Photo prompts, provided by the MYTORONTO photograph contest were provided to Toronto Writers Collective workshop participants across the GTA during the month of July.
The following are the prize winning entries we received.
By My-Ha Trinh
Firemen in Canada and the whole wide world do very important work at a very dangerous job. I don’t like it when fire sirens give me a scare and almost give me heart attack each time.
When I heard the fire sirens close to me, I had to chase them close to my family home. Mom is home alone because I have to go to Chinatown almost every day. Luckily I cooked for Mom and me for 15 years very safely.
My English all gone now because I stayed home and looked after Mom for 15 years. Mom don’t know English. I became bipolar, diabetic, arthritic, eye glaucoma, hearing aid, lived in shelter to shelter for 10 years, these things happened because my siblings hurt me. I try to forget and forgive. Is not easy, I keep trying and trying and trying.
At some point in my sickness I got a little room for myself. I lived in this building where the fire alarm made noise and the people didn’t care. No one ran out, gosh only me and a neighbour friend left the building. One day last month the fire alarm rang twice in 10 minutes and only four people went out the door.
I try to understand how Canada has no big, tall, strong men to hire as firefighter. I saw a small, short one who could not even can carry his fire equipment. The second time they came back I asked him what happened and he did not care. I asked what happened, you came back again. Shorty just stood there, looked at me said nothing.
This firefighter reminder me of 9/11. Why did 200 firefighters go inside to get killed by suicide. Why and why and why? For many years now I still get mad. Who’s failed to control these two hundred fire fighters so they could live.
I am a female with not much education however I still understand, you are firefighter and save lives. You have to think faster. Why send 200 to go in for what, just save people, do not go inside to bury your own life.
I keep thinking about these two hundred firefighters. I am proud of you saving humans and saving homes, my foreign hero firefighters. I feel sad, unhappy and sorry for them that they have to listen to their boss. Why can’t anyone punish him. He killed people helping people. Big, brave and strong taking action. That is my heroes, helping people. Thank you for saving lives.
By Cynthia Langill
At first glance, it is simply perfect. Immediately, memories spring to my mind with glee, memories of sun-filled summer days gone by. We would sit for hours on end on the wooden Muskoka Chairs, laughing and plotting what seemed like endless glory days, spent with good friends, and new friends who had come to cottage country for the summer. These were the golden people, those who could afford the luxury of a summer home. I longed to be like them.
I looked at the picture again, feeling alarm deep in the pit of my stomach. What I saw at this next glance, was rough and murky lake waters, as if angered by the sullen skies above. A weeping willow, bent over with heaviness, foreshadowing some unpleasantness to come.
Suddenly, I was on quite another journey, remembering the darkness of the buried past, my childhood. I lived lonely, isolated and afraid.
Cottage Country is not so idyllic when the summer sun sinks away. My soul then becomes restless and unsure I dwell on the sickness that hangs over the small town I live in, that hangs so heavily over my home. The despair is in the air, like low-flying grey clouds that seem to never end.
There were no good friends back then, not a trill of happiness was to be heard, only the familiar sounds of pain and no escape from it. These were days and weeks and months of unrelenting sadness and fear.
It is as though I barely even took a breath from September through May 24th long weekend, when once again fleeting signs of the new summer season began to show themselves. Offering hope.
“Maybe this year” I thought …
Here in the hydro corridor
By Sam Burton
Iron and steel
Bones of the earth
Stretch raw arms up
Marking the ground
They were pulled from
That earth it’s
Hollow now its
Sweet marrow sucked then
Spit out a crypt
Webbed in wiry
Veins thick black with
Pulsing to the
Winking heart of this
Town filling our
Dark mouths with its
Syrup its light
By Maria Nassiri
Lines lying horizontally. Lines standing vertically. The chronology of events, history. They cross each other and they are now diagonal. Almost like a distortion if one is accustomed to the ordinary. Without lines rectangular shapes cannot even be conceived by the mind. How marvelous they are! These fundamental principles that direct the mind towards the beginning, towards a starting time. Expressive lines, crooked or straight. How real and tangible! How reassuring is their presence! I coexist with these mathematical entities; my perception is led by their suggestive motion. Even when they are motionless, they are always moving. I see them in the human form; arms and legs crossed, arms and legs moving. The imaginary lines inside a painting, the line of reasoning of an orator’s speech. Sentences that end with a question mark, igniting yet another order of thoughts, of words lined up in a logical order, of an answer that makes sense within the context of language. Around me the sharp edges of every single book and the circular lines of the cup of coffee all resting on the smooth surface of the desk. They all accompany me in my everyday existence. Out of their significant functionality they become an integral aspect of being in the world. My dreams are filled with them and even if I try to escape through dreaming there will always be that time when I will have to wake up and where looking at the clock I will know that yet another sequence of time, of seconds and minutes has come to pass, forming in this repetitive way the journey of my life, the reality of my existence, and the concreteness of my being. This life is filled with real events too. There is more in life than just repetition it seems, but this thought is deceiving. Everything repeats itself and, in a way, I am living what Nietzsche termed “The eternal recurrence of things”. I cling onto the very individual moments of my life so I can bring myself to see that I am unique and marvelous for the very reason of being unique but even these individual moments are soaked with the decadent scent of recurrence and banality. And yet the banality and certainty of lines do not turn me off. I am once again here after having lived the lives of slaves, of kings and of deified personalities in a line of ancestors that reaches further than the civilization of the Nubians. I am the Arab, and the African and the European and I am now the individualized version of the common human spirit compartmentalized into Self and Society. I am the twenty first century woman who wonders over existence fascinated by what seems to be ordinary because she has come to realize that everything is what it is and that there is no hidden truth or some metaphysical reality to colour her existence. I am what I am just like lines are what they appear to be.
Congratulations to all our winners!
Visit a Toronto Writers Collective workshop to receive our newest Prompt of the Month
By: P. S. Wilcox
Universities, colleges, public and private education.
We know, as they say, to learn as they dictate,
leaving the minority of free thinkers with a failing grade.
Is the message, the medium we strive for, or is there
some old lesson we have forgotten in the process itself?
Is our knowledge finite with only one answer, or is the lesson
of how we learn more important?
We do we fail the youth with rigorous control?
Let us think like the eagle, who soars as it wishes.
Inspire the youth to see what others have failed to see.
Burst open the box of education so the trained teachers
can learn lessons from their youth.
What fear the establishment has of the knowledge that
an open heart can bring.
My education not as good as my brain. I been hurt and in pain. Now I am homeless. Lived in a 24-7 place. Nothing to do, eat, shit, and sleep. I cried and cried in my bed. Staff was okay. What you want, what you need they say, helping if I needed help while I lived here. Some other homeless there too, a few of them were okay to talk with, some of them, oh my gosh, very rude. I don’t talk I don’t argue I am nice and friendly with some, getting along somehow. My housing counsellors and staff workers talked to each other, and for a few months they taught me to muddle with some kind of medicine. I learn what they teach, then suddenly one day, two other homeless women like me come in and good lord they very rude with staff. I don’t know why staff is scared of these women. I can’t sleep at night, I am sick. I walked downstairs quietly, the staff guard at night was snoring too loud. I stayed on the sofa next to the staff sleeping there, and waited while she wakes up. I close my eyes for a bit then the two rude homeless women wanting something needing something can’t find the night worker. They saw the guard staff snoring, then pushing and yelling at them, they said they will report the guard, and kicked the guard who did not do her job well, lying asleep. It was three o’clock in the morning. For about 10-15 minutes the two women and then the staff asked me why don’t you go to bed, My-Ha. I say I am sick I think I catch a cold, coming down see if you have Tylenol. I see you quiet and don’t want to make noise, wake you up, I lie down here a while ago.
The staff said sorry, next time if you need something if you can’t sleep or you need to talk come down and talk to me, we talk.
So far so good, I have not cried much, have some staff here who are nice, and they know I understand cooking Chinese and Vietnamese and they liked my cooking. Staff is taking us group shopping, taking us to Value Village to buy cheap not expensive clothes and doing different activities. My counsellor takes me to a lawyer office looking for pro bono, looking for help. Think I’m going to get help, things getting smooth again. Good things and I am happy, but not for long. Suddenly one day some other young homeless girl come and take my clothes out of the wash machine and put her clothes in. I tell staff, however staff scared of her and told me I am sorry, let her do it and when she does, you put yours back please. Because staff scared to lose their job. I do what staff say. Forget and forgive.
I have moved on to another shelter. I am not dumb, I am just nice and kind with people, and help people. That is why people like me, others jealous. Three women like me, trapped me, shaped me and failed me because I am too kind, too easy to get hurt. Well what, I still starve.