Tanis MacDonald: Two Poems


Dear friend, you have excited crowds with
your example.1 I speak to judge crimes of
filiation.2 Consider that the thing died before
we ever proved it lived,3 the boatman’s ferry
creaking with its legions of incurables.4 This
landfall happened at your exact flooding and5
now you are sitting doubled up in pain,6 your head
wet, streaming, smelling faintly of milk and oranges7
one who never left the adjective, who keeps
my place8 the way the light drips down the sky in
the finally morning.9 Cherish me today, for I am
a vetch crisp and uncorrected.10


1 Maxine Kumin, “How It Is.”
2 Lisa Robertson, “Greeting.”
3 Gwendolyn MacEwen, “Death of the Loch Ness Monster”
4 Amanda Jernigan, “The Hyll”
5 Dionne Brand, Land to Light On
6 Phyllis Webb, “Naked Poems”
7 Erín Moure, “Betty”
8 Méira Cook, “Blue Lines”
9 Maggie Helwig, “Hunger and the Watchman”
10 Margaret Christakos, “Birch”



Imagine her now, the raw lilies unfurling in her
throat, their scent and fleshy thrust.1 Her silk
spirit leaving the crown of her head2— what a heavy
candelabrum to be borne.3 What rage for order
disordered her?4 The guest without a wedding
garment is cast into outer darkness.5 I would have
made of my body a body to protect her, anything
to keep her well & here,6 with my arms stretched out
in that stone place,7 the one who never looks up,
whose eyes are lidded and balled, like Blake’s,8 like
pinwheels and burning schoolhouses9 beyond this fog.
Mist. Rain. Fragile demon flags.10 Never the same
river drowns the unalterable doorsill.11 Grief is
original, but it repeats itself.12


1 Hilary Clark, “Her”
2 Jean Valentine, “The Morning of My Mother’s Death”
3 Maxine Kumin, “On Being Asked to Write a Poem About Anne Sexton”
4 Denise Levertov, “Olga Poems” for Olga Levertoff
5 Carolyn Maisel, “Baptism” for Anne Sexton
6 Lucie Brock-Broido, “Soul Keeping Company”
7 Anne Sexton, “Sylvia’s Death”
8 Sylvia Plath, “Death & Co.”
9 Gwendolyn MacEwen, “Fireworks” for Marian Engel
10 Judith Fitzgerald, “Elegy Written in a December State of Mind” for Gwendolyn MacEwen
11 Amy Clampitt, “A Procession at Candlemas”
12 Amy Clampitt, “The Dakota”


Tanis MacDonald is the author of three books of poetry, including Rue the Day (Turnstone Press, 2008). More recent work has appeared in Contemporary Verse 2, The New Quarterly, Studies in Canadian Literature, and Our Times. Her book, The Daughter’s Way: Canadian Women’s Paternal Elegies (WLUP, 2012) was a finalist for the 2012 Gabrielle Roy Prize in Canadian literary criticism. She is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, where she teaches Canadian literature and creative writing.

One Reply to “Tanis MacDonald: Two Poems”

  1. How sublimely arresting (not to mention utterly lovely on their own terms). I am sure Ferdinand de Saussure would agree, with yours truly, the Cento remains in fine linguistic hands, palms perfectly extended. Thank you, Tanis MacDonald, for remembering a dear friend in print and such surprisingly delightful praise. (Because you do, because not many excel at the form comme vous.)

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