Grandpa records everything. His Plautdietsch

accent at breakfast orders you

to turn around, wave spoon at camera.

Back home, your parents perform

renovations: Mom slugging holes in drywall

for Pops to patch. After the car crash

Grandma plays tapes on loop

for a year. A rotten box of them

shows up blank but with sound.

You name each noise: Jackie chopping

watermelon, Deb slurping from the hose,

that neighbour’s fat Chihuahua

in the kiddie pool. It gets so you know

which season by a wavelength

of breath. Grandma laughs at herself

in the living room, drapes drawn, watching

a black box. But when he huffs, mumbles

through the speaker, you don’t blink.

Your bunkie has AIDS and loves a scrap. He chokes

below, coughs, lungs like a damp paper bag. The ones

he clocks just bolt. Christened Torpedo, in the caf

real quiet behind Hitler who cussed him out

for using the clippers, your bunkie winked then snapped

a hook into The Führer’s ear. He stomped the steel

gangway outside Sharky’s cell, red fists raised,

shouted I’m the king of the world before the COs

unloaded two cans of mace on him, flopped face down.

The grate engraved his gagging mouth. Milky hush

of spray stained his head. Sharky got him back,

cracked the tin edge of a food tray across

his scabbed dome, stamped him into the pay phone. Listen

to each sigh and night-toss. His skin peels the gym mat. Hear

him masturbate pre-dawn, the dry tug, reckless hoorah. Often

you hear him hearing you hearing him, hear him thinking

you never sleep, thinking you think too much. Your ears raw

from damp tissues molded in. His huffs echo through the cell.

Sleeping in a clapboard boathouse

on Matsqui Slough, one year out,

where wind whines through boards

worn concrete-smooth, the tin roof

rattles, sudsy floodtides pat divots

in the grey clay and muck and gulls

squawk from the dock all night, you,

awake at four AM, grind each huff

through your head, cough, mumble

in bed and scare yourself.

No items found.


Bradley Peters’ work has appeared in Grain, subTerrain and Geist, and is forthcoming in the Malahat Review. Peters won the 2019 Short Grained Contest for poetry and was recently shortlisted for the Ralph Gustafson poetry prize. He lives in Mission, BC.



My father, sucking bones

Sucking marrow from his chicken bones, spitting the splinters on the rim of a white china plate.


The Psychopathology of (Northern) College Life

he historian who writes potboiler novels replete w/ racial stereotypes / the wildlife biologist who chases bears from the staff parking lot


Bear Safety

Claire Caldwell's advice on dealing with bears: "speak quietly but with conviction. Never let them smell your Ativan."