Karen Solie

Karen Solie was born in Moose Jaw and grew up in rural southwest Saskatchewan. Her latest collection of poems, The Road In Is Not the Same Road Out, was published last year in Canada by House of Anansi Press, and in the U.S. by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. She is the 2015 recipient of the Writers’ Trust Latner Prize for a poet in mid-career. A volume of selected poems, The Living Option, published by Bloodaxe in 2013, is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Her third collection, Pigeon, won the 2010 Griffin Poetry Prize. She was writer-in-residence for the University of St. Andrews in 2011 when the idea for The Caiplie Caves took root. An associate director for the Banff Centre’s Writing Studio, she lives in Toronto.


The Spies

Where two convene, a third is always present.
This makes the world seem small

and satisfies our need
to be observed and understood.

Polishing a cup behind the bar. In the background,
weighing grain. Hovering over us

a few paces behind, or racing ahead innocently
buzzing like a toy, like the boy

who bags your pheasants then
reports you to the king.

The scenery interprets us
and we are also the vigilant scenery,

sanguine in our right to own the frontiers
in our photographs, drop

some payload, linger at neighbours’ windows
with trauma sensors all lit up,

remotely rat each other out
with the assistance of an airborne scrap

of the 21st-century unconscious
beside which the old machines of delivery appear

inefficient, comical, overlarge, like a Quaalude,
and quaint as any former bond between

the watcher and the watched.
Laws of causality and continuity reside in

the vertical din. For over such forms as my heart
is wont to range, did my eyes then range . . . .


Sauchope Links Caravan Park

Gulls up at dawn with swords and shields,
if dawn only in low season, in the week

we can afford. My love, who navigated with a Silk Cut
in his wheel hand the unfamiliar roundabout

to the A915 at Kirkcaldy, sweeps droppings
from the paved deck like an owner, with his whole

heart. He grew old not thinking about himself.
So it follows our vacation home is not ours, but let

by the company on certain conditions, for certain uses
pertaining to quiet enjoyment of sea views

beyond the lower lots, signed for with
the understanding our energies likewise

be applied in the company’s interests.
The dogs we don’t have must be leashed, our wireless

fee charged daily. Here is the rent reminding
tenants they don’t own, interest confirming

for the borrower to whom the principle belongs.
Here is the insurance to tell us we’re not

safe. Here is the loophole which allows it
to not pay. The week he’s scraped together is now his.

My old man, who raises his spirit like a lamp,
collects Stella cans tossed from the raceway

down the hill overwritten with gorse and cow parsley;
and who, discovering the bulb beside the door

burnt out, will, cursing happily, replace it with the spare
I laughed at him for stowing in the glove box.


The North

Where should we find pleasure,
dwelling in the north? Amid the stunted,
perverse, desperate plant life clinging
to its edges, animated by atmospheric
animosity or neglect, of two moods,
fragile and invasive, gaze out to sea

but character bent inland?
Why defend our poignant attempts
at agriculture, our futile
entrepreneurial nerve? The defining
mid-winter festivals performed
in a somnolent rage? The leisure class

proclaims the value of hard work
above all else, and we labour under
frost-cramped statutes, the black
letters of legislation, in hog-reek
and land-driven slag, middle-aged
from birth and, given our devotion

to slander this place, illogically
xenophobic. We could as soon move
south, as rise above it. Is character
inseparable from what one does
to stay alive? What is a self
but that which fights the cold?



We possess the simple tools, the DIY project kit. The project
is ourselves. He doesn’t talk lack, doesn’t
think lack, He thinks like a millionaire, why shouldn’t we?
It’s our spiritual heritage to enjoy our prosperity.
The Air1 Team meet daily to forward requests
to the Mighty Warrior Intercessors

Army. Terry from Paisley who needs help with rent
and whose arthritis pain attracts the neighbours’ judgment
could be well pissed appeals for prayers
that Tiger the cat be completely cured including cancer
get more traction in the virtual community.
The intensity of my dream made me unclean until evening.

Walking unsteadily on the ice at night outside the beer parlour
we might, like Bothelm of Hexham, fracture
an arm; but whereas by a splinter of Oswald’s cross was he made whole
we may wake more broken, more wrong, to another
in a series of excuses: My office prevents me
from being with you at this time. Whenever I take an Aleve,

Terry, I’ll think of you. Anonymous thanks us for efforts
compelling her husband — who, though a literary scholar,
is careless in the matter of eternal salvation —
to sever his relationship with the other woman,
casting that particular mountain into the sea, etc.,
and vouches for the Prayer and Fasting CD, and free relic

with online purchase. Before a miracle is sorrow, distress, trouble.
After a miracle is sorrow, distress, trouble.
When the Romans abandoned them with instructions —
Live better. Shun error — and to a shitstorm
apparently relieved of all opponents, in spiritual anarchy
the British turned on each other, a violence compounding

their misery. There’s limited fortune in the world, it seems,
or a distribution problem. But I go to sleep trusting
my damaged face will be restored as a sign
of love. And extend also my intercessions for Helen, alone
since her Westie, old and full of days, “companion
of companions, friend of friends,” went the way of his fathers.

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