A selection of writings by the 5 Mansfield authors reading on December 9 as part of Mansfield Press’ Holiday Book Launch

“Relationships” from Early Works
by Pier Giorgio Di Cicco

Everywhere they are talking about
relationships, though they hate the word,
though no one visibly vomits over it, and
everyone sneaks it into the conversation, using
the word for the sake of, you understand, convenience.
Everyone is talking about it. Primary, secondary
relationships, bad relationships, short-term
ones, long-term, relationships that
couldn’t work out, unhealthy relationships,
monogamous ones, a relationship lasting two or
three years, two or three minutes, a sexual
relationship, my favourite, phrase that is.
Relationships they work at, comfortable relationships,
the first big relationship, the relationship
I’m into now, the positive relationship, the
negative, a relationship based on understanding,
the relationship that’s falling apart, the
strong relationship, the superficial relationship,
the relationship between two people, an honest
relationship, the mature relationship, the dead
relationship, the new relationship – though no
one likes the word, everyone uses it, all on
related ships, on ships with some
relations, relative hips, relating, shipping
some off to relatives, relishing tips on how
to have better relations.
they are talking relationships
and not having them, having them and not
liking them. Everywhere they are using
the dirty word. Relation ships us all off
to lonely places. In love – no one is in love;
they’re working at the thing, committing, cementing,
forming attachments – it’s all a bunch of
brickwork, constructing a sound relationship,
ironing out problems, breaking down barriers,
making a firm foundation, picking up the pieces
from a relationship. We are all frustrated masons.
Let’s all build a good relationship and
crawl into it, lets all drag in ex-lovers
and bore each other to death, discussing it.
Let’s discuss it and not do it, let’s not and
say we did – let’s be really careful about it so
a brick doesn’t fall on our heads.

Let’s look at a whole bunch of empty
rooms and discuss it;
let’s get really old waiting
for a relationship that’s right; let’s
write more articles on relationships and
feel liberal, bohemian, enlightened.
Let’s become the ministry of relationships,
the high priests of it, let’s really get
down on our knees and bark at the moon,
meaning love, meaning the oval, heavy syllable
spilling out of our mouths and onto the
grass; let’s wonder why sixteen-year-olds
are wary, conservative, going into law
instead of english. Let’s wonder how long
before we’re out there, pushing buttons,
not knowing other ways to say I love you,
wrapping up the foetus of fireballs.
When did we start discussing? What’s this relationship –
this one-night stand with the earth?

“The Memory of India” from Souls in Plain Clothes
by Corrado Paina

It was not too long ago or maybe it was a long time ago
but not enough to erase the memory
of a place where I have been
where the dream laid its body
where my hunger was terminated

In this place I felt my humanity
my strong and uncompromising flesh
I have never been to India
but I have memory of India

every tribunal in this land would condemn me
for pretending
I ask for the right to collect and treasure
the memories of places I have never been
of the man I have never been
of the dreams I have never had

“Assassin Take One” from Back Off, Assassin! New & Selected Poems
by Jim Smith

I keep Gene Day in a file folder in the basement.

My mother is a pile of letters and two casserole dishes on top of a bookshelf.

Arnie is in an urn waiting to be mixed with mine plus a sprinkle in the backyard he lay in.

Merril is some smudged pix, and a book by her granddaughter that mentions me once.

Sad brother Kim is his “K” keychain and a Cream disc I’ll never ask why he had.

bp is one deadication, two anecdotes, a warm feeling, the rest appropriated years ago.

Richard Swanton our union friend and precocious AIDS dier, I have his key to our Robarts staff room.

These bits are basement tenants
Who’ve never paid a cent in rent.

Many of us have little piles of stuff.
Many have not a fucking thing.

Me, I’ve tried to forget myself
One dimension at a time.
I’m down to four now
So back off, assassin,
I’m shitting trinkets as fast as I can.

“Fuselage, Manitoba” from Something Burned Along the Southern Border
by Robert Earl Stewart

That there were more wrecked planes around here than bears
was a fact not lost on them. They wrote to their wives
to advise they would be squatting
on Crown Land in a nose cone (send liquor).
The closest dwellings had boards hammered through
with nails covering every orifice. The wildflowers
below the windows were often bent with black gore,
and even some bright red.
When they asked the guide if skeletons were
ever found in the wrecks that speckled the
terrain like different-coloured pins,
he said: “Bears take care of that.”
Airplane steel gaping like a foil chip bag –
windows and hatches flung or disappeared,
giving up secrets of luggage evolution,
presenting a spread of plush seats,
major traumatic flaws shiny after the rain;
occasionally, wings and tails.
They decided they’d rather risk emaciated bears –
one’s giving up a lucrative practice in sedation dentistry;
the other a lucrative career in insurance fraud –
than fall prey to the dispersal
pattern of grounded bait in a self-fulfilling
treeline economy (send adult things).
A poll of their friends would’ve revealed: 1)
neither was known as a photographer;
and 2) they would be picked clean (send regards).

An excerpt from Dog Eat Rat
by Tom Walmsley

Trip met Ginger during a strike at a medical supply plant. The night was hot and the picket line was silent. She saw him crossing the parking lot and waved him over.
I don’t know you, she said.
Your loss, said Trip.
I don’t doubt it. Want to sit with me?
She sat in darkness at the wheel of her van. All he could see was the bottom half of her face and the red light of her video camera.
I’m teamed up with that young kid, the guy in the U of T jacket.
He’ll live, Ginger said.
I don’t want to just dump him.
Maybe he wants to sleep. What’s his name?
She radioed Aidan and told him he was on his own while Trip opened the door and slid in beside her. She turned her head and looked out the window until the door shut. Before the light went out he saw she was a redhead.
I thought Rodney was the boss.
He owns the business, Ginger said. I’m in charge of investigations. And investigators.
First time I’ve seen you here, he said. He didn’t add that he would have remembered, but he would have remembered.
You’re breathing hard.
Your fault, said Trip.
Ginger was working as a rover on two strikes and spending all her time driving between parking lots. Trip hardly heard her tell him and he was more aware of her breathing than he was of what she said. She was damp with sweat and he liked her smell. He was drenched.
I said, how do you like it so far?
I’ve never been on this side of a picket line, he said.
What’s your regular line of work?
I write haiku, said Trip. Thousands of them.
Ginger nodded and decided to ask him later. A writer of some kind. If you ask a man to repeat his occupation, he’ll explain the whole job instead.
They both wished they could see each other more ­clearly. She told him he’d have to buy a car if he wanted permanent work with the company and he didn’t volunteer a response. Silence covered them like the heat. Ginger thought about opening her mouth and artlessly letting words jump out. She felt like a dog who’d caught up with the car and now had no idea what to do with it.
That’s a cool thing to tell me, Trip said.
Holy shit, she said. Did I say it? I’m getting punchy.
Turn on the light so I can see your face.
Forget it, Ginger said. It’s almost three a.m. And it’s a fucking awful light.
She had just begun moving closer when he asked her for gum. She had none. She dug around in her purse and found a couple of chipped and darkened mints. He picked them out of her hand and put them into his mouth. Trip sucked hard while she tried to think of something to say and then he crunched and swallowed the mints.
They both moved in at the same moment and had a wet, clumsy kiss. The mints interfered with the taste of each other. They tried it again.
We can’t do anything here, she said.
We’re already doing it.
I can’t get caught. Can you come home with me?
His breath made her think of drunk investigators, Rodney meeting a client, the mailman. Mint breath. The taste was covering something, but not booze. Food? This guy is married, probably, with two sullen kids. Or a clingy girlfriend waiting up for him. He was insulting her by thinking it over.
Listen, she said.
I’ve got some stuff in the car. I’ll have to go get it.
So what’s the problem?
No problem, said Trip. I’m thinking in slow motion.
He took her face in both hands and kissed her. If a guy was a bad kisser you’d better stop right there. She knew it but she never let it stop her. Advice was what you gave friends.
He was a good kisser. She could hardly taste the mints or anything else.

“Sonnet 34” from Be Calm, Honey
by David W. McFadden

We’ve often heard it said that cockroaches
have little appreciation for good music.
Don’t believe it for a moment, dear friend.
Today I put a slice of bread in the toaster
and when the toaster started to get hot
out from under it came a good-size roach
and sat there frozen in the growing heat.
It probably thought its time had come.

Because we’re kind we’d never kill a cockroach
(though we’re not above tormenting them to death).
I merely sprinkled holy water on this bug
then blew warm air his way and he didn’t budge.
But when I hummed “Danny Boy” in his face
you should have seen his antennae keeping time.

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