There's nothing graphic about these poems, except maybe for the rawness of the emotions expressed in them, and perhaps they would have been less disturbing if there were some hint of deviant behaviour. For, and this is awful to say, we have become somewhat inured to stories involving the degradation of our fellow human beings, be they children or adult, and have learned how to shield ourselves from feeling their pain.
What MacKenzie gives us is something far more difficult to deal with. In poems like "The Sacred Heart" and "Stigmata," we witness the pain of a parent watching their child's slow descent into darkness from the injuries they suffered at the hands of another. Though these poems, and others, are told from the view point of the parent seeing their child, MacKenzie ensures we are well aware this is merely a reflection of the greater damage - what has happened to the child.
"I can only love you/only stand and hold you/until the pain is gone/until it comes again/and fills me with your pain". ("Stigmata")
In "Saint Joan" MacKenzie turns his sights on the self-righteous individuals who down through the ages have sat in judgement on what they don't understand and made decisions based on rumours, gossip, hearsay and their own personal agendas. From late in the 19nth century until today, people like these have been taking children away from their parents without thought or regard to what happens to either party.
"You know you are the saviour of little children/absolved in whatever you do by your own faith/you know you are the saviour of little children/you know you much destroy all who stand in your way".
Here MacKenzie not only creates an archetypical picture of what kind of person would be capable of ripping families apart; through the words he's employed in describing her, he also stirs an emotional reaction in the reader and shows their so called good intentions for what they really are.
One would think from the description of the poems I've offered, and the subject matter, that On Edge would be both uniformly dark and depressing to read. However, MacKenzie is not just digging a pit for us to fall into. Nor is he one of these poets who enjoys wallowing in the dank end of the emotional pool for the effect it will have on his readers.