Giovanna MacKenna

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the poet

Giovanna MacKenna can be found looking at the black bits of life and finding ways to make them shine. Her work has been published by Nine Pens, Robida, Abridged, SouthChild Lit, Bear Creek Gazette, Brag, Tether’s End and The Speculative Book 2021. She can also be heard on the Eat the Storms poetry podcast. Giovanna is currently working with The Museum of Loss and Renewal Publishing on her debut collection.

the poems

Someone else's ending

00:00 / 01:40

            My father’s ending came first. It was surprising
            to him, to me.

            He saw it there, immovable before him

            as if all other life had been replaced

            by a gaping chasm of death, bleeding

            across his once-expected future.


            I kicked and screamed and wept and stabbed at it. He
            stepped calmly, readily, into its black, silent embrace.


            My mother’s ending was postponed, delayed by her flaming energy.

            She was affronted by death’s early arrival;
            the decade she had counted on, reduced to months.

            She was not pleased.


            Her ending nearly broke my life.


            She bare-knuckled her way to an extra year

            denied her ending, at the end

            clawed back a scrap of living

            from death’s sure hands.


            My mother stole the minutes, hours, days.

            She made death wait

            and wait

            and wait

            until

            with every slowing beat

            each failing organ an affront

            she keened for her life as it left her.

Stranger

00:00 / 01:17

            After your funeral, in a house weighted with people
            you had known and loved and loathed, I stood, under
            the narrow attic stairs and turned the pages of the book
            I’d made. The book with photos that showed you grow
            from bold-eyed infant immigrant, to blazing adulthood
            to crochet-wrapped and smiling in the hospice garden.

            Visitors flowed around me, bitter coffee and tiny meringue
            clouds flavouring their talk, easing discomforts. A woman
            I didn’t know hesitated as she passed. I grasped her hand,
            pressed pen to palm and asked, Will you write about my mother?

            Later, when there was nothing left but dirty plates and echoing
            rooms, I found the stranger’s words for you: She took me in.
            She taught me how to make an omelette, so I would not go hungry.

Hidden/object

00:00 / 01:07

            It is the thing you find at the back of a drawer
            when clearing out your mother’s house.

            It is the object nestled in the dusty, fly-corpsed
            grey of a wooden corner amid layers of old
            receipts, rubber bands, dry pens and keys

            that have lost their doors. There it is, silent
            crouching, stealthy, the one small thing which
            at first glance, has no form other than its mystery.
            It is the fragment you salvage, dust off, polish
            slowly with the corner of her old blue cardigan.
            It is the thing you hold to your breast as you
            sink down onto the pins of your grief.

Publishing credits

Someone else's ending: exclusive first publication by iamb

Stranger: Tether's End Magazine (Issue 1)

Hidden/object: Things to Do with Love (Dreich Themes)