Canary in a nursing home


Canary in a nursing home

Suddenly, as if he had dropped
from the stave

of a tree,
this bright

mellifluous note
now balances on a scale

of perches. He is a blithe
untameable thing,

this thing he cannot name,

at the back of his mind
like narcissi

or flitting
like the arrhythmia

of his heart.
At times the music

holds him still
and a jonquil light

beams through two pinholes
in his brain

of a caged soul.


The white room

The room she gives me
is at the top of a rickety stair
and an arthritic floorboard away
from her own.

I must not sleep with her son,
not under this roof.
My fiancé has his childhood room
while I am entombed

inside these white walls
where a former girlfriend
asphyxiated in her sleep
on her own vomit.

Is this my penance
for marrying her son?
I must not show her my tears.
I must arrange my face,

smile as I say my goodnights
even as I need the haemal warmth
of his skin, the thrum of his heart
in my ear.

When the door closes
it seals me off as completely
as an air-lock in a prison wing.
Sleep is a gentle mistake

that I make without knowing.
I dream of my mother
resting on the foot of my bed
before I am wrenched from sleep.

In a heartbeat the light
reveals the print
of someone
on my quilt

and a flicker in the curtain
like a heart's missed beats:
the moth frantic, netted
between two worlds.



Imagine day
and night

the sky inverted,
its dome pushed out

and the Southern Cross
frosting the earth.

Our heaven would be
green as this sea,

our moon
the dangling filament

of an angler fish,
our sun

a lost cargo
of bullion.

And treading
on angels,

the stars in our hair,
we would still

pump shit
into our air. 

Louise McKennaLouise McKenna's first manuscript, A Lesson in Being Mortal, was published by Wakefield Press in 2010. Since then she has had work published in journals such as paper wasp and Poetrix. Louise is at present co-editing the next Friendly Street Poets anthology, due to be published by Wakefield Press in 2012. 

Topic tags: Louise McKenna, new Australian poems



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Existing comments

Powerfully and mournfully evocative, then irrepressibly scatological! Thank you, you made my day with these beautiful pieces.
Barry G | 31 July 2012

For Louise McKenna: my journal, "A fly on the wall--in hell" at It spells out what you have illuminated with your poem.
Rose Marie Crowe | 31 July 2012

Beautifully precise and evocative except I wondered at the choice of `thrum' of a heart. As a word it sounds right, but as a sound it makes me think of well-oiled and maintained light machinery. Maybe I have misunderstood `thrum' all my life.
Damien Dunlop | 03 August 2012


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