Gaugin’s Chair

After I spent the summer working at a bookstore on Queen Street, my return to York University, for my third year, filled me with dismay. The university’s hideous grey buildings were scattered about a windswept landscape and reminded me of large boulders that a glacier had abandoned as it drew back . . .

The House on St. Clarens

Daddy tears at the Styrofoam cup, making snowflakes. I stare out the window at the real snow, longing for the bite against my cheeks. “How have you been sleeping? ” he asks. “Every night, out like a light,” Granny says . . .

Death at Number Sixty-Nine

On a Saturday morning Mulla Jamaluddin was explaining a dakhila, an example, to his young pupils in a classroom in the grand new Salam-e-din Mosque in Toronto’s Rosecliffe Park neighbourhood. “One day in Baghdad, a notorious robber was finally captured after a great deal of effort by the sultan’s police,” Mulla went on in his dry, modulated voice, gesticulating with his arms, and the children at their little desks all leaned forward, eyes sparkling with curiosity, and surely mischief in the pressed smiles of some . . .

underwater city

It’s spring. The sparrow dies instantly. Quick bang, the streetcar suspended. Small black body. You can still see white, speckled, small grains of rice across the back, twittering youth. You insist on a proper burial. Together we glide through the city, bird cupped in our palms . . .

Dear Monsters, Be Patient

The news of your birth disturbed and excited the city. For weeks afterward, the grainy surveillance featured on local and national news broadcasts. A still from the footage appeared on the front page of the Globe and Mail and on posters displayed in post offices, subway stations and grocery stores . . .

Going Home

“We’re going back to Barbados,” my mother announces. She says this as she stands in her kitchen, wearing beige capris, black t-shirt and slippers. She is suburbia incarnate. She says it surrounded by dishes my dad has dirtied but refused to wash . . .

The New Canadians

Rafiq Latif, handcuffed and his eyes glistening with tears, stood at the front door of his parents’ townhouse with Police Sergeant Robert Jennings. He turned to his mother, Ruksana, and muttered in muted anger, “Ammi, I did nothing wrong.” Ruksana couldn’t control her sobbing as her daughter, Ziram, tried to calm her . . .

Emily Breakfast

Cranston woke into a bougainvillea-petalled morning, a rosy-fingered dawn of a morning. Soft, pinkish sunlight was streaming its way down from the bedroom skylight, his husband Sir Maracle was sprawled and snoring gently beside him, and Rose of Sharon was crouched on his chest, eyes closed in bliss, the low, vibrating hum of her purring making sleepy syncopation with Sir Maracle’s snores . . .

Saturday

Weekends without her son are lonely ones, and Linea fills them up with her have-to list. Today is one of those days, and she finds herself heading downtown to visit a co-worker who’s recently had her second child, a girl . . .

Jewels

Eva had light brown skin that was as smooth and glossy as polished stone. Carol always wondered how it was that skin could be so smooth—and so soft. Eva’s skin smelled of soap and Nivea. Sometimes Carol put Nivea on her skin too—her hands, her arms . . .

these are things that grow in winter

cold weather birds redouble efforts, wrenching invisible crumbs from dirty ice; fake flowers bloom into expectant second faces, spring anachronisms against mint houses melting into peeling, pistachio porches . . .  Published in TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 5 . . .

Circus

As soon as I saw him leaning up against the tent’s support wires, his shoulders hunched to keep the rain out of his collar, I knew he’d be the photograph that would make the cover that month . . .