Ken Massicotte ~ Five Poems

The Only Ones Left in the World
First Months

It was win­ter and snow­ing hard. I was dri­ving to get the oil changed but came to a church. I went inside but at the Eucharist felt too alone and had to leave. I’d left the car run­ning, and the pine mir­ror, which I’d refin­ished years ago, had bro­ken. The top was jagged and glyph­ic like a shard.

A cor­morant came to me in a large room, open to the sky, high above the town. The adobe brick, still warm, and the air pink and gold­en in the dusty vista. It was majes­tic but I knew it was wrong — the hunter with its open wings dry­ing in the final rays of sun.

A small white van drove by and ran over my hand. I had a rock but didn’t throw it and I didn’t yell. It was a desert­ed rur­al area. The van went up the road and stopped at a stop sign. The dri­ver got out with a long rifle and start­ed shoot­ing at my wife and me. We had to crouch down and scur­ry to cover.

I was with two young Japanese women but one of them was going grey. She was clean­ing the thick planks of a weath­ered deck, marred by black rain. I was des­per­ate and ask­ing if we were the only ones left in the world.


I was run­ning along the flat rooftops of a city, jump­ing like a cat between build­ings. I came to the end and had to drop down about 30 ft. I need­ed to let go of the sil­ver blan­ket and use my hands.

Large black garbage bags were rolling in on a white-blue ocean, but as they neared the shore they turned into stat­ues – pol­ished ebony Buddhas, their faces sat­u­rat­ed with sadness.

In a mead­ow by the sea, the breeze was fresh and soft. I was claim­ing I could scale a wood­en fence, 15 or 20 feet, and climb down the oth­er side. But the fence stood on the edge of a cliff, the drop to the sea pre­cip­i­tous. When out by myself I found a coil of rope. A warder accused me of want­i­ng to escape and locked me in a room, but I knew I could pre­tend I was too afraid to leave.

I was walk­ing on a long steep road through green rolling hills, then fly­ing miles above the earth. I could see a vast dark for­est and an oil-black riv­er. The spo­radic lights of a dying city where I’d once lived. The blue tears in the China Sea. And draw­ing me to the south­west­ern sky, the jew­els in the hunter’s belt — fatal por­tal to the swirling mass of gas and inter­stel­lar dust. The pink glow of hydro­gen fuel­ing stars like beads on a string. The arms and spurs like rag­ing rivers feed­ing the infi­nite­ly dense black heart.


The Woman On The Underground

it could have been street art
a woman on the Underground
stepped onto the train crying
del­i­cate in cropped leather jacket
Chelsea boots, a vin­tage scarf
stop after stop with no refrain

fifty meters deep
tears stream­ing down
in the loud, packed train
a sun­ny week­end morning
small, beyond us in her grief

a lit­tle girl looked up and kept look­ing back
her eyes wet with worry
as she watched not knowing;
her lit­tle broth­er tried a ner­vous laugh
no one knew what to do

watch­ing each oth­er watch­ing her –
eyes dart­ing like trapped birds –
like an orches­tra, tuned to her sorrow
we couldn’t begin – her grief
too naked, too great, too plain.

when we left my love touched her arm
and whis­pered some­thing I couldn’t hear;
she nod­ded and accept­ed this kindness
and we walked away, as every­one would,
hop­ing she had some­one waiting.


Like Harold Fry

He had learned that it was the small­ness of peo­ple that filled him with won­der and ten­der­ness, and the lone­li­ness of that too.
     Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

He would walk like Harold Fry
on a mis­sion though noth­ing grand
down the back road out of town
like the guilty before him
pun­ished by rain and gods
ford rivers, see the moon rise
cold under tall black pine.

He’d take noth­ing, just the faith
he nev­er real­ly had
that he would find a copse
or stream in an elder forest
where he could disappear
alone or with others,
like penitents.

He would leave a note, no
some verse to explain
how he hid like rep­tiles hid
prayed he would die in his den
woke to the mem­o­ry of sharp teeth
and fleet­ing human faces
he’d scan for threat.

How he’d lived in cold rooms,
become a teacher, sang in a quartet,
won first prize in the local paper –
a morn­ing shot of a red fox
lumi­nous in a sud­den shaft of sun
lop­ing across the wet green lawn
beyond the wall of the black stone abbey.


Old and Before Fire

His lone­li­ness was pure and exquisite
like a sin­gle rifle shot at dawn.
Bitter like the final flare from a raft at sea.
It shamed like desert blood rain,
shift­ed like a snake in river­side grass.

It was the room he lived in –
the fridge motor churn­ing cold,
the fear of roach­es when he hit the light.
It was where he wait­ed in house arrest
dri­ven by bouts of shal­low breath.
The space bear­ing down
as he held the frightened
Dobermans against his chest,
and calmed their rac­ing hearts.

It was a deep moun­tain lake
sur­round­ed by tall fir,
black but for noon when the sun hit,
cold but for June and the wan­ton solstice.
You couldn’t see it from the path,
it was miles from any road
and the places peo­ple lived….

Urgent like blind hands, like cave bats,
old and before fire.


Hungry as Marble

She came in rags and feathers
from the copse behind the cottage

from the gar­den by the river
the cove down the wet stone steps.

She must have slept there overnight
she was from my past but I did­n’t long for her

and now my love was pre­tend­ing to be old
walk­ing hunched like she need­ed a cane.

She came to our cot­tage, to the open door
I watched her climb in the hon­eyed light

weight­less on the wood­en rungs
her nip­ples scar­let like for­est berries.

The torn suit and van dyke
pubes­cent on her pale face

tilt­ing sad­ness like a Noh mask
curv­ing like a cres­cent moon

hun­gry as marble
for all the suf­fer­ing we could bear.


Ken Massicotte lives in Hamilton, Ontario. He has pub­lished in sev­er­al jour­nals — Wilderness House, Gray Sparrow, Poetry Quarterly, Ginosko, Crack the Spine, Matador, Sleet, Grain, Rat’s Ass Review.