Two Poems by kerry rawlinson

Calling to mind the knotty rhythms of Gerard Manly Hopkins, these two poems by kerry rawlinson, explore the ways we try to find our emotional and spiritual home in landscapes — natural or manmade — we find ourselves: “…teetering along the steely/ edges of our syncopated social overpasses,/ halfway between heaven// & hard cement.”

by: kerry rawlinson

halfway between heaven and hard cementϯ

The oxblood stairwell’s marred
+++++++++with mystery stains, pocked
with gunshot. Gang Sanskrit & symbolism
tag it, curses blurred by decades of piss.

Peeling doors bar
+++++++++any chink of timid northern sun;
floor-tiles link the map over bottomless
cracks. Ceilings bloat mold-black.

[fear itches just under the skin]—

Ears & noses lean away
+++++++++from lumpy walls that can’t contain
the leaks: life, draining from
powerless neighbours. A baby screams

24/ 7. Each hour, earthquakes
+++++++++heave beneath their feet!
An avalanche! No. It’s only the Metro,
vanishing papa each evening

to his first & second jobs, washing dishes
+++++++++in the pits of far bistro’s;
only tracks stapled to the earth’s spine
rumbling mama her packing line.

[discomfort makes you look away]—

Swearing erupts in their own tongue
+++++++++once parents are gone.
Older kids mind littler siblings, who clamber
snowbanks, giggling; to stare pop-eyed over

our neat domestic fences, desperate to spot
+++++++++a niche where they’d fit in.
Brave in thrift-store parkas, they drift
through man-made mazes in the malls

[we tighten pursestraps over shoulders]—

They’re homesick for small memories.
+++++++++There was gold perfume
& shoeless freedom. A holy sun, unlocked
doors & weightless play. Dismayed

how every day in this new place
+++++++++they wake to the same
strange landscape of icicle-white
lifelessness, they climb vertiginous

cultural heights, one tentative tread
+++++++++at a time. Spatters of laughter
follow the way ahead, marked by hand-out
crumbs. Fragile & bright as thimbles

of hand-blown glass, they dare us to climb
+++++++++after, teetering along the steely
edges of our syncopated social overpasses,
halfway between heaven

& hard cement. Our sphinctres tighten,
+++++++++thinking: we should
catch them! Catch them before
they splatter.


reflective constructs

Duty silts up the hollows between our
knees & armpits & atrophies,
fly-blown as a landfill pyramid.
I’d like to believe you’ll take a spade
+++++++++someday, & a
screed, then grade a road sloping down
to the sea        so we can lower a lifeboat—
+++++++++& row.

Blockages of obligations mound around
the crawlspace of our clay-pipe hearts,
shored-apart with hardening cement.
I hope you meant to take a shovel, maybe,
+++++++++& a level,
then erect an infinite spiral stair so we can
climb higher   than the basement—
+++++++++& touch the stars.

Branches of commitments stack high
inside our splintered brains,
abandoned & bankrupt as woodchip mills.
Perhaps you’ll offer to hitch a crane;
+++++++++start-up an excavator;
then choose. Carve out an oasis for our
future             or turn your back—
+++++++++& prove my mistake.


Decades ago, autodidact & bloody-minded optimist kerry rawlinson gravitated from sunny Zambian skies to solid Canadian soil. Fast-forward: she follows Literature & Art’s Muses around the Okanagan, barefoot, her patient husband ensuring she’s fed. She’s won contests, e.g. for Geist; Honourable Mention in 2019 Fish Poetry Prize; and features lately in: Spelk, Painted Bride, Connecticut River Review, Pedestal, Prelude, RiddledwArrows, ArcPoetry, amongst others.; @kerryrawli.

One reply on “Two Poems by kerry rawlinson”