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Issue VI – SACRED / FAITH – Brad Casey

But my madness with myself was part of the process of recovering health.
- Augustine, Confessions, viii (19)


Matisse wrote that to paint a rose one must
Forget every other rose ever painted first.
So fuck the roses. Who has the time. I ought to be
Asking the difficult questions like:
Where does my mental health end
And the planet’s mental health begin?
It’s stupid to write about flowers qua flowers.
They’re not a fertile subject.
It is now five days waking angry enough to strangle Morrisey
Watching my former idols
Immolate themselves for my edification,
Watching the Jenga blocks of my life
Wobble in a sexy and seductive way.
This day I despair only of myself.
Ecosystem and civilizational collapse
Is not how the papers read explicitly
But I made a lifetime’s work of
Reading between lines.
I came here to the botanical gardens
To make myself feel at peace with
Sharing this garden with an
Errant yellowjacket, my mortal fear
Mindful that this suffering I feel
Is also a gift and that
Pain is essential to revelation.
The magnolias are spectacular right now, Charlotte.
I wish that you could be here to see them with me.
A storm of blight and being and ruin
In attractive order of substance and form
Yellow as piss and pink as blood
Beauty you can watch rot in real time
If you’re not doing much with your day.
Sometimes flowers are so beautiful
They make me want to kill myself, Charlotte.
I don’t know why you killed yourself
Because we were barely friends
And hadn’t spoken since high school
But I am not above admitting
I have an inkling of that desire in myself.
Tess Liem wrote
Not these exact words
But close enough, that
The poet can make absolutely anything
About absolutely anybody
About herself and thereby
Make it about everybody
If only for a moment.
I’m sitting in a wooden chair
Having my Augustine turning
Outward in the garden moment
Writing my second attempt
At a poem about you, Charlotte.
Until four weeks ago, I had been a lifelong
atheist. I cannot tell you what has changed
But to quote Ariana Reines
my secular life, if I had one, is over.
I can’t tell if this feeling that I’m feeling is Me
experiencing the presence of the Godhead in life As
my great-grandmother did and wrote about, Or if
I’m having my first psychotic episode As my father
did instead
Or if there is a difference between the
two. What I do know:
The magnolias drop their comically large
petals Around my feet and in my feelings of
despair The Godhead or whatever
Has sent a ruddy cardinal
And a red-winged blackbird
To alight among the magnolia
Branches in front of me
A coincidence I interpret as a symptom
Of the hope I need to cradle in myself
If I hope to make it out of life alive.
Is this by mistake or design?
The corniest thing about losing your
mind During a ‘pre-psychotic episode’ is
Under its influence your brain
Delivers an experience that feels
More or less exactly how you expect it
to As if you’re following a script
Proving that your mind is
Really not that special. But then again you know
that Life is cruel in this same way.
Sina told me tears are cheap in poetry but It’s
important to me that I be honest with you, reader,
Right now I am listening to schmaltzy pop
While tears are streaming down my face
Torso rippling with gooseflesh
Brain imbalanced in certain chemicals
Feeling and seeing a connection
To an order of being and knowing
Something larger than myself
For the first time.
My great-grandmother wrote of it as
Beholding the glory of all things: every leaf, Every
blossom, every particle of air glittering like a Gem
with its own fire.

Charlotte, I needed to survive you to feel it
I wish that things were not this way
But know that no one
Can change how things were
Or how they will be
They only describe the way things are
And how things feel for them.
Right now it feels for me that life and
death Wasps and flowers and God and
puny me Are one and the same: a gross
And uncountable intelligence
Experiencing being through itself.
I needed to survive you
And to read every book that I had read
Seen everything that I had seen
Thought everything that I had thought
Taken every cock that I had cocked
To know it, to know it
Surely as our own feet
Lead us down the primrose path
To hell or madness or salvation.
I do not know if these feelings and thoughts flow
from Some ~ Spiritus Mundi ~ shit
The everlasting universe of things
Exploring itself through my
Pudgy and decaying flesh
Whether this feeling comes from
A fallen angel, the cannabis I’ve smoked
My genetic predisposition to mental
illness Dopamine flooding my synapses
Coupled with poor life choices
A tendency towards calculated risk.
I’m trying to let you know, Charlotte
Because you aren’t here right now
Exactly how it feels
Down to the neurotransmitters
To the wax of the magnolia’s petals
To feel as though I’m knowing
God = death = life = void
In the flight of this cardinal and this
blackbird But suspecting I’m losing my right
Though I’m not even the ten thousandth
White man with glasses
To feel this holy mania
Not even the first in my family
To commit these thoughts to
The effete and ineffectual medium of words
The son to my semi-estranged unmedicated DADDY,
Whose individual reality diverged
From consensus reality some years ago.
But what is poetry if not psychosis
With a little practice in enjambment and end rhyme. What
is poetry but seeing the cardinal alight on the magnolia
Knowing the beauty of the magnolia and the bird Lie in
their very transience
The passing of the flower into rot
The bird from sky to branch to earth
Indispensable from my joy
At the sight or scent
Of its petals dropping to the ground
Or the cardinal singing a sweet
Ditty that reminds me
Spring hopes eternally
The cardinal’s flight my anchor here
Between what is real and knowable and not
Among the living and the dying magnolias
God has either sent me
Or has not, trembling before the
Face of a wild and vast intelligence
Somehow I got tasked with deciding which
Picture of the facts aligns with how it is.
Me, pasty klutz drinking corporate kombucha
Spiked with white supremacist Kool-Aid we call
culture Buying plastic shit online on Amazon
Stopping to smell the roses
Cumming on my stomach
Reading dead men for theology and
Living women for how to live in grace
During the Anthropocene
Living off of usury from future generations
Shitting my pants in fear of something I can’t name
Doubting, because my middle name just so happens to be Thomas but
Knowing I can see the Godhead in these flowers, Charlotte That my
life has taught me what I need to know to tell you that Though you
are not here and these flowers are
I can smell their lemony
Salami odour, I can watch petals fall
I can find a beauty in their suffering
Just as I can in mine




Jake Byrne lives in Tka:ronto, cka Toronto. They won CV2’s Foster Prize for Poetry in 2019. Their debut collection, CELEBRATE PRIDE WITH LOCKHEED MARTIN, was published by Wolsak & Wynn in 2023. DADDY will be published in 2024 with Brick Books.