first the farmsteads
slip under
to wind or drought
spring clapboard warping
lichen like sparrowprint
towns taken gradually
limb by limb feed & tackle
dry goods when the
post office goes it’s done for

takes years though before
the church windows vanish
someone brave or
desperate enough
& then scrapboard blinkers
bell tower gone to pigeons


what the posters showed
wheat & sky
the bushel bins
full to overflowing

high summer Battleford
cyclonic dust &
missing chinks
grit a constant partner

standing she raises
her hem from the floor
leaves a perfect negative of
bleached pine

he hawks dust polishes
the flintlock & hangs it
above the door

all day
the brightness goes out of it
like a veiled eye


two days ago
he loaded the rifle palmed
his way along the storm line
to the barn

inside five roans
lean & hard as oak

in the kitchen she laid the table
turned plates like white moons

incendiary sunset the horses
wild & rank with fear
scenting death powder

rifle not for them

for him


in front of the house the yard
gives way to prairie grass
fescue & grama

distantly the church
knuckles under like an old woman
steeple sloughed and rotting

she finds it
nestled in a pucker of earth
slim pale rock
imbued with kingfisher light

I-nis’kim buffalo stone

promise of plenty when
the town has gone the church
down to staves

pray that you will not starve
& the buffalo will come

sun in weals over napped ground
stunted barley

you will not starve



~ Jenna Butler

Jenna Butler is an educator, book reviewer, editor and poet. Her work has won a number of awards and has been widely published in literary magazines, journals and anthologies in North America and Europe. She has edited over twenty collections of poetry in Canada and England, and is currently working toward a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of East Anglia, UK. Her new collection of poems, Forcing Bloom, is forthcoming from Mercutio Press. Butler lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her husband.

One Response to “I-nis’kim”

  1. what a fantastic, fantastic ending – thanks.

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