Saturday, January 8, 2011

On the Road Revisited

The blustery snowy weather today reminded me that when nature is beautiful, it is often treacherous, and prompted me to revisit and revise a poem I began during the drive home from a reading at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon mid-November.  That day, the wind came from the east, and on the part of Highway 11 that runs parallel to the valley, snow seemed to rush up out of the earth and sweep onto the road.

The east wind can't quite muster
a white-out, but smudges rows of scrub,
fetches up in the clefts of coulees,
takes an eraser to the horizon,
wraps the sun and the measure of hours in white silk.

Fourteen thousands years ago, retreating glaciers cut
the sediment that ice and time
had already left behind,
engraving a scrawl of coulees down
the carved spine.  Today
the wind cuts along the valley's eastern edge,
the snow gets caught up in the cleft, pops the western ledge
like a snowboarder,
wipes out on the road.

You can't take in this landscape with your eye.  It wants
your hand to caress its crests and eddies, your hand
to fetch up against the sudden line of trees, to read
the braille of bole and branch, to name the grasses
in the whitened dark, to trace the ramification
of coulee, to finger the brush and scrub and grass.  You need to search
with frozen fingers along the shaft of vetch, down to tease
the beaded tracks of meadow vole and pocket mouse,
to find the tuft of fur
surrounding spring like a frozen shell.

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