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Nancy Mackenzie

Nancy Mackenzie is the author of several books of poetry and books for children. A dressage enthusiast and long-time fan of horseracing, Mackenzie lives in Edmonton, Alberta. She teaches Creative Writing at Grant MacEwan University and operates a professional writing and editing service called Bronze Horse Communications. A novel, Nerve Line, was published by Ekstasis Editions in 2014.


Calling in the Ghosts

If the heart is an abyss
I would be a stone
gravitating toward the unfathomable,
but if the heart is a stone
like Marble Island
three miles wide and ten miles long
quartzite measured off by Arctic Ocean shores
a mirage of aurora borealis,
magical animals, and sunken ships
or any other kind of stone for that matter,
I would be, I confess, the abyss I am.
A deep interior closet
a vast, but fathomable ocean
where currents tug and pull
at memory and desire.
And I would trust that stone
to bring me, not home per se, but to a sense
of being home.

After all, I’ve left off finding excuses
and must to the alpine again,
where, perhaps, a heart divided,
I could bear light in a stone, return heroic
with gleaming eyes,
washed clear through to this magical animal
swimming backward against the tide.

Among stones: crevasse; among wildflowers: bees.
Lakes would make aqua mirrors where, tomorrow

I could string a clothesline between two pines
and tonight, before the curtain falls
and trusting to my old weathered hiking boots
this trail and that bus, I will to the alpine again;
friends have tethered my old dog there
as if finding me she would need the rope.

Some kind of echoed hope
It’s quiet.

A thrush bursts from a nest and I feel like I’m folded
in the closet or behind the dishwasher
where I’ve hid (with the Arctic sleeping bag)
from my brother
who won’t let me watch The Wizard of Oz.

I punish him by staying hidden.
The farmyard darkening past dusk,
some chore I forgot to do a sunken treasure
of unintegrated emotional charge. Why else
do I return here to this home? The dog
is long dead, but with me, in my heart,
and I heard her voice last night among the coyotes.

The heart doesn’t feel, it sees.
And looking about while canoeing
with slid-in electricity
echoing off the walls
the crags jut into the sky
above this crystal shore,
and the tangerine flutter of my pup tent
peeks into view, and by its campfire stones
paws crossed, my coy-dog, Enalyion,
voices her welcome.

And then the silence, building its abyss
and sinking into stone.

And offshore amid the mist
ghostly and triumphant, I behold an angel,
who, after this confession
listens to my prayer, I know he does
because of the lessening shadows, the bird
that lifts off from darkened stone, an owl in the night.

A dove, cooing, in the eastern farmyard
while the fiery sun
flares across the Rockies.
Birdsong picked up, like this Arctic sleeping bag I trail to my bed
westward as the light travels through the waxwing wood,
touching every blade of grass, quartzite, clasts of chert, forests,
unto the sea. Unto the sea. Where the red to purple light
sinks and glows and rises like campfire flames
or an angel performing rites and guarding me,
my heart a luminous stone in the deep sea.

Laguna Beach

You watch your mind melt,
relish the long, slow maw
of the ocean’s refrain
as sand slips from beneath your feet.
On your fingers are rings you inherited.
Their power, like shooting stars,
a few ticks of the second hand.
Only beauty like the horizon
with sea fog shades of blue
could turn you from contemplation of diamonds and gold,
glinting on the sets of waves, eclipsing your need to know a thing.

You herald the beginning of this change
with your offer to enter the waves alone
float there out past the breaking point.
As if that were all there were to it,
to change a line of thought
that holds you, line and sinker.

Your freedom is a bliss spun out of threads such as these
and walking up from the beach, mid-morning,
the long, slow wind to the apartment
gathers people, who act as if audience to your conundrum
and plant themselves outside the windows
where babies cry
and below, where pelicans fly,
the waves wash away the footprints
of a little beach girl.
She carries equal measures of water
in each hand, to your door, sets the water down
and joins the throng beneath your window, where
their paean to the sea, lilting, achingly pure
lures you out of doors. You
dive in through this opening aria
lured now by sand and sea in the waves;
a dolphin heartbeat arching wonder on breeze-blown ephemera.

All day you coil like this and spring
gills filled with breath, body a glistening tribute under the sun.
Then wind, atmospheric scarab
flown in on the night, a blue-green gift
from the sea, marks day’s end, and journey’s end.

A beach-pang at the airport before lift-off
centres the turns of your mind like a spine scramble, twist
this California asana vedic course in miracles, anchor, sand, and sun.

What but the practical application of sailor’s knots,
dingy anchors, and tide charts, (the things you use to stay home)
makes you navigator of the sudden impulse?
What is this hunger for living a no-nonsense wish-list
with the sun gone, a sand dollar in your hand?

As the seaplane lands on a northern island
near Desolation Sound, you step onto the beach
hold in your arms the last breath
of the second-hand’s sweep and then it’s gone.
All you have left
as the sea plane departs
is the eternal beauty of the girls diving into the waves off Laguna Beach,
their voices, and a sailor’s knot to slip at the skiff in the bay.


From Crisp-Maned Bay
by Nancy Mackenzie
© 2018 Nancy Mackenzie
Published by Ekstasis Editions