About the Author

Jonathan Bennett

Jonathan Bennett is the author Here is my street, this tree I planted for ECW Press, and After Battersea Park and Verandah People for Raincoast Books. In 2003, he was a finalist for ARC magazine’s “poem of the year” award. Originally from Sydney, Australia, he now lives in Port Hope, Ontario.

Books by this Author
Civil and Civic

Civil and Civic

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : canadian
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Entitlement

Entitlement

A Novel
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback eBook
tagged : biographical
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Excerpt

Back in the fall Andy Kronk escaped north to this cottage on Broad Lake. At the time of purchase he’d brimmed with renovation plans and enthusiasm, levelling the foundation, painting, and calling a local contractor to come by and quote on installing a new septic tank. He had been in no hurry for this last expense. The trudge to the outhouse was onerous, not unbearable. Rustic charm. He’d planned on doing it in another year. But then, in the winter, his needs abruptly changed.

 

When can you begin work? he’d asked the man on the phone.

Good few more weeks yet, said the contractor. The ground’s frozen pretty deep out by you. Lots of rock too. Be hard going if we don’t wait.

To Andy, the gruff man sounded bearlike, not yet willing to emerge from hibernation. Please, said Andy, as soon as you can.

Freezin’ yer arse off, eh? said the contractor. Andy let the weak joke stand.

And while the long nights still assuredly fell below zero, last week he opened the side door of his cottage after lunch and in the air there was a change. The sky was light blue, the sun fragile but warm. There was no wind. He stood still enjoying the peace. Then faintly, he heard a sound. He waited. There, again. And again. He walked toward it. From the corner of his cottage, through a small hole in the eavestrough, a single drop of water slowly bulged then dripped. The temperature was above freezing. Soon the contractor could begin work.

Were he still in Toronto, weather like this would be cause for celebration. After months of truculent winter, this advance taste of spring would prompt him, along with several other lawyers, to go in search of a restaurant with a patio. There they would join the swell of rapt Torontonians heading outdoors. They would loosen their ties, roll the cuffs of their white dress shirts a turn or two, put on sunglasses, sit under gas–powered heaters, and sip at tall glasses of blond beer. They would not speak much. Instead they would drink, watch the streetcars rumble past, and, occasionally, one of them would angle a pale face directly at the sun, grin broadly, and say, Oh, right fuckin’ on.

The backhoes and workmen were at it within the week — their first job of the season. Over several days they dug the primary hole and trenches. They laid pipes, installed a toilet, sink, and shower stall, replaced plumbing underneath the cottage, and debated where to put the drain field. The huge concrete tank had been ordered, Andy was told, from a reliable supplier, and would be delivered and lowered into place tomorrow, next Tuesday at the latest.

You’ll have yourself a flush toilet in days there guy, the contractor had said yesterday with a slap on Andy’s back.

Pushing his hands up under his armpits Andy countered with, Cold enough for you?

They were quiet for a time.

Be able to do away with that outhouse soon for good, said the man. No more putting on your Kodiaks when you need to go to the shitter, eh?

Andy smiled.

Need the name of a honey wagon?

I will, I suppose. Yes, said Andy. The man took out his wallet and gave Andy a business card.

That’s my brother–in–law. Knows how to take shit alright — married my sister, didn’t he?

The man revealed his generous, gap–toothed smile before walking off. Andy watched for a bit after his truck had pulled away.

At first Andy’s dreams had come at night spawning horrors. He woke gasping for fresh air. Then, bolder, the dreams broke through during the day, creeping into the bathroom mirror, the lid of a pot, a knife’s blade as his thumb passed over it rinsing off suds under warm running water. The images took over, vivid and loud. They ran together making complex stories. Andy believed he was inside them, experiencing a kind of authentic life so tangible that it was difficult to be unable, upon awaking, to discuss it in concrete, sane terms — especially with those who had appeared in them alongside him.

Most often he was with Colin in the dreams. When they were young, together out on the lake in a boat, then years later in New York City in an elevator, and then in a park where Colin hovered a foot off the ground, a spectre wearing a cape. The dreams were fantastical, intimate, absolutely true.

 

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Happinesswise

Happinesswise

Poems
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : canadian, death, family
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Excerpt

Unassumed Road

 

That day we lost the hound down the way,

watched it bound tongue-slack, freedom-struck

beyond the yellow wood and lichen-crusted

boulders of pink shield rock and undergrowth.

That day we took chances, pressed on.

That day made no difference, even as you

plunged into a field of bemused heifers,

cursing all dogs, as it rolled in steaming dung.

 

That day we bushwhacked calling its name,

calling it names, until it returned

with a meaty bone that looked like a rib.

A last laugh that day, when glibly

you said, the person who nailed the sign

This Road is Unassumed, has trust issues.

 

Vegetarians Use the Back Door

The cedar smoke and truck exhaust

of a ribfest at hot noon and white

Canadian men lick fingers

and use lite beer as mouthwash,

cupping the rolls of themselves—

or the wife—giving the flesh

a bit of a jiggle, having a good laugh.

 

Pre-diabetic with gorgeous tits this one

guy talks so loud not even Stevie Nicks

from the Jimmy six down drowns him out.

Prolly won’t run coon. Might run bear?

Then he shoots you a look. Yes you,

broccoli boy. Come party with us then.

Just how were you holding your face?

 

Traffic Calming Ahead

I see the laser eye, like a bindi

between descending digits each

an eyelid batting numbers until

I back off to rickshaw speed,

enter a village that will not long

accept an oriental trope.

 

Nothing here is foreign.

Everything belongs.

 

Yes, but the couple who own

the general store are Goan,

originally, and there’s a roadside

rib shack, real Louisiana bark

to tempt bass fishing southerners,

or hungry Yankees up after deer.

 

I see a harvest moon,

like a Harley’s headlight.

 

It crests a pitching Otonabee hill,

makes a cow a ghost in a field

a smudge that comes, goes

behind clouds, between firs,

shafts of light climb the ridgeline

until it turns away. Then nothing.

 

I enter the village late.

Later than anyone else?

 

Signs for butter tarts and bait

glide by until the exiting traffic

from the arena parking lot halts

progress. A wedding dress and tux

teeter in the back of a Ford F250.

The truck nuts swing. Locals cheer.

 

 

Fresh Cut Fries

A hairpin turn dragged the escarpment’s

serrated edge, scoring sky. A chip truck.

You and I argued road sign grammar.

(I bemoaned the lost art of the adverb,

you advanced the hyphen, either way.)

 

Shield rock nursed pockets of April snow

in its nooks of dark. We were so remote.

We ate at a picnic table, by a lake

that we could agree was not lead grey.

 

Your salty mouth now unlocked, eager

to lick me clean. So, jump cut to me

in a middle-distance, dappled remove.

My point of view is a weak shaky-cam,

as even the ending was wrested away.

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The Colonial Hotel

The Colonial Hotel

A Novel
edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover
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