Sadie McCarney Reads from Live Ones
Join us for a poetry break – courtesy of a reading by Sadie McCarney, from her 2019 collection Live Ones.
LAST SUMMER AT MELMERBY BEACH
Like troops we round the bluff,
half the family, goose-step over
poison oak and rickety stairs,
We lug chairs, the ostentatious
umbrella big as a flowered igloo.
Someone’s new iPod bleats out
“Everything’s Alright” from Jesus
Christ Superstar. An uncle’s Nikon
winks as seagulls scavenge half
a sandwich from its crust of sand.
The last Great Aunt is the last
to disembark from the Lincoln
Town Car with her rock-a-bye gait,
skin thick and marbled as vellum.
By now her innards are carved up
by the cancer, metastasized every
way like the night’s last firework.
Ablaze, and then dead. She knows
she’s come on the Farewell Tour,
to dip the tip of her violet-tinged
foot in the Atlantic and breathe deep
its saltwater spray for the first time,
the last time. Her kids rub Coppertone
snake oil on to broil with their towels,
the marram teased out like a big
hairdo on the dunes. Her kids’ kids take
driftwood spears and hoist jellyfish
to taunt just-met cousins. (Every-
thing’s alright, yes, everything’s fine!)
We all clap as the Nikon captures
her step into the seawater, the sandbar
crunchy with dulse. Her toe taps
the frigid surf that laps at the shore
like she might dance away from us.
Somewhere far. Somewhere else.
And now you heave
your pallets of the dead,
their shucked-off husks
all gifted to Science
to help the hungover
who would be doctors:
a fatty liver’s calcified
ridges, like Rockies
the size of a fishbowl
fort; the neat sortilege
of brittle old-man bones.
In class, they’ll name
and groom the cadavers
like house cats, but you
do rounds of your own,
like the night you said
you’d split for the bar
“just after this album,”
but got blazed, forgot
that eight-tracks loop back
around for hours. Again
you traipse the bulk
of bodies in silence
past the med school’s
a ghastly cargo. Again
you label the unlucky
rodents, their natural
labcoats white as spittle,
and again…At last you
twitch awake in a hospital
bed. An IV juices you
up with Lasix, your
arms julienned where
the nurse jabbed it in.
They bring morphine
so you float in a mint-
green haze, and med
students from back then
scrub in as your surgeons.
Bright lights, your pink
offal-guts on a screen,
and once again you
heave your pallets
of the dead at 4 a.m.
past doors like decisions.
Quiet, sterilized clean.
Sadie McCarney’s first full-length poetry collection grapples with mourning, coming of age, and queer identity against the backdrop of rural and small-town Atlantic Canada. Ranging from pellet-gunned backyard butterflies to a chorus of encroaching ghosts, Live Ones celebrates the personal and idiosyncratic aspects of death, seeing them as intimately wedded to lives well-lived. Personal myth-making collides with grocery shopping, ancient history turns out to be alive and well in modern-day Milford, Nova Scotia, and the complexities of queer female desire call out to us from beyond the grave.
Sadie McCarney’s poetry has appeared in The Walrus, Plenitude, Grain, Prairie Fire, The Malahat Review, The Puritan, Room, and The Best Canadian Poetry in English, among other places. This is her first book.