Before Going to Sleep as a Boy

I saw Him when I closed my eyes,
Gazing down sidelong, seeing all,
Serenely, stoically wise.
I knew that judgement was to fall
But found His habit was to look
Past me—a boy’s vain hope, as He
Was of his conjuring? I took,
As a boy might, one way to be
From that indifferent, manly face,
A constant way, the prospect bleak,
Perhaps, if measuring by grace
For one inevitably weak,
By flattering bounty, or by joy
We might deem fitting for a boy.

In this I took from what I knew,
And knew to worship, what to fear,
To love, to do and not to do.
I also knew the desperate tear.
For love, though it sustained me just,
Seemed fleeting and at times unreal:
I found betrayal of the trust
A child ought always know and feel.
The feeling often seemed to flee;
The knowing held at last, that face—
My father’s likeness, I now see—
Though ashen, yielded that stiff grace,
Steadfast, despite the sea-storm greys
And dreadful mystery of that gaze.



Unfashionable Advice
to One in Need

Eschew the fateful glance
And solipsism’s trance.
Sit with the truth a while.
Whatever forms your style
Or drives your thoughts and acts,
Gaze coolly on the facts,
Your history shaped by chance
Or iron circumstance.

For in such knowledge lies
Our peace, though pain and tears
Be due, as compromise
Expires with hidden fears.

As bonfires do the past
Put rhetoric to flame,
Or purge it in the blast.
Forsake the ugly game
That egotism plays,
The dire polemics, cant
About false anodynes,
The artful cynic’s lines,
The calculated rant—
Give all of that the blaze.

Hell feeds the ego’s pleasure,
Until you lose the measure
Of all we know as true—
Then, lost, you lose anew.
Be calm. Respect the real.
Doubt self and what you feel.
Expect no comfort where
You face the steely stare
And infinite reproof,
The cold regard of truth.



Tiree MacGregor began publishing verse with The Epigrammatist in the early 1990s. Since then his poems have occasionally appeared in print and online journals. He taught university English for many years in three Canadian provinces and now works as a freelance editor. Born in Scotland, he lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

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5 Responses

  1. Monika Cooper

    These poems seem to be saying a similar thing two ways: about the salutary severity of Truth. I like them both but I really love the first one, especially the final lines, simultaneously a portrait of the speaker’s father and God: a rich, haunting, unfathomable face.

    “For love, though it sustained me just. . .”. This line also arrested me. Why did love, with infinite resources, keep him on that hungry edge? It’s one of the things love does sometimes, for reasons of love’s own.

    • Tiree MacGregor

      Thank you, Monika, for your observations. They are much appreciated.

  2. C.B. Anderson

    I very much like, Tiree, the way you put ideas together. In this respect you remind me of myself, and I hope you take that as a compliment. Your words are more analogical than strictly logical, which is how I like to frame things. I doubt I shall ever tire of ruminating on your somewhat elliptic arguments.

    • Tiree MacGregor

      Thank you, C. B., for the very considerable compliment. It’s nice to hear once in a while that one is not an idiot, isn’t it?

      Well, no doubt I take a liberty there. Anyway, while I perforce admire the syllogism, the argument in a poem can often profit from an indirect directness.

      • C.B Anderson

        So true, Tiree, and may you ever keep to that path.

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