Michelle McGrane: Featured Poet

Exhibit ‘A’

The McGillivray barn
before the family murders:
To the right you can make out
the timbered stalls, the chaff
scattered across the stone floor
and at the far end
the open double doors;

then, you may notice
the recycled iron hooks hammered
into the central crossbeam.
Six of them, newly installed
by the blacksmith who carried out
the instruction insisting
with a shake of his head
they were mounted too high
for halters and bridles.

You won’t hear the children’s
laughter as they clamber over
the combine harvester in the yard
or see Sissy McGillivray, framed
in the kitchen door on baking day,
wipe her hands on her apron,
call them in for lemonade.


Michelle McGrane lives in Johannesburg and blogs at Peony Moon. Her collection The Suitable Girl is published by Pindrop Press in the UK and Modjaji Books in South Africa.

6 thoughts on “Michelle McGrane: Featured Poet”

  1. I love the contrasts in this poem – the sense of something horrendous and tragic happening as against the domestic ordinariness of daily life. It is all the more powerful for the simplicity of its language – almost lulling the reader into a false sense of security in its ending, before remembering what it is about. I like the way the poem is turned on its head, vividly building a picture and ending with the woman baking, the children playing, taking the reader away from the hard facts building up through the second stanza – the central crossbeam, the hooks too high for normal usage. It left me wanting to know more – as a good poem should. Thank you Michelle and Abi.

  2. We don’t get all the details in this poem, but we are told enough to be shocked and horrified. And what we’re not told makes the story linger longer in my mind – as I consider the possibilities. And I agree with everything that Valerie said 🙂

  3. So sensitively written, it’s sad and it’s chilling at the same time. I love it, Michelle!

  4. Hi Michelle, HNY and all of that. I love this poem, loved it when I first read it too. You may be amused to know that I cut and pasted this and showed it to this really talented young American poet about the use of abstracts in poetry ( he uses lots of them at the moment) and how with simple language, direct concrete reality and confronting a subject without confronting it, you can convey volumes. Your poem was the best example of this I think I’ve ever read.

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