Ode to a Nation

             Rich man’s gout

             in a poor man’s knee


waking one morning

nothing but hair on the sheets


plastic spoon instead of steel

which would clash too much

with the radiation in the skull



in a foundry-worn lung,

spread north to the brain



Buried weeping of a wife

who can’t get sick leave

from the food processing plant

to be with her husband

in the quiet days

of waking death


anxiety of a daughter

about leaving a job before it’s done

in case they refuse to pay


family reunion he organizes

but can’t make it there


in one breath:

the dying of a grand-father

and tickling new life of his first grand-daughter




because he isn’t using the cramping hospital bed

which is too big for the room



and the coughing uncoughed

because the congestion in the chest

is so thick 

just so thick


plaques of throb- throbbing

in the well behind the brow


screaming eyes crashing

with the pain in the scalp

when the painkiller can’t kill the pain

and the throat can’t take more painkillers

and the heart has somehow not been killed yet

and the ghost is as yet



gaping lips and drying mouth

which cannot be moistened

which cannot be poised shut

no matter the liquid

no matter the gadget


bluegrass tune

purple-yellowing lungs


from the labour

of taking and making breaths

the sheer effort of breathing


tread-textured cloud

as if a tractor is trampling the sky

and wealth of a nation

built on how many cancers like this



Face of an American Indian

blazing through the campfire

each time his boy scout district lights it


a Toys for Tots lost

without a Santa

who could always find enough

for the increasing many with little


random acts of kindness

for friend, foe and stranger

fossilized in a community’s memory

of a man who could always give


a voice

a laugh

a bellow

gone from the sounds

of an ever-muting ever-buoying world


one minimal wage instead of two

two hands instead of four

a half-bed forever emptied

and a lone sense of humour

to pass the trying through.


from breathing for breadth

(TSAR: 2005, pp. 87-89)




One response to “Ode to a Nation

  1. Wow, that was beautiful in its description of tragedy, entrapment, and loss.

    Thanks for sending it, and you vividly painted a picture in words that’s quite haunting, especially because it’s true.

    Much love,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s