The Red Slide and Other Poems

The Red Slide, Table For Two, If You Came Over, Always Breathe, and I Miss My Flying Dreams
Five poems by Victor Enns


My daughter is not waiting,
her blonde hair changing colour
In the sun’s golden hour.

She is here, but her
body is not rushed
as she reaches for the rails

of the ladder – she tips
her body forward, heads
into the climb.

She turns at the top
of the red slide – accepts
the certain gift of gravity

as nothing to do
with the grave, but
with the joy of falling

she bursts through the sand
scattering the universe
with a wave of her hand


I sit down with pain.
It eats me.


For a sleepover, I would cry in your arms
for hours until my body says stop
breathe you in gently, the crook
of your neck, back of your knee, inside
your elbow and back to your neck how easily
sensory and sentient, we could lie
face to face and breathe, I would
breathe you in so deep while you sleep
away the blue moon, I would brush a hair away
from your face, cast a spell to keep you safe.


Without moving a muscle you can think yourself breathing
Through a ventilator, what a turn this has taken, breathing in water

Swaddled in scuba gear moving through my favourite element
Water is now against me, my lungs rasping a pit of air

Hart Crane and Jack London figured their own drowning
Would leave the world one less fuck-up, one less drunk

While they learned the secret of the light
Fading as they slid into the black shroud

Roethke, gone for a swim, his flailing tongue
Bellows, wait, there must be some mistake.

His heart drains. His corpulent flesh bathed in sun,
rises, his shadow at the bottom of the pool.

Breathe through this, always breathe, she signals,
Freeing me from the wreckage,

Sharing her respirator
In the nick of time.


my flying dreams disappeared the day
my flat foot was amputated. I'm pretty
sure my new comfort with making
jokes replaced my left leg. My soaring
dreams were glorious open field
affairs, soft as non-resistance, flying
forth me fumbling with where
to put my arms and hands.
Now they just wave in the dark
of our bedroom, my shoulders do
rattle, but I will breathe baby
another 24 years we figure,
you with Just MS and me
with a plethora of ailments
for each rib my cervical spine
looking for an ecumenical collar
I want I want to hold up
my head. I can see you
now in your powered chair,
straight ahead, oh, let us
settle on the deck, listen
to the wind tell each other
our dreams as we look
up to the hills, unafraid.

About the Author

Victor Enns

Victor Enns was the publisher of Rhubarb magazine, including anthologies of Mennonite fiction, poetry, and literary criticism. Finding clarity in 2005, he published Lucky Man (2005), boy (2012), Afghanistan Confessions (2014) with Hagios Press, and most recently Love & Surgery (Radiant Press) in 2019. He has been published in Rattle magazine and most recently in Grain, and the disability journal word gathering (Syracuse). During his time with Rhubarb, Victor worked with visual artist Murray Toews. They now collaborate, producing short videos based on Enns' writing and Murray's skills in drawing and multi-media. They are producing a major disability art installation called LOOK, in Winnipeg beginning September 29th, with 12 Manitoba artists, including Toews, responding to Enns's texts on abjection and disability, with support from the Canada Council of the Arts. He is completing a manuscript called Always Breathe from which the poems in this issue are taken, and Listen Hear. An amputee, donating his body to medical science one limb at a time, he lives in Kelowna with his wife, disability activist and Disability Studies Ph.D. candidate Michelle Hewitt and their Bernese Mountain Dog.