Rags of Night in Our Mouths by Margo Wheaton

Margo Wheaton’s Rags of Night in Our Mouths is a rare lens, distilling time and family along the Tantramar Marsh in Atlantic Canada. An autobiographical long poem written in the ghazal form, Wheaton’s accomplished minimalism pulls the reader, like Dante’s Virgil, through the narrative with a poignant absence. Her beautiful verses of paining gradually reveal a loss inseparable from metaphysical reflection. Within the first few pages, we too feel how, “Loneliness has been here/ so long, it’s a tenant.”

Ordered by number, each verse is witness while also acting as metaphor, a rag of “the history we’ve twisted like sheets”. Loss is latched to Wheaton’s poetic reflections. “What was” collides with the need to reconcile “what is”.

While described as Maritime Gothic, for those of us “from here” or who are long-time settlers in this place, there is a stronger more affecting hardship of “what is” that resounds through Margo’s text. Her immersive and evocative language, leading the reader more deeply into Rags of Night in Our Mouths, is also a conjuring of the familiar. And although this pain is not ours, some of us have a sense of what it is to “say love, affection, security. Warmth. Then/ choke, rags of night in our mouths” and know how “Years after everything’s walked away,/ I’m still here. Trying to Jimmy the locked barn door”.

An intricate weaving of emotional currents centred with keen precision structures the whole of Rags. Here, Wheaton confronts generational alcoholism.

“In the marrow, echoes of generations
falling: there could be more—
the dark thirst in the blood
is a clot that’s still travelling the length of our lives.”

Employing poetics like Maritime weather—ethereal and atmospheric—each verse articulates the inescapable realism of the present while calling to memory: “Listen. This language is winter’s. A primal/ speech of branches clanking in the wind”. Wheaton’s lyrically searching Rags of Night in Our Mouths—“the one white bone/ I’ll fight you for”—must meet what is unreconcilable as well as inevitable—decay and the dissolution of the forms we loved, and love still.

Margo Wheaton is the author of The Unlit Path Behind the House, which won the Fred Kerner Book Award from the Canadian Authors Association. She was born in New Brunswick and lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ McGill-Queen’s University Press (April 5 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 80 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0228011167
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0228011163

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KAYLA GEITZLER, MA, is from Moncton, within Siknikt of the Mi’kma’ki. “A Rad Woman of Canadian Poetry” & Attic Owl Reading Series host, she was Moncton’s first Anglophone Poet Laureate. Her first poetry collection was a finalist for two awards. Kayla is co-editor of the multilingual anthology Cadence Voix Feminines Female Voices. She was a technical editor on pipeline projects & designed ATC courseware. As an editor, writing consultant & instructor, Kayla's affordable expertise helps writers & organizations achieve success.