I Carry the Bay (1)

you’re still a newcomer
they told me
when I’d been here twenty years.
I hadn’t walked in on the trail
through muskeg, behind an oxcart

we drove in, the kids worn
I on the precipice
of panic
looking for water.
I could only see

the new job

I was raised on the bay, the dock anchored
at the north end of Main where the grain elevators
curved in concrete waves along the shore
and lakers nosed in
quiet as fog

the bay that spawned
a thousand islands
that rooted scrubby pines
their hearts in the Shield

that first year in the west
only the big sky
would speak to me
it beckoned

my Maritime friend showed up
with an 8×10 glossy

where did you find
water, I demanded
as I headed for the door

you know that dirt road
on the edge of town
I took my camera there
after it rained

this big water
is a ditch

~ Catherine McLaughlin

Catherine McLaughlin’s work as a poet, freelance writer and photographer is often informed by place, especially the Peace River Country where she lives. She has published recently in Arborealis, A Canadian Anthology of Poetry (2008) by the Ontario Poetry Society; Legacy, Alberta’s Heritage, Arts & Culture magazine (Spring 2008); Writing the Land, Alberta Through Its Poets, Dymphny Dronyk and Angela Kublik editors (2007); blueskiespoetry.ca and www.dailyhaiku.org, Cycle 4, 2007-2008 and in the Daily Haiku II print journal (2008).

“‘I carry the bay: 1’ was inspired by a move I made with my young family in the early 1970’s from a university town in the Maritimes to a French/English/Catholic/Protestant very small town in northern Alberta. Like others who were ‘different’, we didn’t fit in well so that made the adjustment even harder.”

Read more of Catherine McLaughlin’s poetry:
Peace Country January
driving with Beth in the west county
the offering
anything can happen in June

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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