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Death-Black and Starbound

Bruce McRae

This is Cain, a desperado in the deserts of his making.

This is the killer sun, its fang. This is the dangerous

earth, made more treacherous by man, who murders

indiscriminately, whose violence is a way of beauty.


And this is where blood comes from, the wound

a second navel, Cain's mark a birthmark, a third eye,

a scar. This is the gun as an extension of the self,

an accessory to fashion, a doorway into dying.


And here, the discandying bullet you can almost touch,

the ribs a cage to this gunmetal bird, how the flesh

will part and the heart embrace it; and the sinner

who perceives this as the highest compliment.


This is the house of death, its egg-and-spoon race, its unfortunate spree.

The drum of death. Death's human-song. Death's wire. Death's

broken wing. A sonless death. Death's acre un-daughtered. This

be the lighthouse Death. Death the stalker, drifter, fossil, shade.


Before me, some awful fly, unlike the angels of Mons.

These words are of its voice. Out of the ground. Out of the air.

I can see them. I see through them, the scarecrows shaking

with cold, dusk seeping away, the gnarled pines bristling.


And what if the woman had died in childbirth? What if

Barabbas hadn't been set free? What if the suicide-assassin

changed his mind? What if the tyrant touched the hem of God?

What if the bullet froze mid-flight and hangs there still?


And after the end, what then? When the light recoils what happens?

Death, which is often in error, is never in doubt.

Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician, is a multiple Pushcart nominee with poems published in hundreds of magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and the North American Review. The winner of the 2020 Libretto prize and author of four poetry collections and seven chapbooks, his poems have been performed and broadcast globally.

Bruce McRae
In the Elsewhere

Stephen Kingsnorth
Three Feet

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