The muses at the front of the class
dream life begins
beyond the frost-starred windows.
Trudging home to sunset bell
in boot-crunching snow
and cows spill in to fill corrals
and home is far across the yard
till horses stabled and watered
and alone in the manger prairie girls
glow by the light by the door
and they are solitude and beauty
in their denim jackets and their wheat-straw hair
in their cowgirl blouses and their coal black hair.
Adulthood races in: grass fire.
Part-time jobs as counter-girls, cashiers;
awash in city lights
the cart boy’s yell delivers us to
prairie girls, their eyes so clear
and filled with so much sky
they explode the darkness in you.
By summer all is light. Sky
as it was in the beginning
is now and ever shall be
Fire smoulders at night.
Below the stars you find
the darkest places in Alberta girls.
They love you, brand you
in their towns burned black
against the mountains’ sunset glow.
When you find the darkest
places in Alberta girls
they show you everything they’ve longed for
in their dreams uplifted till they all turn inside out.
In their clapboard towns tornadoed
by the weight of so much sky
they are hardly held to the earth.
You are not enough
to hold them there yourself.
They know sky and darkness, enduring
like the coal seams
pressed into this windblown land
they ignite the darkness in you.
* * *
~ Ian Ferrier does spoken word and music shows throughout Canada, in New York and in Europe. He has released one CD/book Exploding Head Man (2004) and two CDs, What is this Place (2007) and Pharmakon MTL – To Call Out in the Night (2011). He is the founder of the record label Wired on Words, of the Mile End Poets’ Festival, of the online magazine LitLive.ca and of Montreal’s monthly Words & Music reading series, now in its 14th year. He currently creates voice, verse and music for the dance project For Body and Light.
This poem will be included in The Calgary Project – A City Map in Verse and Visual
published by House of Blue Skies & Frontenac House, 2014