Near Milk River, looking for the Sweetgrass Hills

I did not come here
to excuse my self
or anyone else. It was
because the feathered bracts
and wind whipped stalks that
dry-lashed the warbler and her cheek

slant morning brow
like a forgiving aunt
wearing her hat shadow in this remarkable
early heat, which seemed to sigh

for more leafhoppers braying, “rotten wood can’t be carved”—
that I felt the dryness of the grass.
The dewless brown quench of hard ground.

regret turned whole. Thrush
scold on willow stump
flared for some shorewards
ash or elder berry to
raise its small body
like seed
before high summer dried them
behind an autumn cloud

browner than the gospel vegetation in this desert
I thought to myself: is it stoopless
distance that breeds the next vee
migrating beads and needles of moisture,

black nibble
of the fly,
the black lick of deer scat turned
home, as the deer make their way in single file across Milk River?

Last year I saw them. Today they were
as empty as that warbler was,
behind her veil of grass.

Every sound and tree is a hermit.
Not every hermit is a sound or tree.
Sometimes the quiet act of following
your own past will address the future. And will be

given back as it began.
when they are open,
the horizon and the eye slit
will see and speak
as one.

~ Weyman Chan

Weyman Chan, who works and lives in Calgary, is author of one book of poetry, Before A Blue Sky Moon (Frontenac House, 2002). His next book of poems, Noise From the Laundry (Talonbooks, 2008) will be released this coming spring. He’s currently working on both his third and fourth books of poetry, tentatively entitled, rain doubt and Hypo-derm.

2 Responses to “Near Milk River, looking for the Sweetgrass Hills”

  1. What’s not to love about this piece? Simple, full lines and excellent imagery. Wow.

  2. You rock, Weyman!

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