“All My Falling Women” by P.W. Bridgman

ALL MY FALLING WOMEN*

(For my mother, and for John Swanson)


I. How to descend narrow stairs

You prepare by
angling the body—
and thus the feet—
to the right. Then…

You find a hand grip,
somewhere.

You move
cautiously.

You place your feet on the stair treads
with the toes pointing
right.

You do not allow
your purchase to lessen
by permitting the toes (or more)
to point forward, projecting out
over the edge of a narrow
stair.

You descend slowly
(but not too slowly), and
confidently.


II. To me it all seemed a bit much, then

As a seven-year-old, I thought my mother’s
cautious way of descending the stairs
in our little house
did seem a bit
much.


III. The birth of mio incubo ricorrente

As a nine-year-old
I once saw a friend’s mother fall.
She was rushing about, frantically—tidying
newspapers and toys before Melvin’s seething,
always-angry dad got home from
work.

She caught her toe on the edge of the carpet
and fell down
hard.

Though I couldn’t really
understand why, on my way home I
cried.

This became my recurring
night terror, mio
incubo ricorrente.

Women
falling.

My mother
falling.

My mother’s precautions,
I then realized,
weren’t a bit much
at all.


IV. Strangers are not strangers (not really)

As a thirty-five-year-old
I once noticed an older woman
walking on a sidewalk. She was
wearing a red scarf. I saw her
while I was driving home from
work.

She was making her way along
the north side of West 12th Avenue,
passing a park, a few blocks west of
Arbutus.

This woman was
unknown to me—a
stranger.

I saw her catch her toe on something
and fall down
hard.

I stopped the car and
ran to
help.

I tried to calm her,
to stop the blood flowing
from her face and scalp
with a sleeve torn from my
shirt.

I asked a pedestrian
to run to a nearby house
and get someone to
please call an
ambulance.

“She’ll be fine,”
the paramedic told me later
as I cradled her head.
“You can go
now.”

Once I was back in my car, I
cried.


V. Cautious ways are rewarded

My mother never had a serious
fall.

Not, at least, until 1998 when—
at the appointed age for all the matriarchs
in her family dating back generations (75)—
she fell from this earth,
straight up:

more sensed than seen,
swept up through the window,
out and skyward into an
inky darkness worthy of
Chagall.


VI. Il mio incubo riemerge nell’esperienza vissuta

Today I am sixty-
seven.

While L and I were out
walking together this afternoon,
she caught the toe of her shoe on
something.

(Was it the edge of a sidewalk panel
forced up by tree roots? I don’t
know.)

She fell down
hard.

I didn’t see it
coming.

And I couldn’t stop it
happening.

It was a “lucky fall”—
no broken bones, no sprains—
but there were scrapes
and shock. Broken glasses.
And she felt nausea and
faintness.

“Still,” she said, “I am
very lucky. I’ll be
fine.”

“Yes,” I
agreed.

And yet.

Back home—after
cleaning up the scrapes
with alcohol swabs
and placing bandages
carefully on knee and wrist—
once I was alone
in the bathroom, I
cried.


VII. L’incubo si ripete ancora e ancora

The bad dream,
the recurring night terror,
l’incubo, is never far
away.

In it, the women I love,
and some I don’t know
(strangers who aren’t strangers)

keep

falling

and

falling.


VIII. I am a bit much myself

My grandson (“Mr. O”) watches me closely
as, carefully but confidently,
I descend the narrow stairs
from my study (where many boring
books without pictures live, he knows,
but also, the
computer).

I’m sure that this little performance
by his Nonno seems, to him,
a bit
much.

“It’s okay, Mr. O,”
I tell him. “You can go on
ahead. But, be
careful.”


IX. An unspoken lesson learned

And so it
goes.

(And so, indeed, it has gone
since I was
nine.)

I learned by my mother’s example
and I learned
well.

I prepare for every descent
(except the big one into oblivion)
by angling my body—
and thus my feet—
to the right.
(The opposite of my
politics!)

I find a grip,
somewhere.

I move
cautiously.

I place my feet on the stair treads
with my toes pointing
right.

I do not allow
my purchase on them to lessen
by permitting my toes (or more)
to project forward, out over
the edge of a
stair.

I descend slowly, but not too slowly, and
confidently. (Success is not
guaranteed, but risk is
lessened.)

And yet, when it comes
to the big question of falling,
I am far from out of the
woods.


X. All my falling women

Still, I must not let myself forget that
when I awaken in a clammy sweat
(as I did this morning), I more
and more quickly remember now that it was a dream,
that no one has really fallen—and that, well,
once my pounding heart has again regained its grip,
this latest night terror, too, will
lift.

And once it has lifted, I will lean over
(as I always do) and kiss L’s sleeping
forehead.

I will say a prayer for my
mother.

I will say a prayer for L,
and for Melvin’s mom whose toe
caught the edge of the carpet,
and for that woman
who tripped on the sidewalk
on West 12th Avenue,
not far past Arbutus,
and for all the other nameless and
numberless women who, in my sleep,
I am powerless to
protect.

And if—
as one of us heads down our narrow stairs
tomorrow to make the morning espresso—
there is momentary inattention, a misstep,
I know that my mother’s example
(her almost hand) will guide us:
Angle right, feet right. No guarantees,
but…

Her almost hand—beckoning, guiding—
will steady our every descending footfall.

But not, alas, the dreamsteps of all my falling
dreamwomen.

Not even her
own.


*Some text fragments in this poem have been borrowed from John Swanson’s collection of poetry and photography an almost hand, beckoning (San Francisco: Blurb Books, 2019).


P.W. BRIDGMAN’s most recent book—a selection of poems entitled A Lamb—was published by Ekstasis Editions in 2018. His poetry and fiction have appeared in, among other publications, Antigonish ReviewGrainMoth Magazine, Glasgow Review of Books, Honest Ulsterman, Galway ReviewLitro UK, Litro NY and The High Window.
Learn more at www.pwbridgman.ca.

Poems by Victoria LeBlanc

Migrant

Swallow’s wing    dismembered   
mud-slick among the rushes

I pick you up

limp rag of feathers    blue-black flattened vanes
bound to broken forelimbs   

            arm    fused wrist    hand    three fingers

hollow origami bones   

weight    one ounce

you    passerine    long distant migrant
hugging the coast to South America

                                    back in May   

I bury your wing in the dark cello nest of earth

mute
mutable. 



Afternoon in winter

Raw umber    no other colour

you lay it on the white paper
with a fine brush
and it streams down slowly   
slowly
staining the white

the white is of snow
that day by the river   
the umber is of reeds locked in ice          
no stirring    
no wind even

            you must capture this

how you felt    standing by the river
in the winter 
how you crouched among the stalks
unseen
how the reeds towered   
how their frayed dried heads bowed   
and bent in the cold   
and how the sky was grey 
and how     
in the white snow under the reeds
you lay your body down
as on a bed    
as in
a shelter      

and cried for beauty
and death.


VICTORIA LEBLANC is a writer, artist, and curator. Contributor to over 40 publications on Canadian artists.  In 2019, she published her first collection of poetry, Hold.  Forthcoming: Mudlark.As a visual artist, she has participated in solo and group exhibitions across Canada.  Former Director of the Visual Arts Centre and McClure Gallery (1996-2017). Curator of City of Westmount Gallery since 1998.

“the poems you like” by Mike Bove

all begin mid-sentence with a cool edge
tumbling inward to a vermillion core

they possess images                they make images

& many of them are quite striking
due to disavowal of standard punctuation
with the exception of instances of extreme
emphasis or necessity.

your grandmother’s pain lives inside
them along her mahogany shelves
next to a framed photograph of a dead soldier
& the window is open because the poem must
have a question but in place of an answer

there is the wind                                 you hear

angry fathers in the lines
& see vast expanses of ice on january lakes
off the backroads leading to a city of great joy
& a love which someone you know has left
buried beneath the big oak in the park

all the poems you like feature a sunflower

all the poems you like are flapping
like maple leaves and in them your old pets
have come back to life & so has miles davis

please don’t forget the burnished sun
& the russet fields                  

that steamy vermillion core

please don’t forget that all the poems you like
end with

this & this
or this


MIKE BOVE‘s poems have appeared recently in RattleThe Cafe Review, and others. His first book, Big Little City, was published by Moon Pie Press in 2018. He lives in Portland, Maine with his family and teaches in the English Department at Southern Maine Community College. 

“honeycomb //” by Anne Strand

if we move rapidly
inside this honeycomb

and still find ourselves
            centered

maybe we’re somehow balancing
on solid ground

while earthquake tremors
sound off beneath our feet

art recovered from tasks:
            eat, commute, laugh
we wander toward home

faces buried in cell phones
lightning bugs
comet dust

this city:
something like
            the pulse in our fingertips 

something like
the heartache poem
we can’t seem to perfect

so we write, rewrite, 
we wander toward home 


ANNE STRAND is a writer from coastal Maine, USA. Her poems and short stories have been featured in journals including Sonora Review, Angel City Review, and The Metaworker. Connect with her on twitter @anniestrannie

“Black Rain” by Ilona Martonfi

terraced rice fields
sheltering in a wooden hut
leaking thatched roof
my yukata gets wet
with black rain 

a freezing winter day
charcoal-burning stove
smell of roasted sesame
organic sweet miso soup
dosimeter clicking sound

I take photographs
with my father’s muddy lens
dark, blurry images
similar to my memories
which I am slowly losing

a spit of fields and sand 
where a pine forest grows 
after the tsunami 
what I really want is to
once again live in my home


ILONA MARTONFI is the author of four poetry books, Blue Poppy, Black Grass, The Snow Kimono and Salt Bride. Her work has published in numerous journals across North America and abroad. Six chapbooks, Visiting the Ridge, Charivari, Magda, Adagio, Mud and Moth. Her poem “Dachau on a Rainy Day” was nominated for the 2018 Pushcart Prize. Artistic director of Visual Arts Centre Reading Series and Argo Bookshop Reading Series. QWF 2010 Community Award.

“Firework” by Sophie Luo

A gunshot wound,

Blooms across the night sky
Like a carnivorous flower.

Illuminates its crowd
Red, then green, then gold.

And the sun
Does not set until midnight.


SOPHIE LUO is a student and emerging writer from Vancouver currently studying Biomedical Sciences at McGill University. From anatomy to poetry, her strange combination of passions yields an indecisive personality, a penchant for rumination, and a disproportionate fascination in ordinary things – all of which she records and expresses in writing.

“Unmute” by Linzey Corridon

Bellow into the wind all weakness
rooted in the fears of an overbearing society,

the one that robs you of your femininity, 
a country that drains you of your fierceness.

Let the current take with it 
the burden of your ancestors,

a toll taxed with the memory of a nation 
struggling to accept that which is sown into the land, 

into the cane, into the coffee, into the cotton, 
into the sweat dripping down the forehead 

of your great-grandfather who tried to love a woman 
in the hopes that he might outrun his queer transgressions.

Feel the air lift you pass the disquiet of your aunty, 
the one who would visit Trinidad to indulge in her female friend,

the companion who never earned a name, a face, 
her body bursting with affection of the flesh 

for your aunty who preferred tank tops, and cargo shorts and flip flops
paired with alluring red lip stick and a full face of make-up,

aunty’s own tiny rebellion against the unsympathetic
consciousness of a region denying her embeddedness.

You are in the sky now
between the earth and the stars,

free to write your own history of desire,
able to make love to your partner in all three spaces;

below the earth, above the sky, 
between the stars as they ravage you, 

as you delight in him,
as all five bodies devour each other. 

We unmute history with every touch, every sigh, every tear,
paying homage to our decadent ancestry.


LINZEY CORRIDON is a Southern-Caribbean guy who drifted North. His creative and academic research remains rooted in the experiences of queer Caribbean and diaspora peoples. Linzey’s writing can be found in publications such as The PuritanInsight Journal, and Emotional Magazine. He is a PhD student in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University.

“Where is Nathan?” by Sloan Porter

Nathan doesn’t tell the secrets of his whereabouts
nor the reason for his smile. Nathan knows
he was never like other boys. Nathan knows
he is not like the men we have come to know
in movies. Nathan once
wore a dress and danced in the moonlight
leaking in his room, his face a half shadow,
a half lit up terrain of mystery. Nathan once
charmed a whole city with his dimples
he loves to take advantage of. They are 
craters of the moon, and no one can deny
the enigma of their origins. Nathan once
swore at an officer then graffitied a statue,
cursing the governed traditions we are born into.
Nathan’s curly brown hair, his jade eyes,
the chain on his pants, the polish on his nails,
he rides the bus and people stare. They wonder
where he could be going and who he might
be seeing. You tell him at the bus stop his 
shoelaces are untied. He displays his 
signature smile and tells you 
that’s the way he likes it.


For SLOAN PORTER, the art of poetry has been an all-consuming journey since a young age. As a born and raised Montreal writer, interdisciplinary artist and proud queer, she’s most interested in exploring a darker side, the questions that linger at night, and the intense passions that drive us, but she’s often distracted by her romanticist tendencies. Find her on Instagram @sloan.porter.poetry for shades of red and black.

Poems by Jim Nason

BEAUTY

The bouquet of white lilies you brought 

lasted exactly one week.  Their great wide mouths

collapsed around their pink throats, their once 

sturdy stems succumbed to the weight of dead petals. 

Pollen streaked my fingers orange as I gathered 

them limp and dripping from the glistening vase. 

Their fragrance lingered in the winter apartment 

for another three days, pungent as too many cloves 

in honey, or the wet/dry after-sex that stains 

my pillows and sheets.  Sex?  you ask. Yes, flowers 

are what I caress—time is collapsing around me—

won’t live my life without them.

WILDERNESS WALK WITH TOAD, FOX, AND SNAKE


The tap tap tapping of happy feet. 
The pounding of sexual rain.

Our thoughts finding each other in the swirling embrace
of storm clouds and wind.  The toad in the pond by the waterfall, 

its bulging gold eyes and silver-green warts. The snake 
in the labyrinth of tall dead grass, the sensual red stripe 

down its slippery black back.  The single blue egg 

in the robin’s nest, transformed into a worm-gulping beast.  
Home, in bed, you ask me to please brush your hair 

the way your grandmother did.  It’s soft, I say, 

unravelling ringlets of gold with my willing fingers. 
Flesh of you, flesh of us.  Rabbit in jaw, nose

in the air, fox scampers back to the storm-cloud wood.


JIM NASON has published six poetry collections, including, Rooster, Dog, Crow which was short-listed for the 2019 Raymond Souster Poetry Award. He has also published a short story collection The Girl on the Escalator and his third novel, Spirit of a Hundred Thousand Dead Animals, was recently published by Signature Editions, Winnipeg.

His stories, essays and poems have been published in journals and anthologies across Canada and the U. S., including Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2008, 2010 and 2014.

Poems by Brandon McQuade

DOING LAUNDRY

I learned to do laundry in the backyard 
blankets and sheets hanging from clothespins 
like milk, out of the wash and onto the line 
the summer wind and sun the final touches. 

The sun became cancer, the moon a beautiful omen
I grew up and married a beautiful woman;
we listen to the hurried feet of mice in the ceiling 
worry about the heat and the price of electricity. 


MISSING THE MARK

The moles on her inner thighs 
seem destined to discreetly collide
as she crosses her legs above the knee. 

But rare beauty lies in a lack of symmetry 
when graceful contact is narrowly denied
like the wings of a bilateral butterfly. 


BRANDON MCQUADE is a Canadian poet living in San Antonio, Texas with his wife Jacqlyn, and their son, Nolan. His poems have appeared in BlazeVOXCollege Green, Vita Brevis, Rust + Moth, Literary Yard, Elm + Ampersand and Scarlet Leaf Review. His debut chapbook, Bleeding Heart, was selected for publication by Kelsay Books, and is scheduled for print in summer 2021.