Excerpt from "Waste Not The Marrow"



These pieces are excerpts that represent the first phase of MA|DE's second collaborative manuscript, Waste Not the Marrow, which follows hot on the heels of our debut manuscript ZZOO, forthcoming from Palimpsest Press. Each piece in Waste Not the Marrow consists of a stylized photograph of a collage-sculpture crafted independently by MA|DE member Mark Laliberte, as well as a text produced collaboratively by both members of MA|DE that responds, self-ekphrastically, to the artwork. We see the work as being hybrid in at least two ways: firstly, as a hybrid of visual and textual literary creation; secondly, as a hybrid of independent and collaborative work. 

We also see Waste Not the Marrow as an experimental approach to ekphrasis. It often seems to us that many contemporary poets writing ekphrastically approach their subject in a way that has not moved far beyond what John Keats achieved in “Ode on a Grecian Urn”: they concretely describe or narrate the events implied by the artistic work, and offer brief philosophical commentary thereupon. Furthermore, the textual component of ekphrasis is often written as a solo endeavour.

In Waste Not the Marrow, however, our approach is markedly different from this traditional one. Having one of our members create the original artwork and presenting it alongside the text allows us to eschew concrete descriptions of the artwork altogether. Working collaboratively, we create ekphrastic texts that move laterally rather than literally, approaching their subjects indirectly so as to radically expand the original artwork’s field of vision. Together, we are able to imagine and construct a vivid fictional-poetic world in which the characters of the sculptures exist.

We are grateful to the Canada Council for the Arts for their support of this work.


                     — for Cole Swanson

Taiga shed the mammoth steppe
and emerged into the holocene,
laurelled with spruce and larch,
holding this bone bouquet—
ilium of lagomorph, fibula of elk.

Erosion is decked with ribbons.
Spur or clot, waist knot this
skeletal elegance and waste
not the marrow. The sun
frets at the hand of the horizon.

In the snow forest, frost is coquetry,
subpolar foil to the coming regime.
Calamity will arrive, ready to undress
the seduction of inevitable life, holding
its own against time's wall of flame.

Freeze follows thaw. Now & again,
survival consumes us, scatters us
ashen-faced across the landscape,
or takes us where we stand, claws
clasping the acid of evergreen.


If I’m haunted, it’s because you’re not
here & I still am, circling the vitrine,
adorned by a porcelain bedsheet,
wearing ideas like accessories to
see how they play against the eyes.

Does this thin container keep us apart,
stuck in your flux? No last condition,
just vitrified time, when slowness
becomes something solid. You hide,
while the world continues to seek.

Male phantasm, full of intention,
greater in height than breadth: recall
the body, watch it glide inside the ache
of itself with deep, unfaltering ease.
Without you I go on, forgetting by anatomy

alone. Even suspended, memory is only
a temporary amity between us. Drop that
primary problem into cold, glassy faith.
The future, waiting for you like a faint star,
or a knotted rope, hanging with possibility.


My death rattles, kinked
across the collarbone,
stripped to a stucco
staccatoed white.

Reinforced lip to
unfinished neck,
tresses trespass in
crevices that crack
to a stratosphere’s
open-air secrets.

I doctored this potion
— bitter quotation, a
granuloma of seeds
pearling from fruit
sweet as sunlight
mixed with sugar milk —

then spilled my spell
with poise & grace
down a dead throat,
waited for it to speak.


In the sheen of neon,
the fine hairs of your
cheek luminesce to blue,
your face a small moon amid
the vacuum of that dark hall.

You swallow your cough,
choking on matted hair or
cigarette smoke that went
astray. Body in pressurized
silence below the pinch,
you grow queasy in the
viscera, gut hazard-signing
to the hiccups of life.

Then you’re laughing.

There’s a pain in your chest
that could be clotted arteries
or a heart cracked like an
ashtray & you’re laughing …


Snowflakes in the headlights
conceal the impending catastrophe

of random junk hurtling
towards you through space.

You have a lot of ground to cover
as a rabbit or a bouquet of flowers,

pressure nibbling you, pushing up
while you are hidden in the roots.

The only survivor left inside the warren,
you poke your head out of the underground

long after the animal squeal of car tires has
subsided, climb to witness the cliff’s edge.

There are the black lake eyes of cervidae,
contemplating their sad altitudes, which

no longer belong to you. Time has made
you feel like a stranger in your own home,

everything above the top of the summit looks
distant & cold. Like magic, you’ll disappear.

MA|DE (est. 2018) is a collaborative writing entity co-founded by artist/writer/designer Mark Laliberte and writer/editor Jade Wallace. MA|DE’s writing has appeared in literary journals internationally, as well as in four chapbooks, the latest of which, Expression Follows Grim Harmony, will be published by Jackpine Press in 2023. MA|DE's debut full-length poetry collection, ZZOO, is forthcoming with Palimpsest Press in 2025. More: ma-de.ca

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