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Grace Must Wander by Stephanie McKenzie

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Of Blood and Some True Poets

McKenzie, Stephanie


Near Inniskeen, my blood wanted to drive further north
and drive the north, too, with nails. How pathetic
to rub that photo down with war and famine
and all the usual things.

(My grandfather’s arm is broken and in a sling,
son of Belfast jewelers). 

So what of genes and their adopted pedigrees? I grew up
with a brother of different blood. On the bus
one night at Christmas, still looking for salvation, he took
to the floral suitcase of a grey-haired grandmother.
Perhaps he found in it something lost, a mirror of love
that had escaped him, something to hold on to as the Sechelt
peninsula lurched like old bad dreams.

The cops said he was high, but this is the manner of altars
overwhelming and hard to name.

My brother’s faith begged angry drunks,
violence written in the scriptures.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the fire
of whiskey and pissed before a Pentecostal king.

And what of David slitting the cloak of the soldier
sleeping? My brother taught me to smash a window
quiet, fashion the black electrician’s tape like a spider’s
web, punch it where things cross in the middle
(a baby breathing asthma).

In the end, they busted him for garlic sausage stuffed
and settled, familiar in his pants.


My grandfather was Protestant turned Mormon
in a little B.C. town, hid heaps of extra food
in his basement dusted by diligent children

warned of Joseph’s dream. 

And so he helped his youngest sign
hospital papers, deemed some years fallow,
some babies plenty. 


It is his right arm busted or sprained, the one
most likely to throw a punch or wear out.
There is a brown jacket, white shirt, blue eyes,
and the emotion of older times, hard to place.

Driving in Kavanagh’s country, the place spectacled
by the year’s annual award, I know how far he made it.
Sure, there was something hungry in that photo,
but something well fed, too. 

I do not mean to turn cows aristocratic or make all men
their counties’ bards. All I mean to say is there was something
in his jaw defying sagging. 

That night I slept with my right arm above my heart,
waited for the beat of any true story. The bed moved
like the back seat of a bus. 

The wind smashed diamonds. 

Copyright © Stephanie McKenzie 2009

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