Last to Leave

One small chalk handprint left
on the back door of the house
so recently emptied, scrubbed clean
of the fragments of another family,
other lives, younger times.

That smudged handprint clicks
a slideshow of memories, blue eyes
too intense, too wise for one so young,
small Cheerio mouth birthing words
like bubbles, tubby feet bare and on the trot,
a crayon, a piece of chalk in each hand.

A faint left handprint, a reminder
of her two year old grandson’s last visit
to his grandparent’s farm, this treasured artefact,
too painful to eliminate,
too valuable to leave behind.

One small child’s handprint triggers
a tear, regrets she hadn’t felt before
as she prepares to leave the farm
for the last time. She uses her lace handkerchief,
enfolds the chalk imprint inside, pockets it,
locks the door, a clean slate now and
drives away.

~ Diane Buchanan

Diane Buchanan has lived in and around Edmonton all of her life. Born and raised in the city she moved to the country at mid-life with her family and lived there for thirty-six years before moving back into the centre of the city in 2006. She began to write after retiring from nursing in 1995. She has two collections of poetry: Ask Her Anything (2001) and Between the Silences (2005) which was short-listed for the 2006 Acorn-Plantos Award for People’s Poetry. Her most recent manuscript, Under A Horseshoe Moon, a poetic memoir is currently being considered for publication.

“‘Last to Leave’ came out of the move from country to city. I returned one last time to the country house to make sure it was clean and empty and, as I l left I saw my grandson’s handprint on the backdoor window, left from his last visit to the farm. I just couldn’t leave it behind.”

Read more of Diane Buchanan’s poetry:
The Warp and Woof
On a Prairie Slough Just Outside the City One Morning Mid-July
The Secret of Grass

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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