Katherine Bitney


Born in EnglandKatherine Bitney grew up in Saskatchewan and has spent most of her life on the Canadian prairies. A founding member of the Manitoba Writers’ Guild and Prairie Fire Magazine, Katherine is the author of four books of poetry: While You Were Out (Turnstone Press, 1981), Heart and Stone (Turnstone Press, 1989), Singing Bone (The Muses’ Company, 1997) and Firewalk (Turnstone Press, September, 2012). She co-developed the concept and wrote the text for Cantus Borealis, a choral piece on the Boreal with composer Sid Robinovitch, which was premiered by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra in April 2011. A fifth collection of writings, The Boreal Dragon, essays and meditations on nature, was published by Wolsak and Wynn in June 2013. She has worked as editor, mentor, creative writing instructor, and arts juror for over 35 years in Manitoba, and holds an MA in Religion from the University of Manitoba.  Katherine lives, gardens and writes in Winnipeg.

I am Not Grief

I am not grief, I am not suffering, not pain. I am not the shards of myself. I am not the words I speak nor the stories told of me. I am not the silences I keep.

I am not grief, I am not the things I grieve. I am not the standing forth of sorrow. I am this: an old bird in a body half its age. Still dancing in the dark like everyone does, still hunting the house of the mind for the right door, keys clanking at my side and which door, which key.

I am not the long threads I drag behind me, nor the faces you see and do not see, the gestures of my hands, not the dance of my hips and knees. I am impatience, pacing and tapping its feet, hands hunting for a cigarette to burn away empty the minutes. I am refusal and a powder blown off in a light breeze. I am here and not here.

I am not chains, not the voices of strangers you hear speaking from my mouth, pulling the left arm of my larynx, or the right. The left sings like a bird, the right shuts its teeth on my tongue. Won’t let a breath pass through the voice box. Cold, an ice field, clear unmoving crystal. No sound and no words. I shout at it from the left of my mouth, it clamps its teeth on my tongue. How cruel, you think, to try and wake the dead. Do you want me to speak do you want me to let out the shout or the strangled cough caught somewhere in the bronchi?

I am not the rage you want, not the horror. I am not the trapped nor the one drowning. I am not loss, not terror, not the one wrapped in a spider’s web, not the fire of rage not the thunder strike of astonishment. I am not the body shaking on its own. Not that body but another dancing its tale, streamers dragging off the fingers.

  • A new poem from Katherine Bitney