Mackenzie “Kenzie” Blaney is an insightful poet attending Bellevue College. Following below is their poem, “And Their Stories Continue…,” and an interview with them.
Content Warning: The featured poem has mentions of rape and abuse.
“And Their Stories Continue…”
Note: The lines that are italicized are from poet and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jericho Brown.
Your grandfather was a murderer.
I’m glad he’s dead.
House of stained glass, wisteria draped
Over a white picket fence. Bullet wounds
Covered by American flags.
“What a lovely family, what a heroic man.”
Not a wrinkle in his white dress shirt, a man of God.
War couldn’t hurt him.
Grammy, your daddy was an abuser.
Lilac bruises under pink checkered dresses
Playing catch, playing chase.
Run, little children, run.
He taught his sons how to throw a punch
Before they could read: they didn’t know any better,
Practice targets don’t know any better.
Pain is a relief from silence
and ignorance is bliss—
Momma, your grandfather was a pedophile.
Closed doors, closed hearts,
Close your legs and cover your chest.
Watch out for the lingering pest.
He’ll sit you on his lap, 5 and 8
still his wandering hands over lace fringed skirts.
Children, your great grandfather was a deceiver.
Credentialed rapist vs daughter of no standing
Died in good faith, no one knows a thing.
“What a perfect family, what a genuine man.
Laid to peace in red, white, and blue, we salute you.”
Your family salutes: champaign cups raised
A toast to the living.
Q: Why do you like writing poetry? Why is poetry important to you?
A: Poetry is an emotional outlet for me. I find it very therapeutic. At one point in time, I hated poetry, as I thought it was just frivolous love declarations and rhyming. I would associate it with sitting in a stuffy classroom with a teacher breathing down my neck as I tried to answer the meaning behind Shakespeare’s works. As I grew, I became more curious and noticed that when I was the most overwhelmed with my mental health, I would gravitate toward writing lines. I started working on establishing this skill for my own health and curiosity, and I’m so glad I did because now I can see the true beauty of poetry. It’s not just a way of writing, it’s a way to express yourself when you don’t have the words. It’s a way to communicate with people around the world. In a way, I view it as another language. I believe poetry is something that can bring cultures together, even in the most trying of times.
Q: What is this poem about and why is it your best piece of work?
A: This poem is about the narrative that my great grandfather built vs the true person behind the façade. It’s a thought piece, in a way, of how easily people can be manipulated. You never know what is really going on behind the scenes and I wanted to show that.
However, it’s mostly a piece I had in admiration of my surviving family. It is a recognition of the victims whose lives continue after their abuser’s death. They can now move on and live fulfilling lives despite the trauma they’ve endured. Their stories continue, as the title says.
Q: Do you plan on pursuing poetry or a writing of another kind?
A: While I will continue to write poetry in my life as a hobby, I don’t believe I’ll make it a career. I will be getting a bachelor’s in creative writing, so some of the skills needed to write poetry will follow me, but I don’t want my work to become inorganic or stressed, and deadline-based.
Q: Do you have any words of advice that you would like to share?
A: Something I mention a lot when giving advice to my fellow writers is to write what feels good to you, not to others. Something that used to hold me back was a constant fear that others wouldn’t like my poetry or wouldn’t understand it. While to an extent, you should make sure your poem has a narrative, try not to worry about what the reader will take away.
Every poem is different and not everyone is going to read it the same way you intended. For this poem specifically, it was about manipulation and my family, but some people took it as a narrative about America. This isn’t a bad thing, it doesn’t mean I failed at writing my poem; it just means that someone interpreted it to what they may have needed to hear or what was significant to themselves. Having a poem that is versatile in meaning can be a good thing, so don’t beat yourself up about it.
What I’m trying to say is to focus on pleasing yourself first before others. This is ultimately your time and your art and if you enjoy it, then it’s doing what was intended.
If you are interested in viewing more BC Poetry Profiles, click here.