How Soon, How Likely, How Severe by Shaun Robinson

The first day, the fire climbed the slash
like a jungle gym and leapt to the canopy.
We dug out eight kilometers of hand line
where the slope was too steep for the Cat.
I snapped a Pulaski and ground
my palms to burger. Thank god we’re not
a dry camp. The next three days,
the pump rattled like a Datsun cresting
the Coquilhalla. It sucked from the pond
until the shallows quivered with a jelly
of tadpoles. We drew a circle in two-inch hose
and bare soil and called the fire contained.
If anyone asks, Kamloops, the fire is contained.
We spend our overtime among the black spires
of burnt fir, sniffing for the socks-on-thecamp-
stove scent of smouldering duff.
I wake up pawing the motel carpet
for hot spots. A voice on the handheld asks
if I remember my old life. I remember
ground fire creeping from root to root,
approaching an interface with the unspoken.
A threat under the surface. Now, I could load
my duffel into a chopper and fly, nose down,
along the seam of the present tense.
Self-sufficient for twenty-four hours
with a bird’s-eye view of the point of ignition.


Copyright © Shaun Robinson. Originally published in Arc Poetry Magazine and named an Honourable Mention in the Poem of the Year contest (Issue 86, Summer 2018).


Shaun Robinson‘s first collection, If You Discover a Fire, is forthcoming from Brick Books in the spring of 2020. His poems have appeared in The Puritan, The Malahat Review, Prairie Fire, The Rusty Toque and Poetry is Dead.

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In publication for over 40 years, Arc Poetry Magazine publishes three issues a year including a themed issue each Fall. Arc nurtures and promotes the composition and appreciation of poetry in Canada and abroad, with particular but not exclusive emphasis on poetry written by Canadians. In addition to publishing and distributing the work of poets, Arc also organizes and administers awards, contests, public readings and other events.

This poem was selected for Poetry Pause by Adèle BarclayArc‘s current Poet-in-Residence. Arc’s Poet-in-Residence program offers the country-wide community of writers a chance to work with an influential Canadian poet. Participants in the program will have an opportunity to work one-on-one with the Poet-in-Residence to hone and shape their poems over a one-month period. Between 30 and 60 poets participate each year.

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