About the Author

Michael Kenyon

Michael Kenyon was born in Sale, England, and has lived on the West Coast since 1967. He’s the author of eleven books of poetry and fiction. The Beautiful Children won the 2010 ReLit Award for best novel. Other work has been shortlisted for the ReLit Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the SmithBooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Baxter Hathaway Prize (Cornell) in fiction, The Malahat Review Novella Prize, Prism international’s fiction contest (won twice), the Journey Prize, and the National and Western Magazine Awards. He has adjudicated for the Banff Centre writing program, for the BC Arts Council, and for the Saskatchewan Arts Board. He has been employed as a seaman, a diver, and a taxi driver. Presently he works as a freelance editor and a therapist, and divides his week between Pender Island and Vancouver.

Books by this Author
A Year at River Mountain

A Year at River Mountain

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Excerpt

Across the lawn they come, the doctors, in a small group, laughing and talking together and, amazing thing, the central figure, a tall man in a white shirt with an open collar, stops, and a tear rolls down his left cheek, then a second. He holds up his hands to mask his face. There is a word to describe this kind of waiting, but I can’t remember it, only the shape, like the double curve a child draws to suggest a bird in flight. The other word, the writing-journey word, is more alive, closer but still elusive. The doctor’s hands meet in prayer, in front of his throat.

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A Year At River Mountain
Excerpt

Middle Palace

The valley runs west and east and the temple is on the small hill on the north side, the hill being, so we think, so they say, a stone eye that fell from the mountain, biggest of the chain that rises behind River Mountain Monastery. The hills to the south are many and rounded and carry on their backs a green carpet of trees over which the sun and moon travel left to right. There is an immense plain south of those hills, blue smoky horizon to grey smoky horizon. The west part of our valley this side of the river is wet, much of it marsh in winter, full of bamboo and birds and creatures who prefer their feet wet or whose lifecycle involves a spell in the water. Streams crisscross the northern slopes, though most are dry at this season, the most faithful pouring spring water past the doors of our huts and shrines into the river as it cuts through the yellowing fields and gleams now on its way to the gorge and the eastern coast. We farm the fertile banks and tend the higher rice terraces. From the winding river to the temple behind me runs an ancient path, on and up the mountain, used by miners, then by itinerant priests and sages, long before the founding of our order. The wind is huffing among our buildings and bright clouds sortie across the sky.

This is where we live, for the most part, in a village of huts above the plum trees, unless we are in retreat on the mountain or on a journey somewhere to enlarge our souls. And our life here is divided. Our south-facing selves attend every flicker of change, while at prayer in the temple, we face north and darkness, barely alive to events in the world or even on the river.

Cloud Gate

You will perhaps want to know how I got here, where exactly here is; you will want to know what I—m doing. I have offered my description of the valley, the hill and the mountain; the chain behind still holds snow, even now at hottest summer. I have been in a state since last August, when I realized that a woman (the woman we are expecting within the month) had bewildered me. My peaceful life here, you see, has been disturbed by eagerness. We are never quite as clumsy as when we are at the end of another identity, another role, the final performance, wanting the run to continue, yet tired of the same old entrances and exits, wanting to press forward with a new part, yet pulling back at the same time, regretting the past. The company of the company. There we are in the theatre seats, waiting for our notes, the director midstage, hub of the wheel. What a world! Waiting for the spark to ignite us, bind us together. It is what has formed around me here, monks for players, master for director. I sense I—m not the only one bent during prayer, head cocked like a bird, listening for Imogen's approach. Last year we were bereft, even the master, when she left us to go back to her country, leaving her trace in any number of cities on the way, for she never rests long in one place.

I know I—m extremely foolish, believe me. You will be pleased to hear that. I think you will be978192706818213

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Astatine

Astatine

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Durable Tumblers

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Kleinberg

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Parallel Rivers
Excerpt

Through the only lit window on the ground floor of a dun-coloured building - the only lit window in the whole block - Jake sees an empty cupboard and a cot.

 

On the side of the room farthest from the window, the boy lies on the worn ticking of the mattress, reading a book. Half an hour ago the girl, astonished by the resonances between this night and the novel she's reading, made a surprised noise in her throat and handed the book to the boy. Now she leans against the cupboard, looking into the street. Overhead wires divide the dark sky from the pools of light cast by lamps hanging from every other pole. The dim buildings across the way seem malevolent presences. The well-manicured boulevard in front of the old warehouse gleams: a green plane belonging to another universe. This scene, too, reminds the girl of one of the scenes from the novel.

 

The boy skims through to the main action of the story, which takes place at night in a desolate area of small businesses just like this district. A tramp is struck down by a pale blue TransAm driven by some girl who, directed by her date, is going to - But the boy, hardly able to keep his eyes open after such a hectic day and less impressed by the coincidences than the girl, reads no further before falling asleep.

 

What is that sound? She presses her fingers against her eyes and the view before her is imprinted on her lids, the TransAm drifting out of sight, leaving the clear image of the tramp slumped in the gutter on a pile of new mown grass. An engine running, a car idling.

Tap my right foot on the gas then my left foot on the high-beam button and chew slowly, let's say thoughtfully, on a bitten-off fingernail, smoke creeping along the dash. Once I worked for a blacksmith. So that's dishwasher, gandy dancer, automobile painter, blacksmith's apprentice, cabdriver. Can't picture me young, betcha. Ten years hard labour. But I never touched her, your Honour! You're dirty, Lucy said, and I've had enough, me and the baby're moving in with Mama. So she did. Flick the fag into the night, knuckles to my mouth and blow through them into my palms. Yeah, I saw the blonde climb out of the TransAm, the boy panting at her heels. And the dirty sod peeping at them through the window, ankle deep in fresh grass. Licking his lips. Wiping his hands on the back of his pants. Stinking pisspot. They're only kids. None of my business. A fare's a fare and he left a twenty when he told me to wait. Chew the skin behind each fingernail. Ah, thank God it's spring. Things could be worse. In spring I'm never cold, though wet's possible, a good soaking, a downpour when I'm limping between the cab and some apartment block. Quick, my kingdom for a change of clothes, a fresh pair of undershorts. What's the sky doing? If it were to rain, I'd count my blessings. Once my dad gave me a rabbit called Ears. Ears came out sniffing when I called. O the pain of my back. I never get out of the taxicab if I can help it, never say boo to a passenger, not one word. Sure, they never greet me either. If one were to say howdy, then I'd say howdy back. Yeah, that's what it takes. That's a start. Anyway, I know my job - follow that car - it's pure knee jerk. Sometimes, when I turn a corner, I'm a NASCAR dude, lips set and heart like a child's. You're a beautiful baby, Papa's sunshine, that's what. So that's cab driver, peeping Tom, let's see, doesn't matter, not a tinker's cuss. Tinker, tailor. Used to know that one. I saw the kid hide the girl's keys on top of the closet, the young swine. The old fart. The sullen deadbeat. What a phony accent. What a stink! I wish- No. I have nothing to say, your Honour. Open the curtains wide, sweetheart. Let's see you. Never happen, pal. But we're mesmerized, old bastard and me. What will we do? Nothing. Where will we go? Nowhere. Count my blessings anyway. The rabbit, Lucy, our baby girl. I'm no bum. I own my own taxi, and it's warm, the meter's up to fifteen-fifteen. I could leave now and take a five-buck tip. Always ahead of myself. They wipe their little noses on the grass, rabbits, nip the blades with their teeth. Ah. She's taking her clothes off. Good. The blonde's taking off her clothes and me and the drifter and the boy watch her and soon we'll know something. Spring will change to summer and that pile of grass will turn to hay, bleached by sun, burrowed in by mice night after night. Long days will pass and the hay spawn mouse and spider and fly in the heat from the hay, hotter and hotter, till the stack explodes. We'll all know something. She leans so softly and sweetly into the room. And the boy will show her his lucky horseshoe.

Jake stares through the window at the leggy blonde he's been following. He knows this girl, knows her house, knows her car. Feels the tense veins beneath her milky skin, the highways that taper for mile after cool mile. This boy seems a thin satellite, a wisp, in her presence. When the boy's hand rises to stroke the girl's breast, the book falls from her grasp.

 

The boy gets up on one elbow, licks the indentation of her right thigh, his free hand clutching at her wrist, pulling her down to lie beside him. Afterwards, he walks to the window.

 

Is she bored? He can't tell. He watches her turn the pages, watches her eyes following the lines, left to right, top to bottom.

Keep driving. Now we're accomplices. We don't talk about it. He wants to make out. I'm so not into that. What kind of thing is hitting the old guy? I've seen him before. A creep, but he never does anything. I guess I'm okay but my neck hurts. After the dance, in the TransAm, we have nothing to say. But he gives me this look. Like we're really going to do this. I'm like okay, all right, whatever. He's shocked it's my first time, and it hurts and really, I could be anything. Anyone. No one. It's like a roll of loonies sliding in and out of me. I'm thinking wow. So strange the way it all seems to connect. This lonely business area, taxi idling across the street. He's pretty cute, though not so tough, and he's sweating like a mechanic even though the room's cool. The old man just bounces off the windshield. We warm ourselves up, but the heat doesn't last. A silhouette against the glass, is he facing me or facing outside? I can't tell. It's all right for him, he wasn't the one driving.

With a sigh, the boy returns his attention to the window in time to see a figure slip from the cab across the road toward their building. The girl flicks on the light, takes up the novel. She is reading a description of the girl at the wheel of the TransAm - the tires' screech as the car speeds round the corner. He regrets having given her the novel. This evening at the dance he felt sure he'd made the right move, but now he blames the book for the way the night's turning out. She says she's beginning to feel cold, but continues to read while he watches the fat red whiskery face outside the window. By shifting his focus he can see the girl reflected in the dirty glass just as the tramp must see her. Under a low-wattage bulb, she reclines on the bed, one hand supporting the book, the other behind her head. Her hair spills onto the floor. Her leg through the slash in the white fabric gleams. Her hair on the boards gleams.

 

The boy says, There's something you should know.

 

She says, Let me finish the chapter, will you?

I've got it, the whole thing. Her breasts. Her nipples. My hands. When she got in the car her legs flashed to her crotch. She seems sad, no, nostalgic, sort of. Check. How am I doing? Do I know what to do next? No. I am ridiculous. I am the guy outside. Her TransAm shines, a bit of azure sky. The taxi is waiting. I should do something. I just wanted her to keep driving, driving. I want her body and her car. Could smash the window -

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Rack of Lamb

Rack of Lamb

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The Last House

The Last House

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Travellers May Still Return
Excerpt

“I wonder what life will be like, every day made of prayers, worship. Prayer. It’s like listening hard for something you’ve never heard before or like working your whole life in silence trying to figure out whether beauty comes from outside or inside.”

 

 

 

“This stone contains the village’s fortune, if only I could read it. Before tragedy, before I began to know where I could and could not go, I held onto this stone. The stone is cold, even on a summer’s day, until I curl my fingers around it and it warms in my hand, a single thought with red veins.”

 

“What we do without children is artifice; what we do without art is natural. That time won’t bend around me indefinitely, that the civilizing cocoon will not last till morning, that meaning will only help me through daylight hours and when night comes will swallow its subjects – means I can’t sleep.”

 

“Adventure is an interruption of habit, and those who stay expect news from those returning. But they only tell what we can’t hear – and to kill time we tame the old epics.”

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