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Bruce McRae

Down By The River


Remembering the blue rose and white poppy.

Remembering what it is to forget,

then coming back to my senses on a flight over the pole,

coming back to myself after the long division,

memory’s little fists pounding on an iron door

like a little boy looking up at an impossible wall

of an improbable castle.


Remembering all the weeks and words in a journey,

going from book to bed and home again.

Aided by memory’s wingmen, recollection and recall.

Abetted by the flash cards of photographs and letters.


It’s all coming back to me now,

everything I’ve ever misplaced, given away or had stolen.

The dead pets. The lost worlds. The rainy evenings.

Then another memory, its coat slung over a chair’s back,

a cascade of fizzling ganglia and snappy synapses

firing rapidly at random and creating

an interior picture-show for the old-at-heart,

memory’s lodestone attractive and filing towards

a false north of the mind –

so what really happened didn’t really happen, or it did,

but more like that and less like this,

and next time we’d do it differently, we’d do it better,

or, hell, not attempt it at all.


Remembering twilight’s shrine and tony wilderness.

Remembering the tiny Buddha at the heart of the bell.

Remembering dog-howl in the all-day gloaming.

The racket of pigeons over London’s rickety roofs.

The slant snow and ice-riddled forests.


To a point you can’t remember

all that you can or can’t remember,

the mind’s theatre determined to play itself out,

its setting every place you’ve ever considered or been,

the cast familiar, you’ve seen them before,

sharing a bus ride or in an advertisement –

so memory is like a circle then,

it begins where it ends,

a little house in the past, a ghost-written ghost story,

good things and stuff jumbled up with the bad.

Storms before dusk, then wondrous nightfall.

This Poem Is Banned


For saying what needed to be said

when nobody wanted to hear it.

For telling stories out of school,

naming the names, pointing the fingers.

This poem has been banned because

powerful people were made to feel uncomfortable.

Banned for eschewing protocol.

Because someone powerful insisted.


While reading this poem

you might conclude it’s right

that you act and think for yourself.

Having this poem in your house

suggests you may be harbouring certain leanings

others would consider unacceptable.

You don’t want soldiers kicking in your door

over a silly poem. Do you?

You don’t need a veil of threats

or your mouth smashed in with a rifle butt.

Be reasonable…


Because this poem is strictly forbidden,

like counterfeit currency or certain truths.

It might instigate a rebellion

or a national debate. There may be

peaceful protests, which could lead to

(very possibly) rioting.

Reading this poem is strictly prohibited,

every other word blacked out,

its author lying low while on the lam.

Shadowy figures from shadowy agencies

are standing over you, declaring:

“This poem is taboo.”

Little outlaw, this poem is contraband.

I didn’t write it. But whoever wrote it,

I wrote it for you.

down by the river
this poem is banned
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