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*Contest runner up*
Poetry by Luke R. J. Maynard

A Mighty Insult (Upon an Anthology of Canadian Poetry)

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Published September 24, 2015
Socially engaged poetry,
fiction, photos, visual art,
and spoken word.
Poetry, visual art, photos,
fiction, and spoken word.


To think you could sound the shape of a man
by the echoing wingbeats of birds!
Tips bend, highlight-yellow, on current suspended in white space:
the bird is the Word.

Titmouse flutters battering rapid-fire staccato birdbeats,
Gull clumsy as hunger-muddled adolescence flaps,
shoves strength earthward—
Eagle holds shoulders steady and the world flies for him.

Eyes age like brown-gray sparrows,
flesh-nested homebodies;
reflections glide in their lingering wetness.

To break free and soar,
trailing optic nerve dripping the viscera of imagination!
Not to be a cartoon, a body in theory,
carting theories room to room with
slow plodding gait of Man,
benevolent despot, generous of captivity,
On six legs trotting in the gathering dark.

There’s a bird in the lofty nest of that head:
content to stay silent, the bars of bone draped
with the shade of woven skin.
It flutters at night in dreams,
picks at worms of morning thoughts,
and dreams its own dream of no more shade,
winging wild under sun feeding sparrow eyes of its own.

The life of words is short: their tiny hearts
beat so very fast.
One flight, across a room, and they are spent.

The sage must be a hive,
a spawning pool, a factory,
a place of captivity, generosity, fertile of wing.
Being a nest, a home for strays, is simply not enough,
in spite of all love.

Between rooms in cloistered pigeon-holes
flit bird-eyed bodies, eyes tethered
by optic nerves in cranial nests, peeping for scraps.

Who will nourish the children of our skulls?
Only an owl of a man, mind like talons
To wit, to woo,
Catching life in midair by its hollow bones.

A Mighty Insult (Upon an Anthology of Canadian Poetry)

It is a mighty insult to the ilk
Of Margaret Atwood, and of Leonard Cohen,
This fine anthology. When first you go in
Past dedications, past the Introduction
Erected like a plaque upon the text,
And happen on the graven reproduction
Of “Suzanne,” or “The Settlers,” stand perplexed
At just how
small these paintings are, how solemn,
How out-of-context, like a broken column
From Elgin’s basement, miles and years away
From honeyed sunlight here—and here to stay—
You realize the book is a museum,
Half carnival, half gaudy mausoleum.

The quick have been laid down here with the dead,
And crowned with stone, while fire yet crowns their head.
This very hour, she stretches out her legs
After too long a reading—still she stands,
As if too young to sit. He scrambles eggs
Above a hotel kitchenette. His hands
Are bony now, but they still clutch the pan
With all the fierceness that a younger man
Would need for cooking eggs. The sound-check comes
Tomorrow afternoon. Vans full of drums
And stage-lights trundle to the concert hall.
Someone brings Margaret coffee, and a call
Is placed to someone of importance far away.
New words are born, while earnest students pray
For good exam grades, with their heads bowed low
O’er lines laid down ten presidents ago.

We speak of them—our voices fill the tomb—
As if they were not standing in the room:
“Here lies the soul of Leonard Cohen”—while
His body doffs its hat, then cracks a smile,
Then goes about its private life offstage.
Here, in the mausoleum of the page,
We celebrate the dead, embalm the living,
Brandish the skull, and contemplate the death
Of Yorick, while old Yorick still draws breath
And looks upon us, laughing and forgiving
Our foolish hands for playing with his bones,
And telling his old jokes in reverent tones
That set the table on a somber nod.
The dead—the truly dead—must think it odd
That we have here so eagerly entombed
Beside the truly dead the merely doomed.

The coffee is atrocious. With a dour
Expression, Margaret sips. The cream is sour.
The organizers taste it too—but drink
Their curdled coffees. The familiar stink
Is somehow satisfying. Far away,
The green hills echo: lowing in dismay,
The solitary cow whence came that cream
Is roused by pain, as if from out a dream.
Distended teats swell with neglected milk.

Luke R. J. Maynard completed his PhD in English at the University of
Victoria in 2013. His poetry, short fiction, and literary criticism have
appeared in anthologies and journals across Canada and the United States,
Transverse, Sparks, and Eighteenth-Century Fiction. He has
taught literature at the University of Victoria, Huron University College,
and Western University, and currently lives in London, Ontario, Canada.

Poetry Contest #9 Results

We will fill in these spots as poems are published. Join the email list to receive

1st -
"On Our Birthdays" by Kathy Fisher.
2nd -
"Finders" by Kathy Fisher.
3rd -
"Adam Never Ate the Fruit" by Sharon Goodier.

Seven Runners Up (In random order)
-"Later Trains" by Anna Yin.
"The Odyssey" by Anna Yin.
"Wash Away" by Catherine A. MacKenzie.
"Disrupting Chronology and Definitions" by J. J. Steinfeld.
"through spaces between words" by Jovan Vuksanovich.
"Biauguraphy" by Luke R. J. Maynard.
"A Mighty Insult (Upon an Anthology of Canadian Poetry)" by Luke R. J. Maynard.

View current contests on the
Submissions page.