BC Poetry 2017: "Next Door to the Butcher Shop" by Rodney DeCroo (Nightwood Editions)

Black Columns

I could sleep for weeks in this bed, the black columns
of this room protecting me from the light. Indigent father,
your ghost haunts the bus stations of Appalachia
seeking your cross-eyed war balladeer,
a toothless banjo resting on his hothouse knees.

The draft dodger, your brother, died thirteen times
in Canada his ashes spread across Minnesota skies
like acid rain or grey tears returning to boyhood lakes 
of eternal summer. He couldn’t repair your fractured face
or make disappear the greased stain of your M-16.

I live in a room in a terminal city. They pay me
because my head is broken. The relentless rain
striking the windows is the faint echo of gunshots
three generations ago through the fog of Europe.
I am your son. We have earned it like a wage.


Rodney DeCroo is a Vancouver-based singer/songwriter and poet. Born and raised in a small coal mining town just outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he has called Vancouver home for years now. He has released a previous collection of poetry, Allegheny, BC (Nightwood, 2012) and seven music albums that have received critical acclaim in Canada, the USA and Europe. Music critics have named him one of Canada’s best folk/alt-country songwriters.


Next Door to the Butcher Shop explores the permeability of memory and uncovers heart-wrenching beauty from shadowy grit.

How quickly age
descends on us. Our memories are maps
to places that don't exist. I was an emperor
on a green lawn wearing a white sheet
and a paper crown. The birds sang my praises
from the hedges and the trees

DeCroo unsentimentally recounts moments suffused with grief, longing and loss, and offers a refreshingly unfiltered view of one's self.

I'd stand for days along the edges of expressway
to sing off-key into the screams of semi-trailers and cars
until I stood within a cocoon of silence and flashing shadows

In a deft combination of lyrical and visceral imagery, Next Door to the Butcher Shop offers a rare, sharp, first-hand perspective of life around the edges, with dark comedy dispersed throughout.


Coming May 2017.


Book Launches: TBA.

Purchases: From the Harbour Publishing website or at your local bookstore. If you're in Vancouver, Rodney recommends People's Coop Bookstore (and I do too!). $18.95.


Refreshingly unfiltering one's self-view.

The copyrights of all poems included in the series remain with their authors, and are reprinted with the permission of the publishers.

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