In Strata


Introduction to Four Genres

Erin Charlton

original stakes 
god’s corner 
forest fires #21 and #22 
land claim 
tent city cook tricks 
earth science 
north fairies 

original stakes 

soft smoke rises 
from little houses with white rooftops 
barely a town 
pushes against tree line 
ragged, unforgiving 
black bone-saw spruce 
glints of giant shield 
and waiting. 
lunch time 
the sun  

billions of icy pinpricks 
exploding into light 
highway truckers pull their shades down. 
an old woman looks up from her coffee  

a fox 
dances through her backyard 
if there are roots here 
they are plunged into the deep 
twisted between rock  
from the mine, a man emerges 
squinting into the shock of day. 
at the hospital, a tiny, bruised bag of soft bones 
a flickering, mosquito-wing heartbeat 
I take my very first breath 
and scream. 

god’s corner 

if you can, 
move around while you’re young. 

inside on the carpet 
outside in the yard 
halfway between them the deck that dad built 
on the sunny side of the house 

the geologist 
wakes up early in the dark. 
a metal beast is dug from the snowbank. 
rumble and mutter and slam 
diesel fuel and Maxwell House 
sitting in companionship 
while their engines glow.  
he’ll move out into the town 
and past the town around the lake 
and past the lake into the forest 
and under the forest and into the rock... 

the transcriptionist 
makes tea 
and makes note of the news 
and makes light work of zippers and mittens. 

you can move out a little at a time at first, 
to the snowbank that’s as tall as the company house 
to the corner with two churches 
and to the coffee shop in the rec centre 

to rest 
and eat muffins  
with butter. 

move around when you’re young and then 
never stop moving 

so when the leaves dry out and rot  
and the frogs freeze beneath the bank 
you are the river; 
cutting your own slow shape  
into the great shifting rock. 

forest fires #21 and #22 

a strange, soft tissue on the wind 
sooty little angels drifting 
silently filling nostrils 
melting into poison tar. 
thick smoke billows down  
                      into the mine shaft 


do we build things only to watch them burn down? 
in every log house, a matchbox 
and all four of us with dark hair and quick hands 
and the instincts of an outsider 

a hole in the ground  
a family in a house  
a fire tearing through the forest and the century surrounding 
who wouldn’t leave? 
the less arms to pull to safety 
the better. 

land claim 

I keep tape around the lunchbox 
that my ancestors stole 
and I write my name on it 
in red marker. 
If I’m hungry I just grab it 
take a bite and chew it slow 
stare hard at those who dare  
to glance 
and spit through wasted mouthfuls 

tent city cook tricks 

24 diamond-drillers 
in a little camp of canvas tents 
wake with a hunger 
like a cavern in the earth 
but the blackflies have been hungrier 
for longer. 

to eat and be eaten is 
a race against time and any airborne, 
flesh-eating disease has the clear advantage; 
itching bites in bloody patches and every inch of skin  
attacked, relentless stinging panic 
armed with iron pans and grease 
jo welsh’s oil-burning stove  
smokes out the worst  
winged raiders 
delivering the word of god in  
17 pies 
4 cakes 
6 dozen tarts and 
pails of cookies 
with vicious persistence  
of those savage, cross-eyed 

brave and capable as she was 
if jo welsh baked the men a black forest 
then she must have known  
what was in it 
so send the bugs back in gift blankets 
to the new queen  


a white sparkle on dark blue— 
almost black 
mint-coloured lichen peeling off the rock point  
like paint off a radiator 
from the fifties 

a soft orange pine needle path, 
sprawling plants with three teardrop leaves each, 
a portable barbecue 
a tin boat. 

an island with a red fishing shack 
and a kid that yells into the bay 
“ABC echo!” 

a shed full of tools and pieces of wood  
and a collection of trucker hats  
from the 80s. 

a book series we took turns reading out loud 
a banging screen door with a moth-eaten hole.  

a sphere-shaped game like a rubik’s cube  
I never figure out 
a ladder 
a long afternoon 
a radio. 
a tree stump with a little chair 
carved out with a chainsaw 

baby leeches 

a birch bark basket fastened with a stapler 
sun chips and fresca 


earth science 

most valuable player goes to highway 17 
a vein lined with gravel and juniper 
pumping tractor-trailer lumber through  
the foggy hills of early morning and  
the dried-out afternoons of  
junebug country 

anything beyond its winding  
parallels nowhere. 

with a guide 
and long socks 
and a reverence for death 
as simple 

if you’ve heard that some have slept out there 
collecting rocks and feathers 
and in the middle of the night, come face to face 
with moving shadow 

it’s true. 

it's difficult to understand 
everything I have been given.

north fairies 

alight in wonder on the wild shore 
the sun descends beyond the pines 
further ahead, a friend will spark  
a fire in a ring  
of rock, our guardian 
and keeper 

reach out 
towards the water 

for the night is strange and shifting 
and precise 
in its exquisite terror 

and you can still 
allow your limbs 
to dance.



IN STRATA was created in respect and memory of the past and present inhabitants and wilderness of Manitouwadge, Ontario, where the author was born in 1992. The rightful owners of this land are the Ojibwe people, and Manidoowaazh translates to ‘cave of the great spirit.’  

Some historical information within the collection references Manitouwadge: Cave of the Great Spirit by Pauline Dean, Great Spirit Writers 1989. 

Memories supplied in sharp detail by Monique Charlton. Photos and field report materials created from 1990 - 1993 by Greg Charlton, an exploration geologist for the GECO mine. 

Erin Charlton

Erin Charlton is a musician and graphic designer living in Toronto. Born in Northern Ontario and raised in Muskoka, Erin has been writing lyrics for close to 20 years and is currently interested in creating zines and other printed ephemera. This project was a careful and personal consideration of roots, responsible autonomy, and the tactile memory.