Cathexis Northwest Press
The Anti-Parable of God’s Field Notes; The Anti-Parable of the Strange Geese...; Power Surge...
By: Angela Rebrec
The Anti-Parable of God’s Field Notes
After much thought and pencil chewing
God scribbles an entry into His field notes:
Let there be a carver who forms the fins
for limbs do not arise over night
but from tales told over eons
One particular parable begins like this:
The carver enters into the springs of the sea,
walks in the recesses of the deep. By morning
he ploughs through a rough field of water,
finds a cuttlefish bone among the sea grass.
Because many facts must not be left out
this footnote has been included:
After three days and three nights, Jonah’s
broad brushstrokes against the belly of the great fish
will resemble the sequencing of DNA.
Later, God enters this additional journal observation:
The Dorsal commands the lake, the autumn clouds,
blood that flows crimson-thick, all the fluids floating
around the sun — notice how this fin courses like a boat
with the carver thumping on the bottom of its hull.
When the carver guts the salmon, stars fall out the belly
like fish crawling onto land from the very deep.
Jonah at the edge of the sea — his gills full of air
and the fish in his voice.
Donning lab coat, God again refers to His notes
before coding the first billion basal pairs:
Jonah in the fish; now the carver in the fish.
Knives and chisels lined up on worktable, the Carver
revisits God’s final entry:
What I like about the way science works
is that eventually the truth will win.
Morning forms the fins — and by evening, the fingers of the story.
This is what it felt like
to glue on both glass eyes.
The Anti-Parable of the Strange Geese (in a series of cascading de-compositions)
I learned to dog paddle at a public pool in Montréal the summer I turned six.
We were there for my father’s cousin’s wedding—so no one took notice.
That night we watched a French commercial with dancing penguins on my aunt’s old black and white TV.
For my grade one photo, my mother dressed me in the outfit I wore to the wedding: a black and white polka dotted maxi, scuffed white patent shoes and my sister’s hand me down tights that sagged between my crotch and knees so at recess I waddled all the way from my classroom to the swing sets.
In grade three I presented a book report on penguins: complete with artistic interpretations of all seventeen species hand drawn with Mr. Sketch scented markers; a gigantic replica penguin feather made of pipe cleaners; and a step-by-step demonstration on how penguins sneeze sea water through their noses.
When stupid old Glen Kirkpatrick muttered Penguins are dumb on my way back to my desk some of the boys laughed—but that was ok because at lunch I got him good by winning his Pittsburgh hockey team card on my first shot in a game of leaners.
Miss Regehr taught our grade five class all about Champlain, Magellan and the Courier de Bois. Though we learned Magellan died in a skirmish with Philippine natives, she never named the captain who completed the voyage for him.
Out of twenty-one teams that season, I collected the entire set—team, player and goalie cards—for only Pittsburgh and Edmonton.
Marie-Eve, a girl with minimal English who I befriended at the pool in Montreal, almost drowned me as we paddled toward the diving board. I drank gulpfulls of chlorine as she stood on my shoulders thrashing for the pool’s edge.
I don’t remember what the commercial was selling.
I cried because my sister’s dress was orange.
Italian tourist, Antonio Pigafetta, paid his way aboard Magellan’s expedition and penned a day-by-day account of the voyage’s events. His is the first reference to the strange black and white birds, which he called “geese”, in his A Narrative Account of the First Circumnavigation.
Orrest Kindrachuck was Pittsburgh’s Captain in the ’79-’80 season.
The lifeguards never asked who I was with at the pool;
but afterwards, I sneezed a lot and gross stuff flew out my nose.
Google says the penguins danced on hot plates—the commercial that is, not the hockey players.
Even then, I knew orange was the new black.
Does anyone know the name of the captain who completed Magellan’s voyage?
Does anyone even care?
Power Surge at Dutchman Tattoos
I enter the shop thinking: thunderclap—
like I’m 120 volts and sparks might arc off my hand
and cinder this drawing I’m holding.
The tattoo Artist says: Only art can fix what’s been blown apart.
St. Elmo’s Fire looms just below the ceiling tiles
and my cellphone explodes from all my girlfriends’ texts:
blah blah blah, blah blah… didn’t deserve u anyways
blah blah, blah blah blah … better off without him
my other hand burns initials into the waiver,
into a square beside lines of creativity-killing legalese:
I am not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
And I voluntarily submit to be tattooed by the Artist
without duress or coercion.
I babble to distract from the Artist’s needle endlessly
cat-scratching my lower back as though it were a carpeted post:
I say: I detonated sparks but nothing moved him towards my light.
I say: Electricity can be easily taken from clouds.
I say: He absorbed electromagnetic energy without any exchange of ions.
I say: By the end, I might as well have been a wristwatch battery.
Artist nods head, says: Both art and love
must be conceived with fire in the soul,
continues with his inking.
Heat-shimmers rise from my flesh
and I lie there thinking: 220 million miles per hour.
Look at this drawing of a smoldering willow split open after a bolt—
I’m one billion volts in a return stroke.
Angela Rebrec is a writer, singer and graphic artist whose work has appeared in journals such as Prairie Fire, GRAIN, EVENT, the Dalhousie Review and Pulp Literature, as well as the anthology, Voicing Suicide (Ekstasis Editions, 2020). Most recently she participated in ART SONG LAB 2020. Her writing has been shortlisted for several awards and contests including PRISM International’s Nonfiction Contest. Angela’s art can be viewed online at NationalPoetryMonth.ca2020 and with Chicago’s Woman Made Gallery. Currently, she facilitates writing and expressive arts workshops for kids and adults of all ages. Angela lives in Delta, BC with her husband, three children and dog on unceeded Musqueam and Tsawwassen lands.
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press: How long have you been writing poetry?
Technically? Officially? Professionally? So technically, I dabbled in poetry during grade school but quickly abandoned the practice because it was cooler to write Soviet counter-spy stories with characters named Mr. Popov and Vladov. Officially, I started in earnest at twenty-seven and wrote on and off until my midlife crisis at forty where I ultimatumed myself to either "shit or get off the pot". Professionally, I started in 2014. CNP: Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
Well, it's three poems actually because I’m a work in progress. When I was ten I bought a book from a thrift store titled "An Afternoon in Waterloo Park" by Gerald Dumas because I liked the image on the cover and the feel of the dustjacket paper. It turned out to be a narrative poem which blew my mind as I had no idea a single poem could actually be book-length. This long poem kindled in me a visceral sense of nostalgia for childhood despite my young age—of course, the irony of this completely escaped me. At around sixteen, I fell in love with Anne Sexton's "The Passion of the Mad Rabbit" because she made critiquing the co-opting of the sacred something beautiful and compelling. It was that "ah-ha" moment where I realized that poetry could be an effective political tool, that poetry has power. At twenty-eight, I picked up Ken Norris' "To Sleep, To Love" at a used bookstore and read it backwards and forwards for about a month just drawn in by the intimacy of his voice, feeling a lot like a voyeur, wishing his words had been written for me.
CNP: Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
Maybe I'm indiscriminate, but I have too many to list here. A few at the top who come to mind though are Anne Michaels, Anne Simpson, Roo Borson, Mary Szybist, Kevin Spenst, Jan Zwicky, and Tom Wayman. Of course, two poems I think that anyone who loves poetry should read at least once are Billeh Nickerson's "Why I Love Wayne Gretzky—an Erotic Fantasy" and Lorna Crozier's "Carrots". CNP: Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?
Usually I read before writing. There's always a word, a line, an image that will spark a memory or an idea and I like to sit in the sentiment here and daydream. It puts me in an emotional place and from here I draw inspiration. As well, I will either listen to music or refer to artwork—photos, paintings, sculpture. Much of my writing is ekphrastic in nature. In fact, the three poems featured here are ekphrastic: two were inspired by gallery events and the other from a choral concert. When all else fails, I resort to my journals—but that's only when I'm desperate. CNP: How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
I've learnt over time that The Poem has a mind of its own. I let The Poem lead me; otherwise, it's like trying to tell a toddler to sit and we all know it's is not going to stay put for very long. CNP: Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
Read a wide variety of poets and don't be afraid to mimic their styles—this will help you discover what voices speak true to you. Some of them will feel familiar and authentic, whereas some will feel like that time when you had to write that one English essay on a topic you had no interest in for that one teacher where both of you decided from the first class you disliked each other. Also, be gentle with yourself about your writing because what you might think is crap is definitely not. How and what you think, and how you express your thoughts, are unique to anyone else’s way of thinking. Your individual voice is a gift. Own it—like wearing your favourite flaming-red speedo at your grandparent's country club pool. Bam. Like that.
CNP: What is your editing process like?
Oof...long and painful. I find editing is most effective after some time and distance. I write other things in the meantime as it helps me forget the work. Eventually, when I come back to it, what's working well or what doesn’t flow or sound right jumps out at me. I can see what’s missing as well. Reading my work out loud also helps. When I run writing workshops for teens, I stress how the editing process is a skill, it's something learned—no brilliance needed here just good old-fashioned elbow grease. It reminds me that any poem can be made into something magical with enough time and editing. It reminds me that I don't have to be a poetic genius—it takes the pressure off for sure. CNP: When do you know that a poem is finished?
I'm usually self-critical so I know the poem is finished when I read it and think: "Hey, this is pretty good. I like it."