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Sadie McCarney Reads from Live Ones

Sadie McCarney Reads from Live Ones

By Press Staff Date: April 22, 2022

Join us for a poetry break – courtesy of a reading by Sadie McCarney, from her 2019 collection Live Ones.





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


bleached-lancet labs,

shipper/receiver for

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.