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Amanda Papenfus


The Montreal Review, December, 2010

Alfred Pellan




Hang on like he'll keep you

from catching in the tires,

getting stuck and dragged

through the mud. Exhaust

is not a word you know,

except as the effect you have

without trying, or by trying too hard.


Any other day, I'd be annoyed

by the obstacle you create,

want to ignore you,

pretend you're just

some scrap of the past we hit

on the way to somewhere better.


But I saw you in the mirror,

before you got drug under,

thought I felt your dirt-flecked tears

hit my cheeks instead of the ground;

I felt myself caught underneath,

one strong arm still holding on to a ride

I should have let go of miles before.


When I brake, I won't promise

pedal will stay pressed to floor,

but I'll idle long enough to untangle

green scraps of sweater from the tire,

lay them out and tell you

you're still whole.




Blame my skin for your collapse,

folding into a hand

you never saw coming.

Words so easy they fell invisible

between sand-drawn lines pushed smooth,

a crease traced by fingers daring

to navigate a silence clearer

than the definition we defy.





No news is good news,

or so they say-

when all's silent, assume

the line beeps steady

through the night.


If someone's flat-

lining, or even near,

alarms give warning,

pages ring out:

"Code Blue, Stat."


Shoes squeak on tile

as doctors rush


shock the heart

into one last chance.


Only once attempts

are all exhausted,

tactics tried, might they

step back, say "Sorry,

we did all we could."


It's only silent if all's

steady or lost, never

when no one knows; there

no one slides quietly away;

no one lets go without a fight.




You ask me what's my secret, and I tell you I don't have one.

What I mean is I have so many, I hope you like to swim.


Swim in the ego trip that alcohol doesn't impair my judgment,

just makes me act on the things my rubber band nerves won't sober.


But if you want me to, I'll still tell you nothing happened.


Swim in the uncertainty that every push forward gets closer

To dropping me off the sandbar, drowning me in the aftermath.


Of emotions I didn't know I had, and what I don't know is,

Will you pull me out, let me drown, or fall with me and find out


What the water's like past the guise of nothing-going-on?


Swim in the familiarity of these waters, and tell me

If the temperature doesn't drop just a little when you consider


That water cuts the path of least resistance, and things fall

So easy between us, that I wonder if you see the rocks and boulders


If you know what it means to get caught in an undercut rock and drown.


Swim in certain waters, and you're just asking to get carried away,

And there are some points you can't swim back from.


Keep pushing the crease you like to dance, and it's almost

Enough to make me slip from where I stand, evaluating


The white water, wondering if you can navigate my defenses.


Swim in the hesitation that's caused mostly in knowing

The only thing I can see is the surface, that there are ripples

That mean there's danger underneath, but that sometimes,

The only way to get to the other side is to push through


The Class V rapid that could kill you, or give you the rush of your life.



Amanda Papenfus earned her BFA in creative writing at Bowling Green State University. Her poetry appeared in Mélange Magazine, Perspectives, and in the anthology Velvet Avalanche. Her fiction was published in The Glass Coin magazine, Grimm Magazine and The Fine Line. 


Illustration: "Old Man and Young Woman"  (1945, 18"x12") by Alfred Pellan.

"What enchantment is Pellan's color! We are led from one joy to another: it shines, it bursts, it vibrates and resounds with intensity"
-- Maurice Gagnon, in Pellan, 1943

The art of Alfred Pellan progressed from representational images to abstracted simplified forms and surrealist images. He also painted murals, designed theatre costumes and stained glass, and illustrated books. Girl with Anemones (1932), an early painting that contrasts shape, colour and line, bridges his representational images and later abstract interests... | read more |

Works of Pellan are presented at Gallery Claude Lafitte in Montreal (2160 RueCrescent, Montreal, Qc., H3G 2B8, Canada, Tel.: (514) 842-1270)


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