the truth?

Kaie Kellough

copyright ©2019 by Kaie Kellough

the truth?
is the white cursive issued from a brick chimney
is a skeleton in brown gabardine
wandering the underground city, an accent
adrift in its second language
over a b-side version of empire
i speak french. i am a sovereign state drifter
winter hinterlander with a mortgage
and expired aeroplan points, a vacation blazing
on the credit line
unnecessary to my history, my culture extracurricular
creole vernacular stutterer, i ride the metro
underground with my fur
collar tickling my chatter, metro shuttle station to station,
but i don’t matter, carapace of white earbuds contains my rude –
redemption, i go to work in the heart of a conquered
devotion, a thin mist descends over me
a blown surrender,
snow falls through me. it is always snowing inside me.
my hand is a blue fleur-de-lys torched by autumn
my sap is slow, it hardens glistening in its circuit,
the sharpness of pine and spruce tingles
on the yellow edge of my breath
i find refuge from winter in the hudson’s bay
boxing day sale. born in a corporation, i can’t pretend,
i was not born on the equator,
i died in the upholstered ease of a sedan, and here is my after, city blistered
gray by salt and winter, work in a tower, a payment plan carrying anonymous
class aspirations, and this
is my squalor, an abstract longing to cruise the foothills in a lincoln continental
hearse, bleached teeth chattering nonsense as the zero of winter ascends

Notes on the Poem

Again, our Poem of the Week choices this week come from the seven works on the recently announced 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist. As we did the past two weeks, we are doubling your poetry pleasure by showcasing two selections. This departs from our usual weekly schedule to ensure that you get to enjoy selections from the entire shortlist before the accelerated 2020 winners announcement on May 19th. The first of two selections this week comes from Magnetic Equator by Kaie Kellough. Earlier this year, Kellough offered CBC Arts a personalized tour of the neighbourhoods and areas of Montreal that shaped his poetry and life. Enjoy an intriguing, kinetic video version of the tour here: This walk through Kellough's Montreal is not only fascinating unto itself, but it provides insights into aspects of this selected poem from Magnetic Equator. Just as Kellough hastens to do in his tour, the narrator of the poem almost immediately begins "wandering the underground city", as if irresistibly (magnetically?) drawn. Kellough reveals that the subway / metro was key to learning about his new home and, as part of that process, re-establishing a new sense of self: "When you move to a new place ... you have to disappear into it before you kind of re-emerge, forged in that new identity." The poem suggests that part of gaining that new identity first involves fully losing oneself: "i ride the metro underground with my fur collar tickling my chatter, metro shuttle station to station, but i don't matter, carapace of white earbuds contains my rude - redemption, i go to work in the heart of a conquered devotion, a thin mist descends over me a blown surrender" but in that surrender, there is redemption. In his tour, Kellough also points out a sculpted poem on a wall near the Mont-Royal metro station. "Tango de Montréal" by Gérald Godin, written in 1983, celebrates in down-to-earth fashion the early rising immigrant workers who keep the city's heart beating. Kellough's poem seems to connect with the protagonists of Godin's poem, with a harsh resolve that acknowledges "i go to work in the heart of a conquered / devotion" and "i can't pretend, i was not born on the equator, i died in the upholstered ease of a sedan, and here is my after" but also with determination to survive even as "the zero of winter ascends."

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