the poetry that matters

Maggie Clark

Maggie Clark was born in Toronto, Ontario, but her adult years have all been spent in Waterloo, where she recently completed a degree in Political Science and English Literature, and in Victoria, BC. Her poetry has appeared in RATTLE and The Pedestal; her fiction at The Danforth Review. In 2009 she won a 24-hour playwright competition with Pat the Dog Playwright Centre.


She has no name because you took it, and the red cloth
which cinches now about the heart. Still the questions come —
Did the woodsman know you? Why did your granny live
alone and in the wild? On your daily route the gutters build
with leaves turned long before they fell: You think the children
haven't noticed? Darting in and out of school-side streets,
kicking up the old wounds with their feet? If you thought this was
freedom — the dark of it, the scent, and then the light —
you were mistaken: That only happens twice. Think instead
of what comes after — the long walk home, the doctor's test
while the town stands guard. You fail, of course, and then
what matters of the rest? Think of the water, the wolf's look
drowning beneath the surface from the stones. The sudden onset
of that silence, and the rise, beyond, of freshly creaking wood.
His silence, too — and then the thickness of his breath,
the scrape of callused hands across that sweated brow. If only
you had known there would be choices — but think of what it was
to breathe! Every day the children do it: now look where they are.
And you. Whether you fell in or were pushed, won't the leaves
still crumple all the same? The belly. The axe. After granny's death
how much simpler can it be? His word. Yours. Don't get me started
on her empty bed. Already the school is teeming with big eyes
and bigger teeth. Or is the difference that extreme? Listen,
you wouldn't be the first to stage this coup. The great red hood,
the wine and bread — to hell with granny's heart: she's dead
and there are other ways to take down prey. Ask the woodsman.
Ask the cloth, which never lets you go. Forget the rest. The rest
is done: the hunger, right on time. Inhale deeply. Think to smile.

Goldilocks and the Water Bears

When we say she was lost in the woods
we mean the unknown. Nature.

The greatest stranger of them all.

Think what it is to feel minuscule —
the panic, in low light, that you'll never be found.
Now shrink it:

You are less than one millimetre tall.

In the home of the tardigrades, in outer space,
you are an irradiated sliver of flesh. Too hot.
Too cold.

In the home of the tardigrades, on the ocean floor,
you are a smudge, a bubble of blood — too soft,
the deep sea too hard.

In the home of the tardigrades, room temperature,
above ground, your first size is just right

for now. But remember the smashed chair,
the pressing wave of sleep. The escape.

Do you know where you'll be, when you wake?

The water bear's answer, always, is home.


It happens this way: You can't bear the body, its borders — why
must there be so many borders? — You take it off. You know there will be
others. Bird bodies. God bodies. In the distance the little girls keep
shrieking, shrieking. The boy with the bicycle rings his bell — again, again.
He is calling and they run inside. It is growing dark and they run
inside. Inside you are changing: shirt for shirt, skin for skin. Only when
you push your beak up do you find the shell. Leda, Leda, it says
but then it is raining. Everyone is changing. The earth, the grass, the heady
scent of living things — worms and snails, cats with baleful yellow eyes
through the undersides of cars. This is death, by the way. You are
dying. You are so used to this you take your time deciding
what to wear. Bodies, only bodies. The rain breaks down the smallest.
A hand breaks down the rest. Hand being mouth. Hand being eyes.
Dark webbing on your thighs — your neck, your neck. Say you never
meant it: you didn't, you don't. Only, the water was so inviting, and you
wanted to swim. Now you can tear through that nest of old skins
all day, and never find it. Birds in the trees singing, danger, danger.
The boy in the rain hauling home his bicycle. How long until it all stops,
that rain? Feathers for the taking — yours. And hands. There is
nothing left to hide away. You hide yourself instead. Inside, inside, inside.

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