Kelly Norah Drukker | BASEMENT/CLEARING

I dream a basement
in a boarding house

and I must go
down into its splintered

silver light searching
for cargo and machinery

crouched in corners
everything flashing

black and white—
hours pass, scraping

grate and lift of metal
in my heels and bones,

I drag the pieces up the stairs
and through the door,

into a daylit world
the colour of tea

where people sit in twos
and threes eating laughing

drinking then a voice
decides that I must go

down the flight again
to find a flashlight I’d

forgotten, blinking silver
strobe, and three young men

appear to help me
scour the concrete floor

we see it lolling in the corner
of the space I’d cleared

with heavy lifting climb
the stairs to learn

that no one cared or knew
my hours of labour

in the craven light—
and then the basement’s

gape becomes an opening,
fills my ribs with knowing:

no longer will I scale the dark
to carry burdens not my own.


Photo by Andreas Kessaris

Kelly Norah Drukker is a Montreal-based writer and doctoral candidate. Her collection Small Fires (MQUP, 2016) won the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry and the Concordia University First Book Prize, and was a finalist for the Grand Prix du livre de Montréal. Petits feux (trans. Lori Saint-Martin; Paul Gagné) appeared with Le lézard amoureux in 2018. Most recently, Kelly’s work was a finalist for the Accenti Poetry Contest and the Montreal International Poetry Prize (2022).