Winter 2021-22, Volume 42, No. 4
This issue features new work by Winnipeg’s Poet Laureate Duncan Mercredi! Also in this issue, Bola Opaleke, Pamela Medland, Kenneth Sherman & more!
Front & back cover images by Pierrette Boily Photographie
Sam K. MacKinnon
The Museum of Winter
The weather exhibit is where she ended every nightly tour. It was her favourite room in the museum. On the walls were an assortment of old thermostats, diagrams about precipitation, and photographs of blizzards and ice storms. But it was the item in the middle of the room that drew her. On top of a pedestal, in a hermetically sealed and temperature controlled glass box, a single snowflake was displayed. It hung there—or floated there, Clara was never sure which was more accurate—tiny, delicate and fragile, yet it dominated the room. It commanded attention, drawing you in as you approached it and tugging at you as you walked away.
As she did most nights, Clara lifted the magnifying glass that hung on one side of the pedestal to study the snowflake more closely. From the central node, six points spread out, adorned with smaller lines and diamond shapes. The effect reminded her of the Victorian chandeliers she had seen in one of her history textbooks. Putting the magnifying glass back, she rubbed her inner forearm where a replica of the snowflake was tattooed.
The hermetically sealed box contained the only snowflake Clara had ever seen.
An Interest in Burning
Grandma’s garden curdles
under fire that blooms
into sunlight dulled orange.
She lets flames kiss
pea sprouts that twist away,
a trick learned in Poland before
the war, captivity, forced labour
behind nettles of barbed wire.
Mom says ash can heal
the soil, let new roots
find water. The fire
cracks its knuckles
into an airless spring day.
The Bathtub Story
Mom is whispering into the phone. “Your father tried to get me to put on some powder he got at the drugstore. I didn’t want to.” Terminal cancer has shrunk my mother to the size of a broken-bodied elf. I picture her lying on her back in her twin bed, burrowed flat under the top sheet, bruise-coloured veins pulsing at her bald temple, a skeleton gripping the phone. I’m lying on my back, too, on top of my own bed on the other side of the country, wishing I could hug her right now.
“I started to get out of the tub. He held me down and dumped the powder over my head. He rubbed it hard all over.” She’s speaking quickly and getting hoarse. “It hurt. I tried to stand up. But he pushed me back.”
Eight months ago, my sixty-eight-year-old mother was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. Since then, I’ve visited my parents’ one bedroom apartment in Victoria as often as I can. As my mother inches toward death, she is losing not only flesh, but will. And as she weakens, my father becomes more overbearing.