is the author of The Hundred Lives (shortlisted for the 2015 Griffin Poetry Prize) and Birds, Metals, Stones & Rain (shortlisted for the 2013 Governor General's Award for Poetry, the BC Book Prize and the Raymond Souster Award). His other books include The Fifth Window, A Tunisian Notebook, House Built of Rain (shortlisted for the BC Book Prize), and The Human Shore.
A murder of crows stands along a power-line, and I hear nothing all morning but the cawing,
and see nothing but the shapes of blackness --
the sires who deal out death, find and eat the dead -- and then I recall sitting naked hours in a chair in a hot, bulb-glare-bright, urine-soaked cell. Waking another time, face to a cement floor, in a lock-up out of an old TV sitcom, breathing in cleaning-bleach fumes, vomiting. Striding proudly into a cell in North Vancouver -- the place I had always wanted to be. Where I could rehearse my image of him and try to be him and dream he loved me. Hometown RCMP jail. Smooth grey walls. Pure white bowl. Steel ledge bed. I hear my heart muscle contracting in rhythm as if working wings. Almost hear it caw. Almost feel the valves, the membranous doors allowing the blood to flow in and not out, out and not in. Know now my heart is the scavenger of my blood -- its one need is to fill its emptying hollow. I have brought it to a barred concrete box to clench, to unclench -- to plead in this way for blood to flow with force in through a door to the son I am, and out through a door to a father cawing down the corridor artery, and back again to where sons and fathers must begin and end, and meet in nothingness. Crows fly off then up to the tops of power-poles. I want the caws and carcass-dripping beaks to show me the way to no right or wrong, good or bad, love or hate, to instruct me in how there is nothing more than the hearts of those judged to be lost, apart, punished. I want to walk in the heart of the criminal, the father and son who are free, the man who holds within his core the blood that beats through the slaughtered, the alley crow, and the flower, even as he is led away in the sun to be killed.