped calling
me Mrs. Iversen.
Now I recognize that what Julie was doing was- good. Or- right. I knew about greenhouse
gases. I recycle. I do everything I’m supposed to do. I even saw that movie with Al Gore and
the big Powerpoint presentation. I respected that she was trying to make the world a better
place. But what I don’t do is walk around as though the place I grew up in is Sodom and
Gomorrah, and I’m waiting for the flood that’s going to cleanse the earth of scum.
***
The lights come up on Julie and her placard.
JULIE: This is not a new story. This is the first story. They told it every year in Sunday
School. There was a flood coming. Noah knew about the flood but he wasn’t scared. Because
Noah wouldn’t be drowned. Noah was rich enough to build an Ark. So Noah didn’t have to
try and stop the end of the world. Because after everyone else had been drowned the whole
earth would be his, and there wouldn’t even be anyone left complain about just how it came
to be that way.
Late at night after Sunday School I would wonder about Noah’s neighbours, and what they
did when the rain began to fall, so fast and so thick that they knew their world was ending.
All those tall, dark men with their beards in wet curls and women with their sopping veils,
and their children with those big brown eyes. Didn’t anyone think of Noah? Did they come
wading through the water? Calling out for help, holding their children out to be pulled into
the Ark and saved?
Maybe Noah believed that they were all wicked, or that if he let even one onto the boat with
his family that he’d have to let everyone on and there wouldn’t be enough room, or that it was
his boat built with his labour and his money and nobody had the right to force him to share it.
But there must have been so many of them. Hoping to be saved, clinging to the sides of the
Ark as the waters rose. Why didn’t they just climb on board?
I was nine or ten when I figured it out. Noah had known about the flood, so Noah had known
about this, too. He had built an Ark to save himself from the flood. What had he built to save
himself from them? Was it spears, or clubs, or arrows? Did he pour boiling oil down the sides
as they tried to climb up? Or was it as simple as pushing them away into the waves with his
oars? What else could Noah do? There was a flood, and he had to defend his Ark.
This is the lesson of Noah: The price of boarding the Ark has always been murdering the
people who don’t get saved, whether you do it up close and personal or from millions of miles
away. Your choice is a dead body in the water or a murderer on an Ark. Unless you want to
defy God. Unless you start working to stop the flood now.
***
Playwright and dramaturg, Jordan’s recent writing credits include: KAYAK (Big Ideas
2009); Asleep at the Wheel (New Ideas 2009, Big Ideas 2008); Annie & Izzy (Antigone
with Caffeine, 2008); Lifeboat (Toronto Fringe 2006); Reading Robertson Davies on
Rangitoto, (NZ Fringe 2006); and June, 2007 which received Honourable Mention for the
Bliss Carman poetry prize. Find her at www.jordanhall.ca.

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The Weather Makers, by Matt Rader

October 18, 2009

We carry it with us wherever

we go, like germs or secrets,
genetic pre-dispositions

to illness. It dogs us, has our scent,
our number, an uncanny knack
bordering on the psychic to know

where we’ll turn up next and be hot
on our heels or already there
waiting to greet us. A crooked wire

of lightning we snagged
in the under carriage and dragged
across the badlands, that long scratchpad

of highway to come-what-may and everything
after. Unshakeable, we wake to hear it
stomping on rooftops, tapping

like small rocks against the window
of our hearts, or knocking-out
the power like artillery in some Iraqi

province. Socked-in and stalked by
cloud-cover sent in the spirit of good
detective work or bounty hunters

meant to bring us to justice,
we are on the lamb from our own
Captain Ahab, Pat Garrett, guilt

over those early experiments
in greed and curiosity we could say
created the situation at hand. Next time

we are in your town, watch for a twister
to touch down a few inches from where you stand.
All it takes is a whiff. Tag. You’re it.

From Living Things
Nightwood Editions, 0-88971-223-9
http://nightwoodeditions.com/title/LivingThings

Show me Yours, by Richard Van Camp

October 18, 2009

Saw northern lights last night. Nice and big across the sky: 1:30. Green.

We saw baby ones trying to swim like little faint feathers so we helped them by rubbing our fingernails together and whistling and they swam, boy. Swam and reached across the sky and it was the stairway to heaven kind, the kind where you can see the spirits of those who have passed on walking up, up.

We now walk around town with our baby pictures taped or glued over the pictures of the saints with leather ties around our necks and so when you see someone with the leather necklace you take your baby pic out and show it to them and they marvel at how beautiful you were when you were new, and you do the same.

and then we praise each other:

— Oh you were such a beautiful baby.

— Look at the dreams in your eyes.

— Oh look at your hair. Just like a bear’s pelt in spring.

— Oh you are so beautiful. So so beautiful. Have a lovely, lovely life.

That’s how it is now. I am proud to say I started this after everything fell apart. It just happened. I woke up and I was in a bad place with bad people and there was little hope for me and there was my grandfather’s leather necklace that the priest gave him with a saint I didn’t know and there was my favourite baby picture of me on top of the fridge covered in lint and dust and so I cleaned it and took some glue (that we had been sniffing) and I glued my face over St. What’s His Hump’s and I wore that necklace, tucked under my shirt over my heart.

Two nights later I got rolled and as Franky and Henry were going through my pockets and were holding me upside down they pulled the necklace out.

Henry stopped and said, “What’s this you? ”

Franky squinted and dropped me. I told them it was a pic of me when I was a baby. They looked at each other and shook their heads. They weren’t mad. They were just, well . . . I don’t know.

They let me go and threw my money back at me. “Go home, Richard,” they said. “You’re not a man anymore.”

“I’m trying to be!” I yelled and walked home, rubbing my jaw, stuffing my pockets back in. I’m trying to be . . .

Two days later I was walking around looking for smokes when they came up to me with goofy grins on their faces and then Franky and Henry showed me theirs. They did what I did and had bivouacked saint necklaces to show their baby pictures. Oh they were ugly babies. Maybe this was why they turned out to be such arseholes, but I showed them mine again and we were just so happy to see each other like that.

“Sorry for the other night,” Franky said. “It’s okay,” I said.

You were ugly babies, I thought, and we shook hands.

Then Harvey and his wife came up to us and said, “Hey what you’re doing? ”

And we all turned and showed them our baby pics and grinned.

“How cute!” Cynthia said. “Is that you? ”

We all nodded like gomers and beamed.

“Oh that is too precious,” she said. “Let me take a picture.”

So we waited while she dug through her purse. Cynthia’s trying to be a reporter so we all helped out. Harvey offered us smokes and we took a break. “Thanks for dancing with my wife,” he said and I blushed a little. Harvey doesn’t like to dance but his wife can’t get enough so when I go to the bar she comes up and we two-step around and holy cow she’s a great dancer. She keeps her right arm up and holds my hand just barely and boy we just glide and float around that dance floor like butterflies and Harvey keeps his eye on me like a bull moose and I always go up and shake his hand after and he nods back, not too happy that I can dance like I do with his wife but all the same he’s pleased that she’s happy and enjoying herself.

I know when I hold her on the dance floor I can honestly tell how much she loves him, how she keeps her wedding ring polished just shiny and I can tell how when she moves that she moves for him and that she is the best thing that ever happened to Harvey.

So Cynthia came back and took a picture of us and it ended up in the paper; then, two days later, people came up to me and showed me their baby pictures around their necks on those leather necklaces and we ooh’d and aaah’d each other and we just could not stop laughing.

— Oh you were chubby — wah!

— Where did all your hair go, eh?

— Even then you were a heartbreaker!

Whites, Natives, Inuit — oh we all laughed together when we saw each other and there are just so many beautiful babies inside us all. Well now after I got hurt at work everybody who came to see me at my house showed me their baby pics and I just left mine out on the coffee table and we laughed and laughed, passing them around. That pic of our little pictures in the paper really won the heart of our town so that’s what we do now. And to my surprise Shawna came to see me. I had no idea she was back in town. I really missed her. How sad: when I’m with someone she’s single and vice versa.

So now we finally got our timing right and I held her hand and we walked down to the rocks and we saw the baby northern lights trying to swim and she showed me how to call them.

—   You can do it!

— Give’er!

— Go go go!

And those baby lights, they swam out little by little and Shawna and I rubbed our fingernails together and whistled and soon we had shadows because the northern lights were so bright. Soon it was like rolling rainbows across the sky.

“You are so beautiful!” she called and then looked to me. “Did you know it’s the exact opposite in Nunavut? ”

Even though she had a new kind of haircut, she still had fox eyes. “What’s that? ”

“They rub their fingernails to send them away.”

“Hunh,” I said, looking up, starting to shiver but not because I was cold. “Maybe they’re just glad that we remember halfway what to do.” “As long as we honour them, hey?” she said. I could tell she was going to be a great teacher. I could tell after she said that, and we walked across town holding hands back to my place. I wanted to tell her that sometimes the night was all I had left of her but didn’t. I shaved so I could be soft for her while she sang in the shower and we made beautiful love.

We took our time. We laughed and giggled and joked and kissed and caressed and then we told each other about our lives and how hard it has been these past few years. We both wondered why the lovers we chose all turned out so mean. I noticed she still took the right side of the bed and had a few new moves but we didn’t need to talk about it.

“I missed your hands,” she said.

“Yours too,” I said. I told her to stick around, to quit leaving town. “You could be the love of my life,” I said and she went quiet, running her fingers through my hair. I traced my finger along the scars across her arm where that half-wolf bit her. I’m the only man who’s allowed to do that. The birds started to sing so I lit her a smoke and we sat up together. I was about to get us some ice water for Round Two and she said, “Wait.”

Then she took her beautiful baby Cree picture and held it up and I put mine facing hers and we kissed . . .

Originally published in The Walrus, Vol. 4 No. 9, November 2007

Richard Van Camp, a member of the Tlicho First Nation, is an internationally renowned storyteller and best-selling author. He is the author of the novel, The Lesser Blessed, a collection of short stories, Angel Wing Splash Pattern, A Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullabye for Newborns, Blessing Wendy, and two children’s books with Cree artist, George Littlechild.

NAVAJO LAMENT, by Susan Gordon

October 17, 2009
by
Record heat,

I always feel a sense of hope when I see a rainbow. Sedona, Arizona

I always feel a sense of hope when I see a rainbow. Sedona, Arizona

and record cold.
How will it be
when I grow old?
Ponies grazing
no more grass.
Wind is raging
will it last?
Sand is shifting
no more plants.
Who will survive
if only ants?
Sheep must leave now
no more wool.
What of our baskets
wells not full.
Our way of life
gone forever?
We pray and dance
it’s now or never.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We hear so much about the loss of Arctic ice, and drought in Africa, yet much closer to home, many people are already feeling the effects of climate change in their areas too.  One that is very personal to me is the Arizona Navajo Nation, as my winter home is not too far from there.  The windstorms and blowing dust have been unbearable of late, thanks to much drier and hotter summers over the past 5 years.  Less rainfall means the vegetation that normally keeps sand dunes together is gone, and the shifting sand has created a multitude of ecological changes.  The Navajo’s entire lifestyle, which is very sparse to begin with, is having to change as a result of rapid, irreversible climate change.

Make Friends with Insects, by Mary Bennett

October 16, 2009

Snail CrossingTreat the insects well
Teach them to sing and dance
Help them to organize themselves –
if you think they can learn something from such as you.

Facilitate diversity – introduce wasps to beetles
And red wriggler worms to grubs

Share your gifts with the insects
whether you studied law, architecture or literature
Let them see your finest work.

If you have good manners,
show the insects how to build a civilization.

You know what they say about treating people well
as you climb the ladder
Because you’ll meet them on the way down?

It could be that the
meek and mild,
tiny and terrible
Persistent and plentiful
will inherit this earth

We must pass along the best of what we know
to the next generation
Now.

Forest of Colours, by Mina Elza, written at age 10

October 10, 2009
by

Birds chirp in golden notes

Trees whisper silently

in their silken green kimonos of leaves

A violet butterfly prances to and fro

on the breeze

softly blowing away the swirling white mist

The hot orange sun blazes down

Dancing on blue rippling streams

The yellow of the dandelions

The turquoise of lambs quarters

are what makes this place

this place

beware of dog, by Daniela Elza

October 8, 2009
tags:
by

100_2134

the neighbours are on vacation
took the dog with them. asked me
to keep an eye on the house
I watch                                                                                  
the garden      	slowly fall
prey to weeds.    its fingertips
awaken                    blooms
      in unexpected           places
    the quiet
months of 	summer’s
creeping	   out of flower beds
reaching over fences.
re-defining     yard
my dandelions 	thriving without
the use-your-weedkill  look.

the owners are	     away
took the bb-gun with them.
birds grace	 this explosion
of pods		 fruit
wisdom
bees feast on 	untamed pollen

the lawn		un-touched
un-mowed
regains memory of seed.

this morning I misread the sign
on their gate
beware of god.

                           first published in dANDelion (June 2007).