Kathleen McCracken

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points Is A Curve

Kathleen McCracken

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The canoe is camouflaged.

Blindfolded, I am kneeling in the prow.

At the stern a stranger

paddling hard against the current.

This could be the Mackenzie

the Athabasca or the Miramichi

more likely Angel Glacier, those frozen

outswept wings pinned to Mount Cavell.

It’s snowing when he executes

a perfect eddy turn.

I’m bound but bite

his knuckles, raw as rain

and taste the sparkler fizz

of metal, his gold ring fracturing.

White water, the proverbial

bend in the river –

the canoe capsizes

and there’s my father

winnowing the shallows, salvaging

his coat of bone and feathers.

He looks back across the rapids

and turns the two of us to silt.


The neuroscientists call it

sleep paralysis

that can’t move can’t speak

freeze frame dream state

is the middle brain

gone hyper-vigilant.

My father favoured thresholds

believed transitioning through stasis

empties on the open range

of random synchronicity.

Once upon a time

a snow fox grazed his hand

just as he was drifting off

and I woke wondering

where is the river now

the one deadlocked my limbs 

as I watched him retreat  across the floodplain

to a smokeless timberline?

Kathleen McCracken

Canadian poet Kathleen McCracken is the author of eight collections of poetry including Blue Light, Bay and College, shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for Poetry, and a bilingual English/Portuguese edition entitled Double Self Portrait with Mirror: New and Selected Poems. She was a finalist for the WB Yeats Society of New York Poetry Competition, the Montreal International Prize for Poetry, The Walrus Poetry Prize, and the CBC Poetry Prize. In 2019 she won the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing. Kathleen is currently Lecturer in Creative Writing and Contemporary Literature at Ulster University, Northern Ireland.

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