Current Issue

Spring 2024, Volume 45, No. 1


Last year was the worst forest fire season in Canada on record, and this year’s season isn’t looking to be much better, so we’re talking about fire this issue with Burning Up/ Burning Down: Words for a World on Fire. We take a look at the literal and metaphorical fires in our lives that have shaped who we are. Guest Edited by Sue Goyette. Featuring new writing by Catherine Hunter, Shannon Quinn, Traci Skuce, Thomas Leduc, Darryl Whetter & many more!

Cover image by Ben von Jagow

Andrea Bernard
Catherine Hunter

Carolina Corcoran
Shannan Mann
Amanda Merritt
Judith Taylor
Angela Waldie

Creative Non-Fiction
Petra Chambers

Burning Up/Burning Down Introduction
Sue Goyette

Burning Up/Burning Down Fiction
Cameron Alam
EC Dorgan
Karen Enns
Amy Parker
Traci Skuce

Burning Up/Burning Down Poetry
Catherine Burwell
Matt Hohner
Nancy Huggett
Thomas Leduc
Kayla MacInnis
Deisha Naidoo
Harper Paranich
Shannon Quinn
Rebekah Rempel
Kerry Ryan
Joanna Streetly

Burning Up/Burning Down Creative Non-Fiction
Lareina Abbott
Betsy L. Howell
Neethu Kirshnan
Angus MacCaull
Martha Mitchell
R. Rice
Darryl Whetter

Poetry Preview

Summer with Wildfire Smoke and Metastatic Neuroblastoma

Matt Hohner

Evening light filters through a muslin of charred particles, a veil
of micro carbons from Canadian forests burning 800 miles away.
Acrid gloom turns the trees a strange green in the grey-brown haze,
the low sun setting across the Chesapeake Bay more Mars than giver
of life, some vengeful deity’s eye glaring through a bloody cataract.
By now a team of surgeons is knuckle deep in your neck plucking
lymph nodes that glittered like diamonds in the PET scan, cursed
necklace of rotten flesh, newly discovered, to be mined and destroyed,
embers spawned from the carcinogenic coalfield that still smoulders
in your brain. I think of the cold light of fireflies sparkling in treetops,
of flickering sky lanterns rising like supplications towards the stars.
I once prayed that the tumor that took your sense of smell and almost
blew apart your head would shrink and die, that the chemicals and
radiation would do their terrible job of killing it before killing you. …

Fiction Preview

Heat Dome

Traci Skuce

Everything’s unprecedented.
The number of calls my lawyer receives each week.
COVID’s in its second year, and though vaccines have started rolling out, we’re speaking through masks, my lawyer and I, as she escorts me from waiting room into her office. It’s bare bones in décor terms—black chairs, L-shaped desk, two monitors, a wide filing cabinet, and a single framed law degree hanging on the wall. But here, three stories up and a whole bluff above the Comox Marina, she’s got a view: a top-down look at an extreme low tide.
Sun glistens over an expanse of sand. Yesterday, billions of tiny creatures perished there in forty-degree heat; clams and mussels cooked in their shells. Likely billions more will die today.
A bad time in human history, or so it seems to me, to end a marriage. But after two decades of trying to prove I’m worth sticking around for, I’m tired. So here I am.
The air-conditioner hums, and my lawyer closes her office door; she gestures to a stackable plastic chair on one side of her desk, sits in a plush swivel version on the other. I drop onto the hard plastic and prop my bag onto my lap, extract one manilla envelope, and then, from it, four copies of the separation agreement. These I hand to my lawyer, and she slides a half-eaten pastry aside and lines the copies up, one beside the other.
She’s in a summer dress, my lawyer, and she adjusts the neckline as though afraid it may slip down and reveal her breasts. There’s a milky softness to her; she may be pregnant, but I don’t ask. Right now, she’s all business, hair sensibly pulled back, and I fumble through my bag, extra masks, receipts, in search of reading glasses.
But I don’t need glasses to recognize the flair of my now-former husband’s initials in the bottom corner of each page.
Right, my lawyer says through her floral-patterned mask. I know we’ve done this a hundred times. But we’ll do it one more. …

Creative Non-Fiction Preview


Martha Mitchell

At Fiddle Creek in the Yuba River Canyon, they run our crew of twenty into the heat, smoke and racket of the leaping fire before we can figure out the lay of the land. The upslope wind tears at our clothes and drives the sour smell of char into our shirts, our skins, our very bones. I’m terrified by the heat, noise and power of the fire-driven wind. Green needles whistle and pop, consumed in an instant by the blaze roaring upslope. Although I’ve tied a wet bandana across my face, the smoke finds its stinging way behind my goggles. My nose gushes, my eyes burn and I gasp for breath like a diver coming up from the airless deep.

Our crew hesitates in the saddle before dropping into a draw. From here, our crew chief tells us, we’ll traverse the slope and clear a fire line through the brush to slow the uphill sprint of the fire. The whine of the fancy fallers’ saws on the ridgetop fills the air like a swarm of hornets. They’re bringing down the big timber to starve the ravening hunger of the crown-racing flames. The crackle and shriek of the massive trees as they tear away from their stumps and crash through the understory gives me a modicum of hope that this nightmare, the Fiddle Creek Fire, might soon be over.

There’s no sky or earth, only a dirty, swirling cloud of smoke obscuring distance, depth and scale, diminishing the world around me to a few square yards of pine duff. The dark boles of standing timber seem like shadows in the roiling smoke. Our boss sends us down into a smoke so thick I can’t see the man in front of me, or the one behind. Branches crash, the heat billows like something palpable, a pillow where I could lie for a moment to catch my breath. The smoke is acrid, vile and insistent, needling its way into my eyes, nose and lungs as easily as water slipping beneath a door. …

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