the poetry that matters

Esther Mazakian

Esther Mazakian lives in Toronto. In 2006, she published her first book of poetry, All The Lifters (Signature Editions), which was shortlisted for a ReLit Award. She is currently working on a second entitled, The Stain of the Story.

Esther Mazakian has been published in numerous journals, Malahat, Event, Prism, Descant, Fiddlehead and was the winner of the winner of Earle Birney Prize for Poetry 2004 and was an editor's choice in 2002 and 2003 in the ARC Poetry Contest.


Inside Her Darkest Ice Age


                                                From under an avalanche of angst-y avoidance they sniffed out

an escape route like it was fresh kill; predators gathering in cool cahoots, they moulded

a smooth globular cake of icy guile

out of instinct, hard

snow, to serve as the first loveball of hot grade 8 infamy; a recess erection

                                for a week straight and architecturally,

a frozen

                                                sherbet of near-


that caught her breathless one frigid morning ass-

first after Science, protesting disingenuous, gasping with hormonal semi-indecision,

                                her neck a scarf of sweaty mohair, her body a toppled

baby in a snowsuit, nylon arms, legs, hood pointed

                                                                                into a star shooting toward the blue,


cartoon-cloudy sky,

                                                and her lips pressed to the lips of the maladjusted boy thrown at her

core, core of seedy pubescent entrails, boy from the back

of the class with the scuzzy

hair, plaque-hoary teeth, no wherewithal

to hand                                                                                

anything in, and she kissed him hard, hard with a zealous, crural squeeze that surprised

                                even her, this boy, this boy that her mother

                                                                                                would have taken by the ear like a rat

by its tail

                                and fast chaperoned

out of her daughter’s world, a world that was, until then, a still-frozen sluice of coming

betrayal, that is,

                                                                                                before the cryo-


father’s head caught wind,

                                                                hacked up a squall of encroachment,





Her Pristine Seminal Texts Snake-Charming In Her In His Absence


This smell. Semen. Tapioca-white stains on her

palms, her stomach,

her breasts rising to meet him

in this almost lost fermata of memory—

urgent first drafts on cool amethyst mornings,

the duduk’s snake-charming

autumn’s apricot chrysanthemums

from their annular sphincters;

Dora then Cixous in quick succession,

timely ovulation, Medea crashing onstage again under pitting

pocks of scarring

hard rain;

Kurt Cobain;

spying pristine shoots of iris while abiding

a tenacious abstinence

in his absence. Medaglio d’Oro on the stove, hours-old ferrous tar soft as

the roving

new pavement of new sex sinking into her bones,

her breath          

hooking a curl of glucose dipping

into the pillows and the sheets, linen coves of privacy,

wrapping dead daughters in this desire—


it hunted her like a debt; haunted her

like his bed; this age-old on-the-brink suck-in cure-all of lyrical brine;

it was life’s fluid and it was viscous and it took.

Her first book.




Death Drive


Maps and rivers and an atlas of traffic lines 

                                                tenuous. Early evening. Brushes

stroking the water,

diluting, deluging bristles, he said it

was the last time he’d

take it from

her, his patience thinner. Peeling the tape

from wall borders

and tugging elastics of tensile paint gum in a war of pulled toffee

his tolerance she stretched every month

to survive; latex over oil.               Red and purple and ink-blue,

she found vein colours

and the prime of other men most






She Could Have Been A Poet Or She Could Have Been A Fool


                                Post partum press breaking down the door, the gaze

of neighbours and the cacophony of the womb

led her


the only way to hush them was a certain rhythm method.

Immersing her frisking babies one after another, bullying a still life on the bed before

Noah arced


into the bathroom, her first in the only place she was alone anymore

where she never recovered

from the Journey lyrics,

aviator glasses,

her perked body plunging into the lake with her first boyfriend,

skimming the spumy green crystal seaweeding between her legs like her own sinewy hair---

                                                they were teeming, teenaged, high



Save your life because you’ve only got one.

                                He believed in heaven. Open your eyes. The suspense was killing her.




Some of these poems are excerpted from All the Lifters (Signature Edtions), and some have appeared in Prism.


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                                                                                                                       July 9, 2012