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Best Cyndi Macmillan Poems

Below are the all-time best Cyndi Macmillan poems as chosen by PoetrySoup members

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He reads voraciously

to his young children,
beguiled, somewhat bewildered 
by sweet progeny's relentless 
leaching of his words, his hungry baby 
birds, how their peeps teach.

He reads sporadically
to his father, articles from the paper, 
headlines and bylines for his dad 
has cataracts, now, and velum 
hands shake newsprint, make a rattling 
sound, too like the quiver of cloistered 
skeletons,  all those remains, 
                          all those remains.
There is wisdom in comics, he's found, 
bucolic rings so like old church bells,
tutoring fields through fog.

He still tries to read

his wife,
shared history in eyes,
the geography of long sighs, that topography 
of belly,  yes, yes, a theology 
that spills from parted lips;
bless each rumpled sheet, that chemistry 
which repeats poetry, spoken 
                         in a dialect, so rare. 

He remembers reading an encyclopedia 

in the face of a beggar, once, 
prophetical sparks from high brows — 
crossed currents;  a lifetime recorded, 
an unbound edition, A through Z
but when he carefully turned to C,
he'd found a full entry 
on compassion and charity.

Soon, he'll no longer read music notes

through a soft blur, playing guitar 
for one a thousand times more educated 
then he, this twelve year old girl, 
this preteen, dying, her heart 
an open lecture hall, her smile, 
pure academia. May she ever be 
opus angelorum, that reaches, 
will ever reach, far past 
                        mere hospice walls.

Copyright © Cyndi MacMillan

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Ghost knight, playing Tolkienesque chords
over common, white noise,

I still hear you, cosmic brother,
strumming the songs of pentagrams 
           from your optical guitar, 

like that scene out of Star Wars,
all were always welcome at your wild bar –
interplanetary troubadours, euphoric warriors
or a ninja geek incognito, a wistful rhymer
         who knew truth seldom whispers,
love is the only real free-artistry,
requiring no discipline, no perimeters,
no limits and no definitions

I still hear you, cosmic brother, 
so alive, streaming a high volume 
of colours, blue still holds a torch for you, 
loud and proud,red engulfs night 
without one regret,

but its your delicate gold, my friend, 
         I can never forget

Copyright © Cyndi MacMillan

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Conception and perception swell 
til my poem is born, squalls at its own thin skin.  
Happiness! This is how art begins, a verse 
to nurse, to rock, as wonderment slowly opens. 

Soon, a stanza toddles, uncertain of where to go.
See the twinkle, the peek-a-boo dimple, the stubborn 
try-try again?  Hear the burble, the wail, 
the fumbling whimper, the haunting murmur?

The imp is mothered, though not smothered 
with too much affection or too much pride. 
Love urges exploration, evolution, 
as the poem grows, dares to climb and reach,

and though wayward, I kiss its uplifted cheek, 
send it to school, where great numbers 
will teach it a thousand concepts, a thousand 
possibilities; it may squirm on its seat,

scrape its knees, stammer, develop a crush,
stand all alone while the well-meaning ridicule,
then laugh at its own absurdity, bravely change,
rearrange itself without my permission

as it matures, outthinks me and leaves.
I gift it independence, never overprotect.
It will pack its bags and find a lonely reader,
who will circle words, add question marks,

a ridiculous curlicue, where there was none,
and six odd words will woo a highlighter,
a last line might be underscored,
beside it, a grumble,  Why isn’t there more?

The question will grow, far from the page.
The reader will awaken, pick up a pen,
and though I am dead, long forgotten,
my little poem might grow within him. 

Copyright © Cyndi MacMillan

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I will write

Though a warmonger speaks of detonation 
while locusts fly low
and a million birds are culled
and women are sold like sow
and a cross burns      on a lawn

I will write

While fires gut warehouses
and a bald toddler gets more chemo
as a young man is killed for a phone
as an old man is beaten for wanting water

I will write because

some planes do not reach their destination
SARS steals the breath of unknown saints
comets still travel with tails
the hands of sculptors remain lithely strong
jails hold more than the guilty
glory bends oaks, orchestrates crickets

I will not stop writing

Nothing will silence me

Not ridicule or indifference
Not weeping through walls
Not the wail of sirens or a thousand ruby pens
Not criticism or confusion

Neither threats nor lack of understanding 
Neither love nor hate
Neither time nor space

Not even futility 
can steal or still my words, prevent their release

So as snow falls this April morn, dusts 
crocuses as coffee cools , while my family 
sleeps, with tattered heart and reddened hands

I will write

from turrets and tea rooms
under the ruins of forgotten memoriums
upon pretty walls of sanitoriums

Until each dry bone snaps in the crematorium 

But when I am tossed to the wind
My ashes will sail, strangely

And, friend, even there 
I will write, again

Copyright © Cyndi MacMillan

Details | Cyndi Macmillan Poem |

HOSTEL, 1978

On a pubescent class trip,
I became enamored with impossibility.
Vanishing verdigris yet cosseted 
the L’Auberge de la Paix,* a work-in-progress .

Floorboards slowed gawky treads with furrows.
              Ten feet above, death-row cherubs 
surrendered frail wings, a plaster molting 
advanced by workmen too eager for the plucking.
(The curse of romanticism 
is to perceive the imperceptible.)

Home was a bungalow with suburb secrets, 
while the hostel’s curving staircase 
openly tattled on former hosts
and guests who had perfumed stale conversations
while carrying dance cards.
I could almost hear each half-note baluster —
            treble clef handrail, so smooth  —
orchestrating encounters by the front door,
Bonne nuit, mon amour.

Once, a Grande Maison owned by une l’artiste,
then, a hostel for students in the core of Quebec City,
the building charmed with its soft dishabille, 
stripped layers of faded wallpaper, pooling;
the pong of fresh paint and sanded wood
hustled the dame into the times
with ever-going modernization.

Dorm rooms pouted.

I was not interested in tours
with corpses of cannon balls,
toy soldiers arranged on miniature plains of Abraham,
narrow streets echoing battle cries,
remnants of a lost sovereignty...  
the war of 1759
Why leave 
those thousand phantom pleasantries,
dusty sofas, freedom halls,
air hockey and air guitar,
             new parlour games.

Upstairs, bunk beds awaited roommates 
or daydreams
and creaked somewhat like nagging history 

Romance was a trompe l’oile, 
              a fading fleur de lys,
I can easily recall the coy throes 
of noisy pipes, closet confessions,
giggling, blameless nights
when ghosts dusted every shifting wall,

               altering even moonlight


* Written Aug 24, 2014

*The Peace Hostel, Quebec City
 31 rue Couillard, Latin Quarter, Quebec City

Grande Maison – estate
Une l’artiste – an artist

Copyright © Cyndi MacMillan

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                                     i am with the roots
                                     of flowers
                                     entwined, entombed
                                     sending up my passionate blossoms
                                     as a flight of rockets
                                     and argument

                                     Charles Bukowski,  Penguin Modern Poets 13 


I chose toile wallpaper
in muted blues
since pastoral scenes 
refuse to budge

Pick that, girl,
and you get nothing else

I stood my ground 

Our ninth move,
I only wanted 
the repeating pattern
of that mill

It’s wheel
would never turn

Homes revolved,
doors slammed, 
nothing was ever still

my mother lit sticks 
of manic dynamite 
which drilled holes in walls,
and drilled holes in my father
who lost 
more chunks of himself
every day

Afternoons shuttled me
into corners 
with Bukowski or Plath,
love lesions,
heavy bloodstones,

Evenings, too, never settled,
the wind stayed up,
tippled glasses,
ripped pages from 
my books

But when hell 
shifted even darkness into fester-reds, 
I crept into pastels...
as untouched as the core of flame,
as motionless as Wedgewood

Copyright © Cyndi MacMillan

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                      I am that merry wanderer of the night.                                    
                                        Puck, Midsummer’s Night Dream.

Rob ‘n Good fellow wears no simple guise

and I met him today on even ground,
he tipped a friendly hat, told not a lie,
kindly welcomed me, we spoke in the round.

Rob n’ Good fellow sees through flustered walls,

nudges a cagey fox,  seeds the mad crow,
defends his deep woods where he tenders crowns,
brokers for peace, but readies quick arrows.

Rob n’ Good Fellow, the man about town,

Mischief-in-grin and plan-at-hand,
generous with his liberality,
yet keeps broken humans in his command ...

Still, Rob n’ Good Fellow, imp of affinity.

Copyright © Cyndi MacMillan

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Down in the bowels of Cape Breton Isle
generations of men silently file,
Far from the sun and deep under the sea,
Lord, keep this darkness from shadowing me.

Father mined coal like his did before,
His ghost holds vigils on the tattered shore,
I was but a lad when death set him free,
Lord, keep this darkness from shadowing me.

Black dust stings the eyes then fills my chest,
And this heavy pick won’t let the mind rest,
My helmet lamp barely gives light to see,
Lord, keep this darkness from shadowing me.

These tunnels blind us from all save regret,
What hides in catacombs none can forget,
Dreams unfilled, gas that feet can not flee,
Lord, keep this darkness from shadowing me.
Last month an explosion claimed forty lives,
Disciples were made of their grieving wives,
Leave no man behind, a miner’s decree, 
Lord, keep this darkness from shadowing me.

The air is so thick that I can taste night,
It takes just one spark for walls to ignite,
This morning my son joined the company...
Lord, keep this darkness from shadowing me.

He’s a good boy, but I don’t want him here,
He follows my fate, a parent’s worse fear,
Lord, please watch over my large family
and keep this darkness from shadowing me.

to take a tour of a Cape Breton coal mine, to see how dark and dismal the life of a miner is please visit
Dedicated to my father-in-law, a miner who was electrocuted and survived.

Copyright © Cyndi MacMillan

Details | Cyndi Macmillan Poem |


Once, it sold cultivated 
pigment, before it became 
a catacomb of cardboard drapes.
Makeshift out-of-business signs
made me wonder if the gallery owner 
intended his display,
subtitle: irony frames rage. 

Gone, the watercolour 
weeping chartreuse, a harsh backdrop 
of morose blues; Gone,  the oil 
on wood, knife strokes applied 
so thickly, it almost moved; Gone, 
charcoal sketches of thunderstorms 
greying the shores of Port Elgin.

Dark, now, halls that sheltered 
dreamscapes, art undisciplined, squeezed 
into corners, elbowing for attention. 
I ache 
                                for one dove 

that clung to an azure sky, 
the coo of my name, 
but I'd been unable to take him home 
to my cube cage. He deserved 
a rectory or a view that would provide 
sanctuary. His wings had beat against 
pulse points; one feather
tickled a memory 

of a robin that aimed 
for a cloudless sky but
collided with a picture window —  
its point of contact left a scarlet smear.
Grandmother carefully wrapped 
the corpse in yesterday’s news.

I trudged to the garbage can, 
unseen, found D-E-A-D
in its shroud, snuck to the garden 
and buried it under tall phlox, 
florid snap dragons; a child sobbing, 
wrenched by a world 
where beauty is fragile, 


Today, people walk along the street, 
hold devices that fail to signal
that something living slowly
starves to death, atrophies; I watch
a happy girl point to a puddle, 
but her mother fails to see 
the large coin it holds.

There had been a portrait, 
like a sun shower, its perfect fault lines 
of light and rain, a woman shoed in waves, 
almost overtaken, her footsteps 
stolen by unnatural foam…
I am so sorry, artist unmet, 
do you even know 

                                you've flown 

into a shut window. 

Copyright © Cyndi MacMillan

Details | Cyndi Macmillan Poem |


Casting his line, a love affair,
despite charcoal clouds and damp air,
my father would patiently wait
and trust in his favorite bait
for sweet solitude was rare.

Heaven, to him, was a low chair
by water, mouthing a prayer,
mom would gripe he’d stayed out too late
          casting his line.

Dad’s tall tales were beyond compare,
one pike was no match for a bear,
I miss how he’d ruminate...  
now, his rod I appreciate, 
so I take the greatest of care
          casting his line.

*written Dec 6, 2012

Copyright © Cyndi MacMillan