The House on 14th Avenue

The House on 14th Avenue



About the book

The House on 14th Avenue is about paired and shared lives, featuring two people whose connection sometimes seemed forced and uneven. That of master and slave. That of trembling and acceptance. Some of the poems detail each individually, a scraping together of momentary identities; others bring them together as they embark on journeys both physical and psychic. Journeys into the past through an underworld of ancestral ghosts and paths so well-trodden there is no possibility of creating new ones. Journeys in the present through detailed lists of the physical objects around them (with the mythic bleeding through on occasion leaving only stains behind). And journeys into a future where the realization of endings looms and where the two are left once more to cope each in his or her own way with that knowledge. In the midst of it all lurks the manipulator of words, phrases, images – the meta-text that tries so desperately to make sense of it all, that tries to bring order into what seems like simply a chaotic movement forward, and that wishes for…prays for…sacrifices for a dream state where a culmination of sorts exists, if only in the mind of the creator. In the end, it is left to the reader to decide whether the “two peasants” will be allowed to escape the gravitational pull that has weighed them down…to float away from the harsh realities that have defined them into the realm of words and infinite possibility.



About the author

Mirolla, Michael

Novelist, short story writer, poet, and playwright, Michael Mirolla's publications include a punk-inspired novella, The Ballad of Martin B.; two novels: Berlin (a Bressani Prize winner as well as a finalist for the Indie Book and National Best Book Awards), and The Facility, which features among other things a string of cloned Mussolinis; three short story collections: The Formal Logic of Emotion (translated into Italian), Hothouse Loves & Other Tales and The Giulio Metaphysics III; and three collections of poetry: Light and Time, the English-Italian bilingual Interstellar Distances — Distanze Interstellari, and 2013's The House on 14th Avenue. A new collection of short stories, Lessons In Relationship Dyads, is scheduled for publication with Red Hen Press in the U.S. His short story, "A Theory of Discontinuous Existence," was selected for The Journey Prize Anthology, while another short story, "The Sand Flea," was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His poem, "Blind Alley," was shortlisted for the Winston Collins/Descant Prize for Best Canadian Poem in 2007. His short fiction and poetry has been published in numerous journals in Canada, the U.S. and Britain, including several anthologies such as Event’s Peace & War, Telling Differences: New English Fiction from Quebec, Tesseracts 2: Canadian Science Fiction, The Anthology of Italian-Canadian Writing, New Wave of Speculative Fiction Book 1, and The Best of Foliate Oak. Along with partner Connie Guzzo McParland, Michael runs Guernica Editions, a Canadian literary publishing house.


Inventory I: La piccola cantina beneath

Puckered up peppers
swinging in their string halters
like primitive paratroopers
on semi-permanent parade
Scratches on splintery walls
spelling out matar kybele
Tight plum jam jars
reflecting purple light
over morning toast
Homemade wine vinegar
in equilibrium between
alembic and carboy
Artichoke hearts
pulsing in oil
the colour of sea bilge
Cornucopic spillage
of pasta bits rattling
in the corner like boys
at a game of craps
Tomato sauce battalion
ready to spill blood
for the right cause
Handmade crockery
with twisted lip
and knife-edge handle
larded with symbols
depicting sub-worlds
Dry beans lima beans lupini beans fava
Flour from a Golden Temple
with recipes for chapatti,
paratha, puri, and roti
One tiny basket
for drying curds
plastic and star-crossed
dangling from a nail
in the head-scrape ceiling

He contemplates paternity

Born in the fabled lap of knowledge,
his father taught him when to split a stone
in two, right through its veins. Stones have no hearts;
you cut them to increase their worth.

The separated jewels held his papers down
or else invited moths to taste of the fruit.
He saw without his father stooping over,
turning all the damp faces to the sun.
Drying up is man’s finest labour. Moisture
breeds incest.
His father sealed up sadness
in the long, pale days between one rain
and the next. And never grew old.
Tomes framed his backbone. I teach you the song
of crystal spiders, alchemical stones.

His father tore the fat leg from its joint,
explaining how, in time, it would grow back.
The spider oozed; the eyes like parchment
crackled to a powder. I felt only the pain.


Fragment from a shorter work VI

My Dear Sir,

I agree with you. There must be some way surely to tell you about my father’s garden. His giant tomatoes have no business going unnoticed. The care he takes in grafting Italian vines on to American roots mustn’t be allowed to slip away. The deaf and mute should not be the only ones to carry the message of his lumbering cucumbers. No mental care facility can hold back the secret in his fingers, the vines creeping about him, the tendrils clutching at his shoe laces. If only I had the talent, I would make his garden – and not some exotic mystery – the subject of my epic. Asparagus the tender heroine; common slugs the villains; my father heroic in the night, dying flashlight in hand, sacrificing the lettuce to keep watch over the young peas and experimental lentils. I am at a loss as to how to reveal these things to you. And my apologies if, instead of clarifying the situation, I have added further to the confusion surrounding my father’s garden.




'In Transit' is the title of three poems interspersed throughout Michael Mirolla's The House on 14th Avenue. The first, subtitled 'Primary Colours,' begins the book. Itself in three parts, it cleverly outlines the death of the speaker's father with compact, powerful… >>

— Crystal Hurdle Event

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