Environmental Impact

Both my children were born
in this working man’s town
the dead end of a seemingly endless road
through fir trees, some reduced to blackened sticks
where people are constantly arriving and departing
I wonder about the environmental impact –
If you took a sample of my daughters’ blood
would it be thick, sticky black like tar sand?
If you x-rayed their lungs, would you see the effects
of breathing in an atmosphere of greed, day after day
like the fumes from the refinery?
I was born on an island free of this place’s Garrison Mentality
long lost Hochelaga, made way for vive la révolution
the language politics I left behind, where they belonged.
I grew up there, caught in-between Two Solitudes
my mother Acadian my father German
bilingual from birth, walking the tightrope between cultures
falling into the trampoline of the Anglophone West of the Island
assimilated, often assumed to be Jewish
If this place of my past has shaped me, then
what will be my children’s future?
Like the others who came then left
before us, we will leave soon, too
no doubt forever changed by this working man’s town
dead end of a seemingly endless road
where we made friendships that we hope will last longer
than the fresh water in the Athabasca.

~ Stephanie Werner

Stephanie Werner: I was born in Montreal, where I completed an English Literature and Creative Writing degree at Concordia University. After moving to Three Hills, Alberta in 2000, I attended the University of Calgary for my teaching degree, and then taught for three years. I recently moved to the Edmonton area after living for five years in Fort McMurray.

“Moving to Alberta from where I grew up (Quebec) has certainly shaped who I am, and I think it will shape my children as well that they have grown up here and not there. My father’s family immigrated to Canada when he was a young child, so the idea of immigration and the importance of place on shaping identity has always been important to me.”

Editor’s note: This poem is from Home and Away – a sequel to the bestselling Writing the Land (2007). Look for one poet to be featured each day as Alberta poets ponder the question “what is home?” and explore our complex relationship with working on, living with, exploiting and protecting our land and our home. For more information about the project, click here.

2 Responses to “Environmental Impact”

  1. Wow, i must say that poem was great. well done. 🙂

  2. Thank you so much!

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