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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pax Familia - Nan

Today, I had the incredible experience of walking into a bookstore, picking up a magazine, and flipping to one of my own works.  My graphic poem 'Pax Familia' won third place in This Magazine's Great Canadian Literary Hunt - Graphic Narrative category.  Now that the November/December is on stands, I thought I would put the full poem up.  It's written three and a half times in the work itself, so it might be a little hard to decipher (something I find I'm grappling with in many of my graphic works).

I was also so glad to see Toronto artist Shannon Gerard's work Unspent Love as the big winner in the graphic category.  I've been a huge fan of Shannon's work every since I strolled by her booth at Word on the Street a few years back.  Her blog - littledogmonday - has been on my blogroll since day one.  Check out her incredible graphic works and crocheted wonders.

I hope you enjoy the straight up text version!

Pax Familia - Nan


She came through rotting stovepipes
To marriage and the guess work of a thin dairy farmer

Kitchen, a field hospital
Back kitchen, cavernous with old snowshoes and loose electrical wiring

What is a back kitchen?
                These are the things I can’t explain
                Chicken blood and heat lamps, the dangling spools of baler’s twine
                Rotting potato halves, egg cartons, feed bags, rakes
Mid-morning, stretching up to the clothesline on the back stoop
                Hand-poured cement steps


We have culled her things
Searching for the ample lures of family history

Ancient sewing tools
Combines and wagons seized by rust
The machinery of true disfigurement

Oh, her horror stories were good
                A girl with a long braid
                Caught in the quaking wheels of an auger
                Her hair ripped out in a single, choking snarl
As her brother, miraculously, held back her body
                It took two years for her hair to grow back and she was never right again

Never right?
Her words


Tell me more

                Arms ripped away, stumbling near drunk from blood-loss through the fields
                Feet caught in the stable cleaner, flesh mixing with manure
                Falls in the hay loft, legs shattering through barn board
                Blood poisoning, stillborns, strange fevers, silent cancers
And always the strange, silent threat of a single rope dangling from the rafters or a lone gun shot in the evening

She worked in a space no bigger than a modern bathroom
Making pies the church would approve of though she wouldn’t go

                The perfect, lean script of her recipes
Blotted with fifty years of small interruptions
Beet juice, condensed milk, honey, pastry flakes
All the colours and textures of an ailing body, unclothed

But I wasn’t surprised when, at eleven, I learned she’d grown up the city
Some women kneel in the earth and are still a strange royalty to the people around them


Three children with black hair
Who would all grow to hate each other
And their children, arriving steadily over seventeen years
Until the hand-me-downs were transparent

What city?

The one we’re in now

                Two family homes less than a kilometre from where I get my coffee
                The whole street a living heirloom
                And me, kneeling on the icy sidewalk, in search of her


  1. Amazing!! (Yeah, I went there...) In seriousness, this is super exciting and well-deserved. Can't wait to pick up a copy.

  2. Thanks, Wren. Bring on the maze puns! I love them.