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Excerpt: Five Poems from Evie Christie's Striking & Vivid New Collection, Mere Extinction

cover_Mere Extinction

Evie Christie's new poetry collection, Mere Extinction (ECW Press), shows a poet at the top of her game, never flinching from toughness and honesty in both content and form.

In poems populated by mothers and fathers, lovers and poets, Christie shows an effortless strength and momentum, a vividly alive kind of writing that leaps to meet the reader. Sometimes darkly funny, sometimes utterly gutting, each piece makes the most of Christie's surreal, keen, lyrical intelligence. 

We're incredibly excited to offer an electric excerpt from Mere Extinction here today, courtesy of ECW Press. Check out these five pieces to get a taste of the full collection.

CW: loss of a child. 

Excerpt from Mere Extinction by Evie Christie:

When Your Baby Dies (Steps for New Parents) 

When your children die of diseases you hadn’t heard of
you take off all of your clothes,
you pluck the full red face
from each Bay Flowers poppy and place them around the body.
     You play
John Prine, you play Guns N’ Roses, Leonard Cohen, Hank Williams’s
Lost Highway.

When your baby dies you drink an entire bottle of champagne and tell the funeral home director
to fuck the fuck off, that they’ll have a body when you’re good and ready.
You lie beside them one more night and bathe them
and dress them and you know what cold is the way
your ancestors did, the way your parents never did. What did they give up for the television
You dress, clip your stockings at the thigh, pin
a brooch, take a big black Buick to St. James Town and beg
the youngish guy in a suit that used to fit him to be gentle. It’s just a job to him,
you think, they probably flip them on the trolley and take a smoke break.
     It’s all a big joke.
“No, we’re gentle,” he says.

You march back over at ungodly hours and demand
to hold your child again and again until they realize you’re a fucking lunatic.
His face has changed, they will warn; say: your face will change, too
and they’ll let you in again.
A month from now you’ll kiss a stranger on a Bloor West balcony
or find salvation in the strip club blow your Ph.D. friends bring by.
     Colour your hair
and take 5000 selfies. But that’s too far away to see right now. Now,

you bring things to be burned with baby.
You stand with the 79-year-old man in the ghetto
that’s being eaten alive by goddamn yuppies and when he asks if you are sure
you can pull the switch and keep it pulled, you say yes sir. You ask for every piece of bone and he does his best.
You hum your way through the thicket of high-rises, The Halifax, The Montreal,
the fruit stand and food bank, the one between Food Basics and the community centre?
And someone says, Hey mama!
Hey mama you look good today! Wave with the hand
not holding the soot that was your first son
And say thank you.


     For Jules Lewis

A hare caught cross-hatched in someone’s great grandfather’s eye
wasn’t it. A great bear cracked open for a deep freezer, a blue-born
this astigmatism, flocks of grief, a wilderness of grief, your great,
great grandmother’s migraines, this body—
they can’t tell you anything.

The hinge swung and both parts parted, my past
and me, the empty fist of time and space choked me,
and drowned me and beat me free
of my ancestry, of the faces in photographs who looked a little like
me. One afternoon I lay against my grandfather’s chest, before
rigor mortis set in, and one evening I dressed my baby
for the furnace. They were the same moment.

And many other times, I walked away from you
and him and him and each time the moment was repeated
and had stamped upon itself, itself. Each time the snare’s cord
was less so and I was almost alone and it was vast.

This story about how your parents met, a common
middle name, the illness born of Ashkenazi blood, none of these,
not the bear your uncle blasted the teeth from in front of your eyes,
or the headaches inherited like an overvalued wedding ring,
can tell you anything about me now. I’m the hare,
twitching and mindless in a scope, escaping or not,
lucky-footed or chained to a key, peeled or whole,
almost weightless.


    After Philip Larkin

How funny it is, tripping the curbs home,
stealing flowers from their soft, black beds.
Even the ruddy drunks falling
peacefully from doorways can see

that I know you love me and don’t care. A pause
in decency, I’m a good girl but still too good
at making quick work of small talk
and fingering buttonholes to be very good.

It’s hard to say: I’ll never make love again, I’ll never be lonesome
without sounding like a ready fool, but if I whisper it
to my husband while he sleeps at night
it sounds like all love, all beauty.

Learning to Drive

    (Notes from my driving instructor + my online yoga class)

A wet road mottled with leaves, the ratio
of red to yellow to orange uncanny. What’s the probability
a deer will jump out and take to your hood
as a latchkey kid to television, but it happens.
Let go. Be present.
Don’t slam on the brakes, it’s bad for the brakes
and you will kill everyone, don’t overreact, pull gently
to the shoulder, don’t process the fear. A green new deal is no good
if the children of lawyers go out murdering all the animals.
Breathe, be a tree.
Take the light-dappled corners tight, hug them,
like a latchkey kid’s kid to dairy allergies, like a Zennial
to a class-action glyphosate lawsuit. A wide corner endangers
cyclists, other vehicles, your insurance premiums
could go up. Be light. Neglect gravity. The future
is whatever we can afford for it to be.


    After Irving Layton 

Poets, other poets
I read know about hunger,
its quiet violence. The poem

starves as you do.
Its mouth a metaphor
for work.

Its sin: vanity, skipping
form and telling
too much.

Repent like today
is the Sabbath of Sabbaths, cut
its throat, bleed it out.

Let it be born again, a slick
new thing into the world. Its breath
fresher, its mouth open

in hunger, in brutality,
its everyday tongue. It doesn’t
need to rhyme.


Evie Christie is the author of Gutted and The Bourgeois Empire. She has adapted plays for Luminato, Necessary Angel Theatre Company, and the National Theatre School of Canada. She lives in Ontario.

Buy the Book

Mere Extinction

“Christie’s audacious writing pulses with life and, yes, movement.” — Globe and Mail

In Evie Christie’s third book mothers nurse babies as the world comes to an end, fathers hustle or drift, the pastoral and the present collide, violence, love, and death gently fill the space and time they have been given. As surreal as they are domestic, Christie’s poems navigate the world they are in, struggle with history, the immediate, and what Richard Polt’s investigation of Heidegger would describe as “the emergency being.”