Fall 2020, Volume 41, No.3

$14.95

We’re all looking for a little more breathing space and something to hold on to during these troubled times. Living in a House on Fire asks how we live amidst the nameless despair that is constantly smouldering in the background of our lives. At times our despair rages like a forest fire as we grapple with the knowledge that we’re in the midst of mass extinction, leading to deep sadness, depression and anxiety. The stories, essays and poems in Living in a House on Fire give a voice to these worries, shine a light on the darkness humanity is facing, and offer a roadmap to a different kind of future.

We’re all looking for a little more breathing space and something to hold on to during these troubled times. Living in a House on Fire asks how we live amidst the nameless despair that is constantly smouldering in the background of our lives. At times our despair rages like a forest fire as we grapple with the knowledge that we’re in the midst of mass extinction, leading to deep sadness, depression and anxiety. The stories, essays and poems in Living in a House on Fire give a voice to these worries, shine a light on the darkness humanity is facing, and offer a roadmap to a different kind of future.

Cover Image: “The Dollhouse Fire #7” by Heather Benning

Table of Contents

Rocco de Giacomo—O My People! …Their Oppressors are Children and Women Rule Over Them
Emi Benn—Shells
Zoe Dickinson—portents
Neil Besner—Fishing with Tardelli
Sandra Murdock—Two Poems
Kim Martins—45 Ways to Tell You About the Importance of Figs
Sheri Benning—Say It Now
Dennis McFadden—Resurrecting Midnight
Susan Braley—The Egtved Girl
Jonathan Ball—Capitalism
Jules Stevenson—life is a story of withering
Chétana Jessica Torrens—Yoked and Unyoked in Algonquin Park
Mark Anthony Jarman—The Crooked Grocer
Keagan Hawthorne—Two Poems

Living in a House on Fire
Sheri Benning— Living in a House on Fire
Zilla Jones—The First Day
Randy Lundy—Two Poems
Josiah Neufeld— The Whale and the Worm
Steve Denehan—Ventilator
Saheli Khastagir—Spring Arrived During Quarantine
Barbara Black—When the Cicadas Sing
Sarah Ens—With Feathers
Stephen T Berg—Earth in a Bottle
Jaeyun Yoo—Two Poems
E B Siu—The Last Fisherman
Özten Shebagegit—Win-nipi
Ojo Taiye—2015 Paris Agreement
Katie Welch—Saint Watching Over House About to Burn
Amber O’Reilly—this planet was a rock before it was my house
Amanda Merpaw—Gibraltar Diary
Steve Locke—Moistly
Lauren Carter—Zombies
Jenny Ferguson—The Body That Calls, or White-Coded in the News Cycle
Paulo da Costa—The Day Nothing Happened
Jess Woolford—forest fringe
Taidgh Lynch— Topsy the Elephant, January 1903
Lorri Neilson Glenn—The Water at Dusk
Jo Jefferson—Armour
Annahid Dashtgard—Silver Birch
Rebekah Rempel—The Little Mermaid, 21st Century
Tim Fab-Eme—In Memoriam of Everything We’ve Lost
Claire Holman Thompson—The Blue Water
Jan Zwicky—Three Poems
James Rowland—The Turbine at the End of the World
Makaila Wenezenki—to my nephew

Contributors

NON-FICTION
Neil Besner
Paulo da Costa
Annahid Dashtgard
Sarah Ens
Kim Martins
Amanda Merpaw
Lorri Neilsen Glenn
Mark Anthony Jarman

FICTION
Jonathan Ball
Emi Benn
Barbara Black
Lauren Carter
Claire Holman Thompson
Zilla Jones
Dennis McFadden
Josiah Neufeld
James Rowland
E B Siu
Katie Welch

POETRY
Sheri Benning
Stephen T Berg
Susan Braley
Steve Denehan
Zoe Dickinson
Timothy Fab-Eme
Jenny Ferguson
Rocco de Giacomo
Keagan Hawthorne
Jo Jefferson
Saheli Khastagir
Steve Locke
Randy Lundy
Taigh Lynch
Sandra Murdock
Amber O’Reilly
Özten Shebagegit
Rebekah Rempel
Jules Stevenson
Ojo Taiye
Chetana Jessica Torrens
Makaila Wenezenki
Jess Woolford
Jaeyun Yoo
Jan Zwicky

FICTION EXCERPT
The First Day
BY Zilla Jones

Every year on the first day of school, I could count on my mother to pronounce, like a religious ritual, “You are so lucky to be able to go to River Park School for Girls, Martina. I wish I would have had that opportunity. But you must still remember to work hard, because no one is going to hand anything to you.” Then she would snap a picture of me in my burgundy kilt and blazer, to be posted on her Facebook page for all to see. Invariably at least one of her friends would comment, “Wow, she goes to River Park?”
River Park cost over ten thousand dollars a year, paid for by my mother’s job as a nursing manager at the hospital and by child support from my otherwise absent father, an engineer of Swedish descent who lived in Calgary with his other family, far away from my mother and me, the inconvenient Black women from his past.
On the first day of Grade Eleven, my mother reminded me that this was a very important year because the grades I earned would determine my ability to attend university, to win scholarships and enter certain faculties. “You have to seize your future, Martina,” she said. “No one else will do it for you.”

POETRY EXCERPT
The Body That Calls, or White-Coded in the News Cycle
BY Jenny Ferguson

I too break, micro-fractures
along my bones, when I see a meme
where Canada is hailed as golden,
where a white woman wears her hair
in braids, names herself Pocahontas,
I break in micro-fractures when calling out
in a space where no one listens,
her name was Matoaka.

But we’ve learned not to trust
Disney—we’ve learned, haven’t
we?

NON-FICTION EXCERPT
With Feathers
BY Sarah Ens
It is February 2019 and I am cold all the time. I slip on sidewalks and bruise both knees. I pull my toque low on my forehead. Should anyone ask after my well-being, I tell them I am surviving the winter hellscape. It’s a cold snap—the longest, most brutal Saskatoon has had since 1939—and I am snapping.
I call my mother as I walk home one night, my body numbing so thoroughly I imagine I am just a head floating above a block of ice. Over the phone, she tells me about a CBC radio piece on birds, how some don’t fly away in the winter but instead bundle down, wait it out.
“How?” I ask, near tears.
“I can’t remember,” she says.
I worry about the birds that stay. I worry this winter is too long for them. And I worry, all the time, about the world’s ending. There is nothing more dead than this, I think, turning from the street packed hard with exhaust-grey snow, the wind with its -50 chill.

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