Two Poems from This is a Stickup

Amber McMillan’s This Is a Stickup (Wolsak & Wynn) weaves together images of nature and wildlife in a gripping exploration of grief, loneliness, perseverance, and wonder. Elegant and bold, these poems inhabit tumultuous waters and confront dark crawl spaces. With this collection, McMillan curates a space for readers to linger in moments of both deep grief and undiluted joy. Below we share two poems from This Is a Stickup.


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Two poems from This Is a Stickup

I’m standing at the source and know everything
is blowing streams of translucent ghosts – powder,
albino bats – forming an arc above the skyline
at its peak, a torrent of particles landing far away
in an unseen, silent pile. There’s an outbreak, a squall
of rowdy birds all hey where you bin and the workhorse
of my optimism goads me onward. There’s a battle.
There’s pitiful meaninglessness. There’s erosion
and there’s a current. I’m holding something small
in the palm of my hand, but the symbolism fails me.
I’m awake but afraid. I’m awake, thankfully,
at the beginning of this decade and think, You’ll
know a sonnet when you see one. Then It was love,
it still is, but we have to talk about something else.
That woman described the emptying ghost that follows
her through the murky garden of her sleeping mind.
She runs, she said, and when it’s close enough
to touch her, she has just enough time to gasp for air
before its arms are up and through her sternum,
pulling and unfilling her insides to the floor.
She’s walking the block in circles – see? – begging
God to spare her just this once, to spare her just tonight.

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Amber McMillan
is the author of the short story collection The Running Trees, the memoir The Woods: A Year on Protection Island and the poetry collection We Can’t Ever Do This Again. She has won a Penguin Random House award for fiction and was shortlisted for the Montreal International Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in Maisonneuve, Arc, Global Poetry Anthology, Room, The Walrus and other publications across North America. She lives in New Brunswick.Author photo by Nathaniel G. Moore.

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Thanks to Wolsak & Wynn for sharing these poems from This Is a Stickup!For more Two Poems, click here.