It Wasn’t Always Trespassing

Today I drive out, secretly,
a day-tripper into my past, a vacationer
headed for beloved country
now lost to me.

I return
to the only 40 acres I know anything about,
trespass beyond field’s edge,
where a ditch cleaves the soil,
coughs up clotted clay into a berm of crumbly rubble
sown with rough dandelion and Queen Anne’s Lace.

On this stolen day I find
the last place I felt my feet firm
against the land.

I stand until the future stops
whirring around my head. I stand
—perhaps a long time—
until the willing black dirt
releases stored heat into my body.
Until I feel light. See birdsong.
Hear sweetness. Taste warmth.
Let wild confusion permeate
and, strangely, soothe me.

Then I give to this piece of earth
my gratitude,
until now unexpressed,
for the grace of its grounding.
For the decades of peace it pressed
into my unaware hands.

I hold out these hands,
palms upturned,
and let the ceaseless wind of memory
and settle.

~ 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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