Soldiers ranked: a sanguinary cohesion.
Each pike-man pulled and pushed,
itching to make sawdust of whatever,
at least the flesh
beneath the woodsman’s leather chaps.


During aneurysm, your brain
a chainsaw sans chain.

Its teeth slowed then stump-stalled,
bumpered, embedded in the breadth
of a 200-year-old oak.
Carbide steel nubbed
against the adamantine gnarl of knot.

The kickback of all 72 tongue studs
locked in the intractable darkness
of a ¼ inch incision
where blood and oil look the same.

Aggression, clipped.


Generating gyroscopic angst,
fuming burnt oil blue clouds,
this 20-pound wasp buzzing
the too-small Mason jar of your skull,

Without guide-bar logic
inflaming the meninges,
converting its last gasp of oxygen
to metal clatter and carbon monoxide.

Questions and Answers

What inspired “Chainsaw”?

I don’t remember the specific inspiration, but as usual my background in science and my early experiences of doing manual labour with my father influenced the subject matter.

What poetic techniques did you use in “Chainsaw”?

“Chainsaw” represents a distinct type of poem that I keep returning to. Essentially, it’s structured on multiple “takes” on a given subject. I love metaphor’s ability to show how something (tenor) is both one thing (itself) and something else (vehicle). This type of poem works in a similar way. I love to breach the neat little categories that the human mind is so fond of.

This type of poem is also great to collect up meditations on an object or event, when a narrative framework would force you to reject a number of them. With “Chainsaw,” the image of the huge wasp in a jar and the comparison of the brain to a broken chainsaw came at once, and these metaphors took on a life of their own. I felt that they were both too powerful to be yoked into a straightforward narrative.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.