Early Morning Train Passing

Slowly you wake, cocooned in your sleeping bag,
secure in the knowledge that your tent holds
nothing more scented than your intrusive human flesh.
No bear bait, no enticements for mice, no elk aphrodisiac.
You stretch warmth into rigid muscles, feel the fading of
downy dreams, see solid breath. Beneath you a mere skin of
earth, delicate as a lace shawl on the shoulders of the mountain.
A million, million years of rock. A billion, billion tonnes.
The incense of morning rises like a question, hovers
at the rim of a day that waits like a promise—open, receptive.
On tent walls, the shadow of dragonfly, a levitation of listening.
You hear the brief buzz of her rainbow wing in the silence.
Your thought becomes the corridor of her flight.
Sunlight’s invitation is a golden lily, poised
on the tipping point of your emergence. You get up.
And as your feet touch the ground you feel the tremor,
a throaty whisper that stirs your eyebrows as
countless tiny earthquakes clap together in the bedrock’s
eternal foundation. Silence is torn by the blundering echo
of a long, lonely whistle. Steam will be rising from steel rails,
dew-drenched in the morning sun.
This merging
of wilderness and civilization
is what the day brings you

~ Deborah Lawson

Deborah Lawson is an Edmonton-based freelance writer and editor and an award-winning poet. Growing up in a military family that moved frequently, Deborah attended 11 schools in 12 years. Under such circumstances home is an understandably fluid concept, not so much connected with a place as with internal terrain. Thus the idea of home-and-away embraces the internal journey as well as geographical relocation. Poetry and story, in addition to being a type of home in themselves, become ways of exploring and expressing the yearnings for home that are common to every person. In poetry, Deborah seeks the still, attentive centre that allows the concept of home to sustain her no matter where she lives.

“In previous bios, I have written, ‘Deborah’s idea of perfection is a poet in a canoe.’ The poem ‘Early Morning Train Passing’ was written during a weekend spent canoeing on the Athabasca River. Our campsite for the second night was in close proximity to the CN Rail line between Edmonton and Jasper, where trains passed frequently throughout the summer-short hours of darkness. But it was the train that passed just as dawn was breaking that spoke to me of the merging of wilderness and civilization, of the sheer difference of velocity between self-propelled progress in a canoe and the diesel-generated speed of a continent-spanning train. It highlighted two very different ways to traverse a nation, with both the canoe and the transcontinental train being powerful symbols of my Canadian identity.”

Read more of Deborah Lawson’s poetry:
Things I Will Give You: Landscape Makes a Promise
Dominion of Wind
Moving Water

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.

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