Turnstone Press

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Excerpt

PROLOGUE

THE BACK YARD

MANITOBA - ONE HOLE - FALLWAY HOMES

Everything becomes impossibly still.

In this moment, time takes a breath and looks the other way, halting its goosestep toward the ultimate end. All there is, as I open my heart up and draw my weapon back, the blade rising above my right shoulder, is this tiny orb.

The moment before I impart myself onto the ball is a moment I can only find in golf.

Golf is nothing like life. Unlike the world, my golf ball is completely at the mercy of my intention. I approach, settle, think think think think, waggle, make sure, look away, then look back, and finally begin my backswing, loading all of the force I can load into that club, all the while staring at the ball so as to never change my focus.

When I finally reach the apex of my backswing, and if I'm doing it right, there's a moment where everything stands still. I forget my hands. I forget what's happening in my chest. My whole world is a white dimply sphere, and all the potential in the world about to rain down on it, from my hands, arms, shoulders, back. Heart.

My intent is pure, because it is at the height of potential. It isn't real yet. This is still the perfect shot, perfectly still, not yet faulty because it hasn't been born. There's no memory here to haunt this moment. No pain. Not yet. There is only the perfection of presence and potential.

Golf is the only way I know to control time. It happens in the millisecond of that focused backswing, right before the violence of intention. It also happens in a four-hour round, at the bottom of an extra-large bucket of range balls, or a short game practice session in my back yard. When I escape time, I escape memory. In that way, golf is an alchemy. A magick. I am a practicing magician. Not a salesman. A magician.

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Once Removed
Excerpt

Chapter One: The Harder Book

They cut down twenty trees on Klassen Avenue this week. Elms. They claimed they were diseased and marked each one with a red dot just hours before the Thiessen boys came with their chainsaws. The whole time I sat there in the truck with the engine idling and the radio tuned to the funeral announcements, while I waited for Mr. Vogt to pound on the hood a couple times and say, "nah, Timothy, looks like you're good to go." Then I hauled it all off to the dump to be burned.

I hesitate to admit it, because I do have other ambitions, but I spend my days driving truck and operating heavy machinery for the Parks and Recreation department here in Edenfeld. They call it Parks and Recreation even though the entire extent of our recreational facilities consists of several windswept fields with a few old tractor tires piled up to keep the children occupied.

The largest such space is called PBJ Wiens Memorial Park. PBJ Wiens is actually still alive and still our mayor, but the town figured it would be more economical to include the word 'Memorial' right away rather than waiting to add it in later. Officially our job is to keep the grass cut in summer and the snow cleared in winter, but really that's not enough work to warrant a crew of nearly a dozen people, so we make ourselves useful in other ways. For one thing, the mayor has initiated a very aggressive disease-prevention program, which requires the swift removal of trees that are past their prime and buildings that, in PBJ's words, "attract vermin if left to their own devices." These are the very same trees and buildings that other towns might try to preserve for environmental or historic reasons. According to the sign on the highway, Edenfeld was founded in 1876, but good luck finding anything older than about the mid-1990s. There are some exceptions, of course, but the Parks and Rec crew is rapidly making them a thing of the past.

It's August, so we've been given free rein on tree removal. "If you see an elm that looks iffy, go for it!" said Mr. Vogt. He's slim, taller than most, and always speaks a little louder than is necessary for the context, which makes him a suitable candidate to run a demolition crew, but not someone you'd prefer to chat with for prolonged periods in the church lobby.

I wonder what will happen now that Klassen Avenue's been cleared of its sickly elms. The last time a whole row of trees went down like this, a 'For Sale' sign was placed on the property within a week, though the loss we felt was somewhat mitigated by the fact they put a liquor store on the property. It was our first one and, according to rumours, it's the busiest in rural Manitoba. Now we don't have to sneak off to Ste. Adele for booze. We can get our cheap wine-in-a-box right here in Edenfeld. Another patch of elms was declared diseased in order to clear some land for a dollar store last year, which is also the busiest in the region. Progress is progress.

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Tree of Life, The
Excerpt

The Road

We laced our hiking boots, grabbed poles,

stowed maps and bottled water in our backpacks.

A flag at half mast made us pause, not halt.

A siren screamed. Our children asked:

Where are we going? Can we bring the dog?

We slammed the door, shielded our eyes

against the ascending sun.

 

At any point in time, one hemisphere or the other,

a significant percentage of our planet's more than seven

billion people are on the move, traveling on air, land, water,

in an overcrowded zodiak, firm or flimsy aircraft, flat on the wind-

buffeted top of a container. They walk on washed-out roads, on burning sand, on bleeding feet, cross tangled jungles, climb mountain trails, bearing the unbearable weight of a piece of bread, coins for something to buy, someone to buy off. Children too sick or too little must be carried on top of the weight of fear: the over-burdened boat will capsize in the ocean-swell, pirates

will climb on board, the plane will stray into forbidden airspace and mysteriously disintegrate, the train will be derailed, strength will fail. At the border there will be a wall.

 

We climbed the narrow trail. Streams of clear water trickled down

from pools we could not see. We sang a travelling song, told stories

about youth and love and bravery. Higher up, the air was thin. Circling

silently, the raptors waited for our steps to falter. Clouds covered the sun.

Our children were hungry.

 

We came down from the mountain, entered a forest.

Sunlight filtered through shimmering aspen leaves,

the forest floor gold-dappled. We crossed a river,

and arrived at the desert, the land of thirst. Our eyes burned,

dust filled our mouths, under our feet sand shifted.

In this Lenten landscape our children cried for water.

We looked around for palm trees and acacia.

Where are the cypress trees? we asked.

Where is the Tree of Life?

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Excerpt

Foreworda going backa return to oldstoriesthat left uswith what we seeon main streetno longer wholebefore narrativeblurredreturnedbroken downseena/new recognizedan open eyedAngelusflyinglookingbackwardand for/wordbeginningscitings

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Lunatic Engine
Excerpt

Terrible Destruction on the Feast of San Lorenzo for Sue

Galileo knew, like all of you who are real Catholics know, that this is August 10 when poor Lorenzo, the story goes, was barbecued. "Turn me over," he apparently quipped to his torturers, "I've cooked enough on this side." Now that's a calendar I can get behind: ordering our days by events, naming our lives with the titles of short stories. What have we lost by not marking the passage of time this way? Let's all make calendars for ourselves. I'll fill my year with feasts for you. Every day will be a holiday we spend in bed mapping and re-mapping ourselves over each other. And when we're done with our days I'll name our hours. This is the hour of our gravity,30-21 this the hour of dreaming, this of breath on skin and this, and this and this.

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Endlings
Excerpt

Beauty

There's a rumour about beauty,
its long whiskers and golden eyes,
its stripes as dark
as the moon shadows of trees.
There's a rumour that the forest
took the beauty,
that the people who took
the forest took the beauty.
The beauty's stripes tightened,
sliced right through--the people
said they had nothing to do with it.
The whiskers caught fire
and the golden eyes burned
right through.

--Javan tiger

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World is Mostly Sky, The
Excerpt

Each September We Went to See the Geese

 

& this was before condos built up

all around my hometown, back when

the neighbour boy had a secret. He said,

I'll tell you when the birds land

because like magic they know

to fly & fall together, feather

the sky & call hollow

into a dusk dying to frost.

This was when I believed in secrets,

in that last hunching in cool grass

before pushing on slightly from summer,

when anything might happen, so small beneath

pressing bodies full of air

 

come suddenly down

onto the lake.

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