Trevor Abes: Writer

Tag: fiction

I’m reading some fiction this evening. Come by if you fancy.

Here’s the Facebook event: Portraits of the artists as men.

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LiterArti 2016 #PoetryInThePark

I’ll be reading new poems at LiterArti at Wychwood Park on September 24th!

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Forging Connections at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival (2013) was not your average convention. People weren’t dressed in carefully considered costumes or walking around in character stockpiling freebies indiscriminately. Set in the Toronto Reference Library over the second weekend of May, the intimate space lent itself to discovery and spontaneous conversation more than sweaty-palmed, star struck fervor. TCAF opened its doors to the simply curious and the comic-obsessed with equal grace, focusing attention on creators and their work.0511131157-00

Caitlin Cass, an artist based in Buffalo, NY, is the founder of Great Moments in Western Civilization, a cooperative dedicated to picking and blending stories from history. Her work draws on influences from Heraclitus to Paddington Bear in a poetic attempt to fit the whole world into one craggy group picture.

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Caitlin Cass, holding The Text, her latest Postal Constituent offering, about “the anxiety people feel about language and its unbreakable authority over us all.”

Matt Moses, head of New Jersey’s Hic & Hoc Publications, said, “TCAF is the best in my mind. It’s much warmer, and more welcoming, and so much better organized than most conventions.”And no, he’s not just being nice. As a home for alternative artists who eschew mainstream taxonomies, H & H is akin to illustrated Bizarro Fiction.

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Moses, left, with authors Lauren Barnett (Me Likes You Very Much) and Pat Aulisio (Bowman 2016).

Chester Brown promoted an expanded version of The Playboy (Drawn and Quarterly), a nostalgic and curious treatment of his obsession with Playmates and self-pleasure that was first published in 1992. A believer in the idea of looking back as a way of moving forward, Brown said of his use of autobiography, “I was inspired by my friend Joe Matt’s honesty and openness about his life in his comics.” Then, he flipped one open (Matt’s Peepshow #1and, with a warm and wistful smile, pointed himself out drawn on the page. “Of course, this is when I had more hair,” Brown added.

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Chester Brown with The Playboy.

This year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival showed how the unlimited social circle is the fastest way to becoming yourself. From the small presses happy to have tables, to the centrally located major players digging through boxes of money to make change, everyone’s fictions were courageously laid bare for the sake of forging new connections where none existed before.

What Does It Mean To Be Canadian?

Canada“Any name may be Canadian,” or so says John Parlabane, the defrocked monk in Robertson Davies’ The Rebel Angels (1981), a novel about the inner workings of the College of St. John and Holy Ghost, a fictional Canadian university. He explains himself a little later,

“I think we are foolish on this continent [N. America] to imagine that after five hundred generations somewhere else we become wholly Canadian –hard-headed, no-nonsense North Americans– in the twinkling of a single life.”

In other words, continental generalizations aside, becoming Canadian happens quickly and frequently.

Parlabane is speaking to and about a graduate student in medieval studies, Miss Maria Theotoky, who has told him that she’s Canadian by birth. Immediately unsatisfied, because any name may be Canadian, he pries further and discovers that mama and papa Theotoky are Hungarian. The question to hold on to is, what’s Canadian?

Time for you to test Parlabane’s idea. Take this online ad posted by Now Magazine.

Meat and Greet Social evening for older trans men and their allies. April 17, 6:30pm. 519 Church Community Centre. 416-355-6787.”

I’d like you to perform a bit of gut-analysis between your neck and your belly button, where the most pressing ethical quandaries are debated, and decide if you feel a need to know where the attendees are originally from to call the meat-ing Canadian.

If you do, you and the CRTC have as much in common, and there is likely a Can-con percentage that, once fulfilled, renders the event Canadian in your mind; then, labelling things “Canadian” that are above their respective Can-con percentages builds our society and cultural industries, and vice versa.

If you don’t need to know, you share Parlabane’s any-name idea, and we have to ask once again, you can stop holding the question now, what’s Canadian?, but this time with a little more information to go on: being Canadian has nothing to do with where you’re from.

KirbyImagine our country as Kirby, Nintendo’s pink puff ball adventurer, with his mouth open wide ready to inhale. Suppose Kirby feeds on cultures and gains nourishment by taking ownership in them, by calling them his own. He’s always indiscriminately hungry; note how the double meaning in “Any name may be Canadian” proves this: 1) Any name has the right to become Canadian. 2) Any name may already be Canadian. Such a varied group of people makes us some of everyone from everywhere, a perfect cross section of humanity. For example, after five or ten or thirty years of visits, you walk into a certain record store in downtown Toronto feeling as confident as you do when you get home after work. Your best friend enjoys the occasional joint at a cannabis lounge in Vancouver. A colleague of your father’s, who you’ve met before, performs FGM on someone’s daughter next week and believes with his whole soul that he’s doing her a favor, even though the procedure is illegal in Canada and should be; a decade later, when her water bursts, doctors at Mount Sinai will have to have received special training on how to treat her.

You can disagree that FGM is on the same level as, say, SARS or the Oil Sands, but you can’t say it’s not a Canadian problem.

Of course, we have homegrown examples too, like Standard Time and Canola, and proudly so, but they are only a tiny piece of the pie; universal health care, The Group of Seven, The English Patient  and hockey would have never happened (as we know them) without leaving our doors open to the world.

So, does labelling things as “Canadian” build our society? I reckon it does. It guarantees our future. After all, controlling the flow of culture in an effort to sculpt a national identity down to something pure has been known to cause a spot of bother.

The Boy Who Exhaled on a Windshield and Melted the Home of the Next Messiah

SleddingWinter in Toronto can be non-existent as a soggy laptop, but sometimes it’ll snow dependably and in plenty for many days, long enough to go outside and enjoy it. Michelangelo Anderson Lavoisier stood in his red ski pants and coat and toque at the top of a hill constructed out of snow against a brick wall of a butcher’s shop that sold horse meat. The hill, compacted by upside down garbage can, wore dozens of holes from the garbage can handles that were filled as soon as the first child caught one and tipped over. He was a fat child, Michelangelo, with a pointed, freckled face, red hair, and a slight hint of bow-leggedness. He considered sweets his greatest joy and his favorite snack late at night called for melting sugar in a pot with cream and dried coffee, and maybe a star anise; his grandmother, Estefanía Ramirez Lavoisier, taught him how to use the electric stove when she came to babysit. Michelangelo had climbed onto the hill by the side on a wooden ladder with a rectangular cut of cardboard in his teeth. Down below, a crowd of children paid no attention and formed two halves of a rainbow of winter gear. Upon reaching the bottom of the hill, only the fastest sleds made it past the gap in the audience to the edge of the street.

Scanning the road for cars, not wishing to depend on the onlookers for due notice, Michelangelo waved at a woman in an apartment window before letting gravity engulf him, his hands up front holding the edge of the cardboard to steer. He spun round twice during the first third of the descent, much to his delight, and traveled the rest of the way facing back at the hill, watching the powder he rustled in his wake. He stopped when the soles of his feet thumped and hyperextended against a Hyundai Santa Fe on the other side of the street. A few boys yelled “car!” to be mean though the road was empty. As soon as he’d realized he’d made it, Michelangelo tried to stand and shout with pride but fell from the dagger-like pain burrowing into his ankles; the two nearest children felt a sense of responsibility and carried him like a baby. They struggled with his weight, swaying away from the car then back, determined to hold on and save face amidst their peers. But they grew tired because the snow hadn’t been shoveled in a few days and took the last resort: understanding the SUV as a stretcher and chucking Michelangelo on the windshield to rest and recover.

The patient breathed heavily and squirmed on the car, managing to wave at his emergency medical responders to express his gratitude. It didn’t help his rehab that the windshield was covered in snow and harboured patches of ice that had been given a chance to harden. The thing that helped Michelangelo ignore the toothpick machineguns spraying his feet was the particularly dragon-like effect his breath had on the fine flakes. He ha’d hot air to clear a spot for his cheek and laid it on the frosted glass so that his mouth faced a good foot of accumulated snow ready for melting. He learned to breathe almost right up against the frozen fluff to maximize impact; the water drops seeping into the snow like a flesh-eating virus, like somebody’s bite mark or mold of the upper jaw. Soon enough, Michelangelo had ha’d a semicircle that from above seemed like it seeped out of his skull; together, the two instances of roundness re-enacted the profile of a disproportionate tomato. At the semicircle’s farthest point from its creator, floating in a now refreezing group of droplets, the second coming of Jesus Christ frowned amongst his belongings the day before he was scheduled to make his official return.

He looked just like he did in pictures except cricket-sized and with lower standards, long brown and red locks curled over his bare shoulders, goatee fully connected to an evenly groomed moustache.

He lived in (a once sprawling three bedroom, two bathroom, four foot by one foot icicle of) a mansion on a windshield in Toronto for two reasons. 1) He wouldn’t be paid for another two Thursdays after reporting for the messiah gig, and the rent was cheap. 2) He predicted it would all happen as it did three weeks ago as his first proper go at a miracle on the first episode of the first season of the reality TV ratings smash Jesus does Toronto.

The vested cameramen hovered conspicuously over the Hyundai’s driver’s mirror.

An inflatable Bible pool chair kept Jesus dry. Gathered on it was his wallet, made of hemp, an extra white monogrammed robe identical to the one he wore, a pair of frozen sandals, a bottle of wine marked “water,” a square boxy Tupperware container packed tight with butter tarts, and a thermos of black coffee. His attempts at salvaging heavier items like bed frames and mattresses would have to wait until he acquired an ice pick to dig them out.

While eager passengers screamed, racing down the hill to a safe stop, occasionally veering sideways and bowling into a section of the queue, Jesus cupped his chin in five fingers and caught Michelangelo’s attention. Michelangelo did not hesitate to take Jesus in his left hand for safe examination, soon determining that what he held had to be gummy candy.

“Ahhhhh,” said Michelangelo, torpedoing his gummy person in.

Jesus wouldn’t be almighty until after the induction ceremony the following afternoon; there was no use fighting back.

Nor did he have to. Michelangelo’s family’s limited means had taught him a long time ago that candy that is sucked on is candy that lasts. After one hairy lick, he dropped Jesus, spit, and was carried off by a woman that everyone supposed was his mother.

Jesus changed robes and had a tart.

The Short Life Of Shapes On Sun-Kissed Eyelids.

black-red-green-backgroundShe sees Connick Jr. now has a microphone. He is singing “All of Me” as if he meant her to take all of him. The other two players are sitting cross-legged, stage left, and their instruments are playing  themselves. Harry drops to the floor and maintains a spontaneously splayed position, as does his microphone. The song continues.

“It was a perfect lip-sync,” Harry bellows from the floor. “Those ain’t in my nature, dahlin’, but I did one for you.”

She remembers that she is in hospital, dying, and prone to dementia. Her name is Mabel Woodhouse, 89, born in the month of May.

She forgets.

She thinks someone is listening.

She would like you, whoever you are, to know that she has learned diddlysquat during her 89 years on Earth. Why? Because moments of clarity like these are all she has to look forward to anymore, and they only come every few weeks. She may have seen too many retirement-home commercials, but she thinks she deserves better. At least basic motor skills.

She does not believe that you are God or any other high holy being, although your lack of kindness is not here supposed. She’s simply trying to say that she remembers that she was talking to someone, but since she can’t exactly see you, she’s going to stop talking now.

Her room is off-white and smells like it’s caked in ammonia. It is Christmas.

She turns on the TV and sees Harry Connick Jr. singing “Danny Boy” in a bright red turtleneck. She smiles and sighs at the serendipity.

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