“It’s the Dead He Can’t Sit With” by Rayanne Haines

Poetry Pause is the League of Canadian Poets’ daily poetry dispatch. Read “It’s the Dead He Can’t Sit With” by Rayanne Haines.

It’s the Dead He Can’t Sit With

by Rayanne Haines


after my mother died,

i wore her hoarding like a veil

so i wouldn’t have to see

a future without her.


my father is living inside her leftovers.


my siblings and i let him purge

because we want to hold onto everything

he doesn’t, take back the things we bought

her from trips, both abroad,

and closer to home. we claim

child rights so he doesn’t pitch

her chipped china set out the back door

with the other broken things covered

in dust and her thumbprints. we are, in part,

fueled by anger and sorrow, and also,


a desire to finally, now, control what we couldn’t

before. i brought mom a magnet to add

to her collection whenever i travelled.

on the fridge, scenes from:



The Galapagos Islands





Costa Rica


told tales of places she’d never see.

i bring dad one from my latest trip to Scotland—

because i wear tradition like a veil as well.

he tells me he’s planning to throw out

her magnets. right there

at his granddaughter’s junior high school concert

(which is the place i tell him about

my gift, in between

the profoundly terrible acts two and three).

as my mouth hangs open, he says, “unless you

want them? you can come have them.” and i

must reconcile (right there

during my niece’s solo song about loving

god), that some pieces of mom must be let go.


at the back of the freezer, we found

one unsmoked cigarette, frozen,

in saran wrap. she quit smoking

thirty years ago. kept the trophy

always said, “i might start again. i haven’t decided.”


undecided on where her final resting

place will be, us siblings carry mom’s urn

from house to house to house, holding her in stasis

from month to month to month. dad, unable to sit

with the dead, leaves her to us.


still, he cares about living things—

the dogs, two fish tanks full,

the ancient horses in the back pen.

the mausoleum of pigeons he’s started hoarding

Rayanne Haines (she/her) is an award-winning author, educator, and cultural producer. She is the creator and host of the literary podcast Crow Reads, is the President for the League of Canadian Poets, and teaches with MacEwan University. Her third poetry collection, Tell the Birds Your Body is Not a Gun won the 2022 Stephan G. Stephansson Alberta Literary Award and was shortlisted for both the Robert Kroetch award and the ReLit Award. She’s been published in the Globe and Mail, Minola Review, Fiddlehead, Grain, Prairie Fire and others. A poetry and essay collection exploring grief, identity, and gendered trauma is forthcoming from Frontenac house September 2024.

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