About the Author

Catherine Hunter

Poet and novelist Catherine Hunter has published three collections of poetry, Necessary Crimes, Lunar Wake, and Latent Heat (which won the Manitoba Book of the Year Award); three thrillers, Where Shadows Burn, The Dead of Midnight, and Queen of Diamonds (Ravenstone Press); the novella In the First Early Days of My Death; and the spoken word CD Rush Hour (Cyclops Press), which includes a bonus track featuring The Weakerthans. Two of her novels have been translated into German. Her essays, reviews, and poems appear in many journals and anthologies, including Essays on Canadian Writing, The Malahat Review, West Coast Line, Prairie Fire, CV2, The Echoing Years: Contemporary Poetry from Canada and Ireland, and Best Canadian Poems 2013. She edited Before the First Word: The Poetry of Lorna Crozier, and for ten years she was the editor of The Muses’ Company press. She teaches English and Creative Writing at the University of Winnipeg.

Books by this Author
After Light

After Light

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When Deirdre had been married nearly four years, Galen became embroiled in a bitter disagreement with his donkey. On several occasions, when the cart was loaded with pork and Galen was ready to take it to market, the beast refused to pull. One morning in March, the donkey drove Galen nearly into an apoplexy. He chased the animal around the barnyard, cursing so fiercely the children hid under the covers in their beds. Finally he cornered the poor thing and began to flail at it with a switch. The donkey twisted and bucked, dodging the blows. So Galen circled around behind it, trying to catch it unawares. Deirdre could see the donkey’s bared teeth, and knew this was a bad idea, but she did not call out a warning. She was not on Galen’s side in this dispute. Let him get himself in trouble. And he did. He brought the switch down hard across the donkey’s hind quarters, and the animal raised both hind legs and kicked him square in the chest. Galen’s mouth opened in astonishment. He walked into the house and sat down on a chair.

"Galen?" she said. "Are you all right?"

He seemed to be listening to some faraway sound and did not answer.

Deirdre hurried out to see to the donkey. It shied away, but she grabbed hold of its bridle and tied it up in the barn. Ten minutes later, when she looked in on Galen again, he was stone dead. This was the story she told the constable, who wrote it down in his ink-spattered book.

The story of the donkey’s kick spread through the nearby farms and some of the farmers arrived to help. The men gathered in the yard to build the coffin, and the women came into the house, bringing soup and pies. They fed the children and sent them back to bed.

Deirdre did not speak to anyone, except to thank them. She rode off on the blue bicycle down the road toward Galway. She was going for the priest, said some of the neighbour women. She was after buying new clothes for the children, said others, so they’d look respectable-like at the graveyard. They set to washing the body and preparing it for burial, and when Deirdre got home that night, Galen was snug in the coffin. Deirdre sat in a chair against the wall with her eyes wide open, apparently seeing nothing. The neighbours stayed up all night with the body, and some of the men got drunk on Galen’s whisky, but it was a quiet wake, a sombre affair, given the young wife and the seven children left behind and the fact that nobody, not a single person any of them could think of, had liked Galen O’Nolan or would miss him.

She had the children’s faces washed and their hair combed for the funeral service at the gravesite next morning. But the neighbours remarked there were no new clothes to be seen. The prayers were said. Deirdre tossed a handful of dirt onto her husband’s coffin and stood quietly by for the burial. Then she took the children home.

The day before, when she’d gone to town, she had not been buying clothes. She’d been at the office of George O’Malley, lawyer and real estate agent, who represented the Dublin man wanting to purchase the north field. Galen had refused that offer, but now, Deirdre told George, the entire estate was for sale. Not only the cottage and tower ruins but the house and fields. The barn, the chicken coops and chickens, the pigpens and the very pigs themselves.

As it turned out, the Dublin businessman didn’t want the animals, so Deirdre drove the pigs to the farmer’s market near Oranmore. She piled the cart high with Galen’s clothing and household items, a crate of chickens and the bicycle. She hitched the donkey to the cart, taking care to treat him kindly, and walked beside him, heading east, herding the pigs with a stick. Other women were walking to market, too, with smaller loads, a basket of eggs or a single sheep. But Deirdre did not want to be talking to anyone.

At the market, she sold the pigs and chickens for a good price and then she went into the shops of the town. She sold Galen’s pocket watch and his tools and his shoes and pants and even his hat and his handkerchiefs. She sold the butter churn and the pitchfork and the kitchen crockery. Finally she sold the donkey and cart to a carter from up near Sligo. By the time she pedalled the bicycle home in the dark, the moon was rising and her apron pockets were heavy with coins.

The following day she was seen on the road, the seven wee ones trailing after her. She marched them past the graveyard, heading east, and that was the last anyone in Galway ever saw of her.

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Cyclops Review, The
Excerpt

The Most Spontaneous Thing

Adrienne Ho

Walking toward Bank Street in winter, cold showing in our breaths. You leapt

pressed my back down against what would have been a raised flowerbed in summer, your mouth planting kisses.

The whole few seconds, I was thinking: what if someone's looking, what if in my backpack I carried some blown glass ornament you didn't know about?

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In the First Early Days of My Death

In the First Early Days of My Death

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In the first early days of my death, I could easily rise above the earth, past the massive, crenulated tops of the elm trees, over the scent of honeysuckle, into the summer sky that was thick and soft as a dark bolt of cloth, stars pushing themselves through like bright needles.

I could see the narrow, muddy Seine trickling north and the wide, muddy Assiniboine flowing east, both of them emptying into the Red River. I could see the whole length of the Red, its gleaming black surface with the wake of the moon upon it like a curved path I could trace to the horizon. I saw every house I'd ever lived in and the orange cross above the hospital where I'd been born and where I now lay. I peered into the windows of buildings and learned to part the glass like curtains so that I could pass right through.

If I wanted to, I could reach anywhere, feel the whole world at once, full of water and white sand and polar ice, fish in the oceans, red peppers and basil and lilies with their folded petals closed, unbearably lush and delicate and quiet in the darkness. I could hear everything, each exhalation of the humid air breathing through the branches far below, each muted puncture of the sky as another star poked through.

Some nights, if I let the wind blow through me, I could hear the dead begin to speak.

It's true.

Their voices, low and insistent, rustled past me like the wings of flying birds, and sometimes they sang.

But I was not interested in them.

*

Maybe my life would have ended differently if I'd accepted Mrs. Kowalski's invitation to join her at that protest rally at City Hall. Mrs. Kowalski was a determined woman, the most persuasive of my mothers, but I'd said no. I had to clean the house that day. I had to prune the oregano before it encroached any further on the lettuce patch. And I definitely had to phone a locksmith. Besides, Mrs. Kowalski was always protesting something. The year I was thirteen, it was pesticides. The year I was fourteen, it was pornography. By the time I was fifteen, I'd gone to live on Langside Street with old Mrs. Lamb, who was far beyond the mothering age and certainly past protesting anything. But Mrs. Kowalski never gave up. That summer, she was against gambling. Or at least gambling downtown.

The City of Winnipeg had changed a lot of bylaws so that All-Am Development could tear down four square blocks of Winnipeg's remaining core and erect a luxury casino complex, complete with gourmet restaurants, fountains, and skylights, and a glass tower with a green spire that would be the tallest structure ever built in the city. This plan angered a lot of people because of the historic buildings that would be destroyed, including the Walker Theatre, where Nellie McClung had staged the famous mock parliament in 1914 which debated the issue of granting the vote to men. It enraged others simply because the mayor pushed through the bylaws without consulting the public. And it incensed people like Mrs. Kowalski, who didn't believe in games of chance. She grounded me once for playing poker with the boy next door, although we were only playing for pennies. She was the strictest mother I ever had, and wouldn't listen to excuses. "Don't push your luck," she always said. Maybe she was right, considering the way everything turned out.

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Latent Heat
Excerpt

13 Lines in Order to Forget You

a scientist draws a picture of the brain on the blackboard, she labels the memory with a piece of chalk

a doctor raises his hand, a question flutters on the tip of his tongue what were we talking about again?

meanwhile, a patient with amnesia wanders down the hall and walks out of the hospital how easily you've slipped my mind

I have forgotten you, and if I were the two-headed woman on the cover of the National Enquirer today

I would forget you twice

 

The Naked Eye (in memoriam, HJB)

You are so far away, or let's be truthful, you've been dead for twenty years, a synapse in the brain of the city, these streets so fractured, full of spaces. I thought I saw you again this morning, walking the maze of paths behind the planetarium, as if you remembered the time the teachers took us up there, let us read the sky. They told us any loss of matter is converted into energy. They gave us telescopes and metaphors: You disappeared at the speed of light. But some things are apparent only to the naked eye. I can stand on the Norwood Bridge and seem to touch the potent circuit of the river. Venus, small as the spurt of a penny match, appears suspended, caught in the gap of the St. Boniface cathedral's excoriated window frame. The downtown lights are sparks the city lets go, attempting to purify itself. This city is still hot, young friend, white hot. It runs on the electricity conducted through the streets when heroes turn to constellations. It's heat that separates the metal from the ore, because in metallurgy, as in death, beauty smoulders closer and closer to the surface of the body, becoming visible at last, setting itself free. The burnt cathedral, with its empty window open like a mouth, says, ah. The sound of finding what it's lost. If you can see me, make some sign. Darkness is settling down, all over the suburbs, and Venus is rising. I can almost see the passion that set her blazing like a flare, an SOS, a way of saying, don't stop looking for me. I am here.

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Before the First Word

Before the First Word

The Poetry of Lorna Crozier
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tagged : canadian, literary
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What the Snake Brings to the World by Lorna Crozier

Without the snake

there'd be no letter S

No forked tongue and toil,

no pain and no sin. No wonder

the snake's without shoulders.

What could bear such a weight!

The snake's responsible for everything

that slides and hisses, that moves

without feet or legs. The wind for example.

The sea in its long sweeps to shore and out again.

The snake has done some good, then.

Even sin to the ordinary man

brings its pleasures. And without

the letter S traced belly-wise

outside the gates of Eden

we'd have to live

with the singular of everything:

sparrow, ear, heartbeat,

mercy, truth.

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