What the body knows

a poem by

 This poem is inspired by the recent discovery that life trauma can be passed down family lines. The poem considers whether or not the body also remembers joy.

Photo by Samuel Zeller

WHAT else does the body know, knowing now its knowledge
of traumas coded in the blood, the acid, the building blocks

We might be two thirds exile and one half shock of
unplanned pregnancy and how many tenths raging and

abusive with two sheets to the wind and so many fifths
anxiety and fear, cowering with some nervous habit

of the hand on teacup traceable to the red-haired highland Scots
impotent against the British, fulminating

some dark turn of the mind descended from Idi Amin
and the soldiers at the roadblocks expelling them

like Adam from paradise to a new and winter wilderness
But what else does the body remember more? Are joys too

written in the body like how many parts per million of mango secreted
slyly from the neighbour’s tree and eaten high above the ground

with skin and pith piling up below How many ounces of Gaelic songs
sung with warm rum toddies, carding wool and you hidden below the table

And then the mukhi’s visit or a friend’s and what words of comfort
written in the blood And are joys also written, joys too inherited

Something more than traumas but a legacy of happiness with
its small protest against the dying stars that we must be quick

to save lest turning like Eurydice back to hades we may one day
turn no more



Priest + Poet

Having spent more than a decade writing weekly sermons, quiet day addresses, and occasional essays, the resurgence of significant health issues in the past two years returned me to a daily practice of writing poetry. At first, this was an attempt to give voice to hope and faith in a dark and difficult time, but has subsequently grown to become a way to think about family history, about my religious vocation, and about the seeds of some of my personal struggles.

My greatest inspiration are my wife and daughter–their love calls me back from the abyss over and over again. I am also deeply formed by a complicated and rich family history. More and more, I find myself reflecting on themes of exile in my family and, also, culturally. This includes, on my father’s side, the relatively recent expulsion of the Asian community from Uganda during Idi Amin’s rule in the 1970s, and on my mother’s, the long-ago exile of the Clearances in Scotland that precipitated a move to Canada.

I am a native of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, a small community at the edge of eastern Canada’s largest city. I have taught in at the University of King’s College, Halifax, and hold graduate degrees in English and Theology. I was ordained priest in the Anglican Church of Canada in 2006, and have served on the Canadian prairies, in Cleveland, Ohio, and most recently, as rector of the historic St. George’s Round Church.