Joseph Kidney

from the Poem of the Year’s 2022 Shortlist: “Shore Leave”

Shore Leave

forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit

Either it could please—even this, one day—or help to remember.
When the rain fell in sparks and our sails, shredded by their catch
            and puttering, gave in so as not to give out,
            when the wind put its back
into shovelling the sea, in the kind of miracle that crises make
obvious, an ostrich, almost messianic, flew.
With its parboiled legs paddling the air, its grafted
cobra of a neck asquirm, it hovered as the clouds
            unloaded their luggage. It brought
            about the hesitation of emergency, not
that I know why, but I still see the caulker,
his hair like frayed oakum, saying
            but the luxury of it.
            The heavens began
to pay out a little rope, and we made
land just as crocuses were implicating
spring. While some gave thanks and some forgave
I spoke my way into believing that some kinds of pain
perfect themselves into a sweetness, that rivers
give themselves into the ocean as the cost of being
defined by the motion of that gift, which I have also
            given, friends who tripped
            and fell into memory
calling me, like a muse to their poem-to-come,
            to come on in;
            the water’s moving.

Alison Goodwin on “Shore Leave” by Joseph Kidney

A joy it will be one day, perhaps, to remember even this.
The Aeneid, 1.239, Virgil (translated by Robert Fagles)

The epigraph of “Shore Leave” closes one leg of a journey, and opens a conversation:
the poet is listening and has something to say. The reader is invited to enter the
reality of the poem, to discover and re-discover other worlds. Aeneas’storm is also
the ancient mariner’s. The white-cloud albatross becomes louring ostrich, because
here, even the most onerous loads sprout meaning and take flight. Connections layer
like nacre, enriching the poem, but “Shore Leave,” with its extraordinary images and
contours, is whole on its own.


Joseph Kidney stands in front of a display case with an open book inside; he is wearing a white baseball cap and shirt, and has a brown beard and brown hair.

(update provided in 2023) Joseph Kidney has published poems in Arc, Vallum, The Fiddlehead, The New Quarterly, PRISM, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed (in Arabic translation), and forthcoming in Best Canadian Poetry 2024. He won the Short Grain Contest from Grain, and The Young Buck Poetry Prize from CV2. His chapbook Terra Firma, Pharma Sea is available from Anstruther Press.

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