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Kerry Rawlinson

I find I'm a lot like Lot's wife

star detour

Marengo's Lament

Sunset, Wolfville

ode to the roofers

points of tangency

memento mori, while walking



housekeeping chores

I find I'm a lot like Lot's wife

& history bestowed her no name
                     but Disobedient.
                     to peek back
                     is a mother’s reflex.
always looking ahead is exhausting—
almost as all-consuming as keeping up
as draining as conforming. could I argue

an alternate optic for crusty pariahs
                     like this? a new respect?
                     for example: drop
                     an unknown egg
into the brine of Lot’s wife... the iffy
or dead will float, the fresh & new
sink slowly below. you can banish

shoestink with her; spray her
                     on the slugs
                     in your rosy beds
                     of radishes. add her
to dough—she’ll create fake clay.
watch her set your dye, kill poison ivy;
keep a cut potato white. she’ll shine

brass. glass. treat dandruff flakes.
                     fcure meat, halt
                     a grease fire’s spread.
                     come, brush your teeth with her.
kill fleas, ease bee stings. lay her—
she’ll melt your walkway’s ice!

why is it that civilization
                     reviles her
                     for eyeballing
                     where she oughtn’t?
she earns her keep. a lick of her
sustains deer & horses; wild sheep
(it’s her cursed trail they follow).

good lord, you cast her as taboo—
                     but here she is, in tears.
                     and if you tasted
                     my name, you’d know:
I’m a chip off the old pillar, proffering
adequacy—but unable to run from
instinct, all truths retroactive & fallow.

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star detour

we’re surrounded
by invisible signals. our brittle lifespan hawks its icy spit
on the capital’s sidewalks, making its prisoners clutch coats
closed, tie knots a little tighter around unprotected necks.
who’s got energy to check what’s hidden up its blood-slick
glove, as it waves us on through? streetlamp reflections in
the gloaming mist coddle us like warming suns, tricking me
into thinking I’m safe. oh, but the shadows behind these
mellow nimbuses loom like mutants. everything is defective,
& what we know as starlight, trying to connect us to these
pock-marked skies, is the bleed-out from dying red giants
long-gone. are my atoms just the result of coitus with casual
gravitation? so many wheels to let go of before we know
how to decipher the starmap. is existence real, or a detour
back to black matter? we can’t turn around and we can’t
go on. I’ll steer into the bend if I must—but I can’t hold it
straight for long. pssst, hisses the invisible driver beside me:
when the end comes, friend, there’s no point trying to run.
                                                                      we’re surrounded.

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Marengo's Lament

I bore my Consul well:
           graceless yet costumed,
the hot-blooded, short Corsican whom the world
as hero; guardian of their liberty—

                        now he rots.

Whore to the love his men
           offered or assumed—
gifting them neither words like some matchless pearls
           nor emeralds,
but the brittle gems of conscript misery.

                        Now they rot.

War’s the duty for which
           I’m curried & doomed.
Cleverly, despite his clumsy reins, we hurl
through the carnage. He triumphed in victory

                        without rot.

Scored with scars, like medals,
           I scoff at his wounds.
Sunken-hoofed deep in the snowy Cossack swirls,
           I’m levelled
at Waterloo; lassoed at last in Ligny—

                        left to rot.

Gore-sniffing hack, banished,
           my stud-life resumes.
I hump the plump rumps of willing cockney girls—
           still virile—
but the bullet aches. I sire no pedigree—

                        and it rots.

Worn, (one hoof a snuff-case)
           my old hide is groomed
for this odd parade of past glory unfurled—
           still sterile—
in Chelsea, mid-gallop to eternity:

                        postponed rot.


Author’s note:
Marengo was Napoleon’s horse; captured at the famous battle of Waterloo, and now stuffed and on display in the National Army Museum in Chelsea, London (minus his hooves); forever a cipher in the war’s history.

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Sunset, Wolfville

there’s a quiet light on the Minas at dusk
in July. the sun sinks into damp clouds

like a sleepy child waiting for storytime
while the tide slides in like iron: rusty & deep,

filling man’s gaps. reeds & mud smell rank,
but people amble along the reclaimed rail line

contentedly, not minding me as I feed off the
sunset’s generous glory while its light expires.

not with regret or melancholy, since I respect
the breath of night, but with a memory of the scots

who braved atlantic fury in the three-masted Hector
& landed here generations ago, sacrificing all—

homeland, dignity, blood; starving babies, small-
poxed wives & every farthing in their breeches—

and stayed, feeding off the generosity of the first
nations, battling bugs & snow & tide, wearing

fleeting joy & deep, iron despair just to claim a new
beginning; one moment in this glowing landscape

for their own. (a blue heron perches on the lip
of the browngreen basin like it’s been waiting

since the dawn of time for one fish, still as a
stick, equally wary of human wandering as me.

will the very thing we crave betray us? is movement
ever truly innocent? the fish, the ripple, the wave…

the ship?) there’s a quiet light on the Minas tonight—
and a very old lady in a psychedelic kilt & a girl

of about ten with bright hair braids settle together
on a wooden bench, holding hands. it’s storytime.

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ode to the roofers

thumbsized hummingbirds zip
                from rooftops below, up to

the summit of mine; then plummet
                like pebbles dropped into space.

it’s hard to believe they don’t feel
                exuberance. but as they hover metres

from my face, whirring with curiosity,
                they seem slightly miraculous.

and on summer roofs, shirtless cadres
                of bro’s, careless embodiments

of a hard-moulded Apollo, scale
                our manmade massifs, pecs honed

to perfection, boom-boxes throbbing,
                steps syncopated on steep, converging

peaks, tussling with the asphalt tiles.
                golden & glistening, they whistle

like young hawks at every passing
                bird—thin or fat—in floral larceny,

nectar oozing from their pores.
                surely trochilidae never nicked

a flower’s essence quite so brazenly
                in any season’s sun-stunned sere.               

and even through winter
                scooping snow from below sharply

slanted feet, up & down they come
                & go, seldom roping-off;

suburban warriors scoffing at fear,
                mimicking Mohawk sky-walkers

bolting girders on the Empire State,
                nail guns rattling. I have nightmares

about them, as I do about all wild creatures
                & the odds against reaching maturity

growing old, intact. will they only roll
                over, lower & lower, plummeting

into banality, stoned caricatures
                of Icarus hitting bottom?

a furtive tip of my cap to the roofer.
                not to heap praise—praise is flawed

& fleeting. but to breathe a few thanks
                for something vernacular, yet

slightly miraculous. for small, bright
                hummingbirds; for dazzling bodies

taunting gravity, for hearts that hover on life’s
                tipping points, existing only

on sugar. (oh! but then, in the night,
                why do I shiver? sweating through

haunted dreams; a breathless dread;
                melting wings—        and falling.)

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points of tangency

we’re blips. mini
sound-bytes who nip at Time
with sheep’s teeth: gulp, burp, sleep,
run, repeat; replete with the worst excuses.

see this petite micro-
burst on the inverse spine
of the Chart of the Universe? it’s sharp,
plotted peak is Mankind, killing things off.

this other sharp
spike, rather like Puya Chilensis
which blooms lime-yellow tricorny caps
only once in a blue moon—& then only after

consuming a bighorn
carcass that died serendipitously beside
it—is Time, reminding me I’m always late to
the party. deciphering its belly-fullness of meaning

is too elliptical—
too hazy to follow. I’d persist,
but its futuregraph is razor-sharp & flat,
and its memes grow in far too thorny to swallow.

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memento mori, while walking

This body, still walking./ The wind must go around it.
“Obstacle” by Jane Hirschfield

these bodies—                        leaden repetitions
of legs,                                    elephant feet—
plod along                               the rigid mazes
of the city’s                             indifferent, grey
concrete, clinging                   to living’s myths

heaving through                      linear streets.
autumn leaves                         streak by—
flimsy, weightless—               deceased.
crackled seams                        & cerise filaments
eddy & whip.                           traces of gold calligraphy

disintegrate, red-veined          transparencies
rushing by                               in luminous flight, as if
high-tailed by cats                   sublimely indifferent
to direction.                             but I press on, pondering
why such heavy                       stumbling blocks

weigh down our daily              life; yet mortality
which dogs                               my steps
as obsessively                          as a rib-thin stray,
offers me leaves                       in the breeze,
delicately unmade;                   ironically light.

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I cry far too much.
                        why? can’t you explain?
pressure’s way worse, burst—
                        I can’t bottle it.
balance explodes, pretending
                        wisdom’s gained.
I? cry too far much? why can’t you?
paradoxical leaks
                        from profound pain
or bliss. when winter drowns—
                        does spring begin?
I cry far too much…
                        why can’t you explain
pressures? way worse: I can’t.
                        bottle it.

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Beside you on the couch, I press my ear
to your chest below the eight perfect stitch-

scars where a pacemaker’s pouch once parked,
& listen. I can hardly believe it! Your heart

beats as lustily as the bullseye of the world.
Your right ventricle pumps in the pearly blue

Pacific; the left pushes out the wild Atlantic.
Left atrium drinks in the icy Austral & Arctic,

right imbibes the toasted Indian Ocean & the
dazzling Coral Sea. And oh, the rivers!

How my legs or mouth can’t stretch open wide enough
to take all of you in. An untamed Amazon races

in your meridians, & I mingle with your Ganges’s
spice, your fertile Nile, ride your rough Zambezi’s

flow, rest on your Yellow’s golden song, & know
I’m the luckiest, gladdest paper boat

on any domestic duckpond
still afloat.


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housekeeping chores

hurricane & tornado suck humanity’s
       debris up their whirling, grey hoses
             into nature’s vacuum.

monsoons toss their buckets over
       the steps & stones of the world’s
             back porches.

fire torches kindling, then leaps
       & roars, purging the tallest manscapes
             & habitat to cinder & char.

larvae strip pastures like hotel beds;
       viruses eat away our intimate spaces
             without a decent warning.

but darlings, take comfort. sunlight still opens
       the store faithfully each morning, sweeping
             grit from our waking lashes;

and a compassionate moon still lights
       its floating candle, honoring possibility
             and tomorrow’s opening door.

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kerry rawlinson is a mental nomad. She left Zambia decades ago to explore and landed in Canada. Fast forward: she’s still barefoot, tiptoeing through dislocation & belonging. Awards: Glittery Literar and Edinburgh International flash contest winner; notable poem Best Canadian Poetry; Pushcart nomination; Honorable mention/ finalist for several contests, e.g. Proverse & Fish PoetryCanterbury PoetryRoom; National Poetry Society and Palette. Recent work in: Topic Take U; Grain; Freefall Rochford St. Review; Prism Review; Event Poetry; Prairie Fire, and more. When not challenging established norms, kerry kayaks and drinks too much (tea). @kerryrawli

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