"Into the 'headwaters of hurt' is where Spree MacDonald takes us, between branches that overhang and roots that trip, with a jambalaya of words and references that in the end prove the only way out of here. This writer uses his own weaknesses, his 'blunder toe,' to navigate a treacherous landscape, bringing the whole country to bear witness to the swamp living in its belly. At play with sound and music, he charges into this 'labor hood of Atlantis,' this 'poorly lit paradise.' Here is a spirit, wise, but not jaded, chided, but not overruled. Milksop Codicil is a poetic trance, full of bayou magic, and common sense."
—Mervyn Taylor, author of The Waving Gallery


A stunning contribution, and a gift of rare honey in rock hard times. McDonald combs through the ruins of empire, and environmental collapse with a punishing clarity to make something torn and new. Few thinkers have written so deftly of whiteness from within, and McDonald’s keen ear for the rites of black joy is a testimony to what a politics of love might sound like. This poetry dances us into revolution."

—Tsitsi Jaji, author of Beating the Graves (University of Nebraska Press) and Carnaval (Slapering Hol Press)








Spree reads " Scrap Atlantic" from "Milksop Codicil"



Spree reads "Colony Collapse Syndrome" from "Milksop Codicil"



A review from New Pages.


A review of Milksop Codicil from RM220 Literary Journal.


Headwaters of Hurt


way back 
in the headwaters of hurt
I had not yet learned to wrap
my mind like pipes 
before the freeze 
to leave my taps 
dripping at bedtime 
or kneel southeast and pray 
for Fela Ransome
Kuti as his bootstraps 
pulled me up 


I woke up waved at
cold-cocked into morning
like a sleeve of saltines
crumbled open from sleep
cantilevered dream shadows or
crosshatched eyelids and kidneys
I slipped forward and felt the
morning break clean a space for me


she said she was a birder
held out hands for freaks of nurture
tickled the morning open for 
disaster capitalists like me
all those high drama haircuts
vanilla bombs
trahison des clercs
beneath the bone cloud cover
it was a gray matter giveaway


in that capitol of cronies
blowhards resurfaced in schools
swallowing New-Owl-Leans
with stylized suffering


slathered in essential oils
I ate until the day took its shape in me
but swamp doctor that she was
she said in this tort culture
I was a tortoise
if I slugged so solemn
it would time me out


so maybe I was slow poked
slow played in the face of change
but since we insinuated ourselves 
into the neighborhood
it seemed history left me senseless
unable to read its hidden transcripts
mesmerized by flood
mesmerized by fire
afraid to be alone with our thoughts
could never tell what was appropriate
what was appropriated


still I sop
kick the curb with my blunder toe
hit that abyss drum and await its report



Spree MacDonald lives in South Louisiana with his wife and three daughters. His first chapbook, Milksop Codicil, won the Slapering Hol Chapbook Competition and was published in 2017. His poetry has been featured in journals such as RHINO, Warscapes, Transition Magazine, and Berkeley Poetry Review, and has been a finalist for the Anhinga Press Rick Campbell Chapbook Prize, a semi-finalist for the Philip Levine Prize in Poetry, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.