footsteps in the garden

footsteps in the garden

footsteps in the garden

New and selected poetry by Bob MacKenzie

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footsteps in the garden

New and selected poetry by

Bob MacKenzie


Welcome, one and all, to Mr Mackenzie’s garden.

Take a footstep (or four) into its domain. What do you see? Gardens neatly attended, sparkling in the sun? Plots hidden, overgrown, demanding attention? After the experience of decades of writing and performing poetry, Mr MacKenzie’s garden is all that. “The shadows walk among us”, he warns us, “stories dark and unrelenting” he adds. Footsteps in the garden? The first steps into a journey into Mr MacKenzie’s mind (call me, Bob; it’s easier). Is there a cause for this dis-ease? Maybe in his poem entitled “Footsteps in the garden”, we might find a clue?


“when birds go silent,

chipmunks and squirrels

rush to the underbrush,

the wind whispers soft

then goes dead quiet

leaving only a vacuum


I can feel them come,

the silent footsteps

along the forest path

echoing my own steps

until I stop and turn

and there is nobody

on the path behind me

there is nobody at all”




“at home I lock the gate,

cross the garden quickly,

go in and lock the door,

breathe a sigh of relief–

but in the silence I hear

footsteps in the garden”


What think you?


Bob, I said, you could be a painter. Such delicate themes you incorporate. In your poem, “Rain”, explores the limits of platonic love in devastating clarity.


“Walking out in the rain one day,

I met a friend of mine

And we walked our road together a way

And said we both felt fine.


Well the time came that we must part,

My dear dear friend and I–

As gifts, I gave friendship and she her heart

Baked in an old style pie.”


So much hidden, unspoken.


“The problem is my thoughts are all locked up inside

Peering from a private little cage where they hide...






(sanity is a strange thing.

you lose it so easily

when you’re tired

when you’re drunk

when you’re angry

when you’ve lost

a friend

an enemy

a lover



A mind is a large empty room

In which two persons meet.”


Always submerged, luring, a primal scream...


“(It screams with all the latent fury

of the hatred that lies

in love.)”


A journey takes us through poems that by turn, can be tense and terse (“Shadow show), to the lyrical (“Love come soft”), to the prophetic (“Edge”, “The Dark Shimmering Deep for all the prophets in rags”)


“I walk a wilderness of concrete streets,

I speak to the wind, I cry out to the sky,

and if heard at all I am never heeded.


I have seen how thin is the line and how frail

the membrane between us, between the light and

the dark shimmering entity ripping the membrane.


I have gone too far and have seen too much,

have stepped into that too near night and

seen the dark shimmering deep at its heart.



I have been to the heart of that place,

have been taken into its enchanted arms

and am not yet free nor ever will be.”


(The Dark Shimmering Deep for all the prophets in rags”)


Yes, Bob, the shadows do walk among us; they are not alone; after the shadows comes the light, which you explore themes of love, loss (“Because you were”), separation, intimacy (“Hands) and risk (Flight Risk), solitude (“The Uncaged Bird).


I walked in the garden, I thank you Bob for the opportunity, the experience. The pleasure. I cannot finish without mentioning two more things; in the midst of things, you describe a desolate pandemic landscape and ask


“where are the poets

the truthspeakers

the folk singers

authors and artists

the new prophets

recording our era


where is the poetry

where the legends

where the heroes

where the ballads

where the memory

the future needs”

A poignant plea?


The second? The music, the jazz,


stop for a moment and breathe

take a long slow breath


don’t breathe

it’s in the air

can you feel it

can you hear it

it’s all around you

breathe it in

breathe in deeply

breathe in the scent

taste it on your tongue

feel it fill your lungs


breathe out and in again

can you feel it

it’s all around you

it’s in you

the heart of the sharecrop

the soul of street and tenement

the anthem of America

a whisper from chained masses

a lament for humanity

it’s in you

can you feel the sorrow

can you taste the joy

a whisper become a cry

heard around the world


Thank you for the tour, Bob. I really enjoyed making “footsteps in [your] garden”.


Leslie Bush

© 10 October 2021