Paul McGuigan

Paul McGuigan graduated from the Hagley Writers’ Institute in 2011 and was awarded the Margaret Mahy Prize for Year 2. He is a regular reader at Canterbury poetry events since 2010 and his interests are sailing, cooking, mountains, books and people.

The Knife

Paul McGuigan 2013

The blade is curved, with a deep belly,
it ends in a cut back point.

It is made from carbon steel
that has a rated hardness of 59.

The type of steel and its hardness
makes it difficult to sharpen.

He sits in the sun, for an hour,
the whetstone precise on the blade.

He checks his work, shaving the hairs
on the back of his left hand.

When the hair is gone, with a rawhide strop
he patiently rolls the edge.

He parts the wool, placing the heel of the blade
on the lower lateral muscle, under the ear.

He lifts up and back, a rotation, while holding
pressure under the chin, and the spinal cord parts.

Soon, very soon, a carcase hangs on the gambol
cooling in the concrete shed, the killing house.

He washes the knife in ice cold water,
dries it, folds it into soft cloth.

Opening Boxes

Paul McGuigan 2013

the undertaker comes
to disinter his memories
each in a closed coffin
he lays around my house

I unscrew the lids
and we contemplate
the corpses, some decayed,
and others hardly dead

the bones in each box
have a sound track
Van Morrison, Coltrane, The Clash,
and where is Joe Strummer
when you need him

we eulogise
a man made good
who once sold class A’s
to an undercover D
and consign to the pit
a well-known man
whose good repute
is not worth spit

the bones of past love
lead to talk
of lives led not
in pursuit of happiness
but the pursuit of experience
warm skin, cold nights
high mountains, river gorges
and the sense to notice

I have to go
so he packs boxes
like Russian dolls
and leaves in the Lada