Frances Boyle: A Poem

Frances Boyle

The Sky is Unnatural

Shrovetide, the banishing of winter 

A morning of dawn-treading, 

a rented cottage, a marshy lake.


Yawning noon after sleepwalking. A parade

of tiny ants, redolent of old rites, fears

converted to straw-stuffed rags. 

A rough-made doll.


Blue-black vibrations, worn-out moon

wanes. Two fish—no, there’s a third— 

whiskery fish invisible in water, bump

against logs.

       The abstract shame that surfaces 

in memory, a shape filled by twisting

vines that grow along my nerve endings 

as a bounty of zucchini spreads

in the cold frame. 

I check

my phone the way I used to smoke:

to distract, to pull myself away from intensity

to boredom.

                        The jar 

empties, the jar will refill, and a courgette

seems to be a cucumber when I reach 

for it in the crisper. 


The sturgeon bright, the salmon bright, 

but which is which? The way I look 

                                              at the bathing 

moon realigns my face to the active crime 

of not knowing. The sky is unnatural.


If this shell 

is hard to drink from, I’ll scoop up 

what’s calm, what’s beautiful. I’ll place

gladiolas on this beribboned doll, the burning

Marzanna, fill her arms      


with poppies. But I must not

look upon the effigy, drowned, aflame, 

or s\he’ll inhabit me. 

                                     I shift

from complicity to focus, a ghostly habit.

Hairy stems, scraps of red  

will mark her whelming, and mine. 


        The Marzanna sits up, ripples wash. And I 

surge upward, rise from the shallows, grasping

vines that float upon my palms.

            from Openwork and Limestone, by permission

Frances Boyle’s most recent book is Openwork and Limestone (Frontenac House 2022). Her first novel, Skin Hungeris forthcoming from The Porcupine’s Quill in 2024. Raised on the prairies, Frances has long lived in Ottawa on unceded and unsurrended Algonquin Anishinaabeg territory. Visit her at 

Photo by Miranda Krogstad