Cassiopeia

frost on the potato
in the upturned garden
light between haystacks
a hole in heaven
the rosy hardness of crabapples
as they drop ping onto the gravel
tracks of cattle leading down to a
drinking hole,
a green stone in the mud.

the sound of my father’s truck
returning from his night job as
morning stars begin to sing
the music of milking in the stable
by the light of a lantern
every morning so like Bethlehem.

the screech of a quail from the creek
where animal feet have been tramping,
the headstone my poet fingers trace
hunting for a story I can tell,
as Cassiopeia looks down on me
and the sister I never knew.

the bale of hay my brother throws
to the calves, calling me
to take the milk to the shed
for separating,
the nick on the doorframe I touch
where his jackknife has wedged
my ten-year-old height.

porridge bubbling on the iron stove
to my father’s snores from the bedroom
where he’ll sleep till noon and
begin again his day job as farmer.

the school bus my mother stops with a single wave
as Cassiopeia descends her throne.

~ Cassy Welburn

I am a poet, storyteller and fiction writer whose work has appeared in Freefall and other poetry anthologies, as well as on CBC radio’s Alberta Anthology. Growing up in rural Alberta has left an indelible mark on my sense of identity as a child of the land.

Home has always been an elusive childhood patch of countryside that I feel I have been searching for in my writing. I was inspired to write Cassiopeia after reading Patrick Kavanagh’s poetry of his Irish childhood. Or a poem will leap up at you in the unlikeliest place and you need to be prepared to recognize and catch it.

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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