NorthWord Literary Magazine - Volume 2, Issue 3

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volume 2 | issue 3 | summer 2013 | FREE

northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

northern canada collective society for writers


president Suzanne McGladdery



Dawn Booth

treasurer Cathy Yard


community report

Kiran Malik-Khan

secretary Kevin Thornton



Cathy Yard

media director Kiran Malik-Khan


midnight love story: a blues song

Jeff Hoffman



Kevin Thornton


amended birch

Erin Schwab



Scott Meller

ISSN 1920-6313


everything changes

Scott Shelley

cover & art Lucas Seaward


the people you choose

Amanda Richardson

design & layout Rachel White


bird's eye view

Ivy Young

issue editor Dawn Booth


something's shifted

Heather Thomas

managing editor Jane Jacques


for wood buffalo's angels

Kiran Malik-Khan

president emiritus Jennifer Hemstock



Theresa Wells



Lizzie Violet


murderous crows

Pattie Dwyer


marginalia: a column

Douglas Abel




This Issue: Volume 2, Number 3 Summer 2013

Proudly published in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada 56°44’N | 111°07’W

volume 2 Summer 2013


when i first volunteered to be a guest editor for northword, I did know the process for the role. I knew that I had to choose a theme and select submissions without having any indication of who wrote what.

Because the names were removed before I received the submissions, it allowed me to strictly read the words on the page. However, I wasn’t prepared for the elimination process. And the high volume of exceptional talent made my final decision difficult.

With a new record for submissions sent to a single issue for the magazine, I would like to thank all of the contributors who expressed themselves honestly and openly.

I instantaneously chose the theme because I have been gravely and greatly affected by

change. And like life itself, change can be planned or unexpected. It can be both a posi-

tive and negative as it forces us to adapt. It forces us to use our minds by revaluating, exploring and expanding new life concepts.

I would like to send an extended thank you of my gratitude to local artist Lucas Seaward for his compelling interpretation of change featured on the front cover of this issue.

At the beginning stage of this process, I contacted Seaward as an admirer of his bitu-

men art placed in well-known establishments throughout our community. He agreed to make an original and the result is his piece titled, “Change from within.” Seaward shares that it was inspired from a story he read years ago about breaking the confinements of bound perception.

He explains, “The piece is a play on the darker side of humans’ inherent desire to change, given their defined self-perception. Which, I believe, we are all guilty of at some point in our lives.” A breakdown of the elements placed within the art, as Seaward describes, “The triangle (delta symbol) symbolic for change is encapsulating an eye (representative of perception) together visually leading the viewer to look within. A double entendre, as to look within the triangle also means to look within oneself (eyes are the window to the soul).”

Personally, we have all experienced change. Whether it left us broken from heartache of a

past lover or the death of someone we loved, the experience changed us. It made us anticipate the birth of a new life and reflect on an old one.

Throughout history, great leaders have ruled change and others have suggested it. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would

also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him… We need not wait to see what others do.”

We hate change and we love it. It’s a cycle—a cycle that allows us to build a stronger self. Love and light,

Dawn Booth |

ninth issue editor 1

northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

community report by kiran malik-khan Media Director

northword launches issue #8 during winterplay with icebergs and buses They made fun of buses; they spoke about prayers to know the sun; they even called people icebergs, and paid homage to angels doing

good for humanity—local poets came together on February 17, 2013 to celebrate NorthWord’s Issue #8’s launch during winterPLAY.

The event was hosted in conjunction with Events Wood Buffalo and took place at Holy Trinity High School, which once again saw

a full house of poetry aficionados. Contributors read from their published works from the latest issue, and others walked up to

share their works. Renowned poet Shane Koyczan also attended the event opening.

Suzanne McGladdery, President, Northern Canada Collective

Society for Writers (NCCSW)—publishers of NorthWord—was impressed with the event turnout.

Suzanne McGladdery, President, NCCSW, Shane Koyzcan, Brea Burton, Kevin Thornton, Secretary and Jane Jacques, Managing Editor, NorthWord magazine at the event.

“How gratifying that so many people came out on a Sunday evening of a long weekend to enjoy poetry with us! It was very exciting

for us to be able to have our Issue 8: Fire launch event in conjunc-

tion with a performance by Shane Koyczan. The residents of Wood Buffalo, and Fort McMurray in particular, just keep amazing me

with their interest in art, and their energy and creativity. Writ-

ing is often a solitary pursuit, and it's wonderful that our launch events (and regular monthly meetings, to which everyone is wel-

come) provide a venue for writers to meet like-minded people and groove on our art,” enthused McGladdery.

NorthWord is now free and available at the Keyano College Bookstore, Keyano Reception (front desk), Sunshine Café by Mitchell’s

in the Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre, Campbell’s Music, Thickwood YMCA, and Frames and More.

Like us on Facebook: and follow us on Twitter: @NorthWordYMM.

Thank you to the YMCA of Wood Buffalo for the generous donation of a

room for our monthly meetings. Check NorthWord Facebook and Twitter for meeting dates and times, and please join us! 2

volume 2 Summer 2013

uncovered cathy yard

white cotton underwear, panties mother called them. You didn’t remember the sagging greyed diapers that

preceded them but you did remember when she said what a big girl you were, and how proud you were of

your new status. Couldn’t wait to show your best friend, Caroline, who lived next door through the thick hedge. You think you remembered the tea party that followed. Caroline and you stood on the fence whipping up your

skirts to show the startled passers-by your new status. You’re not sure if you remembered this or the story mother told later. You did, however, remember vividly Mother’s red-faced arrival and being yanked down from

atlas Mother had given you last Christmas. You swal-

lowed disappointment and murmured a thin thanks. Mother had said it was time you knew there was a world

outside—a world outside your self. You didn’t understand what she’d meant until later.

You only wore the slick panties on gym days. It’s the first

time you have done anything like this and you loved the wicked feel of it, the in your faceness of it. But it really wasn’t in anyone’s face but your own and that was okay

too. You kept the secret close and found an unaccustomed power in this knowledge.

your lofty stage. Your mother then told you to never,

But now you had a problem. Hand washing the small

flush washed over you and you’re unsure of why, but

the drying proved to be more problematic. There was

never show them to anybody…understood.

A prickly

you were more careful to keep skirts tucked close when

climbing the stairs or the low slung branches of the maple tree. After a while you forgot and life returned to what it was before: games of tag at dusk and shouts of ‘olly… olly… homefree’.

You didn’t really think about underwear anymore until your favourite aunt gave you a cello wrapped package for your seventh birthday. Six pairs of underwear with

pieces of fabric in the bathroom sink was easy but

nowhere to safely hang them from prying eyes. You devised a shoelace line at the back of your bedroom

closet and paper-clipped them, butterflies in captivity. Being polyester they dried, mostly, but the elastic took

on the sourness of an old dishrag forgotten under a kitchen sink. One day you forgot and when you came

home there they sat, washed, folded on the bed along with your other laundry.

pink rosebuds embroidered into the whiteness. Fingers

You never forgot the talk that followed: your mother

to rosebud. You felt special.

pillowcases that billowed on Monday’s clothes line; the

stroked the brushed cotton, moving from raised rosebud Sun bleached sheets dried on a spring line whitecaps

and cumulus nimbi cotton balls powerless silence cocooned awaiting birth.

Polyester, slick and cold against the skin. A swirl of can-

taloupe orange drizzled in sunlit yellow on a sea of lime green. The panties looked like melted popsicle on a forgotten sidewalk against your pallid winter skin. You

saved babysitting money and treated yourself, tired of the girls in the change room mocking your cotton whities. Tired of being good, you bought three pairs, each

wilder than the other and you hid them behind the books in your room. Behind the thick Rand McNally’s

sat on the end of the bed, her voice worn soft like the

stoop of her thin shoulders as she leaned against the headboard and looked through you to the blued veins

and transparent capillaries, the scarlet heart, the nebu-

lous soul. Questions held in her eyes. You waited for the

accusations, the disappointed how-could-you, followed by the inevitable lecture. She cleared her throat while

you fidgeted. With your reasons readied, she gathered the wind from your arguments, spilled the justifica-

tions into the space between you when she announced, that perhaps, it was time for a clothing allowance and

the responsibility of purchasing your own clothes. But, she added, she got final say on them. She pushed herself off the bed and bent to smooth the quilt as if to erase


northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

her footprint in your space. The balance between you

times when you were alone in the house you pulled out

careening crazily over the edge.

it warmed, matching your heartbeat with forgotten heat.

shifted but it wasn’t until a few years later that it tilted, Wavering boldness emerging sexuality nakedness

One January afternoon, when the power went out, Mark

velvet larvae whisper promises.

him warm. He came into the room, the scrap of silk dan-

uncertainty gathering power unknown split cocoon

Gorgeous silken threads, cool yet warm, a second skin that breathed in tandem with yours. Scraps of material barely

covered your flesh: low slung hip, backless, miniscule tri-

angular fronts. Sophisticated lace-burdened teddies with plastic crotch snaps that unsnapped at inappropriate moments as you reached for the thick operation manuals that ruled your days. Unable to fix immediately, you

discovered the freedom of not wearing panties. The kiss of cool air against bared skin. That lasted until you caught your pubic hair in a zipper in the washroom cubicle at work. You were late for your presentation.

You collected underwear like you collected men: Turquoise Terry, Lace-edged Alex, Ebony Eli. You’ve filled the

found Ebony while rummaging for something to keep gled from his finger as the questions dangled from his

lips. You tried to explain the relationship with underwear but he looked at you blankly then made a sarcastic comment that he tried to turn into a lame joke. It was

the first time you noticed, really noticed, how high his

forehead had grown, how petulant his chin looked, how

thin his lips had become. The temperature in the room became colder than the winter winds that buffeted the

house. After he stormed out to sulk upstairs, you rescued Ebony and made a decision.

Earth moist creased fine wrinkles upset ideas shifting eyes opened smoldering horizons wings small rips and tears regret colder distant white absence.

top drawer and are working on your second drawer when

White cotton and slick silk both spent time against your

that he was a stone-washed indigo like your favorite

tered self you’d become and wanted to know why you’d

you found Mark, delicious molten Mark, and decided jeans, comfortable yet with the strength to endure. He was everything you were not: precise, dependable, careful, considerate. After several months you cleared out your dresser drawers to make room for his stuff. The

silky fabrics fluttered into the garbage bag. You retrieved

the ebony pair and tucked them in the breast pocket of

a faded red plaid shirt that your mother had given you

years ago. It’s the shirt you put in the trash every time you moved, only to retrieve it. The shirt nursed you

through countless colds and heartaches, heartaches

mostly caused by poor choices while you learned to manage the strength of your power.

Whispers delicate wings drying full flight moth to flame heat simmering blood flows open face to sun browned arms stretching greedily lick wanting all wanting now.

Mother earth organic cotton rubbed against your

expanded inner thighs as you struggled with two children, a cat, three goldfish and a juggling act. On the rare 4

Ebony and held the delicate fabric against your cheek until

skin. Mark left shortly after he complained about the tat-

changed. Wanted to know where the girl he’d married had gone and when you planned to smarten up. You

looked at his yellowing teeth and thinning hair and

decided that no, you liked your self for the first time in your life. In fact, you liked your self so much that you sold

his high-tec sound surround system including the HD 52 inch flat screen that his new girlfriend wouldn’t let

him have in her apartment; his sea-foam green Fender Stratocaster signed in magic marker by his hero, stringy

haired Jeff Beck, that he just had to have and paid two mortgage payments for but never played, just hung the sinuous curved instrument on the wall; and his pride

and joy, an extensive comic book collection of first editions that he’d said was his retirement fund, that and a few other things he’d left stored in the garage until it was convenient for him to pick up. Then you sold his

expensive bike, the one he’d promised to ride to work, but kept the gym equipment in case you broke down and decided to lose a few pounds.

volume 2 Summer 2013

The twinge of guilt only lasted until you plunked the

But life gradually crept up on you and the children

where the cliffs met the turquoise sea warmed by the

down twice and frequently wandered the streets in your

money down on a trip to Spain, to the Balearic coast fiery sun and the bronzed men worshipped the generous, proportioned female form. You lost yourself in

sun-baked days, emptied Pedro Ximenez bottles in cafés

that dotted the crumbling cobblestoned plaza, followed by humid sex-filled nights while finding yourself. For three months you were a golden goddess whom no man

dared to deny. Thoughts of your children forced you home, that and the desperate calls from your mother.

You bought silk underwear, in an even larger size, had your first long-term affair in twenty-seven years. The

relationship turned sour after a few short months but you didn’t care; you were not interested in settling. The struggle between sensibility and the need for freedom swallowed you.

Smoothness muted colours wisdom acceptance spent

burgundy peony blooms scatter settle on the calm self satisfied power again begin again and again.

Some days you completely forgot your underwear. Or

you wore tatty greyed pieces of material hung together with spent elastic that defied gravity. Nothing seemed

to matter any more. You spend your summer days in the

garden avoiding calls from the children, now grown with

children of their own. They want to know when they

could leave the little ones with you ‘for just a few days’ while they re-connected on some exotic beach layered

with blinding white sand. You bit your lip, swallowed the bile that forced up your throat and said, that regretfully you were going away this summer to a retreat in the

Kootenays, an ashram, maybe next year. No, sorry dear, I’ve already bought the tickets and they’re not refundable.

And how are the little darlings? Haven’t heard from them, did they get their birthday cheques alright?

After you put the phone down you tucked your book and

a bottle of Pedro Ximenez under your arm and retreated to the shady side of the porch, wished you had learned

to be selfish earlier in life. Astonished at how easy it was.

exacted their revenge. You almost burned the house nightclothes, except you had given up wearing anything but your skin after that gorgeous trip to Spain.

The house went under escrow and the kids came, one by one, to retrieve what they wanted to keep. There wasn’t

much, you made sure of that when you walked down

to the local food store and borrowed a shopping cart, filled it with things that no longer held meaning, and

left a trail of belongings on people’s lawns and porches, hung expensive dresses and shawls in maple trees and

scattered crockery pieces in between plants as you wandered up and down the streets until you became tired. It was only stuff, your memories you kept close

Milky memories sinking opaqueness greyness skies worn soft worn ragged let go time to go final freedom I not you

Soft brushed cotton, full cut to the waist engulfed you. In

the Home all you sought was comfort, memories of freedom faint, and only recalled in the middle of the night

when the nurses walked the hallways with an even tread and the rhythmic, rasping breath of the woman

in the next bed reminded you that you were still alive. The Deathhead Moth fluttered softy, pitting its dusty

body against the window every night, and you held long

conversations that needed to be said. Needed to be freed before the last journey. But you were ready, except for one last thing, to ride her wings.

On a mission, you focused on your needs; disappointed when you couldn’t find rosebud cotton panties in your

size you wrote numerous letters of complaint to cloth-

ing companies. You complained long and loud until your daughter made you several pairs. You wondered where she found the material and who she really was.

Sun bleached sheets dried on a spring line whitecaps

and cumulus nimbi cotton balls powerful silence cocooned awaiting death—then rebirth.


northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

midnight love story A Blues Song jeff hoffman Underneath the street light, music curls like smoke from a cigarette I'm feeling like to do something I know I will regret Ghosts in the air all have love stories that they cry

And they ask from the mists, "Is it better to love, or to die?" Grab my hand, pull me close, kiss me in the light of a full moon

Say you'll stay forever, then tell me that you're leaving me soon I will be Romeo, I will be Edgar Allen Poe

Because Nevermore, darling, is the only kind of loving to know It's a Midnight Love Story

The only love that lasts is one that ends after we die Midnight Love Songs we're singing

So take my hand as I fall through the depths of your eye Two threads in a blanket, wrapped in two notes in a song

Feeling most right when I dread in my heart it's most wrong Your hair runs past your shoulders like a deadly waterfall And I breathe for it darling, for it or for nothing at all. It's a Midnight Love Story

The only love that lasts is one that ends after we die Midnight Love Songs we're singing

Take my hand as I fall through the depths of your eye It's our Midnight Love Story, darling

The only love I want is one that ends after we die A Midnight Love Song we're singing

So take my hand as I fall through the depths of your eye.


volume 2 Summer 2013

priorities kevin thornton

I have become hecticated. I know the word does not exist but in a world on speed it should; until then I persist

in beetling along, helter skelter, managing the apoplectic,

aiming at a brutal, futile cause; to be less frantic, less hectic.

{We call this easing the Spring}.

My son says, “Daddy will you play cars with me?” I long for the day When life slows down enough that I may look at him and say, “Let’s go away together. See ya later Alligator”. And in a while

we will be in the land of the Christmas hippopotamus and the crocodile.

(The blossoms are fragile and motionless).

I have no time for silly. Like Reed’s soldier; ‘Today we have naming of parts’. It comes after cleaning but before firing. And time, composed of darts, flies away as fragile shards of wishes then returns as obligations.

Clocked by duty, watched by the weight of work, alarmed by the frustrations.

{The purpose of this is to open the breech}.

Lewis hunted a Snark, Edward leered in limericks, Spike wrote happy childlike stories.

I wish I was allowed their license, in my report on Inventories. Sadly no. Work beckons. I have a deadline at one. ... ... ...

But instead I played cars with my son.

(Japonica Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens)


northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

amended birch erin schwab


volume 2 Summer 2013


everything changes

I wish I could see inside her now

Everything changes ...

as that little seed we planted starts to grow. the hands of time

I hope that I can show her how

count down our life

tomorrow has the room to know

breast cancer has now

the distillation of our Love

stolen my heart & wife

(and also of our fear)

clouds above,

that’s sent to us from grace above

have changed the day

our prayer’s now answered, dear.

and Mr. Shiny Sun

Of course I’m nervous!

has all but gone away

I don’t know what tomorrow brings.

I hate you change,

But as long as we have both of us

you're corrupt and no good

our dreams will still have wings.

you control everything,

scott meller

scott shelley

like you think you should sure the leaves look great on the Autumn trees thank you for the great summer and the cooling breeze Change..why can't you stay the same or just leave me go for the hands of time .. have stolen what's mine but once again say no!


northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

the people you choose amanda richardson

the old adage of not being able to pick your family has a peculiar exemption in the isolated, often snowcovered town of Fort McMurray. It's a place where

people come, more often than not, as individuals and

are separated from their home and loved ones by time, space and sometimes even the economic divide.

It's a curious place: bursting at the seams with people from across the nation, with barely enough amenities to keep its residents clothed, fed and amused. It's a boomtown, but really only in a fiscal sense, as those

with money to spend are often left standing with cash

in hand wondering where or how to spend it. One can only go to so many restaurants, movies and stores

before the novelty of disposable income vanishes and a

certain sense of longing settles in. A longing for culture, entertainment, home; a longing for something more.

But while there is no debating the great white north's

literal and emotional removal from the rest of Canadian society, the remedy is a simple one. Like homemade soup for sniffles, classic oldies songs for nostalgia or

granny-knit slippers for cold toes, it always comes back

to family. Family you choose, more specifically. A found family, of sorts.

Friends come and go; that's a truth anyone who has been out of high school for more than a year can attest

to. Fun, yet fleeting. But family, the people who bring

you ginger ale when you catch the flu and answer their phone in the dead of night when you go skittering off Highway 63, landing in a ditch—the people you love

openly, wholly and without reservation—those are the

people who make the north a little less isolating and a little more familiar.

It's a change in approach for most, in particular those leaving the nest for the first time. Going from a place


where faces are familiar and family roots are etched

in sidewalks, a new town can seem inhospitable, uninhabitable.

Where some make friends quickly and easily, others

struggle, and it's an entirely different beast to find some-

one who will pet-sit for a week, pick you up from the previous night's questionable decision with coffee in hand, or spend an evening doing a comfortable amount of nothing after a particularly trying week at work.

Family are the people you sometimes do things with and often do nothing with. They're the people who

don't require plans because time together doesn't need an end game to be fulfilling. Their company, their presence, is enough.

That's the secret to Fort McMurray, or really, any insu-

lar town cut off from the crowds, sounds and clutter of

the nearest metropolis. It's a town built on its people. People who take in strays, offering shelter and hospitality, because once upon a northern lights' glow, they

were the bleary-eyed, overwhelmed new face in town. Because once, someone extended them a hand, a greet-

ing and an invitation, bringing them into the fold of the found family.

It's a curious place.

volume 2 Summer 2013

bird’s eye view ivy young

I’d been in the tub all afternoon. The water was cold and there was a bottle of

gin in my fist so I drank the bottle. At some point I looked up and the cat was there and a bird was there and the bird was in the cat's teeth.

I’ve heard that robins are good luck but a robin in a cat jaw must mean a dif-

ferent thing. It was wildly flickering, trying to get free but was pinned at the joint of its wing and drizzling blood on the linoleum. The blood was watery and red.

I looked away--out the window to the house of the still-married neighbours with their spectacular happiness on display. When I looked back to the robin

I saw that the cat had committed its bite to an artery and a puddle of blood

formed on the floor. It was still alive and was looking right at me. I couldn’t turn away.

If it wasn’t for being so wasted I might have done something: maybe swat the cat or take the bird to a vet or something but I didn’t do anything. In those first few weeks after my wife left, everything was too close; I couldn’t feel anything and didn’t know what to do so I watched and eventually the

bird stopped twitching and the cat lost interest and the small body dropped to the floor and folded like a glove. It was then that I realized--that this thing that had just happened in my house was something real and couldn’t be undone. It was fact not fiction.

After a while I stood and went to the kitchen. The wife had left some things-chipped dishes, unmatched tupperware, plastic cutlery and a pair of barbecue tongs and I used the tongs to pick up the bird and take it to the garden. I dug

a hole and buried it and that should have been the end of it but since that

day nothing’s been the same. Somehow when we were staring at each other that bird’s soul, or spirit, or whatever you want to call it, transferred to me.

When I woke up the next morning and looked in the mirror I had different eyes. Overnight, they had filled with black ink like two plums. I wore sun-

glasses to work that day but then my legs grew skinny and my shoulder blades grew long and I cut holes in the back of my dress shirts until I stopped going to the office. Eventually the bones opened up into wings.

These days I hang out on telephone wires. From up here, the neighbours are

small, unremarkable, and my old house is far away. Up here I cluck with the flock, wear a shock of red at my breast, swallow rocks and flare my feathers in the air. Up here I see everything, and everything is working out just fine.


northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

something’s shifted heather thomas

Something’s shifted. Something’s different. Maybe it is the choice to skip a full day’s medication and

sleep instead of taking that missed dose late, staying awake all night. Maybe it is accumulated days and nights

spent in close proximity to family without a break. Maybe

it is too little fresh air and exercise combined with too

much gluten, dairy, caffeine and alcohol. Maybe it is none of these. Maybe it is nothing that I’ve done (or not done)

and instead a cruel joke from those that pull the strings. Maybe they just want to watch me dance.

Something’s shifted inside me. My internal landscape has changed.

I can tell by the fog that fills and surrounds me. I can tell

by the fog pushing its way out from inside my head. I

can tell that today would have been a good day - to stay in bed. It would have been a good day to hide. To hide

inside myself, inside a cave, under the covers, away from those with whom I live.

Something’s shifted. Something’s different. I can tell by the tightness in my neck and at the back

of my head. I can tell by the clench of my jaw and how

my belly twists and turns. I can tell because everything bothers me. It feels like there is a dragon inside waking

It is hungry and my heart is already aching with the pain

oozing from my pores. The dragon with his fiery breath is awake and I can’t control it anymore. What spills over

and out is not good. Spilling so much pain and hurt onto those I love. Why do they always seem to get in the way? Something’s shifted inside me. My internal landscape has changed.

I can’t stand it anymore. There’s too much clutter and

mess. It needs to go and it needs to go now. I can see

myself, a mad-woman cleaning and tidying, organizing, sorting, and discarding. Maybe if I work really hard at de-cluttering I will feel differently? Maybe if I clean everything outside then the inside will sparkle too? Something’s shifted. Something’s different. I am tired of cleaning. There is more to do but I’m too

tired. I can’t get it all done. It will never be done and because it seems like this it also feels like no one is help-

ing. All of a sudden the dozing dragon is awake again and this time he’s cranky. I see myself lashing out on those closest to me and I feel terrible. Not knowing where it is coming from or how to calm the fires, what to do or not to do, I do the only thing I can.

up. It feels like a baking soda volcano. No need to add

Something’s shifted inside me. My internal landscape

Something’s shifted inside me. My internal landscape

Once again it is hard to breathe. I have to get out of here

vinegar - just run, ‘cause I’m about to explode. has changed.

There is no balance anymore. Balance went out the door, ran down the block and disappeared without waving

goodbye. I want to stay quiet and calm and peaceful. I

want to feel joy and happiness and inspiration. I want to feel love for those with whom I live. I want to have a good day. Why - can’t - I - just – have - a - good - day? Something’s shifted. Something’s different.


It is so hard to breathe. The dragon has stirred and woken.

has changed.

before I do any more damage. I have to go. I have to run. I - need - to - leave - NOW! So I run. I run away from the

place where I live, away from those with whom I live

and away from myself. I am running away and at the

same time knowing that I’ll have to return. I run straight towards the nearest bar because it seems like the only

place to go at this time of night. I go there to get away, to be alone. I go there because I so badly want to drown. Something’s shifted. Something’s different.

volume 2 Summer 2013

I feel like I’m drowning. I feel helpless, hopeless, useless

seven years was a scrape on the knee and that I could be

ion and wash down the pain but I can’t even do that. One

I’m so done with this. I’m drowning and don’t feel like

and so fucking tired. All I want to do is to slide into oblivdrink and I’m in more pain than I was than when I got

here. My head is pounding and my stomach is in knots. Tears are running down my face and the waitress avoids

held, hugged, kissed and loved better. I’m so tired of this. coming back. What is the point of coming back? Something’s shifted. Something’s different.

me like I’m contagious. I can’t do it anymore and feel like

I do come back. I have to. I can’t float away into oblivion

in every sense of the word. So I give up, swallow my pride

back, bruised and raw. I come back exhausted from my

I have just lost what little strength got me here. I’m done and call for a ride home.

Something’s shifted inside me. My internal landscape has changed.

I am under the covers drowning. I am drowning in my

own pain and don’t feel like coming back. My heart aches

with seven years of sadness, seven years of struggle, seven years of pain and anger, seven years waiting and

hoping just to be disappointed again. I wish that the last

for wood buffalo’s angels kiran malik-khan

from under the covers – who am I kidding? So I come

struggle with the dragon. Not sure where the dragon went and too tired to care. I come back knowing, hoping

and praying that tomorrow will be better because right now I have nothing left.

Something’s shifted inside me. My internal landscape has changed.

Maybe - just maybe there is hope for tomorrow. It can’t get any worse. Can it?

Finding and filling needs

Whether at the Food Bank Or the Centre of Hope

It’s pure and simple empathy

Belief to serve—not pointless sympathy Marshall Street matrons

Quietly housing needy patrons Salvation Army—

Dressing the body, dressing the soul Finding keys to eroding locks

Unlocking lives—Pastew Detox To Wood Buffalo’s angels— Changing lives

Our salute to you— For mending lives!


northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

alabaster theresa wells

I watch through clouded vision

As her skin once pink changes to alabaster

The machines show numbers dropping rapidly 80

60 40 20

Then nothing It began when she arrived at the hospital Brain death they said

Too long without oxygen they said Unlikely to survive they said I watched as her hands

That cradled five babies Held grandbabies

Loved my father as he died Went from pink to white Lifeless Empty

In the waiting room just before I overhear someone say

Where there is life there is hope

This is not a universal truth I know Maybe in their case, maybe, But not in ours

In our case there is life, but no hope The neurologist was kind Young Fresh

Still of a world where perhaps he thinks he can save them all

If she improves maybe we will operate he says

If she shows signs of breathing on her own maybe we can fix her he says


Maybe he says but

He cannot save them all And he knows this

His eyes betray his knowledge I have not told my sisters

I could not bear to tell them That there is no hope

And that I know this in my heart I watch them in the ICU waiting room As they watch other families Still with hope

Disappearing one by one as their loved ones leave One way

Or another

I know ours will leave Another

And so she does

Surrounded by us all As I hold her hand

Watching the numbers fall Watching her skin fade

Watching her leave this world Quietly

But not alone I do not understand how something once alive Can now be dead

It makes no sense to me This change of being

But this change of colour From pink to alabaster This makes sense

In some strange fashion

Because it seems that such a change Should be painted in colours In shades as subtle As pink

And alabaster

volume 2 Summer 2013

faithless lizzie violet

Damaged images on celluloid absorb tears of fading joy, a soul surrendering to an aftermath of empty promises in a room full of broken dreams.

A rotating door of directors couches, greasy fingers sliding into a membrane so fragile its lines are written on bloodied parchment.

I speak the truth, you whisper innuendos, life calls action on a scene where I never fit into your fantasy of a picture perfect love.

A 100 foot high screen filled with a stringent cast of characters, unrealistic expectations of star encrusted notions.

Crude language, jotted in white space, a poisonous graffiti flowing loosely though a script with a vengeful, salt stained ending.

Only I can erase the lines, edit the production, piece together the scenes in

an order that fulfills the exploitive needs of an audience fed false stories of hollywood endings.

The final arch is a cancer of the spirit that eats away, leaving behind a shell, so full of holes, it can no longer be filled.

My soul, universally twinned with that of a wanna be starlet found torn in half and naked beside a sidewalk on a cold January day of 1947.

Will my faith find the same fate of a colourless flower left hungry to the wolves ready with flashing bulbs and tell tale stories.

Can I piece together the shards remaining of the glass window of the ticket booth for the sold out show title, My Life.

Self imposed isolation as I inflict the emotions of yesterday to the meat grinder of now, a rewrite to stop the freight train, before it forks.

Story boards juxtaposing, thrown to a pile of rejected notions, motions, tomorrows.

Calling action on a fresh new scene and cut when the femme fatale has played her final silver screen moment.

A fitful night of uneasy dreams has kicked me back to reality, having me once again question if I will ever regain my faith.


northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

murderous crows pattie dwyer

Mist touches the earth


You wait there


The wetness attaches to your sun kissed skin In the trees In the mist

In the dusk

Still as death, heartbeats, calm like a controlled symphony The conductor gives you a specific tempo

They hear it in the distance, they stop dead

Look, gasp, turn around and make their way to the sound of the divine orchestra

What do they know? Secrets of the past

They have the power to make them disappear They choose you

Hunger consumes them

They pick the blackness from your flesh and soul Making it clean and new

The water beats off their feathered wings

They perch in trees

In packs and murders they travel

Watching, watching, watching

Repelling the all consuming liquid Searching for your heartbeat They can read your mind

Why am I still here, you ponder Surrounded by ancient trees

These grandfathers speak to each other in foreign languages that we cannot understand

Wise, calm and strong you listen

The crackle in the gravestones pierces your ears You stand there still

Air falling into your chest, living for a moment and escaping the next

The death of the breath and the birth of the next, a new gasp of life

The sound of wings and clicking beaks catches your ears “Marion” is on the front of your mind Etched into the hardened gravestone Foreign languages grace the stone, Breath evaporates Knees crack

The feeling of a thousand gushing feathers overhead pulsing back and forth

Green, yellow eyes look into my soul The crows



Gravestone watchers

They need to see your new soul

Black coal smothers the ground

Soft, ridged feathers embrace the earth Pour yourself onto me

You are what I need, divine light Sight is sharp

The mist cleared

The blackness has seeped into the feathers and the earth We are creatures of the earth, light and dark Stay here and live in the beautiful grace

volume 2 Summer 2013


Plus ça? Change?

A column by douglas abel

when you’ve finished reading this article, I won’t be able to offer you “a penny for your thoughts.” Not because you won’t have any thoughts, or

because they won’t be worth it. I won’t be able to proffer a penny because there is now, officially, no penny to proffer.

In many ways, this change in our change is “small change”—no big deal. “Peanuts,” you might say, even though the time when you could buy pea-

nuts—or anything—for a penny is long past. The small, iconic copper coin, Queen (or King) as “heads,” maple leaf as “tails,” had become a nuisance. It was the “copper” that was now only partially copper and, ironically, its

physical worth as a piece of metal was greater than its financial worth as a unit of legal tender: a penny cost more than a penny to make. People

emptied pennies from their pockets or purses, tossed them into trays or

jars and, eventually, rolled them up and cashed them in for “real money.” The penny was little more than an annoying vestige of the fact that our currency is based on “one hundred cents to the dollar.”

Nor is the loss of the penny the only significant “currency revision” in

the last few decades. Our most significant unit of “real” money, not “just change,” the dollar bill, has been gone for almost twenty-five years. Its

demise began when our first new coin, the loonie, was introduced in 1987; production of the bill stopped two years later. An entire generation of

Canadians has grown up without ever holding a green Canadian “buck” in their hands. And it’s been almost seventeen years since our russet, and

unique, Canadian two-dollar bill—a bill that we had, and the Americans

did not!—was replaced permanently by the two-toned toonie coin. Again, we will soon have a whole generation that has handled neither a buck, nor two bucks, in paper form.

Do these changes make any real difference? Fiscally, probably not. But

emotionally and psychologically, I think they do. From early in childhood, we are taught to make some kind of distinction between “small money”—

change, coins—and “real money”—bills. It’s a weird fact that money

doesn’t become significant until it’s in flimsy paper form—and, therefore, more “real” than weighty, solid coins. With the disappearance of the one-

dollar and two-dollar bills, the level at which money becomes significant

is four hundred per cent higher than it was in 1989. That’s a lot of inflation. The same psychological impact attaches to the demise of the penny. Our

legal currency now “starts” with the nickel, a basic level four hundred per cent higher than that which existed on February 4, 2013. What’s more, and

what I find very disturbing, is the fact that our currency is now based on a unit that has no actual physical existence. A dollar is made up of one hundred cents, but there will soon be no cents for it to be made up of.

Perhaps the absence of the penny as a physical cent doesn’t matter. The 21

northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

cent is simply a unit of measurement, a counting

token. I can’t hold a degree of temperature in my hand, but I know what 20 degrees Celsius feels like. I can’t heft

an abstract kilogram; it has to be a kilogram of something else. True enough. The difference, however, is that units

Now our reaction would be “Save a penny? Why bother?” There was also the charm-formula, See a penny, pick it up,

And all that day you’ll have good luck!

like the degree, the kilogram and the second all have

Even before February 4 of this year, would anyone in

ical world—the mass of atoms, the wavelengths of light.

coin on the sidewalk? Is “penny-wise and pound fool-

operational definitions based on phenomena in the phys-

You can experimentally “verify” or calibrate their nature. What is the cent now, in the absence of a physical penny? It is one hundredth of a dollar. Hmmn. Okay. Then what is

a dollar? Well, it’s a hundred of those cent… non-things… In economic terms, the circular flow of income is now based on a circular argument. Hardly a situation that inspires confidence in Canada’s “solid” finances.

Equally disturbing to me are the different levels of “reality” that now exist in the world of what was once

the penny. Simply put, when we exchange “virtual” money—in effectively electronic transactions—one

cent is real; when we exchange real, physical money, one cent does not exist. I can pay $2.63 exactly with my debit card, or with a cheque, or by computer; but if I

want to do so with coins and/or bills, the amount magically becomes $2.65. What happened to the other two

cents? And why does this disappearing act, this vanishing of things, only happen in the monetary real world? The changes in change feel like an application of both

quantum mechanics and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle to my wallet.

recent times be bothered to stoop for a single copper ish” anything now but a formula for excessive concern

with triviality? What wisdom could accrue to such “small change”?

In Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, there is a delightful children’s challenge game, in which the players barter lips for pennies, and vice versa: girls’ voices Boys boys boys

Kiss Gwennie where she says Or give her a penny. Go on, Gwennie. girl Kiss me in Goosegog Lane Or give me a penny. What’s your name? first boy Billy. girl Kiss me in Goosegog Lane Billy Or give me a penny silly. first boy

I can, however, live with this rather existential uncer-

Gwennie Gwennie

a historical artifact, with, eventually, the corresponding

Now I haven‘t got to give you a penny.1

tainty. What truly saddens me is the loss of the penny as loss of a host of cultural associations and reverberations. In the English-speaking world, the “sovereign” penny

has been around since 1485; its roots go much further

back, to the Saxon kingdoms of Britain. Yet the physical end of the penny is only the final step in the coin’s loss

of significance. Ben Franklin’s maxim, “A penny saved is

I kiss you in Goosegog Lane.

Thomas’ scene is rooted in a world where both first kisses and pennies had real value. A generation from

now, will the innocence and adventurousness of this

children’s game no longer be accessible—except by means of an explanatory footnote?

a penny earned,” was once the formula for wise thrift.

1. Thomas, Dylan, Under Milk Wood: A Play for Voices (London: Folio Society, 1972), p. 64.


volume 2 Summer 2013


global industrialization and global symbiosis. His recent work challenges

douglas abel is an actor, director, drama instructor and writer. Since his “retire-

have to maintain with our surroundings.

ment” to Vancouver he has also begun to explore documentary film making. He enjoys contributing his “two cents worth” to NorthWord on a regular basis.

us to observe the inner workings of our way of life and the balance we

scott shelley writes, “Born in St. Thomas, Ontario, I began writing at the age of 11 and found it came naturally to me. I still enjoy writing poetry today as

pattie dwyer is an actor, playwright and yoga instructor in Fort McMur-

I feel it is the best means of expression. I recently got married and we are

ray. She has always had a passion for writing.

expecting our first child in November. Thank God for his many blessings.”

jeff hoffman is a world traveller, humanitarian, filmmaker, poet, theatre

heather thomas is a student of life, always learning and always growing.

buff and ukulele nut. His work has been published by NorthWord twice

A Fort McMurray resident, she follows her heart as much as possible living

before, with more to come. This past year, his poetry earned him second

from a place of love and gratitude. Heather is delighted and honored to have

place in the Poetry Institute of Canada's National Competition.

this first piece of very personal writing published in Northword Magazine.

kiran malik-khan is the communications specialist for Keyano College.

kevin thornton writes dithyrambic poems, debauched limericks, recon-

She is a freelance journalist, poet and writer. She contributes to many

dite newspaper columns and opinionated magazine articles. A founding

print media outlets in Fort McMurray and loves telling community sto-

member of the Northern Canada Collective Society for Writers and cur-

ries. For McMurray has been her home for 12 years now. You can follow

rently a Crime Writers of Canada Regional Vice President, he is also the

Kiran on Twitter via @KiranMK0822.

Vice Chair of the Library. He lives in Fort McMurray and is working on a

scott meller, born and raised in Alberta, has lived in Fort McMurray since

new novel, the old one having been given last rites.

1995. A strong supporter of Northern Alberta's arts community, Scott is

Writer, editor, poet, literary reviewer, horror know-it-all, lizzie violet is the

happy to be an observer of the change that has happened in our region, and

dark little girl with a crooked smile. She is currently working on a novel and a

proud to have been chosen to participate in NorthWord.

poetry manuscript, and the latest books she edited, Best New Werewolf Tales,

Calling Fort McMurray home for the last two years, amanda richardson originally hails from the easy going, misty grey horizoned shores of Vancouver Island. You may recognize her as a reporter for the Fort McMurray Today or from any lineup that ends with the purchase of coffee. erin schwab was born and raised in Morinville, Alberta. She received her Bachelors of Fine Art at Alberta College of Art and Design in 2004 and her

Volume 2 and Fatty Goes To China (Royston Tester) can be found at Amazon. com. For more information about Lizzie Violet, ironic anecdotes and upcoming listings, please check out her blog, theresa wells is a writer, blogger, and mother. She is a passionate advocate for her community and a lover of great shoes, and finds herself often writing about both in her McMurray Musings online blog.

Masters of Fine Art in Drawing in 2006 from the University of Alberta.

Raised in a squatter’s shack perched on pilings above the chilled waters of

Erin currently teaches Art and Design at Keyano College in Fort McMurray.

Burrard Inlet, cathy yard learned early to forage in the forests and can be

Born in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, in 1980, lucas seaward has always been fascinated by the complex relationship between man and nature. With a growing concern for society’s movement toward the indoors, Lucas spent from 2000–2010 bringing wildlife’s inherent beauty from the outdoors in. Through his highly detailed graphite illustrations of endangered species, Seaward has allowed viewers to reconnect with nature while appreciating its splendor. In 2012 Lucas gained national exposure as he was awarded a place within Ducks Unlimited National Art Portfolio. Today, out of his studio in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Lucas pursues a reconnection between humanity and nature. His paintings combine 100 million year old organic material know as Bitumen (Oil Sands) with modern day subject matter, conceptually capturing the intersection of

spotted chewing questionable leaves and bark even today. She fled Vancouver at age of 17, swallowed by the remoteness of the Cariboo where she continued to live rough on the land. Migrating northward to Fort St. John and various points in between forty years later she settled in the temperate Cowichan Valley on Southern Vancouver Island, only to be uprooted and once again on an adventure to northern Alberta where she currently resides. Cathy’s stories can be found in several literary magazines and anthologies including Canadian Stories, Island Writer, Verse and Vision and Portal. ivy young has been published in Geist magazine, subTerrain magazine, Rhubarb magazine and Musicworks magazine. She was a member of the original Haiku Night in Canada performing troupe, has worked as a book and magazine editor, and won a scholarship in non-fiction writing from the University of British Columbia.


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northern canada

dragonfly in flight

collective society for

Born from amber, murk-filled ponds

call for submissions

of mosquito larvae and other’s young

be published in Fall 2013.

cathy yard

writers statement of purpose:

To publish and support the work of writers in northern Canada.

that overflow with spring’s chilled promises, feasts

NorthWord Volume 2, Issue 4 will

allow Draggona to exist—held fast in

deadline October 30, 2013

her liquid-prison. Hidden

for the fullness of seventy-two moons, she waits with suppressed impatience. No

theme “Chiaroscuro: Shades of Black and White”

triumphant horn, no glorious sunlight heralds

We’re always looking for prose (2000

split skin, the husk of what she’s been.

poetry (50 lines maximum), excerpts

her emergence. She crawls, abandoning a spent, Damp wings flutter in the dark of night— She begins to breathe…

words or fewer, fiction or nonfiction), from current projects, and visual art. please submit as a microsoft

gulps greedful at night’s moist air.

word or image attachment to:

Liberated from the past, from watery beginnings, she

soars as daylight tries to contain her. Through

the heat-wavered season her blue-licked skin skitters about earth’s garden, iridescent wings thrum, mirroring heartbeats of the wind, while she feasts in delight, fully aware that

her four full moons are almost done and she will not be bound by an ordinary life.

The Editors,

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