At a morning truck stop
the waitress calls out orders
over labouring engines,
bursts of retarder brakes,
Will that be to stay or to go?

Roughnecks and truckers
on their way to the north
climb down from diesel bodies,
pull off caps, wipe their heads,
as heat goes picking its way
across the parking lot
looking for leftovers—

A swollen bag of garbage
the busboy heaves into the bin,
a squirrel’s lunge for freedom
as the lid clangs shut—

That young woman
leaning against the car tire to smoke,
a map of her whole life
spread out before her—

As the daughter
peeks a small round head
up through the sun roof,
eyes blue and cloudless
catching the air
and one small glimpse
of paradise.

~ 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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