wasps, someone from another unit
thought them wasps—the shells. buzzing

overhead—flying scythes
in grain. ingrained. in

the black watch, they don’t learn the word
retreat. it’s nowhere to be found

on the training fields of mcgill,
in the folds of a kilt. 305 of 320.

i imagine dali.
stalks of some indeterminate grain, stretching into
fingers digging their graves.
the shells—leaving guns,
and by their speed and ferocity,
sprouting wings and stingers:
transforming into wasps just before the
boys based in montreal.

three hundred dead led by a third-string jr. officer
bullied by

(a grammar school headcase, a man at war
with his wife and the ghost of his

a general.

soldiers, pieces of soldiers—at rest, at peace again.
fertilizer for the indeterminate

grains of verrières ridge, normandy,
the summer of ’44.

Questions and Answers

What inspired “grain”?

This was a poem written when I was working a small series of war—specifically WWII—poems. There were some accounts from veterans of specific battles and situations that led to this particular poem and its images.

What poetic techniques did you use in “grain”?

There’s some metaphor and use of imagery in there, among other things.

This poem “grain” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 164 (Spring 2000): 56.

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