The Call of the Mountain

Every time Billy Bilkim Costanza entered the antique shop where I worked, he would find some excuse to say, “The mountain still calling me, boy. The voice in my ears might change but the message always remains the same . . .

Caribana

In the summer of 1977, almost a year after Elvis’s death, I met my father for the first time. While many were still mourning the passing of “the King,” in Toronto, we were preparing for a party that promised to be hotter than the record temperatures that divided the city into those who loved the heat and those who didn’t . . .

Blood Rivers

There was no need to open my eyes to tell the difference; all I needed to do was breathe. One slow inhalation of air held in my body as long as possible. At the time, I couldn’t articulate exactly what it was, but what I could say was that with one deep breath my lungs were filled with the atmospheric odours particular to Hong Kong . . .

Amah

I found her in literature only once, hiding in Salman Rushdie’s short-story The Courter. London, 1962, an Indian nanny walking down a street in Kensington with the edge of her “red-hemmed white sari” in hand . . .

january—ward’s island beach

yes, this places still exists in winter, although reduced ferry service and a wind that rattles the bones of the skeletal trees lining the beach certainly make it less accessible. and the sand is coarse and hard— the weight of too many ghosts has compressed it and the ice has cooled summer’s too-hot-to-stand-in dreams . . .

British Boy/Canadian Boy

A blown kiss floats above the ocean, lingers dreamt, a thumbprint stamped from nectarines with fuzz of peach and stubble of face, lobe of ear, grazed, bitten gently. The nectar drips down soft neck of smoke, sweat, sweet smell of Indian summer, legs and twigs entwined, not tangled . . .

Plan to Make Do

—“Ow . . . yo, that hurt.” A young woman jams her elbow into my chest shoving me out of her space. Her distracted exit from a department store propels her small pod of friends askew. My chest hurts, not in a call-the-ambulance kind of way but in a startled unexpected physical-contact-with-a-stranger kind of way . . .

Packaging Parathas

Every morning, before school, Riyaz spent at least an hour packaging parathas. She had learned the process quickly, not long after moving to Toronto to live with her mother’s eldest sister. Wipe the kitchen table. Lay out newspaper pages . . .

Total Immersion

The guy in the tight, black Speedo (shine over the crotch) is ready to dive; another Russian Jew, new to the community pool, unsure of how to say “Make way!,” makes his announcement nonetheless cannonball style: “I am here in your country . . .

Amal Sings at the Christmas Pageant

Amal stands in front of the gymnasium, she doesn’t fidget, she stands straight. Jeremy hisses, Why does your cousin always have to sing? and I shrug my shoulders. The gymnasium is almost quiet, it’s Christmas and students whisper like crinkling wrapping paper . . .