the poetry that matters

Bruce McRae

Bruce McRae was born in Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada. Soon moved to Niagara Falls, then the village of Chippawa.

Studied film, radio and television production, 1972 - 1975, while playing in a number of bands in and around Ontario.

Moved to London, England, 1979, making song demos. Joined Restaurant For Dogs. Formed duo The Caretakers. Traveled city to city; Toronto, Vancouver, London - several times; and also Bristol, in the west of England.

Began poetry readings in London, 1994, and acoustic gigs. First poems published, 1997, hundreds of publications since.

Returned finally to Canada, 2006; currently residing on the west coast, Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia.


   Words Fail Me

A voicebox.
Or the way meat squeaks.

Its shadow
a million little words

sleeping under
the philosopher's stone,

breaths being forced
down tightening passageways,

the voice caught between
a cough and a sigh,

each sentence resembling
a throat being cleared.


To find your voice
you have to lose it first.
Think of a shepherd-boy
one lamb short of a flock.
A coin, with a bite out of it.
A toy under a cushion.


What is the sound of a voice
calling for its voice?

How does it address
another voice of similar status?

Explain the difference:
a shout, and a yell.

How many words does it take
to describe itself?

Where do echoes go
when they die?


Two words met in a forest.
Being mute, they communicated
with signals and signs.
Being blind, they felt
each other’s moving lips.
Being deaf, they screamed
from the rooftops
of their leathery lungs.
Being crippled badly,
they shared an opinion,
splitting it down the middle
into roughly equal halves.


The book is a skeleton.
The chapter is a town.
A paragraph is a woodblock.
The sentence is a spider’s web.
A clause is a breath.
A word is a metaphor.
A letter is an egg.

And what does this tell you
about the failure of speech?


If the wolf is a mouth
dreaming about a throat,
then the first word undoes the fasts
of a second word:

a charming tune to the tin ear.


Can you hear me now?
(steps closer)

What about now?
(leans toward the listener)

And now?
(parts lips, climbs onto tongue,
avoids tonsils, enters throat,
passes larynx and esophagus,
settles on lungs)


Things said:

"The dream of reason
creates monsters."

"You love life and we love death."

"God neither honours nor
encourages resignation
or acceptance."


Silence dwells
in the house of the Lord.

Its kiss
is like a rifle butt
smashing a mouth.

is a higher frequency
to the audience of winter.


Mind and mouth are at odds.
If I think 'starling',
the mouth hollers
(a battle of birds).
When I imagine a blue sun,
the mouth puckers and pouts.
I recall my mother at death's door:
so why am I smiling?


It's always wartime.
The mind advances.
The mouth falls back,
slashing and burning.
The mouth suggests peace.
The mind doesn't know
what to think about that.
The mouth is a big mouth
when it's been drinking.
The mouth is a foxhole
swimming with dead metaphors.
The mouth says things
it doesn't mean.
It doesn't mean to be
It doesn't mean to be mean.
It didn't mean it.


Betrayal is a mutual weapon.

I think about my father
under death's gun.
Silence trips over my lips.
My voice wants to say sorrow,
but the words come out


I’ve been looking for my voice.
I’ve searched winter’s pockets.
Under a wren’s wing.
Where the newt hides its goofballs.
Already I’ve been to the gun club,
scoured every oubliette;
its bloody footprints ending in mid-air,
the stink of its words dangling
like a breath.

Perhaps you might have seen it,
soft-spoken, with hoarse gilding,
thin as soup through a strainer.
And a face like a thumbprint.
A face like a broken stick.
A hair in its throat
suspended between pillars of iron,
caught between two windy doors,
between the hag’s withered breasts.


I can’t imagine that I’ve only imagined it.
The song of the mortal.
The psalm of Ezra.
The scream in a silent film.
The sound of brothers bartering.
The barbaring gossip of girls.


My voice . . .
I need to tell it something important
before I forget.
I need to ask it a question
of a highly personal nature.
I need it to talk me down
from this precarious perch life has built.

Before we both do something we’ll regret.

Listen, for a moment I thought I heard it,
my voice’s ballgown rustling.
But it was only the sea in my mind.
It was just litter skittering in circles.
It was only a ball of tightly wound yarn,
the sound of a kitten’s claws
scratching at the window.

A mere whisker.

A grasshopper’s breath.

                                                                                                                                           Jan 24, 2011 Bookmark and Share