Returning to a Room in a Dorm in Banff, Alberta

Heaped like cornflakes, aspen leaves
in bowls along the path beside the Bow
that slurs its consonants over riverbed rock.
The poplars are the yellow of poplars
in October in Alberta
as she remembers them. The sky
a blue that belongs here, only here,
but gets carried off in the veins
of those who love this province.

She’s off to see the hoodoos, but here
they are in miniature along the bank, at the high
water mark, in fractal form, carved
out of mud. Mud’s smell –
dust and rubber soles on stairs
and it all comes back – the stairwell,

especially, smells of before:
the marriage she had yet to leave,
the province to abandon. A good third
of her life learning the drill,
another third, unlearning. How hard

to believe the oak within the acorn,
the expansive script
tucked deep within the night
she nested in her narrow
bed in the dorm, nested deeper,
her knees tucked to her chest,
her ticking heart.

Crunch beneath her feet, crunch, crunch,
and as she walks the slab of her heart
reaches like the limestone of Sulphur Mountain — the irregular
yet beautifully structured heaps of it angled sharply,
its own pressure an endless
imbedding of its shape into itself.

It’s a long walk but
when those rambunctious phalli
in their earthenware houses jag into
view – she can
rename her life, unlapse
the so-called formlessness.

Call it poetry, call it fractal verse.

~ Cornelia Hoogland

Tim Lilburn chose Hoogland’s long poem
Little Red Meets the Wolf in the Woods as the 2007 1st place winner of Lichen Arts and Letters Serial Poet competition; Don McKay chose her poem Crow’s Lament as the 2nd place winner in Prairie Fire’s poetry competition in 2006. Hoogland is the 2005 winner of the Basmajian Chapbook Competition, as well as 1st place winner of Other Voices 2005 poetry competition. Selections of Cuba Journal (Black Moss Press, 2003) as well as her second and third books of poetry, You Are Home (Black Moss Press, 2001) and Marrying the Animals (Brick Books, 1995), and most recently Crow (2007), were all shortlisted for the national CBC Literary Awards. She is the founder and artistic director of Poetry London, an organization that brings prominent writers into lively discussion with London writers and readers. In September, 2006, she guest edited Descant’s special issue on Cuban poets (Cuba Inside/Out). New manuscripts under consideration include Gravelly Bay and Crow. Hoogland also writes plays (winner of Solo Collective’s Emerging Playwrights Competition, 2007, Vancouver, B.C.) and fiction. She teaches at the University of Western Ontario and can be reached at

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