Melissa Martin

  • An uncomfortable silence

    As the violence surged in Gaza, information flew fast and furious, little of it unmoderated by bias -- and almost none of it unscarred by accusations of the same.  
  • Fringe festival has revolutionary roots

    The first Winnipeg Fringe show I ever saw was called Hell, simply Hell, and with regrets to the actors, that's the memory of it that best lingered. The name was what grabbed our attention. The name sold that show.
  • Human nature's inoperable malignancy

    Somewhere on the drive home from the vet, my jaw clenching in time with the bitter howlings of my car-sick cat, I realized: It's not the cancer that upsets me most. No, it's the shots. The cancer is nature. The cancer grew inside her, outside of our control. She has been living in her soft, white body for 15 years maybe; this makes her very old. The years grew long on us both. ("Almost 10 years, Pete, can you believe it? She licks a paw and watches my lips move in pleased and lazy silence.) The years grew long enough I had time to build a mental observatory, a window into the vast night she will walk alone. So I can stand to watch her go.
  • Not this, not again, not here

    Oh, for we barkers in the exhausting carnival of public debate, few things are as liable to loosen the rollercoaster brakes so much as one term: “rape culture.” On its face, the phrase is utilitarian, blunt. It was raised into existence to describe a troubling pattern of ways that our culture shakes off sexual assault. It is useful in this way, though not without its faults — for instance, I balk at the hardness of it, having a natural affinity for painting issues in unfocused greys. What is worse is the way others would rather debate the term, then actually talk about sexual assault and rape.
  • Bringing dishonour to the name

    This one night in Montana, we sprawled along the railroad siding, shaking out our legs under a starry canopy of blue-black velveteen. "You're from Canada?" he said, smoke curling from his cigarette. "I've been up there. But I'm from here."
  • When fatherhood comes first

    Once upon a time, in a house with a great big spreading elm out front, a little girl was assembling her mental puzzle of the world. She had troops to assist in this great sorting, a marching battalion of research assistants frozen in plastic skins. She had dolls, old G.I. Joes worn paint-less on their moulded hips, pastel ponies scribbled black with ballpoint pen. For hours, the little girl would arrange them in ways that tested her misty hypotheses of life: boys and girls, heroes and villains, leaders and workers all acted out alike.
  • Along the river's edge

    THE RIVERMUCKS... Being a verbal photograph of these Treaty One prairielands in summer, the first of an intermittent series. Taken with a long exposure along the banks of the Assiniboine River, near where it makes heedless pilgrimage past the Manitoba legislature. There, the river makes no visits, and pays no deference. It is bigger than that building and, in its long a muddy view, older than it by forever.
  • The crime scene is all around us

    In the space that tumbles out below, I wanted to write about Pride, about the joy the rainbow march annually carries into my life. Then I woke up on Saturday morning. Yawned, stretched, took a photo of my cat. Fired up Twitter. Saw a link about a shooting at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and clicked on that. Then there was only this: a video of a man in a car. An image of his rigid face, lit by ribbons of coastal sun that could not warm eyes glistening with hate. "I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me," the young man hissed. "But I will punish you all for it."
  • 'Bold' 'visions' of 'change' just won't do

    Dear sirs and madams: At the opening gate of this civic election, an open letter to any women and men who would see themselves as Winnipeg's mayor.
  • That one Unmentionable Subject

    Through the dimly lit rooms of an uneasy truce, so many Canadians of my generation learned the shape of abortion almost by feel. Mostly, it all seemed a little theoretical, a little unreal. Here was a legal medical procedure, revealed by the edges where sex-ed handouts trailed off; found at the point in the debates where politicians issued clipped platitudes and clamped their lips shut. Not something to talk about, never something to discuss, except in fierce whispers during a teenage sleepover, fumbling for words in the dark.
  • The forbidden dance

    Reconciliation, truth and reconciliation, words so often intoned in Canada as the struts of a bridge between one and another. Pause on that. What if, instead, we spoke about reconciliation as a process within a single culture, a full and honest accounting of a history that Canada narrated and neatly shelved away? What if we spoke about it as a chance for non-indigenous people in Canada to reconcile with our own past, to cast a cold and clinical light on the rags of our colonial aspirations? As of yet, I don't think we really have.
  • We're all screwing with the wrong people

    Strip away everything that came before, all the humiliations and horrors of the road, and the fourth season of The Walking Dead ended with a man talking to a wall. That's it. That's the bone the AMC threw to fans last Sunday night, to gnaw over until the series cranks up again in fall. It ended -- spoiler alert! -- with the show's band of battered protagonists trapped in a boxcar, herded there not by zombies but by post-apocalyptic hipsters of nefarious intent. Never trust someone who has time, in the middle of a zombie war, to get their hair cut at Hunter & Gunn, the message was.
  • Blunt the words that stab us

    When I clicked the link my friend had sent me, my own face leered back at me, pasted on a Twitter account that sure as heck wasn't mine. The photo was a silly self-portrait I had taken as a joke a month before, lips contorted into a goofy grimace, though now it was the default avatar for a Twitter account called @slutwhore_1. The link had swiped my email address too, advertising it as a direct line for free nudes. "At some point today," announced this account that wore my face, "I hope I get gangbanged."
  • Winter's bones

    The second week of March pulled the mottled shroud back from the corpse, laying bare the city's wet and broken body for all to see. There is nothing unusual in this bleak unveiling, just the annual collection of unlovely things that cling to Winnipeg's bedraggled streets. Underneath the snowbanks, a winter's worth of waste is congealed into a leering death mask on the city's windbitten face. Now that the snow is making its reluctant temporary retreat, the stage is free for an encore performance of burnt cigarette ends and thawing dog feces.
  • The fear of losing control

    To calm me down, he takes me on a midnight walk through the wind-bitten city, our boots trudging the line between West Gate and the battered end of West Broadway. "You're not going to die in a plane crash," he says in a sing-song voice, a bemused melody to pair with the pounding in my chest. Ten hours till take-off.
  • Forever indebted

    My fingers hammer on a laptop, the laptop rests on a couch, and the couch sits in an apartment on Treaty One land, just beyond the Assiniboine River's edge. This is a simple acknowledgment, a practice rare (but catching on) of naming the territory we stand upon. In Winnipeg, that land is described in the first treaty, a document "made and concluded this third day of August in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy-one." It was signed by the lieutenant-governor and seven chiefs: by Miskewkinew and Kakekapenais, by Nashakepenais and Nahawananan, by Kewetayash, Wakowush and Oozawekwun.
  • More harm than good

    On the northern edge of Virden, along the naked rope of asphalt that braids the mummified prairie, there is a nondescript hotel room in a nondescript hotel. It is a nice hotel but not a Nice one, an everyhotel at best. Its features fade into a pastiche of all the rest, white stucco ceiling and gold-tone frames around pastels of non-specific trees. It boasts amenities ("elevator access to 2nd floor") and a continental breakfast, and a woman at the front desk with gold-tone hair who beams at you upon entry. "Still chilly out there?"
  • Fists of fury and faded memories

    When the hands that hurt finally pull themselves off of your body, there is a heartbeat of time where you realize you can't-won't-don't want to tell anybody. Because you're afraid people won't believe you. Because you're afraid that if they do, they'll hate the person those hands belong to. That is all I want to say about heartbeats, and silence.
  • Change happens, even in Winnipeg

    In the frowsy warmth of Folklorama halls, in line between the steam tables and the bar, my head spins with a little deja vu. I'm not so old yet, I don't think, almost 32, but some of these poster boards on the gymnasium walls, well I swear they've grown up with me. I swear I've seen these same ones for a decade, maybe more. I wonder where they spend their winters, how they pass the 51 weeks of the year where their trivia goes unread. Are they stacked in a cloakroom somewhere? Does an earnest volunteer take them home? If so, is it the same one every time?

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